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Showing posts from 2008

Round off your pictures with

Have you ever noticed those nice pictures with the smooth round corners?  Have you ever contemplated how it's done?
Now without the power of Photoshop this is possible with
All you have to do is upload your image and specify the corners and the size of the rounding (with other options).  The image is then preview on the web page waiting for you to download it.  And that's it.  In just a few seconds you have a rounded image.

Simple XSL transformation test tool

I know, I know. There's a lot of tools out there to help with editing XML and XSL files and a whole lot of other mess.

While creating an XML-based web site system in my current role, I wanted to be able to just test my XSL before plugging it in to my code in case it started causing any difficulties. Basically, all I need was a transformation tool that works like in Altova XMLSpy.

I couldn't find many, and when I did, in some cases it wasn't presented in an obvious way where the general interface complicated things. Almost giving up, I decided to hack together a simple tool myself. Since the required system is in ASP.NET and I haven't done application development in a long time, I gave C# a shot.

For me the tool worked like a charm and does "exactly what it says on the tin". My colleagues even took a liking to it. So I would like to share it with you.

I've simply called it XML Transformer and you can get hold of it from here.


There's not much to it …

Songbird 1.0 Released

As everyone would have gathered by now is that I am an open source freak. By the way I'm proud of it.

Given this, I have been keenly following an app called Songbird for a while now. It is a cross-platform music player and library, which can handle playback of most music formats (think iTunes). Conveniently enough it is based on the technology that Firefox utilises (Mozilla-based software), giving it the ability of supporting plugins. These plugins range from supporting music from the iTunes store and syncing with your iPod as well as other mainstream portable media players.

While I mentioned that it is like iTunes, it actually goes further than being a simple music player and library. Being a Mozilla-based app it comes with a built in web browser allowing you to roam the online music world. As you visit websites the app automatically lists available tunes giving the choice to listen to it (streaming) or to download it. Last but not least it can integrate with, you ca…

Another use for the internet...

While parents and teachers moan and groan of the disadvantes of using the internet, I for one continue to identify the advantages.

One distinct advantage is, which allows you to find alternative numbers for premium rate numbers. You are charged for premium rate numbers on a land line phone and it is not included with the free minutes of your mobile phone.

Using this website, I have found numbers which I can use on my mobile's free minutes as well as free phone alternatives.

So, go on... say no to 0870... for good

Free Microsoft Software...

...for students

OK. A lot of people knocking off Microsoft and looking at open source software mainly because of their high prices.

I'm not too sure when Microsoft started off this move. But, for some time now they have made a selection of their software freely available for students. This is available as Microsoft DreamSpark.

Getting hold of the software will involve a process of verifying you are a student.

While this may not include all the necessary software (such as Office) there are a number of websites which sell Microsoft software at discounted rates for students and families. The most noteworthy is Software4Students.

Non-student developers, like myself, need not worry as Microsoft has made available Visual Studio Express Editions (as separate packages) so we don't lose out on Visual Studio and SQL Server. Alternatively, there is an open source development tool SharpDevelop which is a decent alternative to Visual Studio allowing you to develop .NET apps as well as for …

GIMP 2.6

The open source image editor GIMP has reached a milestone release of version 2.6, with the Windows installer now available.

This major release includes improvements on the user interface, tools and plugins. There are also some under the hood changes.

Some of the new features are:
The toolbox menubar has been removed and merged with the image window menubar.It is now possible to pan beyond the image border, making image window navigation much less constrainedImproved free select toolBrush dynamicsand more...The Windows installer is available from here

Nokia XpressMusic 5800

Nokia has recently announced the launch of the XpressMusic 5800 music, and is anticipated by them to be their largest release this year.

The phone (dubbed 'the Tube') is released alongside Nokia's "Comes with Music" unlimited music download service and uses a Symbian S60 operating system. Slick indeed.

Just like the iPhone and the Samsung Omnia it is touch screen with the screen size being 3.2". It is more of a music player than a smart phone, supporting MP3, WAV and the AAC format.

The phone also comes with a 3.2 mp camera and an 8GB microSD card to complement the onboard memory of 81MB. It also comes with the usual Bluetooth and the ability to connect to WiFi networks.

My verdict: This phone is definitely a contender for the iPhone.

More information is available from Nokia's website.

Microsoft's iPhone competitor

In a bold move, which has not been confirmed by Steven Ballmer, Microsoft is working on bringing Zune to Windows Mobile to compete with Apple's iPhone.

In the not too distant future we may be looking at a Zune style media player as opposed to the mobile version of Windows Media Player. This may also see the introduction of Windows Mobile devices with a face lift to give a look and feel of the Zune user interface.

Steven Ballmer is pretty tight-lipped about this, but in an interview with CIO Magazine, he said that the Zune is software as well as hardware. He also mentioned that the software will be ported to other platforms.

The interview can be viewed from here.

SoftMaker releases Office for free on Windows and Linux

Having released SoftMaker Office 2008, the makers are making the 2006 version available free of charge to Windows and Linux users. However a small omission is SoftMaker Presentations, the alternative for Microsoft PowerPoint.

This move provides users with another alternative for Microsoft, contending with by being able to work directly with Office2007 files.

Linux users are also provided with the opportunity to Beta test the Linux version of SoftMaker Office 2008.

Visit SoftMaker's website for more info.

Silverlight 2 Release Candidate

In preparation for the next release of Microsoft's RIA, Silverlight 2 has been rolled off from Beta into the first Release Candidate.

Silverlight 2 Release Candidate 0 Developer Runtime edition has been made available since last Thursday. The browser plugin is still in Beta, though.

Based on the .NET Framework, Silverlight is intended to be an alternative to Flex for those developing web-based applications.

Still tight-lipped about the product release date, rumour has it that Silverlight will be released in the first week of October. The final release of Silverlight will feature improved "default control template skins" which can be tweaked using Microsoft Expression Blend.

The download, along with other tools are available from the Silverlight website.

Source: Visual Studio Magazine

Free Office and Online Collaboration

Ever since Sun MicroSystems released the code to StarOffice, it kicked up a storm in the open source world and we saw the birth of OpenOffice (OOo). It is not about being open source, but this broke down the barriers of sharing documents and collaboration.

Microsoft upped the ante with the recognition of collaboration for business and release a free service - Microsoft Office Live Workspace - which is currently in Beta. However, open source has given us a reason to shun the offerings from Microsoft and seek alternatives. In this article I intend on presenting this to you.

Office Alternatives

First off, what are the alternatives to Microsoft Office? The first choice is (obviously) OpenOffice (OOo). This application is a complete office suite to compete with Microsoft Office:
Microsoft Word = OpenOffice WriterMicrosoft Excel = OpenOffice CalcMicrosoft Access = OpenOffice BaseMicrosoft PowerPoint = OpenOffice ImpressMicrosoft Visio = OpenOffice Draw (kind of, but is a welcome addition)T…

Masters of the Web

Google has recently upped the ante for its presence on the web.  With the recent beta of Google Chrome, Google is contending against Mozilla Firefox and Micorosoft Internet Explorer.
To quote from Google, it is intended to be a browser that combines a minimal design with sophisticated technology to make the web faster, safer, and easier.After trying out the beta, I see that this goal is very realistic.  The first thing I noticed is the very fast start up time of the browser and to be greeted with a very nice (and easy) design of the interface.
So don't wait any longer... go try it out.

Free alternatives to Adobe Acrobat Reader

While Adobe Reader is common for reading PDF the popular (and powerful) file format for sharing files over the Internet, it is not the only one. After every version it slowed down my system, got slower and started taking up alot of resources.

Instead of wasting time in looking at ways to speed up the reader, I took into my own hands to find alternatives. Here's what I found:
Sumatra PDF - A open source PDF viewer of a minimilistic design. It is very lightweight and loads up very fast. The bonus is that it has been designed for portable use.Foxit Reader - A free PDF viewer and printer also of a small size. It can convert a PDF to a text file. It also starts up quite fast.
Cool PDF Reader - Going by its name, it attempts to be a cool way to view and print PDFs. It can convert Convert PDF files to BMP, JPG, GIF, PNG, WMF, EMF, EPS.PDFescape - A free online tool that can act as your PDF reader, editor, form filler and form designerPDF Hammer - Another online tool that allows you to…

It's Cuil to search

You may have noticed recently a new search engine called Cuil (pronounced 'Cool'), a Irish word which means knowledge - so they claim on their website. This search engine intends on outgoogling Google themselves.

Formed by former Google employees Cuil apparently 'combines the biggest Web index with content-based relevance methods, results organized by ideas, and complete user privacy'

The founders boast that their 1.2 million web page index is larger than Googles and Microsoft, and that the index orders results by content as opposed to popularity (the Google way).

But what really sticks it out is that Cuil does not keep any personally identifiable information, which is appealing to those who are concerned of Google's attitude to personal data.

I am impressed by the method of how it lists out the results and allows you to filter them. Definitely, joining my bookmarks.

Check it out at

Windows Vista - Component Services

I was approached by a colleague, who was trying to install some software that I trained him on, and told me that he could not find Component Services on his machine.

Doing the usual, I ran through the steps to get Administrative Tools in the Start Menu and pointed him there - for Windows XP. He told me that Administrative Tools is present but there's no Component Services under it, and that he's using Windows Vista.

However much I hate Vista, I still have to help my colleague and noticed that there is no direct shortcut to it in Windows Vista.

So for anyone else who needs to know: bring up the Run dialogue and type in comexp.msc.

Creating a file with current date in a Batch process

With the plethora of sites out there with information on creating Batch processes, it's easy to get overwhelmed and confused over the series of DOS commands.

I have a Batch process which restarts a hungry service daily, only to ensure that it cleans up the memory (which it doesn't do so well). The next requirements is for the Batch process to backup the service's log file... with the date.

The command that does this for me is:
%date:~-4,4%-%date:~-7,2%-%date:~0,2% log.txt

This creates the filename in the following format:
2008-06-02 log.txt

If you are including this in long path names delimited with quotations ("), it will still work. Just include the command as if it's part of the filename.

Add public holidays to Outlook 2003

Just recently, my company got their Network support guy email Calendar entries to everyone so that they can update their local Outlook Calendar with details of public holidays in the UK.

What a time waste, particularly when not all the days have been mentioned. As a time saver, go to Tools -> Options in the menu. In the dialogue that appears click on Calendar Options and then Add Holidays. In the list make sure your country is selected (or add another country if you like) then click OK.

Click through all the OKs to get out of the Options dialogue and you will find that you have all the public holidays in your calendar.

BluRay leads the way

Yesterday, I wrote that an unofficial source at Toshiba reported that the company was going to drop HD DVD. Well... now it's official. BBC reports that Toshiba has actually dropped this in favour of Blu-ray paving the way for Sony.

This is a nice turnaround for Sony when, in the past they failed with pushing their Betamax format in the VHS vs Betamax wars.

Open Source Disc Burning Mac

So, it's getting close to midnight and I have 8 DVD's to duplicate for the next day. My arsenal comprised of a Mac equipped with a superdrive, a PC with a multi-format DVD burner and a PC with a DVD+RW drive. The blank discs were DVD-R and so beads of sweat were streaming down like a waterfall and I was didn't want to touch the Discs for fear of wiping out the data with my acids.

Making things worse was that the version of Mac OS X that I had did not have any CD/DVD Burning software. No internet connection existed for the necessary update:

Why did Apple leave out this ability in the first release? An answer has not been given but they did release an update for this (above link). Even so, with the update you are not provided with an effective solution.

This works when you insert a blank disc and asked by the Operating System what you want to do with it. Selecting "Launch Finder" will present you with a new Fi…

Favicon generator: Genfavicon

Oooh, lookit the Ajax based favicon generator. There's probably enough websites that provide this facility but Genfavicon one is so slick and easy to use

Using the jQuery framework it does a nice job to create those cool little icons. You can simply upload or point it to the URL of the image you would like to process and convert. Once you have had fun with the image in the cropping pane, select your image size then click the "Capture & Preview" button to download the favicon.

The site was created as a pet project by Ferca Network.

Google to challenge PowerPoint

A while back, Google announced its acquisition of Zenter, an online slide presentation firm. So basically, Google can now expand on their arsenal of online office applications - Google Docs & Spreadsheets.

They may as well call the suite Google Office, now that they can take on Microsoft Office. Especially when this is to be combined with Google's previous acquisition of Tonic Systems, which also produces presentation software.

This new challenge to PowerPoint from Google is expected to be available sometime this summer.

Open Source Project Management Tools

Alright. Here's the deal. Who needs a feature bloated application when you know that you will not need it all and that it's possibly confusing. All hands shot up in my work place when it comes to project management. Yes, there's the frustration with Microsoft Project.

MS Project is an excellent tool but far too complicated for my liking. So I had to search around for project management tools and open source was the keyword (especially Windows).

Here's a list of notable ones that I found:
Achievo ( Calender ( - More of a PIM but it's got some nice project management features
dotProject ( - While being ugly it uses a server backend for enterprise delivery making it a selling point for this packageeHour ( - time management and project management with a slick interface, especially handy for consultancy firms
OpenWorkbench (
Projectory ( - Another web bas…

Make free videos with Pinnacle

Just when you thought you were stuck with Windows Movie Maker only to make your home videos look good. Pinnacle has joined the foray with VideoSpin.

VideoSpin is a brand new tool that allows you to create your own movie clips in minutes using your own videos and pictures. Once you complete your masterpiece you can upload the video to YouTube or any other video sharing sites.
Check out

New Ray, Blue Year

Happy New Year!

I've had a hectic start to the New Year trying to fulfill my New Year's Resolution. Remembering to keep promises I've made to the family. I never realised I had a long list.

What am I using to achieve this? The most underused program in a Smartphone... the To-Do List. Yes, it is underused and it exists on virtually all the current phones in the market.

It is such a simple program and I intend on using till my fingers run out of blood. Probably won't happen, but nevertheless.

However, the news for the beginning of the year goes to Blue Ray. Previously the HD war was leaning towards HD DVD, with the XBox 360 adding support to it. Only recently did Paramount announce that they intend on dropping support for HD DVD, along with Dreamworks and Disney.

So if you're intending on getting the PS3 go ahead. It's still cheaper than buying a separate Blue Ray player.