Friday, October 17, 2008

Great Utilities and Sites

As I was looking at my list of utilities that I usually use with friends and clients, and I realized that I have quite a list that could be helpful to anyone that is looking for solutions in any of the following areas: Remote Control File Sharing/Syncing/Backup VPN Connectivity. File / Picture Sharing (Quick) Following, you will find a few sites and software that assist to accomplisht he above, and the best part is that they are all free: Remote Control and Remote Assistance:
  1. PC/Mac: LogMeIn ( This is one of my personal favorites. It has a clean interface, and works flawlessly. It runs as a windows service, which means that usually, when all else fails, it's still possible to connect to the computer and reboot it, or power cycle it. The free version of it only allows remote control, but that is usually enough for remote control and basic support. For additional functionality, you can always look at the other products from LogMeIn, (Pro, IT Reach, and Rescue, which come at a significantly higher price point, though depending on your purpose, it may be worth it for you.
  2. PC/Mac: Teamviewer ( I was introduced to TeamViewer when I was on a support call with Microsoft, and their Easy Assist server was not available, so that was their fallback method, little did I know that I would really love that solution. Unlike LogMeIn which requires quite a few steps to install the agent, TeamViewer is a painless installer, it's as simple as downloading a small plugin, and following the instructions to give remote access to your IT person. It also has functionality of File Transfer, Presentation mode, and VPN all bundled in. It also has the option to install an agent that will allow conecting to it without having the user download and run the plugin everytime. I find this one to be very slick!
  3. PC/(Mac) : Remote Desktop deserves an honorable mention because it remains one of the IT professionals' main tools to access remote computers. It's free with the Windows OS, but of course, it not as easy to set, especially if the target computer i behind a firewall. The 2 pregious solutions do not require any modifications on the firewall to function correctly.
  4. VNC ( This one has been around forever, and within a LAN environment, it's fairly easy to setup, but to support people outside of your own LAN, it has the same caveats as RDP, where you would need to open up ports on your firewall, and not as easy to instruct someone to install it.
File Sharing / Syncing / Backup There a lot of products out there that do the job, but here are my favorites, mostly because they're mostly very cheap or free
  1. PC Only: GoodSync ( This is one of the first products that I had ever started using for syncing files. Given that I do a lot of scripting, even 10 minutes can make a difference in what I have backed up. Good sync is quite robust in the way it does syncing, and is very user friendly. You can use it as a backup also, by not allowing it to delete files that you delete on your source, but I rely on other software to do backups, this way I have synced data, AND backed up data to revert to previous dates. GoodSync, will run you $29.95, and the 2nd license, only $9.95, in my opinion, well worth the money.
  2. PC Only: Cobian Backup ( I know, the site for this seems kind of obscure, I have gone through quite a few backup products, and Cobian seems to do the job best. it's very regularly updated, and best of all is 100% free! I use it at my work, because we're lacking an enterprise solution. Moreover, I recommend it to all my clients who don't have a budget to purchase a bigger product. It supports notifications, all the basic functionality of backups (Full, Differentials, Incrementals) , and central management! (this only showed up on in the last few versions)
  3. PC/Mac: Foldershare ( This is part of the live package from Microsoft. it actually works really well... Once it's setup! However, if the folder is renamed and foldershare doesn't know about it, then you have to go through the setup again, which requires multiple steps. All in all though, it's a very good product, I actually use it with my girlfriend and my dad (who is in another country), to share files.
  4. PC/Mac/Linux: DropBox ( This one, I discovered only a couple of days ago. It's also free, and multiplatform. you have the ability to share files with people who don't have dropbox, however, the beauty of this is for use when you need to have some files synchronized at all times. In 3 words.... it just works! In my opinion, this one is more geared to sync your own files, rather than collaborate: The sharing is based on one email address login. So unless you create one common address between you and your collaborators, it's probably not a very handy solution for that.
  5. (, on the other hand seems to allow collaboration. I personally have not really used it yet, so I'm not sure what features it has, but it looks promising, I may check it out sometime soon.
  6. GBridge ( This one is more of a VPN/Filesharing product. it's made by google, and is actually very seamless as well. It has an IM interface, and it extends the GTalk service to provide VPN connectivity. Obviously, you need to have a google account in order to use this. But give it a shot. So far this is only for PC, but who knows maybe a Mac version is coming up.
VPN Connectivity
  1. PC/Mac/Linux: Hamachi ( A very user friendly VPN product, that is free for the basic version. It creates a secure tunnel, to your other networks, or clients, through which you can establish any number of connections. It is one of my personal favorites. The basic version has worked for me for years without the need to subscribe to the premium version. you would only need the premium version for these reasons:
    • you have a large number of computers (more than 16) to connect to the hamachi network.
    • you need Hamachi to run as a service, so that you can connect to even if the user logs off
    • you have a mission critical operation that needs priority in logging in, in case the service goes down.
  2. TeamViewer ( This one, mentioned above, also allows for the establishing of a VPN tunnel. it works very nicely, though, the VPN functionality only works when connecting to a PC. The multiplatfrom bit only works for the remote control and file transfer. but not VPN
  3. GBridge ( Also mentioned above, provides VPN connectivity.
File / Picture Sharing on the go
  1. Web: Dropio ( A great filesharing website that allows you to share a big (or small) file with people. It quite robust actually, and allows faxing from there, and for a small fee, you can even receive faxes. The best part is that you can assign drops for each individual and give certain permissions to each of the boxes. I would check it out if you are looking for a convenient way to share files.
  2. Web: FileShaker ( Seems to be a new kid on the block, but allows up to 10Gb file uploads, so it makes things very convenient.
  3. Web: YouSendIt - DropLoad ( , These ones started as being good free products, but as soon as they got popular, they became payware, and since I always look for free products, these ones sort of fell off the list. they were good while they lasted though :)
  4. Web: PipeBytes ( This one has a slightly different concept than the rest of the file sharing sites, in that it allows for a "receiving code" that will show the sender when the receiver started downloading the file. it's a very good solution for when a video is being sent, as it treats a video as a streaming one, and the recipient can start watching before the full download is over. quite handy...
  5. Web: rarhost ( This one sort of falls in a the "specialty" category. It only processes RAR files. Though it claims to do it quite well, and can even process split rars, etc ... I haven't played with this one yet, but it looks pretty cool, if you're dealing with rar files. Unfortunately, rar is not a very common compression format for the average user, hence it belonging to the "specialty" category.
  6. Web: TinyPic ( That's a nice way to be able to quickly share a picture. it's simple: you upload a picture, and you give the URL to the recipient. The URLs (or code) that you get back after the upload actually work for a direct link, html, or embedded object, and a number of other formats, so it makes it convenient to share the picture wherever you are.
  7. Web: ( Picoodle is almost exactly like TinyPic, only, you're able to have an account and keep track of which pictures you uploaded and resend their links at a later time. With TinyPic, if you lost the link, then you'd better re-upload the picture
Online Video Downloading / File conversion
  1. ZamZar ( One of my personal favorites, it pretty much can convert anything to anything, and even allows downloading an online video, convert it to any format you want, and send you the link to download it (good for YouTube downloads)
  2. Media-Convert ( This one also works, and is very close in its functionality to ZamZar.
  3. VidDownloader ( This one is not as veratile, it's only for downloading online streaming videos to your computer. I haven't tried it many times, but the couple of times I did, it seemed to work good.
I hope you found this list beneficial. I use one or more of these tools at least once a day. Do you have any cool tools that you use that you'd like to share?


subs said...

Great summary!

I use Gbridge quite a lot. It is an amazing utility. In all of its file sharing features, I like the so called "live browse" the most, which allows me to view the thumnails and slideshows of remotely shared photos literally instantly (without lengthy upload and download).

In addition to the file sharing and sync functions mentioned by the author, it provides remote control and remote assistant functions as well, which are also seemlessly integrated into the google IM framework.

Thomas said...

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nononi said...

in re~watching clay shirky on blip i heard him say that social software is all still just an experiment. not that it is going away but that it is the beginning of a HUGE shift.
as an educator, i see your list and know you are one the change agents.
keep em coming babylon!