Sunday, May 31, 2009

Electronic Arts makes BattleForge free to play

Electronic Arts, the developer of the real-time, online strategy game BattleForge, announced last week that the game is now free to play. BattleForge is a blend of real time strategy and card collecting where players trade, buy and win cards by exchanging points.

battleforge

The “Play 4 Free” version of the game offers full access to all the scenarios, maps, campaigns and other community features. The only limitation is that free version only allows access to 32 of the 200 trading cards that can be acquired in the game.

The retail version of the game is still available for purchase at the price of $30. Players using the retail version get full access to a wide selection of cards and additional points which can be used to receive even more cards.

I’m not in a position to give a review of the game here, since I haven’t played it. But you can read reviews of the game at GameSpot, EuroGamer and other review sites.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Linux Mint 7 released. Based on Ubuntu 9.04

Based on Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope, Linux 2.6.28, Gnome 2.26 and Xorg 7.4, the Linux Mint team released the latest version 7, code named “Gloria”, last Tuesday.

The 7th release of Linux Mint comes with numerous bug fixes and a lot of improvements. In particular the menu system, the application manager and the upload manager now provide new features such as “Suggestions”, “Featured applications”, “SCP and SFTP support”. The underlying base of the operating system was also strengthened with a new adjustment mechanism which makes Linux Mint more robust and less vulnerable to Ubuntu package upgrades, and the introduction of virtual and meta packages which simplify upgrade paths and the installation of multiple desktop environments.

linuxmint7

Among many improvements, perhaps the most useful one is the ‘Featured application’. The "Featured applications" highlights some of the most popular applications that are available for Mint but not currently installed on the system for reasons such as being a proprietary software or a patented technology. This makes it easier to find and install software.

linuxmint7-featured

Another amusing change is that RTFM is not included as a command, which is nothing but a simple link to the "man" command. So when someone barks RTFM to you again on IRC, you don’t have to feel bad because that's exactly what you have to do. A nice touch. 

Linux Mint 7 comes in two editions – Main and Universal. The difference between the two is that the Universal edition includes a live DVD and in-built support for multiple languages.

JConvert, a Java based unit converter

Whenever I need to do unit conversions, I always use Google’s Calculator feature. While simple conversion like Centigrade to Fahrenheit or meters to feet can be worked out quickly, we have to be careful when converting units which are products of multiple units and have multiple powers. Today after several unsuccessful attempts to get Google convert 130 meter/sec2 to feet/sec2, I eventually spotted my error, corrected it and managed get the answer. But I realized that Google isn’t the right solution to every problem.

A dedicated unit conversion software should be far more easier and time saving than trying to figure out the correct syntax that would make Google understand my question. A software that came to my notice is JConvert, a free, open source, Java based unit converter.

JConvert

JConvert is a small program, only 140KB in size and doesn’t require installation. Just run the JAR file to launch the application, assuming you have Java 1.4 or higher already installed. JConvert can convert between hundreds of different units belonging to 22 different categories. These categories are:

Acceleration, Amt of substance, Angle, Area, Computer, Concentration, Density, Distance, Energy, Flow, Force, Light, Mass, Power, Pressure, Temperature, Time, Torque, Velocity, Volume, Volume dry and Currency.

Under each of these categories there are dozens units. For example, under Volume you can convert between cubic cm, cubic foot, gallon, ounce, pint etc. Under pressure you will find conversion units for PSI, bar, atmosphere and so on. You can also add your own conversion unit or modify existing ones like the currency units which keeps on changing.

And because JConvert is based on Java, it’s cross platform.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

FontJazz embeds non-standard fonts on web pages

Typography for web pages is very limited. There are thousands and thousands of beautiful fonts, but when it comes to designing a web page we are forced to choose from only half a dozen stinking old ones. To over come this constraint, designers have been using images, but images has it’s disadvantage – they cannot be read by search engine crawlers.

For those who are looking to spice up their pages with a variety of fonts, FontJazz offers the best SEO friendly solution.

FontJazz is a tiny typographic engine written in JavaScript, that enables web designers and developers to use any typeface on a website. It still uses images to display the typeface but unlike pre-generated headers images, the image in FontJazz is generated on the client machine. The designer uses regular <h1> and <h2> tags and texts for headlines, which gets rendered into a rich typeface by  FontJazz’s font rendering engine. 

fontjazz

To use FontJazz you have to first generate a FontJazz JavaScript file and an image file for that font which is possible by uploading a TrueType or OpenType font from your machine to FontJazz. Then by calling the FontJazz function on your pages, you can magically transform the text to the desired font. If the client machine has Javascript disabled, the text is displayed in the default typefaces.

FontJazz has two distinct advantage over using images.

1. Because the font transformation happens on the client side, you don’t have to generate an images for each headline. Just a single image does the job, keeping bandwidth overheads at minimum.

2. A search engine crawler sees a simple <h1> tag with an index-able headline instead of header-image.jpg, which is precisely what we always want.

FontJazz works with IE5+, Firefox 2+, Opera 9+, Google Chrome and most likely any other standards-compliant browser.

[via Smashing Apps]

Gimp FX Foundry: 115 ready to use scripts for Gimp

Plugins and scripts for Gimp are plenty, but collecting and downloading them one at a time can be cumbersome. To simplify this, Gimp FX Foundry has merged a large number of scripts, 115 on last release, in one single package ready to use.

To install the scripts, simply download the zip file and extract the contents to:

c:\Documents and Settings\%username%\%gimp folder%\scripts

fx-foundry

fx-foundry2

Restart Gimp (if it’s already running) to find all the scripts installed under a new menu item FX Foundry and neatly organized in different categories. FX Foundry installs a handful of new photo enhancement tools, a few shapes, some color effects, about a dozen artistic filters and some much needed layer effects like those found in Photoshop – bevel/emboss, drop shadows, glow etc.

The full list of included scripts is available here.

[via Web Upd8]

Windows Live Writer for Windows Mobile (beta)

Here is some good news for bloggers on the move. A group a Czech developers have ported the most favorite Windows blogging client Windows Live Writer to the mobile platform. The application, presently still at beta, is available for Windows Mobile 6 and newer.

wlw-mobile wlw-mobile1

The initial beta release supports only two languages – Czech and English. More languages are likely to be added as the project develops.

Get the first beta of Windows Live Writer for Windows Mobile.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

WordPress Greet Box plugin for Blogger and non-WP blogs

The WordPress Greet Box plugin is fairly popular among WordPress bloggers. This plugin displays a different greeting message to site visitors depending on their referrer URL. For example, when a Digg user clicks through from Digg, they will see a message reminding them to digg the post if they like it. Similarly, a visitor from StumpleUpon will be asked to thumb-up the post. Even visitors from search engines like Google or Yahoo are greeted with a welcome message and a suggestion to subscribe to the feeds.
wp-greet-box 
A Wordpress Greet Box
This WP plugin has been ported to Blogger and is called Blogger Greet Box. The good news is, this piece of code can be used with any HTML based website. So the Blogger Greet Box isn’t exactly a Blogger plugin, it’s a universal one.
blogger-greet-box
The Blogger Greet Box
The Blogger Greet Box has the following features:
  1. Show a different greeting message to your visitor depending on the referrer URL.
  2. Beautiful set of icons.
  3. Greeting message can be inserted any where but better to use on the top.
  4. Shows a default greeting message if the user hits the URL directly or comes from a referrer which is not specified.
  5. Ability to remove the message when the user navigates within the same site so we do not keep nagging them with greeting messages.
  6. Currently the following referrers are installed.
    - Google
    - Yahoo
    - Digg
    - Stumbleupon

How to install the plugin

Download the following 2 Javascript files and upload to your server.
1) http://cid-db9f90bab5f7f65e.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/.Public/TextToBeDisplayedDiv.js
2) http://cid-db9f90bab5f7f65e.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/.Public/HideShowDiv.js
Blogspot users can use any free hosting site available. There are plenty of them. Do not use GooglePages as they are shutting down from June 2009.
Copy the following code and paste it on your website/blogger template wherever you want the code to appear:
<script src="/TextToBeDisplayedDiv.js" type="text/javascript"> 
</script> 
<div id="mainDisplayDiv" style="background:#F8F8FF;border:1px solid  #B6AFA9;display:none"> 
<div id="dynamicContentDisplayed"> 
</div> 
<script type="text/javascript"> 

// Give your feed url here 
var feedURL = "YOUR BLOG FEED URL GOES HERE";
var dynamicHTMLText = displayRequiredText(feedURL); 
document.getElementById("dynamicContentDisplayed").innerHTML  
= dynamicHTMLText; 
</script> 
</div> 

<script src="/HideShowDiv.js" type="text/javascript"> 
</script> 
<script type="text/javascript"> 
//List your domains where you don't want to show up. Suppose  
//when people navigate within your site and you don't want to 
// show up. This is , separated 
var myRestrictedDomainList = "YOUR DOMAIN NAME HERE"; 
showHideDiv(myRestrictedDomainList); 
</script> 
In the above code replace ‘/TextToBeDisplayedDiv.js’ and "/HideShowDiv.js” with the proper URL of these two Javascript files.
Enter your blog’s feed URL and domain name (i.e. the root URL of your blog) at the indicated locations.
Now test the Greet Box by visiting your blog from Google/Yahoo/Digg and StumbleUpon.
[via Classic Tutorials]
Update: New plugin with more social media support is available

Shutter Reloaded is a light weight Lightbox alternative

Lightbox is a popular and widely used Javascript based image viewer for websites. A large number of blogs and sites use it because it’s easy to implement and looks fantastic. When everything works so great with Lightbox, why do you need an alternative, you might ask?

The answer is to this question is: Shutter Reloaded is only about 10KB in size and the best part is, it does not require any external libraries. All it requires is a single Javascript file and the stylesheet that you have to upload to your server and include them into the header of your pages.

shutter-reloaded

Shutter is automatically activated on all links pointing to an image, with or without thumbnails, once the files are included inside the <head> section. No additional markup is required. This means that you can add Shutter Reloaded to your site at any time and all your previous images will work with the new viewer without the need of any modification.

Shutter Reloaded features resizing large images if the window is too small to display them with option to show the full size image, combining images in sets, redrawing the window after resizing, pre-loading of neighbor images for faster display and and “very good browser compatibility”. I can’t vouch for the compatibility thing at least on IE, because curiously, the site throws Error 403 if tried to open with IE, even version 7 and 8.

Blip turns drawings into music

Blip is a strange application that can create music out of random sketches. You are given a sketch pad and a paint brush, a spray can and a horizontal line tool. Using these three basic tools you make your sketch on a 64x64 grid of canvas and then hit the Play button to enjoy a continuous loop of techno type music.

Blip continuously scans a grid of 64x64 cells where each cell corresponds to a note, the starting time of which is determined by its column and the instrument is determined by its row. The color of the cell is broken down into it’s three primary color components: the red component controls the volume of the note, the green component controls the pan and the blue component controls its pitch. The music is the sum total of all the sounds emanating from all the cells you fill in with your drawing. 

Blip_snapshot

Painting in the grid can be done in real-time while the loop is still playing, enabling you to continuously create and recreate music. A wide range of configurable settings, drum patterns, wave sequences, filters and options like ‘Mutate colors’ turns Blip into a very powerful live instrument.

The concept used by Blip is quite similar to the one used by the previously mentioned Tone matrix, another very powerful online music synthesizer.

Arovax Shield prevents malicious programs from penetrating your computer

Arovax Shield is a free, real time monitoring program for Windows that works beyond what Antivirus applications and security suites offers by providing an additional layer of protection to your system. Arovax Shield runs silently in the background, and notifies you when any application tries to install or modify the registry and other critical files on your system. Think of it as a “firewall” for the system.

Arovax Shield is not an anti-virus nor an anti spyware program. It doesn’t scan your computer to detect spywares. Rather it prevents spyware and other malicious programs from entering into your system by continuously monitoring activities that malicious codes usually perform, like modifying the registry and the host file. Whenever it detects such a behavior, it alerts the user and offers a choice to either terminate the activity or allow it to proceed. Since many legitimate applications need to modify registry entries to function, Arovax Shield can throw a large number of false positives. The user should be able to identify these legitimate system access from the real threat.

arovax-shield

Arovax Shield can prevent browser hijacks, blocks tracking cookies from being installed in IE, Firefox and Opera, blocks auto start entries, guards the host file, Windows registry and Windows policies.

As already mentioned Arovax Shield is not an antivirus application or Internet firewall and hence does not interfere with any firewall, anti-virus or anti spyware applications that may be already installed and running. It can be used along with your existing security application without any conflict. However, it should be noted that some security applications like Kaspersky Antivirus and Zone Alarm Pro already provide this kind of defense.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

ArcConvert, the archive file format converter

ArcConvert is a free, portable, open source program for Windows that lets you convert file archives from one format to another. This is different from typical file converter software that you come across because almost none of them supports archive file formats.

Though most file archive programs can open a handful of different file archives, there are a still a large number of obscure file formats that won’t open with the file archiver you have installed in your machine. Say for example, neither 7-zip nor WinRAR supports YZ1, GCA, BEL, PMA, ALZ and a lot of other file extensions. (On a side note, have you ever looked beyond WinRAR, WinZip and 7-zip? No? There are lot’s of alternatives. Bitser is another good one). It’s highly unlikely that you will come across an archived file in any one of those formats, but can never say for sure.

arcconvert2

ArcConvert can convert the following file formats:

7-ZIP/ LZH / CAB / ZIP / ARJ / ACE / RAR / TAR / TGZ / GZ / Z / BZ2 / YZ1 / YZ2 / GCA / BEL / RPM / DEB/ BH / Noa32 / HKI / PAQAR / QX /HA /ZOO /UHARC /LFB / ZLIB / UCL / IMP / RS / SPL / APK / Arc / DZ / MSI / ALZ / PMA / PAQ7 / CHM / UDA / PAQ8 / Cryptonite / ISO / LZOP / BMA / ZIP AES (128/192/256) / Nanozip Alpha/ XZ/ FreeArc/Zpaq/GZA

to the following ones:

ZIP, 7-ZIP, CAB, LHA, TAR, TGZ, BZ2, YZ1, BGA, RAR, ACE, NOA32, PAQAR, UHARC, YZ2, DZ, HA, XZ, FreeArc, ARJ/PAQ9/GZA

I have to admit, most of these names look alien to me.

If the archive is password protected, ArcConvert detects it automatically and prompts you to enter the password during conversion.

This application is going to come handy someday. If you are looking for an online solution, Zamzar does support quite a few.

Office 2007 like ribbon navigation with jQuery

Want to implement a Microsoft Office 2007 like ribbon on your website? Try jQuery Ribbon, a realistic Office 2007 ribbon navigation menu built using JQuery.

jQuery Ribbon looks extremely pretty and very realistic. It’s easy to implement too. The menu is built on unordered list, so to create submenu items in the menu, one just needs to add a nested list to the page.

jquery-ribbon1

jquery-ribbon2

The ribbon supports menus, submenus, drop-down menus, lists, groups, forms and comes in two color schemes. Checkout the demo.

jquery-ribbon3

Related: Mac like dock on your website with CSS

Microsoft Outlook 2007 Essentials addon

Outlook 2007 Essentials is an addon for Microsoft Outlook 2007 that adds three very useful features to the email client .

You will recall a few months back Gmail introduced a Labs feature called ‘Forgotten Attachment Detector’ that alerts you if you mention about an attachment in the mail but forget to actually attach the file. Outlook 2007 Essentials brings this useful feature to the desktop email client. If you use word like “attach” and “attachment” in your email message and then try to send the mail without  attaching a file, Outlook will pop open window reminding you of the missing attachment.

 outlook-essentials-1

The second feature that Outlook 2007 gets with this addon is another reminder, this time about missing subject lines. If you try to send a mail with the subject line blank, a reminder window will pop open as shown in the screenshot. You have the option to cancel the mail and return back to compose mode to correct the error, or ignore it and send the mail anyway.

The third and last feature that is added to Outlook 2007 is the ability to print a selected portion of the email message. To do this just right-click on the email, select Outlook Essentials Mail Viewer and select the section of the mail you wish to print.

Outlook 2007 Essentials requires the .Net Framework 3.5 to function.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Adobe Digital Editions, a cool PDF manager and reader

What software do you use to read PDF files? Adobe Acrobat Reader? Or some free PDF Reader like Foxit or Sumatra? Maybe you should try Adobe Digital Editions. No, this is not another bulky, irritatingly slow PDF reader from Adobe. It’s surprisingly fast, has a sleek design and comes with an in-built ebooks library manager.

Adobe Digital Editions is based on Adobe Flash and sports a highly attractive design.

digital-editions-library

Like a music library organizer, Adobe Digital Editions allows you to add PDF and EPUB files to the library and manage your ebook collection, digital newspapers, and other digital publications that you have bought. Some digital publications that you purchase online may contain DRM protection that restricts the files from being shared with others. Digital Editions implements a content portability and user authentication procedure that enables you to share DRM protected eBooks and other digital publications across multiple computers.

The library lets you group books into virtual bookshelves, and view and sort your collection by title, author, publisher, last read etc in both thumbnails and list view. Digital Editions can also keep track of what you have been reading and those items can be quickly accessed from the library.

digital-editions-reading

On the reading panel, you can display pages as single page or double page layouts, which is great for wide screen monitors. Here you can search, bookmark pages, and highlight text and add comments for future reference right within the ebooks. Digital Editions can also read embedded SWF files on digital publications giving a rich multimedia experience.

Digital Editions makes a great, free alternative PDF reader with good features and without unnecessary frills.

CPUOff shutdowns the computer when CPU load falls below a threshold

We usually prefer to do computer tasks that take a long time to complete, unattended over night while we are sleeping or while we are away from home. Examples of such unattended tasks are backups, video encoding, hard drive defragmentation, downloading etc. While such over night jobs are great for saving time, the same cannot be said about saving energy. The difficulty lies in scheduling the shutdown because the time to complete the task cannot be easily predicted. CPUOff is a software that solves this problem.

CPUOff is a small freeware application that monitors the CPU load and initiates computer shutdown if the average CPU load has been found to be below a set threshold for a preset time. CPUOff is a great utility for saving energy by making sure a computer shuts down when it has finished an unattended task.

CPUOff

CPUOff operates by checking the average CPU load once a second and comparing it with a preset threshold. If the CPU load falls below the threshold and stays for a user defined period, the program initiates a shutdown. CPUOff supports all shutdown mode - Hibernate, Power Off, Reboot, Shutdown and Standby. The program can also be configured to delay the shutdown process by up to 10 minutes giving that much time to the user if he wishes to cancel the shutdown.

The program itself consumes very little system resources but it does run with high priority. The program also logs all event into a log file.

CPUOff has an optional slave program that can be used to remotely shutdown a computer. The slave program is installed on the remote PC and it monitors communications from the main program, which occur twice a second and initiates shutdown when the master program enters shutdown. The communication is one way, there is no communication back to the main program. The lack of two way communication makes the Slave tool pretty unreliable. I wouldn’t recommend you to use this option.

CPUOff supports WIndows 2000 Service Pack 4 (32bit), Windows 2003 Enterprise Edition Service Pack 1 (32 and 64 bit), Windows 2003 Enterprise Edition Release 2 Service Pack 1 (32bit and 64 bit), Windows XP (32bit) and Windows Vista - all variants (32bit and 64 bit). The program is free but requires registration to use.

Free Corel Painter Essential 4, 6 months license

It looks like Corel has entered into an extended product giveaway campaign with Lexar. First they gave away Corel Paint Shop Pro X, which unfortunately expired the day I published the story. Later they offered Corel MediaOne, which is still available as I write this. The latest one is Corel Painter Essential 4, another big product.

Based on Corel Painter, Corel Painter Essentials is designed to help beginners set up their own art studio at home. Using filters and photo manipulation tools it allows users to turn photos into wonderful paintings and sketches. The software also allows you to create drawings from scratch with a wide selection of paint brushes, pencils and paper textures. Painter Essentials 4 is the perfect program to help users get started with digital art.

corel-painter-essential

How to get Corel Painter Essentials 4

The product is priced at $89.99, but you can get it for free a 6 months license of the software by simply heading towards the promotional offer page, filling up the short form and clicking on the download button.

[via BlogsDNA]

Saturday, May 23, 2009

5 short links for today #6

bmlet-logo 1. Bmlet.com: A directory of browser bookmarklets. Bookmarklets are Javascript codes that can be saved in a browser as bookmarks and which perform specific functions on websites, like downloading embedded videos, creating short URLs and such.

isnsfw 2. isNSFW is the safest way to share NSFW links. It’s a link shortening service for sharing Not Safe For Work content. Instead of sending an obligatory warning note with each NSFW link you share, shorten the link using isNSFW and apply a rating according to it’s content. Your friend will see a warning message before he can open the URL.

3. YtDub: This site allows you to dub YouTube videos with other YouTube videos. In other words, you can take a YouTube video and replace it’s audio with the audio from another YouTube video.

free-shipping 4. FreeShipping: Looking for a product that ships for free? Try FreeShipping.org. This website tells you which product on which shopping site is being offered free of shipping charges. It’s includes free-shipping items from various small and big online stores like Amazon, eBay, Barnes&Noble, Dell, AVON, Kodak, Levi’s … a total of 1542 stores at the time of writing this.

5. They Write the Right Stuff: An essay on how remarkably perfect and precise the software written for NASA’s Space Shuttle is.

This software never crashes. It never needs to be re-booted. This software is bug-free. It is perfect, as perfect as human beings have achieved. Consider these stats : the last three versions of the program -- each 420,000 lines long-had just one error each. The last 11 versions of this software had a total of 17 errors. Commercial programs of equivalent complexity would have 5,000 errors.

A great read.

Windows Installer CleanUp Utility removes stubborn Windows applications

Have you ever come across an application that refuses to uninstall? It throws a message like “uninstaller is corrupt” or “could not find uninstaller” or something along those lines. This partially uninstalled application might prevent you from reinstalling the application or cause other problems. If you find yourself in such a fix, give a go at Windows Installer CleanUp Utility.

Windows Installer CleanUp Utility removes installation information for programs that were installed by using Windows Installer. The utility looks up for registry references and files related to Windows Installer that were installed by various programs, and forcibly wipes them out. Windows Installer CleanUp Utility does not remove the actual program files from the computer. It only removes the installation and registry entries thus effectively wiping out any information that points to the installed program files.

windows-installer-cleanup

After the Cleanup Utility does it’s job, you can manually delete the program files or start over again by re-installation or upgrade.


Related: Remove stubborn antivirus/antispyware programs

Google Calendar Client for Windows

Google Calendar Client for Windows is a small, portable applications for Windows that can retrieve events from multiple Google Calendars, and display them on the user's desktop. The client is read only, meaning you can only retrieve data and events from your Google calendar, you cannot make updates with this application.

You can add calendars to the client by entering the public XML URL of your Google Calendar, and import data from both past and coming days from the calendar. For
instance in the ‘Preference’ window setting 10 days before and 30 days after would retrieve events from 10 days in the past to 30 days in the future. Once the information is retrieved, it is saved in memory and an internet connection is not needed until you want to refresh the data.

google-calendar-windows-client

Google Calendar Client features a popup event reminders, useful for people who tend to forget important appointments. The ability to export individual events to Microsoft Outlook or to any vCalendar compliant application is another useful feature. An option to save calendars for offline use is there in the Preferences but not yet implemented.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Preview Gmail Inbox while it loads

Gmail always takes a tad longer to open even on an acceptably fast Internet connection, and if you are on a slower connection it can take a terribly long time for the inbox to open. Of course, you can switch to a faster Gmail interface but Gmail wasn’t designed to be used that way.

Now Google has come up with a sweet solution. Yes, another new Labs addition – Inbox preview. With the Inbox preview option under Labs (Settings>Labs) enabled, whenever you login into Gmail, instead of a blank white screen and a small blue, progress bar you will see a static preview of your inbox with your ten most recent messages. The progress bar is still there, of course.

inbox-preview

The inbox preview lets you have a glance at the latest messages waiting for you. The preview isn’t clickable but it still saves a few seconds of your life, each day. When the inbox finally loads you already know which mail to attend to first. Or if there is nothing new, you can simply switch to another website even before the inbox has completed loading.

[via Official Gmail Blog]

VSuite Ramdisk turns the RAM into a virtual hard disk

Applications such as server systems, image and data processing and games require fast hardware to perform at an acceptable level and speed. In such cases the hardware that holds them back is usually the hard disk. Hard disks are inherently slow because they are based on mechanical systems consisting of moving parts. Even the fastest hard disk is several times slower than the slowest RAM.

One solution to this problem is to use Ramdisk. A Ramdisk or RAM-Disk is a software layer that transforms a segment of the random access memory (RAM) into a virtual secondary storage or hard disks. By moving the data which is currently being processed to these Ramdisk, we can greatly increase the access time and the throughput of the computer. Besides the service life of a physical hard disk can be prolonged by reducing access to it.

VSuite Ramdisk (Public edition) is one such free RAM disk software for Windows. This software can create up to several RAM disks in the computer’s main memory which are identical to physical hard disks and can be recognized by Windows or any other disk management software as physical hard disk. Needless to say, the computer must have sufficient amount of memory to allocate a part of it to a RAM disk.

vsuite-ramdisk

VSuite Ramdisk can automatically load a hard disk image file into the RAM disk at system boot up and then automatically save the data in the RAM disk to the image file at shutdown. This allows you to use the virtual hard disk transparently as if it physically exist. The software can also save the data periodically at certain intervals so that an unexpected system crash doesn’t make you lose data. On a personal computer, a clever use of the RAM disk will be to move the browser cache, Windows swap file and temporary files to it.

There is another benefit of using VSuite Ramdisk: VSuite Ramdisk is capable of addressing memory in excess of 4GB. So even if 32 bit Windows can detect only 3GB memory, enabling the “OS Invisible Physical Memory” option in the software allows Windows to detect and use memory up to the full 4GB.

Some important features of VSuite Ramdisk

  • FAT, FAT32, NTFS file systems support. 
  • Allow to optimize cluster size of file system.
  • Support "On-command save image" option. Can save data in a Ramdisk to an image file when needed.
  • Support "Automatic save image" option. Can automatically save data in a Ramdisk every certain time.
  • Support image file compression and different compression level.
  • Support "Direct IO" Ramdisk which has faster access speed.
  • Support "Overlapped IO" feature, can achieve faster access speed in some applications.
  • Support "Volatile Disk" option.
  • Disk parameters changeable.
  • Ramdisk size can be up to 2048TB.
  • Up to 128 Ramdisks can be simulated.
  • WDM driver, plug and play feature support.
  • Supports Windows 2000, Windows XP (32-bit), Windows 2003 (32-bit)  Windows XP (64-bit), Windows 2003 (64-bit), Windows Vista (32-/64-bit).

Deskpecker, Pepsi Volume Controller and Recycle Bin Laden

If reading the title of this post made you say “What the hell?”… you are right! These are names of three actual Windows applications, three most useless Windows applications. They are so crazy and so complete trash that I couldn’t help but write about them. And they all come from the same publisher.

Deskpecker is small Woodpecker, the bird, that flies to the currently active window on the desktop and starts pecking at it’s right border. Desktop toys stink but somehow this looks cute.

deskpecker

Pepsi Volume Controller is a volume controller for Windows in the shape of a Pepsi can with a “Real Pepsi Pouring Wave file for Sound Testing.” It does provide some additional benefits over the default Windows volume controller like volume level display in numbers, buttons to launch “audio properties” window and “always stay on top”.

pepsi-volume

The third one takes the cake. Recycle Bin Laden replaces the Recycle bin icon on the desktop with an Osama Bin Laden icon. Duh!

recycle-bin-laden

Google Chrome v2 released

Google Chrome once again left the beta tag behind and emerged as a stable version 2.0. The new release has lots of stability fixes and over 300 bugs taken care of. A new version of WebKit and an update to the JavaScript engine, V8, makes it even speedier. Other improvements include:

Improved New Tab Page: The most requested feature from users was the ability to remove thumbnails from the New Tab page. Now you can finally hide that embarrassing gossip blog from the Most Visited section.

Full Screen Mode: If you've ever given a presentation or watched a large video using Google Chrome, you might have wished you could use every last pixel on your screen for the content. Now you can hide the title bar and the rest of the browser window by hitting F11 or selecting the option in the Tools menu.

Form Autofill: Filling out your information in forms over and over again can be tedious. Form autofill helps by showing information you've previously entered into the same form fields automatically. If at any point you want to clear out your information, that's easy to do from the Tools menu.

Google says the version number 2 is “mainly a metric to help us keep track of changes internally. We don't give too much weight to version numbers and will continue to roll out useful updates as often as possible.”

Strangely enough, the browser has hit the second version with no Mac support in sight. The new download, as usual, is for Windows only.

[via Google Chrome Blog]

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Free licenses of O&O CleverCache 6 Professional, a powerful Windows file cache optimizer

Windows file system cache is a part of the system memory that is allocated to  retain recently used files and other information for quick access. Since free memory is essentially wasted memory, a part of the free memory is reserved to function as file cache so that frequently used files and programs load and run faster. The size of the cache depends on the amount of physical memory installed on the system and the memory required for applications to run. Windows dynamically adjusts the size of the cache as needed, though it’s possible to override this setting through certain registry keys.

O&O CleverCache 6 Professional is a one of a kind tool that optimizes the File Cache Management for Windows Vista, NT, 2000 and Windows XP, and allows the user to  make changes to it and apply tweaks that maximizes the performance and speed of the PC. 

O&O is an extremely powerful program. It opens up a wide range of settings and options you never knew existed in Windows. Here is a brief rundown of some of the most important features of this application.

Bird’s eye view of memory and cache usage

oo-clevercache (3)

Set maximum and minimum size of file cache, and file cache assessment interval.

oo-clevercache4

Defragment main memory for quicker running of applications.

oo-clevercache5

Optimize processor time to favor background processes or running programs.

oo-clevercache1

Force Windows to keep the kernel in main memory, and optimize whether the main memory should favor quick program execution or faster file access.

oo-clevercache2

Accelerate file access speed on NTFS partitions.

oo-clevercache3

O&O CleverCache 6 Professional is powerful but dangerous, if used incorrectly. If you are unsure of what you’re doing, leave the program settings to it’s default.

O&O CleverCache 6 Professional doesn’t come free, and there is no freeware alternative that I could find, at least I’m not aware if it exist. At $19.95, however, it’s cheaper than most software. But you won’t have to pay even that, because there is a promotional giveaway going on. (Thanks Donation Coder)

How to get the Free license?

1. Go to this page, fill the form and submit. You will be sent a serial code by email.

2. Now go to the registered users download page. (You can also arrive at this page via the main download page by clicking on “registered user”)

3. Enter the email address you registered on Step1 and the license key mailed to you and submit.

4. You will be taken to the download page. Download the program.

5. After you have downloaded and installed the application, you have to register the product with the exact information sent to you on email, which includes name, company and license.

Mozilla JetPack lets you build your own Firefox addon

Developing addons for Firefox requires knowledge on Javascript, XUL and XML. If you know none of the above but do know the ins and out of HTML and web designing, you can still design simple extensions for Firefox, thanks to the new Mozilla project JetPack.

Jetpack_logo

Jetpack is an API that allows anybody with knowledge on HTML, CSS and Javascript to write Firefox addons. Mozilla says that Jetpack addons can be written in under a dozen lines of code. What’s more? Addons built through JetPack can be installed without restarting the browser.

Jetpack is still a very early open source project, it’s a prototype actually. The initial Jetpack APIs support features built for status bars, tabs, content-scripts, animations, and more. It also support external API libraries like Twitter and supports jQuery.

Interested developers may checkout the following introductory video, or jump right into the project with available tutorials and documentations.

[via Mashable]

FocusWriter, a full screen, portable word processor

We have seen a few full screen, distraction free writers in the past (Darkroom, Writespace). These writers are pretty bare bone and even lacking in features that you might consider essential like text formatting. FocusWriter is no different, but this one is comparatively more equipped with features than the rest.

FocusWriter isn’t entirely devoid of toolbars. They remain hidden and show up when you move the mouse to top or bottom edge of the screen. The toolbar at the top carries some basic buttons like open, save, print, find, rename etc. The toolbar at the bottom shows the document's name, word count, time and a daily goal percentage. The time display is a thoughtful addition, since working full screen can make us lose track of time without the system tray clock.

focuswriter-top

focuswriter-bottom2

The daily goal is optional, but a very helpful feature. You can set goals either in minutes or in word count for each document you create. For example, you can set yourself a goal of 30 minutes to write an article. The clock starts as soon as you start typing and shows you what percentage of the goal you have completed. There is however one flaw with the time measuring process. The clock runs as long as you are typing and pauses whenever you stop. The word count goal is more useful.

Regarding customizability, FocusWrite is very flexible. You can change the background color and opacity, as well as the font color and type. You can even set an image as a background.

focuswriter-image

FocusWriter can be run in both full screen and windowed mode. It autosaves your document as you type, and if you close the program and restart it, it automatically loads the last document with the cursor positioned at the end of the document, ready for you to begin.

Disadvantages: No text formatting, no spell checker and saves only as .TXT.

FocusWriter is free, open source and available for Windows, Linux and Mac

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

RunPee tells you when you should take a bathroom run during a movie, and what you missed

Watching movies at home on a rented DVD or on the TV has one advantage: you get ample time during commercial breaks to take a leak without missing a scene. But things aren’t so comfortable when you are at a theatre. With pressure building up inside your bladder and 45 minutes left for the movie to end, you are forced to make a difficult choice - resist the urge and attempt to concentrate on the movie or run for the bathroom and risk missing an important scene.

runpee-logo2

RunPee is a new website that tries to help people in such a dilemma. Every movie has a few scenes that aren’t crucial to the plot, scenes you can afford to miss without compromising your movie experience. RunPee tells you when those scenes occur and how much time you get to relieve your bladder.

Currently RunPee offers this valuable information on only a few selected movies. When you choose a movie from the list, you will get a timeline of the movie with “RunPee” moments or restroom breaks marked along the timeline. Clicking on a “RunPee” will show you the exact time when it occurs with a brief description of the scene immediately preceding the “RunPee”. It then tells you how much time you've got to make a run to the nearest restroom followed by a description of the scene that takes place while you were away. The second description is obfuscated by default so as not to reveal the scene unless you really want to, even through they aren’t really spoilers. Clicking on “unscramble” will make it readable.

runpee

Some RunPee’s are interesting. For example the RunPee for Hannah Montana the Movie offers some sane advice: “Go home right after the previews and pee for as long as you please in the comfort of your own home. You wont miss anything.”

Users are able to add new movies to the collection and create RunPees for the benefit of other movie goers. This is really essential for this website to be of any real help – constantly updating with new releases. I’m sure some of you will do it.

This site is awesome and I love it’s logo (watch the animation in the logo). And while we were discussing about peeing, maybe you should checkout this too – where to pee?

[via Reddit]

File defragmentation tools: WinContig vs Defraggler

Defragmenting the whole drive is time consuming and to a large extent very unrewarding, as you can only gain a few milliseconds of access time at best. Defragmenting individual files is a far better strategy. My Documents folder is taking too long to open? Defragment it. The movie file is badly fragmented? Defragment it and leave the rest. It’s time saving and logically more sound than whole drive defragment.

I have written about a file defragmentation tool called Defraggler earlier. Another such tool that I came across recently is WinContig. WinContig is a stand-alone defragmentation tool for Windows that lets you quickly defrag files and folders without having to defrag the whole disk.

wincontig

One useful feature in WinContig is the ability to group files and folders together and save it as a profile. So if you frequently defrag a certain collection of files, you can group them together and save it as a profile. The next time when you need to defragment those files, you only have to load the saved profile.

When I compared WinContig to Defraggler I found that both tools has certain pros and cons over each other.

FeaturesDefragglerWinContig
Defrag files, folders and drivesYESYES
Defrag free spaceYESNO
Defrag strategy12 (Quick & Smart)
Visual representationYESNO
Automatically clean temporary files before defragmentationNOYES
File exclusion listYESYES
Save file list as profilesNOYES
SchedulerYESNO
Automatic PC shutdown on completionYESYES
PortableYESYES
FreewareYESYES

Conclusion: As you can see, both the tools offer different feature sets. WinContig is more advanced with options like “automatically clean temp files”, “file profiles” and "quick defrag" modes making it a favorable choice. But I will miss the “free space defrag” of Defraggler. Also watching the colorful blinking dots in Defraggler when the defragmentation is in progress has a pleasure of it’s own.

I will keep both and use them depending on my need at that particular time.

Ships, the Google Earth based ship simulator

Ships is a free browser based simulation game released by PlanetInAction.com that became the first game ever to use Google Earth as a game engine. The game lets you be the helmsman of your own fleet of ships comprising of barges, cargo ships, container ships, and even a cruise ship. You can drive the ships anywhere in the world and behold the incredible scenery at a leisurely pace. All you need is the Google Earth plugin.

Apart from the default navigation system of Google Earth, the game features 3 additional camera modes similar to what can be seen in many games. There is a "head view" which locks the viewer to the ship. The fixed view simulates a fixed camera that tracks the ship as it sails by. Once the ship has passed it will
randomly relocate itself somewhere in front of the ship.

ships-google-earth

"Ships" is a case study / Technology show piece that demonstrates what can be achieved with Google Earth. While map data has a tremendous value for practical purposes, it can also be used as a backdrop for a range of games…

Google Earth proves extremely capable to handle many overlays with alpha transparencies which enables developers to create intricate and graphically rich instruments. Proof of that can be seen in the Compass/rudder instrument which consists of 5 layers of bitmaps. (compass rose, rudder dial, rudder position needle, rudder target needle and instrument bevel).  Each layered image uses alpha transparency to create a sense of depth and shadows. There really is no limit what can be achieved in the hands of an experienced graphics artist.

The game’s 3D models have all been created in Google Sketchup and some texturing were done in a range of other programs. The game’s creator Paul van Dinther also used Flash 8.0 and Javascript and Soundmanager 2 for creating sound effects.

[via Google Earth Blog]

Monday, May 18, 2009

Http Explorer – A powerful web server for file sharing

Http Explorer is an open source, easy to use web server software designed especially for file sharing across a network or the Internet. Using a simple configuration interface you can set up a web server on your computer and assign drives or folders containing anything like music, images or documents and allow other users to access these contents remotely over a network.

Very recently I wrote about a streaming music server software Subsonic, and before than Sockso, that enabled sharing of music over a network. Http Explorer is similar file sharing server but with wider capabilities. Not only can it stream music files but also share images, documents and literally any file format. When you add a folder or drive to share, you essentially open it up on the network. Users can browse the contents of the folder or drive using a browser and download any files or play music directly using an inbuilt Flash media player.

http-explorer-browse

The software has a number of different “styles” or interface for the users, which are built entirely using CSS. So it’s possible to make suitable modification to it according to your taste. From their browsers the users can view files sorted by name, date, size, type, artist, album and by group. There are different display modes: list, icons, and miniatures. There is also a search by filters feature. You can try out all these features at the online demo.

The server itself is pretty powerful and flexible, offering numerous settings and configuration options for the site owner. It supports IP filtering, password protected user accounts, quota limit for each users, and security measures such as making an account unavailable for certain duration after a set number of failed login attempts.

http-explorer1 http-explorer2

Http Explorer also maintains extensive log reports which can be easily viewed through the History tab and provides information such as the IP address of the users, files accessed, time of access etc.

If you want to share files over LAN, Http Explorer is highly recommended over traditional Windows file sharing.

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