Category Archives: Software

What App is Your Favorite?

For longer than I can remember, people have asked me, “What is your favorite app?” The answer to this question is typically whatever does the job I need it to do when I need it to do it. This means if I am out of the house and I want to make sure my alarm is set, the app for that is my favorite one at that time. If you asked me to name one in particular to be my all time favorite, I’d have to say the browser.

There is no platform more prolific and universally available than the web. The web is home to the largest hub of information known to man, the best apps, and tools for just about every job you could imagine needing to have done. Through my browser, I can check my bank account, do my taxes, get directions, communicate with others, and even edit photos. It doesn’t matter if I’m using a device running on OS X, Windows, Linux, iOS, Windows Phone 7, or Android. The web is the most universal platform in existence presently.

The web never requires me to update, upgrade, or buy a pro version. It’s always there, day or night and it doesn’t care if I’m running a netbook phone, or desktop system.

When you think about it, most modern apps actually rely on the web to operate. A large number of these apps contact online services which are in themselves applications that can be accessed using a simple browser. There is a time and a place for apps, but if you look in terms of sheer amount of functionality and diversity, the web is second to none.

So, if you want to know what my favorite app is in general, I’d have to say Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Opera, and even Internet Explorer are among apply because I use them to access my favorite software platform.

How to Make a Web Comic

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been uploading comic panes and sending them out to my Twitter and Facebook pages. People have asked me exactly how I make these, and so I thought I’d make this video to explain exactly how to make a comic.

These comic panes have been generated using both ToonPAINT for iOS and Comic Life 2 on Mac OS X. These applications, when combined, help me to create something in an easy and simple way that no other single program I’ve seen yet has.

First, you’re going to want to take a good shot of yourself using ToonPAINT doing something worthy of a humorous caption. Perhaps there’s a situation or idea you’ve always thought was funny, but haven’t quite had the ability to express it. You could even just take a snapshot of yourself making a goofy face.

Once the picture is taken, ToonPAINT will give you the option to tweak the look of the resulting image. You may decide to use a black and white cartoon or go with something more colorful. When you are satisfied with your art, simply email it to yourself (full size).

At this point you can transfer the file over to an application for Mac OS X called Comic Life 2. You can use the original Comic Life, which is available on both OS X and Windows, but the caption text just seems to look better in Comic Life 2.

Here you can add a caption bubble of your choosing, position it how and where you want it to go, and type away. Once you’re done here you can export your final cartoon and share it with the world.

The only downside to this process is that you have to use two different devices. An all-in-one solution would be worthwhile, especially if it can be contained in a single iOS app versus having to go to a desktop or notebook computer to complete the process every time.

Enter the Dev:unplugged HTML5 Contest

The Internet is a beautiful thing, and the advent of HTML5 has made it more so. In conjunction with faster browsers, HTML5 is giving devs the tools needed to create amazing applications and experiences on the web. The team at {Dev:unplugged} wants to encourage this type of development by providing a pretty sweet contest, including a whole lot of cash in the prize packages. “The Grand Prize winner will receive $9,000 in cash and a fully-loaded trip with a Golden Ticket to the Future of Web Apps Conference in Las Vegas on June 27th.”

There are three main rules to this contest:

  • No Plugins – The submission must stick to HTML/CSS/JS on the client-side (no restrictions on the server-side).
  • Browser Compatibility – The submission must work in Internet Explorer 9, Firefox 4 and the latest stable version of Chrome.
  • Making the Web Native – The submission must be amazing! We will be keeping an eye out for submissions that push the envelope and blur the line between a web app and a native app.

You can enter in any of three categories: Games, Music and Innovation. Each of the categories will have a winner and runner-up with one project being chosen as the Grand Prize winner. There will also be prizes for each of these mentioned, as well as for a few people chosen to receive an Honorable Mention.

The Grand Prize is seriously sweet: You’ll receive a trip (airfare and hotel accommodations) to the Future of Web Apps Las Vegas Conference, along with a “Golden Ticket” pass. This ticket allows you access to a dinner with the speakers and more. You’ll receive $9,000.00 in cold, hard cash. And you’ll be prominently featured on the main page of the host website so that people from all over the world will be able to see how YOU pushed the limits of HTML5 on their behalf.

Each category winner will receive five thousand dollars and a mention / placement on the host website. Those who are a runner-up will receive an awesome laptop. The Gaming category runner-up will have a new Alienware M17x, and the Music runner-up will receive an HP Envy 14 Beats edition! All Innovation Award Winners will receive an ASUS Eee Slate. Those who receive Honorable Mention aren’t being left out in the cold! Each of those people will not only have bragging rights, they’ll also receive an Xbox bundled with Kinect.

Get your coding fingers ready, and submit your best effort. The deadline to enter is May 8th, 2011. A panel of expert judges will be choosing the winners.

Good luck to everyone who enters! If you decide to throw your hat into the ring, let us know so we can keep an eye on the outcome!

Kaspersky Son Feared Kidnapped

Ivan Kaspersky, son of a Russian software giant, has been missing since April 19th. It is believed that the young man was abducted. Security powerhouse Eugene Kaspersky, the CEO and co-founder of antivirus company Kaspersky Lab, has asked only that the media stop spreading rumors and speculation. Nothing official has come forth from the Kaspersky camp, despite claims from local law enforcement that the allegation is true. There has reportedly even been a ransom demand to the tune of $4.3 million.

Many blogs are claiming that a kidnapping is par for the course within any big business in that country. Could that really be what motivated the people behind this?

Malware writers infect your machines and muck up your day for one reason: to make money. We’re talking about mass quantities of green, people. The little script kiddies you find writing simple botnets for IRC are in it for kicks. REAL malware makers are out to make cold, hard cash. It’s a multi-million dollar business – and one that unfortunately won’t disappear any time soon.

Let’s imagine for a moment what else the alleged kidnappers could ask for – other than cash – in exchange for young Ivan’s safe return. How much do you suppose Kaspersky’s technologies and databases are worth to those with nefarious things on their minds? I’m quite sure they are worth far more than four million smackers… especially to criminals who have no regard for the rest of us. It’s more than possible that these people would much rather get their hands on information than money.

It’s true that kidnapping for ransom is on the rise in Russia. People are being targeted for their fortunes instead of the type of business they are in. We are hopeful that this is nothing more than a case of a young kid taking some time for himself without letting family members know. If it turns out to be true, we further hope that it is directly related only to the fact that the senior Kaspersky has amassed a fortune in his lifetime and not to the type of work he does.

We will be following this story as the details unfold. Our thoughts and support go out to the Kaspersky family during this time of uncertainty.

How to Switch from Windows to Mac

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Long-time community member and contributor Lamarr has long been a die-hard Windows fan. However, as evidenced in this video, he is beginning a switch over to the other side. Whether Apple is the Dark Side or not remains to be seen. This is something Lamarr has researched and thought about for months. He is convinced that he is making the best decision for himself and his business.

That’s what it boils down to, folks – a personal decision. I cannot tell you what to buy, nor can I condemn you for your choices. Until I am paying for your devices, I’m pretty sure I have no say at all. It’s my job as a tech reviewer to give you honest feedback about the various devices and gadgets that I have bought or which have been sent to me to review. Those videos and blog posts are simply additions to the ways in which you can learn about each product for yourself. They’re not there as a means of my telling you what is the right thing for you to buy.

What’s right for me may well not be right for you. What’s right for Lamarr may not be what’s right for you. What’s right for you… well, you get the picture. This is the beautiful thing about the tech industry: we each have our own sets of desires and needs. There are millions of product out there aimed at fulfilling whatever hole it is you have in your life or business. Yes, it can be difficult at times to narrow down the choices. In the end, though, it’s your choice to make. Bashing someone for what they CHOOSE is pretty dang stupid if you ask me.

It’s a HUGE deal to have Lamarr switching over to Mac. For fifteen years, he’s built computers for himself and others – based around Windows. He didn’t hate Macs, but he admits he used to wish that they had never been created. The closed atmosphere bothered him greatly… and there were limited software choices years ago.

Lamarr’s vision of what “closed” means has drastically changed in recent years. Back in the day, it meant simply that you were limited by choices on software and portability. Today, closed (in relation to Apple) means simply that Apple controls their hardware and other features as closely as possible. Lamarr has begun to see the light – by having this control, Apple is able to deliver solid performance every single time. This also marshals protection for the users.

I commend Lamarr for making a change that he felt was necessary to move him forward. It doesn’t matter to me that he went from Windows to OS X. What matters is that he did his homework, weighed his options and decided what the best choice was for him. Hate on him all you want, Windows fanboys – but he had the guts to try something new and realize that it fit his needs better than what he had in the past.

Good on you, Lamarr!

Apple AirPort Express Review

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Like many of you out there, I have a home network. In the past, mine happened to be called “the not-working home network,” but I digress. Have you ever had a problem getting everything configured just so on your network? You would be my hero if you managed to get every setting correct and every feature fully optimized without any help. It can be confusing and difficult to do. There are ways to minimize the amount of frustration that you have with your home network.

A few years ago, I bit the bullet and decided to try out the Apple Airport. I had been using a different router and some open-source firmware up until that point. I had tweaked it to the max – and still wasn’t happy with the performance. It just got to be more trouble than it was worth. Many of my friends and colleagues had recommended the Apple device, so I gave it a try – and have been very happy with that choice.

At first, I was a bit put off at having to install software on my computer in order to manage the Airport. Why couldn’t I just log into a webpage and do things from there? I quickly learned that managing things like this is much more efficient when done from within the desktop. Also, the installed software can tell me when the firmware is up to date. Until this point, I had never had a router tell me if an update was needed.

Recently, I realized I needed to extend the range of my wireless network. I had a Time Machine hooked up my to main Mac Pro and a base station on the other side of the house. I tried to extend the range using the Time Capsule, but there was too much interference going on. I went out and bought the AirPort Express in order to accomplish my networking goals.

This worked beautifully. The AirPort Express looks pretty familiar, doesn’t it? It looks similar to the power bricks which come with the Macbook line. Setting it up is simple: plug it in! There are a few cool features, as well:

  • Take the music from the iTunes library on your computer and sends it wirelessly to any stereo or speakers in your home.
  • Print wirelessly through AirPort Express – it’s almost like having a printer in every room of the house.
  • Wirelessly share photos, movies, and other files without having to worry about slow data transmissions.
  • The AirPort Express Base Station now features 802.11n, the next-generation high-speed wireless technology included with most shipping Mac computers and some newer PCs with compatible cards.
  • Industry-standard encryption technologies built into AirPort Express, including WPA/WPA2 and 128-bit WEP, plus a built-in firewall that creates a barrier between your network and the Internet.

After working with this device for about a week, I can say that it works fantastic. I’ve tried it out in several different areas of my home in order to make sure it was going to be exactly what I needed. By doing this, I also found out where it should be placed in order to give me the most optimal performance.

What’s nice with this software is that I can go through their step-by-step wizard and go with their suggested settings, or I can configure everything manually.

In comparison to a lot of junk I’ve seen, Apple gets home networking right. If you need your network to work – you’re going to go find something that actually works for you.

Windows Run as Administrator

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Once again, I decided to pick the brains of my friends over at the official Twitter account for Microsoft Windows to find out what it is people are asking them the most often. They were only too happy to send me a list so that I can try and help give some solid answers to the community. Keep in mind that while you may already know the answer to these types of questions – many people do not. This time around, we’re going to talk about the necessity of the “Run as Administrator” command – why, when and how.

The first thing you need to know is that if a program wasn’t designed to be run as an Administrator, then don’t do it! You shouldn’t give admin access to anything that isn’t absolutely necessary to help keep your machine secure. Why let an executable run amok – using up a ton of resources it really doesn’t need – if you don’t have to?

If a program isn’t give you enough privileges, then you may want to try running it as an Administrator. Perhaps you are running an installer and the software didn’t install fully. You might want to redo it by choosing the “Run as Administrator” option in cases like these.

There are many ways of running a program as an Administrator. One of the ways is to turn off the User Account Control (UAC). I don’t necessarily recommend that option, though. You could potentially expose your computer to some really bad things.

You can pull it up from the task menu and run it as an admin from there, or you can go straight to the .exe and right click, then choose to “Run as an Administrator.” Notice that just to the left of those words is a little warning icon. It’s asking you if you’re sure you want to do this! I mean, really.. you’re granting a whole lot of privileges to one tiny little executable. It’s always good to make sure you know why you’re doing this and whether it’s necessary.

Using Run as Administrator isn’t only reserved for software installations. Any time a program just isn’t doing what it should be, it could be due to your giving the wrong amount of access to your system. Also, there are times that you will need to update drivers as an Administrator.

Make sure you are following the Windows Twitter account and the Windows Gaming account to get many more tips and tricks.

Apple Digital AV Adapter for the iPad

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The Apple Digital AV Adapter allows you to mirror anything on your iPad 2 screen to an HDTV or computer monitor with HDMI input. Use this compact little cord to show your apps, presentations and more right on your big-screen television or computer monitor. While most displays render in full 1080p, movies will play at up to 720p.

Watch your movies and slideshows simply by connecting your iPad, iPhone 4 or iPod touch 4th gen using this av cable. A second 30-ping adapter allows you to charge and sync your device while it is connected to your HDMI display.

As you can see in the video, I can view nearly everything on my iPad right on that television. Audio and video both come through very clearly. My device is not jailbroken in any way: I simply used the av adapter. Being able to output your files onto a much larger screen is nearly priceless in some instances. It has certainly made the iPad even more useful than it already was!

I’m sure by now you’re wondering why – exactly – you would even care to do something like this. After all, you bought the iPad because it is small, light and portable. However, there truly could be instances where you would want or need to see what’s on the device on a much larger screen. Perhaps you have put together a presentation you need to share for work. Instead of praying anyone other than the person next to you can see it on the iPad screen, why not plug it in to an external HDMI display?

Use your iPad to create a slideshow for your parent’s anniversary dinner and share it on a bigger screen with everyone gathered together. Shoot a video on the device to propose to your significant other and broadcast it on the television when she (or he!) least expects it. There are so many things you could do with this one tiny little white cable that it boggles the mind.

Go ahead – grab one for yourself and watch as I grin quietly instead of saying “I told you so.”

How To Upgrade Windows 7

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If you take a look at the official Windows Twitter account, you’ll see that all types of general computer use questions are answered on a daily basis. If you are reading this post and happen to be a power user – great for you! Please try to remember, though, that you yourself was once a complete n00b. We all have to learn sometime, and I’ve decided to help answer some of the basics for those seeking answers at the beginning of their computing career.

With so many different flavors of each Windows operating system available, it’s no wonder people become confused when trying to figure out which one they need. Heck, even the upgrade terms themselves can be a little puzzling.

A Windows 7 upgrade is an upgrade from an older version of Windows, like Vista or XP. An Anytime upgrade is one in which you upgrade your current version of Windows 7… such as from Home to Ultimate. Microsoft MVP Ed Bott put together a fantastic comparison chart which shows you the core differences between the versions of Windows 7 that is available.

Knowing what type of features are important to you will go a long way towards knowing what version you should be installing. Do some research and become familiar with each of the things offered in the various flavors. Don’t just assume that you need Ultimate simply because it offers the most. Are you truly going to miss any of the things that it includes and Home Premium doesn’t?

If you already have Windows 7 installed and do decide you need to upgrade, Microsoft has come up with a seriously slick idea. Perhaps your computer came with Windows 7 professional but you know you want Windows 7 Ultimate. Simply run the Anytime Upgrade tool with your legally purchased license key, and you’ll be finished in about ten minutes flat. You’ll keep your documents and settings exactly how they were and be able to take advantage of the new features opened up to you with the upgraded version.

If you aren’t sure what version of Windows 7 you have installed right now, it only takes a moment to find out. Click on your Start button and then right-click on the Computer icon. From there, choose the “Properties” button. Alternatively, you can also click the Windows key and Pause key at the same time to bring up that menu.

Windows 7 takes the confusion out of the operating system equation. Let the software do the work for you.

Windows 7 Start Menu Tips

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Windows 7 brought many changes to the way your things are stored on the computer, including getting rid of the “My Videos” folder. That particular folder is hidden by default for some reason, so Dylan created a screencast to give you a hand in solving this particular issue.

When you open up your Start menu, you’ll find your Music and Documents folders – but nothing for videos. This may irk many of you, considering how many videos we tend to consume, save and even record these days. There is a quick – and easy – solution to adding the shortcut to the Start menu, though. The steps you’ll need to follow are painless, I promise!

  • With the Start menu closed, right-click the Start button.
  • Click on Properties and then choose the Start Menu tab from the new window.
  • Click the little Customize button on the right.
  • Scroll down to the Video section, and click the plus-sign next to it to expand if need be.

Within the Video area, you’ll find three options. The “Display as a menu” option will put a small sub-folder (named Videos) onto your Start menu. This gives you a nice little drop-down folder that can show you the videos you have recently watched without having to navigate to (and through!) the folder.

The “Display as a link” option is just that – a link to launch your Videos folder. Choosing this option again puts the word Videos onto the Start menu. Clicking that link will close the Start menu and open the Videos folder itself… much as is done if you choose Music or Documents from the Start menu.

Once you’ve selected your preferred option, click the “Ok” button at the bottom of the screen, and then choose “Apply” and then “Ok” at the bottom of the next screen. Automagically – without even a restart – your Videos preference now appears in your start menu.

Thanks, Dylan, for another excellent screencast!