Archive for January, 2008
BitTorrent is the go-to resource for downloading everything from music and movies to software and operating systems, but as its popularity continues to grow, so do the number of tools available for making the most of it. Some are must-haves, while others are a waste of time. Climb aboard for a look at 10 of the best BitTorrent utilities, tools, and resources for finding and managing your BitTorrent downloads quickly and efficiently.
Of course BitTorrent is a great place to go looking for files, but you can actually take advantage of BitTorrent’s distributed download protocol to share your own files. This guide details how to create your own torrent to distribute a file on your computer. The guide covers creating the torrent with the popular, Windows-only uTorrent, but the feature is available in almost any BitTorrent client.
Using IM applications like Pidgin or the Mac-only Adium, you can set up your IM client to automatically accept downloads from specific users (namely, you) and then save the file to a folder that your BitTorrent client watches for new torrent files (in Pidgin you’ll need to go to Tools -> Plugins and enable the Autoaccept plugin). Most clients like uTorrent (Windows) and Transmission (*nix) support folder monitoring, so if your BitTorrent client is running it’ll detect the file you’ve sent yourself and automatically start downloading the torrent. This method doesn’t allow for very advanced remote management (like #5 below), but if all you want is a quick method for starting a new download, it’s quick and easy.
I’d always recommend using a dedicated BitTorrent client whenever you can, but sometimes installing or running another app just isn’t an option. In those cases, web application BitLet is a perfect solution. It runs BitTorrent downloads through an applet directly in your web browser; all you have to do is point it to the torrent file. (Read more)
Cross platform, open source application Miro is designed as a one-stop shop for handling video—whether that’s video podcasts or BitTorrent. It doesn’t have all the tools available to less specialized clients like uTorrent or Transmission, but it does work well to automatically download a season’s worth of television while it’s happening. (Read more)
Whether you’re new to BitTorrent or you’re just not getting the download speeds you were hoping for, you can take steps to speed up your downloads by capping your upload speeds, adjust your connection allowances, or switch the default port. (Read more)
Sometimes a slow connection is the result of intentional BitTorrent throttling by your internet service provider. In addition to switching the default port your BitTorrent client is using, there are tons of other methods—like turning on encryption or adjusting the way your client behaves—that can help fool your ISP and speed up your downloads. (Read more)
5. Remote Control Your BitTorrent Downloads with uTorrent’s WebUI or Transmission’s Clutch
You’re gaga for BitTorrent, and these two tools let you control and manage all of your BitTorrent downloads from the comfort of your web browser—no matter where you are. Both applications can handle almost any feature of the desktop version (and both look very similar, as well). Just find the one that fits the operating system you’re using and get started with your remote access. uTorrent even has a special web interface for the iPhone.
Whether you opt for Ted (all platforms) or TVShows (Mac OS X only), these apps ensure you’ll no longer need to dig for the latest and greatest episodes of your favorite TV shows week after week. You just point them to what you like, and they automatically download new episode torrents as they become available.
Rather than get into an argument over the best torrent tracker/search engine, might I instead submit YouTorrent, a meta search engine that scours some of the best BitTorrent trackers for downloads and sorts the results by number of seeds. I know it’s new, and who knows if it’ll last (it doesn’t even have ads yet), but—god willing—YouTorrent is currently the easiest place to look for a new, healthy torrent (barring some really good private tracker that most of us are not members of). (Read more)
The go-to BitTorrent client for Mac users, Transmission has that Mac feel that makes you want to go out and
piratedownload some Creative Commons-licensed content. It’s popped up already a lot in this list, fr
om its torrent folder monitoring to it’s snazzy remote control features, so if you’re looking for a great client for your Mac, Transmission is the best on the market. (Read more)
It’s unfortunately Windows-only for now (that may change sometime this year), but uTorrent is bar-none the best BitTorrent client you’ll find. It’s fast, lightweight, and full-featured (as you’ve seen above). If there’s one Windows application I miss when I’m working away from Windows, uTorrent is that client
The tech community’s love affair with the Mozilla Firefox browser shows no signs of waning, but the fact is, most people still use Internet Explorer. If it’s such a terrible browser, why does it remain so popular? Part of the reason may be that it’s so tightly integrated with Windows: It takes an effort to download Firefox or another alternative browser, while the little blue "e" icon is omnipresent on the desktop, start menu, quick launch toolbar, and elsewhere in Windows.
Never in a million years would I try to talk you out of using IE, but I will do my best to convince IE users to download the free IE7Pro add-in (download) that adds a spell checker, ad blocker, and other useful features to Microsoft’s preeminent browser.
"A few weeks ago, I wrote an editorial commenting on how horrible browsing the Web is on most mobile devices. Amazingly, there’s already a solution for this problem, at least for some users. It’s called Skyfire, and it is far and away the best web browser for Windows Mobile I’ve ever seen.
This application offers just about all the features you need to access "Web 2.0" sites, like dynamic Flash, advanced Ajax, and Java. It’s good enough that your main limitation in browsing is going to be the size and resolution of your smartphone’s screen, and Skyfire is even able to compensate for that.
I was able to spend some time with an early beta, and I found I genuinely enjoyed putting this application through its paces"- Brighthand.com
Hey, it’s not Microsoft’s fault that 2011 sounds like the realm of jet pack VR massage cars, but it’s certainly a long ways away any way you slice it. Contrary to previous rumors of Microsoft planning a Windows 7 release sometime in 2009, Microsoft has apparently gotten in touch with WinVistaClub and set the record straight: Windows 7 is in "planning stages," and development will take approximately three years. Microsoft wouldn’t comment on that supposed leak we spotted last week, and of course denied any implications that development was being accelerated to make up for Vista shortcomings. We can’t help but wonder how different the OS landscape will look three years from now, with Linux rapidly reaching feature and usability parity, while Apple plugs away at OS X and cloud computing lands everywhere, but we’re sure Vista SP1 won’t be the last bid Microsoft makes at this generation.
SkyFire: Speedy Windows Mobile browser with Full Audio, Video, Images, Dynamic Flash, Ajax & Java support
SkyFire is a new mobile browser in private beta for Windows Mobile Pocket PC devices that gives you a complete Desktop PC-like browsing experience from your mobile phone. You can watch any web video, listen to any web music, stay connected on any social network and browse any webpage with embedded content that you normally can open from a PC based browser on your device.
Skyfire Beta enables speedy page loading, full audio, video, images, dynamic Flash content, advanced Ajax and Java support. Unlike other mobile browsers, Skyfire supports the desktop version of Flash applications and as well as embedded content such as Flash 9, QuickTime, Java and other HTML features.
On the start page, there are handy links to popular web sites. You can also bookmark your own favorites and as well as use your browsing history. You can even bookmark specific content on a web page to get exactly want you want in one click. When you do a search, the results are presented in easy to view tabs: web, images, and videos, and maps. Navigating is intuitive with full screen, thumbnails and zooming while resizing, at speeds comparable to your desktop PC web browser.
Click here to sign up for the private beta of Skyfire for Windows Mobile 5 or 6. A Symbian version of the browser is in pipeline.
This is a good way to pump up those Zunes.
There are tons of YouTube video-grabbing downloads out there, but relatively few also convert those FLV files for later viewing on a cell phone, iPhone, or other flavor of mobile device. Since we don’t like using two apps when we can use one, here’s a hand-picked collection of apps containing the packaged set.
1. Out of all the downloader/converters I tried, nothing felt more honest than CinemaForge, with its homegrown UFO-shaped interface. The freeware app lays down a simple 6-step downloading and conversion trajectory that includes finding a video’s "real" URL, as opposed to the "mangled" (shortened) link displayed on most sites. The conversion is quick and accompanied by an optional report, and it’s easy to choose from multiple file types and drop videos into a preferred file path. Skip that step, if you prefer, because CinemaForge also lets you publish your newly acquired video to the Web, although if that’s your goal, dropping the video’s embed code onto a personal profile or Web site is a more straightforward option.
2. With tabs for searching, downloading, and converting video, Free FLV Converter is a fairly beefy app. Unlike most competitors, it finds videos through search rather than by a pasted URL. Other apps download videos from Google, DailyMotion, and MetaCafe in addition to YouTube, but this rarity also serves up content from several adult sites. Parents better keep an eye on this one.
Free FLV Converter saves the video locally as an FLV file, and requires a second step to convert the video to one of five other formats. The two-step process barely qualifies the app for this roundup, but you can do it without closing the app. Free FLV Converter also gets a cheery thumbs up for the in-app preview and PSP conversion option, and an emphatic thumbs down for dragging on board the Dealio toolbar. What’s the dealio with that bundling? Though irritating, Dealio is removed easily enough.
3. YouTube Downloader is another freebie with a two-part conversion process that saves a Flash video just so you can dig it up again and convert it. Of course, you can convert all other previously downloaded videos, too. Paste the video URL into the app to save the stream, and when that’s done, select "convert video" to make any FLV compatible with iPods, iPhones, cell phones, PSPs, and then some. The choice to add manual parameters catches other formats that YouTube Downloader didn’t optimize for.
4. With My Video Downloader ($29.99), what you pay for is breadth–apparent compatibility with over 50 video-streaming sites. Paste the URL into the big blue app to kick off downloading. Be forewarned: the trial exacts some personal data (name, gender, e-mail, and ZIP code) before granting access, but converts to Zune video and DVD formats from among the 10 optional formats.
5. For the same price, Alive YouTube Video Converter ($29.95) offers a wealth of device-specific conversions from a drab XP-inspired interface. This is ideal for you Archos, Sansa, and Zen mavericks. Alive YouTube Video Converter does a fine conversion job, but pins you in the trial by processing only 60 percent of the video.
Other video-grabbing software:
*Free YouTube to iPod Converter 2.8 makes videos iPod-ready.
*Orbit Downloader accelerates download speeds and manages files.
*Ook? Video Ook! is a popular Firefox plug-in.
*TubeSucker seeks out YouTube downloads
SCREEN2EXE is an easy-to-use tool to capture desktop activity and save it as a self-playing .exe file. The program will capture mouse movements, clicks and even optional audio comments from your microphone. You can choose to record the entire screen or just a selected area, configure the recording quality and also the frame rate. The captured video is highly compressed and saved as standalone .EXE viewer that can be sent by email or made available for download.
Pros: Easy-to-use; video compression; audio recording; outputs as standalone .EXE file
Cons: Does not support Flash or AVI output; no text annotations
Obviously a lot of people cried fake when those screenshots purporting to show Windows 7 Ultimate popped up — possibly because they looked a lot like rebadged Vista screens — so the blogger who originally posted the images has followed up with a video for proof. And we do have to say, if this is fake, someone put a hell of a lot of work into pulling it off, from creating a new bootup screen to hacking the source code to adding fresh Media Center options. ThinkNext tells us that this release — known as Milestone 1 — expires in May of this year, although if Redmond and its team of crack Enemy of the State-types have anything to say about it, this particular blog will not be getting another preview copy next time around. Video after the break.
Was TweakUI your favorite PowerToy? Have you been searching for something similar for Vista? Several different programs are available that may be what you’re looking for. Here’s a quick list:
- TweakVI is a software program designed just to tweak and optimize Vista. The program comes in 3 editions – basic, premium, and ultimate – so there is sure to be one to fit your needs. Only the basic edition is free, but it includes desktop tweaks, Start Menu tweaks, IE & Firefox tweaks, Hardware tweaks, System info, Virtual Desktops, System folder tweaks, Mouse tweaks, Outlook tweaks, & Shutdown tweaks.
- VistaTweaker is small enough (664KB) to run from a flash drive but has a huge list of tweaks available including IE tweaks, Windows UI tweaks, System tweaks, Software tweaks, Network tweaks, and more.
- XdN Tweaker is small too (516KB) and supports XP, Vista, and even Windows Server 2003. XdN can tweak things like disabling Windows Mail’s splash screen, disabling user account control, better save folder views, remove or replace IE7′s search box, disable the "send to" option, and much more.
- Stardock’s TweakVista: Unlike other programs, TweakVista automatically prompts with enhancement recommendations, offering easy “one click” updates to otherwise complex changes, but it’s also safe to use. TweakVista is a great way for casual tweakers to get their feet wet without having to worry about causing major havoc on their system. However, there are enough features for the experienced tweaker to enjoy it, too. The trial is free, the program itself is $20.
- Vispa is a free executable that doesn’t even require an installation in order to use it. It’s focus is more on privacy, allowing you to do things like disable error-reporting and other similar communication. But you can also turn on settings like "fast shutdown," which is really a reg hack, without you having to dig into the registry.
BurnAware Free Edition is probably the prettiest in the interface department for this collection and offers a step-by-step procedure for your burning projects. A launch window lets you choose the type of project you want and leads you through the process to completion. Navigating your directories is easy with BurnAware’s file management system and adding files is as simple as highlighting them and hitting a button.
Web 2.0 musicmeister Last.FM and CBS’s "unprecedented new service" is a leveled-up Last.fm: It is "the most complete, licensed music catalog" in the world with music from all four major labels and 150,000 indie labels, or what they’re calling "the world’s best jukebox." It’s all available on demand (right now!) without logging in, is free (banner ad-supported) and now plays full tracks from artists you can search for directly—internet radio on ‘roids, basically. But of course, there are limitations thanks to label tightassness, the biggest point of suck being that you can only listen to a song three times.
What’s sort of shady is that they wouldn’t discuss how they track how many times you’ve listened to a track, since you don’t have to log in or register—probably based on your IP address, though. Of course, this intersects with advertiser interests, since they can better target ads based on your track history.
Another neat aspect of the re-launch is their artist royalty program, where unsigned artists can directly upload their music to Last.fm, and they’ll get paid every time their track is played—basically pulling in the ad revenue that would’ve gone to a label, if they were on one.
And they’re definitely not stopping with music. Asked about a "Last.tv" being in the works, Last.fm co-founder said that "music videos are the bridge into visual content
RocketDock behaves much like the Mac OS X Dock. Its smoothly crafted icons sit in a skinnable Dock interface that can be "stuck" to any side of Power’s desktop for instant launching of programs. He can minimize Web pages and documents to RocketDock, make the icons "bounce" as the program launches, and he can drag icons to reorder them, just like on Mac OS X. It even offers the zooming mouse-over effect for icons. Though it’s not quite as smooth as its Mac OS X counterpart, RocketDock is easily the best in its class for functionality and customizablity on Windows. It comes with several skins and icon variations so Power can match RocketDock perfectly to his desktop and he can get more skins and icons at the developer’s Web site. Perhaps best of all, RocketDock is absolutely free.
Not to be confused with the Zune 2.3 firmware update, Microsoft is today pushing out the Zune 2.3 software update, which brings with it a whole slew of fixes but no real new features. If the rundown of those fixes given by the ever-helpful Cesar of the Zune Insider blog are any indication, however, it seems that there are few areas of that software that aren’t touched by the update. Among the problems getting ironed out are various Marketplace issues, as well as some some nagging podcast problems (like not being able to subscribe to anything larger than 10MB), setup issues, and UI mishaps, not to mention a whole mess of sync issues that have supposedly now been sorted, to name a few things. In other words, the sort of update you probably want, and no doubt wish you never needed
Zumobi’s downloadable app (available now for Windows Mobile 5 and 6) offers an interface of 16 tiles to help users access key content quickly. Each tile is a widget that’s entirely programmed by developers and partners–like Amazon.com, Flickr, and AP Sports–and which is subject to advertising banners. Zumobi’s big innovation is the navigation that zooms into tiles by quadrant and then by tile to access the widget. There are some weaknesses to this approach, noted in my initial hands-on review, though Zumobi’s interface is indeed as "lush" as the marketing claims.
Finally, a release candidate of zAlternator is here! Yay! zAlternator is a program that will allow the Zune to be picked up and synced with programs other than the Zune program. It has been fully tested and proven to allow the Zune to be picked up and synced with the Zune program (duh), Windows Media Player 11, Winamp, and MediaMonkey. I have been unable to fully test the iTunes side of the program, but hopefully it should work. Instructions and details after the jump…
A message from the Office Live Workspace team: Stop emailing yourself files!
Office Live Workspace is a free service – currently in private beta – for document access, storage and sharing "in the cloud". The service will be open to anyone with a Windows Live ID and (currently) gives you 500MB of space for Office documents, images, PDF files, custom lists and more.
I was interested to see how Office Live Workspace differed to Windows Live SkyDrive so we sat down with Erik from the Office Live team at CES 2008 for a demo.
Make sure you check out the OLW website for more information or to register for the private beta: http://workspace.officelive.com/
You may like having Vista’s pretty-fying Aero effects enabled while you’re working, but many modern games can make you want to devote every last bit of memory and power to their 3-D awesomeness. The How-To Geek shows how to easily disable desktop effects by editing (or creating) a shortcut for the game (or other program):
Simply right-click on the shortcut and choose Properties, and then the Compatibility tab … Now on the Settings block check the box for "Disable desktop composition" in order to disable Aero the next time you use the shortcut.
I have to guess many people might have never found that tweak, based on its obscure label, but it sure comes in handy.
Last.fm is a web service that offers a social network for discovering and listening to new music. And now, Last.fm has arrived for Windows Mobile! Well, technically, the software is under development and still experimental, but it’s exciting nonetheless. The Pocket PC version has the scrobbling functionality and radio, but the Smartphone version can only scrobble from Windows Media Player. Radio playback requires that the storage you installed the client to has at least 10 MB of free disk space. It’s safe to install and run the client on a storage card, so, for most users, this will be the preferred option. To use the Last.fm Windows Mobile app, you’ll need Windows Mobile 5 or 6 and the .NET Compact Framework 2.0 (included with Windows Mobile 6). To learn more or to discuss this developing app, you can visit the Last.fm Mobile forum. (Via MyOpera)
Windows only: Lifehacker readers love free image viewer and processor IrfanView, so much that whenever we mention how to rename or resize images with other programs, someone’s guaranteed to bring up IrfanView in the comments. So now that you know how to batch process images in Photshop, ImageMagick, and Photo Drop (Mac), tech site Of Zen and Computing covers the steps in IrfanView.
If you’re a keen geotagger of your imagery, then a recently announced $150 device from ATP Electronics may be just the ticket. Dubbed the GPS Photo Finder, it works in a rather carefree way: you just have to carry it around with you while you’re shooting, and then insert your memory card into it, before you download your photos. All it does is work out where you were for each photo from its position log, and then embed that data into the JPEG files directly.
Built-in card reading works with MMC/SD and MemoryStick Duo, but the clever little box also has on-the-go USB functionality so it can interface with some digital cameras without needing a PC. Currently it works with JPEG files only, though that’s the convenient format most of us use anyway. And if you’re worried about correctly setting your camera time to synchronize with it accurately, then don’t: it’s got a small screen and can give you UTC GPS time
It’s called the Vista Service Pack 1 Release Candidate Refresh. It’s supposed to be a bug-fixin’ and feature-enhancin’ behemoth that makes your Windows Vista leaner, meaner, taller, and sexier. It’ll do your dishes and take out your garbage, too.
Microsoft released this "Release Candidate refresh" only one month after the initial RC made its debut. It claimed to want additional information from testers, which indicates that even more bugs need to be fixed. But what does it really do, and is it really that large? Most importantly, do you need it?
Vista SP1 RC Refresh requires several updates before the actual Release Candidate can install.
Before we get to the nitty-gritty of whether or not it’s worth downloading, the download itself needs a little explanation. First off, Microsoft warns that the SP1 RC and the Refresh should not be installed on primary or mission critical machines. Make of that what you will. Check out the changelog to Vista SP1 RC. If it’s something you think your Vista installation needs, carry on, but keep in mind that as a Release Candidate it’s not intended to be a fully stable version.
So, if you installed the original SP1 RC from December, you’ll need to uninstall it. Go to your Control Panel/Windows Update/View Installed Updates, and then follow the instructions for uninstalling. The official Microsoft instructions warn users to wait an hour after uninstalling Vista SP1 RC installing the Refresh because, "the installer service needs to clean up and complete the uninstall prior to installing the RC. Failing to do this can result in installation errors when installing the RC version." Also note that you will be required to uninstall the SP1 RC Refresh before installing the full SP1 when it comes out. That’s a lot of installing followed by uninstalling followed by installing to do. Read more…
Black Zune 80 was alone since its release in November but no longer. Today Microsoft announced the release of a new color, specially created for Valentines day. Its a Red Zune 80 for those in love and those who just like red released from Zune Originals. There are also 20 new designs available until February 14th.
Photobucket is launching a mobile version of its service today and can be found at m.Photobucket.com. Users with any browser-enabled handset will be able to search and browse both public and privately uploaded photos at up to five at a time using keypad shortcuts. Additionally Photobucket is pushing user uploads of both photos and videos from their phones as a new feature, although this functionality has been around since late 2006 using the slightly less glamorous MMS and e-mail route as opposed to coding an app for phones on the Windows Mobile or Symbian platforms.
Photobucket’s internal research study from late last year concluded that 36 percent of its users use their phone as a camera, making it a reasonably important step in expansion. Unfortunately, the experience isn’t a whole lot to write home about compared with some of the iPhone-centric mobile apps we’ve been seeing in the last six months (especially when viewed on the iPhone) that manage to look pretty good on regular phones too.
Some of my gripes include the inability to view uploaded videos via the mobile site, even over a speedy 3G or Wi-Fi connection. Also, using your phone’s built-in zoom doesn’t improve the resolution of any pictures you’re viewing, and they can’t be resized. I suppose the saving grace is that Photobucket users who want to pull up a photo to share with their friends won’t have to keep it on their phone if they’ve offloaded it to the service, although you can accomplish similar feats with far more nimble apps like Shozu, which tie into the community (in Shozu’s case it’s Flickr) with a little more depth.
This is sort of handy: OutSync is an app that will compare your Outlook and your Facebook address books, and then take the photos of people you know in Facebook who are also in Outlook, and copy them into your Outlook contacts.
Hey, your Facebook is in my Outlook.
It gets really cool if you use a Windows Mobile phone to connect to your Exchange server, because once it syncs the address book, the photos will then show up when people call you.
I’m not completely sure this app honors Facebook’s terms of service, but it seems pretty innocuous. And it only applies to people who use all four of these platforms: Facebook, Outlook, Exchange, and Windows Mobile. It was developed by Mel Sampat, who works on the Windows Mobile team at Microsoft.
I tried the program on my networks. It took 20 minutes to compare my 3700+ Outlook contacts to my 278 Facebook friends, and it made 101 matches. It put those 101 photos into my Outlook file as advertised and then shut down. Downsides: The algorithm doesn’t let you examine the Facebook and Outlook records side-by-side to make sure the matches are all correct, nor does it let you manually match records when it doesn’t pick up a correspondence. And it’s not a live sync–it won’t pick up new Facebook/Outlook matches until you run it again.
For consistent 15 percent tipsters living in municipalities with a 7.5 percent dining tax, generating the perfect 15 percent tip is as simple as doubling the tax. If that’s not you, Oh Arithmetic-Challenged One, you’ve got a bum deal.
It’s for this set, and for diners who frequently split a bill, that Ilium Software developed Tipster. The free, simple app for Palm, Windows Mobile smartphone and Pocket PC hurriedly computes your tax and total.
Tipster calculates tax in 5 percent increments up to 30 percent, and can evenly split the amount owed between up to ten diners, tip included. Working out how much four people should pay on an $86.52 bill with a 20 percent tip becomes instant and headache-free. Just don’t try anything funny, like tipping 18 percent. Read More…
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