Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How to Create a Bootable USB Pen Drive with Windows XP, Vista / 7

No doubt that files can be transferred via pen drives but what if the need arises to reinstall the Operating System in case of a system crash or if the requirement is to install the new Windows 7? What then? How would it be if you upgrade or re-install your Windows OS via a flash drive? There are a number of ways in which you can load or install Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7 from the USB Pen Drive. We are going to show you the easiest way to create your own bootable pen drive.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Best free security list

Probably the best free security list in the world.
Says it all.

A couple of handy tips

Safely remove memory cards without waiting: You're supposed to use the Safely Remove Hardware icon in the system tray before unplugging memory cards and the like--but waiting for it is such a pain that you'll be itching to pull your memory card without waiting for Safely Remove Hardware to do its thing. The key to making quick removal safe is to ensure that Windows isn't writing to the card without your knowledge; if the operating system behaves itself, you can eject the card whenever you want without corrupting your data. To adjust your settings, first right-click the memory card in Windows Explorer, choose Properties, click the Hardware tab, select the memory card reader, and choose Properties; then click the Policies tab (you may have to click the ‘Change settings' button before Policies shows up), and choose Optimize for quick removal. Henceforth, you won't need Safely Remove Hardware.

Bring menus back: If you still haven't learned Office 2007's ribbon system after three years of exposure to it, maybe you should just get rid of it. UBitMenu is a third-party Office add-on that restores the old menu setup. What's more, it's free for private use.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Anti-keylogger, Flash movie creator, remote access and more...

More goodies from around the traps:
A great anti-keylogger for free. Spyshelter is an anti-keylogger, and also warns if a remote system is attempting to perform a screen capture or view your clipboard. It runs under all recent version of Windows.
Best free Genealogy / Family Tree software. Genealogy is one of the most searched terms on the internet these days. Here's a list of goodies to get you started.
Remote log-in. Sometimes you need to access your own computer from another location, or it would be helpful to work one-on-one with a person at the other end. LogMeIn is a free program to help.
Copy plain text. Have you ever copied something to Thunderbird or Office and been annoyed that the text formatting (bold, font size, etc) came with it? Don't you wish you could just copy the text itself, without having to copy it, paste it into notepad, then copy it again? This extension gives you an option to copy text without the formatting. You can even set it to trim extra space in and around the copied text!
Trouble-shoot faulty video playback. You download a video clip from the internet, fire up Windows Media Player, and....nothing. Or maybe you get the video without any audio. Or perhaps the sound is perfectly OK, but the pictures are just the default Windows swirly pattern. Or maybe you've bought a new PC, copied all your video files to it, and then discovered that they won't play on the new machine. Here's a tool to help.
Making Flash movies simplified. Liveswif 2 lite is a free Flash maker which lets you create flash movies, flash buttons or banners quickly and easily. Alternatively, try Powerbullet Presenter. Powerbullet Presenter is small, simple to use and free. Use it to create presentations in the Flash format. You don't need any experience to create slick, animated presentations, and it has loads of functionality to get you up and running quickly. Simply type, click and drag.
Online collaboration on the cheap: 20 free and low-cost tools

Friday, June 11, 2010

Free online file hosting

I have a personal website that shares drama scripts. (Pop over and see us at It's getting pretty big now, with more than 1200 scripts listed, so I'm running up against some storage problems, especially with larger pdf files. I think I've found the answer in MediaFire, a free online storage system, that allows me to store and then share a very large quantity of pics, pdf files, Word documents or whatever else I can think of. It has a very nice interface that is exceedingly simple to use, and there's a helpful video tutorial to get started. Recommended.

Find hidden Flash files

Many of the videos you view on websites are in the .FLV or Flash format. Trouble is, if you want to download them, there is obvious way to do so. At last, here's a tool to find hidden .FLV flash video stream URLs, called URL Helper, which is basically a URL finder. This free tool can be used to find out the links or video URLs of the flash videos from various web sites so that you an download them on your computer. Find out more here.

Photo managers

There are some great new free photo managers coming available. Some people swear by Picasa, while others are happy with a simpler style such as Irfanview, which tacks image management onto a very good editor. XNView has been another very popular manager, which I have also used in preference to Picasa (I don't like the way Picasa takes over my system).
The new kid on the block sweeping all before it is Zoner Photo Studio, and I think it could become my new favourite. There's a free and a professional version. The free one is obviously stripped down, but still has enough features to satisfy most home users.

Password recovery, USB unmount, privacy and more

Here are some invaluable system helps.
Asterisk Key does one thing, but it's a lifesaver. It reveals the actual passwords hidden under the dots or asterisks in the password field. Invaluable when you've forgotten yours.
You are supposed to "unmount" USB drives before pulling them out of your computer. Which in XP you do by clicking on the little icon at the RH foot of your screen.

But sometimes when you try, you get cryptic messages saying you can't do that. Rather than just using brute force, try a little bit of freeware called USB Safely Remove.
The Blue Screen of Death is every Windows owner's nightmare. Most often it leaves you with no clue as to the real problem. Maximum PC magazine has a helpful Blue Screen of Death survival guide - everything you need to know.
Windows XP won't be around forever, and Microsoft will stop supporting it soon, meaning there will be no more bug fixes/security patches. Here's some advice from PC World for when that happens.
Internet privacy continues to dominate the news (you may have seen the hooha over Facebook in the last few weeks). Here's a list of the latest threats. And here's what you can do to fix the Facebook problem.

Some new pdf tools

PDF to Word Converter is a free tool that turns a PDF document into a Word document. It holds the layout quite well, but it does use a lot of paragraph returns to do it.
If a pdf file is locked or password protected, no pdf conversion tool will touch it. However, PDF Password Remover will do just that. Sadly, it's not free, although I managed to get a free copy via another site, so keep a look out for the offers.
I have been using FoxIt as my main pdf reader for some time now, and it works well. And I like the fact that it is tiny in comparison to the bloated Adobe Reader. However, there are some new kids on the free block, worth checking out. Nitro PDF Reader has a lot of helpful tools. And Nuance also claims many bells and whistles, including conversion to Word documents. The latter is done by uploading to a website, but so far I haven't managed to get it the feature to work. The rest looks good, though.

Some helpful photo tools

Fix blurred photographs with free software, Unshake. It really does work, and it's great for those cellphone pics that don't quite cut it, although it takes a bit of experimentation to get best results.
Microsoft Image Composite Editor is an advanced panoramic image stitcher. Given a set of overlapping photographs of a scene shot from a single camera location, the application creates a high-resolution panorama that seamlessly combines the original images. This is nice.

Friday, May 7, 2010

RSS feeds, lost passwords, Firefox add-ons and more

Some recent gleanings from round the traps:

Do you routinely hop from one favorite Web site to another, just to see if anything new has been added? There's a faster, easier way: Use an RSS reader. (RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, a technology that enables sites to come to you instead of you having to go to them.)One of the most popular is the Google Reader, and here are some hints on how to use it.

As a researcher, I often have to clip references, quotes, etc from webpages, which used to require two trips to Notepad (one for the quote, and one for the URL). With Quotepad, I just select the text, press Ctrl+Shift+Q and the selected text is saved to QuotePad together with the URL of the webpage it was copied from.

Lost passwords are a pain. Just as bad is that row of dots staring at you in the password box and you can't remember what they stand for. This is where Asterisk Key rides to the rescue. It uncovers hidden passwords on password dialog boxes and web pages.

How to Fix Your Family's PC Problems: Are you the first line of tech support for your friends and family? Here's everything you need to troubleshoot for the not so tech-savvy.

Backing up your hard disk is imperative, but sometimes it's not just enough to back up the data. If you want to also back up the operating system and other installed software, you have to make what's called a drive image, or disk image. Fortunately, there are plenty of good options, and this article from Gizmo discusses some alternatives.

When your computer won't boot properly, you probably need a Boot CD, which bypasses the internal operating system. According to Simple Help, the Ultimate Boot CD for Windows is “a bootable recovery CD that contains software used for repairing, restoring, or diagnosing almost any computer problem”. There are a lot of great tutorials for using the Ultimate Boot CD for Windows, including the How-To Geek’s create your own Ultimate Recovery CD for Windows tutorial and how to reset your forgotten Windows password using the Ultimate Boot CD tutorial.

You mean you can do THAT in Firefox! Sure can. Bet you never knew what amazing things can be done with these add-ons. Here are seven to wet your appetite.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Making sure you get a clean malware scan

Sometimes when malware gets into your computer, it takes over the security software and stops it from cleaning everything out. Lincoln Spector has some suggestions for how to ensure that you get a completely clean scan.

How to buy a digital camera

Digital photography keeps getting better. Higher-resolution images, sophisticated but easy-to-use controls, and more. This article helps you sort out the features that matter, and those that don't.

When dialogue boxes extend beyond the screen

How often do you find that dialogue boxes extend below the bottom of your screen, so that you can't click on the necessary buttons? Happens to me a lot, and I have a reasonable size screen. Here's a little utility that allows you to drag any window (including dialogue boxes) around by holding down the Alt and Windows keys.

Fix your shaky videos, for free

With vReveal software for Windows, it's easy to quickly fix the videos from your cell phone, HD camcorder, digital camera, or other device. Stabilize, brighten, sharpen, add fun effects and more with just one click. It's completely free.

Automatic home page on new tab

When you launch a new tab in Internet Explorer, that tab automatically opens with your default home page. Sadly, Firefox doesn't have that feature, but a new add-on - New Tab Home Page - can provide it. Very simple to install.

Posterous: the quickest way to create a web page

Posterous is almost certainly the quickest way to create a web page and get it online. Post a simple text message, or include additional content such as an MP3 file or a picture. Unlike traditional blogging and publishing services, such as Blogger or MySpace, you don't even need to sign up for an account. Just think of something to say, then email it to Within a few seconds, you'll get back a reply telling you the address of your published page. Click on the link, and it's there for you (and the world) to see. Web publishing doesn't get easier, or quicker, than this.

New Microsoft Service Fixes Common PC Problems for Free

Fix it Center is a new Microsoft service currently in public beta that provides a set of online and offline tools for diagnosing and fixing common PC and device problems. Fix it Center consolidates into a single product a whole range of trouble shooters, wizards and other support resources currently scattered throughout the Microsoft site and Windows itself. It works with any Windows version from XP through to Window 7. The program will not only solve known problems but will also scan your PC for potential problems and suggest fixes.
The nice thing about this product is that it requires little technical input from the user. All the user needs to do is indicate the broad kind of category describing the problem and then the program will launch a diagnostic program for that category.
To setup Fix it Centre you need to go though a three stage setup procedure:
1. Go to and click the “Try It” button. This will download a small 437KB program.
2. Run the downloaded program and accept the licensing agreement. This will then initiate a download and installations of the full Fix it Centre product. No download file size is given but it appears to be around 10MB.
3. Fix it center will install a number of troubleshooters based on your PC configuration but to tap into the full power of the product you need to setup an online account. There you will not only have access to a full range of troubleshooters but access to other support resources as well such as the Microsoft knowledge database. Additionally you can store the support history of your PCs on line.

Friday, April 9, 2010

A selection of helpful articles

Whew! Haven't posted in a long while - things got a bit hectic on the work and home fronts. So to kick things off, some helpful articles spotted in the intervening time...
How to block bad websites, from Gizmo.
Why your DVD player can't play some disks. In order to exercise greater control, movie studies pressured DVD manufacturers into splitting the world into separate play regions. NZ and Australia, for instance, are in Region 4, so a disk bought in the USA (Region 1) probably won't play on your home DVD. Fortunately, your computer is not controlled quite so heavily, and Lincoln Spector gives you some help to get around the problem.
I have long been struggling with how to create a pdf file from a web page or an html document. A very neat Firefox add-on has solved the problem. pdf edit does a very nice job, even creating a pdf from your home directories (ie, in other words, you don't have to put the html document on the web first).
One day you could well need some computer diagnostic and maintenance tools on a flash drive. Lincoln Spector shares his list. And here's a list of - seven handy tools help you diagnose and cure a wide range of Windows ills.
Confused about the mumbo-jumbo that surrounds all the hardware inside your computer case? How do you know what to buy when you are upgrading? Here's some helpful explanations about the essential bits.
Banish Seven Bad Tech Habits: Seven ways to improve your computing life by changing the way you use your computer.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A better clipboard

One of the deficiencies of the Windows operating system is that it allows you to copy and paste only one item at a time. The one (sort of) exception I know is that in Word you can hold down the Control key and select discontinuous pieces of text. Fortunately, there are numerous free utilities that will hold a bank of clipped items, which you can copy and paste from with ease. Some examples are ClipMagic, M8, and Clipboarder.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Creating secure passwords you can remember

A study of more than 30 million passwords found that almost half use names, common dictionary words, or sequential characters like "qwerty". Fingerprint scanners and other biometric controls are becoming more mainstream, but the password will still be the main barrier between hackers and your data for the foreseeable future. With that in mind, here is how to create a secure password that you can actually remember in "12345" easy steps.

Create your own 3D pics

The first 3D movie I saw was a Mighty Mouse cartoon back in the 1950s. The second was Michael Jackson's Captain Eo at Disneyland three decades later. There has been a quantum leap in the technology since, and suddenly 3D movies are the rage. Dozens are being released this year, although the number of cinemas fitted to screen them is still small. But you can make your own 3D photographs using the free program Anaglyph Maker.
You can also create your own 3D movie using easily available software, although the process is a bit more complex. Not that complex, though - this article gives the simplest instructions I've yet seen.

Public domain music

1,193,526 public domain songs by 10,253 artists, boasts the website Dewey Music. You can listen to, download, remix, and share anything you see on this site legally and for free.
But if you are into music, the best website in the world for my money is GrooveShark, which plays streaming audio of every conceivable genre. You can tailor the site to send you just exactly what you want to hear, and it is so easy to use. If there is an award for "smooth", GrooveShark gets it.

Cleaning a monitor

Computer screens get dusty, dirty, and dingy just like windows. But unlike glass windows, computer screens are complex, sensitive electronic devices that can be damaged by incorrect cleaning. Here's how to clean various types of computer screens safely.

Cleaning a monitor

Computer screens get dusty, dirty, and dingy just like windows. But unlike glass windows, computer screens are complex, sensitive electronic devices that can be damaged by incorrect cleaning. Here's how to clean various types of computer screens safely.

Sudden computer slowdowns

Sometimes your computer seemingly goes to sleep for no apparent reason. Lincoln Spector has some trouble-shooting tips.

9 Gmail tips that will let you take a longer lunch

Gmail is not bad as an internet-based email system - better than most of its competitors, possibly. But it's not perfect. Here are 9 tips to improve it.
One tip not covered: If you have an "ordinary" email client (ie, program, like Outlook or Thunderbird), you can gather your incoming Gmail emails through that, without visiting Gmail at all. Here's an article that shows you simply how to do it.
Another PC World article lists 10 Gmail Labs features you may not know about but could benefit from.

15 internet annoyances and how to fix them

It seems that every day we go online and there's some new type of nagging Web annoyance to deal with, says Jared Newman. In a perfect world, we wouldn't have to worry about auto-playing video ads, leaping pay walls to read the news, fake emails phishing for our bank details, or Farmville spam from Facebook. But for now, we're on our own. Here are 15 of the most annoying things on the Internet, and how to work around, ignore, improve or fix them.

Why the internet has gone sour

"The central mistake of recent digital culture is to chop up a network of individuals so finely that you end up with a mush," writes Nick Galvin of the Sydney Morning Herald. "You then start to care about the abstraction of the network more than the real people who are networked, even though the network by itself is meaningless. Only the people were ever meaningful." He looks at why the internet has gone sour, and what effect it's having on us.

Computer maintenance on a flash drive

You can keep a toolkit on a flash drive for those times when things go wrong and you need some fix-it tools. Lincoln Spector shares his list of must-haves.

How to cope with email overload

"If you're suffering from email overload, I bet you didn't know you have a solution at your fingertips. In fact you have your very own personal inbox secretary at your disposal. One waiting to read all the emails you receive (and send); then manage them for you.," writes Debbie Mayo-Smith.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Some goodies spotted

1. Are you annoying at having to register on a free web site just to read some news or view some information? Here is a simple method to get access to protected content without need to endure the annoyance of signing up for an account.
2. Restart Windows without restarting your computer. The trick is to hold down the SHIFT key when invoking the restart. Windows Vista: Select Start, then hover over the right arrow that is to the right of the padlock icon until the pop-up menu appears that contains “restart” as one of it’s choices. Hold down the SHIFT key while clicking on the “restart” choice. Windows XP: Select Start. Select “Shut Down…”. Change the drop-down combo box under “What do you want the computer to do?” to “Restart”. Hold down the SHIFT key while clicking on the “OK” button.
3. 15 coolest Firefox tricks. Browser Firefox is great right out of the box. And by adding some of the awesome extensions available out there, it just gets better and better. But look under the hood, and there are a bunch of hidden (and some not-so-secret) tips and tricks available that will crank Firefox up and pimp your browser, writes Leo Babauta. Make it faster, cooler, more efficient. Get to be a Jedi master with the following cool Firefox tricks.
4. Carry an entire operating system in your pocket. Scott Dunn says that running applications from a USB flash drive on a public computer is convenient but exposes you to malware and other limitations of the host PC. By installing a Windows-like version of Linux on a flash drive, you can take a complete operating system wherever you go and work in a safe, secure environment, even in an Internet café.