• With an alphabet soup of media file formats floating around, it’s tough to figure out what you need to play the video you downloaded last. VLC is probably the only multimedia player that can play virtually any video or audio file. Apart from being able to grapple with various popular and unpopular formats, it also handles DVDs, VCDs and various streaming protocols without sending you back to the Net to search for external codecs.
• eed to convert video for your portable media player or squeeze that humongous file into a more lightweight, portable format? Download the humbly-named, though very capable, all-in-one video converting tool, Any Video Converter.
• If editing, tweaking, tuning audio files is what you want to do, the easy-to-use Audacity is simply the best free audio editor around.
• on’t think that only an expensive program such as Adobe Photoshop can manipulate images so magically. Get GIMP, a close equivalent. It may not be as sophisticated as the world’s favourite application, but it’s robust and competent. If you want a more Photoshop-like feel, get GIMP shop.
• Lastly, to find, organize, manage, tweak and share your collection of images, there is nothing on planet earth as slick as Picasa.
Even as the news of pop culture phenomenon Michael Jackson’s death ricocheted around the world, developers at Google and Yahoo were panicking.
The reason? They thought that the sudden upsurge in traffic was a virus attack. If technology behemoths such as these can fear attacks on their servers, you surely need to be doubly certain of your security options.
• If you are looking for a good antivirus to keep gremlins at bay, download the AVG Free Edition.
• You need further protection in the form of Spybot—Search and Destroy. This is a great free tool for detecting and removing all sorts of spyware that find their way into computers.
• Also get Ad-Aware, a tool for the detection of, and protection against, malicious intruders such as spyware, trojans, rootkits, hijackers and keyloggers, among others.
• You can’t ignore Secunia Personal Software Inspector. This tracks security vulnerabilities in well-known applications and monitors your PC for known exploits. When found, PSI points you to a security patch.
• Now, this one is for all of us who use multiple passwords for our different accounts. You can save yourself the trouble of remembering all these passwords by installing KeePass. An iron-clad, little master key, cubby hole safe, it caches all your passwords in one place very securely encrypted.
• Instead of cajoling your vendor to install a pirated copy of Microsoft Office on your PC, download OpenOffice. This almost equally competent, multi-platform, multilingual office suite gives you word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics and database management for free.
• Top that with TinySpell, a spellchecker that monitors your spelling in all text that you input in any program. This download’s replacement suggestions are drawn from an American-English database of 110,000 words that you can append your own words to as well. A major drawback of the free version is that it doesn’t highlight mistakes within the text, but gives you suggestions only as you type.
• Windows’ default notepad was born when dinos roamed the earth. Well, almost. Download the powerful and eminently usable Notepad++ with its tabbed multi-doc interface, drag and drop support, and macro recording capabilities, among others, instead.
• Postbox, with its Web 2.0-ish feel and tabbed interface, is a good desktop email alternative that also allows you to upload to Twitter, FriendFeed, MySpace, Delicious and Google. It offers great search capabilities—even for images.
• Don’t mindlessly download Adobe Reader just because everyone has it. Try Foxit Reader first. It’s much faster on its feet and weighs only about 3.5MB, against Reader’s 25.5MB.
• One of the biggest irritants on a new PC are craplets—pre-installed adware and trialware—that come with big brand PCs. The PC Decrapifier is a diagnostic utility that searches for known craplets on your PC and lists such instances. You can peruse this list and uninstall whatever you want.
• And because Windows Add and Remove doesn’t kill all components—files, folders and registry keys—efficiently, you need something as lethal and painless as Revo Uninstaller to do the job.
• Talking of searches, a good search tool is an essential program sorely missing on all PCs. Try Everything, a superfast local search engine that locates files and folders almost instantly. You have to use it once to realize how fleet-footed it is.
• For a file compression/decompression application, fetch 7-Zip. This tackle-all archiving/unzipping program integrates with your right-click menu and even handles Mac-formatted archives, multi-file RAR packages, ISO images and more.
• Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology saves us a lot. And the king of all programs VoIP is Skype. A must-download for everyone using the Net for video and voice chats, this top-drawer, peer-to-peer program boasts instant messaging (IM), screen sharing, contact sharing, as well as birthday reminders, among other features.
Now you can share videos you took on Flip video recorders by sending them to the iPhones of friends. The new FlipShare application for iPhones pairs with software on your computer to create “channels”, on which you send and receive videos. When you plug the camera into your computer, a menu comes up with a FlipShare icon. Drag and drop the videos you want to send into “My Channels”. The videos load to Flip’s servers, where you can get to them from any computer. On your computer, click “share” to send videos to friends by email. If recipients have an iPhone with FlipShare, they will get the video there as well as on their computer.
©2009/THE NEW YORK TIMES
Convert video files into iPod touch-friendly clips
Many programs can convert video files in various formats into iPod touch-friendly clips that can be copied on to the player through iTunes. Try Videora Converter (www.videora.com) or HandBrake (handbrake.fr) that work on either Windows or Mac systems. Either should be fine for old personal video files on DVD. Follow the program’s instructions for converting the file. In iTunes, choose Add to Library from the File menu and import. Add it to your Touch the next time you sync it up.
©2009/THE NEW YORK TIMES
Windows XP comes with a Remote Assistance feature that lets an “expert” control the computer of a “novice” over a network connection (such as the Internet) to adjust system settings, look for lost files or provide other help. The feature takes a little bit of advance set-up, Click here for the full overview. Windows Vista also has its own Windows Remote Assistance service that can let it connect to other computers running Vista or Windows XP. To use it, go to the Start button to All Programs. Click on Maintenance and then on Windows Remote Assistance in the menu. A wizard then offers to walk you through the steps of either helping or being helped. A page on Microsoft’s site (bit.ly/12rMiq) explains how Remote Assistance works and offers some caveats about privacy and security.
©2009/THE NEW YORK TIMES
A universal charger for data-enabled handsets
Ten of the world’s leading mobile phone makers have announced their plans to introduce a universal charger for data-enabled handsets as of next year. The companies, including Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Apple, Motorola, Research in Motion and Samsung, have said that they are committed to developing the universal charger which will work for data-enabled cellphones that support USB data exchange. The European Union industry commissioner Guenter Verheugen says selling a single, standard charger will cut costs and reduce the number of chargers thrown away. Some companies were reluctant to introduce such a charger, fearing that it could make it easier for customers to switch to a new brand, instead of staying loyal to their existing accessories.