NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, May 2010
Karen Is Offering Free Software Utilities
By Ira Wilsker, APCUG Director;
Columnist, The Examiner, Beaumont, TX; Radio & TV Show Host
(click to email author)


I have been a big fan of free software utilities, and have written about them in this column many times before. Some years ago I was looking for an obscure utility, and found it on the Karenware.com website. Recently I was looking for another freeware real-time backup utility to use on my new Windows 7-64 computer, and read a review about the free Karenware utility "Karen's Replicator". I had forgotten what a treasure trove of over two dozen freeware utilities that Karen offers, and this review refreshed my memory.

In her online autobiography at karenware.com/bio.asp, Karen says that she is "Karen Kenworthy, author of Karen's Power Tools and Karen's Power Tools Newsletter. Karen has written for Windows Magazine and Winmag.com, for almost a decade. Her free Power Tools newsletter has over 80,000 subscribers, and is growing by 100 new subscribers every day. She also writes custom programs, and develops web sites." Karen has earned a well-deserved reputation for writing some excellent quality free utilities that can satisfy a variety of computing needs.

I downloaded her Karen's Replicator v3.6.8 from karenware.com/powertools/ptreplicator.asp to my Windows 7-64 machine, and the 1.9mb file downloaded and installed quickly. There were no toolbars or other gimmicks to install, which some other freeware publishers have started to include as a revenue stream, but not Karen; her software is clean and free of nuisance add-ons. Replicator will run on almost all Windows machines from the ancient Windows 95 to the new Windows 7. Replicator is a very simple backup utility that can automatically backup an entire hard drive at user selected times, or be run manually as desired. By default, Replicator will not duplicate a file that has already been backed up, unless it has a different name, size, or date. Replicator can also be configured not to backup selected files, such as temporary and other useless files, saving time and space. As soon as I installed Replicator I selected to do a full file backup to one of my several external USB 2.0 hard drives, which it performed surprisingly fast. Files are stored on the backup device in native format, and can be read or copied by Windows Explorer or any other file utility. I even directly opened files on my external drive that had been copied by Replicator, and they opened flawlessly.

Remember that Murphy's First Law of Computing is that, "A properly backed up hard drive will never fail; but if there is no current backup, the hard drive will always fail at the most inopportune time". I have Replicator set to perform a backup every evening, such that I will always have a backup of my critical files that is not more than 24 hours old. It does what other programs call an incremental backup, in that it only copies new, or changed files with each backup, making subsequent backups very fast. Since I like redundancy, as an external hard drive can fail also, I am currently using three external drives which I rotate periodically, having only one connected to the computer, and the other two stored safely away. If one external drive should fail, I still have a fairly recent backup, minimizing any losses. When I change external hard drives, Replicator does a very good job at keeping the backup files current. When I evacuated for Rita, Gustav, and Ike, the first item I packed was my external hard drive with my most recent backup. Since the backup files are in native format, no utilities other than Windows Explorer or another file manager are necessary to copy the files back if necessary. Especially after Ike, many local people and businesses were distraught to find their computers with their irreplaceable data destroyed by the hurricane and storm surge. Fortunately I had only minor damage to my house from the storms, but if I would have had major damage, I could have purchased a new computer and quickly restored my important data files. Many of us have important files on our computers, including tax files, wedding pictures, family photos and videos, financial records, and other vital files. A good backup buys us peace of mind and a sense of security. I can strongly recommend Karen's Replicator as an excellent, but very easy to use, backup utility.

One of my pet peeves is a computer with the wrong date and time on the clock displayed on the taskbar. Recent versions of Windows include a feature to update the internal clock, but experience has shown that this utility's performance is often spotty and unreliable, resulting in an incorrect time (and sometimes date) displayed. I downloaded Karen's Time Sync v2.02 from karenware.com/powertools/ptsync.asp. Time Sync offers a comprehensive list of hundreds of time servers from all over the globe; I selected the public time server closest to me and in my time zone, "tick.uh.edu" at the University of Houston. The selection of time servers offered by Time Sync is far superior to the handful of time servers included in later versions of Windows, and will update the clock as desired. I selected to automatically check and update my computer clock whenever the computer is booted. Now I can be reasonable certain that the time displayed on my computer's clock is accurate.

Sometimes an internet user would like to know who owns an internet domain, complete with contact information on the domain owner. Karen offers a free utility WhoIs v2.6.6, which can be downloaded from karenware.com/powertools/ptwhois.asp. According to the website, WhoIs will, "Query the 200+ top-level domain registries and Regional Internet Registries around the world, and return information about Internet sites. Information available includes owner of domain name, and often owner's mailing address, email address, phone number, and fax number." I occasionally use WhoIs to find the registered owner of a website, and it works very well provided the owner has honestly registered the domain with accurate information.

Some of Karen's other utilities that I sometimes use are URL Discombobulator, Computer Profiler, Calculator, and LAN Monitor. The URL Discombobulator can decode and display the real internet addresses of a website that has an ascii or hex web address, or otherwise difficult to comprehend web address. Computer Profiler displays all of the minute details about a computer's hardware and software, including network information, USB devices, operating system, printers, drives, and many other things about a computer; this information may be useful in servicing, upgrading, updating, or repairing a computer. Karen's Calculator can process and display numbers with thousands of digits, and displays the entries and answers on a virtual paper tape which can be saved. LAN Monitor, which is Karen's only program which will not run on Windows 95 (but runs fine on Windows 98 to Windows 7) displays information on the computer and local network. LAN Monitor shows the adapter speed, IP address DHCP, type of connection, and other information on every connected computer. This utility shows the real-time traffic, transmission errors, and network load information.

Karen Kenworthy is to be commended for writing such fine utilities, and offering them to the public at no charge. I recommend that users look at the list of available utilities at karenware.com/powertools.asp and download and try any of interest. The file sizes may be small, but their quality and features are excellent. I like Karen's utilities, and use a few of them every day, and so should you. As I have said before, you cannot beat the price and the quality.

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