Thursday, October 30, 2008
Certainly you've run into this situation before: you are over here, and your computer is over there. We're not talking about you and your system being across the room from one another, although that might apply too. We're thinking something more along the lines of your computer is at home in New York, but you're at a meeting in California. Now that's serious "over there." Now that you and your computer are physically remote from one another, you decide that there's something you need to do on or to get from that remote system. That's where the trouble starts.
There are several remote control tools out there. Some of them will cost you a pretty penny. Others are available at a much more modest cost, but there may be configuration headaches involved in getting them up and running, whether it's with the app itself, or tweaking firewalls between here and there. What if there were a solution that didn't require any of that?
RemoteByMail is an interesting tool that lets you control your machine remotely via email. You've already got email on your system, and there's no problem with its working in your computing environment. With RemoteByMail, you send an email to your computer, and within minutes, it will respond to your request. You can grab files or folders, or even run applications on your system. Did you forget an important file? No problem—it's sent to you. Do you need to run a backup on your hard drive? Done.
RemoteByMail is a free Windows application.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Build the Starship Enterprise from useless office supplies
Online productivity applications are a great breakthrough. They're cheap, easy-to-use, and they're compatible with many platforms. Google Docs is a widely used platform for word processing and spreadsheets. But there are others out there.
Zoho is a suite of tools that includes productivity and collaboration applications, Along with the word processor and spreadsheet apps you would expect, they've also got email, a presentation tool, a wiki, online organizer, and more. Along with these unlimited tools, they're got more business tools that do carry some limitations: a CRM system that supports 3 users, a project management tool that can help you oversee one project at a time, and others.
You can create documents online, or you can upload files from your local system—browse your hard drive, or even email them as attachments. If you're without Internet access, you can still work on your docs and sync them up later. And of course, you can share documents to collaborate with friends or co-workers.
Zoho is a free service. It should work with most systems running a modern web browser.
Whether you're submitting your resume for that great job you found, or you're applying for a grant or scholarship, or you're sending in your college application, you need something else to go with it: a cover letter. You have to let the folks to whom you are submitting your application or proposal know who you are, what you're applying for, and list what you are actually submitting. Your resume is no help if you don't tell your prospective employer what specific job you are applying for; your grant application has to let the institution you are applying to know what you are trying to accomplish.
The Cover Letter Examples site includes dozens of cover letter examples that you can download, edit, and submit along with your application materials. Choose from cover letters appropriate for employment, academic situations, sales proposals, contest entries, and more. Along with Microsoft Word-compatible DOC file cover letter templates, there are also resources including cover letter etiquette (don't send a cover letter with your resume to a prospective employer on your current employer's letterhead), lists of "action words" to use in cover letters, and an all-important list of "don'ts".
These Cover Letters are all available for free download. They require Microsoft Word, a GoogleDocs account, or another compatible word processing application that can read and write DOC files.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Sometimes it seem like you can't turn around without some new version of your favorite tool being released. Whether or not you're content with yesterday's version, there's some developer out there creating content that requires that newest version, and you know you need that content. You could spend your whole life digging around, looking for updates to your apps. Or you could use a tool like Updatestar.
Updatestar is billed as a "software search engine". Its raison d'être is to keep an eye on available updates, so you can keep an eye on your work. Rather than digging through a zillion pages on the web, just go to the Updatestar website, enter the name of your app, and get a link to the latest and greatest version. Or download the Updatestar desktop app to your machine, and let it search for you automatically.
The Updatestar website is compatible with most systems running a modern web browser. The desktop app requires Windows 2000/XP/Vista.
What do you do with a garage full of old computers? With the rapid addition of new features to user applications and operating systems, it generally doesn't take too long for your hot new computer to become yesterday's news. Whether it's technological breakthroughs or planned obsolescence, your hardware just may not cut the mustard with today's latest and greatest tools. It seems a shame to just throw this stuff out—in an ecologically-responsible way, of course—when there are still a lot of clock cycles left in them.
One way to recycle old computers is to use them as servers for various low-overhead Linux or other *NIX platforms. Whether it's as a NAT router and firewall, a web- or mail server, an FTP platform, or any of dozens of other uses, your old system probably still has the horsepower to be used in ways that do enhance your productivity.
FREESCO is an open source solution that lets you bring your old box back to life. Computers with a little as a '486 processor and 12MB of RAM can be used to run a router for your broadband or dial-up connection, a nameserver, SSH server, print server, and more. It supports up to ten network cards, so you can build a pretty complex network here. You can run it from a floppy, a RAM disk, or install it to your hard drive.
FREESCO is a free download.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
I'm a big fan of John T. Haller's Portable Apps.com, and I was very excited by one of the apps that appeared in its RSS feed last night: AppCompactor.
It is, of course, portable, open source, and designed to integrate with the PortableApps suite. AppCompactor fuses UPX (for exe, dll, and other binary files) and 7zip (for jar and zip files) to compress portable applications. Not surprisingly, it's been used to package the other programs in the suite.
Using the default options, AppCompactor reduced my CCleaner portable folder to about 760k (about 40% its original size) and pummeled my ArtWeaver to trifling 3.1mb - a 10mb reduction. Both programs launched much more quickly from my Kingston Data Traveler, and they functioned exactly as they had before: no errors, no headaches.
AppCompactor can't work it's magic on everything, though. It didn't manage to reduce a single byte with FastStone Capture or Spybot, and it only reduced AdAware SE by 60kb. For curiosity's sake, I also tried portable version of Photoshop CS3 and Office 2003, and had little success with them either, saving only about 1mb on each.
Since it utilizes UPX, apps that were previously packaged using that type of compression (like the Gimp or Firefox) probably won't see an appreciable reduction.
Still, when it does work, it's fantastic. It's an incredibly simple way to boost launch times for some of your portable apps and provide extra megs of free space on your flash drive. A few megs might not seem like much on a 16 or 32gb drive, but space is space - and more is always welcome in my book.
Sure, the price is right, but there's another thing that sets CDBurnerXP apart from most commercial apps: it comes in a portable version. In other words, you can download, unzip, and run CDBurnerXP from your hard drive, a USB flash drive, or any other media. There's no need to install it.
The portable version of CDBurnerXP isn't updated as frequently as the normal version. But you can always find the lastest build on the portable download page. The latest version of CDBurnerXP is 4.2.2 and contains some bug fixes you won't find in the most recent portable version which is 4.1.2.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Once in a while, all of us face a need to get some text synthesized into speech. Maybe we want to know how someone would pronounce a complicated word, or sometimes we just want an entire passage to be read out to us.
These online tools are a great help when you face such a requirement. Some of them will allow you only to synthesize a small passage; others would read out entire PDF or DOC files to you!
vozMe an online text to speech tool with an ultra-simple interface; a baby could use it! You have a large text box where you type or copy-paste whatever you want to convert to speech, and click the 'Create MP3' button. That's it. A new window would open, and in a few seconds, your MP3 file would start playing. Large chunks of text were translated - the text field seems to accept a pile of text easily.
This text to speech conversion tool from Expressivo has a maximum limit of 200 characters. So large chunks or text at one go are out. But it is easy enough to use. Type or copy-paste your text, choose one of the four voice options (You have female US-English, female Romanian, male Polish and female Polish accents as options), and hit Read Me.
At Cepstral, the text to speech conversion converts the text into a .WAV file. Type in the text, hit Say It, and you will be asked to download s small WAV file. The ability to save the file is a great convenience here.
4. Ivona Speech Synthesizer
The Ivona Speech Synthesizer text to speech conversion tool online has a charcter limit of 200, and the same voice options as Expressivo. Ivona, however, allows you to save the converted speech file as an MP3 for private, non-commercial use.
SpokenText is packed with features - but it wants you to register, a small hassle. The registration is a bit too comprehensive - but I think it's worth filling it out. Once you click on the link in the activation email, your registration is ready to go.
Log in, and click on the button 'Create a New recording'. Choose from one of the 5 voice options, choose a words-per-minute speed for spoken text and - there is no text box! You have to upload a PDF, .txt, .DOC or .PPT file.
Talkr is not so straightforward - but that's only if you land up on the site looking for a text to speech synthesizer. Talkr is not for that exactly - have an RSS feed you want read out?
Player to embed the mp3 file into your blog
MP3 voice mails
Listen to text only blogs anytime!
Monday, October 06, 2008
Post your cellphone carrier related suggestions/tips here: http://www.wirelesssoapbox.com/ideas
Canadians have a lot to say about wireless. And, cellular providers have a lot to learn.
When Globalive was announced as a provisional winner in Industry Canada’s Advanced Wireless Services Auction, we knew we had a lot of hard work in front of us in developing our wireless business model.
Sure, we could recreate a model that’s been done before, using the same formula, offering the same services and contracts and making the same promises. In essence, making us just another phone company – exactly what we think Canadians are NOT looking for.
There’s a reason we had in auction in this country. Our prices are too high, penetration is too low and services are lagging behind all developed nations. Canadians pay an average of 60% more for mobile wireless services than Americans. Canadians are losing out on high-tech mobile services. Only 58% of Canadians have a wireless device, compared to the United States at 77% and other industrialized countries, such as the UK and Hong Kong, where the number is over 100%.
Most importantly, Canadians lacked choice.
It’s about time a company did a lot less “telling” and a lot more “listening,” which is why we launched WirelessSoapbox.com. It’s designed to be a place that gives Canadians the opportunity to sound off about their cell phone experience, sharing thoughts and comments and putting forward new ideas. It’s about starting a dialogue with people who care about wireless in this country and are invested in making sure the next provider gets it right!
We’re asking everyone with an opinion on wireless to get up on our ‘Wireless Soapbox’ and we plan to use that cross-country intelligence to build a smarter and more informed new Canadian wireless company.
We want to hear from a wide range of Canadians on everything from ‘what their ideal cell phone plan looks like’ to their ‘biggest pet peeve about their monthly cell phone bill’.
Very importantly, we want to hear from tech-savvy armchair engineers who are interested in sharing their advice on network architecture and design, and wireless suppliers and vendors.
The future we’re helping to create for wireless in Canada is comparable to the development of many software companies who have engaged consumer input to help build their platforms.
This is the framework for WirelessSoapbox.com. We hope you’ll get involved.
Saturday, October 04, 2008