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Boxee – The Open Source Software, Not The Box

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I don’t watch much TV. No, that’s not some kind of elitist remark – you know, the type of comment thrown about by some who consider themselves a step above the rest. From my perspective, television actually sucks.

I’m tired of the fact that the History Channel rarely runs anything that’s remotely concerned with history. I’m tired of the fact that the Learning Channel long ago stopped pretending “learning” had anything to do with its mandate. And, that’s the short list.

Not only is television a vast wasteland, it’s become a toxic dump where morons like Charlie Sheen, and other emotionally unwell idiot actors (I’m trying to be kind here), set the standards for what supposedly passes for real life. It’s definitely not where my head is at.

Thankfully, the Internet with it’s virtually unlimited selection of educational, informational, and entertainment packages to choose from, helps to fill the “wasteland” gap admirably.

Generally, I find myself watching Internet entertainment on my wide screen LCD display, which is in reality, a high-definition display. Sitting at my desk however, is not quite as comfortable as I’d like – so for months, I’ve been on the hunt for a free application which will seamlessly connect Internet output to my television. Gotta sit in that easy chair – don’t ya know.

I think I’ve finally found it in Boxee. Boxee is an open source social-media application (Windows, Linux and Mac compatible), which allows users to stream content from both the Internet, and their personal home media, to a TV – from a simple package.

Step One:

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Graphic courtesy of Boxee.

Step Two:

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Graphic courtesy of Boxee.

Step Three:

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Graphic courtesy of Boxee.

Firing up the application:

On first launch, you will have to set up an account and sign in. Here’s why, according to the developer –

Boxee is meant to be social – not just with friends online, but also with people in your house. With this in mind we designed Boxee with multiple user accounts so that your social network, favorite TV shows and apps remain personalized and accessible only to you.

OK, that sounds sensible.

All of the following screen captures can be expanded to their original size by clicking.

The interface could do with a “facelift” – if you’ll pardon the expression. Nevertheless, it’s relatively functional, straight forward, and simple to use.

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Changing the settings is fairly simple, and the user can easily customize the application to meet specific needs.

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Adding apps to the application couldn’t be easier, and it expands the range of possibilities dramatically. The apps (for my purposes), are a lifesaver.

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In the following illustration, I’ve clicked on the installed CNET app.

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The video output from CNET (screen shot from my Monitor), really is 1080 HD. Crystal clear.

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The CineTrailer app (installed for this test), is illustrated below.

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Screen capture (in 1080 HD), from the Green Lantern trailer. Impressive.

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Shakira video running through the YouTube app. Love Shakira!

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Since I missed the national news last night, I added the CBC News app in order to catch up.

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Screen shot from the news showing the turmoil of the Vancouver riot.

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A very handy File Browser is part of the package.

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System requirements: Windows, Mac, Linux

Download at: Boxee

So that you can get the best out of this free software, I recommend that you checkout the Boxee Software User Guide.

Perhaps the most important Boxee software question – are there monthly fees to use Boxee?

Boxee does not charge you any monthly fees, but some premium applications accessible through Boxee require a fee.

I’ve been using Boxee for only a few days (I haven’t run an HDMI cable yet – maybe this weekend), and I’m sure I have much more to discover – but, to this point I’m liking what I’m seeing.

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Filed under Digital Media, downloads, Freeware, High Definition Video Players, Interconnectivity, Internet Radio, Internet TV, Linux, Mac, Multimedia Tools, Software, Streaming Media Applications, Video Apps, Windows Tips and Tools

Download Drag ‘n Crypt ULTRA – Easy File Encryption

Popular guest writer Rick Robinette, has a knack for finding great free applications – applications that make your computer experience smoother, safer and more interesting. See what Rick has to say about his most recent find – Drag ‘n Crypt ULTRA.

image There are numerous file (and folder) encryption programs that are available to protect sensitive files on your computer; however, most people do not understand their purpose.

If you are carrying files around on a flash drive that are potentially sensitive in nature, OR maintaining sensitive files on a PC that is accessible by many people, OR storing sensitive files on the internet;  then it is important to protect the content of those files from prying eyes.

One way of doing that is through file encryption. Encryption software is designed to make your files unreadable (or accessible) to other people.  The encryption process usually prompts you to create a key (or password) prior to the software making the file(s) unreadable. As a result, in order to  make the file readable again (through a process called decryption) you must enter the password that you originally provided.

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One of my favorite encryption programs, that is FREE, small in file size (< 200 KB), and is portable;  is Drag ‘n Crypt ULTRA.  The “cool factor” to this program is that when you launch the program, a small target (or drop zone) appears on your desktop (see below).

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To encrypt a file (or folder), you simply drag the file (or folder) to the target (or drop zone) and drop it.  Drag ‘n Crypt Ultra will go to work automatically, prompt you for a password, and then create the encrypted file. As an added level of security, the source file is erased to prevent someone from restoring the file using data recovery software (which is especially easy on a flash drive).

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To decrypt the file you simply drag the file you originally encrypted to the target (or drop zone), enter your password, and the file will be restored to its’ original condition.

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If you right mouse click on the target (or drop zone), you also have the following options:

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My two favorite options are “create file association” and “Use Context Menu”.  With the “file association” option activated you can open your encrypted files by simply mouse clicking on the file(s) and if you have the “context menu” option activated you can perform your file encryption operations through the Windows Explorer context menu, which is typically activated by a right mouse click on a file (or folder).

Overall, Drag ‘n Crypt is fast, offers decent protection ( Twofish coding algorithm) and does not require installation (can be carried and used on your flash drive). I especially use this program to protect files on my flash drive and to protect files that I store online.

System requirements: Windows 2000, XP, Vista, Win 7  (32-Bit)

Download at: Developer’s site

This is a guest post by Rick Robinette, who brings a background as a security/police officer professional, and as an information technology specialist to the Blogging world.

Why not pay a visit to Rick’s site at What’s On My PC. Like me, you’re sure to become a frequent visitor.

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.

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Filed under downloads, Encryption Software, flash drive, Freeware, Portable Applications, Privacy, Software, USB, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP