Browse the web in a totally new and fun way with RockMelt

209998-rockmelt-icon_original.jpgBrowsing the web is by far the most popular and most predictable internet past time.  Everybody does it all the time, every day, out loud.  The problem with surfing is that its predictable. Browser to browser, computer to computer, the web is always the web, and it’s always the same.  That’s why I like RockMelt. It’s a new kind of web browser for Windows.

RockMelt provides a fundamentally better Web experience by re-imagining the browser around how you use the internet.  It has a built in chat client so you can talk to your friends whenever you want.  It’s got social networking built into it, so you can update a status, tweet links and easily post on Facebook Walls.

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RockMelt has an interesting feature called Social Reading that is sort of like RSS for your social networking sites. It gathers news from all of your friends and puts it in one place.  RockMelt supports sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.  Social Reading syncs automatically, so you don’t ever have to manually refresh it unless you want to.

RockMelt concentrates on pictures and videos. Its display is visually pleasing, and the app brings you the best of these as soon as they’re published. Its big tiles support swiping – to the right saves a story for later, to the left removes it from the stream. You get to interact with the internet the way you want to.

RockMelt is a different browsing experience and one that you may just fall in love with, provided you can get used to it. It’s got just about every social network built into it, so you can interact with them at your leisure.  Its multimedia-centric and built for speed. The only downside is that the rest of the web is formatted a bit differently and RockMelt attempts to present the web in its own image. I like it, but it doesn’t quite fit everywhere…

download RockMelt

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RAD Software Development – For when Management Wants it Bad

2013-02-14-13.06.17In an age where convenience and instant gratification are easy to come by, taking time to do things the right way often gets glossed over…and causes a lot of problems

I am a software QA professional. That means that I test software for a living and manage teams to do the same thing. I’m good at it; and one of the things that I’m really beginning to hate about some of the faster paced, quick turnaround software development and releases processes is that time for testing is either greatly reduced or bypassed entirely.

I’ve learned that when management wants it bad, they can usually count on those fast passed processes to deliver just that – bad, buggy software.

Here’s a very clear case in point – today The Verge reported that it had found a bug in iOS 6.1 that allowed anyone to bypass the iOS lock screen and view and modify contacts, listen to your voicemail, and browse your photos (by attempting to add a photo to the accessible contact list). It doesn’t appear as if the exploit grants access to email or the web.

The new exploit is similar to one that was discovered in iOS 4.1 that allowed access to contacts, call history and voicemail on a passcode-locked handset without knowing the numeric entry code required to formally unlock the phone. While the steps seem to be bit unusual and convoluted – a user needs to make and then immediately cancel an emergency call and then hold down the power button a couple of times – its bugs like this that completely destroy any confidence a smartphone dependent public has in a venerated company like Apple.

It also really chaps my hide.

Testing is something that many companies either bypass or greatly reduce time and resources on, as its seen as a road block to release. In fact, many modern day methodologies don’t carry a lot of support for the different types of needed testing.

System testing, or testing the entire (and just the) application as a whole, is usually supported. Integration testing, or testing the interaction of the application with other apps and systems, usually gets bypassed. Regression testing, or the reexecution of previously completed system and integration testing tests, rarely ever gets done.

…and case in point. The bug that’s referenced here seems to be some type or classification of regression bug that should have been squashed over two FULL versions ago. The fact that it’s come back, isn’t cool; and is something that Apple needs to deal with quickly.

I’ll be watching beta releases of iOS in the near future and if I find out anything interesting, I’ll pass it on.

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The Storage Problem with Surface Pro

When 53% to 64% of your device’s storage is consumed before you turn the device on, something is wrong…

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Over the past few years, we’ve got from gigabytes of desktop and notebook storage to terabytes. Shortly after the 2TB and 3TB hard drive hit, SSD’s started to become popular and come down in price. We still don’t have a 1TB SSD available yet; and even if it were available, it likely wouldn’t be available at an affordable price.

With the growing popularity of Cloud Storage – things like Dropbox, Google Drive and SkyDrive – the growing thought is that the need for a great deal of off line storage is declining.  This is a very progressive point of view, and one that is still gaining acceptance.  One of the prerequisites for moving the masses to the Cloud is readily accessible, solid and reliable internet access. Without it, the Cloud Storage Model doesn’t work…but that’s another topic for another day.

It is related, however, because there are a number of newer PC’s or computing devices that are being introduced that seem to either fully embrace or lean towards embracing the Cloud Storage Model. Microsoft’s Surface Pro is one such device, and it’s a bit problematic if you ask me, especially when 53% to 64% of Surface Pro’s storage is given over to system related, preinstalled software.

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This is the crux of the issue – nearly all the storage on Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablets is consumed before the user takes the device out of the box. ZDNet’s Ed Bott argues that this isn’t an issue, as some of the space is reclaimable by the end user and there’s always the Cloud.

ZDNet’s Robin Harris comes closer to hitting the issue on the head but still misses the mark.  His point is that Surface Pro doesn’t know what it wants to be – an ultrabook or a tablet. While he’s right about that, I disagree that the storage requirements on a Windows machine – tablet or ultrabook classifications are irrelevant – differ. Any computing device that runs legacy (read traditional) Windows software is going to need storage space for it to live in. It doesn’t matter if Microsoft created a new classification of computing device or if it will be successful or not.  The fact that users have to go through some kind of storage cleansing activity in order to get some decent, available, non-SD card type storage is silly.

The fact that you can double your storage space for $100 bucks is also a bit whacked. I mean, who isn’t going to spend $999 for the 128GB version? When you’ve already committed to buy Surface Pro, spending $899 for 1/2 the storage is ludicrous.

If Microsoft lowers the price of the 64GB versions – which is unlikely, by the way – then I might pick one up, but at this point, I likely won’t bother, which is a shame.  The tablets could have been so much more at a more reasonable price point.

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Don’t get Scroogled by Google, use Outlook – Says Microsoft

ScroogledWhen a company wants to increase its profile it’s a common practice for the company to use advertisements; whether online or in print. I think it’s fair to say that generally the content of the advertisement seeks to inform the potential customer of the service that the company can provide for them. However, sometimes the thrust of an advert can be an attempt to discredit a competitor, and that’s exactly the line that Microsoft have gone down with their ‘Scroogled’ campaign.

In a nutshell, on the 7th of February, Microsoft began a campaign that was quite simply an attack on the search engine giant Google. Rather than the content of the campaign predominantly being an informative look at what Microsoft can provide for you, Microsoft were intent on letting the public know that Google uses information gleaned from the contents of customer’s Gmail in order to create advertising relevant to the customers interests. Microsoft report that Google target keywords within emails to get a clearer of idea of the kind of products that the customer may be interested in. The selling point of Microsoft’s campaign is a plea for Gmail customers to leave Google and use Microsoft Outlook instead.

Microsoft’s “Scroogled” Gmail Ad

On Scroogled.com you’ll find all the information that Microsoft has dug up regarding the way that Google uses information in order to tailor advertising. You’ll also find a petition that Microsoft invites you to sign, imploring Google to stop using their customer’s information to sell advertising space. To say that the petition isn’t going well would be a bit of an understatement: as of today Microsoft had just over 5000 signatures out of a desired 25000.
Many are questioning whether or not this was a sensible move from Microsoft. There are many that suggest that Microsoft come out of the Scroogled campaign looking pretty petty and aggressive. The overwhelming opinion seems to be that rather than discrediting Google, Microsoft should be trying to focus on selling their own product. If Outlook is that good, then it will overtake Gmail in a natural and organic way. It seems unlikely that all of Gmail’s customer’s will suddenly stop using their Gmail and switch to Outlook on the basis of a seemingly bile-filled campaign from Microsoft. It reflects poorly on Microsoft, and it makes it clear that they seem far too concerned about their competition rather than providing quality products that users want to use.

Outlook or Gmail?

These two mail clients tend to divide opinion. Only recently has Outlook emerged as a serious contender to Gmail having branched out from Windows Outlook to browser-based email. Generally, the opinion seems to be that Outlook is a far prettier email client to use; users believe that it has a more intuitive design. Outlook also seems to integrate better with most social networks. However, Gmail tends to gain the most favorable reviews in regard to the actual messaging system which is of course the bread and butter of any email client.

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Audials Tunebite Platinum

Convert odd audio file formats to something you can use with this cool windows utility.

ATbMusic is a big part of my life. I’ve been surrounded by music since I was a child and I’ve got pieces in my music collection that go back quite a ways. Keeping the files playable from one PC generation to another without a loss in audio quality isn’t always easy. This is perhaps the biggest reason why I like Audials Tunebite Platinum. It’s an audio file conversion tool for Windows.

The biggest problem with playing audio on a newer or next generation computer is the file format. Something that may have played on an older PC may not play well or be supported on a newer PC. Technology changes. It’s a fact that can’t be changed. However, your file formats can. Audials Tunebite always features the best options for recording and converting file formats for all of your computing devices including, PCs, smartphones, tablets, netbooks and games consoles.

Streaming music is one of the most popular services available today. The biggest problem with streaming is that you can’t necessarily take the music with you when you’re done. You can now, though. Audials Tunebite automatically records all streaming music without any loss of quality and saves these as new audio MP3, WMA or in any other audio format.

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If you’re looking for a way to capture streaming video, look no further. Audials Tunebite Platinum is the universal solution for recording videos from Internet pages, HD movies from video streams or from DVDs and downloaded HD video files that won’t play anywhere else.

Audials Tunebite Platinum is an awesome app. Its video capture process handles most video from most sites. Its streaming music capture insures that you get the most out of your music subscriptions by allowing you to capture the music you love most. Its value to purchase price ratio is off the charts. If you’re looking for a multimedia capturing and conversion tool, then you need to give Audials Tunebite Platinum serious consideration.

Download Audials Tunebite Platinum

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Use all of your older, DOS-based software on your modern computer with DOSBox DOS Emulator

dosbox-iconBack in the day, text based applications were all the rage, largely because graphics adapters hadn’t really seen a lot of innovation yet. At the time, there were some really powerful productivity apps like Dbase and WordPerfect for DOS that did a great job but weren’t very sexy.  Using older software like that isn’t always possible with today’s much faster, much more sophisticated computers. This is why I like DOSBox DOS Emulator.  It’s a cool Windows utility.

DOSBox is a DOS-emulator that uses the SDL-library.  This makes it very easy to access and port DOS based applications to other platform use. You can use DOSBox not only on Windows, but on BeOS, Linux, MacOS X to name a few.

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DOSBox emulates an Intel compatible 286/386 processor PC in both real mode and protected modes, It supports Directory File System/XMS/EMS, Tandy/Hercules/CGA/EGA/VGA/VESA graphics and a SoundBlaster/Gravis Ultra Sound card for excellent sound compatibility with older games.  Provided you have access to drives that can read older media types – 5.25″ and 3.5″ floppies, for example: – you can use the app to run just about any DOS based application you can get your digital hands on.

The application is interesting to say the least.  Finding applications that are still accessible isn’t easy, but you can check the app’s home page and its Compatiblity page for a list of games and apps that you might be able to find download links for.  The application is free; and you may be required to roll up your sleeves and dig into the command prompt a bit in order to get the most value out of it.  In today’s modern computing environments, those not comfortable with Terminal or the Windows Command Prompt may find DOSBox DOS Emulator a bit intimidating.

download DOSBox DOS Emulator

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Burn, edit, backup, rip, convert and play your media with Nero 12

Nero12Over the past few years, the biggest influx of consumer data has been in the area of multimedia. More than anything else, the increase in popularity of smartphones, tablets, digital cameras etc. have created a huge increase in the use and demand for multimedia – pictures, music, and video. This is one of the biggest reasons why I like Nero 12. Its one of the best optical media utilities available for Windows today.

With Nero 12, you can burn, edit, backup, rip, convert & play all of your multimedia. It’s one of the most-complete multimedia suites ever. You can use it to format your media for use with all of your computing devices.

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Nero 12 allows you to stream your movies, photo slideshows and music playlists throughout your home network. Nero uses the latest high-quality video formats to convert, edit and burn your data. The app supports streaming to your XBOX 360™, PS3™, Android tablet, PC, digital media adaptor, streaming-enabled TV, or other DLNA- or UPnP-supporting devices. Nero 12 supports virtually all the latest video formats, including AVC/264, MKV, MP4, 3GP, AVI.

The result of Nero’s support for burning and streaming is disaster-proof data; and Nero is Windows 8 compatible. It takes only seconds to schedule an automatic backup with Nero LIVEBackup in Nero BackItUp 12. Now, you can back up to hard drives larger than 2 TB. Nero also supports USB 3.0 storage devices. Should your destination be optical media, Nero supports burning to CDs, DVDs or Blu-ray.

Nero 12 is a great application; and one of my favorite multimedia burning suites. I’ve used it for years. While the app supports Windows 8, streaming, and nearly any multimedia format you’d be interested in, it is quite pricey, and there are other, suites that you may find more affordable. If cost isn’t a huge issue, then this is probably the best optical media app you can invest in.

Download Nero 12

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TuneUp360

Protect and repair your PC with this cool Windows utility.

tuneup360Taking care of your PC isn’t always easy. There’s no end to things that can go wrong. That’s why I like apps like TuneUp360. It’s a complete toolbox utility for Windows.

Half the time when things go wrong with your computer, determining the cause is most of the work. TuneUp360 makes easy work of diagnosing and fixing various system errors with its intelligent error knowledge base. With it, you can prevent computer freezes and crashes by comprehensively fixing various system errors, system conflicts and misconfigurations.

TuneUp360 protects your internet security and privacy by tuning your computer’s security settings to close up backdoors that can be hijacked by viruses, Trojans, and spyware. You can dramatically speed up your computer and internet by fixing all issues slowing your surfing down. When you’re done surfing, TuneUp360 can cover your tracks, by eliminating your browsing history and surfing habits.

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If your PC’s registry is bloated, TuneUp360′s Redundancy Cleaner can clean your computer’s unnecessary and useless registry entries. This, in conjunction with its PC Stability Checker helps improve your PC’s stability by scanning your Windows, registry and application errors. It will even help you optimize system services and release more resources for Windows and other running software.

Download TuneUp360

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