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Showing posts from 2012

Windows 8 App Shortcuts on Desktop Tutorial

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There’s no doubt about it in my mind: Windows 8’s new UI is pretty slick. However, as it only replaces the Start Menu of last generation (ok, the last several generations), it is still very much necessary to pay the familiar Windows desktop a visit on a daily basis. Now, while it may not be difficult to hit the Windows key on your keyboard, type the name of the app you want, and hit Enter, some might still prefer to have shortcuts on their Desktop or Taskbar leading to Metro/Modern UI Windows 8 apps. Although Microsoft has not made it abundantly clear how to achieve such a feat, it is nonetheless possible…although more complicated than you might think, too. But never fear, ThinkBoxly is here! Once you’ve gone through the process once or twice, you’ll be making shortcuts on your own in no time.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: AS PART OF WINDOWS 8.1 UPDATE 1 MICROSOFT IS INCLUDING BUILT-IN APP SHORTCUT FUNCTIONALITY. THIS TUTORIAL WILL NO LONGER BE NECESSARY AFTER APRIL 8, 2014.

Step 1: Identifying the…

What’s up with the Windows 8 App Store?

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Ok, so before I get started, let me make it quite clear that I love Windows 8. Contrary to what many suggest, I would consider it a necessary upgrade from Windows 7 due to increased performance, a more efficient UI, cool new functionality thanks to the new Start screen and its apps…oh, wait. While most of those points may be true, Microsoft may be missing things on one critical level, and if they don’t correct it soon, the damage may be difficult to repair, ever.

The Windows 8 app store started out looking good. Really good. Xbox 360 Arcade titles were being ported to PC, providing a standardized gaming experience akin to what people expect from consoles, tablets, and smartphones, despite the open nature of PC hardware. Popular mobile titles like Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, and Fruit Ninja were showing their face in the store on launch day. Things were looking up for the app store as a place for users to find quality software from trusted developers.

But then something went horribly wro…

FreeAppSlots – Turning Taps into Cash…again!

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Many of you that read this blog have taken advantage of a service I wrote about a while back called FreeMyApps. How it works is that companies sponsor their iOS app on FreeMyApps, you download the app being sponsored, and FreeMyApps shares the profits with you in exchange for trying the app out. What with FreeMyApps doing so well, you know other companies are going to want to get in on the fun. That’s precisely what we have with FreeAppSlots.

Now before I get into FreeAppSlots, I want to make one thing abundantly clear: this is not a gambling site. The slots do play an interesting part in you earning rewards, but don’t be confused by the name. I can assure you that ThinkBoxly would never get behind a company that openly ruins people’s lives to turn a profit. Now, on to the review…

As I already said, FreeAppSlots works basically like FreeMyApps. Several of the rewards are even the same–you can redeem earned points to get individual apps, iTunes gift cards, Amazon gift cards, and more. On…

YouTube: the Future of TV (Micro-reviews)

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With online streaming of movies and shows gaining popularity, the internet has made itself a very viable option for major productions in recent years. While YouTube may have begun as a creative outlet for non-professionals, its insane success and popularity has made it a choice option for professionals seeking to join in this pioneering effort to bring big-screen quality into streaming video. Here’s my top 3 list of real productions that are available to watch in full at no cost on YouTube.

3. Video Game Highschool
If you’ve not heard of FreddieW, welcome to the internet. Freddie Wong and his gang of full-time content creators impress millions week after week with their geeky plots and self-proclaimed “rad” effects, and their feature length film, Video Game Highschool, is everything you’d expect from a FreddieW movie. It’s full of nerdy humor, intense action, and guns as well as an all-star cast of YouTube favorites, but ultimately VGHS lacks universal appeal. If you’re a fan of video g…

Custom Windows 8 Tiles Tutorial (UPDATED x2)

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably well aware that Microsoft has released Windows 8: successor to Windows 7, and father of a new generation of Windows. I recently got my copy, and have been quite impressed with the OS thus far. However, no matter how good Windows 8 is, it can’t make all of my old applications match the new UI in the Start Screen. Thankfully, there is already a way to fix that.

UPDATE: A new version of OblyTile has been released which handles image resizing for you. No longer do you need to worry about the exact dimensions of the large tile image, and no small tile image is required (although you can still make one if you’d like differing small and large tile images). The new OblyTile also features a tile manager which allows you to edit or remove existing tiles, a tile preview, and several other enhancements over the version written about in this post. This tutorial will certainly still work, but now it should be much easier for you! Freely skip st…

Final Thoughts on Windows 8 + Unboxing

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In late 2011, we received the first public release of Microsoft’s major new operating system, Windows 8. A few months later, we received a consumer preview. A few months after that, we got the release preview. Now, at long last, Microsoft has made the final build of Windows 8 and it is now available for purchase. Should you get it? Should you hold off? Does it improve the PC? Does it ruin it? Today I will offer up my thoughts, not as an exhaustive review, but simply as practical observations to top off the many technical reviews that have already been done on the basis of preview releases. Let’s dive in.



It’s fast and furious
The first thing I saw when using Windows 8 on my main desktop is just how fast the OS really is. On my experimental PC, the preview releases all ran great…but those were not really used and abused like my daily driver desktop. Initially I attempted a simple upgrade from Windows 7 rather than doing a clean install, and the results were not pretty (DISCLAIMER: I had …

Chaos Rings Review (iOS/Android/WP7)

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A major problem faced by smartphones today is app clutter. With millions of apps out there, it can be difficult to sort through all the half-hearted efforts and find something really great. In my case, I sought after a good JRPG that wasn’t merely a port or remake of an existing game. What I ended up with at the end of my quest was Chaos Rings.

So I know that this game has been out for a couple of years and has already spawned a sequel and prequel, but I still wanted to make this review because, if you’re like me, you’d prefer to play a series from the start even if the sequel claims superiority over its predecessor. And indeed, even though Chaos Rings II offers a few enhancements, Chaos Rings the first is still a very worthy addition to your app collection. I also wanted to take a bit of a look backwards because the latest offering from developer Square Enix, Drakerider, simply fails to be a worthy smartphone JRPG in my opinion. So without further ado, let’s take a look.

Story
In Chaos…

Euclideon, Unlimited Polygons – The Future of Gaming?

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Polygons. They’re all around us. Well, when we’re playing games, anyway. And while polygons are generally pretty well regarded in the gaming scene for being the means by which we get all those fancy 3D models, could it be that we’re actually severely limiting our games by using polygon-based 3D engines? Australia-based company Euclideon says “yes”.



Last time, I ran a post on how a new technology from a relatively nameless company is seeking to revolutionize the CPU–and how it makes sense that they’ll succeed at doing so. Today we have another such nameless company, only this time it is seeking to revolutionize the 3D engine. But does it have as good a chance of succeeding as the Parallella coprocessor?

Well, first of all, I suppose you might want to know what exactly we’re talking about here. Since polygons have been the lifeblood of 3D engines ever since virtual 3D began, it may be hard at first to imagine an alternative. Therefore, you’ll probably be surprised to learn that you’ve alr…

Parallella – A Giant Leap for Mankind

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A while back I ran a post examining the current trends in the hardware and software industries and expressed my concern at the direction they seem to be heading. In the last decade and the last few years in particular, technological advancement has slowed to a crawl despite companies finding ways to keep current tech interesting. But in that process, the same companies have in some ways also been slowly murdering their own industries and the personality types of people that could keep them going in the future. Technologically we’ve hit a wall, and the time is ripe for a major breakthrough to come in and change everything again.

That’s where Parallella comes in.

In the 90s we saw, among many other rapid advances, the genesis of the modern video card. Of course we already had 2D video cards, but then 3D Accelerators came along and supplemented the video cards in order to deliver unprecedented increases in performance and detail. Jump ahead a few years more, and you end up with a completel…

Full-Browser YouTube Trick (+Bonus Trick)

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Here’s a quick tip for the week: ever wanted to watch a Youtube video while checking up on email, Facebook, Google+, or something else? Well, the obvious solution is to just make a second window with Youtube occupying half of the screen…but when you want the video, why should you settle with comments and ratings and such that you’re not reading taking up some of this space as well? And what of the video itself? Is it too small on the small setting to occupy all of the available space, and too large on the large setting to see properly?

As luck would have it, there’s actually a very simple way to watch YouTube videos that automatically resizes the video to fill whatever space is available to it in the browser window. All you have to do is take the “/watch?v=” out of the link (example: www.youtube.com/watch?v=aaMsBydcwV0) and replace it with just “/v/” (example: www.youtube.com/v/aaMsBydcwV0). The result:

Still not satisfied? Well, you’re hard to please.



Ok, so perhaps you’d also like to …

Has the Apple Lost its Crisp?

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Why am I writing an Apple post, you ask? Well ok, you probably don’t ask. It’s no big secret that earlier this week Apple held an event to announce the iPhone 5 and new lineup of iPods. Actually, a lack of secrecy really themed everything about the latest in Apple’s most popular products, arguably the most popular products in all of recent technology. Leak after leak after leak revealed information about the new iPhone; everything from its taller form factor to duo-tone backing to tiny 9-pin dock connector to replace the older standard. But after seeing the general reaction to the announcements in the days following the event, I have to wonder…has a lack of secrecy prior to launch cut down on the usual enthusiasm regarding the iPhone, or is it something else eating away at Apple?

While we’re getting non-secrets out of the way, I suppose I should clarify that I am generally not a fan of Apple devices because I find them restrictive to the user and not as well-built below the surface (es…

How to use ANY set of Headphones with Consoles

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Even after six years on the market, it is still notoriously difficult to get game audio into a set of headphones from Sony’s Playstation 3. Despite having built-in Bluetooth connectivity, Sony has continually disallowed the use of normal wireless headsets with the console except for live chatting. While you are free to cough up $80 to purchase the official Playstation 3 headset, most of us would be happier to just plug in a normal pair of headphones and forego the steep cost of official gear. Today, we’re going to take a look at how you can do just that for $10 or less. Even better, although I’ll specifically be addressing the Playstation 3 today, the same technique can be used on an Xbox 360, Wii, or virtually any other console as well.

In case you happen to be reading this post because you’re wondering if perhaps you should simply cave and get an expensive, licensed headset instead of a workaround, consider this: the workaround we’ll be looking at today enables all regular 3.5mm head…

Computer Geeks: an Endangered Species?

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There was once a time when if you really wanted to work with computers, you had to build your own hardware. You had to work programming languages in to existing hardware yourself. In either case, you knew your hardware and software alike quite well and were completely comfortable and capable messing around with both. Even as the decades wore on and software became more complex as hardware became simpler, anyone worth their geek salt was expected to have a decent working knowledge of current releases in both categories and be able to hold his own in dealing with them.

However, recent years have seen a major shift in this trend, and signs point to things only getting much worse. Are we arriving at the final days of true computer geeks?

The Cause
Now I know what you’re probably thinking: “What? There are dozens of new geeks created every day! They aren’t going extinct!” Well, if you were to survey people about if they call themselves geeks or not, you’d probably get a fair amount of data su…

Tabbed Browsing in Windows Explorer? I’ll take three!

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If there’s one feature I’ve ever wanted to see come to Windows, it’s tabbed browsing in Windows explorer. While some may not see the big difference between switching windows and switching tabs (I suppose that would include Microsoft, considering they’ve yet to include such a function even in the soon-to-be-released Windows 8) anyone who has gotten used to tabbed browsing on the web or on Linux-based OS’s will be able to appreciate having the same abilities while browsing files.

Thankfully, out of the clutter of unstable and abandoned beta apps which fail to really accomplish the same thing, one new piece of software has emerged that aims to fix this absence for Windows users.

Though not yet a perfect solution, Clover 2 does a fantastic job of bringing a very Google Chrome-like experience to Windows Explorer.

The application itself is tiny (2MB download, 6MB once installed) and has a RAM footprint equal to that of its installed size–very acceptable. Installation is quick and easy, and the…

Why I Bought a PS3 (and not a 360)

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We are now half way through the longest gaming console generation ever to exist, with Microsoft’s Xbox 360 being in its seventh year, and Sony’s Playstation 3 in its sixth. Though rumors are ramping up about new consoles being released as soon as next year, both companies have made strong indication to the contrary, repeatedly citing their original intent to make this generation last a full ten years. Despite Nintendo releasing the WiiU later this year, Sony and Microsoft see this as the big N playing catchup and not ushering in a new console generation. That being said, it’s a great time to be a gamer.

A Great Time to be a Gamer
With half a decade under their belts, both the Xbox 360 and PS3 have extensive libraries of games to choose from, price cuts have made the consoles much more affordable than on their launch days, and numerous software updates have added more functionality to the gadgets than ever before. That, along with the promise of four or five more years of being up-to-dat…

FreeMyApps – Turn Taps into Cash…on the go!

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Many of you will remember that back in June I ran a post on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk program, which allows users to complete simple tasks given by various requesters and earn anywhere from a few cents to a few dollars a pop. However, the vast majority of Mechanical Turk HITs can only be completed on a laptop or desktop computer. What about when you’re on the go or just don’t feel like pulling out a full computer? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could rack up a few bucks on your iPhone or iPad while riding the bus to work?

Well, with FreeMyApps, a website (not an app, mind you) by Fiksu Inc, you can, and with less effort…but is it as favorable an option as Mechanical Turk?

The Premise
Like Mechanical Turk, FreeMyApps involves three parties: first, developers pay to have their app(s) put on FreeMyApps, then the user downloads these sponsored apps, and Fiksu pays users a small amount of their profits for the download via a points and rewards system.

It sounds almost too good to be true, but FreeM…

Breaking Down the Video Game Stigma

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News flash: if you’re a video gamer, your activity of choice is not well respected.

Another news flash: if you’re not a gamer, chances are you should respect gamers’ activity of choice a bit more.

Both of you, however, will have to take responsibility if this is to change. Everyone can agree that video games have made some large strides, but what remains to be settled is whether or not they have attained the same level of art as movies–or in other words, if they have reached a point where they are an acceptable or even constructive use of your time.. Regardless of which of the aforementioned groups you come from, the answers may surprise you!

Video Game Creation: A New Visual Art
I find it interesting that when CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) made its way into the film industry, nobody questioned the artistry behind it. Viewers were wowed and amazed with each new CGI film to come along…so why not the same public reaction with video games as their graphics get better and better?

The answe…