## Breathtaking Mandelbrot Videos – Now in Brilliant 3D

Yesterday, I saw the most amazing videos. These are called Mandelbulb videos, and half the fun of watching them is understanding the science and mathematics behind them. If you don’t want to learn how these are made, you can skip to the end of this article.

What is a Mandelbulb?

It’s a type of mathematical entity that’s based on ideas behind  Fractals  which were discovered in the 17th century. Fractal mathematics describe  geometric patterns that repeat at ever smaller scales to produce irregular shapes and surfaces that cannot be represented by classical geometry. Fractal patterns are often seen in nature, such as in snowflakes. Here’s an example of a Von Koch curve, which is one of the simplest forms of a fractal.

When a fractal shape is calculated, it is calculated in steps, or iterations. You can see the shape change, above, as it goes through each iteration.

Here’s another example of a complex fractal which was generated by the  GoogleLabs JuliaMap Generator.

If you follow that link to Google Labs, your web browser will generate a fractal. One of the unique properties of fractals are that you can zoom in on the patterns and see even smaller but very similar patterns.

Over the years, many mathematicians have tried to determine the formulas for true 3D fractals. Finally, in 2007,  an amateur fractal image maker,  Daniel White, came up with some formulas that seem to generate these 3D fractal shapes. Daniel started his work by using one of the most famous fractal types, called the  Mandelbrot set. The resulting shapes are called Mandelbulbs.

A couple of months later, some software hackers and fractal enthusiasts got together to work on software to render Mandelbulbs on computers. The Mandelbulber Project has been a success, and as you’ll see below, it’s also resulted in some very fantastic images and videos.

Here’s a screenshot of what the software looks like, running on a Linux PC. The software is Open Source, completely free to download  and also runs on Windows PCs.

Here are a few screen-shots of Mandelbulber’s artificial worlds.

Finally, we have reached the video. As you’ll see, Mandelbulber can create entire virtual worlds that can be explored. In fact, it can create an infinity of different worlds and some of them are almost scary in their complexity.

Here are more Mandelbulb videos from XLACE. It’s interesting to see how his videos have evolved over the years, and how Mandelbulber has suddenly changed the world of fractals forever. Someday, I expect to see these artificial worlds appear in movies. If you need an alien place for a Sci-Fi movie, it’s pretty easy to see where you could get one.

## Use Microsoft Office Picture Manager for Quick Photo Edits

There are a lot of great photo editors on the market. Some are very robust and expensive, while others are free. To be honest, there are about as many photo editors out there as there are camera models. Today I would like to tell you about one that is probably sitting right under your nose and you’ve never used it. It is called “Microsoft Office Picture Manager” and it comes bundled with Microsoft Office.

I would like to show you an example of the photo editing power of Picture Manager. Let’s begin by opening a picture on our computer. Below you will see a lighthouse picture I took in Portland, Maine.

Let’s say, for example, that I wanted to turn this photo black and white. This is very simple to do using Picture Manager. First, let’s open the picture in Picture Manager. Below, you will see where I right clicked the photo, then chose the “Open With” option, and then clicked “Microsoft Office Picture Manager”.

Now we’ll need to click the button at the top of the window that says “Edit Pictures…” See the picture below to see what the button looks like.

Now, you will get a toolbar on the right side of the screen. You will notice a very large “Auto Correct” button. If you have a photo that may be a little too dark and grainy, sometimes clicking this button will help correct common color and lighting errors. In the picture below, you will notice an area highlighted under the heading “Edit using these tools”. Here are some commonly used photo editing tools. The one I would like to deal with in this tutorial is under the heading “Color”.

When you click the heading that says “Color”, you will get the menu options pictured below.

Using this menu, you can do some really cool things to your photo. You can also royally screw up the color balance so make sure you keep the “Undo” button handy. You will notice that there are three sliders that will allow you to use your mouse to click and drag to change the value in each box. Remember the goal of this particular tutorial is to make this photo black and white. To accomplish this we’ll need to desaturate the photo. Saturation basically is a term for how much color is in the photo. If we drag the “Saturation” slider all the way to the left, we are essentially saying we want to take all of the color out of the photo.  Now, our picture is black and white.  See the picture below.

There are many other useful tools in Microsoft Office Picture Manager. You can easily fix red eye, flip and rotate pictures, and more. It may not be the most robust tool out there, but for the novice user, it is easy to use. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial.

## 5 Must Have Back to School Apps for Mac

As I said in my roundup of iPad apps  on Tuesday, the back to school season is upon us once again. As many begin to gather their supplies, they are also shopping for a new computer for this next year. While the PC remains dominate in many circles, it is quickly losing ground among students. That means that there are thousands of students trying to find the essential apps for education to run on their Macs.

Fear not! I am here to help, and I have brought a list of 5 of the most essential apps for Back To School 2011. This is list is going to cover note taking, organization, paper writing, time management, and even relaxation. All of these apps come from my experience as a university student, and they are all amazing. Without further ado, let’s get to that list.

### 1. NeoOffice (Free)

I think that its important to start with something that everyone can understand. That’s why the first app on my list is NeoOffice. Neo is a branch of the OpenOffice.org project that was rethought specifically for the Mac. I have been a user of OpenOffice/LibreOffice for a number of years now, and NeoOffice is a great version. It offers all the usual programs, including a word processor, spreadsheet program, and presentation editor.

Neo is completely free for certain versions. You get a complete office suite, much like Microsoft Office, for no money at all. However, I have donated \$10 to them, and have access to their latest beta release. That version comes with Lion support, including versions and full-screen mode. That makes NeoOffice a fantastic addition to my machine, which runs like a top on Lion.

Overall, I think that the need for an office suite is obvious for the aerate student. You will write papers, analyze data and even create presentations throughout your educational career. If you are looking for a cheap alternative to Microsoft or Apple’s offerings, or if you want to support a good open source project, I can’t recommend NeoOffice enough.

### 2. Evernote (Free)

Many students buy a light weight laptop, like the MacBook Air, with the hope of using it to take notes in class. While there are arguments that this is best done with a word processor (see number 1 on this list), there are just as many reasons as to why you should use a dedicated note taking app. In my opinion, there is no better app for taking notes then Evernote, which is completely free.

Evernote, for those who aren’t aware, is a note taking and organization application from Evernote Software. They offer one of the best Mac apps I have come across in my search. It is feature rich and includes the ability to record audio, record video, link documents to notes, and even share notes with friends. It is also cross platform, with apps available to iOS, Android, Windows, and the web.

I really like Evernote. As I said in my iPad roundup, I use it to sync my handwritten notes with my Mac, and it works wonderfully. I also keep track of assignments, manage my PDF notes, and even use it in class occasionally. It’s free to use, and is probably the best note taking app around. Download it here.

Alternatives: Word Processor, Growly (Free), Nevernote (Free)

### 3. Caffeine (Free)

This probably the strangest app on my list of 5. Its going to seem like something incredibly simple, but it really is a lifesaver sometimes. The app is called Caffeine, and it allows you to prevent your Mac’s screen from going to sleep. I suspect that most college students will have MacBooks of some kind, be they Pros, Airs, or White Plastics. That means that they have a power save option that is one by default. This will turn your screen off after a given amount of time spent inactive.

While that may not sound like a big deal to many people, its a huge deal to students who are trying to take notes in class. Often, a professor will go off on a tangent, and you won’t type anything for 10 minutes. Then, they will tell you all the answers to the test in the next 2 minutes, and you don’t want to waste any time waking your machine back up. That’s where Caffeine comes in to play.

Caffeine will install a small coffee cup icon into your menu bar. You click it, and its activated. It’s that simple. It’s completely free, and you can pick it up in the Mac App Store.

Alternatives: None. It’s free. Go install it.

### 4. iProcrastinate (Free)

One of the biggest problems for the average student is time management and scheduling. I have tried multiple methods for handling this issue, and it was hard beat. I finally discovered iProcrastinate, which is a free Mac app that allows you to create a simple calendar with events and assignment due dates on it. While you can do that in iCal, iProcrastinate lets you take your organization to another level.

iProcrastinate allows you to set up steps to a task, each with its own check mark. That way, you can set up a plan for researching your paper, writing the rough draft, proofreading it, and then writing your final draft. The calendar display is quite good, showing you all your tasks and their due dates for a given time period.

iProcrastinate is awesome for managing not only your school work, but all of your life. Be sure to use it to schedule some relaxation into your schedule. It will allow you to color code things, letting you see them easily in the calendar. It also gives you nice notifications reminding you of due dates. You can grab it for free in the Mac App Store.

Alternatives: Any To-Do App, Wunderlist (Free)

### 5. Steam (Free)

This last app is something that I think every Mac user who likes to play games should install. While the Mac isn’t known for having the best games on the market, that landscape is certainly changing. One driving force behind that is Steam, Valve’s digital distribution service, making its way over to the Mac. With that, they now offer a number of top notch titles.

You may be wondering why this is on the my Back to School app list. That’s because the most important thing you can do as a student is relax. If you try to do nothing but study, you will drive yourself mad. Steam will give you access to a ton of games, many of them for next to nothing or completely free. One game I recommend is Team Fortress 2, which is a great free shooter.

Like I said, this is a must have for students. I think the best time I spend in college is the time I set aside for gaming. It helps me forget that I have a heavy course load that requires so much of my time. However, it’s important to remember that you still need to study some of the time. That’s why you should use Steam in combination with iProcrastinate. Seriously. Do it. You can download Steam for free here.

Alternatives: Mac App Store? Seriously, just get Steam.

So there you have it. 5 apps that every college student who uses a Mac should use. I know that I use these apps all the time. If I could add one more, I would recommend Dropbox, just because it’s so much better than carrying a flash drive. It’s a lifesaver most of the time. Also, even with Dropbox, all the apps on this list are Free, which is awesome for poor students like me.

What apps would be on your list? Do you think I missed something major? Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below.

## Fastpreview: Preview Images from Context Menu with All Embedded Information

These days almost everything gets documented with images. Digital cameras, mobile phones and even screen capture applications deliver images with lots of info (geo tag, resolution to more detailed EXIF info, meta data) included within the file. These information is necessary for many purposes like studying the conditions for taking a similar snap. However, Windows explorer manages to reveal some of them while failing for most. FastPreview comes to your rescue.

FastPreview is a free tool that you can use to see all the embedded information within an image. The tool once installed, adds:

1. FastPreview tab in the file properties dialog box. This can be used to view/copy the values for the embedded info. You can copy a single attribute or copy the entire information with just one click. Adobe eXtensible Metadata Language (XMP) information, EXIF Camera/Image information, IPTC Media information can be obtained from the FastPreview tab.

2.   A nice image preview functionality within the context menu.

The tool also comes with an image viewer utility. Whenever you open an image using this viewer the image is opened in a mode to fit the screen. You can rotate your images from the viewer without losing the image quality.

The tool is compatible with Windows XP/Vista/7 32-bit and 64-bit versions. However, the 64-bit version needs SSE3 capable CPU.

### Techie-Buzz Verdict:

For all who really wants to learn a bit of Photography studying examples, this tool is a lifesaver. The information provided for any image as I studied them really gets down to the most simplest detail like whether or not the flash was fired during taking the picture. The context menu preview proves helpful only if you have your explorer thumbnails disabled or else it seems a little waste of screen space. As a whole this a useful shell integration to know more about images.

## Opera Releases First Snapshot of Opera 12, Codenamed Wahoo

In keeping with its tradition of fast paced development, Opera Software has released the first snapshot of the successor to Swordfish just eight days after its release. Swordfish or Opera 11.50, which was released last week, has so far been downloaded more than 32 million times, making it the most successful launch ever.

The successor to Swordfish is being codenamed Wahoo, which is one of the fastest tropical fishes in the world. The first snapshot only features bug-fixes and minor enhancements. New features will be introduced at a later stage. Since Opera Software is numbering Wahoo as Opera 12, there should be a fairly meaty changelog by the time it reaches the beta phase. One feature which seems to be a no-brainer is the addition of cross-platform support for WebGL and hardware accelerated compositing. This is something Opera has been working on for quite some time, and was demoed earlier in the year in an Opera Labs build. Moreover, Opera recently began to work on a HTML5 port of Emberwind, a popular indie game. That could very well be something that Opera Software intends to use to highlight the performance benefits of hardware acceleration.

You can download the first snapshot of Opera 12 from the Desktop Team blog. A pre-alpha build can and probably will have usability issues. However, you can safely try it on your system since it will be installed separately from your main Opera installation.

## Opera 11.50 Introduces Speed Dial Extensions and Featherweight Skin

Opera Software has unleashed Swordfish, its latest and greatest offering. Unlike a couple of its competitors, the Norwegian browser maker has stuck to the old school release cycle, and as you might expect from a significant version bump such as this, this release has its fair share of new features.

The highlight of Opera 11.50 is speed dial extensions, which we had previewed earlier. Until now speed dials were simple static thumbnails of your favorite websites. However, speed dial extension allows you to run little web apps within your new tab page.

My favorite speed dial extension is the weather extension, which embeds live weather information in the speed dial itself. Opera is also highlighting speed dial extensions from Read It Later, Webdoc, The Hype Machine, and StockTwits.

Opera has also tweaked the speed dial layout. It features an enhanced zoom slider, and suggests new speed dials based on your most visited websites, and popular speed dial extensions. However, the suggestion feature could do with some tweaking, as sometimes it ended up suggesting extensions that I had already installed.

Opera 11.50 also features a significantly retouched skin called Featherweight. Featherweight sports brighter, softer colors for backgrounds and borders, a new borderless icon set, and a new tab fold attention state. On the whole, featherweight further enhances the visual appeal of Opera, at least on Windows. Check out my earlier coverage for a more in-depth look at Opera’s new skin.

Opera on Windows, Linux and Mac

The final big change is the inclusion of password synchronization. This was a feature that was in the works for a long time, and has finally been deemed to be secure enough for inclusion in Opera. Using Opera Link you can now sync you passwords across operating systems, platforms, and systems.

Swordfish also has significant under the hood improvements. It uses the new Presto 2.9 rendering engine with better standards support. The new release boasts of improved CSS parsing speed, cookie sharing between the browser and extensions, and 10-15% faster on SVG rendering.

To be honest, of late, Opera seems to have lost a bit of its touch when it comes to developing insanely cool and innovation features. Google has been the main driving force behind a lot of the innovation over the past few years. Whether it is user oriented features like automatic translation and chrome applications, or technical stuff like desktop notifications API and speech API, Chrome has been the browser that has been getting geeks all over the world excited. On the other hand, Opera was late with Carakan, its JavaScript engine capable of native code generation. It was late with its geolocation support. Now, it will again be late with WebGL and hardware compositing support. Hopefully, Opera will be able to integrate the cross-platform hardware acceleration features that it had demoed earlier in the next major release.

Opera Swordfish is a handsome improvement over Barracuda, and is definitely worth checking out. Opera still has features like Notes, Tab Stacking, and Visual Tabs that other browsers lack. You can download the latest release from opera.com, which is also hosting a live download counter.

## GitHub Releases a Desktop Client for Mac

The popular social programming platform,  GitHub, released a Mac version of their desktop application today. For the unaware, GitHub is a website aimed at giving programmers the ability to share code and changes across the internet. It is immensely popular among open source programmers, as well as being used by major companies like Facebook.

The Mac client is one of the best executions that I have seen of GitHub. On top of being very functional, with the ability to pull in both local and internet based repositories, it is very beautiful. Once you download the file and install the app, you can start it up. You will be asked to log into your GitHub account, and from there, you can connect to any repositories that you are a part of.

Unfortunately, I am not really a computer programmer. I have dabbled in some Java and C, but I am not an active user of GitHub. As such, I cannot give a full hearted review of the application or the service. According to the coders I have spoken to about it, GitHub has become an industry standard.

I know that I make use of GitHub to monitor the progress of my Android ROM of choice, CyanogenMod. I check out the commits, comment on the added features, and even directly interact with the coders. I look forward to digging into the features of this desktop client to see how it pertains to my use of GitHub.

I feel like nothing but good can come from having a desktop version of this. The ability to focus more on your work and less on Facebook has to be a good thing. I know that I work better when I write my articles from a desktop client instead of doing it in the browser window.

If you want to see what the GitHub client looks like on Mac, then check out the screen shots below. You can download it by heading over to GitHub.

RSS (most commonly expanded as Really Simple Syndication) is a family of web feed formats used to publish frequently updated works. It allows you to easily stay informed by retrieving the latest content from the sites you are interested in. You save time by not needing to visit each site individually.

Where there is RSS feed, there are RSS readers. While the way in which RSS feeds work as a medium remains the same, RSS readers differ a lot in working and features. There are many RSS readers which are available for Mac. I must admit that I haven’t tried all available RSS readers. There might be equally good or better ones available.

Below are my top 5 RSS readers available for Mac, in no particular order.

### 1. NetNewsWire

NetNewsWire is one of the oldest RSS reader available for any platform. Its three-paned interface is familier and simple-similar to Apple Mail. The normal version requires a Google Reader account and it can easily fetch thousands of feeds in few moments. NetNewsWire features a variety of views, easy to use keyboard shortcuts, detects microformats allowing you to quickly add data to iCal or Address Book, and has a built in tabbed browser. It sync with Newsgator service, which means that all your Macs and iPhone will have same unread count.

> NetNewsWire (Free)

### 2. Reeder for Mac

Reeder is another good RSS reader. It was initially created for iPad/iPhone and made its leap to Mac. It uses Google Reader and can therefore keep articles in sync whether you use it on desktop or iOS, Google Reader’s web interface, or other feed readers like NetNewsWire. It supports a variety of swipe gestures and keyboard shortcuts. Whereas NetNewsWire lets you open different articles in tabs, Reeder instead focuses on a one-at-a-time approach. One click configurable sharing support is available for various services like Twitter, Instapaper, Delicious, Pinboard. All this add to Reeder’s usefulness.

> Reeder for Mac (9.99\$)

### 3. Pulp

Pulp is different from other RSS readers mentioned here in the sense that it offers a tradition newspaper format. Pulp takes your feeds and turns them into a digital newspaper, providing you with text previews and images instead of just headlines. Pretty much everything is customizable, from the newspaper categories to what’s inside of them. There is a feature called the Shelf which allows you to easily Drag-n-Drop articles to it in order to read them later. It supports various swipe gestures and social sharing option. Another great feature of Pulp is the Magic reader which can grab full article, when only excerpt is available and provides full article in easily digestable format.

> Pulp (9.99\$)

### 4. NewsFire

NewsFire is an RSS reader designed with beauty and simplicity in mind. This makes NewsFire attractive, easy to use and highly functional. I should mention that NewsFire does not support an easy import or syncing from Google Reader. If you are a Google Reader fan then you may want to look elsewhere. Official site  describes  it as iChat-like RSS aggregator and we agree with the description. NewsFire keeps feeds simple and clean.

> NewsFire (4.99\$)

### 5. Vienna

Vienna is a freeware, open source RSS/Atom newsreader for the Mac. It provides features comparable to commercial newsreaders. Its main feature includes simple and intuitive user interface, smart folders, difference reading layout, blogging integration, fell AppleScript support. It offers pretty much all standard features with few advance ones. For a free app it works great.

> Vienna (Free)

### Final thoughts:

There’s a whole variety of RSS readers to choose from. RSS readers offer many features and makes reading simpler. If you’re still using Mail or Safari RSS, it’s time to try something more robust.

Side Tip: Some websites offer only partial content in RSS feed and you need to visit the site to get full content. Use tip mentioned  here to get full RSS feed.

## 5 Windows Apps to Quickly Disable Stuff

Every so often, you   might want to disable something on your PC. However, you’ll need to dig deep down in the Control Panel settings to make that happen. Here are five apps that let you disable everything from your Aero Glass effects to your keyboard at the click of a button.

### 1. Disable the touchpad with TouchFreeze

Changing specific settings to automatically disable the touchpad when typing could be cumbersome, so TouchFreeze comes to the rescue. You needn’t fiddle with the Control Panel settings anymore – just install the utility and you’re done – the touchpad will not be active during typing if TouchFreeze is running.

### 2. Disable Aero Effects with Aerofoil

Aerofoil is a simple utility that runs from the system tray and lets you disable all snazzy Aero Glass effects in Windows 7 with a single click. You can also use it to switch between multiple power plans you’ve created.

### 3. Disable the keyboard with Kid Key Lock

Kid Lock disables standard and special keys on your keyboard and mouse buttons. Pretty useful when you’re going to clean your keyboard or if you have kids or pets in your home. The program runs from the system tray.

### 4. Disable the CapsLock key with Handicapslock

If you find yourself hitting the Caps Lock key often when you shouldn’t, chances are you want to disable it. A Lifehacker reader created an AutoHotkey script that activates the Caps Lock key only when it’s pressed twice, and you can download the same as an .exe from here.

We haven’t tried this ourselves, but give it a go and let us know.

### 5. Disable UAC Prompts with TweakUAC

If you never want to get annoyed by those User Account Control notifications that often pop up, download TweakUAC and just hit Leave UAC off. The UAC is completely disabled, so you’ll never get to see those again.

Shankar writes at Killer Tech Tips, on everything ranging from keyboard shortcuts that make you productive to advanced Google search operators you may not know about. Check out his blog!

## Freeware Fridays | Top Tools of the Week #32

In case you haven’t seen them, here are the most recent posts in our Freeware category. We hope you enjoy reading about these freebies, and maybe you’ll find a keeper in the mix.

#### Microsoft Standalone System Sweeper Heals Virus Infected Systems

by Pallab De | Tuesday, 31st May 2011 | Comment | Share

WINDOWS Microsoft Standalone System Sweeper is a system rescue disk creator that can be used for removing nasty virus and other malware infections by running an offline scan. Read More »

by Soumen Halder | Tuesday, 31st May 2011 | Comment | Share

OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE Often non-profit organizations have to buy costly administrative software packages to run their organization. It is a heavy cost burden for organizations with low budgets. OpenPetra is an outcome of an effort keeping in mind such organizations. Read More »

#### DVDvideosoft Free Video to Flash Converter Review

by Guest Posts | Thursday, 26th May 2011 | 1 Comment | Share

SOFTWARE Do you need to embed a video into your website or blog? Do you want to present your products or services but don’t know how? The free program will help. Read More »

#### Less Chrome HD [Firefox Addon]

by Guest Posts | Tuesday, 24th May 2011 | Comment | Share

SOFTWARE Had you heard that you can autohide the location toolbar in the newest versions of Google Chrome? Now you can do this in Firefox. Read More »

#### Have Better Control Over Windows Networks With Checklan Basic 1.2.2

by Soumen Halder | Monday, 23rd May 2011 | Comment | Share

SOFTWARE Checklan Basic 1.2.2 is an agentless network monitoring tool used for asset management both locally and remotely. It helps to create in a simple and effective way , an inventory of all computers in the network. Read More »

#### New National Flag with Clock Screensavers [Freeware]

by Clif Sipe | Sunday, 22nd May 2011 | Comment | Share

SOFTWARE NewFreeScreensavers has released several new national flag clock screensavers. The most recent are USA Digital Clock, Poland Digital Clock, Poland Analog Clock, Ukraine Digital Clock , Ukraine Analog Clock, Nigeria Digital Clock and Nigeria Analog Clock. Read More »

#### What is MAFIAAfire? Is Mozilla a Terrorist Organization?

by Clif Sipe | Saturday, 21st May 2011 | Comment | Share

DISCUSSIONS Why is Mozilla now the target of a take-down notice from U.S. Homeland Security and what the heck is MAFIAAfire? Read More »

#### Fly On Desktop Great Joke or Great Pet?

by Clif Sipe | Tuesday, 17th May 2011 | Comment | Share

SOFTWARE Have you ever had a fly land on your monitor or notebook screen? Now you can get a free pet fly whenever you want one. Read More »

by Guest Posts | Monday, 16th May 2011 | 2 Comments | Share