Backup is a task that seems mundane, right up to the moment you realize you've just lost an entire hard drive's worth of data. That feeling of hopelessness is not something any of us enjoys, not to mention the incredible waste of time that goes along with it. So while it may not be as engaging as the hottest new game, there's really no substitute for a solid backup strategy--and that's what CrashPlan provides. Its free and paid plans are available in 32-bit and 64-bit versions.
If words like "solid backup strategy" sound like so much techno-babble, let me elaborate: You can use CrashPlan to back your files up to the cloud (i.e, a central server in a secure hosting facility controlled by CrashPlan), to another hard-drive connected to your computer, or to your friend's computer via the Internet. You don't have to select just one backup destination: You can back up your files locally, to the cloud and to your friend's house, or even to multiple friends' places, all at once.
CrashPlan actually comes in several flavors, with the basic one being free of charge and fully functional-the only thing it can't do is back up to the cloud. For cloud backup, you'll have to purchase CrashPlan+, but the rates are very affordable: Unlimited backup for just $3.00/month, plus a few other packages if your needs differ.
The future has flying cars, replicators, and computers that recognize your face and let you log in just by looking at them. While we may have to wait a bit longer for the cars and the replicators, we can have face recognition right now, and it's surprisingly affordable. I took a look at BioTrust ($13), and it took a look right back at me.
The first thing I noticed about BioTrust was the sheer heft of its installer. At over 300MB, it cannot be described as lightweight. Once installed, though, it did not seem to slow down my computer or negatively impact performance in any other way.
Since BioTrust replaces Windows' own log-in dialog, you will have to reboot your computer immediately after installing. The next thing you'll do is enroll your face into the system. The Enrollment Wizard uses a concept called "scenes," where each scene is composed of multiple images of your face from different angles. BioTrust has you look at different spots on the screen, and takes snapshots of your face as you turn your head. It face recognition algorithm is quite clever: I tried to strike a Dr. Evil pose with my hand on my chin and a raised eyebrow, but BioTrust would have none of my shenanigans and simply rejected the images.
When was the last time you've used a search engine? If you are like most Internet users, it was probably less than an hour ago--possibly much less. But what about a local search engine for your own desktop, like X1 Desktop Search ($50, 14-day free trial)?
When Windows 7 first came out, one of its revolutionary new features was the instant-search box at the bottom of the Start menu. You could now hit the Start button and start typing the name of an application or a document, and it would instantly pop up, ready to run. If you've used previous versions of Windows, you might have noticed the boost to productivity that comes with instant search.
Now take that concept of instant search, and expand it across all of your documents -- not just filenames, but content too. That includes PDF files, Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, even Outlook tasks and e-mail correspondence in several clients popular for home and business use (Lotus Notes & Domino, Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express, and Mozilla Thunderbird). With X1 Desktop Search, you need to type only a fragment of text, and results appear before you're even done typing. It's significantly faster than Windows 7's built-in search, while going through much more content.
My initial interest in SVA Software's D_back backup program was due its "back up your PC on insert" capabilities. There are plenty of programs that will back up a USB drive to your PC when it's inserted, but only a few that backup your PC to said USB drive as D_back ($37, 21/day free trial) will. The program has some other unique features and worked quite well once configured, but it's a bit rough around the edges and not particularly intuitive.
Why was I interested in the "backup on insert"? Because I've been doing it for years with external drives, using the autorun.inf file and batch files. Unfortunately, in the name of security, Windows 7 won't run the autorun.inf file. Now the only solution is a program such as D_back that sits in the background waiting for a drive to be inserted.
D_back's comprehensive scheduler, which facilitates the "on insert" backup, has a separate interface and may run either in the background or as a service. It's a bit tricky to set up an "on insert" backup, but there's a step-by-step tutorial on developer SVA-Software's Website. Thankfully, you may limit the backup to only a device with a specific volume label so that you don't back up to every portable storage device you insert--a trick I wish CrashPlan would emulate.
RealWorld Icon Editor ($47, 30-day free trial)is really four programs--a basic photo editor, a 3D modeler, a picture creator, and a tool that makes static icons from the images you create. The icon-creating tool automatically generates a variety of sizes from 16 pixels square to 256 pixels square; a choice of smooth edges, 256 colors, or 16 colors; and allows you to save a variety of formats optimizing your image as an icon, avatar, or favicon for either PC or Mac. It's available in 32-bit ond 64-bit versions.
To turn an existing photo into an image suitable for making into an icon will seem familiar to anyone who's used an photo editor. Open any .jpg, .tif, .psd, .gif, .png, or .bmp file in RealWorld Icon Editor and crop, resize, touch-up, and paint over the image using paint brush, eraser, and fill tools. You can also add stock images, backgrounds, and textures from an included library of royalty-free graphics and dingbats, or just add text and draw freehand.
Brilliantly, Icon Editor will save the adapted image as a .jpg, .bmp, or .png at your original resolution, however large, meaning that you don't need a separate graphic design program to match your icons, avatars, favicons, and even logos and other art in your Web and print branding. Once you have your basic design saved in its native format, one click sends it to the next step: transforming it into multiple icons, avatars, or favicons.
A music player that focuses solely on music? It may seem like a novel idea these days, when most music players have become full-fledged audio and video eco-systems. But that's exactly what Clementine is: a simple, free music player that offers a full range of tools to allow you to get the most out of your music collection.
The multi-platform app (also available for Mac and various Linux distributions) was inspired by Amarok, a Linux-based music player, and is designed to offer the same fast performance and easy-to-use interface. And while I've never tested Amarok, I can say that Clementine succeeds on its own. You install the app, point it at your music library and wait while it indexes your files. The process is fast; it indexed my mid-sized collection of tunes in just a couple of minutes.
Once Clementine is running, you'll notice its playlist-centric interface. The main window displays the playlist you're enjoying, while the left-side panels allow you to browse through more songs by artist or album. Clementine's playlist handling is excellent; you can create smart playlists (such as "50 random tracks" or "Never played") and you can build playlists on the fly simply by dragging tracks to the main window.
There are plenty of good reasons to install a piece of remote control or remote access software on your home computer. If you're travelling, for example, and there's something sitting on your home computer that you absolutely must get your hands on, this kind of program can make the task virtually headache-free. It's also a handy way to tinker with your basement computer when you're hiding out upstairs--or doing a little relaxed laptop surfing in the back yard on a summer day. Remote Utilities ($20 for the home version, 30-day free trial) sets out to do exactly that, with some success; its complexity makes it a better fit for power users than for average home users.
Like other similar programs, Remote Utilities requires the installation of its server software on the computer(s) you'd like to be able to access remotely and a viewer that gets installed on the computer you'll be making connections from. You can access your server systems from anywhere in the world, as long as both the server and viewer have an active Internet connection.
For power users, there's plenty to like about Remote Utilities. Several connection modes are offered beyond the full remote desktop experience. There's also a file transfer mode, remote device manager, registry viewer, remote webcam access, and a terminal mode--which is an excellent way to perform simple command line tasks from a distance.