Category Archives: Video Calling

Skype – Right for Your Life? Part Two

image As many of you know, last week Google announced free phone calls to “real phones”, not just PC to PC calls , using Gmail as the launch platform. After kicking the tires on this new Google service, I came away very impressed.

The buzz, all this week, on this new offering from Google, seemed to center around the (negative) impact on Skype, the granddaddy of “free” communication applications. Personally, I don’t buy into the negative impact view.

If the  installed application base means anything, and it does, then Skype, with its 560 million registered users, versus Gmail’s 200 million users (of which only a small percentage have signed up for the new service), would have to commit a series of critical blunders to lose market position.

We’ve seen market leaders stumble and fall in the past of course, but Skype has always been highly proactive to changing market conditions. In the past few days, for example, Skype has released version 5.0 Beta 2 for Windows which includes the following new features.

New in version 5.0 Beta 2:

10-way group video calling – Making a 10-way group video call requires a very fast computer, the minimum system requirements for is Intel Core2duo 2 GHz CPU or equivalent, the recommended CPU is Intel i7.

Skype Home experience – Skype Home is a new area in Skype which provides relevant updates for you, including information about your purchases, your friends’ mood message updates, and videos to help new users get started with Skype.

Offline instant messaging – You can send and receive messages from your friends who are offline at the moment. The messages will be delivered at the moment when the other party or you will sign in to Skype, even if your friend is not online anymore.

New contact search and add experience

Enhanced call experience under problematic conditions – Built in client messaging which informs you about potential issues with the call and what to do to improve your call quality.

Post call experience

General User Interface refresh – Numerous updates to Skype’s left side screen there is a new profile and mood message entrance area as part of Skype Home

Regular users are familiar with the following standard features.

Improved sound quality over regular telephones.

Secure end-to-end encryption.

Uses peer-to-peer technology for even more enhanced security.

Video calling – I have to admit I find this feature invaluable.

Conference calling – a very cool feature.

Online status notification – online, away, do not disturb, invisible, offline.

Contact creation, including groups, and importation from MS Outlook and Outlook Express etc.

Screen sharing – I find a lot of uses for this feature.

Chat – I find this a great help for sharing URL’s which can then be opened during a video call to facilitate the sharing of information.

In its basic form, Skype is a free communication package, using proprietary code, which allows users to make free computer to computer calls, including video calls. I use the Skype video calling feature dozens of times a day to speak with contacts worldwide.

As well, there are a bundle of additional features, that can be purchased at a low cost, which will expand the application’s functionality.

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Available Upgrade features:

Call phones and mobiles

Receive calls from phones and mobiles with an online number

Voicemail – Send and receive voicemails

Forward calls to phones

Transfer calls to phones and mobiles

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System requirements:

Windows XP, Vista or 7

Sound input and output devices – microphone and speakers, or a headset. Of course, for video calling you’ll need a webcam.

Download at: Skype

Note: beta versions are still a work in progress, so you might find the odd bug.

I’ll continue to use both Skype and Google Voice as complimentary applications (not competitive applications), since each applications excels in areas that are not necessarily crossovers.

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Filed under Communication, downloads, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Skype, Software, Video Calling, Web Cam Applications, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Free Phone Calls From Gmail – Yes It’s Free, But Is It Any Good?

image If you live in North America, you’ll know that “FREE” is one of the most overused, and undefined words – ever. Free, has so many variables attached, that it’s virtually worthless as a descriptor.

If you don’t live in North America, it’s still probable that the same conditions apply where you live, as well.

Despite the fact that “free”, is a very uncertain term, and despite the fact that we’ve all aware of that old expression – “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”, advertisers continue to appeal to our lower instincts by crafting entire campaigns around “FREE”.

So last week, when Google announced “free” phone calls to “actual phones”, not just PC to PC (including long distance), from within Gmail, in both Canada and the US, my natural sense of skepticism kicked in.

Being the old cynic that I am, I immediately thought –

It’s got to be a hassle. Well I couldn’t have been more wrong. Google Voice is the easiest VOIP application I’ve ever used. Even easier to use than my long time favorite VOIP application – Skype.

Voice quality has gotta suck. Wrong again! Voice quality beats my home phone quality – hands down. In fact, if you’re a speakerphone user, I’ll wager that this application will be an improvement.

It isn’t really free. By now, I was a little tired of being wrong but, I was wrong again! Google’s free phone calling feature in Gmail is, well, FREE – at least until the end of 2010.

Setup couldn’t be easier. Highlight “Call Phone”, in your Gmail chat menu.

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Then, just download and install the voice and video application from the next screen. The installation app will automatically calibrate your devices. Alternatively, you can choose to self calibrate.

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Following installation, you’ll notice that the “Call phone” icon has changed to green – from the previous gray.

image

Clicking on the Call phone icon will open a phone keypad, as the following screen capture shows.

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Choose your Country, (Canada or the US for the moment), input the phone number – either with your mouse, using the onscreen keypad, from your keyboard, or your Gmail contact list. Click on “Call”, and voila! – you’re connected. Incidentally, the application will automatically save your call history.

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Incoming calls:

The service provides a US phone number (not yet available in Canada – but it’s on the way), chosen by the user from available numbers in selected area codes.

Requirements:

US or Canadian based Gmail users only – for the time being.

A Gmail account.

Web Cam and Speakers (I found this the easiest setup), or

Microphone and Speakers, or

Headset.

Download: From within Gmail.

Features:

Explore some of the most popular features of Google Voice by watching these videos:

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  • Overview
  • Voicemail transcription
  • One number
  • Personalized greetings
  • International calling
  • SMS to email
  • Share voicemails
  • Block callers
  • Screen callers
  • Mobile app
  • Conference calls

I must admit, I’m very enthusiastic about this new service from Google. I find it very convenient, and it’s already saved me some cash in long distance fees.

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Filed under Business Applications, Communication, downloads, Freeware, Gmail, Google, Google Software, Interconnectivity, Software, Video Apps, Video Calling, VOIP, Windows Tips and Tools

Heading Back To School? Make Your Life Easier And Checkout These Free PC Applications

School is in and let’s face it, you’ll need to trim your expenses this year and software applications that cost hundreds of dollars are not going to be number one on your list of must haves. Well, they don’t really need to be.

There’s a ton of tried and tested free software out in the wild blue of the Internet, that will meet virtually every need you’re likely to have this school year.

Take a look at the following recommended free downloads that will help you communicate, get those assignments done, have some fun, and manage and protect your system while you’re surfing the Internet.

These applications have riding out the storm of new competitors, and have developed a strong, loyal following, based on their reliability and functionality.

Process those words:

OpenOffice

OpenOffice 3 is the leading open-source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more. It is available in many languages and works on all common computers. It stores all your data in an international open standard format and can also read and write files from other common office software packages including Microsoft Word.

AbiWord:

AbiWord is a free light weight word processing program similar to Microsoft Word. It is suitable for a wide variety of word processing tasks.

WordWeb:

WordWeb is a one-click English thesaurus and dictionary for Windows that can look up words in almost any program. It works off-line, but can also look up words in web references such as the Wikipedia encyclopedia.

Manipulate and correct your pics – put them online:

FastStone Image Viewer:

This is one of my favorite photo applications, with good reason. It’s not just a viewer, but an image browser, converter, and an editor as well. You’ll find the interface intuitive and very easy to use. This program is loaded with features including, renaming, cropping, color adjustments, lossless JPEG transformation, drop shadow effects, image frames, scanner support, histogram and much more.

IrfanView:

With IrfanView you can fix and enhance digital photos including resizing, cropping, correcting red eye, flipping, and rotating. As well, you can perform a wide variety of image adjustments, including brightness, contrast, and applying special effects such as sharpen and blur. I’ve been using this neat little program (every day), for years and with each new release it just keeps getting better.

Google Picasa:

A free application that helps you locate and organize all the photos on your computer, edit and add effects with a few simple clicks, and share your photos with others through email, prints, and on the web.

Play those tunes:

Audacity:

Audacity is free, open source software for recording and editing sounds. It’s available for Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux, and other operating systems. Definitely the best of breed.

iTunes:

According to Apple, this is the world’s best digital music jukebox. Download music, TV shows, movies, and more.

Winamp:

A multimedia player that supports numerous audio and video formats. It also plays streamed video and audio content, live and recorded, authored worldwide.

Watch your fav videos:

Miro:

Miro is a free application for channels of internet video (also known as ‘video podcasts and video rss). Miro is designed to be easy to use and to give you an elegant full screen viewing experience.

VLC:

A highly portable multimedia player for various audio and video formats (MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, mp3, ogg …) as well as DVDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols.

Free FLV Converter:

This free software let you search YouTube and dailyMotion videos without opening your browser and you can even watch the videos using the built-in video player.

Free Video To iPhone Converter:

Convert video files to Apple iPhone MP4 video format. Convert the whole movie or select a partition from the movie to convert (trim video).

iPod Video Converter:

Free iPod Video Converter provides an easy and completed way to convert all popular video formats to iPod video.

Better browsing:

Firefox:

Firefox includes tons of useful features such as tabbed browsing, built-in and customizable search bars, a built-in RSS reader and a huge library of extensions developed by thousand of developers.

Opera:

The fastest browser on Earth is even faster. But that is not all. Use Opera Turbo to double your page-download speed on slow connections. Download Opera now and get more from the Web.

Web of Trust (WOT):

WOT is a free Internet Browser add-on. WOT tests web sites you are visiting for spyware, spam, viruses, browser exploits, unreliable online shops, phishing, and online scams, helping you avoid unsafe web sites.

Protect your system:

Immunet Protect 2 – Free Cloud Based Antivirus Application:

Immunet Protect is a lightweight cloud based, community driven, antivirus application, (available in both a free, and a paid version), designed to add a layer of protection while working in partnership with the most popular antimalware solutions.

Microsoft Security Essentials:

Microsoft Security Essentials, which incorporates antivirus, antispyware and rootkit protection, all under one roof, was released by Microsoft as a free  replacement application for the late, and unlamented, Windows Live OneCare.

ThreatFire:

ThreatFire blocks malware (including zero-day threats) by analyzing program behavior, instead of relying only on a signature based database. ThreatFire works together with your signature based security applications, to increase the effectiveness of your total security arsenal.

SUPERAntiSpyware Free Edition

The free version of this award winning program, is used by millions of people worldwide to protect their computers. And why not? SUPERAntiSpyware is well known for its high malware detection rate. A simple, intuitive, and easy to use interface makes SUPERAntiSpyware straightforward to setup, customize, and run, for both less experienced and expert users alike.

Zone Alarm Firewall:

If you are a casual computer user, Zone Alarm Free is definitely worth considering as a new Firewall installation, or as a replacement for a current Firewall that is not meeting your expectations.

Staying in touch:

Windows Live messenger:

The next generation MSN Messenger. It comes with everything that were already available in Messenger, and a new IM Initiative that makes helping your favorite charity as easy as sending an instant message.

Pidgin:

A multi-protocol Instant Messaging client that allows you to use all of your IM accounts at once. Pidgin can work with: AIM, Bonjour, Gadu-Gadu, Google Talk, ICQ, IRC, MSN, Yahoo!, MySpace IM and many more.

Trillian:

A fully featured, stand-alone, chat client that supports AIM, ICQ, MSN, Yahoo Messenger, and IRC.

Skype

In its basic form, Skype is a free communication package, using proprietary code, which allows users to make free computer to computer calls, including video calls, across the globe. As well, there are a bundle of additional features, that can be purchased at a low cost, which will expand the application’s functionality.

System Tools:

WinPatrol:

You can monitor your startup programs and services, cookies and current tasks. Should you need to, WinPatrol allows you to terminate processes and enable, or disable, startup programs. There are additional features that make WinPatrol a very powerful addition to your security applications.

CCleaner:

CCleaner is a freeware system optimization, privacy and cleaning tool. It removes unused files from your system – allowing Windows to run faster and freeing up valuable hard disk space. It also cleans traces of your online activities such as your Internet history. Additionally it contains a fully featured registry cleaner. But the best part is that it’s fast; normally taking less than a second to run.

Autoruns:

You can configure Autoruns to show additional locations, including Explorer shell extensions, toolbars, browser helper objects, Winlogon notifications, auto-start services, and more. Autoruns goes considerably beyond the MSConfig utility bundled with Windows.

Glary Utilities:

Glary Utilities, a free all-in-one utility, is a terrific collection of system tools and utilities to fix, speed up, maintain and protect your PC. Personal experience with this application for the last 2 years has convinced me that a typical user can really benefit by having this application on their system. With this free program you can tweak, repair, optimize and improve your system’s performance; and its ease of operation makes it ideal for less experienced users.

Revo Uninstaller:

Revo Uninstaller is a superior program to uninstall programs from your computer. This free program with its advanced and fast algorithm scans before, and after you uninstall an application. After the program’s regular uninstaller runs, you can remove additional unnecessary files, folders and registry keys that are usually left over (those “orphaned” registry entries we talked about earlier), on your computer. This feature is a definite plus.

Have a great school year!

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Audio Applications, Browser add-ons, Browsers, Cell Phone Apps, Computer Maintenance, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Firefox, Firefox Add-ons, Free Anti-malware Software, Free Firewalls, Free Office Suites, Free Photo Applications, Free Word Processors, Media Players, Microsoft, MS Word Alternatives, Open Office, Productivity Software, Skype, Software, System Security, System Utilities, Video Apps, Video Calling, Windows Tips and Tools

I’m InTouch Online Meeting – A Cost Effective Online Collaborative Solution

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In the early 1990s, I was involved (as a partner), with an organization that both developed, and provided, training programs to the Insurance industry (I won’t bore you my personal opinions of the Insurance industry, except to say – they’re not positive).

Through this exposure, I became well aware of both the hard costs, and the soft costs, involved in hosting “in the flesh”, training seminars, meetings, round table discussions, and so on. Not surprisingly, the costs could be, and often were, prohibitive. The development and broad scale distribution of Online meeting software  has essentially changed all that.

An overriding hallmark of Online meeting software is its cost effectiveness, since the need for companies to absorb travel and accommodation costs, employee downtime costs, etc,. no longer exists.

Despite the fact, that this type of application has been available for years, I have not taken an opportunity to review an Online meeting application – until now. I was recently invited to participate in a Beta Online meeting application developed by 01 Communique, a Toronto based technology company, and I’m glad I did.

I’m InTouch Meeting is an Online meeting solution which is notable for its cost effectiveness, highly intuitive user interface, and a simple three stage process that allows a user to host meetings for up to 15  attendees – directly from their computer’s desktop.

Since I’m InTouch Meeting is a Windows driven system, Online meetings and participant collaboration, can easily be achieved without the need for a heavy backend IT infrastructure – and, it’s easy. How easy? Take a look at the following surprisingly easy 3 step process.

The three step I’m InTouch process:

1. The Moderator logs in at www.imintouchmeeting.com

Alternatively, you may select “Host an instant meeting” from http://www.imintouchmeeting.com to quickly start hosting a meeting.

2. The moderator creates and starts a new meeting

A Meeting ID will be provided. Simply use the provided tool to send invitation emails to your attendees.

3. Attendees click the link on the invitation email to join

All the attendees are now sharing the screen of the moderator in real time. To join the meeting, attendees do not need to subscribe to I’m InTouch Meeting; however, the moderator can require a password to join the meeting.

How easy is that!

Fast facts:

Unlimited usage

Shareable licenses

Real-time screen sharing

Enhanced File Transfer – Instantly send a copy of your presentation or report during the meeting to all participants using I’m InTouch Meeting’s File Transfer capability. Perfect for securely sending files too large for email.

Remote printing

Text and audio chat (VoIP)

Whiteboard (drawing tools)

Attendees’ access rights control

Support up to 15 attendees

Administrative/Statistics tools

The one thing we know about the Internet is – from a security perspective, we need to be proactive on a continuous basis. I’m InTouch Meeting addresses security issues, straight out of the gate.

Security fast facts:

256-Bit SSL Data Encryption – Ensures your transmitted data stays private with end to end encryption and authentication.

No Ports Opened – No new ports are opened on your firewall or router ensuring your current security measures are not compromised at all.

Dual Login Passwords – Passwords are required to from the moderator and attendees to initiate and join an online meeting respectively.

Account Protection – Multiple failed login attempts will result in your account being temporarily locked out to protect against unauthorized access.

Security Settings Maintained – I’m InTouch retains your OS-level access controls already in place on the PC.

Session Time-Out – Your remote access session will automatically terminate after a period of inactivity you define.

No Session Data Kept – None of your remote session data is kept on our servers ensuring your work stays private.

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The I’m InTouch Meeting “how it works” video – click on the graphic.

System requirements: Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7

To signup for the free beta: go to the developer’s site. There is no obligation to subscribe during the Beta period.

About 01 Communique:

Established in 1992, 01 Communique is an innovative force in the development
and delivery of remote access, online meeting, support products and
integrated communications software.

We develop and market a suite of remote access services designed for small-medium sized business, mobile professionals and IT service providers.

Our software as a service offerings are deployed on-demand and include functionality enabling on-line meetings, remote computing and IT support.

All offerings are developed using our patented remote access technology and marketed under our I’m InTouch.

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Filed under Beta Software, Cloud Computing Applications, downloads, Enterprise Applications, Multimedia Tools, Online Meeting Software, Productivity Software, Software, Video Calling, VOIP

I’m a Canadian and I Now Own a Piece of Skype!

image Like most working Canadians, I am required to contribute a percentage of my earnings to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), a government retirement plan, which will provide me with a monthly pension benefit on retirement. Well, that’s the promise.

This is a bit of a joke, since I have yet to meet a retired person who could survive on this benefit – although there may be some, somewhere.

Since most of my family are Americans, I’m reasonably familiar with that country’s Social Security program as well. So, the lack of adequate income upon retirement produced by Social Security, is also a familiar refrain.

It’s not startling news of course that government run plans such as these, are generally poorly managed; often producing a less than adequate return on investment, which naturally leads to a reduction in income stream at retirement, for those who have contributed over a working lifetime

I was surprised then (actually I was shocked), to learn this morning, that the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board has taken an investment position in Skype, my favorite Internet communication application. My first thought – maybe the Canada Pension Plan has decided to reassess its antiquated investment rules, and boldly step into the twenty first century.

It has long been rumored that eBay was looking for a buyer for its Skype internet phone service and today it appears it’s a “done deal”. eBay Inc. is spinning off Skype in a deal worth more than $2 billion US, to an investor group that includes the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. eBay however, will continue to hold a 35 per cent stake in Skype.

So, faithful reader, if you want to ensure my Canada Pension contributions add up to something more than a miserly sum when I retire, consider adding Skype to your list of must have applications.

You won’t regret it, and hopefully, neither will I since I’m sure to need the money on retirement.

All kidding aside, Skype is a terrific free application; an application I would be lost without. I use it through the day, every day, to communicate by video calling worldwide for free.

Take a look at my earlier review of Skype, and you might be surprised at the impact this application can have on your communications.

Skype – Right for Your Life?

Despite the fact that I’m an early adopter of most technology, surprisingly, it took me forever to give Skype a try. For communicating, I found the old fashioned telephone worked; and it does what it’s supposed to do with a minimum of fuss and bother. Just pick it up, dial and voila – instant communication. What could be simpler and easier than that?

As I found out, after giving Skype a test drive – maybe this free communication application! In fact, it has now become my preferred method of contact. I use the Skype video calling feature dozens of times a day to speak with contacts worldwide.

Kudos to my good friend TechPaul, at Tech for Everyone, for finally convincing me to give Skype a test drive. I’m glad I did.

In its basic form, Skype is a free communication package, using proprietary code, which allows users to make free computer to computer calls, including video calls, across the globe. As well, there are a bundle of additional features, that can be purchased at a low cost, which will expand the application’s functionality.

image

Fast facts:

Improved sound quality over regular telephones.

Secure end-to-end encryption.

Uses peer-to-peer technology for even more enhanced security.

Video calling – I have to admit I find this feature fascinating.

Conference calling – a very cool feature.

Online status notification – online, away, do not disturb, invisible, offline.

Contact creation, including groups, and importation from MS Outlook and Outlook Express etc.

Screen sharing – I find a lot of uses for this feature.

Chat – I find this a great help for sharing URL’s which can then be opened during a video call to facilitate the sharing of information.

Upgrade features:

Call phones and mobiles

Receive calls from phones and mobiles with an online number

Voicemail – Send and receive voicemails

Forward calls to phones

Transfer calls to phones and mobiles

System requirements: Windows, Mac OS X, Linux. Sound input and output devices – microphone and speakers, or a headset. Of course, for video calling you’ll need a webcam.

Download at: Skype

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Filed under Communication, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Peer to Peer, Productivity Software, Skype, Software, Video Calling, VOIP, Windows Tips and Tools

High School/College Students – Line Up Here for Your Free PC Software

School is in and let’s face it, you’ll need to trim your expenses this year and software applications that cost hundreds of dollars are not going to be number one on your list of must haves. Well, they don’t really need to be.

There’s a wealth of tried and tested free software out in the wild blue of the Internet that will meet virtually every need you’re likely to have this school year. Take a look at the following recommended free downloads that will help you communicate, get those assignments done, have some fun, and manage and protect your system while you’re surfing the Internet.

Process those words:

OpenOffice

OpenOffice 2 is the leading open-source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more. It is available in many languages and works on all common computers. It stores all your data in an international open standard format and can also read and write files from other common office software packages including Microsoft Word.

AbiWord:

AbiWord is a free light weight word processing program similar to Microsoft Word. It is suitable for a wide variety of word processing tasks.

WordWeb:

WordWeb is a one-click English thesaurus and dictionary for Windows that can look up words in almost any program. It works off-line, but can also look up words in web references such as the Wikipedia encyclopedia.

Manipulate and correct your pics – put them online:

FastStone Image Viewer:

This is one of my favorite photo applications, with good reason. It’s not just a viewer, but an image browser, converter, and an editor as well. You’ll find the interface intuitive and very easy to use. This program is loaded with features including, renaming, cropping, color adjustments, lossless JPEG transformation, drop shadow effects, image frames, scanner support, histogram and much more.

IrfanView:

IrfanView is a very fast, small, compact and innovative graphic viewer for Windows 9x/ME/NT/2000/XP/2003/Vista. Strange name – terrific application.

Google Picasa:

A free software that helps you locate and organize all the photos on your computer, edit and add effects to your photos with a few simple clicks and share your photos with others through email, prints and on the web.

Play those tunes:

Audacity:

Audacity is free, open source software for recording and editing sounds. It is available for Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux, and other operating systems. Definitely the best of breed.

iTunes:

According to Apple this is the world’s best digital music jukebox. Download music, TV shows, movies, and more.

Winamp:

A multimedia player that supports numerous audio and video formats. It also plays streamed video and audio content, live and recorded, authored worldwide.

Watch your fav videos:

Miro:

Miro is a free application for channels of internet video (also known as ‘video podcasts and video rss). Miro is designed to be easy to use and to give you an elegant full screen viewing experience.

VLC:

A highly portable multimedia player for various audio and video formats (MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, mp3, ogg …) as well as DVDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols.

Free FLV Converter:

This free software let you search YouTube and dailyMotion videos without opening your browser and you can even watch the videos using the built-in video player.

Free Video To iPhone Converter:

Convert video files to Apple iPhone MP4 video format. Convert the whole movie or select a partition from the movie to convert (trim video).

iPod Video Converter:

Free iPod Video Converter provides an easy and completed way to convert all popular video formats to iPod video.

Better browsing:

FireFox:

FireFox includes tons of useful features such as tabbed browsing, built-in and customizable search bars, a built-in RSS reader and a huge library of extensions developed by thousand of developers.

Opera:

Opera introduces Speed Dial which vastly improves navigation to your favorite sites. In addition, there’s Fraud protection, anti-phishing detection keeps browsing safe and secure.

Web of Trust (WOT):

WOT is a free Internet Browser add-on (my personal favorite), that has established an impressive 4.5/5.0 star user rating on CNET. WOT tests web sites you are visiting for spyware, spam, viruses, browser exploits, unreliable online shops, phishing, and online scams, helping you avoid unsafe web sites.

Protect your system:

Spyware Doctor Starter Edition:

This free version of the award winning program, with its easy to use interface, is used by millions of people worldwide to protect their computers; it’s reported there are a million+ additional downloads every week.

AVG Anti-Virus:

AVG Anti-Virus Free 8.0 now incorporates protection against spyware through a new combined anti-virus and anti-spyware engine as well as a “safe-searching component” which has been incorporated into the new AVG Internet Security Toolbar. This program scans files on access, on demand, and on schedule and scans email incoming and outgoing. For those on Vista, you’re in luck, it’s Vista-ready

Comodo Firewall Pro:

The definitive free firewall, Comodo Firewall protects your system by defeating hackers and restricting unauthorized programs from accessing the Internet. I have been using this application for 10 months and I continue to feel very secure. It resists being forcibly terminated and it works as well, or better, than any firewall I’ve paid for. This is one I highly recommend. Amazing that it’s free!

Staying in touch:

Windows Live messenger:

The next generation MSN Messenger. It comes with everything that were already available in Messenger, and a new i’m Initiative that makes helping your favorite charity as easy as sending an instant message.

Pidgin:

A multi-protocol Instant Messaging client that allows you to use all of your IM accounts at once. Pidgin can work with: AIM, Bonjour, Gadu-Gadu, Google Talk, ICQ, IRC, MSN, Yahoo!, MySpaceIM and many more.

Trillian:

A fully featured, stand-alone, skinnable chat client that supports AIM, ICQ, MSN, Yahoo Messenger, and IRC.

System Tools:

CCleaner:

CCleaner is a freeware system optimization, privacy and cleaning tool. It removes unused files from your system – allowing Windows to run faster and freeing up valuable hard disk space. It also cleans traces of your online activities such as your Internet history. Additionally it contains a fully featured registry cleaner. But the best part is that it’s fast; normally taking less than a second to run.

Glary Utilities:

Glary Utilities, a free all-in-one utility, is a terrific collection of system tools and utilities to fix, speed up, maintain and protect your PC. Personal experience with this application for the last 8 months has convinced me that a typical user can really benefit by having this application on their system. With this free program you can tweak, repair, optimize and improve your system’s performance; and its ease of operation makes it ideal for less experienced users.

Revo Uninstaller:

Revo Uninstaller is a superior program to uninstall programs from your computer. This free program with its advanced and fast algorithm scans before, and after you uninstall an application. After the program’s regular uninstaller runs, you can remove additional unnecessary files, folders and registry keys that are usually left over (those “orphaned” registry entries we talked about earlier), on your computer. This feature is a definite plus.

Have a great school year!

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YouSAB – The Best Way to Surf Anonymously

This is a guest post by Patrick Holm, in which he explains the benefits of YouSAB, a Secure VPN & VOIP messenger service, which is particularly effective for users living in countries that censor Internet content.

After reading Bill Mullins blog Iranian Surfers Downloading Anonymous Surfing Tool, I made a comment on our new service that can be used by Iranian web surfers (and other web surfers living under repressive regimes), to ensure them they can use the internet without fear of reprisal from government bodies.

These comments prompted Bill to invite me to describe our new software in the guest blogging section, which I have gratefully accepted.

image After living and working in the IT industry, in Dubai, for the last 8 years, (which has censorship of Internet content), some of my colleges and I, managed to create VPN software to allow freedom for all on the internet.

After encouraging responses from the YouSAB community, we formed a company called YouSAB Ltd, in alliance with the payment gateway provider Gulhmes Ltd, to provide a VPN service which is a little different from other VPN providers.

What is the YouSAB community?

YouSAB is a Secure VPN & VOIP messenger service that enables users to access and interact with their social and business peers, through totally secure downloadable VPN software.

Originating from a vision of freedom and security, YouSAB was born out of a desire to fundamentally change the way people communicate.

YouSAB Ltd, and Gulhmes Ltd, veterans of the Internet payment security and high tech security industries respectively, joined together to create an easy to use, consumer-centric, truly converged peer-to-peer service, enabling its users to take control of their on line security from one single place on their computer.

One of the main purposes for the development of YouSAB community was to take a conventional VPN set up, and provide more usable features the ‘every day person’ can use to remain safe while online, at a fraction of the industry price.

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What is the difference between YouSAB messenger and other VPN providers?

One of the main differences of the VPN messenger compared to other VPN providers is; VPN messenger has taken the highly secured method of VPN and added an additional layer of security protection using proxy Dynamic TCP tunnels Network, so if the VPN network was ever comprised, Internet users would have the safety of a proxy network to keep them anonymous at all times. Coupled with these two layers of protection are a whole host of features that really make YouSAB Messenger stand out from other VPN providers.

These include the following:

A platform where YouSAB community users can use two forms of communication, VOIP and Messenger texting.

YouSAB messenger, as the name suggests, allows all of its users to invite and build a buddy list of all their YouSAB contacts that they wish to communicate with, via VOIP and messenger. All members’ accounts have in built VOIP and messenger features, so users can use both forms of communication to contact their business, or social contacts across the VPN network.

Both methods are highly secured, and both are totally anonymous to the outside world, with no third party monitoring communications. We have had several independent reviews of the speed of the service, and download quality is very acceptable and voice quality is comparable to Skype, and Call serve PC-PC. YouSAB accounts also have profiles where users can post business or personnel information about themselves, if they wish.

Once connected to the VPN network, you are provided with uncensored internet use, and a non traceable IP address.

YouSAB messenger unblocks all your favorite websites, which are deemed, unsuited for viewership by your Employer, Internet Service Provider or country Government E.g. VOIP providers, and Unblock Facebook. It also gives you a bogus IP address, which is non-traceable, even to a highly experienced hacker.

This program really works well for users who are using unsecured Wi-Fi hot spots, or people who want to file share without fear of authorities tracking their activity.

Prepaid card facility that allows to you purchase credit to use the service for as low as 3 Euro, minimizing the risk versus a yearly, or monthly, payment subscription.

The YouSAB messenger network, with its advanced features, was originally designed with the business network in mind. This was to assist in business activity at a fraction of the cost of normal VPN business networks. After been encouraged by good response from the public, based on YouSAB’s ease of payment, we decided to offer it to the public.

YouSAB is a micro pay as you use service, and is controlled by the payments solution provided YouSAB Intercard. This service is a highly secured form of collecting payments and it works in conjunction with the popular online merchant PayPal which handles all payments.clip_image001

Intercard payment solution controls the debits, or credits, to and from your YouSAB messenger account. Intercard is responsible of providing a clear and transparent service so you are able to understand at all times, what you have been charged, to the nearest micropayment.

Without getting into the complex workings of Intercard, the basic numbers that you need to be aware of are:

100 units of Intercard credit, is equal to 1 euro. This will allow you 40 hours of using your YouSAB messenger service.

Intercard will deduct 0.125 units every 3 minutes that you use the service, so you can be sure that you are getting value for money at all times.

YouSAB offers you different values of Intercard credit which are:

300 units which will give you 120 hours of use for 3Euro

500 units will give you 240 hours of use for 5 Euro

1000 units will give you 500 hours of use for 10 Euro

One of the best features of using Intercard is; you can use it to carry out balance transfers to and from your Intercard account. This feature was introduced as a test bed for our soon to be released online money exchange bureau, that users will be able to use to exchange online currency at favorable exchange rates e.g. PayPal to Web money.

These are just three main features for the YouSAB community, but we continue to work from feedback from our users (which we welcome), to further improve the service, so we that we can all retain our privacy while online.

Hope you liked the article, and if you want to download the software freely to test, you can do so here.

For further information checkout my site.

If you enjoyed this article, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under Anonymous Surfing, Communication, Guest Writers, Interconnectivity, Peer to Peer, Software, Surveillance, Video Calling, Windows Tips and Tools