Tuesday, February 20, 2007

WPF/E - Windows Presentation Foundation/Everywhere

Us Mac users have much the same problem playing some Windows Media files as we do Flash and Shockwave. It's probably worse as a lot of web content comes as streamed Windows Media and even installing the excellent Flip4Mac sometimes doesn't help play some Windows Media content. However, since I installed the Microsoft WPF/E browser plug-in, everything has played okay.

“WPF/E” (Windows Presentation Foundation/Everywhere) is the Microsoft solution for delivering rich, cross-platform, interactive experiences including animation, graphics, audio, and video for the web and beyond. Utilizing a subset of XAML (eXtensible Application Markup Language)-based Windows Presentation Foundation technology, “WPF/E” will enable the creation of content and applications that run within multiple browsers and operating systems (Windows and Macintosh) using Web standards for programmability.

This is technically a preview technology and the plug-in is timed to expire. I'm on my second revision and it's due to expire in June but it does work for me so if you're having problems playing some Windows Media content, then try this. It's compatible with both Safari and Firefox and Firefox on MacOSX 10.4.8. Even Windows users can benefit as there's a version for them too that supports Internet Explorer 6.0 and 7.0 and also Firefox and 2.0+.

Related Posts: Flip4Mac Gets Intel Upgrade

Monday, February 19, 2007

Playing Flash Files On A Macintosh

Windows users are pretty well catered for but if you've ever downloaded a Flash (FLV) or Shockwave Flash (SWF) movie to your Macintosh desktop and tried to play it, then you may have hit a problem or two. The latest version of QuickTime disables playback of Flash movies within QuickTime movies by default. Okay you can easily re-enable this via the QuickTime System Preferences but there may still be Flash movies out there that QuickTime may fail to play.

A better bet is a stand-alone player and, while Adobe actually make one available if you look hard enough, there are a couple of other free options available…

Adobe SAFlashPlayer Apple Compatible - I suppose I'd better mention the Adobe offering as it should be the authoritative player to use. Well, for SWF files it is as I couldn't get it to open any of the FLV files I tried it with.

Adobe provide both Intel and PowerPC versions of their standalone player but they're not that easy to find by simply browsing or even searching their site so go to the link above and search for "Standalone Players" and the first instance found should leave you looking at standalone player downloads for both Intel and PowerPC based Macs.

SWF & FLV Player Apple Compatible - This was formerly known as SWF Movie Player, who's free version was seriously hamstrung and pretty useless. However, this is now a decent little utility that allows full playback of FLV movie files. There is a commercial Pro version available for those that need a bit more functionality and it'll also allow you to…
  • Play, pause, fast-forward, rewind, frame-by-frame playback and browse through Adobe SWF/FLV files.
  • Browse websites for Flash animation.
  • Download SWF/FLV files from web-pages.
  • Open and play any SWF/FLV file on the web directly.
  • Save Flash animation to hard drive with all the external resources it uses (PRO version only).
  • Zoom in/out your movie to display a specific part of SWF file.
  • View Flash animation in fullscreen (PRO version only).
  • SWF/FLV playlists management: shuffle, repeat one item or the whole list.
A couple of other free utilties that can play Flash media files and that are worth checking out are…

Democracy Player Apple CompatibleLinux CompatibleWindows Compatible - This isn't just aimed at playing Flash files! It's being designed on the idea that it'll be able to play much of what it sees as an upcoming boom in internet TV and video. Democracy Player is a powerful TV viewer that downloads, manages and plays the latest videos on your computer. There's no need to squint, the Democracy Player can play the highest quality videos in full-screen, and will play them one after the other, just lean back and enjoy.

If it's video on the internet, Democracy Player should be able to play it…
  • Play virtually any video - Quicktime, WMV, MPEG, AVI, XVID, Flash and more. Browse your collection, make playlists, stay organized.
  • Subscribe to any video RSS feed, podcast, or video blog. Explore hundreds of free channels with the built-in Channel Guide.
  • Download and save videos from YouTube, Google Video, Yahoo Video, and other sites.
  • Your computer screen is a high-def display. Watch free HD videos in gorgeous fullscreen.
  • Easily download any BitTorrent file. Fast. Then watch it in the same application. Simple!
flvThing Apple Compatible - This is a pretty basic little utility that plays Flash video files, otherwise known as FLV files. Download your FLV file from any of the popular video sites and then view them on your Mac using flvThing.

It doesn't have much in the way of bells and whistles but it does the job.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Windows Live Search For Mobile Goes Final

Windows Live Search for Windows Mobile and J2ME compatible phones has finally emerged from beta testing and gone final so if you have a compatible PDA or phone, then it's definitely worth installing.

This is definitely the best search tool for mobile devices at the moment and Google Maps Mobile has a ways to go before it's in the same league. Specify a location by city, address, post code or even just a point on a map and then choose a search term such as a name, business type, school, etc. and it'll return results from the area your looking in. You can then view it on a map, get driving directions to it, send it a text message or dial its phone number.

You also browse by business or category, view maps and get driving directions from place to place. Obviously if you have a GPS capable device, it'll take advantage of that too. USA based users can also get current traffic conditions for major cities but I expect they'll add the UK in due time.

I've got a GPRS/GPS enabled hp iPAQ and had been using the beta version with good results so it'll be nice to get a final release installed.

Get it here.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


If you've used Handbrake in the past to convert video or DVD format media to MP4, OGM or AVI files, then you might also be interested in MediaFork Apple CompatibleLinux CompatibleWindows Compatible.

MediaFork picture window
MediaFork is a GPL’d, multiplatform, multithreaded DVD to MPEG-4 ripper/converter, available for Mac OS X, Linux, and Windows and is based on the source code for Handbrake but also now includes full 640*480 iPod video, and newer, faster copies of x264 and ffmpeg.

It's still in beta development but then so is Handbrake. Their web site is awfully slow but persevere and you'll get there eventually.

Monday, February 12, 2007

gubb, Serious Listmania!

If you're a fan of lists, and my better half thrives on them, then take a look at gubb Online  Service!

gubb is a free web-based application with an easy-to-use interface that enables you to create, manage and share an unlimited number of lists. gubb lists are for to-dos, tasks, shopping lists, recipe ingredients, ideas and wishes … the possibilities keep on going. Use your lists with web browsers, mobile web browsers, email and even text messaging*.

So, if you can't live without your lists, then gubb may be worth a look. Of course there are a few alternatives out there that might be worth checking out as well…
* SMS support only available in US and Canada at the moment.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

More Online Image And Photo Editors

Having already covered a few online image and photo manipulation tools such as Snipshot, Pixenate and Preloadr, I thought I'd better add another few that I've found…

Picnik Online  Service - This is very good, especially if you use an online photo storage service like Flickr, as it can work directly with your uploaded images. You can easily apply edits, transforms and effects and it all works really fast.

  • One-click photo fixing or in-depth tweaking of settings like colour, exposure, sharpness and red-eye reduction.
  • Crop, rotate, and resize images in real-time
  • Apply special effects like sepia, colour boost, matte, soften, black and white and vignette and more are planned.
  • Works directly with Flickr or you can load images from your computer, a web site or webcam. It even comes with Yahoo and Flickr search bulit-in.
  • Works on Mac, Windows, even Linux.
  • Unlimited Undos.
The Flickr integration is very good and it's always nice to be able to easily touch up something you've already uploaded. You can even edit the title, description, tags and set membership as well if you want to.

The service is currently free during its beta phase and the basic editing will remain free after release but they will offer a premium subscription for advanced features.

Fauxto Online  Service - Pronounced as "photo", Fauxto is another online image editor. Where it differs from the others is the fact that it supports layers, which greatly increases its capabilites for editing and manipulating images. Of course it also supports all the usual stuff as well.

  • Edit images from your computer or a URL.
  • Work in layers - add, remove, duplicate, merge, move, flip and flatten layers as required.
  • Apply filters such as hue/saturation, contrast/brightness, blur, sharpen, edge enhance, enrich, emboss, colorize, greyscale, desaturate and invert.
  • Transform by resize and crop or even auto-crop.
  • Standard drawing tools such pencil, brush, line, fill, eye-dropper, gradient, smudge, eraser, text, oval and rectangle.
Again, this one is in beta development and I found it a bit quirky on loading files but I expect they'll get these glitches ironed out as development progresses.

Finally, if all you want to do is resize an image then try ResizR, which allows you to simply resize an image from your computer or from a web address. All you need to do is pick a new width as aspect ratio is maintained and you can also optionally add a rotation setting if you want to.

Related Posts: Online Image Editors

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

MUX - Another online video encoder

Hot on the heels of free video encoding and conversion services such as Hey!Watch, Zamzar and Media-Convert comes MUX, a proof of concept service that will convert and re-encode online video.

All you do is provide a direct link to your 3gp-Mobile, AVI, Flash, MPEG 1/2, MPEG-4, Quicktime, Windows Media file or even a YouTube page with your specified width, height, bitrate and frames/second and they give you it back, converted into any of those formats. You can also use MUX Mobile to have your video converted and sent to your mobile phone in 3GP format.

It's built by Cruxy, a service being developed top help buyers and sellers of independent digital content, using the Amazon EC2 and Amazon S3 services.

Related Posts: Hey! Watch - Online Video Encoding, Free Online Media Converter, More Online File Conversion Services

Monday, February 05, 2007

Google Presently

Just spotted a post on the Google Operating System blog referring to what looks like a presentation application to go alongside their excellent Google Docs & Spreadsheets.

The current name is Presently (sounds good to me) and it's early days by the looks of the file and screenshots posted but it would be a welcome addition to the suite. They're saying that you'll be able to convert a document into a presentation, create slides and view the presentation in full-screen but it would really need to offer more than that to compete with PowerPoint.

Definitely worth keeping an eye though…

Viewing Microsoft Publisher Files

I've had a few staff at work asking for Microsoft Publisher to be installed as they've been sent a file in Publisher's .pub format. Publisher is quite popular in schools as a page layout and design application as it's much less expensive than more industry standard tools like Adobe Pagemaker or Quark Xpress and it's actually quite good.

However, there are definitely problems when those users try to share their files with the rest of us as Microsoft haven't ever produced a viewer utility and neither has anyone else. So, other than asking whoever sent you the file to re-save it HTML, you're a bit stuck but there is another option - convert it to PDF, Adobe's Portable Document Format. That way you can at least view the file as it was meant to be seen, even if you can't easily edit it.

A couple of the services I mentioned in an earlier post on Free PDF Creation can read and convert .pub files to PDF…
  • PDF Online - converts MS Word, MS PowerPoint, MS Publisher, MS Excel, HTML, Text, JPG, GIF, TIFF, BMP, PNG, EMF and WMF files.
  • PDF Converter - converts 58 file formats, including MS Office, MS Works, HTML, Lotus 123, JPG, GIF, TIFF, BMP, PNG, EMF, WMF, SVG, Photoshop, AutoCAD and many more. There are some limitations ot the free service like a 30 minute delay between convertions and you can only convert up to seven files a month but it handles many file formats and can even reverse convert from PDF to MS Word or MS Excel.
If you only need to convert from Publisher occasionally, then using one of these can save an install, purchasing a license and a visit from your IT team.

Related Posts: Free PDF Creation

Friday, February 02, 2007

Widgipedia - Widget Heaven

A new site has been launched to cater for widget fans. Widgets or gadgets as they sometimes labelled, started life as little applications that run on your desktop and usually (but not always) need that you download and install an engine in order to run them. However, now wev've also got web or online widgets, which are basically standalone sections of Flash, DHTML or Java code that can be embedded in any web page such as a personal blog, a MySpace page, an eBay auction page or online store pages, etc.

Widgipedia caters for both desktop widgets and web widgets and aims to be the ultimate resource for both seekers and developers of widgets. It currently supports widgets from…
Developers or wannabe developers can benefit from the wealth of code samples and tutorials on the site and of course they can also upload their creations here too.

Odd that it doesn't support Google Gadgets but maybe it will in the future.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Paint.NET 3.0 Released

Microsoft have updated their free, low-end image editing and photo manipulation tool Paint.NET to version 3.0. It supports layers, unlimited history/undo, special effects (blurring, sharpening, red-eye removal, distortion, noise, and embossing) and a wide variety of useful and powerful tools. Adjustments are also included which help you tweak an image's brightness, contrast, hue, saturation, curves, and levels. You can also convert an image to black and white, or sepia-toned and there's even a 3D rotate/zoom tool to add perspective and tilting.

Paint.NETOriginally developed as an undergraduate college senior design project mentored by Microsoft and intended as a free replacement for the Microsoft Paint software that comes with Windows, it has grown into a powerful yet simple tool for photo and image editing.

Version 3.0 brings in…
  • A tab-based multi-document interface.
  • Support for eight languages.
  • An interactive gradient tool.
  • A user-definable colour palette.
  • New effects - Clouds, Median, Unfocus, Outline, and an improved Sharpen.
  • A more intuitive and more powerful toolbar.
  • A generally improved and cleaner user interface.
  • History files are now compressed to save disk space, reduce disk activity, and improve performance.
  • A "Merge Down" layer command.
I usually use IrfanView and Picasa but this looks well worth trying out.

Get it here

Related Posts: Low Cost Windows Image and Photo Editing