Create a digital photo mosaic with Mosaizer Pro

Mosaizer is a free application able to create digital photo mosaics, an image composed of  thousands of small ones, using the photographs of your choice. The software is very configurable, it has a multilingual interace and it comes with different skins.  Mosaizer has professional features but it is easy to use for beginners with the default options, its tabbed interface keeps it free of cluttered buttons, a wizard will guide you through the process of selecting a photograph, setting the pixel count and number of image tiles, the processed image can be previewed in the “Mosaic result” tab before deciding if saving it or changing settings and looks.

Projects can be saved for web publishing or printing, files can be exported as .bmp, .jpg, .png, .ico, .gif, .wmf and .emf.

Mosaizer digital photo mosaic freeware
Mosaizer digital photo mosaic freeware

You can download extra picture libraries from Mosaizer website, they have been optimized for photo mosaic creation, a wide range of photo themes is available, the program is extremely fast with accurate colour matching, the tools it has, colorizing, blending, brightness, contrast, saturation and others, allow you for far more creativity of what other photo mosaic applications offer.

Final images will look photo realistic but do not confuse this tool with a full fledged photo editor it is only a nice addition to have for those who want to create a special and unique art creation with minimum effort, maybe a collage of your wedding photos, or the kids day trip, they would make for a worthy personalised present.

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Bitser, the free alternative to WinZip

Bitser is a free compression utility similar to WinZip, WinRar and 7Zip, it can extract .zip, .zipx, .7z, .rar, .bzip2 and many others, it can only create .zip, .7zip and self-extracting .exe files, including a checksum verification tab where to scrutinise file integrity (MD5/SHA-1/SHA-256) making sure that the file has not been corrupted or tampered with. During installation you will be asked if you would like to add Bitser to Windows Explorer context menu (right click menu), this is optional but I would recommend it because most Internet downloads come in a compressed format and you are likely to use it.

Its huge tabbed interface is what makes Bitser different from the competition, this is a beginner friendly program ideal for seniors who have never used a computer, what Bitser lacks in features it makes up in simplicity of use, the five tabs it has, “Create“, “Manage“, “Reports“, “Passwords” and “Options” are accessible within a couple of clicks, the program can be used as a password manager too, creating a Notepad like .bpw storage file encrypted with AES128 that can not be compared with specialist password manager software like KeePass but it does the job and those who know nothing about computers will feel at home using it.

Free WinZip alternative Bitser
Free WinZip alternative Bitser

My personal experience teaching older people how to use computers is that as soon as they see it is too much trouble to learn something they give up as they do not even understand how important it is to use a different password for each site, Bitser helps to overcome people’s willingness to learn by allowing them to perform all they need without reading any manual.

Bitser underlying compression function is implemented using 7Zip open source software, a well established project, if you are an advanced user you will be better off with 7Zip but if you need something beginner friendly for someone who has no interest in computers Bitser can be the tool that will introduce them into file compression, backups and encryption, I would also be happy to use this tool for my own backups considering how easy it is to create them and the added encryption, there is a detailed help manual in case you need it, lacking screenshots but very well explained.

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Download any web video with Freemake Video Downloader

FreeMake Video Downloader is a free application to save YouTube, DailyMotion, Vimeo and any other embedded video meant to be viewed in your browser, supported video sites include LiveLeak, Flickr, PhotoBucket, and a huge assortment of porn video sites. The video will be downloaded with full sound and add free, all you have to do is to copy the URL to the clipboard paste it into FreeMake Video Downloader and the video will be saved to the folder of your choice as .flv.

You will be given very detailed information about the download, like resolution, encoding rate, size, download speed and remaining time, the download should take about the same time that it takes to watch the video in your browser, you can instruct FreeMake Video Downloader to convert the .flv file into a more watchable .avi, .3gp, .mkv after download, you can also choose to only download the audio and not the video, a perfect way to extract music and generate a podcast out of a video recording.

FreeMake Video Download downloads DailyMotion video
FreeMake Video Download downloads DailyMotion video

The only necessary requirement for the software to work is that you play the video in your browser while the download takes place, FreeMake Video Downloader funnels the browser streaming into a video file, it doesn’t matter what is showing on the screen, you can browse the Internet as the video plays on a different tab or turn off the sound and the video will still be saved with sound. I have tried to do this in Opera and Firefox with no problems but if you download dozens of  small videos there can be times when pasting a different URL will download a previous video, it is best to keep a little visual control on the video being streamed to make sure it has not stopped playing when FreeMake begins the download, if a problem occurs refresh the video page.

Private video sites requiring a registered username and password can be utilized entering the credentials in the options section, together with a proxy if needed, I have used FreeMake Video Download behind a VPN to download country restricted videos and it worked smoothly. I tried other video downloaders before (KeepVid, OrbitDownloader, YTD) and FreeMake Video Download is definitely the best one, it is simple to use and it includes a video converter, if the video site you want to download from is supported you are in business, the only few major sites that do not work are Hulu, ComedyCentral and MTV, a list of supported sites can be found in the help file.

The software is free but it will ask you during installation if you want to install additional sponsored programs, this is optional and pretty much the norm in every other free video downloader I have tried, that is how they finance their development.

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List of free antivirus programs for Mac computers

Macintosh users have to be as careful with viruses as Windows users, there might be less viruses for Mac computers but they do exist, the Apple Flashback virus is a good example. As Mac OS X market share increases so will the number of virus writers targeting the Mac operating system.

With some in the Apple Mac community spreading the false rumour that they can’t be infected by malware, it makes it easier for malicious hackers to install a trojan. As long as someone can make money stealing banking credentials and private data off Mac computer users, the risk of computer viruses for Macs will remain.

List of free Mac OS antivirus

Avast Mac Antivirus: It protects you from getting malware through Internet browsing, email or downloaded files. Automatic virus definition updates and a nice interface with screen alerts warning you of suspicious activies.

iAntivirus: Real time protection from Norton Symantec, very easy to use and simple interface, ideal for non geeks who just want to install something and forget about it, it hasn’t got too many settings to tweak.

ClamXav: Mac version of an open source antivirus engine, it serves as a frontend to Clam AV, Mac power users will like this antivirus for its high customization and detailed logs. It hasn’t got the easiest to manage interfaces but once you get used it you will feel at home.

ClamXav Mac OS X antivirus
ClamXav Mac OS X antivirus

Comodo Mac Antivirus: Real time protection and on demand scanner with extensive reports. Easy to use interface where you can drag and drop files for scanning. Full antivirus version for free, you won’t be asked to upgrade for more features as others do.

Avira Mac Antivirus: Automatic updates and scheduled scanned guarantees that your Mac computer is protected from ever changing threats. You can chose to scan the whole operating system silently in the background or pick a single file, folder or area for scanning. The antivirus includes heuristics and event logs.

Explore space online with Microsoft WorldWide Telescope

Microsoft WorldWide Telescope is a free download that allows you to explore space using your computer. Everything is nicely organised in tabs and you can move around the cosmos by clicking and dragging the field of view (optionally use a Xbox360 controller for navigation) or chose one of the guided tours that come with a background narrative voice or music and written descriptions.  What I loved most was being able to get a 3D panoramic view of planet Mars.

Microsoft WorldWide Telescope brings a virtual 3D planetarium to your home with blow minding customization and filters, beginners can learn about the Universe by clicking on a specific planet and advanced astronomers are able to connect their own telescope to the computer for tracking a specific star. The software is Ascom standards compliant, any astronomical instrument that supports the Ascom platform will work with it.

Microsoft WorldWide telescope
Microsoft WorldWide telescope

Constellations, Splitzer, Hubble and Chandra telescope studies, Astrophotography, the Solar System, planet panoramas from landing robots (Apollo, Rover, etc) are all included, many of the images are in high resolution and can be moved around with the mouse. There is no end to the possibilities that this software to explore the Universe offers, its plugin system makes it possible to download new modules as studies advance. WorldWide Telescope consumes a high amount of CPU and RAM, you will need a modern computer to run it, I used an Intel double core E4800 with 4GB of RAM, less than that will slow down the space tours.

I highly recommend this program to all parents and schools out there on top of the obvious astronomers and cosmologists. This tool is the best celestial viewer I have come across, even better than NASA educative software. If you don’t want to install Microsoft WorldWide Telescope in your computer it is possible to use the web client with Microsoft Silverlight in your browser, but it has less features.

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Hide a folder in Windows with WinMend Folder Hide

WinMend Folder Hide is an easy and simple way to hide folders in Windows, unfortunately it does not work with single files, these will have to be kept inside a folder to be hidden. After installing and launching the program you will be asked to enter a password to protect it from unauthorised use, every time you launch WinMend Folder Hide you will be asked for this password, it is necessary to make sure that nobody else can use the program to unhide the folders which is done using the interface with no other protection than a checkbox.

There is a nice tabbed multilingual interface, colours can be changed with a single click, there is no manual to read, it can not get any easier than this. The software is suitable to protect your data if you are sharing a computer and want to stop children from seeing or messing with what you store in your folders, this is not a high security tool, a knowledgeable IT person should be able to uncover your data in under a minute with something as simple as a Linux live CD.

WinMend Folder Hidden
WinMend Folder Hidden

If you would like to hide a Windows folder manually instead you can go to properties (right-click), Attributes section, check the hidden box and click on apply. To view the folder you would then have to tweak your Windows operating system by going to Windows>Start, typing: “Folder options”  selecting it and applying “Show hidden files and folders“, a program like WinMend Folder Hide makes your life easier.

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Graphics editor with filters PhotoFiltre Studio X

PhotoFiltre Studio X is a powerful graphics editor with dozens of special effects, it’s cluttered interface make it quick and easy to use without the need to dig deep into the menu to find tweaking components. Standard features like layer management, cloning, brush, smudge, spray tool, eraser and magic wand are all included, the program can also be used for basic drawing.

The variety of filters included make it quick and easy to turn any photograph into a work of art with a single click, the artistic filters include Pointillizing, Watercolour, Rough pastels, coloured pencil, charcoal, crystallize and many others. Another one click feature lets you add a frame, add an aged effect, blur or deform the image with a submenu of twirling, ripple, glass, lake reflection, etc. You can add external plugins to use more filters and capabilities.

Graphics editor PhotoFiltre Studio
Graphics editor PhotoFiltre Studio

Images can be saved as .jpeg, .gif, .png, .tiff and PhotoFiltre’s own file extension .pfi, but not PhotoShop .psd, however you can open .psd files and most of the digital cameras proprietary formats like Fuji raw, .raw, Minolta raw, .nef, Sony raw, .x3f and a couple of dozen different extensions, image processing doesn’t need too many computer resources, this software will not slow down your computer, it is very lean.

PhotoFiltre Studio can be used to batch process images, applying filters or resizing dozens of images at once, this complete photo editor might not as powerful ad PhotoShop but it has all the painting tools the average home user needs at a very reasonable price, I have used PhotoShop and it is far too complicated for total newbies, if you don’t know much about graphic editors I would give PhotoFilter Studio a try first.

Note: This program is only free for 30 days, after which you are meant to buy or uninstall it but it will still work if you don’t.

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