There are few tools more useful for the common desktop or laptop system than apps that automate some kind of system or user process that’s otherwise too tedious to do yourself. I mean, isn’t that the entire point of a computer, anyway—to take care of the things in life that might otherwise prove impossible, extremely difficult, or super-time-consuming? Isn’t it time you gave a little back to your poor PC?
Anyway, I’m taking a look at five different applications this week—all freeware or open-source, as always—that automate different elements of your operating system. That’s a pretty generic statement, though, so allow me to be a bit more specific. First up, I’ll show you how you can set up certain processes to run (including system shutdowns and restarts, amongst other activities) whenever a particular element of your PC reaches a set, measurable state (like CPU idle percentage, the exact time, or mouse and keyboard activity).
As well, I’ll throw a Web app your way that assists your browsing habits by automatically creating site mirrors to replace the normal URL of a site that’s been overloaded by Web traffic. You’ll discover a neat little application for mass-deleting specific kinds of files out of a whole range of folders at once, as well as a background utility that can automatically run programs whenever new files are detected in any folders you specify.
But let’s not spoil the whole show up-front. Click the jump—free software awaits!
Electronic Arts has finally ported its Scrabble game over to the Kindle, which also happens to be the first premium app of any kind for Amazon's popular eBook Reader. At $4.99, it's exactly $4.99 more than Shuffled Row and Every Word, two addicting word games in their right, but neither of which offer the full Scrabble experience.
The controls are simple -- just use the directional pad to move around, choose a direction, and type out your word. If you're stuck, or a weenie, you can use the Best Word feature to cheat your way to the highest scoring word possible with your combination of letters.
Unfortunately, Electronic Arts didn't tap into the Kindle's Wi-Fi or 3G functionality, and as such, it's impossible to play against friends remotely. There is a Pass N' Play option, though, which is exactly like it sounds.
Amazon today announced a new update to its free Kindle app for Android. The latest update shoehorns a handful of new features, including the ability to search within a book either by typing or a speaking a word or phrase. Other features include:
Add, Edit, and Delete Notes and Highlights: Add notes and highlights to books, and have them automatically synchronized between devices.
Wikipedia Lookup: Look up words and phrases in Wikipedia simply by selecting text
Shelfari Book Details: View additional book details from the books-focused social networking site Shelfari. Readers will find a description of the book, synopsis, summary, cast of characters, and many more features, and be able to view real-time discussions that the Shelfari community is having about the book.
Orientation Lock: Choose to the lock the orientation of the screen in landscape or portrait mode.
Nothing earth shattering in and of themselves, but collectively, but not a bad little update for fans of the Kindle app. Kindle for Android is available for free from the Android Market.
Who doesn't like venn diagrams? Ruffians and troglodytes, that's who. We happen to love them, and AppStoreHQ has put together a venn diagram showing the proportion of Apple and Android app developers, and those who code for both platforms.
It shouldn't come as a terrible shock that Apple's platform still draws the most attention. Out of the 51,972 app developers listed in AppStoreHQ's database, 43,185 only write for Apple's iOS. That breaks down to about 80 percent, compared to 17 percent who churn out code solely for Android (8,787). And those cross-platform developers? There are 1,412 of them, or 3 percent.
"We were actually impressed at the numbers of cross-platform developers," said Chris DeVore, AppStoreHQ founder. "And particularly the number of recognizable brand names that had already made the leap to Android: Gaemloft, Facebook, AOL, Amazon, Warner Brothers, Intuit."
Word to the wise, make sure you know exactly what your mobile apps are doing and how they operate, lest you discover when it's too late, like after being hit with phone bill saying you owe $7,763.70. Such is the predicament Canadian resident and iPhone owner Jason Boutang finds himself in.
Our first thought was, 'How many 900 numbers did this guy call?,' but it wasn't a sexy voice on the other end of the line that drove up his phone bill, it was a translator application he used during his European trip. Not thinking anything of it, Boutang fired up the app to help him communicate with the French and streamed a Calgary rock radio station for five hours over three days. Sounds innocent enough, but because both required Internet signals, Boutang's Virgin Mobile bill quickly shot up.
"They pulled the plug on me after the third day," Boutang said, who initially thought it was related to roaming charges. "I opened my e-bill and fell over. I had to get three other people to look at the screen to make sure I read it right. I kind of figured it was from the trip 'cause my average bill is about $200 a month."
According to Boutang, he called up Virgin Mobile to see he could get the charges dropped or reduced, but so far hasn't had any luck.
"They said, 'pay up every penny ... you went outside your neighborhood, you pay the price,'" Boutang said.
According to Canada's CNews outlet, Virgin Mobile is looking into the situation to see if they can lessen the charges. In the meantime, Boutang is pleading ignorance, saying the customer service rep who sold him his iPhone never warned him about the costs of using the device abroad, nor was he informed of any roaming data plans.
Is Boutang a victim of the system, or simply guilty of not doing his homework? Hit the jump and sound off.
It only makes sense to follow last week's "Best Mouse Ever" review on Maximum PC with a listing of some of the best freeware and open-source tools for making the most of your handheld input device--or, in layman's terms, the mouse.
If you think that's an easy task, than I have a golden, $500 mouse with your name on it. Simply put, there's just not that much love for the ol' mouse in today's software world. I suppose that makes sense, however. I have a flashy gaming mouse, yet, the only real software I used to extend its functionality is the very app, shipped by the manufacturer, that helps me customize said mouse's buttons. That's all you need, right?
I have indeed managed to find five apps that do their part to enhance your one-handed experience with your computer. At the end of the day, I'd still opt for a flashier mouse over a new piece of software when it comes to really making your input device rock. However, that's not to say that these programs aren't cool or useful in their own rights. Give ‘em a shot and let me know what you think in the comments!
I don't exactly know how often you take screenshots. As you might guess, I take a ton of screenshots--far more, on a weekly basis, than I'd ever care to take. But I'm not here to brag. I'm here to show you how you can take screenshots with greater detail and precision than the ol' default technique: Jamming print screen, saving a huge bitmap file, downloading an open-source photo editing program, cropping it, saving it, and... doing it all again.
Seriously though, that's the typical process I go through in order to snap pics of applications and what-have-you. You shouldn't have to spend this much time just to snap pics of your desktop. Thankfully, due to a fun little open-source application, you won't have to.
A U.S. firm called Software Secure has developed a program designed to let students take exams at home with certain features built in to keep test takers honest. At least one college in Britain, the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, is buying into the glass half full software, at least on a trial basis.
The obvious concern here is how do you curb cheating, and there are a number of features Software Secure has implemented to safeguard against unscrupulous test taking techniques. To begin, students will need to provide a fingerprint to ensure no one else is taking the test for them. After that, the software puts a virtual lock on the use of all files and the Internet. And finally, audio and video are part of the package, so the teacher can still see and hear and what the student is up to, or at least what's visible in the webcam.
"It would be one solution to problems faced by those who might have difficulty reaching a university campus for exams," a spokesman said. "However it must not be used as an excuse to further cut costs or corners by reducing the amount of contact time students have with staff."
I'm often surprised by what people find popular in the world of freeware and open-source applications, let alone Web apps. It's tough to use the comments on Maximum PC's website as an official barometer, as they don't take page views, click-throughs, or raw downloads of whatever apps I/we recommend into account. Nevertheless, judging by the wrath, boundless joy, and heavy presence of spam-filter-nose-thumbing-signatures attached to the various weekly software articles, I can sometimes get a general vibe for what's appreciated... and what's not.
But I'm not about to dedicate the next 700 words or toward tooting my own horn--not unless there's an app for that. I do find it interesting, and a little bit funny, that a relatively innocuous application like last week's "Instant Elevator Music" received such an exuberant amount of interest via the blog comments. Of course, that's after weeks can go by with nothing but tumbleweeds greeting other applications that, honestly, I find much more useful.
We're already smitten with Dropbox, the cloud-based backup software that makes easy work out of synchronizing files across different locations and PCs, but now we're nothing short of love struck. With the release of Dropbox Anywhere for Android, iPad, and BlackBerry, the developers have kicked things up a notch in a huge way.
"With the innovation and growth in mobile computing, the industry is shifting from a PC and desktop centric model to one where our daily computing experience spans multiple devices and locations," said Drew Houston, CEO and founder of Dropbox. "By providing seamless and ubiquitous access to users' files and media in the most popular phones and tablets, Dropbox Anywhere helps deliver on the promise of the new mobile model, and makes using these devices more productive and fun."
Dropbox was already available for the iPhone, and now users of other mobile OSes can access, manage, and share files from a variety of devices. It also includes developer capabilities so that Dropbox's file-access and syncing features can be baked directly into their mobile apps, the company said.
Dropbox for Android and iPad are available now, with the BlackBerry app expected to ship this summer.