Sunday, June 6, 2010
CFS Weekly Newsletter #544
COMPLETELY FREE SOFTWARE
Astro Avenger 2 -- Win98/ME/XP/Vista/Win7 (5 doves)
Astro Avenger 2 is a top down, scrolling, space shooter. It features 50 levels of blasting madness, 3 levels of difficulty, 35 kinds of enemies, 5 models of your ship, 35 types of weapon, superb ray-traced graphics, lots of powerups to collect, excellent sound effects & background music, and more. This is one of the better top down space-style shooters we have seen. The graphics are awesome, the gameplay is fast, and the sound effects are excellent. In this game you have the opportunity to purchase upgrades at the end of each level. These include ammunition, missiles, repair bots, etc and become more extensive at the end of each level. Astro Avenger 2 is a sophisticated shooter with a good storyline and a hard-to-beat Boss at the end. The game carries advertising from MyPlayCity, but this only appears during program loading so it is hardly intrusive. Like most modern games from big distributors, it opens a page in your Web browser when you open and close the game. This page g
oes to the MyPlayCity site and, apart from just getting you to their site, it is used to collect statistics on the number of people playing each game -- nothing more than most sites are already doing. We fell in love with Astro Avenger 2. It is a fantastic shooter and one which will draw you back to play again and again. Grab a copy now! Note: we have been advised that this program is not suitable for Windows 95. Access this 33.1MB download from:
VDownloader v2.7.322 -- WinXP/Vista/Win7 (5 doves)
VDownloader is a video downloader that can also convert videos to other formats (including MP3). It supports all major video Websites (YouTube, Vimeo, Metacafe, Google Video, DailyMotion, Yahoo! Video, etc), includes a video search function, has a built-in IE-based Web browser, and more. This is an easy way to download videos from the Internet and to optionally convert them into another format -- even one suitable for mobile phones (iPod/iPhone/iPad, PSP, Nokia, etc). It supports the following file formats AVI, MKV, MP4, MPG, 3GP, VCD, SVCD, DVD, FLV and MP3 (audio only). You can copy/paste a list of Web addresses, or the URL of a playlist, to download and convert several videos at once. You can also merge the videos. VDownloader is a terrific video download tool for anyone who enjoys not just watching a video on-line, but who wants to download a copy to share with a friend or just enjoy it later. It also gives you the option of converting that video into another format. We f
ound no problems with the free version of VDownloader and it worked flawlessly on all tasks we set it to do. However, there is no scheduler, for that you need the Pro version, and this could be a serious omission for people with very limited bandwidth or people who need to download at non-peak hours. The one thing that we did miss was a drop box so we could drag 'n drop video URLs without worrying about copy 'n paste. VDownloader does have an option to monitor the Clipboard for video addresses and download them immediately which goes partway to alleviating the lack of drop box. Overall, VDownloader is an excellent video downloader, and one we are happy to use. Worth grabbing! Note: we have been advised that this program is not suitable for Windows 95, 98 or ME. Access this 6.62MB download from:
V-Buster Professional v020410 -- Win98/ME/WinXP/Vista/Win7 (5 doves)
V-Buster Professional is a small program that detects and removes viruses, and restores crashed hard disks. It can read & write inaccessible disks, scans each partition on your hard drive, detects & reports suspect files, and more. Due to the nature of the program, CFS is unable to properly review V-Buster Professional. The author has stated that this is "one of the oldest anti-virus programs in the World. Winner of 5 awards. Runs on all platforms. Extremely small in size and does not slow down your computer." We dispute that it "runs on all platforms" because the author said that it requires Microsoft .NET Framework 2, which means that it cannot run on DOS, Windows 3.x and Windows 95 platforms, even though it appears to be a DOS program (it runs ins a DOS Box under Windows). A scan on the CFS test computer gave two false positive reports of virus-type activity, both were from a legitimate program and after investigation were not considered to be malicious. There is a Windows
GUI version of V-Buster Professional which is only obtainable from a CD and is not free. Note: we have been advised that this program is not suitable for Windows 95. Access this 458kB download from:
GiMeSpace v188.8.131.52 -- WinXP/Vista/Win7 (5 doves)
GiMeSpace is a small utility that expands the desktop when you move the mouse to the sides of the screen by moving existing windows away from that side, effectively give unlimited space on your desktop. This might sound confusing but it works really well. For example, when the cursor is placed on the right-hand side of the screen (does not work at the top or bottom) the whole desktop moves to the left, giving you the unlimited space to add new fullscreen windows side-by-side. At any time you can prevent further scrolling by turning on the Scroll Lock key. We can appreciate the considerable benefits of GiMeSpace, but we feel there should be a "return to normal" key that bring everything back to the original position. It could also have multiple screen positions -- one full screen to the right or left, two screens to the right or left, etc. GiMeSpace gives you the advantage of having multiple monitors, even when you just have the one. We loved! Note: we have been advised that t
his program is not suitable for Windows 95, 98 or ME. Access this 468kB download from:
Instant Pano v1.00 -- WinXP/Vista/Win7 (5 doves)
Instant Pano is a program that stitches digital JPG photos together to create 360 degree panoramas. It calculates the number of shots required for stitching (varies with different cameras & lens), offers variable output quality, has a built-in previewer (normal & fullscreen), and more. If you wish to make panoramas out of your photos you will need a tool like Instant Pano to take the hard work out of stitching each image together and aligning the overlaps. Simply import your images (making sure they are in correct order -- you can re-arrange the order within the program) and click on the Stitch button. If you don't already have a copy of Smart Blend (a 696kB download) on your computer you will be prompted to download it. Once unzipped, just point the Instant Pano plugin link to the location of Smart Blend so it can find it. Simple. The resultant panorama can be viewed from within the program or saved to your computer as a JPE file (if your graphics program cannot read JPE fil
es, change the extension to JPG). When used with the author's sample photos, Instant Pano does an excellent job of stitching the images together to make a 360 degree panorama, but it needs a sufficient number of images (usually more than 12) to create the 360 degree panorama effect. If used with a few images it will still try to create a 360 degree montage of them, but they will be severely distorted. Unfortunately, when you try to save the panorama it will save at the size you can see on the screen -- and at a reasonable size, that means only part of the image (the part you see on the screen) will be saved. That aside, we were impressed with Instant Pano. It creates a seamless panorama of your images. Try it yourself. Note: we have been advised that this program is not suitable for Windows 95, 98 or ME. Access this 26.7MB download from:
Free Mp3/Wma/Ogg Converter v7.1.1 -- Win98/ME/WinXP/Vista/Win7 (5 doves)
Free Mp3/Wma/Ogg Converter is a file converter that converts between MP3, WMA, WAV, OGG, MP2, AAC, FLAC & M4A audio formats. It features each-way conversion between all supported formats, batch conversion, output adjustment using default presets, drag 'n drop, copy 'n paste, and more. This is an easy-to-use audio file converter that uses a Wizard-style interface. Conversion is simply a matter of adding the file(s), selecting the format you wish to convert to and the preset output settings, and clicking on the "Next" button to carry out the conversion. Easy as... The author claims that Free Mp3/Wma/Ogg Converter offers file merging but we could not see how it was done, and there is no Helpfile to give us guidance. The author also claims that it has "precise output adjustment", as well as the presets. The presets we can see (and there are a lot of them) but we cannot see how to make "precise" adjustments. Maybe these two features are only available in the commercial version. Ov
erall, Free Mp3/Wma/Ogg Converter is a great audio file converter that supports many for filetypes than indicated by the author. We loved! Note: we have been advised that this program is not suitable for Windows 95. Access this 4.50MB download from:
GL Tron v0.70 -- WinXP/Vista/Win7 (5 doves)
GL Tron is a classic TRON game where you race a light-cycle around an arena competing against 3 opponents. It features 1 to 4 human players, 4 game types, 4 game speeds, 4 bot skill levels, 3 artpacks, 6 arena sizes, you can optionally erase dead players, there are 7 screen resolutions, full screen & windowed modes, and more. Based off the Disney sci fi movie from the 1980s, TRON, GL Tron offers the same frenetic racing where the trails of each racer become walls, and you must avoid both your own track-walls but also those of your opponents. You can play with a mix of human and computer players (even all computer players). There are lots of variables to help you create a game that suits you. This includes three artpacks, or backgrounds, so you can modify the look of the screen. GL Tron is a great way to kill some time. Graphics are good (if minimalistic), animation is excellent, and the sound effects/background music is very good. Take the challenge and see how long you can s
urvive in the arena. An awesome game! Note: we have been advised that this program is not suitable for Windows 95, 98 or ME. Access this 3.48MB download from:
COMPUTER TIP OF THE WEEK
from Dr T -- RTemlak4dds@aol.com
=: Hard drive evolution could hit XP Users :=
By Mark Ward (technology correspondent, BBC News)
Hard drives are about to undergo one of the biggest format shifts in 30 years.
By early 2011 all hard drives will use an "advanced format" that changes how they go about saving the data people store on them.
The move to the advanced format will make it easier for hard drive makers to produce bigger drives that use less power and are more reliable.
However, it might mean problems for Windows XP users who swap an old drive for one using the changed format.
Since the days of the venerable DOS operating system, the space on a hard drive has been formatted into blocks 512 bytes in size.
The 512 byte sector became standardised thanks to IBM which used it on floppy disks.
While 512 bytes was useful when hard drives were only a few megabytes in size, it makes less sense when drives can hold a terabyte (1000 gigabytes), or more of data.
"The technology has changed but that fundamental building block of formatting has not," said David Burks, a product marketing manager for storage firm Seagate.
This fine resolution on hard drives is causing a problem, he said, because of the wasted space associated with each tiny block.
Each 512 byte sector has a marker showing where it begins and an area dedicated to storing error correction codes. In addition a tiny gap has to be left between each sector. In large drives this wasted space where data cannot be stored can take up a significant proportion of the drive.
Moving to an advanced format of 4K sectors means about eight times less wasted space but will allow drives to devote twice as much space per block to error correction.
"You can get yourself into a corner where you cannot squeeze much more onto the disk," said Steve Perkins, a technical consultant for Western Digital.
This shift also allows manufacturers to make more efficient use of the real estate on a hard drive.
"We can put more data on the disk," he said. "It's about 7-11% more efficient as a format."
Through the International Disk Drive Equipment and Materials Association (Idema) all hard drive makers have committed to adopting the 4K advanced format by the end of January 2011.
Hard drive makers have begun an education and awareness campaign to let people know about the advanced format and to warn about the problems it could inflict on users of older operating systems such as Windows XP.
This is because Windows XP was released before the 4K format was decided upon.
"The 512 byte sector assumption is ensconced into a lot of the aspects of computer architecture," said Mr Burks from Seagate.
By contrast, Windows 7, Vista, OS X Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard and versions of the Linux kernel released after September 2009 are all 4K aware.
To help Windows XP cope, advanced format drives will be able to pretend they still use sectors 512 bytes in size.
When reading data from a drive this emulation will go unnoticed. However, said Mr Burks, in some situations writing data could hit performance.
In some cases the drive will take two steps to write data rather than one and introduce a delay of about 5 milliseconds.
"All other things being equal you will have a noticeable hard drive reduction in performance," said Mr Burks, adding that, in some circumstances, it could make a drive 10% slower.
In a bid to limit the misalignment, hard drive makers are producing software that ensures 512 sectors line up with 4K ones.
Those most likely to see the performance problems are those building their own computers or swapping out an old drive for one that uses the new format.
[Source: BBC NEWS: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/technology/8557144.stm]
SMILE OF THE WEEK
(contributions for this section are most welcome)
=: Embarrassing Medical Examinations :=
1. A man comes into the ER and yells: "My wife's going to have her baby in the cab." I grabbed my stuff, rushed out to the cab, lifted the lady's dress and began to take off her underwear. Suddenly I noticed that there were several cabs... and I was in the wrong one.
Submitted by Dr Mark MacDonald,
2... At the beginning of my shift I placed a stethoscope on an elderly and slightly deaf female patient's anterior chest wall.
"Big breaths," I instructed. "Yes, they used to be," replied the patient.
Submitted by Dr Richard Byrnes,
3. One day I had to be the bearer of bad news when I told a wife that her husband had died of a massive myocardial infarct. Not more than five minutes later, I heard her reporting to the rest of the family that he had died of a "massive internal fart".
Submitted by Dr Susan Steinberg
4. During a patient's two week follow-up appointment with his cardiologist, he informed me, his doctor, that he was having trouble with one of his medications. "Which one ?" I asked. "The patch. The Nurse told me to put on a new one every six hours and now I'm running out of places to put it !" I had him quickly undress and discovered what I hoped I wouldn't see.
Yes, the man had over fifty patches on his body! Now, the instructions include removal of the old patch before applying a new one.
Submitted by Dr. Rebecca St. Clair,
5. While acquainting myself with a new elderly patient, I asked, "How long have you been bedridden?" After a look of complete confusion she answered: "Why, not for about twenty years -- when my husband was alive."
Submitted by Dr Steven Swanson-
6. I was performing rounds at the hospital one morning and while checking up on a man I asked: "So how's your breakfast this morning?" "It's very good except for the Kentucky Jelly. I can't seem to get used to the taste," Bob replied. I then asked to see the jelly and Bob produced a foil packet labeled "KY Jelly".
Submitted by Dr Leonard Kransdorf ,
7. A nurse was on duty in the Emergency Room when a young woman with purple hair styled into a punk rocker Mohawk, sporting a variety of tattoos, and wearing strange clothing, entered. It was quickly determined that the patient had acute appendicitis, so she was scheduled for immediate surgery. When she was completely disrobed on the operating
table, the staff noticed that her pubic hair had been dyed green and above it there was a tattoo that read: "Keep off the grass." Once the surgery was completed, the surgeon wrote a short note on the patient's dressing, which said: "Sorry... had to mow the lawn."
Submitted by RN (no name)
8. As a new, young MD doing his residency in OB. I was quite embarrassed when performing female pelvic exams. To cover my embarrassment I had unconsciously formed a habit of whistling softly. The middle-aged lady upon whom I was performing this exam suddenly burst out laughing and further embarrassing me. I looked up from my work and sheepishly said: "I'm sorry. Was I tickling you?" She replied with tears running down her cheeks from laughing so hard: "No doctor but the song you were whistling was 'I wish I was an Oscar Meyer Wiener.'"
Doctor wouldn't submit his name...
Daves Computer Tips
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