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Video conversion has become a popular topic with me lately. I purchased a Google TV a few months ago, using the device to retire my old HTPC, which ran Windows 7 with Media Center set to launch upon startup. The problem is this — not all of my ripped DVD’s were in a format recognized by Plex, which now serves my home media to the living room.

Since purchasing the Vizio Co-Star, I have been slowly but surely working my way through the re-encoding of almost all of our movies, most of which had been ripped to ISO files in order to retain all of the menus and extras. Unfortunately, Google TV will not allow me to keep those options, but this is not the end of the world — I do not really need them, it was just a nice touch.

My latest experiment is using TEncoder, which is a powerful tool for converting video and audio files from one format to another. The app holds a lot promise, but may not work for every need — more on that later.
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One of the most annoying issues I have faced lately with my laptop is that it gets overheated. The most common reason why it happens is that nowadays, laptops are equipped with fast processors and hard drives. When they work in a small space, they end up reaching a high temperature.

I found out about this issue when my laptop automatically went to sleep after getting overheated. Since then, I started looking for a handy utility that can help me manage my laptop’s temperature and find out if its overheating. If you dont manage the temperature of your laptop, you may end up with a dead hard drive from which you cannot recover any data at all. It can even cause a greater damage to your processor as well which may not be the most cheapest thing to repair.

To make things easier, I started looking for apps that can help me manage my laptop’s temperature and ended up using BatteryCare.

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In order to save time, we’re always looking for ways to do perform tasks faster and more efficiently. Whether you’re a businessman in a hurry or a lazy college student looking for simplicity, we would all like to perform tasks a little bit faster and with a little bit of less effort put in. Even simple tasks on your computer can be performed faster with FastKeys.

FastKeys is a simple program lets you control certain keys to command your computer to do just about anything!

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Evolve is a small independently developed and published free client and website built for serious gamers.

Evolve is not game distribution software. It’s not set out to be a commercial program. It isn’t spammed with advertisements. It’s meant to work alongside other software. Unlike Steam, Origin, Battle.net, Uplay, or most other programs out there, you can use it to centralise your entire gaming experience. Although often confused with them, it isn’t a replacement for any of the programs listed above.

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One thing that Microsoft has always excelled at is making its operating system customizable, and what the company does not do, third-party services make up for. Stardock is one of the premier makers and has been especially popular since the release of Windows 8, thanks in large part to bringing back the Start Menu, but it is far from the only one.

This all brings us to BetterDesktop Tool. This app is not for bringing back the long-lost Start Button and Menu, but it certainly brings plenty of functionality along.

Get the App

Head over to the BetterDesktop Tool web site and you will find two choices — there are standard and pro versions, with the Standard option being free. Both versions are contained within the download package. Commercial users must purchase a license and can try BetterDesktopTool Professional Edition free for 30 days. The app is compatible with both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows.

During the installation process you will be prompted to choose between “Private Usage” and “Commercial Usage (30 Day Trial)”. The app requires only 1.5 MB of free disk space. There are no toolbars or other software included in the app and installation is extremely fast.

The Interface

Only three tabs garner the top of the screen — “Windows and Desktop Overview”, “Virtual-Desktop” and “General”. All have a rather geeky look to them, but they are less scary once you understand what each can do. The app is capable of a lot, but we will hit the highlights here to get you introduced to all of the functionality that BetterDesktop Tool brings along.

Windows and Desktop Overview

This is the first of those geeky looking screens I mentioned, but do not let appearances put you off. It is not as scary as it may at first look. First there are several dropdown menus that allow you to set options, which as Ctrl-Tab or Alt-Tab, for a range of choices, and these can be to not only keystrokes, but also mouse clicks and “hot corners”.

Options

  • Show all windows
  • Show foreground app windows
  • Show desktop
  • Show non-minmized windows
  • Show desktop

Mouse options include the usual – left, middle and right buttons. Hot corners are areas of the screen – top and bottom right and top and  bottom left.

Other options on this tab include “Arrange windows in a regular grid”, “Move all windows to primary screen” and “Show top-level windows only”.

There are also two buttons at the bottom right of the screen — Exclude Window and Reset Excluded Windows. The first will propt you with instructions. “To exclude a window start window-overview (show all windows) and right-click the window you want to exclude. Select the corresponding menu item and the window will be excluded”. The latter button does the opposite.

Visual Desktop

By default, Virtual Desktop is enabled as is “Move windows between virtual-desktops by dragging them to the screen edges for a time”. Howeveryou can disable these and also choose from a number of options.

The “Show virtual desktop” option has similar dropdown menus for keyboard, mouse and hot corners. You can choose what occurs when another application on a virtual desktop gets activated — move it, switch it or make the app global.

“Direct switching” also has options for keyboard shortcuts, as well as moving and switching. Finally, there is an option forthe amount and arrangement of windows that appear on your screen. By default, this is set four – two wide and two high. However, both of these can be changed by clicking the up and down arrows to the right of each number.

General

The “General” tab has six options, the first three of which are enabled by default.

Options

  • Start Program with Windows
  • Check for updates on start
  • Disable all shortcuts when a fullscreen application is running (e.g. games)
  • Disable animation for window, desktop and virtual-desktop overview
  • Ask to restore applications from hidden virtual desktops before shutdown/logoff (blocks shutdown)
  • Enable multitouch-gesture support for designated touchpads

Below this, there are two button at thebottom of the screen — “Check for update” and “About and License”. Both options do exactly as the names describe.

Features

  • Arranges all windows in a non overlapping layout. Allows selection of an arbitrary window to bring it to the foreground.
  • Can be applied to minimized, non-minimized and foreground application windows.
  • Supports Multi-Monitor setups.
  • Moves all windows away from your desktop to give you access to Desktop-Shortcuts and Sidebar-Gadgets.
  • Supports Multi-Monitor setups.
  • Configuration of Mouse and Keyboard shortcuts for all functions.
  • Configuration of Hot-Corners for all functions.
The app works with both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8. It also requires Microsoft .NET Framework 4.0, though most users should already have this installed. the program is not compatible with Windows XP. The app will conduct a check for the operating system to notify the user when the software won’t run on his system.

The Verdict

As I said back at the beginning, there are countless applications for customizing Windows. BetterDesktop Tool is perhaps one the better ones, as it allows the user to set all sorts of shortcuts using the the keyboard and mouse and even screen corners. The app is also free and comes with no malware or toolbars that attempt to install themselves in the setup process.

The company also points out that support for window selection by keyboard shortcuts will also follow soon in the next version. The company regularly updates its app, so you can expect to get regular new features and bug fixes.

GitHub has established itself as the premier place for developers to show off and share their programs. Unfortunately for Windows users, most of its focus has been on Unix and Unix-alike platforms. This is not surprising given that it is based on the Git distributed version control system, written by Linus Torvalds to coordinate development of Linux. The fine folks at GitHub have been remedying this by improving coordination with Windows. This includes providing a free desktop Git client for Windows, the focus of this review.

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There is no shortage of music apps available, and many of them are free. I seem to try just about every one I find because, well, I love music and I am always on the hunt for these programs. I use apps to help clean up my library, I use special players, I backup music to Google Music and more.

My latest find is called MP3Jam. It is a simple but surprisingly capable free tool for locating and downloading anything from individual songs to entire albums.

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One of the best ways to travel around London is on the Tube Network. By giving you quick access to every part of the city its a transport network many commuters couldn’t live without. However, for newcomers to London the Tube can feel like a complicated arrangement. With different lines and hundreds of stations its not hard to be confused.

When I’m in London the only choice for me is Tube Map. With its extensive detail and navigational features it makes the whole experience far easier. Read on to find out more!

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If you are anything like me then you have a large computer-based collection of music and that library is, at least partially, a mess. Over the years I have tried countless solutions to fix that mess, but one I have long heard about, but not tried is MediaMonkey. This app does more than just attempt to clean up your library — it also serves as a player, streams to DLNA devices on your network and can sync with mobile devices.

In fact, the app boasts a long list of features — manage media, identify tracks, tag, organize and rename, automatic library updates, download music and podcasts, sync and backup with mobile devices, record and convert, burn, play and stream to devices.

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One copy of a file is the same as having none — because that is what you could have at almost any moment. In fact, two copies is sketchy for a couple of reasons. Reason one is that, while on-site backup to a home server is excellent when it comes to restoration because it is the fastest way to get back up and running, it does not protect you in the event of a disaster such as a flood, fire or tornado.

That is where the second backup comes in. The cloud, as it is known today, is a great storage solution that can house files safely away from your home.

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