Use WMI Code Creator to explore the details of WMI

One utility has paid incredible dividends over the past few days (not only because it is free): WMI Code Creator. This small Microsoft-provided gem allows you to explore the entire WMI namespace, and will generate code (C#, VB.Net, and VBScript) based on what you select.

If you’re using WMI, this utility goes right along-side the WMI reference documentation on MSDN in terms of usefulness.

A free replacement for the Windows defragment utility

Defragmenting hard drives is something that is often unnecessary, but when it is necessary, most people run the built-in Windows “Disk Defragmenter” utility. It’s serviceable, but there is a better option: JkDefrag.

There’s a few things that make JkDefrag an improvement over what Windows offers:

  • It runs on anything that mounts like a disk drive — including USB drives and memory sticks.
  • You can run it from Windows, from a command line, or as a screen saver.
  • It offers several different optimization strategies.
  • It can be configured to defragment specific drives, files, or folders, or to exclude defragmenting specific drives, files, or folders.
  • You can run it in the background and tell it to run at less than full speed.
  • It’s continually developed by a person who you can actually talk to via an online forum.
  • There’s no installer — just extract files from a ZIP archive into a directory and run the executable.
  • It’s free, as in free beer, and open source.

Hats off to Jeroen Kessels for writing a fine utility and making it available for free. He doesn’t even ask for donations (too bad, because I’d have sent him a few bucks if he did!).

Free file archiving and (de)compression with 7-Zip [with expensive minimum donations]

In thinking about all the free and open source tools I use, one seems to run underneath the radar: 7-Zip.

7-Zip will compress, expand, encode, and decode more formats than you can shake a stick at. It integrates seamlessly with Windows Explorer, so you just right-click and choose the option you want, as shown below.

image

[That little fuzzy thing in the background is my dog, Thea. How I miss her!]

The fact that 7-Zip does so much and is free makes me wonder why anyone would pay $30 for a copy of WinZip. Instead, donate that money to Igor Pavlov, author of 7-Zip.

I decided to do just that. Heading over to the donate page for 7-Zip tells you that the “base donation amount is $50 or €40, but if you would like to donate more, just change the Quantity field”. Apparently, you can donate more than $50, but you can not donate less than $50 — donations must be whole-number multiples of $50.

This is a bit odd. I would think a minimum donation for a free product would be less than the retail price of a commercial product. I wonder how many people don’t donate due to this high number?

Considering that 99% of the archive files I receive are ZIP files, that Windows can compress and expand ZIP files (albeit slowly), and that minimum $50 price tag, I’m going to pass. If Mr. Pavlov would let me set a lower donation level, I’d be happy to oblige; until then, I have that weird feeling I get when there’s a minimum tip amount added to a restaurant bill.

I guess I’ll look for another free/open-source product to send my money to.

Cancel (and renew) WebEx MeetMeNow to save $10 per month

I recently tried WebEx‘s MeetMeNow service (14-day trial). When the trial expired, I figured I’d cancel it — not because it wasn’t good (it was) or because it was too expensive (only $49/mo), but because I wasn’t sure if I’d need it in the next 30 days, and figured I could just renew the subscription right before the next time I’d need it.

I clicked the Cancel link, and was given a special 20% offer to change my mind. OK, I changed my mind again — deciding to keep the service at the $39/mo price.

The tip here? If you want to save $10/mo using MeetMeNow, sign up for the free trial, then cancel, then accept the service at $39/mo. Can’t argue with the marketing — it snookered me in. :)

The ultimate launcher: Launchy

William of Bug this! Technie Journal writes about how he likes Vista’s start menu search feature, which lets you quickly find programs in the start menu (Tools that save you headache on trying to find your program in 100+ items start menu). I also liked the feature, and I agree with him in that the feature is not good enough to warrant a Vista upgrade. However, while he found a solution in Colibri, I prefer Launchy.

What does Launchy let you do? To understand, let’s look at some ways to open Remote Desktop Connection:

  1. Click Start, then All Programs, then Accessories, then Remote Desktop Connection.
  2. Press Windows-R to open a command prompt, then type mstsc, then press enter.
  3. Press ALT-Enter, type rem, then press enter.

Launchy screenshot#3 is Launchy in action. You can mistype commands, and it’ll still find reasonable matches — type reno and you’ll still likely find Remote Desktop Connection. Multiple matches? Choose from a drop-down list that puts the most recently used and best matches at the top. It’s super-productive.

With Launchy, here’s how I open Mozilla: ALT-Enter, moz, enter. Visual Studio? ALT-Enter, vis, enter. Cisco VPN Client: ALT-Enter, vpn, enter. This is very cool.

Thinking of how much I love Launchy reminds me that I’ve totally skipped the month of September in my drive to donate $5 per month to a free software product, so I’m going to donate $10 to Launchy — because it is that cool. My donation history to date far is as follows.

Thanks to Josh Karlin for writing such a great utility!