There was a time when pcAnywhere was the only software available if you needed to take remote control of another computer. Times have changed, however, and several other options-- such as Teamviewer, CrossLoop, and the recently-reviewed Remote Utilities--have points to recommend them. Another company, Splashtop, has developed similar software for Mac for quite some time, and it’s now available for Windows systems as well. Splashtop Remote Desktop is free for non-commercial use.
Like most remote control software, Splashtop has two separate components: the Streamer, which you install on computers you want to control, and the Remote Desktop, which you install on your “command center.” Both downloads are less than 10 megabytes each, and vendor Splashtop Inc. offers Splashtop Remote apps for the iPhone, iPad, and Android and webOS devices as well.
One of Splashtop’s best features is visible right from the get-go. After installing the Streamer on your host computers, launch the Splashtop Remote Desktop on your control system. Splashtop will automatically scan your network for available hosts that are running Streamer and let you connect with a single click.
Note: This review addresses v2.01 of the
Freemake Video Downloader is a completely free app that rips a
Flash video from one of a number of Web sources and converts the
video to the format you want for offline viewing. The previous
version was already a must-have app, and version 2.0 adds a few
critical new features to the mix that make it even better. The app
now converts on the fly as it downloads, which saves a lot of time.
All of the video file types and presets formerly present only in
sister app Freemake Video
Converter are now included, meaning that only one app is now
required (though Converter is still useful for additional
fine-tuning of the conversion process). You can now select a
destination folder for the converted video, and more information
such as file size and duration are made available as the video is
being downloaded and converted.
Included presets include the iPhone, but not the iPad: You'll
need to fine-tune in Freemake Video Converter or HandBrake in order
to optimize video for the iPad's odd dimensions.
When I think of patterns, the first thing that comes to mind is fabric. While Seamless Studio ($49, 15-day free trial) can certainly generate beautiful patterns for anything from blankets to sundresses, you can also use it to design gorgeous custom wallpapers (for your real walls, as well as for your desktop), and elegant website backgrounds.
The tricky part about making a seamless pattern is… well, making it seamless. It’s easy to start up a vector drawing application (such as the free Inkscape) and throw some basic shapes on a canvas. But how do you make sure your design can be cut into one basic square which then lines up to a beautiful pattern when repeated again and again?
Seamless Studio makes this effortless. Your canvas is that basic square. That square is surrounded by multiple “view-only” copies of itself. As you drag a shape onto the square, you instantly see it multiplied, and can see how it impacts the whole pattern. Perhaps a design element looks good when looking at the basic block of the pattern, but makes the whole pattern too busy when you look at it from a distance. With Seamless Studio, you can instantly tell.
There are good reasons why hardware geeks have a love-hate relationship with benchmarks. Benchmarks are the givers of pleasure and pain. Their verdict determines whether your beloved rig is a Godzilla or a Grandpa. As personal computers have become boutique items, the bragging rights inherent in owning the fastest system have become coveted ground. Once the province of the pocket-protected few, benchmarking software has flourished and become mainstream in the current hardware-rich market. Not all benchmarks are created equal, however. One case in point is the ubiquitous 3DMark, which despite its gaming utility and visual splendor isn’t a particularly good gauge of general application or OS performance. There are also some surprising gaps when it comes to system measurement; for example, how does your PC stack up against a Mac? Maxon’s Cinebench (free) answers these questions and more.
Cinebench tests CPU and OpenGL performance using the popular Cinema 4D rendering package (used in movies such as Ironman 2, District 9, and 2012) as the basis for a series of real-world tests, including a scene render and car chase. Results are easy to understand, contextually ranked against similar systems according to criteria you select. Since the engine behind Cinebench is derived from a commercial product aimed at the film production and content creation market, it is capable of scaling far beyond many conventional desktop and gaming benchmarks, which tend to plateau and lump high-end systems together. Not sure if you can notice the difference between a Core i7 vs. an i5? Watch Cinebench perform a scene render test on each and you’ll see where your money went. Since Cinebench runs on both PC and Mac systems, it’s also one of the few ways to perform cross-platform comparisons in a credible fashion.
Maxon even provides Cinebench with a modicum of style. The user interface is appealing, the rendered test scene attractive and the OpenGL car chase slickly pulled off. Glitzy gaming-oriented benchmarks don’t have much to worry about, but in the less flashy waters where Cinebench swims, visual flourishes like these make it a movie star. It’s also pretty swift to produce results, although the single core render test is by nature slower on older systems.
The biggest challenges for all growers--commercial or recreational--is keeping track of the variables of the season and making decisions based on past performance. MyGardenBytes is a database that allows you to track seeds, clones, plants, and fertilizer use, in general and through daily journals, and across multiple locations.
The creator of MyGardenBytes specializes in hydroponics, so it's not surprising that MyGardenBytes focuses on hydroponic growing. However, even with a conventional garden, MyGardenBytes remains useful: Use MyGardenBytes to set up as many garden spaces as you need, then catalog your plants. Keep track of seed type, purchase info, date planted and germinated, and much more--too much for a conventional garden perhaps, but not if you are a specialty grower. Once you've cataloged your gardens and plants, you can easily create journal entries to track plant height, girth, stage, health, room temp and humidity, fertilizer information, photos, and so on. The journal entries also can generate reports and graphs from your data.
There are a few things that you can't track: weather conditions, location, sales, or profits, but MyGardenBytes includes comments fields on each entry which you can use for text. And there are a few annoyances: You can add images, although if they are tall orientation they'll stretch to fit the wide aspect; the highly patterned user interface makes the text difficult to read; and there's no obvious way to back up your files.
Windows' built-in Explorer file manager has seen many improvements over the years. It now has features thumbnails, multiple folder views, and lots of other goodies. But it still lacks basic functionality, such as tabbed windows and a dual-pane view. If you occasionally feel the need for a file manager with a bit more oomph--but find Total Commander to be overkill--the free Q-Dir might pique your interest.
Q-Dir is a tiny application: Its executable weighs in at only 783KB, and in portable mode it uses just that single executable plus two setting files. You could literally fit it onto an old floppy, if you still have one of those lying around.
Q-Dir's initial display may seem a bit overwhelming: It features four equally-sized panes, each with an Explorer view of your file system. It's very much like taking four Explorer windows and gluing them together.
When people talk about file compression, they usually mean ZIP. In fact, they often make it into a verb--much like we “Google” things on the Internet, we “zip” files before sending them over email. But ZIP is just one compression format, and it isn’t necessarily the best. Free, open-source utility 7-Zip supports ZIP, but also the much-improved 7z compression format. It's available in a 32-bit version and a 64-bit version.
In fact, 7-Zip is the official reference implementation for the 7z format, and since it is open source, the format specification is distributed right within the source code. To test it, I used a folder with 65MB of easily-compressed documents such as DOC, XLS, and BMP files; it also contained a few small ZIP files for good measure. Zipped using Windows Explorer, the folder compressed to 8,881KB. 7-Zip compressed the same exact folder down to 6,036KB, shaving almost 3MB off the archive. That’s a difference of more than 25%--phenomenal, really, when you consider ZIP’s market dominance.
Speaking of market dominance, that’s another key difference between the 7z and ZIP formats. Windows Explorer has been handling ZIP files like folders for years, and most people recognize them instantly and work with them all the time. But send someone a .7Z file, and they may not know what to do with it--in fact, they may not even realize it’s a compressed file.