It’s no secret that Ubuntu is heading for desktop/ mobile convergence, with a runs-everywhere build expected within a year. But while 13.04 (“Raring Ringtail”) shows some signs of movement in that direction, the new release isn’t exactly packed with new features: in fact, it’s taken one or two away.
Of course there’s no harm in consolidating your code base occasionally, and Canonical appear to have done that to good effect. They claim that it’s the fastest Ubuntu experience to date, with an updated kernel delivering “dramatic graphical performance enhancements”, reduced RAM requirements and more. And while this might be aimed at helping the system run on mobile devices, it’s also very welcome for regular desktop users.
Ashampoo has announced the release of Photo Commander 11, its all-in-one tool for organizing, editing and sharing digital images.
New features this time start with the program’s automatic backups. Images are preserved as you work, and with a click you can restore a previous copy, or return to the original file.
No matter how strong your PC’s defences, there’s still a chance that a virus will be able to bypass them, eventually. And so it pays to have a Plan B, a “second opinion” malware remover which you can turn to in an emergency: something like Hitman Pro, in fact.
The tool is a relatively small download at under 10MB, and doesn’t require any installation. Just launch it, click Next > Next, and the program will quickly scan your system, looking for suspicious files. Anything it doesn’t recognize is sent to the program’s Scan Cloud, where it’s checked by multiple engines (Bitdefender, Emsisoft, G Data, IKARUS) before a verdict is given.
Even when they appear idle, PCs are forever buzzing with background activity, as Windows and application processes save data to log files, tweak Registry keys and carry out assorted other updates. Normally this can be safely ignored, but sometimes -- if you think you’ve just installed malware, say, and would like to check what it’s done -- then you might wonder what’s changed on your system in the past few minutes.
And that’s where DiffView comes in. If you want to find out more about recent activities on your PC, then you’ll first need to tell DiffView where you’d like it to scan. Clicking the Files tab reveals an Explorer-type view where you can select particular folders – \Windows, say, or \Program Files – while the Registry tab allows you to select a particular area of the Registry.
If you regularly try out freeware tools then you’ll know many come bundled with annoying adware. This can use all kinds of dubious tactics to install itself on your PC, and getting rid of these irritations later can be a problem (even if you remove the core code, remnants usually remain to clutter your system).
Fortunately there are plenty of tools around to help clean up your PC -- and Junkware Removal Tool is just about the simplest we’ve ever seen.
And the company is particularly highlighting its new CloseGap technology, which apparently “provides fast, effective protection against computer malware, based on a balanced combination of reactive and proactive malware detection techniques”.
Every time you create, modify or access a folder on your PC, Windows records these details in the Registry. There’s nothing shady about this -- the action is a key part of recording your folder view settings, and maintaining a list of your favorite folders -- but it does introduce a privacy risk, as snoopers can use the data to track some of your PC activities.
Exactly how much information is exposed here will vary, but if you’re not already familiar with the issue then it makes sense to check your PC with the free ShellBag AnalyZer & Cleaner. There’s no adware, no installation required, just download and launch the program and in a few seconds you’ll have the full picture.
Anonymous proxies can be a very useful privacy tool, hiding your IP address from websites, and perhaps allowing you to bypass local restrictions on the websites and pages you can visit.
The technology can also be complicated, interfering with your regular network settings, and drastically cutting your online performance, of course. But Freegate proves that it doesn’t have to be that way.
If you’ve spent some time exploring the world of free PC paint programs, then you’ll know that most of them look much like any other application. There are menus here, ribbons there, toolbars, flyouts -- it’s all very familiar, if not particularly likely to inspire your creativity.
The OpenGL-based SpeedyPainter, though, takes a different approach. It strips the interface down to the basics, reducing all the usual distractions to the absolute minimum, and instead concentrates on delivering a clean, simple and straightforward painting experience.
The PC world is packed with supposed performance-boosting suites, most of which are almost exactly the same. You’ll have a program to list your Startup programs, another one to delete your temporary internet files, a few system tweaking options – all very predictable (and, usually, not even that effective).
The news that Synei are introducing a very similar range of free tools -- a disk cleaner, services optimiser, startup manager and more -- probably won’t fill you with excitement, then. But wait: while the tools are far from perfect, there’s more than enough functionality here to make them very interesting.
Adobe has announced the first public beta of Photoshop Lightroom 5. And while a first look suggests this isn’t the most major of upgrades, there are still some worthwhile improvements to be found.
A new one-click Upright tool can analyse your images and detect tilted lines, for instance. You can choose a correction method, but otherwise the program will straighten images all on its own.
Saving a document as a PDF generally produces a very small file, which is one reason the format is such a popular way to share information.
This isn’t always the case, though. And so if it’s important your documents are as compact as they can possibly be, then you might like to try shrinking them even further, with a little help from the free (for personal and non-commercial use) ORPALIS PDF Reducer Free.
Already well known for its easy-to-use iOS and Android photo editing apps, Fotor has just entered the desktop market with the release of the free Fotor 1.0.0 for Desktop and Mac.
And while the program is relatively simple, oriented more to quick optimizations rather than complex edits, it’s also very easy to use, and has more than enough functionality to justify a download.
If you’re working on some important PC task and want to avoid distractions, then maximizing your program window is usually a good place to start. But if you need to monitor several programs -- or the window just can’t be maximized -- then Le Dimmer may offer a more interesting approach.
The program is tiny, portable, and has just a single task: after launching, it dims everything on your desktop apart from the current window.
Keyboard task switching under Windows normally means repeatedly pressing Alt+Tab or Win+Tab, cycling through your running applications until you find what you need. But this is a more direct way. If you see you required program is, say, the 7th button on the taskbar, then pressing Win+7 will launch it directly.
When your taskbar is cluttered then of course it may take a moment to figure out exactly which number any particular button might be. But that’s where the free 7+ Taskbar Numberer comes in. The program can add number overlays to each of your taskbar buttons, helping you identify them at a glance.