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Showing posts from August, 2009

XBMC is the best media center application. Period.

XBMC Media Center, formerly called XBox Media Center, is a rock solid open source and cross-platform media center solution for Windows, Linux, Mac and the Xbox platform. XBMC’s typical media-center 10-foot user interface is aesthetically far more appealing than that of any other media center application I have seen and discussed in the past. A lot of attention has been given on skins and icons making sure it’s one of the most beautiful things on display on your living room PC. But underneath the eye candies run a very stable and powerful software. In fact, many other open source media centers like Boxee , MediaPortal and Plex are based on XBMC Media Center’s code. XBMC Media Center supports almost all common audio, video, and image formats. It supports playlists, audio visualizations, image slideshows, video subtitles, CD ripping, weather reports, steaming and a lot more. Like many media center application, XBMC supports plug-ins that brings a variety of features and servi

Golden Hour Calculator tells you when to capture perfect sunrise/sunset photos

Golden Hour (or magic hour) is a term often used in photography, that denotes the first and last hour of sunlight during the day, when a special quality of light is available and which gives an exceptionally beautiful effect to photos shot in that warm light. There is no precise definition as to when exactly the Golden Hour starts. Some consider it the time when the sun is near but above the horizon, while some others believe the Golden Hour starts when the sun goes below the horizon and lasts till darkness.   A photo taken during the Golden Hour The actual time of Golden Hour varies from place to place and all throughout the year. The soft, warm hue of the sunlight typical during the Golden Hour is determined by the sun’s altitude. And the time the sun takes to reach a particular altitude depends on the location of the place (latitude) and the time of the year. Taking all these factors into consideration, some good folks have created a Golden Hour Calculator that allows a

1 million public domain books for download in EPUB from Google

Google just announced that it will now let people download public domain ebooks on Google Books in the EPUB format in addition to the PDF format which is being already offered. Over a million books are available for download when the announcement was issued. The EPUB format will allow users to read these books on their ebook readers, cell phones, iPhones or any such mobile device that doesn’t PDF formats nicely. When you search for a book on Google Books, click on the Download button in the toolbar and if the book is in public domain and has been converted into the EPUB you will find that option under “Download”.

Nottable - The highly flexible, portable laptop stand

Have you ever taken your laptop with you to the toilet? Or did you ever wish you could use your laptop while lying down comfortably on a bed? A lot of us want to use our computers at unconventional places at unconventional positions. Thanks to a Brazilian inventor Nelson Motta, now we can. Motta has designed and constructed an innovative laptop stand called the Nottable. Made of aluminum and brass, this anodized, rust-proof contraption can be adjusted in all sorts of fascinating ways allowing you to use your laptop in even the most bizarre positions. It can be easily disassembled and folded into a briefcase sized pack for storage or transportation.    Nottable supports notebooks of 10 inches to 17 inches in size. It has rubberized clips to secure the notebook on to the base which is ventilated to prevent overheating. Mousepads are available that can be attached to the sides to support external mice. Here is a video demonstration. An indispensable product. Nottable

Add a link to your last blog post to your email signature

Some bloggers and webmasters put links to their blogs on their email signatures. It’s another way of publicizing. But when your contacts see the same signature with the same links on every mail, they learn to ignore it. This can happen with anything that doesn’t change for a while. This is why you see new ads on TV every few months for the same products. If you seriously want to promote your blog through email signature, you should make your signature dynamic. This can be done with a little utility called Blogspreading . BlogSpreading is a free tool that automatically appends a link to the latest post in your blog to your email signature. So instead of a static link, your signature changes every time you update your blog. Not only can that break the signature-blindness your recipients may have developed, it can even entice them to actually click on the links to read your post. How does it work? Blogspreading will work with any email client that allows addition of email

Windows 7 Sidebar for Windows XP and Vista

The Windows 7 sidebar includes some major improvements over Windows Vista sidebar. Firstly, the sidebar itself is turned off by default. Secondly, even though you can turn on the sidebar, it doesn’t eat into your desktop space as before. It remains as a transparent almost non-existent strip on the side, quietly on the desktop under your open windows. Thirdly, you can drag the sidebar gadgets away from it and place it anywhere on the desktop. The same Windows 7 sidebar with exactly the same functionalities can be enjoyed on Windows XP and Vista with Thoosje's Windows 7 sidebar . The sidebar includes about 20 popular gadgets by default such as sticky notes, calendar, the obligatory analog clock, media player, POP3 mail retriever, RSS reader etc. The sidebar uses the same .gadgets file as the original Microsoft sidebar, so all gadgets on Windows Live Gadget library are compatible with Thoosje's Windows 7 sidebar. Memory usage is around 60 MB, and CPU utilization is l

Play the protein folding game for science

What is Protein Folding? Proteins are the workhorses in every cell of every living thing. Proteins keep our bodies functioning and healthy, and they are also involved in many diseases and it’s cure. Proteins come in thousands of different varieties, but mostly they come in long chains of amino acids. But they don't stay in a straight line; proteins often fold to make a compact blob. The structure of the folded protein specifies the function of the protein. Scientist still don’t know a lot about why proteins fold or display some strange folding behavior. The more scientists know about how certain proteins fold, the better new proteins can be designed to combat the disease-related proteins and come up with cures for life threatening diseases like HIV/AIDS, Cancer and Alzheimer's. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Part of the problem lies on the astronomical number of ways even a small protein can fold because of the availability of large degrees of freedom. Figuring o

OfficeTab brings tabs to Word, Excel and PowerPoint

I love tabs. Taking cue from web browsers, developers have started embracing the “tab culture” and now we often see tabs in various random applications. But some of our favorite applications are still missing it, Microsoft Office for example. It’s frustrating to be not able to open documents in tabs. OfficeTab, a free utility, fills this void. OfficeTab enables you to open multiple documents within one office window without cramming up your taskbar. With OfficeTab you can choose which Office applications you want tabs on - Word or Excel or PowerPoint or all of them. Most interestingly, if you right click on the tabs a small menu appears which is quite identical to the menu that appears on Opera with options like Lock Document (to prevent accidental closing), Close and Close All, etc. OfficeTab also allows you to compare two documents side by side. Image credits: There are plenty of options under the settings window that allows you to change the beh

Snarl - Global notification system for Windows

Snarl is a notification software for Windows inspired by the famous Mac application Growl, that allows the user to receive notification from applications and other system alerts through a universal notification system, i.e. Snarl. Snarl allows you to substitute the native Windows notifications with Snarl notifications thereby allowing you to control how and when applications display alerts on the screen. Snarl is as stylish as the original Growl with plenty of sleek skins and user adjustable colors, fonts, alpha-blending, transparency, shadow size etc.   Snarl uses a plug-in system through which notifications from third party applications are routed through to Snarl. The user is allowed to control the alert’s behavior, occurrence and looks. Currently Snarl includes support for a number of popular applications like iTunes, Windows Live Messenger, Pidgin, foobar2000, Firefox, Thunderbird, Winamp etc. You will need to download and install these plug-ins individually. Once

Dinky Page – Quick, disposable web page

For the sake of convenience, everything has to be disposable these days. Disposable plastic bags, razors, spoons, cups, and even disposable cameras . The cyber world has it’s share of disposable products too – email addresses, short URLs , chat rooms and now disposable web pages. Dinky Page is the first such service offering disposable pages to any one who might need them. No registration is required. Just create any HTML page and publish it. The pages aren’t exactly disposable either, because their FAQ says “Pages do not expire and they will not be deleted automatically unless they violate the Terms of Use.” So you can keep them as long as you want. There is a “Delete” link that appears only once – the first time you publish the page. Email the link to your self if you want to edit or delete the page later. Pages can be created using their rich-text editor or simply HTML editor. You can use JavaScript, Flash, and anything that can be embedded on an HTML page. The files

Amazing software creates 3D models from images and videos

Sometime ago I wrote about a technique the animation industry and the game industry often use to eliminate a bulk of the back-breaking work of 3D modeling. Instead of building models from scratch using software, they build actual models out of clay or other materials and scan these physical models using a setup called 3D scanner. The 3D scanner then constructs a digital, three dimensional model of the real object which can be used in games, movies or any other application. You can even create your own cheap 3D scanner at home using free software . Building models out of clay is definitely easier than building models in software. Recently I stumbled upon an even easier and amazing method to create models –using still images or videos. Actually there are two software that employ this method. insight3d is an open source and free software that lets you create 3D models from a series of photographs. You give it a series of photos of a real scene or object from different angles and

[Sunday Double Treats] Ratrix Hero and 10 Minutes

This Sunday I bring you two entirely different short movies – one is a humorous short animation while the other is sad and thought provoking. Let’s begin with the light-hearted one. Ratrix Hero is an animated short action-comedy shot in the style of the movie “The Matrix” with utter convincing effects. The movie’s protagonist is a rat who is chased by cats in suits – the Agents. This 6 minute movie was the work of two persons over a period of 6 months. The characters are made from modeling clay, animated frame by frame, and the action takes place entirely within computer generated scenery. 10 minutes is short movie that lasts, as it’s title indicates, only 10 minutes, but it tells a much longer story. It tells how different things can happen to different people in only 10 minutes, and how 10 minutes in someone's life mean nothing but can be fatal in another's. The film won the award for the best European short film in 2002.

BatteryCare helps prolong your laptop battery’s life

BatteryCare is not just a simple battery monitoring utility. It goes a step ahead by giving you detailed information about the condition of your battery and offering you various utilities and notification that helps you extend the battery life. After you install the application you will get a small icon on the system tray that tells you the percentage of battery power remaining and an estimate of the amount of time you can operate your laptop before running out of power. The battery time remaining information is more useful than a simple battery level indicator. The main screen of the program gives you a concise information about the battery status, but you can switch to the detailed view where you can see the total capacity of the battery, the capacity when the battery left the factory and the actual capacity you are getting, which helps you see how the battery has degraded in performance over time.    Like most battery monitoring utilities, BatteryCare too allo

Free personalized short URL domains

At one time there was no less than 100 different short URL services. Most of them are dead unfortunately. Well, of course, you can start your own. All you need is a domain and hosting, and then choose any one of a dozen of different short URL scripts. (Tip: Shorty is the best). Actually, no – you don’t have to do any of these and still get a fully functional short URL service at your own domain. is a hosted service that allows you to create your very own short URL service at your own free .tk domain. You will get the free domain, depending on availability of course, and you won’t require to install any script. To get a personalized short URL go to , which is my short URL service and click on the link that says “get your own url shortener”. Enter your preferred domain name, click “create” and that’s it. Your short URL service is ready to use. As as example, try this

New portable Auslogics Task Manager

We have reviewed a healthy number of task managers in the past including a top-5 list . Now there is another one to add to the lot. Renowned software publisher Auslogics has released a new free and portable task manager intended to be used as an alternative to the default, basic task manager in Windows. Auslogics Task Manager has a very clean interface compared to other task manager software. Most developers try to cram so many information into their task managers in an effort to make their software useful, that they lose out on usability. It must be mentioned here that MKN TaskExplorer too has a very tidy interface. Auslogics Task Manager provides information about running applications, processes and services in three different views. It also shows all files that are currently open and in use which is very helpful in gauging what’s happening under the hood. Auslogics Task Manager also has the ability to show the full path of all running processes, but that option is disab

PyRoom – Distraction free writing for Linux

We have a seen a couple of distraction free Word processor for Windows like Darkroom , FocusWriter and Writespace . For Linux users there is one called Pyroom. Pyroom is a full-screen minimalist text editor without buttons, widgets, formatting options, menus and with only the minimum required dialog windows. The idea is to remove anything from the screen that might distract the writer thereby allowing him or her to focus only on the writing and nothing else. Pyroom is written in Python, and requires the python-gtk2 packages to run. It’s available for download as a tarball. To run Pyroom, you need to simply launch the script. Features: Full screen multi-document text editor Supports a handful of essential keyboard shortcuts. The default background color is black but it can be changed. It has the ability to edit multiple buffers at once (e.g. outline, notes, your actual work etc)

Smokin' Guns – Open source First Person Shooter

Smokin' Guns is a free, open source first person shooter game for Windows and Linux based on the Quake 3 engine but set on the old wild west. The game was originally developed by Iron Claw Interactive under the name Western Quake. In 2003, the game developers stopped development of the game after the release of the second beta. Then in 2005, another team took over the game and continued development under a new name “Smokin’ Guns”. The first stable version was released in January 2009. Smokin' Guns has both single player as well as multiplayer missions, and has all the ingredients of a perfect first person shooter – a big arsenal of historically accurate guns, dozens of maps and different game modes like bank robbery, death match or the classic one-to-one western shootouts using only pistols. The game’s unique also differs in many important aspects from similar games based on Quake 3 engine It is not possible to regenerate health. All damage taken remain

Okawix - Download Wikipedia for offline reading

Okawix is an open source project that allows you to download the entire content of Wikipedia, and that too in your preferred language with or without images. Okawix is available in 253 languages and apart from the main encyclopedia it also lets you download other projects of the Wikimedia Foundation - Wikisource, Wiktionary, Wikiquote, Wikibooks, Wikiversity and Wikinews. As sleek and attractive the program is, a major drawback is it’s confusing interface. It’s not immediately apparent what you should do next once you open the program, and there are no help files. Here you have check the box next to the language you want to download Wikipedia or the other projects in. You can select multiple boxes at the same time. That’s done, click on the “Select Language” link at the top (or bottom) of the page. The thing doesn’t look like a link or button at all, which is why the confusion. Anyway, clicking on it will take you to the download page where you can choose which project you

Quark – Matrix styled system lockdown for PCs

The easiest way to lock your computer when you leave your desk is to press Win+L, provided your user account is password protected. You can also automatically lock your computer when you move away from it by taking advantage of Bluetooth’s ability to detect Bluetooth devices around the vicinity of the computer. That’s a very geeky way to do it. But if you really want to show off, you should use Quark. Quark is a simple security tool for Windows that protects your computer from unauthorized access by locking the screen and denying any user interaction until the correct password is entered. And it does it in style. The whole screen is covered with Matrix styled rows of green scrolling characters with a password box in the foreground. Accompanying the visual effects there are high-tech, robotic sound effects that can be heard during locking, typing keys and unlocking. To activate Quark you have to double click on QLoad.exe and set your password. Then double click on Quark.e

iMesh – The only legal, RIAA approved P2P file sharing software

With the recording industry breathing down the necks of illegal file sharer and suing anyone they can find from dead grandmothers to single mothers , iMesh comes both as a surprise and relief. This peer2peer file sharing network is the first of it’s kind (and only one) to be approved by RIAA. Initially iMesh was as illegal as any file sharing network in the eyes of the recording industry. In 2003, it got sued by RIAA for copyright infringement. Later the lawsuit was settled with iMesh paying US$4.1 million to RIAA. However, according to the terms of the settlement, iMesh was allowed to continue operating as normal whilst implementing a paid service. Today, iMesh is advertised as a “100% legal P2P client” and the first file sharing network to be acknowledged by RIAA as a legal music download software. With iMesh you can browse millions of new songs and videos by clicking on the “Discover” button or simply search for your desired music or artist. iMesh offers download

Woofer – The reverse Twitter, where 1400 characters is minimum!

Think Twitter’s 140 characters is too limiting? Are you tired of forcing yourself to think small? Try Woofer, a new initiative that forces you to think big. Instead of having to subdue your thoughts and bring it under a maximum character limit, you have a minimum character limit to cover – 1400 characters! Woofer , that calls themselves Macroblogging, was started as an experiment to see what people did when they have a minimum character requirement, and have fun. Woofer encourages users to be more eloquent, use adverbs and get rid of abbreviations. Eloquence? from Internet trolls? duh! No wonder, the average “woof” looks like this: [via The Next web ]

Windows Live Movie Maker out of beta, but ignores Windows XP

Good News: Windows Live Movie Maker, which debuted last year as a beta, is now available for download as a stable release. Bad News: It doesn’t support Windows XP. The Windows Live Team explains the lack of support for the most popular OS. In order to take advantage of the latest and greatest technologies available on the Windows platform, we optimized the new Windows Live Movie Maker for Windows Vista and Windows 7. As a result you get support for newer file formats like HD, a new graphics driver model which brings more reliable and stable support for high-end graphics, and a new engine on top of DirectX, which improves speed and enables even more advanced capabilities over time. The latest version of Windows Movie Maker supports full high definition videos up to 1080p, and comes with more than 60 transitions, 18 pan and zoom options, and 20 visual effects that you can apply to photos or videos, plus video trim, split, and fade capabilities. The new Movie Ma

Are your videos choppy in Firefox? Here is the fix

Since version 2.0, Firefox has a session restore feature which enables you to continue browsing from where you left even if you restart the browser. Firefox achieves this by periodically saving the status of all open tabs to the hard disk. In the event of a crash or computer shutdown or any unnatural termination of Firefox, the browser is able to restore the browsing session from the last saved tabs status. The problem By default, the time interval between each session save is set at 10 seconds. If the number of opened tabs is high and the web pages loaded on these tabs are heavy (images, Flash etc), this periodic saving of session can cause Firefox to momentarily stop responding during each save, every 10 seconds. You might not notice this during casual surfing but if you are watching an online video such as those on YouTube, you might notice this irritating, repeating glitch. Most users attribute choppy videos to poor Internet connection, but in some cases the problem mig

Vectir - PC remote control via Bluetooth or infrared

Vectir is a remote control software for Windows that allows you to control  applications on your PC such as media players (Winamp, iTunes and Windows Media Player) and Microsoft PowerPoint via a Bluetooth enabled mobile device or an infrared remote control. Vectir can also control various other settings of the operating system like keyboard, move mouse pointer, change volume, computer restart and shutdown etc. Like any remote control software, Vectir essentially consist of a server end which is to be installed on the PC and a client end which is required to be installed on the cell phone. The cell phone should support the Java platform. All S60 symbian devices should be capable of running Vectir, according to their website. They also have compatibility list consisting of devices they have been successfully tested. Though they have detailed the setup procedure on their site, I’m having a hard time figuring out certain steps. Some of the screenshots they show are entirely di

17 useful Google Chrome Extensions

Google Chrome’s support for third party extensions might be still in it’s infancy, but already dozens of different extensions has been written. If you are a regular chrome user, you must try extensions just like you must try extensions in Firefox. As you might be aware, the stable version of Chrome doesn’t support extensions yet. You have to use the developer channel version of Chrome to install plug-ins. How to install extensions in Google Chrome? 1. Download and install the latest developer build of Chrome. 2. Next, right-click on the Chrome icon on your desktop, click on Properties and add “–enable-extensions” (without the quotations) at the end of the target field and click “Apply”. 3. To install extensions simply download the file which has a .CRX extension, and you will get the installation confirmation box. Click OK. Chrome Extensions Gmail Checker : One of the first extensions that shows the number of unread messages in Gmail in the toolstrip (stat