Friday, December 28, 2007

R.I.P. Netscape

AOL have today indicated that they are to discontinue development and support for the Netscape Navigator browser as of 1st February 2008. From that date, there will be no more active product support for Navigator 9, or any previous Netscape Navigator browser. This includes Netscape v1-v4.x, Netscape v6, Netscape v7 Suite, Netscape Browser v8, and Netscape Navigator/Messenger 9. While AOL will still provide download links to old versions of Netscape, they are now actively recommending that existing users download Mozilla Firefox.

In its heyday back in the 1990s, Netscape Navigator was probably the best web browser available and, as a mainly Mac user, I used to prefer Netscape Navigator and Communicator over the alternative Microsoft Internet Explorer before we were introduced to the likes of Safari, Mozilla and Camino, etc. It'll be sad to see it die off completely but it had been pretty awful as a browser since the diabolically bad version 6 and had only recently been rebuilt using the Firefox source code.

It's gone kind of full circle really since it gave birth to the Mozilla foundation when the Netscape code was released to the Open Source community. I suppose you could Firefox and Thunderbird are its progeny and with those as successfull as they are, it can now pass away quietly into history - R.I.P. Netscape!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

SpokenText - Record and speak just about anything

SpokenText is a free web service that allows you to automatically convert (English, French or German) PDF, Word, plain text and PowerPoint files as well as RSS news feeds, e-mails and web pages to spoken audio files.

You can download your recording as an iPod-compatible audio book or MP3 file and every registered member of SpokenText gets a personal podcast URL, which they can use to download recordings to iTunes or their iPod or even to share the feed with the world. You can also easily share your recordings on your web site or blog using SpokenText Badges or individual recording players. There's also a Firefox extension that allows you to easily record any text content you find while surfing the Internet or electronic library. It provides the means to record selected text or any web page using simple commands within the browser.

You could easily use it to download and listen to blog feeds, the news, your e-mails, lecture notes, tutorials and even e-texts or online books - ideal for uploading to your MP3 player or iPod. Also, each month, they publish an audio book for you to download or subscribe to by podcast so you get it automatically.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Improve Your Images

With the emergence of more and more online image editing services, adds another useful tool to the arsenal.

Me and a big fish I caught on holidayMe and a big fish I caught on holiday

Basically, it's like an online version of Apple iPhoto's Enhance tool or Google Picasa's I'm Feeling Lucky button but essentially better than both of those. All you do is upload an image from your system or give it a URL to get it from and it automatically restores true original colours, corrects colour temperature and adjusts for poor lighting. There's nothing else to do and all you get is the option to download the improved image.

I tried it out with a couple of my images and the results are subtle but that's probably because I'd already tweaked them a bit. The next time I get a few fresh off the camera I'll see what this site can do for them. Anyway, if you're unhappy with the results you're getting while trying to tweak a problem pic with your image editor or just don't have the time to play with the likes of Photoshop or the GIMP, then this is definitely worth trying out.

Related Posts: More Online Image And Photo Editors, VectorMagic, Image Resizing Grows Up (or Down), Online Image Editing With Wiredness, Phixr: Another Online Image Editor, PikiFx, Online Image Editors

Thursday, December 13, 2007

BBC Launches iPlayer For Macs

The BBC have launched a beta version of their streaming iPlayer for Mac users and it looks not too bad if you're happy watching programmes in a very small window.

BBC iPlayer
This launch is in response to being told that it must make its iPlayer platform neutral, though it continues to argue that finding a DRM solution will be difficult, as it utilises Microsoft's copy protection technology, that is only available on Windows. Hence the streaming only version for Macs, which doesn't support downloading programmes to watch at any time within 30 days like the Windows version does.

The service streams programmes broadcast over the past seven days to your browser and you have the choice of selecting television programmes from the last seven days, by category (children's, entertainment & comedy, drama, factual, music, news & weather and religion & ethics) or by alphabetical list. You can also narrow the selection to one of their nine channels if required.

They've also just announced that the iPlayer will come out of beta on Christmas Day, which has raised some concerns regarding the support cover over the holiday period should the technology prove less than reliable.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Online/Offline Office Gets Closer

With the uptake of office application suites like Live Documents, Google Docs , Zoho, Ajax13 and ThinkFree on the rise, there's an opening for a middle ground solution where you can work both offline and online.

Live Documents, Office Live and technologies like Google Gears and the Microsoft Sync Framework are moving some way towards that goal but there are a few other options available or coming soon…

DocSyncer Online  Service is looking to allow you to synchronize your Microsoft Office documents with your Google Docs account but it's in private beta at the moment. Once you install the docsyncer application on your computer, it automatically finds and syncs your document files to Google Docs and your DocSyncer account. It even monitors the changes to your documents and syncs updated files as well.

Ulteo Online Desktop Online  Service allows you to run OpenOffice in a web browser. Its primary function is to allow people to collaborate on OpenOffice documents without having to download and install the application.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Windows Mobile Screen Capture

Ilium Screen CaptureHaving recently had a need to do a bit of user documentation on how to do something on a Windows Mobile device, I needed a method of capturing the screen and, of course, didn't want to pay anything for it. So, after a bit of a trawl around the net, I reckon Ilium Software Screen Capture is the best around at the moment.

It works by mapping its capture function to one of the special application keys and you can change this if it conflicts with one you need while capturing. You can choose to take an instant copy of the screen or you can set a delay. The All you do is run the program, change the application key and/or set a delay if necessary, and just and get on with whatever it is you need to capture. Once the screen looks the way the want it, and that includes menus, hit the appropriate application button and the image is saved as a BMP file. Once you're done capturing, exit the screen capture application and the application key reverts back to its original mapping. That's all there is and transferring the screen capture files over to your main machine and converting them to more friendly formats such as JPEG or PNG or editing them is fairly straightforward.

There are a few others out there worth checking out if the Ilium one doesn't suit you and lists all of the ones I could find for Pocket PC and Windows Mobile.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Keyboard Shortcuts

Becoming familiar with an application or operating systems' keyboard shorcuts can make life in front of your computer much easier and you can get things done so much quicker than by using a mouse alone so, if you're one of those people that prefers to use keyboard shortcuts instead of a mouse or if you're just a newbie to the finger tapping culture, then you'll like

It has a very useful list of keyboard shortcuts for most popular applications such as Adobe (Captivate 2, Reader 7), Apple (iDVD, iMovie, iPhoto, iTunes), BitTorrent, BlogLines, Gaim, Google (Calendar, Desktop Search, Docs, Gmail, Maps, Picasa, Reader, Spreadsheets, Video), Microsoft (Internet Explorer 7, Windows XP, Windows Live Mail, Windows Media Player 11), Mozilla Firefox 2, Opera 9, RealPlayer 10, Red Hat Linux 9, VMWare Workstation 5, WinSCP, WinShell and Yahoo! Mail

Okay, it's missing a few things like Mac OS X and Microsoft Office and Vista shortcuts but it is still a useful resource and it even has an interactive keyboard map, where you can hover over a key and see any related shorcuts.

Another excellent site is All Hotkeys, which has a huge list of keyboard shortcuts for browsers Microsoft systems and applications, Mac OS X and Apple applications, Google applications, Unix and Linux systems and applications, video games and a range of popular third-party applications.

Other useful sources of keyboard shortcuts are Mac OS X (Startup, Finder, keystrokes, etc.), Microsoft Products (Windows Vista, Windows XP, Office 2007, Office 2003, etc.), Windows ALT Keycodes and a Table of Keyboard Shorcuts (Mac OS X, Windows XP, Windows Vista, KDE, Gnome)

Related Posts: Handy Reference For Every Key On A Macintosh

iPod -> Folder

iPod FolderiPod -> Folder Apple CompatibleWindows Compatible is a useful little free, Mac OS X and Windows utility to have should you ever lose your iTunes music library. Basically, it'll let you copy the contents of your iPod music to a folder on your Mac or PC or any external drive attached to them.

It'll automatically detect the iPod music structure, calculate the iPod music file size, count folders and display folder sizes and copy all songs into a folder (on any accessible volume). It also comes with options to overwrite existing files, include iPod folder structure and copy MP3 files only.

Just bear in mind that you can't do a selective copy so you'll get the whole lot at once, and you'll need the space available to copy the files into and it's a one-way deal only. Those little iPods can hold a lot of data these days.

There are other tools out there that can do a similar job, such as Floola, Yamipod and Senuti, but iPod -> Folder is a very simple and easy to use option.

Related Posts: Access Your iPod!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Flickr Goes On A Picnik

Flickr users can now edit their photos online directly from within the Flickr environment. Flickr has added an Edit Photo icon to the photo page that launches the Picnik editor and allows you to edit and adjust the photo without leaving Flickr.

Just click the button and, after a bit of whirring and clanking, you can crop, resize, rotate and adjust the photo directly.

Related Posts: More Online Image And Photo Editors

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Books And What To Do With Them!

Like most people, we've accumulated a fair number of books over the years and, being at a loose end for a few weeks recently while my broken elbow mended, I got to wondering what could be done with them in a technological sort of way, other than buying more of them that is.

The most obvious answer is to investigate e-books but I don't think the technology is there for that yet. Sure, there are loads of e-books out there and loads of them are freely available but I simply don't think very many of us would be happy reading an entire book on a computer or PDA screen. Unless you're trying to learn something, reading is a leisure activity best done in a relaxing setting so until we can get a slim, paperback-sized, low-priced, portable reader with a screen that adjusts for ambient light, I don't think e-books will achieve any great impetus. Electronic paper seems the way to go for the hardware but there are precious few products available as yet and none of them cheap. Amazon's Kindle has just appeared on the US scene but at almost $400, it'll take some serious marketing or a large price drop to make any inroads into the casual reader market.

So, with reading books electronically realistically out of the picture for the moment, that really only leaves a few other options…


I know, making lists of stuff is sad but we've got hundreds of books piling up and it would be useful to know exactly what we've got as it wouldn't be the first time I've bought a book, only to find out that I already had a copy. So, being a fan of Macs and free software, I've been trying out Books, a free, open-source book cataloguing application for Mac OS X.


Books is fairly simple: it lets you catalogue your books into a search-able database and you can easily add books manually, by quick look up on Amazon (by title, author or ISBN), by scanning the ISBN if you have a camera attached or by importing from tab-delimited text file or various other book application formats. Once you've got some data in there, you can add it into the Spotlight index so you can search for a book without having to open the application first.

I quite like Books and, while adding books by letting it fill the data in from Amazon fills in a lot of useful data, the Genres field ends up with useless subject data and the book cover can be missing on older books. That said, it's easy enough to clear the genre and enter something useful and I've managed to find most of the missing book covers with a bit of searching the net.

The export facilities are also pretty useful You can export the book covers to iPhoto, the booklist to your iPod or a tab-delimited text file and the database to PDF or even a web site. Importing and exporting is done via plug-ins so it's a very flexible system. I really liked the idea of being able to export the book list to an iPod or PDA as it'd be handy to be able to check if I already had a book before buying it. You can also keep track of reviews, multiple copies and lending history as well.

On the Windows front, there's Libra, which is free for non-commercial use and can catalogue audio CDs, movies, & games as well as books. Hook up a webcam, and Libra can use it as a barcode scanner too.


You can also use it to track items you've loaned as it'll let you keep a detailed record of each loan and remind you when it's due back. Printing looks pretty good as well and you export your library to web pages, and upload them to a web host to share with friends & family.

The next step up was to an online cataloguing system and I ended using Goodreads as it was free and very easy to use. There are quite a few others out there, LibraryThing being probably the largest and most-established but it's only free for the first 200 books. BookBumps is another free, web-based service and it's fairly new but presents a more iTunes-like interface to manage your library. Then there's sites like Listal and Listphile, which are really more comprehensive online listing engines anot designed specifically for books alone.

You can also build collections in Amazon wish-lists or in Google Book Search but they are far from ideal.


Goodreads is really nice to use. You can add books manually or by searching for it in Goodreads or any of the various Amazon databases by title, author or ISBN. You can also optionally add a rating, a review, the date you read the book, if you have a copy to sell or swap, and which shelves (categories/genres) to put it on. You can also flag the book you're currently reading and those you have still to read, which is useful as I seem to have over 20 still to be read and I've still a load to go through and add.

Members may also be granted librarian status and those can edit the book database to correct errors, add cover images and combine editions, etc. You have to ask for the privilege and I managed to get it so have done a bit of tidying up and correcting as I've been adding. Combining editions is useful for the whole community as it aggregates reviews and statistics into one place.

Goodreads also promotes a social aspect to reading in that you choose to let others see your book collection and profile. You can also add friends by using your Yahoo!, Hotmail, or Gmail address books to invite friends and see which friends are already Goodreads members. You can invite them by e-mail or just search the site to see if they're already on it. Of course, if you're the unfriendly sort, you can keep your profile and bookshelves private.

Selling and Swapping

You could always turn to selling or swapping your books once you've read them. I had a look at selling books on Amazon and ebay a while ago and, while it's easy to do it, it's just not very profitable as postage charges are quite high for books. I've sold loads of DVDs through Amazon as they're relatively cheap to post and hold their price for a while but secondhand books just don't command a very good resale price and there are loads of them listed for 0.01p. The only way to make any money selling at that level is to skimp on the postage but even that's difficult as they are usually classed as packets rather than letters. In my opinion, it's just not worth the bother of time spent packaging and posting.


I'm tempted by the swapping angle as there are a few sites out there promoting the free swapping of books. The only costs are the postage but I think the benefits outweigh even those. The best site I can see for this with a decent number of books listed and reasonable UK presence is BookMooch, which is run by John Buckman, who also designed and wrote Lyris ListManager, a well-respected commercial list server suite.

What you do is publish a list of titles you'd be willing to swap and, for each one listed, you get 0.1 points. Requesting a book costs 1 point (2 if it's not from your own country) and each book you send gets you 1 point (3 if you have to post it overseas). All of that means that you need to list at least 10 books to be able to start the ball rolling. You even get 0.1 point for acknowledging receipt of a mooched book.

If you want a particular book, then you add it to your wishlist and the system automatically sends out requests to matching bookholders if you have enough points to cover the transaction. Like other social sites, users can leave feedback on book senders so the better your feedback, the more likely you are to receive your books of choice. If you amass a surplus of points, then you can donate them to charity so they can benefit from getting free books too, although they only list US based ones at the moment.

I'm not entirely sure if the economics are sound as you may well be cheaper just buying second-hand books from ebay or Amazon, etc. but you'll still end up with a house full of books and won't have that warm-hearted feeling of having given something away and made someone else happy. I think I'll give it a try and see how it goes. I've got a box full of books I no longer want so maybe someone else will.


This one's a strange concept! Basically you leave (release) your unwanted book in a public place. Leave it on a park bench, at a coffee shop or at a hotel on vacation. Share it with a friend or tuck it onto a bookshelf at the gym -- anywhere it might find a new reader!

With over 600,000 members worldwide, the BookCrossing web site proves that this isn't a passing fad and some take it fairly seriously. Once a book is released, the member logs the details on the web site so others can track it down. Your also encouraged to label the book as being a BookCrossing release to try and increase the membership and so pass the book on once it's been read again. Of course, they'll sell you some very fancy sticky labels to do just that and they're not cheap either but that's clubs for you.

That only leaves giving them away to charity, jumble sales or burning them but the society envisaged in Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 isn't with us yet, thank goodness.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007 - Useful Temporary Online Space

If you've ever needed a bit of online space in order to temporarily store, move or share some files, then take a look at offers you a private place for storing and sharing photos, video, audio, notes, docs, etc. Each space, or drop as they call them, has a 100Mb limit and is accessible only to those whom you tell exactly where to look and you can secure it with a password. When you make a drop you also automatically get an email address of the same name – so you can email in notes and attach files you want to put into a drop if you don't have access to a full web browser.

There's no registration required and they don't even ask for your email. You can create as many drops as you want, and access each at: When you create a drop, all you need to do is give it a name, an optional password and an expiry limit from a choice of 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, 6 months or 1 year. Then you can choose whether others can view only, view and add notes or view and add notes and files.

On top of this, it has some useful features like taking the most common formats and converting them to be web friendly. If you send them a photo it will make thumbnails and put them in a gallery; if you send them videos they'll convert them so you can view them online; if you send them audio they'll stream it; if you send them PDFs they'll convert them too and so on. Even that expiry limit can be renewed before the dread date arrives.

Drops aren't indexed so can't be searched and that even includes blocking out web spiders so there's no chance of certain large and overly inquisitive search engines sniffing out your files. If 100Mb seems a bit low remember that you can create as many drops as you want and the developers plan on introducing paid upgrades for anyone wanting more than 100Mb in a single drop.

Related Posts: ADrive - 50Gbs Of Online Storage For Free, Windows Live SkyDrive, Unlimited Online File Storage, Free Online File Storage

Live Documents

Yet another online contender for the online office application crown has emerged in the form of Live Documents. Like Google Docs , Zoho, Ajax13 and ThinkFree it offers online word processing document, spreadsheet and presentation applications.

Live Documents is a free alternative to Microsoft Office, with Flash/Flex based alternatives to Word, Excel and PowerPoint, for those who wish to escape the chains of expensive, corporate software. Live Documents also offers embeddable collaborative tools, and synchronization with your current Office documents and will also work with Open Office for those who have already jumped off the Redmond bandwagon.

If you're already running Microsoft Office 2000, XP or 2003, then there's an optional Live Documents Plug-in/Desktop Client for Windows, which converts Microsoft Office into a web-enabled smart client and provides collaborative capabilities within the context of familiar desktop applications. The desktop client also facilitates offline access to your documents - any changes that you make to a Live Document in offline mode is cached locally and automatically synchronized to the server the next time you go online.

The system is still in private beta testing and logins are, for the moment, by invitation only so you have to register to get an invite.

Related Posts: Xcellery - An Online Spreadsheet Editor, Online Office Tools

Round Those Corners

If you've ever wanted to clip those harsh, righty-angled corners off of your photographs, then RoundPic will do it for you for free.

All you do is upload your image, or give it a URL to get it from, and then choose your size of corner from the 12 possible sizes and the colour of the background (the holes left when the corners are removed). It'll also let you resize the image as well and you can preview your results before downloading.

No registration required, just download the resulting image and you're done. It's a pretty simple, one-horse site but it does what it says it does.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Camtasia Studio and SnagIt For Free

If you're in the market for a screen to movie recorder for Windows and have been looking at such things as Adobe Captivate or Camtasia Studio, then you might not be aware that Techsmith are offering Camtasia Studio 3, an older version, for free.

All you have to do is download the free version and request a registration key. Okay, version 3 doesn't have features such as Auto Pan and Zoom, but it'll do all the stuff the majority of users will ever want and it includes support for PowerPoint presentations. Upgrades to version 5 are being offered at half retail price.

On top of Camtasia Studio, the're also giving away SnagIt, their Windows screen capture utility. Again, it's an older version (7.2.5) and there are a few free Windows screen capture utilities out there already like Gadwin PrintScreen and ScreenHunter but SnagIt has some extra bells and whistles that might appeal to some.

In order to get the free version of SnagIt, just download the demo of version 7.2.5 and request a registration key. Again, upgrades to version 8 are being offered at half retail price.

I really like the idea of these big companies giving away older versions of their products. Most folk can get by with a less feature-rich version but this si a great way to let people try out commercial software for real and they just might upgrade if they have a use for those extras.

Related Posts: Screencasts - The Jing Project, How To Grab Web Page Screenshots, Screen Capture Tools

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

ADrive - 50Gbs Of Online Storage For Free

New online storage provider ADrive is offering 50Gbs of free space. It may not be an unlimited service like divShare but 50Gbs is larger than all of the other free space offerings I could find.

Uploading and downloading is restricted to a web-based interface at the moment but the company is planning to offer a desktop client for more controlled and flexible file transfers, backups, etc. They're also gearing up to offer premium accounts and disaster recovery plans for those that need more than 50Gbs or better backup options.

The web-based system won't allow you to select a folder for uploading or downloading so it can be a bit tedious moving lots of content but hopefully, the upcoming desktop client will resolve that issue.

Related Posts: Windows Live SkyDrive, MediaMax Adds Automatic Windows Backup, Unlimited Online File Storage, Free Online File Storage

Monday, November 19, 2007

Fauxto Evolves Into Splashup

Online image editing application Fauxto has been relaunched under a new name - Splashup

Fauxto is or was one of the better online editors and, when I tried it out back in February, I found it pretty easy to use and also quite powerful in functionality. I can't see any reason why the name was changed other than the fact that it might have been a bit confusing for some as Fauxto was supposed to be pronounced "photo". I guess Splashup is a fairly simple and unconfusing alternative.

If you're looking for an online image editor, then Splashup is really worth checking out.

Related Posts: More Online Image And Photo Editors

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Adobe Buzzword Goes Open Beta

If you're looking for an alternative to the likes of Zoho Writer, Google Docs or ThinkFree online word processors, then Adobe have opened up their Buzzword application to public beta.

Buzzword is a Flash-based word processor with all the usual functionality of a word processor. On top of that, it has sharing, collaboration and versioning features and you can import and export documents to and from from Microsoft Word (.doc or Word 2003 XML) and Rich Text Format (.rtf) files.

As with most beta-level products, there are some issues but it's looking pretty useful and hopefully the developers will get those bugs ironed out and some extra features like embedding links or URLs in there too before long.

Related Posts: Online Office Tools

Friday, November 16, 2007

Free Microsoft Office Accounting Express 2008

Microsoft have updated their Office Accounting application to version 2008 and it comes in both Professional "paid for" and an Express "free" version.

The free version has core accounting functions like general ledger, accounts receivable, accounts payable, invoicing, bill payment and online banking as well as integration with Microsoft Word, Excel and Outlook so it should do the job for those with basic accounting needs, if you're self-employed or even running a small business.

What it doesn't have are things like inventory, sales and purchase ordering, forecasting, job costing, etc. If you want anything more than basic accounting, then you'll need to ante up some money for the Professional version.

Monday, November 12, 2007


VectorMagic is a free, online service from the Stanford University Artificial Intelligence Laboratory that can convert bitmap or rasterized images to vector images. Since vector images are represented by geometric shapes such as lines, circles and curves, scaling these images to smaller or even larger sizes can be achieved without the usual blurring or pixelation associated with bitmap images.

Vectormagic bird comparisonThe sample comparison above shows the original raster image on the left and the vectorized result on the right. This technology isn't new and both Adobe and Corel have commercial products available to do the job but the Vector Magic team say that their solution is better than either of those.

As you might expect, it works best on somewhat flat images like logos, fonts, scanned cartoon art, etc. but it will work with photographs as well, you just won't get as rounded a result. Still those results do produce useful effects that you might actually like the look of.

Vectormagic poppy comparisonIt'll convert images in JPG, GIF, PNG, BMP and TIFF formats and you can save the converted images in EPS, SVG or PNG formats.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Windows Application Software Updaters

If you want to keep your Windows operating system and Microsoft Office applications up to date, then visit Microsoft Update regularly or configure your system to update automatically. That's easy but making sure all those non-Microsoft applications and little utilities installed on your PC are up date can be a seriously time-consuming chore, especially with those that seem to release updates on a weekly basis.

I've already mentioned the File Hippo Update Checker but a few others have appeared recently that do a bit more for you and may well be worth checking out…


AppSnap scans your PC and compares your installed applications against its database of latest version numbers. It'll then display all of your applications in a list, allowing you to download and re-install, upgrade or even uninstall them.

You can ask it to display a list of any applications that can be upgraded with both the current and possible version numbers. Just select those you want upgraded and click on the Upgrade button. AppSnap will then download them, uninstall the old version if required and install the new one for you.

The versions database is stored locally but it has a facility to allow you to download and update to the current version. You can even list those applications from its database that you don't have installed and install them if you want.


UpdateStar is a utility that lets you stay up-to-date with all of your personal software. With a database of over 80,000 freeware, shareware and commercial applications it covers a fair number of the applications that you're likely to have lurking around your hard drive.

UpdateStar can be set to do an automatic update search daily, weekly or monthly and will notify you when an update for one of your programs is available, offering you information and download options as well as licensing links in the case of a commercial product or update. it'll also let you modify or uninstall applications as well.

Both of the above utilities have their good and bad points and I found myself using both of them. I really like the way AppSnap lets you install multiple updates and it seemed the much faster of the two but it's less configurable and UpdateStar recognised far more of my installed applications. However, with UpdateStar you have to download and then install the updates manually so more ineraction is required.

In short, neither will do the full job for you as there will always be something you have that they don't have in their databases but they do help keep you up date, which will save you some time in the long run.

Related Posts: Software Update Checkers

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Clip It!

Typical! Having only just posted about capturing a web page as an image yesterday, I've spotted another free Mac OS X utility for this today.

Clip It! quickly captures and saves web pages into images for easy preview and presentation. No more browser scrolling and image stitching, it keeps the whole web page in a single image no matter how big it is. Images can be saved as JPEG, PNG or TIFF formats.

It opens the URL in its own Webkit mini-browser window, which you can choose from a range of standard sizes to match VGA, SVGA, XGA, SXGA, UXGA, HD 720, HD 1080, WSXGA+, WUXGA and WQXGA resolutions. There's also a menu to select the browser language if that's a requirement and it has a useful drawer for collecting images as you go.

Related Posts: How To Grab Web Page Screenshots

Monday, October 08, 2007

How To Grab Web Page Screenshots

There are loads of utilities available to help you capture screen shots of whatever is currently on your display but capturing shots of web pages isn't quite so simple. As soon as you notice those vertical or horizontal scroll bars, then you know that most screen capture utilities won't do the job in one go.

I've already covered free utilities like Gadwin PrintScreen, ScreenHunter, for Windows and SnapNDrag for Mac OS X but there are a few more and some of them are aimed specifically at capturing web pages. Not so long ago, you'd have to take multiple shots and try to stitch them together but not any more…

My Flickr Photosthumbalizer Online  Service - thumbalizer is an excellent and free web-based, web page capture service. You enter a URL, select whether you want to capture the screen or the full page, hit the thumb it button and it does the rest.

Once it's done it'll preview the captured image and give you links to download it at various resolutions - 320, 640, 800, 1024 or 1280 pixels wide or even custom. It even comes with a Bookmarklet link to make it easy to use. The only downside I can see is that you can only save as JPEG but apart from that it's a seriously useful site.

Pearl Crescent Page Saver Apple CompatibleLinux CompatibleWindows Compatible - Page Saver is a Firefox extension that lets you capture images of web pages. These images can be saved in PNG or JPEG formats. Options let you control whether images are captured at full size (which is the default) or scaled down to a smaller size. There's a Pro version available with a few extra bits of functionality but the basic version is free.

Paparazzi Apple Compatible - Paparazzi is a small utility for Mac OS X that makes screenshots of webpages. This very simple tool takes screenshots of websites which do not fit on one screen. You specify the desired width, minimal size, a delay if required and the URL. The program displays a preview and you can save the screenshot to PNG, JPEG, TIFF, or PDF. I've used it a couple of times and it seems to work fine.

WebShot Windows Compatible - WebShot allows you to take screenshots of web pages and save them as full sized images or thumbnails. Captured images can be whole or part page and can be saved in JPG, GIF, PNG, or BMP formats.

The freeware version comes with a demo of the command line interface, which can be purchased, and used to streamline the screenshot process on whole websites. The server edition of WebShot comes with a DLL that will allow you to embed WebShot technology in your own applications.

WebSnapr Online  Service - WebSnapr is another web-based screenshot service. However, it only handles certain sizes and can't capture the entire page if it's bigger than can be viewed on screen. Another downside is that it adds a "POWERED BY WEBSNAPPER.COM" line at the bottom of each image. That said, it's a fairly simple-to-use screen shot service that could easily do the job of some stand-alone tools.

PS Apologies for the lack of individual screenshots here but all of these tools take shots of other web sites so there's really not much to show. The one I did include was taken with thumbalizer and downloaded at a custom width of 200 pixels.

Related Posts: Screen Capture Tools

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

iPod Death Predictor

Ever wanted to create a "Dead Pool" for iPods or just fancy finding out how long your precious little music player has left to live?

Well, take a visit to the iPod Deathclock, where you can enter your iPod serial number, answer a few simple questions like "how often do you use it and where?", "how many times have you dropped it?" or "has it ever got wet?" and then you'll get a nice big countdown timer to when it's likely to die on you and some advice on battery life.

Zoho Adds Database And Reporting Tools

Online application suite Zoho has added database management and reporting to its range of tools. Zoho DB & Reports is a web-based relational database manager and reporting tool. With this you can…
  • Create, edit and access your databases from anywhere.
  • Convert spreadsheet files (.xls) to online databases.
  • Import .csv, .tsv files and manage your data and reports over the web.
  • Build reports using a Drag and Drop interface.
  • Create charts, pivot table, summary and other wide-range of reports.
  • Query your database using any known SQL dialect to create powerful and flexible reports.
  • Share databases and reports for collaboration with others.
  • Embed reports and queries into websites or blogs.

Since they already have Zoho Creator for online database creation, I'm not sure what extra benefits this brings other than a much more user-friendly or at least less geek-oriented interface but it is fairly nice to use.

Zoho certainly seems to be shaping up to give Microsoft and Google some decent competition in the office tools market and is well worth investigating.

Related Posts: Online Office Tools

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Image Resizing Grows Up (or Down)

Rsizr is a new, Flash based image processing site that does just one thing - it resizes an image. However, as well as allowing you to select the standard, lossy resizing algorythm it also offers the ability to use a new one called “seam carving”. Seam carving analyses the image content and divides it into slices of interesting and uninteresting bits. If you're reducing the size, it can remove uninteresting sections and keep the detailed bits intact and. vice versa, if enlarging, then it can insert slices that match the colour and texture of the surrounding area. For example, the follwoing image is followed by one I reduced vertically using the new algorythm…



It's pretty obvious that the process used above has removed a lot of the flat areas from the background and left the detail. Another nice touch is the ability to paint over an area and either preserve or remove it during the operation, which means you get to decide what is and what isn't interesting.

Rsizr can process JPEG, GIF or PNG images and save as JPEG or PNG. It doesn't allow you to load images from photo sharing sites like a lot of the other image manipulation tools do but it does what it does pretty well and maybe that functionality will follow in time.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

FixMyMovie Is CSI For The Rest Of Us!

If you've ever watched TV shows like CSI, where they can take a really cruddy piece of video or a blurry still image and enhance it so that it looks soooo much better, then this is exactly what FixMyMovie can do for you.

FixMyMovie is a video sharing site powered by MotionDSP's video enhancement technology, which is designed to improve video taken from mobile phones, digital cameras and security cameras and is actively marketed for video forensics. Like most of these online conversion services, you upload the source material, it'll do a preview conversion of the first 10 seconds that you can compare against the original. If you like the results, you can go ahead and order a full conversion. You can also extract high-res still images from the converted movie if you wish.

Being a sharing site, it'll allow you to share your enhanced video with friends via e-mail but they plan to allow you to embed the movie in a web-site or blog as well. You can also download the finished movie in H264 QuickTime, Windows Media or Flash formats.

It's designed to be a paid-for service once it's out of beta but they're giving away the equivalent of $25 worth of processing to beta sign-ups.

Friday, September 21, 2007

YouconvertIt - Convert Almost Anything!

If you're looking for a one-stop shop, file conversion service, then take a look at YouconvertIt. YouconvertIt lets you upload document, image, audio and video files and will convert them from one format to another. All you need to do is select the file from your computer, pick your target format, and the file will be uploaded and converted. Once the conversion is complete, you'll receive an e-mail containing a link to allow you to download it.

There's no denying that they're offering a large range of file types to convert between; there are seven audio, 72 image, 11 video and 46 document types to choose from and that may be great for simple conversions but there are no options available. Conversions are done at whetever settings YouconvertIt have decreed as optimum (for them) so there's no guarantee what image or sound size and quality you're going to get back. Also there's no batch options so it's one file at a time.

If you need a bit more control over the conversion process, then check out some of the sites listed in the links below or, if you require to do large numbers of conversions, then you might be better off with a dedicated application.

Related Posts: - Online Video Converter, Movavi Online, MUX - Another online video encoder, Hey! Watch - Online Video Encoding, More Online File Conversion Services, Free Online Media File Converter

OpenOffice 3.0 Will Be Mac OS X Native

Having already mentioned the alpha release of a Mac native version of OpenOffice back in june, we've now been told that it should be ready for 2008 along with OpenOffice 3.0.

I remember this being bandied around before the release of version 2.0 but it never happened and we were stuck with an X11 version. Still it definitely looks as if it's on the cards this time…

OpenOffice 3.0 Release Roadmap

Related Posts: X11-Free OpenOffice for Mac Released, Microsoft-Free Word Processing

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

IBM Lotus Symphony, A Free, Open-Source Office Application Suite

Having only recently joined the developer community, IBM has launched its own free office application suite, IBM Lotus Symphony, which, like OpenOffice, includes word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation applications. Obviously, they've levereged some of the technology from the open-source OpenOffice application suite as well as their own Lotus Notes to get this out so soon.

So, yet another salvo is fired at Microsoft's domination of the office application market, which is good for anyone or any organisation or company a bit strapped for cash. As for IBM's involvement in OpenOffice development, they will be making initial code contributions that they've been developing as part of Lotus Notes, including accessibility enhancements, and will be making ongoing contributions to the feature richness and code quality of OpenOffice. Sounds like both sides will benefit from this in the future. They are also strongly promoting ODF as the document sharing format to use so that's another shot at Microsoft, who are trying to push their own proprietary Open XML format.

IBM Lotus Symphony can convert documents, spreadsheets, and presentations types into PDF files and can read and convert Microsoft Office documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Unfortunately, it only supports Linux and Windows so there's no Macintosh version. Also, it's a bit of a memory hog and requires at least 1Gb of RAM but bear in mind that this is a beta release so it may well improve.

Related Posts: Microsoft-Free Word Processing

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Presentations Added To Google Docs

Googe Docs New menuAs intimated way back in February, Google have been working on adding PowerPoint-like functionality into their online office applications suite - Google Docs. Well, now it's live and you can create your presentations online.

Here's what you can do with presentations:
  • Import existing presentations in .ppt and .pps file types.
  • Export your presentations as HTML.
  • Edit your presentations using our simple WYSIWYG editor.
  • Insert images, and format your slides to fit your preferences.
  • Share and edit presentations with your friends and work colleagues.
  • Allow real-time viewing of presentations online, from separate remote locations.
  • Publish your presentations on the web, allowing access to a wide audience.
  • Each presentation can be up to 500K, plus 2MB per embedded image.
  • Each user has a combined limit of 5,000 documents and presentations and 5,000 images.

Google Docs
It also integrates well into Google Docs and you get the same sharing, publishing and revisions features as for documents and spreadsheets. You can also get a preview of the presentation, which is useful for fine-tuning those slides.

There's no support for animations, sound or video in there yet and you can't export a presentation in PowerPoint format so it's not quite a PowerPoint killer but, if all you need is a simple set of presentation slides with a few images in there, it's ideal and, of course, free!

Related Posts: Google Adding Presentations to Docs & Spreadsheets, Google Presently

Monday, September 17, 2007

FlashMeeting - Video and Audio Conferencing

If you've got a need for a cross-platform video or audio conferencing solution, then take a look at FlashMeeting Online  Service

FlashMeeting is a web application based on the Adobe Flash plug-in and Flash Media Server. It runs in a standard web browser window and it allows a dispersed group of people to meet from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. Typically a meeting is pre-booked by a registered user and a url, containing a unique password for the meeting, is returned by the FlashMeeting server. The 'booker' passes this on to the people they wish to participate, who simply click on the link to enter into the meeting at the arranged time.

About FlashMeetingDuring the meeting one person speaks at a time. Other people can simultaneously contribute using text chat, the whiteboard, or emoticons etc. while waiting for their turn to speak. This way the meeting is ordered, controlled and easy to follow.

Afterwards, those with the appropriate privileges can view a replay of the meeting, look through any minutes of text chats, etc. and view a technical analysis of the whole thing. Here's a full list of features…
  • Video and Audio broadcast over a network or internet.
  • No download and installation - it works in a web browser with Flash 8 (or greater) plug-in.
  • Easy to use - click the Broadcast button to start - click again to stop!
  • Indicate your intention to speak with a simple queuing system.
  • Public Text chat - chat to others while watching the broadcast.
  • Private Text chat - send private messages to individuals.
  • Share a URL - open a web page on all remote machines.
  • Shared whiteboard available to share text, drawing or photographs.
  • Vote and 'Emoticon' options - share your opinions and feelings!
  • Countdown timer shows time remaining.
  • View participants either as a list of images or names.
  • Simple booking procedure to manage your meetings.
  • Secure and private meetings.
  • Low-data friendly (one broadcast stream at a time).
  • Record the meeting for easy web replay.
The downside is that it isn't fully accessible to the public in that getting a 'booker' account requires you to satisfy various criteria by the operators, The Open University. Still, if you're involved in education or community learning, then it may well be worth investigating.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

New Stuff From Apple

It's September again and after the annual Steve Jobs update on new stuff from Apple, this is what we got…

It's iPods and more iPods this time around. Rumours about a wireless, touch screen iPod with a larger screen have been circulating since before last years new model announcements and in the meantime Apple released the iPhone, which uses a fair bit of that technology so we knew we were on the right track back then. Now they've gone and done it with the iPod Touch

iPod TouchiPod Touch

This little beauty has most of the technology we'd been waiting on. No FM radio for sure but a touch sensitive, 3.5" widescreen display and built-in 802.11b/g wireless networking.

Using similar interface to the iPhone, it also comes with Safari built-in so the possibilities for adding loads of browser based applications is tremendous. There's also a special YouTube player included so, if you can get access to a wireless network, you can easily browse the net with Safari and view movies with YouTube. They've also upgraded the iTunes Music Store to allow users to purchase and download tracks straight to the iPod over the wireless connection.

Another couple of very nice features is the ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts brightness to suit the ambient light in your surroundings and an accelerometer, which can detect when you rotate the device and then automatically change the display orientation to suit.

On the downside, it only comes in 8Gb and 16Gb models, which for a movie and web centric device like this is perhaps a wee bit tight. Storage is via a USB Flash drive, which is why the capacity is so limited so I think I'll wait and see what develops once it gets out into the user community and USB flash drive capacities are bound to increase. Prices are £199 for the 8Gb model and £269 for the 16Gb one.

iPod Nano

The Nano has been radically redesigned. Gone is the slimline player of the past and in comes a smaller, fatter device but now it sports a 2", 320*240 colour display and it can play videos and video podcasts too. Not that it's too fat as it's only 6.5mm thick but it's definitely wider than the old Nano.

The iTunes Cover Flow browsing interface has also been added so you can now browse by flicking through your album/video artwork.

Prices are £99 for the 4Gb models and £129 for the 8Gb one, which also comes in red, blue, green and black as well as the standard anodised aluminium shell.

iPod Shuffle

The wee iPod Shuffle is now available in five colour options - silver, purple, blue, green and red. It's still only has 1Gb of storage so, other than the colours, there's no change. It's still £49.

iPod Classic

The iPod video is gone! They've renamed it the iPod Classic, upgraded the storage to 80Gb and 160Gb and made it even thinner in a new, all-metal case. Like the Nano, it now has a redesigned interface and you can browse using Cover Flow but, other than that, there's not much else to report. Prices are £159 for the 80Gb models and £229 for the 160Gb one,

There have been a few other changes as well. On the iPhone front in the U.S., Apple have discontinued the 4Gb model and dropped the price of the 8Gb one so I expect we'll see this reflected when they finally release it over here. Also, the Apple TV now has a 160Gb drive option instead of the original measly 40Gb one.

PS Sorry about the gap in posts - broke my elbow over a week ago and it's my right elbow, which makes typing difficult.