Mike Williams

Check internet speed and web page download times with Speedtest for Chrome

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Speedtest is a free Chrome extension which allows testing your internet connection speeds and web page download time. It gives you access to the core of the Speedtest.net website in a click or two, wherever you are on the web.

Click Speedtest’s icon at any time and a panel appears. By default this displays the name of the currently displayed page, and the time it took to load.

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Monitor and analyze your network traffic with SmartSniff

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We recently wrote about Microsoft Message Analyzer, and explained how it could be used to monitor and better understand your network and internet traffic.

It’s a hugely powerful tool, but also bulky and with an intimidating interface. If you’d prefer something more lightweight, then as usual, NirSoft might have the answer.

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How you might get hacked by a Chrome extension

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Malware isn’t just about native executables or rogue apps, not any more -- a malicious browser extension can cause almost as many problems on all your devices at once.

With the right permissions, for example, your new Chrome add-on could steal your user credentials, post as you on social media, read your emails, help launch a DDoS attack, and more.

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Browsing Firefox's hidden browsing history with Pin Patrol

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If you’re wondering what someone’s been doing in Firefox then you could check the browser history, but if they’ve deleted it, along with any cookies, cache or logins, you won’t learn very much.

What isn’t so obvious is that Firefox has a hidden browsing history which records some of the sites you’ve visited, and isn’t removed when you wipe the official "Browsing & Download History".

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Bennett monitors Bluetooth signal strength on a PC -- sometimes

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If you’re having problems connecting your laptop to a wireless device or network, there are a host of tools to help you view what’s in range and its signal strength. If you’re having trouble with Bluetooth, it’s a different story. The standard Windows applets might list available devices but you’ll see little, if any information about them.

Bennett is a tiny portable tool which displays extra details on your Bluetooth adapter and in-range devices, and might be able to monitor their signal strength.

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Automatically generate abstract art with Mondriaan Creator

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Even if you don’t know Piet Mondriaan’s name, you’ll probably recognize the Dutch painter’s distinctive geometric style: white background and a black grid, partly filled with primary colors.

It’s not an approach that appeals to everyone, but if you’re interested then you can now generate new Mondriaan-style images with the free Mondriaan Creator.

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Create stylish coding snapshots with Marmoset

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You’re building a website, presentation, maybe a CV listing your many coding skills, and would like some kind of graphic to illustrate that section. But what should it be?

Forget the usual clipart, install the Chrome app Marmoset instead, and it’ll help you create a stylish presentation-ready code snapshot in seconds.

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Launch programs, websites, or type text with Clavier+

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Clavier+ is a simple macro manager which enables launching programs, opening websites or inserting text with your chosen hotkey. The program has been around for years, but still works well on even the very latest PCs.

Installation is quick and easy, no real surprise as the entire program folder used only 1.24MB of our hard drive (and 1.13MB of that was the uninstaller).

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Take full control of your default browser with Browser Chooser

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Set up a new PC and one of the first things you’ll do is install and choose a default browser, which then handles all your website-viewing needs. This mostly works fine, but you might want to open some links in different browsers: intranet in IE, YouTube in Chrome to use an extension you’ve found, your bank in a secure browser, whatever it might be.

Browser Chooser 2 is an open-source tool which helps you control the browser that’s launched in any given situation.

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View and extract files from Inno Setup installers with InnoEx

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Run a "setup.exe" on your PC and there’s no way to tell what might happen next. Will it install adware, hundreds of system files, maybe just a single executable? Who knows?

InnoEx is a free portable tool which can display the contents of some setup files, without having to install them first.

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MemTest86 7.0 now faster, detects more RAM errors

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PassMark Software has shipped MemTest86 7.0, a major update for the veteran memory diagnostic tool. Testing now runs in Parallel CPU Mode by default, as long as it’s supported by the UEFI firmware, significantly improving performance.

Smarter testing for the row hammer effect should result in the detection of more "disturbance errors", where memory cells may interfere with each other’s operation and change their values.

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Capture and explore network traffic with Microsoft Message Analyzer

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Microsoft Message Analyzer is an expert-oriented tool for capturing, displaying and analyzing network traffic, file activity, Windows Events and device activities on Windows 7 or later systems.

This data may be filtered and presented in grids, charts, graphs, timelines and more. While the program is aimed at developers and system admins, if you’re comfortable with tools like Sysinternals Process Monitor then you could also find it handy.

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Investigate suspect EXEs with Professional PE Explorer

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Professional PE Explorer is a portable tool which allows investigating Windows executables including EXE files, SYS, DLL and more.

The download is so tiny you’ll wonder if it’s broken -- 78.1KB, really? -- but no, this is all you get. Unzip it and run PPEE.exe to get started.

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DisCoverJ automatically finds cover art for your MP3s

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While there are endless MP3 tag editors around, cover art support is often basic, if it’s included at all. DisCoverJ is a Java-based editor which focuses solely on cover art, automatically locating, downloading and tagging your MP3s with the right images.

Installation is straightforward on Windows, Linux and Mac. There’s no adware or other hassles and you’re ready to go in seconds.

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Transform pictures into mosaics or abstract art with Pattaizer

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Many graphics tools offer some sort of mosaic effect, but it’s often very basic, "let’s pixelate the image a bit and hope for the best". Pattaizer is more imaginative, and can transform your pictures using a host of mosaic-related and more abstract effects.

Some of these appear to be based on fairly standard mosaic effects, for example replacing blocks of pixels with hexagons or lego bricks. But a "Deform control" adds a random variation to every individual component of the image, ensuring you get far more interesting results.

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