Articles about Know Your PC

It's free! WinZip for Windows 8

zip compression keyboard

WinZip Computing has announced that its WinZip for Windows 8 app is now available for free.

This represents a fairly swift change of direction, as it’s not even three months since the app first appeared in the Windows Store with a price tag of $7.99.

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LastPass improves security and launches new Windows 8 app

login password identity

Browser password manager LastPass 2.0.20 has been released for all major web browsers. The new release, also available for 64-bit versions of Windows is accompanied by the LastPass for Windows 8 app, which gives users access to their LastPass account directly from the Modern UI interface in Windows 8.

Version 2.0.20 now automatically calculates the user’s security score and displays it next to the Security Challenge link in the user’s vault. It also extends support -- albeit in beta -- to the Maxthon web browser.

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Scarab Darkroom lets you view and edit RAW images


Take a photo with most digital cameras and by default you’ll get a JPG file, which is great for compatibility purposes, but does involve some compromises in image quality. And that’s because your picture will go through various processes before the final JPG is produced -- sharpening, adjusting colors and contrast, compressing the results -- and each step results in the loss of some information.

Take pictures using a camera’s RAW format, though (if it has one), will give you access to the full and unprocessed image data. And you can then apply any tweaks you like on a case by case basis, for the best possible results. You’ll probably need a specialist tool to access the RAW images, but that may not be a problem: Scarab Darkroom, for instance, is a very capable RAW converter with support for cameras by Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax, Samsung, and Sony, and you can download it and it entirely for free.

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GIMP 2.8.4 adds improvements and polish to the popular image editor

Gimp logo

Popular open-source image editor GIMP 2.8.4 FINAL has been released for Linux and Windows, with a Mac binary build due for release imminently. Version 2.8.4 is a minor stability release, but does contain a number of interesting improvements, including more responsive drawing -- particularly with the brush outline tool -- plus better names for the default filters when saving or exporting.

GIMP 2.8.4 will also be the second OS X release that runs natively on the Mac -- 2.8.0 and earlier required X11, and many improvements in this release are aimed specifically at that platform.

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BurnAware 6.0 released -- offers an updated authoring engine, disc error checker and more

CD DVD optical disc

Windows disc-burning tool BurnAware 6.0 Free has been released. This major update, also available with additional features as BurnAware 6.0 Premium (rebadged from Home Edition) and BurnAware 6.0 Professional, comes with an updated burning engine and a number of new features, including a new tool for checking discs for read errors.

BurnAware 6.0 also ships with a number of improvements, including the grouping of all burning elements at the bottom of the main form, and a number of notable bug fixes.

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Record everything on screen and create quality presentations with ActivePresenter Free

Presentation powerpoint audience boardroom classroom

When you’re creating a presentation, a demonstration, a software tutorial, or just trying to show someone else what’s happening on your desktop, then you could just take and save screen grabs at the appropriate moments. But while that sounds simple enough, it’s not exactly convenient. You’ll have plenty of work to do later in converting your grabs into something meaningful. And even then, the finished results may not be that professional.

Fortunately ActivePresenter Free offers a more capable alternative. It’s a powerful screen recorder which can track everything you’re doing, and automatically add some useful annotations. You can then quickly customize the results with an excellent editor, before saving your project as images (JPEG, PNG) or video (WMV, AVI, MPEG4, WebM).

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Replace Notepad with the powerful and smarter EverEdit


Windows Notepad may be easy to use, but it’s also horribly basic, and so it’s no surprise that an entire industry has grown up in providing more powerful alternatives. Some, like Notepad++, have become famous in themselves, but there are also plenty of powerful but lesser-known tools around, and EverEdit is one of the most interesting.

The program gets off to a good start with its ultra-compact 1.25MB download, for instance. There’s no installation, no adware, not as much as a "Donate" button -- just unzip the file somewhere and you’re ready to go immediately.

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Get live TV and PVR working in XBMC

TV television

When Team XBMC recently announced the launch of XBMC 12.0 FINAL, fans of the media center alternative rejoiced. Version 12.0 didn’t just extend to support to even more platforms -- including the Raspberry PI and Android -- it also introduced a number of new high-end features too, including support for HD audio as well as live TV and PVR.

PVR -- in case you didn’t already know -- stands for Personal Video Recorder, and allows you to turn your PC into a tool for recording all your favorite TV shows. However, while XBMC 12.0 adds support for PVR, it takes a little setting up. Here’s what you need to do.

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Set System Restore points from the command line

laptop keyboard fingers

Windows System Restore is usually an excellent technology. Your PC creates Restore Points automatically at key times, and if disaster strikes then you can restore your system settings or key files in a click or two. It all seems very reliable -- until, that is, you need to use a Restore Point and then your system hasn’t been creating any for quite some time.

The reality is there are all kinds of problems which can affect System Restore. At the simplest, another user might have accidentally turned it off. But it can also be disabled via Windows policies, or just stop working altogether if you have issues with WMI or your Windows services. And that’s why it might be useful to have a copy of QuickSystemRestore around as a backup plan.

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Dukto shares files fast with 'buddies' on your LAN

File Sharing

Sharing files across your network sounds like it should be simple, but the reality is often very different. There are lots of factors to consider -- the basic LAN setup, protocols, users, permissions, and more -- and if you’re trying to connect different platforms as well then life will only get more complex.

If your networking needs are simple, though, Dukto could offer a more appealing approach. It’s a straightforward tool which runs on Windows, OS X, Linux, Symbian and iOS, and helps you transfer files or folders across your LAN without any hassles at all.

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Keep your passwords safe from prying eyes with KeePass 2.21

security password lock

Open-source password management tool KeePass 2.21 has been released. Version 2.21, also available as a standalone portable build, adds a number of new features, including a hex viewer mode, support for a user-defined group separator in the Generic CSV Importer and various tweaks, improvements and bug fixes.

KeePass is designed to act a single, central repository for a user’s sensitive data, from logons to credit card details. This information is encrypted with a single, master password, allowing the user to securely lock away their personal details when not required.

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Attribute Changer lets you tweak file attributes, date stamps, metadata and more

kid child computer PC

When Windows Explorer doesn’t immediately provide all the information you need on a file or folder, a quick right-click > Properties will give you easy access to assorted other low-level details: attributes, date stamps, metadata and so on. But the standard Properties dialog has several limitations. It doesn’t show all the file attributes, for instance (Hidden and System are missing, others are a little hidden), while details such as file stamps are displayed, but can’t be edited.

If you’d like to take better control of your file and folder properties, then, you’ll need to get a little help from a third-party tool. And Attribute Changer‘s lengthy feature list suggests it could be a great place to start.

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'Infinite' cloud storage service Bitcasa set to leave beta


There are no shortage of services that can backup your data to the cloud, but now the likes of Carbonite and Crashplan have a bit more competition in the market.

Over the weekend, Bitcasa, which has generated a lot of buzz recently, sent out an email to its early testers to alert them that the service would be leaving beta on Tuesday February 5th.

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Lock down almost any PC with Deskman

If there’s an aspect of your PC which you don’t like then it can normally be changed very quickly: a right-click option here, maybe launch a Control Panel applet there, install a new program perhaps, and the system should soon be more suited to your needs.

But while this configurability is great on your own computer, it’s a real problem when you want a PC to be much more restrictive: a system which you’ll install in a school, say, or a business. What you’ll probably want to do then is set up some basic configuration, and make sure your users can’t do anything to change it -- and that’s where Deskman comes in.

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Best Windows 8 apps this week


Fourteenth in a series. Microsoft continues to publish updates for the apps that ship with Windows 8 natively. Both the finance and weather application have been updated this week. However, it is not clear what changed as Microsoft did not update the release notes yet.

As far as total numbers of applications go: the Windows Store in the US lists 21,208 free apps and 6,074 paid apps as of this morning for a total of  27,282 apps. That's an increase of 970 apps this week, which falls in line with past performances. While we have seen slower weeks, app numbers consistently grow by about a 1,000 each week.

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