Technology

Review: Tune Sweeper for Windows

AskDaveTaylor - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 10:34

Rip a few music CDs, download a few from the iTunes Store and maybe even get a dozen from friends via email or a flash drive and without realizing it, you have dozens or hundreds of CDs stored on your Windows PC. If you have the disk space, it’s easy, and on our office file server, our master music collection is in the multiple gigabytes, thousands upon thousands of tracks spanning a wide variety of musical genres.

The problem is, once things get messed up, it’s a lot of work to fix it, whether it’s mistitled tracks (I hate typos in track names personally), missing album cover art, or even entries for tracks or CDs that somehow aren’t on the drive any more, or have moved for some mysterious reason. Fixing that for a half-dozen CDs? No problem. Fixing it for a few thousand CDs? Fuggetaboutit!

Which is why Tune Sweeper is such a win. For the modest license price of $24.99 — and a free version that you can start with to see if your library has any issues before you purchase — it’ll clean things up way faster than you could ever do so manually.

Launch the app and it’s pretty self-explanatory:

I’m a bit paranoid about duplicate tracks because my library is so darn large I don’t always remember what’s been ripped or purchased before I go to add tracks again.

And indeed, the new Julian Lennon CD Everything Changes appears to have been imported twice:

A click on “Continue” and all the details are revealed:

What I particularly appreciate about this view is that it makes all the preference settings that it uses to decide which to keep very obvious, as it also does with the criteria being applied to identify duplicate tracks.

Don’t care about dupes? If you’re perpetually on shuffle play, it really can be invisible, with the only difference being that they’re 2x as likely to play as a track that isn’t duplicated. With 70 tracks that’d be noticeable. With 7000 tracks, however, that’s lost in the noise.

If you do want a pristine collection, however, choose which dupe or dupes to remove, chose “Ignore group” if you want to keep some of the other duplicates, and click the “Remove Duplicates” button on the top right and you’ll need to decide what to do with the dupes:

Ready to proceed? Click “Yes, Remove Duplicates”…

Easy enough. Hopefully you don’t have too many duplicates, of course, but even though they aren’t a big deal from the shuffle play perspective, they do waste disk space since you already have a copy of that particular track.

Another useful feature for us completists in iTunes is track artwork. Sometimes, for reasons I can’t fathom, iTunes associates artwork with some tracks of a CD but not others. Tune Sweeper can fix things up, or confirm that you’re good and everything’s properly configured:

You can also do this particular function in iTunes itself, by the way. Indeed, some of the features in Tune Sweeper overlap features Apple’s already built into iTunes itself. Others, like de-duplicate processing, identifying tracks that are listed in the iTunes library but don’t exist on the drive and finding music tracks on the hard drive that aren’t yet in iTunes are unique to Tune Sweeper.

Next up, let’s see if there’s any missing information on the track files in my relatively modest iTunes library on my PC laptop:

Ah heck, that’s a lot of missing information! You can see I’m busy fixing it in this screen capture, which is why the bottom says “Downloading missing track details…”

Unfortunately it doesn’t indicate what is missing, so it could be something like the release year of the CD, something that I actually don’t care that much about. Still, completeness is worthy for its own sake, right?

More seriously, here’s the kind of problem the program’s fixing:

Unknown Artist? AAhhhhhhh!

Tune Sweeper also has a neat stats and analysis view that gives you some insight into your music collection. For this one, I’m going to use one of the Tune Sweeper screen shots since it’s more interesting than my own PC iTunes library (because I mostly listen to iTunes on my Mac systems):

I think that’s pretty darn cool stuff, though quite honestly I don’t even know half the most played artists!

In summary, Tune Sweeper is the kind of utility you’ll run once every few months when you think of it. It’s not a show-stopper fixing critical problems on your system, but if you do have a decent size music collection in iTunes on your PC (and frankly iTunes for Windows is way better than Windows Media Player) odds are good that things have gotten messed up as its grown.

Tune Sweeper is a smart investment if you want to fix those problems, if you want your library pristine, all properly configured, with all the proper track titles, copyright information, album covers and with the minimum disk space taken up by removing dupes and links to non-existent music files. And if you’re a bit OCD about it, well, this is a fabulous addition to your PC’s library.

Tune Sweeper from Wide Angle Software. $24.99 for Windows (there’s a Mac version too, btw)

Disclaimer: Wide Angle Software supplied us with a full program license and paid an additional fee associated with this review of their program. But seriously, I’ve been doing reviews for so long, their payment doesn’t affect my opinion one iota.

The post Review: Tune Sweeper for Windows appeared first on Ask Dave Taylor.

Categories: Technology

Little Box Challenge opens for submissions

GoogleBlog - Tue, 07/22/2014 - 09:44
These days, if you’re an engineer, inventor or just a tinkerer with a garage, you don’t have to look far for a juicy opportunity: there are cash prize challenges dedicated to landing on the moon, building a self-driving car, cleaning the oceans, or inventing an extra-clever robot. Today, together with the IEEE, we’re adding one more: shrinking a big box into a little box.

Seriously.

Of course, there’s more to it than that. Especially when the big box is a power inverter, a picnic cooler-sized device used to convert the energy that comes from solar, electric vehicles & wind (DC power) into something you can use in your home (AC power). We want to shrink it down to the size of a small laptop, roughly 1/10th of its current size. Put a little more technically, we’re looking for someone to build a kW-scale inverter with a power density greater than 50W per cubic inch. Do it best and we’ll give you a million bucks.
There will be obstacles to overcome (like the conventional wisdom of engineering). But whoever gets it done will help change the future of electricity. A smaller inverter could help create low-cost microgrids in remote parts of the world. Or allow you to keep the lights on during a blackout via your electric car’s battery. Or enable advances we haven’t even thought of yet.

Either way, we think it’s time to shine a light on the humble inverter, and the potential that lies in making it much, much smaller. Enter at littleboxchallenge.com—we want to know how small you can go.

Posted by Eric Raymond, Google Green Team
Categories: Technology

Tips for working with Mac iMessage / Messages

AskDaveTaylor - Tue, 07/22/2014 - 09:34

That’s a great question because in fact there’s a lot you can do with the Messages program in Mac OS X that makes it a far easier simple message service (SMS) tool than even using your smartphone to text your friends and family. Yeah, that’s still the core capability, the ability to send and receive text messages directly from your Mac system, but as you suspect, there are a couple of other things you can do that can make it even more helpful.

First thing to do is make sure that you’re hooked in with iCloud so that your smartphone — your iPhone — and your computer stay in sync, though sometimes they don’t anyway. Still, Messages is super useful regardless!

By default, for example, all your conversations are in a single window:

But Control-Click in the blank area just under the date/time stamp in the conversation and you can pull out a single conversation into its own window:

Just choose “Open Conversation in Separate Window”. Easy.

Now let’s have a quick look at the input window. More specifically, the little smiley face icon.

Click on it and… a menu appears with all those fun emoji:

fun, eh? I’m a huge fan of emoji, actually, to the never-ending bemusement of my friends.

Control-click on the input area too, to bring up that menu too:

The feature I like is “Capture Selection from Screen” because you can then click and drag to define a region which is automatically then sent to the person with whom you’re chatting.

Choose Capture Selection and a little window pops up to explain what’s going on:

Move the cursor and click-drag to define the region:

Then when you let go it’s automatically copied into the input window:

It’s full size, by the way, and the recipient can tap or click on it to get the full size image.

The point? Well, when someone’s telling me that something’s going wrong on their system, their ability to see what’s on their screen while I’m still on my iPhone? Darn handy. Plus it’s fun!

This should also be a good reminder that nothing’s really private as you can see it’d be trivial to share a conversation you’re having with someone else by capturing that particular discussion window.

One more neat trick. Enter some text, select it, then Control-Click:

Off the “Transformations” menu you can easily make it all upper case — in case you NEED TO SHOUT AT SOMEONE — or all lower case if you’re learning how to stop yelling at people or, the least useful, capitalize transformation, which Makes The First Letter Of Every Word Capitalized.

Those are the main features I’ve found in iMessage [no, no, "Messages"]. If you’ve found other features that are also useful, leave us a comment!

The post Tips for working with Mac iMessage / Messages appeared first on Ask Dave Taylor.

Categories: Technology

What If DJ Controllers Had Built In Screens?

UrlGreyHot.com - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 18:29

This is a cool design challenge that showed up on DJ Tech Tools' blog to mock up DJ controllers. DJ gear vendor Numark is reported to be releasing a controller with a screen. That's kind of interesting, because it could potentially let digital DJs that use them close their computer screen and focus on performing.

While there are CDJs that already have color LCDs to preview deck track information, midi controllers are largely comprised of faders, buttons, knobs, toggle switches, jog wheels, and touch sensitive strips. At most they provide color LED feedback behind translucent silicon buttons, and as far I can tell from what I've read they haven't had display screens yet. Perhaps overall cost for the hardware is coming down, making it possible to deliver screens into more products. Thanks, Moore's Law.

DJ Tech Tools put up some Photoshop assets for its users to imagine what the other existing DJ controllers would look like if they had screens. It's kind of fun watching the DJ community come up with ideas. I see a some concepts that feel over-loaded. Hardware is interesting because more buttons/knobs for dedicated access to functions can be better, but there comes a point where I imagine ease of access to essential functions can be lost when too many secondary ones are added. There's a sweet spot between the minimalist DJ setup and the advanced/expert user that I imagine makes for some difficult product discussions at these companies.

Check it out.

Categories: Technology

Experimenting with the IPEVO Interactive Whiteboard

UrlGreyHot.com - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 17:56

I got an IPEVO Interactive Whiteboard System ($149 retail price) to demo and did a first little experiment. The product consists of a video sensor and interactive pen. You have to have a projector as well. Here's a super rough demo I made for my team at Balsamiq to show how it would work using Balsamiq Mockups.

IPEVO Interactive Whiteboard from konigi on Vimeo.

While the demo is pretty rough given the 15 minutes I gave myself to set up and record with my phone, it's pretty interesting to consider the possibilities for whiteboarding with wireframing software, if you're so inclined. I used a regular painted wall, but I'm going to give it a try on a real whiteboard.

Categories: Technology

Hide Controls in Windows Media Player?

AskDaveTaylor - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 09:50

Sounds like you’re running the stock Windows Media Player (aka WMP) on your Windows 8 system and it definitely has the ability for you to auto-hide the controls, along with a lot more you can tweak.

Before we go further, however, you are aware that there are a lot of other media players available for your system too, right, including one I’m a particular fan of because of the incredible range of video files it can play: VLC. From AVI to MKV, MP4 to .MOV, if you can get it onto your Win8 system, odds are very good it can play it for you.

Windows Media Player itself has a lot of capabilities, and, heck, you can always grab iTunes for Windows too if you’d like to give that a whirl.

In Windows Media Player, watching a movie produces a raft of different controls and info displays all over the Window:

You can see how far into the movie you are, both visually (the blue bar long the bottom) and in terms of time (we’re 13:28 into the great Lee Marvin film Point Blank), it shows you the name of the movie file (top left) and, of course, the main controls are brightly shown at the bottom of the window too.

To get rid of the display, you need to right-click somewhere in the playback window to get the contextual menu to appear:

If you’re guessing that “More options…” is what you need to choose, you’re right. Do so.

And now we’re back to, what, an original Windows 95 system configuration window? In any case:

I’ve highlighted the option you want to check: Allow autohide of playback controls.

Choose that, click “Apply” and after a few seconds the controls will all vanish from the window and you’ll see just the movie itself displayed:

Really, way nicer. Now about my peach colored windows theme…

While we’re here, it’s worth having a quick peek at some of the other menu options available off that main WMP context menu too, starting with “Video”:

I particularly like the 50% and 100% playback options as they display the movie with the least scaling. Shortcuts, as you can see, are Alt+1 and Alt+2.

Also check out “Enhancements”:

Here the most useful option is to see that you can change the playback speed. Not so good for a cinematic movie, but those boring training videos? Yeah, a 20% increase in speed means you get through ‘em just that much faster.

Hope that’s helpful. Me? I’m going back to Point Blank to enjoy some gritty 60′s action cinema…

The post Hide Controls in Windows Media Player? appeared first on Ask Dave Taylor.

Categories: Technology

How do I find my friend’s birthdays on Facebook?

AskDaveTaylor - Sat, 07/19/2014 - 10:08

If it’s Thursday, it must be time for Facebook to roll out yet another change in the user interface, another tweak to our experience on the site, whether dramatic or subtle. This one was fairly subtle, but I was surprised by it too, as I regularly go into the birthday calendar under events to wish my friends a happy birthday. Or, as I phrase it, a “happy anniversary of the day of your birth” since it’s not technically a birthday at all…

Anyway, suffice to say that the Events area on Facebook has been left alone without modifications or changes for a really long time, so I guess it was due. Fortunately, the birthday list is only but a single additional click away.

To start, you want to click on the “Events” link:

See it there? Bottom of the list? That’s the one. Click on it.

Now you’ll see a list of upcoming events that you’ve been invited to, whether you’ve accepted or not.

On the right, however, there’s also a list of upcoming birthdays. It looks like this:

The trick here is to click on the “others” link. In this case, “7 others”. Now you’ll see a list of birthdays and be able to leave messages for each of your friends:

From there, you can write a birthday wish or send a gift. Easy enough.

Why that had to be moved out of the main events list is a mystery I can’t answer, but now ya know…

The post How do I find my friend’s birthdays on Facebook? appeared first on Ask Dave Taylor.

Categories: Technology

Through the Google lens: search trends July 11-17

GoogleBlog - Fri, 07/18/2014 - 17:00
The World Cup is over and order has finally been restored to the universe. Now that football mania is behind us, searchers are getting the latest info about the world off the pitch. From Tesla announcing their cheapest car ever, the $35,000 Model 3 (OK, so “cheap” is relative) to the tragic events surrounding Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, read on to see what trended this week.

Cutting the cord … but not really
Netflix binge-watchers had a near-panic attack when rumors swirled that beloved show Orange is the New Black was getting the axe. But have no fear, friends—the show lives to see another 13 episodes and quite humorously reassured us of its existence. On the other side of the entertainment galaxy, comic book fans were shocked to learn that Marvel’s Thor is now a woman—and a rather ripped one at that! “Thorita” won’t be taking up her hammer against Ultron, the new villain in the upcoming Avengers movie—that role will still be held by Chris Hemsworth. Still, if producers do decide to change it up, we’re pretty sure Kacy Catanzaro deserves the role after her performance on American Ninja Warrior left searchers pumped for more.

The sports stars are out tonight
Athletes put on their best three-piece suits and gowns for the ESPYs on Wednesday, and people turned to search to see which of their favorite stars took home the honors. (FYI OKC Thunder star Russell Westbrook, as usual, won the red carpet battle for fashion supremacy, hands down.) While Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe couldn’t make it to the awards show, he still managed to make a splash on the trends charts when he came out as gay. Back on the field, it was the end of an era in baseball as New York Yankees legend Derek (er, Michael?) Jeter played in his last all-star game.
Seeing double
It was a tale of two Brookses this week as searchers were surprised to find out Brooks Wheelan got the boot from Saturday Night Live after just one season—tough crowd. Garth Brooks, on the other hand, had a great week when he announced his upcoming fall tour to much fanfare (“searchfare”?). In the reality TV scene, Claire Leeson from England spent more than $30,000 (so, basically a Tesla Model 3) to look like her celebrity idol Kim Kardashian. And another Kardashian lookalike made it to the trends charts when Lilit Avagyan married Kim’s ex-boyfriend Reggie Bush—six degrees of Kim Kardashian anyone?

Tip of the week
Didn’t catch the ESPYs? Just ask Google, “who won best male athlete?” to see who took the crown this year and find a list of past winners.

Posted by Jenise Araujo, Communications Associate, who’s [on the run] and searching for [crazy eyes] and [dandelions]
Categories: Technology

Add books & movies to your Amazon cart via Twitter?

AskDaveTaylor - Fri, 07/18/2014 - 09:39

I’ve written about buy now buttons in tweets on my business blog — see Buy Buttons in the Twitter Stream – but what Amazon’s now doing is really slick and sidesteps any cooperation on the part of Twitter.com, which gives them a lot more flexibility. What Amazon’s done is written a program that monitors Twitter for occurrences of the #AmazonCart hashtag and when it shows up, they identify the tweet that it’s in response to, then parse the original tweet for an Amazon product link.

If the original tweet has a link to an Amazon product, it’s then automatically added to your Amazon.com shopping cart (you can, of course, delete it later without buying the product). Simple, effective.

Here’s an example of a tweet I shared about a new book I was perusing at Amazon.com. To start, I sent out the tweet from the twitter icon on the product page:

A click and a window popped up:

You can, of course, tweak and tune the wording. Just leave the URL intact and the #AmazonCart info too.

It shows up as just another tweet, without any special notation or presentation:

The Beekeeper's Apprentice: or, On the Segre… Reply w/ #AmazonCart to add this http://t.co/ndnhJX1Qzl via @amazon

— Dave Taylor (@DaveTaylor) July 17, 2014

Click on “Reply” and ensure that the hashtag appears in the response (and that appears to be all you need) and it’s sent to the person who posted the original tweet as an @reply message.

More importantly, Amazon also detects it (after 20-30 seconds) and posts this:

@DaveTaylor Great! We added this item to your Amazon Cart. When ready, review your Cart http://t.co/nE8xma7IUs and check out

— MyAmazon (@MyAmazon) July 17, 2014

And when I went to Amazon.com in the Web browser, there it was, in my shopping cart:

That’s pretty darn cool!

Now, to be fair, you DO have to set up the connection between Twitter and Amazon.com. The first time you try to use #AmazonCart you’ll likely get a message like this:

@DaveTaylor Thanks for using #AmazonCart! Quickly verify your account to complete this Cart add: http://t.co/509lmxIGhT

— MyAmazon (@MyAmazon) July 17, 2014

Not too bad, you just have to authorize the app:

You’ll also need to log in to your Amazon.com account at some point along the way, but you’ve done that before, I bet.

The post Add books & movies to your Amazon cart via Twitter? appeared first on Ask Dave Taylor.

Categories: Technology

America's businesses are using the web to grow

GoogleBlog - Thu, 07/17/2014 - 12:00
Over the past few months, we’ve had the chance to talk to businesses all over the country and hear stories of how they’ve become successful. For many, it’s pretty simple: the Internet. The web is helping businesses and communities across the U.S. to grow and succeed. In fact, last year Google’s search and advertising tools helped provide $111 billion of economic activity for more than 1.5 million businesses—advertisers, publishers and nonprofits—across the U.S.

Take Go2marine, a boat supply company located on Bainbridge Island, off the coast of Washington State. Because of their remote location, bringing traffic to their website using Google AdWords plays an important role in their ability to sell their 250,000+ boat supplies to customers in 176 countries. When it’s winter in the U.S., they rely on customers located in other parts of the world where it’s boating season, with the web bringing them business from any place, in any season.

Or meet Don Morton, who taught reading, writing and language in lower-income neighborhoods in my home town of Chicago for nine years. In 2005, he began creating his own materials to supplement what the school system provided. Realizing that his worksheets could be useful for students and teachers everywhere, he created ereadingworksheets.com to provide his worksheets for free. Don started using Google AdSense to offset his costs by placing ads next to his content, and today he’s able to work full-time on his website and make an impact on students around the world.

These are just two examples of enterprising people making the most of Google tools to find new customers, connect with existing ones and grow their businesses; you can find plenty more of them in our Economic Impact Report. Our tools help connect business owners to their customers, whether they’re around the corner or across the world from each other. And when businesses flourish, it’s good news for the rest of us. Recent data shows that businesses that are online are expected to grow 40 percent faster and hire twice as many workers as businesses that aren’t. Every year, it gets clearer that the web helps lead to more successful businesses, stronger economies, more vibrant towns, and more prosperous communities.

Learn more about our economic impact in all 50 U.S. states, and how businesses are finding success through the web. Whether it’s a part for a boat or a grammar worksheet, we’re proud to play a role in giving businesses the tools they need to do more--to grow and thrive and connect with customers and communities all over the world.

Posted by Jim Lecinski, Vice President, Customer Solutions
Categories: Technology

How to read PDF files in the iPad Kindle App?

AskDaveTaylor - Thu, 07/17/2014 - 10:09

You sure can, though the experience isn’t quite as good as when you have a proper epub format Kindle book because functions like the ability to resize the text or change the width of the margins vanishes, but assuming that he’s formatting the document in a reasonable format prior to converting it into a PDF, yes, you can download it to your iPad, iPad Mini or iPad Air and read it in the Kindle app just like all your other ebooks.

The trick is figuring out how.

As with so much related to the iTunes program, working with apps that can have their own file store on your iOS device is not particularly intuitive…

To start, plug your iPad into your Mac system (on a PC the process is the same, but the screen shots would be different, of course) and make sure you know where your brother’s latest PDF manuscript is located too. Go to the Apps tab in iTunes:

Here’s the big secret: scroll down. Down below all the app icon layout content.

Below that there’s a whole ‘nother section:

Well, that’s interesting!

As you can see, on the left are shown Apps that have file sharing capabilities, while on the right you can see the files or documents associated with that particular application. In this case, it’s the Kindle App for the iPad and there are no current docs.

To add one, click on “Add…” and choose the PDF file in question. Now it’ll look like this:

I’m poised to read a pre-publication edition of Ted Galdi’s “Elixir”, but the idea’s the same.

All ready? No additional PDFs or epubs you want to put on the iPad? Then click “Apply”.

It’ll take 15+ seconds to sync and copy, but once it’s done, go into the Kindle app on the iPad itself and…

Nothing. No new PDF.

What the deuce?  Turns out that the Kindle app can sometimes take a few seconds to notice that there’s a new file available. I usually tap on the “Device” tab on the bottom and it then shows up, along with hiding books that aren’t actually downloaded onto my iPad itself:

Hey, there it is on the top left, even tagged as “New”.

Tap on it to read the PDF…

Flip and you can get to a page that has actual text, at which point you realize that if the original PDF was designed well (e.g. with reasonably big type) it’ll work fine, but if it was poorly laid out, it’s potentially going to be fatiguing to read on the iPad screen:

Still, quite readable, especially when you rotate it to the more typical vertical orientation of a book.

Hope that helps you out, good luck with your brother’s books. I hope he’s a good writer!

The post How to read PDF files in the iPad Kindle App? appeared first on Ask Dave Taylor.

Categories: Technology

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