Category Archives: Software

Four Easy Ways to Keep Your Passwords Syncronized

If you’re like me, you have a ton of different passwords to try to remember, and you definitely do not want to recycle the same username/password combo over and over. To this effect, perhaps you use a free password manager such as KeePass.

For anyone who hops around between multiple computers, however, there still remains a problem: how to easily have access to the latest versions of your passwords. While KeePass does a great job of keeping my passwords organized, I still need easy access to my passwords from any current computer. Imagine this scenario:

You’re at work (or maybe at a coffee shop) and you decide to update your Internet banking password. Every time you make an update, you have to dig out your flash drive and e-mail the database to yourself, or else you will end up wondering which version is current. It’s a hassle.

Here are four different methods for keeping your commonly-used passwords in sync and readily available.

Option 1 – Foxmarks

Several months ago I wrote an article on Foxmarks, and it does a splendid job of keeping Firefox bookmarks synchronized across multiple computers. In addition to bookmarks, Foxmarks now has the ability to sync passwords. In FIrefox, just go to Tools → Foxmarks → Foxmarks Settings, and browse to the Sync tab.

Check the box next to passwords, create a strong PIN, and you’re done. Your saved Firefox passwords will now stay in sync for every computer on which you have Foxmarks installed.

If you tend to rely on Firefox to store your passwords, this is a simple way to keep them updated. Since Foxmarks does not require admin privileges, you can use it at work, too. Hint: you can create multiple profiles in Foxmarks if you don’t necessarily want ALL your passwords synced to your work computer.

Option 2 – Dropbox / Syncplicity

If you rely on a password manager (such as KeePass, 1Password, or Password Dragon), here’s a handy trick to keep your database synchronized. All you have to do is sign up with a free online storage and syncing service (such as Dropbox or Syncplicity).

Place your password database file in a folder that will automatically stay updated. Whenever you open the database to make changes, just open it directly from the synced folder. Any edits that you make will automatically stay in sync across your computers.

Better yet, you can even drop the entire portable ZIP version of KeePass into your Dropbox or Syncplicity folder and run it from there. New version of KeePass available? Just overwrite the existing files with the new ZIP version and all your linked computers will automatically receive the latest version.

Option 3 – LastPass

LastPass is both an online password manager and an automatic form filler. It has a ton of features and can easily allow multiple computers to access stored passwords. There’s even a plugin available for both IE and Firefox (Safari support coming soon).

If you’re on a public computer, you can always use the portable LastPass pocket version that does not require access to the LastPass toolbar.

Worried about the availability or security of an online password manager? Yeah, so am I, but LassPass does a pretty good job of addressing these issues.

Option 4 – Passpack

Passpack is another free online password manager. No, it’s more than that. It’s a privacy vault that allows you to store pretty much whatever info you want. Like LastPass, Passpack can automatically generate passwords and fill in your saved information without typing. There’s absolutely nothing to install.

Again, if you’re worried about the security of an online password manager, Passpack claims that not even they can read your stored passwords. Plus, there are two portable versions of Passpack available:

For the ultra-paranoid, the portable versions of Passpack do not even require a Passpack account. Instead, they function like a standalone password manager (similar to KeePass).

There you have it – four easy ways to keep your passwords in sync. If you have any other suggestions or strategies, let us know in the comments below.

Create Your Own Desktop Webapps with Fluid (Mac OS X)

This is neat. How would you like the ability to create your own standalone webapps on your Mac OS X desktop? In other words, what if you could turn any website into a Mac desktop application?

Fluid can do just that.

Download Fluid – requires OS 10.5 or later

In seconds, Fluid can take a given website – such as Gmail, Google Docs, Facebook, eBay, YouTube, or whatever you want – and package it into its own Site Specific Browser (SSB). The SSBs can then run as complete and independent Cocoa applications, complete with their own dock icons and menu bars! Fluid SSBs are based on Safari’s WebKit rendering engine.

Creating the Application

Creating your own SSB is simple: just launch Fluid and fill in the URL and the name of the App you wish to create.

Choose a place to save your new App (defaults to Applications). If you wish to attach a picture for the Dock icon, you may do so. Otherwise, Fluid will grab the site’s favicon.

Note: two good places to hunt for Fluid App icons are here and here.

Here is my new Gmail SSB. Notice the application name and the custom icon in the Dock.

That’s all there is to it. In this example, Gmail runs as its own self-contained browser App on my desktop. Pretty slick.

Run as a Menu Item

With a few extra clicks, you can turn any Fluid App into a Menu item. Just look under the Application name in the menu and click on Convert to MenuExtra SSB.

The App will disappear from the Dock and relaunch as a Menu item.

Because Fluid Apps are based on WebKit, you can even browse sites using Cover Flow. Neat!

Fluid may seem like a novelty, but if there is a website that you tend to leave open most of the time, Fluid can come in handy. Because it’s self-contained, you don’t have to worry about a random browser crash taking down all your open sites.

Speaking of novelty, here’s a link where you can download your very own TipsFor.us desktop application! Yes, that’s right, it will undoubtedly be your least-commonly used Fluid app, perhaps used once before it’s relegated to its rightful place in the Trash!

Fluid itself requires Mac OS 10.5 or greater, but I see no reason why the Apps it creates won’t run on 10.4 or earlier. I’ve upgraded to 10.5, but if someone could verify or disprove me by testing that TipsFor.us App in the above paragraph, I would appreciate it.

iAntiVirus for Mac (Free) – Worth Using?

There has been quite a bit of fuss in the news recently about whether or not Apple recommends anti-virus software for Macs.

My take: I’m not a fanboy of any sort. I am comfortable with multiple operating systems, and I simply prefer to use whatever tool I deem best for any given job. That said, no one can argue that the overwhelming majority of malware writers target the Windows operating system. I also doubt that anyone can convincingly argue that every single Mac needs anti-virus software. Mac OS X is inherently tougher for malware writers to penetrate, but no operating system is perfect. I agree that the best defense against malware is common sense, but lots of people are gullible, and social engineering will find ways around users’ better judgment (or the lack thereof).

As a lover of free software, I choose to run (free) anti-virus software on the Windows-based computers that I manage. I also choose to run anti-virus software on my Mac.

That brings us to iAntiVirus. Many Mac users already know about ClamXav, but iAntiVirus is the other free antivirus product for Mac OS X.

iAntiVirus is developed by PC Tools, the same creators of Spyware Doctor and the AntiVirus Free Edition for Windows (see my review of an earlier version).

First of all, iAntiVirus is indeed FREE (for home and home office use), though it is currently labeled erroneously as shareware on MacUpdate. Just like many free anti-virus products in the Windows world, there is a paid upgrade available that allows for business/commercial usage plus 24/7 support. Otherwise, there is no difference between the free and paid versions.

Requirements: iAntivirus requires an Intel-based Mac running 10.5 or later.

Usage

The main program window of iAntiVirus has a simple elegance to it.

Clicking the Scan my Mac button offers three different scan types: Quick, Normal, and Custom.

Updating

Like any anti-virus program worth its salt, iAntiVirus offers automatic updates. If you want to manually check for definition updates, just click the Smart Update button in the top-right corner.

In the program preferences, you can also set a schedule for both updating and scanning.

Footprint and Scanning

Running a Quick scan on my first-generation Macbook took only 12 minutes. A Normal scan took substantially longer – over two hours. As expected, neither scan detected any infections.

Fortunately, iAntiVirus is very light on resources. Activity Monitor reports that iAntivirus only uses about 10 MB of RAM while silently monitoring in the background. Not bad at all. On my machine, the Finder occupies about 19 MB, while the Dock alone uses just over 6 MB. As I type this, Firefox is consuming about 146 MB. Geez.

During a Normal scan, memory usage crept up to 19.4 MB. Still quite acceptable.

Types of Protection

iAntiVirus offers real-time protection against viruses and other malware.

This is important: iAntiVirus only scans for Mac-specific malware. It does NOT detect any infections specific to Windows. This is both good and bad: It’s GOOD because the program has no need to bloat itself with tons of Windows-specific definitions. It’s BAD because it eliminated one of the main arguments for running anti-virus software on a Mac: to avoid passing on infections to unsuspecting Windows users.

My take: I’m fine with the Mac-specific nature of iAntiVirus. I will gladly accept more system resources on my Mac. Let the Windows anti-virus programs do their job.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I only have two complaints:

  1. You cannot access the program preferences while a scan is running.
  2. I’m having trouble finding any Mac-specific malware. I’m not kidding! I want to test this program.

So, is iAntiVirus worth using? In my opinion, yes. Do you need it right now for fear that you will fall victim to a malware attack? Probably not. But considering that it’s free and uses very few system resources, I see little reason NOT to use it. Despite what many Apple apologists might think, Mac OS X is not infallible, and I welcome another free anti-virus program to the Mac.

Backup and Restore Your Firefox Profile with MozBackup

If you frequently hop around between various Windows-based computers, you might find it handy to keep the same Firefox profile with all your custom settings, extensions, and other info. One easy way to backup and restore your Firefox profile is with MozBackup.

Note: MozBackup also works with Thunderbird, Flock, Sunbird, SeaMonkey, and other Mozilla software.

The MozBackup download comes in both an executable and Zip (standalone) format. I prefer the Zip since you can just pop it onto a Flash drive and carry it with you.

Back Up Your Profile

First, launch the MozBackup wizard. Choose the operation type (Backup versus Restore) and select the desired Mozilla application.

Next, highlight the profile you wish to save. Unless you have created custom profiles, default is the only choice. Be sure to take a look at the Save backup to directory location at the bottom.

At this point you can set a password if you wish. I highly recommend that you do so, especially if you keep saved passwords in your Firefox profile. If those fell into the wrong hands….

Next, choose all the profile details that you want MozBackup to save.

Click Next, and voila! Your backup has been created. Just stick the saved file on a USB flash drive or upload it to some online storage.

Restore Your Profile

Now that your Firefox profile is saved, let’s restore it to another computer, shall we? Launch the MozBackup utility on the new computer, but this time choose Restore a profile as the operation type.

As before, select the desired profile to restore into, and then browse to find your backup file that you created.

Next, select the desired components to restore and tell it to overwrite existing files in the profile.

And away it goes!

And that completes your restore. The next time you launch Firefox, your profile on the new computer should contain all the same extensions, bookmarks, passwords, and other components that you selected.

µTorrent Mac Beta Finally Released

I just received this e-mail from the μTorrent Mac Team:

Psst…

You asked us to tell you about µTorrent Mac developments.

The beta is out. It’s Leopard and Intel only right now, but we’re working
to expand support soon.

Get it here: mac.utorrent.com/beta

Remember it’s beta software, so there may be bugs and annoyances. Please
help us make it better by contributing to the conversation in the forums
(forum.utorrent.com).

– The µTorrent Mac Team

This is great news. µTorrent is an excellent torrent client on Windows, and I’m excited to give it a try on Mac OS X. Yes, it’s still a beta, but I look forward to seeing how it compares to my reigning favorite client – Transmission.

0.9.0 is the current version.

Here’s the main screen:

And some Bandwidth preferences:

So far, I’d say it looks and acts a lot like the Windows version, just a lot more slick, glassy, and Mac-like.

Your thoughts? Will you be switching your Mac torrent client?

ADrive – 50GB of Free Storage (Online Storage Series)

In continuing our online storage series, today we’re going to look at ADrive, which offers a whopping 50GB of free storage. So far we have taken a look at:

Note: In addition to the free plan, ADrive also offers paid plans with additional features and storage space. For this article, I’m using the free version.

For a free offering, ADrive is loaded with features. Here are a few of them:

  • 50 GB storage (per account)
  • Multiple folder upload (Nice!)
  • File-sharing capabilities
  • Remote file transfer
  • Integration with Zoho Editor
  • ADrive Backup Client (Windows only at the moment)

Upgrading to the cheapest paid version also adds SSL encryption and WebDAV access (mapping as a network drive). These two features alone are worth the upgrade price. Also, the free version is ad-supported.

Once you register for an account, you can start creating folders and uploading files. Here is what the main window looks like. I’ve already added a few folders.

Notice the buttons at the bottom of the window. They allow for file/folder manipulation (move, copy, create directory, share, and delete).

Uploading

There are several different ways to get files into ADrive, but the most common way is using the Java upload tool. If you don’t have Java installed already, you should do so. The first time you try to upload a file, Java will start to load. If you want, tell it to “Always trust….”

Once Java loads, you will have access to a Java uploader than can upload multiple files and folders simultaneously.

While loading Java can be sluggish, I absolutely LOVE the ability to upload a hierarchy of folders at once, keeping their original structure intact.

Except… there’s a big problem with using a browser-based Java uploader. Once Java comes to the forefront, it seizes control, and the rest of the browser is rendered absolutely useless. You can’t switch tabs or even minimize appropriately. The only browser I’ve found that gets around this annoying problem is Google Chrome (due to its multi-threaded approach).

If you want to avoid Java, a Basic Uploader is available, but it can only upload one file at a time.

Downloading

To download files, you can simply navigate the folder hierarchy and double-click the file you want to download. Easy enough…

Or, you can use the more advanced Java downloader. With it, you can select multiple files (control-click or shift-click), and the utility will automatically create folders on your computer, keeping the hierarchy intact. Brilliant!

Remote Transfer

Another one of my favorite features is the ability to remotely transfer a file from elsewhere on the Internet straight into ADrive. Considering that remote transfer is usually only available in paid accounts in other services, I’m glad to see that ADrive offers it for free.

Here is a remote transfer in progress:

Other Features

If you’re a Zoho user, you will be pleased to know that you can directly open and edit files from within ADrive. Just right-click on any compatible file and look for the Edit in Zoho button.

I admit, I’m disappointed that OpenOffice documents are not yet supported. This is a shame considering that Zoho can handle OpenOffice files. Hopefully ADrive will correct this soon.

On the other hand, the ADrive Backup Client is slick tool that’s available for Windows users. This small utility allows you to set up scheduled backups, restores, and synchronizations.

Though the Backup Client used to be limited to a 30-day trial, it is now free for all accounts. While I certainly applaud ADrive for making it free, I also wish to see a client for Mac/Linux.

Sharing

As with most other online storage services, ADrive allows for public sharing of files. Simply select a file and click the Share button.

You can then view a direct link to the file, and choose to download or e-mail it to a friend.

If you can’t tell, I like ADrive. I have been using it for many months, but it took a while to grow on me. The interface is functional, but not as slick as other services, and I was turned off by the 30-day trial of the Backup Client (now free).

Mainly, the sheer amount of space and special features – such as the Remote Transfer option – have propelled ADrive near the top of my favorites list for online storage. I can see myself paying the $69.50 per year for the addition of SLL, WebDAV, and file history recovery.

That said, I highly recommend the free edition, though I also suggest using it with Google Chrome to avoid the Java-seizing-the-browser issue.

Happy storage!

VirtualBox Walkthrough – Easily Run Other Operating Systems Virtually

In the land of virtual machines, there are a few big names, such as VMware and VirtualPC. However, there is a slightly lesser-known contender worth examining – VirtualBox.

I have no intention of pitting the various virtualization tools head-to-head, or to label any one of them as the subjective best, but if all you’re looking for is a free and easy way to run virtual copies of operating systems, VirtualBox has you covered.

VirtualBox runs on Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, and OpenSolaris, and can support a massive number of guest operating systems. DOS? Check! OS/2? Yep! Vista? Of course.

Best of all, VirtualBox is completely free. You can choose to download either a compiled binary or the open-source edition.

Walkthrough

I’m going to walk through the process of setting up a new virtual machine. The host OS is Mac OS X, using VirtualBox 2.0.4.

Once you install and launch VirtualBox, it’s time to create a new virtual machine. Click the New button in the top-left corner.

Next, choose a name for your virtual machine and select the appropriate guest OS type. In my case, I’m planning to install Damn Small Linux, which uses a Linux 2.4 kernel.

In the next step, select the amount of system RAM that you wish the guest OS to use. You can always adjust this later, and the amount to choose largely depends on the type of guest OS. I have 1.25 GB available in my Macbook, but Damn Small Linux only needs a little bit. I’ll be generous and give it 256 MB.

Now it’s time to create a virtual hard drive for the guest OS. After all, it has to install somewhere, and a virtual hard disk ensures that the new installation does not somehow trash your existing hard drive! Click the New button to launch the New Virtual Disk Wizard.

Create a name and choose a size for the new virtual drive. You have a choice here with regard to the size of the virtual disk:

  1. Dynamically expanding image
  2. Fixed-size image

If you choose option 1, the size that you specify for the disk is the maximum potential size. The disk will actually consume only as much space as is needed, and will grow larger automatically until it hits the maximum. The benefit here is in reduced file size on your real hard disk.

If you choose option 2, VirtualBox will go ahead and allocate the entire specified space for the disk. The benefit here is in slightly better performance of the virtual machine, at the expense of a larger file size now. It’s a trade off. If you can spare the disk space, I suggest choosing the fixed-size option.

Once you have chosen the type of disk image, go ahead and type a name for the disk. You can use the slider to manipulate the disk size.

Created your virtual disk yet? Great, let’s continue with the installation.

Alright, now that you have completed the wizard, VirtualBox will show you the details of your soon-to-be-running virtual machine. Before you get excited and hit the Start button, let’s take a look at a few more details.

Click the Settings button in the top-right corner. Here, we can adjust settings for the new virtual machine, including networking, USB, and access to the CD/DVD-ROM. Feel free to edit any parameters that you like. You can always adjust them later.

You will almost certainly have to adjust the CD/DVD-ROM settings. In my case, I have an ISO that I want to boot, so I’m going to choose that option and select the location of my Damn Small Linux ISO.

Another option you may want to explore is setting up Shared Folders. In essence, you can use these to allow file transfers between the host and guest operating systems.

Hint: Don’t put any spaces in the shared folder name. Also, you will need to install the VirtualBox Guest Additions on the guest OS before you can access shared folders. Guest Additions can be installed once the virtual OS is running.

Are you ready to get this guest OS running? Once you’ve adjusted all the settings that you like, hit the big, green Start button at the top. Your guest OS should launch and start the booting process.

Here, Damn Small Linux is starting to boot:

And here, Damn Small Linux is running in its full glory on my Macbook. Click to enlarge.

And just for kicks, here’s a screenshot of Ubuntu 8.10 running as a guest OS on my Macbook. Click to enlarge.

And this concludes our installation walkthrough. If your guest OS supports it, I strongly recommend installing the VirtualBox Guest Additions. Benefits include, better video support, mouse pointer integration, time syncronization, and access to shared folders. To install Guest Additions, take a look under the Devices menu.

One of my favorite features of VirtualBox is the ability to create multiple snapshots of the guest OS. This is useful for purposes of software testing or tweaking. Oops! Make a terrible mistake? Just revert to a previous snapsot and the guest OS will be restored to a previous state. Nice!

Happy virtualizing!

VirtualBox website – http://www.virtualbox.org

VirtualBox downloads – http://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Downloads