Utilities to Simplify Common Tasks

by Denise Bonin Friday, October 07, 2011 11:35 AM

Do you find yourself in a rut – using the same old tools or even the same old hardware - over and over again and wondering if there is a better way to do that multi-step task?  Here is a list of a few utilties that we use regularly and that IMHO will change the way you work. 

Sending large files:

g_logo_trans_110x63We often ask our clients to send us large files. We can accept very large files via email attachment or if they are very, very large, we ask our clients to drop them onto our FTP site. However, the limitation for sending large files as email attachments is often at the client end. Have you ever noticed how those emails with largish file attachments (maybe only 2MB) never go out? YouSendIt provides an easy way to send files to us or to your friends or colleagues. Again, it is a web-based solution, which has some limitations in the no charge version, but even with that you can send one file – up to 50MB - at a time. No need to send that file via CD in the mail, any more. As soon as it is sent via YouSendIt, your intended recipient receives an email and clicks on a link to download it.

FTP Client:

FileZillaDo you have to need to access documents or upload documents to remote servers and are you finding that the security on those systems is tightening up more and more?  For most folks, you probably have a familiar old FTP program that have used for years, but these just don’t cut it anymore.  And if you use your Windows Explorer, you may find yourself locked out of certain systems too.  We recommend that you upgrade to one of the newer FTP clients that can handle these new secure systems.  There is certainly no need to purchase a package; there are plenty of open source packages that are excellent.  We recommend FileZilla.

Faxing:

FaxZeroLogoPerhaps you have created a document electronically and need to fax it to someone else, yes fax... I know, so yesterday, right? So you print it and locate the only fax machine in your building left and you dial the number, load the document, the right way up without it being slanted, press the Send button and hope that at the other end they get it without a long black strip through the middle. Well, I’m here to tell you that there is a better way, without leaving your desk. Well, some of you probably have this technology already in place, but for those who do not, here is a great site, that allows you to send the document over the web to a fax machine. The site is FaxZero.

More ideas…

Of course there are other alternatives to those mentioned above and you might want to check out sites like LifeHacker for reviews and recommendations. Send us some of your suggestions and we’ll test them.  We are always trying new stuff and we might even include them in our next newsletter or in a blog post.

I deleted it! Now what?

by Peter Tyrrell Tuesday, June 07, 2011 12:25 PM

I have a home server running Amahi on Fedora Linux. I tell everyone it’s for backups and media, but it’s really so I can tinker with it and have to something to complain about. While prepping it this weekend for an upgrade, I got careless and decided to merge a partition that wasn’t being used with the boot partition.

Except it was being used. Imagine my surprise when it wouldn’t boot. And after some poking around, I was able to phrase the question that was to determine my course of action for the next 12 hours: “Er… where’s the operating system?”

To cut a long story short, I was able to recover the deleted partition with TestDisk, which comes with the handy handy HANDY Parted Magic CD. Both are free and indispensable.

TestDisk is open source data recovery software for recovering lost partitions and making non-booting disks bootable again.
http://www.cgsecurity.org/wiki/TestDisk

PhotoRec is open source file recovery software that finds lost files from hard disks and digital cameras, even if the file system has been damaged or reformatted.
http://www.cgsecurity.org/wiki/PhotoRec

PartedMagic is an open source suite of programs for disk, partition and file system management. It includes TestDisk and PhotoRec (and many others). It runs from a CD, no install required.

  • Format internal and external hard drives.
  • Move, copy, create, delete, expand & shrink hard drive partitions.
  • Clone your hard drive, to create a full backup.
  • Test hard drives for impending failure.
  • Test memory for bad sectors.
  • Benchmark your computer for a performance rating.
  • Securely erase your entire hard drive, wiping it clean from all data.
  • Gives access to non-booting systems allowing you to rescue important data.
http://partedmagic.com

Tags: Linux | tips | tools | utilities

My Software Tools List: What I Put On My Machine

by Ted Jardine Tuesday, March 10, 2009 3:32 PM

My new laptop should arrive any day now (yay! It just came!), so in preparation for setting it all up again, here's my list of everything I'll put on it (in the spirit of Scott Hanselman's excellent "Ultimate Developer and Power Users Tool List for Windows"):

Standard Fare and Utilities

  • Windows Vista Ultimate (and soon Windows 7)
    I'd put the Beta on now, but that means a repave would come too soon.
  • Executor
    I bind it to Win-A and instantly have the best application launcher out there for Windows. Almost as pretty as Launchy and Enso (well, not quite, but we can't be too picky) and even more functional than SlickRun. After first trying it, it promptly became my launcher of choice; it's ridiculous how much you can do with it.
  • Ultramon
    Absolutely necessary when running multi-monitors (latest beta works without issues). DisplayFusion looks good as well so I'm actually going to try it out as it's the first legitimate competitor I've seen for Ultramon in all the years I've used it.
  • Roboform
    Phenomenal way to securely store and use login credentials and software codes, and autofill registration and checkout forms (including credit card information). Expensive but worth it. I've also been trying out LastPass on my netbook. RoboForm's usability is a tiny bit better (for i.e. keyboard shortcuts are better, especially for initial login) and it is more secure because data is only stored locally (which I use Windows Live Sync - see below - to synchronize between multiple machines), but LastPass has the huge convenience of having a central repository so that data is instantly synced between all machines (including the ability to get access from other machines, including public ones where you can utilize one time login credentials for greater security). Oh, and LastPass if free. Regardless, use something and create strong passwords.
  • ClipX
    Tiny clipboard history manager. I've been using the beta x86 version with very few glitches for a long time now. Will be using the x64 beta on the new machine.
  • Windows Live Sync (aka FolderShare)
    Great way to securely sync files between your different machines, and if wanted, between different users. I use it to sync RoboForm data, YNAB data, and more.
  • SnagIt
    Screen capturing software. When Peter first told me how much he loved it, I guffawed and told him it was screen capturing software! How could it be worth $50 USD?!? (even more in beaver bucks). But I tried out the trial and...well, me of so little faith: Peter was right. Phenomenal piece of software that I promptly purchased (do a google for a coupon codes for a price reduction).
  • Notepad++
  • Microsoft Office 2007
  • QuickBooks
    Someday there will be a replacement for this software that seems stuck back in the 90's, but until there is, couldn't live without it even though it regularly contributes to a receding hair line (I am so thankful I am not a bookkeeper and I raise my glass to the wonderful bookkeepers in my life: Pat and Maxine).
  • Mozy
    Please backup, backup often, and backup off-site. Mozy makes the process easier, although I think I'll be trying out IDrive this time around because of many additional features including its ability to synchronize multiple machines to local media (external USB drive) which then syncs up online. I've got ~90GB of data so I'm hoping the synchronization process is a little faster with IDrive (Mozy churns away "replicating splines" when determining what of my local 90GB of data has changed/been added - apparently that's some sci-fi reference). Regardless, both are dirt cheap for personal home use (unlimited for $4.95/month with yearly discounts available). Eventually I'll get a Windows Home Server configured too, which will be even better!
  • Windows Live Messenger (aka MSN Messenger)
    Someday I'll find an alternative that works well (have tried Trillian and Pidgin, but both have bigger shortcomings either in usability or stability). At least there's a registry hack you can do to remove the ads in Windows Live Messenger (no, I am still not interested in "Singles in Surrey").
  • 7-zip
    Great file compression (that can also read and write to RAR and ZIP).
  • SharpKeys
    A registry hack that is used to make certain keys on a keyboard act like other keys. I use this to map unused keys on my Apple keyboard to something more useful:
    • f13: Print Screen (used all the time with SnagIt)
    • f14: Insert
    • f16: Mute
    • f17: Volume Down
    • f18: Volume Up
    • f19: Calculator
    • Right-Ctrl: Application Menu
  • Switcher
    What Vista should have done for its Alt-Tab implementation.
  • YNAB Pro
    Budgeting software that just works.
  • Skype
  • Pantone Huey PRO
  • µTorrent
    BitTorrent client.
  • ted
    Torrent Episode Downloader with a great name ;-)
  • Startup Delayer
  • Windows Live Writer
  • ffdshow and K-Lite Codec Pack
    Just use this codec pack to cover pretty much any codec you need to view or listen to digital media.
  • Plaxo
    Used to sync contacts and calendar with all other machines for accounts other than Exchange.
  • Acronis TrueImage

Development

  • Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 Professional
  • Resharper
    Friends don't let friends develop without it.
  • Subversion, TortoiseSVN, and VisualSVN
    I'd like to say something about this combo, but words fail me.
  • GhostDoc
    Free add-in for visual Studio that automatically generates XML documentation comments for C#.
  • VMWare Player/VMWare Workstation
    The former is free, and the latter is expensive. The latter also makes like easier, but you can hack things (legally of course) to get the player to do what you need it to. There wouldn't be a dilemma except for the fact that the player is prettier and has Unity (where the guest application windows look just like host application windows, but with color-coded borders - much easier to tab through applications while developing)! Unity is in Beta for Windows right now, so once it's out of beta, I guess I'll go for less pretty with more functionality (and the relatively hefty price tag).
  • Gallio
  • TestDriven.NET
  • ANTS Profiler
  • Microsoft Virtual PC
  • .NET Reflector
  • Adobe Creative Suite Design Premium
  • AutoHotKey
  • NH Prof
    If you do anything at all with NHibernate, just buy this (beta promotional pricing still in affect).
  • Beyond Compare 3
    Another "just buy it" bit of software. I got a discount coupon through DonationCoder.com that is no longer there, but hopefully will return.
  • RegexBuddy
    If you do anything with Regex, have mercy on yourself and buy this. Worth every penny.
  • SQL Server
  • Oracle .NET Client
  • And more of the usual...

Firefox and Add-Ons

Deserves a section all to itself.

Startup Delayer: Get Windows up and running faster

by Ted Jardine Monday, March 02, 2009 11:03 AM

Found this great utility through Scott Watermasysk's blog: Startup Delayer. I quote:

When Windows loads it's [sic] Startup file, it attempts to load every program in there at the same time. Therefore if you have quite a lot of programs starting when Windows starts, each program will try and grab CPU time so that it can load.

If each program tries to do this at the same time, you soon notice the slow down that occurs, due to your CPU trying to help all the programs to load, and your hard disk accessing multiple files.

Startup Delayer allows you to setup how many seconds after Windows has started, to load each program.

Works just as advertised. Just configure it to get those slow loading applications (Skype anyone?) to load up at a later time and save your quad-core from thrashing.

Startup-Delayer-Configuration

You can configure it to just work in the background, or with a visual GUI:

Startup-Delayer

There's even an auto-config option to have everything in your startup menu startup at a set interval (say 10 seconds). Couldn't be easier or more effective so definitely worth the download (and works on XP and Vista).

Tags: tools | utilities

Visual Studio and the non-sensical "Apply Cut Copy commands to blank lines where there is no selection" option.

by Ted Jardine Friday, February 01, 2008 11:26 PM

Quoting some comments in Jeff Atwood's "Revinventing the Clipboard" blog post:

What I dislike the most, about the clipboard, is the really bad behaviour in VS. Say you cut something, then you try to past it elsewhere but you hit the C instead of the V (without any text selected) and bravo, you've lost your clipboard content! You now have to undo 3 or 4 times to re-start the manipulation. This is anti-productive at the most.

Fabian on January 22, 2008 03:01 AM

Fabian: That one gets me too, but the good news is that you can turn off that behaviour in Visual Studio.

Go to Tools->Options...->Text Editor->All Languages->General and untick "Apply Cut Copy commands to blank lines when there is no selection"

(I guess this goes towards what Jeff was saying about software having reasonable defaults).

GrahamStw on January 22, 2008 03:10 AM

It's one of those things that I never remember how to reset so here it is. Glory Hallelujah.

And btw, using ClipX and loving it (and yes, the beta seems to work fine in Vista).

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