Sunday, June 27, 2010

CFS Weekly Newsletter #549

CFS Weekly Newsletter #549
[ISSN 1441-6840]
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Welcome to the 'Completely FREE Software' Weekly Newsletter.
This is an "opt in" only newsletter. If you didn't subscribe, or wish to unsubscribe, please use the personalized address at the end of this newsletter.

Great to be back with you for another week of fabulously fresh freeware.
We have an excellent lineup of great programs for review below. My personal favorites are XMPlay, a stylish audio player, ISOBuddy, an ISO image file processing tool and, for novelty value if nothing else, Math-o-mir, a mathematical notepad. However, you may find that other programs suit your needs more.
We also have our regular columns -- Dr T's excellent Computer Tip of the Week, and our ever popular Smile of the Week.
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What are you waiting for -- become a CFS "lifer" now, or try out the site with a 1-month, 1-year or 2-year membership. We are still half the price of most other sites and I think we offer the best value for your hard earned dollar.
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Until week...
Keep smilin'
Graham Pockett
Completely FREE Software

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Road Attack v3.5 -- WinXP/Vista/Win7 (5 doves)
Road Attack is a car racing arcade game where you shoot other vehicles. It features shoot-em-up action with sophisticated weaponry, lots of powerups to collect, time-based gameplay, good graphics, and more. This is a lightweight racing game with lots of gratuitous violence and shooting. It is also lots of fun. In this game you race to the finish line, avoiding traps (water on the road, broken pavement, etc) while collecting as many powerups as you can and trying not to get shot by other vehicles. The storyline behind Road Attack is so weak they didn't even bother to produce one, but the game is fun in a silly way and it is surprisingly addictive. Produced by MyPlayCity, it carries an ad when the game is loading but that is the only time the ad is played. Like all MyPlayCity ads, it appears to be benign. Road Attack won't stretch your mind, though it might stretch your credibility. It is a good bit of nonsense in a shoot-em-up way. We liked. Note: we have been advised that thi
s program is not suitable for Windows 95, 98 or ME. Access this 3.44MB download from:
Math-o-mir v1.4 -- WinXP/Vista/Win7 (5 doves)
Math-o-mir is a mathematical notepad which emulates pencil and paper for writing equations. It features the ability to add & edit complex equations, it has a virtual keyboard, there is hotkey support, it includes a simple line editor, a function plotter, a symbolic calculator, you can print equations, there is a downloadable manual, and more. This is an awesome tool if you work with mathematical equations. While it is not quite as easy as using pencil and paper, it gets very close. Using a series of built-in macros, the author has created a tool that allows the user to create very complex, multi-page equations -- and then print them out and/or save them as MOM files (which can be opened for further editing in Math-o-mir). There is a superb manual in PDF format, but the author has elected not to include it in the program's download. It is an additional (and very necessary) 381kB file. You can use the built-in line editor to create simple hand-drawings which can be placed into
your document to illustrate your equations. Neat. There is a small learning curve to get the best from Math-o-mir. For best speed, the macros must be learnt (for example, typing // opens up the fraction editor), as does some of the hotkeys (for example, Ctrl+R brings up the square root editor) but you can use the toolbar on the left hand side of the screen to access these. It is impossible not to be impressed with Math-o-mir. While it is somewhat complex to use, the advantages to using it are worthwhile for anyone working with post-Elementary level math. We loved! Note: we have been advised that this program is not suitable for Windows 95, 98 or ME. Access this 652kB download from:
XMPlay v3.5.1 -- Win9x/ME/WinXP/Vista/Win7 (5 doves)
XMPlay is a stylish audio player. It supports all major audio formats (OGG, MP3, MP2, MP1, MO3, IT, XM, S3M, MTM, MOD & UMX), playlists (PLS & M3U), plays audio CDs (also obtains CD info from Internet), supports WinAmp plugins, has automatic gain control (and Replaygain), a 9 band equalizer, reverb, it offers Net streaming, it requires no installation, it is skinnable (additional skins are available), and more. This player rocks! It does everything that other players can do, and then more, much more. It can even be set to minimize to the tray as an icon so you can set it playing in the background while you work. XMPlay can also play streaming audio from the Internet, and can even write a copy to your disk. The more we looked at XMPlay the more we found it did! What is probably more amazing is that it is tiny in size and requires no installation -- just download, unzip into the required folder, and start using. And wait, there's more. XMPlay also looks cool and, if it is not c
ool enough for you, there are lots of free skins you can download. We cannot speak highly enough of XMPlay. It is one of the best audio players we have seen, and certainly the smallest. We loved! Access this 319kB download from:
CollageIt v1.1.5 -- WinXP/Vista/Win7 (5 doves)
CollageIt is an easy-to-use collage maker, which makes photo collages automatically. It features variable parameters (number of photos, photo space, photo frame, shadow, page margin, auto rotation mode, sparse mode, page size & background setup), realtime preview, saves collage to any of 7 image formats (BMP, GIF, JPG, PNG, TIF, TGA & PCX), and more. This is a simple way of producing sophisticated collages of your photos. You can select up to 100 photos for your collage, and even use a photo as a background image! Created in three steps, the collage can be tweaked by changing the various parameters -- including deciding if you want each photo framed, if you want to see a background shadow for each photo, etc. The final collage is usually impressive, and you can save it to any of seven popular image formats. We were a little disappointed that it often cropped the top and bottom off our photos, removing heads and other important features. The ability to turn that off, while sti
ll retaining the other variables, would be a worthwhile function. That aside, we really liked CollageIt. It is a lot of fun to use, and the results are worth hanging on the wall. Try it for yourself! Note: we have been advised that this program is not suitable for Windows 95, 98 or ME. Access this 4.79MB download from:
ISOBuddy v1.0.1.2 -- WinXP/Vista/Win7 (5 doves)
ISOBuddy is an ISO image file processing tool that can convert almost any image file format to ISO and can burn CD/DVD disks. It supports the conversion of GI, NRG, CDI, MDF, IMG, B5I, B6I, DMG, PDI, BIN & CCD disk image formats to the industry-standard ISO disk image format. While there are a number of proprietary disk image formats, the universal standard is ISO. For example, the popular Nero burning software uses its own NRG format, a format not used by many other burning programs. Likewise, Roxio uses the GI format. ISOBuddy can not only convert all the popular formats to ISO, but also burn your disk image to your CD/DVD burner. If you are using rewritable media (eg CD-RW disks) it can erase the existing data, either quickly so that only the disk structure is updated, or completely where the surface of disk is over-written with a neutral pattern to clear all the old data. It also supports making an ISO image file from any multi-session disk image by providing an easy opti
on to select any single session from the selected multi-session disk. We could not fault ISOBuddy in what it does and how it works. We would have liked to have seen the Serif MoviePlus SBA disk image format included, but understand why it was not. If you work with disk images, and find that you sometimes have to work with proprietary disk image formats, then ISOBuddy is a "must have". A superb tool! Note: we have been advised that this program is not suitable for Windows 95, 98 or ME. Access this 2.00MB download from:
Leawo Free YouTube Downloader v3.0.7.0 -- WinXP/Vista/Win7 (5 doves)
Leawo Free YouTube Downloader is a video downloader that can download from YouTube, Yahoo, Google, MySpace, iFilm, etc. It features multi-thread downloading, it automatically parses & grabs FLV videos, there is an optional drop box, it has an IE-style interface, it optionally loads with Windows, and more. Using a modified Internet Explorer Web browser, Leawo Free YouTube Downloader is an easy way to grab FLV videos by saving them to a cache and then copying them out of that cache into the selected download location. This two-step approach bypasses some of the video download problems as sites like YouTube try to prevent downloads. Operation is simple. Use the Leawo Free YouTube Downloader browser window to select your video clip and you will see the drop box showing the percentage actually downloaded. Once it is downloaded (usually much faster than simply watching the clip on-line) it is stored in the "Video" tab in a History-style sidebar. Highlight the movies you wish to kee
p and it can be either played and/or downloaded to the location nominated in the Settings dialog box. Simple. Leawo Free YouTube Downloader is one of the most effective video downloaders. We liked. Note: we have been advised that this program is not suitable for Windows 95, 98 or ME. Access this 12.7MB download from:
WinHide.SB v2.0.0.2 -- WinXP/Vista/Win7 (5 doves)
WinHide.SB is a small program that controls the visibility of selected windows (including from the taskbar). It optionally changes or removes its own icon in the tray (to disguise or hide the program), permanently hides windows (automatically hides chosen windows), and more. This is a simple little program that is very powerful in what it does. It can either permanently or temporarily hide an active program -- even to removing it from the taskbar. It can also disguise itself by using another icon (there are eight icons available), using alternative flyover text to match that icon (ie Word), or its icon can be hidden from the tray. Unfortunately, WinHide.SB displays bad manners by automatically having itself start with Windows -- and even when you block that, it tries again later. While we agree that it would usually be started with Windows, we would like the option to control that ourselves. That small niggle aside, WinHide.SB is a great little tool for hiding some, or all, o
f the open windows on your desktop. Note: we have been advised that this program is not suitable for Windows 95, 98 or ME. Access this 831kB download from:
Falco Lines v1.0 -- Win98/ME/WinXP/Vista/Win7 (5 doves)
Falco Lines is a Lines puzzle where you line up 5 balls of the same color to have them disappear. It features a next ball indicator, timed gameplay, a 9x9 playing grid, excellent ray-traced graphics, good animation, and more. Falco Lines is easy to play, but hard to win. The author describes the gameplay like this: "The player may move one ball per turn, and only to a particular space on the board if there is a path (linked set of vertical or horizontal empty cells) between the current position of the ball and the desired space. The goal is to remove the balls by forming lines (horizontal, vertical or diagonal) of at least five balls of the same color. When such line is completed, the balls in those lines disappear and he gains one turn, ie he can move another ball. If not, three new balls are added, and the game continues until the board is full." Falco Lines is a great version of this popular puzzle, enhanced by the excellent animated graphics and the subtle sound effects.
We particularly liked the "next ball" indicator so you knew where the next batch of three balls will be located, and what their colors will be. What surprised us was that the Helpfile describes those indicators as being "hints where to put the ball" rather than what they are, next ball indicators. Most strange. We enjoyed playing Falco Lines. It is an excellent way to pass a pleasant, if sometimes frustrating, hour or two. Worth grabbing! Note: we have been advised that this program is not suitable for Windows 95. Access this 3.10MB download from:

Fotobounce -- a photo organizer, with built-in face recognition -- has been upgraded to version 3.0.2 with a new download size of 14.7MB. The author has advised that changes in this version include: no need to expose your photos on a public website to share them with friends and family by setting up a private network; get full resolution copies of friend's photos from sites like FaceBook which reduce the size and resolution of uploaded images; and more. Grab this latest version from:

from Dr T --
=: How Search Engines Work :=
The Mechanics Behind Your Search Results
When you're looking for something new on the Internet, a search engine is typically your first stop. We all know how to use a search engine: Just type a word, a phrase, or the name of a person or place and then click the Search button to see hundreds of thousands of links to relevant Web pages. But there's a lot that goes on behind the scenes to make sure the Google bots, Bing machines, and Yahoo! droids put what you're looking for at the top of the results page. Search engines make it their business to read your mind, and you might be surprised by some of their methods.
The Specifics Of Search
Search engines, such as Bing and Google, are composed of multiple parts. The aspect you interact with to type in your queries and navigate results is little more than a front-end user interface; much like your Desktop is for your PC's operating system. Behind that user interface, Web crawlers, or single-purpose applications that fetch data from the Web, compile a database of documents by requesting specific pages from Web servers all over the Internet, scanning each page for hyperlinks, and then categorizing the results using a numbering system. Speed is a high priority for search engines, so Web crawlers tend to start by indexing the most popular Web pages first, scouring the most active servers and following every link on those pages. The Web search indexes behind search engines, such as Bing and Google, use a variety of encoding (converting data from one form into another) and hashing (converting words and characters into an abbreviated alphanumeric value) techniques to tr
anslate all the words and links returned by Web crawlers into an efficient and fast database that is capable of returning a page of hits in fractions of a second.
Minimalism defines Google's search front end
Web crawlers are capable of producing incredible volumes of data in a very short period. According to our Google industry source, "A lot of Web sites, we can index in a second or less." But this collection of incomprehensible gobbledygook isn't searchable until it's paired with an index, which singles out words so that when you perform your search, any page that contains words that match your query has the possibility of showing up in your results list. But your Web search doesn't stop there.
The Secret Search Sauce
Every search engine has its own bag of tricks for ranking search results and displaying them in order of relevance. The specifics of these ranking techniques are closely guarded trade secrets, and to give you an idea how important ranking is, Google tells us that there are more engineers working on search than on any other product at Google, adding, "Relevancy is really the core job of many, many engineers here." But it's not all I-could-tell-you-but-I'd-have-to-kill-you kind of stuff. Google's PageRank is a fairly well-known relevancy algorithm which helps rank pages based on how many links there are to a Web page from other pages and the linking Web site's quality (based on things such as the site's reliability and the amount of time the site has been on the Web). In this way, PageRank looks at the Web like it's a popularity contest, and when a popular site mentions another site, it carries a lot of weight with the PageRank algorithm. It's all about the Web sites you know.
Bing's search interface is a bit more colorful, but no-nonsense nonetheless
Another type of algorithm takes note of where in the Web page a given word is found. Most algorithms weigh any words found in the title, subtitles, metatags (typically the Web designer or Web page owner's details about the contents of the page), and other descriptive locations more heavily. Sometimes an algorithm purposefully omits words from an index, such as "a," "an," and "the." Capitalization and font size are other common factors that can affect how much weight a word might get in an index. These algorithms are the hearts and souls of a search engine, and the better they are at determining what can be found on a given Web page, the better a user's search results will be. But showing a simple collection of links is not all a modern search engine is capable of doing.
Making The Most Of Your Results
While Microsoft, Yahoo!, and Google are not willing to reveal the nuts and bolts of their ranking techniques, Google was a lot more forthcoming about how it arrives at some of the more transparent results you encounter. For instance, when you type weather into your search engine-of-choice and press ENTER, you'll typically see the weather for your area. At Google, they call this a Universal Search Result. Context plays a large role in the results of your search. For instance, where you are, what the date is, what is going on around the world, and what is going on in your neck of the woods all affect your results. In this way, a search you perform today will likely return different results than if you make the same search two weeks from now. For instance, if you typed the term Olympics into a search engine in early February, you were likely to get Vancouver hotel booking information and broadcast schedules for the recent Winter Games. The same search today returns links for obt
aining tickets to the 2012 Olympics in London and the results of the 2010 Games in Vancouver. And search providers are constantly refining their relevancy formula and evolving the search engine to help you find exactly what you're looking for.
Search is an evolving organism. A senior software engineer who works on Web search quality at Google tells us that "at any given time, we're running between 50 and 200 search experiments, meaning that we're trying out a tweak to the ranking algorithm or to the appearance of the results, and we're testing the data to see if users are clicking in ways that suggest to us that it is an improvement." In essence, there are between 50 and 200 versions of Google Search at any given moment; some differ in only minor ways, such as displaying a keyword in bold, indenting a line of text, or changing the ranking of a certain category of queries. Other changes are more dramatic, such as changing the index so that the search engine can return results for queries typed as full sentences. In 2009 alone, Google launched 550 different improvements to its search engine.
Search Seers
Google acknowledges that some searches are easier than others. For instance, if you search for Survivor a few minutes after the television broadcast ends, you should be able to find out who got kicked off the island in short order. The searches that are more difficult to produce relevant results on, the ones that keep Google's engineers up late at night, are the completely unique ones. According to Google, the firm's search engine gets more than one billion searches every day. Of those searches, 20% of them haven't been searched for in the previous 90 days. To a search engine, that's the equivalent of an alien language. And trying to anticipate those sorts of queries is the equivalent of trying to learn to speak that language before you've heard syllable one. "That introduces some interesting challenges, because if you don't know what people are going to be searching for tomorrow, you have to kinda guess. It's something we spend a lot of time trying to figure out."
by Andrew Leibman
[Source: The Angellmore Newsletter]

(contributions for this section are most welcome)
10. While watching the news, you spot your spouse marching in a Gay Pride parade.
9. The bank notifies you that your paycheck has bounced.
8. On a densely foggy morning, while driving in the center lane of a highway, you suddenly run out of gas.
7. You arrive at your wedding to find, two ushers, four bridesmaids, and six pallbearers.
6. You ask your doctor for a physical and he replies: "I'm sorry, I don't do autopsies."
5. The IRS invites you to a weenie-roast and the invitation begins with, "Dear Weenie..."
4. While surfing the internet, you suddenly get the following dialog box: "ICBM launch successful. Confirm strike? (Y/N)".
3. You hear that your dentist has been arrested for using radioactive material as tooth-filling.
2. At the vacant house next door, you notice a U-Haul van and a truck which looks very similar to the ones on the old Beverly Hillbillies.
1. Your twelve year old daughter suddenly develops a craving for pickles and ice cream.
[author unknown]

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Daves Computer Tips


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