19 April 2011

gbrainy 1.65 For Windows

gbrainy logo

It only took over 2 months for a new Windows version of gbrainy to appear, but now it is here with the following updates and changes when compared to the 1.62 version:

  • 2 bug fixes
  • Updated translations
  • New translations

gbrainy: A Game App To Exercise Your Brain

Along with this update for the desktop version, you can now also access a web version of gbrainy:

gbrainy Online Web Client

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12 April 2011

On Download Squad And Switched Closing Down

Download Squad Marquee logo                                                                   

I was  really shocked with the sudden news today of AOL’s Download Squad and Switched closing down.   Also really surprised about it.  But after the shock passed and giving it some thought I have come to realize that in the case of switched it was not much of a shock or surprise at all. Just that it makes me sad that the fall of Switched had to drag down the drain a blog of the seniority and stature of Download Squad. 

Why do I say this? Well, for me it felt shoe-horned the whole pairing of the two blogs a while ago. I just could not make sense of it at all. Worse of all was making Switched the LEAD brand of Download Squad! The man who thought and suggested that one idea out should had been fired on the spot.

Switched was less relevant, less important and with considerably less cache than Download Squad. So again, Why you would pair it with Download Squad and why you would offend DS readership by doing such a nonsensical change?  Looks like I was not the only pissed off by the move just by looking at Compete stats for the last few months. And lets be honest, with the way the DS blog went since Sebastian Anthony and Lee Matthews got to be the lead bloggers in Download Squad, such a stupid change was the worst thing to do on a already irked readership questioning if they should stop reading the blog. Even if Compete is not exactly the most exact in order to measure the traffic of big sites and web apps. There is just no way that their figures do not represent the reality of the free fall of Switched  and how the pairing of Switched with Download Squad plus the making of Switched the lead brand of Download Squad lethally wounded DS. A blog that was perfectly healthy and safe as it was over 1 million uniques a month on the USA alone before that change.

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According to Compete stats, AOL’s brilliant idea of pairing Switched and Download Squad only lead to a race to the sunset. Shredding half of Download Squad readership in just 2 months. End of a streak of growth for the blog. The rest of course is another sad chapter in the history of AOL mistakes.

While I don’t cover news and minor software updates (yet).  Opening Appatic was partly inspired by Download Squad, since I missed the original one, back when it was a more straight forward and leveled blog.  I just was tired of the direction most big blogs were going and leaning to. New Media becoming like Old Media. Blogs going from trying to be as factual and straight forward as possible to just churning out blog posts full of bias, snark and poor research. Add to that kind of blogging The New AOL Way of doing things and you sure got a recipe for disaster.  Sad and sadder trying to make a party.

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10 April 2011

GBoost: One Click PC Gaming Performance Booster

GBoost Logo                  GZero logo

GBoost is a free PC Gaming performance booster app by GZero that saves the current state of your Windows OS and then deactivates all the processes, services, OS skinning and visual effects. All with the click of a button. This, so you can squeeze out as much PC Gaming performance and efficiency you can out of your Windows PC or Laptop, in order to reduce lag and frame rate drops as much as possible. Giving you a more enjoyable and smoother game session. Once you are done,  another click and you are back on your usual Windows OS experience with all the processes, services, OS skinning and visual effects fully restored.

Features

  • - 100% FREE
  • - 100% SAFE
  • - Simple to use - 1 click Boost
  • - No Permanent changes
  • - No Overclocking
  • - Smoother game play
  • - Noticeable Results
  • - No interruptions
  • - Reduces Lag
  • - Enhance PC’s
  • - More stability for your games

GBoost not only does what it does in a very easy way, it does so in a visual and clear way by showing you a gauge meter for the state of your PC before and after boosting. This way you can know how much you actually gained in performance according to GBoost. The actual minimum possible you can gain no matter if you are on a Netbook or Old PC is 50% and the best you can gain is 100%. That means doubling your PC gaming performance. All without permanent changes or damaging your Windows OS install configuration. Win-Win all around.

Installation & Usage Walkthrough

1.- Once you have installed GBoost and you have authorized it to run, you will note the app will check for a update, and if a update is found, this update will be instantly installed before you can use it. This maintains the app in a good working order and takes away any extra monitoring from you, as it updates automatically.

Gboost Autoupdate screenshot

2.- After the GBoost Update check, you will receive a warning notification that alerts you of saving any important work you may have open before using it. Remember it is a One-Click and Go app, so if you don’t save your work, there is a risk of losing progress on whatever you had open at the time.  Once you have saved and closed anything that may have needed to be saved or closed, you can click the Ok button or the “Don’t Show this again” button if you have used GBoost more than once already and don’t want to see this warning again.

2011-04-09_1940

3.- Now you should see the GBoost app window right in the center of your screen with the GBoost Gauge meter and the 4 OS PC stats indicators.  One click and you will see it move and change to green while it deactivates anything that needs to be deactivating in your Windows OS.

GBoost screenshot

4.- If you have already clicked the GBoost Gauge Meter button, you should already be seeing your Windows OS going into basic mode and both the GBoost Gauge Metter now changed to green, showing how much you gained in performance and the stats indicators telling you how many processes and services were closed compared to before you clicked the “Press to Boost” button in the GBoost Gauge Metter. Now you can launch up your games and enjoy the benefits.

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5.- As you finish your Gaming Session, just click the “Press to Restore” button in the GBoost Gauge Meter and in less that 30 seconds you will be back to the state your Windows OS was before you used GBoost. To completely close Gboost, you will need to right-click on the GBoost icon in the Windows System Tray.

Some Notes

GBoost is a great app for PC Gamers as will allow to get as much performance as possible while playing games or doing CPU/GPU intensive tasks like converting video. And as a secondary use, if you are in a netbook or laptop you can use it as a way to boost your battery life. Result should vary, but you can expect battery life gains of anywhere from 15 to 35%. Certainly an app to keep around installed in your Windows PC or Laptop. Totally recommended. Works in Windows XP, Vista and 7 in both 32 or 64 bits versions.

Linkage

GBoost info

GBoost                                          <—Download Page

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09 April 2011

Paint XP: Classic Microsoft Paint For Windows 7

PaintXP logo

It is no secret that I happen to like retro or anachronic (very old) apps in current Operating Systems.  More when it comes to discontinued apps. Perhaps, no better example than me resharing the good old Microsoft Photo Editor.

While the main reason to post about discontinued or anachronic apps  is because in most cases they don’t have a current version or simil that can actually replace them. It is not the only important reason. The other big reason is for when you want to use a retro or anachronic app just because you were too used to the UI-UX of it that you just want that back. And that is exactly the case of Paint XP.

Paint XP screenshot

Paint XP is nothing else than Microsoft Paint with the Classic UI-UX that everyone and their mothers knows from Windows XP  for Windows 7.  You know, for those that got too proficient in it (after all, some can even speed paint the Mona Lisa with it) and just cannot get used to the new Microsoft Paint with the Fluent UI-UX (A.K.A The Ribbon). 

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There is really nothing to explain about Paint XP other than what I have already explained. On the things to note about it,  is that it can run side by side with the Windows 7 Paint app as seen in this post screenshot. And finally that Paint XP is the easiest way to get the old UI-UX back without having to run XP Mode or Modify your current version of Paint. The only thing that could had made it better would had been if it was a portable app.  It is not, so you have to install it. But fret not, Paint XP comes as a 1mb installer and it works in both 32 and 64 bit versions of Windows 7.

Linkage

Paint XP info

Paint XP                                         <—Direct Download Link

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Coolbarz: Enable Desktop Toolbars In Windows 7

Coolbarz Icon

When Windows 7 launched, it brought a hell of a lot of new OS usage conventions. If you upgraded to it from Windows Vista it was a noticeable jump, but not big enough for you to not get up to speed with the OS in a matter of days.  If you instead upgraded to it directly from Windows XP, then it was more than a jump, it was a leap to a OS where everything felt revamped or new.  Because of that, Windows 7 took away a lot of the features that were a mainstay in Windows XP. Simply because they were either no longer really needed or because they were rethought and replaced. Desktop Toolbars is one of those features that were taken off from Windows 7. The reason for that being Windows 7 super taskbar.  But if you found yourself wishing the feature was still there, then read on.

Coolbarz is a lightweight .NET 2.0 based portable (self contained exe) app by Brynt Younce that allows you to have up to 4  XP-like (peek-a-boo by cursor hover) desktop toolbars in Windows 7. 

tmpCE5C    tmp377C

(Icons only Coolbarz Desktop Toolbar with open settings panel and Icons with text Coolbarz Desktop Toolbar)

Features

  • Provides up to 4 familiar looking toolbars for any or all sides of the screen.
  • Conveniently customizable to suit your functional and visual needs, including fading effects and transparency.
  • User profile support so each user can have their own configuration.
  • Standalone tool with no installation required.
  • Intuitive user interface with update notifications.

Coolbarz Desktop Toolbars got everything you remember from the Windows XP feature with a lot of more controls and settings, so you can better customize them for your day to day use.  Seen from that perspective Coolbarz is great.  Unfortunately, in my opinion this is not enough to make it feel home in Windows 7. As much as it is supposed to be a Windows XP feature in Windows 7,  I think it also needs to be able to live within the context of Windows 7 itself. So the things it misses* in order to be able to do that are:

1.- Aero Glass styled Translucency

Right now you can customize the colors in the Desktop Toolbars and set for level of transparency. This works but only if you happen to be using Windows 7 Standard theme. With full Aero Glass enabled, the Coolbarz Desktop Toolbars feel quite out of place.  This can be clearly seen in the desktop screenshots I added to this post.

2.-Icon Resizing

Because of how you can customize the Windows 7 super taskbar and how the size of the icon in it can vary because of that and because of the resolution of your desktop. There should more than one icon size for the Coolbarz Desktop Toolbar icons. This way it would integrate better too.

3.-Hot Streaked Icons 

I like the fading effects in Coolbarz, but what would be even better if the icons in the Coolbarz Desktop Toolbar had the “hot streak” color cursor-hover effect that the Windows 7 super taskbar icons got.  This last one is more of a stretch, but would be nice if possible, or even if just fauxed.

*By pointing out what I think it still misses, I am not doing it so to take away from the app being great, just what I think could be added to make it excellent.

Coolbarz is a neat little app, the fact that it is fully portable and almost weightless (only 100kb!) makes it great. But this app really only should be used if you don’t want to use the Windows 7 icon switcher (for when you have pinned more apps into the taskbar that can fit in) or/and If you want to have a Shortcut Icon free Windows 7 Desktop. 

Linkage

Coolbarz Documentation

Coolbarz Info

Coolbarz                                       <—Direct Download Link

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08 April 2011

Page Speed Online: Improve Your Website Loading Speed

page speed online logo

 

There are many ways to measure if a website is slow to load or not. You can base it by browser or by broadband line speed and even by the specs of a PC to a degree.  But there is another way to get a good idea of that. One that happens to be as authoritative as you can get.

Page Speed Online site screenshot

Page Speed Online from Google Labs is a  website that allows you to quickly analyze the performance of your website from both a desktop and mobile perspective according to Google. And since Google is still the #1 Search Engine, it is a good idea to take their advice very seriously as they plan on taking website load speed as a factor for pagerank sooner than later.  This tool will give you a desktop and a mobile score. With each score there will be suggestions on how you can speed your site.

Page Speed Suggestions Priority Levels:

  • High priority. These suggestions represent the largest potential performance wins for the least development effort.
  • Medium priority. These suggestions may represent smaller wins or much more work to implement.
  • Low priority. These suggestions represent the smallest wins. You should only be concerned with these items after you've handled the higher-priority ones:
  • Rules without suggestions. There are no suggestions for these rules, since this page already follows these best practices. Good job!

While Page Speed Online got 3 different priority levels and one Rules check. The only really important and meaningful ones to take note on are the High Priority suggestions and the Rules Check.  The high priority suggestions translate into the biggest performance (as in loading speed and responsiveness) wins and the Rules Check refer to if your website follows best website development practices or not. It should be the case, because if not, that could represent in many ways the biggest factor in your website not being fast enough.

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Now, what score means my site is fast enough?

Getting to 100 will be pretty damn hard unless your website is just static text. Only Google.com gets that rating. For example even Facebook.com login screen gets 99.  Desktop Bing.com gets 94.

So, for that reason the minimum score you should aspire to is 80 points in the desktop test and 75 in the mobile test. If you get a score below than that, you should follow the high priority suggestions given by Page Speed Online and improve your website to a higher score.

If your site gets over 90 in the desktop test and over 85 in the mobile test. There is nothing for you to worry about as improving beyond that will be hard to do as it would require some serious nitpicking and possibly tweaking.

In turn this gives us that the most comfortable score to get is 85 in the desktop test and 80 in the mobile test. Check what is your score is and see if your website is in the right or wrong side of it.  Alternatively to the web tool, you can also get the Page Speed test as a extension for Google Chrome (or SRware Iron) and Firefox (3.6+).

Linkage

Page Speed Online

Page Speed Chrome Extension

Page Speed Firefox Extension 

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01 April 2011

Pica Pic: Online Arcade Gallery Of Digitalized Handheld Electronic Games

Pica Pic Logo

Handheld Electronic Games is a term I had not thought of in years and that many of young kids of today have never actually heard, and that even if they had, I am very sure that in their mind they thought of the Nintendo DS or the PSP.  But no, H.E.G consoles, while still a common sight in outside the USA, like for example here in Mexico, usually sporting games of Tetris, Solitaire and even Chess are quite spread because they are sold for the equivalent of 1 to 3 dollars, it is no longer the case in the USA, as least as I know of and by what some people told me when I asked.  But back in their heyday, when the 80’s was the name of the time and portable game consoles were still a dream yet to come true, there were these single-game consoles called Handheld Electronic Games.  In that realm of games the top dog name was not Nintendo, it was Tiger Electronics and then there were the rest.

However it was not Tiger Electronics (Now more of a Electronics Toy Company in general) who introduced the concept, but Mattel and Coleco in the late 70’s, but since it was not the focus of Mattel, they didn’t got to dominate the category. And Coleco? Well, unfortunately while they were also of the very first ones in the Video Game Home Consoles category too.  They ended up as one of those sad stories of forward thinking pioneer companies,  that lost their way and faded away and were then bought by a bigger player (Hasbro) at cadaver price. Tiger Electronics then dominated the category and made some of the most successful H.E.G consoles in history, that in no surprise were tied to properties from some of the most important mainstream movies of the 80’s like Robocop and Terminator to cite the two biggest examples. These games were of the most basic in nature and in one way I remember reading someone calling them “One Bit Games” as a way to say they were just like Pong both in low tech and low play quality.  But they were a “Cheap” (yet expensive for now as they still went for anywhere from 10 to 20 bucks back then!) alternative to the way more expensive console game cartridges and the best way to keep kids entertained anywhere and on the go.  And to say these Handheld Electronic Games were not as important to video games as the ColecoVision or the Atari were for the Home Console Game would be not just stupid, but a serious disrespect for a simple reason:

As Tiger Electronics got to dominate the category, there was only one other company that rose to challenge them with as good H.E.G consoles called Game & Watch that sported a revolutionary design (for the time). These were from Nintendo and served to pave the way for the Nintendo Gameboy and without the success these had, who knows how different the Nintendo Gameboy would had been. And in turn the Portable Game Console category.

Pica Pic site screenshot

Pica Pic is a Online Arcade Gallery for a collection of Digitalized Handheld Electronic Games arcade consoles.  Made in Flash by a polish Web Design Studio called Hipopotam Studio. In Pica Pic you cannot only browse around digital reproductions of some of the very best Handheld Electronic Games arcade consoles from the 80’s days of yore. You can actually play them with your keyboard and in your browser.

Pica Pic got 20 of these awesome playable digital objects. 18 ready to play right now and 2 more yet to be activated. The very fact that you can play these games in a very similar fashion as you would have back when they were released it is cool enough, but what makes the site even better is that there are even Leaderboards for the highest scores for each H.E.G console!

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As I have played with these H.E.G consoles in the site. I realized that from the 20 at display right now, I actually did had played with most of them back in the day and that I also had several of them.  One of the memorable ones besides the Nintendo Game  & Watch, was the one from The Terminator by Tiger Electronics as seen in this post screenshots. Simply because I won it in a Supermarket promotion and also came with some neat stickers.  And I mention it because I think that makes for a good memory to remember and to expose as a point of how cool these things were at their moment if you were a kid or a tween at the time. And if you were, this website will make your day. If not, it will be like going to a museum without going anywhere.

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Pica Pic is a great novelty website and one hell of a memory lane trip if you happen to be old enough.  Totally recommended. Also recommended is a visit to the creator website. The Hipopotam Studio site is very freaky in a way that made me think of Manhunt from rockstar games, in Chris Cunningham’s Rubber Johnny and the MTV from the mid 90’s, you know, back when MTV was still great.  But before you go to Hipopotam’s Studio site, go play with some Digitalized Handheld Electronic Games will ya?

 

Linkage

Pica Pic

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