Like most homes, our fridge is littered with magnets, paper, and reminders in some vain attempt to prevent people forgetting their appointments and important dates. This mish-mash exasperates me, and I yearn for a clear refrigerator. Therefore, when I stumbled across FamilyFridge, which aims to replace the overloaded fridge, I was more than happy to try it out to see how well it fulfils its purpose.
After signing up you’ll be able to access your family’s new organiser. One of the first actions you’ll likely want to undertake is inviting other members of your family to join the website, else it’s not really serving its purpose of helping to keep your whole family organised and running smoothly. Those who you send it to will receive an email which invites them to join you. It appears that the only way to ensure that the person you’re inviting gets added to your family work area rather than creating their own is to have them click the link that the email generates, so make sure that they follow it rather than just going to the website’s homepage.
The features themselves are useful, but I didn’t find anything that made me jump for joy. The layout and interface of the website is simple and sleek whilst being approachable and friendly. Features are split into their own pages, which are accessible via the navigation buttons at the top of the family’s homepage. This homepage also provides a general overview of recent and upcoming events to help you keep an eye on what’s going on.
The first feature is the calendar, which aims allow the whole family to add events to it, allowing everyone to see what’s going on, and when. Events can be added either publicly – the entire family can see it; or privately – only you can see it. Whilst it’s useful to be able to add things like doctors’ appointments privately, it would be nice to be able to specify particular people who can see new events. For example, if you’re planning a party for your brother, you won’t want him to see if on the calendar, but you’ll need other family members to be able to view it.
FamilyFridge also includes the ability to send messages to other family members, though the usefulness of this when compared to email may be questioned since it doesn’t yet include any formatting features or allow you to attach files or images. However, it is useful to be able to send messages to all of your family members who use FamilyFridge. Unfortunately the ability to choose more than one person, but not the whole family, is not implemented.
There’s also an ability to upload photos and place them into albums. These can then be viewed by the other family members who’ve got accounts on FamilyFridge. However, it’s questionable as to why this service would be used instead of such other services as Facebook or Picasa, both which have very well-established and well-featured photo sharing tools. Despite this, FamilyFridge’s photo offering may be useful if you have some particularly private photos that you’re happy for the family to see, but not your friends.
Next is the notebook feature. This allows users to add a text-based note which other family members can read and respond to if necessary. This might be used for such things as sharing recipes, or asking the family to think about where they want to go on an upcoming family outing. Other users can then post a response to the note, which allows for a simple small-scale forum-like discussion. If you’re planning on doing anything more than simple, quick discussions, it might be worth considering setting up your own free family forum elsewhere.
We now come to my favourite feature – giftlists. In the run-up to my birthday, I was commanded to produce a wishlist which outlined items that it would be rather smashing to receive as presents. Normally, I type this in a Word document and print it out so those who demanded it of me can read it. However, this time I decided to create my list using the provided feature on FamilyFridge. This includes a nifty feature called the ‘Wantometer’, which allows me to drag a bar to indicate how much I want the item. Family members can then purchase the items in order of how highly they’re ranked on the ‘wantometer’; they can also leave comments about the items, perhaps to air their feelings that your chosen items are too expensive. In addition, you can add a link to the location of each item to save your family searching for it, so it’s a win-win situation.
We now come to the freezer – this smashingly named area houses files that you upload, and has functionality to let either just you view your files, or to let other family members open and edit them. This is a nice simple form of file sharing, but it doesn’t match network shared folders or websites designed specifically for the purpose of sharing files.
Whilst I wasn’t bowled over by the service, it’s certainly got some useful features. Plus, it’s still in development, so should hopefully improve over time. It’s worth signing up to use only the gift list feature, which in my opinion is the most useful. Waddle over to www.familyfreezer.co.uk to get started with bossing your family about.
It’s fast approaching time to get back to school or college for most pupils and teachers. That generally means rushing everything in the last few days that has been put off under the false illusion that there’s “Plenty of time.” Thankfully, I’ve managed to get everything done. However, I’m always hunting for ways to improve my organisation to ensure that tasks get finished on time, and everything is neat and accessible. Notely aims to make everything easier for students by providing numerous useful tools.
Notely packs so many smashing features into one web-application that it’s difficult to know where to begin. After registering and logging in, you’ll be presented with your dashboard. This’ll be useful in future to see quickly what tasks need doing and what events are coming up. Rather than just work my way through the entire sidebar in this article, I’ll pick out the main features in an order which makes some sense and couple them with comments and the usual babble.
Right-ho, let’s start with the ‘Courses’ section. This is one of the must fundamental features – each lesson taken can be added here; doing so allows future task and other such items to be placed in their right category. It’s a simple process to creating new courses, and each has extra information assigned to it, such as teacher and classroom. For some reason it’s compulsory to add those, which makes it a bit awkward for me since it’s not yet confirmed what teachers I’ll have, let alone the room numbers. It also doesn’t account for the fact that it’s likely that some students will be in different rooms at different times – especially if they have more than one teacher for a subject. However, simply placing a dash or other symbol in the teacher name and room number box is enough to fool the form into thinking that you’ve entered the information. A more minor feature is the ability to add a colour to represent your course. Unfortunately, the choices were very limited, which meant that I couldn’t have the same colours as the folders for each subject. A minor issue, but I’m sad enough to want the colours to be standardised.
Once you’ve added the names of your lessons, you’ll be able to categorise other information into them. One of the most important of these is likely to be the ‘Notes’ feature, and judging by the name of the website, it’s designed to be the key feature. The tools for creating a new note are more than sufficient – you’re given a text area featuring a number of different tools to allow you to format the text, add links, insert images, and other such jazz. I did wonder why Notely’s notes feature would be used in place of a document, since other software is more suited to taking more strenuous notes. They would lack the integration with Notely’s other features, but I’d still rather create notes in software that features more advanced features and will store it on my hard-drive. PDFs and RTF documents can be imported to Notely, but the ability to import other formats such as .DOC would be a welcome addition.
I’ve been trying to work out the difference between ‘Tasks’ and ‘To-dos’, but I haven’t quite been able to fathom it out. They both appear to serve the same purpose, but ‘Tasks’ appear to be more focused upon outlining specific projects which need to be completed, whilst ‘To-dos’ appear to be designed for more minor task – things like ‘Buy book’ or ‘Find pen’. As with any organisational application, the plan behind these is to enable you to keep track of tasks which need to be done, and to ensure that you’re handing them in or completing them in time. Notely’s offering is good, but I don’t think the interface and ease-of-use compares to Soshiku’s. However, the tight integration with Notely’s other features may be the factor which wins you over. Like Soshiku, each to-do note can have a due-date applied, but Notely also allows a time to be added, which allows for a little bit of extra prioritisation.
Complementing the to-do feature is the ‘Calendar’ item. This shows when each task is due, and therefore allows you to see more clearly when work needs to be completed by. Additional items can also be added directly to the calendar. Therefore it can serve the dual purpose of keeping track of your work, as well as scheduling more enjoyable plans. Something which I thought was especially smashing was the ability to view the calendar in weekly or daily mode; this meant that each day had hourly intervals underneath, allowing the events to be seen clearly. Whilst it doesn’t quite compete with applications specifically focused upon the calendar, it is a very useful addition to the suite of features. A minor qualm was that the calendar didn’t show the name of the day when in weekly or daily mode – opting instead to show only the date.
The ‘Links’ section is fairly self-explanatory. Links to useful websites can be added. Each contains a title, URL, and an optional description. This is a simple feature, but may prove to be useful for quickly accessing useful but obscure webpages or online applications. However, it would be nice to be able to categorise the links into the aforementioned courses which were created. A similar feature is the ability to upload files. Unlike the links, these can be organised, which means you’re able to create folders which contain sub-folders and files, allowing you to keep track of anything you choose to place there.
Another duty which I usually do over the summer holidays is typing out my timetable in a more friendly format. This includes colour coding and a cleaner design than the plain black-and-white which the dull photocopier provides. Undertaking this arduous quest usually involves poring over a meticulously perfected table in Word, this time I could use Notely’s ‘Schedule’ tool to create the coming year’s timetable. The rows span from the ungodly hour of 7am right up to 8.30pm. Whilst this is a benefit in that even those with very strange schooling hours will be able to use the feature, it means that I end up with a large number of wasted spaces. I’d therefore like to be able to specify which days and timespans to include on the timetable. Despite this, the interface is really rather smashing. The subjects which were created on the ‘Courses’ page are ready to be dragged to their correct places on the timetable, and they’re also accompanied by the more inviting ‘Free time’ and ‘Lunch/dinner’.
With regard to learning rather than just organising, Notely also provides features which allow for the creating of quizzes and mind-maps. Both of them seem to work fine, but lack the shine and polish of other alternative web applications which are designed specifically for those purposes. Bubbl.us is a good alternative for creating mind-maps, but once again you’ll lose the compatibility with the rest of Notely’s smashing features by using an alternative website.
There are also a number other features which are well worth a look, but I’ve now babbled for quite long enough and will therefore wrap this article up. Notely has proven itself to be very useful and full of features which promise to help students organise their busy schedules. You can sign up at www.notely.net.
We’ve probably all done it – copied something useful that we needed to paste elsewhere, and then forgotten and copied something else. This’ll result in losing the first thing that you have copied, and unless you can find the original source again, it’s destined to float in the abyss forever. However, Windows clipboard is capable for holding more than one item at a time; you just need a bit of software to bring out the full potential. This exists in the form of 101 Clips.
After installing, the first thing I noted was the simple and fairly dated interface. I soon discovered however, that it’s enough to get the job done that it’s intended for. There are a number of small rectangles, each of which can become filled with an item which is on your clipboard. It’ll place the most recent in the first space, and the others will get pushed backwards. It would be nice to be able to customise the number of rows and columns provided. A minor issue, but being able to alter this may be a useful addition.
101 Clips will reside in your system tray – down by the clock. It’ll then store up all the items that you copy without making a fuss. These copied items can then be seen by clicking the icon to open up the software. Hovering over one of the listed items will bring up a small preview window which shows the copied text, image, or file link. Clicking on the item will then place it back at the front of the clipboard, allowing you to paste it to another location. One limitation I found was that if you copy a file or shortcut, clicking it in 101 Clips won’t allow you to paste it into Windows explorer as you would expect. Instead, it saves the location of the file as text.
If you find that there are items on the clipboard that you no longer need, they can be right-clicked to delete them. Doing this will prevent the number of items getting cluttered, and clips should be easier to find. There are also a few options as to which buttons are displayed in the software, which can be accessed from the menus at the top of the window. Something to be aware of is that closing the window will close the software completely, including the system tray icon. If you want to keep using it without having the window on the screen, minimizing the window will zip it back into the tray, patiently waiting for you to call on it again.
Being the fool that I am, I shut my computer down before realising that I hadn’t taken a screenshot of the 101 Clips software showing the functionality. Duty-bound, I switched it back on expecting to have to begin my copying frenzy again, but was pleasantly surprised to see that it had remembered the copied items from before it was shut down. This meant that everything stored there could be clicked to allow me to paste it if I needed to; a helpful feature that could prove very useful if your PC crashes.
Whilst the software has a simple purpose and an uninviting interface, it’s incredibly useful and likely to leave you wondering how you survived without it. 101 Clips can be downloaded from http://101clips.com/freeclip.htm.
Being able to connect to, view, and use, other computers can often prove useful or necessary. You may have encountered a plea for help from a friend whose computer has imploded, or you simply might want to browse documents or files on another PC in your home, but are too lazy to make the arduous journey to the other room. Both of these situations and more can be solved by TeamViewer.
After downloading and installing, you’ll be able to sign up for an account. Whilst this can make it faster for you in the future by allowing you to create a list of contacts, it’s not a compulsory step. Loading the TeamViewer software will generate a unique user ID and password, the latter of which can be changed if you wish. The user-ID and password can then be given to another user to allow them to connect to your PC. When you want to connect to another PC, you’ll need its user-ID and password. The connection won’t need to be confirmed on the PC you’re trying to connect to if you input the password details correctly. If you sign up for an account, you can also set up a computer with TeamViewer installed to be available for connection without having to faff about with auto-generated passwords each time. Therefore, Team Viewer can act as not only a remote assistance tool, but as a remote desktop connection tool.
Once you’ve entered a connection, the remote desktop will appear in a window. The size that you view it in can be adjusted by resizing the window, and can also be run in full-screen. However, if the screen resolution on the remote PC is larger than your own, you’ll probably notice some loss of quality since it’s being scaled down to fit your screen. The window can run in full-screen, but this is likely to result in you having to scroll around the screen to see it all. Despite these fairly minor grievances, the connection between the two computers was very good – the speed was fast and there wasn’t any judder or jump as I’ve experienced at times when trying Windows’ built-in remote connection software. However, it should be noted that I was connected to a PC on the same network as I am, so the connection may be of lower quality if I were to try to connect to a computer that’s further afield. If you do encounter poor connection between the two PCs, the quality settings can be altered to reduce the amount of data which needs to be sent between the two, hopefully speeding up the process.
In addition to being able to interact with the PC as if it were in front of me, I was also able to send files to the other PC. This feature could be useful if you’re collaborating with a colleague or classmate on a project involving documents. You’d be able to look at the document or presentation together whilst using the built-in chat feature to share feedback and suggestions. There doesn’t seem to be a feature which allows for voice-chat, which may be a useful addition for helping someone fix a problem. Though perhaps this would run the risk of using up too much of your connection, thus reducing the quality and responsiveness of the remote connection to the PC.
Your actions on the PC can also be recorded using the built-in feature. This might come in handy if you want to later watch back the video to see how you solved a problem or what you did wrong. If you were helping someone to solve a problem, you may wish to show them the video so they are able to fix the issue themselves in future if it arises again. That’ll save you some extra work.
Overall, a great bit of software. I am surprised that such a quality bit of kit is offered for free – though there is a paid-for version which adds additional features. Another plus point is that it’s compatible with both Windows and Macs. TeamViewer can be downloaded from www.teamviewer.com.
As much as I love neatness, I just can’t gather the motivation needed to tidy and clear out the plethora of books which live in the cupboard. I pay for this lack of action most times I want to find a particular book or simply view my collection to see if anything tickles my fancy. A website which goes some way to solving this problem is LibraryThing, which also adds extra features and additional jazzy things.
The first feature you’re like to come across is the ability to start your online book library. Viewing your library will give the option to add books. Once found, the book’s title can simply be clicked to add it to your listings. Once it’s safely in your virtual library, additional information can be added. This includes a rating for the book and the ability to change the title and other such information if the fancy takes you. Alternatively, you can search through the plethora of books catalogued by the site and its sources using the ‘Search’ tab, top right. This allows for books to be searched by title, author, date and more. Tags can also be searched, which allows you to find new books which are related to, for example ‘cars’.
However LibraryThing comes into its own with its community. There’s a large number of users, many whom contribute reviews and details about books which aid you in deciding whether to purchase the book or not. Each user receives their own profile upon which information can be added and their library can be viewed. You can contribute your own rating and review for any book you’ve read, and this will be displayed to other users to help them make decisions about purchasing.
In addition to this, LibraryThing also offers a list of suggested books for each item. For example, a viewing of Orwell’s 1984′s page yields a number of similar books: ‘Animal Farm’, ‘A Clockwork Orange’, etc. Whilst this is useful for seeing alternative books or reads that you might enjoy, LibraryThing goes a step further with its testing feature. Clicking the ‘Will I like this book’ button will send Librarything off on an epic quest to battle dragons and the like, before returning to tell you how likely you are to enjoy reading the book you’re looking at. It works this out by seeing what other books you have in your library and how highly you’ve rated them, so it pays to keep active with the LibraryThing community.
There’s no question that it beats a handwritten list, so pop over to www.librarything.com to begin making your collection and finding new books that you’ll adore.
Whilst there’s a plethora of dictionaries available online, software can still surpass them in terms of ease-of-use and the speed of access. WordWeb is a smashing little application which combines a dictionary, thesaurus, and more into one small application. It’s almost always faster than using a dictionary website, and includes additional functions which you’re not likely to find elsewhere.
During or just after the installation, you may be struck by something a bit queer. The license agreement includes a clause which states that you can use the software provided you don’t make more than four flights in a 12-month period. Obviously this is the developer’s way of trying to reduce carbon emissions and therefore save the poor little polar bears from supposed impending doom. I don’t take flights, and therefore am free to use this software as much as I like. It’s also quite quaint that you receive a message after a year asking you how many flights you’ve taken – it won’t let you continue to use it if you answer more than four, and will perhaps lecture you about how you’re murdering the environment.
Attempted diktats about how you travel aside, the software is useful and zippy. It loads very quickly and it’s easy to get started by searching a word in the text field. WordWeb will then quickly do some soul-searching to find the word you’re looking for and provide definitions. Below this are a few tabs which offer different features. The first of these is ‘Nearest’, which will take you to a list of words which are above and below it alphabetically, clicking one of these will take you to its definition. Whilst this isn’t as obviously useful, it’s handy if you’re using alliteration in puns, or you just want to kill some time. ‘Synonyms’ is the second tab, and this lists words which mean the same thing. I’d like to see that improved, since there weren’t many suggested synonyms for each word. Thirdly we have the ‘Antonyms’ tab, which presents words which mean the opposite of the word you’ve looked up – just in case you’re feeling fickle.
There’s also the ability to carry over information from the Internet. After clicking ‘Web References’ you’ll be asked to confirm that you’re willing to download content from the Web. After this initial shuffling about, you additional features will be added: a Wikipedia article panel for the word, a Wictionary panel, and a WordWeb online panel. These all add additional information which can be useful to your in your research.
I think my only suggestion for improvement would be the ability to have different tabs for different words. This would help with multitasking or when checking the finer points of the definitions when choosing between two similar words. WordWeb can be downloaded from http://wordweb.info/free/ or download.com.
I like to think I’m rather thrifty with money, though most would say I’m more Scrooge-like than thrifty. Being able to keep track of my measly incomings and even measlier outgoings is a smashing prospect. In this time of economic instability, when interest earnings on saved money is next to nothing, you, like me, are probably looking to save as much money as possible and make every penny count. To do this, you might find it helpful to keep track of your incomings and expenditures. For managing your money, Buxfer is a good free option.
After signing up for an account, the first choice you’ll need to make is whether you want Buxfer to integrate with an online bank account. Since I don’t use online banking, I didn’t need to go through the process of inputting bank details, and I therefore set about manually configuring Buxfer for my needs. It turned out that there wasn’t much to be done – at the most basic level I just needed to begin adding in incomings and outgoings to use the service and keep track of my money. An option which I quickly wanted to change was the currency. It is by default in US Dollars, but this is easily changed to one of a plethora of other currencies by using the settings page.
Budgets can also be set. These define maximum total spending for different areas – such as bills, maintenance, entertainment, and so on. A time-frame is then set – weekly, monthly, or yearly. The maximum amount of money that you are willing to spend in that area in the time-frame that you chose is then entered. You can also tick the ‘rollover’ checkbox, which means that if you don’t use the full budget that you set for the given time-frame, it will be added onto the next time-frame.
From that point onwards each transaction you add (either incoming money or outgoing money) can be tagged with one of the budgets you created. When you add an outgoing transaction and tag it with one of the categories, that amount will be deducted from the budget. The budget pages are detailed whilst being clear and easy to understand. Budgets for each area are represented by a line graph which shows the fall and rise of funds in different areas. Your total expenditure for the week, month, or year, is represented by a pie chart, which shows how large a chunk is spent in each section. There’s also a nice budget summary page, which shows how much remains in each area, the total remaining, and a visual summary of your spending.
My only suggestion would be the ability to track bank balances manually. This can be done by those who integrate Buxfer with their bank account, but those of us who don’t use online banking cannot see the total balance of our bank accounts rise and fall. Aside from that, it’s a very useful for managing your expenses and tracking your income. You can sign up at http://buxfer.com.
Having completed ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, I’ve now got to read ‘King Lear’ for my upcoming English course. I’ll be studying these two in-depth soon, but it’s necessary to read them through first to get a gist of the plot and form preliminary ideas about meanings and themes. Whilst I enjoyed ‘Streetcar’, ‘Lear’ is proving much more heavy-going. The language used is very hard for me to get used to, and I must say the plot is yet to get interesting. It takes me several minutes to get through a single page since I have to keep referring to the modern translation page, which tells me what the most confusing phrases mean. Moving on from this tangent and putting my ineptitude aside, this article does have a point to it. In my pursuit of making Shakespear easier to read, I searched for an audio recording of ‘Lear’, and fortunately found it listed on the smashing little website called LibriVox.
All the audio-books available for download are fully legal since their copyright has expired; they’re therefore in the public domain. There’s a useful search feature which lets you find books by title, author, genre, or other options. So even if you’ve not got a particular book in mind, you can simply search for ‘Horror’ or ‘Romance’ to receive a selection of different books that meet that criteria. When you’ve found a book you want to listen to, you have the choice of downloading it as a single zipped file, or streaming separate MP3 or OGG tracks. Once these have downloaded to your PC you can unzip the folder and then play the tracks. Since the file format is MP3 you’ll should be able to copy it onto your MP3 player to listen to it when you’re not at your PC.
Web community projects have been all the rage since Wikipedia, and LibriVox is no exception. However, the community features are implemented in a very in a very effective way way – the users seem friendly, and it appears that anyone who wants to can add audio for a new book or contribute to one that’s currently being recorded. You’ll obviously need a microphone and some recording software to save it, but other than that, there are no limitations. Each project tells you where the transcript can be downloaded for free – this saves you buying the book.
The variety of audio-books is very impressive, and the dedication of the contributors is equally good. From my brief look around the forums, everyone seemed to be more than willing to assist confused users. The library of books is also being added to all the time. The audio-books can be downloaded from librivox.org.
Nowadays just about everyone has a digital camera. Whether you take the occasional fun snap with your mobile phone’s camera, or you’re a keen shutterbug with a top-of-the-range SLR which would make the paparazzi jealous, you could do with a good way of managing photos. Over a long period of time you’ll probably find that your photo files begin to build up in a chain of different folders. Whilst this system works, it’s certainly not the easiest to navigate, organise, and alter your images. Interestingly, Google Picasa is useful even if you don’t take photos yourself. It’s likely that you’ve been sent photos by friends and family; and you may be a habitual hoarder of interesting images from the Internet. Picasa isn’t limited to only photos – it will happily manage and edit any of the supported image file types. It’s got plenty of features, but it excels at organisation.
After installing Picasa and loading it up, it’ll either begin to automagically index your images, or it might prompt you and check what you want to index. Mine just goes scavenging around for any image files which exist on the hard drive. ‘Scavenging’ may be a misleading choice of word, however. It actually finds the files very quickly and shows them in their folders in the tidy sidebar. You can then scroll though these folders to see your images. This saves you navigating through different folders and their often confusing structures. It’ll also detect when any new images arrive and add them to its index. If you move or edit photos, it’ll notice that too and update itself. I was also impressed that it even saves screenshots – pressing the print screen button resulted in Picasa saving the screen capture. This could prove very useful if you need to take a number of shots, since it’ll bypass the usual gruelling process of pasting each shot into a picture editor and saving the file individually.
A feature which I really like is albums. Whilst you could (and probably do) organise your photos into folders which represent different events, places, or times, you may find that you’ve got a number of similar pictures in different folders. A recent example of this for me was the wedding I attended. I had photos from my camera’s memory card; photos from other people’s cameras; some I had downloaded from friends on Facebook; and a few folders containing images I used in the film I made of the day. Being able to save this mish-mash of images into one album made it much easier to find, view, and edit them in future. If you then want to keep a copy of your album or send it to a friend, you can have Picasa export the photos into a folder. It’s also worth noting that creating albums doesn’t affect the location of the photos – moving them into a Picasa album will not remove them from the original folder in which you saved them.
Importing photos was also a simple procedure. After popping a memory card into the slot it was just a matter of clicking the ‘Import’ button and telling Picasa where to look. It then automatically detected any duplicate photos so I wouldn’t end up with multiple copies of the same photos. If this was your intention, you can simply untick the ‘Exclude duplicates’ box, and then enjoy watching Picasa zip along as it copies the files to your PC and makes them nice and easy to access in future.
Of course Picasa will never match up to expensive software like Photoshop when it comes to editing your photos, but it works very well when it comes simple fixing and improvement. The red eye removal too was especially impressive; it automatically found the red eyes and turned them back to their usual, less demonic colours. If it can’t detect them alone, it’s a simple case of dragging the crosshairs to where the eyes are located. The other filters consist mainly of colour changes – things like shadows, brightness, and other effects. These fall under three editing tabs which become visible when a photo is double-clicked to view it larger. If you’re feeling even more creative you can create collages of chosen photos, folders, of albums. The collage I created of the wedding album looked very high-quality and would be well worth sending off to a friend or family member to briefly showcase your photographic skills or show them what a grand day they missed out on. Another smashing feature is the ability to create video slideshows of your photos. Music, titles, and captions can all be added to the stream of pictures before exporting the file in a video format that can be viewed in media players and potentially DVD players.
Yet another fantastic feature is the ability to upload your photos quickly and easily to Picasa Web Albums. Not content with providing photo software for you, Google also runs an online service where you can store your photos online to share with others. You just need to choose an album, folder, or image to sync to the web, set a couple of options, and then they’ll be safely stored on the Web. The privacy settings are simple but more than adequate – you can click the ‘settings’ button before syncing to choose who can see your album – everyone, those you give the link to, or allowed users who have a password. Picasa will then keep track of any changes that you make and keep the online photos updated as per your alterations. You an disable the auto-update of the online album if you wish by disabling the sync again. The photos uploaded can also be reordered or deleted by visiting your online albums page.
Having long avoided photo management software, I’m very impressed by Google’s offering, and therefore glad that I downloaded it and gave it a try. It’s got an intuitive interface, fantastic features, and it’s fully free. You can download it from picasa.google.com
I decided it was time for another geeky article to complement the recent gaming ones. Whilst we’re all too familiar with gigantic MMORPGs, zippy racing games, and baffling puzzle games, we may have neglected the humble card game. You’d be right in stating that there’s very little geeky about such standard card games as poker or blackjack, but we’re talking about a different type of card game here – think Dungeons and Dragons, but without the dice and long appendix list. Dvork Game Wiki is a depository of user-created card games which can be printed out and played with a group of similarly nerdish friends. Oh, and before I start, I think it’s worth pointing out that it’s made by the same lovely chap that gave us Chore Wars – so naturally I loved it before I even visited.
The primary feature is the broad listing of card games created by users of the wiki. These range from doing epic battle with spaceships, to fighting your friends with copyright laws in pursuit of controlling 70% of humanity’s information. Your nerd senses are already tingling – I can tell. You’re picturing a bunch of sweaty, pock-marked teenagers sitting around a table in a poorly lit basement as they argue about whose card has the better stats. Go on, admit it. The website does bring up strong connotations of such events, but they could serve as a good method for getting together with friends for a social gathering and doing something fun, different, and free. Though you might have trouble convincing them that they won’t have ‘Loser’ tattooed across their forehead if they join in.
You can search for card decks by entering something in the search box if you have an idea as to what you want to play, or you could just keep clicking ‘Random page’ until you come across an interesting one. The rules are generally outlined on the wiki page which shows the cards, and there’s also link to print the cards. The print feature is rather smashing too, since it lets you set the size of the cards and text size. Therefore even your grandmother can’t use her poor eyesight as an excuse not to join in the fun. You can then use your dainty fingers to stick these onto card and cut them out. I know, I know, it’s a hard life, isn’t it? Of course there’s nothing to stop you adapting the rules if the deck creator is being a little bit over-the-top with his rules and directions.
If nothing already on the website tickles your fancy, you can always create your own deck of cards. This would involve creating the cards itself so they can be printed and used by your fellow nerds, and some directions or rules to outline how the game should be played. Cards can be left with just text, or you can also add images to spice them up a little bit. If you’re not a fan of playing with physical bits of card, you can bring out the super-nerd and use the Dvorak online method – it looks like a DOS-style command window – plain white text on black background. It would be smashing if they software could be improved upon to allow players to engage in the card games visually, either with invited friends or other Dvorak users.
In a vain attempt to balance out all the nerdy fun, I’ve concluded that the service could be used for educational purposes. I’m not currently quite sure how this would work, but at the most basic level you could have a card game with occasional cards which contain questions or facts which relate to something you need to learn about. Alternatively, for a subject like history you could create a deck of cards that accurately use battle tactics which were used in WWI. You would then need to pit the cards against another player – whilst the outcome might not be the same as the war, at least you’d be learning about the tactics and conditions. Therefore these card games used in an educational way could benefit both students wanting to revise for exams in an exciting way and with friends; and teachers who want to try something new with their classes.
Don’t be afraid to unleash your inner nerd – there’s no need to hide it! www.dvorakgame.co.uk provides everything you need for that great night in playing cards with your mates. If it’s all too geeky and strange for you, how about making a drinking game? Getting blotto helps you to stop loathing yourself for playing a card game.