Archive for March, 2008
The Digital Inspiration blog has a timely step-by-step tutorial on creating a "slipstreamed" Vista installation DVD that has all the fixes and tweaks from Service Pack 1 included. The guide utilizes the previously mentioned vLite tool, and requires a Vista installation CD—but you create the new DVD from inside your existing Vista install, so don’t get too format-happy before reading through. For a similar method of creating an updated XP installation CD, check out RyanVM’s Update Pack. –
Want a free ebook copy of a Kurt Vonnegut novel? Free ebook site Wowio has five of them, along with lots of other copyrighted fiction, literature, comics, and other works. The site offers the wares through sponsorships, and only limits your downloads to three books per day, 30 per month. The two caveats are a somewhat limited selection (as you might expect) and that the site’s U.S.-only due to licensing restrictions. Otherwise, it’s not a bad place to check for fresh content for your PDA, cell phone or computer screen. For more free page-turners, try the top ten sites for free books and the 100 best free Project Gutenberg books.
MSNBC.com “Multimedia on Mobile” is a free application that offers a rich news and entertainment experience on Windows Mobile devices. Enjoy your favorite video, photo and text content.
NBC News video from “Today”
“Nightly News with Brian Williams”
Popular slideshows from MSNBC.com including “The Week in Pictures” and “The Week in Celebrity Sightings.”
Personalization and communication tools built into the application enable you to save your favorite articles for offline consumption and to share content with friends directly through SMS and email.
Download Multimedia on Mobile
When it comes to mobile applications, simple can be good. Golf.com’s new one for select Windows Mobile 5 and 6 phones makes it easy for links-lovers to find all the course location and details they could want while on the move–except for directions and hours of operation. They also won’t be able to add personal course ratings or send a new favorite link to a friend from the application.
But never mind all that. Golf.com’s free Course Finder beta, which heavily promotes its partnership with Microsoft, does what it needs to by providing a golf-themed interface with clear options to search for a course by name, location, or a customized preference. The returned results include a short list of entries with the course’s name, address, rating, and price. The details page also lists amenities, has a click-to-call functionality, and can add the phone number to your contacts list.
You can get Golf.com Course Finder by texting "GOLF" to 58585, or by visiting http://www.golf.actionengine.com/provision with the phone’s mobile browser.
It took all of about 20 minutes to get accustomed to Linux’s virtual desktops, which let you switch between work environments with a single click. The problem is, I still spend most of my computing time on Windows machines that lack this handy productivity-boosting feature.
I tried using Microsoft’s Virtual Desktop Manager, a PowerToy for Windows XP that lets you create as many as four separate desktops, but it’s as buggy as an anthill, and there’s no version for Vista. I found three free virtual-desktop programs that work better and give you more options: VirtuaWin, an open-source program that supports up to 20 separate desktops; Virtual Dimension, another open-source app that offers more features than VirtuaWin; and Z-Systems’ Vista/XP Virtual Desktop Manager, which takes advantage of Vista’s aero interface.
VirtuaWin’s simple approach
At only 385KB, this lightweight utility keeps things simple but lets you add features via downloadable add-on modules that let you start applications automatically when you enter a desktop, give each desktop a name that shows on its taskbar icon (a feature built into Virtual Dimension), and cycle through your desktops automatically, among other functions. VirtuaWin’s support for as many as 20 separate desktops seems like plenty until you consider that Virtual Dimension and Vista/XP Virtual Desktop Manager let you create as many desktops as your system’s memory can accommodate.
Configure your virtual desktops in VirtuaWin’s Setup dialog box.
You switch between VirtuaWin desktops by clicking one of the four corners of the program’s system-tray icon, or by pressing the keyboard shortcut assigned to it. If you create more than four desktops, the icon displays the active desktop’s number; click the icon once to view your open apps, or double-click it to open the Setup dialog box. Beyond that there’s not much to the program, which is just fine if you’re “cultivating a minimalist vibe,” as they say in the movies (bonus points if you know which one I’m quoting).
Customize your virtual desktops with Virtual Dimension
There are many more similarities than differences between VirtuaWin and Virtual Dimension, but the differences are noteworthy. Virtual Dimension lets you give each virtual desktop its own wallpaper, which makes it much easier to distinguish between desktops. The program is also much easier to configure via its Settings dialog box: you can assign various operations their own keyboard shortcuts for moving between windows, adjust the transparency of open windows, and tweak the utility’s appearance in other ways.
Give each of your Virtual Dimension desktops its own wallpaper via the program’s Settings dialog box.
(Credit: Virtual Dimension)
Click the program’s system-tray icon to open a small preview window that includes the names you’ve assigned to each desktop. Choose one of the previews to open that desktop, or click the system-tray icon again to close the preview. In addition to using keyboard shortcuts, you can jump between desktops by right-clicking the icon and choosing one from the pop-up menu that appears.
Give your Vista virtual desktops the aero effect with Vista/XP Virtual Desktop
This program’s main claim to fame is its full-screen desktop previews in Vista, which take the guess work out of identifying the desktop you’re looking for. You can create a separate system-tray icon for each active desktop, and assign each desktop its own background. The program also lets you adjust the size of the preview windows, but not their transparency as you can with Virtual Dimension. You get fewer keyboard-shortcut options with this program than with Virtual Dimension, though both let you designate programs that will appear on all desktops.
Customize the keyboard shortcuts for switching between virtual desktops in Vista/XP Virtual Desktop Manager’s Options dialog box.
Two virtual winners
The aero support and full-screen previews in Vista/XP Virtual Desktop Manager make it a good choice for that OS, but Virtual Dimension’s easy customization and inclusion of the desktop names in its preview window give it an edge on XP systems. Whichever program you choose, you’ll find the ability to jump between workspaces makes Windows much easier to work with.
The Windows AutoPlay feature is the bane of many-a-PC user, particularly because of nasty DRM histories and other intrusive business, but what about when you actually want to use the AutoPlay feature? For example, let’s say you’re a fan of Lifehacker’s very own DVD-ripping tool, DVD Rip, and you want your computer to automatically start ripping DVDs as soon as you put one in (making the simple one-click solution even simpler). Here’s how it works.
First, if you don’t have it already, you’ll need to go download the most beloved of Windows PowerToys, TweakUI. Once it’s installed, fire up TweakUI and then head to My Computer -> AutoPlay -> Handlers.
We’re looking to add a new option to the AutoPlay, so hit the Create button. You’ll see a new window that allows you to define the new AutoPlay handler. To start, enter a description (like "Rip the DVD to your hard drive") and followed by the name of the program you’re using in the next textbox (e.g., "DVD Rip"). Next you need to point TweakUI to the program that will run when you insert the media, so click the Change program… button and point it to the application you want to run (in our example, that’s DVD Rip.exe). Finally, tick the boxes next to the media you want your new AutoPlay options to show up with.
When you’re finished, click OK, apply your changes, and you’re done. In our example, next time you insert a DVD, DVD Rip should be included in your AutoPlay options. If you want it to automatically run every time you insert a DVD, tick the box labeled Always do the selected action and hit OK.
What about Vista?
Now for the bad news: As far as I can tell, so far there isn’t a comparably good and simple solution to add a new entry to the AutoPlay menu in Vista. Vista does have a great AutoPlay tool for selecting your options, but it doesn’t offer an option to add programs, and the old TweakUI doesn’t work for Vista. If you’re aware of a method for doing the same for Vista, let’s hear about it in the comments.
Remember Outlook on Your Desktop (which I mentioned earlier here)? If you have not seen this program yet, it’s worth a look. The software allows you to put your Outlook calendar on your desktop – and not just a view of your calendar – your actual calendar. If you haven’t updated your software in a while, you should grab the latest update which allows you to have multiple instances pinned to the desktop, all managed by one instance of the program and one instance of Outlook. Download it for free here.
Windows Vista only: Microsoft is releasing/has released Windows Vista Service Pack 1 to Windows Update. The update, which promises several improvements to Vista, is available either through Windows Update or through direct downloads from Microsoft (linked below). While it seems that SP1 is taking its sweet time showing up for many people in Windows Update, the 32- and 64-bit standalone installers are available now. If you give the update a go, let’s hear what improvements stand out and how you’re liking them in the comments. – Lifehacker.com
Microsoft Digital Image Starter Edition 2006 was popular photo-editing software for users of Windows XP and below. The product has been discontinued, but fans can still download it for free from Microsoft Downloads. Digital Image Starter Edition provides easy-to-use tools that help you create, organize, and enhance your digital photos. The software contains 3 modules: the Library, where photos are organized, the Editor, where editing and retouching are done, and Photo Story, where you can create movies based on your photos. Despite it’s age, Digital Image Starter edition is still a great program for beginners to the world of photo editing, and you can’t beat the price!
Are you running the beta of IE8? With all the new features, like WebSlices, Activities, and the new Favorites Bar, there is a lot to see and try. So, if you want to get your IE8 Beta up to speed with only the best of the new features, look no further – here are the best add-ons for IE8:
- Me.dium’s Activity for IE8: With the Me.dium Activity for IE8, you can right-click on a web page or highlight text and right-click, then choose "Discover with Me.dium." You’ll then be recommended new pages around your selection based on what other Me.dium users are surfing right now, in real-time. (Stay tuned for a Me.dium WebSlice, coming soon)
- Internet Buzz on StumbleUpon: This add-on is a WebSlice that shows you the hottest sites on StumbleUpon right now. To subscribe to a WebSlice, click on the purple icon and then click "Add." You can then click on the WebSlice on your Favorites bar and see a list of thumbnails and links to the currently "most Stumbled" web sites.
- eBay Search Activity & WebSlice: OK, technically this is 2 add-ons, but each of these are great. The eBay Search Activity lets you highlight text on any web page and then hover over "eBay Search" to see active listings for that item. The eBay WebSlice lets you monitor your favorite eBay items and auctions from IE8′s Favorites Bar.
- Facebook WebSlice: To access this WebSlice, just log into Facebook and then click on the purple WebSlice icon on your Favorites Bar to see your Facebook friends status updates. (Vista users – if you have an issue with this, launch IE as an Administrator before adding the WebSlice). Pick up the "Share on Facebook" Activity on this page, too.
- Mapping Activities: Why have just one mapping activity? From this page, you can get both the Live Search Maps and Yahoo! Local Maps Activities.
- News: Get the MSNBC "Related News" Activity here and the "MSN Headline" WebSlice here.
- Helpful Activities: There are Activities that help you Define, Translate, Blog, and Email.
- ShareThis: the ShareThis browser button works with IE8, too. With this button, you can easily share web content on various services like Digg, Facebook, del.icio.us, facebook, MySpace, StumbleUpon, etc.
Well, Amazon was at least half right. As the retailer predicted, Microsoft did make Windows Vista Service Pack 1 available for download on Tuesday via Windows Update and on its Web site.
Still unclear is when it will start being available on retail shelves. Amazon said it will start shipping boxed copies with SP1 included on Wednesday, while Microsoft said it will be at retailers "as soon as April." I’ve asked for further clarification on the disparity, but have yet to hear back.
Meanwhile, in a posting on the Windows Vista blog, Microsoft also went into a little more detail on a previously disclosed driver problem that may prevent some drivers that work in Windows Vista from working with Service Pack 1. Microsoft also posted a list of potentially problematic drivers.
Microsoft said some drivers have already been updated to fix the incompatibility.
"We’re working with the providers of the remaining devices to get updated versions of the drivers to our customers as well," Microsoft product manager Nick White said on the Vista blog. "In the meantime, Windows Update will recognize PCs with drivers that may be problematic and postpone offering SP1 to those PCs until it has installed corrected drivers or other applicable updates. Either way, Windows Update works to detect whether or not your system is ready for SP1 and not offer it to you until the time is right."
So, you may or may not be able to get SP1 starting today. For those whose systems are able to get SP1, the update is available in five languages: English, French, Spanish, German, and Japanese.
As for other means of getting SP1, Microsoft plans to start pushing out Service Pack 1 next month to Vista users who have automatic updates turned on. As for when new PCs will start carrying it, that is still a bit unclear, with Microsoft noting that it takes time for PC makers to update their assembly lines, but also saying they can use the new code "when they are ready." Microsoft finalized Vista Service Pack 1 back in February.
I’ve spent the last two weeks in hotel rooms and continually juggled between lamp, clock, laptop, phone, and MP3 player(s) in the power outlet that was available. Then there is the ruthless power outlet jockeying that goes on in airports… Well, Belkin has a great solution for this in a three outlet power adaptor that has two built-in USB chargers on the side. It features a 360-degree rotating plug with a surge protector. Well worth the money at $24.99.
FairUse Wizard has been one of my favorite DVD archiving applications for a long time. The application makes ripping DVDs almost as easy as ripping CDs. You just pop in a disc, decide where to save it, and FairUse Wizard will do all the heavy lifting, ripping and compressing your video using the DiVX, XViD, or H.264 codecs.
FairUse typically comes in two varieties. There’s a free version that limits your target file size to 700MB. Long videos will look pretty good, but not as good as they could at that file size. Or you can shell out a few bucks for the full version which has no file size limits.
But for a limited time, the full version of FairUse Wizard 2.8 is available as a free download. The latest version of FairUse Wizard includes a handful of bug fixes and a few new features including pre-defined encoding profiles for Zune, Xbox 360, PS3, and other devices. FairUse Wizard 2.8 also adds the ability to auto-detect multiple episodes on DVDs with television shows.
The Quero Toolbar is a navigation bar replacement for Internet Explorer that offers a built in ad-blocker. With Quero, you can customize the UI of IE, allowing you to resize, move or shorten your address bar again. Then integrated ad blocker stops unwanted Flash, banner, layer, Google, IntelliTXT, and pop-up ads. Other features let you highlight search terms on your pages, begin finding as you type, search or highlight any word by selecting and right-clicking it, and jump to URLs that aren’t highlighted.
The latest version supports Vista’s Aero theme (for Vista users) and lets you just use Quero as a button, instead of an entire address bar replacement.
- Improved integration with Windows Vista: Quero is the first IE toolbar to support Vista’s new Aero theme (download the special Vista version now)
- Paste and go (from the search box context menu, or with the shortcut Ctrl+Shift+V)
- For users who do not want to use Quero as an address bar replacement the toolbar can now be reduced to just one button
- Increased the maximum number of search engines and search profiles from 32 to 64
- New options to disable the ad blocker for local or https sites added
- Fixed: certain content was blocked anyway even though it was whitelisted
Microsoft France’s Francois Ruault seems to be a bit more talkative on the Zune platform than he should be, inadvertently announcing that the third-generation Zune is going to launch during the holiday season of 2009 (which is kind of obvious if you look at the previous release schedule). What’s interesting to EU readers is that Francois said the third-gen Zune will debut in Europe at the same time. What’s even more interesting to people who don’t care about Europe are the mobile capabilities.
Apparently the Zune Marketplace is heading to "Mobile Platforms", with talk of it being on both Zune proper and Windows Mobile. This is heading fairly deep into rumorville, but it could mean that the Zune will get a mobile music/video store (like the iTunes Wi-Fi store) accessible over Wi-Fi. It can also mean the Windows Mobile 7 will get the same store, and will debut some time in 2009. This, assuming the rumors are correct and this French to English translator we’re using is accurate. [Generation NT via Anything But iPod]
Schtickers.com is a site that provides stock and custom skins for the back of your laptop. As the name implies, these are stickers, but they are high quality, and to give a professional finish. They have wide variety of stock skins choose from, but the real fun is designing your home. Feel free to order the bigBrains.com laptop skin by clicking on this link.
Hulu is finally out of beta on now open to the public. loaded with content from NBC, News Corp., Sony, MGM, as well as their various subsidiary channels like FX, Sci-Fi Channel and so forth, offering anything from full episodes of Battlestar Galactica and Buffy to SNL Digital Shorts and an entire Russell Crowe flick, Master & Commander. It’s Flash-based, it streams, just like YouTube, and it’s ad-supported, with bumpers and "commercial breaks," just like the TV it’s trying to ape. Check it Out..
The idea behind Dropbox, which officially enters into private beta today (which provides a free 5GB of storage), is that little to no effort should be put into keeping your desktop files synced with “the cloud”. So the three founders have built a Python-based desktop client (available for both PCs and Macs) that acts like a regular folder on your machine. You can manage files within this folder just like elsewhere on your machine (add, edit, copy, and delete them) and changes will be automatically synced to Dropbox’s Amazon S3-backed storage, and very quickly at that.
At the very least, you can use Dropbox to automatically backup a subset of your files, and to access them when traveling. You can also use the service to easily share files with friends and coworkers. Just right click on a folder and select “Share”. You’ll be taken to a webpage where you can enter the email addresses of who you want to share the folder with. When your friends add files to that shared folder, they will automatically get downloaded to your machine in addition to getting backed up online. If you have Growl installed on the Mac, it’s quite impressive to see your friends’ files magically show up.
This should sound a lot like Microsoft FolderShare, which had it own set of minor announcements yesterday. That’s because FolderShare has been providing a desktop client that syncs local folders across computers for years now. But it’s a bit like comparing Vista to MacOS; both get the job done but only the latter is actually pleasurable to use and appears designed for maximum customer satisfaction. (Update: As a commenter points out, FolderShare doesn’t actually back up your files online, just facilitates syncing between computers, so this is a big difference too).
Dropbox tops FolderShare in a number of ways beyond simple ease of use matters. You can access your files through the web browser in addition to the desktop client. All files are version controlled so you can revert to an earlier version of a document, or restore it completely when lost. There are also two special folders within the local Dropbox folder: one for publicly sharing files (via distinct URL) and one for sharing photos (which also get distinct URLs for particular galleries, which have been formatted online for easy viewing). Read more…
Today the Windows Live FolderShare team launched their new blog. Along with it comes an all-new version of FolderShare that includes better performance and a better SysTray.
FolderShare is a cloud storage service that lets you sync your Favorites, Files, & documents. You can share them with family and friends, and sync files up to 2GB. It works on Mac and/or PC.
Try it out now, free of course.
The new version gives you access to all your files no matter where you are. Share what you want, with who you want, when you want with FolderShare.
Creating your own PDFs used to require purchasing a PDF-creator like Adobe Acrobat. With PrimoPDF and DoPDF, though, all that’s required is a program with a print function. Interestingly, while both Do and Primo do the same thing, one is stripped-down and simple, while the other adds an extra step and some extra features to attract users.
Both doPDF and PrimoPDF add PDF output to your Print options.
DoPDF is the more basic of the two programs. It’s utterly bereft of features beyond its main function, to let users create PDF documents from within any program using the native Print option. Along with whatever printer you’ve got hooked up that shows up in the Print dialog box, doPDF adds an eponymous option. Select it, hit print, and you get the chance to change the name of the PDF you’re creating. Hit enter and the PDF gets created, then automatically opens for you to proofread it.
Lacking any customization features and the control panel to manage them, doPDF is definitely meant for fast PDF creation with a minimum of fuss. However, not all PDFs are created equal, and that’s where PrimoPDF comes in.
Primo uses the same mechanism to create PDFs as Do does: it lets users create PDFs via the Print function of most–if not all–programs that have a print option. However, the addition of extra features should appeal to more advanced users who need their PDFs to be of higher-than-average quality.
The PrimoPDF output and options menu.
Whereas doPDF just gives a simple output dialog box for altering the name and saving location of the PDF, Primo lets users choose from four preset resolution levels plus a custom-set fifth one. The four others optimize the PDF for screen use, Web use, eBook, or pre-press. The variations between them adjust image quality more than anything else, because that will instantly jack up or shrink the size of the PDF.
Three features within Primo’s Options window should make it truly appealing to advanced users. Users can edit the document properties, which include adding meta info like title, author, subject, and keywords. You can also set two security levels, one for opening the document and another for making changes to it. The app comes with the ability to wrap up your PDF in 40-bit or 128-bit encyrption. You can even specify access solely for text-reading programs for the visually impaired. The third feature lets users specify which program opens the PDF, even overriding your system’s default PDF reader setting.
However, all these extras come with a cost: PrimoPDF uses about 40 MB of RAM when running. That’s not a major concern, except it’s about 40 times what doPDF consumes. If none of Primo’s features sound useful, doPDF is probably the PDF converter you want to use. But for any project requiring a bit more finesse, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be using PrimoPDF
The Daily Download: Bold, stylish Zune themes are a knockout | Software news, tips, and opinions from Download.com editors
The Seattle giant’s search for a sleek, cool iPod competitor produced the Zune, and the Zune’s youth culture appeal produced Microsoft’s Zune-flavored desktop theme. Couple that with the Firefox Zune theme created by the prolific theme meister Brett Bodine–also known as Bodizzle–and you’ve got yourself a bold, sleek screenscape in orange and black gradations, with just enough strokes of white for emphasis.
Disk fragmentation leads to system slowdowns, PC crashes, slow startup and shutdown and sometimes to system failures. Auslogics Disk Defrag is designed for fast optimization of today’s modern hard disks. Get the maximum performance out of your expensive hardware investments. Version 22.214.171.1245 includes is a bug fixing release.
If you’re looking for a fun and retro way to kill a few minutes this weekend, The Tetris Game offers up a simple freeware version of the classic game. There’s no frills here, but anybody who’s got a craving for that four-block goodness will probably find this rendition instantly satisfying.
The controls are mapped to your keyboard’s arrow keys. Up rotates the piece, left and right shift it in one direction or another, and down accelerates the rate of descent. Pieces come in red, green, gray, yellow, and blue. You can save your high scores or submit them to The Tetris Game Web site, pause the game, and start a new one, and that’s about it. The main page of the Web site also features a lengthy history of the video game.
Along with the lack of complex features that newer versions of Tetris might feature, The Tetris Game has a tiny installer that weighs in at around half a megabyte and it sucks up wonderfully underwhelming 7 MB of RAM while running. The only thing missing is the minimalist electronica of the game’s original soundtrack. But for a fast dose of old-school nostalgia, this game doesn’t mess around.
Download link: tetris game
Some time ago, we announced that NBC would be using Silverlight to broadcast the Olympics to the web. Now, for the first time, NBC is showing what the application looks like — and it is beautiful! Nishant interviewed Perkins Miller of NBC about the application, and got an exclusive demo — this is all working code as shown in the keynote.
If every blog rumor were to be believed, social news site Digg would have been bought a dozen times over by now, so take the latest one with the requisite grain of salt.
TechCrunch reported early on Friday that four companies are in the running to place bids on Digg–Microsoft, Google, and two unidentified "media companies"–and that a sale may happen soon. It’ll likely be less than the $300 million that Digg was once rumored to go for; TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington cited sources who said that Google is prepared to bid $200 million to $225 million and that Microsoft, which currently serves ads on Digg, is aiming slightly lower. That’s a good bit less than the $300 valuation that was floating around when Digg reportedly hired investment bank Allen & Co. to shop it around.
In an interview several weeks ago, Digg founder Kevin Rose told CNET News.com that he thought selling the company to a big buyer could get in the way of running it efficiently.
One TechCrunch commenter noted, "Good for them, but Diggers will complain either way," referring to the site’s active and opinionated crowd of regular users. "There’s no pleasing them."