TIPP10 is a cross-platform, open source app that aims to be your touch typing tutor. Like the previously mentioned TypingWeb, TIPP10 throws a series of typing ‘lessons’ at you, with gradually increasing difficulty levels, while helping you out with hints and tips all the time.
I have tested out both the apps, and I much prefer TIPP10 to TypingWeb. First of all, it’s a desktop app, so it’s faster, doesn’t require an account, and is available all the time – Internet or not. Second, TIPP10 senses the characters that you mistype more frequently, and repeats them more during tutorials to get you accustomed. This is a really cool feature, and I have found myself getting more conscious and better with every tutorial.
Once you’ve completed a lesson, TIPP10 displays your score and charts your progress into graphs and other cool visualizations. All your lessons are saved, hence the data aggregates over time and the details add up.
As an added bonus, there’s a bubble- shooter-like game included in which you’ve to type the falling characters before they hit the bottom. You’ll find it under Go > ABC-Game.
Needless to say, TIPP10 is immensely useful for anyone who struggles at touch typing. And believe me, touch typing has its own perks.
Get TIPP10 from here. Windows users may also grab the portable version available at PortableApps.com.
Direct Connect (DC++) hubs are quite popular for sharing data among logged in users, especially so in residential college networks. A DC++ client is obviously required to tap into such hubs, with the most popular options being the official DC++ client, Strong DC++, and Apex DC++.
While all of the above clients provide perfectly usable Windows installers, did you know that you can actually use them as portable apps too?!
What’s the big deal about portable apps, huh?
Okay, so a portable app does look and work like a normal installed app. From that perspective, it’s really not that different. But! It’s portable, and that’s what magical about it. It won’t add junk registry items to your computer. It’s just one single folder that you can put anywhere (Dropbox!), use on any number of computers, and delete anytime.
Portable apps do have poor system integration, but that hardly matters in the case of DC++ client – all you do with the app is open it, join a hub or three, and share your files like crazy. Absolutely no system integration is necessary.
Get those portables!
We shall be covering more about the awesomeness of portable apps (including the PortableApps.com platform) in future posts, but this post is here to help you find portable builds for your favourite DC++ client. So lets get started.
You’ll find all the available DC++ builds on this SourceForge page. Click on the version number (currently 0.782), and download the .zip file from the list. Once downloaded, unzip the folder contents to somewhere on your computer (again, I’d recommend the Dropbox or SugarSync folder, if you use either), and create a shortcut for the DCPlusPlus.exe file on your desktop or taskbar.
Visit the Strong DC++ files on SourceForge, click on the latest version number (currently 2.42), and get the 32/64 bit .7z file depending on your OS. Rest of the process is same as above. Do make sure that you’ve an archiving app like PeaZip, that can unpack the .7z file.
Again, say hello to the SourceForge page for Apex DC++. Click on the latest version (currently 1.4.2), and download the ApexDC++_x.x.x_slim.7z file, x.x.x being the version number. The other .7z archives contains the source files, and is not meant for normal users.
Do note that Apex DC++ will add itself to the “Installed Programs” list, allowing you to uninstall it from the Control Panel.
There are, of course, many other DC++ clients, and you can quite possibly find their portable builds with a bit of Googling and searching their SourceForge archives.
UPDATE #2: Good news, it’s working again. Thanks, Lifehacker.
UPDATE: In a recent move to streamline itself, Google has shuttered the entireLabs unit, which includes this particular bot.
If you’re a regular Google Talk user, here’s a useful chat bot that you should add to you chat list now – the Google Talk Guru, straight from the Google Labs. You can “friend” the bot by adding [email protected] to your contact list.
Guru helps you get some specific information like sports results, current weather and forecast, currency conversions, word definitions, etc, just by chatting with it. For example, if you want the weather stats for your city, just initiate a chat with the Guru bot and type “weather <city-name>”. Guru will search Google and almost instantaneously deliver back the stats to you. Not revolutionary, but useful to have nonetheless.
Here’s a list of the queries supported by Guru, along with examples (screenshot taken from its homepage):
I can confirm that most of the stuff works as expected, however Guru is absolutely horrendous when it comes to queries regarding tennis (my favourite sport). You’re in luck if you like football better.
Text Only, Please! is a no-frills Chrome extension that strips out junk from most web pages, and lets you focus on the actual article content.
Once you have installed the extension, you will find a new icon next to the address bar. The next time you come across a website filled with junk ads, just click the button and the page will be instantly rendered in text-only mode. The extension uses the API of ViewText.org web service to achieve this, and the rendering is quite fast and satisfactory.
Another nifty feature of Text Only, Please! is that you can right click on any link and select the “Open in text-only mode” option, and, you guessed it right, a clutter free version of the link will automatically open in a new tab.
As Gouthaman from the PC Geek Blog notes, this extension can also come really handy if you are on a very slow connection, or have to survive on a capped bandwidth. Being a victim of both, I can attest to that.
Back to the extension. While the extension is quite useful as it stands now, it certainly could do with a few more features. Thankfully, my friend Shankar Ganesh, who developed this extension, is planning to add keyboard shortcuts and instant web-to-PDF output through future updates!
Update 31/03/11 : Shankar has now added a keyboard shortcut – Shift+T Alt+T – for rendering the current page in text mode.
Text Only, Please! is Chrome-only, and a useful extension to have at your disposal.
There is something about oil paintings that makes me a big fan of them. Sometimes I come across an image, and I am instantly like, that should have been oil painted!
If you are like me, there’s some good news – you can create an oil painting out of any photo using the free Paint.NET! While Paint.NET is Windows-only, there is an identical app called Pinta for OS X and Linux users.
Once you have installed Paint.NET / Pinta, all you have to do is load the photo into it, and then go to Effects > Artistic > Oil Painting. In the new pop-up window, you can adjust two settings,
coarseness – make the photo look as jagged or as smooth as you like
brush size – bigger brush size gives less details and vice versa
The effects are applied to the image in real-time, so you can actually see the changes you are making. Once you’re satisfied with the settings, click OK and save the image via File > Save (use File > Save As if you want to retain the original image). Tada!
You will also notice that Paint.NET and Pinta support two other artistic effects, namely ink sketch and pencil sketch, so you can try them out if they are more of your thing.
The oil painting mode of Paint.NET / Pinta isn’t as feature rich as the ones in, say, Photoshop or GIMP, but it’s lighting fast and is a handy feature to have nonetheless.
One of my favorite features in Firefox has always been the Sync extension. Back when I was a Firefox user, Firefox Sync was my online safe, taking care of passwords for 70-something online accounts, autofill data, and tons of bookmarks. I used to be very jumpy, reinstalling Windows even when the slightest shell crash or blue screen happened, and losing all my local data every time. Without Sync, I’d be pretty screwed.
Anyway, I have fully switched to Chrome since a few months, and today I suddenly remembered I don’t need my Firefox Sync account anymore. An inactive account containing sensitive information is not a good thing at all, so I went ahead and deleted it.
Deleting your Sync profile is quite easy. Just go to this Mozilla page, fill in your username and password, and click on the “Permanently Delete My Account” button. Simple as that. Do it if you were a Firefox user, but have since switched to Chrome (I know many who have).
UPDATE: This bug seems to have been fixed in the latest versions of VLC player, which you can get from VideoLAN.
You might have noticed that playing a video on a freshly installed VLC player usually triggers a ‘”Building font cache…” pop-up that stays for some time before allowing the video to play.
Technically, the window should show up only once, thereby making it a lot less irritating that it’d otherwise be. However, an unresolved bug in VLC keeps randomly triggering this pop-up when it shouldn’t, and makes us all wait so much more to watch our movies!
The VLC team suggests disabling subtitles as a temporary fix to this bug. If you can live without subtitles, here’s how to proceed:
Open VLC player, and go to Tools –> Preferences (or hit Ctrl + P).
In the Preferences window, switch from “Simple settings” to “All settings” at the bottom left corner (see screenshot below).
Go to Video –> Subtitles/OSD, and change the “Text rendering module” to “Dummy font rendering function”. Click on the Save button when done
Once a new version of VLC comes out, you can re-enable subtitles by repeating the above steps and setting the “Text rendering module” to “Default”.
Everyone else, who can’t do without subtitles, can only hope for a quick fix soon.
imgur is one of my favorite image-sharing webapps, thanks to its sheer simplicity of uploading and sharing screenshots. The service also provides an API, which is used by a quite a few desktop tools and browser extensions (makes me like it even more).
While the desktop uploaders for imgur are pretty good (especially the ones for Mac OS X), you can actually convert a tiny Chrome extension to a full fledged desktop tool for the purpose. I like to install as few software on my system as possible, and this extension-cum-desktop-app helps me reduce that number by one.
Without further ado, lets see how we can turn a Chrome extension for imgur to a desktop app.
Launch Chrome, and install the “imgur” extension from here. If you don’t have Chrome, you can download it from google.com/chrome.
Once it’s installed, you’ll find a small “i” icon next to the Chrome address bar. Click on it.
The extension will launch a new tab with a dark background. Now all we have to do is to create an application shortcut for this tab. Click on the Chrome “wrench” icon, and select Tools –> Create application shortcuts.
Specify where you want to place the shortcuts, and click Create when done.
You can now use this shortcut as your pseudo-desktop app. Clicking on it will launch the dark-background page; simply drag your photos / screenshots into it, and the extension will upload them to imgur. The links to the uploads will be displayed just below every image – you can right click and copy them to share them with others.
The imgur desktop uploader should be sufficient for most cases, but it has some limitations you should keep in mind,
The extension uses the imgur anonymous API, which means there is no support for imgur accounts. Support might be added in future.
All your uploaded images are put in one single gallery, regardless of whether they’re related or not. You can browse through this gallery on the imgur website by clicking on the “External Gallery” link at the top right corner of the app.
All uploaded images are public by default (though anonymous), so you might not want to upload sensitive or personal pictures.
The app requires you to have Chrome installed (even if you don’t use it). Uninstalling Chrome will break the shortcuts.
If these limitations are a deal-breaker for you, try some of the more powerful uploading tools as listed here. For everyone else, this imgur uploader for your desktop can be very handy for quickly uploading and sharing screenshots and photos.
There are times when you might need to snap a photo or record some home video with your PC’s webcam. Mac users have PhotoBooth at their disposal, while Linux users can always count on the amiable Cheese. Unfortunately (and surprisingly), Windows users are left in the dust.
Most of the purchased laptops and netbooks do come pre-installed with Cyberlink Youcam, but it’s not free and you won’t have it once you format your system (unless you’ve an HP computer). For the rest of us, there are some very unusual yet useful tools that’ll do the job just fine.
Windows Live Movie Maker
We start with unusual tool #1 – Microsoft’s own Windows Live Movie Maker. As its name suggests, WLMM allows you to create casual movies and personal videos from an input stream of photos , music and videos. For what it’s worth, it can also record and create videos from your webcam.
Download and install Movie Maker from here, and launch it from your Start menu. Now click on the “Webcam Video” button on the ribbon, and Movie Maker will turn on and show your webcam.
You can then record to your heart’s fill and Movie Maker will create a nice video for you. To get photos, you have to split the video into frames and extract the required frames from it.
The ‘geekier’ media players, like VLC and Media Player Classic, can stream directly from your webcam which you can then record using built-in functionalities.
Launch Media Player Classic, and press Ctrl + V (or go to File –> Open Device). Choose your webcam, set your audio source to “Video capture device” (you can use your built-in microphones, but I always got a very loud static-like noise from it), and click OK. Media Player Classic will now stream your webcam, which you can then record using Capture Settings (press Ctrl + 8, and tweak your settings).
In VLC, press Ctrl + C (or go to Media –> Open Capture Device), and choose settings as shown in the screenshot. As with Media Player Classic, you might want to turn off the audio to avoid the irritating noise. Once VLC shows your webcam, you can either record it (as detailed in this post) or simply take snapshots using Video -> Snapshot.
When your webcam is connected via USB, Windows will show it as a separate device under Computer (My Computer in XP). You can also find and launch it from Devices and Printers in Windows 7. Windows allows you to take snapshots from USB connected webcams.
Cameroid (all platforms)
Cameroid is an online webcam app that offers PhotoBooth-esque effects and allows you to save your snapshots, or share them online. The app is Flash-based, yet surprisingly lightweight and easy-to-use. There must be numerous other similar webapps, so do let us know if there is anything else that you use.
Taking occasional snaps or recording family clips with webcams will never be a tough task again, with these nifty tools at your disposal.
Gouthaman of PC Geek Blog has pointed out the snapshot taking ability of Skype – this definitely should’ve been included! Anyway, to take a quick snapshot, fire up Skype, go to Tools –> Options, and click on “Take a video snapshot” under Video settings. A new window will pop up, where you’ve to click on the “Take a snapshot” button.