Sunday, July 30, 2006

Blog Aid - iFeedReaders

Discovered a useful site to aid fledgelings blogger like myself…

iFeedReaders Online  Service provides a great one-stop shop to allow your readers to subscribe to your blog feed in a multitude of ways. You've seen sites with a list of little buttons that allow readers to subscribe the feed to a range of services? Well, they're called chicklets and this site provides the same functionality for you and all via a single button so no messy lists of buttons. Also, since they update their lists of possible buttons as services come and go, you don't have to modify your blog template every time these change.

Turn this to this!

They also provide a similar service to allow your readers to bookmark your site with a huge number of social bookmarking services, again via a single button.

Last, but not least, if you really want to have a list of chicklets on your site, then they provide a chicklet creator tool. You pick the services you want chicklets for from their huge list and they'll produce the button list code for you.

Check out my sidebar as I've put both the Subscribe and Bookmark buttons there so you can see what they look like and how they work.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Flip4Mac Gets Intel Upgrade

With Microsoft dropping further development of Windows Media Player for Macintosh, they partnered with 3rd party developer Flip4Mac to provide continuing support for the WMV format on Macintosh and for free.


However, at the time of the initial release of the free player, it wasn't compatible with the Intel based Macintosh models, which probably made the PC community titter a bit and almost certainly annoyed anyone that had just bought a new Mac.

Anyway, Flip4Mac announced that they were working on an Intel compatible version and now it's here at last and it can be downloaded from either Flip4Mac or Microsoft.

The free player allows you to play Windows Media in QuickTime Player, Safari and other Web browsers. In fact, you can play Windows Media in almost any application that supports QuickTime including Apple Keynote and Microsoft PowerPoint. If you need the ability to import or convert Windows Media video or audio, then you'll have to upgrade to the Pro version (for a wee consideration of course).

Supported Audio Codecs
  • Windows Media Audio 9 Professional
  • Windows Media Audio 9 Lossless
  • Windows Media Audio 9 Standard
  • Windows Media Audio
  • ISO MPEG Layer 3
  • Microsoft G.726
  • Microsoft IMA ADPCM
  • Microsoft G.711 aLaw
  • Microsoft G.711 uLaw
  • Microsoft ADPCM
Supported Video Codecs
  • Windows Media Video 9 Standard (WMV3)
  • Windows Media Video 8 (WMV2)
  • Windows Media Video 7 (WMV1)
  • ISO MPEG-4 V1.1 (M4S2)
  • ISO MPEG-4 V1.0 (MP4S)
  • Microsoft MPEG-4 V3 (MP43)
  • Microsoft MPEG-4 V2 (MP42)
  • Microsoft Motion JPEG (MJPG)
Supported File Formats
  • Advanced Systems Format (ASF)
  • Advanced Stream Redirector (ASX)
  • Audio/Video Interleaved (AVI)
Supported Network Protocols
  • HTTP
  • FTP

Friday, July 21, 2006

Google Accessible Search

Google Labs have come up with yet another search solution. This time it's for the visually challenged and is simply called Google Accessible Search. It's still in development, hence the Google Labs placing, but Google see it as an extension of their overall mission to better organize the world's information and make it universally accessible.

They've worked with a number of organizations to determine which websites and pages meet their criteria for accessibility, where the blind and visually challenged can experience using standard online technology. This takes several factors into consideration, such as a page's simplicity, how much visual imagery it carries and whether or not it displays properly with images turned off and can be navigated using the keyboard.

UK legislation already exists to ensure that government and public service web sites conform to recognised accessibiliuty guidelines. This technically now covers any site providing a service to the public so it really encompasses everyone. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) publishes numerous guidelines including Web Content Access Guidelines that attempt to assist web designers achieve accessibility.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Don't Surf...Stumble!

I've spent years surfing around the web, picking up links to web sites that I thought might be interesting or even useful. I've subscribed to several newsletters that post me lists of useful sites, I've bought magazines listing web sites and I even, on occasion, search for sites by specific topic or category. But now I've found something else…

StumbleUponStumbleUpon Online  Service

StumbleUpon helps you discover and share great websites by only suggesting sites that match your own chosen set of personal preferences. I've trolled through the popular sites list on and, while it is possible to find a gem or two in there, this is even better.

Like, StumbleUpon is essentially a free social bookmarking service that allows you to tag, rate and comment on sites. Where it differs from the others is the fact that it stores your personal preferences for web content and only suggests pages that match your choices and that have been rated positively by friends and like-minded stumblers.

Interaction with the service is done via a browser toolbar, which is available for both Internet Explorer and Firefox (so Mac OS X and Linux users needn't feel left out). I've experienced several such website promotion toolbars over the years and they've mostly just been ways to push site advertising at you but this is a more user-focussed and friendly system, so much so that it's almost addictive.

It's also really easy to use. If you find a site you like or dislike, then just click on the thumbs up or thumbs down buttons to rate it. If you click on the Stumble! button, you'll be taken to a site matching your preferences and you can narrow that range of choices down by selecting a search category first if you want to. You can also share sites with others via e-mail and it does this without having to launch an e-mail client.

Like other social bookmarking sites, you can also comment on and tag a site and then browse or search through your remembered sites.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Low Cost Windows Image and Photo Editing

Since I've already posted an article on low cost Macintosh image and photo editing, I thought I'd better do the same for Windows users. I suppose I could have included dedicated Windows applications in the first article but there are only a few cross-platform tools out there so it'd have been longer than the average blog entry.

Anyway I did note those of the ones I listed that were compatible with Linux or Windows as well as Macintosh - such as GIMP, XnView, Photomatix and Sketchup so I won't include them here. Unfortunately, I doubt if I'll ever get round to doing one for dedicated Linux applications as I've got no access to a Linux system. Anyway, here are a couple of other popular and free Windows image tools well worth checking out…

Picasa Picasa is yet another excellent and free product from the Google stable. The best way to describe it would be as iPhoto for Windows. Picasa allows you to find, organise, edit and share all the pictures on your PC. It has advanced editing capabilities such as…

  • Basic fixes such as crop, straighten, redeye, auto contrast, auto colour and fill light.
  • 12 visual effects such as warmify, sepia, colour, black and white, etc.
  • Zoom, pan and tilt to get the angle correct.
  • IPTC standard captioning.
  • Online storage and sharing via Picasa Web, Google's online photo hosting service.
  • E-mail or blog your photo straight from Picasa or make a CD presentation slide show or even a movie.
It's a must-have application for any digital photographer. While iPhoto is good on a Macintosh, I'd welcome Picasa on the Mac too as Apple always charge for major updates to iLife.

Linux Compatible version also available.

IrfanView IrfanView is another free for non-commercial use, graphics viewer that can also edit and convert dozens of image file formats and play over a dozen video/audio formats. It supports loads of file formats including BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, TIFF and even non-image media files such as Flash, Ogg Vorbis, MPEG, MP3 and even text files.
  • Cut, crop, resize and change image colour depth.
  • EXIF/IPTC/Comment editing support.
  • Support for Adobe Photoshop Filters.
  • Batch convertion.
  • Effects (Sharpen, Blur, Adobe 8BF, Filter Factory, Filters Unlimited, etc.)
  • Image capture and scanning support.
  • Extract icons from EXE/DLL/ICLs.
  • Multipage TIF and multiple ICO support.
This is well worth having on any home machine.

Again, if you have sufficient funds and a need for high-end image editing or design, then it's well worth looking at the main commercial image editing solutions such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Photoshop Elements, Photomatix Pro and even the impending Microsoft Expression.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Low Cost Macintosh Image and Photo Editing

Low cost or even free image and graphics editors for Macintosh come in quite a few flavours and Mac OS X normally comes with Apple iPhoto installed but I'll try and give you some alternative offerings here as well and I'll note if Windows or Linux versions are available too…

Apple iPhoto Apple iPhoto is primarily a tool for importing, editing and sharing digital photographs. While it's an excellent tool for that job and has some very powerful image editing and retouching facilities, it doesn't lend itself to creating or drawing images from scratch.

That said, it's probably one of the best, low to middle range digital photography tools a Mac user can have…

  • Import images directly from a digital camera, or any other kind of storage device supported by the Macintosh such as CD, DVD, flash drive or card reader.
  • Organize your photos into albums, assign tags and ratings and even edit dates and titles.
  • Do basic editing like red-eye reduction and retouching as well rotate, crop, constrain, straighten, darken, lighten and improve colour. You can also adjust exposure, contrast, saturation and temperature.
  • Share your photos by exporting them to CD or DVD or even upload them to internet photo sharing sites.

GraphicConverter GraphicConverter is an excellent shareware application originally designed to facilitate convertion between different image formats. However, it has grown over the years and, as well as coverting a huge range of file formats, it has some very useful editing capabilities…

  • Imports about 190 graphic file formats.
  • Exports about 79 graphic file formats.
  • Image enhancement operators such as brightness, contrast, saturation, sharpness, levels and rotation.
  • host of image editing tools, effects and filters.
  • Plug-in filters and effects.

If you need something a bit more powerful than iPhoto or want to create or draw images, then this is well worth the shareware fee.

NB: GraphicConverter may be bundled with some PowerBook G4 and PowerMacintosh G5 models.

Pixen Pixen is a freeware bitmap graphics editor designed specifically for creating and editing low-resolution images like computer game sprites and icons. That also makes it ideal for working on small, detailed images…

  • Supports an extensive range of file formats such as gif, gif (animated) jpg, png, tiff, bmp, ico, eps, pict, lif, mov, pal (Microsoft and Jasc), act, pxpalette, pxi and pxa.
  • Configurable tools such as brush size, tolerance, contiguity, sampling sources, etc.
  • Make and draw with patterns.
  • Layered editing.
  • Create animations such Quicktime movies, animated GIFs or sprite sheets.
  • Customizable palettes, including native support for Adobe, Microsoft, and Jasc palette formats.

Pixen Seashore is a free, open source image editor for Cocoa. It features gradients, textures and anti-aliasing for both text and brush strokes. It supports multiple layers and alpha channel editing. It is based around the GIMP's technology and uses the same native file format…

  • Full support for the GIMP's native XCF file format. Read and write support for the TIFF, PNG, JPEG and JP2000 file formats. Read-only support for the BMP, PICT, PDF, XBM and GIF file formats.
  • Layers with over 20 merging effects.
  • Individual primary and alpha channel editing.
  • Thorough transparency effects including semi-transparent gradients.
  • Arbitrary selection regions.
  • Anti-aliased brush strokes.
  • 6 basic gradient effects with 16 variations.
  • Tablet support.
  • ColorSync support (including embedded profiles in TIFFs and CMYK previewing).
  • Plug-in filters.

GIMP GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program and it's a free, open source image editor capable of very powerful photo retouching, image composition and image authoring…

  • Full suite of painting tools including brushes, a pencil, an airbrush, cloning, etc.
  • Tile-based memory management so image size is limited only by available disk space.
  • Sub-pixel sampling for all paint tools for high-quality anti-aliasing.
  • Full Alpha channel support.
  • Layers and channels.
  • A procedural database for calling internal GIMP functions from external programs, such as Script-Fu.
  • Advanced scripting capabilities.
  • Multiple undo/redo (limited only by disk space).
  • Transformation tools including rotate, scale, shear and flip.
  • File formats supported include GIF, JPEG, PNG, XPM, TIFF, TGA, MPEG, PS, PDF, PCX, BMP and many others.
  • Selection tools including rectangle, ellipse, free, fuzzy, bezier and intelligent.
  • Plug-ins that allow for the easy addition of new file formats and new effect filters.
It's major drawback is a reliance on the X11 windowing protocol, which gives it a very non-Macintosh look and feel. However, you might find that the capabilities outweigh the interface limitations as the program has been compared to Adobe Photoshop for functionality. For those that feel more comfortable with Photoshop but have limited funds, then Gimpshop is a modified version of GIMP with renamed and reorganised tools, options, windows and menus to closely resemble the Photoshop interface.

Linux Compatible and Windows Compatible versions also available.

XnView XnView is a freeware ( to private non-commercial, educational and non-profit organizations) utility for viewing and converting graphic files. Again, it's not an image editor as such but it has basic image manipulation functionality built-in.

  • Import about 400 graphic file formats.
  • Export about 50 graphic file formats.
  • Multipage TIFF, Animated GIF, Animated ICO support.
  • Image IPTC, EXIF metadata support with EXIF auto rotation and IPTC editing.
  • Resize, rotate, crop support.
  • Lossless rotate & crop (jpeg) support.
  • Adjust brightness, contrast. Auto levels, contrast.
  • Modify number of colors.
  • Apply filters (blur, average, emboss, ...).
  • Apply effects (lens, wave, ...).
  • Fullscreen mode.
  • Slide show with effects.
  • Batch convert, batch rename.
  • Create WEB page easily.
  • Screen capture.
  • Create contact Sheet.
  • Create or edit Multi-page file (TIFF, DCX, LDF).
  • Compare image side by side.
  • Filmstrip layout.
Like the GIMP, it also relies on the X11 windowing protocol, which gives it a very non-Macintosh look and feel, but if you want a free image convertion tool, then this is well worth checking out.

Linux Compatible and Windows Compatible versions also available.

Pixen Photomatix Basic is a free version of a high-end post-processing utility that can extend the dynamic range of digital photographs or scanned films. If you've ever shot a high contrast scene, you probably know the problem -- blown out highlights and loss of contrast in shadows. With this free version, you can create HDR images and combine two exposures…

  • Automatically blend two differently exposed photos
  • Generate HDR images from multiple exposures
The result is an image that you can display on standard monitors, while preserving the details of the original scene in highlights and shadows.

Windows Compatible version also available.

Pixen Sketchup is search giant Google's attempt to break into the 3D design market. Okay, they've obviously bought this product in but it is very easy to use and, being Google, they have a free version.

This is an easy-to-learn 3D modeling program that enables you to explore the world in 3D. With just a few simple tools, you can create 3D models of houses, sheds, decks, home additions, woodworking projects - even space ships. And once you've built your models, you can place them in Google Earth, post them to the 3D Warehouse, or print hard copies.

  • Click on a shape and simply push or pull it to create your desired 3D geometry.
  • Experiment with color and texture directly on your model.
  • Real-time shadow casting lets you see exactly where the sun falls as you model.
  • Interactive Sections.
  • "Sketchy Rendering".
  • Dimension & Annotation.
Windows Compatible version also available.

Of course if you have sufficient funds and a need for high-end image editing, then it's well worth looking at the main commercial image editing solutions such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Photoshop Elements, Photomatix Pro and Apple Aperture.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Capture The Web While You Surf!

Have you ever found exactly what you're looking for while surfing around the web or just an interesting page and then had to go about copying and pasting links, text or images for later reference?

Okay there are tools out there that can download an entire site to your hard drive but what I'm talking about is copying a page here, a page there or even just snippets of text or images as you browse or search around. I've just had to go about finding a cottage in Skye for a week and being able to jot down links and some of the text on each page was an absolute necessity. On top of that, I needed the ability to share my findings with my better half so she could pick one from the list. I did it all with this…

Google NotebookGoogle Notebook Apple CompatibleLinux CompatibleWindows CompatibleOnline  Service

This is a really useful, free service from search giant Google. It lets you take text clippings, images, links, etc. while browsing and saves them to an online notebook. Great for research or when moving between systems at work and home.

You can have more than one notebook and you can even make a notebook public so you can share it with others. On top of all this, you can organise and edit the contents as required. Here's the features breakdown…

  • Clip useful information. You can add clippings of text, images and links from web pages to your Google Notebook without ever leaving your browser window.
  • Organize your notes. You can create multiple notebooks, divide them into sections, and drag-and-drop your notes to stay organized.
  • Get access from anywhere. You can access your Google Notebooks from any computer by using your Google Accounts login.
  • Publish your notebook. You can share your Google Notebook with the world by making it public.
It works as a browser extension for both Internet Explorer 6 and Firefox 1.5 or later. Unfortunately both Opera and Apple's Safari aren't supported yet but most savvy Macintosh users are probably using Firefox already.


Scrapbook Apple CompatibleLinux CompatibleWindows CompatibleOnline  Service

This is a free Firefox extension that helps you to save web pages or just parts of a page and manage the collection. Major features are…
  • Save entire web page or just a snippet of it.
  • Save entire web site.
  • Organize the collection in the same way as your Bookmarks.
  • Various page editing features such as a highlighter, eraser, etc.
  • Full text search and quick filtering search.
  • Text edit feature resembling Opera's Notes.
On top of this, there's an add-on that allows you to transfer your data to the free, online storage site so you can effectively share your findings. If you're a Firefox user and don't want to jump into bed with Google, then it's a pretty reasonable alternative.

If you're an Opera user, then it has a notes feature that allows the user to record a text clipping from a page while browsing. It seems pretty useful but is limited to text and the notes can't be shared between systems or other users.

Social Bookmarking services like Looksmart's Furl or offer yet another way to note and tag site addresses as you browse and share them with others. Furl can archive a copy of the web page as it is recorded and can even record a text clipping from the page. However, these are basically just ways of recording lists of page addresses so there's no scope for editing and organizing the contents.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Why Firefox Is My Browser Of Choice!

First off, I have a Macintosh so the most common choice of browser for Mac OS X is Apple's Safari but that has problems with some websites - see my earlier Which Internet Browser? post for information on the more commonly used Macintosh browsers.

There are other browsers out there for Macs but Firefox does it for me for one main reason, extensibility and cross platform compatibility. Okay that's two reasons but the list could be larger. Some of Firefox innovations, such as tabbed browsing, popup blocking and integrated searching have been picked up by Safari and others but it's still the leader in those fields. Here are some extensions that I find useful...

Adblock PlusAdblock Plus - Ever been annoyed by all those ads and banners on the internet that often take longer to download than everything else on the page? Install Adblock Plus now and get rid of them. Select the content you want to block or use filters with wildcards or even regular expressions to block complete banner factories.

Adblock Filterset.G UpdaterAdblock Filterset.G Updater - A companion extension to Adblock and Adblock Plus that automatically downloads the latest version of Filterset.G every 4-7 days. Filterset.G is an excellent set of filters that blocks most ads on the internet. - Integrates your service and allows you to easily add to and access your tagged pages. is probably the best known, free social bookmarking service and is basically a collection of favourites - yours and everyone else's.

DownThemAllDownThemAll - A free extension that lets you download all the links or images contained in a webpage and much more: you can refine your downloads by fully customizable criteria to get only what you really want.

FasterFoxFasterfox - Firefox is already a very fast browser but why not make it even faster! Fasterfox is a performance enhancer that can speed up network and page rendering by tweaking many network and rendering settings such as simultaneous connections, pipelining, cache, DNS cache, and initial paint delay. If desired, it can also pre-fetch and cache all the links on the page you're viewing or even block Flash initiated popups.

FoxMarksFoxmarks Bookmark Synchronizer - While the current trend is to use social bookmarking services like and LookSmart's Furl, everyone still uses the built-in browser bookmarks for sites they visit regularly. However, if you use more than one machine, say at home and work, then you'll find this a wee gem. It's a free service that can synchronize your browser bookmarks on any system that you have Firefox installed on. To facilitate this, your bookmarks are stored online and even if you end up using a system without Firefox installed, you can still access them by logging into your account.

Google CalendarGoogle Calendar Notifier - Monitors your Google Calendar and notifies you of upcoming events. Google Calendar is a free online shareable calendar service. With Google Calendar, it's easy to keep track of all your life's important events – birthdays, reunions, sporting events, doctor's appointments, etc. – all in one place.

Google NotebookGoogle Notebook - A really useful free service that lets you take text clippings, images, links, etc. while browsing and saves them to an online notebook. Great for research or when moving between systems at work and home and you can even share your notes.

VideoDownloader - Ever tried to save or download a multimedia item from a page you're viewing and simply can't seem to get at it? Well, VideoDownloader can download videos from Youtube, Google, Metacafe, iFilm, Dailymotion and over 60 other video sites! It can even cope with all embedded objects on a webpage such as movies, MP3s, Flash, Quicktime, etc. directly!

There are hundreds more extensions available, just have a look at Firefox Add-ons. There are also extra search engines to plug into the integrated search facility and loads of themes for anyone needing a new look as they browse.

Originally posted to The Jumbled Box on 12/6/2006