Help The Environment With The Climate Savers Computing Initiative

I do not know of a person or organization who doesn’t own or use computers or appliances that bear the Energy Star logo or who do not use their computers’ power management features such as those that turn off the hard drive and monitor after a set of amount of time. However the Climate Savers Smart Computing started by Google and Intel is taking that baseline further and in conjunction with Energy Star’s newer 4.0 specification has launched an initiative in the hopes of taking more steps in reducing CO2 emissions. The effort is mainly aimed at buinesses but consumers influence the initiative as well by buying products that support the standards and by using the power management features of the products they buy such as the aforementioned and well known feature native to most if not all computers. To make the consumer side further appealing a video challenge has been set up with a chance to win $5000 and other prizes. See video below.

Clipboard Help+Spell From Donationcoder.com

I wrote about the Donationcoder.com’s website in a previous article and one of the more impressive and useful software written there is the Clipboard Help+Spell.

There are certainly many freeware, well reviewed, useful and popular clipboard utilities available. The sadly semi-abandoned Yankee Clipper, the open source Ditto and ArsClip just to name three and of course the clipboard capabilities of the all powerful PowerPro.

Clipboard Help+Spell is nevertheless a worthy contender, if not down right winner in the category. It is simply described as

…a text-based clipboard utility

But it has many features. Among its many features is the ability to archive and delete clipboard based on configurable dates, defining hot keys for viewing, pasting and working with the stored clipboards, filtering entries to find the forgotten ones and backing up the database of collected clipboards. The features don’t stop there, an internal editor spell checks and adds text editor features to manipulate the entries as well. For example it possible to change the case of the clipboard entries within the editor, strip characters, add lines and even find and replace words using regular expressions.

A clipboard utility won’t be complete without the ability to permanently store ‘favorites’ and in this case it is only a matter of dragging an entry into the said category (see images below).

cliphs1cliphs2

Having said all that one of the most innovative features is the ability to create ‘Virtual Folders’. This feature allows certain definable clipboards to be grouped separately. For example a preset Virtual Folder is  ‘Clips With URLs’ and the way it is defined, using SQL database conditional statements, is as follows

(Lower(ClipText) LIKE ‘%http:%’) OR (Lower(ClipText) LIKE ‘%www.%’) OR (Lower(ClipText) LIKE ‘%https:%’) OR (Lower(ClipText) LIKE ‘%ftp:%’)

in that the clipboards containing any of http, https, ftp or www will be placed as a subset of all clipboards under a separate icon (as shown in the above image).

The program’s Windows tray icon is configured such that left click, double left click, right click and double right click are all defined and show stored clips, the program’s main window, the program’s general menu and the program’s on and off toggle respectively. With Clipboard Help+Spell there is a lot to play around with and discover, well worth the support and download.

Donationcoder.com

Donationcoder is an active and unusual website. It is a one where not only members get help on computer and programming issues but one where useful code and programs are being written and reviewed everyday. What makes donationcoder even more unusual is the section they call Coding Snacks. This is where you get ‘Tiny programs coded on demand while you wait’. Through this and other active members and authors donationcoder has, over the years, accumulated a vast array of programs made for a wide variety of useful tasks. Some minor and some pretty innovative and even more useful. Software creation challenges such as the yearly NANY (New Apps For The New Year) challenge have also added to the list of programs available.

Right now a 4th anniversary fundraiser has been setup with the aim of raising $8000 to cover all kinds of costs and any amount of money donated will entitle the donator to a non-expiring key to all the software created and even those that will be created in the future. Other benefits include full access to their shareware discount deals and more.

But most of all donating is a way to support donationcoder, a place where members are helping each other in very concrete means. For a fun, tongue in cheek calculation of how much a person can and should donate check out the Scientifically Proven Optimal Donation Amount Chart.

White Spaces Internet

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.

Internet2, The Next Generation Internet

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

Text File Stats & Watermark Images

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.

Enware Freeware & Dirhtml Index.html Generator II

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.

MP3 Creation, The Long Way

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.

Tools To View And Analyze Disk Usage

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.