Borders Has a New eBook Store, eReader and Apps

Recently, I told you how to grab plenty of eBooks from Amazon and read them in the free Kindle apps. I had also told you previously how to access thousands of free eBooks using FBReader. I’m not lying when I tell you that I have plenty of stuff to read. Despite that, I was pleased to see that the well known Borders book store was opening an online Borders eBook store. Can they compete with Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Books-a-Million and maybe (in the future) Google?

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Borders has a little eBook reader named the Kobo, for about $150. It will let you shop, order and read the eBooks over any Wifi connection. It’s very cute and weighs less than 8 ounces. It’s size makes it easy to bring along anywhere you go. The 6-inch display should make reading fairly comfortable.

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This last Christmas, my daughter gave me a Borders gift card. At the time, I had no idea if I would ever use it. As soon as I found out that Borders went online, I went out and bought my Christmas present and started reading it in the free Kobo eReader app.

The eReader app isn’t complicated, it’s easy to use and it’s also available on several platforms: PC, Mac, iPhone, iPod Touch, BlackBerry and Android.

It’s not so cute, but it does allow you to shop, order and read all the eBooks in the Borders eBook store. Here you can see what it looks like on my Windows netbook (screen rotated by iRotate).

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Will the Borders eBook store be a big hit? I can’t say for sure, but I’m enjoying it until my gift card runs out of money. I love to read :)


FamilyShield Blocks Phishing, Malware and Adult Websites

family-shield-icon A few weeks ago, a good friend of our family posted a question to me in Facebook.

How can I block adult content on my kid’s computer?

Fortunately, I already knew about several methods, but I wanted to give them something free and easy to use. I pointed them to the free OpenDNS service.

Why OpenDNS?

There’s no software to download and it’s always up to date with the latest information on what websites need to be blocked. It also works on Windows, Mac, Linux or almost any operating system.

To use the free OpenDNS Basic service, you will have to register an email address to be able to change the settings that control what types of web content you wish to block. However, OpenDNS is now offering   a new service, called FamilyShield, which doesn’t require registration and is even easier to set up.

What does FamilyShield block?

• Adult websites that are unsuitable for kids
• Proxy and anonymizer sites commonly used by savvy kids to bypass traditional Web filters
• Phishing sites that aim to trick you into handing over personal or financial information
• Some virus-spreading malware websites

How does FamilyShield work?

To tell you how it works, I’m going to use one of the 650+ free wallpapers from VladStudio.

Image: How the Internet Works by VladStudio:

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When you are using FamilyShield or any other OpenDNS service, you are telling your PC to use OpenDNS as your default DNS server. Do you see the owl in the third frame of the picture? The DNS server (the owl) tells your computer the real address (IP address) of all the websites that your computer tries to access.

OpenDNS is a smart owl. If you ask it for the IP address of a website that contains something bad, OpenDNS won’t give you the address and you won’t be able to access the bad website. If you set up FamilyShield on your home network router, all the devices in your home are protected from the bad stuff out there.

Below, I’ll show you the typical FamilyShield setup for protecting your home.

1. Sign in with an email address or skip it by clicking the link labeled continue. They don’t require your email address.

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2. Choose to set up FamilyShield on a single PC or on your home network (router).

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3. If you choose router, you can find specific instructions for the most popular router models.

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4. Below you can see the instructions for a Linksys router.

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5. Once you have the router set up, you can test to see if FamilyShield is working by using the Test your new settingslink at the top of the instruction page.

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That’s it. No software needed and your PC or your home network is protected. Your kids and you will be much safer using the FamilyShield from OpenDNS.

Techie Buzz Verdict:

I can’t tell enough people about this awesome free service. If you are reading this, you should tell all of your friends. It’s not a replacement for knowing what your kids are doing on the PC, but it’s an easy way to help protect them.

techiebuzzrecommendedsoftware1

Display Registered and Non Registered Hotkeys in Windows With ActiveHotKeys

[Windows only]: Hotkeys are great, they save a lot of time in doing a variety of tasks in Windows. We have already discussed Clavier, a free utility which lets you define custom hotkeys in Windows programs.

But there are some things to take note, if you want to be a keyboard ninja with Windows applications. First, you have to remember all the hotkeys associated with different programs by heart. This is next to impossible, considering the fact that you use a wide variety of applications in Windows. Writing the hotkeys on paper or printing out cheat sheets is certainly not recommended.

The second problem is to find which hotkeys are already registered and which key combinations are available for use. As for example, Win + D is the hotkey for showing the desktop. It’s already registered with Windows and you can’t use the same combination in any other program.

ActiveHotkeys is a nice little program for Windows which lets you view all the registered hotkeys for different applications. The application detects what global keyboard shortcuts (hotkeys) are currently registered on the computer by various applications. This helps you determine which hotkeys are in use, and which are still available.

Download ActiveHotkeys

The program is portable, thus you don’t have to install anything. Just Unzip the package and double click on ActiveHotKeys.exe to start using the program. Here is how the program interface looks like:

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The left pane lists all the possible modifier keys and key groups which are available for use as keyboard shortcuts. Just select a checkbox and click Test Active HotKeysto view all the registered and non registered hotkeys for that key combination.

For example: I use SNAGIT screen capture program and the keyboard shortcut to capture a snapshot of my desktop is Control + Shift + P. When you perform a test for the Control + Shift key combination, you will see which hot keys are available for use and which key combinations are reserved for other programs. Here is the output which I got:

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In the same way you can perform checks on different key combinations and see which applications have reserved a specific key combination. All in all, ActiveHotKeys is a must use utility for anyone who uses keyboard shortcuts and wants an easy way to list all the available/active combinations.

Techie Buzz Verdict

The Application works perfectly in Windows but there is just a small issue. When you are testing a specific key from ActiveHotkey interface, the key is temporarily disabled to be used in any other program. You have to first quit ActiveHotkeys and then you will be allowed to use that key. For example: If you are testing all key combinations for the Shift key, you can’t use the Shift key in other programs.

Techie Buzz Verdict: 4/5 (Excellent).

Windows Phone 7 Will Offer Out of the Box Theft Protection

Windows-Phone-7 Misplacing a smartphone can be an agonizing experience. Not only do you lose your prized possession, but you also lose all your contacts and data, while potentially exposing yourself to a privacy and security nightmare. It’s no wonder that operating system developers are working towards providing mobile security services to all users.

After RIM, Microsoft has also revealed that they are developing an anti-theft solution dubbed Find My Phone, which will ship with all Windows Phone 7 devices. Find My Phone will be able to remotely lock, ring and wipe stolen handsets, besides tracking it online. Online synchronization will take care of syncing miscellaneous information including calendar, contacts and notes. Also included will be SkyDrive integration, which will provide you with 25 GB of free web storage.

Windows Phone 7 based devices will begin appearing in time for this holiday season. To begin with, they will be restricted to 5 languages – English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. With Windows Phone 7, Microsoft will also introduce their new online app store called Windows Phone Marketplace, which will be initially available in 17 countries including US, UK, Canada, Australia and India.

Automatically Minimize InActive Windows With SweptAway

At any given time, an average computer user is working on several different things, switching from one software to another and minimizing and maximizing Windows. However, sometimes you are too lazy or forgetful to minimize all the inactive windows and they just sit there occupying space on your screen.

SweptAway is a small Windoes based application that has a simple solution tot his problem. Once installed, SweptAway automatically minimizes all the Windows that have been inactive for some time. By default that time is 300 seconds but it can be changed to anything you want by going into preferences. You can also have SweptAway run at Startup.

Swept Away

It is also understandable that some times you don’t want to minimize programs even if they have been inactive for a while. For that, SweptAway has an exclusions list. All the programs added to the exclusion list will not be minimized at all. Currently running programs can be added to the exclusions list by simply doing a right-click on the task bar. SweptAway only work with Windows based operating systems yet.

Download SweptAway from LifeHacker.

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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Energy Efficiency

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

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Improved Help and Support

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.