Here you will find links to some of the software (and some web sites) I have found most useful whilst pursuing my hobbies.
Backup & cloning
Best all-rounder (Partition copy with size adjust)
The free version of MiniTool Partition Wizard is a Windows program that allows partition size adjustment whilst copying (cloning). It makes migration from a (large) hard disk to a (smaller) SSD really easy - in fact it even has a 'wizard' that does exactly that = just so long as you can plug the SSD into your computer to do the copying
Few laptops have multiple hard drives, however many have a CD/DVD drive. You can purchase (on eBay) a standard 'caddy' into which you can mount the SSD and use in place of the CD/DVD drive.
To copy the active system partition, Partition Wizard sets up a 'boot process'. When you reboot your computer, it performs the system copy before the boot continues into Windows
Cloning a hard disk to another hard disk
The entire disk is 'cloned' (including partition tables etc) so you can (only) use it to generate an identical drive copy. It's major advantage is the simple 'command line' interface where you can only enter one of the half-dozen or so commands (rather than the more modern GUI with thousands of impossible to understand choices, options and obscure settings) It's major limitation is that it can only generate exact copies, although you don't have to clone directly to another drive as it lets you save an 'image' to the USB stick you booted from or to an FTP Server.
Clonezilla generates exact copies for complete backup purposes = so it will also copy any 'hidden' or 'empty space' sectors being used by 'clever' copy-protection schemes. It has no ability to change GUID's / SID's, so can not be used to 'roll out' system images to new PC's. Needless to say, the new drive has to be at least as big as the old (and after the clone it will be 'exactly' as big as the old :-) )
Backup to a 'disk image' that can be saved and later restored to another drive
Note that, to avoid wasting time during a 'save', PartImage 'skips' sections of the disk not in use. On restore it recreates the original partition (placing the saved data back in the same place & skipping 'empty' space). It can restore to a bigger disk, but after restore the new disk will end up with a partition the same size as the original.
Some 'copy protection' schemes (especially those used on Games) use 'hidden' or 'ghost' sectors on the disk to hold passwords / decryption keys etc. These will be 'skipped' by PartImage, so using PartImage as a back-up tool will likely mean you have to reinstall your games.
On booting the System Restore CD you will be presented with a 'windows like' GUI. From there you have to locate the correct utility and work out how to use it. The PING 'Live' CD launches directly into PartImage.
Backup from WITHIN WINDOWS itself
I suggest DriveImage XML. Free for personal use, this makes use of Windows XP built-in 'back-up' components known as "Volume Shadow Services" (VSS) - (Volume Shadow Copy).
You have to install DriveImage XML on your system before using it (so it's no good if your system is 'broken'). You can use it to back-up each partition as a compressed archive (it is also possible to extract individual files from the archive). Because DriveImage XML works on a FILE COPY basis, when it 'restores' to a new partition that is larger than the original, the extra space becomes available to the new system. Note, however, that "to avoid problems", DriveImage XML will refuse to restore to a partition that is smaller than the original
It's refusal to restore to smaller drives makes it useless for my most common requirement, reducing the Windows 'footprint' of a hardly used 1Tb system drive so it can be fitted onto an affordable SSD.
Reducing the Partition Size (before making an 'image' back-up)
To reduce the Partition (so you can 'restore' to a smaller drive), you can use the Open Source GParted Live CD, however see also the MiniTool Partition Wizard (below)
Access *nix disks
Anyone using the Raspberry Pi will know all about the problems of 'backing up' the Pi SDHC card. One 'solution' is to move the SD card to your PC and copy the files there
To read files from a *nix partition, you can use the DiskInternals Linux Reader. This application supports *nix Ext2/3/4, ReiserFS, Reiser4, Apple HFS / HFS+, FAT, exFAT, NTFS, ReFS, UFS2
The DiskInternals app. is strictly 'Read Only', so should be safe to use on a 'damaged' or 'non-functioning' system partition (i.e. a non-booting Pi SDHC card following an unexpected Pi power-outage)
Read/Write (Ext2/Ext3 partitions)
My preferred utility, the Ext2 Installable File System For Windows (IFS driver), supports Ext2 and Ext3 ONLY = it does not support Ext4 partitions, nor does it support dual primary partition disks/USB sticks/CF cards etc
The author permits ver 1.12 to be freely distributed, so if you can't find it elsewhere, you can download it from my site (see below) WARNING - this is an .exe file, you MUST "right click" and 'save link as' (or it will launch and start to auto-install) = Ext2IFS_1_12.exe (5Mb = 5,254,192 bytes)
The IFS driver can't access Ext4 partitions, so is of no use in backing up a Raspberry Pi SDHC (which as a FAT32 boot partition (which even Windows can see) and an Ext4 partition
Read/Write (Ext4 partitions)
On my Windows 7 PC, to get access to Ext4 (the *nix partition used on the Raspberry Pi Jessie distro. SDHC image), I use the free trial version of Paragon ExtFS for Windows 7 (and later)
Whilst this limits you to 5Mb/s after the 10 day trial, it's fine for making small edits or modifying script files etc. on the *nix partition
The current version of the Paragon ExtFS is not compatible with Windows XP. Earlier versions are, however finding the older version without falling into the hands of the Adware / Browser Hi-jacker scum download sites is not easy. I eventually discovered it on a German download site. If this fails to work, you can also right lick, and 'save link as' Paragon_ExtFS_for_Windows_2.1.440.exe. When you come to install, you will be asked to 'Register' - however, whilst the Registration page still exists on the Paragon web site, it won't actually send you the required codes. So here they are :- PRODUCT KEY: PSG-278-PEE-PL-314774750 SERIAL NUMBER: 03002-CE51C-F17E4-40BCB
After install, WinPatrol will pop-up twice = once for the 'update service' (reject, unless you want Paragon to update you to the non-XP version :-) ) and again for the 'driver' (allow). Then reboot.
To edit text based files (such as .ini, .xml, .htm)
I recommend the Open Source Notepad++. In fact, Notepad++ is so good I even use it to edit my web page source :-)
NB. Last time I checked, the spelling dictionary was a separate component - if your spelling is anything like mine, you will need it for sure !
Globally replace 'line breaks' etc. in text files
Notepad++ can search (& replace) non-printing characters such as 'tab' and 'line breaks' (cr/lf) both in the 'open' file and 'in files' you specify in some way (such as '*.txt'), including (or not) in sub-folders, using the 'Extended' characters option (\n \r \t \0 x,,,).
The main Extended characters are \\ = Backslash, \t = TAB, \r = CR, \n = LF (new line), \0 – NULL, \x## - a Hexadecimal value (between 00 and FF), \u#### - Extended hexadecimal value (between 0000 and FFFF, meant for Unicode characters).
If you need a utility to do 'search and replace' on text files from the 'command line' (i.e. from a '.cmd' or QBasic script), I recommend the Open Source "gsar.exe"> .
Edit an .exe file header
WARNING - if you 'search' for MS Visual Studio the 'top hit' on Google will be some paid for advert that may take you to a web site that tries to convince you to pay for the 'Ultimate' version .. don't be fooled, it's a scam - the real version of Visual Studio Ultimate from MS is free !!
Edit non-text files (such as .exe, .dll)
I recommend you Get the Hex Edit "plug-in" for Notepad++.
Whilst you are at it, get the spelling checker too :-)
Directly edit my hard disk
Use wxHexEditor (Open Source).
This utility lets you modify the basic partition control 'flags' etc. on the hard disk itself.
Unpack a PhotoStory 3 .wp3 'cabinet' project file (or files from an .iso)
Use the Open Source 7-zip utility.
This Open Source utility can extract for almost any compressed or archive file (including MS .cab structures). It can pack many formats but not .cab or .iso
NB. To repack a PhotoStory 3 .wp3 'cabinet' project file, use the Freeware CABPACK utility.
Although only 'released' for NT4, this utility works just fine on Win2000 / XP Pro. Note - PhotoStory 3 .wp3 uses the MS-ZIP format.
Music and Video
Microsoft Movie Maker 2.6
Microsoft removed AVI output from MM 2.5 (XP) when it released Vista. After complaints they added .avi back-in and released a stand-alone installer, MM26_ENU.msi
Microsoft PhotoStory 3 with 4Gb ram support
Rip music from your CD's
I use EAC (Exact Audio Copy). No matter how hard they try, the music industry has never managed to stop this utility from extracting the music you have paid for from the CD's they have tried to 'lock' it into.
NB. Make sure to create the destination folder before using EAC, and make sure to extract as '.wav' (not mp3).
Edit music tracks
I use the Open Source Audacity.
Make sure you also download the LAME .mp3 plug-in Note Audacity 'remembers' which folder you 'saved to' last and will 'save' to that folder again. This is a REAL PAIN since almost 100% of the time you will want to 'save' changes to the same folder as the original (so you can find the modified version again)
If you intend to use music tracks for 'public' performances, to stay 'legal' you will need a license from the Performing Rights Society. Most commercial venue's will already have such a license, so check before wasting your money :-)
Convert music tracks from .wav to .mp3
I use Blade Encoder. This is a 'command line' utility, however you can 'drag & drop' a selection of .wav files onto the BladeEnc.exe icon and it will convert them. The only limitation is it can't handle more than about 20 files 'dropped' at once.
NB. By default, the .mp3's are placed in the same folder as the .wav source. You set the 'quality' etc. in the bladeenc.cfg configuration file.
Process images from the Command Line
I use the Open Source Image Magick 'convert.exe'. This utility is capable of almost any sort of image processing you might want, however this means there are multiple ways to do everything.
Image Magick 'convert' is (much) harder to use than the 'single function' utilities (such as 'stitch') listed below
'Stitch' a series of photo's together to make a 'landscape'
I use the Open Source Hugin Panorama photo stitcher. Hugin also is also able to generate a '360 degree' panorama (if you have sufficient photo's)
Note. If you intend to use a photo-stitched landscape in PhotoStory 3, watch out for the PS3 7200 pixel size limit.
Extract images from movies
If your 'source' (CCTV etc) can only geenrate movies and you want single images (photos), VLC can 'capture a frame' (although it can be a pain getting it to 'pause' on the exact frame your want)
If you want to reduce the whole movie to images (eg to build a GIF), TMPGEnc can be used (it's really aimed at generating MPEG for DVD's - you get 30 days 'free trial' before you have to pay for MPEG2 encoding)
'Burn in' subtiles
If you want to show a series of photos with the exact same sub-title 'burnt in' on each (eg. for a GIF or (static) sequence in PhotoStory), IrfanView can be used.
Discover the actual resolution & video / audio formats etc. hiding inside a .mov / .mpg / .wmv / .avi file
I use the Open Source MediaInfo utility.
To extract files from an .ISO image / other compression format
A1. Use the Open Source 7-zip utility.
A2. If 7-zip can't cope, the Open Source UniExtract supports some of the more obscure formats
'Burn' ISO images to CD/DVD
Image Burn. Image Burn is about the most comprehensive CD/DVD burner around. After using it, I immediately deleted all traces of "Nero" 'lite edition' (a 'feature limited' version that was provided as part of the 'free' commercial garbage when I purchased my PC) and have never looked back.
How to upload web pages to a web site host ?
Use the WS_FTP LE secure FTP transfer utility.
Whilst not Open Source, it's free for non-commercial use. If you use it to upload a money making web site you must pay for the Pro version.
RAM Disk software
(+) Why do I need RAM disk software ?
Free (for XP users)
VSuite Ramdisk (Free Edition) is by far my preferred RAM disk driver. Whilst not Open Source, it is still free for XP (but not Vista & later) users.
The VSuite advantage is it's ability to use both RAM that the BIOS mapped beyond XP's 4Gb ceiling ('OS Invisible Memory' as they call it) as well as any RAM installed above XP's 4Gb limit (i.e. on a motherboard supporting 8Gb or more of RAM) Also, rather amazingly, the Free Edition allows multiple RAM disks (to a total of 4GB) and even allows saving of the RAM Disk contents to an 'image file' on your hard disk during Hibernate or power-down (and restoring on power up). In fact it can even save to CF card / USB stick (so long as the format of the device matches that of Windows i.e. all are NTFS or all are FAT). The only thing it can't do is to save to a mapped network destination
The Free Edition drawback is the 4Gb total RAM Disk limit = to get access to more you have to buy a licence. Using the Free Edition on an 8Gb system motherboard, the first 3.25Gb or so will be used by Windows, the next 4Gb by VSuite leaving 0.75Gb unused. Note, to speed up shutdown, I do not 'save' at power-off (so can't confirm how reliable that is), however I can confirm that the RAM-disk contents survive a 'sleep' just fine).
The 'Open Source standard is ImDisk. It has a very 'small footprint' and is my 'first choice' when I need access to a RAM disk from a 'command line' script. However I've not used it 'from Windows', so have no idea how well it copes with RAM mapped out of the low 4Gb (I suspect just fine) or with a sleep/hibernate/power cycle (I suspect not at all)
'Nag stop' software
This utility auto-generates a 'click' on the 'No thanks' (or 'Close window') button of those annoying 'pop-up' windows (with advert / invitation to 'upgrade to pro'), that some 'free-ware' applications like to show you every time you 'launch'
(-) Why are these pages not displayed correctly ?
Page display problems ? These web pages have been checked for correct display in the Firefox Web Browser with both NoScript and FlashBlock active ("the only safe way to surf"). These pages are not designed for "affiliate marketing" and the 'uBlock' (ad blocker) plug-in should find nothing to block :-). Due to the recent rise of the 'tablet', slight changes have been made to accommodate Opera on Android tablet (at least 7" screen, best in landscape view mode). If you are viewing this site in MSIE (v6 or later) and don't like what you see, I can only suggest you get yourself a 'proper' browser :-).
These pages contain no "multimedia" crap, are not very "Web 3 friendly" and will not drain your download limit by playing pointless background music or loading unasked for "in your face" movie clips. I don't use 'cookies' and especially not the privacy intruding '3rd party' kind (although I can't stop my Web Hosting service from doing so - sorry - but feel free to block them all, it won't affect my page content). In short, there are no distracting animations or advertisements or attempts to 'steer' your future browsing directions, feed you 'fake' search results or make money out of you by selling your IP address & browsing habits to the advertising scum. Since I don't record your IP address, my 'page hits counter' has no idea if you have visited before (it only counts 'Page clicks', not 'unique visitors')
This note last modified: 1st May 2016 19:26.
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