Articles about Know Your PC

Turn off Windows 8’s most annoying features with Skip Metro Suite 3.0

Skip Metro Suite

What are you doing, standing there tentatively at the edge of the pool? Come on in, the water’s lovely and warm. What, it’s not as lovely and warm as the last pool you were in? Someone says it’s as bad as the pool you were in before that? Poppycock. It’s nowhere near as rubbish as that. What’s that hulking great thing in the corner, you say? Ignore it, you don’t need it.

All of this is a rather convoluted way of saying Windows 8 is not as bad as everyone is making out. But there is that one rather large elephant in the room in the form of the Modern UI, or whatever Microsoft’s calling it these days. But here’s the trick: you can ignore it all with the help of a free -- and now portable -- tool called Skip Metro Suite 3.0.

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Identify resource-hogging Firefox add-ons with about:addons-memory

firefox

If Firefox seems to be using a lot of memory on your system then a resource-hogging add-on could be responsible, but finding out for sure can be a challenge. Entering about:memory in the address bar will provide lots of figures on RAM allocations, for instance, but they’re extremely technical, more about "heaps" and "compartments" than providing information which most people can actually use.

About:addons-memory is a simple Firefox extension which takes a different approach. There’s no jargon, no unnecessary technical details, just install it (no restart required) and enter about:addons-memory in a new tab for an instant report on your extensions and their memory usage.

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JAlbum 11 adds support for video clips alongside photos

jalbum

Web gallery creation tool JAlbum 11.0 has been released for Windows, Mac and Linux. Version 11.0 allows users to combine video with photos for the first time using the program. Features include support for over 160 video formats, tools for rotating and trimming clips, and preview image generation.

Version 11.0 also improves existing photo-editing tools, updates existing skins and includes a number of developer-friendly improvements, bug fixes and general tweaks.

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Use YouTube Ratings Preview to find the best videos on YouTube

Youtube television

While YouTube’s vast choice of clips means there’s always something good to watch, tracking down the best videos can take a while. Especially if you’re clicking each clip in turn, checking the ratings, then returning to your search results to try something else.

Install YouTube Ratings Preview, though, and you don’t have to worry about that any more. This smart Firefox extension (also available for Chrome) highlights the best-rated videos immediately so you can spot them at a glance.

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Taskbar Pinner lets you pin anything to the Windows 7 taskbar

Pin thumbtack

Getting easier access to a Windows 7 shortcut is extremely easy: right-click, select "Pin to taskbar", and an icon will pop up on your taskbar, ready for immediate use.

Right-click a file, though -- or a folder, a drive, a Control Panel applet or just about anything else -- and you’ll find no "Pin" option. There are various manual workarounds you can apply, but your life will be much simpler if you grab a copy of Taskbar Pinner, which allows you to fill the taskbar with just about anything you like.

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Dropbox desktop client gets a makeover and real-time notifications

File Sharing

File-sharing Dropbox has updated its desktop client for Windows, Mac and Linux with the release of Dropbox 2.0 FINAL. The new build debuts a major revamp of the user interface, accessed when the user clicks the app’s menu bar or Taskbar Notification area icon.

At the present time, the new menu system is only available to Windows users running XP or later, and Mac users running Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6) or later -- it has not yet been implemented in the Linux build.

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Soluto: Our vision has always been to let people do more with their technology [Q&A]

Fix repair computer solution keyboard

I've been a user, and a fan, of Soluto since the Tel Aviv-based PC management service launched back in 2010. It helped me reduce my boot time by a few seconds, but more importantly it halved the boot time of my in-laws' PC. A move to the cloud means the service now lets me remotely solve issues on several PCs belonging to less tech-savvy friends and family, and I'd definitely recommend it.

Soluto offers various useful features -- it can cut boot times and de-clutter browsers; it will let you remotely manage system security, and even add a Start menu to Windows 8. By collecting anonymous user data, Soluto also offers a fascinating insight into PC use around the globe. Did you know, for example, that in Vietnam the average PC takes a minute less to boot up than PCs in the US and UK? I chatted to Tomer Dvir, Co-founder and CEO of Soluto, about the service, and he told me how it's evolved and how the Soluto community is actively working to find solutions to the system and software crashes that plague PC users everywhere.

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Bypass annoying Windows UAC prompts with ElevatedShortcut

Tired, Exasperated, Frustrated man at mac

Launch some applications and they’ll display the Windows User Account Control prompt, asking "Do you want to allow the following program to make changes to this computer?". And while this is great for security, if you’re running the same trusted program on a regular basis then you might begin to find it just a little annoying.

You could avoid this by turning off UAC entirely, but that’s not ideal (it does have some security value). And so a better idea might be to use ElevatedShortcut. It’s a tiny portable tool which helps you to creates shortcuts that won’t generate a UAC prompt, no matter what you’re trying to launch.

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Take control of desktop windows with Gridy

laptop keyboard fingers

Launch an application on the Windows desktop and you have complete freedom to position and size its window however you like (as long as it’s resizeable, anyway). But while this is all very flexible, it also brings management problems when you need to position windows precisely, set and restore a particular window size, and so on.

There are some keyboard shortcuts which might help, just a little (press Win+Shift+the up or right arrow to maximise the current window vertically or horizontally, for instance). If you need more control, though, you might like to try Gridy, which provides plenty of useful windows management features in a very compact and convenient package.

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Freemake Video Converter 4.0 adds free, ad-supported Gold Pack

Gold Coins

Ellora Assets Corporation has released Freemake Video Converter 4.0, the latest version of its freeware video conversion tool for Windows. Despite the major version number change, version 4.0 contains no new functionality of its own -- instead, it’s being used to promote a free ad-supported Gold Pack add-on.

All four new features touted in version 4.0 -- namely new DVD menus, auto-crop, auto-backup and the option for setting a customized background -- aren’t actually new, as the Gold Pack was available for installation with earlier versions of the software too.

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Keep your software up-to-date with Soft4Boost Update Checker

Software update

It’s no secret that keeping your installed software up-to-date is a very good idea, for a lot of reasons (improving security, fixing bugs, boosting performance and more), but if you don’t have the time to regularly visit developer’s websites then individual updates are easy to miss.

Install Soft4Boost Update Checker, though, and the program can check your PC on demand, alerting you to any new updates in just a few seconds: much easier.

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Expand GIMP's possibilities with GIMP Extensions for Windows

Gimp extensions

GIMP is the most powerful free graphics editor around but you can extend it even further with the right extensions. You’ll need to find them first, of course, because GIMP doesn’t have any built-in mechanism to show you what’s available. But if that’s too much trouble then you could always install GIMP Extensions for Windows, which gives you more than 50 in a single package.

You’ll get GIMP Paint Studio, for instance, which equips the program with additional brushes, patterns, palettes and more.

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Listary makes file searching less of a chore

Magnifying Glass PC

Bopsoft has released Listary 4.0 and Listary Portable 4.0, the latest builds of its lightweight, ultra-compact search add-on for Windows users. The new release has been rewritten from scratch, and simplifies browsing and searching for files from a number of locations, including Windows Explorer, Open/Save dialog boxes and various third-party tools.

Version 4.0 includes a number of major new features, including disk and sub-folder search, fuzzy navigation, History, Actions and Projects. It also comes with a number of notable improvements, including enhanced search performance and ranking.

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Run Windows 8 apps in a desktop window with ModernMix

Modernmix

Windows 8 has several annoyances, but perhaps one of the most notable is its requirement to run apps full screen, or in an ugly 2/3, 1/3 mode. When you’re used to being able to position and arrange application windows just as you like, this seems like a significant backward step: we have far less choice then we did before.

But ModernMix, the latest release from Stardock, changes all that. Because this simple $4.99 program allows you to run Windows 8 apps in a resizable window on your desktop, just like anything else.

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Hideman lets you watch foreign TV and bypass censorship restrictions

woman mask cloak hide anonymous

There are many reasons why you’d want to hide your internet IP address. The most common one is that you’re trying to access services or web sites restricted to a specific country or territory -- this might be to catch up with UK BBC TV’s shows via iPlayer or for more fundamental reasons, such as bypassing a country’s censorship restrictions.

Spoofing your IP address so you appear to come from another country than the one you’re residing in isn’t by itself a difficult task -- all you need is a decent VPN service. But when it comes to simplicity and decent performance, you can’t beat a service called Hideman, available on Windows and Mac via the free Hideman 2.0 tool, and Hideman VPN 1.9.7 for Android.

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