Category: Android

Day-of-Release: Ashampoo Slideshow Studio HD 4.0

Day-of-Release: Ashampoo Slideshow Studio HD 4.0

Two generations ago, family and friends might gather around a projector screen, with a slide projector with a slide rotary caddy. They would take these opportunities to recap trips they went on, things they saw, and people they experienced the events with. As been the subject of numerous parodies and skits, people have been subjected to seeing the same scene, over and over again, with off-handed quotes. You typically hear such things as “Here is Gene, on the right!” Now he is on the left!” “You remember the heat that day, Gene?” What do you think, Barbra?” The purpose of these gatherings was to track and chart the milestones of people’s life.

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Today, the technology is different, but the purpose has carried on into day, with computers, mobile device cameras, optical media (DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K-UHD) and streaming video being the media that these memories are recorded onto for preservation. The scope has been expanded to now encompass the avenues of commerce, education, entertainment, and journalism, in addition to the personal recordings of yesteryear. The learning curve of these software programs has varied over the years, coupled with the available feature sets that they each offer. If you get an easy-to-use program, the features might be limited. If you choose a more full-featured program, you tend to find yourself facing a less-friendly GUI/UX that is much less intuitive and systematic.

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I am glad to report to you, today, that a new, more powerful, and full-featured program has debuted today, from those fine folks at Ashampoo, entitled Slideshow Studio HD 4.0. This great program fully carries forward the fine, long-standing tradition that Ashampoo has come to represent; demonstrated by the craftsmanship you find in this and all of their programs. Not only does have the standard functions you would expect from a slideshow program, but the forward-looking embrace 4K Ultra-High-Definition video standard that is bursting on the scene.scr_ashampoo_slideshowstudio_hd4_simplemode_adapt_to_music

This promises of up to 8x the resolution of 1080P video, with support for High-Dynamic Range (HDR) for extreme life-like imagery and natural shadows, mid-range tones, and highlights. As Hollywood has begun taking this file format as the go-to choice for how they capture our blockbusters, and present them to us for home theater consumption, not many home enthusiasts programs offer this functionality, but Slideshow Studio HD 4.0 comes through for you, in this regard.

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Not only does this software program that has these feature-set, included, but it also introduces the addition of 17 new transition effects, not available in prior versions. If the included transitions and effects that come bundled with the program do not meet all of your needs, post-launch, additional templates will be made available, free of charge from their website. I can attest that having an online depository for specialized templates has been a lifesaver, on several occasions, with other software; I am very looking forward to have this resource for this program available to me and to you, my faithful readers.

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As a faithful user of iOS devices for seven years or so, I need tools and software that allows me to enjoy my media and share it with those in my circle, on these devices. While I have yet to make a mobile-enabled slideshow, with Slideshow Studio HD 4.0, has specialized output settings for these devices, so you have full confidence that your final project will work on these devices, with minimal hassle and problems. For those of you that use Android or other operating systems on your mobile devices, they have output device profiles for those pieces of equipment.

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As you may recall my wife has a home-based art business, and she has branched into tutorials and training videos, in addition to her artwork for sale. She has done videos on Periscope, and uploaded some basic time-elapsed videos of her paintings, but having this tool in her arsenal will allow her to create more polished and professional videos in this vein. I can see that she might very well start laying a narration track over her work, and better explain her creative process to help budding artist reach their potential. I can see that the software’s support of this feature will help her obtain her goal for this purpose.

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Right now, if you purchase this program on the launch day or soon after (which is today, July, 11, 2016), you can have this program for 50% off its regular price of $39.99 USD for a Single-User License. This is a nice savings, and will allow you to become a paying customer for Ashampoo’s products, and might entitle you to future upgrades and discounts on this program, as well as the other members of their product family line. In my opinion, this is well worth the money for such a powerful and versatile program that can be used for personal and professional projects, alike. If you need this program for multi-user environments or for business purposes, you can contact them for a price quote, directly. If you still are not convinced that this is for you, you can use their trial version, and test it out for yourself. As always, keep on techin’!

Incomedia WebSite X5 Evolution 12 Review

Incomedia WebSite X5 Evolution 12 Review

As a blogger, with my own column, I can attest how important it is to have a professional image/layout for you site. I have been lucky, in my transition from Tumblr to WordPress; I was able to find a free theme to meet my needs, though many are not. One issue with free themes for many people is lack of unique identity, and the ability to keep them working with changes to the WordPress’ platform. Another issue is that many free themes also can have nefarious links to malware and cyber security dangers. That aside, free templates for general website creation have similar problems, and are not nearly adaptable for various industries and sectors, as their paid alternatives.

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Fortunately, the fine firm of Incomedia, and their flagship website suite, WebSite X5 Evolution 12 eliminates these hurdles, and eradicates any limitations that you might put on your site design. Utilizing a systematic (step-by-step) approach that walks you through each phase of site creation, you can both real-time preview each change, and see what your site needs next. If you are unsure of how you should layout your site, WebSite X5 has countless pre-formatted templates and stock images, to get your started. As each step is completed, you can then plan to either publish to your site host or locally, so you can then take the completed site into another web editor or program.

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Once you start up the program, you are presented to a window, which allows you both login/setup your web membership account, as well as browse the promoted templates and galley items that are available for free or for purchase, with credits (which can be purchased online, directly from Incomedia in bulk packs). You can also check on updates and the answer data-bank/FAQ updates that address various issues in the WebSite X5 community. This is also the wizard/systematic creation module start point.

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To create your site, just follow the instructions, outlined in each step, and add in the required information, such as you URL, site name, site icon (favicon), and so forth. Each level of creation has clear, concise help and built-in tools that make the process intuitive and much easier than in years prior. I know that making a website, from years ago, required a lot of HTML/CSS/PHP coding, and put the power of site creation in the hands of the programmers, versus the artists. Now, with a program, such as WebSite X5 Evolution, you can focus on how you want your site to look, the pages to include, and the features you need, and let the software handle the hard coding for you. Do not fret, though, if you want to do coding or modification of the code placed by the software, you can easily take charge of this task.

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I do have a background in graphic design (as some of you know), by my training and emphasis is the print media realm. As I was graduating from college, I took a web design class, where I used Adobe GoLive (a program that I believe has been discontinued) and Photoshop together to make a site. This was my only site creation tools that I had used, and we did not get taught any HTML or coding skills at all, as we were told that we would hand off those tasks to a dedicated web programmer. Fast forward to now (ten plus years later), and my web creation skills still depend on GUI wizards and templates for my online output. Thankfully, these have gotten me by, but now with the expansive tools, provided by Incomedia and WebSite X5, I can broaden my horizons and expand what I can do, now. This will be true of you, as well; as I know that you can take these tools and make them your own, too!

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One thing I want to highlight is that WebSite X5 does support e-commerce and online stores. Being disabled and doing this as a hobby, I do not need an online storefront, but my wife does have a home-based, e-business, that does need these features. She sells her artwork online, and she wants to do so, directly to her customers. With this suite, she can now design her own shopping cart, and collect payment from her patrons. This software supports payment processing from major players, such as PayPal and the major credit cards vendors/issuers. Such payment methods are how she deals with customers all around the world, so being able to integrate their widgets into any site layout she chooses is a welcome and important boost.

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One, last area that should be highlighted is a bundled web hosting package, included with a licensed copy. For right now, if you purchase this software, you get included one year of web hosting from several, select providers. It does you no good if you design a great site, and have nowhere to put it or a way to list it for public consumption. If you have ever shopped for a web host, the pricing tiers can be quite varied and include much trade-offs. Also, many web hosting packages do not include your DNS registration fees, as those are extra costs. Said included DNS registry is a benefit of the one year’s hosting included this service; a nice inclusion for potential savings.

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I could drone on more about the potential benefits of this program, but the program speaks for itself. If you would like more information or more details, check out this YouTube video that goes into great detail, on how a site can come together. This software comes in three versions: Home – $19.99 USD, Evolution – $75.00, and Professional – $199.99 USD. Each tier allows for various feature sets, focusing on personal website creation, commercial, and advanced commercial website creation, respectfully. Whatever version you purchase, you can upgrade to the other tiers for a reduced price. I know whichever version you choose, you will be very happy with your purchase, and will be hard pressed to find a better value for the money. Keep making your websites, and I look forward to seeing what you make. As always, until next time . . .

Save2PC Review

Consumption of media has dramatically changed, in the last twenty years. We have gone from watching television on cable, antenna or satellite, to watching a cacophony of genres, including music videos, television programs, to the latest movies released, online. The bulk of media consumed is found through streaming of content on the Internet, from sites like YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and the major networks, plus social media shares. While having these channels ready for us, whenever we want to watch (some with subscriptions), and the downside is that we need to be actively connected to the web. Many people do not have high-speed internet access or sizable data plans for mobile devices, so always only being able to stream is not very viable. This problem has been weighed over the years, and some less than great solutions have been proposed and tried. Some of these have been by using a website downloader link/conversion URL, with middling results.

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Today, a new player that is rising in the field is from FDRLab, called Save2PC, which comes in multiple versions. This program allows you save streamed audio/video programs to your computer, so you can play it back locally. You can simply copy the link to the stream in the program window, and begin to download the file to your system storage. You can save the downloaded file in a number of formats (.flv, .avi, .mpeg, .mov, .mp4, etc.), dependent on the program version, and the original file format that was posted or uploaded to the site. One thing that I want to stress to my readership (yet again) is the “time-shifting” of recording, copyrighted materials is only permitted/dependent on the region of the world, in which you reside, and within the Terms of Service of the sites you may use. This “time-shifted” recording is very narrowly defined, under the very murky “grey” area of fair use/fair dealings, so use it at your own risk.

Now that we have that out of the way, if where you live, you can do this, legally; this will allow you to take these media files with you, wherever you go. I can image that if you want to watch a game play video or movie trailer, on your portable media device, you can download it, and then show your friends. Now you can watch your web-based media files, without the need for an internet connection. I can see that this does, indeed, open up the possibilities for you media, untethered from the web.

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I feel that being able to dub/record off streaming services might grow, as the distribution of media moves more way from physical media, as the years go by. The biggest question is that will these outlets integrate these saving/recording features or will they leave this open to other software providers, such as FDRLab and their Save2PC program? As these shaking questions remain to be answered, you can turn to Save2PC to cover your needs.

You may be asking, which version is right for me? The answer lies in which formats you need for saving/recording files, and which sites you may want to download from. They have a comparison chart, which highlights the difference between each version. Also, the max quality recording settings can be affected by the version you purchase. The pricing tiers are as follows: Standard – $29.99 USD, Professional -$39.99 USD, and Ultimate – $49.99 USD. If you want the maximum features and widest format support, I recommend the Ultimate version. If you elect the lower tiers, you can upgrade to the higher versions, for additional fees. Currently, the upgrade costs are an additional fourteen dollars, per level (Standard to Professional+$14.00 USD, then Professional to Ultimate+$14.00 USD, additionally). As anything, these prices are apt to change, so I would upgrade before they go up. Whatever you choose, I know that you will like this nice, little program. Give this a whirl, via the Save2PC Light version, which functions as a limited-feature trial, and I am sure that you will like what you see. See you next time . . .

Password Boss Review:

Password Boss Review:

In today’s world, online security is a paramount concern. As more and more of our lives move online, keeping our identities away from prying eyes and grifter thieves, means we need to make very secure passwords.  This is further complicated by needing to make unique and diversified passwords that are only used at one location/site. I know that having a different password for one shopping site, a different login credentials for another, is so hard to keep track of, in my mind. It is so easy to fall back on familiar number patterns, birthdates, names, and places, but in doing so, it makes it very easy to decipher these details, and thus steal your identity. Prior solutions have been proposed, including browsers that store these passwords inside themselves, biometric security, including fingerprint readers, and even some early online password depositories; each with their own benefits and drawbacks. What I have found is that in relying on these methods is very inconsistent, as many devices do not have biometric readers, or access to the saved passwords, between devices. In addition, risking dependence on the security protocols of browsers to safely save and use your password data is just asking for trouble. What can you do to solve this quandary, and have the wide access you need to achieve? The answer is found in the password generator/depository program called Password Boss.

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This fine piece of software allows you both create unique, one-off passwords, and then store them in a database; ready for quick login/retrieval. This program is a combination of both a web account, and a software platform, installed on either a computer or mobile device. The program runs in the background, allowing you save your payment information and online shopping information, behind a strong, encrypted “digital wallet,” along with whatever passwords/logins that you may have created. If you need to create new, unique passwords to replace your old repeated passwords or make new login credentials, this excellent piece of software has a password generator, which will meet any parameters needed. You can determine what random characters and symbols are contained in the passwords, including special characters, so if you need a certain combination, it will make them flawlessly. In addition, you can safely store your personal information (names, phone numbers, addresses, and even Social Security numbers) behind such encrypted security, to aid in anti-identity protection.

These features are available for no charge, and are a nice alternative to having to rely on the security inside of modern browsers or one’s own memory. However, if you need stronger, bank-grade security, the ability to sync your secured data between devices, sharing login credentials between friends/family, and priority support, they have an annual subscription of $29.99 USD/year, called Password Boss Premium. Not unlike most premium anti-virus and internet security suites, subscriptions such as this are worth the cost/investment, as they give piece of mind, great support, and knowing that being able to conduct business and legal matters online, in a way that deters thieves and criminals to not to be underestimated. I do want to highlight that the folks at Password Boss pay it forward. If you are a member of an educational institution, non-profit charities, and religious institution, they have complementary licenses for the premium features. They feel that these organizations are doing the greater good, and do not need to worry about everyday security matters, such as these.

I could drone on, in regards to the nuanced features that Password Boss offers, on both the free and subscription models, but the best way to find out of this for you is to try it out, for yourself. They do offer a trial of the Premium version that you can try out, above the basic free features. Just try it out, and I am sure that you will want to use this fine platform. They have mentioned, that you my fine readers, might be able to win a 1-year Premium License Subscription. Stay tuned for details, and they become available. Until next time, folks . . .

MediaMonkey 4.1 Gold In-Depth Review:

Our world has dramatically changed in the last sixteen years, as it relates to media consumption and portability. Pre-2000, we watched movies on VHS or DVD, listened to music on CD, and watched TV shows on what else, TV. Now days, we watch movies and TV on Blu-ray, online, on our computers, not to mention on our electronic devices in our pockets and backpacks. The same can be said for enjoying our music and other entertainment pursuits. Such a dramatic shift means the old rules no longer apply. Sensing the trend change in the wind, pioneers, such as Apple, Creative, and Microsoft laid a groundwork for personal consumption and taking our fun with us, wherever we go (in the car, on the bus, walking to and from school/work, etc.). While their contributions cannot be undersold or downplayed, the numerous companies, technologies, and platforms on the tech landscape, today, necessitate flexibility and usability. That in mind, being trapped into one ecosystem or software suite or program is far too limiting in scope and functionality.

This is especially true of the advent of the divergence between Apple devices (closed-loop proprietary O/S) and the emergence of the Android operating system (a fork of Linux; an open-source kernel O/S). Trying to take your media (music, movies, TV shows, podcasts, etc) back and forth between these two presents incompatibility issues, in terms of file format, DRM, and sync profiles. Addressing these has been frustrating and infuriating, especially as my household is now both iOS and Android; needing this key interoperability. Thankfully, I recently discovered a turn-key solution for cataloging, tagging metadata, and syncing my media files between my iPhone/iPad devices, and my wife’s iPhone and her Amazon Kindle Fire. This saving grace is called MediaMonkey from Ventis Media.

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Once you open this media organizer software, you are presented with a multi-pane window, which is in the vein of a hybrid of Windows File Explorer and Winamp. You have the directory tree on the left, with your media files (showing artwork, details, or a combo of each) in the center, and on the far right you have a Now Playing List and an Art and Details sub-panel. From here, you can choose which category of media you want to browse (music, movies, podcasts, etc.) and you can select individual tracks and files, play them, and see the upcoming files to be played next.

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These tasks will take place, after you have imported your media into your MediaMonkey’s internal library. The nice feature of this is that you can manage/sync your files, separate from iTunes, which is very handy if you need to do so, on non-Apple devices. This media import function is easy to setup, as you set a directory/hard drive to monitor for changes, and it will do so, automatically, so any additions or subtractions of you files will match up with its iTunes counterpart (contingent on using the same directory or drive used for the iTunes library). The wizard takes several minutes, but worth the wait, as it speeds up bringing your files into MediaMonkey, in a streamlined manner. One thing of note, if you have iTunes FairPlay DRMBased video files (such as copyrighted TV shows and movies), these do not usually work, as playback of these files requires iTunes decryption algorithms. I have read that if you have Apple QuickTime 7 or later installed, they might playback, but I did not have this result. To play these back, you might have to use alternative means to transcode these files for non-Apple playback.

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Getting my media files and library organized, so I could use them across my wife and I’s Apple and Android devices, and I feel that this is MediaMonkey’s greatest asset and reason to buy the Gold Edition. My wife uses both an iPhone 5C and an Android Kindle Fire tablet, so syncing our movies, podcasts, and music, without having to buy two copies (Amazon Store version and an iTunes Music store version), and having to manually adding said files to each device, in a clunky fashion is not for us. Rest assured, MediaMonkey has the plugins built-in, so you can just connect your Android or Apple devices, via USB, open the software, and choose a one-time sync or auto-sync list, so your device has your files you want it to have.

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Whether or not you have all of your media files metadata tagged, MediaMonkey can come to the rescue. Since I was trying to find an Android solution for our iTunes Media Library, I wanted a better way to make sure the data was correct and up-to-date, over iTunes. Last thing I wanted was to keep propagating errors on my portable devices; bad enough on my computer. Just choose a file, right-click it, and choose from the Web, and presto, it will bring up the internet database page for that file, and you can add that info, easily. I concede that Apple iTunes will do this, too, but not nearly as good or accurately. I cannot tell you how many times I have gotten bad metadata or missing fields or artwork. Best experience I have ever had getting the correct tag info, hands down.

I could go on and on about the elegant and simple media library client that MediaMonkey is, but I will cut to the chase as to why you should elect to buy the Gold Edition of this fine piece of software. The price tier comes in two flavors, Gold Edition (4.x only) $24.95 USD, and Gold Edition (Lifetime) – $49.95 USD. While the Basic version works well, the premium features for Gold Edition are well worth the price of admission. There is a fairly long list of added features that comes with Gold Edition, but I want to highlight a couple of them, which are worth going gold for. The first feature set that is well worth it is the Auto Artwork and tag lookup from the Web, which I have mentioned, previously. If you have spent any time, trying to find artwork and info on your files, the lost productivity, alone is worth the cost, not to mention that ease that comes with just a right-click. The second feature set worth the cost is cross-check/sort/catalog of your media files. This really comes into play, if you have a large library, and want to dig deep and easily find what you are looking for. Having the option of selecting the Composer, Conductor, Original Year (published), cross-fade tracks, by genre, etc. makes it much better and nuanced way to file your media, and create playlists and custom Collections (both additional features of Gold Edition).

Either way, try out MediaMonkey from Ventis Media, and see what you think. After all, once you see the potential, I know that you will want to go for the Gold. Until next time, Happy Belated New Year 2016, and I hope you have a nice Valentine’s Day, too!