Feb 282009
 

White Spaces internet is one of the latest and perhaps most promising and close to reality internet technologies. It is supported by many of the biggest industry leaders such Microsoft and Google through alliances such as White Spaces Coalition and Wireless Innovation Alliance but also grassroots and non-profit groups that are closer to the consumer’s need such as Free Press that campaigned for it when the FCC was considering White Spaces.

White Spaces refers to the use of an empty part of the broadcast spectrum that can be made available for other use. This year in the United States and soon in Canada television stations will cease to broadcast in the 700Mhz range and some consumers will need to use the much publicized digital convertors. That broadcast range has already been tested and approved by the FCC to deliver high speed internet. Years of TV viewing have shown the usability and range of TV broadcasts and how that signal penetrates walls and travels through obstacles. This characteristic makes the (up to) 700Mhz range almost ideal for internet delivery.

With that potential seemingly close to realization there is a promise of cheaper and better internet access that may even be able to deliver 40Mbps – easily 8 times more than most current offerings – speeds in the near future. Most consumers having been forced into limited speeds, poor support and limited infrastructure by traditional telephone and cable companies have to be happy with a new technology that seems to hold real promise. Devices to deliver this, while not fully defined or publicized, are near and should be available in the not too distant future.

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Feb 232009
 

Internet2 is a concept born in 1996 as the needs of some universities and institutions where not being served by the traditional internet. Some universities met and decided to implement a non-profit internet that would provide high speed and high performance links for their use. The possible start back then was a 2.5Gbps network but that has since been upgraded to 100Gbps links.

One high profile usage is the CERN Large Hadron Collider coming fully online this year. Using this network scientists can work with what they expect to be 15 million GB of data generated annually by the LHC.

Initially Internet 2 worked by using a software detective that relayed a packet to a server to check the connection and bandwidth and then the time it took for a returning packet to get back to the sender was used as a means of confirming the suitability of the connection. Now Internet2 mainly works by allowing those who use it to set up temporary networks, called Dynamic Circuit Networks, to have access to very high transfer and performance rates for periods that they need it.

Such large bandwidth has many applications like videoconferencing just to name one, it is also being tested using IPv6 and developing the next generation of 911.

Since the danger is that they have created something that will cost more to access and use the advocates and project collaborators insist that they are for network neutrality, that is they oppose extra fees and charges to access certain networks or ‘parts’ of the internet that are faster or deliver more content.

Lots more to read about this promising present and future at the Internet2 website, at Wikipedia and articles such as this at Internet Evolution

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Feb 182009
 

Two GNU licensed freeware courtesy of Lune Rouge offer easy and lighweight means of achieving sometimes useful tasks.

Firs off line TextStat described simply as

Create statistics on a text file

Using it is as simple as browsing for a file and then clicking the “TS” icon. Using TextStat it is possible to analyze any text or HTML file and generate wide ranging info. Among others TextStat produces stats on the number of words and paragraphs to such things as number of carriage returns, number of occurances of every word and an estimate on the number of syllables. TextStat supports such options as exluding words and separators like question marks (see image below). The results can be viewed in the program itself, copied or exported into a text or HTML file. An additional tool is the calculation of the Flesch Reading Ease test or score which calculates the readability of the text based on the number of words and syllables per sentences and words respectively.

textstat

Next up is CopyrightLeft described as

…add a copyright on or below your images

Also GNU licensed, CopyrightLeft offers a no frills way to add watermarks to any image. It offers the needed options such as color, text position, rotation and transparency and even more (see image below). What makes this 799KB download even better is its batch processing. It is possible to force the output format of watermarked images, such as converting images to .jpg, and also one can create a HTML file with a linked listing to the said images. It has worked well for me except in one case. If the option to add ‘Shadow’ or ‘Glow’ is checked and the watermark text is rotated the shadow and glow remain at zero degrees and do not follow the text orientation. Sometimes, but not in all my tests, checking ‘Transparent background’, as if to hide the glow or shadow, solves this issue.

copyrightleft

Both should work in all Windows versions.

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Feb 152009
 

Shortly after I wrote about the dirhtml index.html generator I received an email from its developer. In part due to my confusion about the way the sorting options were presented and how the output listing was actually sorted Eric, the enware developer, had released a new, then beta, version. It has since gone out of beta and v4.833 presents a more intuitive sorting menu (see images below).

Older version of dirhtml

Older version of dirhtml

New version of dirhtml

New version of dirhtml

In my opinion it is now easier to visualize the output because the ‘Unsorted’ option is now in a column with all the primary choices that determine the shape of the output.

Two notable omissions in the original article were that at the ‘Input/Output’ and final tab it is possible to create a batch file by clicking the ‘Save Batch File’ button or F7. This will generate a batch file and an associated .ini file. Launching the .bat will use the .ini file, containing all the settings that have been gathered by going through the program, and this will then immediately generate the required output.  This is very useful as it makes subsequent uses much easier and faster. Also worth pointing out is the ‘div_recursive.txt’ script, one of the ‘Script’ choices in the initial ‘Folders, Files’ tab. This will generate an output with a recursive listing of the folders and files being worked on. It is a very useful way of presenting the results.

I also want to take this opportunity to write about the other freeware Eric is and has worked on.

First up is the Mp3 ImageMap. This is free for non-commercial purposes and portable. The developer, Eric, describes it as

…an attempt to bring back the shock value of music finding to people who know all their tunes and searches by heart, and incorporates a rather unique algorithm for dividing rectangles into N squares.

It works by the user specifying a folder (containing MP3 files for example), file extension(s)(MP3 and WMA for example), path to the output HTML file, image (GIF, JPG, JPEG or PNG) and choosing one of several sort types and then clicking ‘Build It’. The app will use the image to generate an image map with different areas linked to the different MP3 and WMA files. A nice and fun way to listen to music or simply launch files.

Next is the ScrapBook described as

ScrapBook is a freeware, unstructured database program that holds chunks of text.

A lightweight and only 252KB download, it is surprisingly useful. It is possible to save all sorts of text with the first line of the said text acting as an index. It is also possible to differentiate and separate different chunks by placing them in different ‘cards’. To navigate between cards one can, for example, use the left and right arrows or click Alt+L, F2. Even easier is finding text by using the ‘Find’ box. It is also possible to save shortcuts in ScrapBook and use it as a launcher by moving the cursor over the text or shortcut and clicking F12. One interesting feature is the ability to ‘tag’ cards, by clicking Ctrl+space, and therefore making an index or listing even more intuitive by then viewing a list of tags (Ctrl+T). As with dirhtml ScrapBook is filled with useful features.

Finally there is CopyDate, taking a further step in making tasks easier, described as

Copydate copies files, optionally inserting today’s date/time into the copied filename.

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Feb 122009
 

There are plenty of strictly speaking illegal means of finding and saving media. From the earlier methods of checking P2P sites and software to using places like rapidshare and torrents. The history of the internet is filled with smart and plain illegal means just to get one’s hands on music, video and software.

Of course plenty of websites exist that allow streaming of music but make it difficult or impossible to save the file. Sometimes listening to places that stream music it is even possible to find a link to a working, downloadable MP3. Search for song on playlist.com for example and you may find the MP3 of the song easily available on the ‘Visit Site’ link under the song title. Another way is using google with search terms like

-inurl:(htm|html|php) intitle:”index of” +”last modified” +”parent directory” +description +size +(mp3) “band_or_song_name”

This will output sites and not so hidden directories that may have a copy of the song.

When all else fails or when one just wants to try something new one can create a MP3 the long way. Start by downloading the famous and open source audio editor Audacity then download and save the LAME MP3 encoder. Use Audacity paying particular attention to the areas marked in the image below.

audacity1

Launch the song on the streaming site and record. When the song is over stop the recording process in Audacity and ‘Export As Mp3’ under the File menu.

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Feb 082009
 

As a followup to my post on TreeSize here are some other downloads I have come across that let the user view or visualize space usage on a disk.

For this article I chose to analyze a folder that is approximately 945MB and has 28 subfolders and 170 files. Using a not so new Windows XP machine.

Free Disk Analyzer is described by its author as

The easiest tool for quickly finding large files and optimizing disk usage.


diskusage

Free Disk Analyzer comes in at 11.1MB, much larger than the others looked at in this article, and while having the most elegant or perhaps uncomplicated interface that is pretty similar to Windows Explorer it still difficult to understand the need for the program size. Free Disk Analyzer includes links to the system control panel and even a breadcrumbs style menu. It was slowest to analyze the chosen folder and provide the info seen in the image, it even went into a Windows ‘Not Responding’ state for a few seconds. But the results clearly and by default include analysis of the files and not just folders or subfolders being scanned. As mentioned, for a download its size it has surprisingly few options. One can filter result by the usual types like images or system files. It is possible to analyze the largest files or set a minimum file size for analysis and also to cache or save the results. After one analysis it took up about 25MB of memory. Supported Windows versions are not listed on the developer’s website.

OverDisk is described by its author as

OverDisk is a disk usage browser. It can be used to quickly find out how a partition’s space is distributed among the file system hierarchy.


diskusage

OverDisk, at a 502KB download, is much smaller. It generates an immediate graph of the space taken that can be configured for ‘Logical’, ‘Physical’ and ‘Wasted’ space taken by the operating system – as in taking into account the cluster size. One interesting tool is the Statistics under the Info menu which allows the user to check for such things as ‘Deepest’ and ‘Largest’ path names (see image). OverDisk took less than 5MB of memory during and after analysis was complete. Supported Windows versions are not listed on the developer’s website.

WinDirStat is described by its author as

WinDirStat is a disk usage statistics viewer and cleanup tool for Microsoft Windows


diskusage

WinDirStat, a 630KB download, at startup and by default will give an overview of the disk drives and if one doesn’t see the option and doesn’t choose the ‘A Folder’ radio button and just click OK it proceeds to fully analyze the whole drive without any further prompts. Subsequent to that but choosing a folder the stats are displayed pretty instantaneously. The rather strange and unusual map which is also color coded according to file types (see image) makes for a more detailed representation of the space the files take. It is possible to zoom on the map to get a close up if many subfolders or files are being looked at. Various disk cleanup options are included and one can configure more via the Options menu. Memory usage topped off at around 10MB. Runs on all versions of Windows including Windows 95 with Internet Explorer 5 loaded.

Folder Size is described by its author as

Folder Size helps you figure out where all that hard drive space has gone on your computer.


diskusage

Folder Size is a more basic analyzer with a basic option of visualizing the amount of space each folder or subfolder is taking. It is possible to filter the results but little else is included. At 333KB (unzipped) and not requiring installation it is good for quick reference. Supported Windows versions are not listed on the developer website.

Xinorbis is described by its author as

Xinorbis is a simple but powerful hard disk analyzer. Using a sophisticated mix of graphs, tables and tree displays, it gives the user a complete overview of the contents of a hard disk (or directory)


diskusage

Xinorbis, another available as a portable no-installation version is 4.64MB unzipped. Xinorbis provides a different and perhaps confusing GUI that packs its features in tabs. The tabs allows such things as keeping a folder history and also many different views of the results be they text, pie chart or table format. It also provides a ‘Top 101’ files table that lists the largest and smallest files in the disk or folder being analyzed. One additional filter that might be of interest is the ‘Null’ tab which lists any null files or empty folders. Xinorbis features four ways to export the results in HTML, XML, CSV and text. It used 15MB of memory. Of note is the shell support that makes it possible to scan a directory from the command line. It runs on Windows 2000, XP and Vista

For the simplest of all one can not forget Folder Size, an open source project that adds folder sizes right in the Windows Explorer details view, much in the same way as file sizes are displayed. It works on Windows 2000 and XP, and provides a features sorely missing in those and other Windows versions.

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Feb 052009
 

WinSCP is described by its author as

WinSCP is an open source free SFTP client and FTP client for Windows. Legacy SCP protocol is also supported. Its main function is safe copying of files between a local and a remote computer.

It is a very robust and feature rich FTP client that supports secure file transfer using SSH over FTP. It has many of the usual and expected features like integration into Windows for such operations as drag and drop and insertion into the Send To context menu. Additionally in can be used via the command line to perform many actions available in its GUI such as synchronizing files between remote and local folders or simply uploading files. Many remote commands are also available by right clicking files in the remote pane, such as duplication, move, Tar, Touch, Grep and of course changing file permissions. It is possible to store sessions or login details and even remember last used local and remote directories.

Two perhaps trivial but stand out features are an internal text editor to work on remote files and the ability to actually view such formats as .htaccess files in the remote pane therefore eliminating the risk of overwriting such files that Windows does not recognize, one thing that is really missing on most FTP clients.

WinSCP should run on any system running Windows 95 or later and is currently at v4.1.8. In my experience I have had less problems with WinSCP when compared to the highly rated FileZilla.

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Feb 012009
 

TrueCrypt is described by its author as

Free open-source disk encryption software for Windows Vista/XP, Mac OS X, and Linux

TrueCrypt is a feature rich, powerful and reliable software to secure any number of files, folders or even entire drives. It achieves this by creating a ‘virtual encrypted disk’. It is possible to hide most any thing in one ‘file’ that is only accessible with TrueCrypt and via password and/or keyfiles. It is also possible to encrypt an entire partition or a USB key or flash drive. TrueCrypt supports three main methods of encryption, AES-256, Serpent, and Twofish, and depending on the data being encrypted one may not even need the most powerful but nevertheless it is also possible to generate strong password using TrueCrypt.

Starting up the program and hiding, securing or encrypting requires a few steps. The user starts by pressing the ‘Create Volume’ button which leads to the launch of the ‘TrueCrypt Volume Creation Wizard’. Once there one chooses to either encrypt by creating a virtual disk within a file, a non-system partition such as a USB key or a system partition which basically allows for the encryption of the operating system as a whole. In one of the more typical uses, the ‘disk within a file’, the next step is to choose between a ‘normal’  encrypted disk or a hidden volume which basically hides the encrypted data inside another area so as to make it possible to deny any data is encrypted at all, what is called plausible deniability. Then the user chooses a location for the so-called file, the type of encryption, the size of the container or file, a password (and keyfiles if preferred) and finally between FAT or NTFS for the format of the volume.

When the program is launched the user will see something like the image below where the encrypted file becomes accessible as a drive.

truecrypt

For increased security check ‘never save history’ and keep ‘cache passwords and keyfiles in memory’ unchecked (see image above).

Many command line options that can ease the use of and for example automate mounting of encrypted drives plus many other explanations including a very easy to follow tutorial are all available at www.truecrypt.org/docs. TrueCrypt is currently at version 6.1a and supported by a good community and a detailed site.

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