Monitor Off Utility: Freeware That Conserves Energy

Monitor Off Utility is described by its author as

…is a free program that allows you to take control of your monitors built-in energy saving features

Even though all computers and operating systems come with power management features that allow a user to turn off a hard disk or put a computer into standby or hibernate mode it is often more beneficial, sometimes even more reliable, to turn off a monitor via a dedicated third party tool. Monitor Off achieves this energy and money saving task in a light weight and freeware download.

Monitor Off Utility Freeware

This small download, available both as an installer and a stand alone zip file, Monitor Off offers a user configurable method of turning off a monitor or if desired to activate a screensaver. Many combination of keys, like Ctrl+Alt+L, can be configured and a delay in seconds chosen to put any monitor into stand by mode. It is also possible to lock the work station – when in the stand by mode – to protect the computer from prying eyes while one is away.

Monitor Off makes the ever critical issue of power and energy savings just one bit easier and it is therefore worth having the program start with Windows and to have it remain in the system tray. It also supports several command line options that are documented in its Help menu. It requires the .NET Framework 2.0 or later and as of this post works on Windows 98, 2000, ME, XP and Vista.

Startup Discoverer: Freeware Tool Displays Startup Information


Startup Discoverer is a simple, portable and no-install tool that displays any program that automatically loads when a Windows computer starts. It categorizes startup entries into one of 19 groups. These 19 groups, such as User Startup, BHO (Browser helper Object) Runs and Winlogon, display either in blue text, meaning the group has programs or applications associated with it, or in black, meaning the group is empty. It is possible to save any or all of the groups’ lists to a text file or to print them.
More features, such as editing or deleting startup items would be welcome but a utility like Startup Discoverer does a good job providing important troubleshooting and useful information at a quick glance.

Green Tech: Google’s PowerMeter and Cisco’s EnergyWise

Reducing power usage and consumption is one of the best, easiest and immediate measures we can take while politicians wrangle through their greedy needs. Two large corporations that, along with IBM, have set up internal goals and business models based on selling and promoting green products are Google and Cisco. Two tools released by the aforementioned that have the power (pun intended?) to affect everyday electricity usage both at home and at work are Google’s PowerMeter and Cisco’s EnergyWise.

Google’s PowerMeter is a tool that Google has released free and made available to consumers in partnership with power utilities and government agencies. It provides probably the most useful way to monitor electricity usage. By giving access to and showing near real time stats on electricity usage it can help any body get a picture on when and how much power he or she is consuming at home and to help him or her plan and manage usage with a better understanding of what uses more and what uses less power. Google has a few partners lined up and more jurisdictions and local power producers will follow sooner or later. For this to work a local utility must install smart meters and also get on board with google.

Cisco’s EnergyWise is a set of tools that Cisco has integrated into its catalyst switches and routers with the aim of better monitoring their power usage and then managing their consumption and even turning them off when idle. This tool can manage, via set policies that include such criteria as device priority and location, other compatible devices (IP phones, PCs, etc.) on the network as well and using a new domain naming system to gather information on all those devices. All the information gathered can then create a bigger picture for analysis over time. It is an open architecture that enables other devices, built by others, to hook into it and make it more widely usable.

New Version News: Caderno and Dexpot

In this series of posts called New Version News I will highlight some of the newer versions of freeware downloads reviewed earlier on

Caderno, the notepad replacement and alternative reviewed here is at version 2.10 now. Some notable and new features include the following:

  • Code folding.
  • A better and more complete UTF (UTF-16) support.
  • The portable version that was in the works earlier. Also an U3 version, the format that is especially created for USB flash drives.

Dexpot has reached version 1.5, it was originally reviewed here, and offers a number of interesting and useful features like the following:

  • The Dexcube plug-in, for some 3D effects features.
  • The SevenDex plug-in, to make maximum use of the the taskbar on the new Windows 7.
  • Task switcher and desktop switcher, which increases access and efficiency in using applications that reside on different desktops.

Radian: The Radial Circular Launcher

Radian is described by its author as

Radian is a simple radial application launcher


When Radian is launched it starts with what it calls design mode, which is also accessible any time by right clicking or double clicking its system tray icon. This startup briefly slows the system while the program searches and indexes its pre-configured shortcuts, described below. In design mode Radian’s circular or radial interface is divided into 4 quadrants (see image). Each quadrant can be configured, using its corresponding wheel icon residing near the center of the circle, to hold chosen shortcuts and their respective icons. Three of the four quadrants are pre-configured to show desktop items, quick launch items and the recent documents entries. The fourth quadrant is called custom and any file or shortcut can be dragged to any of its regions. Right clicking on any of the individual regions also allows for the creation of custom shortcuts.

After design mode is done Radian stays in the tray and can be activated by clicking and holding down the right click button any where on the screen. Then the second, third orĀ  fourth quadrants can then be made visible by moving the mouse in a circular fashion while still holding down the right click button.

Radian is one launcher that certainly needs getting used to but it is a different and original looking download.

Google Fast Flip: Speedy News Browsing


Google fast flip is a service from google labs that aims to make news browsing a faster experience. A selection of websites are displayed in categories such as Recent and Most Viewed. There is also further categorization by topic – such as Sports and by single source – where one can view several thumbnails from the same site.
Clicking on a news source increases the size of the chosen news and loads it on its own page. Here one can click to share the news, rate it as ‘like’ or to navigate to the actual web site it is taken from. When on the individual news page it is also possible to see more thumbnails by loading the sliding menu on the left hand side.
The disadvantage of this service is that since the pages are smaller than their actual size and are rendered in *.png format the fast flip page may not be as readable or as fast and the news is not searchable. Having said that Google fast flip along with the likes of newsmap, newseum and rayogram provide means to satisfy news junkies in a more visual set up.

Edited to add: I somehow forgot to add one of the best ways to get a visual view of all the latest news and that is newser. Similarly thephotostream and 10×10 are worth a look as well.

Stellarium Is Astronomy Central

Stellarium is described as

Stellarium is a free open source planetarium for your computer

Stellarium is an excellent companion for the hobbyist and the curious astronomer. It has an attractive interface that is at the same time educational. Stellarium provides a view of the sky similar to the one that would visible to the naked eye at any given time.


The program has two slide-in menus at the bottom and left hand corners of its interface and they offer tabbed menus that control a multitude of settings and features. The list of features is extensive and Stellarium is really a program that requires its multi-page *.pdf userguide. Setting a location is probably the first option to use as this will show the sky as it looks where you are. Location is set via the left hand slide-in menu and it is also possible to view the sky as it is in other locations and then of course to set one’s own as default. Mouse dragging is used to move around the sky. Mouse wheel zooms in and out. Time control, in the bottom slide-in menu, shows the position and movement of stars and planets in the past and future, in varying speeds.

The Sky and viewing options window has many choices for the landscape or ground that will be the program’s setting. It is possible to set if planets are shown, how much the stars twinkle, if an atmosphere is shown and even how much light pollution there is. There are numerous paragraphs and text on the history of astronomy in the Starlore tab.

The Search window (also invoked by pressing the F3 button) searches the extensive list of stars and planets in its database that includes the likes of the Hipparcos Catalogue.

The Configuration window is the place to play around with the system time, download more star catalogues and to try out scripts. Script support is limited as of this post (version 0.10.2) but more is promised.


The bottom slide-in menu offers the tools that would be most used when running Stellarium. Beside the aforementioned ability to move time faster to track star and planet movements here one can switch to full screen mode and night (red colored screen to preserve night vision) mode. Centering the highlighted or chosen star on screen and switching between equatorial and azimuthal mounts are two other useful options. Toggling planet labels, nebula positions, atmosphere, ground, constellation lines, art and labels on and off further enriches the experience and all are done via the said menu.

The aforementioned *.pdf userguide shows the breadth of options and possibilities of Stellarium. From everything like scripting, creating landscapes, adding Nebula images, taking screenshots (using Ctrl and s keys) and to the many command line parameters.

Stellarium is open source cross platform software and requires a graphics card capable of rendering OpenGL. An *.ini configuration file written into the program folder is accessible from the program’s start menu and offers another way to tweak the characteristics of Stellarium, for example the presentation font can be changed here but there is much more and some are detailed on the FAQ page.

StartUp Is A Launcher…And An AppManager?

StartUp is described by its author as

WPF tool to help you launch your programs easily.

To start off the developer page does not mention the name ‘StartUp’. The only place this program’s name is visible is in the solitary screenshot. One can easily confuse its name to be ‘AppManager’ as that is the domain URL and also the title of page. That minor quibble aside, on to the program itself.


Upon installation StartUp looks up or indexes the system’s start menu, quick launch and recent documents entries and presents them in a rectangular interface (see image) and also groups them into areas. Right clicking anywhere on the program window or clicking the + icon one can create groups for additional shortcuts. The program supports dragging and dropping shortcuts, executables or almost any file to create links to them. It is also possible to drag a file over a program icon, while holding the Alt key, to force the file to be opened with that particular program.
The program is minimized to the system tray using its X or close icon or by just pressing the Esc key. By default the program window can be maximized by using the Alt and ~ keys or by what it calls “mouse activation”. To activate the program using the mouse single click the top left hand edge of the screen. This activation feature can be turned off using the program’s preferences.
Perhaps the best part of StartUp is the integrated search feature. Click anywhere on the program interface and just start typing, a search box narrows your choices as you type (see image).
StartUp requires, at a minimum, the .NET 3.0 framework and is a 164KB download. It is released under the Microsoft Public License.

Visualizing Carbon Emissions

Burning fossil fuels has contributed immensely to the problem of climate change or global warming as some call it. It is clear that some countries have contributed far more in terms of pollution and emissions. One of the big political debates hampering progress in the ‘climate debate’ is the acceptance of the share of responsibility and any extra costs for those more responsible. In the final analysis important conferences like the upcoming Copenhagen 15 or COP15 need to produce near term and tangible results if we are to survive.

The Washington Post science section has produced an interactive global emissions chart. Using the chart it is possible to visualize pollution levels per country or region since 1950 and track changes through the decades to the present time by using a slider. No prizes for guessing the present top 2 or top 3 polluters.

Click to view the chart: Explore changes in carbon emissions from fossil fuels for G-20 countries, selected developing nations and others critical to the climate debate.

Text Block Writer Organizes Notes And Thoughts

Text Block Writer is described by its author as

…a virtual index card program for writers

Text Block Writer works similar to the way one would write notes on one or several pieces of paper. By using Text Block Writer one can organize the notes in pages and columns cleanly. It is also possible to export all notes to the standard *.rtf format or keep using the program’s own *.tbwml format which in itself is simple *.xml.

Text Block Writer

Each note is saved in a square or rectangular block, within a page. Each page contains at least three (by default but can be changed using the program’s options) columns and a side column (situated to the right of the numbered columns) for extra and unclassified notes. A title can be set for each page using the text box just under the program menu. A block shelf to the bottom right of the program’s interface holds temporary notes that are not exported when notes are backed up. The scratchpad area at the bottom performs a similar function as the block shelf and holds temporary notes. The utility panel that slides open on the far right of the program window provides the index or titles of all pages. Its groups action setting is for such tasks as moving panels or blocks between pages and changing their colors. Its live preview is one long text file of all saved notes. The utility panel also features more options for such things as a panel size and export syntax.

Text Block Writer also supports a number of useful shortcut keys that are listed in its helps file, for example viewing a previous page is done via the Ctrl and left keys. The program requires version 2.0 of the .NET framework, however it is useful for keeping records and notes.