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Synchronize files & folders between devices with SyncToy 2.1

I recently migrated to a Google Android and needed a program to sync files between it and my workstation. I had used SyncToy 2.0 from Microsoft on Windows XP (32-bit), so I decided to give SyncToy 2.1 a try on Windows 7 (64-bit).

SyncToy 2.1

Once the installation was complete, I created a new folder on my computer to synchronize with the Android. I then opened up SyncToy and made a Folder Pair between the memory card on the Android (via USB cable) and the new folder on my computer.

SyncToy 2.1

Clicking on the Preview button will show what files and folders are synchronized, type of operation, last modified, etc. Here's a quote from the SyncToy page:

There are files from all kinds of sources that we want to store and manage. Files are created by our digital cameras, e-mail, cell phones, portable media players, camcorders, PDAs, and laptops. Increasingly, computer users are using different folders, drives, and even different computers (such as a laptop and a desktop) to store, manage, retrieve and view files. Yet managing hundreds or thousands of files is still largely a manual operation. In some cases it is necessary to regularly get copies of files from another location to add to primary location; in other cases there is a need to keep two storage locations exactly in sync. Some users manage files manually, dragging and dropping from one place to another and keeping track of whether the locations are synchronized in their heads. Other users may use two or more applications to provide this functionality.

Now there is an easier way. SyncToy, a free PowerToy for Microsoft Windows, is an easy to use, highly customizable program that helps users to do the heavy lifting involved with the copying, moving, and synchronization of different directories. Most common operations can be performed with just a few clicks of the mouse, and additional customization is available without additional complexity. SyncToy can manage multiple sets of folders at the same time; it can combine files from two folders in one case, and mimic renames and deletes in another case. Unlike other applications, SyncToy actually keeps track of renames to files and will make sure those changes get carried over to the synchronized folder.

I have used SyncToy over the years without any issues and recommend it to anyone who needs to synchronize files between devices. SyncToy runs on Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, and comes in 32-bit and 64-bit versions. It can be download from Microsoft's SyncToy page.

Migrating from a Palm TX to a Google Android

With the purchase of Palm by HP, I am reminded that the Palm Pilot is dead. For years I had been using a Palm Pilot, starting with a Vx, then an M505, and finally a TX. It was all of the applications available for the Palm OS platform that keep me there. So when my cellular phone provider, Verizon Wireless, had a great deal on a Google Android, I decided to go for it.

Palm TX & Google Android - Side by side (vertical view)
Palm TX and Google Android side by side (vertical and horizontal views)
Palm TX & Google Android - Side by side (horizontal view)

The first thing I had to look at was getting the same functionally from the Android as I did from the Palm. I started with the existing applications I used on the Palm. Sure enough, Dataviz, creators of Documents To Go, had a version for the Android. It has almost all of the same functions as the Palm version.

Next was synchronizing Microsoft Outlook with the Android. I was using the conduits in the Palm Desktop to sync with Outlook, so I had to look around to see what I could find. I came across CompanionLink, makers of DejaOffice. It has all of the same functions as the Palm conduits.

And last but not least, since the SD card in the Android appears as a removable disk in Windows 7, it is just a matter of synchronizing between the two. For this, I am using SyncToy 2.1 from Microsoft to work just right for me.

Using Virtual Machines to run old programs in Windows 7

In this article, I will show one of the uses for Virtual Machines in Windows 7. I am often asked, 'How can I get an old program to run on Windows 7?'. A few years back, I ran into this issue when one of my favorite search programs (WebCompass) was discontinued. The last operating system it was released for was Windows 98. So when I switched over to Windows XP, it ran fine until Service Pack 1. It lost functionally when one of the system DLL's it depended on got upgraded. That's when I started to use Virtual Machines (Virtual PC 2004 & 2007).

There are a few different Virtual Machines out there. I have used the top three (VMware Player by VMware, Inc., Windows Virtual PC by Microsoft, and VirtualBox by Sun / Oracle). For this article, I will demonstrate Windows 7 Virtual Machines and Sun VirtualBox. Instructions on how to create a virtual machine in Windows 7 and install a guest operating system follow.

Note: The following demonstration was done using virtual machines created in Virtual PC 2004, upgraded to Virtual PC 2007, and then upgraded to Windows 7 Virtual Machines.

How to create a virtual machine in Windows 7 and install a guest operating system

A guest operating system runs in a virtual machine. If you do not want to use Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 3 (XP Mode) as the guest operating system, you can create a virtual machine. You will use a wizard to create the virtual machine and customize it by specifying details such as the name and the amount of memory to assign to it. Before you make the virtual machine, consider the following questions:

  • How much memory will you allocate to the virtual machine? Be sure to give enough to run the guest operating system and all applications that you want to run on the virtual machine simultaneously.
  • Where do you want to store the virtual machine, and what do you want to name it? For example, you might want to use a name that identifies the guest operating system or describes how you want to use it. You can use as many as 80 characters for the name.
  • What type of virtual hard disk do you want to use?
    - Dynamically expanding virtual hard disk. This type requires a minimum of 8 MB of free space on the physical storage media. The size of the disk (and the .vhd file) grows as the disk is used, up to the maximum size specified when the disk was created.
    - Fixed virtual hard disk. This type of disk requires as much physical storage space as the size you specify for the disk when you create it. The size of the .vhd file is the same as the virtual hard disk size and remains unchanged.
    - Differencing virtual hard disk. This type requires a small amount of physical storage when you create the disk and requires more storage as the disk's size grows. The maximum size of a differencing disk is restricted by the maximum size of its parent hard disk.
  • And where do you want to store it?

After you create the virtual machine, you can modify it as needed.

To create a virtual machine

  1. Open the Virtual Machines folder. From the Start menu, click Windows Virtual PC. If the menu item is not visible, click All Programs, click the Windows Virtual PC folder, and then click Windows Virtual PC.
  2. The Virtual Machines folder opens in Windows Explorer. From the menu bar, click Create virtual machine.

    Note:
    The Virtual Machines folder provides details about all the virtual machines created by the current user and access to the tools for creating and modifying virtual machines and virtual hard disks.

  3. The Create a Virtual Machine Wizard opens. Proceed through the pages of the wizard, choosing the options that are appropriate for the guest operating system.
  4. After the wizard finishes, the virtual machine appears in the file list in the Virtual Machine folder.

After you create the virtual machine, you can install the guest operating system. The procedure varies slightly depending on the type of installation media you plan to use, such as physical CDs and DVDs, .iso files, and network-based installation servers. The following procedures describe how to use each type.

To use a CD, DVD, or .iso file to install a guest operating system

  1. To use a CD or DVD, insert it into the drive and skip to the next step. To use a .iso file, do the following:
    • Right-click the virtual machine in the file list, and then click Settings.
    • In the left pane, click DVD Drive. In the right pane, choose Open an ISO image. Click OK.
  2. Start the virtual machine. In the file list, select the virtual machine and click Open. Windows Virtual PC opens and displays the video output of the virtual machine.
  3. The virtual machine searches for bootable media. Setup begins after bootable media is found.
  4. After the installation is complete, install the Integration Components package. From the Tools menu of the virtual machine window, click Install Integration Components.

To use a network-based installation server to install a guest operating system

  1. Start the virtual machine. In the file list, select the virtual machine and click Open. Windows Virtual PC opens and displays the video output of the virtual machine.
  2. The virtual machine automatically starts the PXE boot agent and attempts to contact the remote installation server. Watch the screen for instructions. When prompted, press F12.
  3. Note:
    If the remote installation server does not respond, you will receive the message “Reboot and Select proper Boot device.” Check the virtual machine settings to ensure the network adapter is connected to an external (physical) network. If it is, check with your network administrator for instructions about using a network-based installation server.

  4. Select an operating system from the choices offered by the remote installation server.
  5. Use the setup utility for the operating system to complete the installation. If you need to restart to complete the process, press CTRL+ALT+END, or click Ctrl+Alt+Del from the virtual machine window.

Edit digital images and photos with Paint.NET

Note: This article was based on Paint.NET version 3. Since this article was written, Paint.NET version 4 has been released. Click here to read the newer Paint.NET 4 article.

I have recently been looking for a digital photo editor that is comparable to Adobe Photoshop and can read RAW format photos from my Nikon D40. But it also needs to be able to run on the Intel Atom processor in my Acer Aspire One Netbook. I found all of this and more with Paint.NET.

Paint.NET
(Screen capture from Acer Aspire One Netbook: 1024x768 dpi)

Paint.NET was initially intended as a free replacement for Microsoft Paint, the image software that comes with Windows. It features an intuitive and innovative user interface with support for layers, unlimited undo, special effects, and a wide variety of useful and powerful tools. An active and growing online community provides friendly help, tutorials, and plugins. Here's a quote about the features from their site:

Simple, intuitive, and innovative user interface
Every feature and user interface element was designed to be immediately intuitive and quickly learnable without assistance. In order to handle multiple images easily, Paint.NET uses a tabbed document interface. The tabs display a live thumbnail of the image instead of a text description. This makes navigation very simple and fast.

The interface is also enhanced for Aero Glass if you are using Windows 7 or Vista.

Performance
Extensive work has gone into making Paint.NET the fastest image editor available. Whether you have a netbook with a power-conscious Atom CPU, or a Dual Intel Xeon workstation with 8 blazingly fast processing cores, you can expect Paint.NET to start up quickly and be responsive to every mouse click.

Layers
Usually only found on expensive or complicated professional software, layers form the basis for a rich image composition experience. You may think of them as a stack of transparency slides that, when viewed together at the same time, form one image.

Active Online Community
Paint.NET has an online forum with a friendly, passionate, and ever-expanding community. Be sure to check out the constantly growing list of tutorials and plugins!

Automatically Updated
Updates are free, and contain new features, performance improvements, and bug fixes. Upgrading to the latest version is very simple, requiring only two clicks of the mouse.

Special Effects
Many special effects are included for enhancing and perfecting your images. Everything from blurring, sharpening, red-eye removal, distortion, noise, and embossing are included. Also included is our unique 3D Rotate/Zoom effect that makes it very easy to add perspective and tilting.

Adjustments are also included which help you tweak an image's brightness, contrast, hue, saturation, curves, and levels. You can also convert an image to black and white, or sepia-toned.

Powerful Tools
Paint.NET includes simple tools for drawing shapes, including an easy-to-use curve tool for drawing splines or Bezier curves. The Gradient tool, new for 3.0, has been cited as an innovative improvement over similar tools provided by other software. The facilities for creating and working with selections is powerful, yet still simple enough to be picked up quickly. Other powerful tools include the Magic Wand for selecting regions of similar color, and the Clone Stamp for copying or erasing portions of an image. There is also a simple text editor, a tool for zooming, and a Recolor tool.

Unlimited History
Everybody makes mistakes, and everybody changes their mind. To accommodate this, every action you perform on an image is recorded in the History window and may be undone. Once you've undone an action, you can also redo it. The length of the history is only limited by available disk space.

Free!
Paint.NET doesn't cost a dime.

If you are looking for a digital image editor, I recommend you take a look at Paint.NET. Just click on the link below. I also have included a link to a Photoshop plugin I found useful.

Get Paint.NET!
Paint.NET Photoshop Plugin

Use Virtual Router Manager to turn your Windows 7 computer into a Wifi Hot Spot

I recently came across a useful application called Virtual Router over at CodePlex. It creates a Wifi Hot Spot on any computer running Windows 7 (all versions except Starter), Windows 8.1, or Windows Server 2008 R2. I installed it on my Acer Aspire One Netbook and gave it a try.

Virtual Router Manager

Virtual Router worked great. I was able to connect to it immediately. I can see using this when at remote locations with a couple of wifi enabled smart phones. Here's a quote from the project page:

Virtual Router turns any Windows 7 or Windows 2008 R2 Computer into a Wifi Hot Spot using Windows 7's Wireless Hosted Network (Virtual Wifi) technology.

The Wireless Network create/shared with Virtual Router uses WPA2 Encryption, and there is not way to turn off that encryption. This is actually a feature of the Wireless Hosted Network API's built into Windows 7 and 2008 R2 to ensure the best security possible.

You can give your "virtual" wireless network any name you want, and also set the password to anything. Just make sure the password is at least 8 characters.

If you are running Windows 7 (all versions except Starter), Windows 8.1, or Windows Server 2008 R2 and have both wired and wireless network adapters, you should give this application a try. It is available for download from the Virtual Router project at CodePlex.

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