Yearly Archives: 2008

Google PageRank


I often trump Google as being my Search Engine of choice and one of the main reasons behind this is due to the relevancy of the results that it returns.Most would just take these results for granted but I believe that sometimes it’s nice to know what factors contributed to a page being recommended to me.If you have a website then a basic understanding of Search Engine processes will set you in good stead as understanding how they recommend sites is the first step to learning how improve your own positioning in the results.

Allegedly there are currently around 150,000,000 websites active on the Internet and, as such, getting them in to any kind of order isn’t a particularly easy job.In order to catalogue websites in to their database the search engines employ the use of computer programs known as ‘spiders’ which follow links from one website to another, documenting pages as they go.When you perform a search they refer back to this database of pages and return a series of results by matching your query with text stored on the pages title, content, URL, image text or even in the META tags; this is code programmed in to the page which is only normally visible by Search Engines.

The results are sorted in an order based on a specific algorithm that the Search Engine has chosen to employ; as such a website won’t rank the same over every engine for the same keywords.Whilst I have oversimplified the process, the concept in theory doesn’t usually get a huge amount more complicated than this.

Google is a little different however as they have patented a technology known as PageRank which provides another important element to this algorithm by assigning a score as to how important they believe a page to be in the wider context of things.Typically a page with a high PageRank will rank higher in the search results than one a lower scoring site.

Google establishes a PageRank in part by counting the number of other websites that link to it; each link to the site is counted as a vote towards its overall ‘importance’ with they theory being this being that a high quality site would usually have more people linking to it than a mediocre one.

Not all votes are considered equal however; a link from a high ranking website for example will carry more clout than one from a low ranking website so if a webdesigner creates a thousand empty websites and gets them to link back to his main site then it won’t artificially increase his ranking.The quality of the vote will also be determined by a number of other factors such as the amount of links a specific website has already extended; a link farm that provides a link to a site and then 50,000 others probably isn’t seen as being particularly valuable.

If you do happen to run a website and are looking to increase your visibility on Google then I can’t really go wrong in suggesting that you fill your site with a large amount of useful, interesting and unique content and then work on obtaining links from as many relevant sources as you can; usually these can be obtained for free by simply asking.These links will hopefully in time improve both your PageRank and consequently the flow of visitors to your site.

If you want to check up on the PageRank of a particular site then download and install the free Google toolbar from


About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.

Undelete Plus


Although I have covered this subject before in the past, I am still getting a large number of people regularly e-mailing me asking how they can undelete a specific file so thought it might be time for a quick recap.

The Windows recycle bin is a godsend for many users as in the majority of circumstances a deleted file will be transferred to the recycle bin so it can be quickly recovered if necessary.There are some instances however when a deleted file won’t go via the recycle bin or alternatively the bin will be emptied before the mistake has been discovered. However fortunately there is usually still a way to retrieve the data.

In order to understand how this is possible, we need to understand a little more about how your computer manages deleted files.When you request that Windows deletes a file, rather than actually physically removing it from the hard disk it simply marks the space where that particular file was stored as being free.It’s not until the computer tries to save another file in the same space that the file is then truly erased; it is for this same reason you should always be careful to fully erase your data with a specialist application when selling your computer so no data can be recovered.

There is no way of telling when Windows will choose to start reusing the space where your deleted file was once stored and as such the use of an undelete program won’t always guarantee that you will retrieve your data.A good analogy I heard recently is that recovering a deleted file is a similar experience to losing a contact lens at a party.The process of the lens falling out of your eye and dropping on the floor is unlikely to damage it so if you were to immediately yell “nobody move” and retrieve your lens then you would probably be able to recover it.If, however you were to allow the party to continue for 15 minutes then chances are that with the general movement around the room that your lens would be destroyed.Using your computer even for simple tasks such as browsing the Internet involves a certain amount of data being shifting around the hard disk and as such increasing the probability of data los.

In order to minimise the amount of disruption caused when you do accidentally delete a file it would be best to download and install an undelete utility such as the fantastic free of charge application Undelete Plus ( BEFORE you actually have the need to use it.

You can choose to do a general search for all recoverable files however the sheer number of files that are created and deleted by your computer on a daily basis without your knowledge means that you will almost certainly be presented with several tens of thousands of files that can be undeleted.Fortunately the program allows you to sort these in to categories (applications, music files, pictures etc) as well as filtering the results by name, size or modification date of the file. Once you have located the file(s) simply tick the appropriate checkbox and then the ‘Start Undelete’ button and the program will restore it to the original location; simple!


About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.



We often receive blank DVD discs back that have been marked as being faulty due to the fact the customers machine refuses to write to them.After a little cross examination we almost always arrive at the same conclusion; the machine doesn’t actually have any software installed which would allow it to write to DVD hence the difficulties the customer is facing.

Such an obvious slip-up is easily understood; Windows XP, an application capable of DVD playback and CD writing must support DVD burning, surely?After all the application has been through three service packs and is still the most widely used distribution of Windows in the world.The sad truth is that support for DVD writing wasn’t considered important when XP was released seven years ago and since then Microsoft bizarrely haven’t seen fit to supply an update.Whilst Vista does support DVD writing it can’t handle HD standards such as HD-DVD or Blu-Ray so even Vista users may find the following software that I’m about to recommend of interest.

In the past I have very briefly touched on Deepburner ( which whilst an incredibly capable program hasn’t been updated sufficiently over the last couple of years for me to feel I can continue to recommend it; HD media support for example is still completely absent.Those still using Windows 98 may still wish to keep it in mind however as Deepburner is still compatible with this antiquated Operating System.

The alternative is an application called CDBurnerXP ( which would appear to be a much more rounded piece of software due to the sheer number of features that you get compared to other free products on the market.You can, for example, burn to practically any disc including CD-R/CD-RW/DVD+R/DVD-R/DVD+RW/DVD-RW/DVD-RAM/BD(Blu-Ray)/HD-DVD and any dual layer variants.In terms of supported formats the range is equally impressive; if you choose to burn a CD for instance then you can import your songs in mp3, wav, ogg, flac and wma formats as well as importing playlists in M3U or WPL standards and track layouts by way of CUE sheets.

The software supports burning images so that you can create a virtual CD image; this is especially useful if you want to create an EXACT copy of the disc on another form of media such as a Hard Drive.Of course the software can handle burning the image back to disc along with converting and manipulating any images you may receive off others; over the Internet for example.

Amazingly the application is a tiny 2.8mb download however it does have the drawback of requiring Windows 2000 or above along with relying on the Microsoft .Net Framework.The .Net software is designed to allow programmers to develop Windows applications faster and more easily and whilst some users complain of speed issues it is becoming a lot more commonplace.

Downloading .Net isn’t an issue as it is available free of charge off the Microsoft website and in all probability you have most likely had it installed unbeknown to you at some point in the past when you installed a dependent application or performed a Windows Update.My advice would be to try installing CDBurnerXP and if .Net isn’t detected the application will give you instructions on how to proceed.


About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.

Windows Movie Maker


I often recommend various pieces of free software which I believe my readers may be interested in downloading, however when getting caught up in the process of downloading new and exciting software it is apparently quite easy to overlook something right under your nose.Windows Movie Maker has been bundled with Windows ever since the dreadful Windows ME (Millennium Edition), and whilst the earlier versions suffered from a woefully inadequate feature set, the later editions have actually been pretty good.

The application can be accessed from the Accessories folder from the programs section of the Start Menu and the version you will be using is dependent on your version of Windows.Those who have Windows XP with the latest service pack installed (this will have most likely been done automatically) will be using version 2.1 however if you own Windows Vista then you will be using version 6.This skip in version numbers is due to the fact that 3, 4 and 5 were skipped to bring the program version number in line with that of the Operating System (Vista is the release name for what is essentially Windows 6.0).

Windows Movie Maker is ideal for those that want a program which will allow them to edit their home movies both simply and effectively.It is geared more towards the home user than the professional so whilst features present in more advanced software applications may be missing, this will be compensated for in both speed and ease of use.

The layout consists of a simple storyboard which you then drop in your existing video clips with the ability to split up longer files as you see fit.This view can then be changed to a timeline so that you have full control as to how long any particular clip is present on screen, the choice and timing of the background music as well as being able to select any appropriate titles which will overlay at any particular moment.

When shifting between scenes, rather than just flipping from one section of film to another, you can select transitions so that sections can blend seamlessly together.You are also able to instantly apply a number of effects to individual clips including simple tools such as brightness increase and picture rotation as well as more advanced effects such as pixilation, focus shift and picture warping.You can make sections of your film appear older by adding a sepia tone or selecting individual scenes to appear as though they are being played on an old projector.

Whilst most popular formats are supported, there are a few widely used formats such as MOV, MP4 and 3GP which have been left in the cold.If your digital camera or camera phone uses one of these formats then you will have to obtain a converter first off to make it in to something more suitable such as an MPEG or AVI format.There are plenty of free of charge applications which will be able to easily achieve this available from a site such as Freeware Files (

One impressive feature is the ‘Auto Movie’ function which allows you to import an entire movie file which Windows Movie Maker will then edit for you based on a predefined style - it will analyse the movie, split it down in to multiple scenes then automatically apply effects, transitions and background music along with titles.This function isn’t infallible as it relies on a certain degree of calculated guesswork but nevertheless this is an impressive way to quickly and easily create an edited product.

Once finished, your movie can be saved to a file which can then be stored, distributed or uploaded to the Internet or alternatively it can be burnt to a DVD.The results you get won’t be studio quality but will certainly stand apart from the long, unedited and wholly unprofessional movies that are often produced at the end of a summer holiday.


About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.



Sometimes I miss not seeing what I would call the stereotypical 80’s businessman; I was a little too young to take note at the time but when I look back I always envisage a man with a long black ponytail, dressed in an expensive suit and carrying a briefcase.This briefcase would surely contain a Filofax, the size of which would be directly correlated to how important you wanted to be considered by those around you.

In the 00’s we appear to have lost the Filofax only to have it replaced by something equally pretentious; the PDA (Personal Digital Assistant).When I first went in to business I bought myself one of these but put it back in the box almost completely unused when I realised that I spent more of my time working on prioritised lists of things I needed to do than on the actual tasks in hand.

Even to this day my heart always sinks if I have lunch with someone and the time comes to make a note.Rather than just jotting it down or making a mental note they rummage through their bag, retrieve a PDA, turn it on, open notepad, write ‘Phone Chris tomorrow’, save the note, set an alarm, turn the machine off, put it back in its leather sleeve then place it carefully back in the bag.Don’t get me wrong, I can see how such a device can come in useful for those that do need to store a large amount of contact and schedule information however I do draw a line when an individual appears to become completely dependent on a machine to organise them.

For those aforementioned users who do happen to have a large amount of data and activity that needs organising in their life there is another option which doesn’t rely on an expensive device that has to be carried everywhere and can be easily lost or stolen.Since most people have access to a computer at any time, irrespective of time or location this information can be kept using software as opposed to hardware.

EssentialPIM is a free application which is available in both desktop and portable versions which can both be downloaded by way of a tiny 2.8MB file obtained by visiting includes all the standard features that you would expect from a Personal Information Manager including a calendar, contact database, to-do lists and notepad.Of course, it can be argued that most modern day mobile phones have the same functionality however unless you do happen to have a Smartphone these features are likely to be limited.

I personally would recommend downloading the portable version and then saving it to a USB Flash Drive which can then be attached to your keyring therefore minimising the possibility of leaving the house without it, or indeed losing it.To access your data simply insert the USB drive in to any computer and all your information will be readily accessible with none of your information ever being saved on to the machine itself eliminating any such security concerns.I would recommend setting up a password from within the application as if you were to lose your keys you wouldn’t want a potential finder to know which house they belonged to.

Whilst I have to admit that EssentialPIM isn’t for everybody, for those that constantly skip from office to office or have by other means regular access to a computer then it could certainly prove a worthwhile download.


About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.

Readers Questions/Suggestions


Once again, it’s time for me to publish a few of the e-mails that have arrived in my inbox this week.

Mozilla is becoming well known for its Firefox browser and Thunderbird e-mail client, but its Sunbird calendar is less well known.Put simply, it is a clone of the calendar in Microsoft Office but it is completely free and worth a look for anyone who wants an office calendar program without the expense of buying Microsoft Office.

Ian MacMillan, via E-mail

Nicely spotted Ian.Whilst completely free of charge and still in very early stages of development, Mozilla Sunbird is certainly worth downloading for those in need of an easy to use calendar application for their PC without the need for purchasing a package such as Microsoft Office.

The idea of the calendar will be for it to work across multiple platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux etc) as it works using the XUL user interface language provided by a number of applications such as Mozilla Firefox.As a result of this interdependency you will be required to have one of the free programs from the Mozilla suite installed such as Firefox or Thunderbird which I have reviewed before in the past.

To download the Mozilla Calendar head to and if you don’t already have Firefox head to – Both downloads are extremely small and free of charge.

Those interested in other projects that the Mozilla team are working on should head to - To be honest most of it will be way over the head of the average user as a great deal of it is designed for developers but there are certainly some interesting applications to take a look at.

Having downloaded AVG Anti-Virus as suggested in one of your previous articles I am now getting lots of pop up ads when visiting a site – Should this be happening?

Andrea Winnchild, via E-mail

One thing that you should have learnt from me by now is that I’ll never recommend that you download a program that will also expose the user to pop-up adverts and Spyware.

The problem is likely to be caused by a piece of Adware or Spyware that you also have installed on your computer and it is just incidental that this was installed at approximately the same time as AVG.To rectify this I would recommend that you visit the Microsoft ( website and download their Anti-Spyware utility or download Spybot Search and Destroy ( which are both very good programs designed to rid your system of such annoyances.If you require any further instructions regarding these two utilities please head to and download one of my numerous previous articles on the subject.

Whilst talking about removing rubbish from your system it might be worthwhile me taking this opportunity to mention that the CCleaner utility that I mentioned several weeks ago which is designed to remove obsolete files and registry entries from your system has been redesigned and fully updated.This is certainly a worthwhile application for most users who wish to clean up their system which can be downloaded free of charge by heading to again, a full review is available at

About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.

Accounting Software


We’ll kick straight off this week with a letter from one of my readers:

I am a keen reader of your Herald Express column and have downloaded some useful free software as a result.I was wondering if you know of any free downloads of Home Accounting software so I can manage simple income & expenditure, ability to categorise entries & bank reconciliation?Nothing too sophisticated.

John Green, via e-mail

I’ll be honest, I really didn’t have a clue where to start here; although I’m self employed I’ve never touched a piece of accounting software for more than two minutes without running a mile.I have always managed to get along quite happily by using the sales figures automatically generated by our system along with a stack of invoices detailing our outgoings and the whole lot then gets dumped in to an Excel spreadsheet; it’s by no means the most organised system but then by using a few simple formula I have the information I need

My problem locating a suitable piece of software for John has been compounded by the fact that such software seems to polarise users easily; the same piece of software will typically receive just as many 5/5 reviews as it does 1/5 reviews.I’d imagine that since accountancy software has such a steep learning curve that for everyone who gives up after two minutes, there is another that perseveres and finds the application quite capable once the surface has been scratched.

After a good look around I settled on Microsoft Office Accounting Express 2008.This decision pains because although it is free, this application is a huge 250mb download and this in my eyes is excessive for any application, let along one designed for simple bookkeeping.

My decision has been reached because, unlike most of the accounting software which has a habit of looking alien, this package looks and feels very similar to Office which should result in a much less steep learning curve.

There is a more comprehensive paid for version of the software available however the Express package covers most imaginable needs of a home user or small business owner.You can create invoices and quotes, generate sales and returns, input bills and charges as well along with more modern features such as eBay and Paypal integration.Those that are VAT registered can generate their VAT returns through the application and those with employees can take care of the Payroll. You are also able to import your existing financial data from other applications such as Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Money or Quickbooks along with importing and reconciling online bank statements.

To get started simply visit click the ‘download free express’ link and you will automatically be redirected to the download site designed for the UK version of this software complete with pound signs and UK taxation systems.It’s very rare that Microsoft release anything for free that could be considered fully featured and although this application does have its faults I am confident that providing you can stomach the large download then you won’t be disappointed.



About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.

Microsoft SkyDrive


Transferring information between computers is easier now than it ever has been. I remember back in the days of my Commodore 64 when it was near impossible to exchange information between different machines unless they were of exactly the same manufacturer and model and had compatible peripherals.Modems were primitive devices that few had access to and as such you ended up saving the information on to an audio cassette, then either posting or exchanging it in person.

Today things are much different; irrespective of your computer configuration you can easily transfer information via a number of removable media types or alternatively instantly to any location in the world over the Internet.There is no doubting that the Internet has revolutionised how we move data and one resultant technology currently experiencing rapid growth is online personal storage.

Physical media such as a flash pen drive is fantastic but is not without its drawbacks.For example, it is so easy to leave at home when it will be needed or even worse if lost then you not only have to worry about the information being lost but also potentially falling in to the wrong hands.

Online storage on the other hand:

  • Is secure - All the information stored is encrypted and can only be accessed using a designated password.
  • Is portable - You can gain access to your files from any machine with an Internet connection.
  • Is free - Most services are either completely free or include a free ‘lite’ version.
  • Is large - Whilst capacities vary, several gigabytes of free space is the norm.

A good starting point for most would be the Microsoft SkyDrive service.Direct your browser to and you should be able to get going immediately if you already have a Windows Live ID.This would have been set up in the past if you use another Microsoft online service such Hotmail, MSN Messenger or some other Microsoft Service however if you don’t yet have one then signup is free and easy.

Once you have logged in you will immediately be given access to 5GB worth of storage space; this represents a higher capacity than most flash drives on the market.There is one rather annoying limitation in that no single file can exceed 50MB meaning that large videos and applications are out of the picture.

Once logged simply select an existing folder such as ‘documents’, ‘photos’, ‘videos’ or alternatively create your own.Once within any folder simply click on ‘add files’ then start selecting files off your hard drive which you wish to upload whilst keeping an eye on the free space indicator on the left hand side of the screen.

You can then view your files from any computer simply by heading back to the Skydrive website and entering in your Windows Live ID details again.For less sensitive information such as photos that you wish to share then you can also create a number of unrestricted folders which you can choose to share with either friends of your choosing or the entire Internet.

Additionally you can also give friends ‘editor’ rights which will allow them to alter files in designated folders on your online storage drive.This ability to collectively view and alter files between preselected individuals could be extremely important for those that want to collaboratively work on and share data irrespective of their physical location.



About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.

Firefox 3


Before I start this article I just want to apologise; once again I am going to dedicate an entire article to raving about the Firefox Internet browser.Just when I thought I’d finally got my love for this browser in to the open and out of my system they throw a spanner in to the works by releasing a major new revision; version 3.0.

Firefox 2 was an excellent browser however having been released towards the end of 2006, it was certainly due an update.It’s not so much that the browser looked dated as it was still an incredibly capable application but I just got the impression that perhaps it was losing a little ground to several alternatives that were starting to snap at its heels.With Internet Explorer 8 on the horizon Firefox needed to reassert its position in the industry and hopefully this new release will go someway towards achieving this goal.

In terms of the user interface I can’t help but feel that it does still does look a little dated; there’s not anything particularly wrong with it I was just expecting something a little more radical.I suppose it goes back to the old adage ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ which I suppose is quite fitting in this instance.

More important than the appearance has got to be the functionality and there are certainly a number of new features which deserve a mention:

-The address bar is substantially improved so that rather than simply accepting URL addresses you can type in any text.Firefox will then come up with suggestions on the fly by referencing your previous browsing activity and saved bookmarks.If, for example, you remember viewing a website discussing a particular topic then rather than having to remember the website address, simply start typing the subject or some relevant keywords and the correct address should be located automatically.

-In addition to the phishing protection provided in Firefox 2, this new version also includes malware protection which is designed to warn you when visiting sites which may take advantage of Operating System, application or browser vulnerabilities.

-Whilst it may seem like a basic thing, the zoom function has now been vastly improved.For us at Refresh Creations, a common issue is working to ensure that a webpage can be scaled up for those with impaired vision.Most browsers simply scale up the text leaving the pictures exactly the same size which more often than not completely ruins the page formatting.Firefox 3 has replicated the enhanced zoom of Internet Explorer 7 by scaling up the ENTIRE page, pictures included.

-The download manager now supports pause and resume features which can be useful if you are downloading a particularly large or multiple files.

One issue that I had with Firefox 2 was that it did tend to hog a great deal of memory if you were using it all day every day, especially when using large numbers of tabs.Firefox 3uses less memory to start and then releases the memory properly when a tab is closed; this and a number of other fixes results in both the browser and your computer remaining responsive throughout the day.Firefox now handles like greased lightning and feels as solid as a rock.

I’m writing a day after the official release of version 3 and in this time it has already been downloaded over eight million times.It is also nice to see that the Microsoft Internet Explorer development team sent them a cake by way of congratulations for making the release.I still firmly feel that Firefox has a strong part to play in the development of the Internet and I would encourage you to download it free of charge from



About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.

Smaller alternatives


There seems to be a tendency in the IT industry of applications increasing in both size and resource usage with every new version that’s released.In some instances such increases are unavoidable however often it seems to be a case of lazy programming as old versions are rehashed by having new bits ‘bolted on’ rather that some thought being put in to rewriting the code efficiently from scratch.It’s in instances like this that I start to look for an alternative and fortunately for every oversized application you can practically guarantee that someone has come up with an application designed to function in the same way but with a smaller footprint.

Time and time again I suggest AVG as an alternative to some of the bloated anti-virus checkers out there but thought today I would touch on some other applications which haven’t been given enough coverage.

Quicktime Alternative – Unless you configure it correctly, Quicktime has a habit of becoming both intrusive and resource hungry.Whilst some of the less used features of its bloated relative will be absent, this alternative is almost half the size and doesn’t suffer any reduced functionality as a Quicktime file player.You may not think it but the MOV format is actually surprisingly common both on the Internet and on many digital cameras so sooner or later you will need a suitable player.

Realplayer Alternative – You may find that you are required to have Realplayer installed when you come across a website which has embedded RealMedia content.Your browser will of course point you in the direction of the larger and more resource hungry official player however, as you would expect, this alternative does exactly the same job.

Foxit Reader – Adobe Acrobat is actually one of the applications that I despise the most - I’m not sure if it’s just bad luck but I’ve found it incredibly slow and unstable on every computer I’ve ever installed it on.Having a PDF reader on your computer is absolutely necessary; these files which are designed for transmitting documents complete with layout and images have a habit of cropping up everywhere.The Foxit reader runs like greased lighting and is would appear to be a great deal more stable than the official Adobe release.

Firefox – We’ve covered this one a dozen times before.This free, faster, more functional and more secure alternative to the fantastically bloated piece of software going by the name of Internet Explorer is absolutely essential.

Media Player Classic – Whilst this application looks like it is almost two decades old, it’s possibly one of the most comprehensive media players and is designed as an alternative to Windows Media Player which ships with Windows.Consisting of a 2mb download, Media Player Classic doesn’t even need installing - it consists of one file that you run whenever you want to use the application.It is best used when in conjunction with the Realplayer and Quicktime alternatives previously mentioned as with these three installed on your machine you will be able to play practically any format using the one player.

Rather than giving URL’s for each individual application, you’re probably best using a site such as to locate and download them.It goes without saying that all of the above are free of charge and don’t include anything suspicious such as Adware or Spyware.



About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.