Thursday, April 30, 2009

Windows Seven Transformation Pack for Windows XP

I knew it was coming, it had to. We had no less than half a dozen different Vista transformation packs, didn’t we? Well, the first Windows Seven transformation pack for Windows XP has hit the shelves. No, the Seven Remix XP I wrote about earlier isn’t a transformation pack, it was a visual style. The transformation pack, on the other hand, is a complete pack that will change Windows XP’s icons, explorer windows, taskbar, boot screen and everything to resemble that of Windows Seven… at least partially.

Win7-transformation-pack

It seems that the Windows Seven Transformation Pack 1.0 was made by making minor updates to the Vista Transformation Pack 9.0 by the same developers. Smart guys. After all, there isn’t much difference between the two except the taskbar which became the Superbar, some new sounds schemes, new icons and a few changes here and there.

Win7TP_logon

Actually, you can make some of these changes by using standalone tools. For instance, the previously mentioned ViSplore to get Vista’s or Seven’s explorer. Superbar can be achieved by using another tool called ViGlance without making any other changes to the system. In fact, the Windows Seven Transformation Pack uses this same ViGlance to get the Superbar. Try it. It actually looks pretty good.

viglance

Superbar in Windows XP using ViGlance. OMG!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

DickensURL converts any URL to Charles Dickens’ quotes

URL shortening services are supposed to shorten long winded web addresses into small, easy to share and remember URLs. But not DickensURL. DickensURL is not intended to shorten links, rather it has a weird purpose. It converts URLs into passages from the works of the 19th century novelist Charles Dickens. Just enter the URL, hit Convert, and get a link made out of an inspiring quote from Dickens.

dickensurl

How do people come up with such whacky ideas? It all started with a comment on Reddit. On a certain thread, some users were discussing how computers baffle grownups such as their parents.

reddit-comment

Inspired by the last comment, a user named ‘highwind’ bought the domain and 7 hours later produced DickensURL.com. Brilliant!

highwind says that the his service is currently using only about 50 quotes from Charles Dickens’s novels. You can catch the discussion here, leave comments or submit bug reports.

Here is one sample: http://dickensurl.com/2462/Money_and_goods_are_certainly_the_best_of_references.

Free full games from Big Fish Games

Big Fish games has carved a niche for themselves in the fields of casual gaming, with popular releases like the Mystery Case Files series, Fish Tycoon, Virtual Villagers and several others. If you are Big fan of Big Fish Games you will surely like to grab some of their games using these 100% discount coupon codes. Act fast before they expire.

Hidden Expedition: Everest: (CODE: freeeverest)

bigfish-hidden-expedition-everestThe Hidden Expedition Club pits one of its stellar members against a formidable group of opponents in a race to the summit of Everest. Other groups will battle you to be the first to summit Mount Everest. Explore mysteries of the world as you find hidden clues and race to the Roof of the World. Over 30 stunningly beautiful scenes from around the world and 4 Character mini-games.

Fairway Solitaire (CODE: freefairway)

bigfish-fairway-solitairePull out your clubs (and your diamonds, hearts and spades) and enjoy a round of Fairway Solitaire! This exciting new card game includes 70 unique courses in locations ranging from exotic forests to Scottish highlands. Choose your golfer and experience realistic golf commentary, hilarious wild shot cards, and three fun mini-games.

Spa Mania (CODE: Freespa)

bigfish-spa-maniaJade is an animal rights activist petitioning the cosmetics industry. After being challenged by Madame Dubois, a beauty industry empress, Jade dreams of starting her own earth friendly spa. To do this, she must first learn the ropes and deliver 5-star service in San Francisco. Use your Time Management skills to please guests with massages, facials, mud masks, and more. Use profits for things like ginseng tea and other upgrades. Can you manage the Spa Mania and indulge needy patrons?

Mystery Case Files: Ravenhearst (CODE: holidayraven)

bigfish-mystery-case-files-ravenhearstRumors surrounding the history of stately Ravenhearst Manor have circulated for decades. The recently acquired diary of Emma Ravenhearst may hold the key to unraveling the tale behind this unsettling place, yet the pages are missing. Players assume the role of Master Detective to unlock secrets held within Ravenhearst, scouring a myriad of enchanting rooms in the manor for cleverly hidden clues. Locating and assembling diary pages helps tell the story of the house and, ultimately, unlock the mystery.

How to get the games?

1. Click on the Buy button and create a free account on the next page.

2. Select $19.99 per game option at the bottom.

bigfish-step22 

3. Uncheck “Yes! Send me a back-up CD” option.

bigfish-step3

4. Apply the code and checkout.

There are a few more offers on different games going on. You can follow this forum thread to get updates.

Related: One free game a day from GameHouse

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Happy 15th birthday Opera!

468x60opera15

My favorite browser turned 15 today - 15 glorious years of innovation and awesome browsing experience.

Fifteen years ago, two computer scientists sat at their desks in a research lab in what is today Telenor, Norway’s telecommunications incumbent, itching to begin a new project. They were going to build their own Web browser. Those first keystrokes would become Opera, the browser that has set — and continues to set — the standard for browser innovation. Jon von Tetzchner, the CEO of Opera Software, and Geir Ivarsøy began coding the original desktop Web browser in April 1994. Today, about 40 million people use Opera on their Windows, Mac and Linux computers.

How Opera came into existence?

opera-cartoon

Visit Opera.com to read the cartoon strip

Most people do not know this: a majority of sleek features you find on all modern browsers today like tabbed interface, mouse gestures and integrated search were first introduced by Opera.

Read Opera’s most popular innovations and a detailed report of when certain features were introduced in Opera.

If you haven’t tried Opera yet, then do so.

PostBox, a promising new email client

PostBox is a new email client for Windows and Mac with a rich set of features that makes it stand apart from existing email clients. PostBox borrows it’s looks as well as the code from open source Thunderbird, and then adds a slew features on top. The most notable improvements of PostBox over thunderbird are faster search, better message organization, message tagging and integration with online services.

PostBox’s powerful search features enables you to quickly search your messages using various search operators such as "from" or "subject". Postbox is even said to understands search terms such as after "last Monday" or before "June 2008."

postbox

PostBox uses tabs to open messages just like web browsers do, and you will all agree that tabs are the best way to manage multiple open windows. You can open almost anything in a tab, including messages, folders, searches, or content such as attachments and images. Click on the attachment tab to quickly view all attached files or view all images in the image tab.

Another useful feature in PostBox is the conversation view that enables you to view and process messages by conversation. Simply select a summary row in your message list to see a roll-up of all messages within a conversation.

For organizing messages, you can use the traditional approach of using folders to sort messages or just assign tags to them. Using tags is advantageous as you can assign multiple tags to the same message.

Do you love Gmail’s Archive feature? PostBox has one too. Just click on the archive button to move messages into a dedicated Archive folder. You’ll still be able to find those messages using it’s powerful search features.

Postbox can also integrate your email content to the various online services. You can upload images to Picasa or documents to Google Docs without leaving the email client. Select any text from a message and post it on Twitter, Facebook or Friendfeed or make a simple search on Google, Wikipedia and such.

postbox-webservices

PostBox supports both POP3 and IMAP, and automatically configures email account of popular service providers like Gmail, Windows Live, Yahoo and AOL. It also functions as a basic RSS reader.

Update: Postbox now supports addon

Use KVM switches to connect multiple computers to a single display, keyboard and mouse

There could be many reasons why you might want to connect more than one computer to a single monitor:

  1. Your desk space is cramped and doesn’t accommodate more than one monitor.
  2. Your computers are spaced physically wide apart, and working on both of them is difficult because it requires you to move around.
  3. In most cases, working on one monitor is more productive then working on several.
  4. You might not even have a second (or third) monitor, but you have several computer cabinets fully loaded with required hardware.

The last argument is particularly true if you have upgraded your computer. When we upgrade our computers, we usually buy only the hardware that requires upgrade like a new motherboard, processor, memories, and probably a new hard disk. We don’t buy new monitors with every upgrade unless it requires an upgrade too. So your old computer cabinet is probably lying somewhere accumulating dust. Why not plug it in to your existing monitor and use both at the same time?

KVM

KVM Switch (KVM stands for Keyboard, Video or Visual Display Unit, Mouse) is a hardware device which is designed for such purposes. A KVM switch allows you to connect two or more computers to a single display, and input devices, and quickly switch between them with the flip of a switch.

The device has several branches of input ports to connect monitor, keyboard, and mouse cables from multiple machines to the KVM device, and a single set of output ports that connect to the display, keyboard and mouse. The control can be switched from one computer to another by the use of a switch or buttons on the KVM device. Most KVM devices also come with USB and audio connectivity.

You can buy KVM switches from any hardware store or various online shopping sites. A 2-port KVM switch allows you to connect 2 computers while other KVM switches allow you to connect up to 12 different machines.

KVM-ATEN

Here is one: ATEN CS52A: 2-Port Hybrid KVM Switch – comes at a reasonable $37, has a remote controlled switch and other features. It’s a passive device, i.e. no extra power is required to run it, has USB and audio (microphone and speakers) ports and supports Windows, Linux and FreeBSD. You can also checkout several low cost solutions at NewEgg.

Monday, April 27, 2009

FREE alpha build of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl

Have you played the game S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl? I haven’t (duh!). Well, I might not have played it but I did hear good reviews of it when it was released two years ago. Many game review sites awarded the game high scores in their reviews. Now I have heard another piece of good news – the developers have released an early alpha build of the full game absolutely F.R.E.E.!

stalker-game

We are used to free releases of alpha and beta builds of operating system and other commercial software. But free pre-release builds of games are unheard of specially when they are released two years after the final release. GSC Game World surprised us when they released an alpha build of the game (build 1935) dating back to October 2004. The game includes several levels and set of features that did not make it into the final game, such as the levels Dead City, Swamp and Generators that are not present in the final release.

There is a fairly nice static lighting renderer, several locations not present in the release, a fully functional A-Life system, and some cut monsters, transportation, and many other things.

Even the name of the game was different. The game was earlier titled STALKER: Oblivion Lost before it was renamed to Shadow of Chernobyl. This game build sports the old name.

The game has a few issues as expected, and the developers have prepared a FAQ to help you fix it as much as possible. Whether or not this build is any good shouldn’t concern you. What’s worthy is the fact that the developers are giving you a chance to take a glimpse into the development process. Besides, you can’t argue much against something which is free.

You can download the game from here or through torrent.

Public Fox – User access control in Firefox

Just like a computer with multiple users require restriction and rules on what each user can do on the shared computer, a browser, which is the gateway to the world wide web, requires user access restrictions too.

Public Fox is an addon for Firefox that allows the computer administrator to lock down various areas of the browser on a shared PC. Public Fox password protects the following sections in Firefox:

publicfox

# Lock downloads: Users can’t download files with specified extensions using Firefox, like EXE, BAT and anything that would like to add. You can also add XPI to prevent installation of new addons.

# Lock addons window: Users can’t uninstall addons from Firefox

# Lock Options and about:config.

# Lock History sidebar, Bookmarks addition and Clear Private data option.

# Blacklist certain websites from opening 

Trying to access these areas prompt for a password.

publicfox-password

There are a few issues with this addon though, like the bookmark block didn’t work on my Firefox (version 3.0.1) and one user said that the addon blocking didn’t work in version 3.0.8. Every new update of Firefox is most likely breaking the security restrictions of this addon. Either the developer has to keep up with the fixes or users who want to use this tool will need to downgrade a couple of versions.

Blue Task Manager for Windows XP and Vista

Sick of the green Windows task manager? A change in color will be good for you. How about blue? Yeah, blue it shall be.

So download the specially prepared Blue task manager and replace it with the original file. Easier said than done, because as you know there is something called Windows File Protection (WFP) built into Windows that resists any changes you make to the system files for the greater good and stability of the system. To make the file swapping easier, the download task manager includes a small application called ‘Replacer’.

blue-task-manager

Run Replacer from anywhere on your pc and drag the original file you are going to replace into it’s window and hit yes. It will next ask you to drag the replacement file into it and hit yes. Finally it will ask if you really want to replace the file. Give the green flag and watch the task manager go blue.

TestDisk, a cross platform data recovery software

testdisklogo TestDisk is not the usual kind of data recovery software you come across everyday. It’s lack of a graphical interface and pretty previews of ‘found’ files might shun users away, but those who know better will find that TestDisk is a seriously powerful data recovery tool that is capable of recovering lost data from any partition under any operating system.

TestDisk can help recover lost partitions and make non-booting disks bootable again when these symptoms are caused by faulty software, certain types of viruses or human error such as accidentally deleting a Partition Table. It’s most powerful feature is it’s cross platform support. TestDisk can run under:

  • DOS
  • Windows (NT4, 2000, XP, 2003, Vista)
  • Linux
  • FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD
  • SunOS
  • MacOS

What TestDisk can do?

  • Fix partition table, recover deleted partition
  • Recover FAT32 boot sector from its backup
  • Rebuild FAT12/FAT16/FAT32 boot sector
  • Fix FAT tables
  • Rebuild NTFS boot sector
  • Recover NTFS boot sector from its backup
  • Fix MFT using MFT mirror
  • Locate ext2/ext3 Backup SuperBlock
  • Undelete files from FAT, NTFS and ext2 filesystem
  • Copy files from deleted FAT, NTFS and ext2/ext3 partitions.

TestDisk can find lost partitions for all of these file systems

  • BeFS ( BeOS )
  • BSD disklabel ( FreeBSD/OpenBSD/NetBSD )
  • CramFS, Compressed File System
  • DOS/Windows FAT12, FAT16 and FAT32
  • Windows exFAT
  • HFS, HFS+ and HFSX, Hierarchical File System
  • JFS, IBM's Journaled File System
  • Linux ext2 and ext3
  • Linux LUKS encrypted partition
  • Linux RAID md 0.9/1.0/1.1/1.2 (RAID 1,4,5,6)
  • Linux Swap (versions 1 and 2)
  • LVM and LVM2, Linux Logical Volume Manager
  • Mac partition map
  • Novell Storage Services NSS
  • NTFS ( Windows NT/2000/XP/2003/Vista/2008 )
  • ReiserFS 3.5, 3.6 and 4
  • Sun Solaris i386 disklabel
  • Unix File System UFS and UFS2 (Sun/BSD/...)
  • XFS, SGI's Journaled File System

Did it miss anything? I guess not. And if it did, just ask them to include support or help yourself because it’s open source.

testdisk

As I mentioned, TestDisk doesn’t have a GUI, it’s all command line based. But you don’t have to type commands. Simply select the various options using the arrow keys and press Enter to execute them. So yes, it does have an interface, it’s just not graphical.

Unlike most other data recovery tools, you can’t preview the files recovered or selectively recover files. It will extract all files recovered and save it in a directory. TestDisk comes bundled with another tool called Photorec which is essentially the same tool but designed to recover only images. So if you want to recover only image files, you will use Photorec and not TestDisk and save time.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

5 short links for today #3

1. Upload Mirrors: Automatically upload files to several free file hosting websites at once. Just upload your file once to Upload Mirrors and get it uploaded to up to 10 different mirrors. Supported sites include Rapidshare, MegaUpload, DepostFiles, Filefactory and several others (a total of 16).

name-color 2. Name that Color: Every color has a name. Pick any color from the color wheel or copy paste a hex code and get names like “Lavender Magenta” and “Burnt Sienna”. You can also select a color name from a drop down list and find out how it looks like. Over 1500 different colors are available.

3. Planets: We are all familiar with the solar system and the orbit of planets around the sun. But from the viewpoint of the Earth, the motion of the planets look entirely different. This is a great tool to visualize how the planets move around on the sky. You can also view the motion of planets from the viewpoint of any other planets.

pirategoogle2 4. The PirateGoogle: Some folks have decided to mash up Pirate Bay and Google together and bring a new search engine – the PirateGoogle, coloring up the sails of the pirate ship to match those of Google. The search engine actually carries a simple Google search with the parameter “filetype:torrent” appended to the query. Okay guys, I get your point, however wrong you may be.

iconset 5. WebIconSets: A large collection of small icons (16x16) for various projects. It has several dozens (may be hundreds) of larger coins too. And yes, it’s free.

RunMe, a useful, good looking application launcher

Applications launchers are a dime a dozen. We have covered a number of these in the past (Appetizer, AcceleRun, Launchy, Orbit, Toolbox, ScreenTabs, Free Launch Bar). RunMe is another very sleek application launchers that looks a bit like the Windows Start Menu.

RunMe docks to the sides of the screen and pops open on mouse hover. You can place it on any edge of the screen and drag it to your preferred location. Shortcuts can be added to RunMe by simple drag and drop and their positions re-ordered by dragging them around while pressing the Shift key. You can also drag them out of the launcher while pressing Shift.

RunMe

My favorite RunMe skin from DeviantArt

RunMe is very pleasing to the eye. It has a good number skins and supports transparency and different animation (zoom, glow, bounce etc) which can be adjusted from the settings window.

It supports grouping of shortcuts into folders up to 3 levels deep. These folders behave like menus similar to the way folders in Start Menu behave. In fact, it’s very much possible to use RunMe as an alternative to the Start Menu or Quick launch bar.

It’s portable too.

[via Freeware Genius]

Free photo mosaic creating software

A photomosaic is a picture which is made up of several smaller pictures. Usually, the picture is divided into small equal sized and equal shaped sections, each of which is replaced with another picture of appropriate average color. When viewed at low magnifications and from a distance, the smaller pictures appear to merge together to form the bigger one, while close examination reveals that the image is in fact made up of many hundreds or thousands of smaller images.

If you are looking for free and simple photo mosaic software I suggest you take a look at these two.

Foto-Mosaik-Edda is the simplest and one of the smallest photomosaic creator. To create a photomosaic first you have to create a database of pictures. Simply point the program to your pictures folder and wait as it scans and analyzes each image in the folder. The greater the number of images you have in the database the finer and better the resulting mosaic will be. A greater variation of color among the images is also essential. You can create and maintain several different databases with the program. These databases need to be created only once and so subsequent use of the software is faster.

foto-mosaik-edda

Once the database is built, you are ready to start creating photomosaics. You can adjust settings like number of tiles to use, resolution of the image and paper size. You also have the option to create a CSV file with a list of source images used to create the mosaic.

The other photomosaic software is AndreaMosaic which gives you a lot more options to choose. You can choose the mosaic resolution, size, number of tiles to use and how often the same tile can be reused. And there are an astounding number of different tiles patterns to choose from. A color change parameter allows you to vary the color of the original image and the Tile variants settings allows you to let the program rotate, flip, mirror the tiles whenever necessary.

andreamosaic

Even more options are revealed when you click the More Options button. Here you can adjust the JPEG compression rate and mosaic processing settings, create tile borders or force the program to use all tiles and a number of other settings.

Like Foto-Mosaik-Edda, AndreaMosaic too can create and save picture archives from folders. It also has the ability to extract frames from video files and use them as tiles. You can save these picture archives and later load them when you want to create a mosaic.

Don’t want to download any tools? Then checkout these online photo mosaic generators.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Stunning procedurally generated landscape under 4KB

How much can you save in 4 KB? An image? No. A word document? No. A high definition 3 minute long animated 3D scene? Yes! This is the magic of procedural graphics.

A typical 3D scene we see in games and animations consist of dozens of textures, meshes and models. These components are created in advance and saved as files, which are loaded by the computer and assembled to create a scene on the monitor. This is how conventional graphics work. Procedural graphics, in contrast, do not employ previously created and saved textures but generates them in real time as you run those animations. The result is that the file size is reduced drastically since you don't have to store textures and other information.

procedural-graphics-scene

A still from a procedurally generated demoscene

Although procedural graphics isn’t a new technology it has been used sparingly in video games. It was only during the early part of this decade that procedural graphics saw a new beginning through the famous work of a German group called “Farbrausch”. The team has a special talent in creating procedurally generated 3D demoscenes composed of intricate models, structures and textures and at the same time keeping the file size under 64 KB or less. Later they even released a 3D shooter game .kkrieger created entirely using procedural graphics and only 96 KB in size.

This is a standard definition YouTube video. Make sure you watch it in HD

Recently I read about another team of developers who has been constantly pushing the limits of 3D graphics with their work on procedural graphics. Their latest release is “elevated”, a demoscene which takes you on a flyby over a landscape of realistically rendered mountains and lakes. It was achieved in 4KB, breaking all previous records.

Elevated is available for download. You will require a powerful graphics card and lots of free RAM in order to run it in it’s full glory. If your PCs aren’t powerful enough, you can watch the high definition videos. I, for one, had to be content with the videos.

O3D – API for creating 3D applications for browsers

Google recently released O3D, an open source shader-based, low-level graphics API that gives developers an opportunity to develop rich, interactive 3D applications for the browser. The technology uses the graphics card to render 3D environment inside the browser in real time just like a game does. The API is still at an early stage but the results are impressive.

There are already plenty of demos and samples that you can run on your browser. Checkout the Beach Scene (also shown in the above video). You will require to install the O3D browser plugin the run the demos. Supported browsers are Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, and Chrome and work on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.

o3d

The future looks quite bright for web based games, which till now were limited and confined to 2D, arcade type games based on the Adobe Flash plugin. I’m looking forward to playing F.E.A.R or Call of Duty on my browser.

[via Google Blogoscoped}

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

WirelessGet – Copy files over wireless

Transferring files using Windows explorer copy-paste function over a wireless network doesn’t always end in success because of the unreliability of a wireless connection – drop in signal strength, bandwidth restriction by ISP etc. When the file to be copied is large and the network is unstable, it often stops in the middle of transfer and you have to start all over again.

A better and reliable method is to use a software called WirelessGet.

wireless-get

WirelessGet is a free application that lets you copy and transfer shared files and folders quickly over networks such as Wi-Fi and Wireless LAN without the fear of losing data due to a break in the connection. This is because WirelessGet supports stop and resume. Even if you lose signal during file transfer, WirelessGet will pickup from where it left once the connection is back.

To begin file transfer you have to create a new task from the programs’ interface and choose the files you want to transfer as well as the destination. Alternatively, you can drag and drop the files into the “drop zone” which is a small floating window that can be placed anywhere on the screen. You can also enable the clipboard monitor function and the application will automatically pop-up the “Add new task” dialog box whenever you copy files or folders from windows explorer.

WirelessGet also works great for copying files and folders from one location to another on the local drives, or removable drives such as USB drive.

Portable Windows Movie Maker

When I downloaded the new Windows Live Movie Maker beta I was disappointed to find that lots of essential editing features like timelines, text overlays on videos, audio editing, etc had been removed making it almost useless. The other Movie Maker – version 2.6 is pretty much the same, a stripped down version of the original Movie Maker. Besides, it works with only Windows Vista.

portable-movie-maker

But a portable Windows Movie Maker has surfaced which apart from being portable, adds a few dozen extra features to the movie editing tool. It’s still version 2.1.4026.0, the version that comes with Windows XP+SP2, but with news effects making it slightly better than the installed one. It has a total of 147 transitions effects and 76 video effects, more than double than what the original edition has. The portability is an added advantage. What’s more? It works on Windows XP, Vista and Seven.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

gui:config – A GUI for about:config Firefox options

The Firefox addon gui:config is one of the most useful addon I have ever come across. This addon makes available dozens of options, accessible only through “about:config”, to the common user by bringing these in a friendly graphical interface. So instead of tackling those cryptic lines in “about:config”, all you have to do is click buttons, checkboxes and drop down menus. You still can’t access a large number of “about:config” options through the GUI but the most common and important ones are included.

gui-config

After installing this addon, these advanced options can be reached from Tools> Advanced Settings. The best part is: this tool explains every option found on the settings window. Simply hover the mouse over a setting and read the information box at the bottom. gui:config is equally useful and helpful to both novice and seasoned users.

I have included plenty of screenshots to show you some of the options that are available through this tool.

gui-config (6) gui-config (1)

gui-config (2)

gui-config (3) gui-config3 gui-config (4)

gui-config (5)

 gui-config2

Create bootable Ubuntu USB drives from Windows with uSbuntu Live Creator

Since version 8.10, Ubuntu began including a live USB creator that allows you to install Ubuntu on flash drives. The official live USB creator is made to be run only from Ubuntu. So if you are looking for a Windows tool, here is Live uSbuntu Creator.

Live uSbuntu Creator can do all that the official live USB creator does and more. However, unlike the official tool that has support from version 8.04, Live uSbuntu Creator only supports newer versions – 8.10 and above. Apart from Ubuntu, other supported variants include Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Linux Mint Edition 6 and CrunchBang Linux Standard Edition 8.10.02.

Creating a bootable live USB consist of 5 simple steps

usbuntu

Step 1: Start the program and choose a USB key in the list

Step 2: Select the ISO image or CD of Ubuntu 8.10 or 9.04

Step 3: Choose the size of the data and programs to be stored. Normally, on a Live CD or Live USB you lose all your data when you shut down the system. The persistence of data keeps the data and user preferences. These data are stored in a file from the system entirely transparent to the user.

Step 4: Check the options you want to use which includes an ability to hide files on your stick and "allow windows to launch" that allows you to launch Ubuntu directly under Windows without restarting, made possible by virtualization.

Step 5: Start the installation.

usbuntu-boot

[via Ubuntu Geek]

Automatically update setup packages with Ketarin

Almost every software vendor urges it’s users to keep their respective software up to date by enabling automatic online checks. There are also quite a few third party software like the previously mentioned UpdateStar that helps you keep your installed application up to date.

But like most users, I prefer to download the latest setup packages and install it myself than allow automatic installation of updates. I found that Ketarin, an open source utility, to be very useful in this regard. Unlike applications like UpdateStar that automatically recognizes all installed applications and offers update for the same, Ketarin does not scan your system for applications automatically. You have to configure the program for each application that you want to download the installer of.

Ketarin-overview

That involves a fair amount of work but it has at least 2 major advantages:

  1. It does not update the application online, rather downloads the latest available installer. This is good for users like me who like to keep their setup packages along with the application updated.
  2. Ketarin allows you to automatically download installer packages of applications NOT installed on your system. For instance, you might keep installers of two or more anti-virus applications updated even though you have only one of them installed.

Other features of Ketarin include

  • Group applications by user defined categories
  • Flexible methods to specify save paths
  • Regular expression support
  • XML based import/export of applications
  • Run custom commands after downloading

In my opinion, both Ketarin and UpdateStar are excellent applications. You just have to pick one depending on what you want.

DreamRender – 3D animation as desktop wallpaper

DreamRender is a Windows desktop wallpaper animation utility that can replace your desktop wallpaper with 3D animations and visual effects. Unlike Windows Vista’s DreamScene, DreamRender can not only use video as animated desktop backgrounds but also real time 3D animations generated on the fly by the computer’s graphics processing unit.

dreamrender1 dreamrender2

DreamRender uses high end particle sequencing and 3D Object Animation to generate thousands of different effects ranging from bubbles, liquid animations, tunnels and more. The tunnel thing got my head spinning though and I’m still a little dizzy after staring into it for several seconds.

The software comes loaded with about a dozen different wallpapers and more than a thousand more are available for download from their website. The utility also allows the user to generate their own wallpapers by manipulating different settings on the programs window like particle effects, animation speed, camera angles, color, and so on. There are endless possibilities of combinations and each one will create unique patterns.

Some effects is also said to react to your currently playing music, but I haven’t figured this out yet.

Because DreamRender generates graphics in real time just like a 3D game, it’s a little heavy on the processor. The CPU usage can be anywhere between 10% to 20%, depending on your processor of course, when the wallpaper is running. The memory usage however remains at a decent 10 MB to 14 MB.

Monday, April 20, 2009

FoxTab - 3D tabbed browsing in Firefox

When Windows Vista introduced Flip 3D, suddenly everybody started using it even by people who had never used Alt+Tab before. Soon a crop of window switching applications started appearing that enabled users to juggle opened windows using all kinds of fancy tricks. Now how can Firefox stay out of it? So came FoxTab.

FoxTab is a tab switching addon for Firefox that adds a lot of eye candy to the mundane task of switching tabs. FoxTab lets you cycle through previews of all opened tabs in 5 different styles – the popular Flip 3D, carousel, grid, stack and wall styles.

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You can launch FoxTab by pressing the usual tab switching hotkey Ctrl+Q, and cycle through the tabs using the same key combination. When you get to the tab you want to open, just hit Enter. You can also use the mouse to flip through the tabs.

FoxTab has plenty of Options to play around - thumbnail sizes, number of slides to display in the layouts, animation speed, filters and a bunch of others. If you like pretty things, you will love this one.

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