Column Friday, Jan. 5, 2001 1:01 pm PT     
 

Window Manager |Brian Livingston


Free software site makes programs that compete with big-buck Windows applications

READER BRIAN GANLEY wrote in, full of praise about a Web site called AnalogX. Sure, there are shareware and freeware sites up the wazoo, and I could write 52 columns a year about nothing but the latest shareware. But it turns out Ganley is onto something useful.

One programmer, Mark Thompson, has created over the past year or so a vast library of useful Windows utilities, all of which are available for free.

Thompson's collection is refreshing. Instead of Web pages filled with 20 nearly identical Windows clocks to download, Thompson offers a select list of tools designed to match expensive software, but for free.

Here's a sampling of downloads from the system, network, and programming sections at www.analogx.com/contents/news.htm.

Pop-up killer. Irritated when Web sites hosted by GeoCities, Tripod, and others make new browser windows pop up unbidden? Wish you could make them stop?

AnalogX's Pow utility does the trick.

Designed to work with Internet Explorer, Netscape, and NeoPlanet browsers, Pow is easily configured to close annoying intrusions for you.

Server on a diskette. SimpleServer is a full-featured Web server that takes up only 140KB, Thompson says. This allows you to run a server on your PC to play with HTML code that may not be ready for prime time and enables others to test the pages on your local Web server.

A cousin, SimpleServer:Shout, creates small Internet radio stations that support the Shoutcast streaming MP3 format.

Zoom in on performance. NetStat Live shows you the speed of your data as it moves across the Internet or your local network. It also graphs the percentage of your CPU that is being utilized. This is a great way to find out whether slowdowns are being caused by your machine, your network, your Internet connection, or something else.

Thompson isn't going broke giving all these programs away for free. He's a contract programmer based in Phoenix, who has recently been named vice president of technology at Aerocast.com, a streaming media company.

In an interview, Thompson said that whenever he finds an expensive program he doesn't like, he writes his own version and gives it away free. He's been a developer for more than 10 years, and his no-charge programs seem to have brought him more attention than they've cost him in time.

Thompson is also a musician with a band named AnalogX. So he's written many utilities for people who play or produce music.

TrackSeek, for instance, is a program that searches for MP3 files on the Internet. It combines the results from 30 music-oriented search engines, which Thompson says is more than MP3-Wolf, a $29.95 program, can handle (see www.trellian.com for a comparison). I first mentioned MP3-Wolf on Dec. 14, 1998 (see "Turn Windows into a jukebox for all your audio preferences.")

Another music-oriented program is Scratch, which allows you to use an audio file to make scritch-scritch sounds, as if you were pushing a vinyl record back and forth. This kind of studio production tool is great for hep cats like me.

In his spare time, Thompson has cooked up a separate Web site called Prepal.com that just went live a week ago. It searches auction sites such as eBay and reports the latest prices.

Go to the site and click Find Price, then click a link such as "Akai" to see how it works. The site currently indexes music gear, but Thompson has ambitious plans to expand it to all kinds of products. You read it here first.

Reader Ganley will receive a free copy of Windows Me Secrets for being the first to send me a tip I printed.

ICB newsletter, 72 percent off

I mentioned last week the ICB Toll Free News, a daily e-mail newsletter. It's expanded far beyond 800 numbers and has become an important source of inside information for anyone whose business depends upon Internet domain names.

The editor, Judith Oppenheimer, is offering a New Year's special on "premium" (members-only) content. The usual price, $549 per year, has been reduced to $149, and the discount has been extended to Jan. 15 for InfoWorld readers.

Go to www.icbtollfree.com and click Register Here. After registering, upgrade to premium services. Type "$149 Gift" after your name to get the lower rate.

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Brian Livingston's latest book is Windows Me Secrets (IDG Books). Send tips to brian_livingston@infoworld.com. He regrets that he cannot answer individual questions.