Mar 27, 2007

Free encryption software, Kruptos 2

Think of this scenario, you want to transfer from your office to your home computer some very important documents (bank accounts, google pagerank algorithm) using an USB drive. But, dreaming of Jeannie, you end up home without the USB drive. Probably you lost it when getting your keychain, or when you picked up that nickel of the sidewalk...point is you're in a lot of trouble. To avoid such headaches you should encrypt files/folders that you're moving using removable drives (usb, enclosures). Encryption encodes the data using certain algorithms and the only way to decode the data is by providing the password used originally.

There are lots of encryption programs out there (there's even one built-in Windows Xp Professional) but a surprisingly easy and powerful free encryption software is Kruptos 2, developed by Steve Beckett.
Some of its main features:

  • encrypts files/folders using 128-bit Blowfish algorithm

  • obfuscates names of encrypted files, but leaves folder names unaltered

  • integrates in the right-click menu (Windows Explorer)

  • creates self-extracting encrypted files (having the .exe extension), that:
    contain encrypted files and the software necessary to decompress the contents. Users can decompress the contents of a self-extracting file simply by running it like any other program.

  • has a file shredder that uses dod standard (department of defense)

  • it's free

[main window of Kruptos 2]

[options window for Kruptos 2]

You can download it here: Kruptos 2
Also, here's a quick tutorial on how encryption works with Kruptos 2:

  1. Select files/folders. The easier way it's to right click a folder (or file) in Windows Explorer, choose Kruptos 2 and after that Encrypt folder (file).

  2. Enter a password. Before the encryption starts, you have to choose a password for it. Also, you can enter a hint word, that later might remind you of the password you used, in case your memory is on a break. Note that once the password is set and the file encrypted, it's almost impossible to recover the file unless you know the password. So make sure you enter something you'll remember.

  3. Encrypt. Once the encryption is finished you'll receive a message about the status of the encryption (successful, failed). If you've encrypted a folder, you'll see that the name of the folder is the same but the name of the files are now completely changed and they show a "locked" icon.

  4. Decrypting the files. To decrypt, simply right click an encrypted file and select Decrypt. You will be prompted for the password and once that's entered and validated the files will be decrypted.

  5. File shredding. When you normally delete a file (using the simple Delete key), that file is not actually erased from your computer, and can be sometimes recovered. This is why, when you really want to delete a file you'd better use the File Shredding option. What this does, it's re-writing the file with a character, then the character's complement, and then a random character for a number of times specified by you (1-16). Given it's a method used by the Department of Defense, it's pretty sure that the file cannot be recovered.

That's it. Once you play a little more with Kruptos you'll see that's not difficult to use and it provides an additional security measure by encrypting sensitive data.

Mar 1, 2007

Wrap text as you type in Excel

Now I really understand why people say Excel has many features, but nobody knows about them. I often had to type some text in an Excel cell, and I couldn't type one line on a row (in the same cell) as if I pressed Enter it would have jumped to the same tab. That was annoying and I thought there aren't really easy solutions to do that. Until I considered pressing combinations of keys and Enter. The result, if you press Alt+Enter while typing in a cell, you'll automatically start the next line on a new row. What this shortcut actually does is enabling the "Wrap text" feature for that cell. See the images below for more visual details.

this is how the text flows if you're not using the automatically wrap feature

this is how the text flows if you're using the wrap feature (see how each line is on a different row)

How this works, you start typing in a cell, and when you want to go to a new line you press Alt+Enter.

A bonus tip for Excel: If you are beneath a cell that contains data (even a formula) if you press Ctrl+D the formula will be copied in the new cell (it's a "duplicate" feature, so instead of using copy paste you just press the combination mentioned above.