Free Stuff for The Holidays

Sorry for the delay in getting this column. Too much Christmas Cheer sort of wiped me out. I spent most of Boxing Day attempting to recover my equilibrium. As over the weekend evil companions plied with me too much (in hindsight anyway) dangerous liqueur. Now riding a ground swell of nostalgia, I have Bonnie Tyler’s Greatest Hits rocking around along in the background. But on to the free software for this last week of 2005.

Turbo Navigator disk status dialogDo you often despair at Windows Explorer’s fixed single pane view? If you do but are feeling a bit Scrooge-like. And don’t want to pay for the pleasure. You may want to checkout the free Turbo Navigator 1.47. This Windows Explorer replacement works with Windows 2000/XP/2003 and offers two panels. Its like using Explorer on steroids. With a few extras. I especially liked the instant disk space usage graph that slides out when you click the driver letter icon at the top of a panel. You can toggle between brief (file/folder names) and full (file/folder name, size, modified date/time and attributes) views. But you can’t customize the display to also view file extensions. You have to sort using the View > Sort by Extension command. This is clunky when compared even to Explorer where you can sort on multiple columns. (Tip: Right click between column headers to view a selectable pop-out list.)

Turbo Navigator folder transfer status dialogBut barring a few issues like this, overall Turbo Navigator is a powerful replacement. I find its Disk monitor especially handy when installing new programs. Or when performing disk-intensive file activity. Disk Monitor displays total drive size, bytes used, bytes free and data transfer rate. And if you are wondering why I need an external disk activity monitor. It’s because I recently accidently bent then broke the connector pins for the system power LED, disk activity LED and system reset while installing a new DVD writer.

There’s also a built in Media player that unfortunately only works with the CD/DVD-ROM drive. Yet despite adding .MP3 and .WAV files to the media types list I was unable to play in Turbo Navigator. But I was able to use the included Media Player to play audio CDs. There’s also a built-in file viewer that supports RTF, TXT, binary and hexadecimal files. However instead of displaying this information in a pop-up, the viewer overlays the existing twin-tab view. And its quite easy to accidentally terminate the Navigator when all you are really trying to do was close the Viewer. But Turbo Navigator remains an excellent Windows Explorer replacement. Download a copy from Last Freeware Version web site.

Octopus mult-threaded file download clientOctopus 3.11 is another free multi-threaded download client that works for both HTTP and FTP downloads. Octopus includes Proxy support. As well as site authorization. By default FTP transfers are done in passive mode (similar to a web browser). But this can be disabled. There’s also a download log for each job. However it seems this log is only available as long as the application is active. Close it and you also close out the log file. Interestingly, compared to other multi-threaded download clients where each segment’s saved with a proprietary extension, Octopus saves each thread with the original file’s extension.

The most exciting thing to happen this week is the release of IrfanView 3.98. This version, which requires its own companion 3.98_plugins file. Offers lots of tweaks and updates. And if you, like my son, have been wondering how the developer manages to release this fantastic program for free and still make ends meet. You need to stay alert during the Install process. IrfanView now includes (sponsored?) links to download and install the Google Toolbar and Google Desktop Search. Besides the usual bug fixes and tweaks. Other improvements to this excellent graphics processing application include extending the Thumbnail feature to include all sub-folders. The sideshow now supports alpha-blending effects. AFPL Ghostscript is also supported allowing IrfanView to display PS, EPS and PDF files. New image effects like Sepia and Raindrops have been added. And the JPEG format support has been improved to support lossless DPI. Actually the best way to find out how much better this utility has become is to download and install a copy for yourself.

The best BitTorrent download client, uTorrent, just got better. The new µTorrent 1.3.1 Beta Build 377 is significantly faster at downloading torrent files. Even where there are tracker problems. And the built-in RSS support has been improved as well. More information in the Changelog. Don’t delay: download a copy for your self today. You can also update the application from Help > Check for new version.

Pando file transfer dialogI have been meaning to write about Pando. This cool new free file transfer service lets you transfer any number of files to another Pando user. As long as the file size in under 1 GB. Transfers are handled through Pando.

Unfortunately, visiting the default Pando web site will not get you direct download access to the client. Nor will you be able to register to use the service. Instead, you’ll have to resort to some sneaky tricks. Begin by downloading a copy of the Pando client software via Fileforum. Then on install choose to register. This will open the service’s Registration from in your web browser. The process requires that your contact email ID is validated. So make sure to use a real ID instead of a fake 🙂 All in all it took me under a minute to register. And just under 3 minutes to transfer a 2 MB file via my CDMA 112 kbps connection.

The Pando new file notification is emailed to the recepient. Who then has to either open their copy of Pando. Or if they still haven’t “got it” the notification message includes a handy download link. So happy Pandoing!

And in case we don’t meet again this month, Happy Holidays and a Happy New 2006. Stay Safe!

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