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


Tea Timer and Alarms Applications for GTD

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 6:56 PM on March 20, 2011

AlarmsThere are a couple of applications on the Mac that I use almost daily. They are single task apps, that do only one thing. The first is Tea Timer and the second is Alarms. Tea Timer is a Dashboard application. It does one thing it reminds you of things you tend to forget, like your tea is ready or your pizza is done. You can have it send you a Growl notification, a voice alarm or a sound. You can select the background color for Tea Timer. When your ready to use it activate dashboard and chose Tea Timer. To start a countdown click on the time field and enter the hours or minutes or seconds then either hit the play button or enter. When the time is up the Tea Timer alarm will go off. I use this application almost daily.

The second application is Alarms which is a application that sits in your menu bar. If you want to add an event simply tap on the alarm bell and a time line comes down. You can click on a time and manually enter an event. If you enter it at the wrong time simply drag the event to the correct time. If you receive a email or a tweet simply drag it up to to the alarm bell and the time line will drop down and you can drop it into the correct time. If you drop an event into a different day it will add it at the start of the day. (You can choose when you want the day to start and end under Preference.) To move the event to the correct time simply drag it there. Alarms is perfect when you don’t need a full fledge GTD application but you just want a reminder. Alarms can sync with iCal if you want it to.

Both of these applications are for Mac only, if you are a Windows or Linux user what do you use. If you are a Mac user and use something different what is it and why. Tea Timer is a free application. Alarms cost $15.00 and has a 14 day free trial, its available in the App store for $7.99 ( no free trial) . I recommend both of these applications.

Innovations

Posted by tomwiles at 1:57 AM on February 26, 2011

For some time now, when it came to desktop and laptop computer hardware, innovation has seemed to be somewhat stagnate. After all, what more can be done with word processing software? How can spreadsheets possibly be improved? How can the browsing experience be made better? Can email be made more effective or efficient?

Form impacts function, but function often defines form. The popular form of the day is the smartphone and the tablet, both popularized thanks to Steve Jobs and his team at Apple. Today’s smartphones have processors that are as powerful as desktop machines were five years ago. However, the smaller capacitive touch input screens as well as always-on Internet connections have ended up making possible convenience, ease-of-use and sheer simplicity paramount features. That new software design/interface aesthetic is now traveling back to it’s larger computer counterparts.

Some time back, I downloaded the App store on my Macs, but gave it no more than an initial cursory look and promptly forgot about its presence. This evening while waiting for some files to upload, I noticed the Mac App Store icon and decided to look it over again now that it’s been around for a while.

I must say, the Mac App Store pleasantly surprises me. I ended up downloading a few free apps. The Mac App Store browsing and download experience replicates the iPod/iPhone app store experience. The process couldn’t be easier. By putting all of these apps together in one coherent place it makes it much more likely I’ll end up finding software that (a) I might never have gone looking for in a search engine and (b) gives me a place to look for specific types of software when I might need it. While it’s by no means a complete list of all possible Mac software, it is a welcome addition that will likely spur additional future software development.

Can desktop/laptop operating systems become more useful? There is always room for improvement. Basic business software – word processing, spreadsheets, etc. likely cannot be improved beyond what they are. On the other hand, other computer functions such as photo editing, video editing, etc. likely still have dramatic gains that can be made, particularly as hardware speed and throughput continue to improve.

OTT: Are We There Yet?

Posted by tomwiles at 2:36 AM on February 19, 2011

It’s been a while since dumping my $100-dollar-per-month Dish Network habit. Ominously for the existing broadcast/cable/satellite structure, I haven’t missed it – not even one little bit. Sorry guys, that money now goes for other discretionary things.

Save Our Buggy Whips!

I saw an article about the traditional broadcasters in Canada saying they needed to somehow “get ahead” of the Netflix/Hulu phenomenon before the inevitable hits them, before what is happening in the USA happens to them. Like most dinosaur products and services, instead of talking about how they can come up with better ways to serve customers in an ever-changing, innovative marketplace, they are essentially discussing how they can somehow entice or even force customers to maintain the status quo.

A primary reason that market and business conditions change over time is improved, innovative products and services come along that better serve the end consumer. Organizations and individuals that grow fat and lazy consuming cash cow largess naturally start whining when market conditions change and the cow has no more grass left on which to graze because the stagnant field has been stripped bare.

I Want My Set Top Box

I’ve been experimenting with several different TV set top box solutions. I’ve got an Intel Mac Mini set up as a DVR with an HDTV USB tuner stick. I’ve got a couple of Western Digital WD TV Live Plus boxes. I’ve got Playon TV software running on a an HP Windows Home Server box with about 30 different plugins that give me quick organized access to a ton of different on-demand streaming video content, including Hulu and a fair amount of network programming. I’ve got an original Mac Mini running a $50 software hack that includes Boxee and XBMC software. Finally, I’ve got an LG Blu-Ray player that has a number of different on-demand video services built in, including Netflix, Vudu, and a new recently-added service called Divx TV.

So far, none of these solutions is perfect for every viewing situation. My biggest complaint about on-demand video is that it’s virtually impossible to set up a video play list where I can start the video playing and get it to automatically continue to play without any further intervention. This is especially frustrating when I have a bunch of two or three-minute-long video podcasts to watch through and each file has to manually be started playing. Why can’t someone solve this problem? Every past successful form of media has been able to go into a continuous-play mode. Coming up with a solution to this problem of being able to start a group of video files playing and have them play continuously is ultimately critical if OTT is to be widely adopted.

Divx TV Comes Closer

Divx TV, which is currently available only on select LG Blu-Ray players, actually attempts to solve the continuous play problem. It has a channel up/down feature that immediately begins to play streaming podcast content in a window from a number of different content partners. As you go through the categories and drill down into the sub-categories, the video will immediately change to the newest one selected, just like changing a TV channel. The content is categorized in a number of different ways. Revision 3 is one of the content providers. If a Revision 3 podcast is selected, the latest episode will immediately begin to play in the window. At any point in the process, a “swap” button can be pressed to instantly make the video full-screen (or vice versa) without having to restart the video from the beginning. After the latest episode plays, the next-latest episode will play, etc. If left playing, it will eventually go through all available content and start playing the first episode.

Additionally, Divx TV has a search function where it’s possible to save search terms for future use. One of the problems I’ve ran into when using the search function to find videos from their database that aren’t in the packaged categories is file sizes are inconsistent. Since I’m using a point-to-point wireless Internet provider, my home Internet connection isn’t as fast as traditional cable or DSL connections. Larger video file sizes tend not to stream over slower connections so well and buffering can occur. The pre-packaged Divx TV category content providers provide a more consistent video streaming experience on less-robust Internet bandwidth connections and the video looks pretty good.

Eventually all of these problems must be solved.

What would be an ideal system for me? I’d like to be able to play the hundreds of video podcasts I’ve downloaded on every TV in my house and have them play continuously without intervention. I’d like to be able to mix and match custom streaming content, again with minimal intervention on my part. I’d like to be able to play any video I’ve recorded on my Mac Mini DVR on any TV set in my house via my wired home network. So far, none of these solutions I’ve tried can quite combine all of these features into one sleek package. By the way, the Mac Mini DVR can be a bit of a pain in the rear, since the on-screen computer screen text can’t be read from 15 feet away even on a 58” screen.

Are we there yet? Not quite, but the journey has definitely started.

ArtRage Painting Programs For Touchscreen Computers & iPad

Posted by tomwiles at 8:06 PM on February 12, 2011

ArtRage is a series of painting program for touchscreen computers, albeit with a twist. You can paint with actual paintbrushes! ArtRage 2 sells for $20 for Windows and Mac OS/X. ArtRage 3 Studio sells for $40 for Windows and Mac OS/X. ArtRage 3 Studio Pro, which contains additional features, sells for $80 for Windows and Mac OS/X. ArtRage is also available for the iPad.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine.Com.

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Globaltel Media’s Cherple for SMS and Texting Chat

Posted by Andrew at 6:53 PM on February 12, 2011

Tom and Todd get texting with Globaltel Media‘s free SMS chat platform, Cherple. Robert Sanchez, President & CEO, takes them through it.

Cherple is a free web-based SMS texting client, which in itself is not unusual – there a plenty of sites which can send SMS messages. But what makes this a little bit different is that the recipient can text the sender back again, even though the sender is at a computer. A whole text chat can then follow, back and forth.

It’s web-based, so can be used from any web browser, but Windows and Mac downloads are on offer, too.

Cherple currently only works for texts to US-based cellphones, but Globaltel are expecting to setup local Cherple sites in ten countries in the coming months.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central and Tom Newman of The Fogview Podcast.

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GadgetTrak Remote Tracking Software For Mobile Gadgets

Posted by tomwiles at 2:46 PM on February 9, 2011

GadgetTrak is a piece of software that you install on your mobile phone or laptop. The software will periodically check in and let you know the physical location of the device. If a camera is present, for example on a laptop, it can even take a photo of the thief and email it back to the owner. The software cannot be disabled by the thief.

For a Mac or Windows laptop, the price is $34.95 per year.

For Android and Blackberry phones, which includes remote data wipe ability, secure encrypted backup and a loud piercing audible alarm even if the device is in silent mode, the price is $19.95 per year.

For iPhone, iPod, and iPad, the GadgetTrak app is .99 cents, The iOS version does not include remote data wipe, but does include remote camera and push notification support to inform the thief of the GadgetTrak software’s presence.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine.

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Zoodles Child-Safe Play App

Posted by Andrew at 8:02 PM on January 29, 2011

Jeffrey interviews Mark Williamson, CEO of Zoodles, which makes software that gives a “kid mode” to devices such as PCs, tablets and smartphones. As I suspect most parents will testify, children are always keen to get their hands on Mommmy’s or Daddy’s latest toy. The “kid mode” creates a walled-garden (or sand-pit) that includes lots of child-friendly educational games and activities, such as painting, and prevents the child from accessing other software on the phone. I’ve had a look at the Zoodles website and there are plenty of games for different age ranges, including games from Lego and Disney.

Recently, Zoodles has been focussing on Android but there are versions for iOS, Mac and PC. The basic version is free, though there is a Premium membership that gives more control over the software.

I’ll be trying this out with my 3 year old – any chance of a WebOS version?

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of The Geekazine Podcast.

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OWC — Other World Computing — High Performance Aftermarket SSD Drives

Posted by tomwiles at 7:43 PM on January 21, 2011

Grant Dahlke from Other World Computing aka MacSales.com introduces Sandforce processor-based high capacity, high-performance SSD (solid state drive) hard drives for computers such as Apple’s Macbook Air that are up to three times larger and up to 22% faster than the drive than Apple’s OEM drive. They also have a line of drives for older IDE and ATA machines, which enables much better performance from older computing hardware due to the much faster read/write times of solid state drives as opposed to the performance of conventional spinning hard drives.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central.

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Samsung 58″ Class (58.0″ Diag.) 500 Series 1080p Plasma HDTV

Posted by tomwiles at 12:28 AM on January 13, 2011

A few days ago I made a trip to my local Best Buy store and ended up walking out with a Samsung 58” 500 Series Plasma HDTV. I’d gone into the store thinking if I left with anything, it would most likely be an LCD HDTV. However, after spending quite a while comparing picture quality and prices on the massive number of sets covering the big-box store’s back wall, I happened upon the Samsung model PN58C500, a 58” Plasma.

This Samsung Plasma has an absolutely stunning picture, rivaling the best high-end LCD sets that cost two and almost three times more. The PN58C500 sells for $1,197.99. I happened to have a “Best Buy Rewards” coupon for 10% percent off of any HDTV set costing $750 or more, and the coupon did end up applying to the PN58C500. My final price, including our rather high local sales taxes, ended up being $1,147.

There’s no 3D circuitry, but that’s not a problem for me since I consider 3D TV’s (as well as 3D movies) to be a useless gimmick. The PN58C500 has Samsung’s “AllShare DLNA Networking” that allows the set to connect to computers and DLNA servers running on your home network to stream HD video via Ethernet. I’ve also got a Mac Mini, as well as a Western Digital HD Live Plus media player attached directly to the set via my surround sound receiver/switcher.

The PN58C500 has a useful variety of video formatting modes to easily cycle through via the remote control that facilitates getting the right picture format for the particular video you are watching or device you are watching it from. It has 3 HDMI inputs, and is a thin 2.8 inches thick.

The remote control seems to be a bit touchy, needing to be pointed at the set to ensure that remote control commands register. Also, the built-in speakers seem to fire out of the bottom, but the volume levels are more than loud enough to be usable.

If you are looking for a new big-screen HDTV, you can’t go wrong buying this set considering the price versus value. I cannot over-stress the absolutely stunning picture quality this set produces.

Sophos Offers Free Anti-Virus for Macs

Posted by Andrew at 1:00 AM on November 4, 2010

Sophos logoThere’s no doubt that Apple Macs and Linux PCs are far less likely to suffer from virus infections or malware when compared to their Windows cousins, but there’s also no doubt that newer technologies such as cross-platform scripting can lead to vulnerabilities across the board.  Besides no-one wants to be blamed for passing on a virus infection as payload in a file, even if your computer isn’t actually infected.

McAfee and Kaspersky have had Mac security products for awhile and now Sophos joins the list by offering its Anti-Virus Home Edition for Mac and best of all, Sophos is offering it for free!

Apparently “based on Sophos’s flagship security software, which protects over 100 million business users worldwide”, the software has protection, detection and disinfection capabilities for viruses and malware on OS X.  It will also detect Windows viruses present in files but aren’t activated.  As with most Windows anti-virus products, the Sophos Anti-Virus Home Edition runs in the background, scanning files on-access. You can read more about the technical specs and download the software here.

I’m not a Mac user, but if I was, I’d already have Anti-Virus Home Edition downloaded and installed.  Yes, I know that it’s arguable that there aren’t any OS X viruses right now, but you can bet that they’re coming and when they do, the viruses will burn through the Mac community like wildfire as most people don’t have protection.  It’s free to download so what have you got to lose except a few CPU cycles?