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Non-Microsoft utilities for Windows.

In digging up links to Microsoft’s “hidden” utilities for my last post, i re-discovered a few other links to useful (and free!) tools for Windows. They’re not things i’ve used extensively or very often but i thought i’d list them here should they be of use to someone. Somewhere. Maybe.

Trend Micro SysClean – The SysClean package available on this page is a really thorough anti-virus scanner useful for clearing an infected computer (you’ll also need the virus patterns file from here).

McAfee Stinger – Tiny, stand-alone anti-virus scanner that removes just the nastiest of bugs.

ClamWin – Free, open-source anti-virus scanner for Windows based on the ClamAV engine. (ClamXav is an OSX anti-virus program based on this engine too)

CobianBackup – Allows you to create backup copies of your work according to schedule or on demand.

Roxio UDF Reader / Nero InCD Reader – Some people will insist on using CDs as re-writable disks. If you get sent such a CD and don’t have the appropriate software already installed, you may find these “readers” rather useful.

InnoSetup – Create a Windows installer for your own programs.

ISObuster – Tool for aiding recovery of data from lightly damaged or dud CDs and DVDs.

WinMerge – Open-source utitlity for comparing files and folders. Allows differencing and merging of text files.

NirSoft Password Recovery Tools – A bunch of programs for recovering passwords saved in Outlook, IE, Firefox, Chrome, etc.

Microsoft add-ins and add-ons.

When asked by a Windows-user how they can convert their work to a PDF, i usually respond with two possible solutions – OpenOffice and PDFcreator. If they’re wanting to convert an MS Office document then they can open it in OpenOffice and use the built-in PDF-export feature to create a PDF. Alternatively, PDFcreator can be used from any program (that allows printing) since it appears as a printer and so allows you to “print out” PDF versions of your text, table, chart, image, etc.

I have, however, just discovered that Microsoft offer an “Add-in” for Office 2007 that eliminates the need any of the above  if it is just Office documents you’re interested in converting. It’s called “Microsoft Save As PDF or XPS” and, surprise surprise, it simply adds a “Save as PDF” option to the menu in Word, Excel, Powerpoint, et al. Click that and the job’s a good ‘un.

Of course, my original suggestions are valid if you don’t have MS Office 2007 (the add-in only appears to exist for that version) or you want to create PDFs from apps other than Office.

Finding this little tool reminded me of a few other “hidden” Microsoft add-ons and utilities i once discovered:

PowerToys for Windows XP – Loads of handy add-ons for XP, including slideshow generators, image resizer, calculator with unit conversion and access to extra interface settings.

Network Diagnostics for Windows XP – A tool for troubleshooting (home) network connectivity issues.

Microsoft USB Flash Drive Manager – Allows you to backup, manage and restore images of your USB flash/memory/thumb/pen drive(s).

Windows Memory Diagnostics – Create a bootable CD that’ll test your PC’s RAM for errors.

Windows XP Virtual CD-ROM Control Panel – Allows you to mount ISO images as drives on your computer, so no need to burn the ISO to CD to access it. (official MS download here)

Why these useful tools aren’t included in Windows to start with remains a mystery to me…

Bugs and exploits.

There’s a very interesting Q&A over at ZDnet with Charlie Miller, the “researcher” who exploited Safari on OSX in the recent Pwn2Own contest. Charlie says that OSX is by far the easiest operating system to write exploits for since it employs no anti-exploit measures. Gulp. Of course, you need to find a bug before you can write an exploit and even then exploits tend to require some user-input, but this should still make for pretty chilling reading for Mac-users.

Sadly i think the majority of Mac owners who do find this piece will just choose to dismiss it and i doubt that (m)any Apple-oriented websites will pick-up on the article anyway…