November 27, 2009
I love the ease of updating applications in Mac OS X, be it third party or system applications, but ensuring every one of your apps is up to date is a hard thing to do, especially ones you don’t see often but do a key job.
When I was looking for something to update every application I have, I came across AppFresh, a free download that not only checks to see if there are any updates available for your programs, but downloads and installs these updates for you, helping to keep not only your programs up to date, but even your widgets, preference panes and plugins, which I thought was a great addition. It’s similar in idea to Filehippo application updater for the PC, but perhaps even better!Continue reading »
November 24, 2009
Apple’s iPod has never been as popular, accounting for over 70% of the MP3 player market in its many forms and having a larger library of games than the PSP and Nintendo DS put together. That means that over 70% of MP3 owners are using iTunes to manage music on their iPod’s then right? I personally don’t know anybody who doesn’t use iTunes to manage their digital music collection, in fact I use iTunes myself, but there are more alternatives than people think. One of these alternatives is CopyTrans Manager, which offers a bulk free way to get your music on and off your iPod and is available for Windows XP, Vista and 7.
During my testing, CopyTrans manager worked great with everything I threw at it, namely an iPhone 3G, iPod Touch (1st Gen), iPod Nano (4th Gen) and an older iPod Nano (2nd Gen). The interface is fairly easy to navigate and brings up the contents of your iPod almost immediately after connection.Continue reading »
November 23, 2009
Hold back the vomit; it’s time for Real Player SP!
If you’re like me, something happened in your teenage years, when you lost your mind through a combination of hormones and white cider, and decided that it would be a good idea to install Real Player on your computer.
Back in the age of Netscape, when .rm (and all the other) files were competing equally with every other format out there, it was quite a reasonable, even necessary thing to have Real Player installed. Of course, that was then and this is now. With the advent of VLC Media Player and similar cross-platform products, Real’s stranglehold over the .rm genus of increasingly insignificant file types has all but disappeared.Continue reading »
November 22, 2009
Chances are that you are reading this on a Window’s machine, or that failing that either on a Mac or some species of Linux – it’s pretty much a three horse race, and a biased one at that. So obviously when Google decided to enter the operating system market with Google Chrome OS there’s always going to be some excitement especially when they promise to ‘revolutionise’ the way we use our computers.
Aiming to be more in sync with the way we use computers today (i.e. on the web) it focuses more on speed, security and simplicity which Google are hoping will help it to break into the O/S market – but what makes Google Chrome OS special, and will you be throwing your Windows away when it’s released? Let’s have a look!Continue reading »
November 22, 2009
For those over-protective parents out there, the final Windows Live Essentials application I’m taking a look at is Family Safety. Personally, it looks like more hassle than it’s worth, especially considering that Windows 7 and Windows Vista both have Parental Controls built in that work very well! If you use the Parental Control’s in Vista or 7, you can already stop the kids from using certain applications, going on the computer at certain times and applying a web filter.Continue reading »
November 21, 2009
Internet toolbars… I’ve never liked them, and always associate them with two words: useless and malware. So what makes Live Toolbar different? Well, apart from integration with every other Live application, not a lot. For some reason, Microsoft felt compelled to give you another search box to go along with the one you already have in the top corner of IE, which is utterly pointless and tends to get in the way a bit.
Another gripe I have is the fact that you need Internet Explorer to use the damn thing, which puts me off straight away – I much prefer Firefox or even Safari to Internet Explorer, and unfortunately for Microsoft, a toolbar isn’t going to change that!Continue reading »
November 20, 2009
If you run a blog of your own, you
may will be interested to know that Windows Live Essentials ships with a very capable blog editor called Windows Live Writer. When you start Writer for the first time, you’ll need to set Writer up to publish to your blog, and that’s virtually any blog service you may use, not just Microsoft’s ‘Live Spaces’.
You can set it up to publish to Live Spaces, SharePoint and ‘Other blog service’ which includes Blogger and WordPress. Once you’ve selected whichever applies to you, just input the requested information and hit next. For a service like WordPress, you need your URL and username / password, whereas for a Windows service like spaces, you just need your Windows Live ID and Password.Continue reading »
November 19, 2009
Remember how excited I got about the beta 1 of Mozilla Firefox 3.6 the other week? Well I’ve just got the latest beta of 3.6, beta 3, and it’s missing a key feature I found in the previous beta! In case you didn’t catch the article, earlier Firefox 3.6 beta’s utilised Windows 7’s Aero Peek feature in the same way as Internet Explorer by displaying each of the tabs in previews.
I also noted that there was a bug, which displayed a spinning circle in the first preview window. This bug was also present in the second beta and apparently the recently released third, which explains its omission from the default features. Despite this, you’ll still find many under the hood upgrades as expected.Continue reading »
November 19, 2009
I’ve always liked Windows Movie Maker – a simple video editing application that was bundled with Windows XP, and at the time, very impressive. In the 5 year gap between the release of XP and Vista however, Windows Movie Maker started to show its age, and it’s re-appeared on the scene with Windows Live Essentials. If you’re using Windows XP, you won’t be able to download Movie Maker as part of the Live Essentials package – you need to be running either Windows Vista or Windows 7.
Previous versions of Movie Maker were very focused on movie making and only movie making (hence the name…) but the first thing I noticed is that there seems to be a shift in focus in the creation of Live Movie Maker. Most of the editing tools found in the older version of Movie Maker have been brought forward to the Live version and been given a face lift in the process. As with all the Windows Live Essentials applications from Microsoft, navigation is handled with the ‘Ribbon’ interface, which is much simpler than the GUI found in the old Movie Maker – everything seems much more organised and features are easier to find. When you’re in Movie Maker, you’ll find everything in 4 tabs.Continue reading »
November 18, 2009
Windows Live Photo Gallery is Microsoft’s photo editing application that comes as part of the Windows Live Essentials download and I must admit that I really like it. It features everything that the average consumer needs, covering everything from tagging someone on a photo to basic editing features such as red eye removal. What I like about Photo Gallery is the fact that it doesn’t try to be Photoshop, it’s good as a basic photo management application, and doesn’t overly complicate things – you don’t need to be a professional photographer to find your way around or make your photos look great.
When you view a folder of photos, they’re presented in a grid view, with a slider adjusting the size of the thumbnail previews. You can view your pictures in a few different ways, as you’d expect from any decent photo management application. Photos can be viewed by folder, the date that it was taken or by person, using the “People Tags” feature which I’ll come to in a bit… The pictures in your library can also be rotated clockwise or anti-clockwise and you can even export selected photos, either to a DVD or Live Movie Maker.Continue reading »
November 17, 2009
When you download Windows Live Essentials, you won’t find a calendar application or even an address book application. What you will find, however, is Windows Live Mail, which covers not only your e-mailing needs, but also comes with calendar and contacts functionality. To switch between Mail, Calendar and Contacts you can select which function you wish to use in the bottom left hand corner of the screen. If you open Calendar, it opens in the current window, but Contacts opens its own window, which I found a little strange and inconsistent.
The mail section of the application provides you with a consistent and familiar layout similar to other mail clients. On the left, you’re presented with a sidebar containing three categories: “Quick Views” where you can view all unread e-mail and feeds; all the mailboxes of the linked account and the “Outbox” section. You can also add another e-mail account from here, as well as select different functions from Mail, Calendar and Contacts.Continue reading »
November 16, 2009
When I first installed Windows 7, it somehow felt incomplete without MSN Messenger waiting for me in the start menu. In fact, the first thing I did was download it as part of the Windows Live Essentials package from the Microsoft. If you’re not aware of it, Windows Live Essentials is a collection of applications including the ever popular Windows Live Messenger, Microsoft’s instant messaging application. Also included in the package are applications such as Live Mail, Photo Gallery, Movie Maker and Writer – all of which I’ve been running on Windows 7. I’ll review the package in several articles, starting with Messenger.
Compared to the Windows Messenger you can find within install of Windows XP, Windows Live Messenger is quite an advancement, having gone through many changes (and names) over the years. When you log in to your Windows Live account, you’re presented with a list of all your contacts, just like in previous versions, with a few visual refinements.Continue reading »
November 15, 2009
What are Windows Live Essentials you might be asking? Well with the recent launch of Windows 7, we can see that Microsoft have really done many things right with the latest version of their operating system software, such as tweaking the existing code from Windows Vista to make it run a whole lot better on the same and lesser hardware specifications, however perhaps they’ve gone a little too far and they also took some software out!
Now I’m not so sure that Microsoft did the right thing in removing the bunch of programs from Windows 7 that now make up the Windows Live Essentials suite of applications, that you can then install separately into Windows 7 for free – now obviously they’ll be some people who would never actually use them if they were shipped as part of Windows 7, but what about all those people out there who receive their new computer and then only use the software that comes on it unless they specifically buy a new software application from a shop?Continue reading »
November 12, 2009
You may have seen my review on Carbonite online backup service a few weeks back, an online computer backup service, which I liked quite a lot, mainly because it didn’t intrude on my workflow as much as most backup applications. EASEUS Todo Backup faces some tough competition from a lot of similar utilities on the market, but it has one big advantage – it’s free!
The installation is very quick and easy and when you start the backup tool for the first time, you’re presented with a simple, easy to use menu. The main screen highlights the backup, restore and clone disk options, with the backup process being extremely straight forward – using Todo Backup for the first time reminded me of using Windows XP for the first time after using Windows 2000 with the new “bubblegum” interface, with everything nicely laid out and visible.Continue reading »
November 11, 2009
Ok, so Windows 7 is all the rage right now. In case you hadn’t heard, since its release a few weeks ago, the market share of Windows 7 has already surpassed that of Snow Leopard and Linux put together! One of my favourite features in Microsoft’s new OS is the ability to use a theme with various desktop backgrounds. If you haven’t seen this already, you can find it in the ‘Control Panel’ under ‘Appearance and Personalization’.
Since the testing versions of Windows, guides have been popping up all over the net on how to add other country themes to your own (country-inspired theme styles along with various wallpapers of the country concerned), which is included by default, which is all well and good, but it’s a bit of a hassle digging out the themes from the Windows folder on your hard drive, and when you do your choices are limited to 5 countries.Continue reading »
November 10, 2009
Have you ever wanted to play around with the Unreal Engine 3? Yes the Unreal Engine 3 that is used to create some of the best video games currently out there (some of which were on display at the recent Eurogamer Expo), well now you have your chance!
Epic Games have released a free version of their Unreal Engine 3 to the world to use the impressive software. You can download the Unreal Development Kit and have full access to the Unreal Editor, Unreal Content Browsers and Unreal Script to name a few.
The software has become available for free to non-commercial and educational users, but if you make a game and want to make it commercial, there will be some terms that you’ll have to check up on.Continue reading »
November 7, 2009
Remember Windows 7’s Aero Peek feature I was telling you about a few weeks ago? I loved it when I first used it, and I still love it now. The only problem, as with all new features in Operating Systems, was support for the feature in third party applications – I loved Aero Peek tabs in the super bar for Internet Explorer, but I don’t use Internet Explorer…
…Well you can imagine my excitement at the latest beta of Mozilla Firefox then, which includes support for Aero Peek in the super bar when you have multiple tabs open!Continue reading »
November 5, 2009
Ninite is a free web service which brings all your favourite free windows applications (including most of our Top 5 Open Source Apps) into one single installer. Which could be very useful for anyone who is resisting the upgrade to Windows 7 because they can’t be bothered with the hassle. With over 60 apps to choose from it provides a great service that is useful after a long winded upgrade to the latest and greatest version of Windows. However, it is also compatible with XP and Vista if you fancy a downgrade or just a fresh install.
The site itself is very basic. Consisting of just a single page listing all the different applications. The layout is neat and extremely easy to use. Each application is coupled with a checkbox which allows you to select multiple applications from the lists easily. The apps are divided into groups based upon their main functions. For example file sharing or web browsers.Continue reading »
November 2, 2009
Upon downloading the Vuze bittorrent client for our 5 Top Open Source Applications feature, I was offered to download and install a free application called TuneUp. Normally, I despise this sort of sly advertising that relies on you unwittingly pressing agree in a hasty attempt to finish installing the initial program. But this time, I looked into it a little more after being impressed by the sound of the program.
TuneUp is a simple, lightweight application, however, if you’re like me and hate seeing your iTunes library a mess with missing artwork and incorrect track names. Then this is perfect. It performs simple functions such as adding the correct artwork and fixing misspelled titles and artists such as Led Zeppelin which is commonly misspelled. It also fixes the most annoying of all. An endless list of ‘Track 1, Track 2…’ after importing tracks from a CD.Continue reading »
November 2, 2009
I love music and have a huge iTunes library to prove it, but having to go into iTunes every time I want to view what’s playing, select a new track or rate a track I’m listening to gets annoying! Especially when I’m listening to music for a long time while I’m working on something…
For quite some time I was looking for a more minimalist interface (or application) that could manage my music without as much hassle, and I came across an application called CoverSutra, from a small developer called Sophiestication.
When running, CoverSutra sits on your dock, displaying the artwork of whatever’s currently playing, and gives you a larger album art in a CD case template, with song and album information on your desktop. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing on your desktop, but it’s also a very functional application, compatible for Mac OS X 10.4 through to 10.6, although newer versions only support Leopard and Snow Leopard.Continue reading »