Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Picasa For Mac Looking Closer

The Googling Google blog is touting some news that should have most Mac fans sit up - "Google to launch Picasa Mac at Macworld 2009?"

Sure it's only another rumour in a long line of rumours about Picasa for Macintosh but we're ever hopeful that one of these will eventually bear fruit. Not that Apple's iPhoto is bad, it's actually pretty good, but it isn't free like Picasa. You have to pay for upgrades to iLife and frankly that sucks if, like me, it's the only application in that suite you use.

So, maybe very soon now, we'll be able to compare iPhoto and Picasa directly on the Mac!

Monday, December 29, 2008

More Book Stuff

Having already posted an article of what to do with books other than read them,
Books And What To Do With Them!, I thought that it was time to add a few more options for book-lovers to that list…

Book Suggestions

Several sites have emerged that attempt to offer the avid reader suggestions for what to read next, based on various formulae. Whether they're any good at doing it or are just trying to push books they can sell you will depend on trying them out. Here are a few worth checking out…

Whichbook - This site presents the reader with a list of paired criteria like happy or sad, funny or serious, safe or disturbing, short or long, etc. You can then use a slider to choose the level between each pair that suits what kind of book you want to read next. If that scenario doesn't suit, then you can try choosing the character, plot and setting. For example, you get to choose your main character's race, age, sexuality and gender and you can even make him or her an alien. There are seven plot types to pick from and you can choose to set the story anywhere in the world.

What Should I Read Next - This uses a much simpler system in that you enter a book you like and the site will analyse its favourites database of over 47,000 books to suggest what you could read next. It produces the recommendations based purely on collective taste of its registered readers. When books are entered into the same favourites list, they become associated with each other and the more often particular books appear on different lists, the stronger that association becomes. Over time the recommendations should get better and better as the database grows.

BookLamp - This site suggests books through an analysis of writing styles similar to the way that matches its listeners to new music. BookLamp allows you to find books with a similar level of tone, tense, perspective, action, description, and dialog - while at the same time allowing you to specify details like… half the length. It’s supposedly impervious to outside influences, like advertising, that impact most socially driven recommendation systems, and isn’t reliant on a large user base to work. It's still in private beta but looks promising (and my name's down).

More Cataloguing

BookHuddle is another free book cataloguing site but with a more social networking slant to help you discover, organize, and share book information. It also includes reviews, discussion forums and you can even set up or join book clubs in there.

Shelfari titles itself as a free social network for book lovers. It lets you create a virtual shelf to show off your books. You can then see what your friends are reading and discover new books or at least that's the general idea. It also has groups that you can join to keep the social aspect going.

If you want to catalogue more than just books, then there are more general collection list sites like Listology and iTrackmine.

More Swapping

BookHopper - a free, swap-by-post book service. It is international but only allows swapping within your own national boundaries to keep postage costs down. Like similar services, you can request a book when you meet certain criteria. Here you need to offer at least 10 books and leave up-to-date feedback. There are also limits on how many books you can request in a given time period.

WhatsOnMyBookShelf - a book trading community that allows members to exchange their books using a simple credit system. Users maintain their own profile page with friends, book inventory and wishlists. For every 5 books registered you will receive one credit as a promotion and each book registered is designated a credit value based upon its new book price. Users request a book by redeeming some of their credits to order the book from the current holder, who then gets those credits.

Well, that's enough on books for the moment. I was going to add a bit on book price comparison engines but maybe later.

Related Posts: Books And What To Do With Them!

Friday, November 14, 2008

XMind - Mind Mapping And Brainstorming For Free

XMind, a provider of visual thinking and collaborative software solutions and services for brainstorming, idea capture, content sharing, and project management, has released an open-source version of their award-winning mind-mapping application.

With the goal of making XMind more accessible to a broader audience and more powerful for professional users, XMind is making available both a royalty-free open source edition, XMind 3, and a subscription-based professional edition, XMind Pro 3. Both editions are enabled for online sharing and collaboration via Share.XMind.Net, a new web service that allows XMind users to share their mind maps and other visual thinking content with a Web 2.0 style online community.

XMind is available for Windows, Mac OS X and also has a Java-based, portable version that can run under both of those and Linux. There is a alos a Pro version XMind Pro subscribers have full access to all updates, online support, all pro features including privately sharing, inline presentation, exporting to PDF/Word/Powerpoint, Gantt charts with task topics and more.

Related Posts: PersonalBrain MindMapping, Online Mind-Mapping

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Clocking IT - Free, Web-based Project Management

Long have I searched for a free, web-based project management solution that offers no limits and team collaboration facilities but, up till now, that search has been fruitless. Yes I've checked out activeColab but it isn't really free and then there's Project2Manage but I didn't find it rich enough in features.

Clocking IT
Clocking IT does all of the above and for free as well. It offers unlimited online project storage and with it you can plan your projects, see your schedule, know if you're slipping behind and why and it can send out notifications via email, RSS & iCal. It also includes time tracking and extensive reports to help you show your clients exactly what you've done and for how long.

The main iterface is the dashboard, which is fully customizable for whatever information you need and it automatically updates. You can even add Google Gadgets to it as well. You can visualize your project plans with intercative GANTT chart too.

It's available in English, French, Spanish, Basque, Italian, German, Dutch, Polish, Hebrew, Brazilian Portuguese, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian and Finnish.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

OCR Terminal - Free, Online OCR Scanning

Thanks to blogger Sarab who commented on my erroneous article for Qipit, we now know that there is a true, online OCR scanning service available…

OCR Trminal
OCR Terminal is a free online Optical Character Recognition (OCR) service that allows you to convert scanned images and PDF documents into editable and searchable text documents. It accurately preserves formatting and layout of documents. It was built to provide the user with a free and easy way of performing OCR without having to install new software or having to pay for it. Automatic layout extraction and segmentation of image areas ensure that the page layout and formatting of the document is preserved accurately.

OCR Terminal supports all popular document image formats including PDF and multi-page TIFF captured as scanned images, photographs, or even screenshots. Extracted text can be downloaded in TXT, DOC, XML or RTF formats or directly e-mailed with a thumbnail of the uploaded image.

The site currently allows for text extraction only from English language documents, but they are working on extending this functionality across other languages as well. They are also currently working on a desktop client that will allow users to upload the document by dragging and dropping all the TIFF and PDF files into the client and get back perfectly formatted Word files.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Microsoft Image Composite Editor

Microsoft Research are usually worth keeping an eye on as they're known for producing some very nifty bits of Windows software and this time their Interactive Visual Media Group has rolled out the Image Composite Editor or ICE to shorten the name a bit. ICE is an advanced panoramic image stitcher and, like most of the amazingly cool stuff that emerges from Microsoft Research, it's free.

Image Composite Editor
Okay, you can already create panoramic images for free in Windows Live Photo Gallery, and it's very good at it too, but if you're looking for that bit more functionality and control and don't really want to have to shell out for a commercial panorama tool or delve into the free but complex Hugin, then ICE is looking very nice indeed.

ICE has state-of-the-art stitching and exposure blending algorithms and allows advanced camera orientation adjustment. It can also output to more formats and with more control over compression levels than Windows Live Photo Gallery but it's still so easy to use.

All you need to do is drop in a set of overlapping photographs of a scene from a single location and ICE creates a high-resolution panorama, incorporating all of your images at full resolution. You can choose from several algorithms for camera motion or let it choose automatically. Once the images have been stitched, you can automatically crop off the uneven edges or do it manually to suit your own image preferences.

Once you're happy with the stitch and crop, then you can then save your panorama in a wide variety of formats, from common ones like JPEG, PNG, Windows BMP and TIFF to the new-ish HD Photo format and multi-resolution tiled formats like HD View and Silverlight Deep Zoom. You can even choose to scale the exported image if you want to.

Versions of ICE are available for both x86 and x64 Windows systems with .NET 2.0 or above.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Windows Live Lives

Windows Live

When Microsoft released their free Windows Live suite of applications and services, I was in there pretty quickly and started writing this blog post but it never got done as other stuff cropped up that kept my focus off of it.

Still, it's definitely worth a mention now that they've released a set of beta updates for new versions of most of the suite, which provides a single sign-in access to the following web services…
  • Hotmail: Stay connected anywhere with your web-based e-mail account.
  • Spaces: Share your world online on your own web space.
  • SkyDrive: 1Gb of free storage to host or share your files online.
  • Events: Plan your event. Send invitations. Share photos.
…and on top of that they give you the following suite of applications…
  • Mail: Access your multiple e-mail accounts in one place.
  • Messenger: Connect, share, and chat online.
  • Toolbar: Easy access to Windows Live services from any web page.
  • Photo Gallery: Get creative and share your photos and videos.
  • Writer: Easily publish pictures, videos, and other rich content to your blog.
One more thing on offer is Windows Live OneCare, an all-in-one PC security and support suite to provide protection against viruses, spyware, intrusions, hackers, etc., optimize your system and hard drive and provide scheduled backup facilities. However, it isn't free but you can try it for 90 days before they'll want some wonga. It costs £37.99 a year to support up to three PCs on OneCare.

A few of the services like Hotmail and Messenger are already well known but what drew my attention was the new stuff like Photo Gallery and Writer…

Windows Live Photo Gallery

Windows Live Photo Gallery is essentially Microsoft's answer to Google's Picasa and, having had a play with it, I'm pretty impressed so far. Like Picasa, you can use it to organize and store your photos as well as adjust settings like exposure, brightness, shadows, redeye, colour, detail and crop the image, etc. Not a lot different here but I actually found the shadow and highlight adjustments more flexible than in Picasa. You can also publish your images to your Spaces photos and Flickr or e-mail images in a choice of sizes or burn images to CD/DVD directly.

What really got my interest in this application was the fact that I'd read a while back that Microsoft would be including the capability of creating panoramic images. So, they have indeed and all you do is select the source images and choose a menu command. Nothing else is required as the application analyses the images and builds the panorama with no further input from you; no selecting matching anchor points or anything like that; it just works. The following panorama was made from three images taken hand held from our hotel balcony in Portugal last year…

Windows Live Photo Gallery Panorama
The only complaint I have about it is the fact that there's no option to adjust the default JPEG file save compression settings and those must be set at about 50% as any edited file seems to be much smaller than the original. The workaround here is to save the panorama as a TIFF and then use something else to convert it to JPEG if desired.

Windows Live Writer

Windows Live Writer is a desktop application that makes it easy to publish rich content to your blog. It can publish to most major blog services including Windows Live Spaces, SharePoint, Wordpress, Blogger and many others. Even if you don't yet have a blog (where have you been?), Writer can help you set one up.

With Writer, you can easily create a compelling blog post and insert photos and videos, maps, tags and lots of other cool content. I comes with powerful editing features including tables, spell checker, and quick hyperlinks. You can even compose your posts offline and publish them later once you get connected again.

Windows Live Writer
Some of the above services and applications are still in development so I expect that the feature set may grow a bit and some of the inconsistencies will be ironed out. One other thing to mention is the fact that you don't need to sign up for a Hotmail account to get access to the rest of the stuff. I quite easily got signed up using my own, non-Microsoft mail account.

The latest set of betas has updates for Messenger, Mail, Photo Gallery, Writer, Toolbar and Family Safety and now includes Movie Maker, which lets you create and share movies with just a few clicks of your mouse. You can arrange photos and video clips by dragging and dropping, add a soundtrack and preview your changes instantly before publishing to any of several popular video sharing sites.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Can You Run It?

Can You Run It?Can You Run It? is a that site provides a simple solution for PC video game fans that looks at your computer hardware and software to determine whether or not your current system can run a particular Windows PC game. So, if you fancy playing newly released games like Mercenaries 2 or Spore, then it might be very useful to try this before shelling out for the games.

Each of your computer's components is evaluated to see how well it meets the minimum and recommended requirements against a database of specific games. If you can run it, then whoop-dee-doo, Instant happiness If not, then recommendations are made on how to update or upgrade each component that doesn't meet the listed requirements. Sometimes all you need is a simple, free software download to sort things out.

The service
works with Windows 98, 98SE, ME, 2000, XP, 2003, Media Center and Vista and either Internet Explorer 4.xx and higher or a Mozilla based browser (Firefox, Netscape, etc.) with Java 1.3.1 and higher. At the moment the database contains only games but there's no reason why they couldn't expand that to include other software packages. Might need a bit of redesign on the site to accommodate that though as all you get to select from is one, very long menu.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Oosah - Too Good to Be True?

Online storage provider Oosah has just blown the free storage goalposts away by offering one terabyte, a whole terabyte, free to registered individual users and they have an iPhone compatible site. Now that just blows the competition away and you can either believe that the offer is real or you can be a wee bit sceptical (like me) and dig a bit deeper.

Okay, they're banking on no-one actually filling up their terabyte allocation anytime soon so time may be on their side and, as long as storage advancements continue and they upgrade often enough, then they could very well keep on top of it. However, my concerns weren't really about them being able to provide the technology…

Where things get decidedly dodgy is in their Terms and Conditions. Firstly, they make it perfectly clear that you, as the owner of the contents, are responsible for it and not them so that's them off the hook for hosting anything that you upload that could be considered illegal or prohibited. Secondly, and this is the killer, by posting content to Oosah, you automatically grant to Oosah (and its successors) an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, assignable, royalty free, worldwide license to use, copy, perform, display, distribute and to prepare derivative works of such content in connection with the Site and any current and future services offered by Oosah, and to grant and authorize sublicenses of the foregoing.

That's a serious mouthful to digest but what it means is that, while they've limited their liability for anything dodgy you might upload, they can do whatever they want with your files, data, videos, pictures, etc. forever! Nothing you upload to Oosah can be considered private so be very wary of that.

It's a pity as the service looks really useful; you can upload and stream your music collection, create photo galleries and slideshows, embed content for blog and web site postings, etc. All useful stuff but think about this scenario. You've uploaded your music collection, mostly ripped from legally purchased CDs, and can happily stream this to anywhere you are on the web. However, you've also granted Oosah the same privileges and they can stream your music to anyone they deem fit. Trouble is neither Oosah nor you have a license to do that and you're the one that would cop the blame should the authorities get wind of it.

Okay, a terabyte is a terabye and if you think it could be useful, then go ahead but be very, very careful about what you're uploading.

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

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Toodledo - A To-do List To Organize You (Or Even Me)!

I discovered web-based to-do list Toodledo last week and, having tried quite a few similar tools and services over the last few years, I think I'll give this one a serious test. Why? Well mostly because it's an online application; no software to install and I can check my list from anywhere that I can access the web. There's even a mobile device optimized web page, a Firefox extension, a Mac OS X widget and a Google Gadget just to make it even easier to add to or edit items on your list. Oh, and it's free for basic use.

To-do lists are one of those things most of us have tried to maintain at one point or another. If you're one of those really organized people that can handle such a list in your head or have a really neat wee book with everything needing done in it, then my hat comes off to you. Me, I'm getting on a bit and, besides being a tad on the lazy side, I can forget where I put my pen down five minutes ago far less remember what I have to do over the next few weeks. What usually happens is that I end up with a mix of post-it notes on my desk, notes scrawled on any spare bit of paper and stuffed in my pocket or text notes on my mobile phone so the idea of being able to collate all of these into one, very accessible place is really appealing.

Maybe you're familiar with the GTD or "Getting Things Done" principle, a methodology developed by productivity consultant David Allen. The basic premise of GTD is that recording your tasks in a reliable way, using a system you trust, will free your mind from trying to remember and prioritize stuff. Basically GTD devolves down to using an organized to-do/task list so Toodledo can handle that too.

With Toodledo, you add tasks to a list and these tasks can be categorized and organized in various ways. Tasks can be prioritized, scheduled in a calendar and given a deadline, They can be organized into folders, tagged, given a context and become part of attaining a goal. You can also set up repeating tasks for those things you need to do every week, month, etc. If you upgrade to a paying version, then you can organize tasks into projects or sub-tasks although you can emulate projects using the goals and folders functionality.

You can also share your to-do lists with the world or, if you upgrade to a pro account, you have complete control over who has permission to read or modify your to-do list. You can add as many collaborators as you want. Collaborators can view your entire to-do list (unless you've marked some folders as private) and you can give individual collaborators permission to add tasks to your list.

If you already use a task manager, then Toodledo can import tasks from many sources, including your Palm OS PDA, Microsoft Outlook, Apple iCal, Excel, and anything that can produce an iCal, XML, CSV or text file.

Toodledo can also send out reminders for tasks that are due soon. You can specify up to 5 different email addresses or SMS devices that will receive a reminder about any task due in the next few hours. You can even link Toodledo with microblogging service Twitter, which will allow you to use that service's IM and SMS features to add tasks and receive reminders. You can also choose to receive a copy of your hotlist in your inbox each morning. Toodledo can also be easily integrated with many Calendar applications, including Google Calendar and Apple iCal.

So far, I've been using Toodledo to keep track of stuff I need to do at work and things I want to blog about on this or my other blog as well as stuff I need to do for just me and it seems to be able to handle all of of these things pretty well. The payable upgrade adds more functionality to the mix - statistics, an auto-scheduler, sub-tasks (projects), collaboration features and more but the free version may well have enough bells and whistles for most people so it's definitely worth checking out.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Speak To Me - Online Text-To-Speech Services

If you've ever discovered an online book, manuscript or manual that you'd really like to read but can't be bothered with doing it on a computer screen, then the following services might be worth taking a look at. All of them are free to use and offer text-to-speech translation with the option of saving the output to an audio file, which could then be uploaded to a portable audio player, etc.


SpokenText allows you to record PDF, Word, plain text, PowerPoint, RSS news feeds, emails and web pages and converts them to speech automatically and you can download your recording as an iPod book or MP3 file. Every registered member also gets a personal podcast URL which they can use to download recordings to iTunes or to their iPod and you can easily share your recordings on a web site or blog using SpokenText Badges or individual recording players.

There's even an extension for Firefox that allows you to easily record any text content you find while surfing the Internet or using your school's electronic library. Just select the text and click the Record Selected Text button from the SpokenText tool bar and you are done. You can also record any public web page you find while surfing the Internet by clicking the Record Web Page button in the tool bar.


Listen to work documents, homework, PowerPoint presentations, emails, RSS feeds, blogs and novels while you relax, commute or exercise. Proof-read, learn a new language, multi-task, and use YAKiToMe! for entertainment. YAKiToMe! speaks multiple languages (English, Spanish, French and German) with a choice of 10 voices in a mix of US and UK, male and female, using high-quality text-to-speech synthesis technologies.

It supports conversion of text, which you can paste in, file formats of .doc, pdf or .txt formats, an RSS feed URL and directly from a POP3 mail account. You can also choose to vary the voice speed and save the recording as either WAV or MP3 format.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

FilePhile - Send Unlimited Files Directly, Machine to Machine

FilePhileFilePhile is a cross-platform utility that allows you to send files directly to another person's computer, regardless of size or any intervening network firewalls.

It's a free service and it offers secure, unlimited file transfers between any computer. Any file, any size, anywhere and with professional grade encryption. Transfers also automatically resume when temporary problems occur. FilePhile recovers from crashes, reboots, sleep/wake, and even changes in network location. You can start a transfer at home, pack up your laptop, go somewhere else and the transfer will resume when your system gets back online!

The basic FilePhile client is free and it runs on Mac OS X, Windows and Linux/Unix. It's written in Java so that means that you can use it to transfer files with almost anyone, regardless of what operating system or computer they're are using.

Of course you could do this using a BitTorrent client but that involves building a torrent file and then getting your recipient to download it. You could even do it using one of the free, large-file transfer services like Streamfile,, DropSend or senduit, etc. but these have size limitations and again, the recipient has to go and download the file. FilePhile is a much easier way to do it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Windows Live Live Mesh

Having just recently posted an article on online file sychronization services Dropbox and OpenDrive and mentioned similar services SpiderOak and Syncplicity, the one most eagerly awaited has arrived - Windows Live Live Mesh.

Live Mesh
Part of the excellent Windows Live service, Live Mesh allows you to synchronize files and folders across different machines, share those folders or collaborate with others on them and even access remote machines directly. As part of the service you get 5Gb of online storage for free and that is presented to you as your Live Mesh Desktop, which is accessible from any web browser. As for the synchronization part, Microsoft currently only have client software for Windows XP and Vista but they are working on clients for Mac OS X and Windows Mobile. Currently, if you have a Windows Mobile device, or any phone that supports file system access, then you can upload files to your Live Mesh storage over the web via

Live Mesh is a bit more configurable than the others in that you can choose which files and folders are synchronized with which device so you can be a bit more choosy as to who gets access to what files. Like the others you can allow other people to access and even modify the contents of a Live Mesh folder so you can publish or collaborate with ease. You're also not tied down to a single folder from which to sync or share things out from. All you do is right-click on any file or folder and select the Add to Live Mesh option to get started.

An added bonus is the capability of connecting to any other remote machine on your Live Mesh network. However, at the moment this requires ActiveX so can only be done from a Windows PC running Internet Explorer and, since you can only currently attach Windows systems to the network, you can only connect to PCs as well. This was a nice feature in FolderShare but the Mac client for that was/is very unstable and I never really had much luck with it. Maybe now it's been sucked into Windows Live we'll see some development on that or maybe Live Mesh will take over from it with a stable Mac client. Here's hoping...

PS That 5Gb of space doesn't seem to be a part of the 5Gb you get Windows Live SkyDrive so enjoy the extra free storage, courtesy of Microsoft.

Related Posts: Dropbox and OpenDrive - Online File Synchronization Services, FolderShare Updated

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Dropbox and OpenDrive - Online File Synchronization Services

A couple of online file synchronization services have just popped up into my field of vision. One, called Dropbox, is in private beta at the moment and I've only just managed to get an invite after months of waiting and the other is called OpenDrive, which is in public beta.


Once you sign up to Dropbox, you can download the client software for both Mac OS X and Windows. This application run fairly unobtrusively in the system tray on Windows and on the menu bar on the Mac and it creates a folder on the user account space where you can drop files and folders you want to share with other systems or access online.

Obviously the keyword here is synchronization so when you make a change to any of these files, it gets synchronized across all of the systems registered with your account as soon as they connect to the Internet. You can also upload files from your web browser so your space is accessible and updatable from anywhere you happen to be.

Added to all this is the ability to share a folder with others and even invite them to collaborate with you so they can edit your files as well. When a file gets updated, you'll get a little notification about it too so you can keep up to date with what's in your Dropbox folder contents. The system also keeps a track of when files were updated, deleted or moved so you can keep track of revisions and history if need be and, if necessary, revert to an earlier revision.

The beta accounts are getting up to 2Gbs of free storage and the developers are looking to implement paid-for extra storage plans once the system goes live.


OpenDrive is is similar in that, once you sign up, you get to download the client software. Windows only though at the moment though but a Mac OS X version and even a mobile device version is in the pipeline.

OpenDrive works by installing a drive image under the My Computer area of your PC and any file or folder you drop in there, edit, delete or move gets synchronized with your online account. It all happens automatically and you don't need to schedule an update. Like Dropbox, synchronization works both ways so any changes are reflected on all systems attached to the same Opendrive account.

Files and folders in your OpenDrive can be made public, private or even hidden to anyone but yourself and sharing them out is easy. Right-click on a file in the Opendrive and you'll get a URL you can give out to share the item.

Opendrive is a product the people behind online storage service BOXSTr and if you're already a BOXSTr member, then you don't need to sign up for Opendrive again. Indeed, web access to your OpenDrive storage is via the BOXSTr interface for the moment although that may change in the future.

Free accounts have been allocated only 1Gb of storage for OpenDrive, which is strange considering BOXSTr offers 5Gb for free. Maybe they'll get these services inline once further down the development trail but it's worth keeping an eye on.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Partition Find And Mount

If you've ever seen the "Disk boot failure" message on a PC, then you'll realize how horrible that feeling is. Okay, it might just be that the drive cable has loosened somehow but it's more likely that the drive has failed or lost the partition information. If it's just the cable that's an easy fix but if not...then a more serious line of enquiry needs to be engaged.

Whatever the cause, you'll almost certainly have to remove the drive and either send it off to a specialist recovery firm or attach it to another computer and try it yourself. Before you shell out for the professional recovery option you could try using a free utility like Partition Find And Mount.

Partition Find & Mount implements a new method of deleted or lost partition recovery. It works simply by locating and mounting partitions into the system, thus making those lost partitions available to you like any generic disk volume. Partition Find & Mount will also work where any Boot Record (including the Master Boot Record) is missing, damaged or overwritten.

It's almost certainly worth a try if you do have a serious problem with a hard drive and, since it's free, you have nothing to lose but a little time and you could save yourself a lot of money.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

DiskAid - Disk Enable Your iPhone And iPod Touch

DiskAidIf your one of those "lucky" people with an iPhone or iPod touch, then you'll know that Apple have removed the facility for disk enabling the device that was standard with earlier iPod versions. Okay I know not a lot of us actually used that extra facility but it was necessary for some of the earlier iPod utilities to be able to access the hidden music folder.

Enter DiskAid, a free utility for the iPhone and iPod touch that lets you access all of the device drive, not just the music stuff. There are versions for both Mac OS X and Windows and it'll autodetect the device - just plug it in. Once connected, you get a file browser window, which will let you drag and drop files or folders in or out of the device. It'll also let you manage those files and folders - create, rename, delete, etc.

No jailbreaking is required and it currently supports firmware versions 1.1.1 to 1.1.4. Of course there are other similar tools out there like Floola, Senuti and YamiPod but none of those can access the iPhone or iPod touch yet.

Related Posts: iPod -> Folder, Access Your iPod!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Format Factory

Ever on the lookout for useful and free utilities, I came across Format Factory, which is a multimedia file converter for Windows that support converting all popular video, audio and picture formats to others.

Format FactoryIt'll convert…
  • Video to MP4/3GP/MPG/AVI/WMV/FLV/SWF.
  • Audio to MP3/OGG/WMA/M4A/WAV/AAC.
  • Picture to JPG/BMP/PNG/TIF/ICO/GIF/PCX/TGA with resize and rotation if required.
For the mobile device user. it'll convert…
  • All mobile video formats to 3GP, MeiZu MiniPlayer AVI or compatible MP4.
  • All mobile video formats to PSP MP4.
  • All mobile video formats to iPhone MP4.
It'll even rip DVDs to Video, DVD/CD to ISO/CSO and convert between ISO and CSO. It may not be the most polished looking application out there but it's free and it handlers a really useful set of convertions.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


This is a test post using ScribeFire from Firefox 3.0

ScribeFire is an extension for the Mozilla Firefox Web Browser that integrates with your browser to let you easily post to your blog. It allows you to drag and drop formatted text from pages you are browsing, take notes, and post to your blog directly using ScribeFire.

ScribeFire currently supports the following services:

In addition to the hosted services mentioned above, ScribeFire also supports custom blogging platforms which are usually blogging software hosted on your own server.

The currently supported blogging platforms are:

As mentioned above, any blogging software or blogging platform that implements the MetaWeblog API is implicitly supported by ScribeFire.

It's certainly very simple to use and could be very useful for composing technology related blog posts where a lot of the information is gleaned off of the web.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Google Docs Gets PDF Support

You can now upload, preview and share PDFs in Google Docs. You can't edit them yet but you can copy text from them for use in other apps. Hardly a huge innovation but useful for sharing PDF documents with others.

Maybe it won't be long before we can edit PDFs on there or even just search through them.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Buzzword Gets Integrated Into

Buzzword, Adobe's online word processor application, has evolved into part of their new web service, which is still in beta development. It joins Adobe ConnectNow, their online meeting/sharing service, as well as a tool to create PDF files and the ability to store and share files. Basically, is a set of online services such as file sharing and storage, PDF converter, online word processor and web conferencing that you can use to create and share documents, communicate in real time and hopefull simplify working with others.
For existing Buzzword users the only real change is the requirement to access the service using an Adobe account so you'll need to either use an exisiting Adobe account or create one. They'll even move any existing Buzzword documents over to the new account if you want as well. Adobe ConnectNow, if you've never heard of it before it used be called Adobe BRIO, is a Flash-based web-conferencing application that will allow you meet with others online, share ideas, screens and files and even collaborate on a shared whiteboard.

Another very useful addition is the Adobe AIR, runtime version of, which provides an easy way of interacting with to allow dragging and dropping files and folders from your local computer directly into your account, and browsing, previewing, sharing or publishing files easily from your computer. The interface is exactly like the web browser version so there's no need to learn two applications and it can be minimized to a widget to save screen space. Widget

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Google Sites Open Doors To All

When Google bought Jotspot last year, I assumed they'd be using that technology to enhance their own web-site creation service Google Page Creator. But no, what emerged was a new product called Google Sites but access was restricted to Google Apps users. Bit of a bummer as that meant you had to be signed up to their paying service to get this.

Google Sites
However, they've relented and opened up Google Sites to all Google account holders. So, if you're looking for a service that lets you create and customize web pages with no knowledge of HTML, then it's definitely worth a look. Okay, there are loads of free, web design and hosting services out there already so why choose Google Sites? Well, it's aimed at groups or "teams" and not just individuals.

Your "team" can quickly gather a variety of information like videos, calendars, presentations, attachments, and text, etc. in one place and easily share it for viewing or editing and you can open it up to your entire organization or the world if you want to. It's kind of like a wiki but Google don't mention that word at all and I'm happy about that as I'm not really a fan of wikis. It's ideal for families, interest groups, project teams, clubs, play-groups or even small business intranets.

Sites is a bit more structured than a wiki and that will probably suit the less technical people they're aiming it at. As well as being able to customize the interface to suit the group theme, you can choose from a growing list of page types like web page, announcements, dashboard, list and file cabinet. You can also embed rich content like video, Google Docs documents, spreadsheets, presentations, Picasa photo slide shows and iGoogle gadgets into any page and you can upload file attachments. However, while Apps Premier users get 10GB of storage space, I can't see anywhere what the limits are for normal Google account holders. The wording or their blog says you can securely host your own website and add as many pages as you like for free but I suppose, now that it's open to the world, we'll soon find out what the limits are.

As stated, Google will host your content for free and your site gets published online, if you allow it, to but if you want to use your own domain name, then you need to upgrade to a Premier account. I'm pretty sure this is Google's answer to Microsoft SharePoint for the masses and closer to what Windows Live Spaces should have been so I think we'll see that service evolve along the same lines as well.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Gizmo's Tech Support Alert Goes Wiki

Ian "Gizmo" Richards, the author of the really well respected Gizmo's Tech Support Alert newsletter has gone and made all of the stuff on there available online. Better still is the fact that his The Best-ever Freeware Utilities List is now available to the public and can even be modified and added to by the site users. It's a kind of Wikipedia for freeware and it's available to all users and not just subscribers.

There is now only one freeware list, because his original "46 Best-ever Freeware" list and "Extended list" have been combined into one big list of 120+ software categories, which is indexed by broad software class for easier searching and drilling down into. You can still casually browse that long, single page if you want though!

Better still, you can read users comments and suggestions in addition to the reviews and you can access the site forums where you can seek help on freeware installation problems or ask about a freeware program you are seeking.

Back issues of the newsletter, a veritable mine of information of PC and Windows support topics, can also be viewed on the site and, since the site is now wiki-based, users can submit their own articles and lists. I've been a subscriber to the newsletter for several years now and it's an invaluable source of tips, reviews, help, etc.

If "best freeware" lists is something you're interested in, then also have a look at this article by Scott Dunn over at Windows Secrets…

Nine must-have freeware apps rise to the top

Friday, May 16, 2008

Google Adds More Power To It's Translator

Google have recently added translation capabilities for 10 new languages to Google Translate, bringing the total to 23 languages. The newly featured languages include Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Hindi, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian and Swedish. In addition, you can now translate text and web pages as well as perform cross-language searches between any two of the supported languages, including non-Roman languages like Arabic, Chinese, Greek, Hindi, Japanese and Russian.

Even more useful for some is the new Detect Language option that helps you automatically identify the language of the text you're trying to translate. Keep in mind that the longer the text, the more accurate it will be so try it out with as much text as you can.

Also of note to developers and site designers who have embedded the Google Translate My Page gadget in your website to give it global reach, then these new languages will automatically be available to your visitors. Developers can also take advantage of these new languages in the AJAX language API.

Still no Scottish Gaelic though - sigh!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

flauntR - A Different Kind Of Image Editor

flauntR is a new, still in alpha development, web-based image editor. I know, I can hear you saying "what, another one?" but it's a bit different from the rest of them and does offer some added value to the image editor arena. flauntR is organized around several modules or applications that allow you to do different things to an image.

stylR provides a variety of options to have loads of fun with your photographs. With an abundance of frames, overlays, textures, etc, it helps in adding that extra edge to a photograph. For example, add an occasion based frame, a material based texture or add your image to a magazine cover mock-up and more.

editR is a comprehensive image editing package, which covers a variety of effects that could be applied on an image like sepia tone, grayscale, specialised effects like nightvision, infrared and also, basic options like crop, resize, straighten, rotate and colour manipulation.

textR allows the addition of customized text and a range of basic and novel shapes to the image. Both the text and the shapes can be modified in size, shape and colour as required.

picasR makes images resemble classical paintings in colour tone and feel. The essence of age old paintings is introduced into your images to create that vintage aura.

profilR lets you create the perfect profile picture or avatar for your social networking site. The image is adjusted as per the profile picture dimensions required for over 30 social networking sites and communities.

mobilR lets the you create the perfect wallpaper for your mobile phone or device. With support for over 200 phone models, it can create wallpapers as per the exact dimension of your mobile screen.

You can import images from your hard disk, a web site as well as from Flickr, Bebo, Facebook and Picasa Web Albums. One you've edited an image it can be saved to your flauntR storage, back to the source service or downloaded. The flauntR slideshow option lets you view the photos in your albums and services and you can choose the transitions with which you view these photos. You can also save a slideshow or share/embed it in another online service or blog, etc.

flauntR is still a growing application and new things are being added to it so it may well be worth adding to your arsenal of online image editing services along with the likes of Photoshop Express, Aviary, FotoFlexer, Splashup and Picnik.

Related Posts: Photoshop Express - A First Look!, FotoFlexer, Improve Your Images, More Online Image And Photo Editors, Image Resizing Grows Up (or Down), Online Image Editing With Wiredness, Phixr: Another Online Image Editor, PikiFx, Online Image Editors

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Super Screenshot - Grab A Shot Of A Web Page

The rather unimaginatively titled Super Screenshot is a free web service for grabbing a screen capture of a web page. All you need to do is give it the URL of the page you want captured and it'll go off and do the business, capturing the entire page, regardless of length.

Once it's done it's work, it presents you with a thumbnail view of the image and a set of options for viewing it. You get to choose to refresh the image or view either the top page or the full page. You also get to choose the display size, ranging from X-small to Full resolution and you pick whether to display the image as a JPEG or PNG. Of course, once you've got the image displayed in the size and format you want, it's a easy task to save it to your hard disk.

There are a few caveats to be aware of…
  • Flash elements are rendered but only at time of loading the page so if they start as blank images, that's what you'll see.
  • Super Screenshot uses the Safari browser to render pages so anything that can't handle will cause you problems.
  • It won't follow redirects so if the URL you give it tries to redirect you, then the capture will fail.
Still, it seems to work pretty well and gives you another web-based screen capture option from similar services like thumbalizer and WebSnapr.

Related Posts: Skitch Screen Capture Goes Public Beta, Clip It!, How To Grab Web Page Screenshots, Screencasts - The Jing Project, Screen Capture Tools

Monday, April 21, 2008

Upload And Share Presentations Online

If you've ever wanted to share a presentation with anyone, regardless of them having PowerPoint, OpenOffice, etc., then there are a couple of ways of doing that…

SlideShareSlideShare will let you upload both Powerpoint, OpenOffice and PDF based presentations and share them for free. You can tag your presentation for easy searching/categorization and you can also embed them in blogs, web sites etc. It's designed along the lines of YouTube so it should be fairly easy to use and the interface should be familiar to most web users by now.

Once you've uploaded your presentation, you can view the small version or go to full-screen, which works pretty well. Looks pretty useful a service and Keynote users can use by saving their presentqtions as PDF. Maximum presentation file upload size is 30Mb

authorStream is fairly similar to SlideShare in that it allows you to upload, tag and share presentations but it only deals with PowerPoint files. However, it does have the advantage of allowing you to download a presentation as an MP4 video file and, once you have it in that format, it opens up possibilities for transferring it onto PDAs, PS3, PSP, mobile phones, DVDs, etc. The only condition of being able to download the presentation as a video is that you must set up 'Rehearsed Timings' or have recorded audio 'Narrations' in your PowerPoint file.

They also offer a free utility for Windows to batch upload PowerPoint files to authorSTREAM and also convert presentations to Flash video files. Again, presentation file size is limited to 30Mb.

Online office applications like Google Docs, Zoho Show and ThinkFree Online offer another way to upload and share presentations. All can import PowerPoint files and Zoho Show can take OpenOffice ones as well. Once imported, you can then edit the presentation directly or collaborate with others to produce a final work. Once published, the presentation can be shared with others or embedded into a web site or blog.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

MJM Free Photo Recovery

Data recovery specialists MjM Data Recovery have decided to release their Photo Recovery software for Windows to the general public for free. Photo recovery software tools are something I've covered a few times already and there are several free offerings available (see Related Posts below) but there's never any harm in having another one to hand.

The software will recover lost or deleted JPG photographs from formatted or corrupt memory cards. Unfortunately, it can't handle memory cards that are not recognised by Windows so it probably won't work with badly damaged cards. Of course, if that happens and you're desperate to get your precious pics back, then MJN offer a full commercial recovery service.

It's a pity they've limited it to recovering only JPEGs as more and more people are moving to dSLRs and using the more detailed RAW or TIFF formats for photo storage.

NB: The software is still in beta stage so there may be a few bugs in there yet.

Related Posts: Another Camera Card Blues Recovery Assistant, Data and Photo Recovery, Recovering Lost or Corrupt Camera Images

Friday, April 04, 2008

Picasa Web Albums Goes Mobile

Picasa Web Albums has now been optimized for access via Windows Mobile 6 devices. Similar to the version recently released for the iPhone, this includes slideshows, searching and full image views.

This version also makes use of the recently released Google Gears for Mobile for Internet Explorer on Windows Mobile 5 and 6 devices to enable offline viewing of your web albums. You'll see a "make photos available offline" link on the picasweb page and it'll prompt you to download and install Google Gears for the feature to work.

In order to access the new Picasa Web Albums mobile interface, just visit using the mobile version of Internet Explorer on any touchscreen-capable Windows Mobile 6 device.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Photoshop Express - A First Look!

Well, Adobe Photoshop Express, the much-hyped online version of the mighty Adobe Photoshop has finally made it to the beta stage. My initial response is that I'm a bit disappointed in the lack of functionality but all the basics are there. You can rotate, crop, straighten, auto-correct, remove red-eye, adjust exposure and saturation values and do a bit of basic touching-up. Every action is non-destructive and you can step forward or back through your actions or reset to the original at any time.

Photoshop Express
As well as the usual slider bars for adjusting settings, what you also get for most tools is an array of six adjusted previews to choose from. It's a nice idea as it lets you see how an adjustment will progress a bit. An image can also be fine-tuned by allowing you to adjust white balance, sharpness, softness focus, shadows and highlights and, if you want to add effects, you can change hue, add a tint, convert to black and white, distort the image, change a specific colour in the image or even make it look like a sketch.

You can upload photographs to your own library space and you can also add them into albums. On top of that, you can choose to make an album publicly accessible for sharing your images out or hosting them on blogs, websites, etc.. On the integration with other photo services front, then it'll talk to Facebook, Photobucket and Picasa.

Unfortunately, that's all there is so far, There's no multi-layer functionality, which is Photoshop's killer tool, and no fancy stuff like exposure blending, panorama building or HDR processing, which would really set it above the other services.

As for limitations - it'll work with Windows XP, Windows Vista or Mac OS X 10.4 or above. It runs under Internet Explorer 6 or 7 on a Windows machine, Safari 3.0.4 or later on a Mac, or Firefox 2 or later on either platform. You also need Flash Player 9 (version or later). Also, you can only upload JPEG photos. Other formats such as raw, TIFF and PSD files are too large to comfortably upload. On top of that photos larger than 10M and 4000 pixels in height and width cannot be uploaded and photos larger than 2880 x 2880 pixels will be shrunk after editing.

Adobe have got the basics done and got the service out for testing, which is good but they'll really need to add more powerful features to attract people away from some of the free services, some of which offer as much or more than this already. Frankly, whatever Photoshop can do, then Photoshop Express should be able to do it as well or I can't see the point. They'll also need to add integration with more photo services like Flickr or Windows Live as well but I expect those will come eventually.

Not bad for a first outing! I know testing was supposed to be restricted to the US but I couldn't resist a quick look around so, if you're outside the US and are thinking of using it seriously, then bear in kind that all the data has to flow between you and a US based server for the moment.

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

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Walk Score - Find Services In Your Area!

Walk Score, while not the kind of site I'd usually post about here, seems useful enough to warrant a mention. It was designed to help homebuyers, renters and estate agents find properties in great neighbourhoods but it's also really useful to anyone searching for shops and services in a particular area, especially if you're mobile or just visiting an unfamiliar spot. The site name is also related to the fact that they score properties based on the number of services nearby that you can walk to.

Walk Score
All you do is enter an address and Walk Score shows you a map of what's nearby and calculates a Walk Score for any property. The hook being that buying or renting a house in a walkable neighbourhood is good for your health and also good for the environment. They currently only support addresses in the U.K., U.S.A. and Canada but are working on adding more.

It uses the Google Maps API to display a map of the area, superimposed with icons representing shops, restaurants, cinemas, parks, etc. On the left of that is a list of these services with the relative distance to them. Those distances are measured "as the crow flies" rather than actual walking directions so don't take into account impassible objects like lakes and rivers but they are investigating using Google Driving Directions to calculate the distances.

They freely admit that their walkability scoring system takes no account of factors like topography, public transport, crime figures, traffic safety, etc. It's also dependent on the data available via the Google Maps API so there's always a chance an entry is incorrect or out of date, which is probably why it listed Glasgow as being in England :-(

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

FairUse Wizard - Convert DVDs to DivX

The full version of FairUse Wizard 2, a useful utility for converting DVDs to DivX or Xvid format files, is currently being offered as a free download. DivX compression will allow you to store more than one DVD on a single disc and Fairuse Wizard provides a viable means of backing up your expensive DVD collection.

Fairuse Wizard 2
FairUse Wizard allows you to easily create movies that will play on your standalone player or computer with the DivX and XviD codecs as well as using H264 (iPod video) or the ffVFW codec suites. You can also encode up to two audio tracks so you can choose between original and dubbed versions at playback and you can preview subtitles on the preview screen during the encoding setup.

The full edition is optimised to fully exploit Dual-Core, SMP, and Hyper-Threading CPU architectures, resulting in much faster encoding and has an auto-update feature not available in the light edition. Not sure why version 2 is being offered for free but I wouldn't be surprised to see version 3 pop its head up sometime soon so grab this one while you can.

Monday, March 17, 2008

If You Like Stickies - Try Metanotes

If you're a fan of Post-It notes or Stickies, then take a look at Metanotes. Metanotes gives you a (very large) sheet of online graph paper, to which you can attach an endless list of text notes, images, video clips, audio clips, etc.

You use it like a visual mapping/think-tank of ideas, a place to drop notes or useful chunks of data as you work. Grab a YouTube video, an MP3, a web-page clipping or just leave yourself a reminder. It's basically an online scrapbook but one where others can participate in your mind's maeanderings as all spaces are public (for now).

If you need another space, then that's not a problem as you can add more spaces to your metaspace and to make it fit into your online lifestyle, it'll integrate with Twitter, Gmail, Facebook, Photobucket and Pownce and there’s also a Time Log feature that acts as a personal and private Twitter stream.

So, if you like to work in a free-form, mind-mappy kind of environment and you've run out of screen real estate for those little yellow notes, then Metanotes might be for you.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Evernote - Remember Everything!

I've just been trying out the beta of Evernote, a note-taking service that allows you to capture and find anything from your real and digital lives using a PC, Mac, mobile phone and the web. That could be typed notes, to-dos, brainstorms, reminders, photos, web pages or parts of web pages, handwritten notes, audio clips and memos and e-mails or MMS notes.

Evernote online
It's based around an online service for storing and searching your notes along with browser bookmarklets for Internet Explorer, Safari and Firefox and stand-alone applications for Windows, Windows Mobile and Mac OS X (Leopard). You can also e-mail notes directly into your account and they're working on iPhone and SmartPhone versions.

Evernote mobileEvery note added to Evernote goes through powerful recognition and indexing servers, which make it possible to find everything. For example, you can search and filter on tags, titles, text, dates and even text in images or attributes like does the note contain a web clipping, an image, audio, handwriting, etc.

Evernote is in private beta at the moment but I've got a few invites to dish out if anyone wants one and you can request one from their home page. There will be free accounts available once the service is launched but online storage will be limited at 1Gb for these. Not a serious limitation for most small or personal research projects so it's definitely worth checking out.

There are alternative note-taking systems out there such as SpringNote, Google Notebook, notesake, Jjot, Scrapbook and Clipmarks but Evernote seems to cover a wider range of functionality and devices and the search and text recognition facilities seriously gives it the edge over anything else.

Related Posts: Capture The Web While You Surf!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Polaroid Effect!

With Polaroid recently announcing that it would no longer be producing its trademark photographic film, the days of the instant snap have finally gone fully digital. However, for anyone that fell in love with the Polaroid format, there's, a free web service that allows you to create a "Polaroid effect" with any image in just seconds.

Simply select an original image, write a short description, rotate to add a specific camera angle, and then hit "Upload Picture". It's that simple, no sign-up or registration required.

There are a few other online services that can do this, such as Wiredness and the excellent Picnik, so it isn't unique but if you want a quick and simple, one-stop shop, then it'll do the job.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

FolderShare Updated

Microsoft have updated FolderShare, their online, file synchronization service and look to be making it a part of the Windows Live service.

FolderShare allows you to register one or more computers with the service and you can then set up personal and/or shared file libraries and also remotely access your computer's hard drive(s). I tried it out some time ago and it did seem to work okay to a point. I could access my work computer drive from home and vice versa but it did tend to time out quite a bit and lose connection. Hopefully this update may have improved the system although I noticed that they've updated the Windows version but there been no change in the Mac OS X client.

The improvemenets listed are a new website for easier library and computer management, improved performance on Windows Vista, better setup and improved system tray integration as well as backend improvements to keep FolderShare running more reliably. There are other ways to synchronize files over a network but FolderShare is free so it's definitely worth checking out.

Microsoft Password Checker

So you think your password's secure? Now you can check that with with the Microsoft Password Checker, a free web tool to help you to gauge the strength of your password.

Microsoft recommends that passwords should be at least eight or more characters in length with 14 or longer being much better. They also recommend using a pass phrase, if the systems support spaces, and/or a mix of letter, numbers and symbols.

It's a useful little web page and it comes with a lot of advice on creating secure passwords.

Related Posts: Easy Password Generation

Monday, March 10, 2008

AnyClient - FTP On The Move

If you ever find yourself in the need of an FTP client and simply don't have one installed, then AnyClient might be a site you'll want to bookmark for future use…

AnyClient is a free, platform-independent, file transfer application that supports all major file transfer protocols including FTPS, SFTP and WebDAV/S. AnyClient is available both as a Java web-based service requiring no software installation and as a downloadable application for Mac OS X, Linux and Windows that you can install locally. The Java-based version looks very similar to most stand-alone FTP clients and can even save your FTP server settings via cookies if you wish.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Extracting Text from PDF Files

Ever had the need to extract the text from a PDF file?

At the simplest end, it's often possible to extract text and graphics just by using the standard copy and paste functions in Adobe Reader and it may allow you to save the file as Text but if you want to do something more, then you have another couple of options…

Adobe Online Conversion Tools

This conversion service will convert Adobe PDF files that are in English and most West European languages to text. If the PDF file(s) you need converted are on your local disk, then you can simply mail your files as attachments to them and they'll send them back converted for you. For plain text, mail the attached PDF to and for HTML, mail the attached PDF to Alternatively, if you can access the PDF document via URL, then use the form on the main Online Conversion Tools page.

NB: The conversion technology was developed to allow blind and visually impaired users to read Adobe PDF documents with speech synthesis software. For this reason, graphic elements are stripped from the file and text is reformatted during conversion.

PDFTextOnlinePDFTextOnline is another online conversion service. Basically, you upload a PDF document and they pass it over to their PDFTextStream service, which extracts the first 10 pages and passes it back to you in your browser. If your PDF is larger than 10 pages, then you can browse to the next 10 pages for conversion and so on.

Their selling point, even if it is free, is the fact that they claim that PDFTextStream is the only PDF text extraction API that uses its own OCR-like process to properly order text extracts. The result is that PDFTextStream produces the most accurate PDF text extracts available today. Of course, if you have a need to do some serious or long-term PDF conversions, then you can buy PDFTextStream.

Other free, online conversion services include PDFConverter, which can convert PDF documents to Word, Excel or Rich Text format and you'll find Zamzar and Media-Convert can convert PDFs to text and lots of other formats too.

Related Posts: PDF Hammer - An Online PDF Editor, Free PDF Creation, More Online File Conversion Services, Free PDF Creation, Free Online Media File Converter

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Unstick Those Stuck Pixels

If you've got an LCD monitor, then you're probably aware of the dreaded stuck pixel condition. If this is news to you, then a stuck pixel is one that simply won't change colour so can be appear red, green, blue, cyan, magenta, or yellow, although stuck red, green, or blue pixels are most common. These are usually the result of a manufacturing defect that leaves one or more of the three sub-pixels (red, green and blue) permanently turned on or off.

Unfortunately some manufacturers won't reject a screen with only a few stuck pixels and some screens come with a leaflet stating how many dead pixels they are allowed to have before you can send them back to the manufacturer. Bit of a bummer if you've just shelled out for a new screen for it to have a colour defect and the makers don't want to know about it.

However, there are a couple of options available to try and unstick a stuck pixel (say that quickly)…

JScreenFix is a Java applet solution that can fix stuck pixels, reduce screen burn-in and improve the quality of images displayed on a screen. It runs in your web browser under Mac OS X, Linux and Windows and can fix most stuck pixels on LCD screens. It can also remove image persistence effects on LCD screens and reduce burn-in on plasma screens. is another online utility that displays a constantly shifting graphic to try and unstick stuck pixels. The graphic will try to massage the dead pixel back alive again by getting it to change rapidly. They also offer full-screen versions (800x600 and 1024x768) for a more intensive attempt at a fix.

Neither of the above solutions will fix all dead pixels but they're certainly worth trying if you've been unlucky enough to have been saddled with a defective screen.

There are also some utilities available that will allow you to check a monitor for dead or stuck pixels. Very useful if you're thinking of buying a second-hand monitor.
  • LCDTest - a small application for Mac OS X and Windows that can aid in detecting dead or stuck pixels. It won't help fix them but it could be useful if you want to check a monitor out.
  • PixelFix - a Mac OS X Dashboard widget that colour-cycles a small rectangle that you can move over a stuck pixel to try and cure it. They also provide a browser-based version that does the same thing using a small movie.
  • Dead Pixel Tester - a small Windows utility that will display various colour and pattern tests to try and help detect bad pixels.
  • IsMyLcdOK - a small program to easily check for dead/paralysed/stuck pixels on LCD monitors.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Windows Live Skydrive Out Of Beta And Upgraded

Microsoft's online file storage service, Window Live Skydrive , is now out of beta and has been upgraded to a much more useful 5GB of storage space.

Windows Live SkydriveThere are still other options for free and larger online storage services out there but it'll be worth keeping an eye on Microsoft's baby to see what happens when Google's much rumoured GDrive ever materializes. Well, Google say it will but they've been saying that for a while now.

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

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

doubleTwist Desktop Launches

doubletwist desktop, a free application to simplify the flow of media across devices and social networks, has been launched. doubleTwist desktop enables you to sync iTunes playlists with your Nokia N Series phones, Sony Ericsson Walkman & Cybershot phones, LG Viewty phones, phones using the Windows Mobile 5.0/6.0 platform (e.g. Treo, HTC, Palm), the Sony PSP, and the Amazon Kindle. You can also share media files directly from your device with your friends when you connect it via USB and the developers are working to add more devices and formats as well as integration with other media playing applications.

doubleTwist was setup by Monique Farantzos and the notorious DVD Jon, the man behind the cracking of DVD encryption and Apple's FairPlay DRM. It currently supports the following media formats:
  • Video: 3gp (used by most cell phones), MPEG4 (.mp4, .m4v), wmv, avi and MPEG2 (.mpg, .mpv, .mpeg)
  • Audio: mp3, aac/m4a, wma, wav
  • Images: jpg, gif, png, bmp
To give an example: say you shot a video with your Nokia N95 cellphone. How do you send that video to your friend and make sure he’ll be able to play it on his iPod or Sony PSP? With doubleTwist, you’ll be able to share and sync digital media without worrying about codecs and bitrates.

There's no Mac version yet but hopefully coming soon.

PdfMeNot - Online PDF Display

PdfMeNot is an online PDF document display service that claims to do do away with the need for a stand-alone PDF viewer. You can either enter the URL of a PDF to view or upload it from your hard drive and PdfMeNot will render and display it in your browser.

They do offer a few added bonuses such as a browser bookmarklet and a Firefox extension and web developers can use the service to link to and display an existing PDF file. On the downside, there's no way to search through a PDF displayed this way, you can only do it page by page in the browser. Saying that, it's still in beta so they may add search facilities later on.

Related Posts: PDF Hammer - An Online PDF Editor, Free PDF Creation