August 2011 - Posts

Wallflower - Rids you of those Social Networking Buttons
Tuesday, August 30, 2011 1:01 PM


I'm sure you are familiar to those little social networking buttons that allow visitors to your site to share the page on their social network. The idea for website owners is to make it easy to share their content to get more traffic but for the person who never uses them it's a waist of time to load them. You see sites who use these buttons and add-ons heavily have no control over how they perform or how quickly the load. So this can cause your browser to slow down.

Wallflower is a Firefox extension that removes Google+ and Facebook Buttons from websites automatically saving you load time, memory, CPU and battery life. It doesn't remove all the social networking buttons but these two are obviously the two big culprits when it comes to slow down and memory use. In fact according to the developer the Facebook button can take up to 20MB of memory with Google+ button taking as much as 40MB. So if you are sick of those buttons that get posted all over the place taking up your memory then perhaps you should give Wallflower a try.

Wallflower Firefox Extension
by willburns1 | with no comments
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PleaseSleep - Prevents Apps from Keeping your Mac Awake
Tuesday, August 30, 2011 12:13 PM


Have you ever noticed that there's always that one app that keeps your mac from sleeping when you would prefer it not to? When your computer is kept awake it uses power when it doesn't have to. PleaseSleep is a handy little app that forces your computer to go to sleep at the time you set in the Energy Saver preference pane.

Normally when the sleep timer hits zero it looks for a reason to not put your computer to sleep. If there is an app running that blocks the computer from sleeping the computer will simply not sleep. PleaseSleep bypasses this puts your computer to sleep anyway.

The app has several settings that allow you to customize the way the application functions. Under the Force Sleep tab in the preferences you have a option to Force Sleep all the time or only if specific applications are running. Likewise in the exceptions tab you can add application you never want PleaseSleep to force sleep on.

PleaseSleep is a free application and runs on 10.5 or higher, so go and check it out.

PleaseSleep
by willburns1 | with no comments
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HappyBirthday Extension Sends Facebook Birthday Wishes For You
Tuesday, August 30, 2011 11:43 AM


Ever since Facebook started reminding your friends that it's your birthday it's been a debate whether birthday wishes are genuine or not. Some people think it's nice to get birthday wishes no matter how genuine while others are annoyed with how fake and uncaring people are.

Well if you are in the crowed that believes any birthday wish is a good thing then the Chrome HappyBirthday extension is for you. The extension uses the information on your Facebook profile to pick out the birthdays of all your friends. It them will send out happy birthday wishes automatically to your friends from a set of predefined message. The list of messages are completely customizable allowing to to add, modify, and delete any of them. The extension will then notify after a birthday wish as been left so you can perhaps send a more personal note if you want.


HappyBirthday Chrome Extension   
by willburns1 | with no comments
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Why Downloadable Content Could Kill the Used Video Game Market
Monday, August 29, 2011 1:29 PM


The used video game market is pretty big. I mean GameStop has pretty much centered their business around the idea that you can play a game, sell it back to the store, and buy another new or used video game. In fact other companies have gotten into the action like Wal-Mart, Best Buy and recently Amazon who all want in on the action. Video game developers aren't friends with GameStop for several reasons, they reduce the value of their games, reduce new game sales, and sometimes participate in shady practices.

DLCs Slow Used Game Sales

So I have a theory as to what the video game industry is using to fight the used game market. A game developer's best friend is downloadable content also known as DLC. DLC not only extends how long people play a game but also make the game more profitable for a longer period of time. Customers purchase a $60 video game spend $15 each on a set of 2 or three DLCs and you have just successfully sold a video game to a customer twice without having to develop a whole new video game. DLCs can't be resold to GameStop so customers would be abandoning that investment. DLC also extends the playable life of a video game which makes selling it back to a store less likely. So that is one way I feel the video game industry is using DLC content to defend against people reselling their video games.

The New Game DLC Trap
I feel like this next tactic is a little below the belt and underhanded to tell you the truth. I have only seen in Battlefield Bad Company 2 by Dice and Electronic Arts, and it's what I like to call the "New Game DLC Trap." This is where the new version of the video game comes with a redemption code that gives you access to free DLC content that really should come as part of the video game but doesn't.

BattleField Bad Company 2 called it the VIP pack featuring the majority of the multiplayer maps and Onslought Mode, which are things that should have been included in the game from day one. Because the majority of the multiplayer maps and an entire game mode was only available for free if you purchased the game new you would be stupid to buy the used version. You could spend a couple bucks less on the used game but would have to purchase the expansion packs to get what everyone else got for free.

Dice and Electronic Arts has basically designed a way to add DRM to their video games. If you buy it new it comes with everything, if you try and sell the game it's crippled without all it's content intact. This I feel is a little underhanded, and I almost feel like I'm getting gypped. I think most people feel like it's a good deal, getting all this content for free, but in reality they are holding back content that they should have included in the game to begin with. Only to sell it later to people who didn't purchase the game new.

They are continuing this practice in Battlefield 3 with the Limited Edition which features an "expansion pack", I use the term loosely, called "Back to Karkand" which features Four Legendary Maps from Battlefield 2 re-imagined, Classic Battlefield 2 Weapons and Vehicles, Unique Rewards, Achievements/Trophies, and more.

I am not aware of other video game developers that do things similar to this, but I can image it's not because they don't want to. If other game developers were to follow suite you could see the used video game market start to take a hit.

Your thoughts

What are your thoughts on this issue? Do you think Dice and Electronic arts are trying to fight the used game market or are they just trying to drive sales? Also have you seen other games do something similar to what Dice and EA did with Battlefield BC2? Let me know in the comments.  
 
by willburns1 | with no comments
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Say Cheese Camera for Android Lets you Snap Photos with Voice Commands
Monday, August 29, 2011 12:21 PM


With both the Android and iPhone app marketplaces there are a plethora of camera replacement applications. Developers of these applications seem to have thought of everything when it comes to adding features to a camera app. Well a new app called Say Cheese Camera for Android has proven that to be wrong with their camera app that allows you to take pictures with voice commands.

In addition to a ton of other features the app allows you to choose from Cheese, Smile, and Ready as voice commands for the app to snap the picture. The app also has a few voice commands that allow you to zoom in and out as well as switch between the front and rear facing cameras. I could see this coming in handy in the winter when wearing gloves, you could take pictures without freezing off your hands.

In addition to the voice command feature the Say Cheese Camera app allows you to take pictures normally, in a quick snap mode, and in a stealth mode. Quicksnap mode allows you to hold the button down automatically saving the image to the device without displaying the preview window. Stealth mode disables sound and turns the screen black so you can take pictures without anyone knowing.

The camera app also has a range of other features one of the most interesting being the torch mode. In torch mode the LED light stays on while you snap photos. This comes in handy particularly when trying to take pictures in dark locations.

Say Cheese is a free camera app for Android phones so go and check them out

Say Cheese Camera
by willburns1 | with no comments
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DockView - Creates Windows 7 like Previews in your Dock
Monday, August 29, 2011 11:37 AM


DockView is a Mac application that adds application preview windows to the dock and fast switching menu. This is very similar to the new live preview feature added to Windows 7 which is one of Microsoft's better ideas. The application also allows you to customize icon badge's size, location, and color.

Preview Windows
DockView's preview window shows up above icons in the Dock when you hover over them. Clicking a preview activates the application and brings it to the front. You also have the ability to close the window right from the preview pane. Applications like iTunes, iCal, Mail, VLC, and others have special controls that allow you to do things like pause and play music or view upcoming events for the current day. If you don't like the preview windows being so big you can change their size with six different sizes to choose from.

Icon Badges and Hotkeys
In addition to DockViews preview windows it also allow you to customize icon badges. Icon badges are those little numbers in the red circles found on the dock notating how many new items you have in a specific application. DockView allows you to change the color, size and location these badges show up. DockView also has a hockey feature at allows you to enable/disable DockView, Dismiss all preview windows, and close all hovered application windows.

DockView doesn't hack or change any of the Dock's or System files to pull this off, which is good to know.  DockView is free to try with a nag windows popping up every 20 minutes or so. To get rid of these reminders you have to upgrade to the full application that will cost  $7.99. So go and give it a try.

DockView 

by willburns1 | with no comments
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Use Lingon to Keep CrashPlan Network Backups Happening Automatically
Friday, August 26, 2011 12:19 PM


CrashPlan is a great application that allows you to backup and restore information to and from local drives, networked drives, friends drives and even to the cloud. The cloud storage option is the only feature that cost anything which makes CrashPlan a great free tool for anyone looking to backup their files.

The Problem
CrashPlan is cross-platform piece of software which is great because it allows you to backup any computer to any computer. Backing up of files to a connected drive or to the cloud happens automatically in the background. However, when backing up from one computer to another over your local network the computer receiving the backup has to launch the application in order for a backup to commence from it's connected partner.

They do this, I assume, so that the recipient of your backup can choose when it happens and doesn't have to worry about the size of the backup sneaking up on them or it stealing system resources when they need it.   

This, however, makes the automatic backups not so automatic. I backup my wife's PC laptop to my iMac upstairs but I have to consciously launch the application whenever I want to give the Laptop a chance to backup. This sort of defeats the purpose of automatic backups.

The Solution
So to make sure CrashPlan opens each day without me having to remember to launch it I used Lingon. Lingon allows you to setup your own launched precess which will automatically keep applications running or will launch them at specific times. I setup one for CrashPlan that launches it every day at 6PM, a time that I'm typically off the computer and don't have to look at it. To do this just:
  • Launch Lingon
  • Click the plus button in the top left.
  • Select My Agents
  • Give it a name
  • Select the CrashPlan application using the choose button
  • check the "At a specific date" box and choose your launch time.
  • Click Save


 
by willburns1 | with no comments
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ESPN Xbox Live Channel Has Been Updated and is Awesome
Friday, August 26, 2011 10:14 AM


The ESPN channel has been featured on Xbox live for a while now but it has recently received an update that has brought it to a whole new level. It was cool before, some live games and highlights, but with the new layout and customizable content it feels like the future of television.

Layout
First of all they have completely changed the layout of the channel from the terribly over thought out rotating wall of videos to a reasonable and functional grid layout. The new mini guide allows you to browse and select content to watch without interrupting what you are currently watching.

Split Screen
One of the coolest new features is the split screen option which allows to start playing a second video or live stream while continuing to watching the current one. Both live and pre-recorded videos can be paused and rewound so you never have to miss a minute of the action. Only one of the videos can have sound notated by the selection border around the video which you switch by moving the control stick left and right.

My Sports
The most useful feature in the update is the My Sports section of the mini guide. You simply select the teams you care about and the ESPN channel collects all the highlights and games your teams are in. This way you can get right to the content you care about the most and allows you to skip the rest. The highlights are presented by team and allows you to watch them in a playlist, playing one after the other.

Live Alerts and Reminder

The ESPN app now has live alerts that appear at the bottom of the screen that can keep you posted on scores even if you're not keeping an eye on the game. Don't want to miss the big game? ESPN channel has reminders that you can setup so you never have to miss a game.

Other Cool Features

Other cool features include voice controls for Kinect owners and a College Football scoreboard that is accessible at any time while watching a video. It splits the screen between the list of scores and your current video.

The ESPN channel is of course for XBL Gold members only so you will have to pay the yearly fee, but like a wrote a while ago you can always get discounts on XBL Gold memberships. It's totally worth it.

by willburns1 | with no comments
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Pocket Grill is the Worlds Most Compact Grill - I'm down with that!
Thursday, August 25, 2011 12:43 PM


I'm down with anything that makes grilling possible in any situation. I can appreciate all sorts of grills from propane to charcoal to natural wood porcelain smokers to wood pellet smokes to the pocket grill that fits over a fire. "If you build it they will come" and eat all your delicious foods including lambs and sloths and carp and anchovies and orangutans and breakfast cereals, and fruit bats…well anyways i digress.

The Pocket Grill is an interesting product dreamed up by Ben and Jay from Philadelphia PA. It's basically a grill top with legs that completely folds up in to a little package that you could literally put into your pocket. The Pocket Grill weighs just 1.5 lbs and is only 6" X 3.7" X 2" Deep when folded up and expands to 2' X 1' X 15" tall when constructed. You can put it over a camp fire or fire pit and can hold 10 lbs of food at once.

This is a pretty awesome little grill top and even though it looks a little flimsy to cook on I don't think you are going to find anything that is as portable as the pocket Grill when it comes to camping or backpacking. You can get in on the action and help Ben and Jay make this product a reality by backing their project on Kickstarter. They need $40,000 to start production so get in there become a backer, because I need me a Pocket Grill!  

Kickstarter


by willburns1 | with no comments
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Control your Computer using your iPhone and iPad
Thursday, August 25, 2011 10:55 AM
0

A computer at home is handy to have but that's just it, it's stuck at home. Having a way of accessing your home or work computer while you're on the go is very handy. You can launch applications, email and download files, and accomplish pretty much anything right on your iPhone or iPad. Remote HD can do all these things and offers a ton of features at an affordable price.

Remote Desktop Screen Control

 
Remote HD allows you to remote login into your computer to view and control your screen. You can move the mouse around click and type just like you were sitting at your computer. Because the remote screen is much larger you can zoom in for a better look and control of the computer. The images streaming from your screen uses a variable quality algorithm that reduces the quality for moving objects. This makes the images load faster and makes the motion a lot smoother.

Remote Button and Touch Controls

One thing I really like about Remote HD is that it allows you to control individual applications like a TV remote. You can pause/play music applications, use arrow keys, and change the volume all without having to view the screen. This saves you from having to load data intensive images from your remote computer. You can also swipe the remote screen to the left and use the gesture pad or hit the touchpad button in the bottom right for convenient touch controls.

One of my favorite features is the ability to launch any application on your computer right from the Remote HD menu. It pops up a list of all the applications on your computer and you can launch them right from there. You can also quit any application from the list of open applications which also comes in handy.

Setup


Remote HD also works with unlocked Apple TV devices allowing you to view the Apple TV menu and control it right from your device. Remote HD allows you to control your computer via WiFi/3G/EDGE or GPRS and works on your Mac, PC, and Apple TV. It's really easy to setup with it's companion application running in the background its as simple as being on the same network. For remote connections, outside your home network, you just need you IP address and Remote HD takes care of all the rest.

Remote HD is $4.99 right now in the Mac App Store, which is 40% off the regular price so now is the time to pick it up. There is no monthly fee to use the application or additional features to buy it all works for the $4.99 pricetag. It's a great application is worth the money compared to what other applications offer at a much higher price.

Remote HD - App Dynamic
by willburns1 | with no comments
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Facebook Adds Better Photo Tagging and Privacy Controls
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 2:27 PM


Facebook has just added some pretty cool new features that allow you to better control your privacy and photo tags on Facebook. Facebook has added inline privacy controls that allow you to change who can view specific elements on your profile. They also added the ability to approve or reject photo tags before the photos show up on your profile.

Photo Tag Approval

One of the most requested features is to allow users to approve photo tags before they are allowed to show up on their profile. This is something I have always wanted, because there's nothing worse then someone posting an embarrassing photo of you and tagging you in it. It then sits on your profile until you see it and have a chance to untag yourself. The new feature, which is optional, allows you to prevent tags from being places on photos until you approve them. This also applies to tags placed on your photos by other people.

Inline privacy Controls
Facebook as added inline privacy controls which make the privacy settings a lot easier to change. The controls are placed near profile elements and allow you to change what groups of people can view that particular element on your profile. Instead of having to go all the way into the setting and dig around for the particular setting you just have to go to that element on your profile and change the settings from there. The drop down privacy control box allows you to make profile elements completely public or only visible to one person if you want. Individual statuses already had independent privacy settings but now you can change them after posting them, which is something new.  

Location Added to Statuses
In addition to some wording changes Facebook now allows you to add locations to your statuses. According to the Facebook blog post this means they will be phasing out the mobile-only Places feature. I guess it will just be a part of posting a status rather than a special section of the app. Facebook has also added the "View Profile As" button to the top of your profile so you see what your profile looks like to any of your friends. This feature was buried deep in the setting and it will be nice to have it so accessible.

These are some great new features ones that were a long time coming. Many of them are very Google+ like in appearance and feel especially some of the verbiage changes like calling public post "Public" instead of "Everyone" like it had been. Thoughts? Comments?


More at the Facebook Blog
by willburns1 | with no comments
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Why Does Digitally Distributed Games and Software Cost More?
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 1:08 PM

Shouldn't Digital Be Cheaper?
Many video games and pretty much all software titles now-a-days are available for download online. This saves everyone time and is convenient for the users but it seems to only saves the software and game companies money. Digitally distributed video games, in particular, are usually more expensive than their physical disc counterpart. Isn't distributing games and software online cheaper since you don't have to create the discs, package them, ship them to stores, sell them cheaper to stores so they can make their cut, and all the rest that comes out of cutting out the middle man? So why are digitally distributed games and software more expensive most of the time?


When is Physical Cheaper than Digital
I'm primarily talking about video games since physical software discs hardly excites anymore. One of the best examples, of physical media costing less than the digital distributed copies, is with Mac video games. If you want to purchase Call of Duty 4 for Mac you have two choices, you can either pay $16.50 for the physical disc or pay $37.99 for the digitally distributed copy on the Mac App Store. This is a pretty big difference.

Another good example is with used physical Xbox games which are almost always $5 - $10 cheaper than games offered on Xbox Live On-Demand. Granted one is new and the other used but I have never had a problem with used games and companies like GameStop will replace them if they don't work. So from a perspective of acquiring a game to pay it's all the same. Xbox recently has done a pretty good job of keeping their new prices competitive with that of GameStop but that wasn't always the case and the used copies are always cheaper.  

Why Digital Distributions have the Advantage
The problem with digitally distributed video games and software is demand is really the only thing that effects the price. They have an unlimited supply of the game or software because you are just downloading a copy of it. They can sell 1 copy or 1 Million copies with the same basic overhead cost. If the game is no longer popular the sellers only reason to reduce price is to drive sales rather than having to do damage control with a back stock of depreciating video games and software.   

Physical Media's Disadvantages
With physical video games and software the price is effected by many different aspects like supply and demand, medium popularity, and the used media market. If you are a retailer and have 5,000 copies of a video game that is starting to slow down in sales you don't want to get caught with a collection of useless disc that no one wants anymore. So the price goes down to sell off their inventory. Digital distributed software doesn't have to worry about this situation at all. Another interesting situation concerns computer  software and the fact that no one purchases it from a store now-a-days. The demand for software on a physical disc is down making the price lower and retailers are just trying to get rid of it. Have you visited a software isle at a store recently? It's like a wasteland out there.  

Another big price advantage physical media has over digital media is a used game and software market. You can go out and sell your used copy of Call of Duty 4 to someone else who's willing to pay for it. You can't do that with your digitally distributed games because the licensing agreement and DRM wouldn't allow it. This creates a market of cheaper video games one that companies like GameStop have centered the business around for years.

My Theory

So what does this come down to? Well digitally distributed games and software are convenient but that convenience comes at a price. A higher price to be exact, with little effecting the price they can set the bar wherever they want. Physical media has the price advantage of depreciating over time, being sellable, and falls under the rules of Supple and Demand. For this reason I wouldn't be surprised if physical media sticks around longer than people think. I think software and game developers would love to see an entirely digital distribution architecture because it will give them more control of the price of their games and software. This would be bad for people who love getting the discount they get from purchasing physical discs, but perhaps that's where we are headed sadly.

With the bad comes the good, because it's so cheap to distribute software digitally video game and software companies give away some of their products for free. Something that wouldn't happen if they had to release on physical media so theirs that to consider.

What are your thoughts? I'm for from an expert on subjects like this so please let me know what you think. Leave comment in the section below and let me know.  

   

by willburns1 | with no comments
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Auto SMS - Automatically responds to calls and SMS - Androi
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 11:16 AM


Sometimes you just can't respond to a phone call or SMS like when you're in church or making your daily commute. In those situations it would be nice if your phone could automatically inform the party that you are unavailable. This is what Auto SMS can accomplish for you allowing you to setup auto responding profiles. You can also schedule SMS messages to be sent automatically for you on a specific date and time. Auto SMS can even read you your messages back to you so you don't have to take your eyes off the road.  

The auto responding profiles can be set for specific days of the week and times which can also be reoccurring. So if you know you're going to unavailable Mon-Fri during work hours then you can setup a profile for your work schedule letting people know that you're at work. You can also setup one time use profiles for specific events which you can turn on and off when you need them.

Auto SMS Schedule feature is nice so you can make sure to send your friends a happy birthday SMS. The instant SMS feature allows you to setup frequent messages you send to the same person often. For example if you send a message saying that you're "leave work now" to your wife often then you could do that with a single click. The reader feature is a cool bonus, allowing you to keep your eyes on the road ad you hear your SMS read back to you.

Auto SMS is a free app that has a bunch of features and is worth checking out if you have a Android powered phone.

Auto SMS
by willburns1 | with no comments
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How to Extract Software from Mac OS X Install Disc
Tuesday, August 23, 2011 1:15 PM


When you install the Mac OS there are a couple applications that come with it, including iCal, Mail, Address Book, Calculator, iChat, and others. These are the basic applications that a fresh install of the Mac OS comes with. iLife applications come pre-installed but are not featured on the OS install disc. If you wanted to re-install these applications you would be required to reinstall the entire OS because you can't just download the applications separately. The solution to this problem is to extract the applications from the install disc using Pacifist.

Pacifist is a great little application that allows you to extract specific installs from an installation package. It works with Apple's install discs as well as downloaded install packages. You simply click the "Open Apple Install Discs" button, browse the install packages, choose the ones you want to reinstall, and Extract or launch the install files right from there. It's that simple.

The application is shareware and is free to use with a delaying nag message upon launch. If you find the application useful however you can register the application for $20 with the developer which would be the right thing to do if the application comes in handy often for you. The application isn't currently Lion compatible yet, but according to the developer's website a Lion compatible version is on it's way.

Pacifist App
 
by willburns1 | with no comments
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Print to PDF on Your iPhone or iPad
Tuesday, August 23, 2011 12:20 PM

Being able to print a webpage to a PDF is a very handy little tool. This function is built into the Mac OS and has been that way for a while now. Printing to a PDF allows you to save web pages, purchase receipts, recipes, and pretty much anything you can print to a PDF for a digital copy of a printed document. You can capture this same functionality right on your iPhone or iPad with a handy little app "Print to PDF".

Print to PDF creates a print server that can communicate with any app that has the Airprint functionality (PDF of Airprint compatible apps), the main two being Safari and Mail. To create a PDF you just need to launch the app to start the print server. Then go to Mail, Safari, or other Airprint compatible app and print the document, choosing the PDF printer from the menu. That's it you're done, the Print to PDF will send you a push notification to let you know that your document is ready. The documents are stored within the app and can be organized into folder and send out via email. You can also open the documents into a different app if you want as well so you're not stuck viewing them from within Print to PDF.

This is a great little app and one of the first to have this function on the iPhone and iPad. To the best of my knowledge there isn't another app that can do this on iDevices, but I could be wrong about that. It's only $3.99 and since it's function is so unique it's worth it. Pick it up in the iTunes App Store.

Print to PDF
by willburns1 | with no comments
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