Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Cost of free

An article goes into all the problems with free and open software.  Here was the draft response I wrote:

Definitely don't use a free browser or a free operating system (except all the major ones are).  Anything besides Microsoft Office is unacceptable (nevermind that their support is notoriously bad).  Linux is open source and that's definitely been hijacked many times and caused all kinds of problems so now no one uses it except for most servers and most cell phones.

I didn't post it as the article is obviously clickbait nonsense, intentionally written to incite.  It's wrong on so many levels but sometimes you have to define your opposite.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

File sharing banhammer

The existence of this program and frequent interaction with peer-to-peer bandwidth hogs really made me want to give instructions on our BitTorrent entries about how to cap your connection.  I've been on the fence about this for some time so feedback welcome.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Best of portable

It's not a recent list but still this MakeUseOf article has a lot of real gems that are also on PortableFreeware.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Some developer resources

  • Get feedback on your software.  The guy behind 7+ Taskbar Tweaker uses it.
  • Documentation isn't fun but here are some good reasons why you should give it your time and energy.
  • Especially for developers with big monitors, WinSize2 can help with user interface testing to see how how different window sizes look

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Another look at filesystems

This time those available primarily on Windows.  Goes into some background, but you can get a good summary towards the end.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The story of Kitchen Sink project (Part 1)

This is part 1 of what might become a series on a project I worked on almost 10 years ago and racked up 16,000+ downloads on torrent networks: the Kitchen Sink.

Origin


Back in 2007, I started having problems with an IBM ThinkPad.  After two system reloads and tech support telling me I had to spend a bunch of money to get a RestoreCD, I decided that it was important to make my laptop easy to break down and bring back.  So I started looking into software that didn't require an install, and mostly left the computer alone. 

At the same time, I was doing tech support on the side and started coming across more and more tools that would help me.  The great data recovery tools to get back files that were deleted or corrupted were a huge hit both just because I could occasionally fix things considered unfixable or undo my own mistakes.

 

I also liked being able to take my computer with me, whether on CD, DVD, or flash drive.


Launcher

 

The whole thing really began with an excellent launcher program.  Most importantly, the menu system for all of this software was critical.  You can't just create shortcuts in Windows because those change depending on what drive letter the program is assigned to.  It needs to behave the same whether it's in your CD drive (usually D) or on your flash drive (usually E or F).

 

Although there were a variety of programs available to do this, the best one I found (and still use) is something called PStart.




Saturday, May 13, 2017

Recent finds in the PDF world

  • The more time passes the more I like SumatraPDF.  Undoubtedly Adobe Acrobat keeps getting bigger and more bulky but even the alternatives out there focus on features over speed.  Meanwhile Sumatra has near-instant startup and is actually packaged into the next item ...
  • I still find FileVoyager a little cumbersome to use as compared to other file management tools but it's ability to preview files (primarily PDFs) from a list view is irreplaceable.  OS X is very good about this but FV is even better.
  • Firefox's plugin "Print Edit" solves the problem of limited PDF editors out there by cutting out crap you don't need before you initially convert it.  Also, this program has a TON of features under the hood.
  • PDF SAM only comes up once in a while but I'm so glad to have it.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Amusing fake progress bar

From the website "A fully configurable spoof progress bar for your desktop. Make it look like your PC is doing something - while you do something else!"

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Maybe I'm nuts, but I've spent some part of my life looking at progress bars that never go anywhere.  Now for some reason there's comfort in knowing there's no disappointing outcome.

This also reminds me a little of the "gamification" thing I'm constantly seeing (add game-like elements to improve something that's boring).  While it can be used for good, sometimes like the paper tickets you get from playing Skiball: get 20,000 from $100 in video games and you can buy a $10 phone case.

I just found a USB drive

If PFWC were a company, I would consider this article bad PR since someone just sort of glancing at this would start to see USB sticks as security risks.

Like any good PR person, I might spin it and point out how this is a good thing for portablefreeware.com and related sites: someone finds a drive, it has a lot of space, what could I do with it?  As a result, wanted to point out a quick sequence of steps for making sure its not going to hurt you:

  1. Find a non-Windows device and Immediately format it, ideally to the FAT32 filesystem
  2. There is no step 2

Optionally, update your install to NTFS on a Windows-based machine.  This is only necessary if you're going to use the device for anything other than a backup.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Windows Store-only machines

I'm increasingly concerned that more and more windows boxes are going to be setup in public environments to only accept a set number of programs.  Now, for example, you can setup Windows 10 to only accept programs from the Windows Store.

This is not a good thing for fans of portable software.

Font use in LibreOffice

I've been unhappy with the default font for LibreOffice for some time now and almost categorically switch to the Calibri font, which I find it the most readable and is the default font for Microsoft Office 2010 and above.  However, I'm well aware of the fact that it's proprietary and not cross-platform.  I want it's authors to get compensated for their work but I don't have an indication that the font will enter the public domain.

As a result, I was very interested to hear about two related projects:
  • Noto - a very comprehensive font collection (including every Unicode symbol) distributed under an open font license.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

"Backburner" programs I want to test

Below are a group of programs that have been on my list for such a long time I have to accept I'm probably not going to address them.  I'm listing them here because there's just too much going on in my life right now for me to reasonably expect to do all the fun stuff I want to do. 

Hopefully at some point I'll be able to come back to these very important tools.


SYNERGY

"Synergy is a software to allow you to control two PC's (could be mac-windowsor-linux or something like that) with one mouse and keyboard and allow them to share a clipboard.

I've heard some really amazing things about this program.  I don't have multiple systems right now, but if I did, I'd be all over this.


RSYNC

Related PFW posts: Rsync.net and Rsync portable.


Cryptomator

Java-based cloud service encryption that looks really great.

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I almost put SyncThing on this list but I think I'll be able to figure something out here in the next 6 months.  This program is just too important.

Hating on Word

Sometime back was in a discussion with Microsoft Word grumps.  I wanted to post more on the topic but it was rapidly turning into a "thread hijack" (essentially changing the subject away from the intended direction). 

Two related links:

Working for freeware

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Hipchat - your bulky chat client

I haven't tested the program for portability but I'm mostly suggesting people avoid it as the program uses 295 megs across two processes (Hipchat.exe and QtWebEngineProcess.exe) and perpetually uses 1-3% of my processor even when idle.

For reference both Skype for Business (Lync) and regular Skype take up just under 80 megs.  Neither uses that kind of processor power.

Alternatives: Since (at least my version) of the program will send you an email when someone tries to contact you offline, I actually disable the program and rely on my email to know when to enable the software.  There's also a web client.

(Analysis done on a 2.4 ghz i5 with (thankfully) 8 gigs RAM.  Win7x64 is installed.)

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Freeware as a game

When I was a kid, I loved playing with toys.  I was a big Lego person but I liked toys of all kinds.  As I got older, this morphed into what was frequently referred to as an "interactive" learner. 

In college, some of the best advice I ever got was to actively write in the margins of a book, as if replying or commenting on the text I was reading.  I used to dig into this quite far, carving up my textbooks with notes, making them less valuable when I sold them back but improving the experience by involving me in the book and it's outcome.

As I grew up, my interests turned towards computers and I found -- in some ways -- they were just toys for grown ups.  I liked how interactive they were and the flexibility they offered.  Freeware seemed like a near-unlimited set of free toys to constantly play with, but lots of installations would clog up the registry and slow down the computer.

Now with portable software, I have at my fingertips hundreds of programs for every use and interest.  Since they don't slow down my system, I have them at work, I have them at home, and I carry them with me everywhere.  Whatever I use for whatever small project, it's not as taxing or tedious with some kind of multi-tool.

Although work on the site is occasionally a chore because of my goals, projects maintain my focus as freeware never stops resembling play.

MiTeC issue

This issue mostly got cleared up, but I wanted to add the following:

No, we don't think that MiTeC is distributing malware.  Yes, we think it's a false positive.  Feel free to download the actual files and run them through VirusTotal.

Yes, Chrome and Firefox was listing it as a bad site.  They actually use the same list so this isn't an instance of one malware list corroborating another.

This whole situation is one of the reasons I encourage developers to use Softpedia or other download websites.  They're not perfect, but try to maintain a reputation for distributing clean software don't get wholesale blocked.

Better interfaces

A lovely introduction to user-friendly interfaces in software and beyond.

File systems and flash drives

So I've had MANY files get corrupted doing anything but backups and copy-paste operations on FAT32 drives, however this article seems to suggest that format isn't total junk.

Anyway, I strongly recommend NTFS for anything you'll be running portable programs from.

Related:



Wednesday, March 29, 2017

OpenSSL licensing

A great Register article about the issues surrounding OpenSSL, licensing, security, and the community.  This is a great microcosm of what I've seen happen a lot in open source over the last few years: the increasing importance of community code, corporate interests, and under-appreciated small projects.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Unique number generation?

Is there a way to insert a unique number into a document?  I'd just like to get a single number attached to some docs I'm working on so we can use them in multiple places and they're easier to track down later.

Ideal properties:

* A hotkey (like ctrl+shift+/ or something)
* Be sequential (89382, 89383, 89384)

The only thing that I could come up with on this was a text hash generator is the UUID generator or MultiHasher (a program I try to avoid) programs, which uses letters and numbers.

Anyway, suggestions welcome.  This isn't critical as we have other methods of achieving this end, I'm just curious.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Licenses and freeware

Two topics that come up fairly often on the site:

Why licenses are important

I've seen a general policy with most organizations where -- if you cannot find a clear and obvious license -- you cannot use the program.  This policy keeps companies out of legal hot water.  As a result, you can be sure that any software with terms not clearly spelled out isn't going to see use outside of personal/educational groups.

Creative Commons used as a software license

This group does some amazing things but software isn't one of them.  Here, Creative Commons talks about software and makes recommendations for licenses.

Friday, February 17, 2017

A developer perspective on portable

  • One developer's view (thanks smaragdus)
  • An argument for local software "I don't think I'd want tools for manipulating local media tied even loosely to the uptime of a remote computer (or network connection)."
  • A breakdown on Installer junk.
  • Advantages that your users gain with portability.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Analysis of PortableApps.com

It comes up every-so-often in my community why anyone would do anything but start and end in the the great PortableApps.com project.  I decided to put some notes together why you'd want to go a different route.  As always, I had to add some positive notes as well.

Why avoid PortableApps.com:
  • Arguably a waste of disk and processor space, especially if the program is already natively portable
  • Lots of people dislike the start screen, which can only be disabled via the launcher or an annoying INI edit/move action.
  • Some programs never get out of "development" status for unknown reasons; governmental system for program addition is unclear to me.
  • Avoids dotNET-based programs - depending on who you talk to, this is either good or bad, but it for example cuts you off from most of the really good screen capture tools.
  • I strongly prefer the non-PA versions of Ditto and CubicExplorer, which I've only had problems with.  Note that these are in the minority as I've been using many other PA programs successfully for years.
  • Seems to rely on one individual for it's success (Haller).  If something were to happen to him, it's unclear if the project would continue.  This is a common concern with many open source projects.
  • I find the non-standard forum system they use difficult to read.

Why go with PortableApps:
  • Ease of updating (this is far and away my favorite part)
  • They have a thorough testing foundation that includes multiple operating systems, whereas we mostly seem to use Win7.
  • Seems to have solid relationships with big companies Oracle and Mozilla to help make jPortable and Portable Firefox happen.
  • Generally more stealth and often help make directories relative rather than static (.\Music rather than C:\Music).
  • Very pro-open source and make a big deal out of license compliance
  • Get programs in front of anti-virus services and help fight the false-positive issue, which we're constantly addressing.
  • Has been able to enforce a freeware status on a lot of programs that have gone the adware/bundleware route.
  • App Store approach is what people are familiar with now, drawing people toward freeware and open source options.
  • Very fast, reliable servers unlike any number of distributed freeware options which regularly break.

USB drive won't stop being "read-only"

Want to note about a trick that really helped me unlock one of my drives that was mysteriously set to read-only.  Note that this uses the command-line "diskpart" tool.

Why open source software is important

I wonder how much development time has been spent since the dawn of computers that is just sitting in a closet somewhere?  How many great programs, graphics, interfaces, and ideas have been written for computer users that for some odd legal reason never saw the light of day?  An open web ensures that software doesn't die; once its out there and once the code is available, it becomes part of the community of effort that lasts well beyond any one person.

Related quote:

"That's one of the things that Ellison, and Microsoft for that matter, don't get. You can't kill open-source projects. Companies come and go, but popular open-source programs like MySQL just keep rolling on." - Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols on Oracle and MySQL.

[When] are you moving to 64-bit?

This is a conversation I always wanted to respond to but I sort of missed my window.  As such, I decided to post here:

But that was about 3 years ago IIRC, so I'm curious about the reason(s) that make you stay in the 32-bit land as it's obvious that you'll have to struggle more and more against the flow? (source)

In fairness, there are still millions of perfectly good, plenty fast machines still in the 32-bit instruction set.

That said, I'm a bit of an outlier.  I'm running a 64-bit Mac with Windows in a 32-bit VM and I could conceivably switch or run a 64bit system right alongside the 32-bit (although that would be a bit of a pain).  The reason I'm keeping it at 32-bit in order to maintain compatibility with the many great programs we host here on the site that may or may not agree with a 64 bit API/handles and whatever compatibility layer Microsoft and Intel have tried to include.  I lost a few good programs when I bumped up from WinXP so I'm just dragging my heels.

With Linux, Google, and Apple, it's easy to recompile popular programs with minor modification because either the source code is open or owned by them.  However freeware projects that have been abandoned are out of luck.  I constantly see this happen in the Apple space, which is why I barely use my Mac.

Inevitably I'm going to have to move to 64-bit, especially as more and more development work is done to embrace available speed optimizations.  If that sounds silly, there are very few programs I've seen that embrace hyper-threading / SMP and those systems have been around for at least 20 years.

 ---

Update: on a related note, a privacy-based Linux distro is dropping 32-bit support.  When small projects move to 64-bit when their charter is around ease and accessibility, that's a good indicator.

Portable automation tools

We don't quite have a category for it, but these are some portable automation tools:

Pulover's Macro Creator

AutoHotkey

Mouse Recorder Premium

TyperTask (my fav)

Friday, January 20, 2017

The scale of portable

When we're talking about portability, we're not just talking about "can it run from a USB drive"?  We're talking about whatever settings you change, they stay with the program, regardless of the medium it's launched from (USB, DropBox, OneDrive, etc.)  Re-running a process or re-changing a setting on each computer is not portable.

Most programs work on a scale from very portable to not portable at all:
  1. Command-line tools are very rarely anything BUT portable so we don't spend much time on them
  2. Writes unimportant data to C:\Users\USER\AppData\, but for example just a recent file list.  This is one that falls on the line and may be acceptable to some users.
  3. Runs outside of Program Files folder and without dependencies, but but doesn't write settings to the local folder.  This is considered "no-install" but is not portable.
  4. Windows Explorer integration by it's very nature isn't portable.  Registry entries don't transfer from computer to computer.  You would have to run this process every time you launched the program and it leaves behind junk each time you do so.
  5. Program requirements like DotNET 4.0, which mean that functionality on older computers (like WinXP) isn't a sure thing.