Among the plethora of add-ons available for the Firefox browser, Piclens is one of the most impressive – mainly because it appears to offer much of the ‘wow’ of Vista or Leopard’s smooth graphical wizardry, but through a browser, and with none of the high RAM requirements of the operating systems. If you haven’t tried it, it’s a must to visit http://www.piclens.com and install.
Even more unusual, Piclens is also supported in Internet Explorer and Safari add-ons for Windows and Mac. Only Linux users are left in out in the cold. What Piclens does is more difficult to explain. At its most simple, it offers a view of the internet as a 3D, smoothly scrolling wall. The wall entirely replaces the usual browser interface, so it appears much more like a separate piece of software than a browser plugin. Try it with Flikr and you can immediately see the attraction, as an endless wall of beautifully rendered images sweeps by, which you can zoom into and manipulate at will. But it also integrates with Google, Amazon, YouTube (it shows videos too) and other search engines, so that you can search the internet in a new and visual way. Put simply, it’s about as far from your grandad’s HTML home page as you could imagine. One question remains: is it useful? While for graphical work it might be useful to view thousands of images at once, navigating them is quite difficult, and the ‘metadata’ that goes along with the images hard to view. Time will tell, but for now Piclens is the most impressive add-on you’ll never use.
Swiff Charts is a instinctive, simple Chart making program which is great for crafting great looking charts.
There are ample options when it comes to formatting, and the end results looks very professional. Styles can be customized, and there are many pre-programmed styles which should fit the bill for most users. There are some limitations, specifically when it comes to showing multiple data series. With that being said, when it comes to a simple, clean, and professional charts and graphs, there is no better product out there. Stop using those ugly Excel graph’s for presentations. As they say, God is in the details.
Folder Lock is a nice little tool for password protecting folders on your PC.
Folder Lock goes beyond just hiding your folders and can encorporate 256 bit Blowfish encryption if needed. The files are not accessible or deletable by either DOS or Windows Explorer. Instead, you use the simple user interface to manage your most valuable files. If you have files that you need to lock, hide or encrypt I recommend Folder Lock.
A solution to the password nightmare. The most common means of controlling access to IT is a username and password.
This works well for many applications as is flexible and simple to implement. There is however one major problem with passwords – You have to remember them!!! If you only have one or two passwords this is not a problem, but many IT users have many systems they need to log into. If you work in IT, like I do, it is not unusual to have to remember 20 or more different passwords. Usually you are forced to change these on a regular basis and they have to contain numbers and/or strange characters. For the normal mortal (well for me anyway) this is impossible to do without “cheating”. One way is to write them down, another is to make all the passwords the same, or slightly different versions of the same thing. This fundamentally undermines the security of using passwords. Enforcing policies like changing passwords regularly just seems to make things worse instead of better, as more people adopt more coping strategies.
KeePass is a free, opensource program that I have found to be the perfect solution. It provides a secure password manager that will essentially remember all your passwords for you, and type them in when you need them. The result is you only need to remember ONE password. Password managers are nothing new, but any I have came across in the past have been unsuitable (in terms of either security or usability). This little program simply does everything right to provide a very secure way of storing your passwords, while making it easy to access the various systems. I have found it works well over terminal server with the ‘autotype’ facility and I keep the software and database on a usb key so I can access it from various PCs. With a little configuration, it is extremely flexible. I highly recommend using KeePass for all your passwords. For many users and IT professionals it is a very necessary quality application.
Minitab is a statistical analysis software that is great for learning and teaching statistics.
It is extensively used by Six Sigma practitioners. The help feature that comes with the software is excellent. It has the capability to generate several statistical distributions, perform a variety of statistical analysis and plot results. Plots can be easily copied to other Windows applications such as Excel and Powerpoint. Data can be easily transferred back and forth between Excel and Minitab making data analysis and visualization very easy. One feature that Minitab lacks is the ability to perform analysis of long-tail distributions. Also, bootstrapping procedures are lacking.
For those of us who must use workstations with limited program capability a thumb or flash drive can become a necessity.
What should you look for in a thumb drive? How much space do you need? These are the kinds of questions you should think about before going shopping. First of all let’s look at your needs. Are you a rough traveler? Do you tend to throw stuff in your bag? If you tend to be a little rougher on your peripherals, look for something that’s shockproof and if you shop around you might even find one that’s water resistant. No matter what you’re carrying on your drive look for something that won’t corrupt your data or shatter if you’re not entirely gentle. How much space is enough? You can find flash drives anywhere from 512 mb to 4 gb. If you don’t need more storage there’s no need to spend the extra money for 4 gb when you maybe only need one. Generally speaking, you’re looking at spending anywhere from 14.00 on up to 150.00 dollars or so depending on your needs. These days, you can find many applications that are available in portable versions. From Word processing programs to Photoshop, you can carry around a few programs that don’t make registry changes, don’t need installation and won’t get you in trouble with the IT department. You can also keep your music handy, documents, homework in case you don’t have a laptop or don’t want to take your laptop anywhere. Surprisingly, picking yourself up another peripheral might make your life a little easier. Work on projects away from home, write that paper that’s due tomorrow, and keep yourself entertained with music. All in all, a flash drive is a good little investment in portability. As with any peripheral or data storage, always make sure to back up your data in a separate place just in case.