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Newsletter Archive - Reviews Archive - Subscribe to the newsletter  

Welcome to Clif Notes Newsletter

October 16, 2005



  Hi everyone.

The web is going to become a real working place for us in the future. I found three good web applications I tried for this newsletter. I think you'll be amazed at some of the free resources that you can use. Microsoft has been worried about this for a long time. Why would you pay hundreds of dollars for MS Office if you can do the same thing online for free?

I hope you enjoy this week's letter. Be sure to email me for advice or to yell at me for messing up.





550 Access Toolbar - a good toolbar with a question

Website - Free, but not true FreeWare

reviewed by ClifNotes


Notes on 13 Oct 2005

I first tried this toolbar back in January of this year. I was suspicious of it at first. I thought it might contain hidden spyware or adware. They are using a sort of advertisement when you use one of the optional features called Precision Search. The search results are most likely to bring you their affiliates if I understand correctly. I guess it's the same sort of advertising you might get at Google.


When you look at the great features this toolbar has, it's not surprising this toolbar might remain popular with many people. This toolbar was rated well at Download.com, but as far as I'm concerned the jury is still out on this one.


Review from Jan 2005

While I was reading about the features of this toolbar, I was most interested in it's popup blocking, formfilling, and website passkey abilities. After installing I tested the popup blocking. It does a fine job there. I tried the form fill. It's working. When you enable the ad and banner blocking those features worked well. The passkey feature is supposed to fill in login names and passwords for you at web pages that ask for them. I couldn't get this feature to work for me. It could be because I use AI Roboform for the same thing and I wasn't willing to uninstall it to try this one out. The rest of the features worked like they say. One thing I didn't like was that the Toolbar accesses the internet on it's own as soon as I fire up Internet Explorer. I don't know what it's doing that for. Summary: Seems to be safe to use and it may work better for other people than what it does for me.





Quote from 550 Access

Blocks Pop-ups

Blocks Search Ads

Improves surfing speeds

Manages Passwords

Automatic Account Logins

Includes AutoFill

One-click system cleanup

Multiple search options

Customizable settings

602PC Suite - MSOffice alternative

Website - Free for non-commercial use only

by ClifNotes on 19 Dec 2004, updated 14 Oct 2005


No longer Freeware



This is a great free alternative for MS Office tools. I really love the photo editor. OpenOffice has more stuff, but these apps load faster and take fewer resources. The office tools really work well and they do support most MS Office files. The only thing I wasn't crazy about was the PDF export. I like the CutePdf printing tool I already was using. So, I uninstalled their PDF support and everything worked just fine.


Quote from the website

602PC SUITE, the best alternative to MS OFFICE, has it all! The suite is composed of four full-featured applications: a word processor, spreadsheet, photo editor and photo organizer. The license also allows home use, FREE!

a-squared free - kills trojans, dialers, worms, and spyware

Website - LiteWare

reviewed by ClifNotes on 24 Oct 2004


Notes - updated 14 Oct 2005

If you ever need maximum strength scanning, look no further than a-squared free. Currently it has more than 83,000 signatures that it scans for. I and my wife have been using this one as an extra layer of defense for over a year now. It is often updated and rock solid stable.



click to expand



a² is a complementary product to antivirus software. It provides specialist protection against harmful software. Antivirus software is not enough! a² provides protection against Trojans, Dialers and Spyware. a² fills the gaps that malware writers exploit.

BitTorrent - a new way to share and download files

Website - Freeware

reviewed by ClifNotes on 28 May 2005



I'm sure this isn't news to some of you. For the rest, I'll just say, this is very cool! File sharing networks are a hazardous place to get your files. The bad things about them are that someone could be tracking your uploads and downloads, or they could have fooled you into downloading something other than what you expected, like maybe a virus or other malware. BitTorrent downloads are different. It might be possible to track you if you use BitTorrent but it sure wouldn't be easy. It works because you are getting the file from many different PC's at once and those PC's are owned by people just like you and me. The more popular a file is, the faster it can be downloaded to you. BitTorrent files are as risky as anything else you download from the internet. Always try to get files from trusted sources.

Read more about BitTorrent


Difference between the old way of downloading and BitTorrent.

 Old method        BitTorrent

click to expand



You have something terrific to publish -- a large music or video file, software, a game or anything else that many people would like to have. But the more popular your file becomes, the more you are punished by soaring bandwidth costs. If your file becomes phenomenally successful and a flash crowd of hundreds or thousands try to get it at once, your server simply crashes and no one gets it. There is a solution to this vicious cycle. BitTorrent, the result of over two years of intensive development, is a simple and free software product that addresses all of these problems.

Bulk Rename Utility - recommended for file renaming

Website - DonationWare

comments by zridling at DonationCoder on 8 Oct 2005


Comments from Zaine

I love the Bulk Rename Utility! Thanks to a recommendation from a fellow member kfitting, I found the excellent Bulk Rename Utility, written by Jim Willsher, who also has a fine PHP newsletter app. It's fast, easy, uncomplicated, and everything is right in front of you.



click to expand



Bulk Rename Utility is a utility which allows you to easily rename files and directories, based upon extemely flexible criteria. Add date-stamps, replace numbers, insert strings, convert case, add auto-numbers, process folders and subfolders....plus loads more!

Easy Message - Unified IM for ICQ, MSN, Yahoo, and Aol

Website - Freeware

reviewed by ClifNotes on 15 Jun 2005


Notes from Clif

So far this program has been a breeze to use. Very very small and light on system resources. Within a few minutes I had all four services running in one window. I haven't checked out all the features but what I've seen so far leads me to believe that it is as good as it's advertised to be.


Update: 14 Oct 2005

I've been using EasyMessage now for over a year with no major complaints. Since I started, they've added pop3 and hotmail notification, so you'll always know when you get new mail.



click to expand


Quote from EasyMessage.net

Send and Receive instant messages

Add and remove contacts

Get notified when someone adds you to their list.

See whether on not your contacts are online

See your contacts extended status, (away, be right back, etc.)

Set your extended status

Send rich text messages. You can change your font and font color, add underline and bold, etc.

Use emoticons :) in your conversations. The service specific emoticons are used for the service the conversation is on.

Hyperlink support. Automatically make web address in conversations clickable links.

Contact group importing and unified group management.

Typing notifications allow you to see when others are typing.

Block contacts to hide you're online status from them and disallow incoming messages.

KlipFolio - desktop tool brings the web to you

Website - Freeware

review by CyberGuide, Comments by ClifNotes on 15 Oct 2005


Notes from Clif

It looks like Zia has found us another cool toy to play with. You da man!


Review from Zia's CyberGuide

This is brillant... Serence KlipFolio is a personal dashboard for Windows that saves you time and effort by using Klips to intelligently monitoring remote data sources--like weather, stocks, Hotmail, news, RSS feeds and even auctions--right on your desktop. Well, it looks I am going be very busy with this toy!



click to expand



Key Features


It's all about the Klips. Get as many as you want from KlipFarm, our Klip directory.

Get personal. Customize your Klips to get information as unique as you are.

Stay alert. Set alerts for keywords and new articles and never miss a thing.

Run with it. Big, small or in the tray; the latest dish is still only a click or two away.

Touchy-feely. Lay out and resize your Klips your way. They're yours, after all.

Get sexy. Grab some skins, set transparency and tune colours to match that dashing shirt.

Local hero. Get local with the language pack of your choice and the Klips to match.


PhotoFiltre - image tweaking at it's finest

Website - Download - Freeware

reviewed by Scott Williams on 12 October 2005


Notes from Clif

The other day, I posted a request in the FreewareRevolution's forum. I asked all the members of the forum to post a mini-review of their favorite freeware program. Here's what Scott, the chairman of the FR has to say.



Review by Scott

Often times many of us can best express ourselves digitally by doing a bit of 'pixel pushing' (image editing/creation), and though there are a plethora of great graphics editing apps available. It can be useful for those who are frugal to discover free alternatives. Some in this category may find either applications that may be limited in their functionalities, or interfaces that may just not make them 'usable' to users of all levels.


Or worst of all - that they are 'free' to download but *gasp* are not actually 'free' to keep and use.


Originally I was alerted to PhotoFiltre by Xtort.net who told me about a program that really does suit the needs of both the graphics artist of all levels, as well as for those who wish to leave their wallet unopened - PhotoFiltre.


Whether creating an image from 'scratch' or importing from a source (scanner, camera, etc.), PhotoFiltre can do it via many filters and tools. Very nice interface and usage is a breeze.


I use this in all my graphics work, and though I am no artiste, I find it to be great. If I could have a wish-list for it, I'd just ask for some more filters:) And as from the 'you learn something new every day department" Jess from SiTE 4 Sore Eyes Freeware pointed out to me of how you can adjust compression for graphics via PhotoFiltre, so you really can learn something new every day - even things that are staring you right in the face.





Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

click to expand


Quote from photofiltre.com

PhotoFiltre is a complete image retouching program. It allows you to do simple or advanced adjustments to an image and apply a vast range of filters on it. It is simple and intuitive to use, and has an easy learning curve. The toolbar, giving you access to the standard filters with just a few clicks, gives PhotoFiltre a robust look. PhotoFiltre is free for a private, non commercial or educational use.


SpoofStick - make sure you are at the right site

Website - Freeware - Win2k, XP

Comments by ClifNotes and OneStep on 3/20/05



OneStep sent me an email recently. He told me all about SpoofStick and I just wish I had WinXP on this PC so I could try it out. OneStep is a dedicated security specialist in Australia. He's got a very helpful website, forum and business. If someone's hacking your computer, be sure to look him up.


Quote from OneStep

There's a new piece of freeware you should know about. It's called SpoofStick and is a browser extension for either IE or Firefox which can authenticate that the page being loaded is not a spoofed malicious one. Secunia structured a test last week and while all browsers were redirected to a different domain without so much as whimpered complaint, SpoofStick showed the real address was not the actual address.



click to expand


Quote from SpoofStick

What is SpoofStick? SpoofStick is a simple browser extension that helps users detect spoofed (fake) websites. A spoofed website is typically made to look like a well known, branded site (like ebay.com or citibank.com) with a slightly different or confusing URL. The attacker then tries to trick people into going to the spoofed site by sending out fake email messages or posting links in public places - hoping that some percentage of users won't notice the incorrect URL and give away important information. This practice is sometimes known as “phishing".














Create A Handy Toolbar For XP Desktop Icons

Website - Tip

tip by BillWebb at Lockergnome on 13 Oct 2005


Notes from Clif

This isn't something new, but it's a big time saver and almost miraculous if you've never used it before. I've been doing this at work for a couple years now and I still have people come over to my PC and ask me "How did you get those cool toolbars?". It's easy, and Bill does a super job of explaining it.


Tip from Bill

Is your desktop so cluttered with icons that you can’t see your wallpaper? Do you have to scan for thirty seconds to find the shortcut or file you’re looking for? If you have Windows XP, the solution is only a few clicks and drags away. (This may work with other versions of Windows, too. You can always try.)


How to burn ISO files

Website - Tip

comments by ClifNotes on 15 Oct 2005



If you are a publisher of a large program and it fits nicely on a CDRom, how do you let people download it from you? In this case you might use an ISO file. An ISO file, as it is commonly called, is an exact image of a CD or DVD contained in a single file. If you know how, you can create ISO files from your existing CD's and you can also download ISO's and burn new CD's. I found a website that has plenty of information on how to burn an ISO to CD.



How to successfully burn or write an ISO-image to CD or DVD ( Version 3.03 )















Kiko - your personal calendar online

Website - Cool Website

reviewed by ClifNotes on 15 Oct 2005



Kiko offers a free web calendar service that allows you to keep you appointments and events online. If you have an event coming up, Kiko can notify you and anyone else you choose, via email. There are other online calendar services at Yahoo, Hotmail, and other places. Kiko tries to make your interaction with the calendar seem like it's an application installed right on your PC. You can make changes to almost anything in Kiko by right clicking on it. Very cool. You will receive an email from Kiko when you open your account. Make sure to click the email validation link to make your kiko account active.



click to expand



What is Kiko?


Slow, featureless online calendars are so Web 1.0. Kiko is a cool new web calendar that delivers all the functionality of desktop calendar software, and all the convenience of online access. And it's free!


What's better?


  • Click On Anything - Everything is interactive. Right click it, drag it - it all works the way you expect from a native application.
  • Everything's On One Page - Manage your groups, view your calendar, and create and tag your appointments all from one page.
  • Be Soothed By Kiko's Pleasant Colors - Pastels are good for the soul.

ThinkFree Office Online - your personal online office

Website - Cool Website

comments by ClifNotes on 15 Oct 2005



I've been hearing for years how the online world is a threat to Microsoft's dominion of the office world. Now I'm starting to believe it. Tonight I tried out a small online office suite that features three of the office tools I use at work. The applications are MS Word, MS Excel, and MS PowerPoint. This website uses large and powerful java applets to completely simulate these applications while you are logged on to their site. They offer a free account with 30mb of online file space and you can access any files on your local machine or the internet as well. The service is ad supported in the same way that Google uses the Google Adsense ads. I didn't even see the ads while I was trying it out, but I thought I should tell you.


I tried out two applications while I was there. It took several minutes for the java applets to download and the applications fired up. They did indeed look and act just like MS Office applications. The next time I go there the apps will load quicker because the java applets are still stored in the Application Data folder on my PC. This service could be a life saver if you are on the road and can't bring the office with you.



click to expand


Quote from ThinkFree

Think you can't open Office documents without paying hundreds of dollars for software? Think again. Just visit ThinkFree Office Online and you can open, edit, and create Office documents with this easy and convenient online service, new from ThinkFree.



With ThinkFree Office Online you can :



Create Microsoft Office-compatible documents from the Web

Open and edit your Office documents anywhere and anytime

Post documents directly to your blog without any conversion

Create powerful Web presentations using a familiar interface

Convert your existing documents to PDF format

Writely - web based document editor

Website - Cool Website

reviewed by ClifNotes on 9-Oct-05



I found Writely at the Unofficial Web Applications List. Writely is a web application. It is a word processing application that allows anyone with web access to edit full rich-text documents on the web. One very valuable feature is that they will allow groups of people to all edit the same document or set of documents. This allows a network of people to collaborate on projects. The documents can be converted to various formats or even viewed by the public as a webpage. I've tried it out and this web-app is very good. Currently they support Internet Explorer and Mozilla based browsers like Firefox and Netscape. The Writely application is in beta testing right now and it's free to join. I hope they keep at least some of the service there free for all of us.



click to expand



This site is dedicated to the growing volume of web applications out there. As I come across new web applications, I will keep adding them to the site. Meanwhile, do share with us your favorite web applications if you have any!









Take it easy on the cleaner

Fred Langa in the LangaList and Carol at DonationCoder both offer their views of registry cleaners.

Read more about it in the feedback section of my review of EasyCleaner.

Yahoo and MSN instant messengers to start talking


comments by ClifNotes on 14 Oct 2005



How many of you out there have both Yahoo Messenger and MSN Messenger? I'll bet quite a few of you. Now Microsoft and Yahoo have agreed to let their IM's start talking. Sometime in 2006 you will be able to chat on either service with anyone who is on Yahoo or MSN messenger services. This doesn't impress me too much. I don't use either one. I use EasyMessage. I can already talk to anyone on MSN, Yahoo, AIM, and ICQ, all from one instant messenger.


Quote from BetaNews

Microsoft and Yahoo announced on Wednesday a blockbuster interoperability deal that will reshape the landscape of the fragmented instant messaging market. The companies will connect their IM networks so users on each can communicate with one another using text and voice chat free of charge.

read more



Vista Sidebar can be installed in WindowsXP

Website - Freeware Adventure

comments by ClifNotes on 15 Oct 2005



I've been hearing a lot about the new cool features of Windows Vista. Vista is the next operating system from Microsoft and is due to replace Windows XP. AlexTheBeast wrote this article detailing how to add the new Vista sidebar into XP, and I thought this might be a good adventure for some of the advanced readers here. If you are brave enough to try this, EmailClif and give us a full report.


Caution! I don't recommend this. Try at your own risk.



click to expand



With a few modifications the vista sidebar has been hacked enough to get it to work with windows XP. Here are the directions.

read more












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Have fun and surf safely.



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