• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • Finally, you can manage your Google Docs, uploads, and email attachments (plus Dropbox and Slack files) in one convenient place. Claim a free account, and in less than 2 minutes, Dokkio (from the makers of PBworks) can automatically organize your content for you.



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Welcome to Clif Notes Newsletter

June 4, 2006




Hi Everyone.

Thanks for reading my newsletter. Each week, I will have freeware reviews, tips, tricks, news, and lots of cool websites for you to check out.

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

Click here to see if anyone is visiting this newsletter!




Portable Apps Suite - freedom on the road

comments by ClifNotes, Jun 2006


This is a collection of some of the best applications that you can load on a thumb drive or other portable drive and take with you on the road. This suite contains nearly every program you would need to work and play anywhere.


Today, most applications require that you install them. The files that make up the application can be spread all over your hard drive and your system registry.


Portable applications are entirely contained in the location they are loaded, and most don't write information to the system registry. They should run well on most PCs so that you'll always have the applications and data you need to do your favorite jobs. The programs launch from your USB thumb drive and do not leave any traces behind on the PC you use them on.


The programs on it are:

Portable Firefox (web browser)

Portable Thunderbird (email client)

Portable OpenOffice.org (office suite)

Portable AbiWord (word processor)

Portable NVU (web editor)

Portable Sunbird (calendar & task list)

Portable FileZilla (FTP client)

Portable Gaim (instant messenger)


The suite requires a minimum of a 256Mb USB thumbdrive, but there is a light version without OpenOffice that will fit on a 128Mb drive.


Recently, Zia at Zia's CyberGuide, wrote about a cheap alternative to buying thumb drives. I went right out and took his advice. My new memory card reader is on it 's way to me now.



quote from the website

Portable Apps Suite™ is a collection of portable apps including a web browser, email client, web editor, office suite, word processor, calendar/scheduler, instant messaging client and FTP client, all preconfigured to work portably and be easy to back up. Just drop it on your portable device and you're ready to go.


Get the Portable Apps


Shrink Pic - stop overloading your friends' inboxes

review from Zia at Zia's CyberGuide, May 2006


From Zia

This is one is for all my dear friends and family members who despite my rantings to them about solutions to reduce photo size (Lview Pro, Imagebucket, Yahoo, Photo Gadget) still keep on overflowing my inbox with oversize digital pictures!


I found this via Pierre's site.


Quote from the site:

Shrink Pic allows you to send dozens of photos as email attachments - quickly and with no effort at all! All you need to do is install Shrink Pic. It automatically detects when you're sending large photo files and compresses them in the background. There's no setup, no operating instructions, nothing, nada. Just send your photos normally and Shrink Pic takes care of shrinking them.


try Shrink Pic


find more cool software and tech tips at Zia's CyberGuide


Unlocker - win the fight against locked files

review by ClifNotes, Jun 2006


Have you ever tried to delete a file and seen this Windows error message?



While at work, this error started appearing almost daily. I had remembered seeing Unlocker, and I gave it a try. Unlocker installed easily and the first time I received the locked file error, I was ready for action. Unlocker not only allowed me to remove the offending files, it also told me which application had the files locked. It turns out that Adobe Reader (reads PDF files), was the main offender, and often retained a lock on a file, long after the file was closed.


Problem solved!



try Unlocker


Instant Media - internet radio and tv

review by ClifNotes, Jun 2006


Notes from Clif

I don't recall where I first saw this service advertised, but it sounded pretty cool and I thought I'd give it a try.


Download and Install

I dowloaded the IM (Instant Media) program and it was a little over 7 megabytes in size. As soon as I started the installation, IM tells me that it needs me to have a newer version of WMP (Windows Media Player), which was another big download. I typically don't use WMP because it is such a large program and often has security problems. I still wanted to try out IM, so I downloaded and updated to the WMP version 11, which is a new beta version. Finally, I was able to finish installing IM and after several warnings from my SpyCatcher Express, and WinPatrol instrusion detection programs, I was ready to give it a try.


Trying it out

If you like to watch short movies or listen to podcasts and MP3's online, IM has plenty of good features. The key requirement for this program would be a fast internet connection. I'm sure it could be used on dialup, but you'd have to leave it connected overnight to get much use from it.


IM first takes you on a quick tour of the features, and the program is very easy to use. Basically, they advertise "channels" and allow you to subscribe to them so that new updates to the channels will automatically be downloaded. The IM program reminds me very much of an RSS feed reader that is always on and specializes in mulitmedia.


I found out that some of the channels required me to upgrade my QuickTime player. I dislike Apple's QuickTime so much that I ignored any channels that needed it. I usually recommend that people use QuickTimeAlternative instead of QuickTime Player.


Other than that, the only other feature I didn't like was the fact that it puts itself into the autorun's so that the IM program starts every time Windows reboots and is always running in the background.



I had no problem uninstalling the IM program but I also wanted to get rid of the Windows Media Player 11 beta I had installed. Getting rid of (rolling back) a version of WMP is a real chore compared to many programs. I'm not really surprised that Microsoft made it hard to do. The key to rolling back a version of WMP is to use the "Add/Remove" in the Windows Control Panel and make sure to check mark the box at the top of the panel that says "Show Updates". After a few reboots, I was back to using WMP version 9.



If you really like getting video and audio feeds from the internet, this is a very nice program for doing it. I didn't see a bunch of flashy advertisements and the program did seem to get along just fine on my older PC.




Quote from the website


  • Instant Media is Internet TV.
  • Our free software delivers shows to your PC.
  • Browse through an integrated directory with hundreds of channels.
  • Subscribe to your favorite channels.
  • New shows will appear instantly.
  • Just click to watch.



  • Unlike Internet streaming solutions, I'M uses patent pending media caching technology. This allows us to provide high-quality, full screen video to your desktop.



I'M has an integrated directory with hundreds of Channels, Videocasts, and Audiocasts. Just click to subscribe.



  • I'M downloads and installs in just a few minutes. Anyone can do it!
  • Our software is totally ad-ware and spyware free. The I'M uninstall process is 100% clean, with no lingering surprises.
  • I'M does build a large cache of media files on your hard disk. You control the cache size. Adjusting the cache size is simple.
  • Instant Media will never sell or distribute your personal data.


try Instant Media


PStart - launch portable applications

tip from Pierre at Pierre's Lucky Finds, May 2006


Notes from Clif

Pierre seems to have found the perfect program launcher for portable applications like those in the PortableApplicationsSuite.



Quote from the website

PStart is a simple tray tool to start user defined applications. Designed to run portable applications (like portable Firefox & Thunderbird), you can start anything runnable from USB key devices or removable disks.

  • Install PStart locally to your hard disk to have an additional start menu with a quick program search feature.
  • Install PStart to your USB stick to launch portable applications easily and open important documents or folders.


visit Pierr's Lucky Finds to see more cool websites and tools


try the PStart application launcher


Index.dat Suite - did you really clear your surfing history?

review and tips from StevenBurn at Ur I.T. Mate Group, May 2006


From Clif

If you are still using Internet Explorer, or a browser that uses it for rendering, you might want to take a look at this article.


From Steven

Now, what happens if you use the IE options to clear the history? Well, if you're anything like me, you get to wait around 60 seconds or so for the supposed clearance to take place. After which, IE kindly tells you the history no longer contains any surfing history. But is it telling the truth? ... lets find out.


In order to find out, I'm not going to use anything other than Index.dat Suite and it's index.dat file content viewer. So lets load it up and run a search for the index.dat files ...


read the rest of the article




try the Index.dat Suite to clean up Internet Explorer's history files


Gaim - multiple instant messenger client

review by ClifNotes, Jun 2006


After seeing Gaim featured in the PortableApplicationsSuite, I just had to try it out. I knew it would be easy to use and all portable applications are easy to install. You just download and unzip them to begin using them.


Once I'd downloaded and unzipped portable Gaim, I found it simple to add most of my instant message accounts. I added Yahoo, MSN, and AOL within minutes and had them up and chatting.


A friend of mine, Coathanger, the webmaster of Decent Downloads and administrator of the Freeware Forum, happened to pop in to ask me what I was up to. He mentioned that he uses portable Gaim at work. He also mentioned that Gaim does not minimize to the system tray, but that can be remedied by a tool like TrayIt. Other than that, this is a great tool for chatting.


Correction: Later, my friend DigitalZen wrote to tell me that Gaim does minimize to the system tray and you can also use Gaim as a G-Talk client. I found out that you can find the setting for the systemtray icon in the Preferences under Plugins. Setting up Gaim for G-Talk (Google talk or Gmail chat) was easy once I found instructions for it at this website.



Quote from the website

Gaim users can log in to multiple accounts on multiple IM networks simultaneously. This means that you can be chatting with friends on AOL Instant Messenger, talking to a friend on Yahoo Messenger, and sitting in an IRC channel all at the same time.


Gaim supports many features of the various networks, such as file transfer, away messages, and typing notification. It also goes beyond that and provides many unique features. A few popular features are Buddy Pounces, which give the ability to notify you, send a message, play a sound, or run a program when a specific buddy goes away, signs online, or returns from idle; and plugins, consisting of text replacement, a buddy ticker, extended message notification, iconify on away, spell checking, tabbed conversations, and more.


try Gaim now








How Fast Is My Internet Connection?

tip from Data Doctors, Jun 2006





My ISP makes claims about my high-speed Internet service, but it sure doesn't seem that fast all the time. How can I tell exactly how fast my connection is?


- Josh




This question was answered on June 2, 2006. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.


When it comes to your Internet connection speed, there are a host of variables that can change from moment to moment that are completely unpredictable which can have a dramatic impact on your actual performance.


Let's start with your computer and work out from there ...



read the rest of the article


Security Now! recommends TrueCrypt

audioblog by Steve Gibson and Leo Laporte, May 2006


Notes from Clif

I always try to keep up with Steve and Leo's podcast, Security Now. Last week, they talked about all the cool features of an open source encryption program called TrueCrypt. If you've ever had anything you need to hide on your PC and you've never heard of this program, just click on this link to our review of it.


check out TrueCrypt


Quote from Steve Gibson on the Security Now! podcast

It’s like a bunch of guys over a long period of time who were not in a big hurry just worked out the most perfectly feature-packed, like, right set of things with no agenda. They were not trying to force anything on anyone ... this is what open source and the whole open source community can produce when it really works well ...



listen to the Security Now! podcast

or go to the website to read the transcript


Quote from truecrypt.org

Free open-source disk encryption software for Windows XP/2000/2003 and Linux

Main Features:


  • Creates a virtual encrypted disk within a file and mounts it as a real disk.
  • Encrypts an entire hard disk partition or a device, such as USB flash drive.
  • Encryption is automatic, real-time (on-the-fly) and transparent.
  • Provides two levels of plausible deniability, in case an adversary forces you to reveal the password:
    • Hidden volume (steganography – more information may be found here.
    • No TrueCrypt volume can be identified (volumes cannot be distinguished from random data.
  • Encryption algorithms: AES-256, Blowfish (448-bit key), CAST5, Serpent, Triple DES, and Twofish.
  • Mode of operation: LRW (CBC supported as legacy).
  • Based on Encryption for the Masses (E4M) 2.02a, conceived in 1997.






Cleaning up after the MSN Toolbar

tip from Malcolm H, May 2006



From Clif

Malcolm wrote me to let me know he wasn't happy with MSN Toolbar, and that the uninstall for it left him even less happy.


From Malcolm

I did not know about the big problem with this software until i decided to get rid if it. Now I cannot uninstall or reinstall this stuff. I just know I want it off my computer.


Do you know of a free software that will remove this, or should i just take to the shop and let them do it?


From Clif

I didn't even get a chance to do any research on it before Malcolm had written back with his own solution. This helps confirm my belief that many of the people who read my newsletter are not only smart, but that they are not afraid to try new things and find their own solutions to problems.


From Malcolm

Hi Clif, got this from MSN Support. It worked.


From MSN Support

... here are some steps that have proved successful for some of our customers. It is possible that you may have performed some or all of these steps previously, but the key seems to be the order in which they are performed:


A. Please clear the Windows and Internet Explorer Temp files by using the Disk Cleanup Utility.

  1. Click "Start", and then click "My Computer".
  2. Right-click, using the button on the right-hand side of the top of your mouse, the disk in which you want to free up space, and then click "Properties".
  3. Click the "General" tab, and then click "Disk Cleanup".
  4. Click the Disk Cleanup tab (if it is not already selected),
  5. Click to select the check boxes next to the files that you want to remove. Make sure to include Temporary files
  6. Click "OK".
  7. Click "Yes" to confirm the procedure.


B. We need to install the Windows Installer Cleanup Utility to remove any leftover parts or pieces of the Toolbar or its add-ins. (For more information you can go to Description of the Windows Installer Cleanup Utility)

  1. Download the Windows Installer Cleanup Utility installer.
  2. Choose "Save" when prompted to save the file.
  3. Select "Desktop" as to where you would like to save it.
  4. Find the "msicuu.exe" application (you may not see the exe part) on your desktop and double-click it.
  5. Click "Next" and allow the program to install.
  6. After the installation is complete, you may remove the file from your desktop to the Recycle Bin.


C. Now we will need to run the Windows Installer Cleanup Utility.

  1. Click "Start", point to "Programs", and then click "Windows Install Clean Up".
  2. Select "Live Toolbar", "MSN Toolbar" and any Toolbar add-ins from the list of programs you want to remove
  3. Click "Remove".
  4. Click "OK", and then click "Exit".


D. Once we have made sure that Windows Installer should no longer see the Toolbar or its add-ins, we now need to remove any traces of them from the registry.

  1. Click "Start", and then click "Run".
  2. Type "regedit", without the quotes, in the "Run" box.
  3. Press the "Enter" key on your keyboard or click on "OK" to launch the Registry Editor.
  4. Use the "+" sign next to the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft folder to navigate it.
  5. Make sure the "MSN Toolbar" and "MSN Apps" folders are not present. If they are, right-click them and then choose "Delete" from the resulting drop-down menu.
  6. Use the "+" sign again to navigate to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \Software\Microsoft folder.
  7. Make sure the "MSN Toolbar" and "MSN Apps" folders are not present. If they are, right-click them and then choose "Delete" from the resulting drop-down menu.


Thank you for using MSN Toolbar.





MSN Toolbar Technical Support


From Clif

Thanks Malcolm, and thanks to MSN Support. I'm sure they do the best they can with some of the less than perfect software that Microsoft writes.


I tried MSN Toolbars once on another PC. It's not a good alternative to other tabbed browsers like FireFox and the search features are nothing to brag about.













Websites I've visited recently









Firefox 2 in Alpha testing

Bon Echo (aka Firefox 2) Alpha 2 Review, by Percy Cabello


Mozilla has just released the second alpha of upcoming Firefox 2, code named Bon Echo (after Bon Echo public park following a Firefox development tradition). Scheduled for sometime this winter (or summer in the North Hemisphere), this version brings a number of enhancements. Let's start the review ...


read the rest of the article


eBay to Launch Blogs, Wikis and Search Tags

article from the Micro Persuasion blog, Jun 2006


Auction giant eBay is preparing to integrate blog and wiki publishing tools into its selling platform, according to a report on Auctionbytes. eBay Blogs will enable sellers to more efficiently market their products. eBay Wikis meanwhile collect fact-based articles written and maintained by eBay Community members. Both tools will be launched at the eBay Live conference ...


read the rest of the article


Can you hear me now? - in national parks

Cell Phone Towers in U.S. Parks Dial Up Debate

by Jennifer Cutraro for National Geographic News, May 2006


The jarring ring of a cell phone deep in the wilderness is many a nature lover's worst nightmare.


But it's a scenario that may become more common in the United States as wireless-communication companies expand their reach into national parks and other protected lands ...


tower next to Old Faithful


read the rest of the article





Is Big Brother Watching You?

article by Leo Notenboom at Ask Leo, 2006


law enforcement officials are planning to ask internet service companies to keep access records for up to two years. The goal is to aid in the ubiquitous hunt for terrorists and for those involved in child pornography ... Internet privacy is a recurring them on Ask Leo! A very common question is, essentially, "can people track me down or track what I've been doing using just the IP address of my computer?" I also get other side, "can I track down this person down or see what they've been doing with just their IP address?" ...


read the rest of this article







Get Gmail!


You need a Gmail account to access many of the cool features at Google. I'll send you an invitation right away if you write me and say I WANT GMAIL.




















Frapper - you people live all over the world!

Wow! Over 300 people and still growing! I invite all of you to record your locations on this map. You can include as little or as much information as you wish. I think you'll enjoy seeing yourself there.


Here's a small look at my frapper map.



Chatting at Freewarewiki

review by ClifNotes


Now you can chat with anyone visiting a website by using Gabbly. To see who's gabbing at this website, click here.


Find out more about it at Gabbly.com


Write your own review


I get many of the reviews in the newsletter from the readers. You don't have to be a genius or computer guru. Just answer a few questions and send me a review. I'll probably put you in the newsletter.


Got any comments?

Just tell me what article you are talking about and leave me your comment. The email address and name are optional.



comment forms provided for free by Sidewalk





Have fun and surf safely.



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