ShareTool Offers Super Easy File Sharing on a Mac

ShareTool for MacShareTool by Yazsoft is an application I’ve been using on my Macs for the last year or so, and it offers the easiest file sharing of any services I’ve used.  ShareTool is a great way to stream your music library and remotely access your Mac from anywhere.

Why use ShareTool?

Let’s say you have a Mac at home and a Mac at work, or maybe you travel a lot and can’t take all your files (like your music) with you. ShareTool provides the perfect solution for these problems: it allows a person to access his/her home computer from any place with an internet connection.

ShareTool's iTunes sharing
ShareTool's iTunes sharing

For example, I keep my relatively large music library on a Mac Mini at home. I work on an iMac at work. I can’t transfer all my music to my work computer and then worry about it being synced, kept up-to-date, etc. – so I turn on ShareTool at home, turn on ShareTool at work, and my iTunes library pops up under ‘Shared’.

The real beauty of ShareTool is how invisible it is. Once you’re connected, everything shows up on your Mac exactly like you are connected directly to that remote network.

Not just music

Bonjour Services on the Mac
Bonjour Services on the Mac

While ShareTool is great for iTunes sharing, that’s not the only thing it’s good at. Any Bonjour services that are enabled on your home computer are accessible to ShareTool (via System Preferences>Sharing).

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve needed a file on my home computer while I’m at work or away on vacation. ShareTool makes file sharing as simple as mounting an external drive since it adds the home computer right into the sidebar of Finder.

Screen sharing is also available through ShareTool and it’s a joy to use. One click and you’re controlling your home computer. This feature is also very useful for a quick preview of larger files.

While ShareTool may not transfer files as intelligently as software like Dropbox, it’s great to be able to browse my entire desktop at any time.

Negatives

While I don’t have much to complain about with ShareTool, there are a few downsides. My biggest gripe is that the host computer needs to remain on for it to be useful. This is a rather obvious point but it does mean more electricity usage. There are some options for remote waking of computers, but I haven’t had a chance to fool around with those.  Luckily for me the Mac Mini is so power efficient I haven’t noticed an increase in my electric bill.

The only other thing I have a slight issue with is the need for ShareTool to be installed on each computer that’s being used. It’s not just a process that runs on the home computer; a ShareTool license must be purchased for each unique Mac. For their part, Yazsoft does a pretty good job of offering bundles for ShareTool and their other Mac apps (SpeedDownload for faster downloads, and Playback to enable media sharing with PS3, Xbox 360, or other UPnP devices).

Conclusion

If easy sharing between Macs is what you need, ShareTool is the way to go. It’s cheap, easy, and works really well. At $20 for one license or $30 for a bundle of 2, this program is a bargain.

What other Mac apps do you use for screen sharing? Let us know in the comments.

Watching the Oscars Tonight? Google Docs Has a Simple Voting Template

The 82nd Academy Awards ceremony will be taking place tonight and many movie enthusiasts like myself are making predictions for the recipients of this years’ awards.  If you want to make your own predictions or set up a wager with your friends, Google has created a special Google Docs template just for the Oscars.

To use the voting template, just head over to the Oscars template page and click Use this template at the top.  You will then be taken to Google Docs where you can customize the title of the form and add a message.

The voting sheet has already been populated with nominees in each category, so when you’re finished customizing just click Save.  You can view the form by clicking the link at the bottom of the Docs page.

If you want to share the voting form with your friends, simply click the Email this form button from the Docs page and enter as many email addresses as you like.  The form will be sent right to their inbox so they can easily fill it out.

After your friends have submitted the form, you can click the See Responses button from the Doc page.  Here you can view a summary of results (with graphs) as well as a complete spreadsheet of all data.

It's going to be a close competition...

The 82nd Academy Awards ceremony airs tonight at 5 pm pacific/7 pm central/8 pm eastern time.

Image credit: Dave_B_

Create a Simple, Awesome Browser Start Page with Fav4

I recently asked my friends on Twitter what they used for their browser start page, and it seemed like most people used about:blank, Google/Firefox Start, or iGoogle.  I personally use iGoogle because I can combine a lot of information into one page, but I often find myself wanting something a little simpler.  Fav4.org is an browser start page that offers just that.

Fav4 is very simple – you can choose four of your favorite sites to have displayed on your browser start page.  When you first visit Fav4, you’ll be greeted with four very large buttons for Facebook, Flickr, Gmail, and Twitter.

Changing the four sites displayed is very easy, just click the Site Settings button in the bottom right.

You can then click the Config tab to select which four sites you would like to display.  Fav4 currently supports over 130 different services, and if your favorite service is missing you can click the Suggest tab to let them know.

When you’ve finished selecting your favorite sites, just click Save Settings and your custom page will be created.  All you need to do then is set fav4.org as your browser homepage.  Check out this link for instructions on how to do this with your browser.

What do you use for your browser start page?  Share it with us in the comments below!

Essential WordPress Plugins Part 1: Security

As the popularity of the easy-to-use WordPress blogging software increases, developers and users continue to develop more creative ways to use it. Although WordPress comes as a basic content management system by default, users have developed an array of plugins that allow web developers vast amounts of control and options for their WordPress-based websites.

In part one of my Essential WordPress Plugins series, I will be taking a look at some of my favorite plugins that help secure your WordPress-based website.

Skeleton Key

Skeleton Key is a useful WordPress plugin that allows a WordPress administrator to log in to another user’s WordPress account using only the administrator’s password.  This plugin can be useful if troubleshooting the user’s account and will keep you from resetting their password.  Find out more about Skeleton Key here.

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User Locker

A current security flaw in WordPress is that there is no limit to the number of failed login attempts.  This flaw can make your WordPress installation susceptible to brute force or dictionary password attacks.  User Locker is a WordPress plugin that will patch this security hole by allowing you to limit the number of unsuccessful login attempts.  If the number is reached, then the user’s account is locked, then it must be unlocked by an administrator or the password reset.  Read more about User Locker here.

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Capability Manager

WordPress includes a few default user “roles” with preconfigured accessibility permissions such as Contributor, Author, and Editor.  As these default roles may not fit your needs, you can easily edit them or add more user roles with the Capability Manager plugin.  Capability Manager offers 50+ different capability settings to be included/excluded from different user roles.  Capability Manager also allows you to backup your roles.

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WP-Security Scan

WP-Security Scan is a very power plugin for a self-hosted WordPress site that will detect security flaws and provide information for resolving them.  WP-Security Scan will check various settings of your WordPress installation and database and assist in resolving the problem.  WP-Security Scan will also check that you have the appropriate file permissions set on your web server.  Read more about WP-Security scan in our guide.

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Audit Trail

Audit Trail is a WordPress plugin that allows you to track what happens with your blog, which can be especially useful (if not necessary) in a multi-user system.  Audit Trail is capable of tracking many of the common user actions in your blog and save them to a log file.  Examples of items tracked include user logins, file attachments, page visits, post & page management, comment management, and many other actions.  The user name, time, and IP address are also saved.

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Bad Behavior

Blocking spam comments and robots is something that all WordPress users deal with constantly.  The Bad Behavior plugin for WordPress will help to reduce (and sometimes eliminate) spam and robot traffic to your site.  If a visitor is determined to be a bot, then a 404 error code is sent, blocking your site from being accessed.  Bad Behavior is also capable of logging up to 7 days of blocking activity.  Bad Behavior is a powerful PHP script that will integrate into any PHP site.

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Akismet

Akismet is probably the most well-known anti-spam plugin for WordPress.  Akismet is included with the WordPress installation but needs to be activated and configured with a WordPress.com API key.  Akismet is capable of reducing or even eliminating spam comments from your blog.  Another nice feature about Akismet is that it provides some graphs that really show how spam affects your blog.

Check back later as we continue our Essential WordPress Plugins series with some WordPress administration plugins.

What WordPress plugins do you use to keep WordPress secure?  Let us know by commenting below.

http://www.techerator.com/tag/wordpress-essentials/

Quick Tip: How to Save Documents as PDFs in Microsoft Office Word 2007

If you’ve ever written a document in Microsoft Office Word, chances are you’ve wanted to save it as a PDF for easy sharing.  Publishing to PDF isn’t included in the standard installation of Microsoft Office Word, but you can add it in a few easy steps which I will cover in this quick tip.

Step 1: Head over to the Microsoft Save as PDF or XPS Add-in for 2007 Microsoft Office programs page.  Make sure to close Microsoft Office Word if you currently have it open.

Step 2: Download and install the Microsoft Save as PDF or XPS add-in.

Step 3: Re-open Microsoft Office Word.  You will now have the option to save as PDF in the Save As menu!

Opera Web Browser: Fighting Back With Version 10.50

Many people are aware of the instant popularity of the Google Chrome web browser, taking just over 3% of the browser market share upon its release.  Opera, a competitor in the web browser market since 1996, has only achieved a 2% market share in the past 14 years.  The Opera developers aim to get back into the web browser market with the 10.50 release of the Opera web browser.

The Opera 10.50 web browser boasts some features that all internet users will enjoy.  I’ll go over some of the major features of Opera 10.50 in this article.

Faster JavaScript Performance

Having the fastest JavaScript speeds is a major factor in why Google Chrome has been successful.  With the continued move to feature-rich, web-based applications, more load is being placed on the web browser.  Opera 10.50 is setting the bar higher by boasting to have the fastest JavaScript performance yet, performing 10 times faster than the previous version of Opera.

Opera Turbo

Opera Turbo is a feature that can help decrease page load times if you happen to be on a slow connection.  Using Opera’s compression servers, web pages are compressed up to 80%, allowing your pages to load faster.  Opera Turbo also helps to decrease page load times by preventing Flash content such as YouTube videos from loading until you click on them.  Image sizes are also reduced to decrease page load times.  Opera Turbo features an automatic mode, which will sense if you network connection has become slow, and enable Opera Turbo.

Visual Tabs

Opera already supported tabbed browsing, but a new feature in version 10.50 are Visual Tabs.  Visual Tabs allow you to see a preview of the open tab, along with the page title.  Visually recognizing the tab can sometimes be easier than referring to the page title.

Opera 10.50 also offers tab previews.  Hovering the mouse over a tab will show a quick thumbnail of that tab.

Speed Dial

Speed Dial allows you to quickly access your favorite sites whenever you open a new tab.  When opening a new tab, the Speed Dial page is shown with your 9 favorite sites.  Speed Dial pages can easily be changed or removed from the Speed Dial page.

Mouse Gestures

Mouse Gestures are a way to quickly perform common web browser actions with a right-click and movement of the mouse.  Some common browser actions you can perform with Mouse Gestures include opening new tabs, closing tabs, previous page, next page, reload, home, and many more.

Opera Link

Opera Link is a feature included in Opera 10.50 that allows you to sync your Opera browser information between multiple computers.  Opera Link allows you to sync bookmarks, Speed Dial, notes, history, and searches, allowing you to have them available wherever you are.  If you use Opera at home and at work, Opera Link is a great way to keep the same browsing information synced between the two computers.  Opera Link is also a great way to backup your browser information automatically.

Integrated Email

One of my favorite features of Opera 10.50 is the integrated email support.  Opera integrated email supports both POP and IMAP email and is easily configured.  Once your account has been added, your email is automatically fetched and displayed.  Opera’s integrated email also allows composing and sending of emails with the feature rich editor.

Opera Unite

Another promising features of Opera 10.50 is Opera Unite.  Opera Unite is a set of extension applications that add functionality such as photo sharing, music streaming, and file sharing, all from your browser.  Opera Unite already features a wide list of community developed applications with more constantly being developed.

Opera Widgets

New to Opera 10.50, Opera Widgets allow you to run your favorite internet service outside of your browser.  Acting like desktop applications, Opera Widgets allow you to access services like Twitter and Facebook even when your web browser is closed.  Opera features many community developed widgets, with more being actively developed.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a fast, full-featured web browser and want to try something other than Firefox and Chrome, then I suggest you give the Opera 10.50 a try.  I’m sure everyone will find something they like about the Opera web browser.

Have you used Opera as your web browser?  What is your favorite upcoming feature of Opera?  Let us know your thoughts about Opera by commenting below!

Follow Up: My Experience with Microsoft Security Essentials Anti-Malware Software

ThumbnailA few months ago, Evan wrote a great article about Microsoft’s free anti-malware application, Microsoft Security Essentials. After using Microsoft Security Essentials for several months, I’ve been able to get a good sense of how it stacks up against the competition.

My first experience with Security Essentials was on my own computer. It had some relatively benign spyware which wasn’t being removed by my standard set of scans, so I thought I’d give Microsoft Security Essentials a try.

As Evan mentioned in his article, Microsoft Security Essentials is a quick, painless installation and it automatically updates its virus definitions. This is a handy feature because it prevents me from wasting time by running a scan and then realizing I forgot to update and having to do it all over again.

After updating the virus definitions, I elected to go straight for the full scan option, not really knowing what to expect in terms of time. The full scan took about 3 hours to finish. This was on an older computer, but it still surprised me how long it took. However, the wait was worth it, as it found and easily removed the malware that none of the other products I tried were able to!

Microsoft Security Essentials

Since I found Microsoft Security Essentials to be successful at home, I have been using it more frequently at my IT job. Although it still isn’t part of the standard set of scans we run, Microsoft Security Essentials seems to find malware that other applications miss. Most of the time, it takes care of the malware without causing any additional problems to the system.

We’ve recently seen an issue with a Windows Update for Windows XP combined with a virus causing a Blue Screen of Death error.  Kevin wrote a fantastic guide to resolving the problem, and he found that using Microsoft Security Essentials seems to be the most successful  method for removing this particularly nasty malware.

Conclusion

Although the full scan still seems to take significantly longer than other products on the same hardware, it can be worth the time because Microsoft Security Essentials finds malware that other products miss. I still recommend using a combination of anti-malware products when running manual scans (since each one has unique strengths and weaknesses), but if your usual set of scans does not do the trick, I would give Microsoft Security Essentials a spin!

Have you used Security Essentials? Have your results been similar to mine, or have you had a different experience? I’d love to get feedback in the comments below!

Fix: Windows XP Gets Blue Screen Error after Windows Update (KB977165)

A recent Windows Update (KB977165) for Windows XP caused many computers to experience Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) errors when the computer restarted after the update.  The cause of the blue screen wasn’t just the update, but rather a rootkit (a form of malware) which had been present on the users’ machines prior to the update.

The specific error is:

PAGE_FAULT_IN_NONPAGED_AREA

Technical Information:

STOP: 0x00000050 (0x80097004, 0x00000001, 0x80515103, 0x00000000).

This guide will help you get your computer back into a bootable state and get rid of the rootkit. To do this, you will need a Windows XP installation disc in order to access the repair options.

Step 1: Insert the Windows XP disc and restart your computer.  When the computer initially starts, you should see “Press any key to boot from CD” message which you must do.  If you do not see this message, you may need to configure your computer to boot from the CD drive.

When the content on the CD has finished loading, you should be presented with a screen that looks like this:

Step 2: Press the ‘R’ key to access the recovery console. You should now be presented with what looks like a DOS prompt.

You may see multiple options when asked which installation you would like to log into. The one you want should look something like the one in the picture, “C:\WINDOWS”. Enter the password for the Administrator account when prompted. If you haven’t set up a password for the Administrator account, just press Enter.

Step 3: Enter the following command (since Windows isn’t case sensitive, you don’t need to worry about any capital letters):

chdir $ntuninstallkb977165$\spuninst

and press Enter.

Now enter the command:

batch spuninst.txt

and press Enter

Once that procedure has finished, type ‘exit‘ and press Enter to restart your computer, and don’t forget to remove the CD.  When your computer restarts it should be able to boot into Windows. We now need to perform a few final steps to remove the rootkit.

Removing the Rootkit

First we need to download and install Microsoft Security Essentials. Once it is installed, it should update itself automatically with the latest virus definitions. From the ‘Home’ tab, set the radio button to ‘Quick’ and press ‘Scan now’.

The scan might take anywhere from 10-20 minutes (or more if you’re on a particularly slow computer). Once it has finished scanning, it will present you with the option to clean up any items it found. Go ahead and do this, after which you may be asked to restart your computer.

It should now be safe to run Windows Update again, since Microsoft Security Essentials takes care of the virus that caused the problem.

Since there’s probably other malware residing on your system, it would be a good idea to install and run Malwarebytes as well, just in case. Also, make sure you’re running an antivirus program and that it’s up to date.

Please let us know how it works in the comments, or if you have any questions!

Gmail Tip: How to Quickly View Unread Messages

If you’re like me, your inbox can get pretty cluttered with unread messages after being away from my computer for a day. Since I use multiple inboxes to split my Gmail inbox into several smaller inboxes, I can have unread messages all over the place on a particularly busy day.

In this guide, I’ll show you how to turn a handy Gmail search query into a dedicated Unread Messages button.

Step One:  In Gmail, go to Gmail Labs and enable Quick Links.

Be sure to click Save changes at the bottom of the page after you’ve clicked the Enable button.

Step Two: Type is:unread in the Gmail search bar and press enter.  This search query will display any unread message in your inbox.

Step 3: Locate the new Quick Links box on the left sidebar of Gmail.  Click Add Quick Link then give it a title.

That’s it!  You will now have a handy button to instantly view your unread messages.  This same technique can be applied to any Gmail search query to quickly view your messages.

How to Download and Backup Pictures from an LG Dare Mobile Phone (VX9700)

I recently decided to part ways with my old LG Dare phone (VX9700), but before I got rid of it I wanted to back up the pictures that were still stored in its memory.  Unfortunately, you can’t just plug the device into a computer and make copies, and it takes a long time to send each picture from the phone one at a time.  This guide will show you how to quickly backup your pictures from your LG Dare.

Step 1: Download and install BitPim.  This is incredibly useful software that lets you access your phone’s file system and we’ll be using it in this guide to backup your pictures.  BitPim is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Step 2: Connect your LG Dare phone to your computer with a micro USB cable.  Open BitPim and go to Edit –> Detect Phone.  BitPim should quickly identify your phone which you can verify in the bottom right corner of the screen.

Step 3: Click Filesystem in the bottom left of Bitpim, then open up the / folder tree in the next column.

Step 4: Locate and expand the folder mmc1, then click my_pix.  You should see a list of all your pictures in this directory, which will have numeric file names and end with .jpg.  Right click the mmc1 folder and select Backup entire tree…

This process can take a very long time depending on how many pictures you have on your phone.  You can monitor its progress by looking at the status bar. Be sure not to use the phone or the program while it says BUSY in the bottom left.

Step 5: When BitPim is finished backing up the files, a dialog box will pop up where you can specify the location you would like to save the files.  The files will be stored in a compressed .zip folder.

That’s it!  Your pictures are now copied from your LG Dare to your computer.

Photo credit: LGEPR