Found a very cool opensource automation program. DropIt can be set up to monitor different directories on your file system. You then set up rules for different filetypes, such as moving MP3 files to a separate directory or compressing particular files into a ZIP. Then the program can automatically perform those actions periodically on files appearing in the monitored folder. This means you can just drop all your stuff into one folder and have the program automatically sort, compress, delete, move etc in the background. Also has a floating "drop icon" that you can quickly drag files to. Saves a bit of time and is completely free. x86 and x64 versions available.
Interesting idea. Rather than a central cloud-based storage concept like Dropbox, SugarSync or Minus, SymForm turns the idea into a distributed computing solution. You get up to 200Gb for free, but in order to do that you "pledge" 80% uptime and a big chunk of your OWN HD storage space to the client. Then you become part of the cloud, hosting random highly-encrypted fragments of other peoples’ data. Sounds scary? To me, it’s not half as scary as storing your ENTIRE load of data in one location. Someone bombs Dropbox Central, your data is fried. Or, someone at Dropbox could pull a stunt like this (http://gawker.com/5637234/). These guys apparently have massive redundancy and parity copies – would take 33 failures on the network before your stored data starts to become unavailable. I’ll have to think about whether this is worth giving a shot. My decision will be wholly based on how much bandwidth it chews up.
I’ve been using a program called Locate32 both at work and home for years now. At home I have sixteen internal and external drive partitions with something like a trillion files scattered over a billion directories (rough estimate, mind you), and at work we USED to have multiple network drives that I had to search through many times a day to find a particular file. Where did I save that JPG or PDF? Which folder is Martin Galway’s “Parallax” song in again? That sort of thing.
The way Locate32 works is by periodically doing a full-drive directory scan of all of your local and network drives. You can then open its window and just start typing a partial filename (or wildcard).. it will immediately show you a list of all the files that match or contain that name in any folder on any drive that it has scanned. I can start typing “parall” and will in the blink of an eye see a list of about 12 files – parallax.sid, MartinGalway-Parallax.mp3 and so on. Incredibly useful for anyone – not just people like me who are totally unorganized but also anyone that regularly uses their computer for anything and just wants to save file finding time.
Everything is very similar in terms of primary functionality. It doesn’t have as many features, but it is able to perform something that Locate32 cannot. It uses the MFT (Master File Table) of NTFS to look up its files. Meaning it’s lightning fast with its initial scan, and then as long as you keep it running, no matter what you or your machine do, Everything instantly knows exactly which filenames are changing and which new files are appearing on your hard drive. Plus, it uses very little resources, and it also appears to have a more intelligent result sorting mechanism, but that could just be personal choice.
Everything cannot search network drives, or any non-NTFS drives, and it cannot search for text within files. Locate32 can do all of these things, so in fact Everything could be considered a “lite” version of Locate32. But it is faster with its initial drive scan and it does use less system resources. I have 12Gb of RAM so it doesn’t bother me too much anymore but still, I prefer Everything these days since I don’t need to search network drives anymore – all I look for are my locally-stored files. Got ‘em both installed so I can always load up Locate32 if I want the extended features.
Both of these programs are free and fully functional.
Everything | Locate32
Grab the latest alpha build (at time of writing) of Everything here.
Merry Christmas everyone! I had a fairly unconventional Christmas, spending it with my wife and kid in San Diego (Legoland!) Six hour drive from here, made tolerable by the fact that we have a pretty spacious, comfortable sedan. But I digress. Got back home and did a bit of catching up on the software review sites, and found a program called SpaceSniffer which, amazingly, has within a single hour ousted SpaceMonger as my favourite disk usage analysis tool. I say “amazingly” because I’ve been using SpaceMonger for maybe ten years or more! SpaceSniffer is very similar in functionality and I guess there’s not much separating the two, but the latter does have a bit more configurability in terms of look and feel without appearing to sacrifice speed. Also, while viewing a report of my C: drive, certain directories periodically “flickered” on the screen. I suspect that post-analysis, the program monitors the just-scanned drive and does real-time updates on its display as the contents of directories change. If so, super cool! Lastly, it has an MDI interface, which SpaceMonger does not; this allows you to open more than one window within the program showing the contents of different drives. I’m not sure how often I would use this, but if you need to you can.
SpaceSniffer uses something called “treemaps”, which is a method of visually displaying filesize using boxes of varying sizes. A readout looks a bit messy the first time you see it, but it’s really the perfect way to get an instant idea not only of the largest files on your drive, but also the directories which contain the largest (and most amount of) files. For techies, and simply those people who are anal about space usage and organization, it’s indispensible. I’ve used SpaceMonger many times at work to get a handle on drive usage on one of our big networked file servers so I can hammer people who have been storing backups and other useless crap on it “accidentally”. The program is freeware, which makes it that much more awesome.
So after pretty much a single day of using Thunderbird, Mozilla’s email client, I’ve permanently switched over to using it as my main client – after being a registered user of Ritlabs’ TheBat! for at least a decade. TheBat! has been reliable through the years, but has lacked a few features that I’ve always wished it had but that were never dealbreakers to the program’s continued use. I recall testing Thunderbird quite a while ago and finding it to have a very unfinished feel to it. But just as with Firefox, it apparently just needed a couple of years to mature and include some good user-sourced feature requests. Now, it’s awesome.
One of the things I really like about it is the unified inbox. Because I have multiple email addresses, it’s very useful to have a single virtual view of all of my email account inboxes so that I can read and reply without needing to click around in a folder tree, regardless of the accounts in which new mail has arrived. In addition, Thunderbird has the ability to create virtual views based on realtime "searches". So, for example, you can have a view of all your sent items, which consists of the folders named "Sent", "Sent Items" etc from not only POP3 accounts that have been sucked down into Thunderbird already, but also online-residing folders in IMAP accounts. In practice, what with my multiple Google accounts, this program is actually now allowing me to see sent items from literally years ago that I never knew were still hanging around – giving me the chance to delete and empty trash once and for all and feeding my voracious appetite for fastidious electronic organization in the process.
The addons are another bonus. Just as with Firefox, the program interfaces to an online app store containing plenty of plugins which modify/enhance/just basically add to the user experience. Silvermel is a very appealing skin that really makes me look forwarding to using the app. Am I becoming a glam-whore lately? Probably! The app store automatically detects when addons have been updated and you can update directly from within Thunderbird.
Apart from that, it’s business as usual for the program and I’d say it’s six of one, half dozen of the other versus TheBat!. The fact that I was able to import all of my emails from the other email client was a giant bonus. That was done through the use of a plugin. Betas are coming out for Thunderbird all the time, so in that sense it’s also on a slightly more frequent update schedule than TheBat!.
Anyway, that’s a wrap. Gotta go read and reply to my email.
Liking Folder Menu a lot. It’s a small, configurable app which allows you to switch to commonly-used folders in various apps. You can pop a list of folders up with the middle mouse button (for example) in a standard Windows file selection dialog. Choosing a folder will immediately change the file selector to show the contents of that folder. You can also ask the program to monitor other apps (eg Windows Explorer), or even the desktop. Using the latter functionality, you can choose a folder from the popup and you’ll instantly get an Explorer instance opening to that location. In practice it’s extremely handy for plenty of tasks which require you to browse different locations on your hard drive – saving files from a website, editing documents and plenty more.
The program also allows you to activate certain other functionality from within its popup. A nice touch, which unfortunately increases the time-to-appear by a second or so, is a "drive" menu which will show you the current free space on all your drives. You can also quickly perform tasks such as viewing recent files, restarting your PC, running miscellaneous programs or even visiting a particular website.
Completely free, x86 and x64 versions available. It has now replaced DirectFolders permanently on my system.
I find it interesting that over the last year or two I’ve done 180° turnarounds in opinion on various things that I once thought were complete wastes of time, only to turn right back round again later on as the biggest pain points to their use disappeared. Originally I hated Firefox due to the fact that there were a few things that completely wrong with it – long loading times, unable to “open” a file directly from a webpage like Internet Explorer does, and the horrible Find bar. As addons appeared that fixed these things I warmed to it. Witness my post on the topic from 2009. Well, lately I’ve been mildly annoyed with it because quite frankly the load time is starting to piss me right off again – I have a quad core machine and ten seconds for ANY single program to load is completely unacceptable – plus the page rendering is just laggy and I have no idea why. By comparison, Google Chrome is super-fast to load (it always has been) and loading large pages and scrolling up and down, it’s just nippier than Firefox. Very noticeable. So recently, I have copied across many of my common bookmarks to Chrome and started installing some good extensions into it – now using it at home and work and quite pleased. Some things are a bit annoying but I consider the fact that it loads in the blink of an eye to offset those things. This switch may be temporary – we’ll see how long I can last without FF.
So next up, email. At work I use Pop Peeper, a freeware, lightweight mail client, to check my personal mail. It’s done the job for about 3 years but once again there are small annoyances that are causing me to think about getting rid of it. Primarily, I may get an email with HTML in it and then wish to forward that to someone, eg my wife. PP doesn’t forward anything other than plaintext. You can’t EDIT in it other than in plaintext too. You can attach files, but that’s not the point. I want inline rich text etc. Blah blah. So, yesterday at work I installed Mozilla Thunderbird, from the makers of Firefox. It’s a full email client. I looked at it a couple of years ago and hated it. I’ve used Ritlab’s TheBat! for email for something like twelve years now and have been quite happy with it. There’s really nothing wrong with the latter, but I can’t install it at work as I only have a single license. So, freeware it was. Thunderbird, too, appears to be something that Mozilla have finally gotten right. It looks good, has LOTS of options, and best of all has a feature called the Unified view which allows you to view a single global “virtual” inbox that contains emails amalgamated from all your configured accounts. This allows you to reply to emails from multiple sources without needing to flip to different accounts to do so. Just eases the administrative process. I’m liking it a lot so far.
Installed it at home last night. Installed the Bird Import and the Minimize on Start/Close/To Tray extensions. I imported ALL my emails from TheBat! quite easily. I’m going to give it a shot as my regular email client as there are already some things I like about it that are far better than TheBat! (Yes, TheBat!’s official name contains an exclamation mark)
Need to revisit stuff a little more often, methinks! Just wish I had more time. Once again, freeware for the win.
I’ve been a fan of information inhalation via RSS feeds for a long time. Originally I used to read them on the PC using GreatNews, but since then I’ve taken to caching a stack of RSS news via Google Reader onto my iPod Touch and reading on-the-go using the Reeder app. Google Reader really comes into play when you have multiple devices connecting from disparate locations so you can sync info on what you’ve read, what you’ve marked as interesting etc. After recently getting a tablet and starting the whole RSS bollocks up on that as well, I decided to hunt once again for a Windows RSS app capable of syncing with Google Reader. GreatNews doesn’t, and FeedDemon annoys the hell out of me by being feature-crippled and having ads.
RSSOwl is a very nice, free RSS reader which is built on the Eclipse framework. It’s very configurable, isn’t too sluggish with loading and saving tens of thousands of articles, and quite frankly decisively wins over both GN and FD in terms of look and feel. You can find a full overview of its features here. After less than a week using it, I already feel it’s deserving of the coveted Dhryland Hot Download Award ranking.
I’ve been a fan of Filezilla Server for a very long time. It’s a fast, free FTP server app that’s solid as a rock (as in, it has never EVER crashed on me) and supports some nice things like mode-Z compression, virtual directories and even secure transfer protocols. A while ago I heard about HTTPFileServer (HFS) but never actually thought to download and take a look at it – until today. And boy, am I impressed! You KNOW that doesn’t happen often.
Basically this (freeware!) program is a single executable which opens up a server on your machine that allows connections and transfers via the HTTP protocol. That means anyone that you want to share files with doesn’t need an FTP client, just a browser. Assuming you configure everything correctly on your LAN and router, you can offer up directories via HFS. People can use eg Firefox to look through your directories, download individual files, tag entire folders to be .TAR-red and downloaded en masse, and even upload files to your server. Full permissions can be set on a per-directory basis. You can add folders as “real” or as “virtual”. The amount of configuration options is vast, probably another reason I like it so much. Logging to screen, file. Dynamic DNS (CJB, No-IP, DynDNS) support built-in. Bandwidth monitor. Descript.ion support. Process Explorer shows this thing idling with 25Mb RAM usage – that’s nice and low. It even offers the ability to customize the HTTP template so that the end-user can get a different look and feel – the bizarrely-named Thunderchicken of Glory skin even allows MP3 preview directly within the browser. And apparently it works fine running in Wine under Linux. (Like most of us care, eh?)
This program is obviously not for everyone, but if you need to share a set of files or folders on your machine and offer them to friends with a minimum of fuss on their end, this is definitely an awesome option. It’s even great with just sharing files on your local network. Is it better than Filezilla Server? From what I’ve seen of it, I’d say it’s on par. And that’s DEFINITELY high praise from me.
A while ago, I noticed a quite popular extension for Google Chrome called “Disconnect”. I do use Chrome on occasion, but mostly Firefox, and I was disappointed that Disconnect wasn’t available for it. What Disconnect does is automatically prevent popular websites (such as Facebook and Google) from “tracking” you. This sort of thing is done by a LOT of websites that install “tracking code”. Often they’ll be using Google Analytics or something else that most people would consider “harmless”, but the whole point is that places you visit are matched to your IP address (ie your unique identity on the web, which in the US will also pinpoint your geographical location) and sent to websites which record and use that information. I intensely dislike that idea. If I’m on widgets.com, I don’t want Google to know that I was there at 7:15am on Wednesday 1st June 2011. If I’m on bollocks.com, I don’t want Facebook to be “told” that IP address such-and-such has visited that site.
So I was understandably thrilled when I heard about Disconnect. Even more thrilled when I discovered recently that it has become available for Firefox (finally!)
And overjoyed beyond belief when I discovered through the feedback comments for Disconnect that there is another addon out there called Ghostery which does even more than Disconnect to protect your privacy online. Their website succinctly sums up what it does: Ghostery sees the invisible web – tags, web bugs, pixels and beacons. Ghostery tracks the trackers and gives you a roll-call of the ad networks, behavioral data providers, web publishers, and other companies interested in your activity. After showing you who’s tracking you, Ghostery also gives you a chance to learn more about each company it identifies. How they describe themselves, a link to their privacy policies, and a sampling of pages where we’ve found them are just a click away. Ghostery allows you to block scripts from companies that you don’t trust, delete local shared objects, and even block images and iframes. Ghostery puts your web privacy back in your hands.
I recommend you install one of these addons as soon as possible. Google, Facebook, Yahoo and ad networks don’t need to know about you. Especially without your permission. They’re both completely free. My vote is for Ghostery, mainly because it has more capabilities.
Disconnect | Disconnect Author’s Blog | Ghostery