MacHeist 3 Bundle in Progress

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We love great Mac software, especially when it comes bundled with other great Mac software. To wit, we’ve mentioned MacHeist before when they ran a previous software bundle called MacHeist 2 early in 2008. At its core, MacHeist is a way to get a nice array of high quality software for the Mac for a small amount of money. We have purchased the first two bundles and still regularly use a lot of the applications that came in them.

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The current bundle includes the following applications: Continue reading this post…

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Playing with a MSI Wind Netbook

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The extra-small notebooks often referred to as “netbooks” are all the rage right now. After waiting patiently for anyone I knew to buy one with no luck, I finally surrendered to temptation and bought one myself. I chose the MSI Wind U100-432us because I found one at a good price and I liked its features.

Once my MSI Wind came in from Newegg, I immediately started using it to see what I did and didn’t like. Included with this post are two photos of the Wind together with my 13.3″ Macbook for comparison. Continue reading this post…

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Using a Flash Drive in Windows 98

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Just this week, I found it necessary to try and plug a flash drive into two older laptops running Windows 98 in order to transfer some information. One laptop had a USB port, the other did not. Now, here are the challenges:

(1) Get a USB port in the laptop without one
(2) Windows 98 does not have built-in drivers for flash drives and other USB connecting devices, so drivers needed to be found.USB_PCMCIA.jpg

Solution Part One. PCMCIA cards (also called PC cards) are available which have USB ports on them. The card goes in the slot(s) on the side of the laptop. Cost is about $15-25; just make sure you purchase one which has Windows 98 drivers. See some examples on www.newegg.com. Continue reading this post…

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Keep Windows Running Smoothly with Glary Utilities

GlaryUtils1.jpgJust like with your car, your computer needs regular maintenance. While you can’t change the oil on a Windows PC, you can utilize software to tidy things up a bit and, in general, help Windows perform better. We recommend that you run updated anti-virus and anti-malware software in order to keep your PC free of malicious software that can sap your performance or worse. In addition, we run a piece of software called Fix-It Utilities by Avanquest. Fix-It is great software that goes through and optimizes and defragments our registry, removes junk files and other tasks that dramatically improve performance. Unfortunately, Fix-It costs about $30 and we can really only use it on one PC per license, which can get expensive when working on customer PCs. Now for the good news. We have now found a free piece of software that performs many of the same tasks. It is called Glary Utilities by Glarysoft and it runs on Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Vista. It contains a wide variety of modules that perform all manner of tasks. My favorites are: Continue reading this post…

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Beta Watch – 2.25.09

A couple of big applications were released to beta or release candidate in the last two days. The first big one is Apple’s Safari web browser, which has released a beta version of Safari 4, which was released yesterday. New features include cover-flow style browsing of your history and bookmarks, faster browsing and a thumbnail style viewer for your most visited sites. It is still in beta so should not be used as your primary browser but should be safe for checking out the new features (available for Mac & PC).

Secondly, Microsoft has released the Release Candidate (RC) of Windows Vista Service Pack 2 to developers. The broader release to the general public will come soon with the final release of SP2 coming in the second quarter of 2009. This will largely be a roll-up of previously released patches with more hardware support and other tweaks included. This is obviously a big deal as Vista is Microsoft’s flagship operating system and should be the last major update before the launch of the new Windows 7 OS. I first saw this story here at PC Mag.

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Make PC-Compatible ZIP Files on a Mac

YemuZip.jpgWorking with compressed file formats can be a real pain, especially when trying to use them across both Macs and PCs. Files with the .ZIP file extension are compressed archive files that are very common on the PC. Unfortunately, ZIP files that are created on the Mac contain a lot of Mac-specific metadata that when opened on a PC, look like a bunch of garbage data. To defeat this, I have found a little, free program called YemuZip. It is a very simplistic program to use. You simply drag the files or folders that you want to compress onto the program workspace and it goes to work creating the file. Once you drop the files, you are prompted for a new file name and location and whether to make the ZIP file PC compatible or Mac specific. Hit OK and you are done. Check it out here.

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Microsoft’s “Ultimate Steal” Deal

Office_Ultimate.jpgMicrosoft is the proverbial “800 pound gorilla” in the software world when it comes to operating systems (i.e., Windows XP and Vista) and office software (that is, Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc.).

Students enrolled at most traditional four-year universities are able to legally purchase either of these lines of products through their schools at greatly reduced prices. I have heard of prices as low as $10-20 for Windows and a similar price for MS Office.

Not as well known is that Microsoft also makes something available called the “ULTIMATE STEAL” for $59.95. Restricted to students at colleges with .edu websites or on a special list maintained by Microsoft, this package consists of:

Microsoft® Office Ultimate 2007 with a Perpetual license, which includes the following applications: Continue reading this post…

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Find Great Tech Bargains at Shopper.com

We are well known to a small group of people as the go-to guys for good technology buying advice. We habitually save the Sunday circulars from the paper and often direct people to go to this place or another for an inexpensive laptop or projector. We also have a number of sites on the Internet that we check regularly. However, I recently came across the Deals site of CNET.com, found at Shopper.com, and was struck by the great bargains that I found there. There are daily new posts on good deals on notebook computers, desktops, monitors, televisions and a myriad of other tech related gadgets and products. Some of the great features that I like is that they often list discounts and coupon codes along with shipping discounts. Be sure to check the site out and add it to your bookmarks to visit regularly.

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Live Search Maps – A Google Earth Alternative

Google Earth is the king of online virtual mapping. If you want to see what almost any area of the Earth looks like from above, it is the default choice. However, Microsoft has an alternative, and its pretty awesome in its own right. It is called Live Search Maps and it allows you to view maps and the Earth in a variety of exciting ways.

LiveMaps1.jpgYou can view maps in several different formats. You can view a specific location as a Street Map, which is similar to the type of map that is probably folded up in the glovebox of your car. Points of interest are labeled and marked and many contain specific information about that point of interest. The streets and highways are clearly labeled to assist with finding your way around. Another view is the Aerial View which is satellite imagery overlaid with labels. This view is very similar to what you get with Google Earth. My favorite view is the Bird’s Eye View. LiveMaps2.jpgThese images are taken from low flying aircraft at a 40 degree angle and allows for dramatic views of cityscapes. You can easily read billboards and see pedestrians going about their daily lives. The Bird’s Eye View shots of famous landmarks are particularly striking and should not be missed. You can see the Bird’s Eye View from four different angles (N, S, E, W) so you can see different sides of buildings, landmarks, etc. The final viewing option is 3D Maps which allow you to view some of the cities in 3D. This is a very cool feature but it does require a plugin for your browser in order to work.

Some other neat features include the ability to view all of the maps with or without labels. This allows LiveMaps3.jpgyou remove some of the clutter. You can also easily zoom in and out simply by using the scroll wheel of your mouse or the controls located on the maps. Finally, for those who live in areas where traffic is a concern, you can use these maps to follow the flow of traffic and to see where congestion is a problem in real-time. This is not an issue here in Lubbock, Texas as the worst traffic that we deal with is five cars stopped at a red light. However, it could be invaluable to users in larger cities such as Los Angeles.

Live Search Maps is a free service and could be a big time waster as it can get quite addicting! In my experience, its not as fast as Google Earth but it does offer some unique features that are worth checking out. Let us know what you think in the comments section.

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WordPress.tv – Video Tutorials for WordPress

WordPress is a very popular, powerful and free blogging platform and content management system (CMS). We here at the home office run almost all of our web sites using it and we highly recommend it to anyone who asks for website advice. WordPress is great for family sites, eCommerce sites, business sites and just about any other type of site that you can think of. if you are looking to launch a website or want to get some more information about WordPress, we recommend that you go to WordPress.tv. The site features a ton of video tutorials appropriate for beginners and advanced users of WordPress. I consider myself a more advanced user and I have learned a number of new things after visiting the site.

Future articles will go deeper into the benefits, features and uses for WordPress, so keep an eye out for it.

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The Best Free Software of 2009 – by PC Magazine

We here at the home office love free software. Just one look at the myriad of posts on the site will tell you that. However, it isn’t always easy to find great new software that is also free. To this end, we love sites that publish lists of “best free software” as it allows us to quickly peruse and find new stuff. Check out The Best Free Software of 2009 – Features by PC Magazine to find just such a great list. The list has 173 free software applications and they are sorted by category like video, office, finance and graphics and includes software on PC, Mac and Linux.  I even found some apps that I had never heard of before including Camstudio (screen recorder) and Zoundry Raven (blogging software) which I intend to download and try out.

Thanks PC Mag!

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TokBox – Great, Free Video Calling

TokBox_1.jpgA phone call is so twentieth century. If you want to come into the twenty-first century, you need to take advantage of your broadband Internet connection and your webcam and begin video calling. Services like Skype and instant messaging clients such as AIM, Yahoo and MSN Messenger have been offering video calling or chatting over the Internet for years. Video calling allows you to see and hear the person that you are talking to in real-time. It is a great thing to do if you have friends or family who live too far away to visit regularly. For example, my wife, living in Texas, has a video chat with our sister-in-law, who lives in Virginia, every morning. They drink coffee together and generally enjoy each other’s company. Our kids get to see each other daily even though they are thousands of miles away. What a great innovation and one that you can easily enjoy using TokBox. Continue reading this post…

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What is Twitter?

It seems that new services and sites rise up daily on the Internet to fill people’s need to be “social.” There is MySpace and Facebook, Flickr and Tumblr, blogs and micro-blogging platforms. All of these sites seek to allow people to interact with other people in some shape or fashion. One such site/service that has risen up is called Twitter. Continue reading this post…

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New Version of Audacity Released

One of my most indispensable applications is Audacity, the free and open source audio editor. I use it practically every single day and it has replaced a number of other applications that were purchased for hundreds of dollars. It is rock solid stable and runs on all of the operating systems that use, including Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. A great aspect of its open source nature is that it is in a constant state of development. New features are added regularly and these improvements always seem to add new layers of functionality to an already fantastic program. Another update has been recently released, bringing the Audacity Beta to version 1.3.6. While it is called a beta release, we here at the site can confidently advise you to use it as a stable release.

AudacityNewExport.jpgThere are a number of new features and improvements  with the biggest being the addition of support for FFMPEG file types. These types include Windows Media Audio (WMA), M4A, AC3 and the ability to import audio from video files. The real game changer here is the support for WMA as this is a very popular format that has up to this point, not been supported by Audacity. This will allow us to pull WMA audio off of our Olympus digital audio recorders and edit it directly in Audacity without having to convert via a 3rd party application first. Continue reading this post…

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Use FormatFactory to Convert Your Media

There are a ton of media converters out there. Some are good and many are not so good. We’ve covered excellent audio converters Switch and Max on this site before. However, there are other types of media out there that need converting and FormatFactory is a great tool for converting your audio, video and photos from one format to another. 

FormatFactory supports the following formats:

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