• 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

August 27, 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 chat while

visiting this newsletter!



Thank you one and all.


Last week, this website and it's associated pages passed 100,000 VISITS since I put up a counter in November of last year. Just for that, everything at this website is now free! Oops, I guess it was already free!




VLC Media Player

posted by ClifNotes, Aug 2006, Permalink


I tried out VLC for the first time yesterday. At this point, I don't see why this multi-function media player has such a huge following. It's very handy and it will play nearly any kind of music or video file you will run across. It also play's DVD's easily.


Maybe people love it because it can be skinned and take on many forms? Maybe they like it because it can play streaming media or even broadcast streaming media? Maybe they like the fact that it's portable so they can take it with them on the road?


I don't know, but over 15 million people have downloaded it and they're averaging about 2 downloads a second. Maybe you should try it out and tell me why you like or don't like it.






VLC (initially VideoLAN Client) is a highly portable multimedia player for various audio and video formats (MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, mp3, ogg, ...) as well as DVDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols. It can also be used as a server to stream in unicast or multicast in IPv4 or IPv6 on a high-bandwidth network.


VLC Media Player website



CDex - freeware CD/Ripper music encoder

posted by ClifNotes, Aug 2006, Permalink


There are many programs that you can use to rip CD's into other formats. For instance, MusicMatch, Real Player, and Windows Media Player will all do this for you. I don't like those. They are too big, too flashy, and way too commercial. They seem to constantly connect to the internet behind your back, or in your face, for updates or other "enhanced" features. This type of activity bogs your system down.


CDex does this one thing, does it well, and doesn't bug you to download more stuff, or buy more stuff. Get it, use it, then forget it until you need it again.




Quote from the website

What's CDex?

CDex is a CD/Ripper music encoder. CDex can extract the data directly (digital) from an Audio CD, which is generally called a CD Ripper or a CDDA utility. The resulting audio file can be a plain WAV file (useful for making compilation audio CDs) or the ripped audio data can be compressed using an audio encoder. Many encoders are supported, to name a few:


Lame MP3 encoder

Internal MP2 encoder

APE lossles audio format

Ogg Vorbis encoder

The Windows MP3 encoder (Fraunhofer MP3 encoder)

NTT VQF encoder

FAAC encoder

Windows WMA8 encoder


In addition, WAV files on the hard drive can be converted to a Compressed Audio File (and visa versa). CDex also supports many audio file tag formats like the ID3V1 and ID3V2 tags, which can be automatically inserted as part of the ripping process.

Feature List

Direct recording of multiple tracks

Read / store album information from/to the cdplayer.ini file

Read / store album information from/to a local and/or remote CD Database (CDDB)

Support CD-Text (if your CD-drive supports it)

Advanced jitter correction (based on the cd-paranoia ripping library)

Indicates track progress and jitter control

Normalization of audio signal

Supports many CD-Drive from many manufacters

Conversion of external WAV files

Support for M3U and PLS play list files

Best of all, it's free (GPL license, source code available at www.sourceforge.net)

Serveral languages are supported

System Requirements

Windows 95/98/NT/2000/XP

Adaptec's ASPI manager (should be included in Windows 95 & 98), Take a look at the FAQ page where to get some ASPI drivers.

CD-ROM which is capable of extracting digital audio (IDE-ATAPI or SCSI drive)

And finally, lot's of free disc space to record to your CDs ;-)


CDex website



Starfish - cool looking textures for skinning and backgrounds

letter from Matthew, notes from Clif, Aug 2006, Permalink


Matthew wrote me about this nice little freeware program for creating textured images.


Starfish creates random textures (optionally tile fitting) for wallpapers & backgrounds, looks like some of the backgrounds they use on CD cover templates etc.


A couple of settings I noted.

• Seed: 2644066908 (complexity 75) - gives a strange texture I call "alien skin". Complexity 30 gives a totally different result

• Seed: 2485942257 (complexity 99) - a circles pattern ... changing complexity by 1 or 2 often has no effect, ur 5 or more can completely change it, or similar patterns recur at other levels.


Got a green one like coarse grass, but forgot to note it - ah, found in the history - most of these were at 320x256 tiled - changing the size normally has only a small effect. All were at complexity 75 (default setting) and random (seed derived) palette.

• Purple swirl - 3305071058

• Net curtain - 1323654202

• Coarse grass - 1655797738

• Grey water ripple - 0000000076

• 3D ripple - 1824904446

• Alien fungus - 3476635822

They represent the more interesting results from about 80 tries, don't even try to predict them - the only thing that is semi-predictable is changing the pallette and regenerating on the same seed, though switching from a simple two shade range to a complex pallette can give a large effect.


Using custom palletes, a texture can also be generated over a specified colour range, keeping it light to avoid masking text, or keeping colours within a particular scheme. Some of the preset palettes are simple bicolour, other use multiple colours.




Quote from the website

Starfish is a program for creating creating colorful, random, abstract patterns for use as desktop wallpaper, for use on websites (like this one), just for fun, or for any other purpose you might think of. Starfish may be set to create new desktop wallpaper automatically at intervals you select, or it may be run interactively to create new patterns as you wish.




Any comments?


Sophos Anti-Rootkit

review from ClifNotes, Aug 2006, permalink


What's the big deal? Who cares if there are few files on my computer that I cannot see and that are doing things I have no control over?


In past issues, I've tried to describe to you what a rootkit is. If you do care about little things like your privacy and your pocket book, this little tool from Sophos will help bring you a little more security.


I tried it and I was truly impressed with how simple they made the interface and the scanning results. I think a five year old child could easily run this scan for me, except for one thing. They forgot to put a link to the program anywhere. So, after it installs, copy this path "C:\SOPHTEMP\sargui.exe" and hit your Start button, then choose Run. Now paste in the path and press enter.




Quote from the website

Removing rootkits without compromising system integrity is particularly challenging and needs to be done with care. Our free software, Sophos Anti-Rootkit, finds and removes any rootkit that is hidden on your computer.

What is a rootkit?


The term rootkit is used to define a Trojan (or technology) used to hide the presence of a malicious object (process, file, registry key, network port) from the computer user or administrator.

Easily detect and remove rootkits


As part of its complete protection of endpoint computers, Sophos Anti-Virus detects rootkits and prevents them being installed on any of your desktops, laptops and servers.


Sophos Anti-Rootkit provides an extra layer of detection, by safely and reliably detecting and removing any rootkit that might already have secreted itself onto your system.

Simplified management


Using Sophos Anti-Rootkit is straightforward. Whether you use its simple graphical user interface or run it from the command line you can easily detect and eliminate any rootkits on your computer.

Stay free of rootkits


Our industry-leading anti-virus software, Sophos Anti-Virus, detects and blocks rootkits that attempt to infiltrate your network.


Find the Sophos Anti-Rootkit tool here!


Credit goes to Giorgos in Greece for bringing this program to my attention.


Any comments?


Active Virus Shield - premium anti-virus freeware from AOL


Yes, I said AOL. It's hard to believe, but we've been seeing more and more stuff that AOL is giving away. I had my doubts about this freebie until I heard that it's actually a rebranded Kaspersky product.


Kaspersky's virus lab is located in Moscow, Russia and is headed by Eugene Kaspersky, Costin Raiu and Marc Blanchard. They have over a decade of experience in the antivirus field. In 2003 they received the Microsoft Gold Certified Partner status for Security Solutions and are active members in IT associations such as CARO (Computer Antivirus Research Organization) and ICSA (International Computer Security Association).


I have Active Virus Shield (AVS) running on my desktop PC now and I'm getting more comfortable with it. The only surprising thing to me was that AVS installed a proxy server on my PC.


I discovered this completely by accident one evening while I was running a scan of my PC with Ewido Micro. I found a Zango infection on my PC and decided to check all the internet connections to my computer with CurrPorts.


It turned out that this infection wasn't active and I was able to remove the files with little problem. In the process of determining that Zango wasn't connected to my PC, I found that every single connection to my web browser was being routed through Active Virus Shield. At first, I was very concerned, but the longer I thought about it, the more sense it made. It's almost like having a second firewall on my PC. While I'm surfing the web, this proxy server in AVS actually intercepts the web pages before I see them, looks at them, and then sends the page to my internet browser.


In summary, I will recommend the Active Virus Shield to anyone looking for a new AV tool . I don't know how long that it'll be around, but the same is true for any freeware application.


Later, I withdrew my recommendation for AVS. It's a good program, but the EULA needs some work before I can continue to recommend it.




Quote from the AVS website

• Advanced detection technology to help stop known and new viruses, spyware and other malware before they attack you.

• Always-on, automatically checks for updates every hour- providing real-time scanning and protection against virus threats

• Easy-to-install, works with most Windows® operating systems. (Windows 98, 2000, ME & XP)

• Free to everyone- No AOL subscription required




Any comments?


CurrPorts - discover who is connecting to your PC

review by ClifNotes, Aug 2006, permalink


I've actually been using CurrPorts for a little over a year. CurrPorts is a stand-alone program that doesn't require any installation process or additional DLLs. In order to start using it, just copy the executable file (cports.exe) to any folder you like, and run it.


When you fire up CurrPorts it gives you a customizable view of all internet connections coming into and going out of your PC. This is valuable information when you need to determine if you are hosting spyware, adware, or trojan horses.




Quote from the website

CurrPorts displays the list of all currently opened TCP/IP and UDP ports on your local computer. For each port in the list, information about the process that opened the port is also displayed, including the process name, full path of the process, version information of the process (product name, file description, and so on), the time that the process was created, and the user that created it.


In addition, CurrPorts allows you to close unwanted TCP connections, kill the process that opened the ports, and save the TCP/UDP ports information to HTML file , XML file, or to tab-delimited text file.


CurrPorts also automatically mark with pink color suspicious TCP/UDP ports owned by unidentified applications (Applications without version information and icons)




Any comments?








XnView for creating slideshow screensavers

email from fuzzy pete, notes from Clif, Aug 2006 permalink


Response from reader about creating photo shows


Fuzzy.Pete writes in

Hi Clif,

You missed out on probably the best one which is XN View. Not only can you create your slide show bit it will burn it to disk for you as well. And that is not to mention all the other things it does as well. A great piece of software.






Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

click to expand


Quote from XnView website

XnView is a utility for viewing and converting graphic files. XnView is provided as FREEWARE for private non-commercial or educational use (including non-profit organization).


Thanks Pete! I've used XnView before but never noticed that feature.

A review of XnView is here.


Any comments?


Picture and Sound Show - create screen savers

posted by ClifNotes, suggestion by GeorgesFreeware, Aug 2006, Permalink


Last week I answered an email about putting a picture show with sound onto a CD. George wrote me the same day with a better solution.

Thank you very much George.


From George



I think there is an easier way to save a picture and sound screensaver to a CD. The “Picture and Sound Show” program has an option called “Create Screen Saver” where you can export a screensaver that you created and send it to someone. This option produces two files, one is an *.scr and the other is a *.pss file. The *.scr file is the working part of the screensaver and the *.pss file contains your picture and sound files. You can send a friend these two files and as long as they place them both in the same folder, they will have a fully functioning screensaver without installing the “Picture and Sound Show” program. I think if these 2 files are saved to a CD they would work fine as long as they were saved to the same folder. The author hasn't updated the program in a long time but I've used the program for about 2 years and I don't see a need to change anything. It works on most Windows platforms.


see my review



Here's a snippet from George's review of this program.

I really like to create my own screensavers. I tried quite a few screensavers where I could use my own pictures. Windows XP comes equipped with “My Pictures Slideshow” which allows you to use your own pictures although it doesn’t have many options. The “Picture and Sound Show” screensaver is one of the few that not only displays your pictures but also plays sound or music. The screen shot I have provided only displays the “Picture Options” but the “Picture and Sound Show” home page (link below) provides screen shots of all the options. read the rest




Help!, I can't install Firefox

answer to an email to Clif, Aug 2006, permalink


I had been talking with Don about something else, and he mentioned his problem with FireFox on Windows 98.


from Don L

For some reason when I tried to install Firefox it would not install but Opera would so I went with Opera. Because I am familiar with it I prefer Firefox. I have a hard time finding things in Opera.

from me

Try this version of Firefox. It may work for you. http://portableapps.com/apps/internet/firefox_portable

from Don

Hey it worked. Thanks for the great suggestion. I was able to install Firefox on my old computer. Before it always said it could not install because I was missing some kind of files and other bull, this time no problem. It does not have an installer but I found the EXE file and created my own shortcut for the Desktop. I does not appear in the programs list so the reason for the shortcut. Thanks again and keep up the good work on the newsletter I always look forward to it and have used several programs.


Quote from the Portable Apps website


Firefox Portable - your browser, your way... in your pocket™

Portable Firefox is now Mozilla Firefox - Portable Edition (aka Firefox Portable)

Mozilla Firefox - Portable Edition is the popular Mozilla Firefox web browser

packaged with a PortableApps.com Launcher as a portable app, so you can

take your bookmarks, extensions and saved passwords with you.



I like getting letters from the readers here, if you've got a question, I'll answer it as best I can.


Other text to speech software

posted by ClifNotes, response from readers, Aug 2006, Permalink


Last week I posted a letter from Giorgos about the Text to Speech tools he's tried. In response to that, some folks wrote me about more of them.


from Frank S

Text To Speech (TTS) and Speech Recognition (SR)


If you’re already using MS Office 2003, you have both TTS and SR built in. You can’t control your computer like using Dragon Naturally Speaking ($200US), but you can dictate and format within Word. You can also use TTS in Excel.


From the Help File

1. Open Microsoft Word.

2. On the Tools menu, click Speech. You're asked if you want to install the feature. Click Yes. (Might require the Office installation CD)

3. After the installation is complete, click Next to train speech recognition. Training begins with help in adjusting your microphone.


I wasn’t aware of deskbot, but other free TTS programs include:

Natural Reader http://www.naturalreaders.com

ReadPlease http://www.readplease.com

E-Text Reader http://www.premier-programming.com/download/free_trials.htm


These are all free and work slightly differently. In most cases, the paid version adds the ability to convert the speech to an audio file, such as an MP3.


If you want more detailed reviews, let me know. Students with learning disabilities rely heavily on TTS programs to not only read their own work back to them but also to read eBooks..


Frank S

from John W

I use Ultra Hal Text-to-Speech Reader Free edition and its good for my needs.

It can be found here...



Thanks for the info Frank and John.




XP Freebies from Microsoft

tip from CC, notes from Clif, Aug 2006


CC wrote me with a quick note about free software from Microsoft. That's a great find! Thanks CC.


XP Freebies from Microsoft


Any comments?


Are you losing it?

notes from Clif, tip from CyberGuide, Aug 2006


CyberGuide sent me this link in email. I failed the test. Let's see how you do ...



If you have trouble viewing this PPS file, try this free viewer from Microsoft. This program is small and doesn't do anything creepy.

Power Point Viewer from Microsoft


Bambi and Thumper

email from Tiffany C, notes from Clif, Aug 2006, permalink


Thanks to Tiffany for sending me an email with several pictures of a deer and a rabbit who are obviously very fond of each other. Here's a link to a website with a few pictures of them together: http://snipurl.com/BambiThumper


If you'd like a copy of the email with several more pictures like this in it, then just say "Bambi and Thumper".


Klipfolio has been updated

tip from CC, Aug 2006


CC writes in

I remember you did a review of this program awhile back

this is the latest update ... lot of additions ...







See the review here.


Any comments?

































Websites I've visited recently









Play SimCity online for free

posted by ClifNotes, Aug 2006, permalink


I recently ran across an old time favorite of many gamers. This time EA.com is actually letting you play SimCity online for free ...




Quote from the website


Play God

  • Sculpt mountains, gouge valleys, and seed forests to lay the groundwork for your creation.
  • Drop a disaster anywhere in your city--set buildings ablaze, pelt your metropolis with meteors, unleash a twister, or wreak havoc with a volcano.
  • Populate your terrain with animals that graze and roam … and sometimes stampede into your city!




Play Mayor

  • Create, build and run the most realistic city you can imagine.
  • Connect your metropolis with other cities you've created to form a massive region of SimCities, each sharing and competing for resources.
  • Deploy police cruisers and fire trucks to the scene--you’re up close and part of the action as they deal with fires, striking mobs, crime, and more.




Play With Your Sims

  • Place your Sims in your city--they'll give you valuable feedback.
  • Follow your Sims to work and home.
  • Experience life in the big city, from mellow traffic to commuter hell, noontime crowds to nighttime calm.




Any Comments?


Processlibrary dot com - relaunching in September



I received an email recently from a website I've registered at:

From: press@uniblue.net

One of the most freely-used global websites is provided by Uniblue Systems, the Malta-based software development company. The website has around 5 million visitors per month, and is being relaunched with some new features on 12th September. The upgraded website will have more processes listed with improved information, an intelligent search engine and a security threat rating system.


This free online information site that describes processes running on computers, provides an invaluable security service to millions of pc users worldwide. Deep in the recesses of any computer, innumerable processes are running silently in the background. Some grab system resources, drastically slowing computers down; others harbour spyware and Trojans violating privacy and giving hackers free reign on compromised systems. Processslibrary.com gives you instant access to an extensive online database of comprehensive process descriptions to help you understand what is really running on your computer.


I also occasionally use a program that I had gotten from Processlibrary. It's called the Quick Access InfoBar and a small screen shot is shown here. I highly recommend it to those folks who are either curious or really need to know what processes are running on their PC.




See my article on the Quick Access InfoBar.




News from Sarah in Tampa





























Get Gmail! and Get Firefox!


You need a free 2.7 GB 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.



I think Gmail works best in the awesome Firefox browser. It's free, easy to use, and it's way more secure than Internet Explorer. My favorite thing to do is to customize Firefox so that it does much more than IE ever could. You can select new button controls for your toolbars, install extensions to add new features, or change the look of your browser with themes - the way Firefox looks and works is under your control.


Get Firefox!


Chatting at FreewareWiki



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


August 20

Chatted with El Tel in Nottingham England and Bribiec in Queensland Australia. We talked about the weather, grandkids, which way the water spins when it drains, and looked at http://www.messwithsasquatch.com and http://subservientchicken.com for a few laughs.


Find out more about Gabbly.com





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.



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.


What do you have to say?


Just tell me what article you are talking about and leave me your comment.



Have fun and surf safely.



http://clifnotes.net & http://freewarewiki.pbwiki.com

Devoted to promoting Freeware and Free Information

Want a free 2.7Gb Gmail account?

Email me here.






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