TWT Newsletter, Issue #021 –, – The TWT 2008 Software Awards!
Welcome to another bumper TWT newsletter, packed with news and tips for loyal subscribers just like you. This month we take a look back at the best software of 2008. Windows has the greatest software support in the industry, so it’s always difficult picking out the best. We hope you like our choices!
Important! A number of our subscribers have had difficulty receiving our newsletter. At Top-Windows-Tutorials.com we never send out unsolicited e-mails. To make sure your TWT newsletter reaches your inbox, please add TWT_Newsletter@top-windows-tutorials.com to your contacts, buddy list or white list.
In this months issue:-
1) What’s New at Top-Windows-Tutorials.com?
2) The Best Software of 2008
3) Tip of the Month – Checking Disks for Errors
4) Free Utility of the Month – EssentialPIM
5) 31st Jan 2009 – The Internet was Broken!
What’s New at Top-Windows-Tutorials.com?
Another month packed full of great content for our readers. We kicked off January by dusting off and updating some older ZoneAlarm firewall tutorials, bringing them up to date with ZoneAlarm’s new interface. Our Ad-Aware tutorials also got updated. If you like chatting to your friends on the internet, January was a great month for you. We finished our new Instant Messaging Tutorials section. This section now includes tutorials for Pidgin, Skype and Windows Live Messenger. Finally, we started a new section on our site we like to call “power surfing tips, tools and techniques”. In this section we hope to show you all how you can be more productive on the web. You can take a look here. We’ll be expanding on this section in February.
Our new site layout has been a big hit too! We’re still working behind the scenes to polish every aspect of the new site for your surfing pleasure. Don’t forget you can contact us if you find a page that does not look or perform how you think it should do.
The Best Software of 2008
We’re always reviewing and recommending cutting edge software here at Top-Windows-Tutorials. Now we are firmly into 2009, we thought it might be fun to round up some of the best software we covered in 2008. We’ve split the nominations into three categories. Best free utility, best commercial utility and best game. Ladies and gentlemen, take your seats, the results are now in!
Best Free PC utility of 2008 – OpenOffice.org 3
OpenOffice.org proves beyond any doubt that free software can do much more than merely mimic or emulate expensive, commercial software packages. OpenOffice.org provides a viable, usable alternative to an expensive commercial software package that has become close to an industry standard. Replacing Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel on computers around the world, OpenOffice.org 3 deserves its place as our best free PC utility of 2008.
Runner up – Firefox
Firefox continues to go from strength to strength as the preferred web browser of millions of users worldwide. Version 3 brought us even more improvements in security and usability.
Runner up – Truecrypt 6
Whole disk encryption used to be available exclusively through expensive software marketed predominantly at businesses. Since Truecrypt appeared it is now possible to encrypt and secure your desktop and laptop computer, protecting your data from theft no matter what your budget. Power to the people!
Best commercial PC utility of 2008 – Genie Backup Manager
There are so many commercial backup packages available for Windows that it’s always tough to pick out the best one. For it’s superb reliability and cutting edge file-level backup, Genie Backup Manager is the winner of our best commercial utility of 2008. Now if only Genie had drive imaging capabilities.
Runner up – Nero BackItUp 4
It’s always tough to choose between Genie and Nero when choosing a backup solution. Genie wins out on file level backups, Nero, on the other hand, supports drive imaging (taking a copy or snapshot of a whole drive). Both products are excellent and more than worthy of your consideration.
Runner up – Roboform Pro
Once you start using Roboform, you wonder how you ever got around the web without it. Roboform securely stores and encrypts all your passwords and personal information and can automatically fill out forms on the internet. You enter one pass-phrase and Roboform does the rest. Use a different, hard to guess password for each site you use on the web and improve your online security. A must have for busy surfers.
Runner Up – Stardock Object Desktop 2008 Ultimate Suite
We’re sort of cheating here by picking Stardock Software’s excellent Object Desktop Suite. Simply because this isn’t one utility but many. Windowblinds makes your Windows desktop look wonderful, IconPackager can update your icons, TweakVista can, well, Tweak Vista and this only scratches the surface. Want to find out more? Follow the link above and see for yourself.
Best PC Game of 2008 – Left 4 Dead
This zombie battling fest features cutting edge co-operative game play, stunning graphics and no system disrupting DRM (digital rights management) software. It’s our choice for best PC game of 2008.
Runner up – Sins of a Solar Empire
Stardock Software’s epic space strategy game is well loved amongst PC gamers and not without reason. An essential purchase for strategy fans.
Runner up – Fallout 3
An epic first person role-playing game set in a future America devastated by nuclear war. Atmospheric, exciting and huge in scale. This game missed out on a chance at the top spot due to several bugs and the inclusion of the particularly nasty SecuROM copy protection/DRM (albeit in one of its less consumer unfriendly forms).
Runner up – World of Goo
A fantastic and often overlooked puzzle/construction game and our top pick for family friendly game of the year. Almost certainly the best independently developed and produced game of 2008.
What did you think of our choices? Don’t forget you can submit your own free software recommendations for other Top-Windows-Tutorials.com readers to benefit from!
Tip of the Month – Checking Disks for Errors
Have you ever had a problem with a hard disk, or a memory card or USB memory stick? If you were using your PC and the power was suddenly cut, or you removed your memory card/stick without properly ejecting it, there might be some errors on your disk. Checking and fixing these errors may bring back files you thought you had lost. To check for errors, you can use the Windows chkdsk command. To run this command, first open a command prompt. XP users who are logged into an administrators account can go to the Start Menu, select “Run” and type “cmd” (without the quotes) into the prompt, then press return. For Vista/Windows 7 users, it’s a little more tricky. Firstly, Vista/Windows 7 users should search for “cmd” from their Start Menu. When Windows locates a file called “cmd.exe”, you should right click on it and choose “run as administrator”. Windows user account control will then prompt you for permission to run the file. Click “Continue” and enter your administrator password if prompted.
Once the command prompt is open, enter the following command (without quotation marks) “chkdsk c: /f” and press return. Substitute c: for whichever drive letter you want to check. You can easily find out about drive letters on your computer by opening up “my computer” (or “computer” on Vista/Windows 7).
Once you press return, Windows will either check the disk immediately and report on any errors, or, if the disk is in use, it will ask you if you want to schedule a check for the next time Windows restarts. If you find that your disk requires frequent scanning and fixing with chkdsk, it may be a sign that it is wearing out and needs replacing.
Free Utility of the Month – EssentialPIM
Microsoft Outlook might have a nice user interface but we’ve always found it to be clunky and slow in comparison to other e-mail programs and PIM (personal information managers). If you are looking to break away from Outlook, or if you are an OpenOffice user that doesn’t want to shell out for Microsoft’s monolithic PIM, then EssentialPIM might just be the product you need. The free version can even run from a memory stick, meaning you can keep your calendar up to date no matter where you are working. Beat that, Outlook!
You can find out more about EssentialPIM by visiting the EssentialPIM homepage.
31st Jan 2009 – The Internet was Broken!
“If you enter ‘Google’ into a Google search, you can break the internet!”. So someone once claimed and since then this joke has spread around IT tech support desks. Of course, for some people Google IS the internet, the starting point for each and every thing they do on the web.
On the 31st of January 2009, something a little odd happened at Google HQ. Google maintains a list of bad websites, sites that attempt to install malicious software behind the users back. If one such site appears in your search results, Google warns you before you can click through to it.
This list of rogue sites is at least partially updated by hand and due to a human input error on January 31st, almost every site in Googles search results was flagged as potentially harmful. This caused a great deal of confusion and inconvenience, not least for stopbadware.org, a non-profit organisation that Google works with. As stopbadware.org themselves put it “Users who attempted to click through the results saw the “interstitial” warning page that mentions the possibility of badware and refers people to StopBadware.org for more information. This led to a denial of service of our website, as millions of Google users attempted to visit our site for more information.” Or, in less technical terms, the sudden and unprecedented increase in traffic to their site caused their web servers to grind to a halt under the load.
The whole fiasco was over within an hour, Luckily Google have backup strategies to quickly deal with problems like this. When you are the worlds biggest search engine, being broken for an hour is no laughing matter and the story was quickly reported everywhere from BBC news to thousands of pages on twitter.com. Google themselves blushed, sincerely apologised and most of the world then moved on to talk about something else (you can read their official statement here ).
This story serves as yet another reminder that no matter how smart computers may seem, they are only following our instructions, no matter how silly they might be. The old quote “to err is human, to really mess up requires a computer” is proven correct once again!
That’s all for this months newsletter. We hope that you enjoyed it, if you didn’t then please let us know why, you can contact us by visiting this page. If you have enjoyed this newsletter, feel free to pass it on to all your friends and family, or better still encourage them to sign up for their own copy! Until next month, keep checking Top-Windows-Tutorials.com and enjoy happy and safe computing!