Use F.lux to Prevent Hurting Your Eyes From Computer Glare

Prolonged use of computers can sometimes lead to irritation in the eyes, particularly when the display is bright and the usage continues till late at night. Symptoms may include difficulty in reading, headache and sleeplessness.

The reason behind this is very simple. During the daytime, computer screens look good as they are designed to look like the Sun. But during the evening and night our eyes get tired by looking at the bright (sun-like) computer screen giving which leads to eyestrain.

F.lux is a simple, yet very effective software that handles this problem very well. It adjusts the colour temperature of your computer’s display according to what time of the day it is.

Color temperature is a term that describes how much red or blue, the light is. Natural light is more blue, whereas artificial light is warmer, i.e. more red.

During the evening and at night, F.lux automatically changes the colour temperature of computer screen to warm. This makes the computer screen look like indoor lights i.e. a fluorescent or halogen like warm color. As a result, our eyes don’t stress even if we are using the computer till the late dark hours.

Using the software is very easy. All you need to do is download the setup file from the  f.lux website and install it. Then fill in your location and F.lux will do the rest. It will automatically change the colour temperature of your display to warm depending on the local sunset time and revert it back to normal the next morning.

Users of F.lux might take some time to adjust to the new colour settings. If you find your screen too pink or orange you can set the color manually by clicking the ‘Change Settings’ button after clicking on the F.lux icon in the taskbar. For colour intensive work such as using Photoshop it might not be a good idea to keep F.lux running all the time. For this, there is also an option to disable F.lux for an hour after which it starts functioning automatically.

F.lux is available for Windows XP/Vista/7, Mac OS X, Linux and iOS. Android users will need to wait to get the benefits of F.lux. Also if you are an iPhone or iPad user, keep in mind that you will have to jailbreak your device before you can start using F.lux.

All in all, F.lux is an amazing software that does it’s job and its makers have rightly called it as a software that will make your life better. Having used it for a few days now, I can strongly recommend it as a must have for your computer.

Please share with us your experiences using the software and if it helped you work longer hours on the computer without the eyestrain.

How To Listen To Turntable.fm And Pandora Outside The US

This past weekend, Turntable.fm decided to shut down access to their service to listeners outside the US. According to a notice on their site, Turntable cannot offer their service to visitors outside the US anymore due to “Licensing Restrictions”.

Turntable.fm is not the first web service to shut down access to non-US listeners. Pretty much every music service worth listening to, doesn’t let users outside the US listen in.

So, when I tried to login yesterday evening and found myself blocked, I decided to do something about it.

Turntable.fm and others figure out the country a visitor is from by geolocating the IP address of the visitor. This means that to use their services outside the US, all you have to do is make them believe that your IP address is from the US. Easier said than done, eh ?

Well, actually, it isn’t THAT difficult. There are a few different ways that you can spoof your IP address and one of them is by using the open source tools developed by the TorProject.

What is Tor ?

According to their website

Tor is a network of virtual tunnels that allows people and groups to improve their privacy and security on the Internet. It also enables software developers to create new communication tools with built-in privacy features. Tor provides the foundation for a range of applications that allow organizations and individuals to share information over public networks without compromising their privacy.

Tor works by creating a relay of proxies around the world and directing traffic via them, thus making sure that anyone tracking your IP address will actually be seeing the IP address of the relay and not your real IP. By default, Tor redirects traffic via any available relay around the world. For our purpose, however, we’ll be configuring Tor to redirect traffic only via US based relays. But, for that, we need to install Tor first.

Installing Tor

The TorProject distributes binaries for Linux, Windows and OS X and the OS X binaries is what I used. Installation is as simple as can be using the wizard based installer for Windows and the .DMG app bundle for OS X.

Once you’ve installed Tor, although you can control it using the CLI but the smarter way of interacting with Tor is by using the bundled Vidalia control panel. On OS X, the application to launch is named TorBrowser and when you launch the application, it launches Vidalia which in turns launches the Tor daemon in the background and connects you to the Tor network.

Tor - Vidalia Control Panel

Configuring Firefox to use Tor for browsing

Tor runs as a non-caching proxy on your desktop and to use it you need to configure your browser to use Tor as a proxy. If you’re using Firefox, open the preferences pane and go to the Advanced tab and click the Settings button.

Firefox Network Settings

Now, select the Manual Proxy Configuration radio button and enter localhost as the HTTP proxy and 8118 as the port. To be safe, also tick the Use this proxy server for all protocols radio button.

Firefox Proxy Configuration

Firefox will now use the Tor network for all communication. The only problem is, like I said, Tor, by default, will use any random relay around the world for routing data. We want to make sure that our data is only routed via US based relays.

Configuring Tor to use US relays only

Back to the Vidalia control panel. Open the Settings pane and click the Advanced tab.

Edit torrc

Click the Edit current torrc button and add the following lines to the configuration file.

ExitNodes {us}
StrictExitNodes 1

Press the Ok button and Vidalia will instruct you to reload tor.

That’s it. From now onwards, whenever you browse using firefox, all your traffic will be routed via a US based Tor relay. Want proof ?

Pandora

Now, you can enjoy listening to Pandora and Turntable.fm wherever you are in the world. This same trick can also be used to access services that are only available in certain geographies such as the BBC iPlayer or Spotify.

Was this post helpful for you ? Have you ever wished you could access any blocked site from your country ? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

 

Send Secure Self Destructing Messages From Your Phone

Do you habitually send SMS’s to the wrong person on your contact list? Do you send messages to your friends or colleagues in a rage and later wish if there was some way by which you could delete the messages on their mobile phone? Well, your prayers seem to have been answered with TigerText, a secure mobile messaging application.

What is TigerText?

To put it simply, TigerText is a mobile messaging system. However, it is different from other mobile messaging systems because of its unique ability to send secure messages. Users can see when a message has been read or delivered and can even delete the messages on the receiver’s phone. So, you think that it can’t get any better ? All this comes free of cost.

Text messages as well as pictures can be sent via this service and you do not even need to pay your standard text messaging fee to your operator for all messages sent though TigerText.

What does it do?

Whenever you send a TigerText message, you can set a timer after which the message is auto deleted from the receiver’s mobile. If the sender deletes the message on his phone before the recipient has read it, the message will not be received by the receiver’s phone. There is also a “Delete On Read” option which means that the message will be deleted after a minute  of opening the message by the receiver.

The status of each message is shown by different icons. An orange box with a check indicates that the message has been received by the recipient. When the receiver reads the message, the box is coloured green. Expired messages are shown using “Tiger Tracks”.

Messages sent by TigerText cannot be forwarded further. Although this feature enhances security, many users might not be pleased with it. Also, texts can neither be copied nor saved by the receiver.

When a user sends a TigerText message to someone who does not have TigerText installed, a link is delivered using which the recipient can install the application. Users also need to verify their mobile number before using the service. According to the official website, this step ensures your authenticity and prevents users from impersonating you. However, iPod touch and iPad users need not worry about it as no authentication is required for them.

What Do We Like About It?

  • Self Destructing messages
  • Status icons for Read, Delivered and Erased Messages.
  • Free !!
  • Messages can be exchanged across various platforms such as Blackberry, Android OS, Windows OS, iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.

What Do We Dislike?

  • Need to install the application in both the sender and the receiver’s mobile before using it.
  • Group texting available only for the iPhone version.

Conclusion

TigerText is definitely a one of its kind application and will appeal to a lot of people. Add to that the lure of  free text and picture messaging along with cross platform connectivity and what you get is an application worth trying.

You can download TigerText for free from the official website.

If you find the application useful, please let us know in the comments.

How To Get Your Lost or Stolen Mobile Phone Back

Mobiles phones are an integral part of our lives these days. With the immense growth of the cellular market, mobile theft is also on an alarming rise and it is estimated that about 26 million mobile phones are stolen each year throughout the world.

Phew!

That comes to around 50 mobile phones being stolen every minute.  While technology may not yet be able to stop the phones from being stolen, it can certainly be used to bring back your lost phone.

A UK based company Snuko has developed a Mobile Anti-Theft Data Recovery & Tracking Software that can be used to track your lost phone. Besides tracking the phone, it also incorporates many others features such as Data Encryption, Data Retrieval, SIM Card Data Capture and Phone Lock Down Mode.

Whenever a mobile phone installed with Snuko is lost or stolen, all that the user has to do is log onto the online dashboard and report that the phone is stolen. As soon as this is done, a data encryption and lockdown process begins on the phone and the phone is locked with a password. No one can use the phone unless the correct password is entered. An encrypted backup of all the contacts, call logs, SMS’s and applications is made on the server and the user can restore them back once he has recovered his phone.

Snuko also uses GPS and Wi-Fi towers to locate the exact position of your device and shows it on Google Map under the Events and Data tab when the user is logged into his online account.

 

In case an attempt is made to change the SIM card, the user will be prompted to enter the Snuko device password. If the correct password is not entered then details such as SIM card number, phone number and IMSI number of the new SIM card is captured and displayed on your online Snuko account along with the date and time at which the change of SIM card took place.

If, instead of the phone being stolen, the user just misplaced his/her phone, Snuko allows the finder of the phone to enter his contact details along with a short message and submit it to the owner. This information is then displayed in the owners online dashboard and he can use it to contact the finder of the lost phone.

Once the owner recovers his lost/stolen mobile phone, he can log into his online account and click on the “Report as Found” button. This will unlock the device and the user may then restore back the data on his phone by choosing the “Restore Data” option on the main menu.

Snuko is currently available on the Android platform and is in its Beta version for Blackberry phones. Currently available for free, there is absolutely no reason why one should not try this software on his phone.

Download Snuko Anti-Theft software for free here.

Did you find Snuko useful ? Do you know of any other alternatives  available in the market ? Let us know in the comments.

7 Desktop Tools To Get The Most Out Of Your Facebook Account

A social networking website with over 600 million users needs absolutely no introduction. Facebook, without a doubt, is the biggest phenomenon of our times and an absolute craze on the internet today and even though the FaceBook website is pretty easy and use, there are numerous desktop applications available that make using Facebook experience even more fun.

Here is a list of a few freeware applications that let you use your favorite Facebook features without the need to fire up your browser.

Facebook Chat Client

Chit Chat for Facebook is an excellent lightweight application that lets you chat with your Facebook friends right from your desktop eliminating the need of a web browser for the same purpose. Once you download and install it, login using your Facebook credentials and a messenger window will open up showing you a list of all your facebook contacts separated into Online and Offline groups. A tabbed message window lets you chat with multiple friends at once. Besides chatting, users can also update their status without leaving the application.

Unfortunately, Chit Chat for Facebook is available only for Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7. As an alternative, Digsby is a great application that runs on Windows, Linux and Mac OS. It lets you chat with your buddies on Facebook chat along with Yahoo IM, Google Talk, MSN and also gives you alerts for new emails, friend requests, upcoming birthdays etc.

Facebook Photo Uploader

Easy Photo Uploader is an application for Facebook that does exactly what it says. All you need to do is right click on the photo(s) and click on the “Send your photo(s) to Facebook option”.  First time users then need to setup their account with their Facebook user name and password. Once that is done, you get a list of all the existing albums to which you might want to upload the photo(s). New albums can also be created along with setting the privacy options. The application is less than 4MB in size and is a must have for all the frequent Facebook photo uploaders.

There are other free applications also available for the same purpose. Fotobounce is another similar application that lets you drag and drop photos to upload them to Facebook. It has automatic photo tagging and Flickr integration. Users can even create their own network of people which defines which photos are to be shared and with whom.

Facebook Photo Downloader

Social Photo Download is a web based application that lets you download photos of you and your friends. Using it is very simple as you just need to login with your Facebook username and password. A sidebar gives you options to choose your photos, your albums or your friends’ photos. Clicking on your album or photos option gives you choices to either download your entire selected albums or photos respectively. Friends’ photos option gives you a list of all your friends and you can either opt to download the selected albums/photos uploaded by them or all the photos in which your friend has been tagged.

Pick&Zip is another free web based application that lets you download photos from Facebook in zip or pdf format. Users can choose the photos or albums that they wish to download along with options such as downloading all the photos in which they’ve been tagged. Users need to sign in using their Facebook credentials before using to perform any of these operations.

Use Facebook Photos As Wallpapers

John’s Background Switcher is a free application that lets you set your own or your friends’ photos as your desktop wallpaper. A timer can be set to change the photos regularly. You can even opt to choose only the photos in which you have been tagged. To use the application all you need to do is click on the Add button and choose Facebook photos as the source. Users can then filter the photos to be chosen. A switching option below lets you set the time interval to change the wallpaper.

Do you use any desktop application for accessing certain features of Facebook or any other website ? Do you prefer desktop applications to web based applications ? Please let us know in the comments.

4 Skype Alternatives That You Can Use For Free

SkypeIf you rely heavily on Skype for your work or to keep in touch with your friends, I’m sure you’re anxious after reading this morning’s news of Microsoft buying Skype. To be fair, Microsoft has not really said that they’d curtail usage of the free skype-to-skype calling functionality, but this is Microsoft and they’re not really known for their free services.

I’ve always believed that the real reason why Skype is used by millions of people everyday is because everyone and their neighbor have a Skype account. It is true that when Skype launched about 8 years back, the audio quality of the service was miles ahead of any of their competitors at the time but with time (and increased Internet speeds) Skype has lost that edge and now there are a number of services that offer equivalent, if not better, quality than Skype.

Today I’ll feature some alternatives that I feel offer a much better experience than Skype, both in terms of functionality and quality.

iChat

iChat

If you’re a Mac user, there is no reason for you not to try out iChat. iChat is bundled with Mac OS X for free, works with AIM or Mobile Me accounts and has support for audio and video conferencing. The quality is excellent too. The only problem is that iChat is only available on Macs and unless your friends have an AIM account, there is no way for you to talk to them using iChat, although you can configure iChat to work with Facebook Chat. If you have a newer version of OS X, iChat now also supports Google Talk out of the box.

Google Talk

Google Talk

Google Talk is the big G’s, admittedly, very popular instant messaging client that integrates with Gmail better than any other IM client on the planet. And that is the biggest feature of Google Talk. You don’t even need to download client application to start using GTalk. Just login to your Gmail account and you’re logged in to GTalk. Audio and video calling is supported using a plugin that works on most modern web browsers. The quality is not so great but then if you’re going to be spending your day in Gmail anyway, you might as well start using GTalk for your communication needs also.

Oovoo

Oovo - Free Video Calling

Oovoo is not a traditional instant messaging service. Instead, Oovoo focusses on getting video calling right. All you need to start using Oovoo is a webcam, a microphone and of course, a broadband Internet connection. Video conferencing with upto three participants is free but you have the option to buy credits if you need more.

Fring

fring

Among all the services that I’ve mentioned so far, Fring is my personal favorite because of the simple fact that it doesn’t require a computer to use, is cross platform and has excellent quality. Fring works on Android, iOS (iPhone and iPad) and Symbian phones. Calls between fring users are free and if you need to call a landline or mobile phone number, you can do that too at very low competitive rates.

These were some of my favorite Skype alternatives. Do you guys use any alternative VOIP service ? Would you consider using any of these Skype killers ?

How To Recover Data From a Memory Card

Memory Cards are as much a part of our daily computing as hard disks and RAM is. The Digital cameras that we use everyday, the mobile phones that we rely on and even some of those tiny netbooks that we use, more often than not use some kind of memory card based storage to store data.

Improvements in technology have made memory cards pretty reliable but there are times when even the best technology fails and when that times comes, you’d be glad to have included a memory card data recovery software in your toolkit.

Since, I’m a Mac OS X user, I’ll be talking about data recovery software that you can use on a Mac to recover data from corrupted memory cards, but there are similar software available for almost all platforms and in fact, the open source program that I’m going to walk you through today is available for Windows and Linux also.

To get started, download TestDisk from CGSecurity. Both the tools are distributed in a single tar.bz2 bundle named after TestDisk, so don’t look too hard if you can’t find PhotoRec on the CGSecurity site. I downloaded version 6.12 since I don’t have Rosetta installed on my Mac. If you have Rosetta installed, download the 6.11 stable version and that should also work for you.

Open the archive and since both of these are command line based tools, launch Terminal and browse over to the directory where you extracted the files.

Run the PhotoRec utility from the command line like this

darkstar:testdisk-6.12-WIP sharninder$ ./photorec

Select the disk that you want to recover data from and hit enter.

The next step is to select the type of partition table that the disk/memory card has. If this disk was being used on a regular PC, it’d most likely have an Intel type partition table, or if you like me use an Intel based Mac then you’d have an EFI/GPT type partition table. If the disk that you’re trying to recover data from is a memory card, it’d most likely be using the Intel partition table format. Select the appropriate choice and hit the enter key.

PhotoRec will now search the hard disk for any partitions of the selected type and display them on the next screen. Select a partition from the list and proceed.

The next step is to choose the type of filesystem. For a memory card, this would most likely be FAT, so select “Other” and hit enter. Photorec will now ask you to select a directory on your system where the recovered files will be saved. Use the arrow keys to to move to whichever directory you want and press ‘C’.

Photorec will now start scanning the entire disk and will save any files that it finds to the directory that you selected earlier.

Let me warn you, though, this is a very long process and scanning an entire disk can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours depending on the size of the disk.

The process is also not fool proof. Depending on how much the disk has been used after deleting a particular file, you may or may not be able to recover all your deleted files. This is not Photorec’s fault, though. This is just how filesystems on most modern operating systems work.

Optimize Images For The Web Using ImageOptim

As the saying goes, An image is worth a thousand words.

As a tech blogger, I absolutely live by that saying. I like to include a lot of images in my posts for reference and also because sometimes it’s just easier to explain a concept with a single image rather than writing a couple of paragraphs on it.

The only problem with including a large number of images is that the size of an individual page increases and so does the load time. Even though the average home user who reads this blog now has a lot more bandwidth at his/her disposal, page load times are still a factor to keep in mind while designing web sites. And that is the reason why most image editing applications such as Photoshop or The Gimp come with an option to save an image For The Web.

What this option does is that it removes unnecessary information such as color profiles, comments and whitespace from the image and makes the size of the image smaller so that it loads faster over slow internet connections.

But, you don’t have to buy Photoshop or download The Gimp for just this simple task. ImageOptim can do it for you and that too for free.

ImageOptim is an open source application for OS X that does one thing and does it well. It optimizes and reduces the size of any image file that you pass to it.

It is also probably one of the easiest applications to use and understand, that I’ve ever seen. The whole operation is a simple drag and drop affair. Just drag your image file and drop it on the ImageOptim window and ImageOptim gets to work right away.

ImageOptim overwrites the original file with the new optimised image and while some may think of this as a limitation, I think it is just this simplicity that makes the application such a joy to use.

You can even download and install a Finder service that’ll let you optimize your images with just a right click without even launching ImageOptim.

Do you guys struggle with keeping the size of the images on your websites in control ? Do you use any tools for the purpose ?

Please give ImageOptim a try and let me know how that works out for you.

Access and use ISO images as normal drives using ISODisk

ISODiskThe ISO file format is the most format for sharing CD/DVD images on the Internet. A lot of software and most (all) Linux distributions are shared using this format. The advantages are that it’s a universal format and portable across operating systems. By portable, I mean that all operating systems have utilities to burn ISO images to media.

Have you ever had to burn a CD/DVD just because you wanted to check out a file that was distributed inside the ISO image ?

The problem with ISO files is that you have to actually burn the files to the disk to see the contents of the image. Sure, Linux purists can do a loop mount, but what about Windows users ?

ISODisk is the magic software that’s going to solve this problem once and for all.

ISODisk is a nice little utility that lets you “mount” ISO images to your Windows system and lets you access the contents using a regular drive. So, for example you could mount an Ubuntu ISO to drive e: and access it’s contents from there. Or, take the ISO of some software that you downloaded from the Internet, hook it up with a drive letter using ISODisk and install the software using that, instead of burning the image to a CD/DVD first.

Continue reading “Access and use ISO images as normal drives using ISODisk”

Track the time you spend on your computer with ManicTime

ManicTime I spend a lot of time online. Really, I do. A lot more than I’d like to admit.

And while I haven’t really missed a deadline for any of my projects till now, I often, at the end of the day, end up asking myself, “Where the hell did the time go ?”. And I know that I’m the only one who thinks 24 hours is too less of a time to do anything productive.

If you like me, at the end of the day, often wonder, where did you spend your time, I’ve found the perfect utility to give you the answer to that question – ManicTime.

ManicTime is a small program that sits in the system tray and collects data on your computer usage. It notes all the applications that you use, how much time you spend browsing, away from the computer or actually doing some real work.

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