The best kinds of system applications are the ones that make your life easier without you having to lift a finger. While the freeware applications we're profiling in this weekly roundup still require you to input a few settings, they're great tools to help automate some of the critical parts of your daily computer life. From hotkey creation utilities to applications that help you conserve power by turning off your PC at specified intervals, these freeware tools are must-have additions to your computing repertoire!
Click the jump to check out this week's batch of free, awesome apps!
Mozilla's open-source Firefox browser continues to gain ground in the browser wars in what can be considered a major uphill battle. Firefox has flirted with a steady 20 percent market share in the past, and according to Net Applications, October has been kind to the configurable browser, which settled in at 19.97 percent. That number represents a 0.51-point jump over September and is a record high for Mozilla.
Meanwhile, Microsoft's Internet Explorer slipped again last month, continuing its trend as having the fastest declining market share out of the six most popular browsers. But far from being a free fall of sorts, IE's combined share nestled in at a still very dominant 71.52 percent, down from 71.27 percent one month prior. That puts IE at a 4.2-point drop for the year, compared to Firefox's 2.99-point gain.
It will be interesting to see what kind of effect Google's Chrome browser may have on the top two contenders. Currently, Chrome only accounts for a 0.74 percent slice of the browser pie (down from 0.78 percent), but that could change if Google follows through with adding extension support.
Hit the jump and tell us how you see the browser wars shaking out in 2009 and beyond.
Taking a page from the RIAA -- whose umbrella of accusations have included suing an 83-year-old deceased woman (going for a default judgment, perhaps?) -- Atari has gone on the offensive by sending out letters threatening legal action against those who are believed to be downloading and sharing games online.
Among the recipients are Gill (age 54) and Ken Murdoch (age 66), a pair of senior citizens residing in Scotland who are being accused of stealing the game Race 07. To avoid legal action, they've been asked to pay what amounts to $815USD. The only problem? The Murdoch's claim they don't play videogames.
"We do not have, and have never had, any computer game or sharing software," the couple said. "We did not even know what 'per to peer' was until we received the letter."
According to DailyTech, it appears Atari has hired anti-piracy firm Logistep to round up IP addresses of those it believes are pirating videogames. But just as the RIAA has found out, sweeping allegations based on IP addys alone can sometimes lead to false positives, and with it a public outcry. With regards to the Murdochs, Atari dropped the case in the wake of negative publicity, but its legal campaign marches on.
Should Atari receive the same scorn the RIAA has received? Hit the jump and sound off.
Die hard Apple fans love to defend their platform, and that’s okay, it’s actually good to know they are capable of emotion. But is this really what passes for a news story? The popular web tabloid AppleInsider.com ran a news feature on Friday criticizing Microsoft’s decision to place a Vista campaign booth outside an Apple store in Birmingham England. The booth was apparently set up to record I’m a PC videos for possible use in upcoming marketing efforts. Some of the clips gathered are slated for use in TV commercials while others will be used for web promotions. In addition to gathering video clips, Microsoft staffers are on hand to convert potential Mac customers back into the fold. The booths are the continuation of the Vista ad campaign which started with Bill Gates and Jerry Sienfeld, and more recently matured into the “I’m a PC” initiative.
Just when we thought search couldn’t get any better, Evin Levey product manager at Google has blogged about a new feature that could have a dramatic impact on your search results. Scanned documents have been appearing in Google’s search results for quite some time now, but for the most part they were usually weren’t at the top your list regardless of how relevant they may have been. The reason for this is simple; when the search engine runs into an Adobe PDF file that was scanned as an image; it wasn’t able to read the contents other then what was contained within the meta tag. The article may well have been the definitive source on the topic for which you were searching, but until now they had no way of knowing what was in the document or sorting out key words in any type of automated fashion. On Thursday this all changed and it appears the search engine has successfully implemented a form of optical character recognition that can index the text for easy searching. This adds significant power to Google’s ability to catalog things such as books which are commonly achieved as images in PDF format.
Since millions of books are available as creative commons and scanning projects have been actively publishing these works to the web, the ability to search and find results will unlock countless additional sources of information. Care to try out some examples of the new feature?
Google’s adding yet another feature to Gmail’s formidable (and sometimes frivolous) arsenal. Starting soon, you’ll be able to send SMS messages to your friends’ phones from Gmail’s built-in Chat feature.
When it’s made available, you’ll need to enable the feature in the “Labs” tab of the Gmail settings page. Once that’s done, you’ll be able to send messages to people’s phones by simply entering a phone number into the Chat search box and selecting the SMS option.
When a person receives a text from a Gmail user, it’ll show up as coming from a phone number with a 406 area code. The first time you send a Gmail SMS, you’ll be assigned one of the thousands of numbers Google has reserved, and all messages you send in the future will come from the same number. The receiver can reply to the text and it’ll show up in Gmail chat.
The feature should become available today or in the next few days. When it does, will you use it? Let us know after the jump.
We reported two weeks ago that the Yahoo-Google search advertising partnership was facing some serious challenges in its discussions with the Justice Department and, sure enough, it looks like the two search giants may decide to give up on the deal. The Wall Street Journal has reported that inside sources said that Google and Yahoo may soon announce their decision to drop the deal, after failing to reach an agreement with the Justice Department.
Nothing’s set in stone yet, though, and both companies official positions are still that negotiations are ongoing. Yahoo’s spokesman said “We believe strongly that this agreement will strengthen Yahoo’s competitive position in online advertising.” Google’s spokesman said in statement that “We are confident that the arrangement is beneficial to competition, but we are not going to discuss the details of the process.”
What will it mean for the oft-courted Yahoo if this deal falls through? Hit the jump and tell us what you think.
For most of the last decade, improving 3D performance has been the primary goal of operating system, application (read gaming) developers, and hardware developers. However, when you're at work, trying hard to make the money you need to buy a new HDTV and über-gaming PC, you're probably working in a 2D world that's being managed by the creaky GDI/GDI+ APIs which were first developed back to the 1990s.
This week, Microsoft introduced a replacement for GDI/GDI+ called Direct2D. Microsoft's Thomas Olsen, a Dev Lead in the Windows Desktop Graphics organization, uses his new blog to bring us up to speed on why we need the new Direct2D API and how it will make PCs work better.
To learn more about Direct2D, join us after the jump.
Here’s one more reason to be glad that there’s not a big overlap between the “computer scientists” and “burglars” demographics: UC San Diego scientists have developed a program that can duplicate a key from a single photograph.
The software’s more powerful than you might think, too. It can copy keys seen from almost any angle, not just those seen in profile, and it can copy keys from a source as low-res as a cell phone camera picture. With a telephoto lens, the group was able to copy a whole ring of keys sitting on a table from a rooftop 195 feet away.
The group is not releasing the program to the public, but they are hoping the exposure will help raise awareness of the shortcomings of traditional keys. Stefan Savage, the program leader said "We argue that the threat has turned a corner--cheap image sensors have made digital cameras pervasive and basic computer vision techniques can automatically extract a key's information without requiring any expertise.”
Leaked screenshots of Microsoft's upcoming Windows 7 OS are nothing new, and we expect even more frequent peeks with beta releases floating around the web. That's the case with GottaBeMobile.com, who is currently participating in the Windows 7 beta and is showing off several screenies of the new OS running on a Tablet PC.
As would be expected, much of the focus remains on the Tablet Input Panel (TIP) and how the TIP tab operates. This includes how-to animations that display when clicked and show how to correct a word, how to delete, split a word, how to join, and an option to hide the videos. And in a departure from Vista, handwriting to the TIP is auto recognized inline instead of displaying the recognition results in a bubble below the word.
GottaBeMobile promises that there are more screenshots to come, so if this is your bag of tea, consider adding the site to your favorites.