Make Internet apps run even through your office network

Don’t you hate it when your employer blocks certain kinds of applications simply based on file or traffic types? I know I do. I find it very frustrating when I am used to working a specific way and then have to change how I do what I do simply because an application I need has been blocked. If you find yourself in a situation like this, then you might want to take a quick look at Proxifier. It’s a multiplatform network utility.

Proxifier allows network applications that do not support working through proxy servers to operate through a SOCKS or HTTPS proxy and chains. With it, you can work with any Internet client through a proxy. You can improve network performance and ensure privacy. The app uses a flexible rule system, and has an easy to use yet powerful UI with live data.

Proxifier is a cool program that can help you route internet traffic through a single or chain of proxy servers to protect your privacy or to help you get key apps running when they might be blocked on specific networks. The biggest issue that I initially saw with the software was that it cannot be installed or used on a network that is already using proxies to govern network traffic. Those proxy settings have to be disabled before Proxifier can be installed and configured. Caution should therefore be used if you’re going to use this application at the office, as you could find yourself without any network or internet access if Proxifier conflicts with configuration scripts used in your enterprise.

Read full Review | Download Proxifier

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Keep your Windows Registry clean and optimized with Registry First Aid

While powerful, the Windows Registry isn’t the sturdiest thing in the world. Its easily corrupted, easily fragmented and often contains a lot of orphaned or unneeded information. I can point to any number of PC’s anywhere in the world and after a simple analysis show you how messed up their Registries are.  That’s why I really, REALLY like Registry First Aid. It’s a system utility for Windows.

Registry First Aid is a safe and easy to use utility and it safely fixes more Registry errors than ever before. Its new color coded results make identifying corrections much easier for the novice PC user. RFA’s color coded results allow you to see exactly what can be fixed without any possible problems.

RFA helps eliminate system crashes, software lockups and slow loading programs caused by incorrect Registry entries leftover from software installations & uninstallations that went awry. Registry First Aid fixes these problems by removing this orphaned or unneeded data. Hundreds of these entries bog down the registry, slow down your computer and cause other software to lock up. RFA offers added features that check the registry for unused software entries and “Run” registry entry errors. It also supports adding multiple entries into an excluded list and a new safe invalid path detection algorithm.

Registry First Aid scans registry for orphan file/folder references, finds these files or folders on your drives that may have been moved from their initial locations, and then rewrites your Registry with the correct locations. In addition, if your registry has links to files of deleted applications, Registry First Aid will find these invalid entries and remove them from your registry. With Registry First Aid, your Windows registry will be always clean and correct, helping your programs load faster and speeding up your computer. Registry First Aid helps you can keep it clean and keep it fast!

read full review | download Registry First Aid

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Diablo III – The role playing game of the year

It’s been quite a while… I haven’t played a role playing game since my senior year of high school. That however, is really about to change. Diablo 3 is now available, and it’s available on a computer near you.

Diablo 3 is a role-playing game that takes place in the fantasy world of Sanctuary. You play through a hero – a barbarian, demon hunter, monk, witch doctor or wizard. Your character interacts with other characters and players and the goal, is nothing less than the saving of the world from the fiery demons of hell.

Your hero engages in fast-paced combat that tests your reflexes and rewards your tactical decisions. As you hack and slay your way through hordes of monsters, your character grows in experience and ability, learning new skills and acquiring items of wealth and power.

The game can take months and months to get through. You can play with teams or with just a single character. At some point, Blizzard Entertainment is going to implement a real money auction house so you can buy and sell items for dollars or euros, or the real world currency of your country of residence. You can even sell off your character’s possessions, take the money and move on if you wish.

Diablo 3 is by far, one of the most highly anticipated games of 2012. While I am truly not a gamer and don’t pretend to be one, this game and the graphics and video behind it have impressed even me. If you like fantasy role playing games even a little bit, you must give Diablo 3 serious consideration. Its perhaps one of the most impressive games I’ve seen in quite a while.

Download Diablo III Game Client

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The Problem with Apple’s Secrecy

With WWDC just days away, there’s no shortage of Apple rumors…

I’ve been in the computing biz for a long time.  I began my freelance writing career back in 1996 CMPnet’s File Mine.  The site has long since disappeared, and CMPnet’s resources are now owned by UBM, which owns Information Week and BYTE (where I also appear regularly.)   Funny how some things go full circle.

Anyway, I’ve grown from a freelance review writer into a technology journalist over the years and if there’s one thing that anyone in this capacity will tell you, it’s that trying to figure out what Apple is going to do is hard…if not nearly impossible.

However, it does seem to be the national Geekdom pastime.  Everyone and their brother seems to be trying to figure out exactly what Apple has cooking and when it’s going to be released to the general public. During my time as a freelancer and technology journalist, I’ve learned one very important thing when it comes to prognosticating the Cupertino-way – Don’t bother.

Apple’s culture of extreme secrecy has in the past led to nearly every major site on the internet, both friend and foe to Apple, either supporting or discounting the latest rumor about iPad. While this perpetual rumor mill certainly helps generate hype and excitement, it often results in nothing substantial, except perhaps, the level of hype and excitement around a particular Apple product release or update.

For Apple, this is great. They get gobs of free advertising and lines of people outside their stores waiting for their chance to buy the latest product to come out of Jony Ivy’s design studio. It’s also a big problem for them, because they have people camped out in bars waiting for employees to misplace iPhone prototypes and such.

For consumers, it doesn’t do much of anything other than drive the hype. It can also lead to some big let-downs when a highly desirable feature for iPad isn’t implemented or isn’t implemented the way it was rumored, or to a user’s liking.  However, there is one last issue with Apple rumors…

The people starting them or spreading them are more often than not, wrong.

For someone trying to get a handle on the next best thing coming from Apple whether its iPhone, iPad, Macs or any other bright, shiny new toy (like their rumored, HDTV, for example), the best thing to do is just wait it out.  Don’t count on the information you’re getting being at all accurate. It likely won’t be.

Sure..! It’s fun to speculate.  The articles are fun and interesting to read and can be quite thought provoking at times.  It may give you something to talk about at work during a break, or at your friend’s desk. But understand it for what it is…noise.

Even industry analysts…the guys who do all the research and provide investors with predictions on what’s going to be hot or not… haven’t been able to get it consistently right when it comes to Apple; and those guys are REALLY smart and have deep, inside contacts at this, that or the other “trusted partner’s” installation.

Cracking the Apple nut isn’t easy. Its hit or miss at best. Those that have any success, in my estimation, are lucky; or… weighing in on what currently out there and playing the odds on what seems most likely to happen.
So what’s the problem with Apple’s secrecy?  Nothing much… Despite all the rumor mills, there aren’t a lot of people out there that seem to be getting through their “cone of silence.”

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Monitor network devices and services with NetGong

Nearly everyone with internet access today has their own network.  If you’ve got more than one computer hooked into a cable/DSL router at your house, you’ve got a home network. Many with a home network often share printers, share drive space and other devices. This is why I like NetGong. It’s a networking tool for Windows.

NetGong is a powerful, personal network monitoring tool. It allows users to tailor it to their particular area of responsibility, from a single server to a small-office LAN to hundreds of devices within a large corporate network. Corporate network managers can use NetGong to distribute responsibility among IS staffers and complement existing network management systems. Small businesses can employ NetGong for monitoring critical e-mail and Web servers.

Keeping your network resources up and running isn’t always easy. Having the right kind of monitoring tool is important to keeping running at peak efficiency. If things do go wrong, you’ll get the appropriate notifications.  This way, you’ll be able to get the right repair action done as quickly as possible.

In a home network environment, knowing if a shared printer or NAS is going bad is important.  Getting notification of the failure allows you to plan out the replacement cost so it doesn’t negatively impact your home budget.

download NetGong

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What Siri Really SHOULD Be – Part I

Siri leaves a lot to be desired. Here are my thoughts on what Apple’s introduction to AI really should be.

I recently read an article at a major, pro-Apple website that said that if Steve Jobs were still alive, he’d absolutely hate Siri (as currently implemented). Given what the general public knows about Steve, I’d have to agree. While CLEARLY labeled a beta effort, Siri leaves a bit – ok… a great deal – to be desired. With Apple’s WWDC event coming up, and the opening keynote, presumably given by Tim Cook, I think its important to expect some major developments related to Siri as a precursor to the introduction of Apple’s 6th generation iPhone, currently expected in October 2012. I’ve got a couple of ideas on what needs to happen to Siri, and what the digital AI/assistant really should do. Let’s take a quick look in this multipart series…

Beta-Be-Gone

The iPhone is revolutionary. The iPad is a magical device. The iPod/iPod Touch completely transformed and modernized the music industry (even if it did go kicking and screaming into “that good night”). Apple has done some extraordinary things with its products over the years, and I haven’t even come close to listing them all.

The beta label currently attached to Siri, Apple’s artificial intelligence powered digital assistant currently ONLY available on the iPhone 4S, needs to go.

And it needs to go YESTERDAY.

What does this mean? Simple – Apple needs to stop whatever its doing as far as iOS development is concerned and ring the all hands bell and rally the resources around Siri and finish the damn thing.

Siri has some major bugs and some major holes that need to be plugged and the biggest is that it needs to become, at the very least, a 1.0 released product ASAP. This means that its recognition engine needs to come out of the garage and join the rest of the iPhone in the spotlight – meaning it needs to be finished and improved…for all supported languages.

I’d like to be able to be John Malkovich, and have a one word conversation with Siri through my iPhone 4S; but its not currently possible. I don’t have any kind of speech impediments; and I’ve lived in the Midwest US most of my life, meaning I don’t natively have any accent to my English as a first language, voice. Siri should understand just about everything that I say; and she doesn’t.

I make simple requests now and again – what’s the weather like, will it be chilly the rest of the week, remind me to pick upat the grocery store when I leave the train station, or something as simple as, Siri, call myetc.

I often get, “I’m sorry, Christopher. I didn’t quite get that,” or, “I’m sorry; but I can’t do that right now.” This morning when I asked if it would be chilly the rest of the week, Siri responded, “Ok Christopher, which Beth would like like to call?” and then presented a list of 5 people named, Beth or Elizabeth out of my contact list. I checked. It correctly grabbed and displayed the right question, “will it be chilly the rest of the week?” I looked more than once to confirm it; but instead Siri asked me which Beth I wanted to call.

What?! Really? REALLY?

If its not something totally off the wall like that, the Siri simply doesn’t understand what I’m saying. Blurring the words, “wife” and “life” is sort of understandable. I often get “What do I call my life?” instead of “Siri call my wife,” or something similar. Its really ridiculous. I don’t have anything in my mouth when I talk, and as I mentioned, I don’t have any kind of speech impediments or thick accents that would make my speech difficult to understand, and yet Siri and I don’t seem to see eye to eye on a number of things.

These basic comprehension and speech recognition issues have to be resolved immediately, or else the device is never going to be able to make reliable use of the digital assistant at all. If Siri has trouble understanding even the most basic of questions or commands in the car, in a room with moderate to low volume or even in a quiet room (I’ve encountered my problems with Siri in all of these locations), then Apple may as well hang it up and kill the feature.

Its getting a bit silly, really. This is the feature’s basic functionality and I can’t rely on it for anything at this point.

Support for Bluetooth and other External Microphones

As I mentioned in part 1 of this multipart series, Siri has some serious comprehension and recognition issues that need to be resolved in order to break it out of its beta label and become a full-blown 1.0 feature.

As either part of that effort or in a separate update, Siri needs to really support use through a wireless headset and other external microphones. Right now, while use via a wireless mic is possible, the recognition and comprehension issues that Siri has when used with a wireless headset really prohibit that interaction.

This is a huge problem, as I know many people that use an iPhone often do so with a wireless set of headphones or a wireless headset (or both in a single unit). They may also use Apple’s included set of wired ear buds. Siri’s recognition quality through all of these leaves a bit to be desired.

The Bluetooth and wireless microphone issues with Siri are mostly well documented and widely reported. The entire tech journalist world has been ripping clothes, wringing their hands and gnashing their teeth over Siri’s inability to understand most anything when used in conjunction with any other microphone other than the hardwired mic in the iPhone itself. Recognition quality through Apple’s own wired headset isn’t completely horrible, but isn’t as accurate as it is via iPhone’s built in microphone.

Most of the people that I know use their iPhone with a wireless headset. Let’s face it – Apple’s wired headset is ok, but the wires constantly get hung up on something and one of the first purchases most everyone with an iPhone makes, is a wireless headset or hands free kit for the car.

Bluntly put, if Siri can’t accurately, reliably, consistently work through a headset, then the feature is never going to get used while a user is on the go, defeating the need for it – nearly – all together.

I recently saw the two new John Malkovich iPhone 4S commercials and decided to give Siri another go. As I mentioned in part one of this series, it was a waste of my time. Siri muffed the job entirely, despite understanding what I had said.

Removing a headset or wireless mic from the picture to help improve recognition reliability and accuracy isn’t realistic either. I’m not going to turn a headset off, wait for the iPhone to realize that it’s no longer paired with the headset and ask Siri my question and then turn it back on and repair my headset, just to give Siri the best chance to do her job right. THAT’S totally unrealistic and totally silly. I think I can actually HEAR Steve rolling over in his grave as I mention that. (No disrespect intended; but THAT would totally drive him nuts, based on what I learned about him while reading his biography from cover to cover.)

So, in order to get Siri correctly implemented as a usable feature, Apple needs to do two really big things:

  • Improve Siri’s general reliability, accuracy and comprehension (no small task)
  • Have all that work regardless of whether I’m speaking to her through the iPhone’s built in microphone, Apple’s included, wired headset, or a Bluetooth headset or hands free car kit.

Get that done, and done well, and I’d call that Siri 1.0.

Come back next time, and I’ll go into what features Siri should really provide once the bugs are ironed out.

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Windows 8 Release Preview has been officially launched

Microsoft announced today the release of the Windows 8 Release Preview, the prerelease of the highly anticipated Windows 8 operating system. Since the February release of Windows 8 Consumer Preview, which was downloaded more than 1 million times in the first 24 hours, Windows 8 has become the most tested Microsoft operating system of all time, and with the Release Preview, it enters its final phase of development before it releases to manufacturing.

Windows 8 Release Preview delivers the already popular apps like Bing Travel, News and Sports apps, as well as Gaming and Music Xbox apps that integrate with your Zune pass. Compared to the Consumer Preview, this latest version brings notable improvements to the Mail, Photos and People apps that will replace the Windows Live suite. In addition, Microsoft has worked closely with its partners to deliver apps from around the world through the Windows Store.

Beginning June 2, 2012, Microsoft will roll out the Windows Upgrade Offer in 131 markets, including the U.S. and Canada. Consumers who buy eligible Windows 7-based PCs through Jan. 31, 2013, can purchase an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for an estimated retail price of $14.99 (U.S.) during the time of the promotion. More information about the Windows Upgrade Offer will be available June 1.

Windows 8 Release Preview is prerelease software that may be substantially modified before it’s commercially released. Microsoft makes no warranties, express or implied, with respect to the information provided here. Some product features and functionality may require additional hardware or software.

download Windows 8 Release Preview

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Pull video from just about any website or streaming service with All Video Downloader

Viral videos are all the rage. Ever since “Charlie bit me,” finding the cute videos and keeping them before they’re lost to obscurity and time hasn’t been easy. This is one of the reasons why like All Video Downloader. It’s a multiplatform, video downloading tool.

All Video Downloader is freeware that allows you to download your favorite videos from all the major streaming websites. You can easily download videos from Youtube, Dailymotion, Vimeo, PureVid, Metacafe, and both Google video and Yahoo video. All Video Downloader lets you download and extract audio from video or encode videos in format of your choice for your computer, iphone, ipod, ipad, or android phone. With its built-in download accelerator, you can grab your favorite videos from YouTube in just a few seconds.

All Video Downloader is a great program that’s easy to use. The videos that it pulls down can be viewed on your PC, Mac or any compatible mobile device. The controls are easily understandable. While the price is right, its support for adult sites may not make it the tool of choice for everyone.

Download All Video Downloader for Windows | Download All Video Downloader for Mac

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