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 .
Undoubtedly one of the best features of Windows 7 is its taskbar, which has been affectionately termed the superbar by many users. Taskbar Meters is a pair of tiny utilities for Windows 7 which utilizes the taskbar for a novel purpose – displaying system resource usage.
Taskbar Meters consists of two individual utilities – a CPU meter and a Memory Meter. Both of these utilities utilize color coded bars to indicate system resource usage. You can configure the update frequency and define the thresh hold values for yellow and red color coding. Taskbar Meters also includes Jumplists support and provides you quick access to the task manager.
Techie Buzz Verdict
Taskbar Meters doesn’t do a lot. It is a simple utility, which provides a good alternative to sidebar gadgets. Taskbar Meters requires very little CPU resources and has minimal impact on your system’s performance. Give it a try if you want to add some extra zing to your taskbar.
Today is Halloween eve and Opera Software has prepared a special treat for Opera fans. They have released a Halloween edition of Opera browser for Windows and Mac.
This special edition includes “Phantom of the Opera II” speed dial background and a custom Halloween skin. If you have already installed Opera on your computer, you will need to backup bookmarks.adr, speeddial.ini and operaprefs.ini files before proceeding with the installation. All these files are present in the Opera profile directory. After backing up the aforementioned files, you can install Opera Halloween edition on top of the existing installation. If you still see the default skin, simply select the Halloween skin from Tools –> Appearance (Shift+F12). You can get back your original bookmarks and speed dials by replacing the newer bookmarks.adr and speeddial.ini files with the backed up versions. If you want to switch back to the original skin select the Opera Standard skin in the Appearance dialogue box.
The rumours were true. Earlier today, Google unveiled its new onebox for music related searches. As expected, Google will be providing song previews supplied by Lala.com and iLike.com. Additionally, you will be able to listen to related music on Imeem, Rhapsody or Pandora. Streams provided by Lala will play the full song once and then switch to a 30 second preview. Streams provided by other providers will include 30 second previews, as well as full songs. This feature will be made available to users in United States over the next few days.
The objective of the new onebox for music related queries is threefold:
Reduce the effort it takes to find music by your favorite artists.
Enable you to discover new music through partners like Imeem and Pandora.
Allow you to identify that catchy tune you may have heard in a cafeteria. The new music search will return relevant music streams even if you use a line or two of lyrics.
Google is not the first major search engine to provide free streams within the search results page. Yahoo has been doing this since last year. Feeling left behind, they took this opportunity to remind us about their own music search abilities in a blog post. What remains to be seen now, is how Microsoft Bing will react.
If your system suddenly starts running slowly, it is probably because some process is eating up your entire RAM or consuming a lot of CPU resources. This may be due to malwares or simply due to poorly written applications.
Fileinspect Sidebar Gadget is a free gadget for Windows Vista and 7 from Auslogics which allows you to quickly spot potential troublemakers. Fileinspect automatically displays the most resource intensive processes (with respect to either CPU or Memory utilization). The basic purpose of this gadget is to reduce your dependency on the Task Manager. The main advantage of using this gadget is that, Fileinspect also displays comprehensive information about each process. This is a useful preliminary way to determine if a process is safe or not.
Techie Buzz Verdict
Fileinspect sidebar gadget is simple yet aesthetically pleasing. Its process library is decent, but nothing exceptional. It failed to provide information about popular applications like TweetDeck and Woopra. However, unlike most sidebar gadgets Fileinspect actually serves some purpose. It’s worth installing if you use Sidebar gadgets.
Forty years ago, on this day, the Internet came into existence, as two computers in University of California (UCLA) and Stanford Research Institute were connected. The inauguration was shaky to say the least. The system crashed as Charley Kline was about to press the letter g of login- the first command.
The beginning of the Internet was cautious and slow. It took a long time for ARPANET to become a truly global Internetwork. Even after ten years there were only 188 computers linked on the network. However, things began to improve in the 80s as computers became (relatively) cheaper and faster. Another, turning point was the development of TCP/IP which went on to become a de-facto standard. By January 1, 1983 all host computers on or connected to ARPANET had switched over to the TCP/IP based Internetwork. Domain name system was created in 1984 and dotcom domain names became available in 1985. By 1987, there were 30,000 host computers and the growth of Internet began to accelerate. In 1989 Tim Berners-Lee came up with the idea of Hypertext and developed the World Wide Web. And the rest is history.
An improved typing speed can go a long way towards boosting one’s productivity. The best thing is that you don’t need to join expensive classes to improve your typing speed. There are numerous free utilities which can help you. Rapid Typing Tutor is one such application.
Rapid Typing Tutor includes a large collection of typing lessons which will help you in getting accustomed to your keyboard. There are separate lessons focusing on specific character combinations, syllables, upper case letters, special symbols and words. During typing lessons you will be assisted by a virtual pair of hands. This is a neat feature and lets novice typists learn how to place their fingers on the keyboard. Rapid Typing Tutor includes fairly in-depth statistics and allows you to track your progress. You can even submit your score online and compare with other users.
The biggest problem with Rapid Typing Tutor is its interface. It is confusing and ugly. To make matters worse, each of the available skins is equally poor. The other problem is that during typing lessons Rapid Tutor only displays few words at a time. While this is fine for novices, it’s a huge distraction for advanced typists. It prevents them from seeing in advance which words are coming up next. If you type too fast, your eyes will get strained as the text will fly across your screen. The other big problem is that, Rapid Typing Tutor doesn’t put enough emphasis on accuracy. If you mistype nothing happens. Ideally you should have to go back and correct all the errors.
Techie Buzz Verdict
Rapid Tutor is a nice tool for beginners. The virtual keyboard and broad range of typing exercises allow novice typists to get familiarized with the keyboard. However, good typists who are looking to further polish their typing skills will only end up getting frustrated.
Earlier today, Opera Software released Opera 10.01 for desktop. This marks the first update since Opera 10 was released nearly two months ago. The new build patches three security vulnerabilities, including a highly severe vulnerability which could potentially allow execution of arbitrary code. It is highly recommended that you immediately update your Opera installation.
Opera 10.01 is a minor update with almost no visible changes. However, it includes multiple under the hood modifications which will improve performance and stability. The full changelog is available here.
Opera 10.01 doesn’t include the much hyped Opera Unite feature. Opera Software is currently working on 10.10, which will bring Unite to the mainstream. A beta build was released earlier in the month and the final build should be out soon.
Mozilla has released two new builds of Firefox – 3.0.15 and 3.5.4. This update patches 16 vulnerabilities, (including 11 critical vulnerabilities) in Firefox 3.5 and 10 vulnerabilities (including 5 critical vulnerabilities) in Firefox 3.0. For more detail check out the official release notes for Firefox 3.0.15 and 3.5.4.
Both of these updates are billed as security and stability updates and are recommended to every Firefox user. They fix various performance and stability issues including memory leak, memory corruption and browser crashes. This update also patches various libraries used by Firefox, such as liboggz, libvorbis, and liboggplay.
Incidentally, the first beta of Firefox 3.6 is slated to be released later today. Firefox 3.6 is the leaner and meaner version, which is expected to bring user-perceptible performance improvements.
Portable applications are great since they don’t need to be installed and can be carried on a USB device. However, for people who have several dozen applications on their system, portable applications can be slightly inconvenient. Most portable applications don’t provide any option to create start menu entry or desktop shortcuts. In other words, if you want to launch the utility, you will have to manually browse to its location. The same applies if you want to remove the utility. In the end, most such portable utilities end up being forgotten and lie around unnoticed in some corner of your system.
ZipInstaller is a free utility which installs all no-install applications which are packaged in zip files. It extracts them to a specified folder, places shortcuts in your startmenu and desktop and even creates an uninstall module which can be accessed from Add/Remove Programs.
Techie Buzz Verdict
ZipInstaller has an obvious limitation – it works only for those applications which are packaged in ZIP files. Like all Nirsoft Utilities, it performs a specific task and does it extremely well. While it will prove to be an indispensable resource to some, others won’t even feel the need for it.
It’s official now. Earlier today, Android SDK Tech lead Xavier Ducrohet announced Android 2.0 support in the SDK. Android 2.0 (codenamed Ã‰clair) introduces a host of new features. You can view the full list of changes here. The ones which caught our attention are:
Contacts – Android now supports synching and aggregating contacts data from multiple accounts. A new Quick Contacts API will allow access to contact info from within any application.
Email – Email box has been combined to enable browsing of email from multiple accounts. Support for Exchange has also been added.
Camera – A lot of ground has been covered in this section and most of the basic stuff that was missing has been added. Android now has built-in flash support as well as macro-focus, white balance and digital zoom options.
Keyboard – An improved virtual keyboard should enhance your typing speed by reducing errors.
Browser – The browser will feature a refreshed UI with support for double-tap zoom. Other changes include support for HTML 5 and bookmarks with web page thumbnails.
Bluetooth – Ã‰clair will also have Bluetooth 2.1 support with two new Bluetooth profiles – Object Push Profile (OPP) and Phone Book Access Profile (PBAP).
What do you think about the new features? Are you happy or are you disappointed? Don’t forget to let us know.
Viruses spreading through social media networks is nothing new. The latest incarnation is masquerading as Facebook password reset emails. This particular e-mail claims that your Facebook password was reset to protect you and the new password has been attached to the e-mail. As you may expect, once the attachment is opened your PC will be infected with malware.
The malware in question is a trojan horse called Bredolab. This trojan injects itself into the explorer.exe process and runs the svchost.exe process. Bredolab itself doesn’t cause any further damage. However, it quietly operates in the background and downloads additional payloads (which can be rogue antispyware software or other malware) without your permission.
While it is common knowledge that one should never download attachments received from unknown sources, many users may still fall for this scam. Irrespective how authentic an e-mail appears, if it asks you to download an attachment something is bound to be fishy. Facebook will never send your password as attachments. And if you didn’t reset your password, then you shouldn’t be receiving a password reset email. Spread the message and prevent your friends and family from becoming victims.
The Gigahertz war may be over, but it is making way for a new battle – the battle of the cores. Both Intel and AMD have been busy cranking up the number of cores in their latest line of processors. Nehalem-EX from Intel will feature 8 cores while Opteron Magny-Cours from AMD will include as many as 12 cores. But all of them will pale in comparison to the 100 core processor a relatively unknown start-up called Tilera is developing.
TILE-Gx Family of processors from Tilera is set for commercial release in 2011 and will be available in 16, 36, 64 and 100 core variants. All the processors are based on 40nm architecture, and according to Tilera, will outperform high-end Intel processors by a factor of four. TILE-Gx will reportedly consume between 10 to 55 watts of power, which is about a third of the power burned by a Nehalem. Tilera’s CEO, Omid Tahernia, expects these ultra-high performance processors to “open completely new computing possibilities”.
Tilera is a start-up specializing in scalable multicore processors. It started off as a Massachusetts Institute of Technology project funded by DARPA/NSF and became a start-up in 2007. Tilera’s processors are primarily aimed at commercial applications like cloud computing and video conferencing. While touching the 100-core mark is an achievement, only time will tell if Tilera can really deliver.
Later this week, the internet is expected to undergo one of the biggest changes in its history. ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), a non-profit corporation which oversees multiple web related tasks, is holding its 36th International Public Meeting in Seoul. It is expected to approve a proposal known as Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs), which will permit addresses with characters other than those based on the Latin alphabet.
IDNs will allow users around the world to surf the web by typing addresses in their own script. The new system is expected to help in popularizing the web among users speaking languages with non-Latin scripts like Arabic and Chinese. According to most estimates, more than half the internet users around the world (approximately 800 million) use non-Latin scripts. Internationalized Domain Names is the next step in the evolution of the internet and will help the it in becoming truly global in nature.
The final decision is expected on Friday. If approved, non-Latin addresses should start appearing by mid-2010.
It is common knowledge that Windows has many built-in services that a common user doesn’t require. Disabling these services can reduce boot times and enhance system performance. In the past, we have covered utilities like Vista Services Optimizer which optimize Windows services for better performance.
Most users tweak services using the Windows Services Editor (services.msc). The trouble with this approach is that every time you reinstall Windows, you will have to edit the properties of every service one by one. ServicesEditor is an online Service Manager which supports Windows XP, Vista and 7. Once you have selected an operating system you will be presented with the list of services for that system including their default startup type. You can change the startup type for any services. Once you are done, ServicesEditor.com will generate a registry file which can be merged with the registry to apply the changes.
Techie Buzz Verdict
ServicesEditor is a robust service which is excellent for tweaking as well as restoring the original configuration of Windows services. The best thing about ServicesEditor is that it saves your configuration as a compact registry file. Not only does this allow you to save your configuration for future use, it also enables you to share your tweaked configuration with friends and family. My only complaint with ServicesEditor is that it doesn’t provide any information what so ever about individual services. Hence, you would need to refer to Black Viper’s services list (or other similar resources).
Windows 7 hit the retail market earlier this week. However, as always once the initial hype dies down the bulk of Windows 7 sales will originate from the sale of new systems. If you are amongst those who purchased Windows 7 along with their new PC or laptop then the chances are that you don’t own the actual Windows 7 installation media. Most major manufacturers including Dell, Acer, HP, Toshiba and Lenovo provide a rescue disk (or even worse a rescue partition), instead of the actual installation disk.
The problem with this approach is that the Windows 7 installation media is required not only for installing Windows but also repairing it. Windows 7 has excellent built-in diagnostic and recovery tools. In the past I have managed to fix major problems using the recovery center. Graciously enough, Microsoft does provide a recovery disk which contains the contents of the Windows 7 DVD’s recovery center. However, recreating the Windows Recovery Disk from this may be beyond most users’ ability. Fortunately for us, the folks at NeoSmart have already done all the hard work. NeoSmart Windows 7 Recovery Disc is available as ISO images for both 32 bit and 64 bit systems.
Techie Buzz Verdict
NeoSmart Recovery Disks include only those portions of the installation media which are required by the recovery center. They weigh around about 150 MB and can only be used for recovery purposes. If you already own the actual installation media, then these recovery disks are of little use. However, they can be a lifesaver for folks without the actual installation disk.