Play your multimedia files where and when you want to with MPCStar

Play your multimedia files where and when you want to with this cool Windows app.

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Multimedia is a big deal. Apple’s iTunes is a multibillion dollar business. Apple concurred the world because of the iPod and iTunes, so, having the right kind of multimedia player for your computing preferences and experience is important. This is one of the reasons why I like apps like MPCStar. It’s a freeware multimedia app for Windows.

MPCSTAR is an all-in-one multimedia app. It consists of a video player, an audio player and a number of different audio and video codecs, that coupled with its conversion utility will allow you to put your video where you want to play it, in the format that is best suited for it. You can also download content from the internet and play it with MPCStar. The app is user friendly and can play a number of different type of multimedia formats. MPCStar is also free and doesn’t contain any kind of spyware or adware.

MPCStar reminds me of the multimedia players that I used back in the in the Windows 95 and Windows 98 era, though the app works with Windows 2000 to Windows 7. The big things that you won’t see here are mobile device support of ANY kind and the complete and total lack of any kind of a content store. While MPCStar is good at playing your multimedia files, I wouldn’t expect too much out of it in terms of library management. The app really reminds me of WinAmp and other type players with basic album support for cover art and other file tags.

MPCStar also hasn’t been updated in well over three years, so don’t expect any kind of additional support for the app, either. It is the way it is. Its good at what it does; and the interface is really great, but what it does seems stuck in 1998…

Download MPCStar

 

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Get your mail and read important articles with Sylpheed

Get your mail and read important articles with this cool Windows-based email client.

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Believe it or not – and despite what other people might say about email dying – its not. In fact, most of what I do every day evolves around my email client both here at home and at the office. The biggest problem with email is finding an app that does what you need it to do without clogging up your computer with a bunch of stuff that you don’t want or don’t need. Its why Sylpheed is a good choice for a Windows mail client and RSS news reader.

Sylpheed is a mail client and news reader that runs on the X Window System. It has a 3-paned display similar to the popular e-mail clients for Windows such as Outlook Express and Becky. In fact, after taking a look at it, that’s exactly what I thought – it looks a lot like Outlook Express. To top it off, its easy to use right out of the box.

The app is very stable. You can have tens of thousands of messages in your inbox. The app protects your data and still functions well regardless of how large your information store is. If something does go south and the app does forcibly quit, you won’t have to worry about the state of your data. It won’t get corrupted.

Its also easy to search for mail with Sylpheed with its filtering engine. You can also refer to messages matching your search criteria by saving the query to a search folder.

If you’re looking for a decent mail and news only app, then this is a decent choice. The app is easy to use and is basically rock solid. If you’re looking for an Outlook replacement, don’t come here, though. The app doesn’t do calendar or to-do’s at all, though it will handle your address book. It also won’t sync with your smartphone.

Download Sylpheed Free

 

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Bring down Wikipedia to your hard drive for offline viewing with Xowa

Bring down Wikipedia to your hard drive for offline viewing with this awesome app.

When I was growing up (I graduated from high school in 1984), my parents had a set of Britannica Encyclopedias THEY used when they were in school circa 1950-blah, blah, blah. Its what I had at home to help me with homework – a 25-30 year old, out dated set of reference books…and it was far better than most anyone else had at home. Google didn’t exist yet. In 1984 when I graduated from high school, Sergey Brin was in the 4th grade. That, my friends… is TOTALLY depressing.

Today, with the advent of Google and other search engines, the world is your oyster. Students today have access to information that I could only dream about back in the day…that is, as long as they’re online. Well, until now. XOWA is a cool Windows app that downloads any Wikimedia wiki to your hard drive for offline use; and unlike my stale set of smelly encyclopedias, can be updated at will.

XOWA is a free application that lets you download Wikipedia and Wikimedia compatible wiki’s to your computer. With it, you can access all of Wikipedia offline, meaning without an internet connection. You effectively rip it to your hard drive and then access Wikipedia via the app.

It works with any Wikimedia wiki, including Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Wikisource, Wikiquote, and Wikivoyage. It also works with other specialized wikis such as Wikidata, Wikimedia Commons, Wikispecies, or any other MediaWiki generated dump. Also works with any non-English language wiki (French, German, Dutch, etc.) compatible wiki.

When you search or find what you’re looking for, you can search for any page by title using a Wikipedia-like search box, browse pages by alphabetical order using special:allpages, or find a word on a page. You can also access a history of viewed pages and bookmark your favorite pages.

This application is really cool. Its something that every high school and especially college student should have, especially if you have a laptop, have to do some kind of a research paper and know you’re going to be some place that doesn’t have Wi-Fi (and you don’t have mobile broadband to burn – which is a very common state, especially among students here in the States).

With XOWA, you surf, download, storage and go. The app will even store data on a storage card or thumb drive, so you don’t have to eat up precious hard drive space. The app is also VERY difficult for first time users to get set up. You have to do a LOT of reading of instructions in order to actually get the app to rip something to your hard drive. Don’t expect to be able to flip a switch and start using it out of the box. Its going to take a bit of work to get going.

XOWA-01

 

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It was the WWDC 2014 Day!

Yesterday was the day we find out what Tim got many of us for Christmas..!!

Stijn-WWDC-iPhone

…and I must say I’ve been a very good boy.

Most of the tech world – or at least anyone with any mild interest in what’s up and coming in terms of Apple technology and innovation –yesterday was sitting on pins and needles. The Apple WWDC keynote was set to begin at  10am  Pacific Time, and can be found here.
Most of us will also, likely get some of the new hardware goodies that were announced yesterday for our loved ones, or ourselves, as 2014 Holiday gifts later this calendar year. You may have to continue to behave until then, kids… Santa doesn’t give the good stuff to just anyone.

While I, unfortunately, wasn’t able to Live Blog the speech yesterday as I have for other pubs in the past, I will do my best to recap the results. I will also have first look-styled reviews of both OS X 10.10 and iOS 8.0 as soon as I can get installations of them up and running on my Mac and iPhone 5, respectively; but it will likely be a few days before I can get that to happen, as I’m certain everybody and their brother with any kind of an Apple Developer’s account will be downloading the software as soon as its available.

Stay tuned to Soft32, as I’m certain it’s going to get very exciting around here in the coming weeks.

If anyone has any questions or items you’d like me to give special attention to regarding either OS X 10.10 or iOS 8, please do me a favor and leave me a comment, below. I’ll make sure that I do my best to at least mention it in the review of each OS.

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Smartphone 101 – Prerequisite 2: Setting up a Sync Relationship with iPhone

I’ve been working with mobile devices since 1996. I’ve had nearly every kind of mobile device from near every manufacturer on nearly every mobile OS…ever. The iPhone is by far the easiest to setup and configure. Like the other two mobile OS’ in use today, we’ll run through the default configuration and then see about adding another sync account to your iDevice. Apple makes this pretty easy…

Please note that these instructions were done using and iPhone 5 running iOS 7.1.1. As I don’t have an iPhone 5S, you won’t find instructions on using Touch ID, here. However, as you will see from the screenshots below, the configuration process is very easy. You shouldn’t have any problems configuring it if you simply follow the process and then work with the device when it wants to read your finger prints.

1. Turn on your iPhone for the first time. After the device boots, you’ll be greeted with a welcome screen. Place your finger just to the left of the greater-than sign (>) and slide it over the top of the words, “slide to set up” to begin the configuration process.
IMG_0001

2. Select a wireless network to connect to. If you have Wi-Fi in the house, using it over your mobile broadband bandwidth is preferable. Select your network from the list and tap it.
IMG_0002

3. The wireless network password screen appears. Type the password to your Wi-Fi network and then press the join button.
IMG_0003 IMG_0004

4. Turn on Location Services. You’ll want to make certain that they are configured correctly later, but for now, you’ll want them turned on so things like Maps and local search work correctly. Tap “Enable Location Services.”
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Smartphone 101 – Prerequisite 2: Setting up a Sync Relationship with Android Phone

Android+Google Account

There are a BOAT LOAD of different kind of Android devices, from numerous manufacturers running about 35 or so active versions of the Android operating system. As such, there simply isn’t a standardized set of instructions for setting the device up. Android versions may also differ on the SAME device on a DIFFERENT carrier (adding to the confusion… I know.)

These instructions were done on an HTC One (M8) on the Verizon Wireless Network. As such, it’s going to have Verizon specific screens in its setup routine.  If this is your phone, then you have the exact instructions you need to get going. If you have, say, a Samsung Galaxy S4 or other Samsung Android device on Verizon, these instructions will be close, but not spot on. Unfortunately, there isn’t ONE single way to deliver Android; AND the way its implemented differs from device to device, mobile carrier to mobile carrier, so, if something in the instructions doesn’t line up for you and the store you purchased the phone can’t give you immediate assistance, leave a question in the comments.  I’ll answer it ASAP.

1.    Turn on your Android phone for the first time. After it boots and displays various splash and logo screens, it should stop at a welcome screen. This should be the beginning of a setup wizard or other setup app.
Android_ss_0001

2.    The HTC One (M8) uses the Verizon Cloud to back up your phone’s important information. If you want to use Verizon Cloud, click the “Next” button. Otherwise, click the “Skip” button.
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3.    Choose the data that you want to backup to Verizon Cloud. By default, all data types are selected.  Click the “Next” button when you’re done.
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4.    Choose what wireless networks are used – cellular and Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi only – when backing up data to Verizon Cloud.  Click the appropriate radio button and then click the, “Done with Cloud” button to go to the next step.
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Smartphone 101 – Prerequisite 2: Setting up a Sync Relationship with Windows Phone

Now that you have your email account created and your address book populated, let’s get the data on your smartphone.

OK… we took quite a bit of time the other day getting our email account setup on our service of choice. Any of the ones that I gave you instructions for – Google Apps/Gmail, Outlook.com, iCloud – are decent choices and should serve you well. While you’re going to want to make certain you give yourself the best opportunity for glitch free synchronization (meaning it’s not always wise to mix and match devices and services, or more aptly put, I’d recommend using the service that is natively paired with your device – Gmail+Android, Windows Phone+Outlook.com/Exchange, or iCloud+iPhone), it is possible to mix and match if you absolutely HAVE to. If you must put a Google account on your iPhone, don’t be surprised if your experience isn’t as optimized as it would be if you had either Google services synching to an Android phone or Apple services synching to an iPhone. It works, but there may be a couple of glitches here and there…

So, how do you get the information from your email account over to your smartphone? It’s quite simple, really. You have to tell your smartphone that you have the type of account you have and then let the two communicate via the smartphone’s cellular data connection with the internet. As changes are made to either side – on your smartphone or on your email account – those changes will be made to the remaining side so that you’ll always have the latest information, no matter where you look at the data.

The big thing to remember here is that this is likely one of the first things your phone is going to want to take you through when you turn it on for the very first time. It’s going to want to attach itself to your email account so that you get all of your PIM data (Personal Information Management data – Mail, Calendar, Contacts (or address book) and Tasks) to and from your smartphone as the data changes. It will set up a Push Data connection (the same kind as Blackberry made famous, back in the day…); and as a result, your smartphone will always have the latest data and will be considered a “smart” source of information (hence the name, “smartphone”). Any time you want to know who needs to be where at what time, who you can call if for some reason you don’t get the information or can’t make an appointment, or want to message someone about… you can use your smartphone. (This is why we took the time to get your email account set up correctly…). It also makes all of this information portable, mobile and easy to take with you wherever you go.

Ok, so your phone is going to want to setup its default account (if you have more than one email account, you can set up more than one sync relationship) so that it gets all the info all the time. I’m going to take you through some of the default setup steps for Android, iPhone and Windows Phone. This will help you if you have problems.

However, the screens we’re going to review actually take you through, step-by-step and have a pretty good set of instructions. If I gloss over something that you don’t understand or need more information on, let me know in the comments, and I’ll update the instructions.

Please remember that this process assumes that you’re mixing apples with apples. In other words, you’re using the default email account TYPE with a LIKE phone.

Windows Phone+Outlook.com (or your Microsoft Account)
1. Turn your new Windows Phone on for the first time. The Welcome screen below, will appear after it boots.
wp_ss_0001

2. Sign in to your Microsoft Account on the “Keep Your Life in Sync” screen. If you sign in later, your phone won’t be setup correctly until it has all of this information.
wp_ss_0002

3. Enter in your Microsoft Account email address. This is more than likely a @msn.com, @live.com, @hotmail.com, or @outlook.com email address, but it could be any email address you have, provided you registered it as a Microsoft Account mail address.

4. Type in your password in the password field. When you’re done, either check or uncheck the “Allow Microsoft to send you information and tips about your Windows Phone,” checkbox. While this will subscribe you to their Windows Phone newsletter, it might have some cool tips in it that you didn’t know about. If you’re new to Windows Phone, I’d check it. You can always unsubscribe later.

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Smartphone 101 – I’m supposed to talk into WHICH end??

I was recently approached by a good friend who needs help as a first time smartphone owner. Here are the basics of what you need to know.

I’ve been in mobile devices before they were mobile.  If there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the past over the past 18 years it’s what makes a smartphone smart; and it can be summed up in one word, really: Integration.

smartphone-helpSmartphones are only smart because they take information from one part of your life – your address book for example, and allow you to make not only phone (voice) calls with it, but make video calls, send emails, get directions and have your mobile device navigate you to a friend’s house from some place you’ve never been before. It’s smart because it connects the dots between places you never thought even had dots, let alone places.

If you’ve never owned a smartphone before, they can be a bit daunting.  Heck… they can be down-right scary.  Over the next five days, I’m going to put my iOS vs. Android vs. Windows Phone comparisons aside and instead run through a few how-to’s on how to get into a smartphone if you’ve never had one before.  I’m going to cover the following:

Making and Receiving Phone Calls – How to make sure you push the right button or slide the right thingy in the right direction so you can take the call.  If you miss it, you’ll also want to know how to get to your voice mail, how to listen to, respond to and manage voice messages.

Messaging (Texting, Multimedia and email) – How to make sure you send the right notes and the right pictures to the right people, because …well, with great power comes great responsibility.  In the wrong hands, that information can be used for great evil. Believe me, not everyone can handle, “all this…” and I don’t think I want them to, either.

Pictures and Home Video – Let’s face it… You have a smartphone because it’s easier to take and send pictures of the kids with one device. You’re not going to carry your digital point-n-shoot camera or DSLR with you everywhere you go. Your kids, however, will be adorable and cute despite your current state of preparedness. Most smartphones have cameras that are just as good as, or better than, many high-priced point-n-shoot digital cameras; and they take decent video, too. Let’s figure out how to use it and share it with the world.  This section may overlap slightly with Messaging, above.

Music and Movies – You’ve spent years refining your music library. You’ve got movies to occupy the kids during that long car ride to grandma’s house. Let’s figure out how to get your multimedia on your smartphone.  This is going to differ from platform to platform (desktop/laptop PC or Mac) and between Mobile OS to Mobile OS.

Apps – While we’re walking through the ecosystem (I’ll cover that term very briefly in this section), let’s realize that your smartphone is probably more powerful than the PC that took you (or your parents, depending on how old you are) through high school and college. It’s a mini PC that you can take everywhere, and it can do more than you think. Here, I’m going to show you how to get apps on your smartphone.  You figure out how to use them; though I will cover Facebook slightly. It’s integrated into all three Mobile Operating Systems pretty deeply.

Local Search and Navigation – You don’t need a dedicated GPS unit or a phone book any more.  Your smartphone CAN get you there from here, even if you’ve never been there or here before. I’m going to cover Google Maps and Apple Maps in this section.  They’re close enough that the one set of instructions should get you where you wanna go, but I will likely have two sets of screen shots…

If you can get through these basic how-to’s without a bloody nose, you should be good to go.  At that point, you’ll have mastered the basics and should be savvy enough to branch out into other areas on your own.  In fact, if you can get through all of the above, you won’t be a beginner any longer and should consider yourself pretty proficient.

However, if there’s something you want me to cover, hit me up in the comments and let me know what it is.  The only thing I ask is that you let me know what kind of smartphone you have (iPhone, Android or Windows Phone) so I can give you the right kind of instructions. It may also help to know what mobile carrier you have here in the States, and if you’re using pre or post paid service. Depending on which one you use, things may be a bit different…

Hold on to your hats kids. Your world… its about to get a bit bigger.

 

Smartphone 101 – Prerequisite #1: Setting up Your Address Book

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