PC Software You Never Knew Existed

A list of useful PC software you wouldn't think to go looking for. Includes complete descriptions and links.

If any of these links are invalid (not just busy!) please E-mail me. I don't plan to test them myself.



Title
Size
OS
Release
Author
Download
S.bat
3 kb
DOS
Uncrippled Freeware
Yours Truly
S.BAT
This little batch file I wrote lists all files with certain extensions. It handles up to five extensions and works with quoted long filenames under a Windows 95 command prompt. For example, if you want to see a listing of all the image files in your current directory, you can type:

S JPG JPEG GIF TGA BMP

And this is also valid:

S A* 1?3 report "jpeg image"



Title
Size
OS
Release
Author
Download
Flying Model Simulator
6,050 kb
Windows 95 & higher
Uncrippled Freeware
Roman and Michael Möller
Home Page
This is a completely free flight simulator for radio controlled model airplanes, gliders, and helicopters. It's a realistic simulation. For example, if the plane looses speed, it will pitch forward. Also, the control surfaces become less effective at slower speeds. I haven't flown real RC aircraft, but I'm confident this program would be a big help in learning how. It's also a lot of fun even if you never intend to fly a real RC plane.

Your point of view is from a fixed position on the ground and the view follows the aircraft. You can zoom in and out and rotate around the aircraft manually or automatically. There's also a chase view which is fun, but of course not realistic.

The aircraft and the ground are textured. There are structures and trees which you can crash into. The aircraft casts a shadow, and the lighting of its surfaces is realistically simulated with shadows and shine. The aircraft have transparent parts.

The aircraft have engine noise so you can hear throttle changes. The sound even changes when a plane just changes speed as the engine works harder or easier.

There are multiple models with wildly different flying characteristics, from very slow and easy-to-control to stunt plane.

There are several terrain maps to fly over. They're 3D, so you can fly behind hills or crash into them as they rise up under you if you're not paying attention.

You can use the keyboard, but for a realistic simulation you need at least one joystick. It uses standard PC joysticks, so you don't have to buy any special equipment, unlike some simulators. The joystick controls are completely configurable. You can use either axis of either stick to control any part of the aircraft, and the motion can be inverted. There's joystick calibration from within the program. Aircraft have throttle, elevator, aileron, and rudder controls.

It uses DirectX and provides Z information so it works with the 3D Revelator stereoscopic glasses.

There are only two small shortcomings. I'd like to be able to taxi the planes on the ground, but they don't have any nose wheel steering. And there's no control over the wind conditions except updrafts for gliders. I'd like to be able to try landing in a cross wind.



Title
Size
OS
Release
Author
Download
Sherlock
127 k
DOS
Playable Demo $15
Everett Kaser
SHRLCK20.ZIP

I've had this puzzle game for years and I still play it from time to time. You must figure out the order of images in a six by six table by a process of elimination and logical deduction using several types of graphical clues. You can always solve the puzzle, but you can get stuck if you make a mistake. You can get hints from the computer. You eliminate choices by right-clicking, and choose the correct image by left clicking. You can drag the clues around and remove them when no longer useful.

A game takes about 15 minutes for an experienced player. The fastest way to learn to play is by getting hints and reading them. It has a built-in function for drawing your own images for the game. It can save games and multiple player statistics.

It's pretty old, but it runs fine under Windows XP or a Windows 95 full-screen DOS session. To run under Windows XP, create a shortcut to Sherlock by dragging the exe with the right mouse button, then bring up the properties of the shortcut. Select full screen, set the idle sensitivity to low, select exclusive mode for the mouse, turn off fast ROM and dynamic memory, and set all the memory options to auto.

The free version only allows 200 different puzzles while the full version has 65,000, but it doesn't really matter. I can't imagine remembering anything from the first one by the time I got to the two hundredth!



Title
Size
OS
Release
Author
Download
Secure Device 1.4
132 kb
DOS and Windows 3.x/95
Uncrippled Shareware
Max Loewenthal and Arthur Helwig
SECDEV14.ARJ
I love this program. It's a DOS device driver which is loaded in your config.sys file. It allows you to access a single large volume file as a new drive letter. This drive is completely and seamlessly encrypted with the 128-bit IDEA algorithm. (Software using more than 40 bit encryption can not be exported from the U.S., and 56 bits is considered secure enough for financial transactions.) Naturally it isn't as fast as your regular hard drive, but it doesn't slow it down much. It's easy to use. You make a volume of whatever size you want, specifying a password, you add a single line to your config.sys file, reboot, and then you log into your new drive with your password. The password is only held in memory so if the computer is shut down before you log out, it's erased and your data is still secure. You can have multiple encrypted volumes. You can encrypt floppies. You could even encrypt your entire hard drive. The only wrinkle is that the volume file can't be too fragmented, so you should do a complete defragmentation of your hard drive before creating the volume.

Unlike encryption programs like PGP, decrypted data is never saved to the hard drive. This is important if your hard drive's electronics fail (as mine did once) and you must send it for repair. If you think repair people never root through your drive, you're nuts!

You can safely and easily back up your encrypted volume, it's just one file, and there's no need for your backup software to have real encryption since the volume is already encrypted.

I've had no compatibility problems under Dos 6.22. Under Windows 3.x and Windows 95 you can't log in and out from Windows, but you can log in when you boot up by putting the login command in your autoexec.bat file and then use the encrypted drive under Windows. With Windows 95, it may be necessary to turn off automatic booting of the GUI by changing the BootGUI=1 line in c:\msdos.sys to BootGUI=0. This will boot up the command prompt and then you must type "win" to start Windows. Windows 95 32-bit disk access doesn't work with Secure Device drives, but all this does is slow them down a little.

Unfortunately, Secure Device isn't compatible with Windows 95 OEM Service Release 2's FAT32. To find out if your computer uses FAT32, right-click your hard drive in Windows Explorer and select properties. Under the general tab, your hard drive's type will be listed as either FAT or FAT32. I haven't tested Windows 98, but it's safe to assume it would also be incompatible. FAT32 saves a lot of drive space, so it would make sense to have a special FAT16 partition for your Secure Device volume and use FAT32 for your main partition. (I have two physical hard drives: one FAT32, and one FAT16 for my volume file.)

One warning: It's probably illegal under U.S. law to export Secure Device from the U.S. Don't post it on your web page or E-mail it outside the country.

Below are some similar utilities I've researched which might be better suited to your individual needs.

SafeHouse seems to be a very nice volume-based encryption utility. It works with DOS and Windows 95/NT. You can mount the drives from DOS so your entire hard drive can be encrypted. It supports FAT32 and 32-bit disk access, can increase the size of the volume file as needed, and has up to 448-bit Blowfish encryption. Unfortunately, the free evaluation version only has 40-bit DES encryption. The full version is $80.

BestCrypt NP is a Windows 95 volume-file-based encryption utility with 56-bit DES, 256-bit Blowfish, or 256-bit Soviet GOST encryption. After a 30-day trial, it allows only reading of encrypted volumes. The full version is $90. You can only log-in from Windows, so you can't encrypt your whole hard drive. It was a little less responsive (more delays) than Secure Device, but it was using 256 bit encryption while Secure Device uses 128 bits. It worked on my FAT32 drive, but the encrypted drive was using FAT16 since it had a cluster size of 8192 bytes instead of 4096. Even so, that's better than Secure Device volumes which have the same cluster size as the drive holding them no matter their size. Overall, the less expensive SafeHouse certainly seems superior, but I haven't experimented with it yet.

Secure File System encrypts entire drive partitions, so there's a good chance it will work with FAT32. It also has Windows software for logging in and out, and it works with 32-bit disk access. Unfortunately, you can't directly back up a SFS volume since it's a partition rather than a volume file, so you'll need strong encryption in your back-up software, which is rare. (Just because your tape software lets you encrypt with a password doesn't mean it can't be cracked in two minutes by an expert. Password-protected zip files are also insecure.)

SecureDrive is an older partition encrypter. It uses a TSR rather than a device driver. It can be made to work under Windows 95.



Title
Size
OS
Release
Author
Download
C5x86 vB9
15 kb
DOS
Uncrippled Shareware
Peter Moss
5X86B9.ZIP or 5X86B9.ZIP
This utility activates the special on-chip features of the Cyrix 5x86 CPU such as branch prediction and instruction re-ordering. You'd run it in your autoexec.bat file. It doesn't leave anything in memory, it's NOT a TSR. Why didn't Cyrix release something like this? If you use this, send this guy some money. He's pissed 'cause so few people have!


Title
Size
OS
Release
Author
Download
SciTech Display Doctor
1,320kb DOS/Win or 562kb DOS only
DOS and Windows 3.x/95
Auto-Shutdown Demo
SciTech Software
Download page
(Recently called UniVBE.) This is the best VESA graphics driver out there for the PC. When I contacted Hercules (my video card maker) for a VESA driver update, they told me to download this! It supports most video cards and resolutions. Quake and Duke Nukem 3D require and recommend it to run at 640x480 and higher. The VESA driver which came with my two meg video card didn't support two meg video modes, so I couldn't use them (except for Windows) until I found Display Doctor. You may have similar limitations under DOS without even knowing it! Even if your video card has a VESA BIOS, this driver might be faster and/or support more resolutions.


Title
Size
OS
Release
Author
Download
Wasted v1.8
21k
DOS
Uncrippled Freeware
Tim Jones and Jason Hood
WASTED.ZIP

This utility is very depressing, but you should know what it can tell you. It scans the sizes of all the files on your hard drive and tells you exactly how much space is being wasted by partially filled clusters. A one gig drive might have 100 to 200 megs of wasted space. You can recover some of the space by dividing your hard drive into smaller partitions which will have smaller clusters. Wasted will also tell you how much space your files would take up using any specified cluster size.

Windows 95 OEM Service Release 2 (and Windows 98, I assume) support FAT32 which solves the cluster problem. You don't need this program if you use one of these operating systems. FAT32 is the best reason to upgrade to Windows 98. Wasted won't detect the 4096 byte cluster size of a FAT32 drive, but you can specify it with the /c:4096 command line option to see how much space is wasted and compare it to what would be wasted by FAT16. I gained 350 megs on my 2.1 gig drive when I converted to FAT32.

If you'd like to know what FAT32 will do for your drive, just run "wasted /c:4096" to see how much less space would be wasted.



Title
Size
OS
Release
Author
Download
Rdir
7 k
DOS
Uncrippled Shareware
R. P. McCormick
RDIR149.ZIP
This is an easy to use DOS command line utility for cleaning up your hard drive. It shows the true sizes of your directories in a pie chart taking into account the cluster waste of having many tiny files. It provides more information than the Windows 95 Explorer. You can move up and down your directory tree and find out what the hell is taking up so much space! (Doesn't support drives over 2 gigs.)


Title
Size
OS
Release
Author
Download
Spindown 1.2
13 k
DOS
Uncrippled Freeware
EnQue Software
SPINDN12.ZIP
This little DOS program saves power and reduces wear on your hard drive by activating your drive's built-in spin down feature which turns off the motor which spins the disk after a certain period of inactivity. Most hard drives have this feature (including Western Digital's) but only the newer motherboard BIOSes can activate it. The drive will spin back up in a few seconds when accessed. You'd usually run it in your autoexec.bat. It doesn't leave anything in memory; it's NOT a TSR. If you have more than one hard drive, Spindown allows you to set their spin down times separately. I use it to spin down my secondary hard drive which doesn't get accessed much.


Title
Size
OS
Release
Author
Download
GifWeb
325 k
Windows 3.x/95
Uncrippled Shareware $20
Informatik Inc.
GIFWEB.ZIP
This simple utility allows you to set a color in a GIF image to be transparent if your favorite paint program doesn't know how. It's very useful for web pages.

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