Create professional greeting cards with Ashampoo Photo Card

ytzwIf there’s one thing that I really don’t like buying, its greeting cards. They’re usually expensive, and don’t get much attention past the initial reading by the recipient. Its too bad, but an unfortunate reality. However, personalized cards, ones made from family photos I think have a better chance of meaning something to friends and loved ones. This is why I really like apps like Ashampoo’s Photo Card. It’s a cool app for Windows.

Ashampoo Photo Card is a fun way to turn your photos into professional looking greeting cards complete with borders and texts in a few clicks. Anyone can do it, really. All you have to do is choose an existing photo, select a theme, edit text on the card and send it.

If needed, you can fine tune and tweak the results. You can adjust the size and brightness of your photos, edit contrast and saturation settings or even mirror and flip your images. Ashampoo Photo Card’s built in tools allow you to do all this and more.

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One of the coolest of the app’s features is its webcam support. You can take live pictures and use them to make cards with. This is a great feature when you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for in your existing cache of photos.

Ashampoo Photo Card, like many of the apps from Ashampoo, is a cool application. Once you have your card created, the app gives you several options to share your work with friends and family. Photo Card supports sharing via Facebook and Picasa; or you can simply email them.

download Ashampoo Photo Card

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How Bright is Apple’s Future?

New iDevices and a new version of iOS hit the streets beginning 2013-09-18. What does this mean for Apple? I have a couple of thoughts…

I’ve been in the biz for a while. I started using computers when Compaq was still COMPAQ, giving IBM a very serious run for its money back in 1980-blah, blah, blah. The first real portable computer, in my mind was the Apple IIC, though, honestly, while it was smaller than Compaq’s 20lbs+ portable, it still required a heck of a lot to take with you. Its monitor was small and movable, but it was still a CRT that required special care…nothing like the notebooks and ultra-books of today.

Beginning 2013-09-18, Apple has new versions of its mobile device OS – iOS 7 – hitting the streets. The new mobile OS will begin hitting compatible devices soon. I’ve already had 1-2 people ping me, asking me where it is, and why it hasn’t hit their iPhone yet.

Patience my minions…patience. You’ll get it soon enough.

The iPhone 5C is also available for pre-order as of this writing and will ship beginning on 2013-09-20, with the iPhone 5S available for pre-order beginning 2013-09-20. The devices are in the hands of many reviewers now, and many of them like what they see… as far as the hardware is concerned. The devices are solid, well built, with both the polycarbonate backing and its varying colors being well received. Many reviewers are saying the 5C is a much better feeling device than other, newer, high end Android devices. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to put my hands on one yet.

Reviews of the iPhone 5S are equally positive. The most pleasing and, I think, surprising feature is its Touch-ID Home Button. Fingerprint readers have been around for a while. The Compaq iPAQ 51/5400 series devices had one back in the 2004 time frame that was OK, but required a swipe instead of a press, and half the time, the reader didn’t read the biometric data correctly. I’m not sure if it was a hardware issue, a software issue or both. In general, the technology stunk; and I think many were expecting that the same level of performance from Apple’s latest feature and flagship phone. To most everyone’s delight and surprise, that doesn’t appear to be the case. I think the New York Times put it the best:

The best part is that [the fingerprint reader] actually works — every single time… It’s nothing like the balky, infuriating fingerprint-reader efforts of earlier cellphones. It’s genuinely awesome; the haters can go jump off a pier.”

5s-5c

The biggest concern, I think, will come from iOS 7, and it will mostly come from iPhone 5, 4S, and iPhone 4 users who are used to iOS 6 and will upgrade. I’ve said this before. The glitz, polish and 3D look of iOS 6 and earlier is gone. The flat, stark white look of iOS 7 is prevalent throughout the new OS and provides a very different look and feel. Many users will upgrade and, in my opinion, immediately regret it.

To those users, I have one thing to say – Wait.

You’ll notice that iOS 7 is faster than previous versions of iOS 6 and iOS 5. Yes, they’ve changed things, added some new system functionality here and there, moved some options around, but give yourself a month or two before you throw your iPhone across the room. While you’re sure to get used it, you may find that you like it.

However, you may not.

A lot of the exclusivity of Apple’s iDevices used to come from the finish of iOS 6’s 3D enabled UI. With it gone, replaced by the flat look and feel of iOS 7, I think many people are going to be unhappy. It’s a radical change over the past 5 years; and I’m not sure it’s the type or kind of change that people were hoping for.

My daughter just got an upgrade notification on her iPhone 5 for iOS 7, and as you can see from the attached screenshot, not only is it going to be a large upgrade, it’s going to take quite a long time to download, and I have a very fast cable connection.

iOS 7 update

So does this dim Apple’s future? That’s a great question. I think the answer is mixed. Wall Street hasn’t been too pleased with Apple since the announcement of both the iPhone 5S and 5C. Apple’s stock price dipped quite a bit after the announcement. The Tech World’s reaction was also tepid, but has improved over the past week or so.

I’ll have more user feedback as I receive it, as well as the write-up I promised on some of the newer, final features of iOS 7 in the next few days. Please watch Soft32 for these articles.

 

In the meantime, why don’t you join us in the discussion, below, and let us know what you think of the iPhone 5C and 5S.

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iOS 7 and Consumer Reaction

iOS 7 removes a lot of the glossy eye candy from iOS 6 and earlier. I’ve talked to some people and have some interesting reaction.

ios7logoI’ve spoken to some users about the upgrade and let them take a look at the new mobile OS on my iPhone 5, and reactions to it have been pretty consistent – most everyone is either disappointed or reacts violently to the new look and feel. Flat…is not good.

The negative reaction so far has been pretty universal. The UI is NOT what consumers are used to, isn’t what they’ve come to expect from Apple, and quite honestly, they don’t like it. At all…

iOS 6 and earlier contains a LOT of eye candy and skewmorphic design elements. iOS 7 removes about 99% of the glitz and gloss that most everyone has equated with Apple’s spit, polish and device finish. They eye candy is part of what made Apple, well… Apple. The new industrial, flat and enterprise friendly version of iOS 7 will provide users with some much needed and long overdue feature enhancements – Control Center, the redesigned Notification Center and the new and enhanced security features that will help prevent stolen iDevices from being sold at pawn and other resale establishments – THAT stuff will be welcomed, if not considered a bit late to the party.

The rest, from a consumer point of view, is the look and feel of the OS, or the UI; and if developers are criticizing the look and feel, and some are, then the reaction from the masses is going to be much louder and much more critical.

Yes, it’s very much the whole Who Moved my Cheese thing, but it’s a bit more than that. Apple customers are used to a certain level of finish when it comes their Macs and iDevices. iOS 7 removed a lot of that finished layer and flattened the 3D look of the OS.

In short, I think iOS 7, while technically a much better version than iOS 6, isn’t going to do Apple any favors. I think it’s going to bring a great deal more negative press, as the flat design isn’t be received well by those that I’ve shared it with, the development community or with the technical community whom may have had early looks since its introduction. It’s unfortunate, too, as there are parts of the OS that I really like – the new security and Control Center features I mentioned – but the look and feel of the OS… yeah. Not so much…

A for effort here, and a nod to Jony Ive for giving iOS a revolutionary, instead of evolutionary, update, but the redesigned UI of iOS 7 – Yeah… Not a fan.

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„All my friends got one” is sometimes a good reason to buy a specific phone

Last week, Apple released the new iPhone 5S and 5C. Android phones are released almost on a daily bases. With Microsoft now owning Nokia, we can probably expect new releases soon. And even Blackberry has some nice phones to offer. Never before was the choice of a phone so difficult. So what do we buy? And what are the reasons for our choice?

When outing ourselves that we want a new phone, we hear a lot of people around us telling us to get this one or that one for various reasons, some technical, some subjective and some just silly. And most of them will tell you not to get a particular phone, because “everybody got one”. But is this really such a bad thing?

We often want to display our individuality through the things we own and use but we tend to forget that we are social beings. Which means, in short, we have a need to communicate with each other and share things. Therefore, getting something because all your friends are getting or owning something may not be such a dumb reason after all.

What phone to get?

What phone you use often determines if you can play, communicate or interact with your friends or family. This is because different platforms make it harder to connect and interact. That is for different reasons, including the fact, that not all apps are cross-compatible and available.

Lets take the new iPhone, for example, with all the little features that make your life easier, like iMessage or the new Airdrop. If all your friends got Android phones, you won’t send many iMessages or exchange many files. The same applies for all the other platforms. Each has its own features but most are not cross-compatible. It is not about which is better then the other, it’s just which you can use most with your friends and family.

Not too long ago, “everyone has one” was a good reason for switching to or being on BBM. And that is why companies like Apple and Google are trying hard to keep the customers they already have.

I am not saying to go out and buy whatever your friends or family got. You should get whatever you like! But if you want to take full advantage of all that a certain platform or phone has to offer, you should take this criteria into consideration. There is no shame in doing or getting what your friends do or have. Basically, that’s what friends are for and that’s what defines us as a social being.

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Right Click Enhancer – Take control of your mouse

right-click-disableI remember my first experience using a mouse, back in the day. I was tutoring word processing students at Oakland University in Rochester, MI in a Mac lab.  90% of all the troubleshooting we did back then involved 2 things – don’t hit return at the end of every line of text (people were too used to hitting the carriage return on a type writer), and most verbal exchanges often began with, “OK, now, take your mouse and move it over to…”  That was in 1984, almost 30 years later, we’re still tethered to these magical pointing devices, and in order to get a better handle on how you work with them, cool utilities like Right Click Enhancer can make working with a mouse on a Windows box a lot easier.

Right Click Enhancer allows you to control the right click, or context menu everyone uses. With it, you can edit your right click menu, customizing it to give you the options you need. Right Click Enhancer consists of seven tools to manage your context menu.

RCE-06
Sometimes your PC desktop is cluttered with lots of shortcuts. These issue is easily solved by the Right Click Shortcuts Creator tool. It allows you to add applications, files and folder shortcuts to your right click context menu. If need be, you can also create sub menus if you have Windows 7 or Windows 8. You can add applications, files and folder shortcuts to these sub menus, too.

You can add command line arguments to the application shortcuts as well as edit previously added shortcuts and sub menus with ease. Regardless of how much you customize your context menus, your PC’s performance will not be affected.

Right Click Tweaker allows you to add useful functions to your right click context menu. With it, you can add functions that help save time by enhancing the common tasks found on your context menu, like copying or moving files, renaming files and accessing admin options.

Right Click Tweaker is a great utility to have and one that most users who find it will register, in my opinion.  The app is slightly overpriced at $10 USD, but not greatly so.  Depending on the level of customization you take and the OS you have on your PC (XP vs. Win7/8), you should easily be able to justify the expense.

The app’s Win7 God Mode brings all of Windows 7 customizations together in one place and places it clearly atop my short list of must have applications for my Windows 7 PC.

download Right Click Enhancer

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Microsoft embarrasses itself… again!

Microsoft released a new series of Apple-mocking videos but pulled them after negative reception

Not too long ago, Microsoft released a series of ads, comparing the Surface RT directly to the iPad, trying to boost their disastrous sales of its tablet. Which didn’t work out that well…

Now, Microsoft released a series of videos on their Windows Phone Youtube channel, called “A fly on the wall in Cupertino”, spoofing Apples newly released iPhones. The 7 videos show 2 employees presenting the new iPhone models to their executives in a product pitch meeting. The executives can only be seen from behind but bear a striking resemblance to Jony Ive and Tim Cook. Some even say that,in fact, the resemblance of the Tim-Cook-character is intended to resemble Steve Jobs.

The biggest mistake, in my opinion, Microsoft made with this videos is that at one point in the video, one of the employees says “And the beauty part is we can charge whatever we want,”. Then, the hashtag #timetoswitch then flashes on the screen, a reference to Microsoft’s Windows Phone. The message received by the public is exactly the opposite of its intentions: the iPhone users are insulted to their face and, at the same time, expected to switch to the Windows Phone.

microsoft_anit_apple_video

After a short while and, probably, a lot of negative reception, even a lot of mocking on numerous social networks, Microsoft decided to pull the ads, stating that the campaign was “intended to be a lighthearted poke at our friends from Cupertino. But it was off the mark, and we’ve decided to pull it down”. Fortunately, one of the videos was reposted by another user and can be watched here:

watch Video

While the commercials were clearly supposed to be funny, they mostly make Microsoft look desperate. It’s somewhat understandable but not excusable. You would expect any public material to be thoroughly reviewed before releasing it, especially from a giant like Microsoft.

Microsoft clearly has a lot of issues and troubles lately, not only regarding their products and sales, but especially with their public image. I really hope that this will be the last of Microsofts public self-humiliation and that they start doing things right.

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Is Google taking their selling strategy to the next level?

In 2011, Google opened their first physical shop in London in a branch of Currys and PC World. The shop was solely dedicated to Google’s Chromebook and was called the “Chromezone”. Basically, this concept is called a shop-in-shop. The concept was very well received and many customers appreciated the fact that they could not only try the gadget out, but rather receive valuable advice from the well-trained staff. The only problem, which customers expressed, was that no other Google products were marketed.

Today, after 2 years, Google took the next logical step and fulfilled their customers wishes. Google opened their first shop-in-shop in Hamburg, Germany, for all their products.

The shop was opened in a local branch of Saturn. On 100 sq. m (about 1.100 sq. f), Google presents all their products in a modern but natural design with a lot of colors and wood. Besides the whole Chromebook and Nexus range and accompanying accessories, you can also test their software products like the Chrome browser, Google Maps, Google Play or Youtube.

The highlight of the shop is the so-called Liquid Galaxy, a big Google Earth screen, where you can explore the world and visit interesting places. It’s a nice idea which also looks very cool.

Google Store Hamburg

The biggest advantage of the store is the very-well trained and competent staff, eager to help you with whatever question you might have, be it regarding hardware or software. This is, in my opinion, the right approach of bringing good products closer to the people. It’s very convenient to shop online and have the goods delivered to your door but sometimes it just feels better to see, touch and test the product you want to buy. And if someone can tell you more information and show you how that product works, it’s that much better. It makes you feel important and that you, as a client, matter to the company, thus you are more satisfied with your purchase. And you are more likely to establish a personal connection to the company.

Some might say, Google is trying to copy the concept of the Apple Stores. So what? If it is a good concept and customers can benefit from it, I don’t see the problem.

All in all, I really like the new approach and I hope, as probably many others do, that Google won’t stop with only this one store, but take it to an international level and expand this concept.

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ISO Workshop – Take command of your data and your optical disc drive

iso_workshopWorking with optical discs is still a big part of computing. Despite recent trends to go completely digital, using CD’s and DVD’s is still a reliable way to store, share and transport data from one computer, one person to another.  This is one of the reasons why I am really thankful for apps like ISO Workshop. It’s a disc imaging utility for Windows.

ISO Workshop is specifically designed for disc image management, conversion and burning. The app has a very simple user interface and enables you to make ISO images, extract specific files and folders from disc images.  You can create disc backups by copying items to an ISO or BIN image file, convert different disc image files into ISO or BIN formats.  You can also burn standard and bootable ISO images as well as CUE images to blank discs.

IW-02

The application is pretty cool. It supports ISO, CUE, and BIN files  as well as others. It also supports CD-R/RW, DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, DVD+R DL, and BD-R/RE disk formats; and will verify all images written to discs.

ISO Workshop is one of those applications that you really want to have in your PC’s toolbox.  Its easy to use, works with a number of different image formats as well as disc types.  If you don’t have a tool like this, this is one that you really need to take a hard look at ISO Workshop. The price is right and it does a great job of giving you the basics.

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