Archive for August, 2008
We can’t verify the claim, but we have no reason to doubt the authenticity of this picture taken of Microsoft’s new 16GB flash-based Zune 16 and FCC approved, 120GB Zune 120. It’s not the backstory we find so solid, it’s more the thought that some lonely soul is busy Photoshopping Zune rumor images on a Friday night — an ennui so black we could not possibly fathom. Oh and the French? Zune’s in Canada remember, blown-up international and the source country of this photo.
Sure, we’ve seen some blurry videos and managed a few stolen glimpses when Andy Rubin demonstrated this beast, but now we’ve gotten our hands on a slew of pictures showing off a very real T-Mobile-branded Dream in all its Android-running glory. Not only does this confirm the design spied in those FCC docs as well as show off that nearly-done version of Android, but it seems to confirm the fact that this will be headed to T-Mobile, and sooner rather than later judging from the looks of the above device. Needless to say, our inner-geeks are completely geeking out right now. Hit the gallery below for a handful of other views of the phone. [Warning: read link is a forum, requires registration, and is in Chinese]
Search Commands helps you find commands, options, wizards, and galleries in Microsoft Office 2007 Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Just type what you’re looking for in your own words and click the command you need. Search Commands also includes Guided Help, which acts as a tour guide for specific tasks.
The IE team recently announced the availability of Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2, the latest iteration of the upcoming browser which is now available for download from www.microsoft.com/ie8. This new version of IE features several new improvements and changes, but we decided to list our favorites below.
Smart Address Bar: Taking a note from Firefox 3’s Awesome Bar, the Smart Address Bar offers suggestions as you type based on website history, favorites, and RSS feed. There’s even an autocomplete feature that will suggest sites based on what you’re typing. Domain highlighting is also used to highlight the domain name. This feature allows for improved security and is especially useful in thwarting phishing attacks.
Colored Tab Groups: When you Ctrl+Click a link to open up a new tab, the new tab will have the same color as the original tab. New tabs that you launch on your own will be in a different color. This feature helps you easily visualize how tabs are related to each other.
Enhanced Find On Page Search: Ctrl+F launches a Find-on-Page Toolbar at the top of the page underneath the tabs. Search terms on the page are highlighted and the number of times they appear are counted.
Switching Search Providers Easier: Now when you enter in a search term in the search box, you’ll notice a row of icons that appear below the search suggestions that appear. These icons allow you to change your search provider on the fly from Live Search to Google to Wikipedia to Amazon, eBay, and more…all with the click of a button.
Visual Search: In addition to being able to change providers quickly, sites that support visual search (currently Amazon and Wikipedia) will display a small thumbnail image of the results which you can view without having to visit that page. What a timesaver!
Crash Recovery/Session Saving: You now have the option to reopen the last tab group when closing the browser. Also, if a tab crashes, crash recovery will restore the tab as well as any info you had filled in there such as in the case of writing an email or filing out a form.
InPrivate Browsing: This new technology lets you browse privately, making sure that history, temporary internet files, and cookies are not recorded on the PC
Other new features include an updated look for the IE chrome, improvements to both web slices and accelerators (formerly called “activities”), tools for IT professionals and developers, and a lot more. You can check out the full list of enhancements here as well as read reviews from both Ed Bott and Brandon LeBlanc, who both take a comprehensive look at the new browser.
Having just recently released Speed Launch, an application launcher for Windows, the Office Labs guys are at it again. This time, they’re releasing pptPlex, a plug-in for Microsoft PowerPoint that provides zooming capabilities. With pptPlex installed, you can present your slides as a tour through a zoomable canvas – sort of like Silverlight’s Deep Zoom – instead of a linear deck. You may remember seeing a similar technology demoed by Bill Gates at this year’s Microsoft CEO Summit, but pptPlex is really just a take-off on that technology, which was called Plex. It’s not the same prototype as Plex.
First we get the Cooliris plugin for PowerPoint and now this? Wow, looks like boring slideshows may be a thing of the past.
pptPlex only works with Office PowerPoint 2007 and is available for download here.
I’m sure you’ve all heard of this amazing new application that allows you to digitally stitch your pics together to create new 3D panoramic environments. In this piece you’ll learn exactly how to make the most of Microsoft’s new toy for photogs and then check out this video to see the behind the scenes action of how it was made.
And then go here for a bit of it’s history.
This isn’t the most feature-packed Windows optimization utility but we found it one of the easiest to control. Advanced WindowsCare Personal’s simple interface offers two main options: Repair and Repair And Optimize. The former fixes Registry entries and cleans out your operating system. The latter does the same thing and tweaks Windows for maximum performance.
If you run into trouble, the Restoration option can return your system to its original configuration. The Advanced menu provides fine control over repairs and optimizations. Afterward, I noticed only one improvement, a reduced amount of used RAM, but that’s not insignificant. However, the sparse descriptions of system problems may not satisfy seasoned users. And although the latest version of the app includes a help file, it’s hardly extensive.
Nevertheless, if your system is doing its best turtle impersonation and you’re considering reinstalling Windows, it wouldn’t hurt to try this freeware package first. There’s also a paid upgrade that offers more features, such as a run-in-background option, faster definition file updates, and tech support
I was a bit surprised when I stumbled upon this batch MP3 tag editor. People seemed to love it. Not The Dark Knight love it, but perhaps X-Men 2 love it. In the words of a user, it’s "simply indispensable." Turns out, you could do much, much worse than Mp3tag if you’re looking for a freeware ID3 tag editor.
It comes with an effective single and batch auto-tagging feature, sourced from FreeDB, Amazon, or Discogs. The lightweight application also sports batch and single edits to effect such changes as case changing, auto-numbering, tag and track name flipping, and user-defined actions. There’s playlist support and configuration exporting in six formats including CSV, HTML, and RTF. Support for more than two dozen languages offers the program up for international use, and a Favorite directory makes it easy to return to your music assuming you keep all your tracks in the same root folder.
The interface is a bit too simple, though. It won’t be hard for anybody to navigate once you get used to the busy Toolbar and using mouse-over labels to identify button functions, but it certainly could be clarified with bigger buttons, or at least more easily identifiable icons. At worst, the user interface will slow you down, but in no way should it stop you from using this top-flight MP3 tag tweaker.
Email Prioritizer is a plug-in for Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 (running on Exchange Server) that helps you manage email overload. This concept test provides a “do not disturb” button that temporarily pauses new email arrival, and prioritizes email with a 0-3 star rating system. We hope this prototype helps you focus on the emails that are most important to you.
Office Labs: Email Prioritizer
Firefox only (Windows/Mac/Linux): The Drag & Drop.io Firefox extension makes it easy to quickly share a file in Firefox 3 with previously mentioned file sharing site Drop.io by simple dragging and dropping the file in your browser. The best part of the extension is that you don’t need to go through any tedious Browse for file dialogs to upload files you’re probably already staring at anyway. The extension has a few subtle differences in how you can use it to upload and share files, so check the demo video for a full overview. If you want to be able to drag and drop files into any upload box at any site, check out previously mentioned dragdropupload.
A little known feature to those that don’t use a Microsoft Zune is the fact that Zunes have the ability to “reverse sync” back to a computer. What this means is that you can connect any Zune to any PC running Zune software and copy over music, videos, or pictures back to the PC. Matt recently blogged about this over on ZuneInsider when he surprised a friend by showing him how to he could copy an album from his friend’s Zune back to his own PC. He notes that he already owned the album in this example, but the secret here is that un-DRM’d content – like much of the content sold in the Zune Marketplace as well as on sites like Amazon’s MP3 store – makes this possible. With less restrictions on how the content can be moved around, accessed, and played, you aren’t as locked down as when you purchase DRM’d content like the majority of the music still sold today on iTunes. Not only is this helpful for letting friends share music with each other, it’s also a great feature for anyone with a multiple-PC household and more than one Zune or for taking your tunes to your office PC. For step-by-step instructions on how this is done, check out Matt’s post.
In the dog days of summer when there’s absolutely nothing new on television (except the Olympics), it’s time to start watching the web—and you need the right tool to do just that. The free, cross-platform internet video player Miro can automatically download online video series via RSS feed or BitTorrent, play almost any format you throw at it, and keep track of what you’ve watched and what’s new and queued up for you. More and more independent producers are putting out fabulous video content on the web, but keeping up with it by visiting your favorite video hosting web site or in your regular feed reader can be almost impossible—but setting up Miro is like getting TiVo for web video. Let’s take a look at how to subscribe to free internet television with Miro.
Miro’s TiVo-Like Features
In short, Miro is a video "podcatcher"—software that uses video feeds to automatically download new episodes for you and keep track of what you’ve watched and not watched. Kind of like an inbox for your video subscriptions, here’s what Miro looks like with a few subscriptions set up.
(Note: This screenshot is from a Mac, but Miro works on Windows and Linux as well.) There you can see my subscription to the great Google Talks YouTube feed, and Miro separates what’s available on the feed, what clips it’s already downloaded to my hard drive, what’s unwatched, and what it’s in the process of downloading in an easy to use interface. On the left hand column, you can see my current subscriptions, and how many unwatched items each has in the green circle.
Since I often can’t take time out of a workday to watch longer video clips, I like to run Miro on a computer connected to my actual television, so I can relax on the couch and watch my subscriptions full-screen during TV time. Here’s a rundown of the killer features that make Miro ideal for keeping up with online video:
Windows only: Free software YouTube File Hack is a standalone application and Internet Explorer integrated menu item that downloads videos to your desktop from the popular video sharing site. Simply run the application, enter the URL of the YouTube video you want to view offline, and press the Download button. When all is said and done, you’ll have an FLV file for watching offline (we recommend the free VLC player to do so).
To use the Internet Explorer integration, navigate to any web page, right click on a YouTube video link, and choose the "Download this YouTube Video" option from the right-click menu. (Note that the "Download this" menu item displays regardless of whether a video is present or not.)
YouTube File Hack is one of several ways to download YouTube video clips. Let’s review just a few of our favorite options:
- The All-In-One Video Bookmarklet works in IE or Firefox and requires no installation—just drag and drop it to your browser toolbar.
- The Better YouTube Firefox extension adds a "Download this video" link to any YouTube page in Firefox.
- Vixy.net and Viddownloader takes the URL of a YouTube clip, converts it to a format of your choice, and offers it for download.
For more video handling desktop and online apps, check out our top 10 free video rippers, encoders, and converters.
Currently, YouTube File Hack works within Internet Explorer only; the software is a free download for Windows only. What’s your favorite way to download YouTube clips? Let us know in the comments.
While Google has the Earth’s most excellent reference, Microsoft takes the prize for information and imagery from across the universe. The recently released and fabulous freeware WorldWide Telescope is the most ambitious attempt to bring the power of massive space- and ground-based telescopes onto your PC. Along with the incredible pictures of black holes, nebulae, and radiation clouds, you can take guided tours of celestial objects led by eminent astronomers and educators.
ooVoo is an iChat-like video conferencing and chat tool for Windows, loaded with useful, powerful tools that make it a viable alternative for small work groups using conference calls and screen-sharing applications. A recording feature lets users tape video chats with other participants. Since the video and audio are being recorded to the hard drive, the only time limit is how much free space the computer’s hard drive has. In testing, a nearly 15-minute, four-way video conversation only took up 95MB, which ooVoo can convert into a workable FLV file.
A conference calling tool gives host and participants a phone number to call. Other ooVoo users who call this conference line get plugged right into the audio that’s a part of the video chat, and just like the video recordings, this audio gets archived, too. Call-in lines support up to six people, meaning users can have up to a dozen participants–including those on the video side. Note that this service isn’t free. An optional companion for ooVoo’s video player can be used for screen sharing or file sharing, and fun facial overlay tool that applies digital masks either to users faces or to backgrounds.
One of the best features is support for high-quality video streams, but two qualms users have had with the service are the compressed-sounding audio quality and datastream delays. More than annoying, one or more seconds of lag can force a heated debate to grinding halt. Still, ooVoo makes for a strong alternative to other VoIP and conferencing software.
I know some of you are sick of posts about Twitter apps – to you, I apologize. But for those of you that aren’t, you’re going to love this one: Twitula is yet another Twitter app for Windows Mobile phones. After logging in, you can view your friends timeline, send tweets and direct messages, and get your responses. This app even has an auto-refresh setting which can be turned on or off. When on, it will refresh the screen at approximately one minute intervals. To install Twitula, download this CAB file, copy it to your device, and then double-click it to install. Alternately, you can visit the Twitula homepage from your phone’s browser and download the Twitula file directly to your device.
TweakVI Basic enables you to tweak and optimize Windows Vista. It provides access to many hidden or difficult to find features and settings that allow you to optimize your machine and tweak it to your needs. The set of features include desktop customization, Internet Explorer tweaks, CPU cache tweaks, CD/DVD drive performance tweaks and much more. The program also includes EasyBCD, a Vista Boot Configuration Manager that enables you to configure the Vista Bootloader. Other features include Firefox optimization (FireTune), wallpaper randomizer, system information, Outlook/Windows Mail tweaks and more. A commercial version is also available that offers additional features.
There’s an acronym from the past for you. Run Time Improvements (RTI). I am always looking for ways to squeeze another speed improvement out of Windows Vista. In fact, a few weeks ago I made some changes to my Dell Latitude D820 and it made a very real difference in how the machine performed.
Before I list out all of the stuff below, keep in mind I am willing to sacrifice some features for the sake of overall system performance. I’m usually looking for all of the horsepower out of my machine for a couple of reasons. Video encoding or virtualization workloads.
I don’t need eye candy for those two purposes. I don’t need a search index. I don’t need the system to anticipate what the next ten programs I am going to launch are going to be.
If I dial back some of these features in Windows Vista, am I losing some key features? Absolutely, positively yes. However, information is power so get ready because I’m going to arm you with some of my tricks and you can decide what you like and dislike. One thing before we move on… I don’t recommend turning off security features but I do make one exception to this rule. More on that later.
Fast And Easy
I like to keep things simple so we’ll start with the easiest first. Remember the dialog box just below? I know you’ve probably stumbled across it. It’s in nearly all of the operating systems we’ve produced yet most people don’t make any changes to it.
I do. These settings alone can have a rather profound change to the way application windows and dialog boxes display, move, minimize or disappear. Eye candy takes horsepower and don’t underestimate the visual impact. Before we get to the disable list, lets talk briefly about two of them.
Animation and fading take cycles from the CPU and GPU. When you have a weak CPU or GPU, the animation and fading effects end up looking like they are slow motion. I’m exaggerating a bit, but your eyes are actually very good at picking up motion changes. I have several machines ranging in age from less than a year old to more than five years old. And the speed of the CPU and GPU in those machines varies greatly. Therefore the new fast quad core machine can drive these effects the way they were designed to be seen. But even the quad machine will show a noticeable improvement.
- Animate controls and elements inside windows
- Animate windows when minimizing and maximizing
- Fade or slide menus into view
- Fade or slide ToolTips into view
- Fade out menu items after clicking
- Show shadows under menus
- Show shadows under mouse pointer
- Slide open combo boxes
- Slide taskbar buttons
- Smooth-scroll list boxes
Now you might be wondering how to get to these options since I neglected to tell you. You can get to them in a similar manner across most of our operating systems and as usual, there’s more than one way.
- Click the Start button or in the case of Windows Vista, click the Vista Pearl.
- Right mouse click Computer.
- Click the Properties menu item. This effectively takes you to Control Panel | System in Windows Vista.
- Click the Advanced system settings Task item in the top left portion of the window. This requires administrator privilege so you’ll need to respond to the Windows Vista UAC prompt.
- In the Performance section, click the Settings button.
Now that you have made these changes, you should see the difference in how the applications behave. This made a dramatic difference on my two slowest machines. It was very helpful in particular on on my Dell Latitude D820. Now that we’ve made some changes to the user interface responsiveness, lets look at disabling some optional features and services in Windows Vista.