Safely test antivirus software with EICARgen
February 17, 2015 – 05:55 by Mike Williams in Tips | No Comment

EICARgenYour antivirus software claims to be working all the time, monitoring every file you access for any potential threats – but is this really how it is? EICARgen can help you find out.

This tiny freebie has a single task: to generate the EICAR Anti-Virus Test File on demand. EICAR isn’t an actual virus, not even executable code (it’s just a few characters of text), so it can’t harm your system in any way. But it is something which all antivirus programs should detect as a threat, making it very useful for testing.

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Error Lookup converts PC error codes to text descriptions
February 16, 2015 – 11:33 by Mike Williams in Tips | No Comment

Error LookupWindows error messages are never exactly clear, and Windows Update is a particular offender. One common alert complains that “Windows could not search for new updates”, displaying the cryptic code: “80072EE2″. Which it then helpfully translates as “Windows Update encountered an unknown error”.

Error Lookup is a portable free tool which can help by translating error codes into a (hopefully) more meaningful text description.

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UserIdleStarter runs programs when your PC is idle
February 16, 2015 – 08:06 by Mike Williams in Tips | No Comment

UserIdleStarterUserIdleStarter is a Windows console program which runs an application when your system is idle, maybe to back up files, launch or close an application, anything you like.

The program syntax is fairly straightforward. An example command might look like this.

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Work with images from Explorer with XnShell
February 15, 2015 – 04:42 by Mike Williams in Tips | No Comment

XnShellXnShell is a handy Explorer shell extension which makes it easier to view, process and generally work with images.

The program allows you to preview any picture, in just about any format, directly from its right-click menu. No need to turn on Icon View, enable the preview pane or open the full image (which may not work, anyway, if it’s not supported by your default viewer): just right-click, select XnShell, and you’ll see a thumbnail in the context menu.

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Highlight text file changes with Text Compare
February 14, 2015 – 08:25 by Mike Williams in Tips | No Comment

Text CompareYou’re looking at two copies of a text file. They’re different sizes, so you know something has changed. But what?

Text Compare is a tiny (<50KB download), free and portable tool which should be able to tell you more.

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BowPad is an easy-to-use Notepad replacement
February 13, 2015 – 09:15 by Mike Williams in Tips | No Comment

BowPadIf Notepad isn’t enough for your text editing needs then there’s no shortage of possible replacements (we’ve covered plenty before). But most developers seem to focus on functionality above all else, cramming in as many features as they can, which means the end results aren’t always easy to use.

BowPad is a refreshing change. It doesn’t try to do everything, but for many people it’ll do enough, and a well-designed interface ensures the program is a comfortable place to work.

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Parallels Desktop 10.1.4 improves Windows 10 support, simplifies installation
February 13, 2015 – 06:13 by Nick Peers in News | No Comment

Parallels DesktopShh, don’t Apple, but Mac users can now test the next version of Windows quickly and easily with the release of Parallels Desktop 10.1.4 for Mac.

That’s because the latest update promises “experimental” support for the latest version of the Windows 10 Technical Preview, along with support for Office Preview for Windows 10 too.

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SMath Studio. Like Mathcad, only free.
February 12, 2015 – 11:05 by Mike Williams in Tips | No Comment

SMath StudioIt used to be feeble in the extreme, but these days Windows Calculator is a relatively capable tool. With its Scientific mode, statistics and other options, it can handle most of the maths that the average user will ever need.

Of course, if you’re not an average user – if you’re regularly running complex scientific or engineering calculations – then it’s a different story. You’ll need something far more powerful, maybe along the lines of the free SMath Studio.

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PingView is a versatile network monitor
February 12, 2015 – 07:54 by Mike Williams in Tips | No Comment

PingViewManaging networks is a tedious, time-consuming business, and if your needs are simple then it might be best not to bother. If a network device goes offline, so what? You can just deal with any problems as they crop up.

If several others are using your network, though, you might want to take a more proactive approach, and keep an eye on your hardware. Enter PingView, a free tool for monitoring selected devices – or domains – and checking they’re still online.

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Get organised with sChecklist’s “to do” manager
February 11, 2015 – 08:56 by Mike Williams in Tips | No Comment

sChecklistTask management software should be all about making you more productive, saving you time, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Especially if the software is so complex that you waste most of your time just trying to figure out how it works.

SChecklist isn’t that kind of package. You won’t spend an age figuring out how to set up sub-tasks, time requirements, dependencies or web sync because it can’t do any of that. It’s just about creating lists of item names, with checkboxes, and there’s absolutely nothing else.

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Clean PC infections with Trend Micro Anti-Threat Toolkit
February 11, 2015 – 07:06 by Mike Williams in Tips | No Comment

Trend MicroTrend Micro may not always make the headlines, but it produces some great antivirus products which are loved by the independent testing labs (the company came top of the list in AV-Comparatives’ December 2014 Real-World Protection Test).

Detection rates aren’t everything, of course, and you might prefer something else. But if your system gets infected anyway, you can try out the company’s technology for free with Trend Micro Anti-Threat Toolkit.

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