Friday, October 31, 2008

Create custom shell objects on Windows with Shell Object Editor

Shell objects are special "hard links" or shortcuts to folders and applications on your Windows computer. An example of shell object is the "My Documents" folder which is a real folder hidden deep within the directory structure but provides an easily accessible link in My Computer. In fact, every item within My Computer is a shell object. Shell objects or shell folders behave as real folders even though they are just shortcuts.


Windows supports the creation of custom shortcuts by users through the registry editor. An easier and better way without messing with the registry is by using Shell Object Editor. This little program allows you to create any shell object in 5 easy steps. The shell object can be a folder, a file or an application and can be placed in My Computer, Desktop, Control Panel or the Network Neighborhood. With Shell Object Editor you can create and delete as many shell objects you want and you don't even have to restart your PC to use them.


By default, the program doesn't allow you to delete shell objects not created by you to prevent accidental deletion. But there is an Expert mode that allows you to edit even special shell objects. To turn on the Expert mode right click on the empty box in the program to get a context menu where you can enable the "expert mode".

Thursday, October 30, 2008

6 different ways to add Speech Bubbles to your photos

A fun way to spice up your photos is to add a cartoon style speech bubble. In fact, some pictures are just incomplete without a speech bubble. So here is a list of several Speech Bubble generators that will come handy when you need to add that smart comment over your friends' photo (and post it on the Internet).


Using desktop software

1. Photoshop is a master in any kind of image editing job, and by using custom shapes you can add different types of pattern to an image. Download the free Speech Balloon Shapes for Photoshop 6 and above. Extract the contents of the zip file and place the *.csh files into: Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop X\Presets\Custom Shapes where X is the version number of Photoshop.


To load the shapes, go to the Styles palette, then click the small arrow in the top right corner and choose the Speech Balloon layer style from the menu.

2. Speech bubbles can be added with Adobe Illustrator too by using vector shapes. Download this free pack of 33 vector speech bubbles in multiple formats. Works with Adobe Illustrator 8 and above. (Thanks jlwDesign)



Online Tools

3. SuperLame is a free Flash based speech bubble generator using which you can add your own speech bubbles to photos. Just upload an image and click on Add a Balloon to add the bubble. Type your text, choose a shape, colors, styles and fonts to your taste and drag it over the image. Finally save the image and mail to your friends.

4. Kyolo has only one shape, but it can be freely stretched and the position of the arrows rotated. Sadly, no control over color. Kyolo however allows you create an account and save your images on their own server.

5. Speechable is a free photo service that lets you easily upload and add speech bubbles to your photos and share them with friends. The options on this one are too limited to my liking.

6. Bubblesnaps is an annoying speech bubble service. Imagine having to fill up a ridiculously long registration form just to create a bubble? The plus point is that it adds little animation and sounds to your work and saves it as a Flash file. You can then send the link to file via email or post it in your blog.

Verdict: If you ask me, I would say - use Photoshop. It's the best way to do it. But if I have to do it online, then it has to be SuperLame. It provides a variety of shapes and is the most customizable one among the bunch. There are a lot of other similar services but they are worse. If you need animating bubbles, then go for Bubblesnaps.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Create beautiful charts online with ChartGizmo

Need to create a quick bar chart or pie diagram to mail it to a friend? Why not do it online? Before this online-application craziness took over, everything we did on our computer, we did it with applications installed on our own PCs. For years, I have been using Excel to create charts. Now with web services like ChartGizmo available, creating charts is a breeze. Not that it was any harder doing it with Excel, but it's definitely quicker.

ChartGizmo is absolutely free (but requires registration) and allows you to create various kinds of diagrams: Pie, Bar, Line, Ring, 3D Pie, 3D Bar, 3D Line, Scatter Plot etc. You can either manually enter the data or import it from an Excel sheet. Now you can't actually upload an Excel file, just select and copy the data and paste it into the data window. The charts are all customizable - everything from colors, to labels, chart orientation and sizes. A window on the right gives a live preview of the diagram even before you save it.


An example Pie-Chart showing browser usage trend among visitors to this site. The same data presented as a 3D bar diagram below.


ChartGizmo gives you multiple options to save and embed the chart in a web page. You get the chart in the standard PNG image format as well as in Flash, JavaScript and a Dynamic HTML format. All your charts are saved on your account and you can access them later at any time.

Launch programs and files by moving the mouse to the corner of the screen

A simple, neat program called Hot Corners allows you to assign four different actions to the four different corners of the screen. When you move the mouse to these corners, the action assigned to it will be triggered. These actions can be anything from launching application, files, folders, a bookmarked URL, the Control Panel, showing the desktop and a whole lot of possibilities.

I came across this program when it was still at version 1.1, some months ago. I immediately liked it, but my anti-virus program gave me a warning. A search on Google revealed that many users had the same issue. Being unsure, I dropped the program. Recently, I learned that a newer version of Hot Corners, version has been released and the false warning problem ironed out. This new version is much better and includes another feature, called Mouse Move, which is a sort of mouse gesture.

hot-corners (1) 

Using a key combination of Win+X and moving the mouse pointer in four different direction (left, right, up, down), it's possible to assign another four set of actions. When the program is running, pressing Win+X positions the mouse pointer at the center of the screen. Then you have to move the mouse in one of the four directions to perform the associated action. It's a little quirky but it does the job. The Hot Corners Delay and Mouse Move Sensitivity settings allows you to fine tune it's performance.

A truly handy program.

Also read: Activate Windows Vista's Flip 3D using mouse

Monday, October 27, 2008

3 Free open source alternatives to MATLAB

Computer Science and Communication Engineering students must be familiar with a mathematical software called MATLAB. MATLAB is a numerical computing software and programming language that is often used in various mathematical analysis and problem solving like matrix manipulation, plotting of functions and data, implementation of algorithms, creation of user interfaces etc. MATLAB is a proprietary product of The MathWorks and a single student license will set you back by $99.  Even though there are many free numerical analysis software available, your university is most likely to use MATLAB and a student who uses MATLAB all day at the university would want the same programs to run on his home computer. Hence compatibility of these free solutions with MATLAB is important.

Let us look at three free alternatives to MATLAB that is compatible with it, to a large extent.


Octave is an open source program for numerical computation which is mostly compatible with MATLAB. Its syntax is very similar to MATLAB, and a carefully programmed script will run on both Octave and MATLAB. Though most MATLAB programs will run on Octave, the reverse is not always true. This is because Octave's parser goes above and beyond MATLAB's and supports syntaxes and commands not supported by MATLAB. For example, Octave supports both single and double quote while MATLAB supports only single quote. Octave supports the printf command while MATLAB doesn't. All compatibility issues are described in there wiki.


Scilab, another numerical computational package, is similar in functionality to MATLAB, but is open source and hence available at no cost. The program enables users to compute a wide range of mathematical operations from relatively simple operations such as multiplication to high level operations such as correlation and complex arithmetic. Like MATLAB, Scilab has many industrial and academic uses and is often used for signal processing, statistical analysis, image enhancement, fluid dynamics simulations etc.

Scilab is not entirely compatible with MATLAB but has a converter for source code conversion from MATLAB to Scilab. Scilab also includes a package called Scicos for modeling and simulation of dynamical systems.


The third open source free numerical computing environment similar to MATLAB is FreeMat. FreeMat supports many MATLAB functions and some IDL functionality and additional features like codeless interface to external C, C++, and Fortran code, further parallel distributed algorithm development and some extended volume and 3D visualization capabilities. FreeMat developers put the software's compatibility with MATLAB at 95% which is as good as MATLAB itself, provide you don't use all MATLAB functions, which isn't likely to happen in most cases.

So there you are, you've got three replacement for MATLAB. See if you can convince your institute to embrace any of these.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Bug Shooting - The advanced screen capture tool

Bug Shooting is a free screenshot capturing utility with many advanced features. Firstly, there are three different screen capturing modes - (1)Capture screen, which captures the entire screen as well as the active window at the same time, (2) Capture area, which captures only a selected area of the screen and (3)  Delayed capture, which captures automatically  after a delay. This method is especially useful to capture a menu.

Bug Shooting also has a built in image editor. Now, it isn't too advanced but sufficient for screen capturing purposes. The standard drawing tool box enables you to add annotation, arrows, texts and make all sorts of shapes and markings. The type of things a blogger or developer usually does before posting it on the Internet or sharing with friends. The best part is, every mark you make on the screenshot are stored in separate layers thereby enabling you to edit or remove it later. Cropping, magnifying and flipping the image is possible from within Bug Shooting.


Another interesting tool is the "create image". With create image you can copy a part of the screen and duplicate it, then further highlight it by adding a dotted line around it.

Bug Shooting also allows you to directly upload the screenshot to a web server or to any external program like your email client, if you wish to mail it to someone or Photoshop for further image editing.

View your desktop without minimizing opened windows with DESKonTOP

The original idea of placing shortcuts on the desktop was to allow the user quicker access to frequently used programs without having to navigate through the start menu or the Explorer. Unfortunately, that has never been the case because the desktop always remains hidden by the running programs and windows. Having a desktop toolbar solves the problem but it isn't aesthetically pleasing. DESKonTOP has a fine solution to this problem.


DESKonTOP places a small icon on the system tray, and when clicked pops up a small floating copy of your desktop with all shortcuts and icons. It's a mini desktop. Move the mouse cursor over an icon, and it will enlarge to show you the full-size version of the icon and its text label, allowing you to clearly see and click the shortcut. A single click on the icon will launch your desired programs. No need to minimize or move windows around. With DESKonTOP you can call up your desktop at any time without having to play hide and seek with your windows.

DESKonTOP can be easily customized - the size of the mini desktop, the wallpaper shown in the mini desktop, the size of the icons, size of the text,  color and everything. You can also adjust it's transparency and turn on and off the info window that enlarges the icons on mouse move-over. Don't want a mini desktop? No problem. Right-click on the icons to display the desktop icons in a menu. A very clever program indeed.

Also read: How to show the desktop icons without showing the desktop

Thursday, October 23, 2008

How to move your HDD LED into a more visible position

If you are using a typical computer desk, your cabinet is most likely placed underneath and sometimes completely hidden from view. In such an arrangement, you aren't able to see the hard disk LED unless you bend your torso over by the sides of the chair and manage to get your head under the table, ignoring the pain caused by the armrest jabbing at your rib cage ... ouch! Don't hurt yourself trying to get a view of the blinking LED. Try these three different freeware programs instead, that will move the HDD LED to three different and convenient positions.

Keyboard HDD LED (0.5 MB) is a simple program that will turn the Scroll Lock LED on the keyboard, which is usually unused, into a hard disk activity indicator. The program consist of just one executable file which keeps running in the system tray and synchronizes the blinking of the hard disk LED with the Scroll Lock LED, so you don't have to constantly crawl under the desk to check it. Of course, you need to have the Scroll Lock LED turned off for this to work.

FloatLED (278KB) places an array of blinking lights, one for each drive or partitions, on a floating thin horizontal strip that can be dragged and placed anywhere on the screen. The most appropriate position is at the top, over the title bar. No tray icon, no registry entries and other crap, and extremely light on memory and CPU usage.


Hard Disk Indicator (180 KB) is another small program that add's the hard disk LED to the system tray. The program is somewhat limited because it can monitor only up to five partitions on the same hard disk.


Reduce the size of portable applications with AppCompactor, the biggest resource for portable applications, has come up with an amazing application - AppCompactor. AppCompactor allows you to compress portable applications, reduce it's file size and increase performance when running from a slow media like a thumb drive.

AppCompactor packages UPX and 7-Zip within it allowing you to easily compress an app's EXEs, DLLs and other binaries using UPX and recompress ZIP and JAR files using 7-Zip, with four different compression methods to choose from - NRV2E, NRV2D, LZMA or BRUTE mode. It also has an option to DECOMPRESS an app's binary files that were previously compressed with UPX.


To compress an application, just select the directory and all the DLL, EXE, ZIP, JAR, IRC, PYD and BIN files within that directory will be compressed. Depending on the files, AppCompactor promises a size decrease by 50% or more without affecting functionality. Now for some test.

By using the default compression method, it reduced my Foxit Reader directory from 12 MB to 4.8 MB, a size reduction by 60%, and OpenOffice.Org from 250 MB to 188 MB. It shrunk Google Sketchup from 50 MB to 30 MB and Limewire from 16 MB to 7.5 MB. All these programs worked find even after compression.

Any application that is capable of working without installation, in essence, is a portable application. If you try to run your previously installed programs after a format and Windows reinstall, you will realize a lot of applications are in fact portable. The OpenOffice and Foxit Reader on my PC were normal installed applications, now working in the portable mode. AppCompcator works with all of these. Besides on a pen drive where space is limited, AppCompactor is godsend. (Thanks Download Squad)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Recover accidentally closed programs with GoneIn60s

Sometimes you accidentally close a program and instantly realize that you didn't mean to close it. This usually happens when you have a number of windows open and maximized. You click the X button at the corner but mistakenly make a second click and the underlying window is gone. Or you may just hit the wrong X button. As a solution to this problem, Skrommel, a talented developer from Donation Coder, has come up with an excellent piece of software - GoneIn60s.

Named after the Nicolas Cage and Angelina Jolie starrer, GoneIn60s keeps closed programs running in the RAM for an additional 60 seconds before killing them, giving you enough time to recover the application in case you closed it mistakenly.

gonein60s1  gonein60s2

Once the program is running, it stays in the taskbar and takes just about 4 megabytes of memory. After you close any program or window, right click on the programs's icon in the taskbar to reveal the list of programs you closed during the last 60 seconds, and which are still running. Clicking on the program from the list will re-launch the program. Once the 60 seconds counter reaches zero, the program will be closed.

Despite the name, the counter can be configured to any value of your choice. 60 seconds might be a bit too long if you want the memory in use by the applications to be released sooner. 15 seconds should be enough for you to recover the program. On the other hand, you can extend this time to hundreds or maybe even thousands of seconds. The program however will show only a maximum of 100 secs in the setting window even though it can be any figure. It's probably a bug.

Two additional features include an ignore list that you can make use of for programs you want to close immediately when you click close, and a Kill Window option that will suppress any unsaved documents warning, which could be a little risky to use. All in all, a brilliant program.

Download GoneIn60s (direct download link) 205 KB

Gmail's new feature: Canned Responses

There is an option is almost all cell phones to send pre-written text messages, often stored under a section "Templates". That's a very useful feature since typing the same message can be tiresome particularly on a small keypad. Now the same feature is brought to Gmail with a new Labs addition called Canned Responses. When you enable this feature, every time you have to reply to someone or compose a new message you will see a new item "Canned Responses" under the subject box.


Write your common reply to that boring common question and click on Canned Responses to save it. In future when you have to send this same message, all you have to do is select this pre-made response from a drop down list and send it. Saves time.


Canned Responses is also available in the Filter section as one of the actions to perform on a filtered mail. If you have properly setup a filter based on your incoming messages, it's possible to setup a different  automated reply for different queries. Awesome!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Catalogue your DVDs for easier searching of files

How do you keep track of what files and software are on each DVD? Do you have to shuffle through dozens of DVDs to find just one file? If your answer is yes, then you are doing it wrong. Some people realize that this is a waste of time and therefore keep a copy of their discs on their hard disk so that they don't have to open and close the optical drive multiple times. But that isn't the right approach either. You should use a disc cataloguing software.

I use a software called DigiCat. It's free and it works great. DigiCat will create a list of files and folders on a disc or any drive. Insert a DVD or CD into the drive and click on Scan. Within a few seconds the entire contents of the DVD will be listed. You can then save the list for future searching. DigiCat will also scan compressed archives and list the contents within it. You can add comments to each files for identification purposes.


All your catalogued DVDs are listed under the tab "Catalog" within the software. An integrated search feature allows quick searching for files across your whole collection. When you find your required file, just insert the proper DVD and double click on the file within DigiCat and it will automatically retrieve the file from the media. So you don't have to waste any more time looking through the DVD. Since only the list of files on the DVDs are stored, it takes very little space to save the catalogues.


While DigiCat should work for most people, you might not like the way, DigiCat displays the list. In that case, you can try another freeware called Primitive Disk Indexer. This program saves the file structure of the DVD or CD allowing you to browse and view the disc exactly like you are browsing the live DVD. Primitive Disk Indexer is absolutely primitive and provides no other feature other than saving the file structure. There is no search and no inbuilt library to manage your collection. You have to save the catalogue for each disc in your hard disc in your own location. Primitive Disk Indexer will just open one catalogue at a time and allow you to look through the contents. If you are looking for a simple bare solution then Primitive Disk Indexer is the tool for you.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Save pages by printing only what you need with GreenPrint

Anybody who frequently uses a printer either at home or at office knows how much paper is wasted during printing. Useless paragraphs, unwanted images, pages with single to a few lines of text are common. Apart from wasting your money it has a bigger effect on the environment. Think about all those trees wasted because you didn't optimize the pages before printing. Think about all the CO2 released in the air when making those papers.

The free version of an application, aptly named GreenPrint, has a solution to this growing problem of wasteful printing. When installed on your computer, GreenPrint will intercept the print process when you click on the print button and give you an opportunity to remove the clutter from the page. GreenPrint analyzes the content of each print job for pages that have wasteful characteristics such as banner ads, URL footnote etc and highlight those elements in a preview window. You can then decide what to keep and what to remove. You can also select a part of the page and print only the selection or leave the selection and print the rest of the page. GreenPrint's flexibility is wonderful.


Image courtesy: PCMag

GreenPrint also functions as a virtual PDF printer allowing you to create PDF files from any documents. If you use a separate PDF printer, you have one less application to install.

GreenPrint predicts that a Fortune 500 company using GreenPrint Technology would save more than $2 million in reduced costs, save more than 4,000 trees and prevent 12,623 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year. And if all computers used GreenPrint, it would save more than 36 million trees every year and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 117 million tons--the equivalent of removing 23 million cars from the road for an entire year. A reporting feature within the application keeps track of the number of pages, trees, and money saved. Truly a revolutionary application.

Avoid DLL hell. Find and remove unused DLL files

Often when we uninstall a program we are presented with a dialog box that says "The following shared files are no longer used by any other program. Do you want to remove it?". Such messages are far too common.


The message warns us of dire consequences if the file is used by any other program. So what does an average user do? Take a safe route and let the file remain. In most cases this DLL file isn't used by any other program. Over time these unused DLL files accumulate and create a "DLL hell". Typical junk file cleaners won't touch these files since they are system and program specific files and don't fall under the definition of "junk files". Here are some tools that will help you search and remove unused DLL files.

1. DLL Orphans is a program that will scan your C drive (or Windows drive) for DLL files that has been orphaned by their parent program and are no longer used and list them. It also reports unused .INI files, .OCX files are other files no longer used by any program. The user can select from the list the files he wish to remove. DLL Orphans is a must have tool along with your junk file and registry cleaner.


2. AnalogX DLL Archive is a similar program that will search for unused DLL files and rather than delete those, allows the user to archive them. If you made a mistake and an archived file was indeed in use, you can restore it.


Unlike DLL Orphans, DLL Archive will scan the whole hard disk and there is no option to make it scan specific drives. This is a big drawback if you have a large hard drive, which is common these days, as it can take quite a while to complete scanning and most of the time it's scanning partitions that doesn't require any.

Between the two I would choose DLL Orphans.

Read More:
Driver Sweeper removes leftover after driver uninstall
WinXP Manager: The comprehensive Windows XP maintenance suite
9 places where you could lose hard disk space and how to regain it
Make your PC self cleaning with Belvedere

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Incremental backup and file monitoring with FileHamster

Sometimes when you are working on an important project it becomes necessary to create backups for every changes you make to your files. Otherwise, if you make some changes and save it and later have to revert back to the earlier stage, you have to undo all changes you have made. Not only it's a loss of precious time and effort, but sometimes it's impossible to undo the changes. That means disaster.

FileHamster is a free version tracking software that provides real time backup and archiving of your files while you work on it. It allows you to monitor specific files or folders on your hard disk and automatically create incremental backups whenever those files are modified. All you have to do is specify the files you want the program to monitor and the location where these backups will be stored. FileHamster will silently run in the background, tracking each changes you make to your files and making a backup for each change. Whenever you want to retrieve an earlier version just open the backup folder and you will find multiple versions of your files with a date/time stamp for easier identification. Additional plugins allow you to add a comment for each version of your files and also compress the backups files with 4 different compression algorithm.


Even though FileHamster provides enough for an average user, anybody who desires more features can look at FileHamster +Plus which provides some extra features at a price. Some key features include:

  • WatchTree filters
  • WatchTree enhancements
  • Enhanced network and removable drive support
  • Offline libraries
  • Customized OpenWith menu
  • Adjust SubFolder properties within a watch

FileHamster +Plus is priced at $29.95

Also read: Automatically backup multiple versions of your files with DocShield

Thursday, October 16, 2008

How to import an Html table, list or feeds into a spreadsheet

Google Spreadsheet has an extremely useful function that allows you to import various kinds of data into a spreadsheet file. Suppose you find a table of useful data on a web page that you want to have it as an Excel file. That's possible with Google Spreadsheet's Import function.

The import function makes it possible to grab all kinds of online data and turn them into spreadsheet files to make analysis, create graphs etc. The =ImportHTML function has the following format:


URL is the URL of the target web page; query can be either "list" or "table" and index is the order of the element (query) on the page. If a page contains multiple tables (or lists) and you want to import only the third table (or list) than the index value will be 3. Quotation marks around URL and query is necessary.

As an example, let us take this table "list of deserts in the world ordered by area" found on Wikipedia and try to import it into a spreadsheet.


Create a new spreadsheet file and click on any empty cell. Now type this:

=ImportHTM(”", ”table”,1)


The data inside the table now magically appears into the spreadsheet.


To import XML files use the command =importXML("URL","query")

Here query is the XPath query to run on the data. For example, =importXml("", "//a/@href") will get you all the links on Yahoo's page.

Similarly, =importData("URL") imports all the data from a comma separated CSV or TSV file.

=ImportFeed("URL") imports an RSS or ATOM feed into the spreadsheet. For example, =ImportFeed("") will import this blog's feed into a spreadsheet.

Google Spreadsheet is a winner!

[via OUseful]

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Unleash the interior designer in you with Sweet Home 3D

Have you ever wanted to design your own home? Did you wish you had some way of visualizing how that couch would look against that wall or that bookcase against the table without having to drag them all over the place? If the answer is yes, then give Sweet Home 3D a spin.

Sweet Home 3D is a free, open source, java based interior design software which is the perfect tool to try out your interior designing skills. The software provides you with plenty of models ranging from staircases, walls, sofas, tables and all sorts of furniture and house structures that you will need to create your home. Designing is just a matter of dragging and dropping these items into the work area. The software comes with around 75 pieces of furniture and more than a 100 is available for download from their web site.


Sweet Home 3D doesn't limit you to these pre-made models. You can even create your own to match the furniture you already own. A very useful feature of this program is that it allows you to import 3D models in various formats like .obj, .lws and .3ds, which means that you can create your models in a 3D modeling tool like Maya or 3DS Max or Blender and import them into Sweet Home 3D.

You can create floor plans, specify room dimensions, wall thickness, textures etc and then place the furniture in the room. At any time you can preview your handiwork in 3D and rotate, zoom or pan the model at will.

Sweet Home 3D isn't made for professionals who would find this software limited because of it's lack of advanced features, but for an average user Sweet Home 3D is perfect to hone their designing skills. Besides, it's fun.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

3 cool image search engines to search images by content

Searching for images online is trickier than searching textual content, simply because it's difficult to describe an image. To make it easier for both users and search engines to classify images, webmasters are often advised to use attributes like "ALT" and "TITLE". Thankfully, today's search engines have become sufficiently intelligent to make their own classifications based on form, color, shape etc. Let us look at some of the best image search engines that offers you more than simple keyword search.

Picitup offers you a whole range of filters to narrow down your search results. Picitup allows you to search images across 3 different categories based on image content - faces, products and landscapes. It can also recognize color and you can set a color preference by choosing among 18 different color palettes. Picitup also has a shape filter with 8 different shapes to choose from - not very helpful, but at least something to start with. You can also choose between various layouts like portrait, landscape,
panoramic and square.


Results for "Stephen King". You can see a book appearing in the results for a face search. Exalead (read below) didn't make any errors though.

Exalead is a search engine best known for it's face search. It can search faces and filter the results based on color/grayscale, size and orientation. With the face option turned off, it brings other relevant results.

Face Search is another search engine dedicated to face search and powered by Google search. It provides too few options to my liking but anyway, it brings good results.

Finally, who can leave out Google in a discussion of search engines?  Google's image search does not provide too many filters and the recently introduced face search and photo content filters is a little disappointing. In my search for "Stephen King" with face search selected brought only 2 results - none of them are faces. You will get better results with face option turned off, the saving factor being the shear size of it's database.

Also read, 3 unique tools to search Flickr photos by color

Thanks Search Engine Journal.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Get thumbnail previews on Google search results in Opera and Firefox with Google Fx

Do you know that you can run Greasemonkey scripts in Opera? Well, not all but most, and you don't need any additional plugins because Opera natively supports user JavaScripts and user CSS. There are more than a handful of addons for Firefox to enhance Google search and one of them is Google Fx. Google Fx is a Greasemonkey script which means that there is a high chance that it will work with Opera. The good news is - it does.

The Google Fx userscript makes a number of transformation to Google's search results page. Some of them are useful while some others are pointless, but you can easily disable any functions that you don't like. Some of the cool changes this script brings to Google includes:

  • Thumbnail previews of the sites in the search result page
  • An Auto streaming feature which automatically retrieves the search results from the next page and appends it to the current page when you scroll to the bottom of the page. This feature is similar to Repagination, but unlike Repagination it does not add the whole page but just the results.
  • Keeps the Google search box and other links floating at the top, thereby making it visible at all times even when you are scrolling down.
  • Easier access to Safe Mode settings and image sizes in Google Image search.


My only gripe is that it changes the fonts which I didn't like. It can be fixed though if I agree to fiddle around the script. But that's too much work and it certainly doesn't look too appealing. So I will leave it.

How to install Greasemonkey script in Opera

To install a Greasmonkey script, first create a directory which will hold all your custom JavaScript files. Now open Opera and go to Tools>Preferences>Advanced>Content and click on JavaScript Options and then point to this directory using the Browse button under "User JavaScript Files". Save all Greasemonkey scripts to this folder. You might have to rename these files because all user scripts should have a file name in the following format - xxxx.user.js.

Installing Google Fx requires an additional step as described below.

How to install Google Fx in Opera

To install Google Fx in Opera, download the file GoogleFxPrefs.exe as well as the script and copy both to your user JavaScript folder. Now open standard_menu.ini found in Opera\defaults\ in Notepad.

Go to [Document Popup Menu] section and add the following lines

Item, "GoogleFX preferences" = Copy & Execute program, "c:\Program Files\Opera\UserJS\GoogleFXprefs.exe"

googleFX22 Replace the text in bold with the actual path to the user JavaScript folder.

You can now see a new item in Opera's context menu called "GoogleFX preferences" through which you can access the settings.

Defragment individual files and free space with Defraggler

Defraggler is a free defragmentation tool from the makers of CCleaner with one unique feature - the ability to defragment individual files. Usual defragmentation tools can defragment only whole drives, while Defraggler allows you to select up to individual files. Defraggler can defragment single files, groups of files, folders and the whole hard disk with minimum system resources. Another unique ability of this program is to defragment free space as well. Now which other program offers such a functionality? None that I can think of.

The ability to defragment single files gives you more control on the defragmenter. For instance, if you use Adobe Photoshop frequently, you can defragment Photoshop's installation folder and it's associated folders (local settings folders) to keep fragmentation level at check and improve startup time (marginally). This saves enormous amount of time since you don't have to defragment the whole drive.


But the biggest benefit you will get from Defraggler comes from it's capability to defragment free space. Defragmenting free space will result in the merging of available free spaces on your drive into one contiguous region of free space. The result - lesser fragmentation of newer files. Often, defragmenters will defragment files paying little attention to the fragmentation level of free space. So even though the files are properly defragmented, they are scattered everywhere on the hard disk with free spaces in between files. The next time the hard disk has to save a file, it will fill in these spaces, run out of space and move to the next free region. So there you are, file fragmentation just started again. But when free space is available in one and only one region, the newly created file resides on the hard disk at one place in one piece. Fragmentation is inevitable and the files will start fragmenting again, but you can delay the process and thereby minimize it.

And yes, Defraggler is portable too.

Also read: Comparison with WinContig and Tips on defragmenting your hard disk

Saturday, October 11, 2008

5 Free tools to synchronize files between computers

Those who work on multiple computers know how useful it is to keep your data synchronized between the computers. Imagine how frustrating it will be to realize that you left your most important files on your home computer, when you arrive at work in the morning. Besides, carrying your data around on thumb drives isn't a viable option at all times. One solution is to use a file synchronization software that automatically keeps your files and folders synchronized between multiple computers over the Internet or a network. With synchronization tools, files that you edited last night at your home is available on your office PC the next day or the music you downloaded on your PC is automatically transported to your laptop.

Let's look at some of the free solutions available.

1. FolderShare is a popular syncing solution from Microsoft that allows you to synchronize files between computers running different operating systems (Windows and Mac). First download FolderShare for the appropriate OS and install it on all computers you want to sync. Next, you have to create an account on FolderShare's website and associate each computer to the account. Specify which folders you want to keep synchronized. Now every time you want to sync your files, just login to your account and sync it. The process can be automated so that it automatically syncs your files whenever you connect to the Internet.


Image courtesy: Softonic

2. SyncToy is another free PowerToy from Microsoft that provides an easy to use interface to automate synchronizing files and folders. SyncToy can manage multiple sets of folders at the same time; it can combine files from two folders in one case, and mimic renames and deletes in another. SyncToy can keep track of renames to files and will make sure those changes get carried over to the synchronized folder.


SyncToy performs five different types of operations to synchronize two folders: Synchronize, Echo, Subscribe, Contribute, and Combine.

  1. A Synchronize operation takes the two folders and makes sure they have the exact same files. To do this, SyncToy may copy files in either direction and may delete or rename files in either folder.
  2. The Echo operation looks for changes (new files, renames, deletes) in the left folder and makes them in the right folder (one-way sync).
  3. A Contribute option is like an Echo, but it does not delete any files on the right folder that may have been deleted on the left folder.
  4. With Subscribe, the two folders are examined to see what files they have in common. If either the left or right side has updated these common files, only those files are synchronized. Any of the other files in the folders are untouched.
  5. The Combine operation just copies new files in both directions, without deleting anything. SyncToy doesn’t consider a renamed file to be new, so it is possible to have the same file under different names on the left and right folder after they have been combined.

3. Allway Sync is a free synchronization software for Windows. Apart from syncing files over a network, Allway Sync also allows you to sync files on a removable drive like USB drive, CDs etc. It also functions as a backup tool. Just synchronize your document folders on your computer with any backup device and it will create a copy of it.


4. GoodSync is a file synchronization and file backup software that allows you to automatically sync files between desktops, laptops, and external drives. GoodSync also enables you to backup files to and from FTP, WebDAV, and Windows Mobile phones and PDAs. You can analyze folders before syncing to get a detailed report of files that are new, changed or deleted. Then you can either accept their recommendation or just sync all. GoodSync can also synchronize file deletion. It's one of the most feature rich file synchronization software that I have seen.


However, the free version of this program has certain limitation. It provides unlimited features for 30 days after which you are limited to only 3 synchronization jobs and 100 files per day.

5. BestSync is a utility for synchronizing files between your local folders and Network Drives, FTP servers and Removable Media. With BestSync you can sync, compress and encrypt files to USB drive in office, and sync, decompress and decrypt to you home PC. Even if you lost the USB drive, encryption makes it difficult for unauthorized persons to use your data.

BestSync Folder Synchronizer can mirror a local folder with a FTP site, only changed files are updated, and tasks are scheduled. Special folders are easy to access, such as outlook mailbox and address, my document, my pictures, and digital camera photo, CD burning folder, etc.

BestSync has a number of features but only the file synchronization feature is unlimited in the freeware version.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Diplodocs - Read the Manual Before You Buy

I have always advised people to research and read reviews before buying any stuff. Plenty of user reviews are available on the Internet, written in blogs, websites and forums. Read them and know what previous customers and users have to say about the product, what's good and what's bad about it. Know thoroughly what you are going to buy so that you don't end up making the wrong decision.

Apart from reading reviews, another effective way of getting a first hand impression of the product is by reading it's manual. At Diplodocs you will find over a million manuals for thousands of products in 26 different languages. From DVD players to home theatres; from washing machine to air conditioner, you will get manuals for a wide variety of products and appliances.

These manuals are free to download and so you get the chance to read the manual before you actually buy the product. These gives you a great opportunity to do your own research rather than relying upon reviews written by other people. Is an appliance as easy to configure as advertised? Is it easy or far too complicated? Does it have the necessary features you are looking for? How much power does it consume? You will get detailed information and features of the product that often reviewers forget to mention in the manual. All this will help you to make a better buying decision. And if you already own a product but have lost the manual, you know where to find it.

[via AppScout]

Get the word at the tip of your tongue with Reverse Dictionary

If you hear or read a new word you can look up at a dictionary to learn what it means. It's easy. But often the opposite happens - you want to find a particular word that means something and the dictionary can't help you. A word lingers at the tip of your tongue but you just can't get it. You know you know the word but you can't recall it. It's frustrating. In such moments, OneLook's Reverse Dictionary will come to your rescue.

OneLook's reverse dictionary lets you describe a concept, the meaning of the word and it shows you a list of words and phrases that fits the description. Your description can consist a few words, a sentence, a question, or even just a single word. OneLook will display a whole lot of words relating to the description with words with the best matches at the top. Clicking on the words will show you links to other online dictionaries where you can look up it's meaning.

I tried a few. "A mistake resulting from inattention", I typed and it brought me these.


"lack of information" brought equally good results.


Often, it would display lots of unrelated words, but it does no harm to get more results. It might even turn out that a word way down the list is more befitting to the context than the ones at the top.

The reverse dictionary supports different types of wildcards.

  • The asterisk (*), one of the most common wildcards can be used to  find words with certain sequence of alphabets. You already know it.
  • The question mark (?) is another wildcard that matches exactly one character. The difference between the asterisk and question mark is that the asterisk can match any number of characters while one question mark represents only one character.
  • The sign (#) matches any English consonant. For example, the query "tra#t" finds the word "tract" but not "trait".
  • The sign (@) matches any English vowel. For example, the query abo@t finds the word "about" but not "abort".
  • You can combine two or more wildcards to get specific results. For example, the query "b*:food" will find all words beginning with b and related to food.
  • You can find phrases by flanking a word with two asterisks to the left and to the right. For example, the query **bird** will show you all phrases with the exact word bird in it.
  • You can expand acronyms by using the parameter "expand:" as in expand:UNO

Reverse dictionary is amazingly useful.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Download 5 full commercial games for free, legally

Rejoice gamers for Game Shadow, a game review and download website, has made available for download not one or two but five full commercial games for free. Game Shadow has been doing this in the past, but only small games that nobody had heard before. This time they surprised everyone when they came up with 5 big games, that are still selling on stores across the globe, within 3 days.

To download the games you have to first download Game Shadow's small download client which will initiate the game download and then take you through the installation procedure. Here are the games.

Area 51 (Released on 2005)

area51 Area 51 is a first-person action shooter set within the confines of the government's most secret research facility. The U.S. Army has received a distress signal from Area 51 where a viral outbreak has just shut down the research facility and the automated quarantine procedures have locked all scientific and military personnel inside. A small Special Forces unit, led by specialist Ethan Cole, is sent to investigate.

File Size: 1.9 GB

The Suffering (Released on 2004)

suffering The Suffering is an action, survival horror title where players experience violence and suspense in order to help the recently imprisoned Torque, fight and sneak his way to freedom and uncover the terrifying secrets of the Carnate Island facility.

File Size: 1.3 GB

Rise and Fall: Civilizations at War (Released on 2006)

rise-fall Rise and Fall: Civilizations at War is the first real time strategy game to place players directly in the heart of combat as a heroic general fighting side-by-side with their troops. Players can completely command one of the four mightiest empires of the ancient world as in a traditional RTS, but can also use the Rise and Fall innovative Hero Mode to enter the battlefield as one of history's eight greatest heroes, controlling the likes of Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Cleopatra and more, as they slash through the enemy ranks to turn the tide of battle.

File Size: 2 GB

Full Spectrum Warrior (Released on 2004)

full-spectrum From THQ, Full Spectrum Warrior is a squad-based shooter title where players take on the role of commander of two squads of the United States military, Alpha and Bravo. They must guide them in the fictional country of Zekistan on a mission to capture or kill the terrorist Al Afad and secure the territory.

File Size: 1.6 GB

Broken Sword 2.5: The Return of The Templars (Released on 2008)

brokensword25_cover Broken Sword 2.5: The Return of The Templars is set between Broken Sword II: The Smoking Mirror and Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon. It is an unofficial game in the series created by Mindfactory, a team of Broken Sword fans and is designed in 2D to follow the steps of the first two games.

File Size: 697 MB

Monday, October 6, 2008

How to sync subtitles to a video permanently

When you load subtitles of a video in a media player, often you will find that the subtitles are out of sync. All media players that support subtitles hence provide some way of allowing the user to manually sync the subtitle to the video. But the synced subtitle can't be saved and so you have to repeat the process every time you watch that video. This guide will show you a simple process to sync a subtitle, save it and also embed it on to the video permanently.

Syncing Subtitles

To sync the subtitle with the video we will use Subtitle Workshop. As the name suggest, this software will handle everything related to subtitles - creating, editing and saving.

Open Subtitle Workshop and load the movie by clicking on Movie>Open. Load the subtitle by File>Load Subtitle.

You will find that there are number of buttons and tools for syncing. Ignore all of them. The best way to sync a subtitle is to introduce delays into the subtitle timings.

The first thing you have to do is determine the lead or lag of the subtitle to the video. Play the video and note the time (as shown by the red box in the screenshot) when a subtitle line should have appeared. Now note the time shown under the column 'Show' for that line. The difference between the two times will give you the delay that needs to be introduced.


Now click Edit>Timings>Set Delay and add or subtract the calculated value. Select "For all the subtitles" and click Apply. Play the video to ensure that the subtitles are properly synced. If not, repeat the process to fine tune the syncing.


After that, go to Settings>Output Settings. Click on Substation Alpha (*ssa) to customize the subtitle's appearance. Use a clear font like Trebuchet MS or Tahoma, set color and size (18 or 20 should work fine).


To save the file click on File>Save As and choose the format Substation Alpha.

To add subtitles to video permanently

To permanently embed the subtitle to the video download VirtualDub and the subtitler filter. Copy the file Subtitler.vdf to the Plugins folder inside VirtualDub's installation directory.

Open VirtualDub and load the movie. Now go to Video>Filters. Click Add and select Subtitler and click OK.


Now load the subtitle file you just created and click Show Preview. The subtitle should appear in the video with the same appearance settings you applied. If you are not satisfied with it's appearance, then you can make further adjustments in Subtitle Workshop.


Once you are satisfied, click on Video>Compression and choose the video codec you wish to use. I chose DivX. Clicking on configure will take you to more options to adjust the video quality. Use it if you know what you are doing.

Finally save the movie as .avi. It can take from a few minutes to several hours to complete encoding, depending upon the size and resolution of the video and the speed of your PC.

Related: How to add soft subtitles to a DivX movie

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