Archive for June, 2008
Living in a non-iPod world isn’t easy. Sure, there’s a lot to love about Microsoft’s line of Zune MP3 players, but when it comes to shopping for accessories, you start feeling like the only vegetarian at the steakhouse. Don’t fret, brave Zune-ster, there are plenty of worthy accessories made for the Zune. In fact, the quality-to-crap ratio for Zune accessories is unusually high, since most off-brand manufacturers would rather chase the iPod.
The hottest-selling MP3 player accessories are traditionally in-car FM transmitters and small speaker docks. The Home audiovisual kit Microsoft made for the Zune is a great buy, considering that it offers a charging dock with both component and composite video outputs, a remote control, and a portable USB wall-charger. Charging docks (including speaker docks) are also a great accessory if you like using the Zune’s wireless sync feature, since docking your Zune will automatically trigger the sync. The latest addition to this list is the iHome ZN9 Zune alarm clock, which can hold its own against the best offerings for iPod.
If money is no object and you’re shopping for the ultimate Zune accessory, the 2008 Ford Focus SES and its Sync 2.0 media system allows voice-activated browsing of your Zune while you drive. Now that’s cool.
Dashwire (review), a dashboard for synchronizing and managing the contents of your mobile phone online, has let loose with Dashwire 2.0 for Windows Mobile 5 and 6. Tuesday’s release enriches the syncing client application with photos and with Facebook and Twitter updates.
Sharing media and status messages makes Dashwire way more fun.
The previous version of the downloadable Dashwire app, which opens the syncing channels between the phone’s content and the online dashboard, was pretty much a blank placeholder–all back-end functionality and very little front-end personality. Now the screen displays your primary photo, status message, and a media ribbon of the photos and videos stored on your online dashboard.
The status entry field on the Dashwire client can easily become a direct artery to Facebook and Twitter. After a quick setup from the dashboard ("Your status"), status updates made from the phone can automatically supplant a user’s Facebook status, post to Twitter, or both.
Another addition sees the media ribbon along the bottom edge that serves as an on-demand photo and video gallery, but which also has new privacy and interaction controls. The content can now be titled, shared, or set as wallpaper directly from the phone. When privacy mode is on, photos are invisible to the public unless they’re given individual permission.
Privacy controls keep you in charge.
In another twist, photos will soon be able to climb up from the Mac or PC to the dashboard, then autosync to the media ribbon on your phone. When that happens, users will be able to upload full-size images through the Photo tile. Dashwire will then autosync a much smaller scale version of the hosted image, about 20 KB, to the client. The result is a neat feature that grants access to media not even stored on the phone. Translation: more precious memory for you. Unfortunately, it’s only running on Dashwire’s development servers at the moment, but is expected to bridge that gap with a general release within three weeks.
To get Dashwire 2.0, point your Windows Mobile browser to http://m.dashwire.com, and to sign up for an account, visit www.dashwire.com from your desktop. Support for Symbian S60 is expected to debut within the next two months.
If you dont know what I am talking about, your not alone. Twitter is a free social networking site. It is what they are calling “micro-blogging”. This service allows users to send “updates” (or “tweets”; text-based posts, up to 140 characters long) to the Twitter web site, via the Twitter web site. These are sort of like text messaging for the web. They can flow into other apps like, instant messaging , or a third-party application such as Twitterrific or Facebook.
If you’ve ever needed to create vector graphics, but your pocketbook came up a little short on the cash needed to purchase Adobe Illustrator, you now have another alternative: Creative Docs .NET. This completely free tool (for personal use) offers a lot of features that will help you make professional documents like manuals, posters, brochures, schemas, charts, and more. (You can see some samples of what you can make here). All you need is a Windows machine running 2000, XP, Server 2003, or Vista. The PC should also have a 1 GHz processor, 1 GB memory, and a 1024×768 graphics card (or better). As you may have guessed by the name, Creative Docs .NET requires the Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0, which will be automatically downloaded if you don’t already have it installed on your computer. Don’t you just love free stuff? (Thanks to CyberNet!) – From On10.net
Windows/Linux only: Open-source application Dia is a robust flowchart and diagram tool. Like a free version of Microsoft Visio, Dia provides you with all the tools you need to create anything from a simple flowchart to a powerful and complex diagram, and files can be saved in many formats, including a Visio Drawing-compatible VDX filetype. Dia is free, Windows and Linux only. If you’d prefer building your diagrams on the web, check out Gliffy. – Lifehacker.com
Windows SideShow for Windows Mobile Developers Preview is software that runs on your Windows Mobile 5 or 6 device that lets you use your phone as a Bluetooth SideShow-compatible device. With SideShow, you can access info on your PC and control some of your computer’s functions. You can check your email or calendar, run a PowerPoint presentation, browse your tunes, and much more. You should be aware that “developers preview” means “beta,” and this app is still very much a beta – version 0.01 – but those who have been testing it so far have found it to be problem-free so far. To see some more photos, check out Chris Craft’s screenshot gallery on his blog. (story via/img via the::unwired)
I have tried about a dozen different converters for Zune, some free, some hack, and some commercial products. Free Zune Video Converter is simple and it works. You end up with a perfectly formatted little video for the Zune, with the minimum number of steps. Some of the Codec geeks out there may like to futz with the settings, but I left mine at a 16×9 WMV, and did not look back. Try it out. – David
Today, Robbie Bach, Microsoft’s president for entertainment and devices, renewed the news that Microsoft will not be making a ZunePhone. "“We don’t make phones ourselves. We don’t have any plans to make phones ourselves.” He said. This really isn’t something we haven’t heard before.
Further, Bach continued the discussion and confirmed rumors that Zune will be expanded. He made it clear that Zune is not simply a media outlet, but is a platform that we will see integrated into other Microsoft products. Again, nothing we didn’t already know and have mentioned in the past. The Windows Mobile Team has even asked how Zune could work better with Windows Mobile.
But one tidbit worth noting is on what Robbie Bach said about the future of the Zune device itself.
“Take the device independent for a second and just assume that over time where there’s a screen, touch will be part of it. It’s not going to matter what the product line is. You’re going to see it be a cornerstone of the work we do.”
That’s as clear as clear can be. Zune will have a touch screen interface in the future. As always, keep it locked on ZuneBoards for any more news on this topic!
doPDF is a fairly simple program. Even though 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–it’s still worthwhile because it does the basics very well.
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 again and the PDF gets created, then automatically opens for you to proofread. Lacking any customization features or a control panel to manage them, doPDF is definitely meant for fast PDF creation with a minimum of fuss. Extensive language support should appeal to non-native English speakers, and there’s another benefit that comes from lacking any frills: It barely uses any RAM.
Previously only available for Nokia phones like the horrendously overpriced N95 ($500 unlocked), the service will soon roll out for the millions of Windows smartphones now on the market, like the Samsung Blackjack (free with activation) according to Qik co-founder Bhaskar Roy.
While still in private beta, Qik for Windows will soon be available as an open download. Roy told me that he hopes to sign some carrier deals soon too, getting Qik preinstalled on phones.
Qik turns anyone with a capable mobile phone into an on-the-spot live reporter. The service also records its live streams so users can view events after the fact.
As VentureBeat says, don’t get too excited. We’re expecting a new 3G iPhone on Tuesday, and who knows what cool video capability will be built into it.
open-command-window-here.pngThe How-To Geek technology weblog highlights an incredibly handy Windows Vista feature that opens a command prompt in any system path through a simple shortcut: Shift-Right-click. Let’s say, for example, that you’re browsing a folder deep in the bowels of your hard drive, and you want to work with files in that folder from the command line. Instead of firing up the command prompt and manually navigating the depths of your filesystem, just Shift-Right-click the folder, click Open Command Window Here, and voilàyou’re there. The same functionality is available in XP through the previously mentioned Open Command Here powertoy, but it’s great to see it integrated directly into Vista.
Windows Live Writer has got to be, hands down, one of the most popular tools out of the whole Windows Live lineup. I know many a blogger (myself included) who can’t live without it. That’s why the recent release of the Windows Live Writer Tech Preview has everyone talking. The Windows Live Writer Tech Preview is really intended for developers, but that didn’t stop a slew of bloggers from downloading this latest version.
So what’s new?
For one, the UI – there are now tabs at the bottom that switch you from Edit mode to Preview mode to Source mode. This definitely makes switching quicker and easier than have to choose it from a menu option. The toolbar also got a refresh and the "Weblog" menu got moved to the top on the right hand side. For bloggers with tons of categories, a new category search feature will be greatly appreciated – making finding the right one much faster.
Also nice are the improvements in working with images – cropping tools are built-in, alignment commands now work on images, additional borders are available, Lightbox is supported, contrast adjustments and tilt adjustments can be made.
You can also upload videos from your computer to Soapbox from the new WLW interface, which is great for video bloggers.
And now, there’s an official word count feature – something I only had via a plugin before.
Vista Start Menu changes the look and enhances the usefulness of Vista’s main menu.
Power Downloader spends a lot of his time looking at ways to improve Windows Vista. He still doesn’t use it for his primary computer, but there are some cases where it’s clearly better than Windows XP. One of them, however, is not the Start menu, which barely improves on XP’s five-year-old design. That’s why he recommends Vista Start Menu for users who want to put a bit more zing into their Vista experience.
Vista Start Menu does away with the translucent aero theme, making it opaque, and builds it out with several levels of features and customization. It prevent programs from jumping around, as is their wont sometimes in the standard Vista Start menu, and it throws in a basic zoom feature accessible via CTRL+Plus and CTRL+Minus. It adds loads of keyboard support, so if you access the menu via the keyboard button, programs, folders, and sections of the Start menu are clearly labeled with hot key numbers and letters. Making cosmetic changes and surfacing directories is much easier with this app, since right-clicking anywhere from your username icon to any program will reveal a list of choices that include opening the host directory. Even though the program can be set to run as Vista starts, its uninstallation is boilerplate and easy.
Zune fansite ZuneBoards has recently launched a YouTube-like site for converting and sharing Zune clips with the community. The site is called ZuneTV. Here, users can upload videos, which are automatically converted into the Zune-compatible .wmv format. Those clips are then made available for download by any member. Like any social video sharing site, there are ways to rate, favorite, and comment on videos and the videos can be embedded anywhere on the net thanks to a handy copy-and-paste embed code. In order to participate on ZuneTV, you have to first get a ZuneBoards account, then you just head here: www.zunetv.net.