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Showing posts from January, 2009

Calculate the best distance to watch a TV from

How far away should you sit when you watch TV? Does it hurt to sit too close to the TV? While studies indicate that watching TV does have detrimental effect on the vision, the viewing distance has little to do with it. The viewing distance depends entirely on comfort and the screen size of the TV. Therefore, if you are planning to buy a big screen TV consider the size of the room where you are going to keep it. There is no fixed rule that can correctly determine the optimum viewing distance. As a matter of fact, the best viewing distance is somewhat a personal preference. Some things are obvious though: if you sit too close to the TV, you may see the image breaking up – individual pixels or scanning lines. If you sit too far away, it will spoil the viewing experience.  The Viewing Distance Calculator helps you calculate the best viewing distance based on the recommendation of the The Society of Motion Pictures and Television Engineers (SMPTE), THX Certification and Electr

Tools that remind you to take computer breaks

Working on a computer for long hours can cause several health problems – eye strain, headache, backache, burning eyes and so on. The only way to avoid these symptoms is to take short breaks at regular intervals. But the problem is most users fail to remember to take breaks. This is when the following tools come handy. Eyes Relax is an excellent little free Windows utility that reminds you to take rest and save your precious eyesight. The level of flexibility in this program is amazing. The user can set the duration of their work time and length of breaks. By default, the work time is set at only 10 minutes which will be too frequent for most people. Set it to around 60 minutes or lesser and the break time to 5 minutes or 10 minutes. Of course, you are free to choose your own rest duration. As the break time approaches, the program pop-ups a notification with a countdown timer. This notification time is set to 30 seconds, but it can be changed. You can also disable the not

Attribute Changer – Change file and folder attributes

Attribute Changer is small freeware application for Windows that allows users to easily change attributes of files and folder via the context menu. It allows you to enable or disable read-only status, hidden status, indexing, and even NTFS compression. You can also change the file's date of creation, modification and last access. For image files, Attribute Changer quickly enable you to modify EXIF information too. Attribute Changer can work on multiple files at the same time and can change folder attributes recursively, in other words – you can change attributes of folders which are inside another folder or folders. Previously, I used an application called Properties Plus, but that application isn’t available any more. Attribute Changer is a nice replacement for it.

FileMenu Tools – A toolbox of utilities for the context menu

Do you use Windows Explorer’s context menu? I do and very often, because it’s so much easier to manipulate files and perform operations. I have mentioned context menu tools several times on Instant Fundas - Context Magic , Shell Tools , adding taskbar contents to the context menu and so on. Here is another free tool, and one of the best I have found. File Menu Tools allows you to customize the context menu of Windows Explorer, as well as add a handful of utilities to perform operations on files and folders. Let us take a look at these utilities. Synchronize Folders is a full fledged file synchronization tool that can sync two folders. It is possible configure the synchronization type (unidirectional, bidirectional, etc.) and the file types which must be synchronized. Extended Delete deletes recursively files with specific extension from a folder. This is amazing! I wonder why nobody had thought about such a tool earlier. You specify the the file type you want to d

Breadcrumb navigation for Firefox

The breadcrumb navigation technique is a very useful interface design that allows users to keep track of the current location when they have to navigate to locations several folders deep. Nautilus, a Linux file manager, had it for years. Microsoft improved upon it and introduced it in Vista. It became an instant hit. Soon came Explorer Breadcrumbs that allowed you to enjoy this navigation feature in Windows XP. Then I found this extension for Firefox simply called Breadcrumb . The Breadcrumb Firefox extension adds the breadcrumb functionality to the address bar. It’s extremely simple to use. Suppose you are at a page whose URL is something like this: When you need to move up the hierarchy, say you want to view the “category” folder, just double click on "category" and you will be taken to the address: If you want to move to

TaggedFrog – Tag any files by keyword

You have tagged music files with library managers, you have tagged images with image managers, now tag any kind of files with TaggedFrog . The free software TaggedFrog allows you to tag any files on your disk with keywords and access them through the familiar tag cloud you see everywhere on the web. The application is simple to use: create a new tag and drag and drop any file you want to associate with that tag. It doesn’t matter what type of file it is – it can be documents, music files, movies, anything. When you need to search, you can use the tag cloud where the most tagged or most accessed keywords are shown in increased size and weight. To help you further narrow down your search you can use filters based on different file extensions. For instance, you can have a keyword called “office” which you tag every work file – documents, spreadsheet, PDF, images etc with it. Later when you need to retrieve a certain PDF file, you can use both the keyword “office” and a filter “pdf” to

Ground Zero – Visualization of a nuclear catastrophe on Google Maps

Have you ever wondered what would happen if a nuclear bomb goes off in your city? Not many people brings such pernicious thoughts to their mind, but apparently the guys at Carlos Labs does. Using a mashup of Google Maps and Javascript they have created Ground Zero – an online tool that lets you visualize the extent of destruction a nuclear bomb can inflict on a city of your choice. Cool and sinister! You can choose up to 8 different nuclear bombs including an asteroid impact. The power of the explosion ranges from the one used in Hiroshima in 1945 during World War 2 - the 15 KiloTon “Little Boy” to the most powerful explosion in history – the 50 MegaTon “Tsar bomb”, a Hydrogen fission bomb tested by USSR during 1961. The following simulation shows what will have happened if “Little Boy” was detonated over New York. Clicking on the red Google marker reveals the various colored legends. Using iframe code, you can embed Ground Zero on your website too, like I ha

SuperCopier - Pause, save and resume file copy operations

A large number of people use a certain application called TeraCopy for copying files faster. You must have heard about it and probably using it too. If you haven’t, then I’m sorry for not bringing it on InstantFundas – I thought everybody knew it. But here is one application that very few people have heard it and trust me, it’s better than TeraCopy. SuperCopier is a Windows file copy tool that adds a great number of features that you won’t find in Windows. These include pausing file copy progress, saving the file copy list and then loading it back and resuming copy operations, a real-time copy speed computation, ability to limit copy speed, an error log etc. Unlike TeraCopy, SuperCopier does not add a context menu item which is something you are going to miss. To start copying files, launch SuperCopier from the system tray by selecting a New thread. Then drag the files you want to copy or move to SuperCopier’s window. Choose a destination and immediately it will star

21 places to swap used books and DVDs

A famous English writer, poet and artist by the name of John Ruskin once said, “ If a book is worth reading, it’s worth buying ”. While that might have sounded very reasonable and inspiring during the Victorian era when dear Ruskin was alive and there were fewer books to buy, a century later with dwindling world economy and skyrocketing prices it’s next to impossible to grab hold of every book you desire without leaving a serious dent in your bank balance. Renting from the library is a good option, or just swap books online. The same can be done with DVDs. Everybody has dozens of DVDs they no longer use either because they got tired watching it or lost interest in it. So here are some places where you can exchange, trade or swap books and DVDs you no longer need, for a fresh one.   Books Only PaperBack Swap is a book swapping website from the same people who own Swap A DVD and Swap A CD (see under DVDs and CDs). You can swap books as many times as you want, once y

Virtual Drive Creator – GUI for SUBST command

The SUBST command for DOS, IBM OS/2 and Microsoft Windows operating systems is a very useful command that allows the creation of virtual drives that maps to a specific folder on the hard disk. In other words, using SUBST you can create a virtual drive that shows up on My Computer or Explorer like any physical drive, but in reality is just a shortcut to a folder on the disk. For example, to map a folder say C:\Documents\Project to virtual drive X:, one would have to type the following command at the command line. subst X: C:\Documents\Project Upon doing this, a new drive called X: would appear under My Computer. To unmap the drive, type in the following command at the command prompt. subst  X: /D But using the command line isn’t the most comfortable of options, particularly for Windows users who grew up using the mouse. The solution comes in the form of Virtual Drive Creator . Virtual Drive Creator provides a frontend for the SUBST command allowing users to easil

5 free portable application suites

If a flash drive is one of those accessories that stays with you at all times, why not use it to carry your favorite applications around, so that you always get to use the same programs with the same settings no matter where you are? But which applications are you going to carry? Of course, you need to decide, probably make a list and copy them one by one to your pen drive. Or just use a portable application suite and save time. 1. Suite - The most popular application suite comes from mecca of portable applications – Suite is a complete collection of portable applications including a web browser, email client, office suite, calendar/scheduler, instant messaging client, antivirus, audio player … you name it. All applications are accessible via an interface menu. If you have this suite, in most cases, you won’t have to worry about any additional tool. Suite comes in three sizes: Platform: 0.9MB (download),

Find and remove broken links from your website with Xenu's Link Sleuth

Have you ever experienced this: you arrive at a page from the search engine (or from another website) and find links pointing to other sites, but when you click on them, you find those pages don’t exist any more? This often happens with old articles and is annoying for the visitors. If you have a sizable website or blog with a large number of external links, keeping track of the status of these links can be almost an impossible task. But weeding out broken links from your site is necessary to make sure your site articles are still relevant and useful to your visitors. Xenu’s Link Sleuth is a tool that makes the task of hunting non-working links a piece of cake. This simple tool allows you to scan a website thoroughly in order to test every single link and check whether they all work correctly. You can customize the scan by setting filters, ignore URLs and also setting the number of maximum simultaneous threads. During the scan, the program follows links to other pages, an

Loudtalks – The Internet walkie-talkie

Loudtalks is a simple, free, walkie-talkie style communication tool that allows you to talk with your buddies without having to go through the hassles of scheduling a call, dialing or waiting. Just push a button when you want to talk. Loudtalks isn’t just another Internet telephony application, it’s different. Loudtalks look similar to an instant messaging application like Skype or Yahoo messenger. When you have something to say to a friend on your list, simply click on the friend, push on the button and say it. When it’s done, release the button. It operates very much like those push-to-talk walkie-talkie sets. If keeping the button pressed down while talking sounds difficult for you, it can be locked by clicking on the lock button next to the push button and your hands become free. There are also customizable keyboard shortcuts (default is F7) that allows you to talk even when the application is minimized. The communication isn’t real time. If your friend is not online

How to take screenshots of an entire webpage

Sometimes, the desktop screenshot utilities are not enough when you want to take screenshot of a webpage, because these tools can capture only the visible portion of the page. So how do you capture the complete page from the top to the bottom without having to stitch multiple images together? Here is how to do it. The easiest way is by using a Firefox addon called Screengrab . Screengrab allows you to take screenshot of an entire page, or the visible portion or just a small selection of the page. It even allows you to save just the contents of an individual frame. See how this site looks like when captured entirely. If you don’t want to burden Firefox with another addon, you can try some standalone tools. Webshots is the best among them. WebShot allows you to take screenshots of web pages and save them as full sized images or thumbnails, in the JPG, GIF, PNG, or BMP formats. You don’t have to open the page in your browser - just type the URL and click Start

Microsoft Songsmith composes music as you sing

The latest software to come out from Microsoft is not an operating system or an office suite but an amusing musical software that CNET aptly calls “Karoke in reverse”. This is what it does: you sing through a microphone and Songsmith will automatically generate musical accompaniment to match your voice, and play back your song for you. If you are bathroom singer, you have finally got a composer who is willing to create music for your incoherent yodeling. Just open up Songsmith, choose from one of thirty different musical styles, and press record. Sing whatever you like and as soon as you press “stop”, it plays back your recorded song accompanied by a musical composition. Songsmith works by processing the pitch and tone of the recorded voice and determines what chords matches the tune. The software also lets users change the feel of the song completely using various sliders that adjust mood, volume levels, tempo and what instruments are being used. Move the “happy” and “j

TrayPodder adds Vista like checkboxes and full row selection in Windows XP Explorer

Windows Vista’s Explorer has a very useful checkbox feature that allows you to select multiple files without having to hold down the Ctrl key. In Windows XP the process is a bit tedious, requiring you use both hands to make selection. And if you accidentally slip off the Ctrl key, you have start all over again. So here is the solution. TrayPodder is a plugin for Windows Explorer that fills this void. The application is a single executable file that doesn’t require any installation. Launch the application and in the program window you will see some buttons and two checkboxes named Checkboxes" and "Full row select". Check the boxes you want to use. The program then sits on the system tray and when you open Explorer and switch to details view, you will notice a new column – the checkbox column. The checkboxes are a little odd though, because after you have marked the boxes you need to open the applications main window and click on “Select all checked" but

SpeakLike – Automatic email translation

While machine translation services like Google Translate and Babylon are very handy to quickly translate and read foreign language websites, I wouldn’t trust them when precise and correct translation is vital, for instance when communicating with a person speaking a different language. SpeakLike is a free online service that can save you from embarrassing machine translations when you need a compose a mail in another language. Register your email address with SpeakLike and compose the mail in your own language. After you hit the send button you will asked on which language you wish to get the mail translated. Choose from 12 different supported languages (English, Chinese, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Turkish) and your mail will be translated and mailed to the destination within an hour. SpeakLike employs real humans who translate your message to ensure accurate translation and prevent any bloopers that machine transla

How good are your geometric intuition?

Have you ever hung a photo frame on a wall? Can you hang it straight or is it always askew no matter how hard you try? Can you point the center of your plate? Can you draw right angles without using a protractor? When I was in college, me and my friends used to test our abilities to gauge the length of straight lines and angles without using any equipment. This helped us to liven up the otherwise boring engineering drawing classes. If you haven’t had the opportunity to play such games, then here is one to test yourself with. The eyeballing game works by showing you a series of geometries that need to be adjusted a little bit to make them right. A square highlights the point that needs to be moved or adjusted. Use the mouse to drag the blue square or arrowhead where you feel it is 'right'. Once you let go of the mouse, the computer evaluates your move, so don't let up on the mouse button until you are sure. The 'correct' geometry is also shown in green, so you c

Automatically restart crashed applications with Application Monitor

What do you do when an application you are using crashes? You restart it, of course. Wouldn’t it be nice if the application could restart itself? Or suppose you are downloading a torrent and you need to go out on some errand, and you need to ensure nobody closes the torrent client while you are away. This is possible by using a free utility called Application Monitor . Application Monitor is a program that will periodically monitor any  application and if the application is not running, it restarts it. You may add as many applications as you like into the monitoring list. After you add an application, you need to tick the checkbox in order to start monitoring. You can have dozens of applications on the list, but only the checked ones will be monitored. The default interval of checking is set at 2 minutes but it can be adjusted. The application can also be configured to send email notification if any of the monitored application crashes or terminates. All events are logged

WikiPad – The wiki type note taking application

Using note-taking applications, or outliners, is always a better way of organizing your thoughts, ideas, todo-list etc. Instead of creating a new text file every time you need to jot down something, you should use tools like NoteLens , which was already covered before. Here is another outliner application that incorporates a Wiki-like linking between pages WikidPad   is a wonderful tool to store your thoughts, ideas and lists and it’s best feature is it’s Wiki functionality. If you have ever edited or written Wikipedia articles, you know how easy it is to link to other Wikipedia pages. You can turn any word into a link by enclosing it within two square brackets [[ ]]. WikiPad employs a similar technique that allows you to quickly cross-reference text and cross-link between your notes. The system uses a database to store notes which makes it possible to tie together individual text documents that the user creates into a Wiki-like notepad. Wiki-links can be created by capitalizing an

Enounce MySpeed – Change playback speed of online videos

One of the features that video sites like YouTube, DailyMotion, Google Video and such lack is the ability to control the playback speed of the video. There is only the play button, no fast forward. Often we wish that YouTube provided some controls to slow down the speed so that we could watch a particularly elaborate dance move or an intelligent magic trick. Also, sometimes we would like to hurry up the video speed to skip the boring part and save time. MySpeed from Enounce is a free plugin for YouTube, and in fact, any flash video site that gives you this functionality. MySpeed sits on the system tray and whenever you visit a YouTube video page, or any page that contains a flash video, it shows a little slider. Using the slider you can change the video playback speed. The MySpeed plugin works on most browsers including IE, Firefox, Safari, Opera and Google Chrome.

How to change Windows Photo Viewer slideshow interval

Even though there are tons of image viewers available for Windows, I like the one that is bundled along with it – the Windows Picture and Fax Viewer. It might not have shiny toolbars nor have any fancy slideshow effects, but it’s so easy to use that it often negates any lack in features it suffers from. However, the absence of a straightforward means of changing the slideshow duration is a bit frustrating. The default duration between changing of pictures, when viewing a slideshow on Windows Picture and Fax Viewer, is 5 seconds. If you want to change this time, you will have to fiddle the Windows Registry. To change the slideshow time interval follow these steps: Click Start>Run, type regedit and hit enter. Navigate to the following location HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\ Explorer\ShellImageView Create a new DWORD, by right clicking and selecting New DWORD, and name it Timeout Right click on this newly created DWORD and select Modify, an

ExtractNow unzips multiple archives at once

Some time ago, I downloaded a pack of web templates consisting of more than a few dozen templates and found that each of these templates was individually zipped. So I was facing a task of unzipping some 60+ zip files. I never completed it and even after months, I still have more than 40 files yet to be opened. If you have ever found yourself in such a situation, then you must get a copy of ExtractNow . ExtractNow is a free file archiving tool with one key advantage, among several - it enables you to quickly extract multiple archived files with just one click. Simply drag and drop archive files into the program’s window or add them via a right-click menu. You can even drag whole folders into the application and it will automatically add only archive files contained within it and leave the rest. (You can also apply file exclusion filters under the settings option). Click on Extract and it will extract all archive files in one process. Besides, ExtractNow is real fast. I have

Diagram Designer – Flowchart and schematic diagram creator

Diagram Designer is a simple vector based graphics tool that can create all kinds of diagrams and charts like flowcharts, schematic designs,  electronic circuits etc. You can also create UML class diagrams and even mock GUI for software. The program's interface is very simple: just drag and drop all elements you like to add to your diagram from the window on the right onto the main working area. The elements are divided into separate templates like Electronic symbols, Flowcharts, Polygons etc. On the left side of the window the program displays a tree-like structure showing all the elements added so far to the diagram. Each element can be resized, rotated or aligned. You can even group a number of elements together and perform operations on them. Here are some of the features of this tool Customizable template object palette. Spellchecker Import/export WMF, EMF, BMP, JPEG, PNG, MNG, ICO, GIF and PCX images. Slide show viewer. Simple gr

Free Studio Manager – 20 audio/video utilities in one

Free Studio Manager is collection of 20 free audio and video tools combined into a single package. With Free Studio Manager you can convert video and audio files from one format to another; edit, split or join videos and audio; rip and burn DVDs and also download videos from YouTube. Here is the list of tools included in the package Free video and audio conversion software Free Video to DVD Converter  Free Video to Flash Converter Free 3GP Video Converter Free Video to iPod and PSP Converter Free Video to iPhone Converter Free Video to MP3 Converter Free Video to JPG Converter Free Audio Converter  Free burning and ripping software Free DVD Video Burner  Free Disc Burner Free Audio CD Burner Free DVD Decrypter Free Audio CD Grabber  Free video and audio editing

Add speech bubbles to any YouTube videos with Tube Popper

Tube Popper is an online service that gives you an opportunity to cartoonize YouTube videos by adding comic book style speech bubbles or subtitles to it. Now if you are aware, YouTube introduced a similar feature called “ Video Annotations ” some months ago, that allows you to add annotations to your uploaded videos. But there is no point of annotating your own content since you can add annotations using any video editing tool when you created that video. The fun is to annotate other’s videos. This is where YouTube’s video annotation tool fails and services like Tube Popper emerges. Using Tube Popper is extremely easy. Specify the URL of the YouTube video and it gets loaded into an editor. Using the editor you can: Add speech bubbles or thought bubbles at any point on the video and type your comments. You can also add subtitles. Adjust the colors, font, transparency of the bubbles and text Insert a sound effect when a bubble appears The time dur

Appetizer – An application launcher for Windows

I have brought to you a number of application launchers in the past (look at ‘Related’ at the end of the article). Here is another one to add to the kit. Appetizer is an attractive, small dock for Windows that holds the shortcuts to your most frequently used programs. Additionally, the application also supports the PortableApps USB format. So if you use Appetizer on a USB key in the PortableApps format, the application will detect it and automatically import all your applications along with the ‘Documents’, ‘Videos’, ‘Music’ and ‘Pictures’ folders. Appetizer’s interface is skinable and supports drag and drop, where you drop the links to any application or folder on your system to create a shortcut. You can also organize them into groups if necessary. The program's customizable keyboard shortcut allow you to quickly hide or show the menu with a single keystroke. You can add links to any program or folder, including special system locations such as My Computer or the Co

NoteLens – A wonderful note taking application

If you frequently use text files to take notes or use sticky application to keep notes on your desktop, you will appreciate NoteLens. NoteLens is a free note taking tool that is so simple and fast that it lets you concentrate just on your notes - not on the interface. NoteLens doesn’t try to do too much. Rather it focuses entirely on speed and accessibility. You can create a new note with a single keystroke. Organize the notes into different categories or even assign them to more than one categories to make filtering a large collection of notes easier. It has a lightning fast full text indexing system that allows you to quickly find any note just by typing any word - all of the notes containing that word will be pulled up as you type. NoteLens integrates with Microsoft Outlook enabling you to import notes from Outlook, and then keep NoteLens and Outlook synced. NoteLens can also import your Outlook Contacts and even email into it. Another extremely useful feature is NoteL

FreePOPs brings any web resources to the inbox

Many email providers still do not provide POP access to its free users. Yahoo Mail is one example. FreePOPs is an extensible mail proxy that allows you to access not only mail, but a variety of resources through the POP3 protocol. Primarily it is used to allow checking and downloading of e-mail from webmails using any POP3 email client program. But it can also be used as an aggregator for RSS feeds and even used to view websites in your mailbox (remember Web-In-Mail ?). FreePOPs can be useful in a number of situations. Here are some of the most obvious ones: You are behind a firewall that closes port 110 but you need to read your mail and the web-mail of your mail provider sucks. Your mail provider does not allow you to access your mailbox with the POP3 protocol, but only through the web-mail service. Your employer has blocked all access to the web except the mail. FreePOPs does not have any GUI. It sits on the system tray and work by translating l