Category Archives: Product Reviews

SnapStream Rocks!

Some time back, I purchased a copy of BeyondTV (made by Snapstream), software that turns any capable computer with a TV tuner card into a Personal Video Record (PVR).

Recently, I downloaded a demo copy of one of their other products, Beyond Media and am impressed with what it can do. This product turns a normal computer running XP into a very capable media center. When combined with a remote control (such as Snapstream’s Firefly remote) and a video-to-TV converter that allows the monitor output to be displayed on a television screen, Beyond Media lets you do the following on your television set:

– view photos and videos, and listen to music and podcasts, stored on the local PC
– listen to Internet radio stations through Live365 or which can otherwise play through Windows Media Player
– read blogs configured in Newsgator
– watch live or recorded TV through BeyondTV
– display local weather forecasts

I particularly like the ability to read blogs on my television set. However, the content is limited to what is included in the RSS feeds which typically only includes a portion of the total blog entry.

meebo.com – web-based IM client

If you need to log into AIM, Yahoo IM or MSN but don’t want to download and install a client application for each, and don’t want to download and install a crosss-platform program like Trillian, then you can either log into a web-based version of each service (AIM Express, MSN Web Messenger or Yahoo Web Messenger) or can use a single web-based service like meebo that supports multiple services at the same time. meebo is also useful if you plan on using IM from inside a corporate network that blocks certain ports used by IM programs or if you want to by-pass corporate systems that monitor IM conversations (an SSL version of meebo is available for “alpha” testing).

A mention on the PhoneBoy blog gave me the heads up on this service.

Skype adds new features

Skype has announced the beta release of version 2.5. Some of the neat new features added include:

* the ability to pay for Skype’s various fee-based services from within Skype (instead of needing to use a web browser)
* support for sharing of contact lists between groups
* the ability to send SMS messages from within Skype.
* audio call quality analyzer
* support for Skypecasts (which allow conference calls of up to 100 participants)

I’ve also recently noticed the emergence of third party services that are tied to Skype. For example, Lavalife is running a World Chat for singles and Untye is offering a desktop sharing application integrated with Skype.

Roll-back software – RestoreIT / RollBack RX

PC World’s Techlog has a posting about problems experienced by some users with recent Microsoft security patches. To me, this highlights the need to run software on PCs that can allow users to easily roll-back recent changes. While the security fixes cannot be put off indefinitely, this approach at least allows the user to bring the computer back to a functional state while they figure out the cause of the conflict. It is also very useful when any new software is installed that messes up the existing configuration. Examples of products that provide roll-back capabilities include: Farstone’s RestoreIT 7 and Horizon Datasys’ RollBack RX. However, note that most of these types of products alter the boot track of the hard disk and will conflict with any other software that tries to do the same (for example, certain whole disk encryption software or even certain backup programs like Norton’s Ghost (at least the older versions)).

Linksys WRT54G – OpenWRT and Sveasoft in a nasty fight

One of Linksys’ most successful products has been WRT54G/GS/GL. Some would say this is because the router (well, at least the original versions and the current GL version) software was based on open source and a large community of third party developers has been developing new applications for the box. Two popular sources of replacement firmware for the WRT54 have been OpenWRT and Sveasoft. However, the two are now engaged in a fight and OpenWRT (whose software is licensed under the GNU General Public License) recently terminated Sveasoft’s license to use any component of OpenWRT.

From DailyWireless. If you are interested in purchasing a model of the WRT54 that can still be reflashed with OpenWRT or Sveasoft software, consult the chart at Wikipedia.

PhoneGnome Releases API

PhoneBoy and Alec Saunders are writing about PhoneGnome’s newly announced API. I think this is wonderful and have even taken the time to try out one of the user contributed applications that can be used to initiate a call from the PhoneGnome to a designated phone number (such as a cell phone number) and then to a number listed in the user’s phone book – an ideal application for users that have cell phones with unlimited incoming minutes (or who buy local GSM Sims while traveling) or who want to call long distance at VOIP rates. The PhoneGnome product has such great potential, in my view, and hopefully this API initiative will allow it to really take off.