Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks


App Review: Image Resizer

Posted by JenThorpe at 9:14 PM on July 1, 2012

This app is exactly what I needed! Recently, iTunes made a change to the specifications for show artwork for podcasts. Now, your image must be a 1400 x 1400 jpg. This made things a bit difficult for me.

For a while now, I have been creating original artwork for one of the podcasts that I am involved in. I have a background in Art Education, which means that every so often I just feel the need to create some hands-on, not done on a computer, type of art. After the art is finished, I would take a photo of it, upload the photo to my computer, and then use it as art for an episode of my podcast.

The new change meant that I wasn’t going to be able to do things as easily anymore. The photos I was taking were at least twice the specifications that I now needed to fit the artwork into. What I needed was an app that could quickly and easily resize that image for me, (without costing me a fortune to use it). I also needed it to be Mac compatible.

I started my search by clicking on the App store icon that was at the bottom of my screen. After a little looking around, I found an awesome little app called Image Resizer. It was created by Bitten Apps, and only cost $2.99. The price was nice, so I decided to give this little app a try.

I found it to be incredibly simple to use. Open the app, and an interface immediately pops up. Drag the image that you want to resize from your desktop, and drop it in the app. It will keep the image aspect ratio of the original image (unless you go and uncheck the box that tells it to do so).

Unlike some of the other image resizing apps, this one allows me to type in the dimensions that I want the image to be changed into. All I had to do was type 1400 into each box, and click the button that says “Resize!”. Just like that – I had turned an image of my artwork that was too big to use as podcast art into something that fit into iTunes new specifications. I highly recommend this app.

New MacBook Pro With Retina Display Unfixable?

Posted by AndrewH at 2:52 PM on June 14, 2012

The brave souls at ifixit.org ripped apart the new MacBook Pro that Planet Earth has been raving about since Apple announced their newest laptop (with now-legendary retina display) and found something startling.

“This is, to date, the least repairable laptop we’ve taken apart,” the ifixit.org team announced in a June 13th blog post, just a few days after the official announcement at Apple’s annual developer’s conference.

The folks at ifixit.org (kind of like Will It Blend, without the blender….and with the ability to put things back together) pried apart the new MacBook Pro to find that it going to be really hard to fix, ,should anything go wrong. The full details of the teardown are here, but the basic theme of their findings is as follows:

  • special screws proprietary to Apple are impossible to remove without a special tool
  • key parts (RAM, Battery) are fixed into place with either no way to remove or upgrade, or fixed in such particularly perilous way (the battery is glued to the case, rather than screwed into)
  • display assembly is fused together with no opportunity to fetch something dropped in.

They gave it a 1/10 score in terms of repairability, stating “the new MacBook Pro is virtually non-upgradeable—making it the first MacBook Pro that will be unable to adapt to future advances in memory and storage technology.”

Photo Credit: Computer Repair from Big Stock Photo

Arq and Backup Solution for the Mac

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 12:47 PM on May 4, 2012

Arq Having a good backup system both locally and offsite is important for anyone with a computer. Once you have decide to use a cloud backup the first problem you face is the overwhelming number of options. There are two broad category of backups, manual and automatic. Services like Dropbox or Google Drive are what I call manual backups, in that they require you to physically drop a file or folder into them. An automatic backup system is just that, you choose the files/folders you want to back up and the system you choose backs up those files automatically either at a specific time or interval. There are a couple of things I look for in a backup system: first is it easy to use, second when I recover a file do I get back what I put in, third is the cost, and finally is it trust no one(TNO) compliant. The idea behind TNO is that you and only you has access to your content including your password and keys.

The solution I have found is called Arq after trying Backblaze, Carbonite, and Jungle Disk. Arq falls into second category of backups in that the backup happens automatically once you have set it up.
I first heard about Arq on Security Now Episode #351: Back To The Cloud. Arq is a Mac only backup solution, although there is an app available to view the files on iOS. Arq runs on Amazon S3 and does require you to sign up for the Amazon Web Service
Once you sign up it will give you an access key id, secret access key and you also have to provide a password. Make sure you keep a copy of all these, neither Arq nor Amazon can recover them for you (I use 1password for this purpose). Although this can be inconvenient it makes Arq TNO compliant. There is a 30 day trial, during the trial you pay only for the Amazon S3 fees After 30 days if you decide to continue to use it there is a $29.00 one time licensing fee. Amazon S3 fees are $1.25 $12.5 cents/GB or $.93 9.3 cents/GB for reduce redundancy storage. They also bill you for outgoing transfers. Outgoing transfers are free up to 1GB/month, from 1GB/month to 10/GB it is .120 per GB and so on. The price per GB goes down the more GBs you use. This is one of the things I like about Arq you are only paying for what you are using instead of a flat fee. As part of the sign up process Arq will ask how much you want to budget for backup starting in $5.00 increments. You put in the dollar amount you want to spend and it will tell you how much that will backup. If you are about to go over your budgeted amount Arq will automatically delete the oldest files. Arq does version backup similar to Time Machine, so it will always keep at least two versions of a backup.

You can choose which files/folders you want to back up and you can exclude specific files by name. You can back up from a network attach storage drive. It doesn’t delete backups from network storage devices even if you remove those devices from your network. If you can see it in the Finder menu it will back it up. In fact when I first start the backup process I noticed it was backing up my Dropbox folder, which I quickly unchecked. It does not care what type of file you are backing up. Arq allows you to back up automatically every hour at a specific time during that hour, you can schedule a backup once a day or you can do a manual back up and have it only back up when you tell it too. You can control the transfer rate, either maximum, automatic which will throttle the speed if you are transferring something else over the Internet or a fix transfer rate at a specific KB per second. If you want you can get a Growl notification when a backup is completed. Plus you can have Arq start-up on login, show on the menu bar and prevent your computer from sleeping when backing up.

To restore a file or folder you simply highlight it and then either click restore, which restores it to a folder labeled Arq folder or you can drag and drop the folder/file on to the Finder Window. I did a test restore on an image and it worked great, the image and all the metadata restored perfectly.

I have only been using Arq for a day now but so far I really like it. It was easy to set up, I like the fact it is TNO compliant and I like the cost. If you want to share the files with someone this is not the solution you are looking for. However if you are on a Mac and are looking for a good, secure backup solution I do recommend trying Arq.

Correction: made on Amazon fees 18:55 May 4

Sticker Munch Make Logos Fun at The Gadget Show

Posted by Andrew at 4:01 PM on April 19, 2012

Geek booksNovelty sticker company Sticker Munch launched at last week’s The Gadget Show Live and I was able to grab an interview with MD and founder, Sufian Hassan. Sticker Munch offer a range of novelty stickers that put the fun back into technology by incorporating the logo as part of the design or by trading on the geekiness of it all.

The stickers themselves are high quality vinyl decals and can be stuck to almost anything, from laptops to books, skateboards to vehicles. Some of the decals will be for particular models or devices, e.g. iPad, especially when the logo is integral to the design, but others can be stuck anywhere!

Prices range from an astonishingly low 50p up to £10.

 

Buying a new Mac Mini

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 8:43 PM on February 27, 2012

Mac Mini After the holiday season I decided it was time to replace my Macbook. It is a 2.1 ghz, maxed out at 4GB of memory. It was running Lion but barely. The keyboard was broken, some keys were sticking and two were missing. The battery had also gone bad. I was using the Macbook connected to a 24 inch monitor with usb keyboard and a magic track pad as a desk top computer. I have to admit it was pretty Rueb Goldberg or ghetto, but it worked. I use my iPad as my computer when I travel or go to the local coffee shop, so I decided against another laptop. My choice was than down to the iMac or the Mac Mini. I did look at the iMac, but since I already had two 24 inch monitors, buying the 21 inch iMac didn’t make sense and I couldn’t afford the 27 inch version. I then took a look at the new Mac Mini. I have a working core-duo Mac Mini and I love the form factor, but its even older than the Macbook and is no longer upgradable.

After going back and forth between the various options I decided to go with the 2.5 ghz Mac Mini with the 500 GB hard drive. The Mac Mini comes with 4 GB of memory, but per the suggestions of most reviews, I brought 8 gb of memory from OWC, the same time I ordered the computer. The memory installation is extremely easy if you follow the instructions. I ordered through Amazon, under my prime membership with next day delivery. Before the computer came I went through my Macbook and got rid of all unnecessary files and applications and then did a full back up to Time Machine. Once I received the Mac Mini I connected to the network and then connected the new Mac Mini to the Macbook by Ethernet. I then started the Migration Assistant application. The one thing I would recommend is to start up migration on the from computer and fill in all the information on that first. I only have one “working” keyboard so I had to switch the keyboard back and forth between the two computers. Besides that glitch the migration went fine, although it did take a lot longer then I thought it would. If I remember correctly it took a little over 5 hours. Obviously this isn’t something you want to do at the last-minute.

A hdmi to dvi adapter comes with the Mac Mini, which I used to attach to my LG monitor. It was at that point I realized the only adapter I didn’t have was a mini-display to DVI adapter, so I had to order that. The other thing I had to order was 400 to 800 firewire adapter so that I could connect my Comcast Box to my computer and watch TV using AVC Browser through VLC. So my second recommendation would be to check to make sure you have all the adapter you need. Another recommendation is if you store your password on Dropbox or another secure drive make sure you have your password for that written down. I went to start-up 1password and realized I needed the password for Dropbox so I could import all the passwords. fortunately I had it on my phone. Finally make sure you know where all your licenses are for all your applications. If you have been thinking about buying a Mac and are looking for a desktop I would recommend looking at the Mac Mini. Especially if you are a switcher and already have a monitor, keyboard and mouse.

iTwin Creates a Personal Cloud

Posted by Andrew at 10:57 AM on February 19, 2012

iTwin Infinite Capacity Thumb DriveiTwin is billed as an “infinite capacity thumb drive” but this sells the device short – it’s much more than this. Andy finds out what its capable of from Akash at CES Showstoppers.

The basic premise of iTwin is a pair of USB devices, one of which goes in your work desktop, the other in your home (or laptop) computer. Files can then be copied securely to and from the work computer across the internet to the laptop.

The devices are cryptographically paired together to ensure the security of the connection and the creators seem to have solutions for most of the issues that might arise, such as dynamic IPs or theft.

The brilliance of iTwin is that it offers a personal cloud solution where the data is completely under your control but not actually in your possession. No risk of theft, loss or nosey border guards rifling through your files.

Works with both Windows PCs and Mac – available now for $99.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and RV News Net.

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KB Covers Keyboard Overlays

Posted by Andrew at 8:57 AM on February 17, 2012

KB Covers offer specialised keyboard covers for Apple Macs and MacBooks. Rather than dust covers, these are keyboard overlays which re-label for foreign languages or show keyboard shortcuts.

KB Cover Keyboard Overlay

A good example for the former is a foreign language student who wishes to use a keyboard with the studied country’s layout and alphabet. Imagine the convenience for students of Arabic or Cyrillic languages. For software packages, the overlays highlight keyboard shortcuts to enhance productivity – it’s much faster to press “alt-f” than it is to use the mouse to select an item from a pull-down menu. All major software is covered – Photoshop, Final Cut, Media Composer, Sibelius, etc.

The overlays are a ultra-thin and made from high quality silicone. There’s a big selection of overlays for different countries and software packages. Prices are in the range $20-$40 and I think they’re great value.

Interview by Andy McCaskey and Courtney Wallin of SDR News and RV News Net.

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Dolly Drive Cloud Backup for Time Machine

Posted by Andrew at 8:55 AM on February 17, 2012

Dolly Drive Time Machine Cloud DriveApple’s Time Machine has been a lifesaver for many people, especially when they’ve accidentally deleted an important file. However, it doesn’t protect against fire, flood or theft when everything is lost. Enter Dolly Drive, a Time Machine-compatible cloud-based backup service.

Available as a subscription service based on data usage, Dolly Drive looks like another Time Machine target to OS X and once setup, will store revisions and changes to the cloud, giving the security of off-site backup.

Included as part of the deal, subscribers are sent a hard drive via courier to return and seed their Dolly Drive for the first time. This avoids a lengthy upload over broadband when the service is first started and the whole disk is copied.

Prices start at $5 per month for 50 GB but a more representative subscription is $10 pcm for 250 GB. As a bonus, 5 GB is added each month for free.

Interview by Andy McCaskey and Courtney Wallin of SDR News and RV News Net.

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Dock Your MacBook with Henge Docks

Posted by Alan at 11:26 PM on January 25, 2012

Henge Docks may be a name you aren’t yet familiar with, but if you’re a MacBook owner then you may want to get to know this company a little better.  Henge Docks makes docking stations for the full line of Apple notebooks, including the MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro, and all sizes of each.  Since Apple doesn’t provide built-in docking capability it took a third-party company to come up with unique way of getting around that limitation.

Henge Docks was recently at the Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas to demonstrate their MacBook docking station and GNC caught up with them to get a look at how their system works.  You can see it in action in the video below, including the brand new MacBook Air dock which was shown for the first time at CES, and a few other cool new products in their line.  The line of docks range in price from $50-75 and you can check them out at Henge Docks.

Interview by Steve Lee of Netcast Studio.

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J5Create’s Wormhole Station

Posted by Andrew at 12:25 AM on January 18, 2012

j5create logoJ5Create may be familiar to Apple Macintosh users as they’re designers of aesthetic Mac accessories, but their latest gadget will be of interest to those of us with a foot in the PC camp. Here Todd talks to John about their new Wormhole Station.

The Wormhole Station combined with the Wormhole cable creates a keyboard and mouse switch which not only controls both a PC and a Mac from one mouse and keyboard but also moves files seamlessly from one computer to the other. Even cooler, you can set the configuration up so that moving the mouse cursor off one side of Mac screen transfers the cursor to the PC screen. It’s a bit like having a dual monitor setup, only with two OSes!

If you like the sound of this, it’s available in both laptop and desktop configurations. Available now, the Wormhole Station will set you back $109.99 and the cable is $39.99. The CES folk like it so much, they gave the Wormhole Station an Innovation Honoree Award.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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