Saturday, April 26, 2008

Display system information on your desktop wallpaper with BGInfo

BGInfo is small utility that automatically generates desktop backgrounds that include important information about the system including IP addresses, computer name, network adapters, and disk space and a lot more.


BGInfo does not display your system's information in real time. It takes a snapshot of the system information and then embeds this data into the wallpaper by generating another wallpaper and placing it one the desktop. It always takes the same wallpaper you currently have on the desktop, unless you configure it to use another one. By placing BGInfo in your Startup folder, you can ensure that the system information being displayed is up to date each time you boot. You can also use the Windows Scheduler to run BGInfo on a regular basis to ensure long-running systems are kept up to date.

When you run BGInfo it shows you the appearance and content of its default desktop background. If left untouched it will automatically apply these settings and exit after its 10 second count-down timer expires. Selecting any button or menu item will disable the timer, allowing you to customize the layout and content of the background information.


In the configuration window you can select which information you want to display, adjust the fonts, size color and the like you normally find in a word processor.

Since, BGInfo only generates wallpaper and does not constantly run in the background, it consumes zero memory and zero CPU time.

Monday, April 14, 2008

KompoZer - The best open source alternative to Frontpage and DreamWeaver

Although there are many open source and freeware web authoring tools, KompoZer deserves a special mention. KompoZer is a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) HTML Editor based on the now discontinued Nvu, which was another great open source HTML editor. KompoZer is a complete web authoring application that combines web file management and WYSIWYG web page editor similar to those found in Microsoft FrontPage, Adobe DreamWeaver and other expensive programs.

KompoZer is based on the Gecko engine, the same one that powers the immensely popular Firefox. It's a fast, very reliable and standards conformant engine that is continuously updated and maintained by the open source community.

Here is a quick run down of Kompozer's features and capabilities:

- It has an easy to use WYSIWYG editor with tabbed interface making working on multiple pages a snap. There is a cool viewing mode called "HTML tags" that displays all tags, carriage returns, block boarders etc visibly on top of the document in small floating tags.


- Supports forms, tables and templates. The table creating wizard has a cool quick mode where you can drag your mouse to specify the number of columns and rows in the table.

- It has an integrated FTP manager to directly upload files to your web server. Simply login to your web site and navigate through your files, editing web pages on the fly, directly from your site.

- KompoZer also has a CSS editor. You can see your style settings applied '"live" to the document you're editing.

Kompozer css editor

- Right-click on any element in the hierarchical toolbar at the bottom of the window and set directly its style properties.

- The toolbars are customizable in the same drag-and-drop method used in Firefox.
- It has a markup cleaner that performs such action like fix nested lists, remove alignment on empty cells, remove the most annoying trailing <br> tags and transform local URLs into relative URLs. This is another handy feature for Frontpage users. Frontpage has this annoying habit of adding the full URL of inserted images and other files instead of relative ones. We then have to go back and manually edit all the URLs. KompoZer will save you from this.

Kompozer markup cleaner

- It also has a W3C's HTML validator which can be called right from within KompoZer that will help you create valid, clean documents.

KompoZer is certainly one of the best web authoring application I have ever used. You know what, as I type this (which I'm doing in KompoZer itself) I have already decided to replace Frontpage with it.

Download KompoZer

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Download complete websites for offline browsing with HTTrack

HTTrack is a free open source website ripper that allows you to download a World Wide Web site from the Internet to a local directory, building recursively all directories, getting HTML, images, and other files from the server to your computer. HTTrack arranges the original site's relative link-structure. Simply open a page of the "mirrored" website in your browser, and you can browse the site from link to link, as if you were viewing it online. HTTrack can also update an existing mirrored site, and resume interrupted downloads. HTTrack is fully configurable by options and by filters (include/exclude), and has an integrated help system. HTTrack uses a web crawler to download a website. Some parts of the website may not be downloaded by default due to the robots exclusion protocol unless disabled during the program. HTTrack can follow links that are generated with basic JavaScript and inside Applets or Flash.


What not to do with HTTrack.

Many Webmasters are concerned about bandwidth abuse. You must understand that webmasters have to pay for the bandwidth usage of their website. In other words, the webmasters have to pay from your browsing bandwidth. Offline browsers tools, like HTTrack, can therefore be used in a wrong way. Webmasters don't like their bandwidth to be abused by their visitors. Hence please remember these rules to avoid any network abuse.

Do not overload the websites. Downloading a site can overload it, if you have a fast pipe, or if you capture too many simultaneous cgi (dynamically generated pages).
  • Do not download too large websites: use filters
  • Do not use too many simultaneous connections
  • Use bandwidth limits
  • Use connection limits
  • Use size limits
  • Use time limits
  • Only disable robots.txt rules with great care
  • Try not to download during working hours
  • Check your mirror transfer rate/size
  • For large mirrors, first ask the webmaster of the site

Ensure that you can copy the website
  • Are the pages copyrighted?
  • Can you copy them only for private purpose?
  • Do not make online mirrors unless you are authorized to do so

Do not overload your network
  • Is your (corporate, private..) network connected through dialup ISP?
  • Is your network bandwidth limited (and expensive)?
  • Are you slowing down the traffic?

Do not steal private information
  • Do not grab emails
  • Do not grab private information


Saturday, April 5, 2008

6 services to send and receive snail mail through the web

For most people postal mail is a thing of the past. We communicate through emails and instant messengers, pay through credit cards and receive money through electronic bank transfers. But every now and then, when we have to mail to some "lesser mortals" we have to use the traditional way which we lovingly refer to as snail mail. Keeping in view of our disgust of licking postage stamps, some services have sprung up that promises to make snail-mailing a lot easier on die hard emailers. Primarily they save us the walk to the post office. Then there are other services that handle both our outgoing as well as incoming snail mails and converts them into the electronic version. This is particularly helpful because it allows us to continue receiving all our postal mails even when vacationing.

snail mails

Free Services:

1. eSnailer is a service available only in the US. Provide the address of the recipient and type the letter. They will print, envelope, stamp, and send your letter via regular U.S. postal mail free of charge. But where is the catch? After you write your letter you will be asked to accept one of their free offers. They say that the offers are absolutely free and takes no time of yours. Hmm... somebody please use it and tell me.

2. ePOSTIT is a better service and covers a much larger population. You need to compose your mail, provide the recipient's address and email them. They will print the mail and send it to the desired postal address. Once your mail is sent you will receive a confirmation message with the date and time your message has been mailed through the postal service. You can even send pictures, up to 4 per postal address per week and a maximum of 5 mails per week. These picture will be printed on photo printing paper and can be resized by them if required. ePOSTIT apparently survives by sending "limited" amount of advertisement along with the mails, which I guess is OK. ePOSTIT's services are available in USA, Canada, UK, China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Japan, India, Singapore, Philippines, Thailand, France, Denmark & Finland. There is also a "Vice-Versa" service where you can send them mails at their Washington address and they will convert them into emails and mail them to the desired address. The cost of posting will have to be born by the sender.

Paid Services:

3. Earth Class Mail works the following way: First, you pick a "Remote Address" for one of ECM's locations, and have selected mail sent to that address. When you receive a mail, they will scan the envelope without opening it and send the scanned images to you for review. Once you’ve reviewed the mail, you can then direct the company to either shred it, open and scan the contents for you, or forward it to your actual postal address if it contains sensitive information you don't want them to read. This service is available starting at $9.95 per month and is reportedly used by customers from 130 countries according to them. Check out the details of their plans.

4. Snailmailme allows you to create a fully customized letter or postcard which they will print and deliver for to any mailing address in the world. To send mails you have to buy Snailmailme Credits which costs between $0.75 to $1.00 each. You can then use these credits to send mails. Each mail costs anything between 2 to 5 Snailmailme Credits depending upon the recipient's location.

5. L-mail is another such service that allows you to send letters to various destinations. Rates are different for different countries and is really cheap, about $1~$2 for each letter.

6. EZGram's mailing service allows you to create personalized letters. You compose your letter and they print the letter, fold and insert it into an envelope, stamp it, and mail it. You'll receive an email notification when your letter has been processed. Letter can be sent on the current date, or any date in the future. Letters can be sent for as cheap as $1.

There was another service called Web2Snail, but the last time I checked their website was returning error 500. Either their servers or their service is dead.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Dark Room - The minimalist word processor for Windows

Dark Room is a full-screen, distraction-free, writing environment. Unlike standard word processors that focus on features, Dark Room is just about you and your text. Dark Room is devoid of any toolbars and all the usual features that is supposed to make typing easier. Instead, it has the most plain-jane look you will ever find on any word processor.

dark room

It's black background and green text with a blinking cursor reminds me of the old unix type command line. Dark Room allows you to do hardly anything else than type. Dark Room is a clone of the Mac application called WriteRoom and looks exactly the same. Dark Room is a free Windows application but requires .NET framework 2 to run.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Automatically backup multiple versions of your files with DocShield

How many of you periodically backup your important files? Not many. Again, how many times did it happen to you that you changed the contents of your document and then wished you hadn't, but then there is usually no way of recovering the earlier version of the file? Very frustrating. I had previously wrote how you can avoid this by saving several versions of the same MS Word file in Word 2002. Now by using this program that I have stumbled across, you can extend this functionality to any files you choose.

DocShield is a software program for Microsoft Windows operating systems that is designed to prevent or remedy the catastrophic loss or accidental modification of important electronic documents. It protects these documents by continually monitoring them for changes, then creating and storing snapshots of those documents as they change through time. DocShield runs silently in the background and monitors the files and folders that you specify for changes.

Whenever it detects any changes it creates a "snapshot" of the file and store it in a compressed achieve. The archive can be kept in more than one location, or remotely through FTP for added protection. The archive of shielded files may exist on a local disk, a network disk, or other storage devices.


When a new "snapshot" of a document is written to an archive, it will automatically be written to the archive in each of the destination folders. You can specify how often you want DocShield to check on the documents, to see if any of them need to have a "snapshot" taken This time interval may be anywhere from every second to every few days.

DocShield is portable and using the "DocShield USB utility" you can copy the archive of files to a USB drive. The program is free for personal use. There are some additional features which are available only if you buy the product. DocShield requires .NET Framework 2.0 to function.

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