Saturday, June 30, 2012
Friday, June 29, 2012
There is some good news for users who have been thinking about moving from their current Windows operating system to the soon-to-be-released Windows 8, particularly those who are running the ancient Windows XP OS: yes, there is an upgrade path available for you guys. Three years ago, when Windows 7 was released Microsoft didn’t have an upgrade option for Windows XP, which was pretty odd since Windows XP was the most used operating system then. Although XP no longer holds the title it still holds an imposing one-forth market share, and Microsoft isn’t going to leave them behind this time.
VarieDrop is a multiple-size, multiple-format image resizer and converter from the developers of SendTo-Convert that allows you to resize and convert images into multiple dimension and formats in a single operation. Just like SendTo-Convert, VarieDrop can be added to Windows Explorer’s Send-To menu for quick and convenient operation.
SendTo-Convert is an image file converter that enables you to quickly convert images from Windows Explorer via the Send to menu. All you have to do is right-click on the image you want to convert and then from the Send-to menu click the SendTo-Convert option. This will pop open a small window asking you to choose the target image format. Click the appropriate button and you are done.
Thursday, June 28, 2012
A new updated Google Maps app for Android has just been released on Google Play that brings support for downloading and saving of maps for online use. Previously, it was not possible to use Google Maps without an Internet connection. Those who wanted their maps to be available offline had to download them using a computer and transfer the downloaded maps to their Android device. These maps can then be opened in alternative mapping apps like MapDroid and RMaps.
The recent crackdown on the file sharing network MegaUpload and the subsequent voluntary closure of several cyber lockers have significantly boosted the popularity of a hitherto unknown file sharing network that might be impossible to censor.
RetroShare is a open source cross-platform, private and encrypted, decentralized communication platform that aside from sharing files can also be used to securely communicate and chat with your friends and family. For users to start sharing files, they have to generate PGP certificates and exchange it with only those users they trust. The transfer is encrypted using OpenSSL and all searches, messages and files downloaded from strangers must go through a trusted friend. However, the friends with whom you are connected directly and via which the data is passed, cannot see the files that you are downloading or forwarding.
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Do you find yourself frequently typing the same phrases over and over again when drafting a letter, chatting on Facebook or leaving comments on message boards? Try TyperTask, a simple script driven keyboard automation utility that can insert pre-defined phrases instantly into any typing application like Word, Notepad, email etc. with just a few keystrokes. You can program TyperTask to automate chat conversations, website logins, programming code blocks, HTML tags, or just about anything. Aside from inserting text, TyperTask can open URLs and programs and files using shortcuts you define.
Google Chrome extensions can be very powerful, but they can also be a resource hog. They load into memory and wait until you use them. While some extensions like FlashBlock or NoScript work universally, there are many that are useful only on certain websites, for example, the YouTube Ratings Preview is only useful on YouTube or Amazon extensions that work only on the shopping site. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could selectively disable them until you actually need them? Thanks to Extension Automation, you can.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
An issue commonly faced when watching movies at home is the wildly fluctuating audio volume. Dialogues are often soft and barely audible, while action scenes are loud enough to blow out your ear drums. This usually occurs when you play a DVD or Blu-Ray with 5.1 sound through a 2.1 stereo system, or if your home theatre system is improperly calibrated. The audio in movies is designed for surround setups having conversation in a separate channel, usually the central speaker, and sound and music in other channels. With the right gear your home movies will sound very much like in a theatre. But on a 2.1 system, the experience is far from ideal. Thankfully, it is possible to mitigate the sound issue by using a technique know as Dynamic Range Compression.
Monday, June 25, 2012
Back in 2010, I wrote about a nifty trick by which you can secretly copy files and folders from preconfigured locations on the target computer to a USB drive without the owner knowing - a trick Bradley Manning would have been proud of. Understandably, there is quite a buzz of activity in the comments following the article. Some of the commenters wanted to know if the direction of flow of data could be reversed while maintaining the same level of secrecy.
Saturday, June 23, 2012
A hand-picked selection of articles published between June 10 and June 23 of previous years.
1 Year Ago
Recently, at a security breach at LinkedIn, the hashed passwords of more than six million accounts were stolen and circulated on the web. Even though no harm came to pass as the passwords were hashed and not associated with corresponding email logins, it was a serious lapse in security. The breach at Microsoft India’s online store, early this year, produced a different story. When the site was hacked in February, the hackers stumbled upon passwords of users stored in plain text. Several sites have been caught in the past storing passwords in a form that could be recovered. The Sony PlayStation site hack of last year was among one of the most notorious, and the kind that leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
Vimium is an extension for Google Chrome that provides around 40 new keyboard shortcuts that allows navigation around a web page from the comforts of the keyboard. Of course, keyboard or mouse is a personal choice and whether or not the user considers the keyboard a comfortable replacement for the mouse depends solely on the user. But for people who have grown accustomed to the keyboard, such as programmers and Unix/Linux users, Vimium is a big improvement for Chrome. The extension was developed in the “spirit of Vim”, the most keyboard efficient text editor in existence.
Thursday, June 21, 2012
QIcon Changer is perhaps the easiest way to change the icons of programs and EXE files. This tiny tool allow you to patch the icon of any Windows application by overwriting the previous icon resource with the new one you chose.
Previously, icon changing was possible with resource hacking tools such as Resource Hacker. But QIcon Changer is much more convenient. All you have to drag the EXE file of the application and drop it into the application placeholder, then drag an icon (.ICO) file and drop it into the icon placeholder. Click Apply and that’s it.
Sound effects generators are software programs that lets you create old school electronic sounds and effects – plop, thud, splat and boom - to use in games, videos and other projects. While free to use sound clips are abundant on the web, if you want your project to be unique you would create your own sounds. And if you are particularly weak with keyboards (the instrument), take a look at these synthetic sound effects generators.
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Here is a heads up for those who love using themes on Gmail, particularly those HD themes with a high quality image behind the Gmail interface. It’s now possible to use a custom image as a background, thus giving your inbox a personal touch. In the showcase video (embedded below), a number of personalized themes are shown in quick succession, and I have to admit it does look dandy.
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Many services based on the entertainment industry, viz. the music and movies, are geographically restricted because of licensing issues. The video streaming service Hulu, movies on demand service NetFlix and Internet radio service Pandora, for example, are available only within the United States. Similarly, BBC iPlayer and Channel 4 are only for the U.K. audience. But the global Internet population couldn’t be easily kept away from such treasures. Many Internet users are getting around the geo-location block using proxy, and VPN services in particular.
Firefox has a peculiar way of handling tabs overflow that occurs when users open too many tabs for the tab bar to display properly. By default, Firefox pushes the extra tabs off the screen as new ones get spawned; the tab bar acting as a conveyor belt of sort. Arrows appear on both edges of the tab bar that allows the user to horizontally scroll the tab bar and access the out-of-screen tabs. Personally, I find this behavior disorienting.
Friday, June 15, 2012
With competition among web browser makers so fierce, you cannot afford to ignore a particular browser because if you do, you are definitely going to miss out on lots of interesting technology. Just the other day, Opera released version 12 with tons of new features, while Firefox is perpetually releasing new features one after the other. Even Internet Explorer isn’t far behind. So instead of sticking to a single browser, we are pretty much coerced into using every browser. Now if you are serious about any browser, you are likely to have customized it to your taste – custom buttons, custom toolbar arrangement, imported your bookmarks and even setup synchronization. But what happens when you have to reinstall Windows, or move to a new computer?
RTMP is a video streaming protocol used to stream audio and video over the Internet, between a Flash player running inside the browser on the user’s PC and a web server from where the video content is streamed. RTMP is different from regular HTTP streaming used by YouTube and many other sites. Unlike HTTP, RTMP can do live streaming where people can watch videos while it is being recorded. Videos delivered over RTMP are also harder to steal or download than videos delivered over regular HTTP. Because of these advantages, RTMP is one of the most popular protocols used to deliver protected streaming for both live and on demand video. Websites that use RTMP to stream videos include Hulu and Justin.tv.
iSpy is an open source webcam monitoring software that converts an ordinary webcam and microphone pair into an automatic surveillance system with motion and sound detection. iSpy can do pretty much any kind of surveillance such as watching home for burglars, surveying activity of office staff, monitoring pets left at home, bird watching and even scanning the skies for supernovas and UFOs. The best thing about iSpy is that it’s open source, and aside from a few advanced functions like email and SMS alerts, and remote access, iSpy is a free software.
Thursday, June 14, 2012
Drag-and-drop functions in Windows are handled differently in different situations, and some people seems to have trouble predicting what will happen when they drag a file. Will a drag-and-drop result in a move or copy? Although the behavior might seem random, it’s not.
After nearly a year in development, the final build of Opera 12 has just been released with numerous changes focusing mostly on performance, stability and faster browsing. To improve performance, several steps were taken such as plugins are now handled as separate processes, which means even if a plugin such as Flash behaves errantly, it won’t take the whole browser down. Underused features such as Unite and Voice are removed. Opera 12 also received a significant speed boost with faster page loading, faster start up and faster HTML5 rendering, hardware acceleration and a new skinning engine similar to Google Chrome and Firefox persona.
Let me be honest. Even though I wrote extensively about software updates monitoring utilities and how it’s convenient to have your applications automatically updated, I detest auto-updates. In fact, the first thing I do after I install any software is to turn off auto-updates. It makes me uncomfortable when programs have the free pass to download anything from the Internet without my consent.
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Skype for Windows has announced a new feature called Conversation Ads, which displays advertisement within the calling window during Skype-to-Skype audio call. The ads will only appear for users who do not have Skype Credit or subscriptions, which means the majority of free Skype users. Fortunately, the company says that the ads will be silent, non-expanding and will run after the connection has been established and the program has completed the regular detailed quality checks on the connection.
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Today search engine Bing started adding interactive multimedia presentations called Qwiki to their search results page. Qwikis combine images, videos and maps complete with narration, that are embedded into Bing results and can be played directly inside the search page. Qwikis will initially appear for Wikipedia search results, but the plan is to expand the integration to other websites as well.
If you love playing casual, arcade-style games, you must be familiar with sites like Kongregate and Newgrounds. And if you love these gaming portals, you will also love JogoBox. But unlike Kongregate and others, JogoBox is not a website – it’s a desktop program that gives you access to thousands of games that are typically found online and played in browsers. The difference being, with JogoBox, you can download these games to your computer, organize and play them offline whenever you want. Aside from casual games, JogoBox also offers several PC-based freeware games such as America’s Army, Sid Meier’s Civilization, Super Mario, Command and Conquer, UFO: Alien Invasion and more.
Artha is a cross-platform and open source thesaurus and dictionary based on WordNet that works completely off-line. Artha can define not only English word, but even proper nouns i.e. famous personalities, places, events, phrases, acronyms, slangs - to list a few. Artha also lists its various relatives like Synonyms, Antonyms, Attributes, Derivatives, Entails, Causes, Kinds, is Kind of, Member of, Members, Substance of, Substances, Parts, is Part of, Topics, Topical Terms, Region, Regional Terms, Usages, Usage Terms and Similar terms.
Is the clutter on your desktop ruining the aesthetic wallpaper you have on the background? Try AutoHideDesktopIcons, a free utility that lets you enjoy your wallpaper without getting rid of the desktop icons by displaying your icons only when you need them, and keeping them hidden the rest of the time.
Last week I made a detailed comparison of several software updates monitoring tool. Here is another one.
AutoUP is capable of detecting updates for 68 popular applications that includes both freeware and commercial software. Although, this isn’t a very impressive list, AutoUP’s saving factor is that it can automatically download the latest version of the supported programs as soon as it becomes available.
Monday, June 11, 2012
Usenet is a vast, globally distributed system of discussion and file sharing groups known as “newsgroups”. Users read and post messages called articles or news to one or more newsgroups which are then broadcast to other newsgroups interconnected via a wide variety of networks. Individual users with access to a Usenet server may then read messages from and post messages to, download files etc., using a Usenet client software called Newsreader.
A hand-picked selection of articles published between May 27 and June 9 of previous years.
1 Year Ago
Saturday, June 9, 2012
Sometime ago, NPR wrote a lovely article on how an average person was going to miss almost everything that was ever written, filmed, sung or made. There is only so much time in a lifetime and millions of things to do and hundreds of goals to achieve. Reading is one thing that’s suffers the most, because it takes more than a couple of days to finish a book from cover to cover. Most people can’t even afford to spend a few hours in one task, much less days.
Thursday, June 7, 2012
HaoZip is a powerful archive manager from a Chinese developer with an impressive file format support. The program can create compressed archive for 7Z, ZIP, BZIP2, GZIP, XZ, LZH, WIM and TAR files. It can also create encrypted sub-volume compressed files and self-extracting files.
HaoZip support decompression of 50 archive formats including RAR, ZIPX, ISO, UDF, ISZ, ACE, ALZ, CAB, BZIP2, ARJ, JAR, LZH, RPM, Z, LZMA, NSIS, CHM, DMG, HFS, WIM, DEB, MSI, CPIO, XAR, UUE and more. Additionally, HaoZip includes several tools such as an archive file format converter, MD5 checksum verifier, a tool to repair corrupted archive, batch file renaming tool, hardware benchmarking software, a built-in antivirus scanner (optional) and even an image converter.
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
ControlC is a unique application that monitors your clipboard and automatically stores any copied text and images on your computer in an encrypted, secured database. The purpose of ControlC is to archive every piece of item that you ever copy to your clipboard, so that someday if you need to recall something that you copied in the past, you can easily do so. Because the database is encrypted, no third person can sneak into it without the correct password.
A new startup called Breeziee makes it possible for anybody to quickly setup a paywall to any link and use it for selling digital goods such as downloadable files, images or even articles on webpages. Simply fill out the form on the homepage, and your file will be posted for sale immediately. You can then share your sales page and manage all your sales through the control panel. The best part is, Breeziee charges no fees and takes no cuts from payment. The payments go right to your PayPal account.
One of the rarest celestial events of the century will occur tomorrow and will be viewable from select regions of the Earth. The planet Venus will trek across the disc of the sun, an event known famously as the Transit of Venus.
Transits of Venus are among the rarest of predictable astronomical phenomena. They occur in a pattern that repeats every 243 years, with pairs of transits eight years apart separated by long gaps of 121.5 years and 105.5 years. The next transit of Venus will occur on 5 and 6 June 2012, and will be the last Venus transit this century. The prior transit took place on 8 June 2004. Altogether only six such transits have been observed and recorded in human history. It is a real privilege to be alive during such an important period of time.
Monday, June 4, 2012
Some media players show pop-up notification on the desktop whenever the track changes even if the media player is minimized or not in focus. I’m not particularly fond of those, but if you are, you will love the Now Playing notification for videos playing in YouTube. If you are wondering why one should need notification when they can see for themself which video is playing, you are forgetting that YouTube is the most popular destination for listening to music.
Do you read End User License Agreements (EULA)? I’m pretty sure you don’t. You have probably clicked through hundreds of EULA dialogs when installing software and you haven't read a single word of any of them. Software developer and blogger Joel Spolsky once included a 40% coupon code in the EULA of one of his software, to see if anybody reads them. By the time he spilled the beans eight months later, not a single person had come forward to claim the discount. In another attempt to prove that no one reads EULAs, anti-spyware firm PC Pitstop buried a note in its own EULA, saying they would give $1,000 to the first person who emailed them at a certain address. It took four months and over 3,000 downloads before someone noticed it and sent an email and got the $1,000.
NASA astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have worked out when precisely our Milky Way Galaxy will crash into its neighbour, Andromeda making it possible to portray, with a fair degree of accuracy, how the night sky above our head will appear 7 billion years from now. While it’s another thing, there will be no humans on Earth to witness the spectacle.
Keeping all your installed programs up-to-date is quite a challenge. While most programs are capable of automatically updating it does so when you start the program, and you will agree that the best time to update a program isn't when you're trying to use it. You want to have your programs updated silently, in the background, when you are not using them. Since programs by their own are incapable of doing this, we have to resort to third party tools.
Whenever the computer is lagging or some application is taking too long to respond, we usually fire up task manager and look under the Perfo...
A camera is a mechanical device, and just like any piece of mechanical equipment, it will eventually fail. The life of an SLR or Digital SLR...
Recently, my brother-in-law bought a new Sony Bravia HD-Television that plays videos directly from USB drives. Everything was going find unt...
A watermark is any recognizable text, logo or pattern that appears over an image to identify the owner of the image and generally used to pr...
Search engines can pull up hundreds of recipes for any given dish. Which one will you choose? Surely, the one that doesn’t require you to ru...
Are you running the same mouse cursor (pointer) that came with Windows XP or Vista? How boring! If you can change your desktop wallpaper and...
A utility that handles compressed files like zip and rar is an essential requirement for every Windows PC. The softwares that are most popul...
Let’s say you and your friend are preparing for an all important exam that is going to decide the course the rest of your life takes. Your f...
Organizing your movie collection is much more than making a list of it. Apart from helping you to quickly browse through your personal co...
There are several open source and actively developed, wireless router firmware projects created by people not affiliated with the manufactur...