It’s An Emergency – Call BartPE

I found myself needing to ghost over a PC the first day on the job at a new company.

Come to find out, that they didn’t have a ghost server or any knowledge of ghost. Not wanting to spend too much time on this little project, I remembered using Bart PE to boot systems and recover data off of them. After tracking it down from a Google search, I proceeded to build my own CD and boot to it. Within no time I was ghosting over and had the entire job complete before I could have even tracked down an installation of ghost and setup the server and so on. The best part is that there are so many built in functions on the PE CD that I haven’t even seen them all or used them all. But having them close by helps.

Tilda Terminal

I often want to use a command prompt for a simple command, entering a relatively short text command rather than perform several clicks with the mouse around the screen (and then have to enter some text in a text box often).

On both Windows systems and Linux systems one can easily open a anew window to run the command. On Linux however, there are other solutions, and one that I use is a program called Tilda. Basically the program runs invisibly in the background until you press Tilda’s hotkey. A small command prompt window then slides down from the top of your screen and you can enter your command. Press the hotkey again and the window slides out of the way again. Tilda is a very simple program to use, but, the more “helpful” operating systems get, the more useful I find it.

Panda Nanoscan

I just came across a new anti-malware tool, called “Panda Nanoscan”, and accessible at

“Well, that’s what I call YAST” (Yet Another Scanning Tool), I thought at first. I decided to test it, anyway. The neat web 2.0 interface is composed of three main elements: a statistical tool called “infex” at the top left, where several data about infected computers are shown; a few navigation links at the bottom, where you can access different secondary pages like a blog, gadgets to add nanoscan to your personalized homepages, etc; and finally, a button that would “Nanoscan my PC”. After clicking on that button, I was asked to install an ActiveX component developed by Panda, which I of course did (it took a bit less than one minute). As soon as installation was done, the scanning process started, and.. know what? It took only 54 seconds! I repeated the process twice, and it took 20 and 24 secs. I looked at the documentation, and learnd that it looks for running malware, so it seems to be checking active processes only, but anyhow it was quite an impressive result, considering that it searched for more than two million malware variants. After showing the results, it recommends running a more in-depth scanning with other tools, inlcuding a full system scan, which I also tested, but that might be covered in a different post. Oh, by the way, my computer was, as I expected, free of any unwanted malware specimens.

Motorola’s Good Mobile Messaging

I have been using Motorola’s Good Mobile Messaging application on my Sprint PPC-6700 PDA phone for about a month now and I can say I am impressed.

My corporate mail system is Domino but Good MM also works with Exchange. The application is easy to use and comes with the essentials like OTA (Over-The-Air) mail syncing, calendaring, to-do’s and contacts. Administration is simple and fast. You will need a subscription with your phone provider and it can be costly (roughly $39.99 to $49.99 a month) but that does include data service. This is probably comparable to Blackberry charges. The email application is the best I have every used on a non-Blackberry PDA. Simple and straight-forward, even your most technological challenged sales rep will pick it up in minutes. The worst, and yet not so bad, feature is the Contacts application. Good basically “takes over” your phone contacts. This can be painful to those who are used to the style of their phone’s contact manager. The contact’s features are limited in use compared to the Palm’s or Windows Mobile’s contact apps. However, the “Good” news is the Good contacts will sync with your Domino or Outlook contacts so you have only one place to add, delete or modify contacts. I would recommend anyone using a non-Blackberry PDA to check out Motorola’s Good Mobile Messaging and see if it is a Good fit for you. Also, coming September 2007 is a new version, Good 5.

Spyware Blaster

Sometimes free downloads are a gamble, but one worth looking into is Spyware Blaster from Javacool Software.

Now available in version 3.5.1, Spyware Blaster has a comprehensive list of the dialers and adaware that try to insert themselves in your computer, triggered by user internet behavior that seems pedestrian enough. Spyware Blaster has modes for both Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox. Most users who use Mozilla still have IE on their hard drive even if they no longer prefer it. A “backdoor” to spyware could very well be that internet browser you only use occasionally and therefore more likely to be unmonitored or outdated. The software monitors itself for updates and asks permission to download them. This software has experienced no conflicts with existing dialers or applications, so most users will find it unintrusive and safe.

Bloatware Removal

Sometimes, software companies don’t know when to stop.

They keep adding complex features, fancy graphics, and megabytes of unnecessary files. These are well respected companies, too – Adobe is a good example. They get away with this because most people don’t know any better. To most people, pdf *is* Adobe Acrobat. Luckily, there are usually free alternatives that are only a fraction of the size, and as a result, are much quicker. In fact, sometimes you don’t need to download software at all!

Bloatware problem #1 – Instant messaging (AIM, MSN, etc.) Alternative – Instant messaging doesn’t need to be complicated, really. AIM’s installation file is 13 megabytes – which doesn’t sound like much – but compare that to Chatzilla, a Firefox-based IRC client that is less than 350 kilobytes. Even then, neither of these can compare to Meebo, which doesn’t require a download of *anything*. In fact, you can log on to Yahoo, AIM, MSN, ICQ, and Jabber, all directly through the website!

Bloatware problem #2 – CD burning software (Nero Burning ROM) Alternative – CDBurnerXP There’s no reason to pay $60 for cd-burning software, especially since most people don’t need to do anything complicated, like burning ISO files or creating custom boot disks. Then again, CDBurnerXP can do that, too. For free.

Bloatware problem #3 – Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Reader Alternative – CutePDF and Foxit PDF Reader PDFs are probably the most cumbersome format on the internet. They’re a hassle to make, even harder to edit, and Adobe makes things worse by bloating their software. Foxit PDF Reader, luckily, is only 8 megabytes *after* installation. Adobe Reader is four times that size, even before installation. Acrobat Acrobat is hundreds of megabytes, yet CutePDF and its necessary postscript converter are under a 10 megabyte download. As de facto standard software has become more bloated and wasteful, minimalist alternatives are gaining ground. Who said bigger was always better?