Archive

Posts Tagged ‘review’

Your Best (Regex) Buddy

February 20th, 2010 1 comment
Name: RegexBuddy
Version Reviewed: 3.4.1
Operating System: Windows XP, Vista, 7
Price: 39.95 single user license.
Site: http://www.regexbuddy.com/
Good: Decodes regular expressions.
Contextual assist allows building expressions without knowing any syntax.
Supplies access to help forums directly through a tab.
Allows debugging of expressions.
Provides a library of pre-made expressions for all types of data.
Bad: No free trial.

No More Loosing Your Mind

Regular expressions.  The term should fill you with both a magical wonder of one of the most powerful languages in all of code-dom, and an overpowering frost-fingered fear of one of the most complex languages on Earth.  Next to a Hopi Code Talker, a Wizened Old Unix Guru that can spout regex like it was his first languages is one of the most rare (and probably well-paid) individuals in the world.  For us developers that need to use them once in a while, though, winding our way through the syntax is time-consuming and confusing and sometimes doesn’t end well.

I’ve seen several tools over the years to help with the regex syntax, but about a year ago, a friend of mine turned me on to RegexBuddy.  Three seconds later, I owned a license. Read more…

Unlocking Your Problems With Unlocker

December 13th, 2009 No comments
Name: Unlocker
Version Reviewed: 1.8.8
Operating System: Windows XP, Vista, 7
Price: Completely free.
Site: http://ccollomb.free.fr/unlocker/
http://www.filehippo.com/download_unlocker/ (download)
Good: Helps solve one of the great mysteries of Windows – what the @!&$!!% is locking my file!?!
Easy enough to use for non-geeks (Yes mom – even you…)
Bad: Very simple for a utility, takes a smidgen of knowledge about Windows process to be used for anything more than unlocking files.
Verdict: Get it. Install it. Loose some stress.

Unlocker LogoA Small Utility For A Big Annoyance

You’re working on some files – say some dlls or .class files if you are a geek, or Word and Excel files if you’re mortal, and you need to move them.  No problem since you’ve moved files before – heck, anyone can move a file!  You right-click on the file to get the context menu, left-click on “cut”, right-click in the destination file, left-click on “paste”…

FileLockError
(Play music clip to get full experience of horror and rage)

Read more…

Cleaning Up: CCleaner

December 1st, 2009 No comments
Name: CCleaner
Version Reviewed: 2.26.1050
Operating System: Windows XP, Vista
Price: Completely free.
Site: http://www.ccleaner.com
Good: Cleans just about everything out of your computer.
Registry cleaning function actually seems to work.
Bad: Tries to install Yahoo toolbar if you don’t look at all the options when installing

CCleaner Logo

A nice little app…

CCleaner is always – always one of the first things I install on a computer I’m working on. This is one of those base utilities you use because it does what it says it does and it does it extremely well.  And it does it for free.  CCleaner is also constantly being updated – always a good sign for a free utility.

What does it do?

First and foremost, CCleaner will search the deepest darkest recesses of your harddrive and clean out the cruft you didn’t even know existed taking up your precious space that could be better spent on pr0n family photos.  I’ve had a sixth-month-old PC recover over a gig of hard-disk space, and if you are a power user like me, you could see upwards of ten gigs  of space get cleaned if you run this every few months.  If you are not a power user (like my mom), this will save you a call to your support center/teenager/geek acquaintance when you start getting those “Out Of Space” messages.

The cleaning function of CCleaner covers most of the normal Windows areas, and then goes further to add support for specific applications.  Internet Explorer is covered, of course.  In addition, I’ve seen it cover Microsoft Office 2007, Firefox, assorted Adobe applications, antivirus suites, Java installations, and more.  For the browsers, you get options for cleaning out the caches, browsing histories, etc… CCleaner is extremely thorough.  You will see options for whatever applications that are installed on your machine which CCleaner covers.

A while ago, CCleaner started branching out and cleaning other aspects of your computer.  The biggest button on the interface besides “Cleaner” is “Registry”.  If you are any higher on the geek scale than “end user”, you cringe and cross yourself when you hear that word.  The Windows Registry is half the reason why the Windows operation system (any version) has so many problems. (The other half is gremlins.  I’ve seen them!).  Performing any operation that could be construed as “cleaning” on the registry has historically been a craps shoot – if the craps shoot involved dice, a semi-automatic, and the broad side of a barn.  One wrong move in the registry can destroy your operating system and make it unbootable – or worse, make it act normal until you’ve just hit the period key on the novella you spent all night typing in at which point the screen freezes up so the dying operating system can mock you with your unrecoverable verbiage and force you to hit the reset button yourself.

Dire predictions and past problems aside, CCleaner has never given me a problem with its tidying up of the registry.  In fact, I’ve actually had problems fixed by this, like explorer locking up every once in a while.  I have to say that most of the registry cleaners I’ve used over the years have been dubious in what benefit they gave in that they sometimes wound up causing more problems than they solved – if they solved any at all.  For cleaning the registry and not killing your computer while at the same time actually providing some benefit, CCleaner gets a gold star.

Special Note

When you install CCleaner, pay special attention to the “Install Options” page that comes up.  The bottom option on that page has historically been “Add CCleaner Yahoo! Toolbar and use CCleaner from your browser”.  If you want the Yahoo toolbar, then leave it checked.  Otherwise, make sure you uncheck that option before you hit the final “Install” button.  There’s a plethora of little apps that try to helpfully install unrelated crap when you don’t pay attention.  In this case, it’s excusable because I’m thinking the advertising dollars CCleaner gets from Yahoo for adding the toolbar to the install is helping to fuel continuing development of such a great utility.  That being said, you don’t want your browser to look like this…

Browser Toolbar Overload

In Closing…

Get it.  Install it. Use it every few months if you are not a geek, and every few weeks if you are. CCleaner is one of the few utilities that even my mom could use, and will patently save you time and money – not to mention a lot of space on your hard drive.

GoldX PlusSeries QuickConnect USB Cord Kits

February 8th, 2009 1 comment
Review Info
Home Page goldxproducts.com
Price QuickConnect 12 in 1 Camera Kit – $15.84 (amazon.com)
Needs Nothing
Construction 10
Usability 10
Worthiness 10

Introduction

GoldX USB Cable KitsI was going to write a review of this super-extreme piece of ultra tech that fixes blue screens just by being near your computer. It is so versatile that at the same time it makes Windows actually secure, allows you to play your games without the disk, and stops spam from being sent to you at the source. It also reverses your hair loss. It is the Alpha, and the Omega

This is not that review.

In preparation for that review, I couldn’t find the USB cable that went with the digital camera I use to take pictures of reviewed hardware. You know – the USB cable that came with the camera, with the standard USB A plug on one end and the what-the-hell-is-that-gotta-be-proprietary plug on the other end? The cable that the camera manufacturer charges $30 to replace? The cable that’s easy to loose in a house with four dogs, five cats, two guinea pigs, eight horses, and two goats? Actually, the animals have nothing to do with it – I’ve got a seven-year-old little girl.  ‘Nuff said.

So what do I, the Alpha Geek, do when I can’t find a cable with the right ends on it? I bring out one of the most useful pieces of tech I carry, one of the few I don’t go anywhere without, and it comes from a company called JDI Technologies.

Construction

The beauty of the GoldX USB connectors is that they very well may save you hundreds of dollars. For a few bucks, you get a spiffy and sparkly gold cable with a female terminator on either end.  Those terminators allow you to plug the included USB connectors onto the cable in any combination needed to connect two pieces of electronics together.  There are three connector kits at last count.  I, of course, have all three.

Each kit gives you a number of tips, a sparkly cable, and a pouch with individual bands in it to hold each tip, making it easy to flip the top of the pouch and peruse the available tips within.  None of that raffle-type “stick your hand in and pull out a bunch” type searching.  The pouches are leather – probably fake, but sturdy, black, and sporting a single snap to close them, which, given the stiffness and construction of the material, works just fine.

The cables are somewhat stiff and sturdy enough that constantly changing tips has not weakened the cable or the terminators in any way.  The kits will last awhile – I’ve had mine now for a few years, and they are almost as good as new. There’s really not much more to say about it.

Usability

Simple and eminently useful, this allows you to connect everything from your Logitech Universal Remote, to your Cannon Powershot camera to your computer.  With the right kit, you can even form a Cat5 cable or a USB extender cable.  Being able to connect any USB device to your computer is so useful that you’ll probably add the GoldX sets to your pared down emergency kit that you take when you can’t take your whole equipment bag.

As I previously stated, the kits currently come in three flavours.  There’s the Hi-Speed USB 12 in 1 Camera Kit, the Hi-Speed USB 5 in 1 Cable Kit, and the Hi-Speed USB 5 in 1 Network Kit.  The “cable kit” is for normal folk, and is the only kit that has the USB A Female connector – allowing you to build an extender cable.  The largest of the three – the “camera kit”, is for geeks or photographers or normal people with a lot of digital equipment, and with it you will never worry about not having the right connector for whatever you need to connect – so long as it isn’t proprietary, like an iPod or Palm device.  The “network kit” has the same four USB plugs as the “cable kit” model, but replaces the USB A Female plug with two RJ45 plugs.  Yes, you can use the same cable to connect both USB devices and network jacks.  Yes, that is just too cool!

There’s also the looks you’ll get from people when they’re in need of a specific connector cable, and you pull out your kit and piece one together yourself.  My wife, borrowing one of my kits, had that happen to her.  A coworker of hers needed to get some pictures off a digital camera, but did not have the camera data transfer cable with her.  My wife claimed should could get the pictures off the camera, to which the coworker replied “What – you’ve got a magic trick in that bag?”.  My wife then pulled the GoldX kit she had borrowed out of her tech bag (I’m so proud of her!), and proceeded to build the right cable and get the pictures.  Her coworker’s response? – “Well, I was joking about the magic trick, but that was cool!”  To those of you not of the tech persuasion, that’s pure gold to us!

Conclusion

Get a kit – in fact, get two – the camera and cable kits.  That way, if you need to build a cable and it’s still too short, you can still build an extender cable.  Get the network kit as well only if you’re like me and need to be the Alpha Geek wherever you go – or if you find yourself needing to connect to a wall RJ45 plug for network connectivity every once in a while.  Whichever you get, trust me, you WILL use them.  You’ll have a USB mouse cord too short, or a USB camera or gadget with a missing or destroyed cable, and these kits will save your bacon.  If only JDI Technologies would make iPod and Palm connectors, I’d come up with an award to give them. (They probably don’t want to or can’t pay the needed licensing fees)  I’ll have to come up with that award anyway for Radio Shack’s iGo line, but that’s another review (coming soon!).  In the meantime, enjoy the complete lack of stress that comes with having a GoldX kit around to ensure you never again get that sinking feeling in your stomache that comes with a lost proprietary USB cable.

Categories: USB Tags: , , , ,

Logitech VX Nano Cordless Laser Mouse

January 11th, 2009 No comments
Review Info
Home Page Click Here
Price $44.99 (BJ’s)
Needs 2 AAA batteries
Construction 10
Usability 9
Worthiness 9

[smartads]

Logitech VX Nano (4)

Introduction

For a portable mouse, I used to use Targus, but I was Christmas shopping in December ’08 at an Office Depot when I spied the Logitech VX Nano Cordless Laser Mouse.  It was cute, compact, came with its own case, and worked wirelessly.  I considered it a Christmas present to myself and poped it in the basket.  I tell you that I had no idea how much I’d like it until I used it a few days later.

Construction

The mouse feels solidly constructed and has a good weight for a portable mouse.  I say portable mouse in that this mouse is small enough to fit into briefcase or backback with your other tech kit.  Any larger and the VX Nano would be a full sized mouse.  Any smaller, and it would be what I’d call a mini-mouse, which is one of those mice you usually have to hold between your thumb and ring finger to move effectively on a surface – about the size of an iPod shuffle.

Construction covers not only how solidly something is built, but its design as well, and here the Nano is a step above.  Someone put some thought into the design of this nice piece of tech.  First, the mouse is symmetric and can be used left or right handed comfortably, which is nice for our south-paw friends.  The only exception is the two buttons where a righty’s forefinger would be.  Southpaws will have to use their middle finger for those.

Then there’s the bluetooth receiver, which slots nicely into the bottom of the mouse after opening a panel. Under that panel is where you put two AAA batteries, a slot for the receiver, and a little red button.  Get this – you put the receiver in the slot and the mouse automatically turns off.  You press the button and the receiver pops up for easy withdrawal, and the mouse turns on.  That right there is brilliant as far as I’m concerned.  There’s also a power button on the bottom of the mouse – not under the panel, to turn the mouse off when you don’t want to disconnect the receiver from the computer.

To protect this cute little addition to your tech kit repertoire, Logitech includes a nice little black zippered sleeve made from some kind of airy neoprene netting that feels scrunchy between your fingers and provides more than just the your normal “throw it in a bag” protection.

Usability

It fits in a medium sized paw like mine.  If your hand is on the larger side, you may need a full sized mouse for your portable, but for the rest of us, the Nano is just fine.  The real story on usability here is the mouse wheel.  The bad news is that it does not and cannot function as a third “middle-click” button.  For that, there is a button just below the wheel closer to your palm which will act as such.  Instead, when you click on the wheel, it changes function physically.  Initially, it works as any mouse wheel – as it scrolls up or down, you feel the soft clicking as it moves from one position to the next, each position a certain number of lines the target application will move.  If you click on the wheel, it changes to its other mode, which is click-free scrolling.  This means that you can spin the wheel like the wheel of a bike.  The spin is almost frictionless, so one good spin with your finger can result is a half a minute or more of spinning action.

If you have one of those mile long web pages or word/acrobat documents (or in my case a ridiculously long Java class) that you have to repetitively hit the mouse wheel to scroll though – this new frictionless spin can have you flying through them in no time.  At first I thought that it was a waste of the wheel functionality, but after whipping through a few web sites and ExtJS source files (35,000+ lines of Javascript. Yea!), I found myself missing the ability on my desktop MX5000 wireless mouse.   It really does make moving through large documents easier, though it does take a little time to get used to.

To finish up, there’s the two aforementioned buttons which can be assigned functionality through Logitech’s Setpoint softare or, in Setpoint’s absence, through your OS.  The button just below the wheel can also be mucked with so.

Conclusion

I like it.  I like it a lot more than most of the tech I have.  The Nano is compact, well built, has a nice protective pouch, works wirelessly, doesn’t cramp my hand like most travel mice, and has that neat fly-wheel feature.  The price is a little high, but for the premium price, you get something that will last a while, does it’s job well, and as happened to me at work last Friday, gets your coworkers attention with exclanations of “Cool – what is that?”.  That last point is worth a lot to geeks.  The well-builtedness (sp?  real word?) should appeal to you financially frugal users out there that want something actually worth the money you pay.  This is one of those things.