Monday, November 24, 2008

FoxGLove is Firefox for Google addicts

You would think that Google Chrome would be the perfect web browser for people who spend most of their day using Google applications like Gmail, Google Calendar, and GTalk. But Chrome lacks some of the features that draw many people to browsers like Firefox. So one Firefox user who uses a ton of Google services decided to mash the two together and create an alternate browser he calls FoxGLove, which you can download from Lifehacker.

The browser is based on the portable version of Firefox, which means you can run it without messing up your normal Firefox settings. You can also run it from a USB flash drive. At first glance, the browser looks a lot like Google Chrome, thanks to the ChromiFox theme. The home pages have been set to Gmail, Google Reader, and Google Docs, and there are bookmarklets that will open GTalk, Google Calendar, or Google Notes in your sidebar. But that's just the start.

FoxGLove also comes preloaded with a ton of Firefox addons that provide enhancements for Google applications. It also replaces the Firefox search bar with the Google Toolbar. And the developer even figured out how to make Google Gears portable so you can have online/offline access to web pages and applications that support Gears.

Flip Title lets you type uʍop ǝpısdn!

I always thought typing upside down was an obnoxious novelty trick, but I admit it can be pretty fun. Flip Title, a site that flips over any text you input, showed me that it can also be useful. Upside-down characters can be part of URLs or passwords for a little bit of extra security. They can also be part of usernames on some services, which makes it a pain in the butt for anyone to add you without using copy and paste.

Using the magic of Unicode, Flip Title totally flips your words, upside down and backward. If you want text that's upside-down and forward, you'll have to look elsewhere (or type everything backward into Flip Title). Despite the practical uses I described above, I'm still against anyone using upside-down text to annoy me in instant messages.

If you're looking for a text-flipping alternative to Flip Title, you might want to check out our earlier review of Reverse Fad's upside-down text tool.

Mailplane 2.0: desktop Gmail client now supports Gmail video chat

If you use Gmail on a Mac, you should definitely know about Mailplane. It's basically a really fancy site-specific browser for Gmail, getting Gmail out of your browser tab and adding a lot of features you'd demand in a desktop email client. You can drag and drop attachments and sign in multiple accounts at once, just to name a couple. Plus, a release candidate for Mailplane 2.0 just came out, and it adds 37 new features.

You can do anything in Mailplane that you can do in Gmail, including the new video chat feature. The new gmail themes are also supported, and you can add your own custom stylesheet. It feels strange to use Gmail in a browser again after playing with Mailplane. Customizable keyboard shortcuts, dragging and dropping, and iPhoto integration are just a few of the handy features that make Mailplane a joy to use. It also supports one of my personal favorite things, Growl notifications

Foxit PDF Reader 3.0 for Windows now works with Firefox

Foxit Firefox
While Adobe may have been the driving force behind the PDF, Adobe Acrobat Reader has grown to be a bloated application which can take an excruciatingly long time to load. One of my favorite alternatives is Foxit Reader, which can open most PDF files in just a second or two, while providing many of the same features you'd expect from Adobe Acrobat Reader, like the ability to fill in text boxes or open password protected documents.

Last week the Foxit team released version 3.0, with a ton of updates. Possibly the most exiciting is a plugin for Firefox that lets you open documents in your web browser. Adobe has offered this feature for ages, but again, it often takes forever to load. To be honest, the Foxit plugin isn't exactly a speed demon. You may find it faster to download some files and open them in the desktop version of Foxit Reader. But it's nice to have the option of opening them in your browser.

Here are a few other new features:
  • Thumbnail previews of each page
  • Attachment panel shows list of files attached to a PDF and allows you to open, delete, or perform other actions on them
  • The text select tool now also lets you add annotations like highlights, strikeout, or underline
  • You can transfer your preference settings by copying an INI file
  • New Foxit OnDemand Content Management add-on allows users to share and collaborate on documents online
You can find a complete list of updates in the Foxit 3.0 release notes.

5 disposable email services with RSS support

If you're looking for a little anonymity and security when signing up for download links or invite codes, a disposable email service is a good option. Instead of providing one of your working email addresses, just grab a meaningless temporary one from any of these sites and keep your identity hidden.

These five sites all provide RSS feeds for your address, which is handy. No need to return to the site after registration, just subcribe with your favorite newsreader.

MailCatch - Choose your own address or roll the dice. MailCatch also provides an iGoogle gadget and creates a subdomain (using your address) for quick access to your web inbox. MailCatch also provides temporary forwards, and they've got an FAQ and forums.

MyTrashMail - Offers password protected temporary accounts in addition to the traditional public variety. Note that the Firefox "toolbar" they offer requires you have the Google toolbar installed first. FAQ and about links are prominently displayed.

FilzMail - Sports a clean interface featuring puffy, web 2.0 images. Create your own address or generate a random one and messages are available for 24 hours (which can be extended).

Incognito Mail - The option for minimalists. Choose or generate your address, and it's valid for 60 minutes. No FAQ or TOS is posted. There are a number of other services that look very similar to Incognito Mail, offering different time limits.

DodgeIt - Ok, maybe this is the one for minimalists. You pick the address (no random generator), you check for messages - they're deleted after seven days.

Do you use a different service? Share it with us, but stay on topic - make sure it supports RSS!

Anyone can make animated digital clips with Xtranormal

I can't remember how many times I've had a seemingly great idea for a skit with one of my coworkers. Sadly, most of us don't have the time or resources to produce our own animated shorts.

A beta web app by Xtranormal aims to level the playing field by making movie creation drag-and-drop simple. If you can write dialog that makes sense and click a mouse, you're well on your way to creating a digital masterpiece.

Choose a character, type in a block of text, and drag in facial expressions, actions, and sounds. The speech is surprisingly fluid, all things considered - no MS Sam here!

You're currently limited to one or two actors, but that's plenty for putting together a quick, fun clip. You can choose either Lego-style (my preference) or more life-like actors to play out your script.

When you're done piecing together elements, just click the action button and Xtranormal will render your clip. If you've registered for an account you can save your work for later. Finished clips can, of course, be shared for anyone to view.

Quite honestly, I don't have the time or skills to throw together 3d animations from scratch. Even if I did, I'm not certain the half-baked ideas I come up with would merit expending any serious effort.

Xtranormal is a great way to finally see your cinematic ideas in come to life with minimal fuss.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Doc Scrubber removes hidden data from your documents

Every Word file can contain a fairly large amount of metadata. This is stuff like the revision logs (for tracking changes), name of the author, last time edited, and last time printed. All that information is there for a reason, but embarrassing incidents have been known to occur when people don't realize what they're sending in their metadata. If you want to avoid that, you could delete it all by hand, or you could get Doc Scrubber, a free metadata-removal app.

Doc Scrubber can quickly tell you what all the "hidden info" on your docs says, or just delete it for you. It'll handle multiple docs at once, and is compatible with Word 97, 2000 and XP files. It doesn't do DOCX files, but those also don't handle metadata the same way, so they're less likely to expose your info.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

18 Health Tricks to Teach Your Body

Eating 10 hot dogs in 6 minutes and belching the national anthem may impress your friends, but neither of those feats will do much for your body—at least not much good.

Instead, why not train yourself to do something that may actually pay off?

We're not talking bench presses and interval training (though those do help). You can teach your body to cure itself from everyday health ailments—side stitches, first-date jitters, even hands that have fallen asleep.

Just study this list, and the next time your friends challenge you to an ice cream eating contest, chow down: You know how to thaw a brain freeze—and 17 other tricks that'll make everyone think you're the next David Blaine. But without all that "hold your breath for 17 minutes" mess.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

How to embed high quality YouTube videos

A lot of people don't know that YouTube has high quality videos, as well as the generally poor-quality standard versions. The links to the better (not HD, but still pretty good) versions are easy to miss, but there are a few steps you can take to make sure you're watching (and even embedding) the good stuff. Jason Kottke ran through a few of them recently on

First, make high-quality your default setting. You can do this in the Account menu, under "Playback Setup." That takes care of playback, but what if you want to link to the high-quality version of a video? Just paste "&fmt=18" or "&fmt=22" at the end of the URL. 18 is the 480x360 version, and 22 is the 720p version. Some videos will have one, but not the other, so try both if you need to.

When it comes to embedding, you can make a quick change to the embed code to get better video quality. Just add "&ap=%2526fmt%3D18" to the end of the URLs in your embed code.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Digsby = IM + Email + Social Networks

Manage all your existing IM, email, and social network accounts from one easy to use application.

Customize the look of digsby
with application skins

Lots of message themes to choose from to personalize conversations

Manage all your email
accounts right from digsby

Keep track of social networks
and get alerts of new events

Put a widget on your blog, website,
or profile to chat with visitors

Manage multiple conversations
with drag + drop tabs

Multitask with popups that
you can reply from

Combined duplicate contacts on your buddy list into 'merged contacts'

Log Manager makes finding old conversations easy

Digsby helps you manage all your IM, email, and social network accounts from one easy-to-use application. Digsby lets you chat with all your friends on AIM, MSN, Yahoo, ICQ, Google Talk, Facebook Chat, and Jabber with one simple to manage buddy list. It provides notifications when new e-mails arrive and lets you perform actions such as "Mark as Read" or "Report Spam" without having to go to your inbox while also keeping you up-to-date on what's happening on your social networks with popup notifications and a newsfeed of recent events for Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter.

VoxOx brings chat, social networking, phone calls together

VoxOx is one of those applications that does so many things that the easiest way to describe it is by listing some of the tools it can replace: AOL Instant Messenger, ICQ, Jabber, Google Talk, MSN Messenger, whatever email and social networking notifiers you use. In other words, it's like Digsby. But with support for video chat and VoIP calls to telephones. Oh yeah, and VoxOx automatically assigns all new users a phone number which people can dial to reach you on your computer.

VoxOx is currently in beta, with clients available for Windows and OS X. Linux and mobile clients are coming soon. And right now some of the services listed in VoxOx are unavailable. For examle, you can link the client to your Yahoo! Mail account to receive a pop up message every time you get a new email. But when you click the button to do the same thing with Gmail, nothing happens.

One of the most interesting things about VoxOx is the company's business model. You can do text chats with anyone for free. You can make free voice or video calls to anyone using VoxOx. And when you sign up you get 120 minutes of free calls to telephones. You can purchase credit for additional calls, or pay a monthly fee fro unlimited access. But every time you refer a friend to the service you get another 2 hours. And VoxOx will also soon add the ability for users to gain points by watching video ads.

If you're one of the first 500 Download Squad to register using our signup page, you'll get 1200 VoxOx Points which are good for 1200 domestic phone calls minutes of domestic US phone calls. Keep reading to find out how to get your bonus minutes.

I tested VoxOx to make a few phone calls and to chat with a few friends. The voice quality was pretty good, although I feel like there may have been a tiny bit more lag than I typically experience in Skype calls. The chat features work pretty much as you'd expect - except that the chat window is much larger than it needs to be. I also found that VoxOx has an unusal solution for sending files to friends using different chat platforms like AIM, or MSN Messenger. Instead of actually transfering a file directly from your computer to your friends', VoxOx uploads the file to its servers and creates a temporary download link which can be shared via Chat, SMS, or email.

VoxOx does suffer from excessive RAM usage, which shouldn't be surprising considering how much this application does. I found that it used between 125MB and 200MB of memory. If you plan to take full advantage of all of the program's features that might seem reasonable. But if you just need a chat application you might be better off sticking with Trillian, Pidgin, Digsby, or Adium.

To get 1200 free Vox Points, visit the Download Squad signup page.

PhotoFunia makes it easy to create funny photos

someone is sad Bush is leaving?
Looking for some good photos of McCain, Palin, Obama and Biden on this Election Day 2008? Thanks to PhotoFunia I was able to create something a little more interesting than what you will be seeing on CNN.

I have yet to master the skills in Photoshop to be able to make convincing fake photos. I usually fix colors, crop and reduce red eye but I rarely change any photos. PhotoFunia gave me the opportunity to make some pretty cool stuff today in just a few simple clicks. If you have a good head shot of anyone, you can make convincing photos.

Check out the gallery to see the variety of candidate photos I have assembled.

Gallery: PhotoFunia

Monday, November 03, 2008

Notifu: group messaging to help you make plans

If you've ever been in the situation of trying to make plans with a group of people who are all communicating via different methods (SMS, IM, email), then you know how much of a pain it is to keep track of what everyone is doing. Notifu tries to make it easier, with a web app that can send messages to your friends via email, IM or text message, and let you know when they've received them.

On Notifu, you can set up a contact list, complete with groups. You can also set up polls, so your friends can text back a single number to indicate what they prefer to do, and Notifu will count them up for you. Notifu's developers are also very savvy about web platforms, with an iPhone web app available and an OpenSocial app in the works.