Wednesday, January 31, 2007

PlusNet Offers Firewall Feature

Broadband ISP PlusNet is now offering all of its subscribers an included firewall service that they can manage and configure themselves.

Okay, most people with broadband routers will have configured some level of firewall protection on that device but for those with only ADSL modem connections, this could be a very useful service. The basic settings allow you to choose your level of protection from off, low or high and there's an advanced level for fine tuning the level of port blocking applied. The firewall service is off by default and you'll need to disconnect and reconnect before any changes are registered.

I've been a PlusNet subscriber for about 18 months now and (fingers crossed) it's always been a reasonably solid and reliable service.

NB: PlusNet already offer subscribers the ability to restrict access to binary newsgroups and P2P services so that's also a useful option for concerned parents, etc.

Got An Intel Mac? Get Q!

If you're an Intel based Macintosh user that wants to run Linux or Windows as well as the native Mac OS X and can't afford the likes of Parallels at just under $80 or CrossOver Mac at just under $60, then you might want to have a look at Q [kju:] Apple Compatible

QQ is a Mac OS X Cocoa port of the excellent open source CPU emulator QEMU. QEMU is a generic and open source processor emulator (or virtual machine) that allows you to run, e.g., Linux on a Windows PC or Windows on a Linux PC, etc.

It may not be as efficient as Parallels but it's free and achieves a good speed on Intel Macs, giving the performance of about a 500Mhz PC in x86-on-x86 emulation so you might just get away with running Windows XP on it. Like Parallels, and Virtual PC before it, you can quickly switch between guest systems and save and restart guest systems at any stage. You can also easily exchange files between host and guest systems.

While Q makes use of Mac OS X advanced technologies like OpenGL, Quartz, Coreimage and Coreaudio to provide maximum acceleration, it'll never replace a real PC but it could be useful for testing websites or utilities under Windows or Linux.

Related Posts: CrossOver Mac Goes Beta, Running Windows On A Mac

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Free Microsoft Photo Info

Microsoft have released their free Microsoft Photo Info tool, which allows Windows XP and Vista users to add, change and delete common "metadata" properties for digital photographs from inside Windows Explorer.

When installed, a new "Photo Info" item appears on the context menu for files selected in Windows Explorer. To use, simply select one or more image fiiles, right-click and choose "Photo Info" to open the Photo Info properties editor. You can edit metadata for files individually, or all together as a batch. Photo Info reads and writes metadata in IPTC and XMP formats (depending on file type). It also provides enhanced "hover tips" and additional sort properties for digital photographs in Windows Explorer.

It supports JPEG, TIFF, WDP, HDP, NEF, CR2, and CRW files and displays file type, image size, ISO, white balance information, etc. You can add keywords, descriptions, and copyright information to photos directly in Explorer. You can also edit the EXIF data such as date and time information and you can also edit images in batch mode.

Easier Embedded Video Downloads

We've all tried to download video from the likes of YouTube or Google Video and the more savvy of us already know about the raft of Firefox extensions available and sites like KeepVid and Hey! Watch to do just that. But now there's another way - by the All-In-One Video Bookmarklet.

A bookmarklet is a JavaScript program that can be easily stored as a URL within a browser bookmark or even in hyperlinks on a web page. These are more commonly installed in your browser's bookmarks or favourites areas for easy access.

The all-in-one bookmarklet supports YouTube, Google Video, Metacafe, Myspace,, Putfile, Dailymotion, Sevenload, and Just browse to the page containing the video, select the bookmarklet and it'll give you the download links for video elements on the page.

There's also a Greasemonkey script available for Firefox users with the Greasemonkey extension installed.

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

Monday, January 22, 2007

Access Your iPod!

Have you ever wanted to access or transfer the music on your iPod to another machine? If your hard drive crashes or your system gets stolen and you lose all of your digitized music and video masters, do you want to be able to restore it from your iPod without having to redigitize it all over again?

If the answer is yes to either of the above questions, then you probably know that you can't do that easily as Apple have formatted the iPod media storage in such a way as to hide the music and video from other files and photos, rendering it invisible. Assuming you sync your entire library, then your iPod is a full backup but, while you can mount your iPod as an external drive, you won't get access to the audio or video files. Well, actually you can if you use one of the free utilities listed below.

NB: If all you want to do is to relocate an existing iTunes library, then you can find detailed instructions from Apple here, although they do require that the old storage is connected to whatever system is hosting the new location and that your iTunes music folder is set to be kept organized. If your're moving the database to a completely new system and/or your music folder is not kept organized, then you might find the instructions on Jilles van Gurp's blog more useful. Also be aware that if you have any DRM protected tracks, you'll need to de-authorize the old system and then authorize the new one before you'll be able to play them.

There are also other ways to view invisible files and folders to access the music files but they involve changing global file system settings, which could present some users with more than they really want to see. The Kirkville blog has an excellent article on how to do this on Mac OS X and Windows so if you're happy dabbling at that level, otherwise…

Yamipod Apple CompatibleLinux CompatibleWindows Compatible

YamiPod is a freeware application to efficiently manage your iPod under Mac OS X, Windows and Linux. It can be run directly from your iPod and needs no installation.

It automatically recognizes your iPod, you can copy mp3 and AAC files to and from the iPod and you have read/write access to mp3, ID3 and AAC tags. It has a built-in music player and supports playlists. It can also export and import lyrics, tracks and playlists, remove duplicates, find lost music and can sync with the iPod.

It can even add and edit notes, news and podcasts, display iPod information and repair a faulty iPod.

Floola Apple CompatibleLinux CompatibleWindows Compatible

FloolaFloola is a freeware application to efficiently manage your iPod or your Motorola mobile phone (any model supporting iTunes) under Linux, Mac OS X and Windows. It can be run directly from your iPod and needs no installation.

Floola can copy, add and extract songs or videos to and from your iPod, find duplicate tracks and search for lost tracks, playlists can be managed with simple drag-and-drop, lyrics and artwork are supported, tracks can be submitted to, export your library list to HTML, manage notes, repair the iPod and you can even play music directly.

iPodDiskiPodDisk Apple Compatible

iPodDisk is a Mac OS X application designed to make it easy and intuitive to copy music or video off of your iPod by enabling you to do so within the Finder, or whatever application that can read files. Basically it does so by emulating an iDisk drive and so is accessible like any other volume in the Finder or any other application.

After it starts, iPodDisk automatically opens a Finder window from which you can browse, drag from, or even play music directly on the drive. From a user’s perspective, there’s no difference between the emulated drive and regular local folders, with the exception that the iPodDisk drive is read-only.

gtkpod Linux Compatible

gtkpod is a GUI for accessing an iPod via Linux or other unix systems. It allows you to transfer audio and video files onto your iPod and, although it does not support the same advanced media/jukebox capabilities that iTunes has, gtkpod is, in essence, an iTunes for Unix.

It can also import an existing iPod database, including play counts, ratings and on-the-go playlists.

podUp Apple Compatible

podUp is a Mac OS X application that copies all your music files from your iPod to a folder of your choosing, without having anything to do with iTunes.

It does not attempt to interfere with whatever copyright protection those files may have, it simply copies them, so files bought from the iTunes store will still be authorised only for the computer(s) you have authorisied.

Senuti Apple Compatible

SenutiSenuti is a simple Mac OS X utility for transferring tracks from your ipod back to your computer. You can even copy tracks back into iTunes or even add to a playlist. You can even create new playlists and copy these over to iTunes.

In effect, Senuti can be used not only to recover your music or video files and to rebuild your iTunes library, but it'll also recover those precious play counts and ratings as well that aren't stored in ID3 tags.

PS: Bear in mind that simply copying files off of the iPod won't restore playlists and track metadata like ratings, play counts, etc.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

MediaMax Adds Automatic Windows Backup

KeepVault TourMediaMax, the online storage provider, have partnered with Proxure to offer KeepVault Windows Compatible, a free Windows application that continuously protects your files - automatically. As mentioned in an earlier post, MediaMax comes with 25GB of free space and you can increase that up to 100GBs for under $5/month.

KeepVault scans your My Documents folder and automatically backs up any changed or new files to your online MediaMax storage. You can decide which types of files to backup and once you've set it up, you can forget it. With one-time setup and continuous protection, it makes backing-up completely automatic and painless.

Of course, once your files have been backed, you can easily recover them using KeepVault or simply access them by logging on to your KeepVault or MediaMax account.

Related Posts: Free Online File Storage

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Hey! Watch - Online Video Encoding

Hey! Watch

Hey!Watch Online  Service is another online tool for converting audio and video files. It's kind of like the previously covered Media-Convert and Zamzar sites but with the focus more on re-encoding multimedia files.

All you need to do is transfer up any file and then pick a format for it to be converted to. You can even submit a web page containing the video you want converted and video services like YouTube, Myspace, Google Video, DailyMotion, Metacafe, iFilm, Grouper, Revver, Apple Trailers,,, stage6.divx, Gametrailers, Kewego, and wideo are supported too. On top of all that, you can subscribe a video podcast to it and have the files delivered to you when they've been converted.

Video formats currently supported are avi, mp4, 3gp, psp, mpeg, mpegts, dvd, flv, svcd, vcd, vob, asf, mov, rm, mjpeg, mpeg2video and 3g2. Codecs supported are mpeg4, xvid, flv, h263, mjpeg, mpeg1video, mpeg2video, qtrle, svq3, wmv1, wmv2, huffyuv, rv20, h264, mp3, mp2, aac, pcm, amr_nb, ac3, vorbis, flac and pcm_u8.

Additional supplied tools are a browser Bookmarklet to import the media from the current web page and a plug-in for Firefox that does the same thing but also works on popup windows. If you're a web developer, then there's also a couple of bits of code to allow users to convert video directly from your page and there's a REST based API for the more experienced.

The free plan allows you 10 encoding sessions a month and a maximum length of video of 10 mins. It also gives you 6 hours of temporary space for raw video and 12 hours for encoded video but you can't create your own format or apply multiple encoding formats on a single file. The upgrade costs $5/month, which gives you 100 sessions, 25 mins. video length, double the storage space and the ability to create your own format and apply multiple encoding formats on a single file.

Related Posts: Free Online Media File Converter, More Online File Conversion Services

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Scrybe - Watch out Google!

Scrybe, a new online organizer, calendar and content management system, looks like being another really useful web productivity application.

Scrybe's Calendar is very good indeed and it comes with world time clocks to make sure your global events happen when you want them to. It has a to-do list, you can transfer data in and out very easily and you can drag and drop directly from common applications like Excel and Word and scrybe converts at all on the fly.

But it's not just a calendar, there's also the ThoughtPad, which may be an even more impressive tool for anyone researching or just collecting information while surfing. It lets you enter ideas and you can cut and paste content from other sites as you surf around. It's all nicely formatted for you as well in a multi-column view and you can then print it off in a range of paper formats to suit your needs.

You can even work offline, yes offline. If your browser supports offline working, like internet Explorer and Firefox, then so does Scribe.

Bear in mind that the service is still in beta release and accounts are hard to get. Just sub,it your e-mail address and wait until they get to you, it'll be worth it. It's compatible with Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari and there's a decent video preview of its functionality available on the web site. No details on costs, if any, as yet.

You could use Google Calendar and Google Notepad to get some of the functionality of Scrybe but nothing like the full capabilities. I'm just waiting on that beta account to test it out more thoroughly.

Related Posts: Online Office Tools, Capture The Web While You Surf!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Apple TV Announced

Apple's latest gadgets have just been announced at MacWorld Expo 2007 and, while the iPhone is an extraordinary piece of technology, there's no news of when it'll be venturing outside of the USA, if ever. Mind you, now we know what Apple used all those touch-screen LCD panels it bought last year for. Most of us thought we would see a touch-screen iPod in order to fit in a larger, wider screen so we weren't too far away and I expect the next iPod version will sport the same screen and interface.

That leaves us with the Apple TV, a media streaming device intended to facilitate streaming music, images, podcasts and videos from your Mac or PC to the large screen TV and audio system in your living room.

Apple TV
Okay, this is nothing new as there are several other similar boxes on the market already (see below) so how does Apple expect to win in an existing market? Well, with over five million iPods out there and with the vast majority of their owners using iTunes to manage them, I expect that Apple reckons that their box, which can sync and stream directly from an iTunes library, will prove very tempting to those iTunes users.

For just under £200 you'll get another little box and remote control to add to your living room media/entertainment array. Connect it up to your widescreen TV or AV kit and you can then sync or stream content from your iTunes library over your 10/100 Base-T wired or 802.11b/g/n wireless network and you can sync up to five computers to it. It has a 40GB hard drive for holding content locally and they say that translates to about 50 hours of video, 9,000 songs or 25,000 images.

Audio formats supported: AAC (16 to 320 Kbps), protected AAC (from iTunes Store), MP3 (16 to 320 Kbps), MP3 VBR, Apple Lossless, AIFF and WAV. Video formats supported are H.264 and protected H.264 (from iTunes Store), .m4v, .mp4, .mov and MPEG-4. Image formats supported are JPEG, BMP, GIF, TIFF and PNG.

The downside is that you'll need a reasonably new TV, one that supports HDMI or component video. If anyone knows of an HDMI or component audio/video to SCART converter (at a reasonable price) I'd be keen to know.

My thoughts: a 40GB drive is pretty small these days and I think it'll outgrow that very quickly, especially if users take advantage of its ability to sync with multiple systems. It might be worth waiting for that 80 or 160GB upgrade!

Here's a few alternatives worth looking at…

DLO HomeDock

DLO HomedockIf you already have an iPod and don't want to splash out on a High Definition TV, then it might be worth looking at the DLO HomeDock, which basically allows you to connect your iPod to your TV or sound system through a standard, three-cable AV connector or via S-Video.

The deluxe model, at around £130, also allows you to display the iPod library content on the TV screen, allowing you to navigate, select and play your songs or videos using the included 18-button remote control and it'll even charge your iPod as well.

…and there are a few more network digital media streaming devices worth considering out there…
You've probably noticed the lack of Macintosh support in these alternative options so if you're a Mac user and want to stream Internet content, then the Apple TV may be your best choice.

NB: The Freecom box above can connect to a Mac but it can only stream content from a Windows PC or direct attached media. It's also not wireless compatible.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Unlimited Online File Storage

Having already listed a few online storage services in an earlier post, I thought I was doing well when I found one providing 25Gb for free so imagine my amazement when I found DivShare, who say they'll give you unlimited storage and all for free.

DivShareOkay, so what's the catch? Well, I can't find one. You can upload unlimited files of any type. Your files will never be deleted (except by you) and you can share the files out with no bandwidth limitations. There are no on-screen ads, no pop-ups, and no related spam clogging up your inbox. It even lets you create your own galleries if you’re uploading pictures and they don't resize images like some sites do.

So, if you're looking for some file or image hosting space for your web site or photo collection or a means of sharing some large files that email won't handle, then DivShare is definitely worth checking out. Just be aware that the terms and conditions offer no guarantees of service availability or reliability.

Related articles: Free Online File Storage

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

DTP On The Cheap

Someone in the office asked me recently if there was anything available that would allow one of their relations to create posters. The main proviso being that it could do that job for a reasonably low cost (or even be free). The first thing that came to mind was…

PagePlus SEPagePlus SE Windows Compatible

Serif Software have been releasing older versions of their software solutions for free for many years and are always worth checking out. While these free versions aren't current, Serif do offer very low-cost upgrade prices and even their full prices are way below that of the major players.

PagePlus SE handles single or multi-page projects with all the usual DTP tools like inline graphics, graphics/photo placement, colours, line styles, fills as well as a built-in word processor and table designer. It also comes with a range of templates, colour schemes, document layouts, graphic shapes and tutorials to help you get started. You can even design artistic text fonts and download even more free templates.

PagePlus SE ExamplesFor small club, home and personal projects like greetings cards, booklets, banners, posters, etc., it's definitely worth trying out.

PS Serif also produce similar free software for Photo and Image Editing, Graphic Design and Vector Drawing, 3D Animation and Modelling and Web Site Design and Publishing.

Then, fed up with eating too much and watching too much telly over the Christmas break, I had a few hours online and found…

ScribusScribus Apple CompatibleLinux CompatibleWindows Compatible

Scribus is an open-source, desktop publishing application for Linux, Mac OS X, Windows and Unix so if you can't afford a commercial solution like Adobe Pagemaker, Adobe InDesign or Quark Express, then this may well be worth checking out.

Like the apps above, Scribus is designed for DTP with the ability to prepare files for professional quality image setters. It can also create animated and interactive PDF presentations and forms. Underneath the user friendly interface, Scribus supports professional publishing features, such as CMYK color, separations, ICC color management and versatile PDF creation.

Scribus MacBeing open-source, it has a fairly well developed community of users and developers so there's a wealth of resources available. Have a look here for links, documentation, etc. Native versions are available for Mac OS X Aqua, Windows and Debian/Ubuntu.