Category: Software

Review: Internet Explorer 9: The Best IE Yet

by
Inf

Who’d have thought I’d ever write a title like that? I, who kept telling friends and other acquaintances for some time now: “Scrap the damn Internet Explorer (IE), and get a good browser! Download Chrome or Firefox!”. That’s a line most tech people yell at others, whenever the others say: “that page looks broken”, or if their machines is being overrun by viruses or other kinds of malware. So much that, when asked what was Internet Explorer’s use, some people even replied “to download Firefox”.

The first reflex nowadays has been to fire Internet Explorer, go to Mozilla or Google and download Firefox or Chrome. Or Opera. Or Safari. Whatever. As long as it was a “better browser” than IE, which up to IE8, was awfully slow, with an ugly interface and was a total nightmare for web designers when it came to standards and CSS.

After hearing too many complaints, someone at Microsoft must have raised their arms and said “F* it! Let’s make a good browser this time!”. And they succeeded. From the minds of the folks at Microsoft came Internet Explorer 9, whose Beta version is out, and available for download here.

There has been lots of hype around the new IE, promising HTML5 support and a huge boost when it comes to respecting standards. Guess what? For once, the hype turned out to be true. I’d go as far as calling IE9, the best ever browser made by Microsoft. This is not surprising, considering that IE9 looks almost like the excellent Google Chrome, both in terms of interface and features. You can’t fail hard when you copy from the best. I guess that statements has been proven true. For once, I’ll be using Firefox to download Internet Explorer. Feels kind of strange…

So let’s see what IE9 is made of.

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Vim: Beginner’s Tutorial

by
Inf

Vi is a text editor that is usually found under Unix, Linux and other open-source OS environments. “Vi is one of the greatest text editors ever created by the human hand“. Just for fun, go scream the quoted line to a crowd of Emacs fans and watch as all hell breaks loose! I do not vouch for your safety!

But just like Emacs, Vi too is a great text editor. Each has its advantages, and disadvantages (Vi – High learning curve, Emacs – Pinky Syndrome). But once you have mastered them, they are really powerful editors. Choose one of them great editors (whichever you like), and master it.

To help you get started with Vi, I have written this small tutorial, because most beginners are usually stopped in their tracks by their first encounter with Vi. Now, this article will deal with Vim, which is actually Vi Improved. In my opinion, it is a bit friendlier than the traditional Vi, while including all the greatness of Vi.

So let’s start, shall we?

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Remote Control a computer with TeamViewer

by
Inf

Has it ever happened to you that someone requests some help with a problem regarding their computer? You will then usually try to provide assistance over the phone. However hard you try to explain, some problems are just not resolvable on phone. At that time, you wish you had just gone and meet the person. But if the person is in another country, you have a problem. Or maybe you are abroad or at a friend’s place, and want to check how your downloads are going, or do something on your machine?

In those situations, you want to “remote control” your computer.

There are a number of software that allow to do this, starting with Windows’ Remote Desktop Connection. It works well when using windows machines over local networking. However, when you take it through the Internet, it’s slow. There is also the problem of cross-platform compatibility. What if you want to help someone running Windows while you’re on Linux? For those situations, you may want a Virtual Network Computing (VNC) software. Basically, a VNC software comes in the form of two software pieces: the server and the client. You install the server on the PC you want to control, and you connect the client (viewer) to it. The problem with VNC is that it is not beginner-friendly since it requires some configuration, and the server-client concept may not be appealing to all. Also, without some tweaking, VNC can be really slow.

If you want a really simple, cross-platform and free solution, you will want TeamViewer.

TeamViewer comes as a single package, which acts as both server and client. It is also portable, in that it can run without installation (tested on Windows only).

So how do you use it? Just download the setup file (or package), choose to install or run it directly, and you’re basically done.

Now, you’ll be presented with this screen:

Two important things are shown in that screen: An ID and a password, which are unique for your machine. Password is sessional: it changes.

To connect to a person, ask them their ID and password. Put it in the box on the right, and choose what type of connection you want. As you see, you can provide “Remote Support” which will allow you to take control of their machine, “Presentation” which is like a “view-only” mode for presentations, with minimal display elements, “File Transfer”, which allows direct transfer of files between two computers, without having to upload the file first, and “VPN”, which is as if your two computers are connected to the same local network. This mode is great for LAN gaming over Internet. However, if you want only that feature, there are better software out there, like Hamachi or Tunngle.

When you click “Connect to partner”, you’ll have to put their password. And that’s it. If you chose Remote Support, you’ll have their desktop in front of you. You can now execute commands etc, as if you were working on your own machine.

TeamViewer works across Firewalls, NAT etc, so you don’t have to configure anything if your partner or yourself have those in place.

In my opinion, that is the simplest remote controlling a computer can be, so if you want to do that, give TeamViewer a try.

3 Utilities to Schedule System Shutdown

by
Inf

So, a friend of mine wanted to know if she could shutdown her PC automatically at a certain time. Or after a certain period of time. Well it’s possible. And I’m going to show you 3 utilities to do it, and how to do it from within your OS too, in case you don’t want to download. There are a LOT of shutdown utilities out there, but those below, I have used personally.

1. Shutter

Shutter

Shutter is my favourite shutdown utility due to its simplicity, but also because it comes from the author of the great ReNamer that I have already covered on Geekscribes previously.

Basically, you just choose the event that triggers the action. Events can be: countdown, at a specific time,  a period of low CPU usage, a process stops, battery low, among others. After that, you just set the action to do: sleep or shutdown the computer, mute volume, lock the computer, among others. Then just click Start. I don’t like that “Start” button. In my opinion, it should have been “Schedule”. If you want the action to take place immediately, just click “Now”. Shutter also offers an extensive set of options, like showing a message before an action takes place.

Shutter also includes a Web Interface if you want to do “Now” actions, or run commands remotely. This is a really great feature for those of you with a download/torrent box. Note, this can be a security problem, so be sure to set a good username and password when configuring the web server in Options.

Shutter comes in Installer and Portable formats.

2. PowerOff

PowerOff

PowerOff takes another approach at events and actions. It puts everything on the main window. So you just select your action on the left. On the right, set options, like whether you want a warning before the action executes, or whether to force-close applications. Then set the time. Either immediate, or schedule it to execute at a specific time.

There are extensive scheduling options, like at a time, on a fixed day, or a daily schedule, on a weekly schedule, on a day of month, or after a time period elapses. One thing I’d like is the “After” option to allow me to set minutes, hours etc, instead of just seconds.

PowerOff also includes remote-control features, like Shutter. Interestingly, you can have the command execute on a remote computer, if the latter supports it. I haven’t tested that feature though.

PowerOff is portable, and comes with the source code, if ever you want to mess around with it. It’s coded in C/C++ language.

3. Amp WinOff

Amp WinOFf

Amp WinOff, as you can see from the screenshot above, offers extensive options. You can set the actions to execute at a specific time (1st frame, top-right), or use a countdown (bottom-left frame), or when according to CPU load (top-right frame). You then set which action to take. It’s called “Shutdown mode” in Amp WinOff. You can even schedule days in advance.

While the program offers a many options and is very customizable, I don’t like the terminology used. Why is there a “Use the current time + 1 minute” and then a countdown feature? Also, I doubt “Lock Computer” is a “Shutdown Mode”. Anyway, those don’t really matter once you get familiar with the program. Now, the second thing that is annoying with Amp WinOff is that the website has been down for a while now, and I can’t find a mirror that’s still alive. The shot you’re seeing above is not from the latest version.

If you can find the utility somewhere, good.

4. Directly from your OS

Linux:

Yes, you can execute a sheduled shutdown right from your OS. Let’s start with Linux first. It should work on most major distros, but I only tested on Ubuntu.

Fire up your Terminal/Konsole or whatever it’s called in your distro.

Then the command structure is as this:

shutdown [- shutdown parameters] [ time parameter] [ optional message ]

shutdown parameters: r = reboot, h = halt, c = cancel shutdown (time parameter is then not required)

Some examples:

shutdown -r now    <-- Reboot immediately
shutdown -h 19:00  <-- Shutdown (Halt) the system at 19h
shutdown -h +5 "System will shutdown"   <-- Shutdown the system in 5 mins from now, and tell users why.

Quite easy huh? Just note that while a shutdown is scheduled, new users won’t be allowed to login 5 minutes before the shutdown sequence is initiated, i.e. only 5 mins left before shutdown. This is to be considered for multi-user environments.

Windows:

The command is similar to that of Linux, but different syntax and parameter names. Just open a command prompt (type cmd in the search box in Vista/Win7, or Winkey+R, then type cmd, or directly type the commands below in the search box in Win7)

shutdown [- shutdown parameters] [-t xx in seconds] [-c reason]
shutdown parameters: r = reboot, s = shutdown, a = abort shutdown

Some examples:

shutdown -r       <-- Reboots computer immediately
shutdown -s       <-- Shutdown computer immediately
shutdown -r -t 60 <-- Restart computer in 60 seconds
shutdown -s -t 3600 -c "Computer shutting down" <-- Shutdown in one hour (3600 seconds), and tell user why

You should get a confirmation that the command has been accepted. (E.g. Keys icon in the notification area with a message).

That’s it for this post. If you know other methods for scheduling a system shutdown, or maybe to get your favorite utility listed here, drop us a comment. Thanks!

Using BarTab to reduce Firefox Memory Consumption

by
Inf

Hello all.

I am a fervent user of the great browser known as Mozilla Firefox. Been using it since it was version 2.x something. I was so tired with IE offloading tons of viruses on me at that time that I figured that there MUST be a safer browser out there in the wild. I tried a few before settling to Mozilla, namely Maxthon and Kmeleon. I should write an article about alternative browsers someday. *note to self*

Anyway, I like Firefox a lot, or affectionately FF if you want. 3.5x is awesome. 4.x promises to be even better. However, there is one problem that’s been around Firefox since like, forever: memory consumption.

FF consumes a lot of memory when you have many tabs open. And I often have a lot of tabs opened. Specially multiple links from the same source opened in different tabs. I got that bad habit; if it can be considered a bad habit.

So, I was casually browsing someday with around 30 tabs opened when I discovered a nice addon called: BarTab. Don’t ask how they came up with that name, I got no idea. Why would anyone name a memory-recovery addon “BarTab”?

Its purpose is to unload tabs that you haven’t visited in a while, and load them again when you focus (click) on them. It’s like opening the tab again, but automatically.

This simple concept allows you to save quite some memory, specially if you like to leave tabs on, do something else, and come back to your previously opened tabs after a while. It’ll not be a major saving, but around 30-40MB of savings are inorder.

To illustrate and prove if this addon works, I conducted a small test. I opened around 20 tabs from random Google searches (I hope I didn’t catch any virus in doing that!) as well as a few media pages like DeviantArt, Youtube and Toyota Europe’s website (Nice music!). I then let BarTab do its magic while leaving the tabs untouched in the background for a minute or two. (Time delay is configurable).

The results, before and after are below:

Before

After

Not bad huh? The 20-ish tabs are still there, but unloaded. The only annoying thing about BarTab is that you have to wait a bit for pages to reload. If you have a fast connection, it shouldn’t be a problem, but for those with slower connections, you will probably find the delay slightly annoying.

That’s all for BarTab for now. If you have more tricks to reduce FF’s memory usage, comment box’s found below!

10 Very Useful Utilities You May Not Know About

by
Inf

Utilities are life-savers. I am usually on the lookout of new ones that give me added functionalities at a low memory cost. Here’s a rundown of 10 very useful utilities I have found. Not all are very light on memory though…

Let’s get started, shall we?

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Music Recognition Service Roundup

by
Inf

I just saw the stats of Geekscribes and the article about the music recognition software Tunatic is leading in the number of views. Seeing how people are interested in such services, I decided to dedicate a post about other services of the same type that do work from a computer or are online services. Let’s start:

Update (05.08.10): Added Audiggle (#5)

1. Tunatic

I have already talked at length on this software now. Download and install it, plug in a microphone, record a piece of your unknown track via Tunatic and it’ll probably give you the track name and artist if they are in the database. The problem with Tunatic is that development seems to have stopped, as it can be seen from this line on Tunalyzer’s page: “NB: Tunalyzer should be available for the Windows platform in early 2007.”. Tunalyzer allows you to analyze your own known songs, and have them added to the Tunatic database.

It works for most songs I tested it on, but since development seems to have stopped, I don’t have much hope for the project getting new features.

Read the post about Tunatic on Geekscribes

2. Midomi

This one is a new service I’ve just discovered, but which I don’t use as it was meant to. Basically, it’s an online service where you go, and hum/sing some track you don’t know the details of. Maybe it’s a tune stuck in your head somewhere and you’d like the name. There’s a bar near the top part. So you click on it, hum the song in your microphone and it’ll almost certainly give you the track’s details. It worked for all tracks I tested, even some lesser-known tracks which surprised me. It’s also very fast in its identification.

Read the post about Midomi on Geekscribes

3. Audiotag

This service takes a different approach from the above two. Instead of recording a tune, you need to upload the track or some part of it to the service. You can use a variety of tools to do cut an MP3 track, for example, Mp3DirectCut which is free. After uploading the piece, which should be around 10-15 seconds minimum, it’ll give you the details you want.

I have not tested the service a lot since I would need to do a lot of cutting tracks. But I tested with two tracks, and both were recognized. One was fairly known, the other less-known with almost no lyrics.

Also, there are those facts mentioned in the footer: “recognized queries: 83453; DB size: 1327721 tracks, 96479 albums; last DB update: 4 days ago; added 23636 tracks, 1833 albums“, so I believe Audiotag is a reliable service.

Audiotag is good for people who do not have microphones, but the compromise is that you must have access to the digital track itself to be able to upload it. It doesn’t work for tunes you’ve heard on the radio or stuck in your mind, but it is good to identify that nice tune you downloaded off some site named “Track-01”. 🙂

4. Picard Tagger via Musicbrainz

Picard is not an identifier per-se. It’s a tagger. You give it access to your unknown tracks locally, and it will tag them (if possible) using data from the audio fingerprint database of  Musicbrainz.

When tested, Picard was able to identify some tracks which didn’t have their tags. However, its use is slightly more complex than the 3 above services. The strength of Picard is that it can do recognition on its own without needing to record or upload things. It’s also cross-platform, providing Windows, OSX and Linux support.

You can download Picard here, and check out the docs of Musicbrainz that teaches you how to use it.

5. Audiggle

That one is relatively new to me. The website is clean and simple, so I hope the program is as nice. I immediately went and put it to test. I immediately noticed the .NET requirement. So much for portability. If you need that, Midomi’s for you. But let’s see Audiggle’s worth. Installation was a breeze. First thing, I had to set my Microphone. Problem is I have two Line-Ins for microphone, both listed as “Microphone” so I have no idea about which is which. A note about which microphone belongs to which sound-card would be nice.

Next… What? Registration? What the hell? This is an immediate turnoff for me. Why do I need to register to identify a track. Ok, maybe to track all my identified tracks. Lol. Ok let’s go through this pain. Fortunately, registration is quite fast. Okayyy. First try. Login… “Audiggle is down for maintenance.” Nothing on the website indicates this though. Alright, after 5 mins of retries, it’s still failing.

Guess it’s not ready for the lime-light yet. I’ll come back to it later. If you have more success than me, do leave a comment please!

Do you know a similar service, but which is not mentioned here? Please post it in the comments below!

P.s. There are many other recognition services not mentioned in this roundup. This is because most of them either require a mobile phone or mobile device of some kind (Shazam) or they require you to type notes on virtual keyboards (MusicPedia). These are not really intuitive to use in my opinion, so I shared only the most user-friendly and accessible-to-all services.