Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

Mobile Monday: OneNote for iPhone/iPod/iPad

January 24th, 2011
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Our usual Mobile Monday blogger, Susan, is a big user of Microsoft OneNote.  What she and others might not have noticed is that there is now an iPod/iPhone/iPad app for OneNote (iTunes Store link) available in the iTunes App  Store.  Written by Microsoft, it allows you to sync your OneNote with your Windows Live account.  If you have HotMail, RocketMail,,, or an XBox Live account, you have an account that will work with this application.  In addition, all ECU student accounts can also use it immediately, because a is also a Microsoft account.  You can use the same SkyDrive storage for your OneNotes created on your iDevice as in the Office Web Interface or even in the OneNote application itself.  So far there’s not a Word, Excel or PowerPoint equivalent, but this is certainly a promising start.

Microsoft Office, Software

FLOSS Friday: Microsoft Mathematics

January 24th, 2011
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A coworker pointed out that Microsoft Mathematics is now available at no charge.  You can see an article about the software or go directly to Microsoft to download the application.  If you’ve never heard of it (and I hadn’t), Microsoft Mathematics is similar to MathCad or Mathematica.  It allows you to solve equation and draw graphs, but also adds many visual explanations to otherwise intangible concepts.  Enjoy!

Microsoft Windows, Software

FLOSS Friday: jDownloader

December 24th, 2010
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Merry Christmas Eve, Tech Tips readers!  Today’s offering is jDownloader.  It is a Java based cross platform download manager.  Unlike many of the various download manager/accelerators out there, this project is fully open source and doesn’t offer to install tons of additional browser toolbars when you are trying to get it working.

Here’s a screenshot of several Linux distribution ISO files being downloaded:

jDownloader Main Interface

In addition to being able to enter URLs directly to files, jDownloader has been written specifically to interface with many file sharing sites.  This means you give a page URL that contains the download link and it does all the work of following the link and responding to any JavaScript prompts to get to the “real” file.  It offers downloads from sites such as YouTube and WordPress blogs, so you can have local copies of media for long holiday trips.

Give it a try, you’ll be amazed how much quicker downloading files will be!


FLOSS Friday: GTD-Free

October 15th, 2010
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If you browse your local book emporium, you may come across the “Productivity” section, where authors have written books on doing more work in less time.  One popular figure in this genre is David Allen, creator of Getting Things Done (official business site).  Getting Things Done, or GTD as it’s popularly known, has been embraced by many as the way to battle the forces of an overwhelming inbox.  Living in the electronic age that we do, people have written software to be able to assist those attempting to use GTD.  Enter today’s software pick: GTD-Free.  This software is written in Java, and has been tested on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X.  Any platform capable running Java 1.6 should work fine.

The software has a lovely gallery of screenshots, but I wanted to share at least one to give you an idea of what the interface is like when dealing with, well, things:

GTD Free Main Task Sorting

Anyone who is “into” the GTD method should give this software a try.

And for those who are tired of loading Yet Another Tool to try and organize things, for those that prefer the original digital world of paper and pen, I present to you The Hipster PDA.  Instead of using a smart phone, a computer, a PDA, it’s just paper combined into a notebook with a binder clip.  You can find all kinds of GTD (or organization in general) PDF templates and such in the related links at the bottom of the page.  I especially like the ones at D*I*Y Planner.  The lovely thing about paper is that it can’t crash!


FLOSS Friday: GCstar

August 6th, 2010
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Today’s offering is collection management software.  Collection management is software/tools that help you manage your collected “things”.  Whether you collect stamps, wines, TV episodes, movies, or something entirely different, once your collection reaches a certain size, you’ll want some way of keeping up with it.  GCstar is one tool that might be exactly what you need.  GCstar is a generic collection manager.  It supports pre-configured databases for: board games, books, comics, mini vehicles, movies, music, numismatic (coins), periodicals, stamps (interesting, numismatic for coins, but not philatelic for stamps), TV shows, video games, and wines.  If these pre-configured aren’t suitable, the software allows you to configure your own type.  Here’s a screenshot of your choices when creating a new collection:

GCstar Collection Types

If you select books, you can then make use of the Internet search features to quickly add items to your collection without manually typing the details.  Several search providers are included.  Here’s a screenshot of me searching for Eragon by Christopher Paolini from the US site:

GCstar Book Collection Search

Not surprisingly, this book was found at Amazon.  I picked the single hardcover book (several results were returned), which meant my Eragon details were automatically inserted:

GCstar Eragon Details

Once you’ve got some books in your collection, you can then make use of the “Lending” tab to let you know that someone has borrowed your book:

GCstar Lending Interface

GCstar is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.  If you use Windows, then you can download a self extracting installer that takes care of all the requirements.  If you are a Mac user, the process is slightly more complicated because you need to have MacPorts installed.  The instructions are clear and straightforward, but the process isn’t as simple as downloading a DMG file and dragging an icon.

Although GCstar handles many types of collections, if you are into social media and have a book collection, you might want to try Shelfari, a completely web based book sharing site.


FLOSS Friday: Battle for Wesnoth

July 26th, 2010
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This time on FLOSS Friday, something more light.  Today’s offering is Battle for Wesnoth, a “turn based tactical strategy game”.  For those of you not used to computer gaming terms, turn based means that players take all of their actions during their turn.  That is in contrast to real time games, where the game proceeds whether you make actions or not.  Turn based games give more time for reflection and strategy, which means that they allow for less initial frustration than a real time game where novices can be defeated quickly.

Because Battle for Wesnoth is an established and mature project (which is still being actively developed), it is available for Linux, UNIX, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, and even the iPhone/iPod Touch.  Play can be against the computer or against possibly multiple human opponents on the publicly available multiplayer server.  If you don’t relish the idea of losing to twelve year olds, then you can get one of the players in your group to host a game server and only allow your friends to join.

If you like the idea of Dungeons and Dragons games, but don’t want to deal with the cost and time investment required for something like World of Warcraft, then Battle for Wesnoth is a great alternative.  It doesn’t cost anything to play, it looks nice, and if you get tired of the computer, you can venture out to the public game server.

Here’s one sample screenshot to whet your appetite:

Battle for Wesnoth v. 1.8.1

Visit the Battle for Wesnoth web site to download the software, read the documentation, and get started defeating the forces of Darkness!


FLOSS Friday: BingoCardMaker

June 25th, 2010
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One of the projects I found from a Datamation article listing 50 Open Source Tools That Replace Popular Education Apps is BingoCardMaker.  This is a simple little Java application (which means that it will work in Linux, Mac, and Windows) that you use to make random bingo cars.  You specify the color scheme of the text and image outlines, the collection of images to use for the cards, the number or rows and columns in each card, the number of cards to generate, and details about the size and format of the resulting card images.  Note that this program only uses images for its cards, and does not make numbered Bingo cards that you may be used to.

You may be wondering, “Why would I want to create image based Bingo cards?”.  The answer is, “teaching”.  You could be teaching a foreign language, and call out words in that language.  People have to mark the squares that show the word being called out.  The other example comes from the sofware site itself: reading a dialog and attempting to identify all the objects (nouns) being read.

The software is a small download, and has enough flexibility that ycu could adapt it for your own teaching or rainy day activity purposes.  Since the site has detailed explanations of how to run the tool, I’ll leave you with a card generated by the program.  The images in the squares are from an icon set from Pixel Mixer.

Demo Bingo Card

Sample Bingo Card Created with BingoCardMaker



June 11th, 2010
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Today’s project is for the more adventuresome sorts who enjoy tinkering with their home networks, getting the most performance and features our of consumer grade (read: the stuff you would buy at Best Buy, Wal-Mart, etc. as opposed to ordering from Cisco) routers and wireless access points.  If you didn’t know, the “little boxes” that most all of us have in our homes actually have some level of operating system (in the form of firmware) running on them.  You may run a web interface and periodically update this firmware yourself.  Updating the firmware usually involves visiting a web page hosted by your router’s manufacturer, downloading a file, and then using the router’s web interface to upload the file to the device.

Given that many of these home routers run a variant of Linux, it became possible to modify the default distribution as shipped by the manufacturer and make it better, faster, strong, more convenient, etc.  One of the first routers that became wildly popular for this kind of tinkering was the Linksys (now Cisco) WRT54G.  One very popular alternative firmware for this device is DD-WRT.  As more and more devices became replaceable-firmware friendly, the projects such as DD-WRT expanded to support more and more hardware.  As new devices are released, the DD-WRT team determines if they can make a replacement firmware.

If you do have a compatible device, you might want to give DD-WRT a try.  It exposes features of the hardware that the original Cisco/Linksys/whoever didn’t necessarily make available to end users.  As a simple example, DD-WRT lets you associate a device’s MAC address with a fixed IP address.  By default, the device simply assigns IP addresses to devices as they request addresses.  That complicates doing things like opening ports for server applications and using a network printer; you have to constantly update applications to repoint to the current correct address.

As the web site says, it is possible to make your device no longer functional, so don’t use an alternative firmware unless you’re fairly confident about doing experiments with your hardware.  You don’t have to do anything very different from a normal upgrde, but if you’ve never done that and wouldn’t know how to, then this type of software isn’t for you.

As always, it’s not FLOSS Friday without a screen shot:

DD-WRT Main Settings

Since the image doesn’t capture the details very well, it’s much better if you visit the interface demo at the DD-WRT site.

General Information, Software ,

FLOSS Friday:

May 7th, 2010
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Despite the market dominance of Microsoft Office on both Windows and OS X, there are FLOSS office applications and suites available that offer many of the same features.  I’ve been an user since the early days when it was an all -encompassing single window in which you then ran individual applications such as spreadsheet, word processor, etc.  That has been quite some time ago, and the current 3.2 version looks good and runs well.  It offers compatibility with Microsoft binary formats as well as having its own world-recognized completely open formats.  All of the “must have” applications are there, including word processing, spreadsheets, databases, presentations, drawing tools, and more.

Just to give a sense of its usability, I installed on the computer I built for my Mom, and she never had any trouble using it or even noticing that the applications weren’t Microsoft Office.  Some people even prefer the OO.o interface, which more resembles MS Office 2003 to the MS Office 2007 ribbon interface.  I won’t personally claim one is better than the other, but I do know that getting used to OO.o was easier than getting used to Office 2007’s interface.

Some screen shots to whet your appetite: Main Application Writer Spreadsheet is available for Microsoft Windows (also in PortableApps format), MacOS X, Linux, and Solaris.  It is also available in native-language distributions other than English, so if English is not your first language you can run your tools with more comfortable scripts.  If you you’re still wondering “Why”, then you can get the answers to that very question.


Touch Pack for Windows 7 Now Available

April 23rd, 2010
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If you have a Windows 7 machine that has a touch screen of any sort, then this news is for you.  Microsoft has released software previously only available to OEM versions of Windows 7. has an article about it.  If you want to go straight to the download, the software itself is in the Microsoft Download Center.  What you get with your download is three games and three applications:

  • Microsoft Surface Globe
  • MS Collage
  • MS Surface Lagoon
  • MS Blackboard
  • MS Rebound
  • MS Garden Pond

If anyone has a suitable device, please give your thoughts in the comments section of this post.

Microsoft Windows, Software ,