Archive for March, 2009
Microsoft is offering a "cumulative update" for Outlook 2007 users running SP1 that its developers promise will improve hard disk usage, startup and shutdown times, and help those with smaller, cached mailbox storage.
All this will be included in an SP2 release, which doesn’t have a firm release date yet, but by providing an email address and agreeing to a hotfix installation, Outlook 2007 SP1 users can get these pretty significant performance boosts installed now. The team says they’re not waiting until SP2 because of "their quality and the rigorous testing that has been done with them," so you can perhaps set aside your well-founded eyebrow raises about Outlook service packs. The hotfix is free to download, works for Outlook 2007 users runing SP1 on Windows only. UPDATE: Check the comments for direct download links, and note there’s a password—
IBLyKz[k— to unlock the ZIP-compressed files.
The whole netbook craze has definitely spilled over into the desktop market full force. Shuttle is getting into the game with the X50, though there doesn’t appear to be anything unique about it aside from the carrying handle. I’m all for low power desktops since most of us probably don’t need powerful CPUs for regular web surfing, email and IM, but I fail to see the need for a carrying handle. If you’re going to cart a PC around the house, netbooks are quickly growing in size with some touting 12" displays and a battery means you’re not limited to the nearest power outlet. I just don’t see being able to swing a nettop around the house as compelling enough to choose Shuttle over any other nettop out there.
The Shuttle X50 will be available in April 2009 for an around $539.00
The BitTorrent client formerly known as Azureus and now called Vuze is available in a new version which integrates with a number of platforms, one being the Xbox 360. With the latest version of the Vuze client software (ver. 4.2), Vuze can now act as a media server that can directly transfer high-def video straight to your console. Even better, the software automatically converts file formats if it detects that the original file cannot be played on the receiving device.
For this to work, your PC needs to be powered on with Vuze open and your Xbox needs to be on the same network as the computer. All the videos you drag to the Xbox 360 within the Vuze Sidebar will then appear under the Videos section in the main Xbox 360 menu. You can also use RSS feeds to subscribe to your favorite content so it’s always available.
The Microsoft Image Composite Editor (ICE) is a tool created by Microsoft Research which can be used to create panoramic images. It’s essentially the same technology that Windows Live Photo Gallery uses “under the hood” when you create panoramic photos in the software (just like Alexa does in the latest commercial – and lest you think these kids are far more tech savvy than you – I can assure you that the process is dead simple).
But unlike the panoramic technology that runs in WLPG, the ICE software provides a few extra features, too. The most important one is the orientation tool. With this, you can change the orientation of a photo to give the impression that a tilt/shift lens was used. For example:
Windows 7 only: Tiny system customizing utility Logon Changer for Windows 7 swaps out the logon screen wallpaper easily.
Using the utility is simple—just select a new wallpaper, test it, and you are done. The only small issue is that the image must be less than 256k and in JPG format, which means you’ll need to convert most downloadable wallpaper backgrounds. To do this open any image in Paint.net, Save As .jpg, and adjust the size, compression, to you get it under 256k.
Here are some presized images:
Following on from the feature in Issue 29 of Windows Vista: The Official Magazine, where we showed you how to make your Windows Vista desktop look and feel like Windows 7, we now have the official Windows 7 wallpapers available to download, right here.
And not only do we have the UK wallpapers, but we also have the US and Australian wallpapers too. To download them, click on each link and right-click -> save target as to save them to your hard drive. Alternatively, download them all at once by going here.
It’s the little things that make a Windows system great—like utilities that use less than 10MB of memory to make your life easier. Here are 10 apps that pack a lot of greatness into very little space.
Note: Most of these apps do, indeed, use less than 10MB of hard drive space when installed, or use that much when they’re running in the background. Some will scale in use as you demand more or less from them—DisplayFusion or UltraMon, for example, when handling very high-resolution backgrounds or a wall of monitors—but all should have an almost negligible performance impact on a modern system.
You don’t open your programs in the order you want them nealy arranged on your taskbar, you open them when you need them. Taskbar Shuffle knows this, and makes it easy to quickly swap windows around, along with system tray icons. It also allows you to close out windows with a simple middle-click, which alone could make it worth the roughly 6MB price of admission. You won’t know you wanted to fling windows out of your cursor’s way until you try it.
It’s probably smaller than your desktop wallpaper. But Everything is more useful and efficient than applications 25x its size. Everything only searches through file names, not inside the contents of them, but it does so stupid-fast as you type. You’ll usually find your file with a few keystrokes, and Google fans will appreciate the boolean operators that enable and/or elegance. Definitely an app you’ll want to right-click and create a keyboard shortcut for. There’s also Locate32, which does a bit more, is portable, and has more user-friendly features—we just like Everything for its single box that searches, uh, everything.
8. DisplayFusion or UltraMon
If you’re rocking dual, triple, or even quadruple monitors at home or at the office (and, let us just say, lucky you on that last bit), these apps have a relatively small system footprint, but make a big impact in how your system looks. They both manage separate or split wallpapers across multiple monitors, and can grab and rotate images from your computer, Flickr, or other sources. With DisplayFusion’s recent update, they also both maintain your Windows taskbar across all your monitors (or don’t, if that’s how you like it). Our resident multi-monitor enthusiast Jason still keeps both apps on his system for the little things, like multi-monitor screensavers in UltraMon, but both are among the very select paid apps we’ll admit to being worth shelling out for (although both have restricted "free" versions as well).
I know, it’s like we never give up on promoting this, right? Well, what can we say—we (the royal "we," really) wrote it because it filled a need in our half-breed lives of alternating text and HTML. Turns out, though, that folks ranging from power emailers to military writers have found dull, boring text they can automate, misspelled words to catch on the fly, or perhaps powerful, seriously secretive acronyms they’d occasionally like to spell out. For less than 2.5MB of RAM on most systems, this one packs a pretty hefty punch.
In a magical world without computer stress, we’re all running virtual machines to try out software we might not want, and we simply uninstall it there, keeping one system nearly pristine. For the real world, Revo Uninstaller scrubs an application and all its traces off your Windows system. It can also turn off programs that are starting up with Windows, and uninstall applications with a crosshair "Hunter Mode" that doesn’t require you to know what it’s named.
5. NirSoft’s password recovery tools
Nir Sofer has contributed a wealth of great applications to the Windows world, but his Lifetime Achievement award for free software could be granted on his password utilities alone. Need to share your network password, but haven’t actually typed it in forever and a day? Network Password Recovery to the rescue. Need to unlock an Outlook PST file? Hit up PstPassword. Nir’s got you covered for email clients, IM apps, and, for every other app in your system that you can only see asteriks for, Asterisk Logger. Use them with the light side of the geek Force, and you’ll owe Nir a beer after he saves your unlucky day.
With good reason, this tiny, powerful little app has remained our readers’ favorite Windows maintenance tool. With a few clicks, it guns through your web browser remains, Recycle Bin, temporary system files, registry, and unnecessary application left-behinds, clearing them out and, in some cases, freeing up at least a DivX movie’s worth of space. It also offers a startup program analyzer and disabling tool, and can be run on a schedule for that light, regular crap-free feeling (ew, but good, right?)
Windows Task Manager isn’t a bad tool, necessarily, but it only gives you a layman’s view of what’s eating up memory or pulling serious CPU cycles. Process Explorer expands on the vagueries of "rundll" or "svchost" with a double-click, links background services to applications, and points to the folders they come from. You might not need it all the time, but when you’re rooting around and trying to free up system memory, it’s like a finely-tuned metal detector.
2. Replacements for built-in Windows utilities
width="202" height="190" />There are a lot of good reasons to keep on rockin’ Windows XP, but some of the built-in utilities can feel a bit, well, dated—and that goes for a good number of Vista tools, tool. Notepads without tabs? A Paint app that can’t really resize or undo more than one action? Skip the headaches and work-arounds and run down our list of power replacements for built-in Windows utilities, almost all of which are tiny litle buggers that do their work a whole lot better than Windows’ own stuff. This editor, for instance, tries not to think about what file copying was like before TeraCopy came along—or, if he does, tries to keep himself calm about that 4GB transfer that failed out for no reason, overnight.
If you feel like you’ve heard this one before without really knowing why, you probably saw it listed as the best calendar application, or listed as one of the tools used to create a Featured Desktop. This customizable little guy gives you a floating, tiny, yet informative calendar on your desktop, along with a to-do list. It integrates with Outlook, Google Calendar, and most other iCal-supporting scheduling systems. The full app with offline Outlook, GCal and shared calendar support costs €10 (or about $14-15), but could totally be worth the price for anyone who doesn’t like to have to open a browser, or flip up Outlook, just to see what’s going on Monday.
As we’ve learned from reading our comments over many years (collectively, at least), any Windows power-user has their own stash of little helpers that can move the rock down the road. Which teensy-weensy little apps get past the velvet rope to your system tray, or into your must-install list? Share your links and the reasons why they win in the comments.
The iPhone event just ended, and the upcoming iPhone 3.0 software update adds a ton of new functionality to the iPhone—claiming over 100 new features, including long-awaited copy and paste, MMS messaging, and more.
Copy and Paste
This one was no surprise. Copy and paste is finally available on the iPhone through a double-tap and a little dragging of the paste boarders. Any text can be copied, but you can also now copy and paste photos—which means that you can also send more than one photo at a time. Developers can also integrate copy and paste into their apps.
The iPhone’s terrible multimedia messaging always seemed like us to be just as bad as the lack of copy and paste on the iPhone, requiring you to jump through absurd hoops to view photos that someone shared via MMS (you couldn’t even do it from the iPhone). Not only can you send pictures via MMS, but you can also share contact vCards and audio files using the new voice notes application.
The one catch: MMS will be iPhone 3G only.
3.0 adds Spotlight to your home screen (and search to many different apps), allowing you to launch an application or find a contact or note through one central application and document launcher.
File Sharing Between iPhones
iPhones will now be able to connect directly over a Wi-Fi network for sharing files directly between phones. The first thing we’d consider sharing is music, but it seems unlikely that that’s the kind of functionality Apple will enable for this. Still, sharing a document, vCard, or photo with a direct peer-to-peer connection is pretty cool.
Though not enabled in anything provided by Apple in this release, the 3.0 update will enable developers to create turn-by-turn apps.
Push Notification (For Real This Time?)
Apple promised this one last year—a feature that allows developers to send push notifications of updates without the cost of running the app in the background. We’ll believe it when we see it.
It’s not clear if this means we can expect to see Skype or something like Google Voice on our iPhones or iPod touches any time soon, but Gizmodo is reporting that voice communication will be available in applications. They point out that this means users could chat with people they’re playing a game with, but we’d be much happier to see a simple VoIP application for talking with people when you’re on a Wi-Fi network without wasting your minutes.
Gizmodo didn’t mention much about this one, but Notes sync is clearly listed as a new feature. Guess that doesn’t mean all that much to the guys at Giz, but we’ve been dying for this one forever.
When Can I Get It?
According to the Apple, the public release will be sometime this summer. However, it looks like eager early adopters may be able to join the Apple Developer Connection to start testing it today. We’ll let you know when we find out more.
We’re sort of reeling at the thought of all the new features, leaving us at a bit of a loss for what’s missing. Was there a feature you were hoping for in the iPhone 3.0 update that it doesn’t look like we’ll be seeing? Let’s hear about it in the comments.
There have been rumors on the net about a new login background in the latest build of Windows 7. Whether or not that’s true is yet to be confirmed, but there is a way to customize your background now using a registry hack and pictures saved on your own hard drive.
The first step is to create a new DWORD value named OEMBackground in the HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Authentication\LogonUI\Background key. Set this to 1 (enabled) to turn the feature on and 0 (disabled) to turn the feature off. Depending on your system, this value may or may not already exist. The next step is to create a folder called %windir%\system32\oobe\info\backgrounds. In this folder, the following files are supported:
- background768×1280.jpg (0.6)
- background900×1440.jpg (0.625)
- background960×1280.jpg (0.75)
- background1024×1280.jpg (0.8)
- background1280×1024.jpg (1.25)
- background1024×768.jpg (1.33-)
- background1280×960.jpg (1.33-)
- background1600×1200.jpg (1.33-)
- background1440×900.jpg (1.6)
- background1920×1200.jpg (1.6)
- background1280×768.jpg (1.66-)
- background1360×768.jpg (1.770833-)
These files must be less than 256 KB in size that they must be named as listed above. When a resolution/ratio-specific background cannot be found, the backgroundDefault.jpg image will be loaded. (You can grab some decent wallpapers from here).
One of the best products so far to emerge from Microsoft’s Live Labs has got to be Photosynth, an amazing tool that lets you transform your photos into three-dimensional worlds you can then virtually explore. In the past, we’ve seen Photosynths integrated with Live Maps, turned into slideshows, geotagged, changed into Point Clouds, and even used to document historical events like President Obama’s inauguration. Now you can add one more to that list: Photosynth has come to the iPhone.
With the new iPhone application iSnyth (iTunes URL: http://www.itunes.com/app/isynth) just released today in the iTunes App Store, you can view photosynths with your iPhone or iPod Touch. Within the application, there are buttons for the most recent and most viewed synths as well as a funny category called “nice and synthy,” which apparently means they have tons of photos per synth. In the ones I saw, for example, most were “100% synthy.” There’s also a search option that lets you search for synths using keywords.
Clicking on a synth first gives you a brief description of the image including number of views, number of photos used, date, percentage “synthy,” and a thumbnail from the image. You can then press the “View Synth!” button to delve into the synth on your phone. As with the viewer application on your computer, you can explore the synth using the directional arrow keys, tap to zoom in and out, and even hit a button to see the point clouds.
Unfortunately, you can’t turn your iPhone images into snyths using the new viewer app – you still need to use your Mac or PC to do that. But you can show them off to others here when you’re finished.
iSynth was developed by Greg Pascale with permission from Microsoft. Greg was an intern on the Photosynth team during the summer of 2008. He’s currently a student at Brown University, class of 2009. However, iSynth isn’t a Microsoft product nor is it officially supported by Microsoft. Instead, Greg will provide his own support via GetSatisfaction.