Dec 102009

December 10 is recognized as international Human Rights Day. It marks the date when the United Nations General Assembly adopted, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) (Read more here).

Struggles and human rights violations still exist, even 61 years after it was voted for by countries big and small. Many of those same countries – and those which abstained or didn’t vote at all – have been involved in questionable conduct and some that clearly violate the declaration.

There are many who have suffered, who have decided to take action or who have just realized the need to do their part. Ordinary people and more known ones have spent and are spending time and even life times working for the betterment of all human life and deserve recognition. One such example – which may not be a household name – is Jack Healey and his Human Rights Action Center. Few others can be read about as the recipients of the Martin Ennals Award. Even more, as individuals, promoting the cause any way possible such as One Day for Human Rights.

Here’s hoping for a free, bright and peaceful future.

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Pitaschio: Multipurpose Freeware Utility For Windows

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Dec 082009

Pitaschio, not Pistachio!, is described by its author as

Pitaschio is a freeware which makes it convenient to use Microsoft Windows

Pitaschio is a utility that enables a user to automate many tasks or to simply be more efficient with the keyboard and the mouse. At the same time it can be perhaps too much since for example upon launch it disables a few things, notably the Windows key and the option to maximize a window. These behaviours can of course be turned off in its settings but nevertheless they are perhaps not the most needed of default actions. Some other keys that can be disabled include F1, Insert and Caps Lock. The latter is perhaps most relevant as many prefer to use the shift key when capitalized letters are required.

Pitaschio Freeware

Some of the features in the Configuration section of Pitaschio can be seen in the image accompanying this review. They include the following:

  • ‘Snap’ makes sure windows are placed side by side, and not overlapping, on the screen.
  • ‘Place a window only in the screen’ restricts the move and resize options so that no part of a window can move out of screen view.
  • ‘Use small icons’ reduces icon sizes both on the desktop and inside Windows Explorer
  • ‘Send to under-cursor-window’ is one of the more interesting settings. It allows the mouse wheel to operate (scroll) the window it is positioned on and not the foreground window.
  • ‘Parent folder by double click’ creates a pseudo-breadcrumb effect where double clicking an empty area in Windows Explorer opens the parent folder.

The Windows settings or section work on any open windows (which are always listed in the text area near the top of the settings window (see image)). Among others, one can minimize and hide windows, make them transparent, resize them and bring them to the foreground.

The Mouse shortcuts settings, accessible through the program’s system tray icon, provides a long list and choices affecting the desktop, title bar and task bar. Many options are included like, but not limited to, Show Desktop, Open Task Manager, Toggle Topmost State and others. Each option is assigned to key combinations like double click and shift+double click.

Disabling the keyboard and/or the mouse is one additional helpful feature of Pitaschio. It is beneficial because it can prevent a child or pet accidentally entering characters onto a document and it makes cleaning the keyboard and mouse easier too.

Pitaschio’s manual page has a fuller explanation of each setting but using the program itself may be enough as well.

It is possible to add the names of programs that do not work or one does not want to be affected by Pitaschio to the Ignore.txt file that resides in the program’s folder. Since Pitaschio happens to not require an installation its folder can reside anywhere. It should run on Windows 2000, XP and Vista (it is not tested on Windows 7).

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Quick Key Launch: Run Box Style Freeware Launcher

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Dec 062009

Quick Key Launch is a launcher that can be used to launch any file quickly. To set up new commands one must drag any file, program or shortcut to its run or command box style interface. After doing so a dialog box opens where one names the command or shortcut and optionally adds any parameters or arguments. It is also possible to associate a specific program in the ‘Start in’ box, although this did not work when I tried to associate an image with an alternative, non system default image editor. Perhaps I am not understanding its purpose as it seems to require folders and not executables or programs.

Quick Key Launch

When commands are saved one access them and the program by typing Ctrl+F10 (pressing the Esc key is one way to send the program back to the system tray) and then typing the chosen command. Once the command is visible and highlighted pressing enter will launch the file or program. If there is more than one similarly named command they are numbered (see image) and can alternatively be launched by using the corresponding number. The program’s page details a few other ways to work with commands and the visibility of the program and also a way to increase the horizontal size of the command or run box (Using Ctrl+mouse wheel)

One interesting tidbit about the program is that even though the home page and files are hosted on sourceforge there is no indication of it being open source software nor could I find any source files on its sourceforge downloads or files page. Quick Key Launch is a simple 74KB (unzipped) download and should run on any Windows computer including those with Windows 7.

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Dec 032009

Signo is described by its author as

…impressively complete hotkey manager…

Upon launch Signo slows the system (reviewed on a Windows XP computer) but then settles in the tray and provides a number of defaults hotkeys or what it calls actions to automate many tasks. Signo also provides the ability to add additional user defined actions. The hotkeys can alternatively be used and defined as the # key followed by a maximum of 10 letters, therefore it is possible to (for example) press Alt+Win+k to do an action or to set #awk to do the same.

The actions supported are Text, HTML, Open, Launch, MiniRAM, Windows, Grab and Auto. Text actions copy text into applications. It can be used to insert common snippets of text into focused applications without typing them every time. HTML is similar to text and also supports links and some other HTML elements.

Open and Launch are similar, both open files, websites or programs, but the latter supports DOS actions or command line parameters. In this case it is not really clear why they should be two separate categories.


MiniRAM optimizes RAM usage (see image) via user set priorities, a feature I did not attempt to use for this review as such tools are not always easy to manage.

Windows has a long list of pre-defined hotkeys with some applying to foreground windows and others to all open windows. These include quickly hiding a window (Ctrl+Win+H, toggle to hide and unhide foreground window) and sending it to the tray (Ctrl+Win+T). (Ctrl+Win+Up, down, left or right) snaps windows in the chosen position and (Ctrl+Win+S) makes the foreground window transparent are two of the other available actions.

Grab is screen capture tool, it can capture entire windows, specific areas and also provides options to choose where to send the resulting capture. A settings dialog box (to the right of eye (or execute) icon) lets the user change the target folder and other capture or grab settings.

Auto is somewhat more unique as it allows Signo to support abbreviations and to monitor typed words and correct their spelling. Abbreviations act as short forms so that one can type words faster. They are defined such that the desired entries are entered one per line with the abbreviated (or shortened) form being followed by a comma and the non-abbreviated (full) text. For the spelling feature Signo will look at user defined words (using the same format as abbreviations) and replaces misspelt ones with the correct version as defined in the ‘List of auto-corrections’.

Signo is powerful enough with its default set of tools and hotkeys but with user added entries it can be even more useful. It should run on all Windows from 2000 to Vista and requires the .NET framework 2.0 or later.

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Dec 012009

File Hound is Described as

…Search for text inside any file on your computer. It can search all kinds of text files, including pdf, doc etc.

File Hound - Freeware
It is a simple program that does its job well and as mentioned in its description searches inside *.pdf files too. It is not limited to pure text files as it can search inside *.dll, *.exe and other such files as well. Another advantage is that the search results for *.pdf files are shown in the program’s own search results window. As of this date folder paths must be typed or pasted into the Folder box as there is no browse button available but enabling the Associate with folders setting adds a Hound entry into folders’ right click context menu. It is also possible to expand or limit a search by including subfolders and restricting file sizes.

File Hound is a useful, fast, lightweight and freeware search utility. It does require the .NET 2.0 framework on the host system.

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