Tag Archives: Windows

Speed Up Your Boot Time with Soluto

[Windows XP/Vista/7]

soluto-iconHas 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 …

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 …

soluto-phones-home

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 …

soluto-displays-categories

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 …

soluto-make-decision

The dialog will tell you how long an application takes to launch during boot, and it gives you the options to Pauseor Delay.

soluto-pause

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.

soluto-delay

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.

soluto-final-results

There are some other important features in Soluto, but rather than bore you by writing more, I’ll show you a cool video:

If you can’t see the video, click here.


Download Soluto

Techie Buzz Verdict:

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.

techiebuzzrecommendedsoftware1

Techie Buzz Rating: 4/5 (Excellent)

Lots More Windows 8 Information: Power Conservation, Evolved Identity Management, Stereo 3D and More

There has been a deluge of Windows 8 related information over the past few hours. We have already covered various aspects of the successor to Windows 7 including online app store, tablet optimizations, facial recognition and more. It appears that the source of all the leaked information was Win7Vista.com, which published a huge stockpile of confidential documents. Of course, as you can imagine, Microsoft is not bemused. Francisco Martin’s blog, which was hosted on Microsoft Live Spaces, has already been pulled down (possibly by Microsoft). Worse still, in their eagerness to share the confidential documents, Win7Vista might have exposed their source. One of the slides clearly identifies one Mr. Derek Goode from HP as the legitimate owner of the documents.

Anyway, the documents are still available for download from the aforementioned forum. If you are excited about Windows 8, then you should really check them out. In this post, I will highlight some of the stuff (other than that has already been mentioned) that caught my fancy.

Fascinated by Apple

Really! Microsoft openly acknowledges Apple’s cool cred and discusses Apple in at least three of the slides. No wonder, Apple keeps mocking Windows for stealing ideas.

Windows-8-Apple
Windows-8-Apple-2
Windows-8-Apple-3

Optimized for Variety of Platforms

Microsoft will continue with its philosophy of using the same operating system on different form factors. Windows 8 will be optimized for tablet PCs, laptops and normal desktops.

Windows-8-Form-Factors

Instant On

I briefly discussed this earlier, but going through the slides I found a lot more information. With Windows 8, Microsoft is aiming for “Instant On”. The documents also suggest that Microsoft might be weighing Logoff + Hibernate as an alternative to conventional shutdown.

Windows-8-Form-Instant-On-1
Windows-8-Form-Instant-On-1
Windows-8-Form-Instant-On-2
Windows-8-Form-Instant-On-3
Windows-8-Form-Instant-On-4
Windows-8-Form-Instant-On-5

Energy Efficiency

Given that Windows 8 will run on both laptops and tablet devices, power efficiency is a critical aspect.

Windows-8-Form-Power-1
Windows-8-Form-Power-2
Windows-8-Form-Power-3
Windows-8-Form-Power-4

Improved Help and Support

Microsoft wants to broaden the Windows Help and Support by integrating more resources including custom resources provided by the OEMs.

Windows-8-Help-Support-1
Windows-8-Help-Support-2

Improved Recovery Option

Windows 8 will provide an option called “Factory Reset”, which will reset your system to its original condition, while retaining your data and configurations. Microsoft also wants to provide a pre-boot recovery environment, which will be simple enough to be useful to everyone, but will also house advanced diagnostic tools for power users.

Windows-8-Recovery-1
Windows-8-Recovery-2

3D

There are a lot of people who believe that 3D is a passing fad. However, Microsoft is not one of them. As suggested by the following slides, Windows 8 ecosystem will be capable of providing a rich 3D experience.

Windows-8-3D-1
Windows-8-3D-2

Improved Identity and Authentication

Windows 8 might include a system level key ring to manage all your login information, thus freeing you from the burden of remembering hundreds of passwords. It also means independence from web browsers and other 3rd party tools for managing passwords.

Windows-8-Password-Manager-1
Windows-8-Password-Manager-2

With Windows 8, user accounts will finally become user centric. Your cloud based user account will follow you, from machine to machine.

Windows-8-Identity-1
Windows-8-Identity-2

As a part of its enhanced focus on simplified user authentication, Microsoft wishes to integrate facial recognition in Windows 8. Check our previous post for more on the Kinect-like features Microsoft is currently contemplating for Windows 8.

Windows-8-Facial-Recognition-1

Is Cyberdefender a Scam?

no-go-ico 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.

The Contenders:

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.

The Contention:

Allen claims that Cyberdefender is a scam and has posted several articles in his websites, supporting those claims. Here’s one of them:

Beware of MyCleanPC.com and DoubleMySpeed.com Same Scam, Same Company

Here is a copy of the legal take-down notice from Cyberdefender’s lawyers:

CyberDefender Corp, MyCleanPC, DoubleMySpeed and Catanese and Wells

At one point, Allen says that he:

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.

Go here if you can’t see the embedded slideshow.

Conclusion:

Let the buyer beware. If I see over 300 errors reported on a clean PC, I have serious doubts and would never buy the software.   What do you think about DoubleMySpeed and MyCleanPC? Would you buy them?


Some More Windows 8 Information: App Store, Attention Tracking and More

Making a mockery of Microsoft’s non-disclosure agreements, leaked documents pertaining to Windows 8 are showing up left, right and center. Now, Neowin has managed to get their hands on some of the leaked goodness.

The new leaked documents reveal that Microsoft is planning to launch a full-fledged app store for Windows 8. The objective of this store will be to provide a safe venue to users for discovering and installing new applications.

Windows-8-App-Store

Quite obviously, this will be a strictly optional feature and users will still be able to install 3rd party software without having to go through the online store. According to Neowin’s Tom Warren, “The ‘Windows Store’ will be a software service Microsoft provides and hosts fully in the cloud. The company will likely build the distribution model on Windows Azure to lure application developers”.

Windows-8-Application-Store

Of course, unknown to most, Microsoft has already dabbled with an app store for Windows before. However, the Windows Marketplace failed to gain much traction. It was shut down and replaced with the Microsoft Store in 2009.

In related news, Manan Kakkar has released some more documents concerning Windows 8. It appears that Microsoft is also focusing on Tablets in a big way.

Windows-8-Tablets

One of the more interesting features described by Microsoft is something called “Attention Tracking”. Microsoft has a horrible reputation when it comes to naming new technologies and concepts. Thankfully, with Windows 8, they have chosen to go down the obvious and sensible route. Attention Tracking does just what its name suggests.

Now that your interest is piqued, imagine a situation where you are playing a game when someone knocks on the door. Interrupted, you leave your tablet device on the couch and attend to the person at the door. Microsoft wants the tablet to be capable of detecting that the subject of your attention has changed, and automagically pausing the game.

Windows-8-Tablets-Attention-Tracking

If Microsoft indeed succeeds in implementing everything described so far in the leaked documents, then (at the very least) Windows 8 would turn out to be an interesting operating system.

More Windows 8 Details: Get Ready For Kinect Like Facial Recognition

Just a few hours back, we reported that confidential Windows 8 documents have been leaked. The leaked documents gave us an early glimpse of Microsoft’s plans for the successor to the highly successful Windows 7. Among the discussed features was facial recognition.

Now, Manan Kakkar has revealed some more specifics. As it turns out, Microsoft is planning to provide a very Kinect like experience on Windows systems. The idea is that your PC should be able to automatically recognize you and log you into the correct account, when you approach the system. Similarly, when you leave your PC, Windows should be able to detect this and automatically go to sleep. Microsoft is aptly calling this concept My PC Knows Me.

Here are the concept diagrams shared by Manan.

Windows-8-Kinect-Facial-Recognition-1
Windows-8-Kinect-Facial-Recognition-2
Windows-8-Kinect-Facial-Recognition-3
Windows-8-Kinect-Facial-Recognition-4
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Windows-8-Kinect-Facial-Recognition-8

Before you get too excited, remember that Windows 8 is still a long way off. And if the Longhorn fiasco has taught us anything, it is that Windows’ feature list can be extremely flexible.

Confidential Windows 8 Details Leaked

Windows 8 is still a long way off, but Microsoft has already started communicating with OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturer) regarding the general direction they wish to take with Windows 8. Microsoft enthusiast, Francisco Martin, managed to get his hands on some of the confidential documents sent under non-disclosure agreement to select partners.

Windows-8-Boot-Performance

One of the areas, Microsoft is putting a lot of emphasis on is the system startup time. Microsoft wants Windows 8 enabled systems to focus on POST performance, S3 resume support and general performance optimizations for each of the Off states.

Windows 8 will also be better adapted to take advantage of modern trends like facial recognition for user authentication, automatic display adjustment through ambient light sensors and premium media experiences such as stereoscopic 3D and Wireless TVs. All this will be complemented by cutting edge graphics, which can be leveraged by developers to provide a rich user experience.

Windows-8-Improvements-Summary

As expected, Windows 8 will support high speed connectivity options like USB 3.0 and Bluetooth 3.0. Microsoft is also working on improving Bitlocker (hard disk encryption tool) and System Restore to make them more functional and easier to use. Windows 8 will feature a new factory reset option, to restore your system to the original condition.

I am sure that this is only the beginning. In the coming weeks and months, we will be learning more about Windows 8. Stay tuned to Techie Buzz for more.

Organize Simple Text Notes with QeepIt

notepad-ico [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.

qeepit-1

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:

qeepit-note-files

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.

qeepit-index

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.

queepit-menu1 qeepit-menu2 qeepit-menu3 qeepit-menu4 qeepit-menu5 qeepit-menu6 qeepit-menu7

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.

Download: http://www.brothersoft.com/qeepit-9042.html

Home page: http://www.freewarehits.de (abandoned)

Note: Requires VB 5 Runtime libraries – http://support.microsoft.com/kb/180071

Techie Buzz Verdict:

If all you need are simple text notes, portability and compatibility with other software, QeepIt may be just what you need to keep yourself organized.

Techie Buzz Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Easy Screen Rotation with iRotate

irotate-example

[Windows All] Most of today’s graphics cards support the ability to rotate the screen display. Many people prefer to mount their monitors sideways, so that they can more naturally edit long document pages or read long web pages. On many PCs, the graphics card may support rotation, but the display properties don’t show the rotation settings, or a specific screen utility is missing. If you need an easy way to rotate your displays, iRotate is an option you should try. Here’s what the author says about it:

iRotate provides convenient access to the native rotation capabilities present in contemporary display drivers, via a popup menu accessible from the system tray and optional system-wide hotkeys. It’s no longer necessary to resort to bloated Windows hacks, additional software layers or phantom drivers to achieve content rotation.

For example, if I’m reading an eBook in the Kindle application on my Windows netbook, iRotate allows me to turn my netbook sideways and hold it like a real book. On the left side of this post, you can see what my display looks like. It’s almost like reading a real book.

The iRotate utility resides as an icon (or icons) in your system tray when it’s running. You can either right click on the icon or use the default hotkeys as shown below.

irotate-menu

In the image above, you can see that iRotate supports multiple monitors. This screen app works for most graphics cards, and it’s only about 125k in size. I think that’s amazing.

Download iRotate

Note: The download link is a little hard to spot. Look in the upper left corner of the web page, as shown in the image below.

irotate-download

Techie Buzz Verdict:

The iRotate program is small, light on resources, and works flawlessly for most graphics cards. It’s free for personal use, and I can’t think of any reason not to give it a big thumbs up.

Techie Buzz Rating: 4/5 (Excellent)

Dangerous Bug in Windows XP Turns Windows Help into Windows Hell

red-x-ico If you haven’t already, you need to fix your Windows XP or Windows Server 2003 machines to protect you against a recently discovered flaw. It’s called the HCP Flaw.

microsoft-hpc

Is it dangerous? Yes, all you have to do is view a specially coded page on the net, and your control over your PC can be stolen right out from under you.

Here’s what the problem is. A flaw in the Windows Help and Support Center (helpctr.exe) was discovered recently, and shortly after that, the information telling people how to take advantage of it was also published. It’s good when Windows flaws are reported, but it’s very bad when the information on how to use those flaws is also broadcast. You can bet that there are some black hats out there already infecting PCs with this new flaw.

There is a fix out from Microsoft. Go to this page and click on the Fixbutton to download the fix (KB2219475).

microsoft-hpc-fix

This fixisn’t a real solution. It disables the Help and Support Center in Windows, but if you are like me, you never use it anyway. Some time after Microsoft offers a real update to solve this problem, I’ll go back and re-enable the help center.

People running running Windows 7, Vista, 2000 or Server 2008 are safe from this bug. The affected operating systems are:

Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2, when used with:
Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Standard Edition (32-bit x86)
Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Enterprise Edition (32-bit x86)
Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Datacenter Edition (32-bit x86)
Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Web Edition
Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Datacenter x64 Edition
Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Enterprise x64 Edition
Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Standard x64 Edition
Microsoft Windows XP Professional x64 Edition
Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Datacenter Edition for Itanium-Based Systems
Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Enterprise Edition for Itanium-based Systems
Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2, when used with:
Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition
Microsoft Windows XP Professional
Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 3, when used with:
Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition
Microsoft Windows XP Professional

Here’s a good place to find more information on the HCP Flaw if you need it.

Many thanks to Terry’s Computer Tips for this tip.


Avast Free Antivirus is Updated to 5.0

shield-green-check-ico [Windows XP, Vista, 7] Back in 2004, I was a happy AVG Antivirus user. One day I heard a false rumor that AVG was going to end support for their free version. I searched around for a good replacement and decided to try Avast Home Edition (version 4). Here is what it looked like at that time.

avast-4

It looked like an audio player. I thought it was kind of cool, but many people thought it was a little childish. In any case, I used it for several months and was happy with it.

Now there’s a new version of Avast available. It’s been renamed to Avast Free Antivirusat version 5. Since the days I used it, there have been some drastic changes to the look and feel of the application. One thing that has not changed is it’s high ratings in effectiveness and it’s reasonable system requirements.

Version 4.8 of Avast was roughly a 40mb download and the new version 5 is around 50mb. So, it has apparently gained some weight. Whether or not this has slowed it down, has yet to be independently determined, as far as I know.

To see what the new interface of Avast Free Antivirus looks like, check out this video from CNet.

Link to video (if you can’t see it above)

Avast has over 100 million users, and late last year, they teamed up with Google Chrome. It looks like Google trusts Avast for Windows PCs. However, Google also mistrusts Windows and has decided to stop using Windows in it’s own offices.

The only things that this free version does not have, that their paid version has, is a Firewall, spam shield, script protection and a sandbox test. If you would like a free suite of Antivirus/Anti-malware tools and a Firewall, you may want to take a look at Microsoft Security Essentials. Many people believe that Microsoft’s offering provides a more complete protection solution.

Seth Rosenblatt, at Download.com, was impressed with the new Avast 5 and gave it a 5 star rating. The general user rating there is 4.5 stars, which is quite good.

Download Avast 5 from Download.com

Download Avast 5 from Avast.com

Download older 4.x versions of Avast

Techie Buzz Verdict:

I have not tried the new version, but I have used Avast many times over the last 6 years. I never found anything to complain about and I trust this company. I will not hesitate to give Avast Free Antivirus a thumbs up.

techiebuzzrecommendedsoftware1

Techie Buzz Rating: 4/5

Learn Languages and Create Your Own Tests with EasyWords

apple [Windows] The other day I spotted this cool app at Snapfiles and I just had to try it out. I’m always looking for good free educational software.

According to the authors:

EasyWords is a free software that helps you memorize words very easily while learning a new language. The program asks you several questions while you spend your time by your pc, and teaches you the right answer if your answer is incorrect.

The software isn’t a big download and should work in XP, Vista and 7. However, it does require .NET Framework 3.5 to run. The installation is simple and does not require any personal information. Once it’s installed and it runs the first time, you will be asked to set the language that you wish to use (as shown below).

easywords-1st-run

Next you’ll be prompted to either choose a dictionary or create one.

easywords-prompt-for-dictionary

easywords-select-library

I decided to use one of the dictionaries that comes with it by clicking the Browsebutton.

easywords-library-list

easywords-english-german-libraries

I chose to try one of the German dictionaries to see how well I would do during the testing. After I selected a dictionary, I had to confirm the settings by saving them. At this point you should note that you can make EasyWords run when you start Windows each time. If you are serious about learning, you might want to consider letting it do that.

easywords-save-settings

In the settings, I had chosen to have EasyWords ask me a multiple-choice question every three minutes. Just below is an example of a question that popped up.

easywords-question-1

When you get a wrong answer, it will show you the correct answer highlighted in green.

easywords-wrong-answer

After several questions, I was able to open the EasyWords main screen to see how well I had been doing. I don’t know German, and you can see that I didn’t do very well.

easywords-results

Even though I didn’t do so great, I’m sure that if I had this running every day, I’d definitely be picking up German pretty easily. After all, isn’t that why it’s called EasyWords?

Later, I decided to create my own dictionary, just for fun. Here’s what the dictionary creation interface looks like:

easywords-creating-word-matchups

Do you know the answer to this next question?

easywords-my-test-questions

Here’s a hint for you. Which language did I chose to add to the new dictionary?

pig caeser

Would you like to try EasyWords?

Download: http://www.easywords.eu

If you are interested in learning, take a look at some of our tutorials and how-to articles.


Techie Buzz Verdict:

I love EasyWords. It’s easy to use and it’s simple to adapt for other types of testing. I have a feeling that I’ll be getting plenty of use out of it. The only thing about it that I wasn’t pleased with, was the fact that it requires .NET Framework. Even after considering that, I will still give this educational app a well deserved thumbs up.

techiebuzzrecommendedsoftware1

Techie Buzz Rating: 4/5 (Excellent)


Read e-Books on Your PC, iPad, iPhone, Android, Mac or BlackBerry with Kindle Apps

fbreader-iconMost of you would agree that Amazon.com is one of the best places to look for and buy new and used books. Amazon is also the force behind the Kindle, which is a well known e-book reader device.

kindle-at-amazon The combination of Amazon’s book selection, easy shopping and the Kindle are a nearly unbeatable trio that others have been trying to match for years. The Apple iPad may have a good chance of competing with them, but I’m guessing that the other vendors can only look on with envy and hope.

If you don’t have a Kindle, you don’t have to keep wishing you could read all of those books in an electronic format. Amazon offers free applications that allow you to download Amazon books and read them from your favorite device.

I’ll show you what the Kindle for PC application looks like.

  • If you have other devices such as an iPad, iPhone, Android, Mac or BlackBerry, see the download section of this post.

kindle-apps

A few months ago, I posted an article telling you how to Find and Read Tons of Free E-Books with FBReader. If all you need to do is read free e-books, that’s the application I would recommend for your PC. However, if you plan to do any shopping at Amazon for non-free books, you could install Kindle for PC and give it a try.

kindle-installer-icon

The Kindle app isn’t very large and doesn’t have a confusing set of features. It gives you easy access to the Kindle Store and also allows you to view many of the 1.8 million free e-books at archive.org.

After installing Kindle for PC, you will be prompted to either create an account at Amazon, or login with your existing account. Since I already had an account, it was simple for me to sign in. Here’s what the Kindle app looked like when I first launched it.

kindle-first-page

Since I hadn’t bought any books at Amazon, I used the Shop in Kindle Storebutton, which launched my web browser. I found and followed the links to the free books at archive.org.

amazon-kindle-store

Once there, I found a book that I thought I might read.

kindle-download-from-archive-org

I chose the Kindle version of the book and downloaded it.

kindle-book-download-mobi-file

All I had to do was double click the book (.mobi file), and it instantly opened up in the Kindle application. As you can see below, it’s not a complicated interface and while you are reading, you can bookmark pages, highlight text and add notes. That’s everything you need while studying or writing. It also remembers where you were reading last and takes you to that section when you reopen the Kindle app.

kindle-highlight-and-notes

If you have other devices you’d like to read books on, you can also find Kindle readers for the iPad, iPhone, Mac, Android and BlackBerry.

If you have a Kindle device, these software versions may allow you to synchronize your e-books between the host device and the Kindle device. You may also want to look at our post telling you how to Copy (and convert) Books From PC to Amazon Kindle.

Do you want to try the Kindle reader apps?

Techie Buzz Verdict:

The free Kindle for PC is a pretty good e-book reader. It’s not fancy, and it will surely save you time if you like to shop for books at Amazon. The apps for other devices are probably just as useful, but you’ll have to judge for yourself unless you are willing to send me one of these devices.

Techie Buzz Rating: 3/5

JBS Wallpaper Switcher – Better than the one in Windows 7

display-ico [Windows Only] Those of you who are using Windows 7 may already be familiar with the awesome built in wallpaper (background) switcher. It allows you to choose a set of wallpapers and set them up so that they change at certain time intervals. You might want the wallpaper to change once a day or once every hour.

Actually, the only reason I call it an awesome feature is that it’s built right into the Windows settings. There have been third-party applications around, long before Win7, that allowed you to switch wallpapers as needed. Keith has written about one of them here.

Sometime after Keith wrote that piece, I saw a comment from one of our readers. Mitchell McKenna wrote: I recommend John’s Background Switcher. Let’s you bring in photos from facebook, picasa, etc. to use in backgrounds as well.

jbs34-backgrounds

I’ve taken a look at John’s Background Switcher (JBS for short), and I have to agree with Mitch. It’s far better than any wallpaper switcher I’ve tried before. Here’s a brief list of the functions in it.

You can choose to display:

  • Individual pictures on your computer.
  • Folders containing pictures on your computer such as My Pictures’.
  • Flickr photo sharing selecting pictures by person, tags, sets or just plain random. You never know what you’re going to get next!
  • Facebook your friends photos on your desktop!
  • Vladstudio wallpapers choose from the coolest wallpapers on the net!
  • Any Media RSS feed choose pictures from sites like DeviantArt, Photobucket,LOLCats and Zooomr amongst many others!
  • Phanfare web albums keep up to date with your friends and family.
  • smugmug photo galleries yours, your friends, anybody’s!
  • Picasa Web Albums choose from specific albums or any search text.
  • Webshots if you’re a Webshots user, you can choose from your online or downloaded photos and collections.
  • Google Image Search get pictures from anywhere across the internet.
  • Bing Image Search not a Google fanboy? Then Bing is for you!
  • Yahoo! image search the internet is your oyster!
  • Runs on 98, ME, XP, 2000, Vista, 7

When JBS is running, it will show as an icon in your system tray. To get to the settings, just right click on the icon. Here’s what the settings applet looks like:

jbs4-settings-dialog

Based on what I’ve seen so far, I’d have to say that JBS is much better than the built in wallpaper switcher in Windows 7.

Check it out for yourself: Download John’s Background Switcher

Techie Buzz Verdict:

If you get tired of seeing the same old wallpapers on your Windows desktop, John’s Background Switcher may be the best solution for you. I have to rate it highly recommended, because I haven’t seen anything that does as much or does it any better.

techiebuzzrecommendedsoftware1

Techie Buzz Rating: 4/5 (Excellent)


How to Lock Windows Keyboard and Mouse

There are times when you need to lock the keyboard and mouse of Windows. Yes, you can lock windows sessions by simply logging out from the user account but sometimes, you may need to lock the keyboard functions without logging out.

Some of the examples may be:

1. You are watching a movie on your laptop, suddenly one of the kids come from behind and starts hitting the keys at random.

2. You are using a shared computer in your office and there is a guy who knows the password of the system. You have to attend a phone call but can’t risk leaving the system open.

3. You are downloading something and logging out will pause the downloads. You want to leave your system for 30 minutes but fear that your kids may accidentally shutdown the computer.

In all these situations, you have to deactivate the keyboard and mouse from your system. Unplugging the keyboard and mouse cable is a solution but that’s not a good idea, because when you come back you have to plug it again.

You can use Kidkeylock – a simple utility that can lock mouse and keyboard in Windows. After the program is installed, run it and you will see something like the following:

lock-windows-keyboard-mouse

Select the appropriate checkboxes for the mouse locks – you can lock all the three mouse buttons and the scrolling wheel as well.

There are two password fields – one for showing the program setup and another from quitting the application. When you want to lock the keyboard, simply hit OK and leave the program to do it’s job.

The mouse as well as the keyboard will not function – you can’t click anywhere and neither you can use the keyboard shortcuts.

To unlock the keyboard and mouse, type the password for showing the program setup. Once the setup loads, uncheck all the checkboxes and quit the application.

Relayed reading: How to resume Windows sessions using a USB stick

Techie Buzz Verdict

The program works perfectly in Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows7. No drawbacks as such.

Techie Buzz rating: 4/5 (Excellent).

How to Convert Flac files to MP3

[Windows] Among committed audiophiles, the flac file format is a pretty popular one when it comes to audio file storage. There is a significant difference between a flac audio file and a conventional mp3 file — the standard for audio players these days, and that is sound quality. However, one can only detect that difference when using powerful audio gear, the likes of which music producers and DJs use. In contrast, an mp3 file is a compressed, small-size file that is convenient to store and carry but for which they compromise quality. Also, Flac files have a huge file-size difference, for they aren’t compressed and have a higher bitrate.

If you have downloaded or just gotten a cd full of flac music tracks and find it inconvenient to store such huge files, or want to transfer them to an audio player compatible with mp3 files but not flac, this is your guide to follow. Also note, that the method used here applies only to Windows users.

We’ll be using the free Foobar2000 media player and the LAME encoder for the conversion process.

After you have installed Foobar2000, and have it running, open the flac file(s) which you want to convert. Then right click on those tracks and select Convert → Convert to.. You’ll get a box like this:

Converter Setup

Now this is the place where you can select what conversion properties you would like to apply to the selected files. From the Output Format box, select Mp3. Then click the box beside it with three dots. Over here, you can further customize the quality of the mp3s obtained.

MP3 Settings

Slide the bar to select the quality and bitrate of the soon-to-be obtained mp3 files. Evidently, if you move the slider to the left, the file size will be lesser, comprising the quality and if you move it to the right, the files will have better quality compromising with a high file size. Make your choice. Then click OK.

Now you should be back to the Converter Setup window. Here, select an output folder and decide the file naming structure. You can also create a music mix by checking the Merge all tracks into one output file checkbox. When you’re done, click the OK button.

Now, Foobar2000 in order to convert the flac files, needs an encoder. This is where the LAME encoder we downloaded before comes into action. Whichever mirror you used to download, make sure it has a lame.exe in it (or something like lame_xx_xxx.exe) Right here, we only need the lame.exe file. Extract it from the download, and save it somewhere you will remember — the desktop for instance.

Just when you click the OK button, Foobar2000 will ask you where you have the lame.exe file stored. An explorer browser will open, through which you must find the required lame.exe file and proceed. The conversion process will then start and you will see a window like this:

greenshot_2010-06-08_01-01-01

Note: Playing the files while the conversion is in process can cause problems.

Further Information: Converting files from the flac format to the mp3 format will decrease the size phenomenally, but it may also cause reduction in quality. So make sure you are satisfied with the resulting files before disposing off the original flacs.