09 September 2007

#37. Staying Up To Date

Note to Readers: Due to a holiday, your Tool Bar & Grill chef is taking a week off. Visit this site again next week for a special double issue on local backup utilities! — Jonathan Plutchok, 16 September 2007.

When you’re packing to move to a new home, you discover all kinds of things you forgot you had. Some you pack, some you sell, some you just give away. I moved house last week, which left me very little time to write this column – but also turned up some valuable odds and ends that I’d like to share with you, my loyal readers. These tips are all about keeping up with the times.

Karen’s Tools Refreshed

Karen Kenworthy is a computing journalist who also writes clever little Windows utilities and publishes them for free. I featured Karen’s Directory Printer in an early post (#4, 10 October 2006). Her other great programs include Replicator (for backups and synchronization), Show Stopper (quickly shut down, restart, suspend, and other actions, and run a program automatically before any of these), Calculator, Once A Day (run a program once when Windows starts or a user logs on), and many more.

Karen spent the last few months updating and improving many of her free utilities. They are well worth checking out. You can find them all at http://www.karenware.com/powertools/powertools.asp. Karen’s utilities are donationware, so if you like and use any of them, please support the author with your contributions.

Music Utilities Improved

I usually use MP3DirectCut to edit MP3 files (reviewed in #9, 10 January 2007). And I often listen to a folder full of music through 1by1, a simple media player that steps through a directory, playing each song in turn. The publisher of both these free programs, Martin Pesch, recently updated them. So if you already use these utilities or want to try them out, get the latest versions at http://mpesch3.de1.cc. And send a donation if you can (though the author accepts only bank transfers, not PayPal or credit cards).

Keep Your Software Up To Date

Sometimes your software is updated, often to improve security, and you don’t even know about it. So it’s good to use the free Secunia Software Inspector periodically. This free Web-based service (http://secunia.com/software_inspector) scans your computer and alerts you to security updates of about 40 popular titles, as well as Windows (up to XP but not Vista).

Even better is the new Secunia Personal Software Inspector, a free downloadable program that scans your disk for about 4,700 programs and identifies those with security updates, and those that have reached the end of their lives (i.e., are no longer supported). This program is a beta version and does not work perfectly (and does not support Windows Vista), but it’s way better than using obsolete, insecure software. Get it at https://psi.secunia.com.

Another useful update service is VersionTracker from C|Net. The VersionTracker Web site, http://www.versiontracker.com, lists and links to the latest updates for many Windows, Macintosh, and Palm programs (though it could benefit from a usability makeover). A paid “pro” version even downloads the updates automatically. You also can subscribe to the VersionTracker newsletter to receive update notices in your mailbox.

I hope this has been helpful. Please feel free to comment below or write to jonathanstoolbar@gmail.com. And do come back next week for more valuable recommendations!


  1. Jonathan,

    By google I found your blog with interesting tips. I bookmarked this!!

    I found something about Online data BackUp. #26

    Your first choice was Xdrive. Well I'm dutch so I created an AOL e-mail acount with the extention .nl. Doesn't work. I can not create an Xdrive acount because my "screenname" and password can not be checked?? No way on there website to ask a question at all. So SKIP THEM!!

    Your seccond choice was a success. At Mozy.com I had an account in minutes. The first backup took a long time. After that the incremental backup was no problem at all.

    Here is a nice sugestion for your Blog!

    When backing up a file can be open, by the user or for e.g. virus control programm. To prevent that an open file is not going in the backup schedule I use Allway Sinc, to synchronize my data between two different harddisks. See your blog # 27. I run that in a schedule for e.g at 12:00. Afterwards the backup utility from Mozy is going to run.

    This way I know for sure that all my important files are save.

    Allway Sync is allso free and can be downloaded at: http:\\www.allwaysync.com

    So with your suggestions I have a good procedure. Perhaps anyone else
    can benifit from this solution?


    Bennie Veenstra

  2. Thank you very much for your comments, Bennie. Special thanks for your clever suggestion about using two of the programs I have recommended in conjunction to solve a backup problem. BTW, some backup programs can back up open files, too; I will try to note this fact when I review local backup utilities in an upcoming blog post.

    Thanks again, and keep visiting my blog for more useful info!

  3. Regarding applications that monitor software updates I have been using File Hippo Update Checker with pleasure for a while.


  4. Hi Jonathan, i have just read your review on GAOTD and found your appraisal agreeable, and after looking at your blog spot its worth a few more visits, so i thought i would drop you a line and commend you for the job your doing and i will bookmark this page for future references
    Thank you

  5. Hi Jonathan thank you for your appraisal on GAOTD and as of now i have now bookmarked your Blog page so i can drop back, it's like a kindergarten in there from time to time so it's good to have an opinion from a decent reviewer as it makes for a better experience.



  6. Thanks to all my readers for visiting, and especially to those of you who take the time to comment.

    David, thank you for the tip about File Hippo Update Checker! I will check it out too. I write about software and Web sites that come to my attention, so it's a great help when readers point out utilities or sites that I did not know about.

    Tom and "Anonymous," thank you for your compliments. I hope you will visit my blog every week for new tips, and that it will be helpful to you.

    For those of you who don't know yet, "GAOTD" or "GOTD" refer to the increasingly popular Giveaway Of the
    Day, http://giveawayoftheday.com, which offers new shareware utilities and games for free every day. The site has a very active comments section and forums, in which I sometimes participate.

  7. Feel free to also check out my site. Lately I have been writing articles for a local magazine about free alternatives to commercial/bad/bulky software... Maybe you'll spot something I found before you. :)

  8. Thank you for the link to your site, David. Readers, click on the name "david" to see David Vidmar's "Bite my bytes" site. It's well worth a visit.