Free Software

Along the lines of my free games list post, I ran across another list of free windows software broken down into categories. This is a pretty extensive list covering just about everything you need your computer to do. Who knows the quality on some of this stuff though… I guess you get what you pay for.

Free Windows Software


googleWho would win in a Google battle between God and Satan? How about the pen vs. the sword? (turns out that the pen really is mightier) This site pits opponents against each other based on their rating in Google.

Photoshop World

Photoshop WorldSince I’m at Photoshop World in Las Vegas this week, I figured that I should post something Photoshop related. They showed us a cool new feature that is going to be in the next version of Photoshop in our opening keynote. I’m going to try and describe it as best I can, but it might be difficult without some sort of visual… but I’m going to try.

The new tool is a perspective tool. If you’ve got a photo of a something going off into the distance, the example they used was a hallway/art gallery. There was a wood floor, but they wanted to use the clone tool to remove something from the floor. Unfortunately, the perspective of the floor moving into the distance (wider boards to smaller boards) made it difficult to clone something from the clean portion of the floor (smaller and farther back) to the dirty part of the floor (larger and closer). This new perspective tool (or whatever it ends up being called) allows you to place a perspective grid on the floor, wall, or whatever you’re working on. Once this is set anything you do in that area will happen at the right size based on the perspective grid.

A really cool example they used in their art gallery demo was a painting on the wall in front was copied and moved around the corner to an area where they had the grid and it automatically changed the shape of the layer to take the correct perspective of whatever area you were placing it into. It was pretty cool!

They didn’t give any indication of when this would be out or even if it would be in the next version of Photoshop… definitely something to look forward to.

I found out a little more about this new feature. It is actually called “Vanishing Point.” I’m not sure if it will be called that in the final version or not. One of the workshop instructors was the same guy who did the demo of vanishing point in the opening keynote presentation. The class, as a group, was able to talk him into doing a more in depth demo of the new feature. I was able to snap a (LOW res) camera phone picture of the demo. I enhanced it a little bit since some of the features are hard to see in the photo. I outlined the perspective grid in green. Once you lay out the first perspective grid, you can pull the edges up to cover more areas of the photo. In this demo photo, the instructor created the grid on the floor, but dropping in the four corner points and doing some small (drag and drop) adjustments and then was able to drag the grid up on the back and side walls keeping the same perspective. Once the grid is set, you can copy and paste, or use the clone tool in the gridded areas and everything you clone or move will automatically take the correct perspective of the area you place it in. If this doesn’t make any sense… take my word for it, it’s really cool!

vanishing point

I also learned that the new version of Photoshop will be announced “soon.” The instructors, ones who were either writing a book about it, or worked for Adobe, let a few things slip. Your guess to what “soon” means is as good as mine.

Google Releases Updated Ver. 1.0 Desktop Search

Google DesktopGoogle has released an updated version of their Desktop Search that I mentioned in an earlier post. The new version adds quite a few new items to the search results. There is also a new plug-in’s area to expand the searches even further. The new searchable items include:

  • Netscape Mail / Thunderbird
  • Netscape / Firefox / Mozilla
  • PDF
  • Music
  • Images
  • Video

I’ve had pretty good luck with the desktop search. It definitely works WAY better than the integrated Outlook search when I’m trying to find an old e-mail message.

I’m Done Feeding the Cable Pig!

This afternoon I made a call that I have been waiting a long time to make. I called the Mediacom 800 number and said, “cancel all my services!” It felt so good! Then after work today I stopped by the Mediacom offices and returned my cable modem. I did a little dance as I walked out… finally rid of Mediacom! No more poor service. No more constantly increasing rates (Funny thing is, I just got a letter today saying they’re raising rates again!). You’re probably now thinking to yourself, “Scott, you’re crazy… what are you going to do for TV and high speed internet?!?” Well, I’ll tell you. I just got South Slope IPTV.

My phone company in North Liberty is South Slope Communication Coop., which is part of Iowa Network Services, a coalition of rural phone companies in Iowa amino frontthat have combined their powers to do things that some of the larger phone companies aren’t able to do (or at least aren’t able to do quickly). Right around the first of the year, South Slope started offering television services in addition to their phone service (which I already had) and DSL internet services. I played with the numbers and for about $12 more per month I could get more than seven times the number of channels I currently have (not to mention superior service). I jumped at the chance and signed right up to switch my internet over from Mediacom cable to their DSL and my TV to the their new IPTV system. Last night the the tech guys from South Slope came and got me hooked up.

The new TV services isn’t really cable or digital cable since it doesn’t come into my residence via coax. It’s probably closer to digital cable than it is to anything. The new videoamino back service is IPTV (no, not the place I used to work) Internet Protocol Television. It’s a new way to deliver video services that is slowly catching on as more phone companies are getting faster lines and jumping into video delivery. The video is delivered via the phone line instead of coax cable. The phone line connects to a box (with little blinky lights on it) similar to a DSL modem, and from there it sends the signal via an ethernet cable to the cable box which is hooked to the TV. The cable boxes (I should probably say IPTV boxes) are made by a company called Amino. I got the AmiNET 110 which is just a simple cable (IPTV) box. This company also offers a pretty sleep DVR system as well, the AmiNET500. Unfortunately South Slope doesn’t support this yet. They told me they’re looking into it. So now I have somewhere near 155 channels plus music channels and video on demand movies. So many channels I don’t know what to watch… not that I really watch that much TV anyway. It just overwhelming compared to the approximately 21 channels I had with Mediacom basic service before (that includes 3 shopping channels and 2 CSpan channels – so it’s more like 15 channels total!). I had a few issues getting my ReplayTV working, but eventually got it configured. So far the TV has been working well, and the internet has been flying… and best of all, it’s not Mediacom!!!

Apple Releases New iPods

appleApple today released a small bump in the iPod line with capacity price, and color updates for the iPod Mini and the iPod Photo. They also bumped up the battery life on the Mini to 18hrs while removing the gold colored player (it must not have been a very good seller).

The new updates look like this:

    iPod Miniipod mini

  • New 6GB Model. $249
  • 4GB Model. $199
  • Up to 18hrs Battery Life
  • 3 New Colors (brighter?)
    iPod Photo

  • 30GB. $349
  • 60GB. $449

The 20GB and 40GB iPods ($299 and $399) haven’t changed. I also read in this c|net report that Apple has plans to release a $29 adapter that allows one to move digital photos directly from a camera to the iPod Photo. So it looks like you can get 4x’s the capacity of the new iPod Shuffle plus a screen for just $50 more… it’s tempting! has old Content

garageband.comDoes anyone remember the old Not the current version of the site that was bought out by c|net… which is nothing like the original. was started by Michael Robertson in 1997 as a portal for the growing mp3 format. It became a very popular site showcasing new and unknown artists. All of the content on the original was provided by individual artists. In November of 2003 c|net purchased and changed it from a network of independent artists’ music to a directory of music. Much of the old content from the original is still available at a site called Garageband has the old archive of content (those they were able to get permission from the original artists to host) and provides the same music hosting service for independent artists to host their music. It’s nice that a partial legacy of the old still lives on, but nothing really touching the glory days that the original celebrated during the dot com boom.

Some articles on the history of – We Made History
Michael Robertson and MP3

New Mac Stuff in Person

apple logoI’m a little late getting this posted, but I was able to see one of the new Mac Minis in person last weekend at Apple store in the Jordan Creek Mall in Des Moines. Like most Apple products, the pictures online just don’t do them justice. The mini was just that… mini. It is seriously about the size of an external hard drive and fits right in your hand (not that you’d really ever need to hold onto a desktop computer) It was a little shinier on top that how it looks in the pictures. I thought it would be closer to the iMac matte white, but it’ a little shinier than that (not a complaint just an observation). It is still one tiny little computer.

I was also able to take a look at one of the new iPod shuffles in person. They are also much smaller than I expected. It is seriously about the size of a standard usb pen drive with a little track control button on it. I think it’s a good idea for Apple to make a less expensive iPod, and I’m sure they’ll do very well with them, but I don’t think I’d buy one. It really is the lack of a screen that kills it for me. I would just like to know what’s playing and where I’m navigating. Otherwise this is a slick little mp3 player.

mac mini

RSS Primer/Demo

In putting together an RSS presentation and threw together a bunch of resources that I thought might also be relevant here.

What is RSS?
Rich Site Summary
Really Simple Syndication
RDF Site Summary
rss buttons

RSS is an XML format used for syndicating regularly updated web content (headlines, news, blog posts, etc.).

Resources defining RSS:
Intro to RSS for Educational Designers

How Do I Read RSS Feeds?

The RSS feeds themselves aren’t meant to be read by humans. Programs called aggregators (both software and web-based) can decipher the XML code into something that is easy to read and easy to manage. Aggregators can hold and display multiple feeds making it easy to check out the content from your favorite sites without actually having to visit every single site by itself. The aggregator automatically checks the RSS feeds that you are subscribed to and tells you when there has been new content posted. So, those 15 sites that you check every day used to take 15 or more separate clicks now only takes 1 click (plus, you don’t have to put up with all of the pop-up ads, annoying colors, tiny font faces etc. that you would by visiting the site).

Popular Aggregators:
Collection of popular aggregators
Most used aggregators

Bloglines (web-based aggregator)

Feedreader (free/open source PC aggregator)
NetNewsWire (Mac OS X – $39)
Firefox (livebookmarks included w/free browser download)
Sage (free plug-in for Firefox browser)
Pluck (free IE and Firefox plug-in)
Lektora (free IE and Firefox plug-in)
SharpReader (free PC aggregator)
NewsGator (both web-based and MS Outlook plug-in $29)
FeedDemon ($29.95)

Where do I find Feeds?
RSS feeds are becoming more and more popular as more people start to use them. There are several sites that catalog RSS feeds based on subject.

Bloglines also includes a large list of feeds to subscribe to.

How Do I Add an RSS Feed For My Content?

Many blogging tools have RSS feeds built into them. A free, easy-to-use blogging tool is Blogger. Otherwise these articles will get you started adding a feed to your existing content.



Orisinal : Morning Sunshine is a great collection of flash games. This site has been around for quite some time. I think I ran across it for the first time about 3 years ago, and just recently ran across it again. The games on this site aren’t your typical flash shoot-em-up games that are found all over the internet. These games are very elegantly done and the content and game-play are very original. I find myself drawn to each one, not just for the unique play, but even just to hear the game’s original soundtracks (which are also great). Ferry Halim , the author of Orisinal, has done some great things with flash and really pushed the medium.


Flickr Graph

flickrgraphPeople just keep thinking of cool things to do with Flickr. Marcos Weskamp has taken the Flickr API and put together a cool social networking graph thingy. (great description huh?). What it does is allow you to see the relationship between Flickr contacts. Enter your Flickr e-mail address and it you’ll see a sort of flow-chart showing of your Flickr account and all of your contacts linked from it. If you click one of the contacts, it will then expand showing all of your contact’s contacts etc. etc. Give it a try… it’s pretty interesting to follow your Flickr lineage.