Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Google Adding Presentations to Docs & Spreadsheets

As previously hinted in an earlier post, Google have now gone public on their intention to add the ability to create and share presentations to Google Docs & Spreadsheets and they expect it to be ready by this summer.

There's not much more detail than that and read all about it on the Official Google Blog.

Related Posts: Google Presently

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Grisoft Releases AVG Anti-Rootkit Free

GRISOFT have introduced AVG Anti-Rootkit Free, a new, free product aimed at the detection and removal of Rootkits from Windows based PCs.

Rootkits are a specific type of malware that hide inside other applications or the operating system kernel and are used to hide the presence of a malicious object like trojans or keyloggers. This allows these malicious applications to then collect passwords and sensitive data from the infected computer without user knowledge for personal information theft, spam relay and other criminal intents. They can also cause other issues and I'm sure almost everyone remembers the 2005 CD copy protection scandal, when Sony BMG distributed rootkit software on audio CDs, which caused havoc on some end-user systems and resulted in Sony recalling all the CDs.

If a threat uses rootkit technology to hide itself, then it is very hard to find the malware on your PC. AVG Anti-Rootkit Free gives you the power to find and delete the rootkit and to uncover the threat the rootkit is hiding.

This adds another useful protection utility to go alongside AVG Anti-Virus Free and AVG Anti-Spyware Free, which are available free for private, non-commercial, single home computer use only.

Make Internet TV

I've just had an e-mail from the team that produces Democracy, the excellent media player application, concerning a new venture of theirs - Make Internet TV or MITV, if you like abbreviations.

Make Internet TV has step-by-step guides to choosing equipment, shooting, editing, licensing, publishing and promoting video on the internet. It illustrates these topics with screenshots, photos, screencasts, graphics, text and more. It's essentially a free online book about video creation and publishing.

They've also started the MITV Wiki - a connected site where anyone can add resources, links and experiences that are related to creating online video. If you're interested in sharing your expertise, they'd love to have your help.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Pandora: Discover New Music

Ever fancied having your own online DJ service and one that only plays music that you'll like? Well, the Music Genome Project was created with just such a listener as you in mind and the Pandora Internet Radio service is the embodiment of that idea.

Basically, Pandora allows you to create your own internet radio stations based on a selection of artists and/or tracks you submit to it. Once it has an idea of the kind of music you like, it'll feed you tracks from those artists and, here's the good bit, it'll also serve up tracks it considers match your music preferences, based on its enormous music genome tagging database. The music genome project uses a large team of highly-trained musicians to categorize the music.

That means you get to discover new artists, bands and tracks

Due to the music licensing model, there are a few restrictions to the service. For example, there's no rewind button, no facility to play a particular track and you cannot have more than one station seeded by a particular artist. Still, it's free and, having created a station and played it for a few hours, it certainly lives up to its promise of serving out new music that I'd like.

Another Macintosh Update Checker

It's always happens! Just after you post an article on a particular topic, something new is launched a few days later. This time it's AppFresh for the Macintosh and only just after I'd posted about Software Update Checkers. Anyway here AppFresh…

AppFresh Apple Compatible - An update checker for Mac OS X applications, widgets and preference panes. Like the other tools it scans your system and compares your apps, etc. with known latest versions. You can select whether you want to scan applications, widgets and preference panes and even where they are stored on your system if you're using a non-standard folder structure.

Once it's done its business, you get the option to download the updates and you can even set it to automatically download and install certain ones it considers are "safe".

NB: This is an early preview release and it crashed twice on me at first so there are still bugs in there. Also bear in mind that it is just a preview and the developers haven't indicated if it'll be free or not so there are no guarantees on pricing.

Related Posts: Software Update Checkers

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Phixr: Another Online Image Editor

Phixr is another addition to the growing list of free, web-based image and photo editors available, such as Picnik, Snipshot, Pixenate, Fauxto and Preloadr.

isn't new. It's a year old and, while I obviously missed it as it grew up, it's developed into a very useful editing tool over that year. As well as being able to upload images from your local hard drive, Phixr will let you upload images directly from an account on image hosting sites such as Flickr,, Photobucket, Picasa Web Albums, SmugMug and WebShots.

As well as the basic photo editing tools like resize, crop, rotate, flip and remove red-eye, you can also adjust brightness, hue and saturation, or convert to black and white and sepia. On top of that you can enlarge the canvas (add margins), add a border or frame, add text, round corners, add a speech bubble or even fill an area with colour. You can even mix and blend the photo with others.

It also has some more advanced tools such as sharpen, blur, despeckle (pixel-noise removal), negate colours, adjust RGB values or blend in another colour or add a lomo effect. Then there's the 14 filter effects you can apply as well, such as pop art, charcoal drawing, emboss, sphere, etc.

Once you've finished editing, you can download your image in JPG, GIF, PNG, PDF or even OCR (text) format. You can also e-mail it or upload it to a host of destinations such as Buzznet, Costco, DropShots, Flickr, Fotolog,, ImageShack, LiveJournal, Photobucket, Picasa Web Albums, SmugMug and WebShots.

Related Posts: Online Image Editors, More Online Image And Photo Editors

Friday, April 13, 2007

Google Checkout Hits the UK!

Google CheckoutThe Official Google Blog has just announced that Google Checkout is now available in the UK.

We're excited to tell you that as of this morning the speed, security, and convenience of Google Checkout is available to online shops and shoppers in the United Kingdom.

From now until 2008, merchants that offer Checkout in the UK will receive free credit and debit card processing for all of their Checkout sales. And just so buyers don't feel left out, we're giving them £10 off all orders over £30.

From a buyer's point of view, Google Checkout is a one-stop shop where you can quickly and easily buy from stores across the web, and track all your orders and delivery information in one place. Their fraud protection policy covers you against unauthorised purchases made through Google Checkout, and sellers don't get access to your buying history or full card number. There's also an element of spam protection as you can easily turn off unwanted emails from stores where you use Google Checkout.

Buying should be easier as the Google Checkout badge will appear in relevent Google searches or in affiliate store checkouts. There's no mention of a hook up with Google's price comparison site Froogle though but I expect they'll sort that in time.

Sounds like there are some nice incentives for both buyers and sellers so I imagine the take-up will jog along quite nicely. I remember Securicor offering much the same sort of protected buying system a few years ago, and I even bought a few things through it, but it didn't last very long.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kill Those .DS_Store and Thumbs.db files

If you have to live in a mixed Macintosh and Windows PC network environment, then you can't help but have noticed the appearance of .DS_Store files appearing in Windows folders where a Mac user has been working. Similarly, if Windows users are accessing shared Mac OS X volumes, then the Mac users will start to see Thumbs.db files showing up.

Well, the UNEASYsilence blog has a useful article on just that subject. Just go on over to…

Mixed Computing: Stop Thumbs.db and .DS_Store files from Polluting Network Shares

…and follow the instructions on how to stop these pesky files appearing.

Which Music Download Store?

If you're in the market for downloading music, then you might find it worth checking out TuneTuzer first.

TuneTuzer presents a short, but easy-to-follow comparison table, listing music download stores and subscription services in the UK and US. The table lists each store's music genre (if any), supported file formats, bitrates available, standard album and track price and whether they use digital rights management (DRM). From the list, you can then drill down into each store for a bit more information, such as number of tracks, notes, URL, etc.

There's also some useful information explaining a bit more about file formats and which players support them, DRM and bitrates.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Route Mapping

Given that Google have extended Google Maps with a personalization tool called MyMaps, I thought I'd give it a try to see if I could plot the route of a walk we did recently up in Glen Lednock.

MyMaps allows you to create a new map, to which you can add placemarks, lines and shapes and to each of those you can add Rich Text or HTML descriptions, photos and videos. You can then share these maps with the rest of the world if you want to and you can even view your maps with Google Earth. Obviously, you'll need a Google account to be able to save and share your maps.

Having added the first placemark, I thought I'd zoom in and start plotting the route and major placemarks and that's where the problems started. Basically the Google map data is woefully inadequate for this task, at least it is for the UK. The River Lednock wasn't shown on the standard Map view and when I switched over to Hybrid view I had to zoom out five times to the 2000'/inch setting and that just isn't good enough to resolve anything useful, as you can see from the image above.

Undaunted, I moved over to Microsoft Virtual Earth (or Windows Live Search) to see if it could do anything similar and it looked like it could via what they call Collections. Of course, the next thing I did before proceeding any further was to check if the map data was any better and wow, it was really good. I could see individual trees beside the river! That was it was sold as far as I was concerned! You have to have a Windows Live account to save and share a Collection but that was no different from the Google offering so off I went and signed up.

Creating a Collection with Windows Live was very similar to using Google MyMaps in that you can place pushpins, lines and shapes onto the map. However, you can also set the fill colour and line colour, width and dash style and each entry on the map can have accompanying notes, a photo URL and a More Info URL. This is what I ended up with…

ComrieGlen Lednock Circular Walk

As you can see, its got place markers and lines following the route. There's also a list with each element on the left and all of them have notes and some even show images from my Flickr! account as well. The only regret I have is that I didn't set the line colour to be a more in contrast with the background and there doesn't seem to be any way to edit these settings once an element has been placed.

To sum it up, both systems have some benefits depending on what you want to use them for. Google MyMaps has some better annotation features in that you can edit in Rich Text or HTML and you can add images and movies as well and then layer the lot onto Google Earth, which could be great for reliving those holiday experiences. However, Windows Live has much better UK data and you can set colours and line styles so, for me, it was the much better choice for route mapping.

What about Yahoo! Local Maps? Unfortunately the UK data wasn't much better then Google's and there were no personalization features available.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Google Desktop For Mac

Google DesktopGoogle have released version 1.0 of Google Desktop for Mac.

It's not quite as comprehensive as its Windows counterpart but it is a desktop search application that gives you easy access to information on your Mac and from the web. It does take some of the features from the Windows version, such as indexing Gmail and web history, integration, finding content in past file revisions and deleted files, and fast application launching. They also say it correctly handles multiple users and even FileVault.

Google Desktop for Mac makes searching your own email, files, music, photos, and more as easy as searching the web with Google. As part of Google Desktop for Mac, you also get the new Google Updater, which is designed to allow you to easily install, update, and uninstall all your Google software for Mac OS X. It also allows you to explore and discover other Google software, including Google Earth, Notifier, and Picasa Web Uploader, and learn a little about each of them.

Software Update Checkers

Now that you've installed loads of free and open-source applications and utilities, how do you make sure you're keeping up to date with lastest versions? Of course some applications and utiltiies can be configured to automatically check for updates but lots don't. Fortunately, there are a few helpful tools out there.

File Hippo Update CheckerFile Hippo Update Checker Windows Compatible

The very useful, free software for Windows download site File Hippo has released a handy little utility called Update Checker. This scans your installed applications and then reports which ones are out of date, along with appropriate download links to get the latest versions. It even lists available beta versions separately.

The application doesn't need installing so can be kept on a USB drive portable if you want and you can even customize where it looks for installed applications.

App UpdateApp Update Apple Compatible

App Update is a free Mac OS X Dashboard Widget that checks for updates to your installed applications. It supports Apple's Software Directory, MacUpdate and Version Tracker and will present you with a list of all the updates found, with appropriate download links.

It's also pretty customizable, right down to the level of each application it finds. You can set update sources, application search paths and even schedule automatic checking.

Widget UpdateWidget Update Apple Compatible

Widget Update is a free Mac OS X Dashboard widget that checks for updates to your installed Widgets. Like it's sister, App Update above, it supports Apple's Software Directory, MacUpdate and Version Tracker and will present you with a list of all the updates found, with appropriate download links. It also supports DashboardWidgets for updates as well.

Again, it's also pretty customizable, right down to the level of each Widget it finds. You can set update sources, search paths and even schedule automatic checking.

MacUpdate Widget Apple Compatible

Another free Dashboard widget that allows you to display the latest Mac OS X software releases on your desktop. Features include…
  • Customize the new releases feed based on specific category.
  • Track the Dashboard Widgets category to view all new widgets that get releases.
  • Multiple view formats.
  • Auto-hide drawer features with alert when new items are in the list.
Obviously it only works with MacUpdate as a checking source but I couldn't get it to work for me.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Xcellery - An Online Spreadsheet Editor

Having already mentioned several other online spreadsheet editors like Google Docs & Spreadsheets, Zoho Sheet, ThinkFree and ajaxXLS, I thought I should add Xcellery to the list.

Xcellery, which is free, allows you to share and edit your Excel spreadsheets online. Being an online editor means that it eliminates the need to continually resend new versions of spreadsheets to your collaborators and, unlike other online spreadsheets, Xcellery doesn't try to replace Excel but extend it.

While Xcellery only works directly with Microsoft Excel for Windows, it also provides a powerful browser-based, AJAX editor so Macintosh and Linux users can join in too.

Related Posts: Online Office Tools