Tag Archives: Software

Prey–incredible free computer tracking software

For many months now I’ve been looking for some good value tracking software to install on my netbook and (potentially) my portable devices. As much as I hope my netbook never gets stolen – you can never be sure what might happen and it’s better to be prepared.

It was only today that I’ve finally found the answer. It’s called Prey. It’s an open-source piece of kit that runs on Windows, Mac and Linux.

Once you’ve downloaded and installed it, that’s the last you’ll see of it. Make sure when you install it to select the option not to install start menu shorcuts as it will make the software harder to find by an thief.

From here onwards, all of your settings for the program will be managed online. Log onto your account at the program’s website, and you’ll be presented with a handful of useful properties.

For example, you can get the program to take logs of any wi-fi networks it’s connected to, together with pictures from any connected webcam and screenshots of your display. These are then summarised in reports that are emailed direct to your inbox for your viewing pleasure. Believe me – you’ll be astonished at what it’ll pick up.

I happen to think this is an essential for anybody with a laptop that they care about – the software is totally FREE and could help you (and the police) in what would otherwise be a relatively hopeless situation. The program won’t hamper your computer’s performance at all (using just 5MB of RAM in Windows) and you’ll forget you’ve even installed it.

Internet Explorer 9 goes live – nothing that much new…

Internet Explorer 9 went live in the early hours of today after a year of development. You can grab the new version from http://www.microsoft.com/ie9.

After a relatively quick installation, you are presented with the new interface (see below).

Google - Windows Internet Explorer

There are several issues with IE9 that I haven’t really liked since the Platform Preview. For example, I’m really not sure why Microsoft bothered to make it so that tabs appear on the same row as the web address. On a low resolution display such as a netbook, this becomes extremely frustrating when you can’t see the titles of your open tabs. This can be fixed by right clicking on the title bar and selecting ‘Show tabs on a separate row’ but I’d rather it did this by default.

On the plus side, launch time definitely seems to have improved and seems to be relatively comparable to Google Chrome.

Doing an acid3 test on IE9 will give you a result of 93/100, which isn’t perfect – but isn’t awful. The latest version of Chrome will give an acid3 result of 100/100.

Whilst it still is no comparison to Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox (and probably won’t ever be), it has to be said that there have been several improvements. Sadly, Internet Explorer’s rendering system has always been a let-down to me as it just isn’t half as good as Webkit or Gecko.

Microsoft Dreamspark – free Microsoft software for students

I can’t believe I’ve only just stumbled across this, but Microsoft are now offering a whole bundle of professional software to students for free.

They call it Microsoft Dreamspark, and it’s a website ran by the company. If you’re in post-16 or university education, you can get a hefty chunk of their professional software for free. Being a student myself, this is very handy.

Amongst other things, you can get Microsoft Visual Basic 2010 Pro, Microsoft Expression Studio 4 Ultimate and Windows Server 2008 for free until you finish university.

All you have to do is prove your education. This is relatively easy – if you have an ISIS card, an .edu (or .ac.uk) email address you can activate within a few minutes. If not, you can go through the process of applying for activation from your college or uni. You have to re-activate every year to get continued use of your software, but it’s well worth it.

It’s available in multiple countries, so don’t hesitate to check if you aren’t in the US or UK.

If you are a student computer enthusiast or programmer, head over to www.dreamspark.com and claim your free software!

Google Chrome 6 brings cleaner interface and minor new features

Google Chrome was recently updated to it’s latest version – version 6.0. The new version includes a few minor updates.

The interface has been cleaned up a little since 5.0, with the main navigation controls looking slightly more seamless. In addition, the address bar no longer shows the “http://” part of the URL. At first I thought this would be annoying, but there are exceptions to this rule which make it more practical.

  • If you copy and paste a link from the address bar, Chrome automatically replaces the “http://” in the URL. This avoids any problems with using URLs in social networks or placing them in IM conversations.
  • If you go to a secure site, Chrome replaces the “https://” in the URL. This avoids any user confusion when purchasing products online.

With exception to those minor new features, there isn’t much to know. There is a new form feature which allows you to save personal details into the browser, so that you can sign up and pay for products with ease.

In addition, Google claims that there are javascript improvements with the new version together with extension sync (similar to bookmark sync but for extensions).

It is also worth noting that Chrome is now 2 years old. Happy Birthday Chrome. It was actually launched on September 2nd, 2008. I can remember trying the first Chrome beta and immediately switching from Firefox.  I haven’t gone back since!

You can grab the version by going to google.com/chrome or heading to “About Google Chrome” from within the browser.

Reduce your idle PC power usage with PecoBoo

How many times have you been on your computer and then had the phone ring? You go out of the room to answer it, and when you come back you’ve left the computer and monitor on pointlessly for half an hour.

PecoBoo, developed by VeryPC, is an attempt to try and solve that problem. It utilises your webcam and uses face recognition to work out whether you are sitting at your computer. If it can’t find a person for a predetermined amount of time, it will automatically turn off your monitor. However the webcam and software stays on – so as soon as it notices that you have got back to your PC, it switches your monitor back on.

I downloaded the 30 day trial and gave the software a spin. I’m relatively impressed – it takes a bit of fiddling to stop it turning off your monitor when you are still at the system. I found that if you set the idle time to less than about 20 seconds you end up switching your monitor off if you hold your head still – and if you turn your monitor on and off too much you’ll not only end up using more energy than just using it normally, but you’ll also considerably shorten it’s life. It’s also extremely irritating!

Nevertheless, the software did a good job and I do think the face recognition technique is very clever.

To be honest though, the fact that it isn’t free puts me off. To earn back the £9.99 I’d spent in buying the software from turning my monitor off, I’d have to use it for months – which defeats the point a bit. It also poses the question of how much energy does your webcam use if you’re having that on whenever your PC is on.

Overall, if you’re a green geek – buy it and it will save valuable energy utilising extended breaks from the PC. However, for the average user, this will be of little interest.