Saturday, November 29, 2008

Stream music from any website using Yahoo Media Player

Earlier this year, Yahoo released a clever service – the Yahoo Media Player that allowed any site owner to embed an MP3 media player into their site by adding just a small line of code. With a little hack, this media player can be embedded into any site that links to MP3 files allowing you to enjoy streaming music from virtually any website, and you don’t even need to be the owner of the site!

When you are the site owner

If you have a website and host directly downloadable MP3 files on your server, or link to MP3 files on your pages, then you can take advantage of Yahoo’s Media Player. All you have to do is add the following code to your pages

<script src = ""></script>

Automatically, a small collapsible media player will appear at the bottom-left of the screen that will create a playlist of all MP3 files found on the page. Additionally, small play buttons appear in front of every MP3 links. This allows visitors to play media files directly on the site without having to download the files first.


When you are not the site owner

Now obviously not every webmaster is aware of this service and might not have incorporated it on his site. There are two solutions to it:

1. Use a bookmarklet

Stoyan Stefanov has put together a few lines of code to build a bookmarklet. His bookmark however needs a little modification since it stopped working, probably because of changes in Yahoo’s codes. Another user has fixed it (in comments) and I’ve added the fix and created a new working bookmarklet. Drag this bookmarklet to your browser’s toolbar (or simply bookmark it). Now whenever you come across a site that has no embedded media player, just click on this bookmarklet and bingo! – Yahoo’s media player will pop open on your screen.

For some reason, this bookmarket is not working on Firefox but working fine in Opera. I haven’t tested it in IE.

2. Use a Greasemonkey script

Since the bookmarklet is having no effect on Firefox, use the Yahoo Media Player Greasemonkey script which is certainly better than a bookmarklet. This script will insert the media player on any website whenever it find playable MP3 files. Developer Scott has also created a Firefox addon, but I haven’t tried it.

Here is an example site to test your bookmarklet/script.

Get notified when your favorite website is up again

Not very long ago I wrote about a Firefox addon called Mr Uptime that continually monitors a website that is currently down and notifies you when it becomes available again. This saves you from keeping a check on the site yourself. But once again non-Firefox users are left alone. So a freelance web designer has coded a new service called Notify Me When It’s Up


This service lets you to enter the URL of any website suffering from downtime and sends you an e-mail notification as soon as it’s back up, provided that the site was effectively down when you entered the information. Since this service isn’t tied to any specific browser, anybody can utilize it. I wasn’t able to give the service a trial as I couldn’t find any site to test it against, but assuming it works, it should be immensely useful.

An interesting turn took place after TechCrunch published this story. A couple of minutes after publishing it, the writer received an email from one Milov Patel claiming that the service is a complete rip-off of a website called DingIt’ that was scheduled for launch today. The screenshot of the site certainly looks alike but there is no way of knowing who copied from whom. Notify Me When It’s Up’s developer says that it is the other way round and that his ‘friend’ with whom he discussed the idea backstabbed him. Ah! so much drama.

Anyway, the backstabber friend’s startup DingIt’ shows some additional services of text messaging and twitter monitoring in the screenshot, and should his site be launched, it will provide users with more options. See, we users are always the winners.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Surf from your email. Access blocked websites

Often popular websites are blocked at offices, schools and colleges. Many users then resort to using proxies to access these blocked sites. But proxies are very unreliable and frequently go down. Also a smart system administrator can block web proxies as well. Now a new service from Rediff is giving a ray of hope to those unfortunate individuals, and can quickly become a nightmare for employers and authorities.

The new service called Web-In-Mail allows you to surf the web right from your email inbox. Since email is often accessible, and sometimes the only thing available in offices/educational institution, Web-In-Mail ensures that you can always visit your favorite sites as long as you have access to your email.

To browse a web page, send a blank email message to with the URL as the subject. Web-In-Mail will retrieve the page and mail it to back to you. Rediff says that Web-In-Mail is supported by MS Outlook, Outlook Express and Blackberry device but it actually works for any mail client that supports HTML mails. Web-In-Mail also supports searching Google by sending the command google:query in the subject field. To search Google Images send googleimg:query.


An interesting feature of Web-In-Mail is that it re-encodes the entire page and transforms every links on it as mailto. This means that when you click on any links on the page, it will automatically send another blank message with the URL in the subject to retrieve the clicked page.

The only disappointment is that the system is slow and it takes several minutes to receive the mail.

Related: Disguise as a Googlebot, enter restricted websites

[via Digital Inspiration]

Free Microsoft Office Accounting Express 2009

Microsoft Office Accounting Express 2009 is a free but ad supported version of the popular and easy to use accounting software from Microsoft - the Office Accounting Professional 2009. The express edition is targeted towards small startups and home-based businesses and is available for free, but with a few limitation in features.

Microsoft Office Accounting Express can perform everyday accounting tasks like create quotes and invoices, tracking time and expenses and bank online, tracking employee time, managing payroll and taxes and all that a personal accountant can do. Office Accounting Express has great integration with other Microsoft Office applications like Word and Excel thereby allowing you to import any Excel sheet like invoices, bills etc into Office Accounting Express.


Some of the key features of this application includes:

  • Store and organize all your customer, vendor, employee, and financial information in one place
  • Easily share your books with your accountant through Office Live
  • List items on eBay, manage sales and download transactions
  • Email invoices and get paid faster with PayPal (Professional Only)
  • Process credit card payments directly in Office Accounting

The Express edition can track income and expenses and create reports, but it doesn't manage inventory and sales and purchase orders. So it’s a bit limited and might not be too helpful for businesses that sell products. The Professional edition adds all these features but will set you back by $200. You can try out the 60 days trial version of the product.

Download Microsoft Office Accounting Express 2009 (Free edition)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Diagnose a Faulty Hard Disk From the Sounds Made by it

Amit has collected some excellent resources relating to sounds emitted by a failing hard disk. If your hard disk is making strange sounds it’s possible that it nearing it’s end, because noises are often symptoms of a hard disk that is about to go kaput.

A typical healthy hard disk should be almost soundless. However, not all sounds coming out of your computer cabinet may be signs of trouble. Often the culprit is a noisy fan or loose screws. If you have eliminated all external sound sources and still hear clicking or whining noises from the hard drive, then visit Datacent’s resource of failing hard drive sounds.

hard_disk2 Datacent has an amazing collection of sounds recorded from actual hard disks with specific problems. A wide range of hard disks from different manufacturers are present. From the sounds it’s possible to determine whether the hard disk has a head problem or a platter or bearings problems etc. Some of the sounds are very feeble and has to be listened intently.

Another site, EcoDataRecovery has a few resources of sound emitted by bad hard disks. Just hover the mouse over the type of sound to know the possible causes of it.

Make sure you don’t hear any of these sounds in your hard disk because it can spell disaster. If you are unfortunate enough to hear it, then check out these data backup and recovery tools.

Related articles: Monitor the health of your hard disks, Learn to keep your PC cool to extend life of devices and components

Automatically lock your computer when you walk away from it

When you are using a computer in office or any public place where others can access it, you can quickly lock your computer by pressing Win+L when you need to move away from it temporarily. In case you keep forgetting to lock your PC, you can use BtProx.

BtProx is a small Windows application that takes advantage of Bluetooth’s basic ability to detect Bluetooth devices to automatically lock your Windows computer whenever you walk away from it.


To use it, you need a Bluetooth enabled cell phone or any suitable device and pair it to your computer. BtProx runs on the system tray and continually checks to make sure your phone is within range. If you walk away from your computer and outside the range of the Bluetooth device, BtProx will activate your screensaver to lock your screen or even run the program of your choice.


One disadvantage of this application is that Bluetooth needs to be kept turned on at all times which can significantly drain your cell phone battery. BtProx is a freeware and open source and it works with both Windows XP and Vista.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Automatically convert almost any file format with OmniFormat

OmniFormat is an ad supported file conversion software that allows you to convert almost any file format into another, and it does that automatically. That’s what particularly interested me in this application. OmniFormat has some features that I couldn’t find in any free file converter.

The two biggest plus points of OmniFormat are

1. It supports up to 75 different file formats including the most popular formats like PDF, HTML, DOC, XLS, PPT, JPG, GIF, TIF, PNG, PCX, XML, PS, TXT, Photo CD, FAX and MPEG.

2. The file conversion process is automatic. OmniFormat can watch certain folders on your hard drive for files. Whenever you place any file in that folder, OmniFormat will automatically convert it to the desired format.


OmniFormat can however convert files to only one format at a time. For instance, if you set the output format as PDF, any files you copy to the watched folder will be converted to PDF. If you need another format, you will have to change the output format in the program and all further file conversion will happen to the new format. The quality of the output format, brightness and contrast, paper size, memory usage etc can all be customized. OmniFormat can be run as a Windows service too.

I tested the application with a couple of different file types. I was able to convert almost any documents into PDF with good quality. I even managed to convert documents to image files. The program can create individual image files for each pages of the documents or convert the whole document into a single image file. Next I set the output format to MPG and added some image files. To my surprise, the image files were turned into single frame videos that can actually be played on a media player! The reverse didn’t work though – video files cannot be converted into documents.

OmniFormat reduces the task of file conversions to a simple copy and paste job. If you can stand the 10 seconds or so delay, while it displayed some banners every time the application started, you will love using this tool.

Before you can install and use OmniFormat you need to install two additional applications - Pdf995 Printer Driver (direct download, 2.1 MB) and Free Converter (direct download, 5 MB), both of which are free.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Lunascape – The 3-in-1 web browser

Lunascape is a web browser and the first one to use three different rendering engines – Trident (used by Internet Explorer), Gecko (used by Firefox) and Webkit (used by Google Chrome and Safari). The latest alpha release of the browser allows the user to switch between any of these engines during browsing. So instead of juggling between different browsers, in case some of the websites don’t work with your preferred browser, you can use Lunascape.


Lunascape has the looks of IE but with extra buttons thrown everywhere giving it a cluttered look. Nonetheless, feature wise it looks pretty good. There are plenty of features which you would expect in any modern browser. Some of the extra stuff that I noticed are a screenshot utility, bookmarklets and scripts. The bookmarklets are quite interesting. There are tons of them that can be used to perform tasks like showing passwords behind asterix, highlighting links, viewing HTTP headers, zooming into images, disabling CSS or DIVs and a bunch of other geeky stuff. The status bar gives quick access to certain controls like disabling videos, JavaScript, working offline etc. Lunascape also supports addons and skins.

I think the ability to use Gecko or Webkit engines while having the familiar IE feel is a good plus point. Users who aren’t able to let go IE should give this one a try.

[via Softpedia]

Monday, November 24, 2008

Create temporary and disposable chat rooms with Stinto

You have heard of (and also used) disposable email addresses, which helps you to avoid spam or be anonymous when signing up for services. Now two guys from Germany has applied the same idea to chat rooms, but with a different purpose. Their new web application Stinto, allows you to create chat rooms on demand, any time you need to chat with a friend or friends. Stinto is ideal when different users using different instant messaging applications need to quickly get down together to discuss an important idea without having to spend three hours arguing which IM client to use. With Stinto you don’t need to download any IM application or follow long registration procedures. All you need is the browser.


Creating temporary chat rooms with Stinto is as easy as it can get – just visit the homepage and click on New Chat to generate a unique URL which will take you to the chat room. Now send this link to all your friends you want to chat with. When your friends visit this link they will be taken to a login page where they will enter their name or any name since there is no user verification. Upon login, they can enter the chat room and freely chat with anybody who has been invited to join.


The creator of the chat room can remove any user who may have logged in without an invitation, though it’s unlikely to happen as all URLs have a unique and random ID which cannot be guessed. The chat room creator can also lock the room so that no further login is possible. He can also unlock it if required. Stinto’s chat rooms are simple and provides some basic tools like ignoring users, downloading chat messages and sound alerts.

The chat rooms get deleted after a certain period of inactivity, which is 6 hours by default but can be extended up to 24 hours. All chat messages and user lists are deleted too. However, even after the end of a chat session, the room creator cannot delete the room himself - the room has to time-out the inactivity period. But by locking the room you can prevent anybody from snooping into it.

Stinto is a wonderful application and it’s so easy to use that now even your grandma can chat!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

PicPick Tools – The ultimate toolbox for bloggers and designers

As a blogger, I have to use a number of design tools to help me with my work. A screen capture and an image editor is a must when writing reviews of software and services. Some additional design tools are needed when editing templates. Recently I discovered a gem of a software - PicPick Tools. This software is a free all-in-one solution for graphic designers, software developers, bloggers and anyone who need to work with images. Usually, programs that does a lot of things suffer from lack of usability because either they are too complex or have a bad design or tries to do too many things yet none of them works right. PicPick Tools is different.

picpick-menuPicPick’s intuitive interface makes it ideal for beginners and the plethora of tools make it excellent for a pro user. Every single tool on PicPick is accessible from the system tray through a menu – no need to dig through window after window to get to them. Everything is clear as daylight.

PicPick’s image editor provides you with all the basic image editing tools you require like cropping, changing orientation, changing hues, creating shapes, applying filters, blurring, adding text and other image effects. The image editor is a good replacement for Paint.NET program that I have been using.


PicPick’s screen capture tools are the best I’ve seen so far. You can capture the full screen, the active window or a selected portion of the screen which can be either rectangular or free-hand drawn. There are keyboard hotkeys for each type. The captured screen can be opened directly in the image editor for editing, copied to the clipboard or automatically saved to the hard disk without bothering you. Unlike most screen capture tools, PicPick has the ability to capture the mouse as well.

The color picker tool allows you to pick colors from anywhere on the screen. Again, this tool provides more flexibility than other color picking tools by allowing users to copy the picked color as HTML, RGB, C++ (0x000000 type) or Delphi ($00000000) format. The most impressive feature of the color picker is the color history. How many times have you picked the same color again and again because there is no option to save it? Now forget about repeated color pickings.


The next set of tools helps you take measurements of screen objects. This comprises of a Ruler using which you can take horizontal and vertical measurements, a Crosshair to get the position of any pixel on the screen, and a Protractor to measure angles between two lines. Now this is something new. I haven’t seen any software implementing a protractor before. I don’t know where I will use it, but someday it will come handy.

The last tool in PicPick is the Whiteboard. The Whiteboard allows you to write on the screen with the mouse and then capture it as a screenshot. Suppose you wish to take a screenshot of a program and then add some markings on it like an arrow, you would have to take a screenshot and then edit it. But by doing it directly on Whiteboard, you eliminate one extra step. The pen width and color can be adjusted, however, you can only scribble as the pen is the only tool available on the Whiteboard – no text or shapes.

PicPick Tools is simply brilliant. This single application has replaced 4 of my most used programs. I have to give credit to the developers for bringing out such a fine program. Despite all the tools crammed into this little software, it’s memory footprint is surprisingly low at around 18 MB. PicPick is portable too. I seriously recommend this program to all blogger and designers.

Friday, November 21, 2008

eTextReader makes reading Project Gutenberg books easier

Project Gutenberg is one of my favorite sites on the Internet. Those who have heard this name for the first time (go stand in the corner!), Project Gutenberg is a voluntary organization that digitizes, archives and distributes books which are mostly in the public domain. Founded in 1971, it is the oldest digital library with a collection of over 25,000 free books and a grand total of 100,000 books at Project Gutenberg Partners, Affiliates and Resources.

My biggest gripe with Project Gutenberg, apart from the fact that I have to read it off a monitor, is the format with which Gutenberg distributes the books. These books are available in a single ridiculously long text file with  a horrible font that makes reading an extremely painful activity. Then I discovered a wonderful program called eTextReader.

eTextReader is a program that automatically splits the plain text Project Gutenberg files into pages and displays it in a 2-page book layout. The program can open Text files, HTML, RTF, Palm DOC, OpenOffice/StarOffice SXW, simple XML, MS Word DOC files, also directly from within zip archives. Multiple files/books can be opened and joined.

etext reader

The look and format of the page is customizable - you can change the fonts, sizes, color, page margin etc. You can bookmark up to three pages to return back later, create a table of contents, add annotations etc. You can customize each book separately; the customizations are stored in individual .INI files.

There are a handful of keyboard shortcuts for easy navigation like, the arrow keys to move forward and backward by a single page, PageUp and PageDown to move forward or backward by 10 pages. The spacebar moves forward 2 pages at a time and gives the impression of a page turn.

eTextReader prevents accidental editing of the file because the viewer is read only. However, if you need to edit a file, there is a File Editor.

This application is highly recommend to those who frequently read Project Gutenberg books.

eTextReader latest version 1.91 is a beta release but has better features than the previous stable release 1.82. In order to use version 1.91 you have to first install version 1.82.

Free license of Photo Pos Pro, the advanced photo editor

Photo Pos Pro and has teamed up together in a promotional campaign to distribute the full version license of Photo Pos Pro, the photo editing software which sells at $50. The software they are giving away is surprisingly the latest edition of Photos Pos Pro and not some earlier edition which usually happens in such giveaways.

Photo Pos Pro is actually a very good photo editor that meets all your photo editing, organizing and photo manipulation needs. The interface is clean  with all the editing tools laid out neatly along the sides and on top of the main screen. Photos Pos Pro provides a wide range of powerful image editing tools to repair and enrich pictures. These tools perform functions like changing colors and textures, removing scratches and unwanted details, sharpening, blurring and spreading of areas on a picture. Photos Pos Pro also supports brushes (you can crate your own brushes), layers, transparency, textures, patterns, gradients, masks and much more. The dozens of filters allows you to apply special effects with the click of a button.


Another set of tool worth mentioning are the Script Tools. The Script tools enable you to define a series of image enhancing operations and to save them as a script file. This is similar to Photoshop Actions. Photos Pos Pro also supports batch operations which enables you to perform the same set of operations on multiple files picture once.

This impressive software can do a lot of things that Photoshop does at a fraction of a price. And now, you can own it for free.

How to get the free license?

To obtain your free license key, visit this page and provide your email address, to which the license key will be mailed.

Now download the trial version of Photo Pos Pro and register it with the key to convert it into the full version.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Make Linux look like Windows XP (Part 2)

One clever Linux user has put together a number of custom icons, themes, backgrounds and other tweaks to create a script which he calls XpGnome. XpGnome will give a GNOME based Linux desktop a strikingly similar Windows XP look. Those who are having trouble installing LXP, the other “make Linux look like Windows XP” theme, can give this one a try. Just download the zip file and extract it’s contents. Then run the "" by double-clicking it and choosing "Run".

XpGnome will make the following changes.

Icons, GTK, Metacity, Splash, GDM Theme, Panel Background, Desktop Background, Visible Desktop Icons, Nautilus Tree View, Toolbar to Icons only. Deletes all GNOME Panels and adds a new one at bottom with Start Menu, Show Desktop, Window Switcher, Notification Area, Volume Control and Clock.



XpGnome is just a batch script that makes a load of changes to the system. It doesn’t come with any uninstaller. So if you want to revert the changes, you have to do it manually. Alternatively, you can create a dummy user account to test it.

How to find and remove dead and duplicate browser bookmarks

If you are in the habit of bookmarking every interesting page you find on the Internet, your browser bookmarks might be a mess by now, just like mine. And often I bookmark the same page multiple times without knowing it already exist in my collection. That’s why I use a wonderful application called AM-DeadLink.

AM-DeadLink is a free tool that checks your browser (IE, Firefox or Opera) bookmarks for dead and duplicate links. Once the scan is completed it will display the full results of each and every bookmarked link and their status – alive or error 404. Click the button "Sort bookmarks with errors to top of list” to quickly view all dead links. Then select all the dead links and delete them all at one go.


Finding duplicates and removing them is even easier. Click on “Find duplicates” and it will show you all duplicate entries. Now click on “Select all duplicates but one” to highlight all duplicated entries except one. For instance, if you have bookmarked the same page thrice, AM-DeadLink will select two while keeping one enabling you to quickly remove extra bookmarks.

AM-DeadLink also has an inbuilt browser allowing you to quickly open and view pages. Additionally you can download FavIcons for all your bookmarks and save them on your hard disk.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Google’s Life magazine photo archive

Life Magazine, the first all-photo news magazine from the U.S., has just released it’s photo archive via Google. The archive comprising of over 2 million photos is available on a special page launched by Google where you can browse the entire collection by topic or date. The image archive is also searchable through Google Image search by adding the parameter “source:life” in the search query. This is great news for all who love vintage photos.


Google says that many of the images available in the collection were never actually published by Life.

Only a very small percentage of these images have ever been published. The rest have been sitting in dusty archives in the form of negatives, slides, glass plates, etchings, and prints. We're digitizing them so that everyone can easily experience these fascinating moments in time. Today about 20 percent of the collection is online; during the next few months, we will be adding the entire LIFE archive — about 10 million photos.

Inside the archive you can access the full sized image, and since most of these photos are very old (some dating back to the 1750s!) they fall under the public domain. So you can publish, edit and share the photos at will.

[via Official Google Blog]

Find places to pee anywhere in the world!

So you are out on the streets walking down a city block or driving on a highway and suddenly you have a strong urge to use the bathroom. Unless you are still in the age of nappies, which you are probably not, you have to find a toilet because when you got to go, you got to go! What do you do? Whip out your web equipped cell phone or your laptop and go to Sit Or Squat. Type the name of the place where you are and it will show you a map, a Google Map, with toilets marked every where. Locate the one which is nearest to you and relieve yourself.


The website currently works best only on a large screen like those on a laptop, but work for developing a mobile compatible version is in progress, according to their website. The toilets on Sit Or Squat can be submitted by anyone. The site can even be personalized for each member based on their needs and preferences. The funny part is, the site even allows you to “socialize” based on your loo habits. A member is able to create a list of their “favorite toilets” and then share them with their friends (holy shit!). “As time goes by and more data is recorded, the site will continue to get more accurate in ratings as well as more options in places to go”, they say.

And in case you are wondering who came up with weird idea, Sit Or Squat has this info on their team in their about page:

Danika Landers is an artsy fartsy girl who happens to find bathrooms fascinating and fun to talk about. Yes, she has a big weird side to her, how else do you make a site devoted to bathrooms?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Get rid of Firefox’s Download Window with Download Statusbar

I hate downloading files using Firefox because of the download window which keeps popping up at my face every time I download something. Why can’t they keep this thing minimized or display it in a tab like Opera? Fortunately, Firefox isn’t my primary browser and I don’t use it to download files. But how do regular Firefox users deal with this nuisance? You aren’t going to change browsers because of this, are you? So here is a solution.

Install Download Statusbar. Download Statusbar is an addon for Firefox that allows you to view and manage downloads from a tidy statusbar without the download window getting in the way of your web browsing. When installed, this nifty tool suppresses the download window and instead displays a small toolbar at the bottom showing information about the file being downloaded. From the download status bar, you can keep track of the progress of the current download as well as recently finished download. When not in use, this toolbar auto-hides. The addon doesn’t eliminate the standard download window – you can still access it from the Tools menu.

Download Statusbar turns this


into this


Or this


Download Statusbar is customizable and comes with plenty of configurable options. Some of the useful things that can done with it are:

  • Single-click pause and resume
  • Run a completed file with a double-click. Alternatively you can open the folder containing the file, visit source website or rename the file right from the browser. This is very useful because the task of tagging and managing downloaded files can be accomplished from within Firefox.
  • Delete a file from your system from the context menu. Again easy file management feature.
  • In-line view of percent done, speed in KB/sec, KB downloaded so far, and remaining time, can be customized in the options.
  • Updating tooltip provides a more detailed view of the current download, including source, destination, size of the download and the remaining time
  • Option to automatically clear files reduces clutter
  • Stop downloads and save them for the next browser session
  • Option to start virus scanner when a download completes
  • Optional mini mode integrates into the Firefox statusbar to further reduce size

Download Statusbar makes third party download managers redundant.

Windows Vulnerability Scanner checks your system for security holes

The primary reason why malwares, trojans and viruses infect a system is because of the inherent security holes and vulnerabilities present in Windows. Virus writers target this vulnerabilities to infect the computer. Microsoft periodically releases patches to fix these security issues present in their operating system, and as a user, it’s important to install these updates to keep your system as safe as possible.


Windows Vulnerability Scanner is a tool that helps you to seek out unpatched critical security vulnerabilities in Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows 2003 Server or Windows Vista operating system. This tool scans the computer and then uses information from the Microsoft Knowledgebase to detect vulnerabilities in the system. Once the scan is completed, it lists the vulnerabilities detected, their risk level and the download location of the patch. It would have been better if the software automatically downloaded the necessary updates and installed it.

Those who don’t use the automatic Windows update and prefer to manually download and install updates, should definitely use Windows Vulnerability Scanner to avoid missing out any critical updates.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Do you know how to pronounce that word?

Have you at any time been unsure how a certain word is pronounced, whether be it your native language or any other? If you are visiting a foreign country, it’s always good to know the correct pronunciation of the important words in their local language. But whom do you ask? Here is Forvo to help you.


Forvo is an online pronouncing dictionary that allows you to listen to words. It currently has over 114,000 words and over 55,000 pronunciations in 196 languages. Search for a word or a person’s name or a place name in any language, and if the pronunciation for that word exist in their index, you will be presented with a play button to listen to the word. The audio recordings are often done by people who are native speakers of the language and their place of residence is shown in an embedded Google Map. Sometimes, there are multiple recordings of the same word done by multiple persons and you can listen to each one of them. You can even record your own pronunciations if you feel you can do better, or if that word is pronounced differently in your country. Forvo allows that.

So the next time you stumble across a word that you don’t know how to say it, head straight to Forvo. Alternatively, you can use the Forvo browser plugin for Firefox and IE and listen to words right from the browser.

P.S: Forvo crashes Opera (what the heck!). So use another browser.

[via Chris Pirillo]

Big Book Search –The best way to search Amazon

Very few search engines are as uncluttered as Google. And even fewer are as straightforward and simple as the new Amazon books and DVDs search engine Big Book Search. Big Book Search seems to believe in the KISS principle. The primary focus of the search engine is to bring you the results and nothing else. When you search for any books, it shows you an image of the cover page of the books – not small thumbnails but big images, almost as big as the actual books. It feels like the book is actually in front of you. No texts or descriptions are shown in the search page. Clicking on the images takes you to the Amazon’s page for the book.


The results are displayed horizontally with a scrolling bar at the bottom. Scroll with the mouse wheel or slide the seek bar at the bottom to display more results.


DVD search works the same way. You can search for a movie name, directors, actors etc. It’s so simple yet so brilliant. This won’t work for other search engines, but for books and DVDs this is perfect. It feels just like you are actually visiting a book/DVD library skimming through the collection. Give this a try, even if you do not intend to buy it from Amazon, because it’s an awesome way to search.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

CheatBook Database - The encyclopedia of game cheats

A die hard gamer would get pissed if they saw someone using cheats and walkthroughs in games, but you have to agree, sometimes little hint or the "God Mode" becomes necessary to beat a particularly hard part of the game. If you're an avid gamer and want a few extra weapons and tools the survive the game, CheatBook DataBase is exactly the resource you would want.

CheatBook DataBase 2008 is a freeware cheat-code tracker that has a massive collection of hints, cheats, easter eggs and walkthroughs of more than 14,200 games. This database covers all kinds of games - games for PC, Playstation, Sega, Nintendo, Gameboy, N-Gage, Xbox, Gamecube, Dreamcast, Wii and Sony PSP, all accessible from one central location. Additionally, CheatBook DataBase releases updates, often monthly, comprising of cheats and hints of latest releases. The newest released update of November 2008 enlarges the collection with an additional 674 PC Games, 62 Walkthroughs for PC and 75 Console Cheats. This is huge!


Games are listed alphabetically in the left-hand window. When you click on a game name, the relevant cheat is displayed in a editor window, with convenient buttons that let you view cheats or walkthroughs and print the selection or save any changes you've made. You can search for a game or filter the game list by platform like PC and Consoles.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Automatically monitor 500+ private Bittorrent sites for sign-up openings

One of the most common questions I have seen asked in many Internet forums is "Can anyone send me a Demonoid invitation?". Private Bittorret sites are very popular among torrent downloaders, but they are difficult to get into. These sites open sign-ups for only short durations and these opportunities often come after several months. If you fail to register during the "open season" you have to wait for months for the next sign-up to begin.

It's hard to keep track of all private bittorrent sites, if not impossible. But these two websites will help you to keep track of these torrent sites.

Bittorrent TRackers Automatic Checking System aka BTRACS is an automatic information site which periodically checks closed community bittorrent trackers for being open for signup. Some closed community bittorrent trackers' signups are closed and are "invite only" (meaning, if you have a user, you can invite your friend to join or a friend can invite you).   The main page refreshes every 10 minutes and shows a list of bittorrent private trackers open for signup.

There is a total of 309 private bittorrent trackers in the BTRACS database, of which 92 bittorrent trackers are currently open for signup.

A similar website is TrackerChecker. TrackerChecker currently has 500+ private bittorrent trackers in it's database and 249 of them are open to sign-up, at the time this article was written. One good thing about TrackerChecker, apart from the higher number of trackers tracked, is that it displays the full list of trackers in it's database. So you can check whether or not the private torrent site you are so desperately trying to get into is tracked by them. TrackerChecker also supports sorting of the list by name,  sign-up status or date when the information was last updated. This one should go straight into your bookmarks. (Thanks Raymond)

Looking for a desktop solution? Then try these.

Tracker Checker is nifty little program that automatically checks when private trackers are open for registration. The application is Windows only and requires the .NET 2.0 framework. It will regularly check the signup pages of the trackers you wish to join and notifies you when one of these is open via a desktop pop-up balloon.

private tracker alert

The program currently supports 66 private trackers and you can manually add or remove trackers from it.


Open Registrations Checker is another Windows application that monitors some of the most popular private trackers for open registrations and alerts you whenever a tracker you're watching opens its registrations. Torrentfreak has taken the pains to update the database file and completely revamped it with all the newest and hottest private bittorrent sites. Download their updated tracker list. Explanations on how to use it is provided on the site.

Unlimited online storage space from MyBloop

Just how far can these online storage services go? When Oosah started offering 1 Terabyte of free online space, I thought, "This is it. No one can beat this one." I was wrong. Now another service MyBloop, is enticing users with "unlimited" free storage space.

MyBloop is a place where you can store all of your files for free. There are no limits on storage, bandwidth or the number of files you can store. Anyone can join MyBloop.

.....The current maximum size per file is 1GB. There are no limited to the number of files you can upload. There are also no limits on bandwidth. You can store an unlimited number of files in your account.

mybloop MyBloop has an interesting application called BloopLoader. BloopLoader allows you to upload files to MyBloop directly from your desktop. You can drag and drop files and control them from a Windows-like interface, which is familiar to all users and doesn't require you to learn anything new to use. BloopLoader works on Windows and Intel Macs. There is also a .deb package for Debain based Linux distros.

One feature I particularly liked is the ability to hotlink images uploaded to your account, which means that you can use MyBloop to store images for your blog or website. MyBloop also allows you to stream music from your account. Upload music files to MyBloop and then listen to streaming music or even embed a small music player to your blog.

This is a great service.

[via Chris Pirillo]

Ultimate Edition 2.0 - Ubuntu 8.10 on steroids

Ultimate Edition 2.0, is a Linux distribution based on the popular Ubuntu distribution that stands true to it's name. Tons of extra goodies bundled to the already application-packed Ubuntu makes it the "ultimate" and the most complete Linux distribution ever. Some of the nagging problems present in most Linux distros like lack of in-built multimedia support, WiFi and Bluetooth support etc are missing in Ultimate Edition, because it has the complete out-of-the-box support for all third party codecs and drivers.

Ultimate Edition was first released in December 2006 with the goal of creating a complete, seamlessly integrated, visually stimulating, and easy-to-install operating system. The Ultimate Edition 2.0 was released yesterday and has an even newer kernel than the one in Ubuntu 8.10. It is loaded to the hilt with themes, wallpapers, icon sets, GDM login screens, and usplashes, plus all the updates. Compiz Fusion works right off the live DVD without drivers.

ultimate-edition1 ultimate-edition2

Image courtesy: The Coding Studio

Here is a "brief" list of some of the key applications in this distro:

  • New theme/splash screen/wallpaper/35 Additional fonts
  • Subversion & build tools
  • Wireless Internet integration
  • Bluetooth integration
  • PPP integration
  • Networking tools
  • IPod support
  • Integrated codecs (the good the bad & the ugly)
  • Mplayer, VLC, Songbird & Amarok players with mp3 support
  • Mencoder, K9Copy, DeVeDE, DVD Shrink - dvd copying software.
  • Integrated Nvidia drivers (will work with other cards)
  • Automatix 2 & Automatix Bleeder (in case you want additional software)
  • GDesklets
  • QEMU & Kqemu Accelerator - Emulation
  • NTFS read / write support
  • Azureus - P2P software
  • MS core Font's and extra fonts
  • Wine - Windows emulation
  • Alien - Allows installation of foriegn packages (RPM, suse etc)
  • Google Picasa - Graphic editing software
  • Frostwire Pro - P2P software
  • Qcad - Autocad wannabe
  • Archive Suite - virtually any archive can be handled.
  • Bluefish - HTML Editor
  • Bit Tornado - P2P Software
  • Audacity - Sound editor
  • Dvdrip - Dvd ripping software
  • ClamAV - Anti-virus software
  • Lifrea - RSS feed reader
  • QDVDAuthor - DVD authoring software

This is just a preview of what you will get.

This is not all. There is also a "Gamers Edition" which includes all software available in the Ultimate Edition 2.0 plus 23 games.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

PagePlus SE - The free alternative to Adobe Pagemaker

Even though the main players in the field of desktop publishing are Adobe Pagemaker and Microsoft Office Publisher, there are a few decent competitors like Corel Ventura and Serif PagePlus. All of them are commercial tools and comes with a heavy price tag, particularly because DTP softwares are targeted towards professional desktop printing jobs. But of course, there are free DTP softwares like the open source Scribus which I wrote about earlier. Another freeware is Serif PagePlus SE which is the free edition of the commercial application Serif PagePlus.


Serif PagePlus SE is based on the older version of Serif PagePlus, actually several versions older, but still powerful enough for most users. Serif PagePlus is a notable desktop publishing software with features rivaling that of Adobe's and Microsoft's. The free edition of PagePlus is slightly crippled, being an older version, but works for any entry level DTP work. Some features that you will miss are - the inability to output files in the PDF format, lack of a Web Publishing mode and the lack of support for a few graphic filters like PCX.

Read the full list of key features of Serif PagePlus SE.

VideoSurf script shows frame previews of web videos

The video search engine VideoSurf has released a Greasemonkey script for Firefox that insert a unique "visual summary" strip consisting a frame previews of the video, into the search result page of Google, Yahoo, YouTube and CBS. VideoSurf's advanced algorithms intelligently identify the "most interesting" scenes in each video and creates a nice visual summary that shows you what a video is all about with just a glance. In other words, you never have to be rick rolled again!


I tried to make the script work for other search sites, since Lifehacker reported that it will "most likely" work for any streaming Flash videos. Unfortunately, it doesn't. I couldn't get it to work for other video sites like Metacafe, Liveleak etc. But then, it supports Youtube and Google - that's enough for most of us.

View ancient Rome in 3D with Google Earth

Yesterday Google announced the release of Ancient Rome 3D, a layer for the popular Google Earth application which allows users to explore the historic city as it stood on 320 AD.

Through this layer, a user will be able to view a virtual representation of the city in 320 AD at the height of its development as the capital of the Roman Empire, fly around the city to view more than 6700 historic buildings and zoom into eleven ancient structures, such as the Colosseum, to view the detailed interiors. Using this layer, a user can also learn about Ancient Rome through information bubbles written by historians.

google-earth-rome1 google-earth-rome2

Google's press release offers a tempting description.

Within the Ancient Rome 3D layer users can visit the Roman Forum, stand in the center of the Colosseum, trace the footsteps of the gladiators in the Ludus Magnus, stand on the Rostra, swoop over the Basilica Julia, fly under The Arch of Constantine or even examine the detail on the facade of the Basilica of Maxentius.

Google is also sponsoring a curriculum contest for K-12 educators in the United States, encouraging teachers to submit creative, innovative lesson plans that incorporate the Ancient Rome 3D layer and offering them a chance to win Apple MacBook laptops, Digital classroom projector, Digital camera and a lot more.

Time travel anyone?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Add annotations to a PDF file with PDF-XChange Viewer

The PDF file format is often used to create documents that are read-only, for instance, ebooks, an announcement etc. The purpose is to prevent the user from editing the document, either intentionally or accidentally. Usually, a PDF viewer does not have any editing tools, which makes the PDF file format the "safest" document format ever.

PDF-XChange Viewer is one such PDF viewer with one useful addition. It allows you to add comments and annotations in the form of sticky notes to the pages of a PDF file. Suppose you want to add some comments or notes to certain pages of a PDF file for future reference, you can do so with PDF-XChange Viewer. The comments can be added at any position on the page and they appear as a small talk-bubble with a sticky note. The sticky note can be closed or opened as required, and the position of the sticky note on the page is shown by the talk bubble. The actual position where the sticky note will pop-up when the page is opened can be anywhere on the page and can be adjusted by dragging the note to a suitable location, for instance, the side of the page so that it doesn't obstruct the text.


The annotated PDF file can then be saved in the PDF format, and can be viewed with the sticky notes intact in any PDF viewer. This is another beauty of the program. So if you send a PDF file with comments attached to your friend, he or she can view it like a normal PDF file in any PDF viewer.

Apart from this handy annotating feature, PDF-XChange Viewer is actually a very good PDF viewer. It's opens fast and loads very large PDF files very quickly. Even pages with high image content scroll very smoothly. An amazing good PDF viewer with a handy utility.

PDF-XChange Viewer is available both as an installable application and a portable application. The portable version is significantly smaller and lighter than the "normal" version. I recommend you use the portable one.

Also read: How to bookmark a page in PDF

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

How to know when an offline website becomes available again?

When surfing the web you must have come across websites that are temporarily unavailable due to server downtime. It happens quite often. Not every time a website is unavailable due to server errors. Some time a website may be undergoing maintenance or up-gradation work due to which it might go offline for a couple of hours. You might stumble upon such an offline website either by following a link from another website or via a search result page. In any case, the web page shows an error message and you are unable to view it. And if your luck is as bad as mine, the unavailable website will most certainly hold the most promising content.


There are two ways to tackle this. If you happen to come to the unavailable website from a search result page, then you can still view the page from the search engines' cache. Just below the link to the web page on the search results page, you will find another link "Cached", which will take you to the copy of the page saved at the search engines' database.


The cached copy might be a mirror of the page saved just a couple of minutes ago, or it might be several days or even months old, depending upon the page content and the website. This is the easiest method to access an unavailable page if you happen to visit it from a search engine.

The second way is to bookmark the page and visit it later. But how much later? If you happen to use Firefox, you can take advantage of a very useful addon called Mr Uptime. When you come across a web page that is temporarily offline, add the web page to Mr Uptime's watchlist. Mr Uptime will silently keep accessing the website in the background, and as soon as it becomes available it will notify you either by opening the page or showing an alert box.

Mr Uptime

Now sometimes, the server status code might be OK but still the page might be not working due to say, a database error. In such a case, Mr Uptime will be unable to differentiate between an OK page and a page with a working database, on it's own. You can then specify a keyword that shouldn't be there on the page, i.e. the error message. Mr Uptime will then tell when that keyword isn't on the page any more. Very smart.

Update: Mr Uptime now works with Firefox 3, so the following hack is not required

Mr Uptime is not compatible with Firefox 3 and so you will have to force it to make it work. For this, follow these steps before installing the addon.

  • Type about:config into Firefox's address bar and click the "I'll be careful, I promise!" button.
  • Right-click anywhere. Choose New>Boolean. Make the name of your new config value extensions.checkCompatibility and set it to false.
  • Make another new boolean pair called extensions.checkUpdateSecurity and set the value to false.
  • Restart Firefox.

Now install Mr Uptime.

Related: Get notified when your favorite website is up again

Temporarily lock optical drives with the CD/DVD Drive Locker

If you have kids at your home, then you are probably aware of this situation - it's nearly impossible to keep them away from fiddling with stuff. And the most attractive toy in the house, is of course, the computer. The computer cabinet, which usually resides below the desk, is the item that is within their reach. Plenty of blinking red and green LEDs and numerous buttons to play with keeps them entertained. Their favorite activity is opening and closing the CD/DVD drive tray repeatedly, and it can drive you mad. Those who have experienced this can understand what I'm talking about.


The CD/DVD Drive Locker was made precisely for this purpose. Just launch the application and select the optical drive(s) you want to lock and they will stop responding to the open/close button. When you need to use the drives, just unlock them from the application's interface or simply close the application.

Update: Link added.

Enhance Windows open and save dialogue boxes with Flashfolder

Flashfolder is a Windows open source tool that gives access to additional buttons and a wider range of options whenever you open the Open and Save dialogue boxes in any Windows application.

Flashfolder runs in the background as a service and appears as a floating toolbar that docks itself at the top of any Open/Save dialogue box. This toolbar provides menus and buttons to quickly access your favorite or custom folders without having to browse all over your drives to get to it. Since, the default Windows Open/Save dialogue box provides shortcuts to only a few locations like My documents, Recent folders etc, FlashFolder comes as a handy and time saving tool.


Flashfolder's settings is accessible from the docked toolbar on any Open/Save dialogue box. Using the customize option on "Favorite folders", you can add any folders that you frequently use to the Favorites menu.

Further, FlashFolder brings several enhancement to the Open/Save windows.

  • It enlarges the common file dialogs to a configurable size (even non-resizable file dialogs of many programs)
  • It enlarges the directory and file type drop-down fields so less scrolling is needed for them. I find this feature really useful.
  • Persistent view mode for open/save dialog - e.g. if you select details view, it will be activated again the next time you open an open/save dialog
  • Shows the full path of the folder who’s content is currently displayed
  • Quickly view “all files”

Monday, November 10, 2008

Send voice mails with any email client using Speak-A-Message

Tired of typing long mails? Then try Speak-A-Message. Speak-A-Message is a free tool that enables you to send voice emails, using your default email client. The program provides a simple recording interface and using a microphone, the user records his message. Once the recording is completed, the program automatically launches the default email client with the recorded audio file attached to the message and ready to send. If you use Microsoft Outlook, it's even easier, because Speak-A-Message can integrate into the toolbar of MS Outlook.


The recipient does not need to have Speak-A-Message installed since you are only sending a WMA file which can be played by any audio/video player. Before you send the audio file, Speak-A-Message enables you to replay it and listen your recorded message. With this program you can also add various sound effects to your message to spice it up. Plenty of these sound effects clips are available on their sound effects page.

The program uses fairly good voice compression - a 4 minute voice message requires only about 500kB.

Use ScrapBook+ to archive web pages for later

ScrapBook+ is a Firefox addon that allows you to archive a web page to your hard disk so that you can browse it offline, just the same way you do it online. ScrapBook+ is different from the usual "Save Page" option you find in Firefox or any browser. This addon gives you far more control on what you want to save. You can choose to save or not save the images, the stylesheet and JavaScripts on the page. You can even save external contents that the page links to such as multimedia files like movies, music and images, archives, documents and any custom file format that you specify.

The best thing about ScrapBook+ is that it can follow hyperlinks and capture those web pages as well. Rarely, you come across a web page that doesn't have any hyperlinks. In fact, that's the beauty of the world wide web. Every web site or page links to other websites which links further to more websites, thereby enabling a user to browse through these interconnected pages and discover more and more new sites. There is no dead end. However, when you save a page and later open it to read, it's a dead end. Often you realize that you need to open these hyperlinks and therefore have to go online again, which defeats the very purpose of saving a page.


But with ScrapBook+ you can save a page and all the linked pages and even all pages linked by the linked pages. In fact, you can go on and on. But for all practical purposes, a link depth of 1 is sufficient, which means it will only save the pages that the original page links to. So when you capture a page with link-depth 1, all the hyperlinks on the page works even when offline.

Now sometimes, you might want to do the opposite. Say, you want to save only a part of the page. Then instead of saving the whole page you can select only the part you want to save and click "Capture selection". Again, instead of saving you can bookmark a part of the page, so that when you open that bookmark you will be presented with only the part of the page you captured. Cool isn't it?

ScrapBook+ is an experimental addon and requires you to login to install. Alternatively, you can use the direct install link.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Photology - The unique photo cataloguing software goes free

Photology is a photo cataloguing and searching application for windows which is unlike any photo managing software you have seen before. It allows you to view, tag, manage, search and edit your photo collection, just like any other myriad of such tools available for Windows. This software however, has a different way of doing it.

Photology's unique user interface is the first thing that will strike you the moment you launch the application. Forget about folders. Photology uses a different approach for cataloguing your images. It features a number of different filters to sort your images - time and date, color, content (beaches, faces, water etc), inside or outside, orientation, black & white, focused or blurred and a number of other filters. The best part is, Photology's intelligent algorithm automatically identifies the images and sorts them according to the filter applied. So you don't have to sit through hours manually tagging you photo collection, and if your collection is large, you can understand how time saving can this be. Of course, you can manually tag your photos too.


Photology is not exactly an image viewer, but an image searching tool. Hence, browsing by folders is done away with and instead filters are brought into place. For instance, if you want to find the photo of your friend in a brown shirt but don't remember where you saved it, you can use the color filter to search photos having the color brown.

The "content" filter allows you to search photos by plants, flowers, faces, beach, water, snow, sky and sunset. Photology doesn't always get it right, so you have to careful while using filters that rely on the artificial intelligence of the software.


There is another filter called location with two options - inside and outside. The inside and the outside filter differentiates photos that were taken inside and outside respectively. Photos that are well lit are generally assumed to be taken outside. This is another place where the software tends to make errors. So you have to be judicious when you use certain filters.

Photology also comes with some basic photo editing tools like cropping, rotating, red eye removing etc.

Photology has another feature called groups. Groups are like folders, but better, because a photo can be a part of more than one group without having multiple copies of the same photo.

The software is a bit heavy on resources, particularly when it's indexing your images. Overall, it's an impressive application and makes searching for photos definitively a lot easier. When Photology was released about a year ago, it had a commercial license with a price of $39 per license. Now, they have decide to go free. I think that's one good reason why you should try it.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Use CSS Text Wrapper to wrap text in any shape

If you are a blogger or a webmaster, you must be familiar with the trick of adding floating DIVs to the left or right of the text to wrap it around images. While a single DIV element is rectangular in shape, by making use of a number of small DIV elements and stacking them together vertically, we can make the text wrap around any shape. Although, it's achievable but implementing it will be a big pain since we have to adjust each DIV element after taking careful measurements. But by using CC Text Wrapper, we can do this in a flash.

CSS Text Wrapper allows you to easily generate the codes necessary to wrap text in any shapes other than just a rectangle. This is helpful when you want to wrap text around circular images. See this example. Here is another example right on this post (without images)

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Nullam pede. Donec iaculis, purus at porta tristique, pede nisi rhoncus pede, non nonummy augue nunc in tortor. Nunc gravida, nisl ac tempor rutrum, risus odio pharetra eros, eu feugiat diam nisi sit amet sem. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Nam quis neque at odio laoreet convallis.

On CSS Text Wrapper generator, there is a rectangular area on the middle of the page which will be your the working area. On this working area you will find two vertical lines on either side of the text. Grab the lines at any place, to create points and drag them on the working area to create any shape. You can also load an image on the background and use it as a guide to trace a shape around it. Before you start making shapes, adjust the size of the working area according to the size of your web page and specify the line height, which will be the height of the DIVs.


The CSS code is generated on the fly and you can make any number of changes to the shape and have the code instantly. CSS Text Wrapper provides you with three different methods to implement the code.

  1. A simple HTML/CSS code which you can copy and paste on any page or blog post. The code is bulky but suitable when you want to make a shape on only one page or blog. The text wrap on this post is made using this method.
  2. A HTML code with classes that you have to add to the web page and some additional codes that you have to add to your stylesheet. This code is cleaner but requires you to edit the stylesheet. Use this method if you are going to implement the text wrap feature in a number of pages on your site.
  3. The third method involves the use of JavaScript and hence will work only when JavaScript is enabled on the visitor's browser.

Use the one that suits you and create beautiful wrapping designs.

Turn your RSS feeds into podcasts with Dixero

If you like to listen to someone reading a news to you rather than read yourself, you should give Dixero a try. Dixero is a service that takes any number of RSS feeds and converts them into podcasts which you can listen to on your computer, phones or other portable devices. The podcast player can also be embedded into a blog for website.


You can create a podcast channel with either a single RSS feed or multiple feeds combined. You can keep the channel private or make it public enabling others to subscribe to it. There are three types of voices to choose from; however, once you create a channel with a particular voice there is no way of swapping voices.

Another cool feature of Dixero is Smart Channels. With smart channel, you can specify keywords to look for in the feeds, say for example - music. The player will then play only those feeds where the specified keywords occur.

Also checkout a similar service Odiogo.

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