Archive for the ‘Misc.’ category

Buy My Domain Name!!

July 20th, 2008

For some reason I forgot that I still own the Wii4Free domain name (www.wii4free.co.uk). I haven’t used it basically since I baught it! If anyone want’s to buy it from me – just the domain name – then leave a comment or drop us an email at sunnyboy01235[at]gmail.com.

Cheers!

Just Because…

January 16th, 2007

Just Because

Don’t know why I did this. No need to comment on the atrocity!

Windows Live OneCare

November 17th, 2006

Microsoft Windows Live OneCareI have to be honest, when I finally uninstalled this program, a lot of stress went away and my experience with my computer returned to a friendly relationship. I’ve been using and testing Windows Live OneCare Beta 1.5 for about three weeks now and it hasn’t been the best experience I’ve had with software of its type. OneCare is Microsoft‘s answer to an anti-virus and firewall program in one and if this beta is something to go by, a lot of users are going to be annoyed at the software after a week of installing it. Though, it’s not been a totally negative experience…

OneCare Overview

Windows Live OneCare, or Windows OneCare Live as it used to be known, is an all round computer security service for Microsoft XP and their newest operating system, Vista. It includes anti-virus, firewall, backup and malware/spyware protection utilities for the user in one simple to use program. The interface is minimal and provides the user with only the most important data when the program is opened. When not in use, the program sits quietly in the user’s taskbar and the icon changes colour depending on the status of the computer: green for good, orange for some action needed and red for a major problem.

The firewall provided in OneCare is different to that provided in Windows XP in that it is a two-way protection system – it blocks both incoming and outgoing traffic unlike the XP included firewall which only blocks incoming traffic. This provides protection from trojans and viruses that may wish to send data from your computer. Also included in the anti-virus protection. This is just your general anti-virus protection, provided by regularly updated definition files downloaded to your computer. The spyware/malware protection is provided by Windows Defender, another Microsoft product that specifically protects users against spyware and malware (the program that defines Messenger Plus! as a threat). OneCare also provides hard drive clean-up and defragmentation utilities that the user can utilise if he or she wishes to. Finally, it also provides a backup feature – something lacking in Windows XP Home Edition – that would compliment Home, Pro and Vista very well. It allows you to backup to a number of different storage formats including external hard drives, DVDs and CDs. It allows you to backup all or some parts at your whim and also allows you to backup networked computers which are also running Windows Live OneCare – a handy feature for a large network.

First Impressions of OneCare

I downloaded Windows Live OneCare Beta 1.5 because I was looking around for a solution to the small amount of anti-virus and firewall programs for the installation of Vista that I have. I decided to test it on XP as well as Vista to see what all the fuss was about. The installation was relatively painless – for a Microsoft product – and as usual I restarted and logged back on. The first thing I noticed was the time it took for it to settle after logging on. That time was significantly bigger than my previous setup. I stayed with it though. I opened up the program and the splash screen presented itself and then the main interface appeared. It was pretty simplistic.

I went through all the options available to me and was surprised that there wasn’t much I could do. I had the options to change a few settings like when to schedule scans, tune-ups and backups but I didn’t have as much control of what it did. At this point, I also noticed that I couldn’t turn OneCare off when I wanted to. This was a major problem for me as my previous firewall program allowed itself to be paused at my will – something that came in handy during LANs and other times. It stayed on all the time and I started to stare at the icon in the taskbar as if it were my captor. Another option that I seemed to have no control over was the fact it insisted, nay, demanded that I complete a tune-up at least once every month. The icon has remained orange for about one and a half weeks due to the fact I resisted doing another tune-up. I got annoyed, angry even, with OneCare and that is not a good sign.

OneCare on the bench?

OneCare for me was an experience that I don’t want to repeat – OneCare gave me more hassle than a virus or trojan would ever have and it was not worth it. You see what I go through reviewing software for you! Although it does provide some handy features, the way they are implemented is very clumsy in my opinion. Instead of just hiding the more advanced options, they’ve not included them at all and allow Windows Live OneCare to take control of your computer. I don’t like anyone, or anything, else having control of my computer. I suppose as this is coming from a more advanced user, it could be seen as OneCare is taking over but to a less advanced user OneCare is seen to be taking care of the computer, making the user have less to worry about.

But, since I installed OneCare, I noted my computer was slower (slower than it is usually) and I’m an impatient user – if you’ve seen me use the school’s computers, you’ve seen me become speedily annoyed with the dismal speeds they they reach. Also, things started to happen on my computer. Links started to appear in ‘My Network Places’ every now and again and also since installing OneCare, my internet connection seemed to die every once in a while and the only way I could regain connectivity was to renew the DHCP atleast 3 times – something that before the install and since the uninstall hasn’t happened.

Final Thoughts

My final thoughts are pretty simple: don’t use or download Windows Live OneCare. Besides the fact it costs $50 (£27) a year to use the service after the 90-day trial, it’s slow, not as effective as it should be and also hinders network connectivity as well as linking with other computers on the internet. The services it offers are not new and there’s nothing unique about the product other than they’re all provided in one piece of software. You can, and I have, obtain the same protection and the same utilities for free (or at least for a lower price). Although this means installing separate programs for each service, for me it means a faster system and more money in my pocket. My recommendation would be, as my current setup is, AVG Free 7.5 for your anti-virus solution and Sunbelt Kerio Personal Firewall for your firewall solution. There’s also a spyware solution in the form of Windows Defender (free), AVG Anti-Spyware Free 7.1 or Ad-Aware SE Personal. OneCare is really for the most inexperienced user that doesn’t want to play around with settings and just want something that works out of the box and who doesn’t want to touch any settings – at the cost of system functionality.

Microsoft Live Labs Photosynth

November 10th, 2006

Microsoft Live Labs PhotosynthWhen it was announced in July 2006, I was particularly interested in Microsoft Live Labs Photosynth because of the multiple possibilities of the concept. Since the first screenshots were shown in the same month, the Photosynth crew has been working like mad and today they released a technology preview of the software. My first impression? Amazing. Photosynth takes a collection of photos and arranges them into a three-dimensional model on screen and in real time. The results are amazing and I cannot believe this is not even in beta phase! Read on for a full review.

Photosynth gives you wings

As I’ve said, Photosynth takes a collection of photos and arranges them into a three-dimensional model of whatever they show. You can then walk and fly around the model, viewing selected photos from each area of the model. The model allows you to see where photos were taken in relation to where other photos were taken. Even you may not remember where you’ve taken each photo from but the algorithm behind Photosynth can work out where Microsoft Live Labs Photosynth Screenshoteach photo was taken, and what it is of, just by looking at other photographs in the collection – rather clever.

You’ll notice that as a collection is analysed, a bunch of dots start to appear. In a matter of a few seconds you start to recognise features such as buildings, columns, doors and spires. The software analyses each photo and picks out distinctive features like the edges of windows and the edge of buildings and creates a three-dimensional model out of the dots. By comparing photos, Photosynth can also calculate the distance between objects and Microsoft Live Labs Photosynth Screenshotso create a 3-D view. It’s amazing stuff and it really does work. By flying around the model, you can make out buildings, roofs and even roads just by zooming in and out of the matrix of coloured dots.

Controlling the Seadragon

Photosynth works by incorporating the technology of Seadragon, which Microsoft acquired in February 2006, which means that scrolling, zooming and any other transitions and transformations are extremely smooth and fast. The user interface is rather nice and the ‘leaf buttons’ in the top right of the screen is very easy to use and understand. Microsoft Live Labs Photosynth ScreenshotThis technology preview provides 3 areas of user interaction: the ‘leaf buttons’, the 4 movements arrows to the sides, top and bottom and the photo viewer at the bottom of the screen. The ‘leaf buttons’ are understandable by the icons on them. The letter icon allows you to e-mail a particular view to a friends – or even a whole collection of photos – via e-mail, the camera icon lets you see where each picture was taken from in the model, the group icon lets you find pictures that are like the one you’re currently viewing, the orbit icon allows you to ‘swing’ around the model as if you were flying, there’s the obligatory zoom in and zoom out buttons and the home icon lets you view the photo that most incorporates the whole model.
Microsoft Live Labs Photosynth Screenshot
Those are the 7 very simple, very intuitive controls that would probably be most used. The bottom of the screen offers the user a chance to browse photos that are near the current photo they’re viewing. Every time you view a different photo on the model, the horizontal bar shuffles itself to show the current photo’s thumbnail and also the thumbnails of any photos near it. The movements are very smooth and the bar also gives you the option to zoom in on the current photo if there’s a better quality photo of an area within it.

Uses of Photosynth

Photosynth has a world of possible uses ahead of it. On the official site, they say uses could include the obvious revolution in how we view our photos for example. Another use they hope to reach would be to utilise the part of the software that looks for like images in another way. Say you found a picture on the internet of somewhere but didn’t know what the place was called – all you’d do was take a picture of it with a phone or a screenshot and use the software to look for the image and any information provided with it. Microsoft Live Labs Photosynth ScreenshotIt’s all very exciting and interesting.

Another use, and one potentially more profitable for Microsoft, would be aiming the software at gaming companies. This software can create an almost complete three-dimensional model from a bunch of pictures – this is much quicker than creating one from scratch and is also much more realistic as it’s literally based on real dimensions and a real environment. With the rise of high definition televisions, games and the demand for more and more realistically graphic games, this software could become invaluable. If adapted correctly, there could be a huge demand from the games industry.Microsoft Live Labs Photosynth Screenshot

My final thoughts

There are multiple, practical uses of this software even at it’s current stage of development. If the developers behind it see their dream come true, we will change the way we look at our photos. Personally, I don’t think it will make a huge impact but it’s certainly an innovative way of browsing your photos at a particular destination. I like the user interface and smooth controls that the software employs as the transitions are very natural and I encountered no lag what so ever when using it.

I do have some beef though in that Photosynth has been built as an ActiveX control rather than a standalone piece of software. This alienates a lot of people from using the software. Although you really expect Microsoft to use their own proprietary formats, screenshots had suggested that it was going to be an installable piece of software. Overall, I like it a lot and can’t wait until another release is announced where we can provide our own photo collections to be analysed. The preview shows the immense power of the software and would be a great companion to the Windows Vista operating system as well. Go and have a look (Internet Explorer 6 and 7 only at the moment) and try it out. Leave a comment if you would.

Update: I’ve been informed by a developer that they’re going to provide some logos people can use and some cool desktop backgrounds on their site later today. Thanks David Geyde!