Tag Archives: share

ElfYourself – That’s right (Go ElfYourself)!

imageAgain this year, as they have for the last 5/6 years or so, OfficeMax is offering the charmingly humorous ElfYourself, an online animated Christmas greeting creation tool.

Working with ElfYourself is actually a bit of fun, and while the end product is not “professional”, in any sense, the result is pretty cool – especially when one considers the price; FREE.

Once the project is completed (it takes just a few minutes), you can then share your Christmas greeting by email, or post it to either your Facebook Wall, or to a friend’s Wall. This year you can even share on Twitter.

Go to ElfYourself to get started.

Once on the site, follow the simple instructions. The following screen captures will give you some idea of how uncomplicated the process is.

image

The cropping tools could be a little more robust, I think. But, free is free – so, who’s complaining.

image

The interface allows a number of minor adjustments.

image

Once the face has been adjusted to your liking, the next step is choosing a dance to accompany the animation.

image

Luckily, there’s a fair number of choices.

image

New, this year – you can now download the finished video and save the file locally.

image

Once you’re satisfied with the results – sharing your creation is a breeze.

image

If you’re tired of the same old, same old, Christmas greetings, then visit ElfYourself and get creative. You’ll have a bit of fun at the same time.

If you found this article useful, 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.

9 Comments

Filed under Arts and Crafts, Cloud Computing Applications, Freeware, Just for Laughs, Recommended Web Sites

Download Miro – An HD Open Source Internet TV Platform And So Much More

imageThere continues to be much discussion in Tech media circles, on the benefits of  getting rid of expensive Cable TV where prices seem to be skyrocketing (I just got another $2 a month bump this week), and focusing instead on the multiple alternatives which the Internet now supports.

Given that your computer screen is, in reality, a high-definition display, you can easily enjoy Internet sourced videos in HD full screen. Pretty neat – especially if you have a wide screen LCD display.

Miro (last updated August 16, 2011), is a free (open source), Internet TV platform and Video Player (and so much more), that can certainly even out your path in breaking your reliance on Cable TV – and, the costs that go with it. Miro, in fact, might well be the perfect tool to help with your transition.

In my view, Miro is one of the most underappreciated open source applications available on the Internet. It never fails to amaze me how less deserving “media players”, which are often hyped to the max, can generate more downloads than this superb application.

Not only can Miro play virtually any video in HD, including, QuickTime, WMV, MPEG, AVI, and XVID, but on top of that this application, which sports major changes from previous editions, is effectively a media management center.  I must admit, I was more than a little surprised at how effective Miro is in this role.

For example, the application quickly, smoothly, and effectively, located my music files after prompting me to select a search path. Playback controls are typical and playlists are easily created.

Click on graphic to expand to original size.

image

The core of the program however, is the well designed video features including built-in Torrent download capabilities.

Click on graphic to expand to original size.

image

In the following example I downloaded a 1.4 GB movie using the Torrent client. The test torrent download  took full advantage of my Internet settings – 1.7 MB per second.

Click on graphic to expand to original size.

image

Playback of the downloaded file was a bit of a treat really. Definitely HD; smooth; quality sound.

Click on graphic to expand to original size.

image

image

Additional features include the ability to sync media to multiple devices –  including Android phones and tablets. Better yet, Miro will even convert video files to the right format to play on your phone.

Click on graphic to expand to original size.

image

Getting the application just right to meet your specific needs, using the Settings menu is straightforward and uncomplicated.

Click on graphic to expand to original size.

image

Fast facts:

Works with your current music library – It’s very easy to switch from iTunes to Miro– without any copying. Just point Miro to your music and video folders and those files will appear. If you don’t like Miro (impossible!), nothing’s changed.

Converts and syncs to Android – You’d have to be crazy to use a music player that doesn’t sync to your phone. Miro is simply the best music and video player for Android phones and tablets.

Download and play almost any video – Do you still use separate programs to download, play music, play videos, and sync to your phone? Miro plays almost any video or music format and downloads from YouTube, podcasts, Amazon, and bittorrent.

Convert any video – You can convert almost any video with Miro into mp4/h264, with presets for almost any device you can think of (including iPhones, iPods, iPads, Android phones, and more).

Share Your Media on your Network – When two Miro’s are on the same Wi-Fi network, they can stream and transfer music and videos to each other. It’s the easiest way to watch a video or play music upstairs if the file is downstairs.

Ultra-fast torrent downloading – Miro has some of the fastest bittorrent downloading in the world, built in. Try us head-to-head with any bittorrent application!

Open-source – don’t lock yourself in – Unlike some other media players, Miro is not trying to run your life. Not only is Miro 100% free and open-source, it’s made by a non-profit organization. You don’t need to be locked down by one corporation to have a great media experience.

Buy Music and Apps inside Miro – The Amazon MP3 store is built-in to Miro. Buy, download, and listen, seamlessly. Buy Android apps from the Amazon or Google app stores and they will sync to your device.

There are many more features in Miro that can be quickly covered in a short review. I haven’t, for example, covered the easy way to stream and share music and video on your local/home network, using Miro. Checkout the publisher’s features page.

This program continues to receive high praise from video geeks, and it’s worth considering as an addition to your entertainment applications.

System requirements: Windows 7, Vista, XP, Mac, Linux. (I have not tested this application in 64 bit – but, I understand 64 bit support is available).

Download at: Miro

User Manual for Miro 4.0 (last updated June 30, 2011), available here.

A caveat: During the install process, pay particular attention so that you don’t install items you may not want (Yahoo Toolbar/homepage) .

image

If you found this article useful, 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.

4 Comments

Filed under 64 Bit Software, Digital Media, downloads, Freeware, High Definition Video Players, Internet TV, Linux, Mac OS X, Media Players, Multimedia Tools, Open Source, Software, Video Apps, Windows Tips and Tools

Download Miro HD Video Player – Sync Your Media To Multiple Devices And A Whole Lot More!

imageThere’s been much discussion lately, in Tech media circles, on the benefits of  getting rid of expensive Cable TV, where prices seem to be skyrocketing, and focusing instead on the multiple alternatives which the Internet now provides.

Given that your computer screen is, in reality, a high-definition display, you can easily enjoy Internet sourced videos in HD full screen. Pretty neat – especially if you have a wide screen LCD display.

Miro (last updated May 20th, 2011), is a free (open source), Internet TV platform and Video Player (and so much more), that can certainly even out your path in breaking your reliance on Cable TV – and, the costs that go with it. Miro, in fact, might well be the perfect tool to help with your transition.

Not only can Miro play virtually any video in HD, including, QuickTime, WMV, MPEG, AVI, and XVID, but on top of that this application, which sports major changes from previous editions, is effectively a media management center.  I must admit, I was more than a little surprised at how effective Miro is in this role.

For example, the application quickly, smoothly, and effectively, located my music files after prompting me to select a search path. Playback controls are typical and playlists are easily created.

Click on graphic to expand to original size.

image

The core of the program however, is the well designed video features including built-in Torrent download capabilities.

Click on graphic to expand to original size.

image

In the following example I downloaded a 1.4 GB movie using the Torrent client. The test torrent download  took full advantage of my Internet settings – 1.7 MB per second.

Click on graphic to expand to original size.

image

Playback of the downloaded file was a bit of a treat really. Definitely HD; smooth; quality sound.

Click on graphic to expand to original size.

image

Additional features include the ability to sync media to multiple devices –  including Android phones and tablets. Better yet, Miro will even convert video files to the right format to play on your phone.

Click on graphic to expand to original size.

image

Getting the application just right to meet your specific needs, using the Settings menu is straightforward and uncomplicated.

Click on graphic to expand to original size.

image

Fast facts:

Works with your current music library – It’s very easy to switch from iTunes to Miro– without any copying. Just point Miro to your music and video folders and those files will appear. If you don’t like Miro (impossible!), nothing’s changed.

Converts and syncs to Android – You’d have to be crazy to use a music player that doesn’t sync to your phone. Miro is simply the best music and video player for Android phones and tablets.

Download and play almost any video – Do you still use separate programs to download, play music, play videos, and sync to your phone? Miro plays almost any video or music format and downloads from YouTube, podcasts, Amazon, and bittorrent.

Convert any video – You can convert almost any video with Miro into mp4/h264, with presets for almost any device you can think of (including iPhones, iPods, iPads, Android phones, and more).

Share Your Media on your Network – When two Miro’s are on the same Wi-Fi network, they can stream and transfer music and videos to each other. It’s the easiest way to watch a video or play music upstairs if the file is downstairs.

Ultra-fast torrent downloading – Miro has some of the fastest bittorrent downloading in the world, built in. Try us head-to-head with any bittorrent application!

Open-source – don’t lock yourself in – Unlike some other media players, Miro is not trying to run your life. Not only is Miro 100% free and open-source, it’s made by a non-profit organization. You don’t need to be locked down by one corporation to have a great media experience.

Buy Music and Apps inside Miro – The Amazon MP3 store is built-in to Miro. Buy, download, and listen, seamlessly. Buy Android apps from the Amazon or Google app stores and they will sync to your device.

There are many more features in Miro that can be quickly covered in a short review. I haven’t, for example, covered the easy way to stream and share music and video on your local/home network, using Miro. Checkout the publisher’s features page.

This program continues to receive high praise from video geeks, and it’s worth considering as an addition to your entertainment applications.

System requirements: Windows 7, Vista, XP, Mac, Linux. (I have not tested this application in 64 bit – but, I understand 64 bit support is available).

Download at: Miro

User Manual for Miro 4.0 available here.

A caveat: During the install process, pay particular attention so that you don’t install items you may not want (Yahoo Toolbar/homepage) .

If you found this article useful, 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.

9 Comments

Filed under Connected Devices, Digital Media, downloads, Easy Computer Networking, File Sharing, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Internet TV, iPhone, Linux, Mac, Media Player Replacement, Media Players, Multimedia Tools, Release Candidate, Software, Ubuntu, Video Players, Video Tools, Windows Tips and Tools

Is Awesome Screenshot Browser Add-on, Really Awesome?

So, is Awesome Screenshot, a screen capture add-on for Firefox 4.0 (which I recently installed), Chrome, and Safari really awesome? If you’re an active Blogger and you have a need to capture web graphics, or you’re the type of web enthusiast who likes to share unique content, then I think you’ll agree that it just might be.

Using Awesome Screenshot by activating its Browser toolbar push button icon

image

(which launches the add-on’s toolbar), you can capture a visible part, a selected part, or an entire web page. You then have the option to annotate the screen capture with rectangles, circles, arrows, lines and even text.

image

image

Sample Capture

image

Saving the image to your Hard Drive, or sharing – by uploading the image to the Pict image hosting site, is a snap. In the following illustration, I’ve uploaded the sample capture to http://awesomescreenshot.com/0879qyp64, which, when clicked, (try it), opens the following.

image

This neat add-on doesn’t stop there though. You can share your capture on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Buzz – and even email it with Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail.

image

Fast facts:

Capture

  • Capture visible part
  • Capture any region
  • Capture the whole page
  • Crop any portion and show crop dimension

Annotate

  • Annotate it with rectangles, circles, arrows, lines and text
  • Erase the sensitive information with blur tool

Share

  • One-click Upload the screenshot to awesomescreenshot.com
    and get a sharable link
  • Hard to guess URL to allow private sharing
  • Share the link to Twitter, Facebook, email etc.

To see  Awesome Screenshot in action, watch this YouTube video.

Compatible with: Firefox 4.0, Chrome, Safari.

Download at: Mozilla, or the developer’s site.

Note: No restart required for Firefox 4.0 add-on.

Just a quick word on Firefox 4.0, which I’ve been running for a few weeks.

Contrary to most of the hype I’ve been reading regarding Firefox 4.0 which attempts to reposition Firefox 4.0 as the “reinvention” of the Browser, it’s simple not so.

Yes, there are major differences under the hood in this latest version, some of which you may find valuable, but in terms of productivity increases, I doubt if an average user will notice. For example, I have a very high end Video Card which Firefox 4.0 is designed to take advantage of – I have yet to see any improvement in performance based on this.

The following type of pseudo scientific testing is misleading, and really just twists reality out of shape – “performance tests on the Kraken, SunSpider and V8 benchmarks, for example, Firefox 4 blew away previous versions of the browser, with performance results between three and six times better.” The test results may be accurate, but unless you can count in milliseconds, I doubt if you’ll notice any appreciable increase in speed.

Nevertheless, if you’re a Firefox user, you do need to upgrade for security reasons. But don’t expect that you’ll be walking into a new and exciting Browser world.

With all the new releases, upgrades, and what have you in the Browser market in the last few weeks, and the accompany trumpeting of “were the best”, “we’re the fastest”, “we’ve got the best technology”, ad nauseam – it very much reminded me of children bragging in the school yard.

It would be helpful for average users if certain tech journalists, and the product developers, stopped trying to “sell” browsers as if they were used cars, it seems to me.

If you found this article useful, 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.

23 Comments

Filed under Blogging Tools, Browser add-ons, Browsers, Chrome Add-ons, downloads, Firefox, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Gmail, Google Chrome, Image Editors, Interconnectivity, Safari, Safari add-ons, Screen Capture Utilities, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

Go Elf Yourself! – Christmas Is Coming!

Again this year, as they have for the last five years or so, OfficeMax is offering the charmingly humorous ElfYourself, an online animated Christmas greeting creation tool.

Working with ElfYourself is actually a bit of fun, and while the end product is not “professional”, in any sense, the result is pretty cool – especially when one considers the price; FREE.

Once the project is completed (it takes just a few minutes), you can then share your Holiday greeting by email, or post it to either your Facebook Wall, or to a friend’s Wall.

Go to ElfYourself to get started.

image

Once on the site, follow the simple instructions. The following screen captures will give you some idea of how uncomplicated the process is.

image

The cropping tools could be a little more robust, I think. But, free is free – so, who’s complaining.

image

The interface allows a number of minor adjustments.

image

Once the face has been adjusted to your liking, the next step is choosing a dance to accompany the animation. Luckily, there’s a fair number of choices.

image

Once you’re satisfied with the results – sharing your creation is a breeze.

image

imageA tip of my Hat, although since it’s winter here in Canada – a tip of my Toque, to my good British friend John B., who was kind enough to put me on his list of ElfYourself Christmas greetings. Check this out.

If you’re tired of the same old, same old, Christmas greetings, then visit ElfYourself and get creative. You’ll have a bit of fun at the same time.

If you found this article useful, 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.

9 Comments

Filed under Arts and Crafts, Cloud Computing Applications, Email, Freeware, Just for Laughs, Recommended Web Sites, Social Networks, Software, Video, Windows Tips and Tools

If You’re A Habitually Negative Blogger Then You’re On The Wrong Bus

imageUndoubtedly, fact based diversity of opinion is a good thing – particularly in the field of technological progress. But, intellectual negativism based on habitual skepticism, which is then propagated (often by a Blogger), as expert opinion, serves no one. Except perhaps, the practiced skeptic who’s driven by a need to criticize technological advancements he doesn’t quite understand.

Clearly, I’m no fan of those technologists, or Bloggers, who are addicted to negative thinking; those who take issue with technological achievements which have been overwhelmingly affirmed by the marketplace.

Recently, WordPress added a “Share” feature to its blogging platform, and in discussing this with fellow technologists (some are Bloggers), I was taken aback by the shortsightedness brought out in discussing the benefits of this new feature – for both Blog readers, and Bloggers.

image

Common negative points of view expressed, included:

I would never get involved with Facebook (one of the “Share” buttons). Only losers use Facebook.

As it turns out, I’m not a Facebook user – but it’s hardly because I think only losers use Facebook. I very much doubt that the Half Billion users on this social network, consider themselves “losers”. Instead, it’s evident that Facebook users see the individual personal benefits a Facebook account provides.

From a personal perspective, Facebook presents too much of a risk to my online security; but I certainly recognize that there has been overwhelming acceptance of Facebook. Consequently, I find it difficult to listen to arguments that Facebook has no social relevancy. Or, that it’s populated by “losers.”

Only Twits use Twitter (another of the “Share” buttons).

I subscribe to Twitter, and I don’t recall ever being called a “Twit”. Some other unflattering names, I confess, – but not a “Twit”.  Mind you, I don’t tweet about what I had for breakfast, what time I went to bed, what I’m wearing today, or the inane “look at me” tweets, posted by celebrities like Demi Moore, or Ashton Kutcher.

But, I have no problem accepting that the social relevancy of Twitter is substantial. How the hell could a service with 165 Million registered users since it’s inception just two years ago, be anything but socially relevant, is beyond me.

I’ll cut to the chase here: Significantly, the addition of  the “Share” feature by WordPress has been very favorably received by most Bloggers, and most importantly – by readers. From a reader’s perspective the advantages are obvious – a “Share” feature allows users to easily share content which is important to them, through social networking sites, social content sites, email, and so on.

From a Blogger’s perspective – and I’m only relating my own personal experience – I’m delighted. In the time since WordPress added the “Share” feature, average daily reads here have increased by more than 20%. It’s rather obvious, that by making it easier for visitors to share my content, they do just that. It seems clear to me that WordPress has added value for both readers, and for me as a Blogger.

To those Blogging associates who see little, or no value, in marketplace affirmation of change, most particularly the WordPress “Share” button, I’ll remind you of this quotation from futurist Alvin Toffler (Future Shock) – “The illiterate of the future are not those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

Writing this post, brought to mind an article in Newsweek Magazine I read many years ago, in which the author Clifford Stoll, took great exception to the idea that the Internet, and related technologies, had a viable future.

Since his predictive opinion was so dramatically off-target, I’ve partially reproduced that article here:

The Internet? Bah! (Hype alert: Why cyberspace isn’t, and will never be, nirvana.) February 27, 1995.

Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries and multimedia classrooms. They speak of electronic town meetings and virtual communities. Commerce and business will shift from offices and malls to networks and modems.  Baloney. Do our computer pundits lack all common sense? The truth is no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher ……..

How about electronic publishing? Try reading a book on disc. At best, it’s an unpleasant chore: the myopic glow of a clunky computer replaces the friendly pages of a book. And you can’t tote that laptop to the beach. Yet Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we’ll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Internet. Uh, sure.

Then there’s cyberbusiness. We’re promised instant catalog shopping—just point and click for great deals. We’ll order airline tickets over the network, make restaurant reservations and negotiate sales contracts. Stores will become obsolete. So how come my local mall does more business in an afternoon than the entire Internet handles in a month?

The full article can be read here.

If you found this article useful, 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.

14 Comments

Filed under blogging, FaceBook, Interconnectivity, Personal Perspective, Social Blogging, social networking, Twitter, Windows Tips and Tools

PLAY_MP3.exe – Media File Trojan!

Every day, millions of computer users share files online. Whether it is music, games, or software, file-sharing, used safely, can provide computer users with access to a wealth of computer resources.

All that’s required to participate in Peer to Peer file sharing is the installation of the necessary file sharing software that connects a computer to an informal network of other computers running file sharing software. Millions of users could be connected to each other through this type of application at one time. File sharing applications are often free, and easily accessible as a download on the Internet.

Sounds promising, right? Maybe, but make sure that you consider the trade-offs and the very real risks involved. The number of times I have been called upon to rescue a friend’s computer because of system damage caused by Peer to Peer downloading, has convinced me to give this form of file sharing an automatic “thumbs down”.

In the last few days a new computer Trojan disguised as a media file has been described by security provider McAfee Inc. as the most significant malware outbreak in three years. Consistent with this, users of McAfee’s VirusScan Online have reported over 360,000 detections of this new threat

According to McAfee’s Craig Schmugar, “This is one of the most prevalent pieces of malware in the last three years. We have never before had a threat this significant that arrives as a media file.”

The media clip the user thinks has been downloaded isn’t actually present; instead they’re directed to download a file named PLAY_MP3.exe. Enticed to download this file, the user begins the process of infecting their computer with adware.

As Schmugar described it, the user is “left with a fake MP3 file taking up space, a worthless MP3 player, adware that claims not only to not display pop-ups but also to block them, and more adware that successfully displays pop-up and pop-under ads.”

It’s obvious then that Peer to Peer file sharing has inherent risks attached to it. Other issues you need to be aware of if you participate in Peer to Peer file sharing include:

  • Privacy: When you are connected to file-sharing programs, you may unintentionally allow others to copy confidential files you did not intend to share.
  • Copyright Issues: You may knowingly, or otherwise, download material that is protected by copyright laws and find yourself caught up in legal issues.
  • Adult Content: If you are a parent you may not be aware that your children have downloaded file-sharing software on the family computer, and that they may have exchanged games, videos, music, pornography, or other material that may be unsuitable for them.
  • Spyware: There’s a high risk that the file-sharing program you’re using has installed other software known as spyware to your computer’s operating system.
  • Viruses: Files you download could be mislabeled, hiding a virus or other unwanted content.
  • Default Closing Behavior: It is critical that you close your connection after you have finished using the software. In some instances, closing the file-sharing program window does not actually close your connection to the network. That allows file-sharing to continue and will increase your security risk.

I am not an advocate of Peer to Peer MP3 file sharing; however if you insist that this type of file sharing is still for you despite the risks, there are free tools available for download on the Internet that purport to detect fake MP3 downloads.

6 Comments

Filed under Internet Safety, Internet Safety for Children, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Peer to Peer, Privacy, Safe Surfing, Spyware - Adware Protection, System Security, Uncategorized, Windows Tips and Tools