[Windows] Get ready to be chilled out when you let these 5 new screensavers kick in. The NewFreeScreensaver website has recently released 5 new screensavers that offer a relaxing view of animated rivers flowing through different settings. Here are some screenshots:
All of these screensavers are safe, totally free, and there are dozens more to check out once you visit.
The only thing I found missing in this set of screensavers was a way to turn off the sound. Each of the above five has a running water background sound that starts out soft but gradually became too loud for me. Therefore, I recommend that you mute the PC before allowing them to start. Otherwise, these are all very lovely and mesmerizing.
With a name like that, it’s surprising that anyone uses it. It doesn’t give you any clue as to what it really does. Here’s a quote from the gallery:
After the Deadline uses artificial intelligence to check spelling, style, and grammar. Use it to check your tweets, find mistakes in your email, and socialize with confidence. Click the ABC icon in the lower-right corner of an editable area to proofread your writing.
Ok, another unusual name. If you use Twitter, this is very handy. I haven’t used many of the features, but you might. Quote from the gallery:
Chromed Bird is an awesome Twitter client extension for Google Chrome with lots of features.
Some of the most important features are:
* Add and remove timeline tabs “on the fly” using the new right-click context menu
* Create custom search queries that will update automatically
* Preview image links by hovering them
* See all your tweets in an unified timeline
* Follow your timelines, @mentions, lists, DMs and favorites
* Compose, reply, RT, share, favorite and delete tweets
* Create short URLs within the extension
* Preview shortened URLs before clicking them
* Track read / unread tweets
* Notify user whenever new tweets arrive
Another name that doesn’t mean much, but has to be seen to be believed. This awesome extension brings 3D image browsing into your browser. Here’s a quote and a video to follow:
Meet Cooliris, the 3D Wall that speeds up search on Google Images, YouTube, Flickr, and more. Enjoy the richest way to view photos from Facebook, Picasa, and even your own computer. On our infinite 3D Wall, you can effortlessly scroll though thousands of images and videos in seconds without having to click from page to page.
Finally a clearly named extension. Yes, it’s an extension that lets you very quickly view, post and comment on your Facebook pages. I have come to depend on it. Here’s a quote from the gallery:
This unofficial extension lets you check your Facebook news feed, wall, inbox and notifications.
Version 2.0 will now indicate when you have new notifications or unread messages. Additionally, the extension now uses Facebook Connect as a more reliable way to retrieve your information. Also, the extension now supports English, Spanish and French.
If you have Gmail, you are very likely also using the G-Chat that’s built in. This extension allows you to pop it out into it’s own little window. It simply works great. Here’s a quote:
This is a very simple extension that allows to use Google Talk Gadget with Google Apps.
Please note that the chat session will not run in the background unless you click the ‘pop out’ link in the top left corner.
That’s all for now. I hope you see something here that you haven’t seen before. Be sure to comment below and tell us about your favorite Chrome extensions.
[Linux] Back in March, we broke the news that Jolicloud had released their Pre-Final build. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Jolicloud is a customized version of Linux Ubuntu Netbook Edition (UNE). It’s designed to be an easy and trouble-free operating system for almost all netbooks. It’s taken me awhile, but I’ve finally had time to install Jolicloud and try it out on my HP Mini netbook. I’ll give you some details and screenshots from my brief time exploring Jolicloud.
If your netbook has Windows installed on it, you have the option to use Jolicloud Express to install Jolicloud alongside Windows, leaving all of your Windows files and programs untouched. The alternative is to download the ISO image file and create a bootable flash card or USB stick. I have made several bootable live Linux sticks in the past, and it’s not hard to do, but I found that Jolicloud Express is far easier to use. You’ll find both options on the Jolicloud download page.
I used the express method. I downloaded a 15mb installer file and launched it. It’s as easy as installing any other program in Windows. You’ll be prompted to tell the installer how much room to allow it on your C: drive. The default is 50Gb, and that’s what I chose.
Once it begins, it will set up a Jolicloud folder on your C: drive and begin downloading the rest of Jolicloud. This step took about 25 minutes on my broadband service. Your download time may vary.
After it is done with this download, you’ll be asked a few more questions, such as the login and password you want to log in with. Finally you’ll be asked to reboot the netbook and it will restart when you select the new entry in your Windows boot selection screen. From this time on, whenever you reboot your netbook, you will always have a choice to boot into Windows or Jolicloud. Here’s what I saw the first time I booted Jolicloud. This is the Launcheror home page.
The program categories are on the left in a sidebar, and as you click on each category, you’ll see the available applications appear in the center of the desktop. As you can see, they offer you easy navigation of the file system on the right sidebar. Even your Windows files are easily accessible at the bottom of that sidebar.
At the top of the home page, you’ll see the home icon on the left. When you launch applications, you’ll see icons for them appear beside the home icon. Whenever you want to switch back to the launcher menus, click the home icon.
At the top right, you’ll see the status bar with icons for updates, Jolicloud services, network connections, system settings, and time/date/weather. Connecting to my home wireless network was as simple as clicking once on the network icon and selecting from a list of available networks.
Clicking on the little blue heart icon in the status bar opens up a tabbed page with your Jolicloud friends (Social Stream) and the Applications Directory, with over 700 ready to install apps.
You’ll find almost everything you need for a rich user experience on your netbook, such as music, video, email, Facebook, Twitter and Skype.
If you decide that you don’t like Jolicloud, and you used the express install method, you can uninstall Jolicloud as easily as any other Windows app.
Techie Buzz Verdict:
If you need a simple, fast, secure and visually pleasing OS on your netbook, this one will be hard to beat. The express install option is a big winner, making it one of the easiest Linux OS’s to install. For those with more Linux experience, you might want to stick with Ubuntu Netbook Edition. It’s much more flexible but definitely more difficult for newbies. I believe that Jolicloud will continue to bring good news to netbook users who may not want to be chained to Microsoft Windows.
Alien Swarm is a freeware game brought to you by Valve. This fully polished cooperative multiplayer game is something like Left 4 Dead – with aliens instead of zombies. Alien Swarm can be downloaded by anyone after registering on Steam. Play this great game today! Read More | Tweet This
The Blender Foundation has just announced the release of Blender 2.53 Beta. Blender is an open-source and free 3D modelling software. It is available for Linux, Windows, Mac OS X and Solaris. Blender was used in the creation of a number Open Movies. Read More | Tweet This
Lightspark is an excellent Open Source Flash video player with support for the latest technologies in Flash. It supports ActionScript 3.0 and hardware accelerated graphics rendering based on OpenGL.Read More | Tweet This
Be sure to let us know if you have a favorite freebie you’d like to see posted here. Our comments (below) are always open to you.
[Windows all] Have you ever heard of a software company named Comodo? I first spotted them a few years ago, when they offered a free Firewall program. Even then, I knew it was a company worth watching. Each year, Comodo seems to be offering bigger and better security apps, and many of them are free for home users.
As you can see, there isn’t much in the PC security field that they don’t cover. I’m sure that I could run a safe PC using only their free offerings.
The freebie I tried most recently is called Comodo Cloud Scanner. The description for this piece of software fooled me. Quote: Scan your PC to identify malware, junk files, registry errors and hidden processes. I assumed that it was simply a scanner that advised you about security risks and offered advice. I’ll show you what I ran into and why I was so surprised.
First I downloaded and installed the 10mb exe file. Here’s what the first screen looked like:
I clicked the Scan Now button and waited while it cranked away. Here are the results I saw when it finished.
Holy Cow! Over 3000 errors?
I was surprised and a bit aggravated. The last time I saw results like this was when I was testing out some suspected scamware at MyCleanPC. Any time I see extreme results like this, I always suspect that someone is trying very hard to sell me a solution I don’t need.
At the bottom of the scan results, was this little button.
I thought about this for a few minutes. I was still angry about the results. I looked through the details of the results and they really weren’t security problems as I’d define them. Most of it was browser cache files, junk registry entries and cookies. That really pissed me off, and I decided that I had to see what kind of help they’d offer.
I clicked on the Help Me button and waited for a live connection to one of the Comodo people. A pretty basic looking chat window finally popped up and I was connected to Chris in New Jersey. Below is the dialog (I’m the subscriber):
Well, that explained it all to me. The scan is simply a ploy to get you into their online help service. I’m kind of wondering what results I’d get if I had used the Comodo System Cleaner before I had scanned. That test will have to wait on another day.
Techie Buzz Verdict:
The scan that Comodo Cloud Scanner performs on your system is very likely quite good. However, I hate the way they label the findings as Errors and Problems. The so called errors and problems they found are the stuff that happens on your PC as a simple result of using it every day.
I will give them credit for this much; the LivePCSupport service that Comodo provided to me was professional and very timely. If you need a good remote help service, I don’t think you will find many others that are priced this low. Since Comodo offers all of those free security applications, I’m sure they know how to use them to help people. I can’t praise the online service because I haven’t really used it, however, I wouldn’t be afraid to recommend it to a newbie who could really benefit from it. Fifty bucks isn’t too much for most people. Especially if it saves them hours of frustration.
If you already have one of the following; iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, BlackBerry, PC or Mac, then you can download and run one of the free BN eReader apps. I recently tried out the PC version of the BN Reader. Here are two screenshots for you.
The BN eReader app for the PC doesn’t seem to have built in access to the online store. Instead, when you click on the store, it launches your default web browser to visit there. I don’t know if it works that way on other devices such as the iPad. ‘
Other than that, it seems to be just as easy to use as all of the other eReader applications I’ve tried.
If you like to read and you like Barnes and Noble stores, the Nook and the free BN Reader apps are going to be good tools for you.
Just as my fellow author, Amit, had warned you, Microsoft has ended support for PCs running Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2). According to figures I’ve seen at InformationWeek, as many as 45% of Windows XP machines will need to update to SP3 in order to stay secure.
If you are running a PC that has not been updated yet, there’s no need to panic. Computers running SP2 will continue to work as usual. The end of support for SP2 simply means that those computers will not receive the most current security fixes from Microsoft’s update website or the automated updates.
Since it’s very important to keep your Windows up to date, how can you find out if your machine needs to update to SP3?
The quickest and easiest way to find out is a keyboard shortcut: [Windows key] [Pause/Break]
Another way to view your current Windows version is to right click on a My Computermenu entry or desktop icon and choose the Propertiesitem in the list.
As a result of either of these actions, you should see your computer’s properties as shown below.
If it says Service Pack 2, then you should use one of the links below to update your PC to SP3. I’ve included four ways to update and a brief description of each method.
A. Windows Update Website
Yes, it’s as easy as visiting Microsoft, however, you will need to use Internet Explorer because Microsoft hates to see you use any other type of web browser.
B. Service Pack 3 Network Install
Despite what the title implies, you can download this single executable file and it will install SP3 easily on any XP machine that needs it. The file is a bit over 300mb in size.
D. Service Pack 3 ISO / CD Image
You can download this ISO file (CD image) and burn it to a CD. This makes it possible for you to have a backup copy and to use it on any XP machine that needs it. The file is over 500mb in size.
Ever wanted to be an astronaut on the moon? You can do the closest thing to it –simulation gaming! With Moonbase Alpha players can experience the trials that one faces on the dark side of the moon (I totally made that up). The best part is that this great game is completely free!
Recently, I told you how to grab plenty of eBooks from Amazon and read them in the free Kindle apps. I had also told you previously how to access thousands of free eBooks using FBReader. I’m not lying when I tell you that I have plenty of stuff to read. Despite that, I was pleased to see that the well known Borders book store was opening an online Borders eBook store. Can they compete with Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Books-a-Million and maybe (in the future) Google?
Borders has a little eBook reader named the Kobo, for about $150. It will let you shop, order and read the eBooks over any Wifi connection. It’s very cute and weighs less than 8 ounces. It’s size makes it easy to bring along anywhere you go. The 6-inch display should make reading fairly comfortable.
This last Christmas, my daughter gave me a Borders gift card. At the time, I had no idea if I would ever use it. As soon as I found out that Borders went online, I went out and bought my Christmas present and started reading it in the free Kobo eReader app.
The eReader app isn’t complicated, it’s easy to use and it’s also available on several platforms: PC, Mac, iPhone, iPod Touch, BlackBerry and Android.
It’s not so cute, but it does allow you to shop, order and read all the eBooks in the Borders eBook store. Here you can see what it looks like on my Windows netbook (screen rotated by iRotate).
Will the Borders eBook store be a big hit? I can’t say for sure, but I’m enjoying it until my gift card runs out of money. I love to read :)
A few weeks ago, a good friend of our family posted a question to me in Facebook.
How can I block adult content on my kid’s computer?
Fortunately, I already knew about several methods, but I wanted to give them something free and easy to use. I pointed them to the free OpenDNS service.
There’s no software to download and it’s always up to date with the latest information on what websites need to be blocked. It also works on Windows, Mac, Linux or almost any operating system.
To use the free OpenDNS Basic service, you will have to register an email address to be able to change the settings that control what types of web content you wish to block. However, OpenDNS is now offering a new service, called FamilyShield, which doesn’t require registration and is even easier to set up.
What does FamilyShield block?
â€¢ Adult websites that are unsuitable for kids
â€¢ Proxy and anonymizer sites commonly used by savvy kids to bypass traditional Web filters
â€¢ Phishing sites that aim to trick you into handing over personal or financial information
â€¢ Some virus-spreading malware websites
When you are using FamilyShield or any other OpenDNS service, you are telling your PC to use OpenDNS as your default DNS server. Do you see the owl in the third frame of the picture? The DNS server (the owl) tells your computer the real address (IP address) of all the websites that your computer tries to access.
OpenDNS is a smart owl. If you ask it for the IP address of a website that contains something bad, OpenDNS won’t give you the address and you won’t be able to access the bad website. If you set up FamilyShield on your home network router, all the devices in your home are protected from the bad stuff out there.
Below, I’ll show you the typical FamilyShield setup for protecting your home.
1. Sign in with an email address or skip it by clicking the link labeled continue. They don’t require your email address.
2. Choose to set up FamilyShield on a single PC or on your home network (router).
3. If you choose router, you can find specific instructions for the most popular router models.
4. Below you can see the instructions for a Linksys router.
5. Once you have the router set up, you can test to see if FamilyShield is working by using the Test your new settingslink at the top of the instruction page.
That’s it. No software needed and your PC or your home network is protected. Your kids and you will be much safer using the FamilyShield from OpenDNS.
Techie Buzz Verdict:
I can’t tell enough people about this awesome free service. If you are reading this, you should tell all of your friends. It’s not a replacement for knowing what your kids are doing on the PC, but it’s an easy way to help protect them.
Has your PC been taking longer and longer to boot? A long boot time can cause quite a bit of frustration. I’ve seen people buy a new PC, just because the old one was taking so long to fire up. To those of us who are power users, that seems pretty silly. We know how to manage the start-up processes. That doesn’t help the millions of users who don’t know why their PC is so slow to start.
In the past, there have been many applications that have made start-up management easier. My favorite app for that is WinPatrol. However, we do have posts about the best start-up managers here.
Recently, I heard some buzz about a new start-up manager that works quite differently, and much better than the managers I’ve used. It’s called Soluto.
So what is Soluto? Let’s hear from the authors â€¦
Having been PC users since a very young age, we were simply tired of being so frustrated from our PC usage experience.
Soluto Beta allows you to understand your boot, discover which applications are slowing it down (and keep running later in the background, affecting your ongoing experience), and allows you to significantly improve it. While Soluto Beta focuses on the boot, it already researches for frustrations and helps map the PC Genome, and allows you to share your wisdom with others.
Most start-up managers let you tweak the Windows start-up settings. Once you’ve finished, the start-up managers aren’t normally running. Soluto takes a different approach. It uses a kernel level process that runs all the time. It gathers information during boot, and during your daily use. This is a unique approach and seems to be very effective. I found out how effective it was when I installed it the other day.
After boot, this is the first screen that I saw â€¦
Solutu looked for an internet connection, then it phoned home’ for advice about the applications it detected during start-up. Once that finished, I saw this screen â€¦
The green section is a group of apps that Soluto has identified as no brainersor applications that you can remove from the boot without much thinking. The orange tinted category is a group of apps that you may have to get advice on. You may or may not want to remove these from the boot. The apps in the gray section can’t be removed.
Hovering over the green section, you’ll see a dialog appear â€¦
The dialog will tell you how long an application takes to launch during boot, and it gives you the options to Pauseor Delay.
Pausing the app, takes it completely out of the boot cycle. The application isn’t deleted, and you can always start it manually from your Start menus.
Delaying the app puts it on hold during the boot process. Once the PC has booted and the system is idle for any time, the application is launched.
As you go through this process of marking apps to Pause or Delay, you’ll see your estimated new boot time appear at the top of Soluto’s main window. As you can see, I saved over a minute of boot time.
There are some other important features in Soluto, but rather than bore you by writing more, I’ll show you a cool video:
If your PC is slow to start, and you don’t know what to do about it, Soluto could save you plenty of frustration. The only thing I don’t like about Soluto, is the fact that it does run continuously as a system process. However, if this is weighed against the problems a slow PC can cause, I’d have to give Soluto a big thumb’s up.
[Windows and Mac] I have hooked up my computers to the TV occasionally. It’s pretty cool, but for me, it’s not very handy. My couch is too far from the screen and I can’t read most of the text while surfing. A new web browser called Kylo, promises to solve that problem. The Kylo browser is based on Mozilla code, so it’s using the same engine that Firefox uses. Here’s what the web site says about their browser:
Sit back and get ready for big-screen browsing. Kylo brings your TV and computer together to create the ultimate content experience. Enjoy your favorite online shows, videos, music, games and news. Take your HDTV anywhere on the web.
I tried Kylo briefly last week. At first I was pretty amazed at how well it worked. Here you can see the Kylo home page. (click to expand pictures)
Next, I visited Youtube. It works very nicely in full screen mode most of the time. Occasionally the video would freeze, but going back to normal screen usually resumed the video.
Below, you can see the on-screen keyboard that pops up whenever you click into a text entry box.
In the next two screens, I was watching a soccer match. It was almost like watching it on regular TV.
Rather than go into too much detail, I’ll show you a video on how Kylo works.
As I mentioned above, full screen video would occasionally freeze up. Other than that, I was pretty pleased with the way Kylo works. If you want to surf on your big screen, Kylo may be a good solution for you.
On March 24, 2010, lawyers representing the Cyberdefender Corporation issued a ‘take-down’ notice to Allen Harkleroad. The take-down notice claims that Allen published false and potentially defamatory articlesabout their product and sales practices.
Cyberdefender is advertised as an easy solution for PCs that are running slow or are infected with spyware or adware. You may have seen the television advertisements for MyCleanPC.com and DoubleMySpeed.com. Visits to both of those websites will prompt you to install Cyberdefender software. It looks like Cyberdefender is the owner of both of those sites.
Allen Harkleroad is a well known consumer advocate, who has taken on some pretty big names in business, such as Dell, AMD, ATI, UPS and FedEx, to name a few.
Allen claims that Cyberdefender is a scam and has posted several articles in his websites, supporting those claims. Here’s one of them:
I installed the MyCleanPC software on a fully patched Windows XP machine that I rarely used just to see what happen. Other than installing software I use nothing else had been installed and no software had been uninstalled on the machine. It does have anti virus software on it. The CyberDefender software found over 3,000errors on a machine that runs perfectly fine, never had software uninstalled and rarely was on the Internet.
I’ve heard others claim that Cyberdefender isn’t worth the asking price. I decided to try it myself. I used Microsoft Virtual PC, with a copy of the IE6 test virtual machine. This allows me to run a clean, new, fully patched copy of Windows XP. It doesn’t have anything installed on it, not even an anti-virus program. The advantage to using a virtual machine is that I don’t have to worry about messing up a real computer.
Below, I have created a short slide show, which gives the results of my simple test.
As many of you know, the Internet is sometimes called the Information Superhighway. What most of you have not heard, is that the destination of this superhighway may not be what you had hoped. Where is it leading us?
What do you consider as threats to our privacy today?
â€¢ Cookie tracking
â€¢ Shopping data
â€¢ Search data
â€¢ Personal info from registrations
â€¢ Business info from credit agencies
â€¢ Medical data
â€¢ Government data
â€¢ Comments, Forums, Social sites
â€¢ GPS location tracking
â€¢ Cameras in Streets and Stoplights
â€¢ Cameras in Stores
â€¢ Cameras in Public Areas
â€¢ Nanny Cameras
â€¢ Home Security Cameras
â€¢ Satellite tracking cameras
â€¢ and more …
Doesn’t it make sense that someday, these will all be linked into the net and someone or something will be tracking your every movement? Who’s going to be watching? Governments are the obvious answer. For an example of this idea, watch “Enemy of the State“.
Another group to consider is the hacker community. They’ve discovered the profit in stealing your personal data.
If the governments and the hackers aren’t enough for you, let’s add more for you to worry about.
Your personal information is already a valuable commodity to businesses wanting to sell you products. What’s going to happen as those companies get access to ever more increasing amounts of data about you, where you are and what you are doing? Stephen Saunders at InformationWeek thinks the Internet will become:
… a sophisticated targeting system for companies to sell “stuff” to consumers, for governments to keep track of citizens, and for law enforcement to track illicit activity. In commercial terms, it will be an Internet where the user becomes the used.
I think Stephen may not be paranoid enough. After all, many are predicting the introduction of true machine intelligence by 2025. What could super-intelligent computers could do with all that information about us? I’m not afraid that Skynet will nuke us, but how long can we retain any illusion of freedom when our machines know everything about us and they’re smarter than we are? Watch the movie Eagle Eyefor a hint.
Bill Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, expressed the same concerns ten years ago, in his post “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us“. I remember his question:
Can we doubt that knowledge has become a weapon we wield against ourselves?
Now you might understand why I’m a little paranoid about the future. I think we’ll have a choice to become “one with the machine”, like the Borg, or become useless slaves to our technology. The governments, corporations and hackers will be the least of our worries. Welcome to the machine.
[Windows Only] If you have a great deal of text data that you need to organize, and you don’t care if it looks fancy, you could always use a simple application like Qeepit. It allows you to write and organize notes in plain text. There are no pictures, fonts or links. What you see below is what you get.
A few years back, a reader had asked me if there was a PIM (Personal Information Manager) available that kept its information in text files. Fortunately for them, I was able to recommend QeepIt, because I had used it before.
QeepIt’s notes can be organized into Groups, and those groups are simply folders inside the main FileStorefolder. Each note is a text file, as you can see in this image:
If needed, any application that can read text files can also use QeepIt notes. For programmers, and others who extensively work with text files, this could be a big plus.
There are a few other features that make QeepIt a good option for taking notes. Each group of notes can have its own index mask which appears beside the notes. It can be easily customized by simply clicking once into the index to modify it. The index mask is shown below, outlined in green.
Making changes to a note is just as easy. Double click inside any note and type away on it. Notes can also be Lockedand Hiddenif needed, to prevent accidental changes or lost privacy.
Qeepit includes manuals and supports the use of three languages, English, German and Italian.
Below are some snap-shots of the menus in QeepIt, so you get an idea about the various options available in this freebie.
The last thing I’ll mention is that QeepIt is completely portable. It stores all of its notes and settings inside the program folder. The program folder can be copied onto a USB flash drive or other portable storage, and it will run just as well from there.