Wondershare Liveboot 2012 (Normally $59.95) for Free

Wondershare Liveboot 2012 normally sells for $59.95. However, between now and August 12, you can download it for free! Instructions for doing so are here:
http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/get-60-bootable-troubleshooting-tool-free.htm

I downloaded the program and installed it. It contains a flat ISO @
C:Program FilesWondershareLiveBoot 2012Wondershare LiveBoot.iso.
It is Windows 7 based and seems pretty decent. I found that you can reset local account
passwords, find the installed Windows installation key, clone or wipe the hard drive and
even includes the ability to restore a good copy of the system registry by letting you
point to one in one of the system restore point folders. The Microsoft Safety Scanner
does work in this boot CD (unlike WinPE 3.0), so it might be handy to download it just for that.

You will need at least 1GB of memory to use this boot disc.  Although it seems to boot with 512MB, you won’t be able to run any applications without getting weird errors.

Update (10/13/12): Appears you can still download this!  See http://slickdeals.net/f/3181943-FREE-Wondershare-LiveBoot-2012

– Soli Deo Gloria

Carry most of your CDs and DVDs in your Pocket

I love toys, so I bought myself an iodd 2511 from Korea.  What does it do?  Well, you can read about the model 2501 from http://grandstreamdreams.blogspot.com/2010/07/iodd-multi-boot-madness.html. Basically, it’s a 2.5 SATA hard drive enclosure that acts like a CD/DVD ROM emulator.  You take ISO images of your CD/DVDs and stick them into the _ISO folder on the hard drive (I thought it was unlimited, but then I got an error “Too many files!” on the LCD screen.  I think the limit is around 30 ISOs in _ISO, so when you reach that limit, you will likely need to move ISOs in and out to keep under the limit).  When you do a select boot at your BIOS (or UEFI, pronounced U-FEE) screen, it should show up an iodd CD emulator device.  You use a toggle wheel on the left side to pick which ISO you want and viola, you’re booting from the bootable CD/DVD!  Note that model 2511 does support NTFS as the file system: you don’t have to use FAT32 and there is a firmware update for the 2501 adding NTFS support.

The device also acts as a CD/DVD emulator in Windows without the use of any software, so you can go right to the user’s PC and load any ISO as a drive letter without installing any software.  The device also has a read/write switch in case you want to protect it from that virus infected neighbor PC.

I got my device from eBay from a seller named elec*star within a week for $78.99.

– Soli Deo Gloria

Yet Another Screenshot Program!

For the past few years I’ve always looked for that ultimate screenshot utility. When creating technical documentation, a good utility can be a life saver. I first found MWSnap which allow you to snapshot any portion of the screen freehand.  Unfortunately, there are no image editing tools that come with MWSnap, so I was forced to bring the result into a program such as 20/20 to add text, highlights and arrows.  Recently, I found out about JetScreenshot which includes the ability to draw arrows right on your capture within the program.  Unfortunately, this program has quirks of its own, namely its default action is to save results to some Internet site (eww) and it puts a watermark on every result.

Finally to the rescue is a program called PicPick.  PicPick is like JetScreenshot, but there is no watermark on the resulting images.   It also has a very cool “scrolling window” feature.  This feature is invaluable if you say to take a screenshot of a very long page and want to do it as one picture.  The only “bad” part of PicPick is that if you use it at work, you are supposed to buy a licensed or “commercial” version.  At the time of this writing, that was $20.

Another cool one I found was called Greenshot: a completely free and opensource screenshot program.  This one allows you to create complete or partial screenshots quickly, easily annotate, highlight or obfuscate parts of the screenshot and send the screenshot to a file, the clipboard, a printer or as e-mail attachment.

Collecting screen capturing tools is becoming my favorite hobby!  Yet another one: Screenshot Captor.  This one is free as well and it has some nice highlighting features along with the blur tools.  I like Greenshot’s arrows better, so I just combine the two as needed.

– Soli Deo Gloria

Backup your IMAP/webmail with Mailstore Home

Many of us have multiple e-mail accounts at multiple providers.  While it’s great to have “everything in the cloud”, you should always have your own backups at home.  I recently found a slick product for doing this called Mailstore Home Edition.  Mailstore works with Outlook, Windows Mail, Thunderbird, Seamonkey, Google Mail (GMail), and generic IMAP/POP3 accounts.  Mailstore sets up a database for each account, but treats the offline backup as one datastore.  In my case, I have my main leinss.com e-mail accounts and a throwaway account at hotmail.com.

I have both leinss.com and hotmail.com (via the Hotmail connector) accounts setup in Outlook 2010.  I just tell Mailstore to back all the accounts I have setup in Outlook.  Once the backup is done, I can now take this e-mail and restore it to a new provider.  I can also search across all e-mail accounts at lightning speed: it’s on my hard drive!

Take a look at the powerful search options:
Mailstore search

Best of all: it’s freeware for home use!

– Soli Deo Gloria

My First Taste of SSD Goodness

I’ve been itching a while to get a SSD for my boot drive.  I recently scored an Intel X25-M off of Ebay for cheap ($150 under retail).  I received the box in the mail and was amazed by size: it was hardly bigger than a box of matches.  Upon opening the box: you get the drive, two packs of screws, a 2.5 to 3.5 adaptor and a mini cd.  Unfortunately, it does not come with a SATA cable or power converters (molex to SATA power, if needed), so make sure to order those with your drive.

Installation was relatively painless.  I planned to setup a dual boot with Windows 7 on a 140GB partition and Windows XP at the end of the drive at 10GB.  I did not have my XP disc at hand, so I decided to install Windows 7 first.  Booting and general tasks seemed quicker and more responsive.  After running the Windows Experience Index, the drive was rated 7.5/7.9 for performance!

I ran a trial copy of HD Tune Pro and it comes out at 151MB/sec read with max read of 205MB/sec.  I decided to compare it to the traditional platter drive (Seagate ST3250410AS, 250GB).  The read was 73MB/sec with a max read of 87MB/sec.  My other SATA drive (Seagate ST3500630AS, 500GB) fared worse at 63MB/sec with a max read of 66MB/sec.  Unfortunately, HD Tune Pro wanted me to wipe all the data off my disks to test them for write performance which I didn’t feel like doing.

I loaded XP, which wiped out the boot loader of Windows 7.  I re-booted the PC with the Windows 7 disc, went into WinRE and ran Startup Repair.  This put back the Windows 7 boot loader, but it did not add the XP NTLDR to the BCD loader?!  I’ve done this many times with past Microsoft operating systems…from Windows 98 to 2000 and 2000 to XP.  I went hunting for a third party utility to do my booting and found EasyBCD.  Actually, EasyBCD just interacts with the Windows 7 bootloader to make it easier to use.  I loaded the program, said “Add Entry”, I’m using “Windows XP” and that was it.  It found my XP installation and added it to the BCD loader.

The next task was loading the Intel SSD Toolbox so I could maintain and optimize my new SSD.  Unfortunately, after loading the program, when I went to click on the C: drive, it would just refresh the whole listing of disks.  I thought that this perhaps was a Windows 7 x64 issue, so I booted into my XP installation and installed the toolbox there as well.  This time the drive turned from black to blue, but when clicking on the drive, it told me the optimizing tools where disabled for the drive.

Off to Google I went, typing in “Asus Striker II Extreme + SSD + TRIM“.  After reading a bunch of postings, the conclusions are these: nForce chipsets don’t support AHCI, only ATA and the native nForce drivers don’t support TRIM!  It seems only native Intel drivers or the built-in Microsoft ones can take advantage of TRIM.  Windows 7 might be setup for TRIM, but if the storage drivers don’t understand the command, it’s pointless.  I booted back into Windows XP and per the instructions I found, I changed the driver “NVIDIA nForce Serial ATA Controller” to “Standard Dual Channel PCI IDE Controller”.  I rebooted and joy: the toolbox worked!

I booted back into Windows 7 and tried this, but it already appeared the drivers were already set to “Standard Dual Channel PCI IDE Controller”.  I ran Procmon from Sysinternals and under the result tab I was getting “INVALID DEVICE REQUEST” messages.  I went back to the Device Manager, knowing that the drivers must be hiding somewhere and sure enough, they were buried under the category “Storage Controller” instead of “IDE ATA/ATAPI Controllers”.  I went back to the toolbox after changing the drivers and…SUCCESS!  I re-ran Procmon and now instead of “INVALID DEVICE REQUEST”, I was getting “SUCCESS” back.

My days of getting a motherboard with a non-Intel chipset are over with.  Sorry Asus: there’s no excuse on this one.  Hello AHCI, goodbye ATA!

– Soli Deo Gloria

A Very Fast Search Utility for Windows

I use Agent Ransack at home and at work for searching for files, but just recently I found Ultrasearch made by the guys that created Treesize.  The file search works by searching the MFT of NTFS directly instead of drilling down into the file system itself or an index.  The nice thing is that not only are the search results nearly instanteous, you don’t have any of the issues of hard drive thrashing or worrying about hidden files.

I placed the executable on a share on my Windows 7 PC and I was able to run it from an XP machine just fine remotely, so this can be used as a portable application.  Best of all: it’s freeware!

– Soli Deo Gloria

Spruce Up That Old Windows Explorer

From time to time, I go and search for a better file manager, but I always come back to the built-in Windows Explorer.  Instead of completely replacing Windows Explorer, you can add some neat functionality to it.    You can do this with FileMenu Tools which was recently reviewed by TechPP.com and is freeware!  It has neat little features such as being able to securely delete a file (or all files on a drive) by overwriting it with zeros or changing the time stamp on a file.  The duplicate file feature is really nice: if I just want another copy of the file, the old way was copying that file to another directory, then renaming it and then copying it back.  Now I can just do a duplicate file and it just appends _copy to the end of the filename. 

I also like the size of folders feature.  You can right-click on any drive or folder and get sizes right from explorer.  No more loading 3rd party tools like Treesize to do the job!

Simple, neat and clean.

– Soli Deo Gloria

2009 Bearware Top 10 Freeware Programs of The Year

Provided courtsey of http://bearware.info

1. Anti Virus/Spyware:  Microsoft Security Essentials

2. File Search:  Everything

3. File Synchronizer/clone:  FreeFileSync

4. Internet TV:  Hulu Desktop

5. Password and Form Filler:  LastPass

6. Program Launcher:  SlickRun

7. Uninstaller:  RevoUninstaller

8. Video Player/Recorder:  VLC

9. Web Browser:  Google Chrome

10. Video/Audio Capture:  TubeMaster++

– Soli Deo Gloria

Windows 7 RC is Here!

Well, it is if you have Technet.  The RC was released April 30th and will be given to masses on May 5th.  I wiped Vista off my work PC and installed the RC right away.   They finally integrated the Windows Recovery environment right into the installation…so now you can hit F8 and get into it without having to hack it in.  Startup is faster and yes, they finally put back a decent logo during the boot process!  You can now change the background of the login screen with this utility.

UAC is more subdued.  This version of Windows seems what Vista was supposed to be.  The previewing technology in the quick launch is pretty cool and hovering over the start menu “circle” causes it to “light up”.  They added a date to the clock in the bottom right and now a permanently integrated “Show Desktop” feature to the right of the clock.  I do notice some graphical distortions from time to time.  Windows 7 picked a WDDM 1.0 driver for the Q965 video driver in this Optiplex 745.  It’s a beta: what do you expect?

I played a little bit with XPM: basically a copy of Virtual PC running XP that runs under Windows 7.  This feature might be more confusing than helpful.   I was able to run Internet Explorer 6 “desktopless” which is pretty cool (see auto-publishing here)…but how will you keep this VM patched?  Do you really want a bunch of rogue VMs joined to your domain?

Overall, I’m pretty impressed by Windows Vista R2, I mean Windows 7.  A Microsoft Springboard session on Windows 7 can be found @ http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/dd459187.aspx?ITPID=istream

– Soli Deo Gloria

Utility Review: Alcohol 52%

It sometimes is hard finding software that will work on Windows Vista. Case in point: finding software that will load ISO images as a drive letter. On Windows XP, I use to use CloneVirtualDrive by SlySoft. Unfortunately, this software does not work on Vista. The challenge is to find something free, reliable and of course, Vista compatible.

Installation is pretty straight forward: the first part will require a reboot. After the reboot, you need to run the setup again. During the setup, you are offered a “free toolbar”. You can decline the installation of this toolbar.

Usage is pretty easy: launch Alcohol 52% and add your ISO image to the list. It keeps a list of the current ISOs you have loaded recently. Then, right-click on the ISO and choose “Mount on Device”. The CD or DVD is then loaded as a virtual drive letter.

The utility also has a neat ISO maker. Place a CD or DVD into the drive and click through the wizard: nothing could be easier. This utility would be so sweet if it would write CDs/DVDs as well. Alas, it is freeware, so you can’t ask too much.

Note that the license states this is for home and personal use only.

Verdict: 4 stars

– Soli Deo Gloria