Use a GUI to examine the hard drive on your Wii with WBFSManager

If you’ve got a Wii set top gaming console, managing data on that drive just got easier.

WBFSManagerNewThis application basically provides a GUI for working with hard disk drives that have been formatted to the WBFS file system. The file system used by the console for this purpose is WBFS (Wii Backup File System), a system that is similar to NTFS, that you will now be able to handle thanks to WBFS Manager.

Customizing your gaming experience takes a bit of know-how. Getting custom content to your Wii is now possible with WBFSManager.  The app lets you list the games on the drive so you can see what you have. You get most of the standard drive manager features you’d expect – contents, space used, space available, etc.  You can also copy, move and rename files as you wish.

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The biggest and perhaps best use of WBFSManager is that you can use it to clone your drive to another one. If you want or need to move the content to a different or perhaps bigger drive, then WBFSManager can get you there.  If you’ve got a lot of Wii channels on your system, this can be a huge plus.  Bigger and faster drives make for a better gaming experience.

I never really got into hacking the Wii systems we have in the house; but then again, I’m not much of a gamer, either.  However, if you want to build custom channels for your Wii or want to mount ISO images that you’ve copied to the drive, this the best way to get the content there.  The app hasn’t been updated since 2009, but then again, the file and drive formats haven’t changed either.

download WBFSManager

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Are Software Subscriptions a Good or bad Idea for Consumers?

Simply put, it depends.  Value can be found at the consumer level, but you have to read and understand the EULA (end user license agreement) and if you need to be online before you buy-in.

Software subscriptions work in the enterprise and work for software companies, but may or may not work for consumers. Value for the end user depends on how the vendor licenses the software, and if you have to be connected to the internet in order to use it. Most people won’t care if, in the long run they feel they’re getting some reasonable level of value out of the recurring cost.

Many consumers never read an end user license agreement or EULA. Ever.  In many cases, even software users were required to activate has been installed on more than one PC, regardless of whether additional installs violate the licensing agreement, simply because the software was considered too expensive. Versions of Microsoft Office from Office 95 to Office 2010, fall in this category. Its one of the biggest reasons why MS has opted to switch to a subscription model for future Office sales.

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The key to successful consumer adoption, however, is how the licensing is written.  I have found that most people are honest and will buy software instead of pirate it; but the licensing associated with any particular title is often very confusing.  Many people have more than one computing device; and will want to use software they purchase where ever and with whatever they’re computing with.  As long as the licensing allows them to install it where they need it, and the subscription costs aren’t too high; and/or don’t exceed what a consumer would pay for the software at retail, then I don’t see why a user find a subscription model acceptable. However, where and how the software is installed may also be an issue.

My biggest concern is where and how the software is used.  Subscriptions for some software may require an online connection to a subscription validation server in order for the software to work.  If I HAVE to be online every time I want to use the software that may be a problem. Internet access and mobile broadband are in a lot of places, but aren’t everywhere. If I want to use it someplace where I don’t have a connection and the software won’t start, then the subscription model is broken. The cloud isn’t everywhere, and I may not be everywhere the cloud is. Software vendors moving to a subscription sales model need to address this in some way to insure that I can use what I’ve paid for, even when I’m disconnected.

I also want the software installed locally and don’t want to HAVE to use an online version like Google Apps or Office 356 Online, again, for the same reasons. I don’t want to HAVE to be tied to the cloud or an always on network connection in order to be able to use something I’ve purchased. Once mobile broadband is ubiquitous, this may be a non-issue, but until then, it may be an issue for some, especially in areas where connectivity is spotty.

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Microsoft Behind the [Mobile] 8-Ball

An interesting development – Bill Gates admits that Microsoft’s mobile strategy is clearly a mistake

windowsphone_en-us_how-to_wp8_news_spotify-news-3-460x460I’ve been saying it for years – since about 2004 actually – Microsoft has no idea what they want (at the time Windows Mobile, and now) Windows Phone to be when it grows up. They have no idea how tablet computing fits into the “mobile” picture. Apparently, according to an interview by CBS This This Morning/60 Minutes and article by Preston Gralla, Bill Gates agrees.

Honestly, it’s about time.

Microsoft has this ugly habit of wanting the [computing] world to conform to Windows, and it’s clear the world has moved on. If Microsoft wants to stay not only relevant, but profitable, it’s going to have to accept this and develop a mobile strategy that correctly and appropriately positions and empowers them. Right now, they don’t have a [mobile] clue.

In his article, Gralla says,

If Microsoft had done mobile right years ago, the iPhone never would have gone on to become such a success, and Apple would not be the dominant player in mobile. Microsoft would own mobile as well as the desktop.

I happen to agree. The world was thirsting for a smartphone or mobile device that converged the items they wanted in one place – PIM data, music, video, internet, etc. – into a single device. Microsoft had Exchange ActiveSync, WMP and an a couple different integrated content stores. It had an established application catalog in a number of different vendors, such as Handango. Had it understood how mobile should have worked, it could have gotten to the party first and taken everyone down the mobile path via their vision.

Unfortunately, Ballmer didn’t (and in my opinion, still doesn’t) understand the mobile computing market. He may be a brilliant marketing and businessman, but mobile is something that has escaped him from the get-go. What is needed from Microsoft at this point are big, bold moves powered by their branding and most importantly, their checkbook. Ballmer needs to find someone in the mobile market he trusts and then must let them define the vision and strategy

If Microsoft doesn’t get its mobile act together and define a clear mobile strategy that augments and is not encompassed by Windows, it may find itself permanently behind [the 8-ball], and eventually out of the game entirely.

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Corel VideoStudio Pro X5 – all-in-one video editor and screen recorder

Corel VideoStudio ProEveryone is taking video today. Nearly everyone that I know has a smartphone or has access to a smartphone. As such, they’ve got digital photos and, more importantly, video clips flying all over the place. This is one of the biggest reasons why I like applications like Corel Video Studio Pro. It’s a video editing application for Windows.

Corel VideoStudio Pro is a powerful video-editing application, and has screen recording, built in. Its an all-in-one, video editor that provides editing, advanced effects, interactive web video and total disc authoring into a single package. The app is fast and packed with intuitive tools, that let you create family movies and slideshows, fun, stop motion animations, and screen recordings of presentations, tutorials and more. You can tap into the full power of your multi-core processor and share your creations everywhere with native HTML5 video support, or enhanced DVD and Blu-ray authoring.

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Once you’ve got your creations completed, you can quickly share them online, or burn a professional quality DVD/ Blu-ray disk complete with menus, titles and transitions. Corel VideoStudio Pro has a huge template library. You can choose from a variety of Instant Projects, drop in your content and make a movie in minutes. You can drag your media and graphics onto the Timeline, add effects, transitions and more. You can reveal or hide tracks, zoom in and out, or customize the Timeline to your liking. VSP makes it very easy once you get a handle on the workflow.

Corel VideoStudio Pro is a really cool app. It makes creating video less complicated than other apps and is fun to use. Non-experienced users may have a little bit of trouble getting used to the workflow and some of the tools, but it’s not difficult once you get going. If you have a lot of video and want to pull it all together into a disc that can be passed or sent to relatives or simply want to keep a hard copy record that can be viewed from any set top player, this is a decent choice for the task.

Download Corel VideoStudio Pro

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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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