Knights of the Chalice ($24, free demo) is a cheerfully old-school game in which blocky, two-dimensional characters wander a blocky, two-dimensional world in order to gut and eviscerate everything that moves and haul off as treasure everything that isn't nailed down. In some contexts, this would be the work of sociopathic brigands; in the world of role playing games, it's called "adventuring."
Instead of a limited subset of the main game, you get a small, standalone adventure, with pre-generated characters. If you like the gameplay and purchase the full Knights Of The Chalice game, you get a much larger game (going to level 20 instead of 3) and you can create your own band of intrepid heroes. This unusual demo model gives enough of a taste of the gameplay, tactics, and interface that you'll quickly know if you'll enjoy the full game.
Knights Of The Chalice uses a highly modified and simplified form of the Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 rules, thanks to the Open Game License. There are only 3 classes (Fighter, Wizard, Cleric), no skills, and only a handful of feats. What is carried over is the importance of tactical positioning. Flanking an enemy is important, moving past a foe will let him get a whack at you, and casting a spell next to an enemy--or in the sight of an enemy with a bow--is dangerous. (Eberron Online is a more robust implementation of the D&D rules set, but it is oriented towards the real-time play of an MMORPG, as well as having the traditional D&D levels broken up to allow more frequent rewards and advances.)
Canadian font designer Peter Rempel brings his love of handwritten letterforms to the screen with a free download of PR Uncial, a playful introduction to the art of calligraphic forms.
Time was when letterforms came about from hand and nib not click and pixel. Beginning around 200 AD, a particular style known as Uncial was the go-to choice of scribes writing out Latin and Greek texts. Uncial relies on simple, rounded strokes from a pen held in one position.
Hardworking copyists kept this simple style fashionable for centuries. In fact, as Rempel shows in this font design, Uncial never gone out of fashion. An early start drawing Uncial letterforms has inspired many of the designer’s works, including PR Viking, another PCWorld favorite.
The free version of Revo Uninstaller is well-known among PC technicians as a serious, no-nonsense uninstaller and system cleaner. Revo Uninstaller Pro ($39.25, 30-day free trial) takes the basic facilities the free version provides, and adds two key features that some users might be willing to pay for.
When you uninstall an application with its included uninstaller or through Windows' Add/Remove programs feature, you’re actually running its installer again--this time with an instruction to remove the application rather than install it. Not all installers are made equal; some uninstallations are thorough, removing all traces of their application from your computer and leaving it squeaky clean. Others… not so much.
Both the free and Pro versions of Revo Uninstaller offer the most important functionality, a powerful “leftover scanner” that combs your computer looking for files and registry entries that software uninstallers did not fully remove. Uninstaller Pro takes this one step further, letting you do away with the application’s original installer.
4Shared is more than just a virtual drive for storing your digital content. And it's more than just a service for sharing that content with friends and family. 4Shared (free) accomplishes both of these tasks, but with its browser-based sharing of audio and video, it also does more than that.
To access the free service, you create an account online at 4Shared.com. When you sign up, you get 10GB of free storage space; verify your email address, and you get 5GB more. 4Shared's Web interface bears more than a passing resemblance to Gmail's design, which means it's reasonably attractive. The overall look is a bit cluttered and text-heavy for a file sharing service, however. Still, it's easy enough to create folders and upload content (though no file can be larger than 2048MB). You can set permissions for each folder, allowing its content to be shared or remain private. You can set passwords, determine whether users see all of the files or only certain ones, and allow specified users to upload their own content.
To share your 4Shared content, the service provides links that you can send to friends and family. 4Shared generates its own links for your entire account, specific folders, and individual files, depending on how much you want to share. You also can create your own subdomain (such as liane.4shared.com) for sharing content, if the link you want is available. You friends don't have to be 4Shared users to view your content, though they will be faced with several links encouraging them to sign up.
4Shared allows users to subscribe to your feed, and makes it easy for users to sit back and scroll through your content. It also allows users to download the files you've shared--which makes it an easy way to get your own content on multiple computers. But what's more impressive is the way the service shares audio and video files. Both can be enjoyed from within your browser, which allows you to use the service as a streaming media player when you're on the go.
If you're going to be sharing a lot of audio and especially video files, you may need to upgrade to a Premium account. Pricing starts at $6.50 per month (when you sign up for a year), which grants you 100GB of storage space and allows you to upload files as big as 5GB.
4Shared is not just a cloud-based app; the company offers 4Shared Desktop, a downloadable app that lets you upload multiple files at once. 4Shared Sync, meanwhile, offers a folder that can be synced across your 4Shared account. And the service works on mobile devices, too. 4Shared Sync is available as a free iPhone app, as is 4Photo, which lets you upload photos from your iPhone right to your 4Shared account. 4Shared Mobile apps also are available for Android, BlackBerry, and Symbian devices.
4Shared isn't perfect. Its interface is a bit text-heavy, and its message inbox (which allows you friends to message you) came filled with messages touting 4Shared features. But it offers a powerful, pleasant way to store and share content online.
Let's face it. While icons are pretty, know no language barriers, and are easily recognizable once you're familiar with them-- they're limited in the amount of information they can convey. E.g., you have five Microsoft Word documents on your desktop and you used anything resembling a decent description in naming them --the icons are exactly the same and only part of the file name is visible. Until you click on them, you can't know which is which. If you'd like a more word-oriented, quicker-to-recognize view of your documents, folders, and programs you need Easy Desktop 9.0 ($30, 15-day free trial).
Easy Desktop is a launch application on steroids. It forgoes icons in favor of launch buttons with the full name of the program, file, or folder you want to launch. Easy Desktop 9.0 exists as a single window with 72 launch buttons for each of 9 pages.
To define a launch button, simply drag the file, folder, or application icon from the Desktop or Star Menu to the launch button you wish to launch it from. You can edit the launch name, as well as various startup parameters such as whether the program runs normally, full-screen or minimized. You may also arrange the launch buttons as you wish. For instance, all programs in one column or on one page, all documents on another, etc.
Carrara ($150, buy-only) is a powerful and--dare I say--fun application for creating detailed three-dimensional content and animations. It breaks the various stages of the modeling and creation process into “rooms,” each allowing you to focus on a different task with its own custom tools.
The Assemble room lets you see all objects of your scene in combination, and shift them about in 3D space. Carrara’s object selector is very intuitive, and lets you easily rotate objects, scale them, or move them in any axis. You can also stretch and morph objects, changing their shape.
The Model room lets you dig into any object in your scene and add detail or change its basic shape. Yes--you impact object shapes both in the Model and Assemble rooms, which can be slightly confusing when you’re just getting the hang of Carrara.
Freemake Video Converter (and its sister product, Freemake Video Downloader) are products I use regularly, because they do specific things very well. In the case of Freemake Video Converter, that thing is converting videos from one format to another quickly and easily. The fact that it's free doesn't hurt, either. There aren’t even any ads, popups or watermarks.
Freemake Video Converter's specialties are converting to many formats, including AVI, MKV, and mobile formats like 3GP and MP4. It can also make files suitable for burning to a DVD or Blu-Ray, and even burn the files itself.
Even since version 2.2, Freemake claims greater accuracy, speed and stability, thanks to DirectX video acceleration technology. An eleven-minute MP4 home video, converted to MKV, took 8 minutes–it’s difficult to tell if this was noticeably faster than the last version.