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In search of ... universal download tracker

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This is much more helpful than a download logger:

Maintain a text file yourself.  It requires a TINY bit of your time.  Enter the name, date, and version of a program, and any settings you change.

I have a text file that contains in chronological order everything done to the computer since it started -- programs installed/uninstalled, program settings, backups, settings for browser and plugins, java settings, Windows settings, BIOS version, ID key, openDNS addresses, downloaded programs waiting to be installed, instructions for certain Windows functions, helpful tech websites, and everything else that at some point I'm going to wish I remembered.

Such a file is a lifesaver.  Far more valuable than a mere download logger.  At a half minute or less per entry, there's no better deal.
And when you have to get someone else to troubleshoot your system, this file will save them time and you money.

Have something similar now in CintaNotes tracking every change I have made to this Vostro laptop.

However, what I seek in this thread is something to log background activity, activity that I did not specifically initiate.

One (1) example would be Windows automatic updates (which is turned off). Another would be Java updates, or Adobe updates.  Over those I have some degree of control.  But I want to track those elements over which I have no direct control.

Several of Nir Sofer's tools come close to what I'd like to find, but they tend to provide more data than I am able to assimilate  :o :P.

Like you, I want to know what's going on in there.  That's why I disable all automatic updates, and just manually update periodically.  So there are no unknown downloads, and everything gets noted in my file.

Plus I don't like auto updates slowing me down when I'm doing something important. 

Understood.  But some downloads/uploads happen w/o our knowledge.  A keylogger is an extreme example, but such malware can trigger an upload w/o the knowledge of the operator.  Perhaps a more pertinent example might be software that needs ancillary files not on your system, depending upon what you're doing.  Or Web pages that pull support files from various locations.  Those files are downloaded and stored in memory/cache.  For instance, I frequently see status bar notifications that a Web site is being contacted for some .js library, or for pulling down advertising material.  That's junk stuff that ends up on my machine w/o my direct knowledge.  I want to know about it.  And if there is something on my system that is phoning home when I use it, I want to know about that.  So this isn't just about stuff I install/installed.  It's about stuff I haven't installed, or don't know was installed.

Here's an example.  I was working on a Web page for a friend.  That page required a .js library, which was being called from some storage site.  The page worked on the Web, it worked on my local system in Dragon, Safari, Opera, IE8 (!), but would not work in FireFox.  After a lot of research, I pinned that down to the fact that FireFox had an earlier version of the library in cache and was using that instead of downloading a new copy.  OK, proper browser behavior.  But it broke the [local] page.  And it took me about ten (10) days to discover that.  If I'd had a [configured] download log, I could have discovered that in a day or two.  And I've had similar problems with local software that needed to use a plugin on the fly using a cached copy rather than grabbing the latest version - or grabbing the latest version instead of using the cached copy.

Problem resolution in such instances would be much faster if I could configure some application to monitor all traffic involving certain file names/extensions, e.g., .js, .exe, .dll, .zip, and so on.


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