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Recuva is Terrific Data Recovery Software August 23, 2008

Posted by Mike in Freebies, Reviews, Software, Technology, Worth a Look.
3 comments

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Have you ever emptied the Recycle Bin and instantly regretted it? Well, as most techies will tell you, that data can usually be recovered. With Recuva software, that task is easier than ever.

The user-friendly wizard will help guide basic users. With straightforward questions like “What sort of files are you trying to recover?” and “Where were the files?” and a list of logical answers to select, it is clear to me that the developers at Piriform know the formula for software success: Make it useful, make it easy to use and serve it for free.

Free, easy and useful? You betcha.

Once you’ve answered the questions in the wizard, the program will scan the depths of your hard drive for the lost files. Once the scan is complete, it will display the results in a sensible table with columns labeled “Filename, Path, Last Modified, Size, State, Comment.”

The “State” column contains descriptions like “excellent, very poor and unrecoverable”. This should give the user a clear idea about the data’s chances of being recovered.

The “Comment” column contains statements like, “This file has been overwritten” or “no overwritten clusters detected.”

Check out the screen shots on their web site and you’ll get the idea.

The software can also search for deleted files on media cards or in a folder or directory specified by the user.

There is also an “Advanced Mode” button for those who’d like a few additional options at their disposal.

All in all, I’m very impressed with this program. I’ll tip my hat to the folks at Piriform on a job well done. Of course, I’d expect nothing less from the folks who make the wonderful CCleaner program (also free).

Download Recuva here.

Download Ccleaner here.


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Test Driving the Blog Editor in the Flock Browser July 13, 2008

Posted by Mike in Blogging, Freebies, Learning, Online Service, Reviews, Software, Technology.
3 comments

The ultra-cool new web browser, Flock, incorporates a blog editor for speedy posting.  I thought I’d try this out with this post.

Here’s how I used the blog editor in Flock:

  1. I surfed the web with Flock for an article to blog about.
  2.  Once I found one, I went to the VIEW menu, the sidebars sub-menu and then clicked on the “Web Clipboard”.
  3. With the web clipboard now a visible column on the left, I dragged/dropped a link and an image onto the sidebar.
  4. Next, I went to the TOOLS menu and chose the “Blog Editor” tool and a new window opened.
  5. On the blog editor window, I again went to the VIEW menu and chose sidebar and clicked on “web clipboard”.
  6. In the blog editor, I see the link and the image that I previously saved to the clipboard in step 3.
  7. I drag n’ drop the saved link and image into the body of the blog editor to use in the post.

All in all,  that’s an easy way to post to your blog from your web browser.  The blog editor is fairly basic, not a lot of whistles and bells, but it’ll help you post quickly.  Here are some of the features included in the blog editor:

  • Choose Font, Size, Bold/Italic/Underline, color
  • Bullets or numbers for creating lists
  • Indent buttons
  • Button to create link
  • Button to insert images (if you haven’t used the web clipboard)

Before Flock can send the post to your blog, you’ll need to configure your blog account into the Flock blog editor. It can be configured for a blog hosted on a free service like WordPress.com or a self-hosted blog. This is done from the TOOLS menu in the Blog Editor.

When you’re ready to publish your post, you can choose to create the entry as a new post or to replace an existing one.  You can also assign categories.


SAMPLE LINK:

http://www.engadget.com/ 2008/ 07/ 12/ kodak-intros-the-c913-m1073-is-and-m1063-chea…

SAMPLE IMAGE:

Kodak Cameras

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Microsoft Surface Technology Delights Customers at AT&T Wireless Stores July 11, 2008

Posted by Mike in Apple, Blackberry, Microsoft, News, Software, Technology, Worth a Look.
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In pursuit of a new Blackberry, I visited a local AT&T Wireless store yesterday and discovered several high tech display tables utilizing Microsoft Surface technology! How cool is that?  I know I stayed in the store twice as long just so I could play with it.

By placing one of the display models of the Blackberry onto the tabletop, the table display changed to show me information about the device along with AT&T’s wireless plans. I could also touch the screen and change the table display into a large coverage map of the area, showing me where AT&T wireless service was available in the area.

Microsoft Surface technology is kind of like the touch interface on an Apple iPhone. It responds to your touch but also allows other users to interact with it at the same time.

A quick visit to the Microsoft Surface web site explained that a select few AT&T Wireless stores in New York City, Atlanta, San Antonio, and the San Francisco Bay Area have received these revolutionary display tables.

Look at the FIND IT section of the Microsoft Surface web site to find the addresses of one of these stores near you.

Of course, you may want to wait a few days to visit since the new Apple iPhone is being released at AT&T stores today.

Get Fit! Technology That Moves You June 28, 2008

Posted by Mike in Blogging, exercise, family, geocaching, Hardware, health, iPod, Reviews, Software, Technology, Worth the Money.
7 comments

What other technology products out there are designed to help you exercise or enjoy the outdoors?

The excitement surrounding the release of the Nintendo Wii Fit got me thinking about this question.

I spent a little time browsing Amazon.com and came up with a few technology gadgets — with many positive user reviews — that will help you get off your couch and get outside (or at least break a sweat inside):

Wii Fit

Exercise without leaving the comfy confines of your own living room. With Nintendo’s addictively fun Wii game system, this new software package will get you exercising in four key areas: Strength Training, Aerobics, Yoga and Balance Games. The games and activities are designed to appeal to all ages, so Mom and Dad can enjoy it just as much as the kids.

Price: $171 on Amazon.com

Apple Nike + iPod Sport Kit for iPod nano 1G, 2G, 3G

This is actually an add-on package for an iPod Nano. You’ll need to buy the Nano iPod separately.

“Consisting of a wireless sensor and receiver, the Nike + iPod Sport Kit works exclusively with your Nike+ shoes and iPod nano to give you real-time feedback during workouts.” – Amazon product description.

Price: $29.00 on Amazon.com

Garmin eTrex H Handheld GPS with High Sensitivity GPS

This one intrigues me. GPS devices like this one have led to an explosion in popularity of a game called geocaching. In a nutshell, geocaching is a game of high tech treasure hunting. Players hide “caches” in various places, like parks or camp sites or even urban locations. The map coordinates of the cache are then posted online and other players can go and search for it using a handheld GPS.

For a full description of geocaching, please visit The Official Global GPS Cache Hunt Site

Geocaching sounds like a great family activity. I fully intend to play when my sons get a little older. When the time comes, I’ll take my friend Chris up on his offer to join him on a treasure hunt one day.

While there are a great many varieties of handheld GPS devices, this one is under $100 and should fit the budget of most families.

Price: $93.16 on Amazon.com

Omron HJ-112 Digital Premium Pedometer

Amazon Product Description:

“The HJ-112 accurately measures your steps, as well as aerobic steps and minutes. You can also use it to measure calorie consumption during your workout, as well as the distance you’ve traveled.”

Price: $19.82 on Amazon.com

So, now you can have your “tech” and exercise too. I’ll see you outdoors. Don’t worry about that big ball of light in the sky. That’s called the sun. It’s a good thing. Have fun!

Keeping the Customer Happy: Dell Grants Windows XP a Stay of Execution June 27, 2008

Posted by Mike in News, Software, Technology.
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Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

Dell will continue to offer customers the option to “downgrade” from Windows Vista to Windows XP when purchasing a PC until 2009.

In some cases, there will be an additional charge to do so, but at least the option exists.

For more details, please read this blog post: http://tech.yahoo.com/blogs/null/95202

Browser Wars: Newcomer Flock Looks like a Contender June 11, 2008

Posted by Mike in Freebies, Fun, News, Reviews, Software, Technology.
7 comments

Browser Wars.jpg

I just downloaded and installed Flock. I’ll provide a more complete review after I’ve familiarized myself with the software, but here is my initial reaction:

  1. WOW
  2. WOW
  3. WOW

Internet Explorer better watch out for this one. It is actually built upon the FireFox browser, so I can’t call FireFox a direct competitor.

Here’s a news article I found on BusinessWeek that led me to try Flock:

In Browsers, Flock May Lead the Flock.

Visit Flock’s web site to download this free program.


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My New Favorite Yahoo Widget June 6, 2008

Posted by Mike in Freebies, Fun, Photos, Software, Technology, Yahoo.
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Yahoo’s free widgets, over 4,000 and counting, allow users to display bits of information right on their desktop for PCs or Mac. Microsoft’s Windows Vista OS has built in widgets, but those of us still on Windows XP can “widget-ize” our desktops courtesy of Yahoo.

For more info and a widgets definition, go here: Yahoo’s Widgets click here.

My Favorite New Widget:

Inspiration by Martin Koistinen (click to view download page).

It cycles through inspirational quotes to help motivate and inspire you. However, my favorite part is that I can add my own quotes simply by editing a text file stored in ‘My Documents’ folder.

For example, I’ve added memorable quotes from my two boys so that I don’t forget the amusing things 3 year olds say. Those quotes cycle through along with ones from famous folks with wisdom to share.

Here’s a link to a list of other widgets created by Martin Koistinen for Yahoo! Widgets.

Widget of Honorable Mention:

Any widget that helps you enjoy digital photos by displaying to you a different photo on your hard drive every minute.

For example: One Photo Yahoo! Widget

What widgets do you use?

A Blogger’s Best Friend: Zoundry’s Blog Writer Software June 4, 2008

Posted by Mike in Blogging, Freebies, Organize, Reviews, Software, Technology.
3 comments

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Attention fellow bloggers!

Zoundry’s Blog Writer software will make your life easier.

How, you ask?

  1. Free software (click to visit download page) makes it easier to compose and upload your posts to popular blog sites like WordPress, Blogger, Typepad, LiveJournal, etc.
  2. Download your existing posts (and categories) into the Blog Writer software for faster editing and updating.
  3. Innovative “Create Link to” feature allows you to quickly locate product images (very helpful if writing a product review) on web sites like Amazon.com and Buy.com. For example, It helped me grab images when writing my post about Father’s Day Gift Ideas.
  4. Use the software to backup your blog posts. After downloading your posts, you can save them as HTML files on your PC.
  5. The software allows you to quickly ping Technorati, Google’s Blog Search, Feed Burner, My Yahoo and and other similar sites.

And more good news…..Zoundry is updating Blog Writer to make it even better. The new version, in beta, is called Zoundry Raven and is available for download now.

Read more about it on Zoundry Raven’s blog.

If this software isn’t to your liking, you may want to try BlogDesk software instead.

Powered by Zoundry

Jott for Blackberry: Reply to Emails with your Voice! June 1, 2008

Posted by Mike in Blackberry, Freebies, Online Service, Software, Technology, Worth the Money.
2 comments

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Jott’s new service, Jott for Blackberry, will make that device even more user-friendly than it is right now. Now you can respond to any email using your voice, instead of the keyboard and give your tired fingers a break.

When installed on your Blackberry, the Jott software will transcribe your message and send it off in an email, with your fingers never touching the keypad.

The software is free while in beta and will likely be any Blackberry user’s favorite new app. It will definitely be worth the money when it comes out of beta.

I’m glad to see Jott is finding new and useful ways to integrate its technology into products. I’ve blogged about their service before, and you’re welcome to read my earlier post by clicking here.

What’s your favorite Blackberry app?

Tips on Setting up a Holiday Budget November 22, 2007

Posted by Mike in Finance, Freebies, Holidays, Learning, Money, Online Service, Organize, Software, Technology.
2 comments

Holiday Candles

How does holiday budgeting find its way onto a blog about technology? Well, it just so happens that technology can help you setup a budget and stick to it. Not to mention, there are web sites and blogs out there with good advice on personal finance.

While November and December is the time for family, turkey, thankfulness, holiday lights and gift giving, January tends to be the time for credit card bills and financial shock and awe.

Hopefully, setting a holiday budget can help you get the best of both worlds: Happiness in November and December without the shock and awe of credit card bills.

With Thanksgiving upon us and Black Friday Ads enticing us to shop and save tomorrow, I’ve located a few tools and advice web sites for you to use.

Do you have any tips or tools that you can share regarding a budget? If you do, please share them.

Happy Holidays!

Read this Post by SuperBibliodigital to Keep Current on New Software and Online Services November 20, 2007

Posted by Mike in Blogging, News, Software, Technology.
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Her blog will point you to a great site for keeping track of the latest and greatest web sites, software programs and other tech goodies.

SuperBibliodigital’s Killer Apps Post.

In the News: Palm Apps to Run on Nokia’s Internet Tablets November 16, 2007

Posted by Mike in Business, Hardware, News, Software, Technology.
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It looks like thousands of applications designed for the Palm OS platform will get new life on Nokia’s 700, N800 and N810 Internet Tablets.

I found this article today while browsing eweek.com.

 Read Henry Kingman’s article.

Recover Data with File Scavenger Software November 13, 2007

Posted by Mike in Software, Technology, Worth the Money.
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“The world isn’t run by weapons anymore. Or energy. Or money.

It’s run by little ones and zeroes. Little bits of data. It’s all just electrons.”

– Sneakers (movie), 1992

And when you accidentally delete some of those little bits of data from your PC, what can you do to recover it?

If you empty your recycle bin, your data files are typically still recoverable….with a little software help.

File Scavenger 3.0 is a data recovery software tool that can help you recover files that have been accidentally deleted or that are no longer accessible due to hard drive damage, corruption or reformatting. Their web site claims that it can recover data from floppy disks, zip disks, usb memory drives and RAIDs.

If you’ve lost some data that is important to you, then the $49.00 for a personal version of this software is a small price to pay to recover it.

At the very least, bookmark their site for a rainy day. You’ll thank yourself later.

BlogDesk Software Helps Bloggers Post November 3, 2007

Posted by Mike in Blogging, Freebies, Reviews, Software, Technology.
14 comments

blogdesk-logo

I’ve recently started using BlogDesk software to write and upload articles to my blog. I like the fact that I can write my post in a software program offline and either save it or upload it to my WordPress.com blog when I’m done.

The software feels more like Microsoft Word and I think its more user-friendly for writing and editing than the free online word processing tools offered by WordPress.

BlogDesk is totally free of charge and optimized for the blog systems WordPress, MovableType, Drupal, Serendipity and ExpressionEngine as well as the bloghosters Blogg.de and Twoday.net.

COOL FEATURES:

  1. FREE (is always cool)
  2. Work offline on your blog writing.
  3. Edit existing blogs offline
  4. Easier to insert images and edit text.
  5. Good, user-friendly image editing tools.
  6. ‘Manage Blogs’ feature allows you to import your existing blog posts and categories for editing.

NOTE: I did have a few problems getting the import feature to work for my WordPress blog, but its worth the trouble. You’ll need to get it working to be able to upload your finished work to your blog.

Read Qiyas II’s Blog on Top 100 Software Tools for Learning October 23, 2007

Posted by Mike in Blogging, Learning, Software, Technology.
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I’m finding some good blog posts today. I’d recommend reading Qiyas II’s entry about the Top 100 software tools for learning and productivity. It’s always interesting to see what tools and services are being created to help us learn in new ways.

Here’s a link to his blog.

I’m planning on testing out some of these tools. Who knows, I may find the topic for a future post myself!

Top 50 computing tips « Family Resource for You October 23, 2007

Posted by Mike in Blogging, Software, Technology.
1 comment so far

I was blog surfing and came across a good post by Family Resource for you. It has to do with computer tips for the everday user. They link to a PC Magazine article that covers a lot of topics, including, upgrading hardware, software, passwords, undiscovered web sites, etc.

I’m sure you’ll learn something new by browsing the article.

Top 50 computing tips « Family Resource for You

Record and Share Your Screen Activity with Jing October 2, 2007

Posted by Mike in Blogging, Business, Freebies, Learning, Online Service, Reviews, Software, Technology, Training, Worth the Money.
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You need to try Jing software by Techsmith. I’ve been using it for a few weeks now and am very pleased with its ease of use.

What does it do, you ask?

Here’s a quick definition, courtesy of the JingProject.com web site:

The concept of Jing is the always-ready program that instantly captures and shares images and video from your computer to anywhere.

Why do I like it?

  1. Easy to use.
  2. Great for sharing.
  3. Great for troubleshooting computer problems.
  4. Great for demonstrations and training.
  5. Great for blogs.
  6. Easy to share recordings with others.
  7. Free (for now). Hopefully, inexpensive when out of beta.

# 6 deserves additional explanation. Techsmith has integrated JING with its Screencast.com file hosting service. When you complete a recording, you can click a SHARE button and the recording is immediately uploaded to your account on the screencast.com web site. From there, you can share the recording as a URL.

I believe the Screencast.com web site is fee-based, but Techsmith offers a free account for those using JING in beta. I am not expecting the free Screencast.com account to last forever, but it is impressive to be able to quickly upload my recordings to their site and share them.

What don’t I like?

The one down side for me is the 5 minute time limit on your recording. Users cannot record longer than 5 minutes.

The program does a good job of tracking your time left with a clock during the recording process, so you shouldn’t be surprised when the recording stops. It would still be helpful to have the option to record a bit longer though.

Please keep in mind that this software is simplified screen recording. It also can capture screenshots in better quality than your “Print Screen” button. It is designed for the masses to capture and share these recordings. It doesn’t allow you to edit your recording after the fact. That said, if you don’t like your recording, then your only option is to delete it and re-record.

How to Use Jing

How many times have you written up instructions about a computer process for a family member, a friend or a colleague?  If you’re like me, the answer is a lot.  

With JING, you can now show someone how to do it. 

Best of all, you can record the steps quickly and send the person a link to view them.  It may not be a polished, presentation ready demonstration, but it is intended for an individual not a group.  Jing gets the job done quickly and that’s what counts.

Competing Products

Adobe Captivate 3 and Camtasia Studio 4. In basic terms, both of these products offer screen recording/capture. However, these two programs have much better editing tools and options for formatting and presenting these recordings. They also have a much higher price tag.

Final Thoughts

Try it. You’ll like it (sort of like green eggs and ham). Ideally, I think this type of technology should be included in future operating systems. The ability to quickly record my PC activity and share it with others is a great way to educate and train users on new products and features via email, blog or instant message.  It is also a great way for a person to show tech support exactly what steps they took to get an error.

The 5 minute time limit is a little short. However, realistically, most people have short attention spans and a 5 minute video may be enough to get your point across.

As an example, I used JING in an earlier blog post to demonstrate how to mail merge.

For details, FAQs and to download the software, please visit JING Project.

Grab the Popcorn and Watch My 5 Minute Video: How to Mail Merge in Microsoft Word September 18, 2007

Posted by Mike in Freebies, Learning, Software, Technology, Training, Videos.
4 comments

I’ve created an online video demonstration (with audio) to walk you through the steps of doing a mail merge to create mailing labels. I used MS Word 2003.

My video demo assumes that you have your data in an MS Excel spreadsheet.

No worries. The video is only 5 minutes long. You can sit through that, right?

In my opinion, mail merge has way too many steps. I can’t improve the process but hopefully this video will help you learn it because it is a useful function!

Learn How to Mail Merge Video

I’d appreciate your feedback on this demo. I’m using a new software program called Jing by Techsmith. I think it’s great for training (I’ll right a review on it soon) but would like your opinion too!

My Top 5 List of Free Software Programs for Your Consideration September 7, 2007

Posted by Mike in Freebies, Photos, Reviews, Software, Technology.
5 comments

Computers are expensive. If you can find a free software program that works as well as one that costs you money, why not at least give it a try?

I’ve put together a Top 5 list of my favorite free software programs that I use right now.

1. Openoffice.org

The OpenOffice suite of programs will serve as a useful alternative to Microsoft Word, Excel, Publisher, Access and PowerPoint. You can even open existing Microsoft Office files in OpenOffice. The only software equivalent it lacks is one comparable to Outlook. There’s always Outlook Express which is free but doesn’t have as many features as Outlook.

Microsoft Office Program OpenOffice Equivalent
Word (word processing) Writer
Excel (spreadsheets) Calc
PowerPoint (slideshows) Impress
Access (databases) Base
Publisher (newsletters, flyers) Draw

2. AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition by Grisoft

This little gem is a good, free Anti-Virus program. Keep in mind, it is only an Anti-Virus program. These days companies like McAfee and Symantec are selling all-in-one security suites. They pack their suites with anti-virus, anti-spyware, firewalls, spam blockers, email scanning, anti-phishing and identity protection.

That’s overkill for me and the amount of computer resources (memory, CPU) these programs demand of a computer is ridiculous. It slows down the performance on many a PC.

I just want anti-Virus protection. Grisoft’s Anti-Virus scans for viruses and downloads periodic updates to keep my PC protected from the latest viruses.

NOTE: Those of you with children who use your computer would be wise to invest in a more comprehensive all-in-one security suite.

3. Picasa from Google

This is a great free software program to help you manage, edit and share your digital photographs. It is packed with features and is quite user friendly. It works well for basic photo editing, like reducing red eye, but won’t satisfy those of you looking for more sophisticated editing tools.

4. Lavasoft’s Ad-Aware SE Personal & SpyBot Search & Destroy

These are two separate programs for detecting and removing spyware. I chose to list them both because I think it’s a good idea to use two programs to detect and remove spyware. They’re free to use and regular updates are available. In my opinion, Ad-Aware is more user-friendly for the average PC user. If you only want one, go with Ad-Aware.

5. Google’s Web Accelerator

This software helps improve your web browsing experience by helping web pages load more quickly. In my B.C. years (Before Children), my wife and I could afford the luxury of cable internet service. However, diapers are expensive (especially when you’ve got twins) so we switched to the slower DSL service and saved some money.

I tried out the web accelerator and it helped. It won’t boost your DSL service to cable internet speeds, but it does seem to help. Maybe it is just psychological. It also keeps track of how much time it has saved you while web surfing, which is fun to see.

I‘d like to know what you think. Are there any free software programs that you find useful?

I look forward to your comments.

Google vs. Yahoo! – Battle of the Email Titans: One Reason Why Gmail is Better August 23, 2007

Posted by Mike in Freebies, Online Service, PC ABCs, Reviews, Software, Technology.
5 comments

Yahoo vs. Google

One reason why Google’s Gmail is better can be summed up in three words:

Free POP Settings.

Yahoo requires users to upgrade to the Yahoo! Mail plus service for an annual $19.99 in order to get to use POP Settings. 

For many, POP settings are important.  It is a fundamental feature that isn’t sexy or flashy, but it is useful. 

For the average computer user, the phrase POP Settings may not mean much.  It is an abbreviation for “Post Office Protocol.” These are email server settings that need to be configured into software programs like Outlook, Outlook Express, Thunderbird and IncrediMail. Once configured,  a person can download their email into one of those programs to manage their email.

To be fair, POP settings have been considered a “premium” feature for free online email services for quite a while.  Google is just re-writing the rules and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Yahoo! and others follow suit in the future to keep their users happy.

If you’re looking for a new email service and want to be able to manage your email in a software program like Outlook, then I’d suggest looking at Gmail

After all, it’s hard to beat free.

Which email service do you prefer?

Allway Sync: Free Software for Data Backup or Synchronization August 21, 2007

Posted by Mike in Data Backup, Freebies, Software, Technology.
2 comments

Allway Sync Software

Synchronizing, transferring or backing up data can be a tricky process for the average computer user.  It is a topic that comes up often when I talk to clients because data loss is a person’s biggest nightmare. 

Some of my previous blog entries have talked about various products and services to help backup data.  (See Mozy – online data backupWestern Digital Passport External Hard Drive and Supercopy.)   Well, I’m about to add another product to the list.

Allway Sync is a good, user-friendly software product for synchronizing or backing up data.  It is free for personal use while business users should purchase a license and upgrade to the pro version.

Using the software, data can be synchronized between a PC and an external hard drive or between two networked computers.  The software allows for two-way synchronization (both data locations receive the most current copy of each data file) or one-way synchronization, which is essentially copying your data from one location to another and creating a backup.

After the backup job is configured, Allway’s software will analyze the files to be backed up and report on any modifications or deletions.   The user can then review the report prior to synchronizing.

Allway’s web site offers a more comprehensive list of software features.

I think Allway Sync software will work well for:

  1. Users who need to synchronize files between networked PCs.
  2. Users who have an external hard drive but no software to help automate a regular backup process.

 Allway Sync is a well designed piece of software that also manages to be easy to use.  Other people think so too.  Take a look at quotes from other software users who like to use Allway Sync.

Download Allway Sync here.

Regardless of how you do it, just be sure you backup your data.  Computer hard drives will crash sooner or later and an ounce of prevention is much less expensive than a pound of cure.

MusicRescue – Transfer Music from Your iPod to a new PC August 9, 2007

Posted by Mike in Freebies, iPod, music, Software, Technology, Worth the Money.
1 comment so far

iPodsiPods

If your computer dies and takes your music with it, you still have your iPod, right? However, iTunes only lets you transfer tracks bought from the iTunes Store back to your new/fixed computer. What about those tracks ripped from CD, or lovingly recorded from your vinyl collection? Enter Music Rescue – the answer to your nightmare.

Quote from the MusicRescue web site

Col. Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee: I think I’m entitled.
Col. Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee: I want the truth.
Col. Jessep: You can’t handle the truth.

 

Here’s the truth:

If you’re assuming that your iPod doubles as a backup device for your music, you’ll be in for an unhappy surprise if your PC does crash. As stated above, music that you’ve put on your iPod that does not originate from the iTunes store cannot be transferred back to a PC with the standard iTunes/iPod software.

For example, you take your favorite Dave Matthews Band CD, Busted Stuff, and copy those songs from the CD to your iTunes software and then to your iPod. These songs didn’t come from the iTunes store so they won’t transfer from your iPod back to your iTunes software in the event of a hard drive meltdown or laptop theft.

Don’t believe me? There are folks on Yahoo Answers looking for a solution to this very problem.

I assume Apple designed it this way to limit the possibility of music piracy (Arrgh, matey!) and ease the concerns of the music industry. I think it’s a bit late for that, but it is what it is.

MusicRescue is a nicely designed piece of software to help you solve this problem. You install onto your iPod and it then allows you to transfer all of your music from your iPod to any PC. MusicRescue calls this their iPod License.

There is also a different type of registration (called the Computer License) that allows you to install MusicRescue onto a PC and then transfer it to as many different iPods as you like. This may be a solution for a family of iPodders who share one PC or one music collection.

The MusicRescue software has both a free and a paid version. The features in both versions are the same. However, the free version “politely” reminds you that you should pay for the software while you’re copying music.

I haven’t tried the free version, so I don’t know if the “polite” reminder pauses the copying process and requires your presence to click OK. I suspect that it does, which means that you may find yourself glued to your PC clicking an OK button for however long it takes to transfer the music.

Keep this product in mind in case you find yourself in this type of situation. It works well on a Windows PC or a Mac.

You may download the software from MusicRescue web site by clicking here..

How to Backup your Data Online for Free: Shall we Mozy? August 7, 2007

Posted by Mike in Data Backup, Learning, Online Service, PC ABCs, Software, Technology, Training, Worth the Money.
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Mozy Logo

Backing up your data is critical and using an online service to securely backup your information accomplishes two important objectives:

  1. First and foremost, you have a backup copy of your data!
  2. Second of all, your backup data is stored “off site” or away from your computer.

Point # 2 is often overlooked.  Folks backup their data to CDs, DVDs or external hard drives and then store those backup files in the same place as their computer.  Even worse, some store it in the same bag as their laptop! 

What happens when your bag is stolen? Bye-bye laptop and bye-bye data backup! 

What happens when your home is damaged by fire, flood or ________ (insert your natural disaster here)?   Bye bye computer and bye bye data backup! 

Ok, so disasters aren’t an every day occurrence.  What if you spill some soda on your external hard drive? Or drop it?  Or misplace it? Or your toddler wants to see if it will float in the bath tub?

Have you ever scratched a CD? Yep, me too.

In order to avoid this type of headache, online backup services are ideal.  I just tested out Mozy.com and found it very user-friendly.  They offer 2GB of free (and secure) storage, which will be either:

  • Woefully inadequate for users with large quantities of data     OR    
  • Just right for backing up a few important files, pictures, etc.

 Here’s what I like about mozy.com’s service:

  • Free 2 GB of storage (no trials or tricks, just good ole’ free!)
  • User friendly software identifies and categorizes files to backup and lists the size of the files (very helpful for novice users who often wonder what to backup)
  • Advanced features for those more comfortable with PCs and configuring backups.
  • Option to schedule backups to run on a regular basis. (In other words, set it and forget it)
  • Larger storage options available for a monthly (not annual) fee.
  • “Slider” setting in the software allows you to control how much bandwidth is used during the backup process.

 Here’s what I don’t like:

  • Slow upload speeds.

 However, this isn’t Mozy’s fault.  It’s a reality for most home users on DSL or cable Internet, except for that lucky 75 year old woman in SwedenUpload speeds are always slower than download speeds.  Regardless of the culprit, transferring large amounts of your data securely onto Mozy’s servers takes longer than transferring them onto an external hard drive or burning them to CD. 

That’s just a limitation of any kind of online backup service. 

I’d suggest you consider giving Mozy a try.  If you like it, you can decide whether to upgrade to a larger account (if you need it).

If Mozy isn’t to your liking, there are other online backup services to explore: 

Carbonite

Xdrive

Kela

Whatever you do, you need to backup your important data.  It will save you a lot of stress and worry when your hard drive crashes or your laptop wanders off. Backing up your important files limits a catastrophe to a mere inconvenience. 

Trust me.

This is experience talking here.    :  )

AnyPassword.com – A Free, Easy Software to Store Passwords for Your Accounts July 28, 2007

Posted by Mike in Freebies, Passwords, Software, Technology.
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Passwords are out of control, multiplying like rabbits.

Something must be done before we have more passwords than brain cells.  The ideal solution would be a universal username/password that would grant you access to all of your Internet accounts from Yahoo to Google’s Gmail to YouTube to Amazon.  Of course, if the ideal solution existed you’d need to keep your universal username/password as an uber-secret or you’ll be universally munsoned

So, what happens? We end up with too many usernames/passwords for our memory to retain and we create a list of them.  We then live in fear that this covert, coveted list will fall in the hands of evil-doers so we stash it as a file on our PC in an obscure folder or under a pseudonym, save it to a USB drive or print it out and store it in flour jars, old college textbooks or shoeboxes under a bed.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a solution for the growing password problem. However, I have found a free software program that will help you securely manage your ever-growing list of usernames/passwords and give your memory a break.  Instead of remembering dozens of passwords, your over-taxed memory must only remember one.

Anypassword.com is a free and easy software program.  Using their product, you can store your plethora of usernames/passwords and web sites into a software program. The information resides on your PC as an encrypted file with a master password.  Don’t forget this password or you’ll be munsoned (again).  Since it is a file, it is vulnerable to hard drive crashes, so be sure to backup your PC data regularly.  If you need a backup service, take a look at MyTechOpinion’s blog about an online backup service called Carbonite.

The program is easy to use and easy to install.  In fact, it has won multiple awards which the company proudly lists on its site. 

If you’re looking for a better solution to manage your username/passwords,  you owe it to yourself (and your memory) to give Anypassword.com a try.

Click here to visit their download page.

Get Organized with “Tidy Start Menu” Software July 9, 2007

Posted by Mike in Freebies, Organize, Software, Technology, Worth the Money.
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Do you get tired of looking through the long list of installed programs on your start menu?

I know I do. So did Dennis Nazarenko and he decided to do something about it. He created a software program called “Tidy Start Menu.” The program allows a user to quickly and easily arrange the list of installed software programs on a computer into categories.

He offers two versions. One is free and the other is an “extended” version that currently costs $19.99. Either version can be downloaded from his web site, www.tidystartmenu.com.

Click here to download the free version.

Click here to register and download the pay version.

I downloaded the free version to test it out. The version I installed is v3.3 and I used it on a Windows XP Professional Operating System.

I found it very intuitive and easy to use, especially if you choose to operate the software in “Simple Mode”. It is not a misnomer.

In the free version, you are not able to create your own category names. You must use the ones that come in the program.

These categories are:
Office, Utilities, Games, Entertainment, Internet, Programming, Graphics, Security and Other.

If you aren’t satisfied with these options, then the pay version is a better choice for you.

I do suggest taking a moment to use the Backup feature in the software. You can store a backup of your original start menu and revert back to it in case you don’t like the results when you use Tidy Start Menu.

The program organized my programs menu with ease. However, a word of caution: It also organizes the programs menu for ALL other profiles on my computer. I happen to use both a work and personal profile on my computer, so the changes I applied using Tidy Start Menu on my work profile carried over to my personal one.

For me, this is not a problem. However, it may be if you share a computer with a family member, colleague or roommate who logs in with their own profile and doesn’t appreciate your attempts at organizing the cluttered programs menu.

I also found it interesting that the Tidy Start Menu program only appears on the Program Files Menu of the profile that you used to install it. I installed it using my work profile. The program doesn’t display on the programs menu for my home profile, so I couldn’t use it easily from my home profile.

Often, software programs offer the installer a choice to make the program available to ‘everyone’ or to ‘just me’.  This program didn’t.  I uninstalled and re-installed it just to make sure I didn’t miss the option.  It isn’t there.

All in all, those are small issues and the program works well as advertised. I recommend it as an option to someone looking to get their computer organized.

SuperCopy – An easy way to copy files in Windows July 6, 2007

Posted by Mike in Freebies, PC ABCs, Software, Technology.
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It’s always nice to find a piece of software that takes a task and makes it easier.  SuperCopy, created by Nathanael Jones, takes the file copying process (good ole’ copy/paste) and improves it for the average user.

Oh, and did I mention it’s free?   Nathanael’s program is also Open Source, which means he welcomes other people to take his work and improve upon it.  If you’d like to read about why he created the program, please do so here.
DOS commands are fairly simple in theory and quite useful in general. However, they’re seldom used by the average computer user, who is scared of the DOS prompt. SuperCopy helps the average user take advantage of one of these commands in particular, XCOPY.

According to Nathanael Jones:

“Super Copy provides a very robust way to copy files in Windows. Super Copy does not prompt you for more information once the copy has started; all options are specified beforehand. This is simply a lightweight interface for XCOPY, and will not negatively affect your system’s performance.”

SuperCopy allows a user to select the files and folders to be copied on their hard drive and then create and save a batch file. When the batch file is run by the user, it automatically copies and pastes the selected files. Click here for(more info on batch files.)

Here’s how I use it:

1. Using SuperCopy, I select the files and folders I want to copy on my computer and specify the location to copy them to (in this case a USB hard drive).
2. I create a batch file using SuperCopy and save it to my computer.
3. I connect an external USB hard drive to my computer.
4. I click on the batch file to run the commands to backup my files.
5. I remove the USB hard drive and I’ve completed my backup.

To make the 5-step process even easier, I can go to into the Control Panel in Windows and setup a schedule to run the batch file on a weekly or daily basis using “Scheduled Tasks.”

With that done, my 5-step process to backup my data files is now a 1 step process.

What’s my 1 step?

I just need to be sure my USB hard drive is attached to my computer when it’s time to backup my files!