Friday, March 30, 2012

Free Screen Capture Tool

ScreenHunter is a free screen-capture tool for you to easily take screenshots. ScreenHunter can capture a full screen, an active window, the client window, or a rectangular area. It automatically saves captures in BMP or JPEG format, so you don't have to stop each time you capture, and you can capture as many as you like. It also can save captures to the Clipboard to be copied to other programs, such as Motion Studio and Word. ScreenHunter has a selectable hot-key capture (F1 to F10) and delayed capture, and uses virtually no system resources on standby.

Do Not Track Plus

Do Not Track Plus is a free program that blocks web beacons and other tracking technologies that advertisers use to track your browsing behavior. With it, you can easily see what trackers are in use at each website you visit and block any or all of them.

Free Email Route Analyzer

Although internet-based email is incredibly useful, it does have its problems. It's not secure by default, so you need to encrypt confidential messages. There's no automatic mechanism to find out whether a message was received or read. And perhaps most worryingly of all, it's easy to send fake mail that appears to come from, well, anyone. Hence all that spam that seems to have been sent by a collection of people with unbelievable names. If they appear to have been randomly generated, that's because they probably have.

If you need to investigate the origin of an email message, all the information that you require to do is right there, in the message itself, in a section called the header. Trouble is, most email programs don't display the header information by default. And even if they did, it would be difficult to understand because it's not really structured in a way that most people can comprehend.

However, a free online tool makes it all very easy. If you receive an email and you need to check its authenticity, LevineCentral will do it for you. Within a couple of seconds, you'll see details of the route your message took,i.e, which mail server it was sent from, which one it was destined for, and any other servers that it passed through on its journey. It's a great head start in your quest to become an email detective!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Best Password Manager: LastPass

LastPass is a superb password manager and a lot more. It will remember all your passwords and even generate passwords for you if you want. It also will let you easily store and conveniently organize information you want concerning any website or anything. Not only will LastPass automatically fill in your login info on any website so you don't have to remember anything, you can see your login info from any computer anywhere in the world. And the security is beyond reproach. LastPass is available for free for your computer and at a modest charge for use on your cellphone.

Flight Minder App

FlightMinder reminds you when it's time to check-in online for your flight. Simply enter your flight time, select your airline, and when early check-in becomes available, you will receive a notification. FlightMinder will even copy your confirmation number to the clipboard and take you right to the airline's website. This is especially useful for Southwest fliers, because checking in early can get you a better seat on the plane.

Avoid Being Bounced From a Flight

The best way to minimize your chance of being bounced from an oversold flight is to print your boarding pass as soon as it is available for printing. This will increase the odds of your seat being held for you, which is especially helpful if you have a discounted seat because airlines prefer to bounce those with the lowest cost seats because then the reimbursement amount is lower.

Windows 7 Made Easy

Microsoft has a set of short videos about many of the everyday things that anyone using Windows 7 needs to know how to do. Here is the list:

Changing Windows settings
Getting around the desktop
Personalizing your PC
Finding your files
Sharing files with HomeGroup
Using e-mail and the Internet

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Cox Promotions and New Features

I'm not a fan of Cox, but they are running three promotions of interest:

1. You can upgrade to the next faster download level for $5/month for 3 months. The normal charge is 411/month. You can cancel any time during or after that 3 month deadline. Thus, this is very inexpensive way to see if faster downloads might be worth it to you (e.g., especially for streaming stuff).

2. When you call to ask about the download upgrade, Cox likely will offer to give you HBO and SHO free for 3 months. I accepted the offer just to be able to see Game Change.

3. Cox has a free app available to allow you to watch live Cox TV anywhere on your iPad.

4. The Whole Home feature lets you start watching a TV show in one room and then stop it and start it again in another room.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Keeping Receipts

OneReceipt won't do your taxes for you, but it will keep track of every receipt for every purchase. OneReceipt is a free Web service that links with your email to automatically collect and store electronic receipts. Also, you can snap a photo of paper receipts and email them to OneReceipt so you never lose one again.OneReceipt is safe and totally secure, and none of your information will be shared.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Tingo for Hotels

AirFareWatchDog, which is one of the best sites for finding the best airfares, has come out with a great hotel site--Tingo. If you book through Tingo and the price drops, you'll automatically get your money back.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Good Free Utilities

My Portable Software is a good source of some very helpful free programs, including: file wiper; clipboard manager; message encrypter; cpu and network speed monitor; startup delayer; screen capture; and more.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Not Free But Worth It--Update

In an earlier posting, I recommended an HD-TV adaptor for use with Intel WiDi. While it would be useful if your laptop does not have an HDMI port, and perhaps for other reasons, but save your money and just plug your computer into your TV's HDMI port. Not only will you save the money in not having to pay $90 or so for the adaptor, you won't have to make screen resolution changes each time you connect to your computer. I apologize for the earlier posting. That said, if you're interested in seeing Major League Baseball games on TV, instead of going to MLB On Demand with your cable provider, it's half the price through streamed through your laptop connected by HDMI to your TV, and it's fantastic picture.

Easy Free To-Do List Maker

Need a simple to-do list for your household chores or a shareable one for the office? Workflowy can help you stay on track. The site allows you to create itemized lists complete with detailed subsections. Your list is fully searchable, making it easy to focus on one or two items at a time.
The site features a quick tutorial when you first sign up, so you'll be ready to make lists like a pro in just a few minutes. The site's design is very simple, so it's easy to use on the go with a smartphone or tablet.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Job Hunting Tips

1. According to Leadership IQ, a training and research firm, use of lots of first-person words (I, me, we, us, our) makes for better interviewing because the interviewee comes across as more direct than interviewees who use third-person words (you, your, you'll, they, them, themselves).

2. According to TheLadders, a job-search firm, Rrsumes are not as important as one might think. Recruiters look at a resume for an average 6.25 seconds, and rarely look at anything besides: name, current title and company, start and end date of previous position, start date of current position, and education. So, spending money on a resume makes little sense, while keeping the resume uncluttered is the best approach.

Cell Phone Use With No Radiation Risk

If you use your cellphone a lot, and are concerned about radiation risk, and you have a keen retro fashion sense, while not free, you can get an old-fashioned telephone handset that will plug into your cellphone. They are available from many outlets, but here is a description of them from a major manufacturer:

Typing in a Foreign Language Made Easy

You're studying a foreign language and you need to type a paper, or you want to send an email to a foreign pen pal. You could commit dozens of keyboard shortcuts for foreign accents to memory, or you could just use AX. This free program allows you to type language accents with just one key. Open the program, select the unaccented character in your word processing program, hit F8 and voilĂ ! For letters with multiple accent marks - such as the Spanish U - you can cycle through the options by pressing F8 until you find the accent you want. The program even allows you to use accents from two different languages at once. A small menu sits next to your document so you can change languages on the fly.

Monday, March 19, 2012


Readability turns any Web page into a clean view for reading now or later on your computer or Android device or iPhone. With the Readability app, you can catch up reading you've saved with the free Readability add-on for your Web browser. Already a favorite on Kindle e-readers, now you can enjoy the benefits of Readability on your Android devices and iPhones.



Best Free Clipboard: Ditto

I came up with a list of specifications to evaluate clipboard managers:

Simple: Easy to setup and use, it should work as intended right out of the box, without any tweaks.
Reliable: it can handle everything the default Windows clipboard can handle, it should be light on resources, and fully compatible with the latest versions of Windows.
Accessible: easy to use with cursor-only, keyboard-only or a mix of both. It also needs a nice and clear interface.
Powerful and customizable: advanced users need more options than simply copy/cut/paste.

Ditto is the best clipboard freeware out there and is the only one that fully met my specifications. It's simple yet powerful, extremely fast, light on resources, it stores unlimited clips in a sqlite database and it has hundreds of settings to play with. To name a few of its features: it has searchbox that enables you to find a 3-day-old clipboard within seconds; 3 different virtual clipboards that you can access through dedicated shortcuts; and it has unique network capabilities, making clipboard sharing a reality. Ditto is actively developed, it is more robust, efficient and flexible than most of its competitors. It will fit the needs of both beginners and advanced users, no matter how the use their computer. Ditto has been my main clipboard replacement utility for almost two years, and it has never crashed yet.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Maximizing Legroom in Coach Class

Knee Defender™ helps you stop reclining airplane seatbacks. It's not free (a little under $20), and I cannot endorse it on ethical grounds, but this device will limit how far the person sitting in front of you can recline his or her seatback.

Available from:

Friday, March 16, 2012

Lists of Things

Listverse is a site that focuses on lists that intrigue and educate, specializing in the bizarre and lesser-known trivia.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Not Free But Worth It

If you have a newer laptop, it likely has Intel WiDi. Then, for about $100 or even less on eBay, you can buy an HD-TV adaptor, which is a little box that plugs into your TV and connects wireless to your laptop. Now, anything you can watch on your laptop, from photos, to movies, to sports events, will be streamed wireless to your television in 1080p resolution. And the adaptor is so small and light it's easy to travel with or to move from one TV to another. Finally, for under $10 from various places, you can get a computer remote control so that you can control the computer picture on your TV screen without dealing with a mouse and keyboard.

Here is a demo of one such adaptor:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Finding the Best Online Price

Shopping online is always an adventure. You hope you're getting the best price for your item, but you're never sure without jumping from website to website. Here's one way to get it done right.
InvisibleHand is a free, online personal shopping assistant. This browser add-on compares prices across dozens of online stores. That includes big names like Best Buy, Amazon and Walmart. You'll also see results from specialty stores. Simply search for a product on your favorite site. When you reach a specific product page, InvisibleHand jumps into action. A strip at the top of the window will appear. It will show you how much you could save at another store.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Free Online Courses and Lectures

Udemy is an online college/school/university/academy that offers a whole host of courses that you can use to teach yourself in your own time. The courses include printed material and video lectures. Although many of the courses require a payment, there are also lots of free ones too. You can browse the catalogue without registering, though you'll need to sign up if you want to view the free content.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

New York Times Online

The New York Times digital editions are available for about $35/month or you get them free if you get the New York Times Sunday print edition for about $30/month. On the subscription/member page, you will see various ways to receive the digital edition. There are special apps for iPhones and iPads as well as for Android devices. There also is a special app for the Chrome browser. Each of these apps greatly enhance reading the digital version of paper.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Speeding Up and Improving Your Google Searches


To limit a search to a particular site, add the term to your search query. For example, Microsoft is often the authentic and best source for Windows information. Microsoft does have a search facility but my experience is that Google has done a better job of indexing Microsoft articles than Microsoft. So when looking for Windows material I often add a term to my search.


If you are pretty sure that a certain word or string is included in the title of a page you are looking for, you can limit the search by using the term intitle:someword. You can look for several words with a term allintitle:word1 word2. For example to find pages with the words “windows command tips” in the title use the search allintitle:windows command tips. Note that the words do not have to appear grouped together in the actual page title


This is similar to the above operator but looks for words or strings contained in the URL rather than the page title. With allinurl, you can search for words that are in different parts of the URL. For example, allinurl: google faq would find links such as


If you are looking for a particular kind of file rather than an HTML page, use the operator filetype:extension For example to find PDFs, use filetype:pdf Operators can also be combined to achieve even greater filtering of searches. But that's for another time.

Fabulous Stargazing

I love stargazing, but unfortunately big cities have too much light pollution. Stellarium is a great alternative. It's like a planetarium on your computer. The virtual sky is based on data collected from the European Space Agency's Hipparcos Mission. It allows Stellarium to depict the position and motion of stars, planets, moons and galaxies accurately.

Download Stellarium, which is free, and then set your location. By default, Stellarium shows the sky according to the current date and time. If you're using it during the day and have it set to your location, you won't see any stars. You can, however, change the time or location and see the sky where it is currently night. Then use your mouse or arrow keys to look around your skies. You'll be able to see the names of stars and planets around you. Zoom in for a closer look. Stellarium even includes constellations. One click reveals the name of any constellation you are viewing. Another click superimposes the each constellation with a beautiful illustration.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

How to Find Your Lost Android Phone

If it's portable, it's losable, so it's a good idea to think ahead and plan for misplacing your Android device. There are some great apps to help you track it down, even if you never installed anything on it before it went missing. This article sets them out.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Account Killer

It seems like every website you visit asks you to create an account. After a while, you could have dozens or hundreds of accounts. How many do you actually need? You probably don't need all of them. For security reasons, you should close down ones you don't use. Deleting online accounts isn't always easy, but AccountKiller can help. It has instructions for closing accounts on dozens of online services. You can find everything from Facebook to dating sites. AccountKiller also rates services by ease of cancellation. You'll know at a glance whether a service is easy to leave before you sign up.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Very Easy Price Checker

PriSpy is the easiest way to be sure you are getting the best online price. Just drag the PriSpy button to your browser's bookmark toolbar. When you come across a product you're interested in, hit the button. PriSpy will check that price daily for you, and will email you when the price drops. It works with Amazon, Apple, Zappos and just about every other shopping site out there.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Mortgage Option Calculator

CreditSesame has a mortgage calculator that will show you how various refinance alternatives (fixed vs. variable loans; shorter and longer duration loans) would work for you in terms of monthly savings, savings over the course of the loan, etc. taking account of closing costs and other such factors.

Close All Programs

CloseAll is a tiny, free program lets you close all running applications with just a single click. It doesn’t use system resources because it only flashes a ‘close’ signal to all open applications on the desktop and then ceases. It does not make any registry changes.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Mastering a Smartphone

Actually, it is not possible to master functionality of a smartphone. But if there is anything about your smartphone that bugs you, there will be a way to eliminate it, or if there is anything you would like to do on it but there is nothing in the instructions about it, there will be a way to do it. For example, although not in any instruction manual and the phone techs don't know this: if the maximum timeout is 10 minutes, there is a way to override that; the notification buttons can be cleared; secondary account data can be removed with no risk; there's a cool way to have the scrolling go faster (use 3 fingers instead of one); there is a way to see all the home screens at once; and on and on. Here's all you need to do: Go to The Google (or The Bing), type in your phone model and some words to describe your issue (e.g., stop timeout; clear notification buttons; scroll faster; see all screens), and hit Enter. Your answer will be there. Alternatively, ask your kid who likely will just know the answer.

Free Flight Simulator

A year ago, Microsoft announced that it was canning its Flight Simulator game, much to the irritation of those who'd bought and played it for years. Now, though, it's back. It has a new name (just Microsoft Flight), and it's free. In its new incarnation, you play it as an online game, and the adventure takes place in and around Hawaii. Other planes and environments are, or will be, available but these will be optional paid-for extras.

Before you can play, you'll need to download the Windows client for Microsoft Flight. From my testing, this seems to work best from Internet Explorer. Also, note that you'll need a decent games-spec graphics card in your PC, so check the requirements on the web site carefully. It also requires Windows 7. Plus, be aware that the download is some 1,500 MB (1.5 GB), which is a massive amount of data. So check that the download, and continued playing, won't take you over your monthly broadband provider limitations.

If you're still interested, head to and prepare for take-off.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Samsung Galaxy Note

If you have seen the TV ads for the Samsung Galaxy Note, you might have thought it looks like a really neat smartphone. When you see it in person, you will be blown away. It has a 5.3" screen which makes it larger than any other smartphone and smaller than the smallest tablets, but it's just the right size in all respects. It's very thin and light and not too big to be a phone and it is great for reading and watching stuff on. The brightness and clarity of the screen is unparalleled. Here is a little clip on it:

Recapturing Space on Your Hard Drive

I've recently been working on a couple of Windows machines that were running short of hard disk space. I could, of course, have simply added a new drive to the machine, or replaced the existing one with a larger model. But if you find yourself in a similar position, it's always a good idea to start by looking for stuff that you can delete rather than just adding more storage.

Adding more storage means that you're potentially going to make the problem worse. If you (or your computer) can't keep a relatively small drive tidy, you won't manage much better with a larger one. Plus, with more data, there's more to back up.

There are lots of free programs around that can show you a simple display of all the directories/folders on your drive, sorted by size. One of my favourites is WinDirStat, which is a small, free, open source, relatively quick to scan your drives, and presents the information in a neat way as shown below. Then it's just a case of scanning down the list of folders in order of percentage, and look for likely candidates that you know are safe to delete, archive, or move elsewhere.