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Category Archives: Software

iPod Directions

iPod Directions (Image courtesy iPod-Directions.com)By Andrew Liszewski

There’s a reason people get tired of hearing iPod news and that’s because 97% of the time it’s about some new case or accessory that only slightly differs from the hundreds of cases and accessories that came before it. The other 3% of the time though it’s something that will grab your attention and usually includes a tantalizing rumor, an official announcement from Apple themselves or some innovative new way to use the device. In my opinion iPod Directions falls into that last 3%.

Developed by Zap Technologies this free online service based on Yahoo Local Maps allows you to create driving instructions from any two locations (as long as they’re in the U.S. or Canada) and export them as an iPod-friendly photo gallery. Of course a photo-capable iPod is required but other than that you simply enter your starting and destination addresses and the site will give you a downloadable zip file cOntaining the instructions and highlighted maps ready for viewing.

I tested this service on my Nano and have to say it’s pretty easy to use, and the directions themselves aren’t that bad either. I will mention that the images and text for the directions were a bit soft but I suspect it was due to iTunes’ image optimization (shrinking) since the original files look like they were created for the larger iPod’s screen.

[iPod Directions] VIA [Ubergizmo]

Microsoft Times Reader

Microsoft Times Reader (Image courtesy Microsoft)By Andrew Liszewski

I’m still impressed at the number of printed newspapers still in existence given the ability of every other medium from radio to TV to the internet to deliver the news as it happens.

In an obvious attempt to remain as competitive as possible the New York Times along with Microsoft have developed the Times Reader, a PC based application for reading as well as distributing the daily news. Relying heavily on the new display technology in the upcoming Vista OS the text in the Times Reader will dynamically ‘re-flow’ as the font and window sizes are adjusted. As anyone who has worked in publishing knows the way text is laid out (rivers of white) is very important to its readability.

Other innovations include the ability to annotate and clip documents, a slide show of today’s newsworthy images that link to the individual stories and a locally stored seven-day archive.

The Times Reader should be available for download in the coming months.

[Microsoft Times Reader] VIA [Ars Technica]

PXN8 – Online Photo Editing

PXN8 - Photos Made Easy (Image courtesy PXN8.com)
By Andrew Liszewski

There have been a few times when away from home that I’ve wanted to post a story or email a photo that needed a bit of touch-up but didn’t have access to Photoshop on the system I was using. Unfortunately MS Paint just doesn’t cut it and I’ve yet to find a good solution to the problem… until now.

PXN8 (pronounced Pix-en-ate) is an online, stripped-down photo editor based on HTML, CSS and Javascript that runs right in your web browser. While the toolset is not expansive it still includes an extremely useful array of functions like resize, crop, red-eye removal, horizon levelling and even color corrections like brightness, saturation, hue and contrast. There are even some ‘fun’ effects like the Lomo tool which will add a dark ‘artsy’ halo to your photo.

Images can be loaded into PXN8 from your local drive or directly from any web URL. When you’re happy with the results the image can then be saved back to your drive or easily uploaded to an existing Flickr account. Personally I would love to see the addition of a basic levels or curves tool and an option for jpeq quality when exporting but that being said I think the developers have already done a really good job with this tool.

While using PXN8.com does appear to be free you can also purchase and completely customize PXN8 to run on your own server for a flat fee of $749. This would be useful to a site that involves users uploading images where the PXN8 service could be offered to them as part of the upload process.

[PXN8 - Photos Made Easy] VIA [Uneasy Silence]

Orb, The Free Slingbox

orb.JPG
By Bruce Eaton

All of you have probably heard of the Slingbox, which allows you to feed TV to your computer, say, if you are away on travel. The problem is that it is expensive to poor wannabe gadget folk such as I. In comes the Orb, a video casting software offering that has a great price: FREE FOREVER. Orb allows you to transmit your TV, audio, photo galleries and video from a base PC to any device which has a web browser (and an Internet connection). So long as the device you are trying to Orb from supports either Real Media formats, Windows Media formats, or 3GP format, you are good to go. In case you noticed the 3GP, yes you can use this to stream to your phone or PDA.

This really seems like cool software that has a good backing to it. They even have a plugin so you can DVR TiVo on the go and such. Requirements are not out of this world (2.4Ghz, 512ram, XP, 1gig free) so almost anyone these days can run it. And did I mention it is free?

[Orb] VIA [GadgetSpy]

Holding Pattern Screensaver

Holding Pattern Screensaver (Image courtesy Idle-Time.org)By Andrew Liszewski

These days the technology used in CRTs and LCDs has made the once popular screensaver obsolete. In fact I haven’t used one in years, opting to simply set my monitor to turn off when I’m away from the computer.

Being a huge fan of flying though I’ve been using the Holding Pattern screensaver for the past few weeks, and I have to say it looks amazing. The creators have taken stills from the interiors of various commercial airliners, and using some clever animation and parallax tricks have recreated the appearance of moving scenery outside the plane. The effect of looking out the window of a plane flying at 30,000 feet is very convincing. Best of all the Holding Pattern screensaver is a free download.

[Holding Pattern Screensaver] VIA [Lifehacker]

Wik-i-Pod

By Bruce Eaton

One Robert Balmer has created the Wikipedia for iPod that makes the hugely popular information site mobile. No longer will you be stumped when you hear about say, about the Biafra Wars or when some uses the term chthonic.

Downloadable in a 800MB block, this software at the moment works with 3rd and 4th generations, the iPod Photo and the iPod Mini. Currently all 5G iPods work about as well as the Shuffle. The best part is this software is gratis. So smart it up and stay edumacated.

[Wiki for iPod] VIA [BoingBoing]

Microsoft’s “Mystery Solved” Program Gives You Free USB Drive

free microsoft usb driveBy David Ponce

Hm, well this could be interesting, if it pans out. Details are a little slim at the moment, but it looks like Microsoft might have recently launched some sort of program, called “Mystery Solved”, through which you’d be able to get yourself a free USB drive, of unspecified size, simply by filing out a short form.

If you go to this Microsoft page and click on the image that says “Valuable Information – Get Yours”, you will be taken to a page that asks you to fill in some personal info (such as street address, etc) followed by four questions about Microsoft licensing. To be honest, I didn’t know the answer to any of them.

And perhaps that’s the whole point. After you’re done filling the form and confirming your email address, you’re told to wait 6 to 8 weeks for delivery. Apparently, you’ll be getting a USB drive preloaded with a bunch of copy, presumably to clear up some of the “mystery” surrounding MS licencing. Looks like an elaborate marketing scheme to me.

This is the funny part. I just re-read the page, and noticed the smallprint that says this offer is for US residents only. So, uh, yeah, it’s US only. Don’t know why it let me get through filing the form entirely though.

[Microsoft's Mystery Solved] VIA [Digg]

Google Maps Rally

Google MapsBy Andrew Liszewski

I saw this game played a week or so ago on G4′s ‘Attack Of The Show’ and it made me yearn for the days of working in an office environment. (Not really.)

Google Maps Rally is a fun way for you and a coworker to waste a couple of hours with nothing more than your PC (or Mac) and a web browser. Here’s how it goes down;

1- You each choose a mutual destination somewhere in the world.

2- You then each choose a starting point. While it doesn’t necessarily have to be the same location, you’ll need to make sure they’re both the same distance to your destination to make the race fair.

3- Using the Google Maps ‘Get Directions’ feature you each plan the optimal route between your 2 cities. (It’s best to select a start and end city on the same continent.) Google Maps will then show you a nice blue line connecting your two locations on the map VIA various roads and highways.

4- You then each zoom-in to your start cities. (The zoom level is up to you, however in interest of fairness ensure you’re both at the same level.)

5- Then simply start panning the map (using a click and drag motion) along the route as laid out by Google Maps as fast as you can.

5- The first one to arrive at their destination can then claim the title of king of lost productivity!

While it may not appeal to some as much as Solitaire or Minesweeper, the plausible deniability ranking is quite high if and when you get caught by a superior. Enjoy!

[Matter of fact, Bruce and Andrew huff paint thinner together. They're weak, forgive them. -Ed.]

[Google Maps] Originally Seen On [Attack Of The Show]

PawSense Stops Your Cat’s Typing

By David Ponce

Looks like these days we’re fixated on software, what with all the hoopla over TopDesk and such. Well, it doesn’t stop there. You have to hear about PawSense. For $20, you can allegedly fix whatever problems might be caused when your cat confuses your keyboard for a Dance Dance Revolution mat. As soon as erratic typing is detected, the program freezes all input and simultaneously emits a “sound that is annoying to cats”, to teach them to stay away.

And yes, yes, the year 2000 called and it wants its news back. AND, the site peddling this stuff looks like it was designed by a blind martian, which doesn’t bode well to the quality of the program… but nevertheless, perhaps someone somewhere dropped the $20 and can tell us if this thing works at all.

[PawSense] VIA [No Puedo Creer]