Andornot Blog

Friday, October 07, 2011 11:35 AM

Utilities to Simplify Common Tasks

by Denise Bonin

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.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011 12:25 PM

I deleted it! Now what?

by Peter Tyrrell

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

Tuesday, May 24, 2011 5:00 PM

Screencast-o-matic: a great screen recording tool

by Jonathan Jacobsen

We feature a cool tool in almost every issue of the Andornot Newsletter, but here’s one that just couldn’t wait for the next issue: Screencast-0-matic! Not only does it have a fabulous name, it’s a great tool too.

Here’s the 411 on it:

  • It’s a screen recorder – it records the motions, clicks and actions you make on your computer, whether using software or browsing the web. It’s like pointing a video camera at your screen.
  • You can limit the recording to just a portion of your screen (e.g. to avoid capturing personal information).
  • You can also record audio, or video from a webcam.
  • You can upload the result to YouTube immediately after recording, or export it to a video file on your computer.
  • It’s Java-based and launches directly from the Screencast-o-matic website, so there’s no software to download and install.
  • It’s free (though there’s a Pro version that doesn’t apply a logo overlay to the video).

I particularly appreciated that it didn’t require a software install, just Java, and that I could upload the result to YouTube right away (though of course I wouldn’t do that if the video showed anything confidential or proprietary). With just a few clicks, I can record something and send it to a client to illustrate a point, almost effortlessly. I often make screenshots, drawings and diagrams to help convey information, but sometimes a video is better.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009 10:34 AM

Errors when attempting to run Database Publishing Wizard on a 64-bit Vista machine

by Ted Jardine
If you're attempting to use Microsoft's Database Publishing Wizard you might run into an error like the following (if you're running SQL Server Express 2005 - don't know if you will run into it with SQL Server 2005 Standard etc.):
This wizard will close because it encountered the following error: Could not load file or assembly 'Microsoft.SqlServer.BatchParser, Version=9.0.242.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=89845dcd8080cc91' or one of its dependencies. The system cannot find the file specified. (Microsoft.SqlServer.ConnectionInfo)
If you do, just download the x64 version of Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Management Objects Collection located here. This post pointed me in the right direction as the possible solution suggested does in fact resolve the issue.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009 3:32 PM

My Software Tools List: What I Put On My Machine

by Ted Jardine

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.

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