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Tag "Tools/Reviews"

If you use RSS, Google Reader is among the best there is. So good, in fact, that I imported all my old Blog­lines feeds. The inter­face, the star­ring of impor­tant feed items, the shar­ing — all of it is addictive.

Recently, I started using the Vienna client on OSX, which looks good but it's a pain to man­age the feed list­ings in two places– Google Reader, and local Vienna.  Yes, you can import your Google Reader OPML into Vienna, but to have them synced, you need to import it often.

But that's a man­ual sync and not very useful.

If Vienna's user forums are any indi­ca­tion, the auto­matic syn­chro­niza­tion between Google Reader and Vienna is among the top requested fea­tures, and I can under­stand why.

Well, I won't be wait­ing for Vienna any­more, as the Adobe AIR Google Reader client is here, and it works like a charm!


The inter­face is very Mac OSX like, very clean and nifty. Just set up your Google email and password:

And you are ready to roll. Of course, it doesn't (yet) have the func­tion­al­ity to tweak font sizes or flag impor­tant items or share — i.e., a com­plete desk­top alter­na­tive to Vienna or Google Reader, but this is a fan­tas­tic start.

Google Reader Desktop Client - Adobe AIR

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The excel­lent Google Docs ser­vice has already thrown the gaunt­let in the Office doc­u­ment edit­ing space. If your needs are to have a basic Word or Excel doc­u­ment with­out auto­matic pag­ing, or foot­notes, or Table of Con­tents, and such, then Google is already a pretty sound option to do your doc­u­ments and save them as DOC or PDF files.

The best part is the live col­lab­o­ra­tion that Google or the likes of Zoho have made pos­si­ble. Online col­lab­o­ra­tion among team mem­bers was some­thing in which Microsoft has also dab­bled, but in its typ­i­cal man­ner of releas­ing "Enter­prise" fea­tures. No sur­prise that that has never really become the norm out­side some cor­po­rate microcosms.

Today, Google has upped the ante in the war for online doc­u­ment edit­ing by launch­ing the tem­plates. Sim­ple addi­tion to their rapidly grow­ing arse­nal, but a shape of things to come. From wed­ding invites to busi­ness let­ters, it's an eas­ily expand­able ser­vice. The API and "open source" exten­si­bil­ity think­ing of Google will make sure that you or I can con­tribute our own tem­plates to the gallery. Nifty.

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As it says on the tin:

Update: Here's a great list of things to do.

  1. Main­Menu. Free. Superla­tive. Cre­ates a neat lit­tle menu item on the top bar. Bet­ter than most other tools I have tried for this pur­pose, espe­cially in its clean inter­face. Some­times, if you have the plea­sure of expe­ri­enc­ing a sit­u­a­tion when the Trash won't clean because OSX says that the "Appli­ca­tion is still in use" but you're sure you quit it and it's not live any­way, MainMenu's "Force Empty Trash" is a fab­u­lous tool to have at your fin­ger­tips.
  2. Lit­tle Snitch: Tells you every­time some pro­gram on your machine wants to "call home" and con­nect to some server. Great flex­i­bil­ity in allow­ing the pro­gram to con­nect to a server, a port, or in gen­eral. Allow (or Deny) it to con­nect only once, or until the appli­ca­tion quits, or For­ever.
  3. RCDe­fault­App: Just as it is on any OS from Win­dows to Ubuntu, it often hap­pens that you would like to asso­ciate cer­tain file types with cer­tain appli­ca­tions. On Mac OSX, we do have the same right-click con­tex­tual menu as Win­dows that allows "Open with [Appli­ca­tion]" and "Make this the default appli­ca­tion", but for some rea­son this doesn't always work, and occa­sion­ally doesn't even show up as an option. No mat­ter. RCDe­fault­App is the appli­ca­tion that allows you to do that superbly, and then some.
  4. But­ler: Another small util­ity with a neg­li­gi­ble foot­print that allows for some nifty short­cuts to stuff already on your machine.
  5. Per­ian: No Mac should be with­out this. This pretty much explains itself. There's a nice video tuto­r­ial here that shows how easy it is to install and then for­get it. Sud­denly your Quick­time (and iTunes) will be able to play a whole raft of video for­mats. If you want to be really equipped, get the Divx codec, the 3ivx, and Flip4Mac which plays wmv (Win­dows Media Player) files on your Mac. Of course if you get really frus­trated there's always the tried and tested VLC Player.
  6. CleanApp: The best appli­ca­tion unin­staller out there, hands down. Don't believe for a minute when the OSX man­u­als tell you that on a Mac all you need to do is drag the appli­ca­tion into the Trash and you're done. BS. Many appli­ca­tions (think Adobe) install sev­eral things in sev­eral loca­tions. CleanApp 3 tells you all the asso­ci­ated trap­pings of these appli­ca­tions and allows you to unin­stall them all together.CleanApp is not free, alas (there is always a poor man's App­Cleaner, which does some basic stuff) but it allows for much more gran­u­lar con­trol. The best part: CleanApp has a "Log­ging" ser­vice that keeps track of what­ever you install, and then knows in gran­u­lar detail every­thing that you need to unin­stall later; you can enable and dis­able this log­ging ser­vice at will, so it is use­ful to keep it gen­er­ally off and only switch it on before you are under­tak­ing a seri­ous install of soft­ware, such as Final Cut Pro from Apple for example.
  7. Tin­ker­Tools: To mod­ify the many sys­tem pref­er­ences in your OSX that should have been made tinker-able but are not. Us Win­dows switch­ers are used to mod­ding every­thing, so this is a fab­u­lous tool.
  8. Trans­mis­sion: The best tor­rent client for OSX. Very sim­ple, no-nonsense, and yet pretty inter­face. BitRocket is all google-juiced as it has been around longer, but it went down more often than Paris Hilton's pants.  Limewire now has an OSX ver­sion too, but I am done with crash­ing and slow down­load speeds unless you cough up a few dol­lars.
  9. Candy Bar: If you really, really want to mod­ify your icons. Panic is one of the bet­ter soft­ware devel­op­ers for the OSX plat­form. Their Uni­son tool, a native OSX Usenet client is pure code poetry. There's a lot of iconog­ra­phy avail­able at their part­ner web­site Icon­Fac­tory. Can­dy­Bar is not free though. If you are short on cash, you can always try the some­what bare­bones Lite­Icon.
  10. Vienna: The best and most ele­gant RSS reader client for OSX at the moment. Now if only they could sync it with Google Reader, Bob might be my uncle. How long has the Google API been out now!?
  11. Chicken of the VNC: The best VNC client out there, con­nects with­out prob­lems to Win­dows VNC servers too.

  12. Omni­DiskSweeper: As you start using your OSX, and installing appli­ca­tions and such, your hard disk usage keeps mount­ing (no pun intended). The fast, small foot­print Omni­DiskSweeper does this job faster than any­thing else on the mar­ket, includ­ing the some­what visu­ally pret­tier What­Size.
  13. Mono­lin­gual: Like Win­dows, OSX also comes with about a gazil­lion lan­guages pre­in­stalled, which take sev­eral giga­bytes on your hard disk. Like­wise, OSX the oper­at­ing sys­tem also comes with a num­ber of archi­tec­tures such as Pow­erPC even if you have an Intel sys­tem, because the same OS needs to sup­port older Apple hard­ware. Any­one who has bought a new sys­tem with Intel's archi­tec­tures (the lat­est Mac­books or iMacs) can safely get rid of the other archi­tec­tures. Mono­lin­gual is a sim­ple, free util­ity that does exactly that.
  14. Tech Tools Pro: Expla­na­tion com­ing soon.
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Quite sim­ple. As it says on the tin. OSX will often try to "intel­li­gently" asso­ciate your files with the soft­ware most likely to be able to open it. But this is not what you always want.

For instance, I do not want *.png files open­ing up with Adobe Fire­works just because I use the soft­ware to cre­ate new ones.

Here's a mighty use­ful app that allows you to set the default appli­ca­tions for file exten­sions, or mime type, or most com­mon uses (such as "Email", "Brows­ing") etc. It sits snugly within the "Sys­tem Pref­er­ences" and is quite easy to access.

How it looks:

Default Apps in OSX

Click on the image to go to the developer's website.

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Panic, the mak­ers of some fan­tas­tic soft­ware such as Trans­mit or Panic, also have the most light-weight audio con­verter for the Mac OSX platform.

It's called Audion: get it here.

It's now a FREE soft­ware. Just use the free ser­ial provided:

RNL07P0-030HWMV-4MAGDS3-4U17REX

Works per­fectly.

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Finally, we can (hope­fully) test Safari on Win­dows too, but it remains to be seen how this com­pares with Fire­fox and its bat­tal­ion of exten­sions and the ever-blazing Opera.

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Con­vert from (m)any video for­mat to any other.

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Very use­ful util­ity for the file opener/saver dia­log boxes in Windows.

Here's a nifty lit­tle util­ity that allows you to set most often-used fold­ers on your PC and access them quickly from a FILE OPEN dia­logue box.

These lit­tle icons appear in all the File –> Open boxes in Win­dows. Which is very handy. Among the sev­eral cus­tomiza­tions you can make to this oft-used file dia­log box is the abil­ity to auto­mat­i­cally sort the file names by name, date, size, or type, and the abil­ity to see the file names in Details or Thumb­nails views. (Btw, the skin you see in that screen­shot above is from Fly­aki­teosx).

How to Change FbX But­ton Images

You can tell a util­ity is well coded if you can cus­tomize it to your tastes. I have changed the icons that come with the tool as default (which are some­what Win3.1-ish). This is sim­ple. In the folder where you installed File­Box eXten­der, there's a sub-folder named ICONS. Inside that are sev­eral stan­dard for­mat Win­dows icon files (with the exten­sion .ICO). Copy a pair of these files into the main pro­gram folder, and then rename them to FAVORITE.ICO and RECENT.ICO. Now exit and restart File­Box eXten­der. (In some cases you will have to reboot your machine — exit­ing and restart­ing the pro­gram may not be enough to effect the change). That's it. Your new icons should now appear.

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A lovely fire­wall prod­uct that hogs lesser resources than the ubiq­ui­tous Zone Alarm, pro­vides bet­ter report­ing and pro­tec­tion options, and is still com­pletely free.

Fire­walls are dime a dozen these days. When the con­cept of a fire­wall first became impor­tant on home com­put­ers, with the advent of real high-speed broad­band, Tiny Per­sonal Fire­wall was the best. It even had the approval of experts. Unfor­tu­nately, CA stepped in and gob­bled up the company.

Zone Alarm was already a strong con­tender, but with Tiny gone, it soon became the de-facto fire­wall on the machine of users who knew bet­ter than to let this com­puter floun­der under the bloat­ware of Mcafee or Symantec.

Unfor­tu­nately, of late, Zone Alarm has been a bit of a hog on my machine. It's a Core2Duo, which means soft­ware such as Zone Alarm should cheer­fully work in par­al­lel with no fuss. AVG for instance scans my entire machine for an hour with­out my so much as both­er­ing about it.

It is in this con­text that I came across Comodo Fire­wall, one that is rec­om­mended by more than a few techies. Being a born tin­kerer, I was off in a jiffy to down­load the thing. And short story: it rocks.

Below's a screen­shot. It looks more pro­fes­sional than even Zone Alarm Pro. There are more options, explained more clearly.

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The MKV for­mat, although never orig­i­nally intended to share stuff online because it's large and really high qual­ity, has now become stan­dard. Espe­cially now with Blu-Ray becom­ing a stan­dard. But some of us are happy stor­ing AVI for our own use espe­cially if we can have it in decent-enough qual­ity (MKV files are usu­ally 1GB or more for, say, a film).

Google is full of tools and util­i­ties that allow MKV to AVI con­ver­sion. Many of them are share­ware. You down­load them free but then you have to cough up $29.99.

I have found the FREE tool, All2AVI ( http://sourceforge.net/projects/alltoavi/ ) does the job and does it superbly. It's fast, free, and the con­ver­sion from MKV and other for­mats to AVI hap­pens pretty effi­ciently and reliably.

If you're on OSX, you can use Visu­al­Hub or Sub­merge, but both of them are a bit unre­li­able. Visu­al­Hub in par­tic­u­lar is a fan­tas­tic way to do any con­ver­sion on Mac OSX, but if it col­lapses with a cryp­tic "Sorry, could not con­vert for some rea­son", then you may wish to use All­toAVI inside an XP vir­tual machine.

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