Sunday, June 6, 2010
CFS Weekly Newsletter #546
COMPLETELY FREE SOFTWARE
In-Poculis Mahjong v3.0 -- WinXP/Vista/Win7 (5 doves)
In-Poculis Mahjong is a 2D/3D tilegame. It features 120 levels, 6 themes (Asia, Christmas, Wonderland, Easter, Halloween & Neutral or Future), 6 tilefaces (2 are Chinese based), 2 levels of difficulty, in-game hint (there is a penalty for using it), undo last move, replay mode, on-screen timer, in-game tutorial, and more. This is a stylish version of the popular solitaire tilegame where you must match up pairs of tiles to make them disappear. It offers both 2D and 3D views, with the 3D view manipulated by moving the cursor over the tiles. However, we preferred it in 2D mode as it is annoying to have the tiles rocking about as you are moving the cursor over the game selecting tiles (it almost makes you seasick!). The themes are good, but lack a crispness in the tilefaces to assist in selecting pairs. It takes a while to get used to some of the tilefaces but, once you have played it a while, it gets easier to recognize tile matches. The hint feature is great, though you lose 10
points every time you use it. Of course, no-one admits that they ever use the hints... In-Poculis Mahjong is one of the better solitaire Mahjong games available, even though it is a huge game with a massive download. It offers lots of good animations, specially when starting a new game, and the whole package has a professional look 'n feel. If you are looking for a Mahjong game, In-Poculis Mahjong should be high on your list. We liked! Note: we have been advised that this program is not suitable for Windows 95, 98 or ME. Access this 53.7MB download from:
Daniusoft Video Converter Free v2.3.1 -- WinXP/Vista/Win7 (5 doves)
Daniusoft Video Converter Free is an easy-to-use video converter. It features batch conversions (limited to 5), converts to 10 video & audio formats (AVI, WMV, MPEG, MOV, FLV, MP4, etc), video cropping, video clipping, various effects (contrast, brightness, saturation, emboss, old movie, etc), merging various videos, deinterlacing, screenshots, and more. This is an excellent video file converter that accepts most video and HD video formats (everything from 3GP to "unprotected" VOB). Conversion is to AVI, WMV, MPEG 1 & 2, MOV, FLV or MP4, and audio from video to MP3, WAV or WMA. Each format has its own settings (many of which can be adjusted). Daniusoft Video Converter Free has some built-in limitations not found on the Pro version. These include a 5-file batch conversion limit, no watermark, and no plug-in support. The Pro version also includes conversion to many more filetypes and supports multi-core CPUs for faster conversion. However, we did not find these limitations ardu
ous and were very pleased with the features supported by the free version. Daniusoft Video Converter Free is one of the better video converters we have seen. Grab a copy and try it for yourself. Note: we have been advised that this program is not suitable for Windows 95, 98 or ME. Access this 9.39MB download from:
K-3D v0.8.0.1 -- WinXP/Vista/Win7 (5 doves)
K-3D is a 3D modeling, animation & rendering suite. It features object-oriented plugin architecture, generates motion-picture-quality animation using RenderMan-compliant render engines, interactive on-line tutorial, and more. Unfortunately, CFS was unable to review this program. The author says: "K-3D is the free-as-in-freedom 3D modeling, animation, and rendering system. K-3D features a robust, object-oriented plugin architecture, designed to scale to the needs of professional artists, and is designed from-the-ground-up to generate motion-picture-quality animation using RenderMan-compliant render engines. We strongly recommend the Aqsis render engine for use with K-3D. K-3D´s innovative interactive tutorial system will introduce you to basic use of the program. New tutorials can easily be recorded and shared with the rest of the community. K-3D allows you to create and edit documents in multiple realtime OpenGL solid, shaded, texture-mapped views. You can even model, animate
, and interact with animations while they play back for maximum productivity!" Note: we have been advised that this program is not suitable for Windows 95, 98 or ME. Access this 78.4MB download from:
Extra DVD Copy Free v6.9 -- Win98/ME/WinXP/Vista/Win7 (5 doves)
Extra DVD Copy Free is a program that copies DVD movies to DVD-9 (dual layer), DVD-5 (single layer) or hard disk. It supports DVD-R(W) & DVD+R(W) disks, compresses dual layer DVDs to single layer disks, optionally copies only part of original disk, automatically prepares blank DVDs for recording, and more. This is a great little tool for anyone who wishes to copy DVDs -- as long as they aren't copy protected. It is smart, and fast, producing good copies from the originals. Extra DVD Copy Free can optionally include subtitles and the DVD's menuing system plus any extras. It can even include DTS sound, though the space required is usually prohibitive and the Dolby sound found on most movies is sufficient. Extra DVD Copy Free first copies your DVD to the hard disk of your computer, and then burns the blank DVD from that. Once copied, the movie data is erased from your hard drive. However, it can also copy just to the hard drive, helpful for laptops (if you have the space) and do
n't want to worry about carrying around disks. Of course, Extra DVD Copy Free cannot copy movies that have been copy protected but, you guessed it, there is a "big brother" commercial version which can do this. Probably the biggest drawback is that you can only make one copy of the DVD at a time -- there is no provision for burning multiple copies. It also cannot convert video files (AVI, FLV, WMV, etc) to DVD, this is a DVD to DVD copier and requires all the VOB, INF, etc files to be in situ. One of its best features is that it can compress a dual layer DVD into a single layer DVD, though we did not test this function as we did not have an unprotected dual layer DVD available. If you want to make copies of your movies then check out Extra DVD Copy Free. It could be exactly what you want. Note: we have been advised that this program is not suitable for Windows 95. Access this 1.82MB download from:
LightBox Video Web Gallery Creator v2.1.4 -- WinXP/Vista/Win7 (5 doves)
LightBox Video Web Gallery Creator is a tool that creates an HTML photo & video gallery with a built-in slideshow. It supports images (JPG, GIF, PNG & BMP) & video (FLV, WMV, SWF & ASF), processes subfolders, integrates with an existing Website, uses CSS for control over the output, supports paging, and more. This program rocks! Aim it at a folder full of images and/or videos, tell it where you want the gallery and slideshow saved, and it will create a page of thumbnails. Click on the first image (top left hand corner) and it will start a popup slideshow from the first image. Click on any other image and it will display the image until you click on the "Play" button to start the slideshow. The slideshow can be paused at any time. A sample can be found at http://www.thecockatoo.com/WGC_test/. LightBox Video Web Gallery Creator offers a considerable amount of customization, and it can even be used to integrate with an existing Webpage, effectively using an existing template so
that your Web gallery has the same basic look 'n feel as the rest of your site. You will need a program to upload your gallery to the Web, or you can simply display it on your computer for your friends and family to enjoy. It could even be burnt onto a CD for further distribution. One of the best gallery and slideshow creators we have seen, LightBox Video Web Gallery Creator is a "must have" for anyone wishing to post their photos on-line. We loved! Note: we have been advised that this program is not suitable for Windows 95, 98 or ME. Access this 513kB download from:
AlarmJ v1.2 -- Win9x/ME/WinXP/Vista/Win7 (5 doves)
AlarmJ is a countdown timer with alarm, with a minimalistic interface. It features a choice of 4 included alarm sounds (or use your own WAV files), the timer can be set for up to 90 minutes, there is a countdown pause, no installation is required (just unzip & use), and more. This is a great little tool for anyone who needs a reminder within the next 90 minutes. It can be used to remind a PC user to get up and move around (always a problem when someone gets too involved in what they are doing), it can be used to remind someone that a cake is in the oven, that they need to go to an appointment, ration a child's television usage, and lots more. In fact, there is almost no limit to the uses of this great little utility. The interface is so plain it is boring, and it doesn't minimize to an icon in the tray, but these are minor points considering the potential value of AlarmJ. While it may lack some bells and whistles, AlarmJ is a handy program to have around. Worth a look! Access
this 308kB download from:
Industrial Ball v1.2 -- Win98/ME/WinXP/Vista/Win7 (5 doves)
Industrial Ball is an Arkanoid brick-breaking game with an industrial theme. It features 3 levels of difficulty, 14 power-ups, 2 game modes (Campaign & Random), many levels, industrial-themed backgrounds, challenging gameplay, and more. This is an excellent, if challenging, version of the famous Arkanoid game where you use a paddle and ball to break bricks, clearing all the bricks to progress to the next level. In Industrial Ball you get a choice of Campaign mode where you progress through the levels, or Random mode where the levels are randomly selected. The animation and imagery is excellent, but the backgrounds are so full of detail (busy) that it makes it hard to follow the ball. The ball also angles from the paddle in a slightly different way to similar Arkanoid games, and it takes some adjusting to control where you want the ball to go. Added to that, the game gets faster and faster as you progress through a level and you can end up playing reactively rather than pro-ac
tively. That said, Industrial Ball is an excellent game and one that most Arkanoid fans will love to play. If you are ready for the challenge, grab a copy of Industrial Ball. Note: we have been advised that this program is not suitable for Windows 95. Access this 5.83MB download from:
FBackup -- a customizable backup tool that can backup to a ZIP file or create a mirror backup (no compression) -- has been updated to version 4.4.196 with a new download size of 12.3MB. The author has advised that changes in this version include: adding silent installation parameters; adding "Show tray icon" option; adding new option to "Minimize to tray"; if errors occur it's possible to show the error message in tray; added scheduled startup option; and some bugs were fixed. Access this much updated version from:
doPDF -- converts any printable document to Acrobat PDF format without requiring Ghostscript -- has been updated to version 7.1.334 with a download size of 4.25MB. The author has advised that changes in this version include: adding support for Type 1 fonts as well as TrueType & OpenType fonts; now only embeds the font subsets (reduces PDF file size); adding a "Getting Started" splash page; adding option to keep "Save PDF" window on top of others when printing; minor GUI changes; and now compatible with Windows 7. This major update can be accessed from:
COMPUTER TIP OF THE WEEK
from Dr T -- RTemlak4dds@aol.com
What Is RAM?
We're sure that you all know RAM stands for Random Access Memory, and that more of it is good. But do you really know what it is, how it works, and why exactly having more of it makes your computer seem to work faster?
The simplest way to describe RAM is as temporary storage. Any data your computer is currently crunching is loaded into RAM to be processed and read. This includes your operating system, programs being run, and files being accessed. You may be wondering, why, if all of this information is stored on your hard drive, does the computer need to load it into RAM? The issue is speed. Imagine you have a small file cabinet in your office and another, much larger file archive in a storage room. RAM is that small file cabinet, keeping important and immediately needed information on hand. If you had to go down to the storage room every time you needed to read something, you would do your job very slowly. Well, the same is the case with a computer.
So Why Is More Better?
Having more memory makes your PC faster, or, at least, seem faster. With more RAM, a computer can work on more information concurrently, giving a particular boost to multi-tasking performance. This is because if the RAM becomes full, your computer will transfer the oldest (but still active) data to a swap file (sometimes called virtual memory), which is temporarily stored on the hard drive. Reading and writing to this file will predictably make switching between tasks slower. Increasing your RAM will allow you to "swap" data between the hard drive and memory less often.
What Makes It Random?
"Random access" refers to the way in which data is retrieved. Information can be read directly from RAM, regardless of where it is physically located, and this is part of what makes RAM faster than other storage media. DVDs and hard disks, for instance, must physically seek out the location of data before reading it.
So Why Not Use RAM to Store Files Instead of Hard Disks?
There are disadvantages to RAM as a storage medium. For one, it is far more expensive than more archival formats like hard drives. While a 1-terabyte hard disk can be purchased for as little as $100, an equal amount of modern DDR2 (second generation double data rate) RAM would cost in excess of $25,000. Secondly (as if you needed a "secondly"), RAM is a "volatile" storage solution, meaning that when power is cut to it, all stored information is lost. Other media, like CDs, flash drives, and hard disks, continue to store information regardless, but RAM requires electricity to function.
Now armed with this knowledge, we hope you have a better understanding of what exactly RAM is, it's function, and why more is better, but only if you can actually make use of it all.
[Source: Switched -- AOLNews]
SMILE OF THE WEEK
(contributions for this section are most welcome)
=: Stella Awards :=
It's time again for the annual "Stella Awards". For those unfamiliar with these awards, they are named after 81-year-old Stella Liebeck who spilled hot coffee on herself and successfully sued the McDonalds in New Mexico, where she purchased the coffee. You remember, she took the lid off the coffee and put it between her knees while she was driving. Who would ever think one could get burned doing that, right?
That's right; these are awards for the most outlandish lawsuits and verdicts in the US. You know, the kinds of cases that make you scratch your head and say "what the heck". So keep your head scratcher handy.
Here are the Stellas for the past year:
* Seventh Place *
Kathleen Robertson of Austin, Texas, was awarded $80,000 by a jury of her peers after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running inside a furniture store. The store owners were understandably surprised by the verdict, considering the running toddler was her own son.
* Sixth Place *
Carl Truman, 19, of Los Angeles, California, won $74,000 plus medical expenses when his neighbor ran over his hand with a Honda Accord. Truman apparently didn't notice there was someone at the wheel of the car when he was trying to steal his neighbor's hubcaps.
Scratch some more...
* Fifth Place *
Terrence Dickson, of Bristol, Pennsylvania, who was leaving a house he had just burglarized by way of the garage. Unfortunately for Dickson, the automatic garage door opener malfunctioned and he could not get the garage door to open. Worse, he couldn't re-enter the house because the door connecting the garage to the house locked when Dickson pulled it shut. Forced to sit for eight, count 'em, eight days and survive on a case of Pepsi and a large bag of dry dog food, he sued the homeowner's insurance company claiming undue mental anguish. Amazingly, the jury said the insurance company must pay Dickson $500,000 for his anguish. We should all have this kind of anguish.
Keep scratching. There are more. Double hand scratching after this one...
* Fourth Place *
Jerry Williams, of Little Rock, Arkansas, garnered 4th Place in the Stella's when he was awarded $14,500 plus medical expenses after being bitten on the butt by his next door neighbor's beagle -- even though the beagle was on a chain in its owner's fenced yard. Williams did not get as much as he asked for because the jury believed the beagle might have been provoked at the time of the butt bite because Williams had climbed over the fence into the yard and repeatedly shot the dog with a pellet gun.
Pick a new spot to scratch, you're getting a bald spot..
* Third Place *
Amber Carson of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, because a jury ordered a Philadelphia restaurant to pay her $113,500 after she slipped on a spilled soft drink and broke her tailbone. The reason the soft drink was on the floor: Ms Carson had thrown it at her boyfriend 30 seconds earlier during an argument.
Only two more so ease up on the scratching...
* Second Place *
Kara Walton, of Claymont, Delaware, sued the owner of a night club in a nearby city because she fell from the bathroom window to the floor, knocking out her two front teeth. Even though Ms.Walton was trying to sneak through the ladies room window to avoid paying the $3.50 cover charge, the jury said the night club had to pay her $12,000... oh, yeah, plus dental expenses.
OK. Here we go!!
* First Place *
This year's runaway First Place Stella Award winner was:
Mrs Merv Grazinski, of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, who purchased new 32-foot Winnebago motor home. On her first trip home, from an OU football game, having driven on to the freeway, she set the cruise control at 70 mph and calmly left the driver's seat to go to the back of the Winnebago to make herself a sandwich. Not surprisingly, the motor home left the freeway, crashed and overturned. Also not surprisingly, Mrs Grazinski sued Winnebago for not putting in the owner's manual that she couldn't actually leave the driver's seat while the cruise control was set. The Oklahoma jury awarded her? Are you sitting down? $1,750,000 plus a new motor home. Winnebago actually changed their manuals as a result of this suit, just in case Mrs Grazinski has any relatives who might also buy a motor home.
We would like to thank the regular visitors to the CFS site who have told us their favorite freeware. If you have a favorite program which isn't listed on the CFS pages we invite you to share that information with everyone through this site and this newsletter.
If you are an author of a freeware application and you would like it listed on these pages please fill in the form at:
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Daves Computer Tips
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