Draw and manage your photo collection with Xara Xtreme

Summer time is the season of digital photos.  The beach, parties, vacations – if you aren’t doing at least some of these and taking pictures of family and friends having a good time, you’re clearly missing out on saving many valuable memories.  Having the right tool for processing and touching up digital photos is important. This is one of the reasons why I like Xara Xtreme. It’s a multiplatform graphics tool.

Xara Xtreme is based on one of the world’s most sophisticated, highest performing vector rendering engines. This makes it one of the fastest graphics apps anywhere. You’ll be processing through large corrections and retouches quickly and easily.

If you want to get into some serious editing, Xara Xtreme has you covered there too.  Its Direct Action Tools allow you to intuitively, create effects such as transparency, shadows, bevels or gradient fills with a simple drag and drop. In fact, many of Xara Xtreme’s tasks can be done via drag and drop, including importing files and photos.

Xara Xtreme’s photo handling tools are top notch. The app is much, much faster and  produces smaller files. As a photo composition tool, it’s hard to beat.

Xara Xtreme offers completely non-destructive photo editing. You can edit your photo as many times as you like without the loss of depth or resolution quality. It also uses a fraction of the RAM required by other products, insuring that your PC has ample resources for other tasks. It can handle multiple, high resolution images with ease, even on a modest PC. Xara Xtreme’s file handling techniques also insure that the files are anywhere from 3 to 100 times smaller than with other programs.

download Xara Xtreme

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Mountain Lion Day

If you’re going to upgrade your Mac to OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, then you’re going to want to take a look at this article that will help you get ready for the upgrade…

Millions of Mac users all over the globe have been patiently waiting for the OS to be released so they can download it and upgrade their supported Mac to the new OS.  That last link is especially important for new upgraders, as it contains all of Mountain Lion’s Technical Specification Requirements, like supported models, RAM, disk space, etc.

A couple-three points on general requirements:

  1. If you aren’t running at least OS X 10.6.8 (the latest version of Snow Leopard) or later on your supported Mac, you’ll need to upgrade to it before upgrading to Mountain Lion. Users of Lion on supported Macs don’t need to worry about this point.
  2. Apple says you need a minimum of 2GB of RAM to run Mountain Lion. 4GB is better, 8GB or more is the sweet spot.
  3. Apple says you’ll need at least 8GB of available disk space.  Mountain Lion is a 4.5GB download. It needs another 3.5GB of temp space to do the upgrade, and the upgrade file eats itself after it executes. Make sure you make a copy of it before it runs so you don’t have to download it again if needed.

Before you get started on your upgrade, you need to do a couple of important tasks. If you don’t do all of these, the world isn’t going to end. You’re still going to be able to upgrade; but if you don’t, and you run into trouble, you’re gonna wish you had.  So, while they may make the task a bit longer, they’re probably the right thing to do.

  1. Bandwidth– It’s going to take a while to download the installer.  4.5GB takes a good while to pull down even on a good day, but ba-zillions of peoples are going to want to download Mountain Lion all at the same time. The best time to download is likely overnight.  So, you may want to wait…If you live in a bandwidth challenged area (like some rural area or back-40), you might want to make a trip to an Apple Store or a Starbucks or other free-Wi-Fi zone.  Apple isn’t going to deliver a Mountain Lion installer on a USB stick, like it eventually did with Lion.
  2. Backups – If you use Time Machine, make sure you have a good backup if you plan to restore applications, music or other content on clean install systems.
  3. Backups – Make a system backup of your boot drive (if you have a Mac with more than one hard drive). Super Duper is my new favorite, and WILL save your bacon if you need to start the upgrade process over again.

Once you have everything ready to go and you start the upgrade, your biggest obstacle is going to be patience.  The upgrade is going to take a while, likely 90 minutes or so from start to complete finish; and it will include three or more reboots, depending on your system.  Give yourself something else to do and let the upgrade run its course.  Rushing things is only going to frustrate you and jeopardize the integrity of your Mac later.

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Discretion, Being the Better Part of Valor…

Here’s some of the BEST advice when it comes to making system upgrades; and something that everyone should consider before taking the upgrade plunge

Apple released Mountain Lion OS X 10.8 yesterday.  Like many, I pulled down the OS update yesterday, but I haven’t pulled the trigger just yet. Some have scratched their heads when I relay that bit of news, others look me in the eye and see wisdom.  Let’s take a quick look at that and digest it a bit.

Mountain Lion is NOT the same kind of upgrade to 10.7 Lion that Snow Leopard was to Apple’s 10.5 Leopard.  OS X 10.8 is a HUGE upgrade, and there are a few considerations that you need to take into account before you perform the upgrade, because, “once you buy the prize, it’s yours to keep.”  In other words, with OS X 10.7 Lion now removed from the App store and Apple Store shelves, if you make a mistake, recovery will likely be a long, painful and difficult road at best.

Discretion being the better part of valor, I’d wait a bit before upgrading to Mountain Lion.  I’ve run the Developer Previews on my Mac and you need to know that there are a number of apps out there that do NOT play and work well under it just yet.

If you’ve got a critical legacy app that you’re concerned about, you need to check Roaring Apps for a Mountain Lion compatibility rating.  The site rates the compatibility of a number of different apps and app versions and let s you know which ones will run, and how well they will run, on both Lion and Mountain Lion.

The biggest point here is that 3rd party app developers have only had the final Gold Master code for just over two weeks.  This means that while they may have been developing, tweaking and fixing things under Mountain Lion Developer Preview releases, they’ve had less than 21 days to test, tweak, fix and resubmit bug app updates to Apple for all of their Mountain Lion compatible apps.


I’ve been a software quality and testing professional for more than 20 years. On an operating system update as large as Mountain Lion, this clearly isn’t enough time to work out all the kinks.

So, here’s my recommendation to most everyone wondering if they should take the plunge now, or if they should wait – I’d wait.

If you’re a regular consumer, I’d wait about a week or two, giving app developers additional time to submit updates to their apps not only to the Mac App Store, but their own web stores and other download sites, like Soft32.

If you’re a small business user, I’d give it a couple of months at least. Not only do you want 3rd party app updates to come through, you want Apple to have time to issue an update to the OS and make sure that there aren’t any other hidden pot holes or bumps in the road.

If you simply MUST be an early adopter and install Mountain Lion on a machine you’re going to be using pretty much every day, then you need to make certain that you provide feedback to both Apple as well as the vendors of the apps you are using so they know about the problems and challenges you’re bumping into.  It’s likely the only way the problems are going to get resolved quickly…

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Manage your monitors with MultiMonitorTool

More than one monitor to a single working station can be a tricky fact for someone that uses the Windows operating system. In order to manage multiple monitors you need a useful application that can offer enough flexibility and simplicity. MultiMonitorTool is the one for this type of job, an utility that allows you to do some actions related to working with multiple monitors.

Like all other NirSoft products MultiMonitorTool is a tiny piece of software that can disable/enable monitors, set the primary monitor, save and load the configuration of all monitors, and move windows from one monitor to another. All these actions can be performed from the user interface or from the command-line. For a better visualization, MultiMonitorTool also provides a preview window, which allows you to watch a preview of every monitor on your system. It might be useful if non-primary monitors are turned off and you want to view the windows displayed in the other monitors.

The user interface of MultiMonitorTool contains 2 panes: an upper one that displays the list of all monitors detected on your system, and a lower one that displays the details of all visible windows on the selected monitor. In this way you can easily save the current configuration of all monitors on your system, including the screen resolution, colors depth, and monitor position of every monitor. This is useful when you make changes and you are not satisfied with the settings of you monitors because you can restore back the saved monitors configuration.

This utility works on any version of Windows for both 32-bit and x64 systems without requiring any type of installation or additional dll files. Just run the executable file, and the utility will start instantly.

download MultiMonitorTool

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Change you voice with Skype Voice Changer

This is more about demonstrating a clever technology than providing a genuinely useful service. With that in mind, it’s certainly fun to play about with.

Skype Voice Changer is based on the numerous applications that are available to artificially alter voices. Some of us have tried out such tools before, while many of us have encountered them in the form of special effects or, most memorably and horrifically, in a certain teenage girl’s song about her favorite day of the week that caused a storm on YouTube.

What’s different about this software is that it works in real time. Rather than take an entire recording and work its magic, it aims to alter your voice so quickly that you can hold a conversation with your chat partner hearing your distorted voice without any obvious delays.

The control set-up is simple but effective. You start by choosing from a range of pre-set filters and effects, then make the call on Skype. While talking, you can tweak features such as pitch and echo, with the changes taking immediate effect without you needing to restart the software or the call.

Frankly there will be few reasons why you’d want to use this regularly unless you are really into crank calls. That said, it’s certainly worth a look if you have an elderly relative who often wonders at “the things they can do with computers nowadays.”

download Skype Voice Changer

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Create backup copies of your DVD movie collection with CloneDVD

Making backup copies of a DVD has always been a problem for many people. Many states have fair use copyright provisions for making backup copies of movies and software.  If you purchase a copy, the content isn’t yours, but the media is, and you’re entitled to make a backup of that content in anticipation that something may happen to the media you purchased. So, you need an optical disk backup utility for Windows, let me suggest one…

CloneDVD is a straightforward app that anyone can use to copy their favorite DVDs as a backup, or for use in different locations. Because it has an easy-to-use interface, everyone from novices to more advanced users will feel comfortable with it. There are only a few basic settings to choose from as CloneDVD will automatically deal with any restrictions on the DVD you are copying.

It is fairly intuitive, but for those users who do need some help, there is a step-by-step guide available. When the process is finished, CloneDVD automatically shuts down so you know the copying is complete.

CloneDVD appears deceptively simple, but does in fact offer a lot of customization options for more advanced users. You can remove any extras or features, add watermarks, remove areas or frames from the original movie, and choose to copy all of the movie, or only certain sections.

CloneDVD produces a good quality copy you can play on a number of devices, using the most popular formats. It is worth downloading the free trial to fully appreciate the range of editing tools that are included with CloneDVD.

Download CloneDVD

 

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RIM Keeps Manufacturing Out of China

This one act has probably done more to show the world that RIM is in it to win it than any other so far this year – RIM is staying out of China.

The Huffington Post had a really great article in it yesterday. The article described how Thorsten Heins, RIM’s CEO, has made an operational decision to stay out of China. Specifically speaking, despite the cheap labor and lax environmental laws, RIM’s manufacturing operations won’t be moving there… ever.

The immediate question is, “why is this important?” That’s really quite simple. Historically, it’s been very easy for Chinese companies to “acquire” intellectual property and produce like and/or competing products and services from companies operating within their borders. In many cases, government officials order, intimidate, cajole, or otherwise “make” Chinese workers cough up the information.

Shortly after that happens it’s not been unheard of for foreign companies to lose or be underbid for work because a Chinese organization introduces a like product and wins a contract or business with that illicitly gained information. This is a well-known occurrence for organizations with operations in China.

RIM is in butt-saving mode. Its cutting staff, cutting costs etc., trying to insure that it has enough staying power to release BB10 and the new devices that run it. The one thing it won’t be doing to save money on manufacturing costs.. ? Moving its manufacturing operations to China.

This is huge step in the right direction for RIM; and it may be the first thing they’ve done right this year. This decision protects RIM’s reputation, RIM’s current product line and most importantly, RIM’s customers from rogue Chinese government sponsored hackers running amok through RIM’s enterprise, or YOUR enterprise because the Chinese were able to hack through BIS/BES. It protects RIM’s most valuable asset – its security features. It also protects RIM’s value

Despite the fact that RIM could have saved a great deal of money on operating expenses, Heins has likely saved the company by keeping the company out of China.

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Too slow? Gain some speed!

Over time, almost all computers begin to start slowing down. And is not that we’re doing something wrong, is just that we don’t do anything to prevent that… And when things become frustrating, you call a friend to reinstall your OS and to make it as new again. It is known that reinstalling the OS takes time, and the software that you use the most, also need to be reinstalled and reconfigured, and that is also stealing your precious time.

Well, I used to do that as well, with the exception that I didn’t call a friend, and I did it quite often, at least once at 3 months. But now, I have windows running fast and stable for more than 3 years.

Why? Because I took care of it! Easy and fast! And that’s what SuperEasy2 does!

SuperEasy2 finds hidden errors, optimize your start-up, clean the windows registry, delete hidden temporary files in order to help you to regain your free disk space, remove internet traces, manage services, optimize system database, defragment your hard drives, etc, and all of these, very fast and very easy!

My windows keeps telling me I am running out of space on disk C:\, and I deleted all the temporary files, I cleaned up all my desktop, all my files, and I still was short in disk space! And I tried to Regain disk space with SuperEasy2, and bang! More than 4GB of free disk space appeared all of a sudden! And now, anytime I have a low disk problem, I just let superEasy2 to gain some disk space for me!

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