Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Webinar #13 - What's on Leo's Computer? - was Sunday, June 10th, 2012.

I get asked about the tools I use all the time. Occasionally, I'll generate a recommendation, but more often than I won't.

Some time ago, I created an article What software do you use?, but seeing it now, I realize that it's woefully out of date, having been last updated in 2006.

So for this webinar, I'm going to do something a little different.

Agenda

Rather than view the nice, clean Windows 7 Virtual Machine that I have set aside for webinars, we're going to be looking at my laptop.

Leo's Laptop

My well-worn, travel-weary Dell Latitude E6410 laptop. Windows 7 Pro with 8 GB of RAM, dual core i7 at 2.8 ghz, and a 465 GB hard drive.

And a bucket load of software.

And that's what I'll walk through – the software I use on that machine. Some of it every day, some of it less frequently, but all of it probably pretty interesting.

I'll say it right away: it's gonna get messy. I keep a clean(ish) machine, but there's no getting around that there's a lot of stuff going on.

So, from pinned items and custom menus on my task bar, to programs running in the notification area to what's in my Start menu ... we'll just poke around and I'll describe what I run, why I run it, and whether or not it's something that you might be interested in as well.

And when I'm done, I guess I'll have to go back and update What software do you use?.

If you attend, you'll already know the answer.

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Video

Download the video: webinar13.mp4 (147M).

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Transcript

Welcome, good afternoon, good evening, good morning depending on your location on the planet! Today's webinar is basically going to be very informal, walk-through of what I have installed on my computer, my laptop in this case and I'll take any questions that you may have along the way. Feel free to type them into the question box that you should have on your screen as we go and all try and keep an eye open for questions as they come in.

The folks who have been to my webinars regularly will notice that the screen is a significantly different size today. Normally, I shoot for something that I can edit into 1280x720, which is essentially high def. This is actually the full screen on my laptop that we are looking at using remote desktop. In fact you should probably see remote desktop up at the top of the screen.

In fact, on the reasons that it's different from the little image see on the page, the page here of course shows Windows background but in reality we're not seeing one here. That's remote desktop at work. I have remote desktop configured not to show the background image. It's just to cut down on the bandwidth, the amount of data that has to get transmitted in order to display the screen.

So, what I've planned to do is very simple. I'm going to walk you through that collection of icons on the lower right, the taskbar. Notification area on the taskbar. I'll walk you through the collection of icons on the left bottom. The things that I have pinned and already running on my taskbar. I have a couple of menus down there we'll talk about and then we'll also walk through the start menu; the all programs menu with whatever time we have left. I do plan to make this about a one hour thing. We'll see how long it goes.

Like I said, very informal. That basically was the agenda you just heard and we'll take it from there. So I want to start down on the lower right. We'll do that this way. I want to just run down these icons very quickly. Let's see I remember if I remember how to do what I want to do here. I'm going to describe the icons very quickly because I can't actually bring up their menus when I'm in this zoom state but I at least want to identify them and then we'll zoom back out and I'll talk about them in more detail.

At the far right here we have Dropbox, volume icon from Windows, my wireless network connection, TrueCrypt which I hope you're not surprised I'm using, the safely remove hardware icon, the Bluetooth icon, Microsoft Security Essentials, Win Patrol, Auto Hotkey, Web Drive, the power management from Windows, this is a little utility called Sizer that I'll explain a little later, this is Demon Tools, and this is one that I actually don't run all the time, it's the utility called Zoom It and I have it installed today because it's what's letting me zoom the screen and it's what did the timer, the down count timer before we started and it's showing you the little 'x' that's floating around here. This is SnagIt, this is something called Clipboard It and this is Box Crypter.

So now that I've identified all those icons, let's talk about those utilities one at a time in a little bit more detail. Dropbox, I think you're all very aware of I have a folder on my machine that is a Drobpox folder. It is sunk across multiple machines. It's one of several ways that I use to basically synchronize files across all of my machines. It's on my laptop; it's on my desktop; it's on a couple of my other computers; but more importantly it's also on my phone; it's on my tablet; it's a great way for getting files to and from other devices and in fact, one of the problems that I know people have a lot with Amazon Kindle is that its kind of not exactly clear how you get files to it in a reasonable way.

It's actually true for almost any tablet. Dropbox works great for that. I drop a file in a folder and in a few seconds it shows up on the tablet. I also use it in the virtual machine that I normally use for these webinars. The other thing that I use Dropbox for extensively is sharing files with my staff, with the folks who contract for me, who do contract work for me. For example, at the end of this webinar, it's being recorded and I will drop a very large video file into a folder that is shared between myself and Connie who will then massage it a little bit to turn into the medium resolution and the high resolution versions that will eventually be available on the website. There's just a bunch of work like that that goes on. So that's Dropbox. I definitely have a couple of articles on Dropbox already on Ask Leo!

TrueCrypt is the other biggie that I end up using. It's almost literally the very first thing that I run when I start up the computer. On some machines it auto-runs on others it doesn't for various technical details. You can see that I have on this machine two TrueCrypt volumes mounted. One is basically this nice, big 200 GB volume that has all of my work files and folders. So when I'm writing, when I'm working on somebody else's web page, when I'm working on my web page, when I'm writing software, when I'm doing whatever, it's all being done on drive F which is this mounted TrueCrypt volume.

It has a moderately secure password but the idea here is to should my laptop be ever be lost which because it's a portable device is not out of the question, then all of my work which of course I have backed up nine ways from Sunday but all of my work that happens to be on that laptop is not trivially accessible. It is all protected in a TrueCrypt volume. Now the other thing you might notice is that I have this second TrueCrypt volume - personal - that is also you'll notice that it comes from drive F which is unintentional but this happens to be a TrueCrypt volume that is contained within a TrueCrypt volume.

Like I said, I didn't plan it this way; it's a side effect of the way that I work with my files. This is the one that has all of my important data and it's gotta massively long password and is the one matters the most. TrueCrypt can't say enough good things about it and I have lots of articles and recommendations for it on Ask Leo!

Let's see - safely remove hardware is just Windows and Blue Tooth devices is just Windows. I have a nifty little external Blue Tooth speaker that I use with my laptop that's kind of cool. Microsoft Security Essentials, there's not really a whole lot to say there. I recommend not only as a great baseline security package but as you can see I run it here on my laptop. I run it on my desktop. It protects me just fine.

Win Patrol is a utility that I have, {a bark is heard here} yes that little bark is Win Patrol. That's its little Scotty icon barking. So what Win Patrol does is it monitors sensitive locations in your system for changes and notifies you when something gets changed. That's like that 90% of its job. It's actually very cool. If somebody a new startup program, Win Patrol will eventually notify you and give you the option to allow or disallow the change. There are a number of other things you can do with it. One thing when you sign up with the Pro version is it actually gives you access to online database, the order of Win Patrol then allows you to search for assorted information about the startup items that you may or may not recognize and it does.

This is just startup programs that you're looking at. You can see I've got a bunch of them. They have ability to delayed start; it will list everything; some of the add-ons and things that are in IE; schedule tasks; all the services you have running; things that are running on the machine right now. It lets you associate, understand what file types those associations are. I'm not sure, yeah, all the hidden files on your system, which if you've been following any of my recommendations with Windows Explorer to actually enable viewing hidden files by default, most of this should not be news to you. Let's see, recent documents, active X controls, it will actually do some registry monitoring for you and then plus give you access to the database of additional information.

Win Patrol as my understanding of Secunia is it's not the same. Secunia I think is a little bit more active monitoring of what's going on. Win Patrol is actually very passive. It's really just keeping an eye on things that are changing but I don't have a deep understanding of Secunia so take that answer with a grain of salt.

Let's see that was Win Patrol. Auto Hotkey is an incredibly difficult one to explain. So what I'm going to do instead is try and demonstrate it. If I can. Let's see. Let's bring up something that I haven't talked about yet. This is my HTML editor. We'll get back to it shortly. So Auto Hotkey is what I use for keyboard macros. So, for example, if I record a segment, an answer as a segment in an AnswerCast and we produce an article based on that segment then I send a piece of email to the person who originally asked the question.

And I send that email, the body of that email gets filled in with three keystrokes. Let's see, I think it's {eb and you can see what it's done is it has entered a whole bunch of text. And it's not doing the line breaks like it should but in fact, I have a number of different things. This one actually brings up a dialog box where it actually reads a bunch of standard entries for me. So, what that allows me to do basically have pre-defined text segments - pieces of text that Auto Hotkey's monitoring my keystrokes and when it sees a keystroke that I have matched to one of these pieces of text, it automatically inserts the text. In this case I focused so far on automatic answers or automatic answers that are very common when I send out answers to people asking questions.

But even when I'm writing, for example, that is a three-character sequence that inserts the little smiley image that you may have seen in my newsletter or in an article. If I'm writing something that needs to, that has a centered bullet, this is something that I use from time-to-time. It automatically enters things for me. Auto Hotkey is incredibly geeky. It is a programming language unto itself. But it is extremely powerful and I find it. It's really interesting. It's one of those things that I don't know of a good equivalent yet for the Mac or for Linux. I'm not saying that they aren't out there. I'm saying I don't know of them. And because of that, it's actually one of those things that I find myself missing when I'm using my Mac or when I'm using one of my Linux boxes. So it's something that if I were to be serious about actually switching to a different platform that's one of the things I'd have to have replaced in order to make that happen.

Web Drive is a tool that I think I ran the recommendation for it recently. What it does is it allows me to map FTP connections or SFTP connections in this case, to drives so I picked a server here, LW3.pugetsoundsoftware.com that houses Ask Leo! So if I connect to it and Web Drive will just disappear when that connection is made. If I now go over to Windows Explorer and you'll find that there is now a drive Z which is the drive that I selected as the drive I wanted associated with this FTP connection. If I click on that it now just opens the machine, that remote machine. What we're now looking at actually is my web server, the web server that's running Ask Leo! and I can navigate around it just like I would any Windows program since it's on drive Z I can use a DOS command if I want to and in fact I frequently do. I find it a very nicely transparent way of connecting to remote websites and continuing to use tools that I'm very familiar with in order to do so.

One of the neat things - I don't know if anybody here would know but there is Amazon provides a data storage service called s3 and I save a number of my backups there. Web Drive will work with things like s3 as well. s3 turns out to have a fairly bizarre kind of access mechanism but that's all hidden from me by simply using Web Drive and connecting to is as a drive and here you can see I can just connect to it with a right-click.

Power management we talked about. I don't know if I mentioned this one before. This is just an alarm clock. It's a free alarm clock. Particularly when I'm traveling although in this particular case in you can see I needed to order a pizza at 6:10 one day. Particularly when I'm traveling this is a useful utility to have literally to wake me up in the morning.

Ok, Sizer. Let's talk about Sizer for a minute. I want to bring up Notepad real quick. So Notepad comes in with whatever size it is. What Sizer does it adds a little right-click menu to the lower right-hand corner of most of the Windows on your system and you can then select the size that you want the Window to be. I just made it 1280 x 720. I can now make it 800 x 600 and so forth. 1280 x 720 in parallels means that again, when I'm using a virtual machine, the virtual machine's software adds its own border around the edge. What I want is the interior to be 1280 x 720 so that actually makes the window larger than 1280 x 720. But it sets up the interior assuming the parallels of the virtual machine is in place. And that's handy and as you can tell and you can imagine for the kinds of things that I do with software, with recording videos based on software, it's really nice to be able to get a window to a specific size. Like I said since I try and record in what boils down to one of the HD definitions of size, 1280 x 720. By being able to specifically set a window to that size that allows me to craft it to that particular application that I happen to recording.

Demon Tools - I don't really have a lot to say about it. It is a utility that allows me to mount an ISO file as a drive. So if you get an ISO file that contains an image of something, rather than having to burn it to CD you can simply mount it using Demon Tools and it will also then appear as another drive on your system.

Zoom It we talked about. It's the utility that's letting me do the things like use the break timer that you saw that I started with. It's what's allowing me to do the zoom and allow me to draw and things. There is a short video on Zoom It from a previous webcast where I talked about it.

Let's see. SnagIt. Everybody knows SnagIt I hope. SnagIt is the utility that allows me to take screen shots so if I hit Print Screen, what fires up is not the normal Windows utility that just copies something to the clipboard or potentially uses Windows own new little snipping tool in Windows 7. What it does it allows me to here I can capture this entire highlighted Window. I can capture a region if I want to and then it brings up its own little image editor that I can then, where I end up adding things like my logo or adding special effects that I often do with images and so forth. So that's something I rely on heavily. Almost every article that has an image of some sort from a web page, from a screen shot on my machine, that screen shot was probably made using SnagIt. I have it installed on both my desktop and my laptop machine.

Let's see Clipboardic is a really interesting one. It's one of those things that I didn't run for a really long time and now I do regularly. So what Clipboardic is a way to capture your clipboard and share it with other machines. So what happens is every time I copy something to the system clipboard, Clipboardic intercepts that and then writes it to a file. So it is in one sense, clipboard history. In other words, everything that I've copied to the clipboard since I've emptied clipboard, has been saved for me in a folder, which is actually kind of cool because I use copy/paste a lot and it's very handy to be able to go back grab something that I had copied earlier. But you'll notice that one of the columns there talks about computer name. It's also a way to share clipboard contents across machines.

Now Notenquad you see there at the top of that list, that's my desktop machine. Notene6410 is the laptop machine that we're actually working on. Whenever I copy something into the clipboard from either of these two machines it shows up on the list on both machines. So that way I can actually capture what's in the clipboard on either machine and copy it to the other. It's one of those things that if it turns out to be really kinda, sorta neat and handy. It's unsuspectingly so. It's from http://www.nirsoft.net/utils/clipboardic.html. The name of the person is Nir Sofer. He has a lot of really good and interesting utilities. I have several of them. This one happens to show up in my taskbar.

Box Crypter is a utility that I have been testing for the last two to three weeks. The issue comes back to Dropbox and what I'll do is I will show you the Dropbox folder. I'm going to go into one of the folders here in Box Crypter. So Dropbox makes the files you place into your Dropbox folder available to other machines. It automatically synchronizes all of these files across multiple machines. In doing so though it copied those files up to the Dropbox website so that you can access your files that have been stored in Dropbox on the web. It's also a very interesting and nice form of backup for those files. The problem is that Dropbox, the folks at Dropbox have the ability to access your files in response to things like court orders or presumably if there's a rogue employee at Dropbox they could go in and take a look at your files as well although I'm certain that they do everything possible to make sure that doesn't happen.

What Box Crypter does is it, you can see here I have a folder called Box Crypter in my Dropbox and all of these things have really bizarre names. All of these files have really strange names. That's because they're all encrypted and they're all encrypted transparently. You'll notice down here I have a different drive. A drive L. What drive L is the content of that folder in Dropbox decrypted. It's a little bit like TrueCrypt in that sense. In that whatever I put into this L drive, like if I were to create a file or just drop it here, it would then automatically get encrypted and it would show up in the Dropbox folder Box Crypter except that the name would be encrypted. The contents would be encrypted and so forth so what this allows you to do is have encryption on your side, in other words, anything that gets uploaded, anything in these folders that gets uploaded to Dropbox is automatically and transparently encrypted thus maintaining your privacy.

The cost is simply that you can't access these files via the web interface. All you can do is download the encrypted file. I'm not even sure that even with the encrypted file in hand if there's a way using Box Crypter to simply decrypt that file. However, if you install Box Crypter on multiple machines like I do, alongside Dropbox, then you can set this up on all of those machines so for example, on my desktop I'm also running Box Crypter. I have also have it assigned a drive L and sure enough, if I write a document, it's something sensitive, I drop it into Box Crypter, it gets encrypted. It gets placed into the Dropbox folder. The Dropbox then synchronizes it across all my machines. I can then go over to my desktop machine where it has appeared in the Dropbox copy on that machine. The Box Crypter on that machine then makes it available in unencrypted form in drive L.

It's going to get a recommendation from me. I haven't gotten around to writing it yet but since one of the big concerns with Dropbox that some people seem to have is that Dropbox could get at your unencrypted data. This is a very nice way to maintain access to your data in exactly the same style as Dropbox; these things dropped get automatically replicated to wherever you want them to be replicated to but it maintains your privacy in the process.

So that's been the lower right. Gosh and we're already a half an hour in. Let's go to the lower left. Let me zoom in again. Let's see. So I'll just mention real quick what these are. There's Evernote, there's Chrome, there's Kindle Reader, there's a really nifty calculator that some of you will smile about. That's Top Style, that's Audacity. There's Dropbox and there's Thunderbird and here are a couple of menus that I will talk about when we get that far as well.

So, I will continue in the same direction. Evernote. I'm a big fan of Everntoe. Evernote is a great way to basically share notes; just collect data into Evernote's own database. If you drop in PDFs or pictures it will automatically do some OCR on it so that you can search things. On my desktop I actually have my Scan Snap scanner automatically scan documents into Evernote then they show up in all my instances of Evernote. In other words they show up here in my laptop but they've been OCRd so that I can search and find things. Evernote is where I keep my 'to do' list; it's where I keep notes from my AnswerCasts; it's where I keep notes for what's going on in general.

Chrome is the browser that I use the most. I mean there's nothing really remarkable about that. I do have other browser's installed on my machines mostly for testing purposes - mostly because of what I do. I end up having to answer questions for other browsers but you can see that Chrome rates a pinned position on my taskbar because that's what I will fire up first.

Kindle Reader. As I wrote in an article on Ask Leo!, Kindle allows you to not have to purchase an actual Kindle device in order to read books. You can basically install a free application on any Windows PC, on any Mac, on your Android devices. I have this on my phone, etc. And it allows me access to the entire Kindle library that my wife and I share. And she definitely has me outnumbered but we have a ton of Kindle books. And of course, there are books from Ask Leo! in the works for Kindle and this is the way that you would be able to read them on your PC without necessarily needing to purchase a Kindle device.

This is my HP 16C Calculator. Now, for some of you, this is totally meaningless but for some others of you, this is a wonderful, wonderful memory. It's Calculator, I actually had a physical one. It was given to me when I started at Microsoft and silly me, I left it behind when I left Microsoft. What it is, it is a calculator that knows how to do hexadecimal and we would use that all the time. Someone came up with a wonderful software emulation of the calculator and whenever I need to fire up a calculator on my Windows machine, this is the one that I fire up. You can see it made it on the taskbar here. HP 16C, you can see that it's hp16c.net if you're ever interested in it. It's just a nifty little emulator and a blast from past for those of us who were using that calculator 20 or 30 years ago.

Top Style is the HTML editor that I use to write pretty much everything. So this is for example, the article that I just published the other day about choosing a good password. When I'm writing, when I'm working in on an answer, on a comment, on a whatever, this is the tool that I do it in. It does a couple of interesting things for people that want to directly in HTML. It obviously allows me to preview the article with a keystroke. It allows me to clean up the HTML. One of the things that you don't see here of course, is that this all looks very pretty in the sense that it's all justified and so forth. There are tools in the utility or in the program that check for HTML errors; fix up formatting issues; alert me to certain incompatibilities. Since I spend so much of my life writing and specifically writing in HTML be it for the web or for Kindle books, this is the program that I use.

Audacity is an audio recording and editing program. I'm not even sure if it will record. I can't open the sound device because we're doing this through remote desktop but what it allows you to do is it will allow you to record audio but you can also import audio including mp3 files and then edit them. So, for example, my AnswerCast is a half an hour, roughly, when you get it but it typically takes me. It's about 45 minutes of recording to get each one of those AnswerCasts put together. And I record it of course without the music at the beginning and the end. What I go through then is a process of editing, lightly editing the recording in Audacity. I'll take out dead air. I will take out some of the more egregious 'Ums' and 'Ahs'. I will take out some of the missteps. Today I found myself taking out some of the dog barks because the dogs were barking behind me - those kinds of things. And it's also what allows me to then import the music that you hear at the beginning and at the end of every AnswerCast so Audacity these days (on the PC at least) it's almost the audio editor of choice across the board. It's free, it's open source and it works really well.

Dropbox is here in my taskbar and the reason that it's here, the reason that's pinned. Think about it - TrueCrypt. I have this drive F that contains the Dropbox folder.- F:dropbox. But that drive F doesn't appear until I mount it in TrueCrypt. So I actually can't allow Dropbox to run automatically. I actually have to run Dropbox manually only after I've mounted the TrueCrypt volume on which the Dropbox folder appears. So that's why it's here. When I boot up my computer, it's like a 3-step process after the machine is running. Step one is fire up TrueCrypt and mount the base TrueCrypt volume. Step is to fire up Dropbox to get files synchronizing across my machines since the machine will shut down. And step three is right next to it. I run Thunderbird as my email program on multiple machines. I have it running on my main desktop right now. I run it on my laptop at the same time. I tend to use IMAP to connect to all of my email accounts these days because it allows me to transparently manage the same email account from any of several different locations including not just the laptop and the desktop but from my tablet, from my phone and from wherever else I might want to look at it.

So the next two items over here that you see labeled as Apps and Xfer. Essentially two custom menus that I've added to my taskbar. Now the very first question you're probably asking is how the heck do you do that? Turns out if we go back over here to Chrome, there's an article on this, 'Making your own taskbar toolbar in Windows 7'. It's actually from the very first webinar if I'm not mistaken that I did. There's a video on exactly how to do this. The reason I did this is one for portability and I'll explain that here in a moment. But the other is because I really miss the quick launch bar. Now as it turns out there are other ways to get the quick launch bar back. The quick launch bar that was in Windows XP but I ended up using this as a substitute for that.

So what I've done I've just simply created a menu, which in all honesty is nothing more than a folder that contains shortcuts. Any menu you see on Windows: the start menu, these kinds of things, all they really are folders. Some are on your machine that happen to have shortcuts in them. But if we run down, in fact maybe I'll just leave it open. I'll run down what's in that menu by examining the items in their folder.

Very briefly I have Adobe Photoshop, I have CS3 here. I have happen to have CS6 on my desktop. That's where I do any heavy-duty photo editing and sometimes graphics or general graphics. For example, one of the more recent things I did was worked on the cover to the new Maintaining Windows 7: Backing Up book.

Photoshop Light Room. I bought it to try it out and I actually don't use it that much. I end up using a combination of Fast Stone Viewer and then just Photoshop. Fast Stone Viewer you'll find, it will show up on another menu later. Audacity we talked about. Camtasia is the utility, is the program that allows me to record screen activity. So what I'm running right now we'll talk about in a second but if I'm not doing a webcast, if I just want to do a demonstration video, of how to do something on the screen, Camtasia is the gold standard essentially in doing that. It allows me to record my activity, record my doing something on the screen along with audio. And then they include a very extensive video editing tool in Camtasia studio that allow me then to build a video that I can then either host on my website or upload to You Tube or whatever.

Dragon Naturally Speaking is speech-to-text. Some of you may remember about a year ago I had an issue with what I think was carpal tunnel where I simply - typing hurt. It hurt too much but given what I do for a living that's kind of a problem so I ended up in investing Dragon Naturally Speaking to see how well that would work for me and it's actually not terribly bad. It's pretty impressive actually. Especially if you spend a few minutes training it. It will do a wonderful job of both allowing you to specify commands, drive your computer by voice as well as transcribe what you are saying. If you can speak clearly and like I said, train it well enough.

GoToMeeting, well, you're soaking in it. We're actually using GoToWebinar which is essentially the same software with a different skin on it. So it's a way to share your desktop with others. GoToMeeting is more of a peer-sharing scenario where everybody is kind of talking at once. GoToWebinar is more of what you are experiencing where there is an individual is making a presentation onscreen and with audio.

HB 16C we've talked about already; that's the little calculator utility I have in this menu as well. I do have my Microsoft Office and do run Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Word fairly extensively. In many cases I'll actually use them for documents that I create but it's also important for me to be able to receive documents that come in in those formats.

Pandora is a music playing application. It's a streaming music service. There are several of those out there. I happen to subscribe to Pandora and use it occasionally on my laptop; occasionally on my mobile devices and as it turns out it's also available on DirecTV, which we also happen to have here at home.

Parallels Desktop is the virtual machine utility that I talked about. It allows me to put a machine within a window, an entire virtual PC within a Window. Definitely have some articles on that. It's what I typically use for webinars. Not using it today. It's why I have a basically pristine or relatively pristine Windows 7 machine in a virtual machine that is where I do most of my demos.

Skype. I think you all know Skype. It's the internet telephony application; internet instant messaging application, video calling application. I find it's significantly more reliable and stable with higher quality than some of the other instant messaging application like Microsoft's own Windows Live Messenger, AIM, etc. That being said, I also run Trillion which is an instant messaging application that supports Windows Live Messenger and AOL instant messenger and Yahoo instant messenger. And as it turns out, Skype, at least at the text level and it supports I think Facebook chat and a few other things. So it's one interface to multiple instant messaging programs that you can install so I have that on both my desktop and laptop machines and for example it's one of the ways that I will communicate with my wife if not typically through Skype, I'll use Trillion when I'm traveling.

And TrueCrypt we've already talked about. So, that's what I have defined down here and what I call my Apps menu. That is a menu of things that are specific to this machine. IN other words, it's crafted to the applications that I typically use on this machine. This next menu that I happen to call Xfer, the only reason it's a separate menu is that it is in a place that is automatically synchronized across multiple machines so I have the same menu on all of my other machines and if I were to make a change to the menu here, then eventually in kind of Dropbox-like fashion although it doesn't use Dropbox. Those changes would end up getting reflected on the other machines as well.

This is where I just have a bunch of convenient shortcuts. As I think you know, I'm very much a command line kind of guy. I spend a lot of time in Windows command prompt and therefore I have these two shortcuts. One is a standard Windows command prompt that I have customized a little bit where I can do command prompt types of things. The other one is a situation where every once in awhile you just need to be administrators so this one actually pops-up 'make sure you're administrator' and this particular Window then is fired up with run as administrator privileges and I can do whatever administrator things I want to do in that one. It's very convenient to have those two be shortcuts.

FS Viewer is Fast Stone Viewer. It's the image viewer that I happen to use a lot. Other people like things like Irfan Viewer or IrfanView or Picasa but I happen to like FS Viewer. If you take a look at my site, I've got an article on Fast Stone Viewer. It's something that I recommend for image viewing. It's what I actually recommend most people use instead of Windows Picture and Fax viewer, which apparently it was a Windows XP that went away over the course of the transition to Windows 7.

PerfMon I'm going to skip real quick. I'll get back to it. Process Explorer I think you all know of. I mention that frequently in answers to articles. It is a very easy way to examine all of the processes that are running on your machine and then if you must, you can do things kill them and just sort of understand what it is they're doing. You can see all of the various issues or instances of Chrome. Even though I only have one window, Chrome runs multiple instances of itself for various reasons, mostly relating to crash resiliency. If you take a look at services up here, there's a bunch of services. Service Host is one. You can see here that it will actually list all of the services that particular instance service host happens to be providing. So it's a utility that I have all of the time. I occasionally have it run automatically. It's one of those things that I run very quickly if I'm kind of curious as to what machine is doing - why it's being poky, why it's doing whatever. I have it set up so when I minimize it you can see I have two icons down here in the lower right that are the CPU usage so I can see if that's spiking for some reason and the IO so I can see if that is some program is doing a lot with respect to Input and Output.

So the other utility and one that I skipped over is kind of like process explorer except different. It's resource monitor. It looks at your system in a slightly different way. There's a lot of overlap between the two utilities but here you can see it has a CPU section. It has a disc section. It has a network section and in fact if you then want to dive a little bit deeper, you can dive a little bit deeper and see who is doing various things with memory. Here's a little bit more graphical representation of how your memory is in use. What's going on with your disc. It's just showing available space here. Network is usually the one that's most interesting. Network activity, this one is actually showing you which applications currently are trying to do something over the network. On this particular case, network service I believe this is you can see it. So this machine is Notene6410, my laptop. You can see that it's connected to Notenquad and it's actually sending a fair amount of data to that machine. That's remote desktop. That's what we're looking at here. That's the data that's being sent in order to present the images and so forth that you are seeing here.

But you can see here that there are other applications listed as using network resources. What this also shows you is these numbers I believe a trailing 5 second average of what's going on so even if you're not Johnny-on-the-spot when you see a problem, you can actually come and see who it was that was using a bunch of resources. It also shows you a lot of good information about what applications are connected to what remote IP ports. So for example, here I've got team viewer service. I don't have team viewer running right now I don't think but the actual service is in the background doing it so the remote address that it's connected to is one of the team viewer's servers.

You can see that Dropbox is connected to a bunch of different things. Dropbox actually, this 199.47, that's probably a Dropbox server but all these other 192.168 IP addresses, these are other machines on my local network because Dropbox, one of the things it does quite nicely is if it can, as it synchronizes files, it will try to do a computer-to-computer rather than sending it up your slower internet connection.

So anyway, resource monitor is another useful utility for poking around in your system to find out what's happening; who's doing what to your network disc memory or CPU.

So these other folders, you can see that these that show up here as folders and I'm just going to double-click on this one called 'machines'. What that really is that's the sub-menu here - machines. What that allows me to do is connect quickly to other machines on my network so I have shortcuts to the remote desktop, shortcuts. I'll go ahead and click on this one because it is just machine on my network that happens to be doing some other interesting things. It's the machine that's basically downloading podcasts every night. It runs iTunes among some other things but what we've done is we've created remote desktop connection with a couple of quick clicks. And you can see I've got different the stats are among desktop connection. This is a VNC connection to one of my Ubuntu boxes so this is another machine on my local network that is running Ubuntu Linux but that I can now connect to remotely without having to in this particular case walk down to the basement to try and actually access the machine.

And I have different shortcuts that allow me quick access to the machines on my local network. The other one is servers and this where I have quick access shortcuts to my remote servers. So once again we connected to LW3, the server that hosts Ask Leo! using Web Drive so that I can copy files up and down to that server. What this is, this fires up what's called an SSH a secure shell connection to that server, which is nothing more than the Linux equivalent of a command prompt that allows you to go poking around on the server so if I now go to home, Ask Leo!, open up my HTML, if I just take a look at the files, those then are all the files on Ask Leo! that comprise the site. So you can see that this is literally just a command prompt and again, it's one of those things that I use frequently for several different servers as you can see here. So I actually set up shortcuts to make that easy for me.

And I think that was all I wanted to show on this menu...music, and again, shortcut. I've just got a couple of shortcuts to playlists on the machine that houses a bucket load of mp3 files that I've collected over the years. So, let's see we've done the notification area; we've done the taskbar, the primary taskbar; we've done my funky little menus here. One thing you'll notice is that I keep a very clean desktop. It's just my nature. The only reason desktop.ne shows up here at all is because I have Windows Explorer set to show hidden files. Your desktop is displayed by Windows Explorer even though it doesn't look like Windows Explorer and therefore those settings apply here.

So, desktop.ne just happens to show up. On your computer, probably says 'computer' or 'my computer'. Because I have several different machines, I use this as a way to understand what machine I'm actually dealing with so I actually go ahead and rename it and it's not hard to rename. All you need to do is click on it and hit F2 and you can type in whatever you want. I happen to use the machine name. And of course recycle bin and of course, from time-to-time it's just sort of handy to have there.

Now, Start menu. We've got about 10 minutes left. A lot of this will be redundant. Explorer 2 is an interesting one. It doesn't appear on any of my menus and that's because I have it hooked in with Auto Hotkey that we showed earlier. On my computers, on the two computers that I have this installed, normally when you type the Windows key MVE keys simultaneously, in Windows E, you get Windows Explorer. I don't. I have Auto Hotkey intercept that and it instead fires up Explorer 2. Explorer 2 is a file manager much like Windows Explorer except that I find it more, I don't know, less 'fluffy'. To use a really unscientific term. It's really nice that it is a dual-pane utility. In other words I can have two panes at the same time. When copying files from one place to another which is what I did just a few minutes ago before the webinar started, I can have both the source and the destination of those things in place, in view and now I can you know, just a copy a file by dragging and dropping it from one place to another.

I use this a lot. I find it more intuitive than Windows Explorer and it hasn't gone through all of the random changes that Windows Explorer has gone through. So it is something that I have tied to a Hotkey, which is why it's not showing up on any of the menus down here. VabKat.com is where you'll find it. I did purchase this one and I do believe in supporting software that I use with my money so I purchased this one just because it is that good. I think the stuff that you're seeing here is available with their free version but it was just worth it. Like I said, it's another one of those utilities that I almost take for granted which is why didn't even think about it earlier.

So, let's see. Internet Explorer is there of course. Like I said earlier, I have Firefox installed. I don't happen to use it all the time but I do use it when I'm tracking down individual questions. Camtasia Studio we talked about; Desktop, Box Crypter. I use VLC Media Player and actually probably would have been interesting to show using this. I'm not a big fan of Windows Media Player. Once again, I find it to be too, occasionally downright confusing but too 'fluffy'. There's just too many things that aren't involved in just playing the music files I want it to play. So I actually have VLC Media Player here and it will do almost any format you can find. It will play video files. It will just do all sorts of anything that you might want to throw at it. And it's typically what I recommend.

So that happens to be there. Again, it's one of those programs that I never fire up standalone, which is why it doesn't show up on any of my menus. It shows up as an association with a particular file types that it plays because that's almost 99% of the time, that's how I start it up.

Photoshop CS3 we've talked about. Let's fire up All Programs. When I installed CS3 a bunch of other utilities came with it. I don't use any of them. And in fact, a couple of them have been discontinued. In fact, I think Bridge doesn't work anymore. Stock Photos doesn't work and with CS6 when I installed it on my desktop I have a slightly different collection of things that came pre-installed. Audacity we've talked about. Dragon Naturally Speaking. Flickr Uploader is old. Flickr has changed the way that they upload files. it's basically all done through their website now and is much more clean. This probably could get removed.

I have spoken repeatedly about ImgBurn. ImgBurn is the software that I use to occasionally create an ISO file from a disc but more commonly to write my data files to CDs and DVDs. I don't use Windows built-in burning utilities. I use ImgBurn once again to have a better sense of control over exactly what discs are getting laid down on the disc. Internet Explorer in both its forms are there of course courtesy of Windows 7. I only use the 32-bit version whenever I fire it up. There's almost no reason to have the 64-bit version in my opinion.

We've talked about Microsoft Security Essentials. We've talked about Mozilla Firefox. We've talked about Thunderbird, Pandora. This little icon, there is a tool kit for setting up programs that will drop this on to your machine and it allows you to have the software associated with it automatically checked for updates. It's just one of those things that shows up. I never use it.

Team Viewer is what I use here at home to connect between machines. The neat thing about it is that I can actually connect to any of my Windows machines using my Android tablet. Or even my Android based phone because there's this Team Viewer type client there. So think of it as kind of remote desktop on steroids. It's free for personal use, which is how I use it. It is unfortunately, very expensive for commercial use, which is why don't use it with my team. I only use it quite literally for myself but if you're at home when you're trying to connect between multiple machines, it's actually very, very powerful and pretty darn cool.

Trillion we've talked about. Tweet Deck, actually that's a remnant. What you're seeing is actually pretty raw and uncut. This is sign of a machine that's been around for a while. I actually don't use the Tweet Deck application anymore. I use Tweet Deck's web page. It's just as functional as the application ever was. Tweet Deck is an application that allows you to manage multiple Twitter accounts; have filters on - various Twitter feeds. It's actually a very powerful to interact with Twitter if that's something you do to any degree of, if you spend a lot of time with Twitter it's worth looking into.

Web Drive we've talked about. Windows Anytime Upgrade is just Windows 7 trying to get me to upgrade although this happens to be Windows 7 Pro. I would see no reason to upgrade it. I have Windows Live Mail on this machine. I don't use it. It is installed specifically in order that I can answer questions about it since it is the heir apparent to Outlook Express.

Wire Shark is a packet sniffing utility. It allows you. It is the software that allows people to sit in the corner of Starbucks and sniff the traffic as it's going by. Obviously that's one nefarious use for it but I mention that because it's an example of, it highlights exactly what Wire Shark is capable of doing. It is free. It works well. I actually ended up using it for and the reason it's installed on this machine is I was curious if the Gmail application that comes on my phone and on my Android tablet actually encrypted the data that it was sending to the Google servers. There's no data about that. There's no indication. So what I ended up doing was having it connected; having the tablet connected to an open access point I have here using Wire Shark to sniff the traffic and I was able to confirm that yes, the traffic going between my Android tablet and Gmail was in fact encrypted. So we're running short on time here. I'll just a real quick rundown of some of these. Accessories is Windows.

Acronis is of course backup software. It's not one that I currently recommend anymore but it is one that I happen to still have installed on this machine. Perl is a programming language. I tend not to use batch languages like Windows own batch file language. I actually write scripts in Perl. Administrative Tools is Windows. Amazon. I've got the Kindle application. This is where that shows and a few other things. The Amateur Radio Relay League. I'm studying for my technician's license to become a ham radio operator. Audible is the subscription service that allows you to get books on the moral equivalent of books on tape and other audio stuff.

We talked about Calibre software that allows me to create eBooks from other types of formats. It's what I use to turn my HTML that I edit my books into the format that's required for Amazon Kindle. Camtasia we talked about. CCleaner. I have several, a couple of articles on that on the site. It's a Windows utility, a Windows cleaning utility. Citrix are the folks that make GoToMeeting. CutePDF is the application that I use to create PDFs. It installs a PDF printer driver. Cyberduck is an alternative FTP application. It's actually the one I like the best if I'm not going to use something like Web Drive, CyberDuck is a very good one for doing a more traditional Windows Explorer style interface to do FTP uploads and downloads.

Cygwin is a virtual Linux environment under Windows. In other words I can fire up Linux command line commands within Windows and have them work. Geeks like me like it. Demon Tools - we talked about. Defraggler is a defragging tool. I think it had it on there just to experiment with it. Dell threw a bunch of stuff on there when I got the machine. Dragon we talked about. Dropbox. Evernote. Filezilla is another FTP client. It is a great alternative. I'll throw it out there with CyberDuck. They're both really good FTP utilities.

Format Factory - I believe I installed some software that was all about converting video format. The alarm clock we saw. Free Mind is mind-mapping software. If you're ever interested in understanding what that's all about, Free Mind is a free open source mind mapping utility.

Chrome we talked about. Google Drive I have installed. You'll notice I haven't talked about it a lot. I really haven't come up with a good use for it since I'm already using Dropbox. Google Earth I think most of you are aware of. JV Power Tools are a set of utilities to do things like registry cleaning, disc cleaning and so forth. While I typically don't recommend registry cleaning, JV Power Tools and CCleaner are the only two that I would actually feel comfortable using. LastPass. I use Last Pass to manage all of my passwords. I don't know if you saw the Last Pass in icon in Google Chrome. It's there and it works across all of the devices that I happen to run. Logitech. I have a Logitech web cam. I had a Microsoft mouse. Microsoft Office we saw. Microsoft Silverlight. I have articles on it there because some things just seem to require it. Mobi Pocket is another ebook management, eBook format management software. I'm currently not using it. Netgear, ReadyNAS One of the devices on my network is in fact a Netgear ReadyNAS with a couple of terabytes of storage on it.

Oracle is something that I was looking into. It's the moral equivalent to Parallels for Windows where I can set up virtual machines. The difference being that Oracle's virtual box is free and it actually looks pretty promising. If you are interested in setting up or playing with virtual machines on your own computer and your computer has the horsepower, this would be something I would consider actually having you try out.

PanDoc. I have no idea. There's Parallels. I've talked about that before. A QuickBooks. Yes, I maintain my businesses books in QuickBooks. And my personal books in Quicken. Recuva we've talked about. I've got articles on the site. It's a file recovery utility. Skype we talked about. SnagIt we talked about. TechSmith are the folks that do both SnagIt and Camtasia. TeraCopy is a utility that basically speeds up file copy operations when you're using Windows Explorer or Windows based file copying utilities. I actually find that it does, in fact, speed things up by a little bit.

VNC is the utility that we were using to connect to my Ubuntu desktop. Top Style is my editor; TrueCrypt you know about. VideoLAN are the people that created VLC. VIM is a geeky text editor for people who have been on Linux or even Unix before will recognize as VI. I just gave up trying to get a text editor I could find everywhere. I knew VI was the first thing I learned the first day I started Microsoft and I now have it on every machine that I run. It's free. Web Drive we talked about. Win Amp I have here because it is still the best create playlists that I've been able to find which is kind of disappointing. Windows Virtual PC - that's just something I tried. That is what will get installed if you use XP mode. XP mode is really nothing more than a specific virtual machine that Microsoft makes available through Windows Virtual PC. Win Word is a file comparison utility. Win Patrol we talked about. Win PCap is utilities that's required by Wire Shark that we saw earlier.

Link Sleuth is a website management utility. Explorer 2 we talked about and that's the bottom of my list. I wanted to do one thing. So I realize that the last part was a very quick rundown but I think we prioritized things properly in that the things down here on the lower right represent things that are running on my machine and I want them running for various reasons. Things on the lower left here are things that I start frequently and therefore are worth some attention. The things that I've actually gone and created menus for are things I do frequently enough that I wanted to create menu items to make them more easy to access and there's just sort of everything else that shows up on the start menu.

We've only got about, we've gone about 10 minutes over. I kept an eye out for questions. The only question, there were two questions that came in. The one about Win Patrol being Secunia which I answered on the fly and then why didn't Microsoft do something like Clipboardic a long time ago. I think they did I just don't think it got the traction. I vaguely remember there being something inside Microsoft that kind of sort of did that. But it never saw the light of day from what I can tell. Nirsoft is a great place to go for that kind of utility.

A couple of questions that popped in here at the last minute. 'I have command shortcuts set to always open in admin mode so I don't have to run it again if I get a message requiring admin privileges. Is this any more dangerous than having two shortcuts. In fact, I use that instead of the run command as it keeps my shortcuts to a minimum and also prevents the Windows popping and disappearing.' Basically by always running in admin mode, you have taken your security down to the level of Windows XP and being logged in as administrator all of the time. So you're basically completely bypassing UAC for everything you run from within the administrative prompt. The only other thing that I have noticed that I don't have specifics on but it's something that I've noticed is that file permissions sometimes get set differently depending on whether you're running as administrator or not. And sometimes files that get created in the administrative command prompt aren't necessarily accessible to other programs that aren't running as administrator. I only run administrator when I need to. I'm ok with the pop-up; it really doesn't annoy me that much and if you're logged into an account that has administrative privileges you don't even have to specify a password. It's more of a notification than anything else. So, like I said, what you're doing is fine. You've basically taken yourself back to XP level security, which was also great for many, many people for many, many years. I'm not necessarily saying that's a bad thing if you know what you're doing. I just prefer the other approach.

'Do you ever use epub-editing software with Calibre and is it sigital?' You know I've heard of sigital. I'm not even sure how to pronounce it. No, I don't. I edit directly in HTML using Top Style so I'm doing all of my formatting by hand in HTML and then dropping that HTML file into Calibre and it then sucks it up just fine. I then use Calibre to create a mobi file. I'm not sure. It's one of the standard file formats but the only reason I do that is because that's the format that I then need to upload for Kindle. It's what I upload to Amazon as they official format for the Kindle book. So I'm simply using Calibre as a conversion utility between straight HTML and the publication format that I upload to Amazon.

So I have talked myself silly. I've been talking for about an hour and a quarter. I do have one announcement before we wrap this up. If there are no other questions. I don't think there are. This is going to be the last webinar for awhile. Webinars are going on hiatus. At least for the summer. I'm certainly not saying that I'm never going to do webinars again. Don't read that into it all but in reality we're just going to take a break. We're going to focus on doing AnswerCasts properly. If there is a question that benefits specifically from a video answer, well now you know that I will be using Camtasia to create a video of that answer. But I want to thank everybody for attending. This is webinar number 13 that I've done so I've been doing this for just a little over a year. It's been a very, very interesting experience and I've enjoyed it a lot. And I hope you have to so I want to thank everybody for attending today and I will see you once again on Ask Leo! Visit early and visit often - ask-leo.com. Take care everybody and have a great rest of your weekend.

Article C5352 - May 17, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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