Software - The Laptop Toolshack

Laptop Junction's short list of essential Windows software tools used during overland truck travel with a laptop. Although all have bugs and odd behaviors, most worked ok and got the job done.

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  • WIFI access point scanner : Free tool to survey the landscape for WIFI access points..
      See Netsurveyor, NetStumber
     
  • Disk health tracking : Most harddisks have an onboard tracking system called SMART to keep an eye on disk health. SMART attribute tracking software allows you to react preventively on disk degradation by making backups.
    See DiskCheckup or Drive Sitter.
     
  • Paging & Hibernation file defragmentation : On stuffed disks, the large paging and hibernation can become heavily fragmented, causing extremely high disk activity during startup / shutdown to hibernation mode or when paging programs to the disk. Battery is drained more quickly because of more CPU cycles needed. (the disk itself doesn't take much power). Defragmentation is only possible at boot time, and preferably used after normal disk defragmentation.
    See Page Defrag.
     
  • Password management  : Several password management software packages are available since several years. Portability is essential, having access to passwords when needed.
    See KeePass, Password Safe, Access Manager
     
  • Data encryption : There is a lot of encryption software on the market. A lightweight portable solution is freely available through the open source community.
    See TrueCrypt
     
  • Namebench : Google tool to find the fastest DNS server in your area. Changing to a faster DNS server speeds up your internet connection.
    See NameBench
     
  • Drive Imaging : Norton Ghost, formally known as Drive Image - Drive Imaging is the *ONLY* way to maintain some sort of stability running Windows XP over a period of many years. The program comes in two version, one to make driveimages with, the other to restore driveimages from CD.
    See Norton Ghost.
     
  • Partition Magic : This program is essential to resize a partition. Although it has a few bugs, a few of them lethal, it is the only way out when a partition becomes to big for driveimaging.
    If Parition Magic fails, the UBUNTU installation CD comes with a partition manager. It's possible to abort UBUNTU installation after disk partitioning and only use the results without installing UBUNTU.
    See Partition Magic.
     
  • "Second Opinion" Operating System : Running a second operating system on the same disk can separate hardware from software problems. A boot manager allows to select the OS to boot. Ubuntu comes with the GRUB boot manager and a disk partitioner to fit UBUNTU on a disk fully taken by for instance Windows.
    See Ubuntu
  • Partition Recovery : When a partition fails due to a disk failure or file corruption, this program access the harddisk on a lower level making partial recovery of files, partition table, MBR possible - if the controller hardware is still ok. 
    See Partition Recovery.
     
  • Disk defragmentation : Windows disk defragmentation is too simple to be used on fully stuffed disks. It wastes battery power by being too CPU intensive and it's single shot mode. O & O defrag is a reasonable alternative, however it has a few bugs in disk file system checks and can lock up in exotic situations. Helpdesk is a bit arrogant & unhelpfull when it comes to diagnosing prblems.
    See O & O defrag
     
  • Virus Scanning - Internet Security : With a plethora of scanner / security solutions available, the ones with small daily updates (avoiding huge downloads) and quick scan option (avoiding draining the battery) fit a weary traveler best. This includes a replacement of the flimsy Windows Firewall and on-line data theft traps.
    See Avast, Trendmicro, Mcafee 


 

  • Network session encryption : Software that creates a secure "tunnel" from your laptop to a server somewhere else in the world, making it difficult to eavesdrop on the communication session. Usually known as VPN session software, creating an encrypted session in open WIFI networks, bypassing rogue internet providers, breached servers or government session filtering.
    See Witopia, Jiwire
     
  • POP / SMTP session encryption : For those with POP / SMTP mailservers not equiped with secure SSL certificates it's possibel to forward all e-mail to GMAIL and use the free SSL encrypted POP / SMTP mailservices of Google Mail.
    See Gmail.
     
  • X-NetStat : Shows what program uses your Internet connection using what amount of bandwidth. Great to trap those sneaky background software updaters eating away bandwidth.
    See X-NetStat
     
  • TCPView : The more simple and free version of X-NetStat showing internet activity of running programs. Great to see which program connects to what resolved IP destination.
    See TCPView
     
  • FING network scanner - command line utility for Windows
    See FING on Windows
     
  • I8kfanGUI : Monitors temperatures in DELL Laptops and allows user control over the CPU fan.
      See I8kfanGUI
     
  • Process Explorer : Free tool to see what processes are running on your computer and which files they use.
      See Process Explorer.
     
  • Internet Connectivity Monitor - Measures Down Time of your 24 hour internet connection.
    See Internet Connectivity Monitor