31 January 2011

FbInstant: Facebook Instant Search Engine

fbinstant logo

FbInstant is a Facebook instant search engine where you can search as you type everything in Facebook Public streams without signing in. Or if you sign in with Facebook Connect, you can then also add search results coming from your friends streams and some friends of friends streams depending on their privacy settings.

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Previously I had also wrote about Open Facebook Search and Facetofind. But unlike OFS, FbInstant can also connect into facebook and also happens to have more detailed search results. While Facetofind is only for searching videos hosted in Facebook.

The best part about FbInstant must be that your search queries call for not just Facebook Wall results but also for Facebook Pages and Facebook Event results. This makes it worth using as it does serves as a better and faster way to search on Facebook than anything else.

I think that the only negative aspect about FBinstant would be its look and design. That while it tries to stay true to Facebook, for some reason it chooses to lift on the Old School Facebook design from 4 years ago instead of the current look, which is unfortunate as it looks not only dated but a bit ugly. But other than the look, it is a good web based service that works well and delivers good results.

Linkage

FbInstant

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DeskNote: Takes To-Do Notes And Then Display Them In Your Desktop Background

CodePlex Logo

When I first saw DeskNote, I thought it was a update to ToDo. A little WPF ToDo List app I posted about well over a year ago. But no, it is more of a retake on the same idea. I state this, just so they don’t get confused given they are almost essentially the same app. The difference is that DeskNote takes Clint Rutkas ToDo idea and refines it while still keeping it true to the same concepts.

DeskNote is a .NET/WPF app from CodePlex by Mohit that allows you to take To-Do notes in the simplest way possible, while also maintaining a efficient workflow for doing so.  To-Do notes that will then be displayed directly over your desktop background.

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DeskNote uses a single .TXT file titled “TODO” in order to work. Once you write in it and save, whatever it is written into it will show on your desktop background as shown in this screenshot above. If you want to erase or edit, you just open the text file , edit and save again. 

Installation And Use

The app is ClickOnce  enabled so you only need to click a few times to have it installed in less than a minute.

Once you have it installed and running, the first thing DeskNote will do is to ask you for the TODO.txt file. This is something you need to create on the spot and put wherever you want it to be, then you just point the Windows Explorer prompt to the file and click Open.

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Now the DeskNote icon should be appearing in your System Tray. Click the icon and it will show you a Notification with the info with the path for the TODO.txt file it is using. Click the inside of the notification body and the TODO.txt file will open up.

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As the TODO.txt files opens, you will see that it already has some text in it. This text is filled automatically by the app.

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Now that you have seen the text, you can start editing it to display you own ToDo List in your desktop background. Set the font size you think is best for your resolution and screen size,  Change the color of the displayed text by editing the color in the parameter marker to best suit your wallpaper. If you are not sure on what color would be best, just write a color name wrong, save and DeskNote will launch a color picker for you to correct the mistake and choose the color again using the color picker instead. 

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You also don’t even need to launch the TODO.txt file if you just want to add some notes besides the ones you already added. For those cases, you just launch the NoteTaker by pressing Ctrl twice.

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The NoteTaker will launch and hover on top of whatever is that you are doing. Write something and then click enter and you will see the text in you desktop background update accordingly, without you having to open the text file. Now you can go back to what you were doing without distracting yourself at all. And if you are in Windows 7, you already know you can see into your desktop with AeroPeek and rest assured that your notes will continue to show when you do that too.

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Finally if you want to move your notes to a specific part of your screen, you don’t need to write the coordinates  manually either, just right-click in the desknote system tray icon and click “Choose Note Location” to set where in the desktop do you want the notes to appear.

Conclusion

At first, the concept behind DeskNote seems a little bit silly. But once you start using it, I assure you it makes a lot of sense and it is perfect for simple GTD notes, To-Do Lists and Reminders. It is not meant to be used for any serious note taking. But you can extend your notes if you #comment# them inside the TODO.txt file if you want to, as that will not show into the desktop background.

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Depending on how you want to use it, Desknote can be a productivity booster or a just a easy to use To-Do list app. Well worth a look if you previously liked Clint Rutkas ToDo concept but wanted more features or if you were looking for a unique take on To-Do listing, Reminders and even GTD notes you could easily integrate into your personal workflow.

Works on XP SP3, Vista & 7.

Linkage

Desknote Project Page

Desknote                                               <—Direct Install Link

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30 January 2011

Microsoft Academic Search

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Microsoft Academic Search is a project that was pushed forward by Microsoft Research Asia and it serves as a custom search engine for all kinds of computer science  academic research papers. Previously it was something mostly used internally by Microsoft Research investigators and employees all around the world.

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From it you can explore 8,150,567 publications from 6,136,913 authors so far. Making it a great resource for computer science researchers everywhere.

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The site itself got a obvious Bing-like flavor to it as I am sure its intentional, so there should be no problem for anyone finding its way around it, as everything is well organized and pleasant looking to boot.

Now that it is a public offering, it is time to put it to good use, so check it out.

*Update*

Here is a video showing Microsoft Academic Search that was brought to my attention thanks to a comment in this post. The video focuses in the silverlight enhanced parts of the site. good stuff.

 

Linkage

Microsoft Academic Research

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Best Of Bing China Desktop Backgrounds For Windows XP & Windows Vista

Bing Logo

Taken from the Best Of Bing: China Windows 7 Theme, here you got 16 different desktop backgrounds  (wallpapers) for those of you with a Windows XP or Windows Vista PC.

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Linkage

Best Of Bing China Desktop Backgrounds                      <—Download Page

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Best Of Bing: China Windows 7 Theme

Bing Logo

The Best of Bing Spotlight Series continues on giving new Windows 7 Themes and now it is the turn for China.

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Best of Bing: China brings you some great images from china in 16 desktop backgrounds. From Guangxi’s Sky Lake to the street canals of Xintang,Jiashan.

Linkage

Best Of Bing: China                                              <—Direct Download Link

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Vista Drive Icon For XP Windows Explorer

Vista Drive Icon logo

If you are using Windows XP and you want to spice up your Windows Explorer just a little bit without the risk of making it unstable, adding Windows Vista styled Drive Icons should do the trick.

Vista Drive Icon is a easy and risk free to add a simple but nice little extra feature  to your XP Windows Explorer.  Installing it and forgetting about it, with it staying stable as it is a completely safe and proven tweak. A quick one minute download and install and your Drive Icons will look the part from then on.

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If you for some reason don’t like it and want uninstall it, you can take it off even faster that you installed it, also without worry.

Linkage

Vista Drive Icon                                  <—Info Page

Vista Drive Icon 1.4                    <—Direct Download Link

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17 January 2011

FM PDF To JPG/JPEG Converter Free 2.0

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Usually, it is a batch of images the ones you would want to convert to a single PDF file.  But, what if you want to do the opposite?.  To take one or more PDF files and convert them into images?. You can. And if you had been looking for something to do just that, then read on.

FM PDF To JPG/JPEG Converter Free 2.0 is a batch conversion tool that can take one or more PDF files and convert them into JPG image files. On a one PDF page-one JPG file basis. And all for the free as it is stated in the name of this app.

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The app got a  really good output conversion fidelity, plus it is easy to install and use.  It really only got 1 catch if you want to use it for free:

You only can use it with the settings as put by default when you launch the app. With the only configurable things being giving it a Profile name, Description and set to what folder you want output the JPG image files. Check the screenshot above for reference.

If you want to configure beyond that or access more output image file formats you will have to get a license for the tool.

Features

  • Batch processing support
  • Ghostscript-based conversion engine
  • Supports URLs via HTTP, FTP protocols
  • Supports password protected PDF files
  • Supports multi-page PDFs
  • Supports scope function (separate PDF pages) to output images
  • Supports find function to search PDF files
  • Easy to use, user friendly graphical interface
  • Stable, Java-based software code

System Requirements

  • Java Runtime Environment 1.6+
  • GPL Ghostscript 8.71

(Installer check for both dependencies and will download and install them if you don’t have them)

  • 32-bits XP, Vista & 7

 

Linkage

FM info page

FM PDF To JPG/JPEG Converter Free 2.0                      <—Direct Download Link

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10 January 2011

MyCoolDesktop: Desktop Icon Rearranger

mycooldesktop logo

This one is really one of those apps that are a acquired taste. It is quirky and maybe a little bit corny for these times.  So if you find it a odd app, is because IT IS. But that is how it is supposed to be.

Taken from a mid  90’s Windows User practice (custom, if you will). From those days when Win 95 appeared and ravaged all the PC universe to a degree, where at one point it got to have up to 95-97% (depending on who you believe) of all PC marketshare. At a time right before Win 98 launch and Apple’s return from Zombieland. So, since there were no ways to have animated desktops, transformed Ui’s, proper desktop widgets or even high resolution anything yet. You instead, played with the color scheme of Windows, the color hue, the way your desktop icons looked and yes, how they were arranged. But if the very first thing you thought when you saw what this app was about, was instead of a certain YouTube Classic. well, I don’t blame you.

MyCoolDesktop is a Automatic Windows Desktop Icon Rearranger.  A quirky little app to rescue a arcane windows user custom that has been out of the spotlight for almost a decade. An app that can quickly apply a shape pattern arrangement to your desktop icons.

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Features

  • 27 different shapes grouped in 5 categories
  • save and restore multiple desktop layouts, save and load with 1-click
  • full control of your desktop layout :
    • set height and width of selected shape
    • set space between desktop icons
    • move your icons layout anywhere on the screen - includes auto-centering
    • increase/decrease the size of your shape
  • minimization to system tray
  • opening on system Start Up (starts with Windows)

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The apps is completely free and it works in XP, Vista & 7.  And post installation it only requires to manually uncheck one setting so you can use it:

You have to Disable Align to Grid and Auto arrange for Desktop icons in order to let My Cool Desktop control your desktop items position :

  • For Windows XP users: Right click on Desktop, select Arrange by and uncheck Align to Grid and Auto arrange, if they are checked
  • For Windows Vista/7 users: Right click on Desktop, select View and uncheck Align to Grid and Auto arrange, if they are checked

If you want more shapes or patterns, you can buy a premium pack with 50 more of them for $5 bucks :

Basic shapes: 2 Circles Diagonal, 2 Circles Separated, 3-pointed star, 5-pointed star 2, 6-pointed star, Cross, Cross +, Cross V, Curved rhombus, Diagonal, Down, Half-circle, Heptagon, Merged squares, Shape 1, Smooth 3-pointed star, Swirl 2, Tripod, Up, Rectangle
Christmas: Bell, Christmas Tree, Christmas Tree 2, Snowflake
Nature: 2 Waves, 4-leaf clover, Butterfly, Fish, Flower 2, Flower 3, Flower 4, Leaf, Moon 2, Raindrop 2
Objects: 2 Stairs, Bulb, Car, Glasses, Guitar, Stairs, Spoon, Umbrella
Others: Alien, Forbidden, Heart 4, Peace Sign, Playboy Bunny, Reactive, Secure sign, Smile, Thunder

Or you can just use the 27 included patters that come with the app as it is, for free.

System requirements

  • IMPORTANT: At least 15 icons on desktop required, more than 25 recommended
  • Windows 2000/ME/XP/Vista or 7 operating systems
  • 400 Mhz processor
  • 64 MB of RAM
  • 5 MB of Disk Space
  • 1024 X 768 or higher resolution

Linkage

MyCoolDesktop Info                            <— Homepage

MyCoolDesktop                                        <— Direct Download Link

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02 January 2011

Results From My 10 Microsoft Predictions For 2010

Microsoft Logo

At the start of 2010 I posted 10 Microsoft centric predictions for 2010, here are the results of what happened. Check that post for context on this post as they work in tandem.

1.-New Money Makers.

I.-Microsoft Automotive

I predicted it would have to be a big year for Microsoft Automotive and the result is that I was right.

2010 brought the realization of a renewed interest in this Area from both Microsoft and the market:

  • Ford Sync 2.0 was released and Ford continues to have big success with all the Sync related tech. To the point where they are expanding even further in 2011.
  • A new venture called UVO was announced between Microsoft and KIA Motors.
  • Fiat Blue&Me partnership with Microsoft was renewed once again.
  • Current Windows CE 6.0 R2 based car computers have continued to thrive in Asia
  • WEA7 (Windows Embedded Automotive 7) based on the yet to be released WEC7  was announced and Nissan was the first to implement it in the Nissan Leaf. 

II.-Microsoft Robotics

While the Microsoft Robotics had a even better year in 2010 than in 2009. It is not a Money Maker yet. Microsoft decided to make almost everything around this area Free. They also have opted to do more contests and sponsorships around the matter. So I doubt it had produced more money than in 2009, I think it might have actually turned into a Microsoft Research related expense all together.

I was wrong. It is was not yet the time for Microsoft Robotics to shine as a Money Maker. But it is definitely a area that is getting hotter, just to slow to care about it right now.

III.-Windows Server HPC and Windows Home Server.

2010 was a boost year for Windows Server HPC as it gained more ground in that Market and a new update of it was released as Windows Server HPC 2008 R2. But it still failed to grow as much as Microsoft expected it would. Or so it is my impression.

Windows Home Server on the other hand suffered a set back as HP discounted the WHS 1.0 line and WHS 2.0 got severely delayed. To the point it is now even in the middle of a controversy because it is said that version 2.0 will not have the Drive Extender feature. One of the very featured that defined the first release.

Unfortunately that means I got wrong this one too. Damn you Windows Home Server team.

IV.-Windows Media

This one is actually easy to call for me. I got it right.  It was the a great year for Windows Media mostly thanks to Zune being launched internationally via Xbox 360 and WP7. Mediaroom 2.0 got pumped up thanks to a wider adoption via AT&T U-Verse and other providers in the U.K.  Media Center got added to Windows Embedded Standard 7 in more form and the option to have barebones WES7 Media Center geared install is also available.

Most of the other wins for Windows Media were thanks to IIS7 and Silverlight that now that offers a option to target platforms where Silverlight is not natively available like the iPhone, Blackberry or whatever other big Mobile or Desktop Platform a client may require.

Windows Media, it is multitude of faces is did great in 2010.

V.-Silverlight

Another right.  Thanks to the World Cup 2010, the release of Silverlight 4, Windows Media thriving, WP7 release and many other things.  2010 was a big year for Silverlight.

While a lot of blogs called for Silverlight fading in 2010 because of HTML5 and what not. They were absolutely wrong.  Silverlight adoption managed to grow to a 70% of adoption despite Microsoft refocusing of Silverlight role in IE9, Bing, Office, Windows Live as only of as a power user enabler. 

Silverlight for Symbian ended up launching, WP7 launched and Microsoft finally confirmed during 2010 that Silverlight 5 will be a big release and that Silverlight would appear later on in the Xbox 360 and even Set Top Boxes. If Silverlight is also meant to be integrated to Mediaroom 2.0, that has not been said.

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2.-Search War Escalates And Results Add Up Slowly But Surely

  • Bing managed to complete the Yahoo Search deal and has now integrated its search engine to Yahoo. This move ended up giving Microsoft control of 25% of the USA search marketshare. 
  • Bing progress has been constant, even on the competition turf (iOS, Android, Symbian, Blackberry).
  • Google started fighting back by copying some of Bing features.

My original comments here about Google starting to get distracted by Android and Chrome successes did started getting true. So it was the part about Anti-Trust clouds forming above Google head. In 2010 many lawsuits accusing Google of playing dirty were filed and the EU is now starting to track Google moves more closely.

3.-Office 2010 Will Have Silverlight Based Counterparts For The Most Important Components By The End Of 2010.

Up to now, Office Live only counts with Silverlight enabled improvements.  No new Office Web Apps were released. Microsoft focus went to making the current Office Web Apps better and to integrate Office Web Apps into Windows Live and Facebook.

4.-It Will Be WPF Breakout Year.

Only in the enterprise and the developer spaces. WPF 4.0 so far has only seen a few consumer targeted big apps. Visual Studio 2010 and Expression Studio 4 remain the biggest WPF Microsoft made apps.

5.-The .NET Framework Goes Places.

This was not much of a hard prediction to begin with. Thanks to the release of .NET 4.0 , WP7, WES7, WEA7, XNA, Silverlight, ASP.NET, the crazy amount of parallel developments that .NET can tap into and the advancements of Mono (and everything it encompasses).

Thanks to all that, the .NET stack continues to get stronger. Without any sign of it stopping or slowing down.

6.-XNA in Mobiles, Desktop And The Browser In A Official Form.

It happened, just not in entirely straightforward way for the most part. Thanks to a little reboot of Games for Windows, MSN games (doubling now as Bing Games) and Live Messenger games. There is now a clear was for how XNA will get to Desktop users either via a install or  the browser thanks to Silverlight.  XNA on Mobiles was more direct thanks to WP7 launch and XNATouch use via MonoTouch.

But things are still in transition.

7.-Windows Live Will Ship New Apps And New Services Besides Solid Updates.

Here I reiterate just how hard it is to predict anything Windows Live related.

Windows Live did released solid updates. Released New services as a plugin repository and a WP7 device manager. But they didn’t released new apps at all.  Live Sync and Live Mesh for example were merged into one and the web and mobile side of Live Mesh got cancelled in favor for the one from Live Sync.

8.-Microsoft Surface 2 Will Get Released In New Forms And Surface 1 Will Be Available For $5K.

Surface 2 got delayed and Surface 1 is still being sold as it was. Some non-Microsoft sold used units do have surfaced (pun intended) for $5K though.

Surface 1 surprisingly continues to do well, even as it starts to get dated. But I have seen that some apps running in it are now not only done in WPF, but also in Silverlight 4 as a way to make the apps faster.

9.-Microsoft Will Get So Aggressive In The Cloud That Will Quickly Match Or Surpass Everyone Else

During the first half of 2010, Microsoft said it had gained over 10,000 paying customers for Windows Azure.  Total numbers for Windows Azure adoption are slated to be released this month. Estimates for 2010 full customers number are anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000.

Windows Azure updates have been constant and it has stayed competitive against Amazon and Google.

Microsoft Online Services reported big contract gains during 2010 and what previously was known as BPOS is now know as Office365.

Anyone willing to doubt that Microsoft stood at the level in the cloud is just trolling.

10.-Windows Mobile Will Be Fine And WM7 Will Surprise

Lets get this out of the way: Windows Mobile 6.5 tanked in sales in the USA, yes, of course that did happened. But its installed based managed to hold thanks to contracts. The same happened around the world. But worldwide thanks to emerging markets and china. WM 6.5 managed to hold on.

Now, before anyone cites numbers from the android activations. but Android Activations do not mean 1 Android device sale at all.

Originally the first part of this prediction was based on me thinking that there was going to be a WM 6.5.7 and 6.5.9 update. No such luck and Windows Mobile ended in 6.5.5.

But boy if could not have predicted Android having such and insane adoption. It not only grew 8 times, but around 10 times the size it was one year ago. and in November it surpassed the installed base of Windows Mobile. So it was wrong in me saying it was unlikely for android to grow 8 times its size in 2010. But I was not wrong on me thinking WM could hold on fine for 2010 on a worldwide basis.

WebOS did tanked and didn’t went anywhere in 2010.

But my predictions on WP7 were spot on. nuff’said.

Results

Very Strict:          4  out of 10           (  2,5,6,9 )

Strict:                    6  out of 10            ( 1,2,5,6,9,10)

Not Strict:           7  out of  10            (1,2,5,6,7,9,10)

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Not a bad turn out at all I must say.



01 January 2011

A Social Messaging Network To Share Your New Years Eve Resolutions

NYEresolutions.com Logo

2011 is already here, January 1st is almost gone and that means many of you should already have your New Years Eve resolutions firmly in your head. Well, if you want to share beyond your usual social outlets. You may want to do it so in a Social Messaging Network fully dedicated to that Goal.

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NYEresolutions.com is a open beta Social Messaging Network based on the Status.net backend, for you to share your New Years Eve Resolutions with other people looking to share them. 

A very barebones task specific thematic resource that works well for its purpose. After all, the third step of having New Years Eve Resolutions, is to share them with people, as a way to give yourself more impulse to fulfill as many of them as you can.

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NYEresolutions

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