Are you a PC user? Good; you are likely annoyed. Because, let’s face it, there are some parts of the “master of your domain” experience that are downright annoying to do. Novice users have it easy—to them, a computer is merely a portable word processor, a fancy little device that allows them to watch cats frolic online, catch up on the most recent versions of The Office without paying for cable, and surf the web for hours on end.
You, however, are not a novice user. You are intermediate, to advanced, to hardcore, and you don’t like it when you have to expend precious hours fixing up your PC in a variety of different ways. You want a system that works perfectly and you want it yesterday. Well, to that, I offer five meager freeware apps (or free Web apps) that should help trim some of the annoying processes out of your normal system use.
Every now and then, I'm reminded of the Internet's power to really screw things up.
As I go about my normal day as a technology journalist, half of the stories I catch across the wire are usually something related to the unfolding social landscape of the Web 2.0. Google's catching Facebook; Facebook's catching Google; Someone is making a new way to interact with Twitter (oh joy!) I find this relatively disinteresting, save for the fact that each new announcement heralds in just one more way by which every action in our lives is transforming into an accessible, traceable record for all to see.
One of my friends unfortunately learned this lesson a little too well this past week. It cost him a pretty solid gig at the ol' Washington Post, and now has me forever wondering if my "Apple Rules, Woo" comments throughout Maximum PC's various articles might, too, have gone a step too far...
But I don't blame me; I blame our growing culture of online social oversharing. And with new products and linked networks coming in on a near-weekly basis, at what point do we stand up and wrest our digital lives back from everyone else's radars? Is it already too late?
Lordy. It's hard to spend but a week surfing the Internet without seeing a group of people getting caught up in a situation that they've volunteered themselves into. And it would be remiss of me to go a single sentence further without mentioning the latest elephant in the room--Facebook.
I can't log into Facebook without seeing a growing number of my friends joining those silly little, "Facebook is opening up my entire life and I wish it was like it was back in 2005" groups/fan pages/whatever we're calling them now. But Dave's Comrades aren't the only ones joining in on the fun--tech pundits Jason Calacanis and Peter Rojas, amongst others, are nuking their accounts in protest as well! It's a Facebook meltdown!
Unlike the open-source world, where the concept of "something for nothing" is pretty widely understood and accepted--even by those that just download away and never contribute a single iota of code or absent thought to an application's development--the general Internet populace seems pretty peeved at an otherwise free service's attempts to branch out its offerings. This, in turn, leads to a stronger advertising platform and/or additional service expansions, but mainly the former. Facebook ain't charity, after all--the company has human overhead and server costs, to name a few, and it's not as if every status update magically conjures up a shiny nickel for Mark Zuckerberg.
Alright, Firefox master. Think you're hot stuff? Think that your list of 135 installed add-ons is impressive? I have one more in mind that will help you tie the whole picture together, but don't be frightened off by my exaggeration: You'll be able to make use of it whether you're running a paltry 5 add-ons or the 10,000+ in Mozilla's entire library.
Dubbed the Firefox Add-on Collector, this extension takes the entire concept of add-ons themselves and wraps them up in a higher layer of accessibility. Gone is the default disable/install/uninstall add-on screen you're used to. Firefox Add-on Collector builds these features alongside a means for subscribing to various add-on collection packs from third-party sources. Not only can you have the crème of Firefox's crop of add-ons at your fingertips, but you'll also have a source that constantly checks these packages for updated entries to grab (or delete).
Why bookmark when you can Huff-duff? Excellent point. Now, what the heck is a Huff-duff? Actually, "huffduffer" is both a verb and a Web service, a word that's derived from a technology you can use to triangulate the location of radio transmissions from any given point. Huffduffer, the offshoot of "huff-duff," allows you to perform a similar-but-not-really kind of triangulation for online audio files.
Rather than helping you search for new music, podcasts, or sounds, Huffduffer is instead a platform that allows you to add these sounds into an ever-growing list that--surprise--is actually a podcast of its very own. That's a super-long way to describe what Huffduffer does, but I'm a bit apprehensive to suggest that the Web app allows you to build your own podcasts. It does, technically, but it's not as if you suddenly have a centralized service for recording, editing, tagging, and launching a radio show of your very own.
No, Huffduffer merely aggregates files you've already found on the Web into a podcast of your very own. But that's a useful feature for a number of reasons.
You're not paranoid. Repeat it with me: "I. Am not. Paranoid." There' s nothing wrong with wanting to know just who accessed your shared network files, how long they accessed them, what they did, and when this all went down.
I commend you for being an altruistic Windows user and opening up your public folders for all to visit. But just because you're feeling friendly with your files doesn't mean that you need to throw away the keys to the kingdom--system security should always be in the forefront of your mind no matter how much you trust you've placed through the access rights for those in your personal network.
That's where a little application called ShareMonitor comes center-stage. This portable app, when loaded, begins monitoring Windows 7's public folders for any and all connections. And if you think this is just your average, "someone just logged into my network share, oh gee!" application... you're dead wrong.
It's been a busy week for BitTorrents! I've showed you how to download them, how to tweak the heck out of a great program you can use to download them, and how to remotely access your BitTorrent downloads through Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. You, young padawan, are now fully grounded in the ways of the torrent. But you are no Jedi yet...
The final task that awaits you isn't so much related to the act of downloading information via BitTorrent as it is contributing to the cloud of data that you're usually pulling from. Yes, that's right. You're going to learn how to make your own .torrent file for distribution via your tracker of choice. While I realize there's a handy feature in uTorrent that allows you do this rather effortlessly, you're limited to working on one torrent at a time via this method. What if you want to make a whole bunch of .torrent files corresponding to a larger number of files you want to make available for download?
In that case, you're going to need the Download of the Week: MakeTorrent. Click the jump to see how it works!
We've been treading in the waters of Google Chrome extensions since their "official" release to the browser's beta channel a few months back. With the number of legitimate Chrome extensions now pushing the 1,500 mark, it's about time for this relatively new soldier on the Web browser battlefield to get its own spotlight. Chrome extensions are here to stay--as well they should be. A number of excellent carryovers from Firefox's extensive add-on library have joined forces with a fresh batch of Chrome-only extensions to create a sizeable number of tweaks, hacks, and plug-ins for your enhanced browsing pleasure.
The inaugural extension in the weekly "Chrome Extension of the week" series does its part to reduce your daily repetition with whatever Web tasks you frequent. Sound confusing? I'd hate to spoil the story by saying that this extension allows you to record and play macros for whatever it is you do on the Internet, but I guess I just kind of did. The extension's called iMacros for Chrome, and its name does an excellent job of conveying just what this helpful little add-on does to your general browsing experience. Quickly fill out Web forms, perform usability testing, run a ton of searches, login to Web sites... the possibilities are limited only by your imagination!
Click the jump to find out how this extension works!
How many YouTube videos do you watch on a daily basis? Worse, how many YouTube videos do you send to your friends on a daily basis? If the answer is anywhere near "one or more," and I bet it is, then I've found the perfect Web app for you. Because one of the tough things about forwarding along a funny YouTube video is that you're forced to watch said person enjoy the experience at their leisure. You can't force them to click play, nor can you really appreciate their laughter and enjoyment as it happens in real-time: You don't know how far along they are in the video, after all.
To address this grave concern, some enterprising folk have come up with a Web App that's one part chat-room, two-parts edit bay. It's called Synchtube, and I bet you can guess exactly what it does by the name alone. Don't let that dissuade you from clicking the jump, however. I'll explore Synchtube's many (two) features and tell you exactly why this little Web app is the future of multi-person video viewing and hilarity preservation.
Are you ready to rock? Because you'll be doing a lot of head-banging and dancing around once you've transformed every computer in your living area into a collective speaker system. Perhaps the better question remains unasked: Why would you do this? Because you can. Because you want to. Because it reverses the issue of having to connect to or stream from a central music repository (like an iTunes database) and instead allows you to push tunes out of a single music hub to anywhere you want to them to go.
Also, you want to do this because the app that makes this cacophonous symphony possible--SpeakerShare--is super-easy to use and well worth the small time investment you'll make. For the full details on this virtual conductor, check out the rest of the article after the jump.