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Archive for October, 2006

Zonealarm: Free Firewall

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

12311223.jpgIt’s pretty essential that every computer that’s connected to the internet has a firewall to protect it from hackers. Without this, it’s like having a house with all the doors and windows open.

“But why would anyone want to hack me?” i hear you say. Well these days hackers use tools that can scan hundreds of IP-addresses, just looking for the unprotected computers.The built in windows firewall, while being better than nothing, only offers one way protection. Malicious programs such as trojans or adware can still “call home”. and i’m pretty sure you don’t want them sending back your personal details or credit card number!

Zonealarm is a very well known firewall thats been around for many years now. While the paid versions include such extras as antivirus,antispyware and more, all necessary things these days, they still offer a free version of their basic firewall.

It’s pretty easy to have decent computer security on a low budget or even on no budget at all! In that case I recommend a free firewall such as this one, along with good free antispyware and antivirus programs that have a proven record in doing their job well (Some of which are mentioned in my previous reviews).

Go here to download zonealarm or to find out about what the paid versions offer.

Trillian: All in one chat client

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

123141231231.jpgWouldn’t it be great if you could have just one program for talking to all your Yahoo! Messenger, MSN Messenger, AOL messenger and/or ICQ buddies with? Time to check out trillian!

Trillian allows all this, in a skinnable client that can be customized to be pretty cool (if you’re into that kinda thing). There’s some skins available from here and most skinning sites. If you wanna get a little more technical, you can even change things such as which emoticons to use (I have mine set up to use the default emotion sets of each. So that i see them just as if i was using the official messenger client, msn, yahoo, etc). It also supports plug-ins for various functions. Oh yeah, you’ll also never have to see those annoying little ads the official chat clients sometimes have running in them.

Its available in both free and pro versions, there’s not a lot of difference really except for video chat in pro and some advance features that you’ll rarely use.

It can be a bit confusing at first but you soon get used to it after a while. Its slightly more suitable for advanced users who like to customize their computers as much as possible and have everything matching their themes or color schemes. But for anyone who runs multiple chat clients and wants something a little slicker than the official ones (and all in one program) it’s still worth checking out.

Check out www.ceruleanstudios.com for more info.

Windows Media Player 11: WinAmp have to go?

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

It’s finally happened – new Windows Media Player (11/ full version) is now available. So you just have to check it out. Yes, I know that lots of people nearly hates (well, at least dislikes) this media player but maybe this version will make them change their minds. I have to confess – I always was a WinAmp fan.

First of all I have to say that I hadn’t used this one for a long time – I’ve just downloaded it about an hour ago, but already can say a few things on the topic. Well, first of all (and for me – most important) this realize seems to take less memory. Previous Windows Media Player was ve-e-ery slow, so my system had some ‘heart attacks’ – it slowly opened main window, and when I was using visualization, well, you really don’t want to know what was happening with my poor PC. New realize works smoothly and to my mind a little bit quicker.

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So, what else? New version can logically organize all types of media, create playlists in an easy way, search, renaming tracks and much-much more new (you’ll say nothing really new, well, you’re right, but now everything is packed in a neat good-looking ‘box’). Maybe I’m too excited about this one but what the hell, that’s just a first impression:)

So my point is – give the new Windows Media Player a shot and see if you like it. If you already had some fun using it or you’ve noticed some problems with it just share with everyone – leave a comment. (more…)

Ffdshow: On with the show!

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

22333221121222.jpgAt some stage, you’ve probably tried to view a video file and it hasn’t worked properly. Maybe you get sound and no picture, or maybe just nothing at all. One way to fix this is to download a codec pack, containing many different codecs for playing back the various video file formats.This can lead to more problems as there are are so many different codecs for different video formats and it can lead to things getting very messy on your computer with incompatibilities, codecs conflicting with each other, etc.

Sometimes even then, the file type you were trying to view still won’t work anyway! Wouldn’t it be great if there was a better way? Enter Ffdshow! Ffdshow is designed to work as an all in one “multi purpose codec”.

It’s a DirectShow decoding filter for decompressing all the main video file formats including DivX, XviD, WMV, MPEG-1, and MPEG-2 and AVI movies (Translation for non-computer nerds: It makes your video files play properly). So simply put, if you are having trouble playing a video file, you should download and install this and then everything should play just fine!

If you don’t believe me, a quick search online will show a lot of people singing the praises of Ffdshow, (but if it still does work, don’t shoot the messenger! In that case i recommend you uninstall any codec packs you may have tried and then try this again). Get the free download of the latest version by going here.

The Hollywood Murders: Solve your own Black Dahlia case

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

123141231.jpgThe Hollywood Murders reminds me of those old text adventures like Zork, where you interfaced with the game through pure imagination and commands. However, the Hollywood Murders does have a visual aspect to it. For example, if you pick up your gun, you see a picture of a gun. When you turn on your radio, you see a radio.  Even though the pictures look like simple Clip-Art photos taken from who-knows-where, it is enough to immerse you in the game itself.

The plot of Hollywood Murders is very similar to the movie Black Dahlia, which was a moderate hit in theaters.  In this game, you play Jim Novak, a private investigator based in Los Angeles who is investigating a murder.  It looks like you follow the typical “hard-boiled” detective genre conventions: The seedy office, the cute secretary out front, and, of course, the gun.  In other words, you’re Sam Spade. 

Gameplay is the typical of the text adventures with the “north-south-east-west” commands and the like. Of course, you have the items that you carry around that will eventually come to good use later, etc.  In other words, all the role-playing elements are here.  As usual, all the strategies apply, the looking at everything, the feeling of helplessness, until finally the “a-ha” moment occurs and you solve a puzzle, generally leading to even more puzzles.  (more…)

Real Alternative: The real alternative to Realplayer

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

234523422.jpgReal Alternative will allow you to play RealMedia and other multimedia files without having to install RealPlayer or RealOne Player (or whatever its called this week!) from Real Networks. The offical real networks player has taken a bad rap in recent years for its in-player advertising methods. A quick search online will show that it has more than just a little bad press when it comes to that.

So if you wanna avoid all that, but still be sure your computer can play real networks content and certain audio or video files, its well worth checking this out instead of the official one. It seems to do the exact same job, minus the unwanted features (or in many peoples opinions, more like “adware” disguised as features). From my experience of using this, it seems to get the job done. It plays the required audio or video,including embedded content, painlessly and unobtrusively.

As an added bonus, it comes with Media Player Classic, a lightweight alternative to Windows Media player, that can play just about anything you throw at it!

You can grab it for free here

Star Wars: The Battle For Endor

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

657565.jpgThose of you who were fans of the Star Wars X-Wing Fighter game of the early nineties now have the opportunity to play a version of it for free.  I don’t know if the final battle of Return of the Jedi was ever in the original X-wing game, but you get the chance to play an X-wing fighter pilot with this game. 

Like all Star Wars games, this starts with the traditional scrolling effect.  In then has the great scene where all the fighters, led by Lando in the Millenium Falcon, come flying in.  After leading off the squads, it seems like forever until the game finally begins. 

Once it does, it is a little confusing.  The steering controls are done with the mouse, and you can easily be blown off-course.  Like Yoda says: “Control!  You must learn control!”.  After that, it can be hard to find TIE fighters to shoot down.  However, if you keep heading toward a Star Destroyer, TIE fighters will swarm around you.  Getting them in your crosshairs is difficult, but they usally go down with one hit.  When they do, they tend to spin around like that one fighter did in Empire Strikes Back.  You also have the option of using torpedos to hit your targets.

All in all, I would say the game is a lot of fun.  I’m not certain how far you can go, though.  I mean, can you go into the heart of the Death Star itself?  That would be cool.  I always liked the shot in Jedi when the whole thing falls down, and Lando’s ship barely makes it out.  Even if it doesn’t, I hope there isn’t any Ewoks.

You can get the game here

Diver Down: Misnamed and Odd

Monday, October 30th, 2006

67767565445.jpgDiver Down is an interesting little game that’s kind of a mix of Gauntlet and old-school adventure games.  I’m not really certain why it is called that, because scuba diving doesn’t look involved in any way shape or form.

Diver Down takes place on some mythical continent that I honestly forget the name of.  The beginning has more backstory than the opening sequence of the first Lord of The Rings movie, but is so detailed and uninteresting that it draws you out of the game instead of in.  I think there’s like three separate factions in the souther continent, or island, or something. 

Your main character, who the computer seems to call “Drek” awakes in a dungeon.  This character is a either a partial amnesiac, or total spacecase.  He is covered in blood, and yet somehow has armor on.  For some reason, it never occurs to him to take it off and find the nearest mirror.  Your character meets a guard, who seem to know who you really are.  He, of course, dies before he can give any more information, just like the bad guys on 24.  

The game controls are the simple arrow keys, but I couldn’t get anything past that.  There doesn’t seem to be any in-game instructions, and I’m too lazy to read the “read me” file.  Most games know that they are complex, and should go out of their way to be simple.  In this game, I found a dungeon door that I wanted to open.  I found a set of dungeon keys, but I apparently could not open the door.  Or least, I’m not even sure if I was using it right.  Who knows?  If you play, remember that the Space Bar key opens a menu, and the Alt key ends it.  The Enter key is kind of an “action” key that can do a number of things. 

In short, Diver Down might need to stay there.  The game is far too uninteresting and complicated. However, if you want to give it a shot, you can download it here.

Enhance your Windows with Windowblinds

Monday, October 30th, 2006

So maybe you’re sick of the same “boring blue” windows theme, day in-day out. Well before you throw your Windows out the window, check this out!
Windowblinds is one of those programs that once you start using it, you can never go back to the old way again.

It comes from the same people who brought us bootskin and logonstudio, so they know what they’re doin’. Basically you can change how your windows operating system looks, by simply downloading easy to install themes. There’s plenty of these available online in lots of styles on sites such as www.wincustomise.com and www.skinz.org, so you’re sure to find something to suit your tastes.

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It doesn’t change how Windows works, but just how Windows looks. I’ve been using it for the last couple of years now and i found it doesn’t slow up the computer in the slightest. In fact i remember reading that it uses less resources than the windows default skin! Whether this still appies to the latest version, i’m not too sure, but it hasn’t slowed my computer up at all in any way. This new version, Windowblinds 5, now includes per-pixel alpha blending, allowing such effects as semi transparent menus and windows. You ‘re also able to change progress animations toolbar icons, and the hue and saturation of the windows interface.

This is a cool program if you wanna escape from boring blue default windows theme land . It’s safe and you can finally have a more individually styled computer (like this example). (more…)

Archaist: Anyone know what’s going on?

Monday, October 30th, 2006

5646447475.jpgThis game I found on a whim, and didn’t take long to download. I didn’t play it long, either. 

Simply put, the game is confusing. Apparently, you are working this four legged spider who can fire missiles.  The back story is that it is the year 8888, and boy, will people laugh when that year rolls around and discovers the future is completely devoid of red spiders who shoot missiles. The back story deals with something about environmental fallout of several wars, or something.  Why is it these complicated games always have even more complicated backstories? 

The controls are very confusing as well. You see, some of the enemies are floating, and you have to hit the up key to jump up in the air to shoot them. Unfortunatley, this up key also increases your speed, so you can’t help but go way fast everytime you jump up. This causes you to hit a wall and explode.  (more…)

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