View blocked internet content with Hola Unblocker

holaiconOnline video streaming is one of the more popular ways to get content to the mobile device of your choice.  However, it’s not all sunshine and daisies.  DRM issues aside, sometimes, you’re not allowed to view certain content due to your geographical region.  When you bump into this type of problem, you should take a look at Hola Unblocker. It’s a web extension for use on Windows machines.

Hola Unblocker has been available as a Chrome and Firefox extension since December 2012. It has recently been expanded to include websites like CBC, Fox and BBC’s iPlayer TV. All you have to do is installing the extension, and then go to the website with the region-blocked content you want to access. You don’t have to restart your computer.  You don’t even have to restart your browser. The main difference between Hola Unblocker and other VPN/proxy services that we’ve found so far is its ability to unblock content without slowing everything down.

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There have been some reports of the extension suddenly not working on a particular site, as well as a few glitches here and there. The developer indicates that BBC iPlayer TV worked in Chrome, but not in Firefox. Hulu also worked as advertised. The software is still technically in beta as of this writing, everything seems to be working as designed.

download Hola Unblocker

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Run a guest OS on your PC with VMware Workstation

vmware-workstation-logoRunning the application you need on your computer isn’t always as easy as you might think. Yes, a native app may exist for your OS of choice, but if it doesn’t or if you need to keep your OS free of clutter, things get complicated. Getting access to the cloud can also be challenging. This is one reason why I like VMWare Workstation. It’s a virtual workstation manager for Windows.

VMware Workstation is cloud capable and cloud aware. VMware Workstation’s operating system support, user experience, feature set and performance will dramatically change the way you work with virtual machines. It’s one of the best companion apps for any technical professional as they move to the cloud.

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One of the most popular reasons why corporate customers use a virtual machine is to evaluate the next generation operating system.  With VMware, you can install, say, Windows 8 and give users access to it, without actually upgrading a specific machine or risking introducing an undesirable user experience into the enterprise.  The latest version of VMware Workstation is optimized for running Windows 8 on Windows PCs. Its Easy Install feature simplifies the task of creating Windows 8 virtual machines. Its Unity mode will intelligently scale windows with Metro applications and multi-touch support will ensure you get the true Windows 8 experience in a virtual machine.

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One of the BEST reasons why you’d use VMware Workstation is its new web interface. It allows you to access your virtual machines from a tablet, smart phone, PC or any device with a modern browser. No plugins or special add-ins are necessary. Now you can power on, off, or suspend your virtual machines and interact with them from almost anywhere.

Using a virtual machine on your computer is one of the best ways to use incompatible applications. It also makes it easy to keep your PC free from poorly written apps or apps that don’t uninstall cleanly. VMware wrote the book on virtual machines and is one of the BEST ways to accomplish these tasks.

The biggest problems with VMware are that it’s expensive and complicated to setup and use. At $250 for a single workstation license, you need to make sure you take advantage of its 30 day trial before you buy.  It’s also a very complicated application to setup and configure. Many consumer users will need to either seek assistance from the help file, printed documentation or support forums to insure that they get the best performance out of the app. Please note that I’ve given this app a low usability rating because of its level of complexity.

download VMware Workstation

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Create and manage virtual machines with Paragon’s Virtualization Manager 12 Professional

Virtual machines are becoming quite the hot computing topic.  In many cases, they are becoming the way to go for OS testing, specialty software installs, demos and other evaluations.  This is one of the reasons why I like Virtualization Manager Professional. It’s a VM tool for Windows.

Creating bootable images of a supported guest operating system is easy with their native tools. Moving and managing them in combination with each other, isn’t always easy. Managing the combination of more than one guest OS on a host OS, isn’t always easy either.

Virtualization Manager Professional has full OS support for any Windows version from XP forward, including all server edtions.  With it, you can migrate an OS from a physical drive, to a virtual one, or convert a backup image to a bootable virtual drive.  You can also migrate full, bootable operating systems from virtual to physical, virtual to virtual as well as physical to physical.

If you need to make potentially volatile changes to a virtual machine, say for example, to install a difficult to remove application, and don’t want to worry about dealing with program artifacts that may get left behind in your registry or on your hard drive, you can use VMP’s snapshot mode to connect a virtual disk as if it’s an ordinary physical disk and open up all physical-disk functionality in a virtual environment. You can use a read only mode or a special read/write mode that creates a snapshot and applies all changes after the snapshot to test the application without destroying your virtual source drive.

VMP supports virtual machines from Oracle VirtualBox 4, Microsoft Virtual PC, VMware Workstation, VMware Fusion and Parallels Desktop but Parallels supports Connect VD only.

read full review | download Paragon Virtualization Manager 12 Professional

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Apple Support for Boot Camp – You’re on Your Own

I am developing a very serious problem with Apple’s support position when it comes to Boot Camp and Windows – You’re on your own.  Really..??

I bought my first Mac in December of 2006. In fact, I bought my Mac at that time to BE a Windows machine, largely because the hardware was so wonderful. Boot Camp was still in beta at that point, and it wasn’t very well put together at the time. Many of the features provided by Mac drivers were not supported on the Boot Camp side. Quite frankly, it was a mess.

Today, Boot Camp 4.0 is solid, well put together; and it runs Windows 7, 32bit or 64bit without much need for heavy lifting from the end user, especially on Apple’s more current Mac models. Many people are using it to run Windows, either as a primary or secondary partition on their Macs, again, because the hardware is perhaps, the best in the industry.

Case in point, my mother has a Late 2009 15″ MacBook Pro. Her chosen OS is Windows, and she’s running Windows 7 32bit on a Boot Camp 4.0 partition on her Mac.  Its recently developed some booting issues, and as she has Apple Care I recommended that she take it to her local Apple Store for assistance in troubleshooting her problem.

The Genius at the Genius Bar refused to help her, stating that Apple doesn’t provide assistance with Windows.  This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this with either my parent’s Macs, my Mac or with other Apple Customer’s supported, under Apple Care Macs; and quite frankly, it’s WRONG.

Windows is a mess…however, there are really only so many different ways to run Windows on an Intel-powered Mac: via virtual machine (Parallels Desktop or VMWare Fusion) and Boot Camp.

Both Parallels Desktop and VMWare Fusion are Mac apps, and Apple will generally help you insure that you’ve got the apps setup right, and at least configured correctly so that your Mac has the best chance of running Windows correctly.  This is largely due to the fact that both Parallels Desktop and Fusion have most of their heavy lifting due by a Mac operating system.

The other way to run Windows on a Mac is natively through a Boot Camp partition, using Apple’s provided Boot Camp drivers for all of the included hardware.  While Windows may have some of the drivers in its driver cache, it doesn’t and won’t have all of them.  You’ll need Boot Camp for some of the hardware, like the Bluetooth radio, iSight web cam, keyboard backlight, etc.

I get that Apple doesn’t want to support Windows or troubleshoot all of the myriad problems that may crop up on any Mac running Windows. I TOTALLY get it; and I agree and don’t blame them…sort of.

Apple needs to alter their stance and provide installation and start-up support.  Most of the problems with Windows on Macs comes as either an installation issue or as a startup/driver based issue.  Anything else other than that is likely due to registry issues due to installed or uninstalled software.

I can see Apple declining to support the performance or other issues, post setup or startup. Windows isn’t their OS, and there’s too much a user can do to mess things up. It’s very easy to mess up a Windows installation, too.  However, for someone like my mother, a senior citizen who has little to no computer savvy, the guy at the Genius Bar should have at least confirmed for her that her hardware was fine, and that Windows could startup. All he did was boot the Mac side and send her on her way.  No other troubleshooting or diagnostics were done. My mother was in the store less than 30 minutes.

That…isn’t cool.

There’s no way that simply booting to the Mac side of the world could have determined that the hard drive wasn’t having issues, or that perhaps Boot Camp created the partition incorrectly.  I’m not infallible, perhaps the Boot Camp drivers weren’t installed correctly when I initially built the Windows partition…that’s likely not the case, but the Genius wouldn’t know that, and didn’t take the time to find out.

I don’t have a problem troubleshooting things long distance for any of my relatives, especially when they can send me their computer, but for an older, non-computer savvy customer with active Apple Care on their Mac…I expected a heck of a lot more; and you should too.

Boot Camp is a legitimate part of OS X.  Apple needs to stop treating it and its users like a red-haired step child and provide them with the same level of support they provide for all of their other paying customers.

I’m just sayin’…

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