Stories by Ian Harac

Opera browser: Can it sing the big boys off the stage?

Coke or Pepsi? Kirk or Picard? Betty or Veronica? The great battles of the marketplace tend to be duels, and few people gripe if you leave out RC, Sisko, or Cheryl Blossom. The "Browser Wars" are no different, with "IE vs. Firefox" having replaced "Netscape vs. IE" long ago, and other options are often forgotten. Opera has been one of the strongest alternate browsers for a long time, and it was my browser of choice prior to Firefox. Opera 11 (free) continues the Opera tradition of doing something different instead of a minor reskin of someone else's codebase, and delivers a plethora of features that are actually designed to be usable, not to pad out a checklist.

Open source FreeOTFE encrypts disks handily

FreeOTFE may sound like a political bumper sticker, but it stands for "Free On The Fly Encryption." The "Free" part is self-explanatory; "On The Fly Encryption" refers to the encrypting/decrypting of data as it is written to or read from your hard disk.

10 utilities to secure your data

Very few people (certainly not the smart, savvy, people who read PCWorld articles) run their computers without up-to-date firewall and antivirus software. Most users know better than to click a message from "Bank of Amerika" that tells them "Your account is much suspect of risk, please input number for verify." Regardless, there's always a new security hole, exploit, or social-engineering trick that can catch even the intelligent and cautious in a moment of weakness. Another threat is the possibility that someone might gain physical access to your computer -- whether it's a laptop thief, a sneaky coworker with dubious intent, or an aggressive lawyer for the RIAA. This feature discusses several ways to keep your digital valuables safe, even if someone is prowling around your house.

Erase data permanently with SecureClean

It's well-known that "deleting" a file from Windows doesn't fully remove it, but you may not understand just how much data can remain on your disk after a file is gone. Even fragments of a file such as a crucial e-mail or spreadsheet can contain valuable data. Browsing histories, cookies, and more can linger a long time. SecureClean ($US50, 14-day free trial) will remove all such detritus permanently.

Microsoft Word alternatives: Wordsmiths, rejoice!

Microsoft Word is ubiquitous: It's the standard word processor in most places of business, and it often ends up installed on home PCs due to compatibility and familiarity. It isn't the only choice, however. Whether your main concern is price, complexity, specialized functionality, system footprint, or some combination of the above, you might have many reasons to look beyond Word.

ConTEXT text editor a boon for programmers

ConTEXT is a powerful, free, and open-source text editor squarely aimed at programmers. Its feature set makes it especially useful for system administrators, toolsmiths, and Web mavens, all of whom often have to juggle many small files written in a variety of languages or markups.

New Notepads: Better, stronger, faster

Much as coelacanths have changed only slightly despite millions of years of evolution, some bundled Windows apps have scarcely progressed since the dawn of Microsoft's operating system. Today's Notepad text editor, for one, barely differs from the 1985 version.

SpaceSniffer identifies hard drive hogs

"Where did all my space go?" This question has been asked by every computer user since the days of the 5.25" floppy (probably since the days of the ENIAC), and SpaceSniffer is a fast, free, easy, way to answer it. While SpaceSniffer in itself does nothing to reclaim space, it does provide you with a very good overview of what's occupying the nether reaches of your hard disk.

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