Posts Tagged ‘Utility’

Geosetter and GPS Logger

A while back I blogged about Geosetter, a tool used for geotagging digital photos. In the past, I’ve used it to manually assign locations to photos I’ve taken. This isn’t much fun, and it is easy to forget where I’ve taken a photo before I get a chance to geotag them. Thanks to Reddit, though, I’ve discovered a much better way to do it automatically by using GPSLogger on my phone. I run it on my phone while I’m taking pictures, then Geosetter can take the .GPS file that GPSLogger exports and automatically tag all of the photos by matching the time it was taken to where you were based on the log file. Neat! I used it for my Twin Cities Pride album, and despite the noisiness inherent in consumer-grade GPS, it worked very well.

Useful Computer Utilities: KeePass

Some time ago I blogged about the password manager I had been using for many years: Password Safe. It’s a great program, one that I recommend wholeheartedly. However, I’ve since switched to a new manager: KeePass. Like Password Safe, it is a pretty functional password manager that allows you to automatically generate and save passwords. Also like Password Safe, KeePass is open-source.

Why did I switch? Well, essentially because I like the interface and functions better in KeePass. The UI looks a bit better, and there is a graphical representation of how strong a password is. Other than that, though, it’s almost identical to Password Safe. Password Safe is even a bit easier to use for the novice, as it doesn’t have quite as many options to fiddle with as KeePass. One issue with KeePass 2.x is that is requires the .NET architecture, which isn’t always available, especially if you plan on using it on a computer that you don’t have control over.

I’d unhesitantly recommend either of the two for your password manager needs. Play with both of them and decide which one you like better. But pick and use some kind of manager. Using strong, random passwords is an important part of security, and password managers help make doing so simpler.

Clonezilla update

A while back I posted about moving from Ghost to Clonezilla. Many months have passed, and after using it to roll out a bit less than a hundred computers, I thought I’d give an update.

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Moving from Ghost to Clonezilla

Update: In addition to this post, check out my guide on customizing custom-ocs.

In a previous post, I talked about using disk imaging software for setting up Windows in a corporate environment. For years, I’ve used Symantec Ghost, specifically Ghost 8. I’d previously manually run Ghost from a network drive, booting from a custom floppy bootdisk with a DOS Novell client to allow me to log into our network (we still use Novell). A couple of years ago, I switched to running Ghost from an external USB hard drive that stored all the image files. To make it even more automatic, I wrote a tiny utility in assembly that reads the model info from the computer’s BIOS and uses the correct image file.

As time went on, though, the shortcomings of Ghost became apparent. The biggest one is speed: by running Ghost in a DOS environment, I was limited to USB 1.1 speeds. Ghosting a 20 GB Windows 7 partition would take around 40 minutes. When you are ghosting many machines at once, the quicker you can do it, the better. I knew of a great, free alternative in Clonezilla, but would it work for what I needed?

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Computer Utility: WinRAR and 7-Zip

It’s harder and harder to come up with these good computer utilities, but here’s one I use just about every day: WinRAR. It’s a file compression/decompression utility that supports many file formats, with a nice GUI. However, it’s main use for me is its command-line options: it has a very powerful set of options, and it is what I used to back up my data files on a nightly basis. WinRAR isn’t free; it is shareware, and although it has a nag screen it doesn’t keep you from using it. It’s so vital for me, though, that I gladly paid for it.

If you want a totally free version, 7-Zip fits the bill. It’s almost as full-featured as WinRAR, and for a while I tried it out. The command-line options are not as good, however, which is why I stopped using it. If you are just looking for a Windows graphical file compressor/decompressor, however, 7-Zip is perfect.

Computer Utility: Knoppix

It’s hard to call an entire OS a “utility”, but Knoppix, a distro of Linux on a live CD, has come to my rescue many, many times. By far, the most common situation I find myself in where I am using Knoppix is when I’m faced with a Windows box that gives me a bluescreen on boot due to missing or corrupted boot files or virus problems. I simply boot from the Knoppix CD, plug in a flash drive, and copy all of the data I can from that NTFS partition. Once I’ve saved the data, I can reinstall Windows to fix the problem. And of course, being a distro of Linux, Knoppix allows you to do far more than just copy data. It’s definitely a CD or DVD everybody should have.

Computer Utility: Ultimate Boot CD

If you don’t have the Ultimate Boot CD in your CD collection, you should. It lives up to its name: its got pretty much everything you need to do maintenance on a computer: hard disk diagnostics, disk wiping tools, partitioning, memory and processor tests…it even has DOS boot disks in case you want to pull out that old DOS version of X-Wing and play it. It comes in handy quite frequently, so download and burn yourself a copy today.

Computer Utility: PDF Split and Merge

I really don’t like working with PDF files. They have silly DRM that interferes with your ability to copy and paste, they crash browser, they can be huge if incorrectly generated, they are generally not accessible to people who need to use special software like screen readers, sometimes you can’t search them…in short, they usually suck. Unfortunately, sometimes you have no choice but to deal with them. Most of the time, PDFs are a read-only affair if you don’t shell out for Adobe Acrobat (another reason why they suck). But if you ever need to merge several PDFs into one, or split a PDF file into several files, PDF Split and Merge is a free, open-source utility for doing just that. The interface is Java Swing and can be a bit hard to figure out at first, but it works like a charm. It will make you stop hating PDFs, for a moment at least.

Computer Utility: WinSCP

Every once in a while, you need a good FTP client. For Windows, I use WinSCP. It’s pretty simple to use, it allows you to save login information, and it has a good bunch of features. My only quibble with it is that it defaults to SFTP as the protocol, but as long as you remember to switch it back to FTP when appropriate, it works like a charm.

Computer Utility: CutePDF Writer

I hate PDF files for many reasons, but there are times when creating a PDF is useful, such as when you want to have an electronic copy of a document instead of printing out a paper copy. Many programs these days now come with integrated PDF converters, such as Open Office and even Microsoft Office, but there are plenty of programs out there that don’t. When you want a PDF version of a document and the program you are using can’t give you one, CutePDF Writer is the answer. It installs as a printer on your computer, so all you have to do is print that document to the CutePDF printer, and voilà! CutePDF has helped me eschew paper for electronic archiving many times.

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