Keep track of all your PC and online passwords with KeePass

KeePass_iconPC security is probably the most important issue you’ll bump into today. One of the most important things you need to do to keep your computer safe is to track and secure all of your passwords.  This is probably the biggest reason why I like applications like KeePass. It’s a password manager for Windows.

Today, nearly everything you do on your computer has a password that you need to remember for it. Windows has a network logon, your e-mail account, your website’s FTP password, and then there are countless online passwords for websites, like your bank, Facebook, and Twitter. The list is endless. You should also use different passwords for each account. Because if you use only one password everywhere and someone gets it, you have a serious problem.

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KeePass is a free, secure password manager that helps you to manage your passwords. You can put all your passwords in one database and lock them with one master key or a key file. With KeePass, you only have to remember one single master password or select the key file to unlock the whole AES and Twofish encrypted database.

KeePass is a pretty cool app. While there are a lot of password safes out there, KeePass is free, and very easy to use. It you don’t have an app of this type, then its probably a good idea to give this one some very serious consideration. Having your accounts hacked is not cool; and forgetting your password to an infrequently used, but important, asset is problematic. KeePass keeps track of them all, and does it for the right price.

download KeePass

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Check out the health status and temperature of your HDD/SSD

CrystalDiskInfo-enStorage. Your computer lives off of it. Room for your operating system. Room for your data. Room for temporary and work files. Without enough storage, you won’t be able to run your computer the way you want. In order to keep your hard drive in working order, you need the right monitoring utilities. CrystalDiskInfo is a hard drive monitoring utility for Windows that gives you this awesome capability.

CrystalDiskInfo displays basic HDD information, monitors S.M.A.R.T. values, and disk temperature. When monitored drives start to fall out of acceptable ranges or values, the app can send you alerts via email. You can then come back to the monitored computer and check its status.

In order to help you monitor its stats, the app offers a variety of tools and monitors including rotation speeds, temperature settings and S.M.A.R.T information. You can also monitor and control AAM/APM settings.

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Conclusion: CrystalDiskInfo is a decent application…if you’re hardware savvy. If you don’t know a lot about hardware or if you don’t know what you should do with drives that are developing issues, having the app on your home PC isn’t going to do you a lot of good. The app is really meant for computers and drives that are on more than they’re off. In other words, if you have computers in a data center or other always on situation, CrystalDiskInfo is the kind of application you’re going to need in order to make sure mission critical applications stay up and running.

Having an app like this in a consumer setting or on your home network isn’t going to help you too much if you’re PC isn’t on more than off. Most consumers won’t know what do to with the issues and values they encounter, so the information is really just a lot of noise for someone who doesn’t understand hardware.

Download CrystalDiskInfo

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Take complete care of your PC with Wise Care 365

wise-care-365Windows systems are notoriously hard to keep optimized. Installs and registry modifications are done and often leave a lot of orphan data on your hard drive.  This often leads to issues not only with hard drive space, but with performance as well. This is the major reason why you need to have an application like Wise Care 356. It’s a Swiss army knife application for Windows, and it’s very good at what it does.

I’ve been looking at Windows utilities for years. There are many of them out there, but there are few that provide the breadth of scope and ease of use of Wise Care 365.  With Wise Care 365 you get a dead easy to use, lazing fast, and an overall healthy PC shortly after install.  As a tune-up utility, Wise Care 365 is comprehensive and full-featured, practical and economical. It will keep your PC in tiptop shape and at peak performance.

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The app consists of five parts – PC Checkup, System Tune-up, Privacy Protector and Wise Utilities. PC Checkup is new and checks the whole running condition of your PC.  It rates its health on a scale of 1-10, with 10 high score, and then shows you quick-fix solutions. Wise Care 365 includes both Wise Disk Cleaner and Wise Registry Cleaner.  It takes just one click to use, and your old, tired PC will transform into a brand new and blazing fast one after Wise Care 365′s work is done

Wise Care 365 is an awesome utility. It’s something that most Windows users should have and the free version can do a lot without having to worry about registering the app to get a functioning utility. If you don’t have this app, then you need to do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s not only worth your time and effort, but it’s well worth the expense.

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Will Microsoft do a Redo with Windows Blue?

New rumors are circulating indicating that Microsoft is trying to win you back with Windows Blue…

It’s true I’m not Windows 8 fan. However since my Dell Latitude 10 ST2 tablet run Windows 8 and is a Surface Pro competitor, I’m at least interested in the future of the platform and what Windows 8.1 – more commonly known as Windows Blue – will bring to the table. From what I understand, there’s good news and bad news.

First the bad news – Microsoft isn’t giving up on ModernUI in Windows 8. Windows RT, even though it has Desktop Mode doesn’t run legacy Windows apps, so it can be confusing. WinRT is NOT the Windows you’re used to.

I saw an interesting article by my friend, Preston Gralla. If Preston is right with his speculation, then MS is going to do a bit of rethinking with Windows Blue and will let users boot directly to the Windows Desktop. However, Preston doesn’t think it will happen.

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My other friend, MaryJo Foley, is further speculating that not only is Microsoft considering allowing users to boot directly to the Desktop, they are considering bring back the Start Button as well. While both of these design elements were removed from Windows 8 and were NOT part of the original Windows 8.1 feature set, according to MJF, “these two UI options are looking more likely.”

MJF makes it very clear – nothing is certain, but at least Microsoft is looking at this as a very real option. The next milestone leak or the public preview in June will tell the tale. We’re really just going to have to wait and see, as until the software is in the can, anything and everything can change.

I am stuck in the middle. I’m not entirely certain that MS will relent and have the options built into Blue to bring back the Start Button or allow users to boot directly to the desktop. However, I really think they should do it. If they don’t, I see Microsoft having continued issues with Windows 8 adoption. Unfortunately, that’s something that they really don’t need right now, and the absolutely need to address.

As always, time with tell the tale. In the meantime, if you must have this functionality now, you can always check out my review of Start8 here on Soft32 and install it. It brings back the Start Button and allows you to boot Windows 8 directly to the Desktop.

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Play all of your media files with VSO Media Player

Play all of your media files with this single, must have Windows player.

vmp_128x_128I like watching movies on the go. I take them with me wherever I go. When I do have them, I really like to use VSO Media Player to view them. It’s a multimedia player for Windows.

VSO Media Player will play videos, Blu-ray discs, DVD’s and audio files without having to install any additional, external codecs. The fact that most everything that you need is included is nice, and somewhat expected in today’s modern, multimedia age.  However, it is nice to know that it will support just about any media you throw at it, including DVD and AVCHD .ISO files.

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VSO Media Player not only supports Blu-ray and DVD ISO files, but its support extends beyond that. It also allows you to plug in additional decryption support, from AnyDVD, for instance.  Its also a decent media management tool.  VSO Media Player can manage  your media collection.  It can create and edit playlists as well as Edit the settings of Text subtitles: font, color, size, etc.

VSO Media Player is extra light and easy to use. It has a lot more support for hardware and software acceleration than I thought it would, given its pay model.  While there’s a great deal to like about this player, including its Blu-ray support, its really a simple player and organizer. If you’re looking for something to get you buy, this is an excellent choice. If you’re looking for something more advanced, you might want to look at the paid version or at something else, though it does have support for multi-cored processors, an audio booster and the ability to switch between GDI and Direct3D.

 

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Ace of Spades – the Minecraft-style online multiplayer FPS

Ace-of-Spades-LogoCreate your own levels and enjoy four different game modes in this cool Windows game.

Gaming can obviously be a lot of fun. One of the biggest draws for some games is the ability to create your own levels. This is one of the reasons why games like Ace of Spades are cool. It’s a game for Windows that just might be for you.

Ace of Spades is a voxel-based build-and-shoot video game, similar in to Minecraft and Team Fortress 2. It features game modes such as team death match, capture the flag, base infiltration, zombie defense, and diamond mining. The best part of it is its sandbox construction elements. It enables players to construct defensive structures or to dig trenches, to achieve the goals of the current game mode.

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Players can choose between four classes of player characters – the Commando, with either a rocket launcher or a mini-gun and a pistol; the Marksman, with a sniper rifle and a pistol; the Rocketeer, with a submachine gun and a jetpack; or the Miner, with an auto-drill cannon and a shotgun. Shovels and pickaxes can be used as melee weapons or to destroy blocks. Other weapons are available to each player class as well.

Ace of Spades is an ok video game. The plus sides are its multiplayer classes and its ability to allow players to create their own levels and structures. You really have to want to do this, as the game doesn’t offer much more. I’m not a big fan and it has a lot to do with the graphics style used throughout the game. If the graphics were a bit different and if it did a bit more, I might be interested, but then again, I’m not a big Minecraft fan, either.

Download Ace of Spades

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A 7″ Microsoft Tablet?

It’s not a good idea.  Well, it *COULD* be, if Microsoft did it right, but they’re not going to…

Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal announced that Microsoft is planning to spin up production of a 7″ Windows based, Surface branded tablet later this year.  The tablet is intended to compete with Apple’s iPad mini and the Google Nexus 7. The question one has to ask is whether this is an RT or x86 compatible device.

I think the RT model could work for a 7″ device if the price and margins were right.  Windows RT doesn’t completely suck as an OS or even as an interface. Its usable; though not very popular.  The problem is the ecosystem is extremely immature and there’s little to no native software.  Microsoft could solve part of that if it allowed Windows Phone 8 apps to run on Windows RT, but this isn’t currently the case.

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Intel’s Clover Trail processor can provide a decent x86 option in powering a 7″ MS Surface tablet providing power and battery life at a reasonable price point, but I don’t see Microsoft using the x86 platform and Windows 8 on a 7″ device.  We’ve proven over and over again that full blown Windows on a smaller device (phone or tablet) is not what we want (part of that was due to lack of horse power in that form factor, the other that the apps weren’t designed to run on the smaller screens). People would still try to run Photoshop, or similar desktop app, on their 7″ tablet in this scenario, and it would definitely [still] suck.

I think this is not so much a “can we” but perhaps more of a “[what] should we [do]” situation. IF MS has a plan, now would be the time to publish that, make it known, and then move towards it with expediency.  They don’t have much time left.  The PC market appears to actively be in free fall. Without a clear plan that all of their partners and customers can see and support, I don’t see Microsoft being relevant for much longer.

Believe me when I say I am NO fan of ModernUI.  Windows RT/8′s ModernUI is  the most un-Windows version of Windows in the [modern] history of Windows.  It’s a complete unWindowing of Windows; and Microsoft should not use the Windows name with RT at all. It’s a huge marketing mistake that many industry pundits will attest to.

While neither you or I may like ModernUI, Microsoft could make it work, if it did a little bit of work and enhanced the ecosystem or changed their marketing, or did almost anything to right the ship. Currently, there are no signs that any of this is happening.  As such, introducing a 7″ tablet into the mix is going to do nothing for Microsoft except create an unprofitable cost center.

I think the thing that bothers me the most about this entire situation is, again, that pundits everywhere are panning Windows RT, Windows 8 and ModernUI.  Consumers are looking at alternatives, including tablets, Linux, and Macs. PC sales, regardless of operating system, are in free fall.  Windows 7 adoption is either steady or flat; and Windows 8 adoption is far below that of Vista. For Microsoft, none of this is good.

What other information does Microsoft need before it takes appropriate action?  It kind of makes you wonder if Ballmer, or anyone at Microsoft, is paying attention, or cares.  If I were a shareholder. I’d file  a formal complaint with the SEC at this point, if for NO other reason than to get Microsoft’s attention. It may not do anything in the long run, but it WOULD get press, and would likely require some sort of formal, public response.

Microsoft needs to take these issues seriously; and though they MAY be internally, from an external perspective, they are asleep at the wheel. Unfortunately, there are a couple icebergs in their direct path.  The 7″ tablet with their current marketing plans – price points, margins, etc. – operating systems and UI’s are NOT going to provide a competitive solution and are not the right choices.

Microsoft needs to act.  Based on this news, they are just throwing good money after bad. Why would MS offer an RT tablet, simple – because it offers choice.  Windows  RT doesn’t work if its comparatively priced with the iPad.  An RT tablet needs to be priced between $149 and $199 to work. Microsoft needs to find a way to get there, or they need to get out of the tablet market. They won’t do that at $399 to $599.  They have to make it crazy cheap or it will never take off.

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Microsoft plan to funnel people towards their newer products

Microsoft Merges Windows Live Messenger with Skype and Announces that Support for Windows XP ends in 365 days

On Monday 8th April Microsoft announced that support for Windows XP will stop in exactly 365 days. This announcement came at the same time Microsoft merged Windows Live Messenger with Skype. These recent announcements are part of the new strategy Microsoft is intending to follow in order to channel customers to their latest products including Windows 8.

These updates from Microsoft are certain to affect many businesses and home users. Following we look at how Microsoft plan to funnel people towards their newer products and what you need to do to keep updated.

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RIP Microsoft XP

Windows XP was originally launched in October, 2001. From April 8, 2014 Microsoft will officially cut off corporate support for Windows XP SP3, as well as Microsoft Office 2003. Once support is cut, Windows XP will no longer receive any new security, hot fixes and most importantly support.

Microsoft announced that come April 2014 any customers using XP will be doing so at their “own risk,” and that failing to update would likely be costly later on down the line. It is estimated that 40 percent of all PCs still run XP, so these changes are set to affect a large amount of customers.

Cutting off support is likely to have a much bigger impact on businesses, than it is on home users. Whereas home users can simply upgrade with little hassle, upgrading for businesses is much more complicated. Microsoft warned businesses that is can regularly take 18 to 32 months to go through the entire deployment phase for new operating systems.

The announcements have put major strains on many businesses still using XP. Many are simply refusing to upgrade to Windows 7, as there is no simple upgrade path. These changes are likely to cause major upset for many a business.

If it wasn’t obvious, Microsoft is using this opportunity to persuade customers to upgrade to Windows 8 stating that it offers cutting edge technology with a stronger interface.

For smaller companies, with one or several computers, updating their operating system will be a breeze. The problems occur for larger companies and if they’ve failed to select a new operating system by now, it may already be too late to beat the XP deadline.

Windows Live Messenger Merges With Skype

In October 2011 Microsoft acquired Skype. Ever since then, they have been working to replace WLM. And on the 8th April 2013, Windows Live Messenger, known to most as MSN Messenger, was finally retired – ending 14 years of loyal service.

The last few years has seen a rapid decline in the amount of people using Windows Live Messenger, mainly due to the success of Facebook’s instant messaging service. Microsoft will now focus on increasing the success of Skype.

If you still have an account with Windows Live Messenger, you can still use those same details to log in to Skype. Once logged in you’ll find a list of all your old contacts, which can then be merged into Skype.

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