A few new and wonderful tools…

A found a few new gadgets I am totally loving. 

Every now and then I start running out of space on my hard drive. But finding where the space hogs are can be difficult. There are some interesting tools that will show a picture of your drive, but that switches context. I want to use file explorer to figure it out. So Folder Size came to my rescue. Its a small install that adds a column to your Explorer window showing the size of the contents of the folder. Sweet!!!

Sometimes I visit websites with “Post” forms that result in some sort of customized page. The downside to a Post Form is that the arguments do not show up on the URL so you can’t bookmark them. This is the case with the US Postal Service Tracking. I am expecting an Empire Builder bag from Tom Bihn near Seattle and having to re-find the tracking number, entering it and clicking submit kinda sucks. So FrmGet and the other bookmarklets at SquareFree came to my rescue. I find a page with a Post form, then click my FrmGet bookmarklet to get “Get” versions of the form. Now the resulting page is bookmark-able. Sweet!!! Unfortunately, the bag has been sitting in Customs for nearly a week.

Whenever I have to think about what day a particular date is, I instantly double-click on the clock in the Windows taskbar. Sometimes I move forward to the following month, then accidently click OK. All of a sudden my PC has timewarped to next month and I have to go back. I do this even if I am in Outlook because switching to the calendar view means switching contexts in my head. Yeah, I could right click on the calendar to open it in a new window, but then I have another Outlook window. I wanted a quick popup calendar that was easy and small. So Rainlendar came to my rescue. This is a tiny executable that takes minimal resources. I have it set up to pop up when I press F11. If I hover over any date, I see what is currently scheduled. I also can see what tasks I have and a list of appointments for the next few days. All of this is synched from Outlook. It is pretty sweet. Unfortunately its only a one way sync so I cannot make changes in Rainlendar, but I have Outlook for that.

Last week I signed up for a free email subscription to a wonderful little site: Daily Candy. Every day I get a single well-designed and well-written blurb about something interesting. One recent item was a pointer to the online games at Orisinal. This has nothing to do with work, but it makes the day a little more fun.

Almost every other ‘subscription’ I have is via RSS. But some blogs don’t really support it. FeedYesmakes it easy to convert the site to an RSS version I can subscribe to. It seems to do a pretty decent job of it too.

Finally last night I visited MediaMarkt and picked up a new Double Layer DVD burner. Last I looked (a year or two ago), DVD burners were quite pricey. I paid 100 Euros for a Philips external drive that is amazing. Yeah, its 20 euros more than if I bought online and 20 more than I would pay in the US due to the 20% tax here, but I have it now and it works.

Anyway, just finished a three day Workflow class yesterday and I am off to Zagreb on Sunday to teach another one next week. Got a busy schedule coming up, with a week in Croatia, 2 at home, 1 in Portugal, 2 at home, 1 in Dubai, 1 in Paris, 2 at home, 1 in Australia, 1 in Singapore, then another in Australia. I am booked solid till June. Whew…

My software toolbox

When I start to use a new machine I load up a bunch of useful utilities to allow me to get my job done. To find these tools, I go to Hanselman’s kickass tool list, the 46 Utilities list, and a few other places. Many of the items on the list are free, but I don’t mind paying for great software too. Hopefully next time around I can just come to this list and install everything…

  • Free Download Manager – a nice free download manager for web downloads
  • CopyHandler – similar to FDM but for local and windows share copying.
  • Yahoo Desktop Search – I have tried every desktop search variant out there and settled on YDS. My big problem with the Google and Microsoft version was that they tended to remember old locations for files and emails for way too long after I move them.
  • ProcessTamer – Some processes insist on taking 100% of the cpu. ProcessTamer gets those processes in line and allows me to use my machine again.
  • FolderShare – Synchronizes content to multiple machines without having to think about it.
  • KeePass – I have to think about way too many passwords and I tend not to memorize any of them. So every visit they have to send me my passwords in email. This allows me to store my passwords in a secure container I think I trust.
  • Gadwin PrintScreen – The simplest screen shot utility I have every used. It has all the features I need and none of the ones I don’t.
  • TaskSwitchXP Pro – A better task switcher (what comes up when you press ALT-TAB)
  • MagicDisc – A free ISO mounter from the people who make MagicISO
  • MagicISO – ISO Editor
  • SlickRun – A great application launcher I have been using for ages
  • Notepad++ – A free full function text editor
  • Omea Pro – My current RSS reader. Have in the past used NewsGator, FeedDemon, and more.
  • Genie-Soft Backup Manager – Great Windows backup utility.
  • BlogJet – Offline blog editing tool
  • FileZilla – Free full function FTP client
  • Foxit – The best PDF viewer. I still have Acrobat installed because it is far quicker when printing large files, but for everything else, Foxit ROCKS!
  • TweakUI – The original great Windows Powertoy. The things I usually change are the shortcut overlays, and windows focus rules
  • UltraMon – A wonderful tool to make it easy to configure multiple monitors
  • Paint.NET – Almost approaching the functionality of PhotoShop…well…maybe not…but its a free tool you can put on every machine. Written by a college student…got him hired at Microsoft.
  • Audacity – Great free audio editor
  • Execute with Params – Context Menu option for executing a file with parameters
  • ClipName – Context Menu option for copy the file’s path
  • 7Zip – Another Zip tool. WinZip is quicker, but 7Zip does it a little smaller and the command line version is free and the WinZip command line tool requires a non-free upgrade to WZ10.
  • AttrMenu – Context Menu option for setting attributes on a file
  • CodeRush – The premier developer productivity tool
  • RefactorPro – The refactoring companion to CodeRush
  • ProcessExplorer – A better Task Manager
  • Reflector – This oozes coolness for the .Net developer
  • Maxthon – Makes IE better….IE7 will negate the need for this. I also install Firefox, though I hardly ever actually use it.


A backup strategy I can live with…

Doing traditional compute backups suck unless thats really part of your job. For just backing up your laptop, or at least the most important stuff, it usually too much hassle…until everything disappears at which point you really wish you went through the hassle. I experienced this last week. My car got broken into AGAIN. This time, my bag was in the car. What was in the bag??? Two IBM Thinkpad T41 laptops, an IPod, a Pocket PC, and a digital camera.

Yeah, it sucks to lose electronics, but the really tough part is all the work that I lost. One laptop had a newer version of some training materials I have been working on, along with some other customization projects. Of course, I had no backup. Why? Because doing backups suck. But this experience forced me to find a better solution.

There are many solutions out there for doing backups. How do you choose one that works well? I first went to the list of 46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities, hoping there would be a free solution. There wasn’t. But there was a link to a review of the best backup utilities. The winner was Genie Backup Manager. After trying a few other solutions, I decided that the Genie tool was definitely the best of the bunch. But it still didn’t solve the biggest problem with doing backups.

I didn’t want to have to think about CDs or tapes or network shares. Sometimes I am in the office in Vianen, sometimes I am at home in Amsterdam, in a couple of weeks I will be at the other end of a slow modem in Zagreb, a few weeks later it will be a slow modem in Portugal. I certainly don’t want to carry blank CDs or tapes with me when I travel so I need a solution that works with me. And I found one that works great.

So I use Genie Backup Manager to backup certain directories where I typically store docs I am working on and other important resources. That creates a backup file in a directory I have called LaptopBackup (I am creative that way). Then I made that folder into a FolderShare Library. So FolderShare is a way of synchronizing folder contents onto different machines that you or your colleagues own. What makes this really great is that I don’t have to think about synchronizing…it just happens. I also have FolderShare on a couple of machines at home. So now when GBM makes a backup and saves it to LaptopBackup, within a few minutes a copy of that backup exists on two home machines as well. Now, unless a thief (or fire or natural disaster) hits my home and my work at the same time, my data is safe.

FolderShare is more than just a great tool for synching backups. I have a FolderShare folder in my IE Favorites folder. As soon as I add a favorite to one machine, it appears on the other two machines too. The Sales Engineers at Captaris also share a FolderShare. As soon as there is an update to one of our big demo VPCs, all of the SEs in the US, Europe, Asia, and Australia get it (These are big files so it takes a couple of days for us all to get the bits). I keep a FolderShare folder on my desktop of all my machines in case there is some other resource I need to access on another machine. The really great thing about this is that once I assign a library to a folder on a machine I no longer have to think about it. It just works.

So Genie Backup Manager and FolderShare work together to make a backup strategy I can really work with. This doesn’t make sense for everyone out there but if you do have multiple PCs that you work with, it might be worth looking into.

Amsterdam burning???

This afternoon as I was driving north from Utrecht to Amsterdam, it looked like Amsterdam was burning. There was this HUGE plume of dark smoke coming from the city. When I got to the city I lost sight of the source, though I was very relieved to see that it wasn’t in the center of the city where I live. I have no idea what happened.

Still snowing…

Wow, its been over a week and it has snowed every day since….not all day every day, but each morning I have woken up with a fresh bed of snow on the ground…