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Showing posts from November, 2008

Diagnose a Faulty Hard Disk From the Sounds Made by it

Amit has collected some excellent resources relating to sounds emitted by a failing hard disk. If your hard disk is making strange sounds it’s possible that it nearing it’s end, because noises are often symptoms of a hard disk that is about to go kaput. A typical healthy hard disk should be almost soundless. However, not all sounds coming out of your computer cabinet may be signs of trouble. Often the culprit is a noisy fan or loose screws. If you have eliminated all external sound sources and still hear clicking or whining noises from the hard drive, then visit Datacent’s resource of failing hard drive sounds . Datacent has an amazing collection of sounds recorded from actual hard disks with specific problems. A wide range of hard disks from different manufacturers are present. From the sounds it’s possible to determine whether the hard disk has a head problem or a platter or bearings problems etc. Some of the sounds are very feeble and has to be listened intently. Another sit

Automatically lock your computer when you walk away from it

When you are using a computer in office or any public place where others can access it, you can quickly lock your computer by pressing Win+L when you need to move away from it temporarily. In case you keep forgetting to lock your PC, you can use BtProx . BtProx is a small Windows application that takes advantage of Bluetooth’s basic ability to detect Bluetooth devices to automatically lock your Windows computer whenever you walk away from it.   To use it, you need a Bluetooth enabled cell phone or any suitable device and pair it to your computer. BtProx runs on the system tray and continually checks to make sure your phone is within range. If you walk away from your computer and outside the range of the Bluetooth device, BtProx will activate your screensaver to lock your screen or even run the program of your choice.   One disadvantage of this application is that Bluetooth needs to be kept turned on at all times which can significantly drain your cell phone battery. BtProx is

Automatically convert almost any file format with OmniFormat

OmniFormat is an ad supported file conversion software that allows you to convert almost any file format into another, and it does that automatically. That’s what particularly interested me in this application. OmniFormat has some features that I couldn’t find in any free file converter. The two biggest plus points of OmniFormat are 1. It supports up to 75 different file formats including the most popular formats like PDF, HTML, DOC, XLS, PPT, JPG, GIF, TIF, PNG, PCX, XML, PS, TXT, Photo CD, FAX and MPEG. 2. The file conversion process is automatic. OmniFormat can watch certain folders on your hard drive for files. Whenever you place any file in that folder, OmniFormat will automatically convert it to the desired format. OmniFormat can however convert files to only one format at a time. For instance, if you set the output format as PDF, any files you copy to the watched folder will be converted to PDF. If you need another format, you will have to change the output format in

Create temporary and disposable chat rooms with Stinto

You have heard of (and also used) disposable email addresses, which helps you to avoid spam or be anonymous when signing up for services. Now two guys from Germany has applied the same idea to chat rooms, but with a different purpose. Their new web application Stinto , allows you to create chat rooms on demand, any time you need to chat with a friend or friends. Stinto is ideal when different users using different instant messaging applications need to quickly get down together to discuss an important idea without having to spend three hours arguing which IM client to use. With Stinto you don’t need to download any IM application or follow long registration procedures. All you need is the browser. Creating temporary chat rooms with Stinto is as easy as it can get – just visit the homepage and click on New Chat to generate a unique URL which will take you to the chat room. Now send this link to all your friends you want to chat with. When your friends visit this link they will be t

PicPick Tools – The ultimate toolbox for bloggers and designers

As a blogger, I have to use a number of design tools to help me with my work. A screen capture and an image editor is a must when writing reviews of software and services. Some additional design tools are needed when editing templates. Recently I discovered a gem of a software - PicPick Tools . This software is a free all-in-one solution for graphic designers, software developers, bloggers and anyone who need to work with images. Usually, programs that does a lot of things suffer from lack of usability because either they are too complex or have a bad design or tries to do too many things yet none of them works right. PicPick Tools is different. PicPick’s intuitive interface makes it ideal for beginners and the plethora of tools make it excellent for a pro user. Every single tool on PicPick is accessible from the system tray through a menu – no need to dig through window after window to get to them. Everything is clear as daylight. PicPick’s image editor provides you with all the b

eTextReader makes reading Project Gutenberg books easier

Project Gutenberg is one of my favorite sites on the Internet. Those who have heard this name for the first time (go stand in the corner!), Project Gutenberg is a voluntary organization that digitizes, archives and distributes books which are mostly in the public domain. Founded in 1971, it is the oldest digital library with a collection of over 25,000 free books and a grand total of 100,000 books at Project Gutenberg Partners, Affiliates and Resources. My biggest gripe with Project Gutenberg, apart from the fact that I have to read it off a monitor, is the format with which Gutenberg distributes the books. These books are available in a single ridiculously long text file with  a horrible font that makes reading an extremely painful activity. Then I discovered a wonderful program called eTextReader . eTextReader is a program that automatically splits the plain text Project Gutenberg files into pages and displays it in a 2-page book layout. The program can open Text files, HTML, RT

Make Linux look like Windows XP (Part 2)

One clever Linux user has put together a number of custom icons, themes, backgrounds and other tweaks to create a script which he calls XpGnome . XpGnome will give a GNOME based Linux desktop a strikingly similar Windows XP look. Those who are having trouble installing LXP, the other “ make Linux look like Windows XP ” theme, can give this one a try. Just download the zip file and extract it’s contents. Then run the " " by double-clicking it and choosing "Run". XpGnome will make the following changes. Icons, GTK, Metacity, Splash, GDM Theme, Panel Background, Desktop Background, Visible Desktop Icons, Nautilus Tree View, Toolbar to Icons only. Deletes all GNOME Panels and adds a new one at bottom with Start Menu, Show Desktop, Window Switcher, Notification Area, Volume Control and Clock. XpGnome is just a batch script that makes a load of changes to the system. It doesn’t come with any uninstaller. So if you want to revert the changes,

How to find and remove dead and duplicate browser bookmarks

If you are in the habit of bookmarking every interesting page you find on the Internet, your browser bookmarks might be a mess by now, just like mine. And often I bookmark the same page multiple times without knowing it already exist in my collection. That’s why I use a wonderful application called AM-DeadLink . AM-DeadLink is a free tool that checks your browser (IE, Firefox or Opera) bookmarks for dead and duplicate links. Once the scan is completed it will display the full results of each and every bookmarked link and their status – alive or error 404. Click the button "Sort bookmarks with errors to top of list” to quickly view all dead links. Then select all the dead links and delete them all at one go. Finding duplicates and removing them is even easier. Click on “Find duplicates” and it will show you all duplicate entries. Now click on “Select all duplicates but one” to highlight all duplicated entries except one. For instance, if you have bookmarked the same page thr

Google’s Life magazine photo archive

Life Magazine, the first all-photo news magazine from the U.S., has just released it’s photo archive via Google. The archive comprising of over 2 million photos is available on a special page launched by Google where you can browse the entire collection by topic or date. The image archive is also searchable through Google Image search by adding the parameter “source:life” in the search query. This is great news for all who love vintage photos. Google says that many of the images available in the collection were never actually published by Life. Only a very small percentage of these images have ever been published. The rest have been sitting in dusty archives in the form of negatives, slides, glass plates, etchings, and prints. We're digitizing them so that everyone can easily experience these fascinating moments in time. Today about 20 percent of the collection is online; during the next few months, we will be adding the entire LIFE archive — about 10 million photos.

Find places to pee anywhere in the world!

So you are out on the streets walking down a city block or driving on a highway and suddenly you have a strong urge to use the bathroom. Unless you are still in the age of nappies, which you are probably not, you have to find a toilet because when you got to go, you got to go! What do you do? Whip out your web equipped cell phone or your laptop and go to Sit Or Squat . Type the name of the place where you are and it will show you a map, a Google Map, with toilets marked every where. Locate the one which is nearest to you and relieve yourself. The website currently works best only on a large screen like those on a laptop, but work for developing a mobile compatible version is in progress, according to their website. The toilets on Sit Or Squat can be submitted by anyone. The site can even be personalized for each member based on their needs and preferences. The funny part is, the site even allows you to “socialize” based on your loo habits. A member is able to create a list of thei

CheatBook Database - The encyclopedia of game cheats

A die hard gamer would get pissed if they saw someone using cheats and walkthroughs in games, but you have to agree, sometimes little hint or the " God Mode " becomes necessary to beat a particularly hard part of the game. If you're an avid gamer and want a few extra weapons and tools the survive the game, CheatBook DataBase is exactly the resource you would want. CheatBook DataBase 2008 is a freeware cheat-code tracker that has a massive collection of hints, cheats, easter eggs and walkthroughs of more than 14,200 games. This database covers all kinds of games - games for PC, Playstation, Sega, Nintendo, Gameboy, N-Gage, Xbox, Gamecube, Dreamcast, Wii and Sony PSP, all accessible from one central location. Additionally, CheatBook DataBase releases updates, often monthly, comprising of cheats and hints of latest releases. The newest released update of November 2008 enlarges the collection with an additional 674 PC Games, 62 Walkthroughs for PC and 75 Console Cheats. Th

PagePlus SE - The free alternative to Adobe Pagemaker

Even though the main players in the field of desktop publishing are Adobe Pagemaker and Microsoft Office Publisher, there are a few decent competitors like Corel Ventura and Serif PagePlus. All of them are commercial tools and comes with a heavy price tag, particularly because DTP softwares are targeted towards professional desktop printing jobs. But of course, there are free DTP softwares like the open source Scribus which I wrote about earlier. Another freeware is Serif PagePlus SE which is the free edition of the commercial application Serif PagePlus. Serif PagePlus SE is based on the older version of Serif PagePlus, actually several versions older, but still powerful enough for most users. Serif PagePlus is a notable desktop publishing software with features rivaling that of Adobe's and Microsoft's. The free edition of PagePlus is slightly crippled, being an older version, but works for any entry level DTP work. Some features that you will miss are - the inability to

VideoSurf script shows frame previews of web videos

The video search engine VideoSurf has released a Greasemonkey script for Firefox that insert a unique "visual summary" strip consisting a frame previews of the video, into the search result page of Google, Yahoo, YouTube and CBS. VideoSurf's advanced algorithms intelligently identify the "most interesting" scenes in each video and creates a nice visual summary that shows you what a video is all about with just a glance. In other words, you never have to be rick rolled again! I tried to make the script work for other search sites, since Lifehacker reported that it will "most likely" work for any streaming Flash videos. Unfortunately, it doesn't. I couldn't get it to work for other video sites like Metacafe, Liveleak etc. But then, it supports Youtube and Google - that's enough for most of us.

View ancient Rome in 3D with Google Earth

Yesterday Google announced the release of Ancient Rome 3D , a layer for the popular Google Earth application which allows users to explore the historic city as it stood on 320 AD. Through this layer, a user will be able to view a virtual representation of the city in 320 AD at the height of its development as the capital of the Roman Empire, fly around the city to view more than 6700 historic buildings and zoom into eleven ancient structures, such as the Colosseum, to view the detailed interiors. Using this layer, a user can also learn about Ancient Rome through information bubbles written by historians. Google's press release offers a tempting description. Within the Ancient Rome 3D layer users can visit the Roman Forum, stand in the center of the Colosseum, trace the footsteps of the gladiators in the Ludus Magnus, stand on the Rostra, swoop over the Basilica Julia, fly under The Arch of Constantine or even examine the detail on the facade of the Basilica of Maxenti

Add annotations to a PDF file with PDF-XChange Viewer

The PDF file format is often used to create documents that are read-only, for instance, ebooks, an announcement etc. The purpose is to prevent the user from editing the document, either intentionally or accidentally. Usually, a PDF viewer does not have any editing tools, which makes the PDF file format the "safest" document format ever. PDF-XChange Viewer is one such PDF viewer with one useful addition. It allows you to add comments and annotations in the form of sticky notes to the pages of a PDF file. Suppose you want to add some comments or notes to certain pages of a PDF file for future reference, you can do so with PDF-XChange Viewer. The comments can be added at any position on the page and they appear as a small talk-bubble with a sticky note. The sticky note can be closed or opened as required, and the position of the sticky note on the page is shown by the talk bubble. The actual position where the sticky note will pop-up when the page is opened can be anywhere on

How to know when an offline website becomes available again?

When surfing the web you must have come across websites that are temporarily unavailable due to server downtime. It happens quite often. Not every time a website is unavailable due to server errors. Some time a website may be undergoing maintenance or up-gradation work due to which it might go offline for a couple of hours. You might stumble upon such an offline website either by following a link from another website or via a search result page. In any case, the web page shows an error message and you are unable to view it. And if your luck is as bad as mine, the unavailable website will most certainly hold the most promising content. There are two ways to tackle this. If you happen to come to the unavailable website from a search result page, then you can still view the page from the search engines' cache. Just below the link to the web page on the search results page, you will find another link "Cached", which will take you to the copy of the page saved at the sear

Temporarily lock optical drives with the CD/DVD Drive Locker

If you have kids at your home, then you are probably aware of this situation - it's nearly impossible to keep them away from fiddling with stuff. And the most attractive toy in the house, is of course, the computer. The computer cabinet, which usually resides below the desk, is the item that is within their reach. Plenty of blinking red and green LEDs and numerous buttons to play with keeps them entertained. Their favorite activity is opening and closing the CD/DVD drive tray repeatedly, and it can drive you mad. Those who have experienced this can understand what I'm talking about. The CD/DVD Drive Locker was made precisely for this purpose. Just launch the application and select the optical drive(s) you want to lock and they will stop responding to the open/close button. When you need to use the drives, just unlock them from the application's interface or simply close the application. Update: Link added.

Enhance Windows open and save dialogue boxes with Flashfolder

Flashfolder is a Windows open source tool that gives access to additional buttons and a wider range of options whenever you open the Open and Save dialogue boxes in any Windows application. Flashfolder runs in the background as a service and appears as a floating toolbar that docks itself at the top of any Open/Save dialogue box. This toolbar provides menus and buttons to quickly access your favorite or custom folders without having to browse all over your drives to get to it. Since, the default Windows Open/Save dialogue box provides shortcuts to only a few locations like My documents, Recent folders etc, FlashFolder comes as a handy and time saving tool. Flashfolder's settings is accessible from the docked toolbar on any Open/Save dialogue box. Using the customize option on "Favorite folders", you can add any folders that you frequently use to the Favorites menu. Further, FlashFolder brings several enhancement to the Open/Save windows. It enlarges the common file dial

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

Tired of typing long mails? Then try Speak-A-Message . Speak-A-Message is a free tool that enables you to send voice emails, using your default email client. The program provides a simple recording interface and using a microphone, the user records his message. Once the recording is completed, the program automatically launches the default email client with the recorded audio file attached to the message and ready to send. If you use Microsoft Outlook, it's even easier, because Speak-A-Message can integrate into the toolbar of MS Outlook. The recipient does not need to have Speak-A-Message installed since you are only sending a WMA file which can be played by any audio/video player. Before you send the audio file, Speak-A-Message enables you to replay it and listen your recorded message. With this program you can also add various sound effects to your message to spice it up. Plenty of these sound effects clips are available on their sound effects page. The program uses fairl

Use ScrapBook+ to archive web pages for later

ScrapBook+ is a Firefox addon that allows you to archive a web page to your hard disk so that you can browse it offline, just the same way you do it online. ScrapBook+ is different from the usual "Save Page" option you find in Firefox or any browser. This addon gives you far more control on what you want to save. You can choose to save or not save the images, the stylesheet and JavaScripts on the page. You can even save external contents that the page links to such as multimedia files like movies, music and images, archives, documents and any custom file format that you specify. The best thing about ScrapBook+ is that it can follow hyperlinks and capture those web pages as well. Rarely, you come across a web page that doesn't have any hyperlinks. In fact, that's the beauty of the world wide web. Every web site or page links to other websites which links further to more websites, thereby enabling a user to browse through these interconnected pages and discover more

Photology - The unique photo cataloguing software goes free

Photology is a photo cataloguing and searching application for windows which is unlike any photo managing software you have seen before. It allows you to view, tag, manage, search and edit your photo collection, just like any other myriad of such tools available for Windows. This software however, has a different way of doing it. Photology 's unique user interface is the first thing that will strike you the moment you launch the application. Forget about folders. Photology uses a different approach for cataloguing your images. It features a number of different filters to sort your images - time and date, color, content (beaches, faces, water etc), inside or outside, orientation, black & white, focused or blurred and a number of other filters. The best part is, Photology's intelligent algorithm automatically identifies the images and sorts them according to the filter applied. So you don't have to sit through hours manually tagging you photo collection, and if your col

Use CSS Text Wrapper to wrap text in any shape

If you are a blogger or a webmaster, you must be familiar with the trick of adding floating DIVs to the left or right of the text to wrap it around images. While a single DIV element is rectangular in shape, by making use of a number of small DIV elements and stacking them together vertically, we can make the text wrap around any shape. Although, it's achievable but implementing it will be a big pain since we have to adjust each DIV element after taking careful measurements. But by using CC Text Wrapper, we can do this in a flash. CSS Text Wrapper allows you to easily generate the codes necessary to wrap text in any shapes other than just a rectangle. This is helpful when you want to wrap text around circular images. See this example . Here is another example right on this post (without images) Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Nullam pede. Donec iaculis, purus at po

Turn your RSS feeds into podcasts with Dixero

If you like to listen to someone reading a news to you rather than read yourself, you should give Dixero a try. Dixero is a service that takes any number of RSS feeds and converts them into podcasts which you can listen to on your computer, phones or other portable devices. The podcast player can also be embedded into a blog for website. You can create a podcast channel with either a single RSS feed or multiple feeds combined. You can keep the channel private or make it public enabling others to subscribe to it. There are three types of voices to choose from; however, once you create a channel with a particular voice there is no way of swapping voices. Another cool feature of Dixero is Smart Channels. With smart channel, you can specify keywords to look for in the feeds, say for example - music. The player will then play only those feeds where the specified keywords occur. Also checkout a similar service Odiogo.

View hidden files with a keyboard shortcut

HowToGeek has come up with an absolutely marvelous solution to quickly toggle the display of hidden files on your Windows computer. Often you have to view hidden files when making changes to system files or configuration files of softwares. Enabling the "show hidden files" option in Windows is a long process. The author of HowToGeek has coded a simple application in AutoHotkey script that runs in the background and toggles the status of the "show hidden files" option with a shortcut key combination - Win+H. There is no user interface to keep memory usage at a minimum, but you can customize with by editing the script which is provided on the site. Once the application is running, all you have to do is hit the Win+H shortcut key. And immediately any hidden files will become visible. Hit the same shortcut key and the folders become hidden again. To make this application auto start, copy it to your startup folder C:\Documents and Settings\%username\Start M

Can an infinite number of monkeys with typewriters produce Shakespeare?

Sometimes people come up with awful analogies in an effort to describe a concept which is too difficult for a regular person to understand. One such bizarre analogy deals with monkeys, typewriters and Shakespeare. This analogy states: An infinite number of monkeys hitting at an infinite number of typewriters for an infinite amount of time will eventually produce all works of Shakespeare. This ridiculous Infinite Monkeys Theorem (yeah, it's given the status of a theorem since it has been repeated so many times by so many people for so many years) is actually releated to the theories of probability. What it's trying to say that if an evenly distributed random number generator generates random numbers for an infinite amount of time, the probability of generating a particular finite sequence of number becomes unusually high. Wikipedia offers a nice explanation of this theory. Suppose the typewriter has 50 keys, and the word to be typed is " banana ". Typing

Take a mock interview of yourself on InterviewTrue

Have you realized how self conscious you become when you are interviewed? The fact that everyone is watching you, critically scrutinizing you can unnerve you and you often stumble for words and make mistakes. Practicing is the best way to improve your communication skills. If you can't find somebody to ask you questions and give feedback, then try InterviewTrue. InterviewTrue is a website that allows you to take a mock interview of yourself with a virtual interviewer. You set up a webcam, connect to the website and start a mock interview. A virtual interviewer will ask you typical interview questions based on the type of interview you wish to take. The entire interview session is recorded via your webcam. When the interview is over, you can replay the interview and analyze your communication skills, body language etc. InterviewTrue will also send you a transcript of the interview and you can analyze how many times you have said "umm", "uh", "I mean&

Make your own spectrometer with a CD

Have a spare CD or two? I'm sure you have it. Then let's make a spectrometer out of it. A spectrometer is device that is used to determine the chemical composition of a material by measuring the electromagnetic spectrum of the light emitted by that material when incandescent. By identifying the spectral lines produced by the light, it's possible to determine the composition of the material. Spectrometers are often used in astronomy to determine the composition of stars and distant galaxies. To make a simple spectrometer you will need a CD or DVD, a cardboard box like a cereal box and some tapes. Cut a narrow slit (about a millimeter or less) at one end of the box and place the CD at the opposite end at an angle of about 45 to 60 degree. When viewed through the eye hole, you will see a spectrum of the light entering through the slit. Adjust the angle at which you place the CD so that it gives the best view of the spectrum. Use a pressed compact disc , rather than a bl