ID Photo Maker – powerful standard ID photo making software

Even the most user-accessible photo editing software can still prove unwieldy for smaller jobs. That’s exactly why ID Photo Maker makes one of life’s little necessities as easy as 1, 2, 3; replicating the ease of a real life photo-booth on your desktop. Rather than spend your time fiddling with a photo editing suite, ID Photo Maker does it all for you.

To start you simply choose a picture from your hard-drive, or take one within the software using a connected webcam or digital camera. You choose which ID format you want then after a few easy clicks you’re done: ID Photo Maker will crop the photo automatically to the perfect size. You can even use a compact suite of editing tools if you’re looking to customise the colour or the background.

Anyone who’s not massively comfortable with photo editors, or someone looking to edit batches of photos, will find something to like here: None of the hassle, but thanks to a compact set of editing tools, those with a desire to customize can.

Despite the time it saves though, the full $99.69 license will only appeal to those editing on a larger scale. And the lowest purchase bracket ($7.69 for 10 uses) doesn’t help those looking to run off a couple of photos and leave it at that. Despite the cost though, you can’t fault ID Photo Maker’s ease-of-use.

Read full Review | Download ID Photo Maker

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Google Music Service will bypass the music labels

Google Music has publicly launched after lengthy beta testing, and inevitably some are already dubbing it the iTunes killer. That seems a little premature, but it does appear the service stands the best chance yet of being firmly established as a rival to Apple.

For the moment the service is US only, with expansion at the mercy of country-by-country licensing restrictions. While there’s no word on the schedule for adding more customers, there’s a good chance the UK will be among the first added markets to get the service.

The service is both similar to and different from the iTunes store. It stands out because users can automatically listen to their purchased music on any computer through a web browser. Users can also download mp3 files at 320kbps: that means comparatively good sound quality, though file sizes are larger. There are no technological restrictions on downloading purchased music, burning the songs to a CD, or copying to a portable device. However, there is a legal restriction, namely that the music is only for your own non-commercial use.

As well as purchased music, users can upload up to 20,000 tracks from their own computer and then access them over the web. However, unlike a similar service from Apple, every song must be individually uploaded, which could be an extremely lengthy process.

Google Music does allow a form of sharing, though it’s not unrestricted. It’s only available to members of the Google+ social networking service. The system is set up so that once a member buys a song, his or her online contacts each have the right to listed to that song once without charge.

It’s on mobile devices where Google Music may make the biggest splash. There’s not only a dedicated Android application, but the music catalogue is built directly into the Android Market, meaning you can buy with a simple click in the same way as buying an app. The idea seems to be to make music more of an impulse purchase with as little hassle as possible. Intriguingly one mobile phone network in the US has added an option to buy music and have the cost added to your monthly phone bill.

The music catalogue is the biggest weakness against iTunes at the moment. Warner Music, one of the three remaining major labels, has not yet agreed to have its music on the service. Between that and the fact that Google is only part of the way through signing up independent labels, the service “only” has 13 million tracks available, compared with around 18 million on iTunes.

There are a few exclusives though, with bands such as Coldplay, Pearl Jam and the Rolling Stones providing live albums that can’t be bought elsewhere. The service also offers a free Song of the Day.

Unsigned artists have the ability to add music to the service. To do so they pay a $25 (£16) fee to set up a dedicated page in the “New Music Hub.” They can then set their own prices for downloads, with Google taking 30 percent of the revenue.

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TeamViewer the popular sharing tool for technical and non-technical alike

Team Viewer is an excellent screen-sharing and file-transfer application that is popular amongst the technical and non-technical alike.

This is due to the varied uses that are available through Team Viewer, with the apparatuses most popular devices being the remote troubleshooting of IT problems, the ability to manage servers in remote data centers or the allowance to let users connect to their desktop PCs when they’re away from the computer.

The installation process with Team Viewer is even impressive and even allows you to toggle administration rights. Once loaded Team Viewer gives each of its users the exact tools they need when they are looking to share screens securely, send files with no hassle and switch the user who has complete control.

This can occur because when you log in you’re provided with an access code and a password, which you can share, allowing your computer to be controlled to the level you have set it to. The Team Viewer even remembers the computers that you have connected to, which allows you to reconnect to previous PCs quickly and with no bother.

TeamViewer is free for personal use, easy to use, the integrated contact list allows you to support family and friends instantly, features extensive security mode and remote access. But the support and documentation is poor and it can be very expensive to use it professionally.

TeamViewer makes screen and file sharing simple and fluid as well as unobtrusive and is a worthy addition to any office or home for both professional and casual users.

read full review | download TeamViewer

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HMA! Pro VPN will hide your Internet activity for real

Easy Anonymity Covering Your Tracks Online

Using a Virtual Private Network can seem like a complicated endeavour, but ‘Hide My Ass’ makes it easy as pie. The desktop application is easy to use and intuitive however there are plenty of more advanced features for the experienced user and for beginners to try out as they get more comfortable. Installation is quick and simple, and you can be up and running within the hour.

Additional features include quick IP address changes either manually or an an automatic schedule, with over 15,000 IP addresses to choose from. However, they could do with a few more offshore servers. The support is good, however, if you are choosing a VPN because of a degree for privacy you may have concerns about their storage of your personal information and service logs.

It’s free to try, but only after you have paid the initial fee. If you cancel within the first 30 days your money is refunded to you. However, the fee of $11.52 per month or $6.55 per month for a year’s subscription is solidly in the middle of the range.

While there are some privacy concerns and a need for more offshore servers, overall the features available are top of the line for a good price. Certainly worth the 30 day trial.

read the entire review | download HMA! Pro VPN

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Nokia Windows 8 tablet to hit the stores in early 2012

With analysts predicting an explosion in computer tablets sales over the next four years, Nokia have joined forces with Microsoft in a bid to break Apple’s iron grip on the market.

The new Nokia Windows 8 tablet which is set to hit the stores some time in 2012 has been designed to seriously challenge the might of the iPad.

Yet, exactly what special attributes will this “new kid on the block” posses to make it a serious contender for Apple’s heavyweight belt. And will its potential success dramatically alter the course of Nokia’s future and fortunes.

Nokia have already tied their colors to Microsoft’s mast and launched a number of Windows Phone handsets in a bid to rejuvenate its smartphone line-up and keep pace with not only Apple, but other rivals such as Samsung that use Google’s Android operating system.

Now the two technological giants are yet again pooling their impressive resources and attempting to make inroads into Apple’s dominance by launching their very own tablet.

Nokia is no stranger to tablets. In 2007 they introduced the unsuspecting public to the Nokia N810, but the keyboard sporting device was always doomed to failure in the same year that the iPhone was busy revolutionizing technology and the way we interact with it.

Other rivals of Apple have already lost millions trying to compete on level terms with the iPad, so how will Nokia’s foray into this difficult market be any different.

For a start the Nokia tablet’s operating system will be the yet to be released Windows 8 software, which will attract hordes of die-hard Microsoft adherents and bait the curiosity of those slightly disappointed with the limitations of the iPad.

Microsoft is still to confirm the exact release of Window 8, but with the company promising to update the platform every three years, it will be due for release some time in 2012, and all Microsoft updates generate mass interest in the technology loving public.

Microsoft has already committed itself to the tune of one billion dollars in ensuring that Nokia’s Windows Phone competes on a level playing field with Apple’s iOS and the Android, and it is guaranteed they will maintain the same levels of focus and commitment to make the Nokia Windows 8 tablet a success.

Since its launch in January 2010, Apple has led the charge in the tablet market and has shifted more than 40 million units. It’s only rivals to date have had an appalling reaction in terms of sales. At the last count, BlackBerry maker RIM had only shipped 700,000 of its PlayBooks and after only 48 days Hewlett-Packard canceled its ill-fated TouchPad.

The last time Nokia made a major foray into the world of computers, was in 2009 with the small laptop – Booklet 3G, and that has remained a niche product, but with the backing of Microsoft and the excitement being generated by Windows 8, the market is Nokia’s for the taking.

As Nokia CEO Stephen Elop said earlier this November, “There’s a new tablet opportunity coming. We see the opportunity. Unquestionably, that will change the dynamics of the tablet market.”

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OpenOffice – the most popular free office software suites

Over the years, I’ve had a number of people come to me asking for help picking a word processor, spreadsheet, Office component or full suite. While MS Office is the defacto standard for word processing, spreadsheets and presentations, it IS rather expensive. Not everyone can afford its heavy down stroke, even though it can be heavily discounted. That’s why I’m thankful for things like Oracle’s OpenOffice.org. It’s an MS Office compatible office suite and its available for multiple platforms.

OpenOffice.org 3 is the leading open-source office suite, and includes applications for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, and databases. It is available in many languages and works on all common computers. It stores all your data in a standard format and can also read and write files from other common office software packages, including Microsoft Office.

OpenOffice.org 3 is easy to learn. If you’ve used Microsoft Office, or a similar set of tools, OpenOffice.org will be familiar and comfortable to you. Best of all, OpenOffice.org 3 can be downloaded and used for free.

Having a free, open source alternative to Microsoft Office, especially for budget conscious families and students is important. Though Microsoft has a student version of Office, it’s still somewhat expensive. OpenOffice offers Microsoft Office (as well as other) suite compatibility in a familiar environment. The tools are intuitive and easy to use, especially if you’ve used Office Suite products before, and at this price point, it’s really hard to beat.

Caution should be exercised however, when reading and writing MS Office (and other suite) compatible file formats. While OpenOffice.org is MS Office compatible, it is NOT MS Office. Basic formatting in all your documents (bold, italics, bullets, etc.) will likely transfer in and out of OpenOffice without issues or concerns. Some of your heavily formatted documents may be read and worked with under the OpenOffice component in question, but upon reediting in MS Office, the formatting of the information in the file may be corrupted, requiring a great deal of rework.

Read the entire Review | Download OpenOffice

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Backup protected DVD to ISO and burn ISO to DVD for free

BDlot DVD ISO Master is a breeze to use from download to your final product. You start off with a 2.5 MB zip file and in less than a minute have BDlot DVD ISO Master fully installed. The program itself is small and easy to navigate – it is just a single window featuring two tabs. One tab is for converting DVDs to ISOs and the other is for burning your ISOs to DVD. Using the program is also highly intuitive, and basically idiot-proof. You just need to select your DVD and then select your ISO’s save destination. If you want to you can remove region coding and some copy protection, but in either case when you are ready to go the giant blue ‘Run’ button makes it obvious what you need to do. In a few minutes, your DVD will be converted to an ISO with no change in size. The ISO burner in the next tab is equally simple to use.

This program simply couldn’t be simpler, and while there are a few options such as video downsizing and notifications that could be nice, overall any criticism just feel like nit-picking. A lovely little program.

Download BDlot DVD ISO Master

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Good functionality outweighs some real problems – System Mechanic

As the pared down version of the pay-version System Mechanic Free is of course not going to offer quite the same level of options and functionality, however it performs all the basic tasks of privacy protection, registry cleanup, optimization and removal of hidden files. The ActiveCare automatic feature is handy for giving a basic level of optimisation for novice users, and the experienced can get in behind the hood and customise it to their preferences. System Mechanics Free also incorporates extra features that would normally be handled by other programs such as spyware removal, disk defragmentation and control of programs that run automatically on startup.

That’s not to say there aren’t a few downsides. Some of the more advanced tools can be difficult to handle such as the option to restore your system to a previous state. This function is less than obvious in the interface and doesn’t allow restoring of individual items. System Mechanic Free can also interact poorly with programs like AVG, which can be quite frustrating.

Overall, System Mechanic Free is a good program that can outperform many other free programs with its core features and also offers some handy extras. However the difficulty of using some advanced features and its problematic interaction with other programs can be a cause for frustration.

Download System Mechanic

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