Friday, May 30, 2008

Add a Mac like Dock menu to your website with CSS dock menu

The Mac's dock menu was made popular by applications like ObjectDock and RocketDock that allowed Windows users to enjoy the same Mac style dock in their Windows PCs. Now a website called N.Design Studio has developed a Javascript library using Jquery that adds a dock menu to a website. The dock menu works on pure JavaScript and CSS and is easy to implement. The CSS Dock Menu is said to work with IE 6, IE 7, Opera 9, Firefox 2, and Safari 2 (although there are some minor rendering issues with Safari).

css-dock-menu

View Demo of CSS Dock Menu

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Listen to Internet radio stations in Google Talk

GTalk2VoIP is a free and open voice gateway for major Instant Messenger clients that offers voice interoperability between Google Talk, MSN/Live Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger and SIP phones without any additional software installation. In essence GTalk2VoIP turns any instant messenger into a VoIP client. Another interesting service of GTalk2VoIP is the availability of a number of FM channels which can be played right within GoogleTalk.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Print portable thumb calendars for your wallet

Remember, the printable strip calendar for the monitor? Now this calendar is for you wallet. The thumb calendar is available in a PDF format which can be printed out in small business card sized papers and carried around in your pocket or wallet. The calendar has two sides- the first half of the year is on one side of the card, the rest of the year is on the other. The field of numbers is shared among the six months on each side. The header of each month is appropriately aligned to show the actual days of the week.

Funny site of the day - Let them sing it for you

Let them sing it for you is a site that will sing a song for you. You provide the lyrics and then sit back as they compose a song out it. What they really does is get the words from your lyrics and then pull out the "music" associated with each word from their database. These music are nothing but samples taken from actual songs sung by some of the greatest artists. So each word on your lyrics will be sung by a different artist with completely different tunes. If they can't find a word in their database, they break it down into syllables and then each syllable is sung with a different tune. Needless to say, the result is horrible and the idea extremely silly. But some silly games are fun to play with. Throw in some tough words and see it falter or make some nonsensical pronunciation out of it.

DailyLit - Read books by email or RSS

Why will anyone want to read books on email? This is the first question most people will ask themselves when they are told about DailyLit. They know this, and so they have a nice explanation:

Monday, May 26, 2008

How to use Drop Caps on your blog or website

What is a Drop Cap?

A Drop Cap is a layout style in which the first letter of a paragraph is enlarged and dropped down two or more lines in the paragraph. Drop caps are often seen at the beginning of novels and magazines, where the top of the first letter of the first word lines up with the top of the first sentence and drops down to the four or fifth sentence. Drop Caps add a nice visual touch to the page.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

TinEye - Search images with images

TinEye is an image search engine that takes a completely different approach for searching images. It lets you search for images on the web not with texts as search inputs but with images! You upload an image from your computer or specify the URL of the image and get a list of identical or similar images on the web.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Make your PC self cleaning with Belvedere

Just like house keeping, your computer needs periodic cleaning and maintenance too. "Housekeeping" a computer usually involves managing your files, which means you relocate the files in your hard disk to appropriate folders, delete junk files, rename files, clean up your desktop etc. You can automate these tasks with Belvedere Automated File Manager, so that your PC becomes a truly self cleaning one.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Windows Live Writer standalone installer, backup tool and portable version

Without a doubt, Windows Live Writer is one of the finest desktop blogging software ever. I love everything about Windows Live Writer except the installer. In fact, there is no Windows Live Writer installer, just a Microsoft Products installer launcher. The launcher initiates the installation process and the required files has to be downloaded through the Internet. This is such a pain. A standalone installer would have been so much easier.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Create pictures on Microsoft Excel from bitmap images

Blogger Jalaj has produced a wonderful kind of art. He has written a program in Visual Basic that takes a BMP image and recreates the picture in a spreadsheet by filling every square cell with color. Excel Art can only create this from BMP images, as Jalaj explains:

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Free Personal Learning Edition of Autodesk Maya and VUE

If you are familiar with 3D modeling tools and CGI, then you must have heard about softwares like 3D Studio Max, Maya and Blender. These tools are capable of creating stunningly realistic looking models, characters and scenes. The gorgeous landscapes, the fearful monsters and the high action fight sequences filled with exploding cars and disintegrating airships shown in Hollywood movies are a result of such wondrous CGI tools. These softwares that can fetch millions of dollars to a highly skilled artist don't come cheap, obviously. These are supposed to be used and owned by professional 3D artist and studios.

Chat with your site visitors using Google Talk chatback

It has been quite a while since Google launched this service called Google Talk chatback. The Google Talk chatback badge allows visitors to your site to chat with you even if they haven't signed up for Google Talk on their Google Account or if they don't have a Google Account. But of course, you must be logged in to your Google account for your visitors to reach you. You can put the badge in your blog or website, and people who visit those pages can chat with you. The badge will display your online status (whether you're available to chat or not) and, optionally, your status message.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

4 cool tools for forum users

The most simplest and easiest to use online community is the forum. A forum is a great way for like-minded individuals and peoples with common interest to come together and share their thoughts and opinions. Forum is also a great place to have fun. Most of you must have had experience with forums. Some of you might even be very active forum users. Forums can be very addicting place. To make a forum even more interesting and colorful, forum administrators provide support for addons like avatars, smiles, images in signatures etc. Let's add some more fun to the forums.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Surf anonymously on Opera with OperaTor

OperaTor is a browser for those who seek to be anonymous when surfing the net. OperaTor is a bundle of the browser Opera with Tor which is a software that allows anonymous browsing through the use of virtual tunnels on the Tor network, and Privoxy, a web proxy. Tor and Privoxy are the best tools for anonymity and combined with Opera, OperaTor makes one of the most powerful anonymous web browser ever.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Activate Windows Vista's Flip 3D using mouse

flip3d

The Windows Vista Flip 3D Activator is a tiny utility that makes Flip 3D more useful by enabling you to control it with your mouse. Using this utility you can set "hot zones" in your screen corners. Just move the cursor to a corner of the screen you choose, and Flip 3D is activated. You can use the mouse again to scroll through your open windows and select one, completely eliminating the use of the keyboard.

Features

1. Option to auto start with windows
2. Choose any corner of your screen to activate Flip 3D
3. Hide the notification area icon to forget it's running
4. Uses only about 600k of RAM
5. Uses almost zero CPU time

Vista-Flip-3D-Activator_1

Image courtesy: Softpedia and WinVistaBeta

FrostWire - The open source alternative to Limewire

Those who have used Limewire will agree that it is an excellent P2P program for sharing files. Limewire uses the Gnutella network which is perhaps the best file sharing network after BitTorrent, which makes Limewire a better P2P program than eMule, Ares and the like.

FrostWire is here to replace Limewire. FrostWire is an open source P2P application that uses the Gnutella and BitTorrent protocol, is free and provides all the features found in the free version of LimeWire, plus a few features found in LimeWire Pro as well as some additional functions.

frostwire  limewire1

FrostWire on the left and Limewire on right

FrostWire's interface is nearly identical to that of LimeWire's except the color, which is blue (see screenshots). The free version of LimeWire only connects to 4 ultrapeers whereas FrostWire connects to 6. This means that Frostwire have faster download speeds and broader search results than Limewire. FrostWire also features a chatroom which is absent in LimeWire

Enough said. Do you still want to use Limewire?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

SmoothDraw NX the freeware paint program

Remember how we used to amuse ourselves by drawing pictures on MSPaint program when we bought our first computers? At first it was hard and we could barely control the mouse. Then slowly we learned to draw straight lines and learned to make ends of two lines meet at a point. Even today drawing with the mouse is tough. A part of the difficulties we face when drawing with the mouse lies with the drawing application itself. MSPaint is a crude application with too little functionality. The sketches that came out of MSPaint were crude too. Later programs like Paint.NET became more popular because it provided much more features and flexibility than MSPaint at absolutely no cost.

SmoothDraw NX isn't here to replace Paint.NET, but has unique features of it's own. One notable feature of this program is that it visibly smoothens curves you draw with the mouse. Now don't expect something like you see in Adobe Illustrator. SmoothDraw NX uses two parameters in brush strokes called "Ink Flow" and "Grain", apart from brush width. By adjusting the Ink flow and the Grain size we can produce fairly smooth curves even with the mouse. I have noticed that decreasing the grain size and increasing the ink flow produces the best results.

smoothdraw

SmoothDraw NX also has various types of brushes - a normal pen, a leaky pen that leaves drops, wax crayons, felt pen, air brush, hard brush, water color etc. These tools can add artistic touch to your drawings. It also has a few filters like blur, sharpen, burn etc.

SmoothDraw NX is a freeware version of SmoothDraw that packs some additional features and comes at a price of $45.

Download SmoothDraw NX (freeware)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Google launches Friend Connect - a social network for your site

On yesterday, i.e. 12th May, Google rolled out yet another service called Friend Connect. Friend Connect is an application for website owners that allows any site owner to add social features to their website. Friend Connect offers site owners gadgets created by Google and OpenSocial developers using which any site can be turned into a social network, allowing visitors to interconnect with other users. This doesn't mean that visitors will have to sign up with yet another social network, because Friend Connect is a network of social networks, that interconnects users across several social networks like Orkut, Facebook, Hi5 etc.

friendconnect-logo Friend Connect integrates with contact lists for social networks like Facebook, orkut and Google Talk. This means that users who join a site are instantly connected with friends who are already members, and can invite friends from other networks to visit. They can opt in to broadcasting their activities to friends in their social networks. A post to a message board on one site, for example, can instantly be visible to people in multiple social networks. These instant networks, combined with the wealth of OpenSocial gadgets, can form potent new online communities, very quickly and very easily.

friend_connect

A website running social gadgets from Friend Connect will provide such features to the visitors as:

  • sign-in with their existing Google, Yahoo, AIM, or OpenID account
  • invite and show activity to existing friends from social networks such as Facebook, Google Talk, hi5, orkut, Plaxo, and more
  • browse member profiles across social networks
  • connect with new friends on any site

For website owners, adding a snippet of code to their site is all it takes to join this new platform of social networking.

At present Google Friend Connect is just a preview release and is made available to only a limited number of site owners. Interested site owners can apply for an account.

Monday, May 12, 2008

How to play audio and video files without any media player

Is your office computer without Winamp? Has they disabled Windows Media Player too? Are you unable to play any media files because it doesn't have the necessary codecs installed? Alright then, let's make our music and movie files independent of any media application.

So how are we going to make them independent? By converting them into self playing EXE files. Audio/Video To Exe is a free application that converts any audio and video file into self dependent and self playing EXE files. You don't require any media player or any codecs to play these files. It will run on any machine installed with Windows.

Audio/Video To Exe supports almost all audio/video formats like 3gp, aac, ac3, exe, flac, flv, gif, mp2, mp3, mp4, mpc, mpg, nut, ogg, ra, rm, swf, vob, voc, wav, wma, wmv, wv,..etc. This means that you can convert any of these formats into self playing EXE files. The program also allows you to convert media files into other formats, but advanced options like selecting bit rates etc or disabled in this free version.

pack2exe

Self playing EXE files can come very handy. You can:

- Play music and movies on your office/school computer where all multimedia applications are disabled
- Send them to others without worrying whether they have the necessary players and codecs to play them.
- Create data CDs that start playing music whenever you insert it into the CD drive. How? Ok here it is.

  • Convert the music you want to autorun into an EXE file.
  • Now open Notepad, add these line and save it as AUTORUN.INF. Replace music.exe with the correct file name.

    [autorun]
    open=music.exe

  • Place both AUTORUN.INF and music.exe on the root of the CD, add other applications you want to burn on the CD as usual and then burn it. Now each time you pop the CD into the drive, the music will start playing automatically.

How to download torrents without a torrent client

A unique online service called Torrent2exe allows users to download torrents without having to install a torrent client by converting the torrent file into a standalone EXE file.

Using Torrent2exe is very simple. Copy the URL of the torrent file or browse to the location of the torrent file in your hard disk to automatically upload it to their site. Once you they have got the URL of the torrent file, they will convert it into a self downloading EXE file.

Here you get the option to select the size of the EXE file to be downloaded. There is a "Small size" where you will have to download the EXE file along with an additional program file. This happens only once per computer. Then there is a "Normal size" where the whole EXE file along with the additional program files are downloaded each time you choose to download a torrent.

Didn't get it? Let me explain. Suppose you want to see a movie. What will you require? A movie player and the movie itself. Now you have two choices. In the first choice, you download the movie and the movie player, which needs to be downloaded only once. Subsequent movie downloads do not require you to download the movie player since you have already downloaded it. However, if you move to another computer you will need to download the movie player once again.  This is the "small size". In the second choice, you download the movie along with the movie player every time you download a new movie. This is the "normal size"

After you have download the converted EXE file, just run it and it will automatically start downloading the torrent.

torrent2exe

The standalone EXE file makes it easier for people to share files and applications on the Internet. You can publish the EXE files on your site or blog to make the downloads easy for visitors, send EXE files to your friends who don't want to be bothered with installing the client.

Torrent2exe is available both as an online service and as a desktop application.

Update: Some people are reporting that their anti-virus program detects a virus with this application. If you are worried, here is an alternative.

BitLet is a web service that lets you download torrents without installing a torrent client in your computer. BitLet takes advantage of the Java Virtual Machine plugin for browsers to run a torrent client inside your browser. To download torrent through Bitlet, follow these steps:

1. Copy the torrent URL of the file you want to download.

bitlet

2. Paste the URL into BitLet and click the “Download torrent” button.

bitlet2

3. Wait for Java Virtual Machine to start. You will have to download and install the plugin from http://www.java.com/. Choose a location to save the file, and the downloading will commence.

bitlet3

Do not close the download window until the download completes.

Another way to download torrents without a torrent client is to download via HTTP like regular file downloads

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Webhosting Geeks - The ultimate guide to web hosting

If you are looking for web hosting and you haven't visited Webhosting Geeks then you aren't looking at the right places. Seriously, Webhosting Geeks is probably the best web hosting reviews website I have ever found.

When you are looking for a web host, you should start by reading reviews and comparison of different web hosts. The ideal place to begin is of course, Google. If a web hosting provider has a support forum, then hang around it reading posts made by customers and gauging the type of problems faced by them, how quickly their problems were addressed and whether their issues did get solved. Then there are places like Webhosting Geeks to look at.

The first thing you will see when you visit this site is the "Top 10 Web Hosting" list. This list is probably updated once a year, for the current list stands for year 2008, and the previous list was possibly for 2007 since the site owner forgot to update it in the title of the page! The list provides a quick preview of the best web hosting providers - the disk space and bandwidth offered and the price. Also, it mentions any special benefit you may get from their service like free domain, Google Adword coupons, Yahoo credit etc.

If you have a number of websites then you can look at the multiple web hosting providers that allow you to host multiple domains from the same account. The Web Hosting Awards category gives you the top names for specific hosting categories like blog hosting, forum hosting, Unix hosting, Windows hosting etc. So if you are looking for a web hosting company to  host your, say, new forum then you know where to look at.

Apart from reviews, Webhosting Geeks also has a couple of informative web hosting articles. Answers to some of the most common questions like How to choose a web hosting?, How to find them?, Which web hosting is best for you? etc can be found in these articles. Knowing what to look for in a web host is essential before you even start looking for it.

Webhosting Geeks is no doubt an excellent resource for web hosting reviews. But even then it's extremely important that you read reviews of the same web host on multiple websites. It's important not to rely on the verdict of only one site. Sometimes cheap and petty web host disappear overnight and when they do, they take along your website. You wouldn't want that to happen. So be careful when you select a web host.

Friday, May 9, 2008

How to keep your PC cool

When buying a new PC, most people direct all their attention to the processor, motherboard and other components while ignoring an important part of the system, and that is the computer case. During working of the computer heat is generated by the processor, the graphics card, the hard disk and other components, and the temperature inside the case rises. It is necessary to keep this temperature down because excessive heat can decrease the life span of the components inside the PC. To prevent this, processors and graphics card has heat sink and fans to keep them cool. But these alone cannot keep the components cool unless the case is properly ventilated. If the hot air generated inside the case is not removed, it circulates inside the case and thereby increasing the temperature even further. For this reason the case is an important part of the whole computer setup.

Selecting the case

It is extremely important that you buy a case that has slots for chassis fans at the correct location. Merely adding a number of fans to the case won't keep the temperature down. The trick is to place it strategically. An ideal computer case should have two 120 mm fan slots, one for intake and one for exhaust. In addition, there should be one 80 mm fan slot on the side preferably on the middle. Some cases also have another 80 mm blow hole at the top, which is an added bonus. If the case does not have 120 mm slots, then there should be at least two 80 mm slots at the rear. If the cabinet does not have two 80 mm fan slots or one 120 mm fan slot at the rear, don't buy the case.

Some power supply units also come with two fans - one exhaust and one intake which will further help in cooling.

Arranging the fans

So we have got the case and the fans. Now we have to arrange them to get a constant air flow through the system. The fans at the back of the cabinet should be exhaust. Since these fans are located very near to the processor they help to remove the hot air generated by it. The 80 mm fan on the side of the cabinet should be intake blowing air into the cabinet. Since this fan is usually located opposite to the processor, it provides the processor a steady flow of cool air.

 

 cool_case

The case should also have a fan slot at the front. It isn't absolutely necessary to install a fan here, since the large exhaust fan at the rear creates enough negative air pressure inside the case to draw in air through the front holes. A fan at the front does little to keep the cabinet cool, but only add to the noise level. But remember that the exhaust fan should be a 120 mm one or two 80 mm fans.

If the case has top blow hole, then you can add another 80 mm fan as exhaust. Don't add this fan as an intake because hot air always rises and will attempt to escape through the top hole. Installing an intake fan at the top will only push down the hot air, preventing it's escape and create a turbulence inside the case instead of a steady air flow.

Similarly, don't mount an exhaust fan at the front since the air near the bottom is already cool enough and you will be only blocking the air flow into the case.

Installing the hard disk

Keeping the hard disk cool is also very important to elongate it's life span and hence data loss. You can add a hard disk cooler, but this isn't necessary if you follow this trick. Mount the hard disk in front of the fan slot at the front of the case. The air flowing through the front hole will glide over the hard disk thus keeping it cool. This way you kill two birds with one stone.

Managing the cables

The cables inside the case seriously disrupt the air flow inside the cabinet. Bunch all the cables together and tie them out of the way of the air flow. The flat IDE cables occupies too much space. I recommend using rounded IDE cables. Not only they look neat, they also help to keep the cables out of way of the air flow.

rounded_IDE

Clean your PC

Dust is an insulator. A layer of dust over the heat sink and other components reduces the effectiveness of the cooling arrangement. Cleaning the inside of the case periodically is necessary to keep it dust free and hence properly cooled. You can use air filters with the fans to keep the dust out but they have the disadvantage of hampering the air flow and thus reducing cooling. You can try them out and then decide whether you want to keep them.

120mm filter 101.2

Leave room around the cabinet

Keep the cabinet at a place which is airy and there is enough room for air movement around the computer. Don't keep books, clothes or other material on top of the case. Make sure the air holes aren't closed.

Software to monitor temperature

Once you have cleaned the case and setup the fans it makes sense to keep track of the temperature of the processor and cabinet in order to ascertain how effective the setup is. For this purpose you can use SpeedFan.

SpeedFan is a program that monitors voltages, fan speeds and temperatures in computers with hardware monitor chips. It supports and recognizes a wide range of hardware sensors. SpeedFan can even access S.M.A.R.T. info for those hard disks that support this feature and show hard disk temperatures too, if supported. SpeedFan supports SCSI disks too.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

3 useful tools to create and manage temporary bookmarks

Did you ever come across an interesting article but you don't have the time to read? What we usually do in such circumstances is bookmark the page so that we can return to it later. But bookmarking a page which is merely a one time interest leads to cluttering of our bookmarks. I have tried to bring some sanity to this random bookmarking habit by creating a folder called "temporary" in my bookmark list. But over time even this burgeoning temporary list (the items within which rarely gets deleted) becomes difficult to handle. If you are facing a similar kind of problem then have a look at the following 3 incredibly useful tools will allow you to manage your temporary bookmarks while keeping your primary bookmark list clean.

1. Firefox extension Read it Later is one of those must have firefox add-ons that allows you to save pages of interest to read later. It eliminates cluttering of bookmarks with sites that are merely of a one-time interest.

  1. When you come across something you want to read later, simply click the ‘Read Later’ button and the page is instantly inserted into your reading list.
  2. Then when you have some free time, just click ‘Reading List’ and it’ll randomly pull up something for you to read.
  3. When you are finished, click Mark it As Read and it will be removed from your list.
  4. If you found what you read to be worth bookmarking, you can use the dropdown under Mark it As Read to add it to your Firefox bookmarks or any online bookmark service such as Del.icio.us.



2. There is another Firefox extension called Tark. Tark can be used to harvest bookmarks that are of interest now but may not be in a few weeks. When you Tark a page you assign the number of weeks, within which you plan to return to the page. Tark will then function as a timer to show much time is left on a "Tark'd" bookmark. The bookmark-icons that are "Tark'd" will change as weeks elapse. 

tark

After time elapses the bookmark will still be in your bookmarks for whatever you want to do.

If a Tark'd bookmark is UnTark'd any icon associated with that URL from before is restored in the bookmarks menu.

3. The first two were browser ad-ons. Now we will look at an online service. ListMixer is an easy way to track web pages that momentarily hold your interest. It's handy for tracking blog comments or for pooling timely web pages among friends. The best thing about ListMixer is that you don't have to create any account, eliminating the hassles of logging in each time you want to bookmark something. Here's how it works:

  1. First you need to install a bookmarklet, which is just dragging a small icon to your browser's toolbar. It has a unique ID built-in, so you don't have to create an account.
  2. Click the bookmarklet to visit your account. Your account is created the first time you do this.
  3. Whenever you are visiting a web page you want to track, click our bookmarklet. Your ListMixer account will open.
  4. Click Add+Return to bookmark the page and then return to the bookmarked page. You can also create tags for the bookmarked page if you want.
  5. You can visit your bookmark list anytime by clicking on the bookmarklet. You can also use RSS or a linkroll
  6. If you neglect a page in your Mix for 30 days, it is thrown out. Click on its link will reset its doomsday timer.

4. Bonus trick for Opera users.

Wandering electrons writes an interesting trick for creating temporary bookmarks with Opera. It involves using unused toolbars in Opera for creating temporary bookmarks. Drag a page to the toolbar to create a bookmark. This will create a shortcut button to that website, without creating an entry in the bookmark folder! When you're done with the website, you right-click the button, select "Remove from toolbar" and POOF! it's gone for good. Your normal bookmarks is never touched.

Automatically remove splash screens with SplashKiller

A splash screen is one that is displayed right in the middle of your monitor when some application is loading. These little "ads" are pointless since we are already using that software. This reminds me of an amusing ad I saw on why you should be a pirate. A very convincing logic actually.

Fortunately, most applications have an option to disable the startup splash screen. But some of the software developers are as dumb and annoying as those anti-piracy enthusiast, that they provide no easy way to disable those screens. To rescue you from this hair tearing situation, we have a nice little utility called SplashKiller.

SplashKiller saves you from having to:
1. Find a 'no splash screen' option (if one exists) in the application.
2. Modify your registry to turn off a splash screen.
3. Hack the application itself to remove the splash screen.

It runs silently in the background, with a memory footprint of just 2.5 MB, and effectively kills all splash screen that attempts to launch during program startup. With the splash screen removed, some applications actually load a lot faster. If you want to prevent SplashKiller from removing the splash screen of any particular application then you can put it on ignore.

SplashKiller


There may be some splash screens that SplashKiller doesn't hide, and there might possibly be some windows that aren't splash screens that SplashKiller will hide by accident. But, at the moment, SplashKiller is hiding all the splash screens on the authors PC (which is the main reason it was written).

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Free Launch Bar - The Quick Launch replacement

The Quick Launch bar is one of the most helpful shortcut utility in Windows. It's rather strange that it is disabled by default. The quick launch menu is more easier to use and launch application than the standard start menu. I would pick the quick launch bar over dock bars and application launchers, anytime. If you are a quick launch lover like me, then you will love it's replacement even more.

Free Launch Bar is a free replacement for the standard Quick Launch bar. All functions presented in Quick Launch are also in Free Launch Bar. However, the Free Launch Bar is fully compatible with Quick Launch because it uses the same folder for shortcuts. But there is one huge difference. Free Launch Bar allows you to combine your shortcuts into groups. This feature looks like popup menus. This vastly improves the management of your shortcuts and save working space on your desktop.

Free Launch Bar


Free Launch Bar help you to organize your shortcuts into nice menus. You do not need to open stupid dialog boxes to add, remove or rearrange shortcuts - all you need Drag&Drop or right-click shortcut.

Free Launch Bar is a lite version of True Launch Bar (price $19.90) which is far superior than Windows quick launch as well as the Free Launch Bar. Some advanced features like plugins, virtual folders, backup and skin support, are missing in Free Launch Bar and is available only in True Launch Bar. The main features of Free Launch Bar are

  • Creating menu on taskbar with unlimited levels
  • Compatibility with Windows XP
  • Integration into Windows Shell
  • Low resources
  • Compatibility with Quick Launch
  • Creating separators to group shortcuts inside menus
  • Different view modes
  • Hotkeys
  • Using PNG pictures as icons
  • Support of Windows Drag&Drop technology. To add shortcuts you can simply drag them into menus
  • Improved tips. You can include some of HTML tags into button description.
  • Fast toolbar switching

Download Free Launch Bar

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Sharing made easier on Google Reader

Google Reader has rolled out some new features that makes sharing contents with other users a lot more easier. To begin, there is a new bookmarklet "Notes in Reader" in the Notes pages. Just drag this bookmarklet to your browser's bookmark bar and then you can use it to share any content from any webpage, even sites that offer no RSS feeds, although that's a rarity nowadays.

Google Reader bookmarkletThere is even more control over what gets shared. Select some text from the page before clicking the "Note in Reader" bookmarklet and your selection will appear as the item's body. There's also a space for you to add an editorial note when you need to let your friends know why you are sharing something. You can always uncheck "Add to shared items" if you want to add something to Reader without also adding it to your shared items.

The "Share with note" button on the item toolbar allows you to add a note with what you share.

Google Reader share-link

Google Reader annotation

Google Reader now also allows you to share plain notes, not attached to any items on Reader. Think of it as a quick chat room. These Notes are available at the top of the Notes page.

Google Reader note-box


You can now add a little personality to your public shared items page by choosing from three new styles from your shared items page. Google Reader will also highlight the list view when an item is being shared by a friend, as opposed to through your normal subscriptions.

Google Reader styles


[via Google Reader Blog]

Firefox extension ThumbStrips - Thumbnails of browsing history

ThumbStrips is a Firefox add-on that records your browsing history in the form of filmstrip at the bottom of your screen. It takes a screenshot of every page you visit and arrange them in a timeline. Having a thumbnail of a page makes it easier for you to locate and return to any previous visited page, rather than having to go through the history list and making guesses.


ThumbStrips


When you install ThumbStrips a small icon will appaer in your toolbar and your status bar. When you want to start using ThumbStrips, you just click on the icon and it will load the filmstrip at the bottom of the page. Right-click on the icon to start and stop recording your history.

ThumbStrips toolbar


There is also an option to share your ThumbStrips on the web. Just choose the "share on innovation.intuit.com" option when you save a ThumbStrip, and then anyone can see what you saw and saved. ThumbStrips ignores secure sites, the ones with https instead of http, so that your private information remains private. So if you don't want ThumbStrips to record your email inbox, use https://, like https://www.gmail.com and https://mail.yahoo.com

Download ThumbStrips

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Weekend Fun: Playback your drawings with DrawSwf

DrawSwf is a cross-platform Java-based drawing program that saves your drawings as flash animation. DrawSwf records the progress of your drawing as you work, and renders your drawing as an animation. The result is an amusing little animation of your drawing.

DrawSwf screenshot


The interface is pretty basic - a freehand pencil, a straight line creator, an elliptical drawing tool and a rectangle drawing tool. The width of the line is adjustable and there is also a fill tool, but it works with only filling ellipses and rectangles. There is also a text tool and the ability to insert images. DrawSwf has no eraser but features unlimited undos. Also each stroke is queued in an Object Window where you can delete or reorder each of the drawing steps as you wish.

This is how a drawing animation looks like.


The download is just java .jar file which can be downloaded from DrawSwf's download page. Click on the .jar file to launch the application. Of course, you will need to have Java installed in your machines.

O&O DiskImage 2 Special Edition for Free

O&O Software, the publisher of the popular and most widely used disk defragmenting and data recovery softwares, is giving away one of their products the O&O DiskImage in a special promotional campaign.

O&O DiskImage is a drive backup tool that can backup an entire drive either in one whole chunk or through incremental imaging, so you only need to backup data changed since your last backup. To save space and to protect your data, the backup image can then be encrypted and also compressed to various different levels.

O&O DiskImage 2 Special EditionIf you ever need to restore data back to your computer, simply recall your backup image and your computer is back as it was before. The images can be mounted as drives through O&O DiskImage and Windows Explorer and also then unmounted again. This enables direct access to individual files or directories without the need to restore the whole image content.

Images can be split into either traditional portions (CD, DVD etc.) or also on user-defined scales. An automatic split is also possible, when for example the target drive is full or the maximum file size for the file system has been reached. Compression and encryption for every image can be individually selected too.

The special edition lack a few features found in the Professional edition like the ability to make a make bootable O&O DiskImage Recovery CD, a Windows-based Start Up CD, which is required to restore a system partition. Nonetheless, it's still an excellent disk imaging software and if it's from O&O, it's got to be good.

Register for your free copy of O&O DiskImage 2 Special Edition.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

How to shoot a 24 mega pixel photo with a 6 mega pixel camera

While a 6MP or 8MP digital camera has enough resolution for most purposes, it's not enough if you want to print poster sized images. A typical 3MP camera delivers a print size of about 5 x 7 inches. A 6MP camera will be able to provide a maximum of 6.5 x 10 inches print at 300 DPI and about 10 x 15 inches at 200 DPI. A standard photo printing job is done at 300 DPI (dots per inch) and small sized prints shouldn't be done at any lower. Large poster sized prints can however be done at a lower DPI of say 200. This is because posters are viewed from a distance, and at distances of several feet away lower resolution images produce the same quality as higher resolution images. With a 24 MP image printed at 200 DPI you can get a whopping 20 x 30 inches poster. But how to achieve such high resolution with a low resolution camera?

The trick is to shoot multiple pictures of the same scene and stitch them together to create a larger picture. Four pictures taken with a 6 MP camera will result in an almost 24 MP picture. Eight pictures with the same camera will take the image size to around 48 MP.

A tripod is very helpful in such endeavors where precise alignment between the shots is desired. The aim is to shoot the scene or the subject in slightly overlapping quadrants. The overlap is necessary to help the software detect the edges and stitch them together. Too much overlapping will lead to wastage and the final image will be of a lower size than intended. The best way to do this is to divide the subject into 4 equal imaginary quadrants, since diving a scene into 4 parts is the easiest. Use two imaginary lines, one horizontally across the subject from right to left and one vertically intersecting the first line at right angles right at the middle, to divide the subject into four quadrants. Use optical zoom and the adjust the tripod height to focus on to a particular quadrant. Take help of natural objects like water level or roof edge of a building to maintain the horizontal line. All these precise measurements are desired to help the software to stitch the image without difficulty.

When taking the pictures don't use the Auto Mode, because the Auto Mode causes the camera to adjust the brightness and parameters like speed, ISO etc individually for each image. This could result in perceptible difference in color and brightness between the photos which would produce a very bad result when stitched. Instead, manually set these parameters like speed, aperture and ISO and use the same settings for each shot.


original images

Various shots of the Great Pyramid


final image

The final Great image of the Great Pyramid


Now comes the stitching part. This is easy, since the software called AutoStitch will take care of it. Start the application and click Edit>Options and set the Scale to 100%. Now load the pictures into AutoStitch (the program supports only JPEG format) and the program will automatically identify the correct sequence and merge it to create one huge image. Crop the image to remove the edge which bears signs of the stitching operation and your poster is ready to print. You can perform some post processing in Photoshop or other image editing software to adjust the colors, contrast etc before printing.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Firefox extension CookieSwap - Login to multiple email accounts at the same time

This is an excellent extension for those who have multiple accounts on Gmail, Yahoo etc and want to remain logged in to all of them at the same time. You know that's not normally possible because web based email accounts use cookies to track your login information and there can be only one user logged in to only one account on one browser. CookieSwap solves this problem by seamlessly swapping all your cookies so that you can be logged in to multiple web e-mail accounts at the same time without having to login and logout repeatedly.

CookieSwap is very useful for tasks like:

- Changing your cookies/identity to web e-mail sites (like Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail, etc) so that you can quickly look like different users. Nice if you maintain multiple accounts and are tired of logging out and then back in to switch accounts. Also a great way to share if two people are using the same computer and want to switch between accounts quickly.

- Changing your cookies/identity to see how sites like Amazon and Google treat you differently depending on who you are. For example, if Amazon recognizes you as a returning shopper they give you a different looking page (and there were claims that they give you different prices also). Google has begun to use a feature called 'Personalized Search', where they modify their search results based on your user identity. There is a question about this when you create your Google account. The results of Google searches are different depending on if Google knows you or not. Use CookieSwap to quickly swap between Google recognizing you and being anonymous. Run the same search and see the differences.

- If you design web sites, you can setup numerous cookie profiles to look like different types of users and swap between those users quickly and easily to test your site in numerous modes (you can hand edit the cookies to have distinct values in each profile using a nice extension like 'Add & Edit Cookies').


This is how to use CookieSwap

1)Right click on the CookieSwap area of the Status Bar Panel (lower right corner of the browser) to bring up the CookieSwap menu. Select a profile (let's say 'Profile1')

cookieswap screenshot

2)Go to a web e-mail site (like Gmail.com) and login
3)Bring up the CookieSwap menu again and select a different profile (let's say 'Profile2')
4)Again go to the web e-mail's main page. Note: Don't click on a link in the current open page. Instead, hand type the URL...like www.gmail.com, or use a bookmarked entry for the site.
5)Notice the site doesn't recognize you as the previous user. Now login with your second account.
6)Use the CookieSwap menu to swap back and forth between the two profiles

Enjoy your multiple personality on the web!

Download CookieSwap

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Use your webcam with multiple programs simultaneously with ManyCam

ManyCam is a free webcam software that allows you to use your webcam with multiple applications at the same time and add cool graphics and special effects to your webcam videos. It creates a "virtual" Webcam that replicates your currently installed camera. It then lets multiple applications access the video stream without conflict.

ManyCam is compatible with Yahoo, MSN, CamFrog, PalTalk, ICQ, Skype, YouTube, and more. Once you've installed ManyCam, you need to set ManyCam as the primary input for program that you want to use. ManyCam will automatically start when activate your Webcam through that program. The application also includes a bunch of gimmicky features that let you change aspects of the background and foreground. You can map a new pair of cartoon eyes over your face, and they track pretty well to your movements. You can add texts to your videos, add live CGI graphics like fire and water effects. You can make it appear as if it is snowing inside your house or with fire burning around you like hell!

Manycam screenshot Manycam screenshot

Manycam screenshot Manycam screenshot


Additional graphic effects can be downloaded and installed from their site. There are currently over 2500 effects. Besides, you can even create your own effects!