Mike Williams

Track your PC activities with ManicTime

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ManicTime is a free activity tracker which can monitor exactly what you’re doing on a PC, then give you a detailed breakdown of which apps you were running, when, and for how long.

The program is aimed at business users who need to bill others for their time, but it can have other benefits. If you’re easily distracted, say, then seeing exactly how much time you’re spending on desktop games could be an important reality check.

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PeaZip gets a novice-friendly spinoff: PeaExtractor

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PeaZip Software has announced the release of PeaExtractor, a PeaZip spinoff which can extract the contents from 150+ archive types: 7Z, ACE, BZ2, CAB, GZ, ISO, RAR, TAR, ZIP and more.

The program can’t create archives, it’s strictly about extraction only, keeping the entire process as quick and beginner-friendly as possible.

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SunsetScreen dims your PC screen at night

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Skytopia has released SunsetScreen, a free tool for Windows XP and later which automatically reduces the glare on your screen at night.

In theory, reducing your exposure to blue light in the evenings may help avoid problems with melatonin production, and so give you a more restful sleep. But even if that doesn’t work, having the screen match your current lighting conditions could make your computer more comfortable to use.

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Z-Cron is a smart PC task scheduler

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Z-Cron is a free-for-personal-use Windows tool which advertises itself as a "task control tool", something which can "have programs of all kinds started automatically by the system even if no user is logged in".

This isn't the most compelling of descriptions, as Windows Task Manager does the same thing already -- but wait. Z-Cron is more capable than it seems.

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Windows Repair 3.0 debuts Pro version, new PC fixes

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Tweaking.com has announced the release of Windows Repair v3.0.0 and Windows Repair Portable v3.0.0, the latest editions of its one-stop troubleshooting toolkit.

The package now comes in both Free and Pro editions. This doesn't affect the free version much -- nothing has been taken away, there are no nag screens -- but the $19.95 Pro build includes extras like performance tweaks, better disk cleanup and custom scripting support.

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Microsoft EMET blocks 'VBScript God Mode'

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Microsoft has updated its exploit blocker Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET) to version 5.2 with some welcome tweaks and enhancements.

The Attack Surface Reduction mitigation has been extended to stop processes running malicious scripts via IE’s script engine. That’s good news as it’s a particularly powerful hack, and the basic "VBScript God Mode" idea has been around for quite some time.

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Alfred turns unused smartphones into surveillance cams

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Do you have an unused Android smartphone? It might be yesterday’s model, but Alfred can give it new life, turning the device into your very own home surveillance camera.

Setup starts by running Alfred on the phone you’ll be using as a monitor. Configure it as the camera, and log in with your Google account.

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Read QR codes on the Windows desktop with BarCode Reader

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The easiest way to scan the occasional QR code is on your phone. Install one of the many QR Reader apps, point your camera at it, and you’re done: it’ll detect the code, read the text and maybe act on it, for example opening your browser at a URL.

ByteScout BarCode Reader is a free tool which brings the same QR-reading abilities to the Windows desktop, and adds a lot of other functionality as well.

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What's being connected to your PC? Device Cleanup Tool explains

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If you’d like to know what someone’s doing on your PC then you’ll probably start with any software traces: browsing history, recent documents, folders, whatever it might be. There are all kinds of options, and they might tell you everything you need to know.

While they’re not so obvious, hardware traces can also be extremely useful. If you could see that an unknown phone or USB key is being connected to your PC at a strange time, say, then maybe someone is using the device to copy your personal documents.

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IObit's Smart Defrag 4 adds Game Defrag, new engine

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IObit has announced the release of Smart Defrag 4.0, a major update for its freeware PC maintenance app.

A new Game Defrag mode brings program-specific speedups. Just point Smart Defrag at a shortcut or executable -- it doesn’t have to be a game, any bulky application could benefit -- and the program will optimize it for you.

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Google Calendar for iPhone released

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Google has announced the release of its Google Calendar app for iPhone, an iOS version of the Android app released late last year.

Both editions are strong on scheduling, taking gmails like flight bookings and hotel reservations and automatically turning them into calendar events.

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PSPad is a versatile programmer's editor

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What is a "programmer’s editor"? Some developers seem to think it’s essentially a regular text editor with syntax highlighting bolted on, but if you need more, you might want to take a look at the free PSPad for Windows.

The program doesn’t just open local text files, for instance. A built-in FTP client means you can edit files directly on the server. An "Open… from internet" opens any URL, and an integrated hex editor enables you to work on just about anything.

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Find hidden data on your computer with PCFerret

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How well do you know your PC, the data it holds, how it’s really being used by others? PCFerret is a freeware tool for Windows Vista and later which claims it can help you find out.

Despite the intriguing pitch, PCFerret opens with a relatively ordinary system information report. It covers the core details you’d expect -- hardware, network, drive statistics, user accounts etc -- and can be saved to HTML for easy sharing, but it can’t compete with the more specialist competition.

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FotoSketcher gains amazing 'brushstrokes' effect

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David Thoirin has announced the release of FotoSketcher 3.00, a freeware Windows application for transforming digital photos into works of art.

The headline addition this time is a new Painting 10 (brushstrokes) effect, which turns your source image into a painting -- complete with the look of layered brush strokes -- in a couple of clicks.

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Turn videos into self-playing EXEs with Audio/Video to EXE

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When creating media files to share with others, it's normally best to save them in a standard format, maybe MP3 or MP4, something you know just about everything in the world can play.

Audio/Video to EXE is a free tool which does something a little different, converting almost any audio or video format into a stand-alone executable. Launch the file and it just plays your media, no other player or codecs required.

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