Sunday, August 02, 2009

CurrPorts - Find Out Who Is Spying On You

Do you have any idea if evil computers are connecting to your PC? If your enquiring mind wants to know, I recommend that you try out two utilities from NirSoft.

Download and Install:
CurrPorts and IPNetInfo are both portable applications that are offered as ZIP files. You can unpack these ZIP files anywhere on your hard drive or even onto a flash drive to use them. CurrPorts and IPNetInfo work best if you put the files from both programs into the same folder. After I downloaded them, I unpacked the CurrPorts and IPNetInfo into two different folders. I renamed the readme.txt files and then copied the IPNetInfo files into the CurrPorts folder. I ended up with the following files in my CPorts folder.


Run CurrPorts:
You can run CurrPorts by launching the cports.exe file. It will scan your computer and display a list of all of the processes on your PC that are using the network and internet connections. The list contains the following columns of information on each connection to your machine.

Process Name
Process ID
Local Port
Local Port Name
Local Address
Remote Port
Remote Port Name
Remote Address
Remote Host Name
Process Path
Product Name
File Description
File Version
Process Created On
User Name
Process Services
Process Attributes
Added On
Module Filename
Remote IP Country
Window Title

Search the information:
The most important columns to pay attention to are the columns I've highlighted above.

Process Name is the name of the program or service on your PC that is making the connection to the net.

Process Path tells you where the program or service is located on your hard drive. It's important to know this location if you suspect that you have a spyware, virus or trojan infection.

Remote Address is a set of numbers that is often called the "IP Address". This address is needed to identify the computers connected to you by the internet.

Many of the connections you'll see won't even have a remote address and you don't have to pay as much attention to them. In order to unclutter the list and concentrate on the remote IP addresses, you can use the Options menu and uncheck the item labeled "Display Items without Remote Address" or hold down the CTRL key and press F6.


Identify WHO IS connecting:
Now that you have some IP addresses displayed, you can find out more about them by using NifSoft's IPNetInfo utility. When you right click on any remote address shown in CurrPorts, you can find out more about it by choosing the IPNetInfo option. IPNetInfo will pop up and give you the WHOIS information if it's able to.


Here's an example of the WHOIS info for a Google page in Internet Explorer.


If IPNetInfo doesn't seem to do anything when you open it with a right click from CurrPorts, it could be that the remote address is a local address on your home or business network. In that case you shouldn't have to worry about who it is.

IPNetInfo.exe can be run all by itself by launching the ipnetinfo.exe file. When it's running this way, you will have to paste in the IP Addresses manually to initiate WHOIS searches.

Stop the Spies:
Once you've identified all the owners of those remote IP addresses, you should have a better idea about who they are. You can usually find out more about them by using the company name in an internet search. If you are still suspicious that the IP addresses you are seeing are from the bad guys, you can check in several places to find out if they are on a watch list. I recommend that you search for malicious addresses at hpHosts. Just paste the remote IP address into the search box.

If you've identified a connection you don't want, you can right click on entries in CurrPorts and either "Close" the connection or "Kill" the process on your PC. If you have a process running on your machine that continues to connect to IPs that are suspect, you should probably save an HTML report as shown below, then run an Anti-Virus and Anti-Spyware scan. I recommend using MalwareBytes or one of the other good free spyware removers. If that doesn't do the trick, get some help from one of the Anti-Spyware forums. I always visit's forums when I need help.

If you wish to ask me about some of your remote connections, you can select one or more items in CurrPorts, click on "View" > "HTML Report - Selected Items". When the report pops into your web browser, you can copy and paste the information into the comments below this article. You can also save the report from your browser using the File > Save menu.


Have a good day and surf in peace.

How to Create Gradient Desktop Wallpapers

I think that a clean classy looking Windows desktop helps me stay organized and look professional at work. You may not agree or even care, but stay tuned if you'd like to know how to use MS Paint to create simple custom wallpapers.

By default, many Windows components are colored with gradients. As one color fades into another, it often has a pleasing appearance. Here's an example of a black to blue gradient.


I created this gradient using MS Paint, which comes on every Windows PC. It started as a two pixel bitmap (.BMP) file with one pixel black and the other blue. Here's how it's done.

First, fire up Paint. You can find it in your Start Menu under Programs > Accessories. If you don't see it there, you can always call it up from the Start > Run dialog by typing in MSPAINT and hitting the Enter key.

Next, set the image attributes so that you only have two pixels. Select the menu items Image > Attributes.


Set the Attributes with either Width 2 and Height 1 for a horizontal gradient or vise versa for a vertical gradient.


Now you have a two pixel bitmap started but you can't really see it well. You'll have to adjust the Zoom to 800% as shown.



What you'll see after you've zoomed in is still pretty small, but it'll work.

Pick the Pencil tool and choose one color to paint the the first pixel and another color to paint the other pixel.


Here's what it looks like if you've chosen black and blue as I have.


Now save your image making sure it's a BMP file in the "Save as type" box.


The file is saved now and you can use it as a Desktop Wallpaper. Hopefully you already know how to set wallpapers. Just be sure to set the image as "Stretch" when you select it.


It sure doesn't look like a gradient before you hit the OK button here. Your Windows system will make it into a very nice looking gradient when it "stretches" the image to fit your Desktop.

Here's my desktop when I finish ...

That's all there is to it, so have fun playing with Paint now.

STP - Tiny but Full Featured MP3 Player

STP, short for "SysTrayPlay", is an MP3 player made in Russia by Youri Strous.
Home page:

This tiny music player is contained in a single executable file about 200k in size. Despite the small size, STP has everything you need to easily listen to and manage your MP3 collection. It's designed to stay out of your way and provide music while you are busy doing other things on your PC.

Installation and first use:
This program is offered as a ZIP file collection. Since STP is a single EXE file, you can unzip and place the STP.EXE file anywhere on your hard drive. As far as I can tell it's completely portable and you should be able to use it from a flash drive or any other media.

Once you launch it, you'll see the STP icon in your system tray. It will save it's own settings in an STP.INI file after it's started.


A right single click on the STP icon reveals all the settings, controls and options. Normal left single mouse clicks will pause and play the current song. You can assign other functions to both right and left double and triple clicks of the mouse.


Using the STP minibar:
Under the Windows menu, STP can be set to display a "minibar" interface that many people will recognize as common in music players. The minibar can be dragged around on the screen by grabbing the dark grey rectangle on the right end.


The minibar also displays the standard Play, Pause, Stop, Forward and Backward buttons. The next "now playing" field is active and clicking on it will cause the player to jump to different portions of the song almost instantly. The next field shows the volume as a percentage. Clicking on the volume field allows you to change the volume up and down.

After the volume field, you can see that there are 5 letters displayed. Clicking on the letters "I E P T A" provides quick access to many of the often used player functions.

I - brings up up "MP3 Info" on the currently playing song where you can also edit the ID3 tags.


E - launches the built in "Equalizer" which allows you to adjust the sound frequencies and save or load EQ settings.


P - displays a playlist which can be saved as M3U or PLS files. MP3 files can be dragged and dropped on the playlist and once there, they can be re-ordered by dragging them up or down in the list. Playlists can also be searched by typing in the "Find Track" field at the top of the playlist.


T - shows the "Tracks" menus which I'd say should really be called the "Folders" because it allows you to see all the music folders that your current playlist is using.

A - shows "Album" menu with the current music folder and the songs in it.

That basically covers using the "minibar" interface. I prefer using only the systray icon along with some custom hotkeys.

Using Hotkeys instead of the minibar:
You can set your own custom hotkeys in STP by going to the Settings / Advanced menu. You'll find lots of other goodies in this settings menu, but let's focus on the hotkeys which can be accessed by hitting the "Hotkeys" button at the bottom.


Almost every function of STP can be accessed by hotkeys that you can define.


As you can see, I only use a few of the hotkeys such as Play/Pause, Prev/Next and Volume. Those alone are enough to keep me from having to click open any other menus while using STP.

There are very few MP3 players that are smaller than STP and I'd have to give it 5 stars for cramming in all of it's features in such a small and completely portable package. It's a shame that the author is no longer actively developing this application. On the other hand, what more does it need?

JHoodsoft Newsletter

John Hood, author of the freeware site, "Best of Free Software", occasionally writes to tell us what he's been up to. He's got a great site and his opinions on free software are right on the mark.
If you don’t want to wait a month to see the next letter from John, you’ll have to sign up for his newsletter.
JHoodsoft Newsletter for July 2009
DabbleDB - Putting the "Wow" factor into number crunching
Click-N-Type Virtual Keyboardby Lake Software.
Roll your own "Launchy" Handy Computer Help Links
Problem with Google Docs

First off, I'd like to thank friend and fellow free software watchdog, Paul O'Mara, for taking on the job of editing the Newsletter. Bravo buddy, and thank you!

Computing in a Recession -
In a down economy, Netbooks are flying off the shelves. If you only needed to connect to the web and only needed a basic computer with which to do it, and it cost about the same as an iPhone, would you buy one? Asus has made an absolute killing in this economy by offering the just that. They called it the Eee: a computer small enough and light enough to be truly portable. Slip it into a book bag or shoulder bag and off you go.

Now laptop manufacturers practically falling all over themselves to get in on the action. Almost all of the major players in the laptop arena, are making offerings for small inexpensive ultra-portables.

If this is the kind of computer you are looking for, just remember, that is works the best when connected to the web. On it's own, it's slow an a bit limited. Also, it may not be a Windows computer. Not a bad thing: it's giving Linux a big opening in the consumer market. Just be aware that it's gonna look different.

DabbleDB - Putting the "Wow" factor into number crunching. Free for the sign-up at Note that the free version makes all data public. I was initially un-impressed - an online database that didn't really do much, with no support for sub tables and no form editor. It was just another spreadsheet. Then I saw the demo, and then I was forced to use it. Four words: "Pie-chart in eight minutes." On the first try, no less. DabbleDB makes working in Excel seem like driving a stick-shift car. You create a database, import an Excel spreadsheet, etc. DabbleDB will make pretty good guesses about what the day is. Set up groupings, special filters, you name it. Yes, there is a form set up. It's limited, but it's there. Now go to "Views" and decide how you want your data shown. Dabble DB does the rest. I actually had fun doing it. In fact, I wanted to do it again: how about my video collection list, sorted by genre, director, actor? I see two immediate niches for this product: 1: Number-crunching for non-accountants. Instead of relying on someone else's report, managers - who may not be Excel savvy - could use DabbleDB to turn the raw data into meaningful metrics on their own. 2: Support-staff "secret weapon." Whenever support staffers are faced with a large lump of data to collate and an order from on high that makes no sense whatsoever ("I want all our customers by zip code, hair color and handedness -ASAP!"), they can use DabbleDB to manipulate the data quickly and churn out meaningful reports. Even if the denizen of mahogany row suddenly changes his/her mind about the data they want, the support staff can switch it easily.

Dabble make number crunching fast and fun; a winner!

Click-N-Type Virtual Keyboard by Lake Software.

Once in a while you run across a freeware application that almost makes you cry. Click-N-Type was written in response to the needs of a disabled girl, and in response to the poorly written and expensive keyboard solutions out there. Click-N-Type offers a keyboard recorder and and play-back feature, multiple keyboards to choose from - as "speakback" feature - and it's all free. Even if you don't use it, visit the site and say hello. This is what free software is all about - using a computer to make someone's life better, and they don't have to spend a dime.

Click-N-Type is an on-screen virtual keyboard designed for anyone with a disability that prevents him or her from typing on a physical computer keyboard. As long as the physically challenged person can control a mouse, trackball, touch screen or other pointing device, this software keyboard allows you to send keystrokes to virtually any Windows application or DOS application that can run within a window.

Roll your own "Launchy" .

Windows XP users love the open-source program Launchy. It pops up a little box into which you can type a program or file name, and Launchy runs it for you. It saves a lot of navigation. The only problem is that the database for Launchy needs to update periodically, and that slows down your computer. I developed a method to use the "Run" line as a Launchy-type box without installing any software or updating a database: 1: Create a folder called "Links" (or launchers or whatever) somewhere on your C: drive. It's easiest if you just create it off of the root of C:. 2: Go to Control Panel - System, and click on the "Advanced" tab. Go down to the button "Environment Variables". 3: In the second window below, scroll down until you see the word "Path". Select it and click "Edit". 4: Place a semi-colon and then C:\{launcher_folder_name}. Click OK and OK out. 5: Now you have an empty folder that Windows will check if you type something in the "Run" line. Final Step: Copy to your new folder any shortcuts on the desktop and in the start menu. I rename the shortcut and edit out the "Shortcut to", if there is one. I also shorten the name so it's easier to remember: for example, shortcut to "Mozilla Thunderbird" becomes simply "Tbird". Now all you have to do is press CTRL+ESC+R or, if you have that Windows key down between CTRL and ALT, just do {Windows_key}+R. When the Run line pops, type in the name of the shortcut and press Enter. The program will run. I use this mostly to call programs I use a lot, and also for very obscure tools I have installed but don't have the time to look for. I hope this works for you too.

My Friend Sheila sent this around:

Subject: Handy Computer Help Links
Hi all, Thought you might find some of these sites interesting: for help in a wide variety of computer needs. when you just need help getting through a process. If nothing else, a great idea! Enjoy! Sheila

A reader caught wind of this and wanted to bring it to your attention...
Problem with Google Docs

I just wanted to drop you a line to let you know how much I like your website, and to let you know about an ongoing problem with Google Docs. You will notice (see URL below) that several people have been having a problem deleting documents, pdfs, and empty folders in Google Docs. The problem was reported on January 31, 2009, and remains unresolved today. Chandler is a Google employee that has occasionally shown up, but has been of little help. It is incredible to believe that Google can't make something as simple as the Trash Bin work properly. May I suggest that you warn your readers about the above problem? I would also suggest warning your readers about the lack of competent customer service that is currently provided by Google.

Here you go, and thanks for the tip...

OK, that's enough for now. Keep the feedback and ideas coming in...

Hood's Best of Free Software

Awesome photos from Tiffany

Here’s a terrific slideshow that was sent to me in email by Tiffany. I uploaded it to so that I could share it without making you download a PPS (PowerPoint) file.

Be sure to hit the full screen icon below to get the best results.

Thanks Tiffany!