If there's one thing I hate, it's plugin problems. That's plug-ins as in browser plugins, or one of the few reasons why I switched from Mozilla Firefox to Google Chrome for my default browser. In Chrome, a crashing plugin only affects itself; the rest of the browser is spared the messy issues (and random shutdown) that arise from problems on a page. The worst that can happen is that the actual tab your own shuts down: the rest of your browsing experience should remain unaffected by a plugin catastrophe.
Well, Firefox is borrowing a page from Google's book of process isolation, for that's the exact technique that Mozilla has built into the Lorentz version of its popular browser. The various tabs you open in Firefox Lorentz remain isolated from each other's wicked ways, in that crashing plugins will only affect the page or tab they're on--prompting a gray fade-out of your screen and an automatic reload, if you so choose. The rest of your multi-tab browser will stay exactly the same as it was pre-crash.
Anonymous BitTorrent? Sign me up! Literally--a new-to-the-popular-vernacular freeware application called BitBlinder is making waves for its ability to conceal your BitTorrent downloading behind a Tor-styled "onion proxy." What you sacrifice in download speeds, you make up for in raw anonymity. Simply put, you'll have a host of new protections in place that will bounce your location from system to system, creating a giant, untraceable mesh that routes your Linux downloads from an exit node all the way back to your lil' system at-home.
Seems like a flawless solution for limitless, untraceable downloads, eh?
You're not paranoid. Repeat it with me: "I. Am not. Paranoid." There' s nothing wrong with wanting to know just who accessed your shared network files, how long they accessed them, what they did, and when this all went down.
I commend you for being an altruistic Windows user and opening up your public folders for all to visit. But just because you're feeling friendly with your files doesn't mean that you need to throw away the keys to the kingdom--system security should always be in the forefront of your mind no matter how much you trust you've placed through the access rights for those in your personal network.
That's where a little application called ShareMonitor comes center-stage. This portable app, when loaded, begins monitoring Windows 7's public folders for any and all connections. And if you think this is just your average, "someone just logged into my network share, oh gee!" application... you're dead wrong.
You can put all the security measures you want on your portable PC, but odds are good that unless you're running some heavy encryption across your entire hard drive--I cry for your system's performance--an industrious cracker is going to find some way into your files should he or she have physical access to your laptop. And it's not like it's that hard to steal a laptop: you pick it up, you run away, you bust your way into the operating system. Done and done.
That's where a little application called LaptopLock comes into play. This download is more like a half-and-half, in that it combines the services of a Web app and a downloadable application into one awesome package. Let's paint a scenario: You lose your laptop. You're terrified that someone has actually taken your laptop and, worse, your laptop contains all of your personal information in a little file called "Nathan's Important Information" right on your desktop. What? You were doing your taxes; It's not unheard of.
This story would usually end a few hours later after you've managed to cancel all of your credit cards and cried buckets of tears at the thought of someone stealing your identity, provided said thief hasn't already used your debit card information to go on a personal shopping spree. Now, had you installed LaptopLock beforehand, the roles would be reversed: You'd be sitting easy and the thief would be freaking out at his or her missed opportunity.
What's on your PC? It's a fairly innocuous question, one that even the most tired of geeks should be answer without a moment's hesitation. But let's face it -- you sometimes spend a decent amount of time between upgrades. So much so, that you might have very well lost track of the exact names of the parts and pieces inside your system. Do I personally remember the exact model name of my motherboard? Nope! I won't tell you the manufacturer, but I've definitely had to pop off the side of the case and scan around, flashlight in hand, just to find my motherboard's actual model number for a firmware update search.
Don't let that be you. Furthermore, now's as good a time as any to get a solid inventory of not only the parts and pieces attached to your rig, but a full list of your installed software (and running services) as well. Why's that? Suppose your rig crashes tomorrow--I'm talking about the big one. No hard drive. All your data's wiped out. Can you honestly tell me that you'll remember each little freeware app or utility you installed on your system when you go to rebuild your machine? Wouldn't it be nice to have a little checklist to help you along?
And thus enters this week's download of the week--an application that goes above-and-beyond the call of duty to give you a full load-out of every little thing, hardware or software, that's in any way connected to your system. But that's not all...
Listen up, Windows 7 aficionados: This one's for you. You've no doubt noticed your operating system's lack of location-based functionality. Unlike Apple's competing OSX, which can triangulate your system's position based on the geographical locations of nearby WiFi hotspots, you can't really... well. You can't do any of that on Microsoft's platform. While you might not need to know exactly where your desktop is (hint: your dwelling), it would sure be nice to have this feature for a more mobile system.
And that's not even in the, "I'm lost in the wilderness and I see a bear help" sense. Wouldn't it be great to automatically have the weather displayed for your current location on your Windows sidebar? If you use Twitter (and yes, readers, I realize you hate Twitter), you could just as easily pull up a listing of messages centered around your particular location: "I just ate a great meal here," or "@bear2 There is a silly human wandering around here; I will eat him," et cetera.
Well, Microsoft hasn't come to your rescue on this one--a third-party developer has created an free application that allows you tap into the wonders of geolocation all by your lonesome. Go fetch your laptop from the other room, then click the jump!
Hot on the heels of my "5 Add-ons That Make Windows Explorer Even Better" article comes the appropriately named utility Right Click Context Menu Extender. It's a recent addition to the freeware world--as in, it was launched five days ago--yet the program shows a surprising amount of prowess for its relative infancy. As for what the little application actually does, you can probably figure out the general context by its name alone. The specifics, well, there's the real kicker.
Install the utility to your system and you'll suddenly unlock a wealth of configurable extensions to your average Windows right-click menu. These are split off into two categories: right-click context options that work in your standard Windows Explorer interface and right-click menu options that only come about when you've performed that activity on the desktop itself. As to what different kinds of features have been unleashed in your day-to-day PC use, here's a brief overview:
Copy / Move to
Administrative Command Prompt (opens to the folder)
Flip Windows 3D Switcher
Control Panel shortcut
Administrative Tools shortcut
Desktop God Mode
Even better, you can specify which options show up in each right-click menu using the application's super-simple configuration menu. That's it. While this isn't the kitchen sink of right-menu context options, nor can you add any that aren't already specified by the program, Right Click Context Menu Extender provides a simple way for increasing the power of your middle finger in a manner that's pleasing to all.
It's been a busy week for BitTorrents! I've showed you how to download them, how to tweak the heck out of a great program you can use to download them, and how to remotely access your BitTorrent downloads through Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. You, young padawan, are now fully grounded in the ways of the torrent. But you are no Jedi yet...
The final task that awaits you isn't so much related to the act of downloading information via BitTorrent as it is contributing to the cloud of data that you're usually pulling from. Yes, that's right. You're going to learn how to make your own .torrent file for distribution via your tracker of choice. While I realize there's a handy feature in uTorrent that allows you do this rather effortlessly, you're limited to working on one torrent at a time via this method. What if you want to make a whole bunch of .torrent files corresponding to a larger number of files you want to make available for download?
In that case, you're going to need the Download of the Week: MakeTorrent. Click the jump to see how it works!
Wh...what's this? A piece of open-source software from Microsoft that adds speed and portability to the standard Windows 7 installation process? It almost sounds too good to be true, but it's not! There really is such a utility, and it really has been delivered by the Windows 7 manufacturer itself, and it really is open-source!
I might sound a little too excited about this entire concept, but that's just because this tool--the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool--is actually a great replacement for what is otherwise a semi-complex (and hard to remember) series of console commands. If you think I'm exaggerating just for the sake of fashioning up a fun article to read, you're wrong. I couldn't tell you off-hand how to create a bootable USB drive with a preloaded Windows 7 disc. I usually just turn to this series of steps as a general walkthrough.
While the Microsoft tool isn't perfect, in that it won't automatically rip the contents of your Windows 7 CD and fashion a bootable USB key out of that, it's still an awesome way to automate this entire process using a friendly GUI. But don't think that you can just use this tool to make bootable USB keys of any ol' ISO file sitting around on your hard drive. In fact, you can't even rip the Windows 7 DVD and use the subsequent ISO file as the basis of your bootable USB key. Not without some tweaking, that is...
Email encryption is a task that's often misunderstood and frequently confusing. In fact, I can't think of anyone on my list of friends right now--geek or otherwise--who actually encrypts their email. That's not because email encryption is a bad thing. In fact, there are some pretty compelling benefits to being able to conceal the contents of a message. Suppose you have to quickly email a friend or loved one access to your online banking account for some reason. You aren't going to want to just send that information straight into the digital ether. An unhappy coworker or an industrious packet sniffer can pick out the contents of your message and compromise your security in a short amount of time.
You usually have to walk through a ton of hoops to get your hands on powerful email encryption. It's a hodgepodge of certificates, authentications, digital signatures, strings of text exchanged as keys, et cetera. Or, at least, it was. A helpful piece of freeware called Comodo SecureEmail is attempting to simultaneously reduce the headache and maximize the benefit of email encryption. I'm proud to report that it's super-easy to use so long as you know how to work your way around a typical configuration screen. More importantly, it's a great way to set up the encryption handshake between you and new email contacts without rendering you lifeless from all the different options and authentications.
Click the jump to check out Comodo SecureEmail's features!