Tech Tips with Mr. Tech Savvy

Friday, April 25, 2008

Why laptop when you have a flash drive?

Did you wish you had a laptop so you can have all your work anytime, anywhere? I think it's a bad idea carrying that heavy device with you when you travel. Why take the pains when you can now carry almost everything on a little device called "flash drive"?

Whatever you call it, a handy drive, a pen drive, a thumb drive or a flash drive, such a gadget was invented to give us mobility and portability of data. A flash drive (let's stick to this name) has become a basic gadget for people who use multiple computers and of course for avid travellers. And the good part, as the storage capacity increases, the prices are dropping. As a 1GB flash drive is now at stock-clearance price, a 4GB is a must-have carry-around gadget. Most people use flash drives just for storing or transferring of work files, pictures, music, videos, etc. Little did they know that this little flashy device you carry around has a lot more capabilities than you ever imagined.

One of the most amazing capabilities a flash drive can do that I recommend you to explore is that you can now carry your essential applications with you wherever you go. And by essential applications I mean, all office applications like word processors and its crew, email applications, web browser, instant messengers, anti-viruses and even more. Once these applications are installed into your flash drive, never worry about having to find a computer with the software you need again.

Is it really possible to install entire software into that little device? Well, the question is an under-estimation of flash drives. Not only can you install just software, but also an operating system into that tiny gadget you hooked to your key ring!

So how does it work? Just download the standalone application and install it into your flash drive. When you are on the go, plug your flash drive into any Windows computer and just launch the applications you want to use. Yes, it’s that simple!

Here are a few essential applications you could start with:

Open Office Portable allows you to have your office life on the go. This install includes all office applications like word processor, spreadsheet, etc.

Portable Firefox, the admirable browser, comes to you in a portable version as well. All bookmarks that you saved are stored securely on the flash drive.

Portable Thunderbird is an email application that lets you carry your emails wherever you go. Send and receive emails from this application, running on your flash drive.

Pidgin Portable will never let you lose touch with your friends again. With this multi-network instant messenger, carry your buddy list with you and log on to your MSN, ICQ, Yahoo! or Google accounts when you want to chat with them.

GIMP Portable lets you edit your photos and images the same way you edit them on Adobe Photoshop. This is a credible image editing tool that you must consider giving a try.

These are just a few. All these applications are easily available for you to download at PortableApps (http://www.portableapps.com/), a website that specialises in providing you with a list of recommended portable applications. So start downloading and install it into your flash drives.

Having a second thought about your laptop now? Leave it behind! Go enjoy your vacation!.

Just for Geeks - Site of the Week


Musicovery
www.musicovery.com

Music lovers will enjoy this. Listen to non-stop music while you define the genres, mood, tempo, year of release, etc. to your heart’s content. Even better, mark your favourite songs and ban the ones you hate.


Till next week… Tata ;-)

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Control your music from taskbar

Most of us enjoy listening to music while working on the computer. We would select songs into a playlist and let it play while we carry on with our work. This week features a small and simple tip but a sensible technique to help you control music faster and easier.

Normally, while you are listening to music, when you need to skip a song, you would have to switch back to the media player window and press the ‘Next’ button. Even in a situation when , say, your phone rings and you need to lower the volume or mute it completely to answer the call, you would have go back to the player again. Plus, don’t you think having a maximized window of a media player opened on your screen is a mere clutter of your workspace? Let’s make our tech life easier. Put that media player on your teeny taskbar at the bottom of your screen.

Most Media Players come with an inbuilt feature that allows you to minimize the player’s controls to fit into the taskbar on your Windows computer. Isn’t that neat? With this you can play, pause, stop, go to next or previous song, control the volume or even mute it. And if you want to watch a video as well, Windows Media Taskbar puts a little screen on your taskbar for you to enjoy. As long as it is on your taskbar, you don’t have to switch back and forth between programs again!

This feature may already be enabled on your player, but if you haven’t seen it, here’s how to activate it on Windows Media Player and Apple iTunes in three easy steps:

  • 1) Right-click mouse on the taskbar.
  • 2) Click on Toolbars. Then click on Windows Media Player or iTunes
  • 3) Whenever you want you put your player on the taskbar, just minimize the player and it will automatically be embedded into the taskbar.
There you go, easy and neat!

Happy Songkran to one and all!

It’s awfully hot out there, yet the only way to diminish the heat is to go out this weekend. While some of you might have already enjoyed the thrilling water festival in Bangkok and elsewhere, for the people in Pattaya, this weekend is your turn. Here’s wishing you a Happy Songkran! (Hoping that you read this before the newspaper in your hand turns completely wet!)

All hell breaks loose in this showery festival, so, here’s a little advice: Do remember to keep all your electronics and gadgets, especially mobile phones and digital cameras in a sealed waterproof bag, if you decide to carry them with you. Now go get drenched!

Just for Geeks – Answer and Win!

In the midst of confusion of whether Yahoo! would be taken over by Microsoft or not, did you ever wonder what Yahoo! stands for?

If you have an answer to that let me know and you will get a chance to win a Carvery for two at Jameson's The Irish Pub.
* For Pattaya Mail and Chiangmai Mail readers only


Till next week… Tata ;-)

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Friday, April 11, 2008

The Battle of Browsers

Do you remember Netscape Navigator and how it used to look on our old "boxed" computer screen? That same “navigator” was the first commercial internet browser introduced in 1994. It started off very well, being the dominant browser with up to 90% of users worldwide. The only competitor that Netscape had to battle with at the time was Microsoft's one and only Internet Explorer. Referred to as the First Browser War, It was a beginning of a ruthless competition. And eventually, the year 1998 gave way to Netscape's defeat with IE souring to over a 90% monopolizing share of internet surfers. It was evident that IE enjoyed a sweet symphony of being the leader in the browser war from then.

At that point of time, it was obvious to say that if you have browsed the internet, then you have used Internet Explorer at least once in a lifetime. Or if you are a Windows user, you are sure to have used it and probably are a big fan too.

During subsequent years, there came along a lot of new names and brands with new features and designs. But the one that we have surely heard of and which has really shown success is Mozilla Firefox. With newcomers becoming more and more popular, it brought us to an era of a Second Browser War. By this time, we've barely heard of the name "Netscape". After a long struggle with its competitors, Netscape's doubtful existence officially died a cold death on March 1, 2008.

Let's look at the top three warriors that are battling it out in today’s war.

Internet Explorer
Internet Explorer still leads in the browser race today. Including all versions, IE holds an over 50% user share. Its popularity significantly owes to the fact that Windows operating systems comes pre-installed with IE. While over 85% of the people around the world use Microsoft Windows operating systems, it is no doubt that majority of internet surfers are attached to IE. However, recently, as numerous others have proven this war to be a tough one, IE has been struggling to maintain its superiority. Introduced with the public release of IE7 in 2006 were features like tabbed browsing, phishing filter and search tool. It might have proved a little success but by this time, these were no longer exclusive features. The competitors would have emerged with the same and even more features to offer their users. IE7, therefore, did not succeed as expected. Nevertheless, Microsoft announced its beta release of IE8 recently, which we eagerly wait to see some great enhancements.

Firefox
The closest competition to IE today is Firefox, and to be exact, according to W3Schools.com, the percentage of Firefox users is now above 35%, which has never stopped growing since its first release. Standing in the second position, Firefox is an open source browser developed by Mozilla and supports Windows, Macintosh and Linux. Firefox has certain highlights that definitely please its users. These include features that allow users to add extensions or change the browser’s interface by applying downloadable skins. Moreover, being an open-source platform, independent software developers can create extensions on their own to tune up the browser in the way they want and share them with Firefox fans around the world. This creates a strong community of users who will always try to improve the browser. While the testing version is already out, Firefox is giving finishing touches to its new 3.0 version.

Safari
An official browser by Apple, Safari is one of the youngest entries into this war. Having only about 2% users in hand, Safari has a long way to go to get closer to IE and Firefox. However, its growth rate is believed to be very interesting. The infamous iPhone and iPod Touch that have taken the world by storm come with Safari as the default browser. With more such gadgets being sold, the popularity of this browser is inevitably boosted. Just recently, Apple released its latest Safari update for Windows, the 3.1 version, claiming it to be the fastest browser. With this, Apple does hope to widen its market on the Windows platform.

The world has already bid farewell to one of the major warriors of this war, while there are still stronger ones working extremely hard to dominate this battle. As the technology devotees pursue the fate of this war, common users enjoy the result of new and better products. The war has a lot more coming its way for us to expect the unexpected. We shall wait and watch.

Just for Geeks - Site of the Week


TripIt
www.tripit.com

This is one website travellers must not miss. TripIt is a unique, free online tool for travellers to organize all their travel plans in one place. To start with, all you have to do is forward your travel itineraries to a given email address and they will all be organized for you. The tool will put your flight, hotel and car rental confirmations on one page which can be easily accessible anytime on the website or even through email. You can print these itineraries while you are travelling or even share these travel plans with your friends.


Till next week… Tata ;-)

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Friday, April 4, 2008

Living Life Online

It has been too long since we remember the time we created our first email account, leave alone learning how to connect with a Dial-up connection. Since then, we’ve come a long way. Today, the moment we sit at a computer, there's a least chance we're not connected.

Thanks to the rapid growth in technology, the internet speed is becoming closer to the speed of light day by day. With this effect, the line between "offline" and "online" rapidly thins down, making the majority of our lives "online".

Sure, everything is going online. Our childhood videos, our graduation pictures, our personal diary, we’ve already posted them there. We explore the entire planet's surface from the same screen we check our emails. And what about those essential tasks you do every day when you are offline?

Like Microsoft Word, Excel or Power Point, these basic applications that you use every day in your offices or at home can be found in plenty online. And most of them are free! Yes, it's true. You have most features and functionality just as you had it with those offline applications. Additionally, we can share documents, photos, audios and videos with friends to view and enjoy or collaborate with co-workers to edit and approve. This wasn't possible in offline mode. And Hey! Don’t forget, it’s free! No more buying and installing those expensive softwares.

Another practical use of these online applications is that it is an anytime-anywhere tool. Tired of carrying your laptops with your favourite software when you travel? As long as you can find a nice cyber cafe, you don’t need to worry about those softwares ever.

How does that sound? Here’s a list of online alternatives to your favourite softwares you should fall in love with. Enjoy!



Microsoft Office

Google Docs - http://docs.google.com
Write documents online with this amazing word processing tool. The best part with Google Docs is you can store documents online and access them to view or edit anytime from anywhere. You can also share with a friend and allow him/her to edit the same document.

Microsoft Excel

Google Docs (Spreadsheet) - http://docs.google.com
Accounting is made easier and mobile for you; create spreadsheets with this tool.

Microsoft Power Point

Google Docs (Presentation) - http://docs.google.com
Create presentations, share with people or invite them to watch it at the same time. All this online!

Equally as good, you might also want to take a look Preezo - http://www.preezo.com/

Adobe Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop Express - https://www.photoshop.com/express
Very recently launched (in beta mode), a free web-based photo editing tool.

Another option is
Splash Up
- http://www.splashup.com

Microsoft Outlook

Gmail - http://www.gmail.com
You can download emails from other accounts to Gmail via POP just like any offline email applications.

Instant Messengers:
MSN, Yahoo!, Gtalk, ICQ and AIM

Meebo - http://www.meebo.com
An all-in-one instant messaging tool; login to any of your chat services right from one location.

Adobe Acrobat Professional

Doc2PDF - http://www.doc2pdf.net/converter
Nothing can be easier than this! Use this to convert a Word document into PDF format. Very quick and easy.

Calculator

InstaCal - http://www.instacalc.com/
Calculation of complex mathematics or conversion of currency, weight, length, etc. can all be done here.




Just for Geeks
Bring family closer; build a family tree, create timelines and share photos with Geni – www.geni.com

Till next week… Tata ;-)

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