Friday, August 6, 2010
CFS Weekly Newsletter #554
Confectionary v2.3 -- WinXP/Vista/Win7 (5 doves)
Confectionary is a huge multi-type puzzle where you inherit an old deserted confectionery plant which you must get back into production. It features various types of reasonably challenging puzzles (hidden objects, falling bricks, jigsaw, etc), recipes to collect & keep, excellent storyline, excellent graphics, and more. Confectionary (yes, the spelling is deliberately incorrect) incorporates a number of different types of puzzles into the one monster game. You must cross town, collecting elements to re-establish this once-flourishing business. To do this you find hidden items (and they are often very well hidden!) until you have accumulated enough items to re-build the factory, which is a challenging jigsaw puzzle. Occasionally you are given permission to go to cookery school where you can learn some recipes. While the puzzles used are generally considered to be for slightly younger people, there is sufficient challenge in them to appeal to a more mature player, and Confectio
nary is therefore suitable for all ages. Graphics are truly excellent, as is the overall storyline of the game. There is an ad displayed when the game is loading but it is not intrusive and disappears once the game is fully loaded. Confectionary brings together a number of different puzzles into a masive conglomerate which is fun to play and which will keep you busy for many hours. We loved! Note: we have been advised that this program is not suitable for Windows 95, 98 or ME. Access this 79.4MB download from:
EyeLine Video Surveillance v1.042 -- WinXP/Vista/Win7 (5 doves) EyeLine Video Surveillance is a program that captures & stores video camera or Webcam output. It features a motion detection mode, it can auto-backup to LAN or server, offers e-mail & SMS movement notifications, the frames are time stamped, it is simple to use, has a good Helpfile, and more. This is an excellent way of monitoring and capturing the output from a video camera or Webcam. While originally designed for business use (the professional version can monitor up to 100 cameras, the free version just a single camera), EyeLine Video Surveillance can be used to monitor a location within the home. For example, it can monitor the front door, the computer room, the baby's room, etc. If used in motion detection mode, it will just capture periods when there is movement within the range of the camera lens rather than continually capture. Movement alerts can be sent by e-mail, or even by SMS if an SMS Gateway host is used. Captured video can be streamed to a central computer via a
LAN, uploaded to the Internet via FTP, or stored in a local computer. Frames are date and time stamped so you can quickly find specific events. EyeLine Video Surveillance is very easy to use, but even includes a good Helpfile in HTML format should you require more information. Unfortunately, both the on-line information at the author's site, and the Helpfile, give information about the multi-camera Professional version and not specifically about the free, single camera version. However, assistance should rarely be required as the software is not hard to use. We were very impressed with EyeLine Video Surveillance. Its simplicity belies the effective power of the program and, if you need to set up a surveillance camera, this would be a good program to check out. Try it for yourself. Note: we have been advised that this program is not suitable for Windows 95, 98 or ME. Access this 309kB download from:
Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware v1.46 -- WinXP/Vista/Win7 (5 doves) Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware is an anti-malware tool that detects and removes malicious programs from the computer. It features fast or full scanning, database updates released daily, quarantine to hold threats, integration with Windows Explorer, and more. Even though you should already have a good anti-virus program, even the better commercial ones do not necessarily find every piece of malware (malicious software) on your computer. This malware can include viruses, worms, trojans, rootkits, dialers, and spyware. Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware is a scanner that examines files to ensure that they are not malicious, and is kept up-to-date with daily database downloads. This version does not offer real-time protection -- you cannot simply install it and have it operate in the background protecting you. It requires a scan to be instigated. When first installed, it updates your database and, in our case, this meant a 5.03MB additional download. There are two types of scans available, a
"quick scan" and a "full scan", and the latter can scan selected drives. We tried a quick scan but were surprised to see that it still took over one hour to complete -- we wonder how long a full scan would take! As Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware found no problems on our computer we could not test it any further than to state that, because of the time it took, it seemed to be thorough. Even though you cannot have too much protection against malware, a "quick" scan of over one hour is not something we would carry out daily. This is a shame because daily scans should the aim (even more often if downloading lots of questionable programs). That aside, Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware has an awesome reputation and should be considered high on your list as additional protection against on-line nasties. Worth checking out. Note: we have been advised that this program is not suitable for Windows 95, 98 or ME. Access this 5.86MB download from:
Serna Free XML Editor v4.2.0 -- WinXP/Vista/Win7 (5 doves) Serna Free XML Editor is a Java-based WYSIWYG XML editor. It supports all popular document types (DITA, Docbook, XHTML, TEI P4, NITF, etc), offers on-the-fly document validation against XML Schemas, multilingual spell checking, Entity & XInclude in-place editing, drag 'n drop with on-the-fly validation, context-sensitive element help, and more. Unfortunately CFS was unable to review this program. We were told that: "Authors with virtually no XML experience can start working with structured content in a familiar environment that looks much like a conventional word processor. Serna Free XML Editor employs XSLT and XSL-FO to render documents in print-like appearance. This approach gives a lot of opportunities for document rendering, such as localized generated content, profiled views, composition of a document from multiple chunks, in-line attribute editing, and others. Serna Free XML Editor offers exceptional DITA 1.1 support and comes with integrated DITA Open Toolkit. Flexib
le visualization of DITA maps and topics with the ability to resolve referred content and in-place editing of local conrefs greatly simplify DITA authoring." Serna Free is intended for personal use at home, documenting open-source projects, education, and other non-commercial uses. Note: we have been advised that this program is not suitable for Windows 95, 98 or ME. Access this 77.4MB download from:
Free 3D Photo Maker v220.127.116.11 -- WinXP/Vista/Win7 (5 doves)
Free 3D Photo Maker is a program that creates 3D "stereo" photos from two slightly offset still images. It features a choice of 3D algorithms (optimized, red/cyan, dark, gray & yellow/blue), it supports 11 different input image formats (RAW, PICT, BMP, JPG, RLE, ICO, EMF, WMF, PNG, TGA & GIF), it saves the 3D stereo image to the JPG format, it is simple to use, and more. If you want to create 3D stereo images then this is probably the simplest way of getting them. The secret is to take two photos of the same scene, with an offset of about two to three inches to the right (best to move your whole body rather than just twist a little). The two photos are then opened in Free 3D Photo Maker, keeping the left hand image on the left, and the right hand image on the right. Select the algorithm you want to use (you can save the same images in different algorithms and see which is best for you), and click on the "Make 3D!" button. The resultant 3D image can be viewed in stereo anaglyph glasses. We tried the sample images provided with the program and used the paper glasses included with a movie we had previously purchased. We selected the red/cyan algorithm to produce a 3D image we could view using those glasses. The result was excellent. If you are taking photos in the field, you may want to take a series of digital photos with varying offsets until you learn the optimal distance between them. Free 3D Photo Maker is an impressive tool for anyone looking to create 3D stereo type images. If you have a few pairs of stereo anaglyph glasses around you could even make up a sequence of images to play on your TV for your family and friends. It could liven up those holiday slideshows... If you are want to create 3D stereo images then Free 3D Photo Maker should be high on your list as possible tools. We loved! Note: we have been advised that this program is not suitable for Windows 95, 98 or ME. Access this 16.6MB download from:
RadioSure v2.1.969 -- WinXP/Vista/Win7 (5 doves)
RadioSure is a skinnable on-line radio station player. It features over 13,000 stations worldwide, supports most Internet radio formats (MP3, WMA, OGG, AAC+, etc), records individual tracks or continuous station content, simultaneously records multiple stations, station sort (name, country, genre or language), station favorites, optionally shows an image related to the current song, additional skins to download, minimizes to the tray, and more. RadioSure rocks, and not just because of the music you can play. This is the simplest, easiest way of both listening to many thousands of on-line radio stations, and also recording their output -- and it will even record music tracks individually. Cool! Whatever genre of music you like, in whatever language, and from virtually every country that includes an Internet-transmitting radio station, you can listen through RadioSure. Sound quality is generally superb, though this can vary depending on your bandwidth and on the network conditi
ons. RadioSure can record, and play back, the content from multiple radio stations so you can be away from your computer and still listen to your favorite music or talk station. It can also be dressed up with downloadable skins. For Internet radio, RadioSure is the program to get! Note: we have been advised that this program is not suitable for Windows 95, 98 or ME. Access this 3.26MB download from:
Keyboard Leds v1.0 -- Win9x/ME/WinXP/Vista/Win7 (5 doves)
Keyboard Leds is a small utility that displays the status of the Num Lock, Caps Lock & Scroll Lock keys on a small icon in the system tray and/or on a floating OSD window. It features a fully configurable display (colors, etc), the OSD display can be hidden when all keys are off, it optionally starts with Windows, and more. Keyboard Leds is a simple little tool which is particularly valuable for computers (mainly notebooks and laptops) that do not have indicators for the three "Lock" keys. It indicates if a key is turned "on" or "off", therefore minimizing errors caused by accidentally switched on keys. If you want, or need, an indicator for the keyboard "lock" keys then get a copy of Keyboard Leds. Access this 394kB download from:
Yukon Solitaire 2 Suit v3.2 -- Win98/ME/WinXP/Vista/Win7 (5 doves) Yukon Solitaire 2 Suit is an easier version of Yukon Solitaire, using two suits and not four. This is a card game that combines Spider Solitaire with Klondike Solitaire (or "traditional solitaire") where you build up foundations from Ace to King. Because it uses only two suits instead of four (though still using 52 cards), there are two sets of cards for each suit. This should assist in completing the game. Even with just two suits, Yukon Solitaire 2 Suit is a hard game to win, and this is not assisted by the lack of "New Game" or reset button to start a new game. The downloadable version requires that you must close the game and re-open it to start again -- and expect to be re-starting often. We felt that more work could have been put into making the card faces look more attractive, and more like regular playing cards. The downloadable version of the game also lacks any assistance or Helpfile, and even the on-line assistance is not extensive. If you like challenging card gam
es then grab a copy of Yukon Solitaire 2 Suit. You might not win very often but, when you do, you will be celebrating all day. Note: we have been advised that this program is not suitable for Windows 95. Access this 2.69MB download from:
Easy Text To HTML Converter -- converts TXT & RTF documents into HTML -- has been updated to version 3.0.0.057 with a new, much smaller download of 254kB. The author advises that changes adds HTML templates support, table to HTML tool, and XHTML output. Access this new version from:
X2USBP -- prints the DOS command screen outputs to USB and parallel port Windows 32-bit printers -- has been updated to version 3.1 with a new download size of 53kB. The author advises that this version now allows use of any available Windows printer on a PC. Get this new version from:
COMPUTER TIP OF THE WEEK
from Dr T -- RTemlak4dds@aol.com
=: How Search Engines Work :=
by Andrew Leibman
The Mechanics Behind Your Search Results
When you're looking for something new on the Internet, a search engine is typically your first stop. We all know how to use a search engine: just type a word, a phrase, or the name of a person or place and then click the Search button to see hundreds of thousands of links to relevant Web pages. But there's a lot that goes on behind the scenes to make sure the Google bots, Bing machines, and Yahoo! droids put what you're looking for at the top of the results page. Search engines make it their business to read your mind, and you might be surprised by some of their methods.
The Specifics Of Search Search engines, such as Bing and Google, are composed of multiple parts. The aspect you interact with to type in your queries and navigate results is little more than a front-end user interface; much like your Desktop is for your PC's operating system.
Behind that user interface, Web crawlers, or single-purpose applications that fetch data from the Web, compile a database of documents by requesting specific pages from Web servers all over the Internet, scanning each page for hyperlinks, and then categorizing the results using a numbering system. Speed is a high priority for search engines, so Web crawlers tend to start by indexing the most popular Web pages first, scouring the most active servers and following every link on those pages. The Web search indexes behind search engines, such as Bing and Google, use a variety of encoding (converting data from one form into another) and hashing (converting words and characters into an abbreviated alphanumeric value) techniques to translate all the words and links returned by Web crawlers into an efficient and fast database that is capable of returning a page of hits in fractions of a second.
Minimalism defines Google's search front end.
Web crawlers are capable of producing incredible volumes of data in a very short period. According to our Google industry source, "A lot of Web sites, we can index in a second or less." But this collection of incomprehensible gobbledygook isn't searchable until it's paired with an index, which singles out words so that when you perform your search, any page that contains words that match your query has the possibility of showing up in your results list. But your Web search doesn't stop there.
The Secret Search Sauce
Every search engine has its own bag of tricks for ranking search results and displaying them in order of relevance. The specifics of these ranking techniques are closely guarded trade secrets, and to give you an idea how important ranking is, Google tells us that there are more engineers working on search than on any other product at Google, adding, "Relevancy is really the core job of many, many engineers here." But it's not all I-could-tell-you-but-I'd-have-to-kill-you kind of stuff. Google's PageRank is a fairly well-known relevancy algorithm which helps rank pages based on how many links there are to a Web page from other pages and the linking Web site's quality (based on things such as the site's reliability and the amount of time the site has been on the Web). In this way, PageRank looks at the Web like it's a popularity contest, and when a popular site mentions another site, it carries a lot of weight with the PageRank algorithm. It's all about the Web sites you know.
Bing's search interface is a bit more colorful, but no-nonsense nonetheless.
Another type of algorithm takes note of where in the Web page a given word is found.
Most algorithms weigh any words found in the title, subtitles, metatags (typically the Web designer or Web page owner's details about the contents of the page), and other descriptive locations more heavily. Sometimes an algorithm purposefully omits words from an index, such as "a," "an," and "the". Capitalization and font size are other common factors that can affect how much weight a word might get in an index.
These algorithms are the hearts and souls of a search engine, and the better they are at determining what can be found on a given Web page, the better a user's search results will be. But showing a simple collection of links is not all a modern search engine is capable of doing.
Making The Most Of Your Results
While Microsoft, Yahoo!, and Google are not willing to reveal the nuts and bolts of their ranking techniques, Google was a lot more forthcoming about how it arrives at some of the more transparent results you encounter. For instance, when you type weather into your search engine-of-choice and press ENTER, you'll typically see the weather for your area. At Google, they call this a Universal Search Result. Context plays a large role in the results of your search. For instance, where you are, what the date is, what is going on around the world, and what is going on in your neck of the woods all affect your results. In this way, a search you perform today will likely return different results than if you make the same search two weeks from now. For instance, if you typed the term Olympics into a search engine in early February, you were likely to get Vancouver hotel booking information and broadcast schedules for the recent Winter Games. The same search today returns links for obtaining tickets to the 2012 Olympics in London and the results of the 2010 Games in Vancouver. And search providers are constantly refining their relevancy formula and evolving the search engine to help you find exactly what you're looking for.
Search is an evolving organism. A senior software engineer who works on Web search quality at Google tells us that "at any given time, we're running between 50 and 200 search experiments, meaning that we're trying out a tweak to the ranking algorithm or to the appearance of the results, and we're testing the data to see if users are clicking in ways that suggest to us that it is an improvement." In essence, there are between 50 and 200 versions of Google Search at any given moment; some differ in only minor ways, such as displaying a keyword in bold, indenting a line of text, or changing the ranking of a certain category of queries. Other changes are more dramatic, such as changing the index so that the search engine can return results for queries typed as full sentences. In 2009 alone, Google launched 550 different improvements to its search engine.
Google acknowledges that some searches are easier than others. For instance, if you search for Survivor a few minutes after the television broadcast ends, you should be able to find out who got kicked off the island in short order. The searches that are more difficult to produce relevant results on, the ones that keep Google's engineers up late at night, are the completely unique ones. According to Google, the firm's search engine gets more than one billion searches every day. Of those searches, 20% of them haven't been searched for in the previous 90 days. To a search engine, that's the equivalent of an alien language. And trying to anticipate those sorts of queries is the equivalent of trying to learn to speak that language before you've heard syllable one. "That introduces some interesting challenges, because if you don't know what people are going to be searching for tomorrow, you have to kinda guess. It's something we spend a lot of time trying to figure out."
[Source: Jack's Computer Tips]
Daves Computer Tips
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