Pallab De is a blogger from India who has a soft spot for anything techie. He loves trying out new software and spends most of his day breaking and fixing his PC. Pallab loves participating in the social web; he has been active in technology forums since he was a teenager and is an active user of both twitter (@indyan) and facebook .
Microsoft is desperate to turn around their online division and has been putting in a lot of effort. Last week, they announced the first major redesign of MSN in a decade. Now, they have revamped Bing video search page.
The new Bing video search page incorporates high quality content from around the web. It includes MSN’s original programming as well as videos from other services like Hulu, ABC, and YouTube. Bing Videos will be serving everything from amateur videos and movie trailers to full length TV shows. Bing Videos currently features more than 900 TV shows, all of which is arranged alphabetically and organized into genre based categories. Individual episodes are extremely easy to find as they are grouped according to the season.
The new Bing Videos has already started rolling out and should be available to all users within a few days. You can access the preview by going to bing.com/videos/browse.
Twitter Lists has received widespread acclaim since its launch. Millions of lists have already been created and the number will only continue to increase. Lists are one of the best ways to make sense of all the noise. However, if you happen to follow hundreds and thousands of users, then grouping them into meaningful lists can become a herculean task. Conversationlist is a free service which is trying to make things easier for tweeps like you.
Conversationlist dubs itself as a conversational approach to Twitter lists. The concept behind this service is really simple the people you engage in conversations with are most likely to be the people you are interested in. Once you authorize conversationlist, it will create a new list (called conversationlist) and automatically add any username you mention in your tweets. The lists are rebuilt daily and contain a maximum of 25 tweeps at any point of time. The ones you stop having conversation with are automatically removed.
Techie Buzz Verdict
Conversationlist is a good idea. However, in its current state, it may be too simplistic to be really useful. There is no way to increase the 25 user per list limit. You can’t disable auto-deletion of usernames from the list or adjust the duration of inactivity after which a username will be deleted.
Whether you find conversationlist useful or not will actually depend on your Twitter usage pattern. People who enjoy engaging in conversation with like-minded, interesting tweeps should find this useful. For others, it may be of little use. If you fall in the later camp, you can also check out Favstar.fm’s list builder, which automatically builds lists based on your favorite tweets. Do let us know what you think about conversationlist. Did you find it useful?
Windows has come a long way since the days of Win 9x both in terms of features and appearance. Windows Aero has finally made Windows sexy. However, if you are still not satisfied, then Taskbar Texturizer may be just what you need to add a bit of zing to your Windows installation.
Taskbar Texturizer is a portable utility which does one thing add textures to your taskbar. The application itself is straight forward to use. Taskbar Texturizer can use any image as your taskbar background. To help you get started, it comes preloaded with two dozen textures. To be honest, some of the included textures look pretty cool in Windows 7. Taskbar Texturizer also supports transparent textures, which allows you to come up with some fairly decent looking taskbar skins by playing with the with the opacity settings.
Techie Buzz Verdict
The application does have some usability issues and doesn’t confirm to Windows application development standards. For example, double clicking the system tray icon have any even associated with it. This coupled with the fact that Taskbar Texturizer doesn’t create any taskbar entry, leads to the application window getting lost among other open windows, once it looses focus. It also seems to have some compatibility issues with Winsnap. However, these are minor issues. Taskbar Texturizer does what it is supposed to. It uses very little resources and provides a quick and easy way to spice up your system.
Today is Firefox’s 5th birthday and Mozilla is celebrating with its Light the World with Firefoxcampaign. Firefox 1.0 was released on 9 November 2004. It was a tiny browser which dared to dream big. And today, it is well on its way to realize its ambition. Firefox currently has more than 330 million users and is the second most popular browser (behind Microsoft Internet Explorer).
Mozilla communities are hosting parties all over the world to mark this occasion. As a part of the Light the World with Firefoxcampaign, they will be shining the Firefox logo from Tokyo to Rome, from Paris to San Francisco, and more. For information on the planned celebrations head over to www.spreadfirefox.com/5years/.
Firefox has certainly accomplished a lot. It has managed to snag nearly 25% market share, is available in more than 70 languages and has more than 70,000 extensions. Most importantly, it succeeded in breaking Microsoft’s slumber and forced them to improve Internet Explorer.
What about the next 5 years? Christopher Blizzard shared some of his ideas at hacks.mozilla.org:
We’ll continue to make competitive browser releases and improve people’s experiences on the web. We’ll continue to innovate on behalf of developers and bring those improvements to the standards space. And we’ll continue to grow our amazing global community of users, developers and activists.
Happy Birthday Firefox and thanks for promoting web standards and trying to fix the broken web.
You are probably aware of Google Sidewiki Google’s web annotation service, which allows users of Google Toolbar to leave comments on any website. Google wasn’t the first web annotation service, but by virtue of the popularity of the Google Toolbar, it almost instantly became the most popular one.
A web annotation startup called Reframe It is now claiming that Google Sidewiki is a blatant plagiarisation of their own web annotation tool. Reframe It alleges that, the similarities are too many and too close to be coincidental.
Reframe It and Google Sidewiki aren’t the only annotation tools in the market. Wikipedia lists about a dozen web annotation tools. However, what makes Reframe It CEO and co-founder Bobby Fishkin uncomfortable is that The interface, the layout, the look and feel, look extremely similar.
Google Watch has an in-depth side by side comparison of Reframe It and Google Sidewiki. The similarities are uncanny to say the least. Reframe It’s intellectual property patent application is currently pending. If accepted, Google could end up in some major trouble for intellectual property theft. Since, the patent hasn’t yet been accepted, Reframe It also has the opportunity to adjust their patent application and include additional aspects to cover Google’s alleged transgressions. Reframe It can also sue Google for copyright violations, in which case Google will have to prove that their source code is drastically different from Reframe It’s.
According to Bobby Fishkin, apart from the obvious similarities between the two products, there were other incidents which solidified his suspicion. More than a year ago, Reframe It advisory board member Terry Winograd met with a senior Google Executive and encouraged him/her to take a look at Reframe It. Impressed with what he/she saw, the executive promised to pass it along to the team. A few months later, at least half a dozen Google employees signed up with Reframe It. Not only that, two days before launching Sidewiki, Google tried to hire Reframe It co-founder and Lead Engineer Ben Taitelbaum.
Google it yet to issue a direct response to the allegations. Instead this is what they told eWeek:
“The variety of existing products in this space and the increasing number of sites that enable user generated content shows that there is growing demand for allowing users to contribute to the Web. We are very excited by users’ response to Sidewiki and will continue to use their feedback to iterate more on the product.”
It is not uncommon for developers to be inspired by competitor’s product. In fact this is what drives genuine innovation. However, the question that needs to be asked here is how much is too much? What do you think? Is Google Sidewiki a rip-off? If it is indeed a rip-off, is it serious enough to be considered a copyright violation and (potential) IP theft?
Most of us are probably aware of the fact that using the computer continuously for prolonged periods of time may lead to multiple health related complexities including Repetitive Strain Injuries. In spite of that most of us pay little attention to our body until it’s too late. Workrave is a free and open source utility for Windows and Unix (Linux/Solaris/BSD), which helps you avoid RSI by forcing you to take breaks at regular intervals.
Workrave interface consists of three tiny progress bars. Each of these progress bars represent the different kinds of breaks Workrave implements. They are as follows:
Micro-Break: Workrave enforces a short 30 second break every 3 minutes. It prompts you once the progress bar fills up and enters break mode as soon as you stop using your keyboard or mouse. You can chose to ignore the prompt, however in that case Workrave will prompt you again after two and a half minutes.
Rest Break: Rest Breaks are of longer duration (10 minutes) and by default Workrave prompts you to take a rest break once in every 45 minutes. If you chose to ignore, it will prompt you once again after 3 minutes. You are also encouraged to perform short exercises in the rest break. Workrave includes instructions for some easy stress relieving exercises. All of the included exercises can be performed anywhere – even in your office.
Daily Limit: Workrave also keeps track of total time you have spent working on your computer. Once it reaches 4 hours, Workrave will prompt you to turn off your computer.
Workrave allows users complete freedom in choosing how often they wish to be reminded. The interval and durations for all the breaks can be changed. You also have the option of simply skipping your breaks, in which case Workrave will completely forget about it. The other nice thing about Workrave is that, it keeps track of your computer usage. If you stop using the mouse and keyboard, the timers will automatically be paused and break meters will start filling up.
Techie Buzz Verdict
If you work in an IT company or spend long hours in front of your computer, Workrave is a must have. It provides more features than other freeware break timers and annoys you just enough so that you take your breaks.
The days of bland and useless new tab pages are long gone. Opera kick started the evolution of new tab pages by introducing Speed Dials and was soon followed by other browser manufacturers. Mozilla has been playing around with various concepts for a long time. However, they are yet to implement any of the proposed changes. In case you are tired of waiting, New Tab King extension for Firefox may be just the extension you need.
New Tab King is a powerhouse when it comes to features. Here are some of the stuff that New Tab King adds to your New Tab page:
Most used websites list.
List of recently closed tabs.
Shortcuts to your favorite applications like Windows Media Player, Calculator or Notepad.
To-Do List, which help you in getting things done.
Personalized website recommendations based on your surfing habits.
Search bar, which supports dozens of websites including Rapidshare, eBay, Facebook, Flickr and NY Times.
Although New Tab King requires minimal intervention on your part to get started, it provides plenty of configuration options for the advanced user. You can create search and applications shortcuts, build website exclusion lists and even change the page background.
Techie Buzz Verdict
Safari may have a more glamorous new tab page, but New Tab King takes the crown for being the most useful one. The latest beta of New Tab King also adds an Opera like thumbnail mode along with a cool looking (but rather pointless) analytics mode. New Tab King converts Firefox’s bland New Tab page into an awesome start page. Give it a try and let us know what you think.
Most of us loath having to call the customer service department of large companies. And phone menus are in no small way responsible for this loathing. Most large companies have multi-level automated phone menus. Navigating through them is not only time consuming but also extremely annoying. If you live in US or Canada the good news is that a smart little start-up called Fonolo is trying to make things better.
Fonolo is building a database of customer service numbers for all the companies which employ phone menus. It has already mapped out the phone menus for many large companies like Dell, T-Mobile and Apple. Fonolo allows you to deep dial directly to the department you want. This means that you don’t have to listen to instructions like “Press 1 for Sales Support, Press 2 for Enterprise Sales Support and Press 3 for Financial Services”.
All you need to do is enter the name of the company, select the appropriate department and enter your phone number. Fonolo will dial the selected phone number, navigate to the desired menu and then call you. When you pick up your phone, you will be directly connected to your destination. Fonolo doesn’t stop here. As an added bonus, it allows registered users to record all customer service calls. It also keeps a detailed record of all the companies you have called and allows you to note particulars like the name of the customer service representative you spoke with and the details of the conversation. So, if you ever intend to lodge a complaint in the consumer court for shabby customer service, you will have all the proof you need.
Techie Buzz Verdict
Fonolo is a really cool service. The concept as well as execution is outstanding. The service is completely web based and doesn’t require installation of any additional software. The user interface is simple but efficient. The objective of this service is to make things simpler for you and it succeeds with flying colors. If you are looking to call customer care, do it the Fonolo way.
Google Wave has been making quite a splash. Only time will tell if Wave really has what it takes to change the way we communicate. But, people are certainly anxious to try it out. Wave invitations have been in great demand ever since its launch. So, it’s no wonder that someone has already developed a Firefox extension for Wave.
Google Wave Add-on for Firefox is a simple extension, which automatically checks your Wave account at a specified interval of time and notifies you if there are any unread wavelets. It sits quietly in the right hand corner of Firefox’s status bar and displays the number of currently unread wavelets. You can also get a quick preview of unread wavelets by hovering the mouse pointer over the status bar icon.
Techie Buzz Verdict
One of the major complaints against Wave has been that it is incredibly heavy. Having Wave always open in a background tab is a prospect that most users don’t relish. Google Wave Notifier allows you to close Google Wave when not required without missing out on any of the action.
Windows 7 taskbar has been receiving rave reviews ever since it was first demonstrated by Microsoft. Recently, it was even voted as the best application dock by Lifehacker readers. However, like most things in this world, it is not perfect. In the past we told you how to enhance Windows 7 taskbar using Taskbar Overlord. Today, we will take a look at another similar application – 7 Taskbar Tweaker.
7 Taskbar Tweaker is a simple portable utility which is functionally similar to Taskbar Overlord. It allows you to close application windows by simply middle clicking on them. It can also change the default left click behavior for grouped windows. By default, left clicking on a grouped button brings up the thumbnail list. But, this is pointless since hovering over the button also has the same effect. With 7 Taskbar Tweaker you can set the default left click behavior to “cycle through open windows”. This is a minor change, but once you get used to this, you will start wondering why Microsoft didn’t make this the default behavior in the first place. 7 Taskbar Tweaker also supports a few other tweaks, including disabling jumplists, thumbnail previews and application grouping.
Techie Buzz Verdict
7 Taskbar Tweaker is a simple tweaking utility which has some really useful tweaks. Its biggest strength is simplicity. It did everything it promised without any fuss. Give it a try if you want to improve you productivity by fine-tuning the Windows 7 Taskbar.
Last year, Facebook had revealed that they were developing a Jabber/XMPP interface for Facebook Chat. If Process One is right, then the public unveiling of XMPP integration in Facebook Chat may not be too far away.
XMPP stands for Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol and was developed by the Jabber open-source community in 1999. Google Talk is one of the most popular XMPP based instant messaging clients. Google Wave’s federation protocol is an open extension to XMPP.
Recently, the Facebook Chat client was spotted by IMtrend’s bot. This indicates that Facebook has already deployed the XMPP software stack on chat.facebook.com. Once launched, you will be able to chat with Google Talk (and Orkut) friends using Facebook Chat. This would make XMPP the most popular IM protocol on the web and lend even more mass appeal to Facebook.
Opera has had the ability to lock tabs for a long time. Recently, Google Chrome added the option to Pin Tabs. And now you can do the same in Firefox, thanks to an extension called Pin Tab.
Pin Tab closely emulates Google Chrome’s implementation. Pinning a tab removes the close button and faviconizes it, i.e. page title is hidden. If you click on a link or type a URL in the awesome bar of a pinned tab, the requested page will be automatically opened in a new tab. You can also pin tabs by simply dragging them to the left of already pinned tabs.
Techie Buzz Verdict
The ability to lock tabs is one of the basic features Firefox should have out of the box. Pin Tab works mostly as advertised. The only problem I encountered while testing was that, pinned tabs weren’t automatically shifted to the left, as promised. However, bugs are to be expected, since Pin Tabs is currently an experimental add-on which is still in early phases of its development.
MSN may have lost a lot of its appeal in the recent past, but it is still among the top 10 websites in the world. It is single-handedly responsible for driving 45% of Bing’s queries. It’s no wonder that Microsoft is still serious about a website, which has been dubbed by Michael Arrington as, “The most popular Internet portal that no one actually ever goes to”. Yesterday, Microsoft unveiled the first major redesign of MSN in a decade. The new MSN will be rolled out to 10% of its U.S. users today and to over 100 million U.S. users early next year. In the meanwhile you can test-drive the new MSN by going to preview.msn.com.
The new design conforms to modern web design practices and focuses on providing a simple and clutter-free experience. The number of links has been drastically reduced and now most of the content is neatly organised into tabbed modules. The biggest change is the integration of Facebook and Twitter. You can view your activity stream as well as publish updates directly from MSN. The iconic MSN logo has also received a facelift. The other major highlight is the inline integration of high quality video powered by Silverlight.
Microsoft has been desperately trying to turn around their loss making online division. The launch of Bing was a step in that direction. Although, it didn’t result in any drastic reversal of fortunes, it allowed Microsoft to gain some much needed momentum. The redesign of MSN is another positive move. The new layout gets its basics right. It is more readable, provides tight integration of local content and highlights various services offered by Bing.
Windows 7 is out. But, that doesn’t mean that Microsoft can start relaxing. A lot of corporates tend to wait for the first service pack before upgrading to the latest Windows operating system. So, it’s no wonder that Microsoft likes to start working on the service pack, immediately after finishing an Operating system.
Wzor.net, which became notorious for leaking Windows 7 internal builds, is now reporting that Microsoft is planning on releasing the first beta of Windows 7 SP1 in January, 2010. If this is indeed true, then it would mean a gap of about 6 months between the RTM (which was finalised on July 22nd, 2009) and the service pack. This may appear to be too soon, but keep in mind that Windows 7 SP1 has already been spotted in the wild.
According to Wzor, Microsoft plans on releasing two beta builds and two release candidate (RC) builds for Windows 7 Service Pack 1. Windows 7 SP1 should be ready for OEMs by the summer (June-August) and would be available to end users by autumn (September-November).
Following Windows XP’s release, Microsoft had released several tiny applications called Powetoys for Windows XP. Although TweakUI went on to be the most popular Powertoy, there were many other gems like Image Resizer. Image Resizer enabled users to resize a picture or a group of pictures from the right-click context menu.
Unfortunately, Microsoft discontinued the tradition of releasing Powertoys with Windows Vista. Image Resizer Powertoy Clone is an open source application which brings the functionality offered by Windows Resizer to Windows 7 and Vista. It resizes selected images without altering the original image. You can use any one of the four preset sizes or specify a custom size. You can also ask Image Resizer to modify and overwrite the original image, in case you want to save space.
Techie Buzz Verdict
Image Resizer is good at what it does. If the specified output resolution doesn’t match the original aspect ratio, it will resize the image without altering the aspect ratio. In such cases Image Resizer will ensure that both the width and the height is less than or equal to the specified value. From what I could tell, Image Resizer doesn’t save images at 100% quality settings. This keeps file sizes in check without any perceivable loss in image quality. Image Resizer’s biggest strength is convenience. It has its own limitations, but is excellent for quick resizing tasks.