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Posts Tagged ‘internet’

Access your online storage with Gladinet

July 4, 2009 2 comments

You may have jumped on online storage bandwagon. I store things online occasionally, but I’ve never liked the fact that I have to wander off to the storage website to access and edit my documents. Therefore, some time ago I went off hunting for a way to access my online documents using Windows Explorer. I found it in the form of Gladinet. I’ve only recently rediscovered it tucked away in my Start Menu. Having brushed off the layers of dust, I decided I would babble about it here since you might find it of use.

Copying a file to my online storage using explorer.

Copying a file to my online storage.

After downloading and installing, a little icon should appear in the notification area which provides various options for mounting your online storage. I’m still using a beta version of software since I installed it quite a while ago, and it’s working just fine for my purposes. However, the release version is now up to version 1.1, and it brings along new features and a better interface which makes it easier to add your online services to Gladinet. You’ll need to have the software running in order to be able to access your online storge from Explorer; which is why it’s set to start with your PC by default. You can change this by alterting the options. If you don’t use your online storage very often, you may not want it starting automatically.

Online storage locations are mounted as drives. This means that there will be a new item added to your ‘Computer’ window which represents your online storage. Within that you’ll then have listed the different resources that you’ve added. For instance, I currently only have one online storage location set up within mine. I could add others using Gladinet if I wished to. The best feature of this software is that it allows you to interact with the files as if they were stored locally on your hard-drive. This means that you can copy, move, delete, rename, and other such jazz in the same way you would with an ordinary file that’s saved on your PC.

If you use online storage hopefully you’ll find this useful. It cuts out the necessity of visiting the storage website. It also allows you to quickly edit documents, especially in such activities as copying and deleting. You can download it from www.gladinet.com and give it a spin.

Create custom web-slices with LiveSlices

July 2, 2009 3 comments

The LiveSlice website has been down for a number of weeks. It appears that it might not be returning.

During my brief stint with IE8 I’ve been making the most of the features that it has to offer. One of these is web-slices. You can also grab an addon for Firefox which replicates this feature, but doesn’t seem to work quite so well. However, the number of webslices provided by site admins is a bit limited. I therefore went on the hunt for a way to create my own. Low and behold, the Internet has an answer in the form of LiveSlices.

The Twitter WebSlice

The Twitter WebSlice

The site’s aim is pretty simple – create new webslices and enable users to create their own. The site doesn’t yet have many of their own creation, however, the ones it does have are quite useful. I especially like the Twitter slice, which allows you to keep track of your updates from Twitter without visiting the website or using one of the bajillions of third-party Twitter applications vying for your use. As with all other WebSlices, the text changes to bold if there’s new updates, then clicking the item in the favourites toolbar pops a little box down which lets you see your updates without leaving the webpage you’re currently on.

Aside from the rather spiffing Twitter slice, another great feature of the website is the ability to create your own slice from an RSS feed. I’ve never particularly liked RSS feeds because I’ve never seen the reason behind having updates to websites hidden away in your bookmarks. Therefore having an RSS feed in a web-slice makes more sense to me. It will add a drop-down item onto your favourites toolbar which can be clicked to see the latest updates to the feed. I’ve got three news sources – one of which was custom-made with LiveSlices, and a few from other sources. In order to create your own RSS  WebSlice you simply need to go to website you want to keep track of, find the RSS feed and copy/paste the URL into LiveSlice’s webpage for creating your own custom RSS slice. You will also need to provide a name and a couple of other settings when doing this. You can then click ‘Install’ to have the slice added to your favourites bar. I had trouble a couple of times when the slice didn’t work correctly when clicked and would refer me to a webpage instead of appearing in a box. I found that deleting it and trying again fixed this.

LiveSlices is a spiffing little website. They’re also working on creating a slice to allow you to add Facebook to your favourites bar. You might be concerned that you’ll end up spending your whole time looking at your social updates from Twitter, but you can counter-balance that by creating your own unsociable feeds for news sources and other such jazzy locations. You can get the feeds and create your own at www.liveslices.com.

Keep copies of websites with BackStreet Browser

Before you groan and trundle back off to wherever you were going, this isn’t a review of some obscure, naff browser. Despite its name,  Backstreet Browser doesn’t serve the purpose of being another browser which vies for your usership when browsing the Web. Instead, this application is a rather nifty way of keeping a copy of a website on your computer (or CD, USB key – anywhere you desire.)

Backstreet Browser allows you to download and keep a copy of any website

Backstreet Browser allows you to download and keep a copy of any website

I’m preeempting that you are thinking one of the following two questions: ‘why would I want to save a copy of a website’ and ‘can’t I just save the pages as I normally would?’ Starting with the former. You might find a website which contains some rather smashing information or content, but you fear that it won’t be around forever – it might be a really old website which is likely to be taken offline soon or have its domain name registration run out and not be renewed. Keeping a copy of the entire website would be rather snazzy way to avoid this problem. As for the latter question – you could indeed save the webpages individually, however, this is likely to be a long and rather difficult process. I tried it, and organising the various saved webpages into a reasonable order in a folder is a bit of a difficult process. You might also end up losing images or other content this way or missing certain pages.

In addition, what sets BackStreet Browser apart from the manual method of saving the pages is that it retains the links. If you were to save each webpage separately, the links that page would still go to the original location on the Internet. This would force you to open each page you want to visit from your files. With Backstreet, you can simply open up one of the pages that it saved, and all the links will point to your own internal copies of the site. It’s like browsing the website on the Internet, but from your own local storage. There’s no risk of it disappearing unless you delete it or something goes kaput on your beloved computer.

You tell the software which website you want to download by clicking ‘New’ and then telling it the URL. You can then tell it how far to drill down into the links. For example, you may only want the top, most important layer of a website – the ones which are linked to from the homepage, so you would just choose ‘1’ for the link depth. Alternatively, if you want to nab everything, you could set the link level to a higher value. You can also choose whether you want the software to save copies of external pages to which your chosen website links to – eg, if a website links to a Wikipedia article.

I think my only criticism would be that the software is a bit dated; the interface has the potential to be confusing and difficult to use. In addition, the datedness of the application shows more clearly in the fact that the choices for the way the software identifies itself to websites consist of ‘Backstreet Browser 3.1’, IE 5.1, Netscape 4.5, or Opera 6.05 . This causes me to wonder whether things will display correctly when it downloads them. I think anything you download from newer, more advanced websites should be fine provided that you open the downloaded pages in a modern, capable browser.

This is a great bit of software for keeping backups of websites which you think might dissapear sometime soon, or something which you think might prove useful to you in the future, but you might not be able to find again. You can download from the official website at www.spadixbd.com/backstreet, or from Download.com.

View TV with Zattoo

Online television has only become a viable possibility in recent years; with increasing broadband speeds and advances in multimedia downloading and streaming, consumers have been able to benefit from a wealth of online entertainment. A lot of online possibilities have popped up on the ‘Net which allow you to view TV shows and other entertainment sources.. However, Zattoo is slightly different in that it allows you to watch a variety of channels live in fairly high quality.

Zattoo streams TV from a wide range of channels over the Internet at near real-time.

Zattoo streams TV from a wide range of channels over the Internet in near real-time.

I must admit that the first time I tried this software I was excited but quite unimpressed: the video was choppy and kept breaking up. It was so poor that I usually gave up with it and turned on my television, putting up with abysmal picture quality. I only started using Zattoo again when I wanted to ardently work away on my masses of work on my laptop whilst enjoying a rather smashing film on my desktop’s monitor, which happens to be merrily placed behind and to the left of my laptop’s home. Upon loading up Zattoo, I was startled to find an update. After recovering from this profound startlement, I applied it, noting that one of the issues which it claimed to fix was the choppiness of the video. It seems that it did. I can’t say that it’s perfect – there’s still a bit of occasional choppiness, but it occurs much less often than previously and to a less extreme extent. I had also been ailed by occasions where the software would stop receiving video for a little while; I’d be stuck watching the same frozen picture whilst the sound continued on, this is much rarer now, too.

Anyway, the program itself is really quite dandy: it allows you to watch a variety of TV channels live (well, only a very slight delay, which can be expected from streaming like this. I’ve currently got over 40 channels to choose from, 5 of which are offered in high quality – picture streams with better images than the other channels. That’s not to say that the other channels have poor picture – they’re actually quite good. Unfortunately there’s currently no way to pause or rewind TV, and I don’t see this feature coming any time soon due to the licensing issues I would expect they’d have to tackle to add these features.

Overall, a great bit of software. I’m hoping they’ll iron out the final few picture quality issues in this useful and entertaining application. I should also be remembered that it’s still in beta, so here’s hoping that the final release will be even better. The software is, of course, completely legal – it’s supported by revenue from adverts. You’ll see these whilst waiting for a channel to load and above the list of stations, but they’re not distracting and shouldn’t sour you on this good bit of kit. You can download it from www.zattoo.com to give it a try.

Online maths tutoring with LiveMaths

March 11, 2009 3 comments
Get a £5 discount on a LiveMaths subscription if you use the voucher code: BPTR09 at the subscription page.

I’ll freely admit that I’m not a fan of maths: numbers have never been my strong point. The lack of open-ended answers scare me: I’m more a fan of being able to babble on about a load of twaddle in the humanities subjects: English and History in particular . That’s the reason I do all I can to be less awful at maths in order to muddle through my examination. One of the ways I do this is using a dandy little website called ‘LiveMaths‘.

An example LiveMaths how-to tutorial.

An example LiveMaths how-to tutorial.

There’s plenty of revision websites out there, but this one is a little bit different: rather than just text, images, and maybe an occasional diagram, it has a video walking you through the steps to complete various different maths problems you’re likely to encounter if you’ve been unfortunate enough take GCSE Maths or foolish enough to take it for A-Level. It uses short but in-depth videos to make it clear how problems should be tackled in the exam.

You’ll find an incredibly wide range of topics, but if you are such an intrepid explorer that you find a missing topic, you can always contact the people who run it. Both of which are long-term secondary education maths teachers. I think my only suggestion for improvement would be for the site to also include webpages or worksheets with steps for solving the problem and sample questions for each topic which could be printed and used if one does not have access to a computer at the time. I must also say that the narration on the videos greatly resembles that of a robot programmed to patronise! The rates are pretty cheap: a GCSE subscription comes to the cost of about two private tutoring lessons. Have a look at the free samples to see if it’ll be helpful for you. Poddle off to www.livemaths.co.uk if you’re interested in a further browse or subscribing.

School organisation with Soshiku

March 8, 2009 2 comments

The number of web applications has exploded recently, seeing a number of really useful stuff running directly from your browser or Internet enabled phone, without the need to download or install anything. Whilst this is one of the less exciting, it’s a really simple, sleek and helpful web application which will help you organise your studies. Soshiku is, in a word, fantastic.

If you’re like me, you get so much homework you can’t keep track. I’d tried keeping a log in various ways, such as using

Soshiku makes organising your schoolwork a snap - no more excuses!

Soshiku makes organising your schoolwork a snap - no more excuses!

Excel or Onenote, even the hated paper, but none of them compare to the features and simple interface of Soshiku. The registration process is incredibly simple and easy, only requiring three details from you: name, username and email address. After that, you can log in and set about creating a snazzy space to organise your school work.

You can add sections for each of your subjects, or if you’re only studying one or two subjects, you could use that feature to add different modules or segments for your course. You can then add assignments; these would likely consist of homework, coursework, reading, revision, etc. Define a title for it, a due date, add a few notes and you’re finished. You can even break down assignments into individual task lists to make it clear for yourself.

Soshiku will keep track of when your assignments are due by putting them on the homepage under headings like ‘due tomorrow’, ‘due this week’ and the dreaded ‘overdue’. This allows you to prioritize at a glance. Clicking on an assignment title will take you to the details you added earlier, allowing you to view and edit them. Each subject you add also gets its own page, where your current and past assignments are listed.

I don’t know about you, but I hate having to work on projects with other people; I’m a control freak, but occasionally I have to. Soshiku helps me to get through this traumatic experience by allowing me to set projects as being available either publicly or to selected Soshiku friends, making it easy to collaborate with them. Ican also utilize the feature which lets me upload documents, sharing them with my workmate so he can make changes and then upload it again.

There’s no need to be at your computer either – just set Soshiku up with your mobile and you can receive assignment reminders whilst you’re plodding around town or hiding from your masses of work in a bar. You can even add new assignments from your mobile via a text message! It’s really simple to use after having a fiddle around and getting aquainted with the features. I’m sure you’ll love it, so sign up now at www.soshiku.com! If you find yourself confused, have a read of the simple help pages.

Has Firefox burnt out?

It seems like it’s everyone and their dog’s favourite bit of open-source software. It’s been the choice of both basic users who were pushed to change, right up to professionals who know that it’s better then Internet Explorer. However, with a horde of new browsers released recently, and a lack of updates and new features from Mozilla, is it time we doused the flames of our firey chum?

Version 3.1 might be released by the time I’m using a zimmerframe and moaning about children being on my lawn. But I wouldn’t bet on it. There’s been setback, after setback on this release, and even when it is released, no features which are not currently available in other browsers will be added. With Mozilla’s interface designer, Beltzner, now saying there will need to be fourth beta (fourth!), surely it’s time for all of us to reconsider our choice in browser?

With other browsers offering more features and faster browsing, has Firefox lost is spark?

With other browsers offering more features and faster browsing, has Firefox lost is spark?

Chrome is faster, Safari is faster, Opera 10 is faster. The only thing slower is the elephant desperately masquerading as a browser: IE8. Speed is a key issue for many users – we’re all obsessed with it: if we can’t get there in the blink of an eye, we’re not interested. 3.1 is set to have a massive speed increase, but with current alternative browsers, or at least reliable betas, in the case of Safari, offering a massive speed increase, Firefox certainly can’t cling onto users due to its speed.

Firefox’s betas aren’t approachable to the ordinary user: it’s not linked to or even mentioned on the homepage, and the whole beta testing process at Mozilla appears to be geared towards those with an IQ higher than that of Stephen Hawking: with all the jargon and incessant technical babble, it’s difficult for an ordinary user to find the download, let alone help to improve it.

Speaking of which, Firefox isn’t targeted enough towards consumers. This is epitomized by the lack of a new tab button being present by default. When I get friends or family to switch browser, I always add a new tab button to the toolbar, and/or install an extention which adds one in a sensible location: to the right of open tabs. If users are switching from IE7, they’ll want the same simple tab functionality as they were accustomed to: they simply won’t be interested in fiddling around to add buttons or installing extensions to do something that was so simple in their previous browser. Simply adding a new tab button to the browser by default would make the whole thing more approachable to a typical convert.

Addons have long been a key reason for users sticking with Firefox. However, the average user neither knows about nor is interested in addons. Again, I draw the example from my friends and family: they only know about or use addons if install them for them, and then they just create an extra hassle due to Firefox’s cumbersome addon update methods. Certainly some users love addons, I use a fair few in my Firefox, but they’re on their way to Google Chrome, where I can get both a faster, easier browsing experience, plus addons very soon.

Mozilla hasn’t done anything new or innovative with their browser in a long time: all the new features coming in 3.1 have already been implemented by other browsers. By contrast, the newest contender, Safari 4,  released many new innovative features. I think we could well see Firefox’s browser share dropping soon unless the snail that Mozilla has become recently makes a turnaround. Fast.