I’m a sucker for automation at Maximum PC – If I can’t find some kind of application that will automatically perform all the time-sucking computer tasks that I like (or would like) to do, then I just haven’t done my job correctly. Now, was there only an app to automate the process of finding these apps… but I digress.
This week’s download of the week carries on in the spirit of “don’t lift a finger to accomplish a task” kinds of applications by giving you a super-quick way to transform videos from one format into another. There’s just one caveat—two, technically. You have to have Handbrake installed and, more importantly, you kind of have to know what you’re doing.
Can't go a week on any given tech site nowadays without seeing the "F" word. By that, of course, I'm referring to Facebook--and all the privacy implications for its users that have been arguing about on the Web for the past many weeks.
I'm not here to tell you that Facebook is good, evil, or a delicious chocolate-vanilla-strawberry mix. Make that decision yourself. What I can do, however, is point you to a wonderful tool for assessing your own privacy levels on the service. Trying to navigate Facebook's litany of settings and options for keeping this, that, and the other in (or out) of the public eye is indeed treacherous. Don't give up hope, though; salvation lies in the form of a tiny little bookmarklet that you can run on your profile at a moment's notice.
Simple. Easy. Efficient. Page Monitor is one of the most stress-free extensions you could possibly slap onto Google Chrome. However, don't let its simplicity fool you--the feature it builds into the browser sits somewhere between a Twitter and an RSS feed, yet it's one that is still entirely useful for anyone who checks a batch of favorite Web pages on a daily basis. That would be all of you.
What's on your PC? It's a fairly innocuous question, one that even the most tired of geeks should be answer without a moment's hesitation. But let's face it -- you sometimes spend a decent amount of time between upgrades. So much so, that you might have very well lost track of the exact names of the parts and pieces inside your system. Do I personally remember the exact model name of my motherboard? Nope! I won't tell you the manufacturer, but I've definitely had to pop off the side of the case and scan around, flashlight in hand, just to find my motherboard's actual model number for a firmware update search.
Don't let that be you. Furthermore, now's as good a time as any to get a solid inventory of not only the parts and pieces attached to your rig, but a full list of your installed software (and running services) as well. Why's that? Suppose your rig crashes tomorrow--I'm talking about the big one. No hard drive. All your data's wiped out. Can you honestly tell me that you'll remember each little freeware app or utility you installed on your system when you go to rebuild your machine? Wouldn't it be nice to have a little checklist to help you along?
And thus enters this week's download of the week--an application that goes above-and-beyond the call of duty to give you a full load-out of every little thing, hardware or software, that's in any way connected to your system. But that's not all...
It's important that everyone be made aware of an extremely useful Web site that delivers malware and antivirus scanning right to the door of your... er. Web browser. I not only use it at Maximum PC to check the freeware files and such that I link to on a weekly basis, but I also turn to it as the first resort whenever I'm on a system that, for whatever reason, lacks a comprehensive virus-scanning setup.
Simply put, it's hard to envision a world without Virustotal. Although there have been reports and/or instances of false positives arising from some of the lesser-known third-party antivirus tools that Virustotal uses, it's pretty safe to say that your file is safe should it come up with "0 issues found" when running the gauntlet of the site's 41 different antivirus and malware scanning applications.
With so much going on behind the hood, using Virustotal to check your downloads must be a real nightmare, eh? Spoiler alert: It's super-easy. Click the jump and see how!
A few habits separate the average Web surfer from the hyper-obsessive or "geek" Web surfer. Average Web surfers browse from site to site in a spidery fashion, allowing the contents of one to link them to the landing page of another. These pages, in turn, become new gateways for successive clicks in a giant, unfolding map of activity. Average Web surfers might have a few sites they like to hit up from time to time, but their general browsing habits are more random voyage than predestined path.
Geeks are not that. A geeky Web surfer has a set list of sites that are nothing short of awesome. These sites are scoured as much as your average preteen checks Facebook on a daily basis, if not more. Every last drop of useful information is extracted from each browsing session, and every one of these sites contains a melting pot of useful hyperlinks for adding extra innings to the surfing experience. Geeks will settle for nothing less than a constant influx of news and information.
The Firefox add-on Update Scanner bridges these two extremes by delivering a useful tool for browsing sessions of all shapes and sizes. Click the jump to see what it does!
Engineering eggheads from the University of Cambridge have developed a system called ProFORMA (Probabilistic Feature-based On-line Rapid Model Acquisition), which is capable of turning any standard webcam into a pretty powerful 3D scanning tool. A video demonstration shows how it's done, which you can view here.
What's pretty amazing is that the 3D models are constructed in real-time as end-users slowly rotate objects with their hand in front of the webcam. The engineering team says the system works by "calculating the Delaunay tetrahedralisation of a point cloud obtained from online structure from motion estimation, which is then carved using a recursive and probabilistic algorithm to rapidly obtain the surface mesh."
Put more simply, the system generates and displays partial models of an object on the fly, which then allows the user to plan how to manipulate the object to generate additional views. The finished product is a 3D representation of the object that can then be tracked with rapid movements.
While book scanning has become a pretty common process, one problem that still remains is that the scanned images are slightly distorted where the spine of the book meets the page. It looks like Google has done their very best to fix this error, with a pretty nifty camera setup.
Their book scanner, which was recently revealed in patent pictures, paints a book with infrared light, and then two infrared cameras generate a 3D model of the book, which can be used to correct scans. On top of this, Google has implemented camera technology that detects the three-dimensional shape and angle of the book’s pages when the book is in the scanner. This is then transmitted to the OCR software, which adjusts for any distortions, and allows the OCR software to read the text more accurately.