If you don't have VLC, aka the VideoLAN Player, installed on your system, the chances are you don't watch a whole lot of video. VLC has millions of users and supports virtually every type of video found on the Web, as well as audio. It's also mature, stable, cross-platform, and provides a lot of features not found in Windows Media Player or the Quicktime player.
VLC is my default player, simply because I never get a message saying that a codec isn't supported. That includes playing commercial DVD movies. Indeed, the only type of movie that VLC doesn't support is commercial Blu-ray discs because of the copy protection involved. It does, however, fully support the .mkv files commonly rendered from these.
There are boatloads of controls, tweaks, and effects to be found in VLC. Brightness, contrast, saturation, playback speed, audio lag compensation, a spatializer, EQ, blur, motion blur, color removal, lighting… I could go on. The latest version, 2.02, also has the ability to boost volume up to 200% of normal. Make sure you adjust the volume in the preferences dialog to start at normal or your preferred percentage. The volume boost causes distortion and will wake the neighbors.
The line between Web apps and desktop applications grows ever blurrier. Chrome OS, for example, puts the browser front and center and makes it the core of an entire operating system. Also, in recent years simple smartphone apps have really come into their own, with millions of users and developers in two thriving ecosystems (iOS and Android). And now, it's the desktop's turn: Pokki is a free Windows application that tries to make Web apps as easy to use as desktop apps and as discoverable and fun to install as smartphone apps.
A desktop app store is not a new concept: Mac OS X has had one for a while, and so has Ubuntu Linux. Windows 8 has one as well, for Windows-8-style apps. But unlike the Windows 8 Store, Pokki works on existing versions of Windows.
The Chinese zodiac is thousands of years old, so what better decoration for your glossy, state-of the-art PC? The twelve zodiac animals make a stately parade across your Windows 7 desktop with the Chinese Zodiac Windows 7 Theme. PCWorld editor Kim Saccio-Kent selected these wallpapers from the many available at deviantART, an online community showcasing user-created art and photography.
The wallpapers depict all the animal signs in the Chinese zodiac and follow the twelve-part cycle, beginning with user kacza-ino's image of a rat and ending with MPtribe's tattoo design of a pig. Each of the images is striking in its own way; many use contrast to show the beauty and power of the animals. Most impressive is a close-up of the piercing eye of a tiger. User fennecx's big cat is nestled in a fiery golden coat, with ripples of black and white. KalleVictor's snake has a sublime appeal, with its lush scales of varying green tones against a background of darkness.
If you're new to the indie game Botanicula, then this free Windows 7 themepack will serve as a visually splendid introduction to it. And if you've already played it…well, is that any reason to deprive yourself of the delightful visuals and quirky sounds that are such a big part of the game's charm? PCWorld has put together the Botanicula Windows 7 Theme to bring the distinctive feel of Botanicula to your desktop.
Botanicula comes to you from Amanita Design, the same folks who created Machinarium--although there's little family resemblance. This game is set in a colorful world of nature rather than a brown and beige steampunk universe. The story involves a team of five insectoid friends who travel through the branches of a tree--their homeland--to save it from energy-sucking parasitic enemies.
The wallpapers in this themepack give you a good feel for the game's eclectic spaces and inhabitants, from the ethereally beautiful domains of the enemy, to escapades on the moon and on glowing pastel branches, to encounters with giant tortoises and crabs, and worms hidden in vibrant green sprouts.
It's that time of year when mosts of the Northern Hemisphere is starting to warm up to the idea of being outside. Going for a run in the fresh air sounds appealing, but don't lace up your shoes just yet. Spending a few more minutes at your computer (or in some cases, your mobile device) can help you choose the best route and make the most of your workout.
Free (but ad-supported; ad-free paid versions available) cloud-based service MapMyRUNoffers a host of tools for runners of all levels. MapMyRUN lets you search for nearby running routes, or you can create your own on its embedded maps. Getting started with MapMyRUN is a breeze: Sign up for a free account, and you'll be good to go. Your options for planning and tracking workouts and nutrition are neatly laid out, in a tabbed interface across the top of the screen. From your Home screen, you can see your recent activity, including workouts you've completed and food you've logged.