Posts Tagged “useful-tool”


Published on January 8, 2019

I consume nearly all of my news and web reading through RSS feeds, and have done so for many years. Back before July 2013, I used Google Reader, before Google shut it down for good (the bums). Shortly after Google Reader was closed, I switched to NewsBlur, which closely resembles the Google Reader of yore. I cannot imagine surfing the web without it.

The service can be used for free (up to a maximum of 64 feeds, and only 5 stories at a time in the “river of news” mode), but I pay a yearly fee ($36) to have an unlimited number of feeds and stories.

One of the best features of NewsBlur is being able to “train” the reader to know what you like and don’t like from various sites. I’ve trained several of my gaming feeds to exclude anything about Fortnite, because that’s a game I have no interest in. As a result, stories on that topic are never shown to me; I’m in control of what I read! Similarly, I’ve also trained a few feeds to flag articles from authors I like. Those articles are highlighted, and I can view just those highlighted ones if I so choose with the “Focus” mode.

There are lots of other features to recommend about NewsBlur: searching for stories across all of my feeds, sharing stories with friends on the service, a pretty nice Android app, and lots more. If you haven’t given NewsBlur a try, be sure to.

Useful Tool: ImgBurn

Published on July 20, 2010

I needed a quick and easy way to burn an ISO image here at work, so I took a look around and found ImgBurn. A Windows-only app, it’s small, easy to set up, and took no time at all to get working. The only annoyance was that the installer included an option to install an “Ask” toolbar in IE (along with a few other advertising options). Thankfully, you can disable them all at setup time.

Useful Tool: Process Explorer

Published on May 13, 2010

I cannot recommend Process Explorer highly enough. This application from SysInternals is essentially a replacement for the built-in Windows task manager. One small feature that turns out to be pretty useful is that each process is shown in the list with its associated icon. This makes tracking down a specific application really easy (especially those troublesome processes that don’t terminate cleanly; Java, I’m looking at you). The other tremendously useful feature I enjoy is having a description and company name along with each process. Many processes have cryptic, 8-character names, and having the associated information to help identify them is a real time saver.

Useful Tool: BlueScreenView

Published on November 19, 2009

Ever been bitten by the blue screen of death on a Windows box? Who hasn’t? It’s often hard to see just what caused the blue screen to occur, and the machine usually reboots before you can properly note down the information being provided. Thankfully, BlueScreenView is a helpful little utility that will provide information on your past crashes. It scans the mini-dumps that are generated when your system blue screens, and reports the problem. I’ve used this a time or two to track down troublesome drivers (usually the cause of these nefarious crashes). Be sure to add this helpful, free tool to your collection.

Useful Tool: Autoruns

Published on October 19, 2009

This month’s useful tool is another from the good folks at Sysinternals. Autoruns is a tool for Windows that shows you all the processes and services that are scheduled to start when the system boots up. It’s amazing how many auto-start lists reside in the Windows registry! My laptop has hundreds of entries, ranging from system level entries to third party drivers and software updaters.

What makes this tool outstanding, however, is the ability to easily disable certain processes from the startup sequence. Next to each entry is a checkbox; when it’s checked, the item will be started as usual. Uncheck the box and the process will be omitted from startup. I’ve found it incredible handy to disable some of the more annoying programs that start up (iTunes helpers and Adobe Acrobat, I’m looking at you).

Useful Tool: KeePass

Published on September 18, 2009

For this month’s useful tool recommendation, I’ll be focusing on KeePass, an open-source password manager. Hopefully, everyone has already heard of this application and uses it on a daily basis. KeePass makes it easy for you to manage all of your various passwords in one location, and provides a host of security features for keeping those passwords safe. I personally use the older 1.x line of this tool, but a newer 2.x line has recently been released (and is no longer in beta, so it should be stable and safe to use).

KeePass has a number of features that make it instantly attractive. First, and foremost, it’s an incredibly secure application. Your passwords are stored using either the AES or Twofish encryption standards, both of which are rock solid. The 2.x line of KeePass also features some in-memory protection of the various fields, helping to thwart keyloggers and the like.

Another great feature is the password generator, which is incredibly useful for creating very strong passwords. I’ve used this generator in a number of ways: to create WPA keys for routers, for TrueCrypt file containers, FTP accounts, etc. The password generator offers a host of options on how to format the password you desire, so you can easily fit into any password rule set.

Perhaps the most useful all-around feature is portability. KeePass can be run from a USB key, making it easy to carry all of your passwords around with you. This has gotten me out of some sticky situations at work where I quickly needed a password, and didn’t know it off the top of my head.

If you’ve got a ton of passwords to remember (and who doesn’t?), I heartily recommend KeePass. It’s a tool no one should be without.

Useful Tool: File Monitor

Published on August 31, 2009

I’m going to start a new occasional series of articles covering helpful software tools that I find. To start out this series, I’m going to focus today on FileMon from Sysinternals (now owned by Microsoft). Several of the tools I’ll be profiling in the coming weeks are from SysInternals, so I recommend checking them out if you’re unfamiliar with them.

FileMon allows you to see file system activity on your computer in real time. It helped me to track down the slow startup bug in Firefox, and it has also helped me track down other issues (particularly during various application startup periods). Wondering why your disk is randomly thrashing about for no apparent reason? FileMon will tell you why! After firing up this tool for the first time, I was simply amazed at how often the file system got touched in one way or another.

It should be noted that FileMon is now a legacy tool. A newer tool, by the name of Process Monitor has replaced FileMon. Although I haven’t yet used it, Process Monitor looks very promising. Not only does it allow you to view file system activity, but you can also see Windows registry activity, as well as process, thread, and DLL activity, all in real time. These are very handy tools that every software developer or power computer user should know about. I’ll highlight more like this in the coming weeks.

Copyright © 2004-2019 Jonah Bishop. Hosted by DreamHost.