Pho.to Lab lets you create fun photo montages on your iPhone & Android

Android has some great picture and image editing apps to adjust and enhance your photos, such as Photoshop Mobile and PicSay. But what if you just want to add some cool photo frames and effects to your pictures? We all love having fun, right? Then you definitely have to try Pho.to Lab. This simple app is a winner for two reasons: first, it is very easy to use and second, it has more than 450 awesome effects for your photos!

As soon as you launch Pho.to Lab, you’ll find a wide range of effects templates diverses into categories. Choose one and you can either apply it to an existing photo or to a new one. After that, all you have to do is to select the area of the photo and hit Process. Notice that you need to have your Internet connection enabled because your photo will be procesed on Pho.to Lab servers. When it’s done, you can set the resulting image as a contact icon or wallpaper. You can also save it to the phone memory, send it as an MMS or share it via Facebook and Twitter.

Turn yourself or your friend into Darth Vader, Rambo, a Na’vi from Avatar, an astronaut or a pirate of the Caribbean, a nun or a foxy lady! Put yourself on the Forbes, Vogue or Playboy cover next to Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chang, Lady Gaga and Dr. House or put your face onto museum walls, a soccer fans banner, in a hot off the press newspaper; airbrush yourself on exclusive cars or leave your face as a sand imprint on the beach and much more.

In conclusion, Pho.to Lab is a very enjoyable app that helps you easily create fun photo montages, cool contact icons, animated photo caricatures, e-cards and phone wallpapers.

Download Pho.to Lab for Android | Download Pho.to Lab for iPhone

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2011 Gift Guide Part 2 – Suggested Gifts

Following the 2011 Gift Guide Part1 – Ok, Great! Now what should I buy? article here are my recommendations for just about every budget level, given our recent thorough discussion about Mobile Device Ecosystems.

It’s true.  The hottest ticket items this 2011 Holiday Season are all mobile – tablets, smartphones, music players, ultra-portable notebooks (the netbook is dead) – and the like will undoubtedly find their way to a gift box near you. Ecosystem aside, there are some really cool gadgets out there right now, and figuring out which basket to put all your eggs in can be confusing.

In order to make your last minute gift buying a bit easier, I’m going to take a quick moment and give you a couple recommendations in a couple different categories.  I hope this helps you in your Holiday gift giving.

Tablets

  • Apple iPad2: Ranging in price from $499 USD to $829 USD, depending on the storage and communications options you choose, the iPad has established itself as the clear leader in this category. This is the gadget that all tablet lovers are going to want this Holiday, as it plays music, movies, TV shows, runs applications, and is a great eReader. So if you’re budget is up to it, this iOS powered iDevice will be a sure winner.

  • Kindle Fire: At $199, this break-even priced Amazon, Android powered tablet has been labeled by some as the only non-iOS based tablet that can challenge the iPad. It streams thousands of movies and TV shows instantly via Amazon Prime, runs Android apps, plays music from Amazon’s MP3 store, comes with 8GB of internal storage, and reads Kindle eBooks without batting an eye. If the iPad is outside of your budget’s comfort zone, give the Kindle Fire some serious consideration, as the tablet’s UI and features are sure to improve in the coming months.

Smartphones

  • Apple iPhone 4/4S: Ranging from $99 USD to $399 USD, Apple’s iPhone 4/4S is the most popular smartphone in the US, and likely around the world.  Siri, available only on the 4S, will remake the way users interface with their iPhones, and is perhaps the biggest draw for new and existing iPhone customers alike. If you’re planning on giving an iPhone for the Holidays, order now, as many carriers, as well as Apple, are reporting lengthy lead times and delivery dates that are quickly nearing the end of December.

  • Droid RAZR: If Apple’s smartphone isn’t your cup of tea or is outside your budget, the Droid RAZR, available on Verizon Wireless in the US, also represents head-turning technology within the Android ecosystem. While a little more expensive than the entry level iPhone, at $299.99 USD, it sports “advanced artificial intelligence,” learning the user’s work habits, and speeding up those tasks it knows you’re going to perform most often.

Ultra-Portable Notebooks

  • Apple MacBook Air: As the only non-iOS/Android powered product in this gift guide, the Apple MacBook Air is both a Windows as well as a Mac based computer. The entry level model comes with 2GB of RAM and a 64GB SSD. This ultra-thin, SSD equipped ultra-notebook ranges in price from $999 to $1599 USD, and may be a bit on the pricy side. However, as current models don’t have DVD drives or Ethernet ports, you’ll need to remember to buy the external SuperDrive as well as the appropriate adapter not only for your desktop monitor, but its Ethernet adapter as well; and this will push the entry level price up by $137 USD.  You may also want to invest in a USB hub or two. Despite all this, however, the Air is proving very popular with consumers and enterprise users alike.

  • Asus Transformer Prime: The $499.99 USD Asus Transformer Prime is technically a tablet, but with its $149.99 Transformer Dock, it instantly becomes a powerful, light weight ultra-notebook, capable of satisfying most of the needs for a computing device in this category.  The best thing about this device is its ability to function as both a tablet and keyboard-based computer.  While the device currently runs Android’s Honeycomb 3.2, its sure to get an upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich, ensuring that the device will provide a number of years of usability at roughly half the price of Apple’s MacBook Air.

As far as digital music players are concerned, the only one really left on the market, besides a slew of off-brand players is the Apple iPod.  You can’t go wrong with ANY of these, from the Shuffle to the iPod Touch.  You just need to pick a price point and a model and go with it.  This is a sure winner with anyone.

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Make use of a synchro calendar with GoCal

In case the default calendar app for iOS isn’t enough for you and you want something more advanced and with some additional synchronization features, GoCal can be the solution to your needs. At its core, GoCal is nothing else but a calendar client that can integrate the default iOS calendar, and the Google Calendar. Actually the Google Calendar integration is the main reason you should try this software out.

Developed by Lightroom Apps, GoCal can be used on any iOS version either on iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. It features the same interface and options on any version and brings the same increased usability. For the first run, users have to add the desired Google account in order to be synchronized by the app. Just add the address and the password of your Google account, and the app will scan automatically your attached calendar. In this way the content of the calendar will be available on your mobile device. Users are now able to create directly from their device any new event, sort them in any order and view them as you like.

The app features a clean interface that makes use of colors in order to flag any event created. The content of the calendar can be sorted by month, week, which helps the user to get a wider view of the calendar. The user can also enable and disable which calendar should be synched or not, which means additional control on multiple calendars. Overall what users can do into the Google calendar, they can do also in this app, without the need to be always connected to the network. In addition to what Google calendar has to offer, GoCal can integrate the location to the event, which, when accessed, will open the Google Maps.

A very useful calendar synchronization tool for those of you who own at least one Google account.

get GoCal

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If it Ain’t Dirty, Don’t Clean it

Amid all the Holiday Hullaballoo, malware attacks can be nasty. However, beware where the warnings are coming from.

You must have a malware scanner on your computer – Mac, Windows or Linux – don’t compute without one. Period. You also need to heed the warning dialogs they display. If you’ve got a bug, or if it catches one before it infects you, do what it tells you in order to get rid of it. However, do yourself a favor, mind where the dialog boxes are coming from.

Case in point, last year, my wife got hit by a nasty piece of malware that totally hijacked her computer, down to the BIOS level, making it useful as nothing more than a door stop. I couldn’t even replace the hard drive. The infection had corrupted the laptop’s BIOS. In the end, I had to replace the PC; and the lesson from this is CLEAR – when you’re surfing the internet and you see a dialog box popup informing you that you may already be infected, or are infected with malware, make sure that the dialog box is coming from your malware scanner.

Unlike Soft32, some download sites have software that are infected with malware. Some sites permit popups and pop-unders that advertise malware scanners that aren’t malware scanners at all. They’re really nothing more than applications that steal your personal information, and hijack your PC unless you either pay to get rid of them, or pay a subscription fee. The popups or pop-unders I’m referencing look like legitimate system utility or malware scanner dialog boxes.

Don’t trust them; or any of the information they contain.

Be sure you know which malware scanner you use. Insure that THAT program’s name is listed in the title bar of the dialog box you’re reading. My wife thought she was protecting herself and her computer. In the end, she lost not only her PC, but some pictures and videos we’ll never get back.

I was recently talking to a family member who had a similar issue happen to them. They knew enough to call me and ask me about what they were seeing before they clicked the OK button on the dialog box. It’s a good thing they did. We were able to bypass the dialog box and save their PC and data.

In the end, you need to be mindful of the following:

  • The name of your malware scanner
  • That program’s name will appear in the title bar of any dialog box that displays on your computer.
  • Malware warning dialogs that come from your web browser can usually be considered as suspected, malware.
  • When in doubt, click the “X” button that closes the dialog.
  • Do NOT dismiss the dialog by using the OK or Cancel buttons on it.

Keep yourself safe. Become familiar with your malware scanner, allow it to update itself; and MOST of all, schedule regular scans, regardless of the time of day that they want to run. Better to suffer through a bit of performance lag than to lose all your data AND your PC.

If you want to download free antivirus and anti-spyware security software for Windows, pick one below…

Avast | AVG Antivirus | Microsoft Security Essentials

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Traktor Pro 2 – the maximum freedom in DJing

If you spin tracks for a living or on the side, then you need to listen up. I’ve looked at some mixing software over the past few months, but none have really “sent” me. Traktor however, is a completely different story. It’s a DJ-ing and track mixing application and its available for both Windows and Mac, and quite frankly, it floored me.

TRAKTOR is a hardware and software mixing solution that offers DJs a wide range of solutions for spinning at the club, at home or any other venue. Each TRAKTOR product contains T2 Technology providing power and simplicity in both their software and associated hardware.

TRAKTOR’s intelligent features allow for easy remixing of tracks on the fly; and you can switch any deck to a Sample Deck and load up to four loops or one-shot samples each, or 16 in total. Its new Loop Recorder can record loops from mixer channels, master out or audio interface inputs, while you mix in more than 30 performance effects, including Tape Delay and Bouncer.

Read Full Review | Download Traktor Pro 2

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Anti-Malware Programs Should be Free

Based on what’s available, you should never HAVE to pay for your anti-malware app.

I’ve been a freelance technology journalist for over 15 years. I’ve written for CMPnet, AOL/CompuServe, UBM TechWeb and for a number of print publications, including a local Chicago paper that is part of the SunTimes family. I’ve looked at a boat load of malware scanners over the years; and its clear, you have to have (and USE) one on your computer. You just do… Unfortunately, there’s really no way around it.

However, just because you have to have and use one, doesn’t mean that you have to pay for it. And you certainly don’t have to pay yearly subscription fees after your initial purchase. There are a number of scanners out there that are really very good, and are free.

Any and all of these are GREAT scanners, and more importantly, they’re all free, and don’t come with any kind of strings attached, such as subscription fees for updated AV definitions. I’ve used all of these at one point or another for both Windows and Mac, and highly recommend all of these. Most scan for viruses, worms, Trojans and the like, and may even help with phishing scams.

If you don’t feel comfortable with a free solution, or prefer the additional or advanced features of a pay or subscription based product, that’s fine. In the end, you just need to find one that seems to work the best for you…and then USE it. Let it run, regardless of WHEN it wants to run its scans. Let its definitions update. The utility can’t protect you if you don’t let it scan your PC and/or let its definitions update itself. Most modern PC’s have multi-core processors. Any performance hit you take is going to be minimal, and should be tolerable. Besides, any performance hit you take is well worth the benefit you receive.

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Pinnacle Studio HD the Homemade Hollywood

Choice is a good thing.  With the 2011 Holiday Season fast approaching, I know that many are going to be taking a lot of video and digital pictures, and are going to be struggling with the best way to share the memories.  Yes, online services like Facebook, Flickr, Picasa Web Albums, are nice; but not everyone has or wants to create an online media account. This is why I like applications like Pinnacle Studio HD. It’s a media editing and sharing application for Windows.

Pinnacle Studio HD makes it easy to edit your movies and digital photos like a pro. With it, you can quickly import videos and photos from a wide range of devices, and then edit scenes and create professional-looking HD movies with over 1,800 included effects, titles, and other content. When you’re done, you can export complete projects to today’s most popular formats or burn them to DVD, and share them with the world. If you make a mistake or your PC crashes, don’t worry. Pinnacle studio HD has a unique new Archive and Restore tool that conveniently backs up projects to preserve your work.

After you have your video and pictures imported and have created a project, you can access over 1,000 unique, professional-level transitions and effects with themes from Pinnacle’s Hollywood FX Volumes 1–3. The app also includes HFX Editor for creating custom effects.  Best of all, the app includes the ability to edit HD video on your computer-with ultra-fast performance when using AVCHD and H.264-based formats.

read full review | download Pinnacle Studio HD

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Burn your CD, DVD and Blu-ray Disc in Full HD quality quickly and easily with Ashampoo Burning Studio 11

Take complete control of your DVD and Blu-ray burning process with this great Windows application.

HD movies are awesome, but not everyone has the bandwidth to be able to stream and view home movies on the Internet. With three kids, and two of them under the age of 7, my wife and I are always taking movies of the kids for relatives who live out of state. Helping them view those movies can be a challenge, as not everyone has the level of Internet service that I do. This is why I really like Ashampoo Burning Studio. It’s a complete CD/DVD utility for Windows.

Ashampoo Burning Studio is fast, easy to use and efficient, as it handles all of your data – files, audio and video authoring tasks without sacrificing its famous ease of use. In version 10 they added a bunch of new features, but the program is still easy to use. Everything is explained to you as you do it.

The application’s main focus is its authoring capabilities for building video and audio discs. It fully supports 720p and 1080p HD video for Blu-ray discs. All the encoding is handled by Ashampoo Burning Studio. All the authoring tools have been overhauled. You now use the same new integrated editor for building DVD and Blu-ray video disks with menus.

In addition, there is a new Autoplay Editor module that you can use to build auto-starting data discs with attractive interactive menus. It also has a new Audio Player that plays audio files and audio CDs without leaving the program.

Read Full Review | Download Ashampoo Burning Studio 11

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