Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Cucku - Backup your data onto your friend's PC

A new backup software called Cucku has a weird backup solution which they call social backup. This so called "social backup" technique allows you to backup your data not only to your own PC but to your friend's PC as well, provided you have a friend who will allow you to do that.

To get started you download their free software and also arrange a friend who is kind enough to lend his hard disk space for your files. Now every time a file on your PC is changed, Cucku will make a local backup of the file and then automatically upload an encrypted copy of the backup to your friend's PC over the Skype network. Because the backup is encrypted your friend is unable to view the contents of the backup. Restoration of data works the same as with any other backup solution.


Cucku is designed to provide an easy solution for friends and family members to help each other with offsite backups. But it isn't limited to families and friends. Cucku can turn out to be very useful for small business owners for backing up a network of computers. Also laptop users can use Cucku to backup every files on their laptop to their home PC automatically.

Another useful feature of Cucku is that it keeps all versions of the files it has backed up. This means that you can restore a specific version of an individual file or all versions of files prior to a particular date and time. So if you accidentally change a file and then back it up, you can still recover the previous version from the back up. This also works with accidentally deleted files.

[via Tech Crunch}

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Launchy, the open source program launcher now available for Linux

Lifehacker reported today that Launchy, the sleek little application launcher for Windows has just released a version for Linux. This is indeed a very good move, because as far as I can tell, Launchy is the best program launcher I have ever used. If you haven't heard of Launchy yet, then well .. Launchy is a tool that allows you to launch applications by just typing a few keys instead of having to navigate through your start menu with the mouse looking for the application. You can customize which files and application you want Launchy to index - the start menu, the program files, your documents or the whole hard disk. Launching Launchy itself is quite simple. Just press the ALT key and tab the spacebar. It's fast and simple.


Launchy also has a number of tricks up it's sleeve, like:

  • To search Google type in google, then tab, then your search query and press Enter. Other sites you can search include wikipedia, msn, yahoo, amazon, netflix, imdb, and more
  • To browse your computer type in c:, then tab, then a folder or file, hit tab, and continue.
  • Type in Weather, then tab, then your zip code or city,state and press Enter to get weather updates
  • Launchy also has a built in calculator

Also see:
Toolbox - The cutest application launcher
Free Launch Bar - The Quick Launch replacement

Friday, July 25, 2008

Avanquest Connection Manager - Quickly switch between different Net connections

Avanquest Connection Manager was previously a $30 worth application that recently went free. This piece of software is great, specially for laptop users who often have to move between home and office and use different net connections at different places. Avanquest Connection Manager lets you create different profiles on your PC or laptop for different connections that you might have - LAN at home and at office, Wifi etc. When you select a profile and apply it, it automatically re-configures all your network settings and applications like network printers so that you don't have to do it manually each time you switch networks.


Avanquest Connection Manager even lets you re-configure your installed applications based on the network you select. For example, you can configure your email client to retrieve mails only when you are using your ADSL connection and disable it when you are connected via your 3G network. Or you can configure your browser to use a different homepage depending upon the connection you are connected to. If you have more than one net connection on your computer, you will love this tool.

How to remap your keyboard keys

Just because somebody decided that the keyboard should start with the sequence QWERTY does not mean that you should accept it. It's your keyboard and you are free to do anything with it. Just to show your authority bang your keyboard with your fist right now! (not recommended). Jokes apart, if you are seriously not happy with the layout and want to move the keys around, then you can do it. Microsoft has it's own keyboard mapping utility called the Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator.


The Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator is useful if you want to use your keyboard to type in another language other than English. You can either start from a scratch or load an existing layout and then modify it and save it as a keyboard layout (.KLC) file. This layout can then be selected from Control Panel>Regional and Language Settings>Languages>Details section. This tool has it's limitations though. It only allows you to remap the character keys. You can't change keys like the CapsLock, Tab, Shift, Ctrl, Alt, Enter, Backspace, F1 to F12, Number pad, Arrows etc.


In order to change these special keys we can use another tool called SharpKeys. SharpKeys allows you to change not only these special function keys but the character keys as well. It does the remapping by tinkering with the registry. Microsoft's tool is much cleaner in this respect because it does not mess with the registry and it's possible to have multiple keyboard layouts on your computer and load anyone of it whenever you need.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Control Windows Mobile devices through your PC with MyMobileR

MyMobileR is an application that allows you to view your Windows Mobile device on your desktop and even allows you to interact with your mobile using the mouse and keyboard. MyMobileR connects your mobile to the PC through ActiveSync or WiFi. When you move the mouse cursor to the edge of the desktop, it appears inside the mobile screen. You can then use the mouse to copy, cut or paste text messages between the mobile device and the desktop. The Mobile Explorer lets you browse the contents of the mobile device and transfer files by drag and drop. You can also take screenshot of your mobile screen and do video recordings.


MyMobiler supports Windows Mobile 2003 and Windows Mobile 5.0 / 6.0

[via Lifehacker]

Monday, July 21, 2008

Exploring the hidden features of Windows Accessibility Options

One of the most overlooked areas of Windows is the Accessibility Options. The Accessibility Options exist to assist people with physical disability to use the computer. Hence, many able bodied people ignore it completely. But hidden under it's hood lies some very interesting features that can prove to be useful under various circumstances. If you haven't already explored the Accessibility Options, then read on.

The Accessibility Options is broken down into two sections - one is found under Start Menu>All programs>Accessories>Accessibility and the other part resides in the Control Panel.

The Accessibility Options option under the start menu has two helpful utilities - the Magnifier and the On Screen keyboard. The Narrator isn't to useful unless if you have a poor eyesight and unable to read.

The Magnifier magnifies the screen and displays it in a small strip on the top of the monitor. The magnifier follows the mouse pointer and enlarges the display in and around the mouse pointer. I use the magnifier to keep track of applications running on my computer while I'm away at some distance engaging in another work. For instance, I use magnifier to keep track of the progress of a torrent download from a distance. The enlarged display allows me to read from the screen clearly even when I'm several feet away from the computer.


The On Screen Keyboard is useful if your keyboard is broken. The on screen keyboard also comes handy when you are using a public computer and you want to access your mail or other personal accounts. If you suspect that a computer might contain keyloggers or trojans then you can use the on screen keyboard to type your password. This way keyloggers won't be able to grab your sensitive information. Also read: Tool to defeat keyloggers.


The second part of the Accessibility Options is found in the Control Panel. Open Accessibility Options and under the Keyboard tab you will find three useful features - Sticky keys, Filter keys and Toggle keys.

acessibility-keyboard The Sticky keys makes the keys stick when pressing a multiple keys in a shortcut combination. For example, instead of holding down the CTRL key while you press C, simple press CTRL followed by C. The sticky key option makes the CTRL key stick.

The Filter keys increases the response time of the keyboard. The keys won't respond unless you keep it pressed for a certain duration. This is useful if you want to eliminate any accidental keyboard hits.

The Toggle keys will sound a beep whenever the CAPS LOCK, NUM LOCK and the SCROLL LOCK key is pressed. This is helpful if you are typing a document and you accidentally press the Caps key. The beep will tell you immediately that the caps key is ON.

Under the Sound tab is the Sound Sentry. the Sound sentry will give you a visual warning like a flashing desktop or flashing title bar whenever the system sounds a beep. This is useful if the BIOS speaker is broken.

Under the Display tab>Cursor Options you can customize the blinking rate and size of the cursor. The High Contrast will change the display into the high contrast mode with enlarged text, enlarged icons etc. It's horrible! Don't use it.

The most interesting option is under the Mouse tab. The Mouse keys enable you to control the mouse pointer with the keyboard! Using the  Numpad arrow keys you can move the mouse pointer. Under settings, check the radio button Use mouse keys when numpad is OFF. This will ensure that you can use the numpad number keys even when Mouse Keys is enabled. Turn ON the numpad to use the numpad keys and turn it OFF to control the mouse. Also read essential Windows shortcuts, and you can use your computer without touching the mouse.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Put the CapsLock key to better use with CAPshift

The CapsLock key on the keyboard is the only single key which gives us more trouble than help. You finish typing a document only to realize that you had accidentally hit the Caps key half a page earlier! %^##%$@ ... With CAPshift you will never have to worry about accidentally turning on the caps key. Instead, by using this little application you will have turned the caps key into something else, something that will become indispensable to you while typing long documents.

CAPshift does two things -

First, it increases the response time of the caps key by half a second. In other words, it makes the caps key unresponsive to any accidental "hit" that is less than 0.5 second long. You need to keep the caps key pressed longer than 0.5 second in order to turn it ON or OFF.


Secondly, it adds a number of text manipulation functions to the caps key like change to UPPERCASE, lowercase, Title case, iNVERT cASE etc. Select the text you want to modify and press the caps key for 1 second. A small a menu will pop up with various modification options. This menu is available from the icon sitting on the system tray too.

CAPshift works everywhere - in MS Word or Notepad or anything where you can type text. CAPshift also slows down the NumLock key and Insert key, to prevent accidentally turning ON the Insert key and accidentally turning OFF the NumLock key.

Thumbnail Expander for Firefox - Get full sized images on mouse hover

Thumbnail Expander is a Firefox extension that displays the large version of images when you hover the mouse over thumbnails. No need to click on thumbnails to display the enlarged version of images. Instead, simply hover your mouse over a thumbnail to see the full image, and move your mouse away to have the full image disappear. Thumbnail Expander also works with video links. Click on the link and have the video show up in the current page, and click the hide link to have it disappear. View the demo on their site.

thumbnail-expander1 thumbnail-expander2

The bad part: Thumbnail Expander doesn't work on all websites. It doesn't work with thumbnails that doesn't directly link to the image. For example, it doesn't work with Flickr. It also doesn't work with blogger blogs. However, it works with Wordpress blogs and sites, like Google Image Search, Wikipedia, Facebook, Imagehack and Photobucket and a few others. It also works with video links like YouTube and Google Video.

Thumbnail Expander can actually save you lots of time if you frequently use Google image search or browse thumbnail gallery sites.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

25 beautiful icon sets for Windows

After getting a good response from readers for 20 (most) beautiful themes for Windows XP, I decided that I should showcase some of the most beautiful icons to go along with these themes. Choosing the icons turned out to be a lot harder than I had thought. There are so many beautiful sets and I know I'm not being fair by selecting only 25 of them. Those icons that didn't make it to this list, maybe some other time.

These icons can be applied using either IconTweaker or WinIcon, two of the best freeware icon changing application for Windows.

Ethereal Icon Suite


Blue Black Addon For Windows


Antique icons


Arzo Icons Vol.2


Autumn Breeze Icons






Assembly Line Program Pack V1


iKons Monitors


influens icons


Layered Drives


Layered Folders


Le Esta Icon Set


Modern Hardware Icons RELOADED


Noia for WindowsXP 2.01


NX01 For Windows


Q's Vista Ready Icons


Radium Icon Set


Rhor's PNG Pack v2 Part 1/Part 2 /Part 3. You will need a PNG to ICO converter to use them.


Simplexity File Icons




SnowIsh For Windows


Soviet Windows version


VannillA Cream Icon Set


Yoritsuki icons for Win


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Automatically correct typos in URL with URL Fixer

If it hadn't been for auto-correct, my emails, my reports and my blog would have been littered with hundreds of "teh" and "downlaod"s. But what about the address bar? How many times have you typed the wrong URL and wondered why the damn page won't open? Here is a solution for such frequent typo makers - URL Fixer.

URL Fixer is a Firefox extension that brings the auto-correct feature to the address bar. URL Fixer will correct common misspellings of .com, .net, .org, .edu, .gov, .mil, and all other mainstream TLDs, as well as the protocol (http:, https:). By right-clicking on the address bar, you can set it to auto-correct your errors, or you can have it ask you before making any corrections.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Disable Windows Page file, save your hard disk

There are lots of myths and confusion surrounding Windows page file, for instance, this utter rubbish "thumb rule" that the page file should 1.5 times the amount of physical memory. Then there is the question of whether to use the page file at all. The page file is intended to serves as a substitute for physical memory, the RAM. In early days, when RAM was expensive it made sense to allocate a major portion of the system's memory requirement to the page file, to reduce cost. Today, cost is no longer an issue. 2 GB RAM has become the standard for every new PC. With so much memory available is there any logic to use the page file?

Why you should turn off the page file?

The problem with Windows is, no matter how much physical memory is installed on the system, it will always use the page file constantly swapping data between the RAM and the hard disk. Every time the page file is accessed, the elaborate system of sliders, arms, actuators and motors inside the hard disk are stirred into action. The spindle rotates and the arm moves repeatedly to and fro over the platters reading and writing bits of information on the hard disk. All throughout a session the operating system uses the page file thousands and millions of time! Look at the screenshot below, under the Page Fault column. Those figures indicates the number of times the page file was accessed.


Now, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to realize that the more you use a device the less the period of life the device is going to have. This is particularly true for mechanical devices, devices that have moving parts, like the hard disk. Due to friction between various parts and stress from continues usage a hard disk wears out. This is the reason why hard disk and optical drives failure is so common while motherboard or processors rarely fail because of the absence of mechanical parts.

Disabling the page file will significantly reduce the wear and tear the hard disk suffers, and will extend the life of the hard disk. Besides, unused RAM is wasted RAM. What is the use of having GBs of memory only to leave it idle? Of course, you must have sufficient amount of RAM on your system to disable the page file. How much RAM is sufficient depends on the usage of your computer. If you have anything more than 1 GB, you can turn off the page file. If you feel that your computer might require more than the amount of RAM you have, then instead of turning of the page file set it to the minimum value of 2 MB. If the memory usage suddenly shoots up Windows will automatically increase the size of the memory temporarily. You won't be able to eliminate page file access completely if you set a value, though you will be able reduce it.

Regarding change in performance, you won't notice a difference. I have turned of the page file on my computer and it feels good to know that my hard disk is not thrashing.

Circle Dock - The open source circular dock for Windows

At an ongoing programming contest at Donation Coder, one participant has developed this beautiful circular dock called Circle Dock. He explains:

The idea behind Circle Dock is that the dock should appear where your mouse is instead of you having to move your mouse to the dock like with other programs. This is accomplished by making the dock a circular or spiral shape so that it can be placed anywhere, even near the edge of the screen. The offscreen portions of the dock are easily reached by just scrolling with your mouse wheel or arrow keys.

A few days ago I wrote about a similar application called Orbit. But Circle Dock looks far better to me, is more flexible and of course, it's open source.

CircleDockCircle CircleDockWheel

RedDockCentre CircleDockSpiral

What Circle Dock Allows You to Do:

  • Drag and drop your files, folders, and shortcuts onto a circular or spiral dock.
  • Rotate the dock with either your mouse wheel or the keyboard arrow keys.
  • Change the image shown for the icons and change the skins (compatible with icons and skins for Rocket Dock, Object Dock, etc.)
  • Ability to run the program from a portable USB memory stick and have the links in the dock point to the documents on the USB memory stick.
  • Ability to synchronize the links on the dock with the files, folders, and shortcuts on your desktop or other folders in real-time.
  • The dock appears where your mouse is by pressing a hotkey.
  • Works on computers with multiple monitors.

According to the author, this program was coded in under 2 weeks and he is still working on it. As the program develops, he promises to add more features to it.

Watch the YouTube video of the program

Download Circle Dock (requires .NET framework 2 or higher)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Create Word Art with Wordle

Wordle is a web site that allows you to create "word art" from text that you type into a box. You can also enter a URL of a site. Wordle will then collect words from the URL or the words you typed and create beautiful cloud patterns out of it. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text, just like tag clouds used in blog.

After you have typed your text and clicked GO, a cloud will be created. You can now apply your tweaks. Try changing the fonts or the color. Change the orientation of the words from horizontal, to mostly horizontal to vertical or mostly vertical. You can also arrange them haphazardly following no particular direction. Didn't like the layout? Then re-layout it to make a different pattern. Is a particular word spoiling the whole pattern? No problem. Right-click on it to remove.


Word art I created with text from this blog

After you are satisfied with the work, you need to save it. That's where Wordle needs to do some work. Believe it or not, there is no direct way to save your artwork on your PC, although it allows to save the word art on their online gallery. The only way to save it as an image is to take a screenshot. How lame! To save it as PDF you need to install a virtual printer like doPDF (it's free and mighty useful).

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Automatically create shortcuts to removable (and fixed) drives on your desktop

If you have noticed, that Windows and Linux uses two different approaches of dealing with removable drives like a pen drive or a DVD. Windows has the auto play function where a small window pops up whenever you insert a removable media, giving you various options to open it. Linux distros on the other hand, usually create a shortcut of the removable drive on the desktop. This shortcut is temporary and remains as long as the removable media or drive is plugged into the system and disappears as soon as it is removed. The latter method is advantageous because it gives you easier access to the removable drive.

Desk Drive is a software that brings this functionality to Windows. It sits quietly in the system tray and whenever a DVD/CD or a pen drive is popped into the computer, a shortcut is created on the desktop. The shortcut goes away when the media is removed.


The program also allows you to create shortcuts of your fixed drive, i.e. your hard disk drives. Checking the "Fixed" option in the settings adds separate shortcuts on the desktop for each partition that you have on your hard disk. There is provision for excluding specific partitions from showing. This is again quite brilliant, since now you can directly open a drive without going through My Computer.

(Tip: You can customize the start menu of Windows to show My Computer as a Link. That way you can open any drive directly from the menu).

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

How to turn any website editable with just one line of code

Do you want to edit other people's website? Is that possible? Yup, but only on your screen. All you have to do is visit the site you want to edit and then copy the following code and paste it in the address bar and hit enter.

javascript:document.body.contentEditable='true'; document.designMode='on'; void 0

The page now become editable. You can add, delete and modify any portion of the page just like you are editing a document on your computer. Go to some famous website like New York Times, create your own news and take a screenshot and show to your friends. It's fun.

[via Blogstorm]

Monday, July 7, 2008

Firefox Extension Aging Tabs - Fades color of unused tabs

Here is an amusing extension for Firefox. If you are in the habit of opening dozens of tabs in Firefox and then forget about some of them, then Aging Tabs will help you identify which tabs your aren't paying attention to. The tabs that you haven't clicked on for some time will gradually fade to the color of your choice, becoming darker and darker with passing time. After a few moments, your tab bar will be filled with tabs of various shades of color and you can tell at a glance which tabs have been open and untouched for a long time by it's color. You can then either choose to return to the tab that is being neglected or simply close it to free up space.

Give it a try. It's sort of fun! (Note: Aging Tabs currently does not support Firefox 3)

 aging-tabs12 aging-tabs1

Monitor folders for unwanted changes with Spy-The-Spy

If you think that you are protected because you use an up to date anti virus application and anti spywares and such security tools, you might be mistaken. There is no security software that can give you complete protection. Viruses often slip through anti virus programs and anti spywares often fail to detect applications that are being secretly installed into your computer. One way to strengthen your defenses against malwares is to know exactly what is being installed on your system.

Spy-The-Spy is small tool that simply monitors system folders for any new EXE or DLL files being added or renamed. You can specify which folders you want to monitor and can even keep eye on entire drives. This way you can find out instantly whenever any application tries to install itself on your computer. In other words, instead of relying on some foggy anti spyware applications you become the anti spyware! If Spy-The-Spy detects a new EXE file being created in your system or programs folder and you aren't installing any software yourself, you know something is going fishy.

spy-the-spy1 spy-the-spy2

Spy-The-Spy is just a file monitor. It can't distinguish between legitimate files and real spywares, nor does it prevent these files from being created and renamed. It will only notify you whenever changes are detected so you are bound to get lots of false positives. The program can however quarantine the files if you wish to do so. The idea is to just make you aware of the changes taking place on your system. Spy-The-Spy isn't intended to replace your anti-spyware but complement it.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

20 (most) beautiful themes for Windows XP

Do you know what I hate most about Windows XP? It's look. It's painful combination of blue and green. So one of the first thing I do after every Windows install is patch the Uxtheme file so that I can apply a visual style of my choice. I hope you are not using the default theme, are you?

The following is a list of some of the choicest visual styles that can give Windows XP a total makeover. Pick any!

Note: This list contains only shell styles that can be applied directly by patching Uxtheme or through StyleXP. No Window Blinds skins here.

Also see
Another 25 beautiful Windows XP themes (A fresh new collection)
25 beautiful Windows Vista themes (For Windows Vista users)
32 gorgeous and unique Windows 7 themes
25 beautiful icon sets for Windows
21 most beautiful mouse cursors for Windows

Watercolor Arrow - This theme looks so cool with a light colored taskbar, blue menu and funny hand-drawn type icons.



Wood Visual Styles
- Transforms everything to wood! This theme is tested in Windows XP SP2. A few people reported problems with SP3. (This theme is no longer available. Sorry.)


Kupo XP 2.0
- A very minimalistic design available in 5 colors.



-  Another minimalistic theme with a clean green look.



Aurum VS 1.1
- A bit of Vista's Aurora look.



Delta VS
- A silver gray theme with mild colors.



- A mixture of Vista and Mac.



Ubuntu XP
- This is the closest Windows XP can get to Ubuntu! Brilliantly done.



- This time it's Fedora. (This theme is no longer available)


Clearlooks Gummy
- This theme pack gives a "Gnome" look to Windows XP. Available in 14 different colors!



Cadoo Visual Style 1.0 - A smooth whitish theme that gives a great contrast to any icon set.



animus -  A Mac like blue and white theme that works great with Mac icon set.



OSX Tiger V
- Give Windows the Mac look. Very nicely done.



Leopard X
- Another Mac theme with a slightly darker look.



VistaPerfection X4
- One of the best looking Vista theme for Windows XP.



Dream LH 1.0
- Another theme with the Vista look, but darkish and black  explorer window and task panel.



EX2008 Visual Style
- A darkish theme with a tinge of green. Very minimalistic.



SlanXP 2.0
- Another dark theme for Windows XP.



- A very simple yet elegant theme with mild colors.



- Another beautiful green theme. (Green seems to be the preferred color for designers)



P.S: This is how to install the themes:

1. Download and install Uxtheme patcher. During install a message will be displayed that important Windows file are being replaced and will ask you to insert the windows CD to fix it. Just ignore and click "continue"

2. Download the theme pack and copy the folder containing .msstyles and shellstyle.dll (this is inside another folder) to C:\WINDOWS\Resources\Themes\

3. After this is done, right-click on desktop and click Properties. Now click on the Appearance tab. Under Windows and Buttons you will find the list of all the themes you installed. Select one from the list and click Apply.

Sometimes, the downloaded pack contains additional utilites like Styler and Rocketdock etc to bring other changes to Windows. It's up to you whether you want to install the additional stuff. You can visit the original page of the theme author for more instruction on how to use those.

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