Product Review: Squirrels Reflector 2 In-Depth:

Product Review: Squirrels Reflector 2 In-Depth:

In the multi-device connected world, in which we live, we have the need of the usage of tablets, smartphones, and mobile devices, crossing over with our desktops and laptops; all requiring those to display our content in various screens simultaneously. Options to do this, particularly on the Windows PC side, are few and far between, and this is especially the case, if you are operating a non-jail-broken tablet or smartphone that run iOS operating system. I was unsure how to undertake this task, until I discovered Squirrels, and Reflector 2.reflector-2-1

In my travels and tech tasks, I have found myself in needing to show my smart device’s screen, its apps, and even the audio feed. The best way to access these elements strives from the AirPlay wireless standard, created by Apple, which allows each of their modern technology devices communicate with one another seamlessly and without much fuss. When you migrate over to devices not made by Apple and/or do not run on their proprietary operating system, you run into problems. Many manufactures have come onto the marketplace, and now create accessories and products that work for these devices, but the emphasis is on apps and other hardware accessories, rather than making these devices have AirPlay support for Microsoft Windows.

In discovering Squirrel, and their stable of software titles, I have found the solution to this conundrum. The first part I reviewed last time, AirParrot 2, allows you to transmit from one PC to other PC’s or devices. Its companion/counterpart, Reflector 2, allows your PC to receive signals from other PC’s, and for the focus of this piece, iOS screen capture and mirroring.

I want to stress at the onset of this article, the capabilities to receive other PC’s video/audio signals are quite strong and very versatile. I have had the usage of this functionality in several situations, but what I want to share with you/explore with you is how easy it is to link your computer to your smartphone/tablet, and share that synergy to great effect. I know that you will come to see how vital this will be to your digital life, whether or not you have a disability.3

One usage of this screen mirroring can be streaming or watching games on your PC or home theater system, broadcast from your mobile device. I am fortunate that I have a dedicated streaming device for watching media outlets (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube, etc.), but many people do not have such a piece of hardware, and having a software solution that natively supports either Android Google Play or Apple AirPlay standards can allow them to accomplish this task. Trying to watch a small screen is fine for being on the go, but if you want to watch things as a group or media that is more easily understood in a larger scale, using a casting protocol or software applet is the way to proceed. I can see value in this great feature.

If you have a need to control the reception of data gathered by Reflector 2, there are a couple of companion apps that allow for remote control for both corporate and educational environments. The apps in question are called, Reflector Director and Reflector Student. Each of these can be used to either allow collaborative learning in corporate settings or between students in the classroom.reflector-2-2

It is quite nice to share your screen, and watch live, in real-time. However, being able to record what is shared is a vital way to dissipate your information and share your presentations in the cloud, via sites such as YouTube. Thankfully, Reflector 2 has such support built-in, where you can broadcast yourself on the stream, and allows you to also show a mirrored device, integrated into your presentation. You can show yourself, move to a mirrored device in your stream, back to you; all while uploading the video to YouTube Live. I have yet to use this, but in the future, I might move to video reviews, instead of typed ones, that I have been using from day one on my blog.

Bottom line, if you need to seamlessly embed your smart device into your desktop/stream casting device, you need this program. This used in conjunction with AirParrot 2, makes a complete ecosystem for broadcasting and receiving smart device into desktop/laptop environments. The nice thing is that this program can be had for as little as $14.99 USD/computer. If you need a multi-user/multi-device license model, those are available as well. I know that if you try this, you will jump and buy this with no hesitation. They offer their software for Windows and Mac, so the two major platforms for desktops/laptops are supported, along with Android and iOS for mobile devices. You owe it to yourself to have this at your disposal. As always, keep on techin’ . . .

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Showcase: Squirrels AirParrot 2

Showcase: Squirrels AirParrot 2

While multi-monitor PC setups are much more common place today, than ten to fifteen years ago, there are still occasions where you need to mirror your desktop/apps/presentations to other screens. Many times these situations also involve technology layouts, which do not have additional screens attached to the host machine or are at various resolutions that do not show the content in the proper aspect ratios between displays. This also functions as a cost-savings solution, if additional display hardware is out of the question, in both price and space consideration.

In my time as a computer Tier-II field technician, I have been in situations, where I needed to have my screen be transmitted to a second computer for diagnostic purposes and/or teaching my fellow tech trainees. If I had become aware that a budget-minded program existed, and it had companion reception programs that worked seamlessly with minimal fuss; I would have sought it out, and obtained it. What would me search have turned up? The answer is the excellent screen transmitting program from Squirrels, called AirParrot 2.airparrot-2-grey-g2-side-2

In my disabled state, as a hobbyist blogger/advocate for my community, my potential usages for this program has changed from my technician days, it still serves a vital purpose for me, and my blog, and even my family. You may ask, what sort of real-world application I could offer you to highlight this new usage of this program to make it worth the price of the program.  My answer is my ability to screen share streaming video services between my wife and myself, so we can watch programs together, even if we are not sitting next to each other.

My wife and I enjoy watching shows, such as Fargo on Hulu, and many times I am on my desktop, and she is working on her laptop. In these situations, we want to connect over a mutually-loved program and bond, yet we have to keep to using headphones (we can be night owls, so we do not want to disturb our neighbors), and in our room/work area we do not have space to work side-by-side. Having AirParrot 2 (the transmitting program that I have installed on my machine) and the companion receiver program, Reflector 2, that takes the source signal and displays this on the second machine/screen (fear not, I will review this program separately, and highlight some of its unique features then).

airparrot_2_popup_menuIn the aforementioned scenario, I can tweak the settings to make sure that the streamed video signal, over WI-FI runs smoothly and clearly Since my wife’s laptop is not nearly as powerful as my desktop tower, so I tend to set the video to run at 720p, with medium to lower quality to make it smooth and run full screen on the destination machine. This is very effective for video streaming, via the web interface, rather than the dedicated applet in Windows.

Besides this usage, you can just stream audio feeds, if you need to only share what is being heard from a video/app or a dedicated audio feed. You can also just share a specified app/program, rather than the entire desktop, if you choose to do so. Bottom line, this program is very versatile and easy to use program, and works well by itself or with its companion apps and programs.

You may ask what does this program cost, and the answer is a very, nice $12.99 USD, and that is for a single-license on either Mac or Windows. If you need more than one device/computer, they have the 5-Pack, which works on both PC and Mac, and costs $60.00 USD. In my opinion this is the best value, as this allows you use the license(s) back and forth on various platforms, and save 8% over the single-user license cost/unit. If you might need to use this program in a commercial environment or educational setting, they offer pricing quotes, especially if you will need twenty or more licenses for these purposes. No matter which level you pick, you can rest assured that you will be satisfied and very happy with your purchases. If you stop by and check them out, tell them I sent you, and that you are interested in snagging this program. As always, until next time, keep on techin’. . .airparrot-2-grey-g2-side

Incomedia WebSite X5 Evolution 13 Review

Incomedia WebSite X5 Evolution 13 Review

A few months back, I brought to your attention the nice, development-ready platform, Incomedia WebSite X5 Evolution 12, and with the programs stable of site design tools, layouts, and templates. Fast forward to this month (October 2016), and you have the updated release of this fine suite, entitled WebSite X5 Evolution 13. Included with this update, is a bevy of new templates, stock images, graphic libraries, eCommerce site tools, social media buttons/applets, and so much more. You may wonder do these new features warrant the upgrade price. Let’s go through the process, and see what is on offer, and what is best for each type of user.websitex5_800px

If you are someone, like myself, and have your own blog site, having the new tools, such as a large stock royalty-free image library (now numbering at 700,000 images), is a blessing, as I can use the images to augment my posts, with demonstration images, along with the licensed images of the products that I review. I do not have a budget to purchase images/logos/design vector images, as a hobbyist blogger, but now I can choose from the built-in libraries to find what I need for future posts.

pro_en_xlAnother element of this update is enhanced eCommerce tools, with strong-level integration with payment processing gateways that work with your online storefront, which allows you to take a nice range of credit cards that you can accept. I do not have a need of this type of site tools, but my wife does run an online store, where she sells her artwork and hopefully, someday her books and instructional materials. I plan to introduce these, new financial purchasing tools to her, so she can incorporate this into her payment structure, to help cut out the “middleman” and reduce her cost overhead in processing fees.

incomedia-website-x5-product-specificationsMy blog audience and exposure is intrinsically tied to my social media profile. I have been able to contact numerous companies, their representatives, and vested individuals, who want to support my cause of raising awareness for the disabled and technology. One day that I do that, on a day-to-day basis is my contacting companies, through e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and other media outlets. On top of that, I enter numerous contests with many groups, and disseminate those promotional activities, through these social channels, so you, my readers can take advantage of these along with me.

If, and when I can move to a dedicate domain site, I hope to add these built-in plugins and social buttons from Incomedia’s WebSite X5 13. I want to do this to streamline this process, and make it possible for you interface directly with me, on my site, auto re-post my content to multiple social media channels, and maybe have future giveaways with these features, down the line. Having an integrated social media system will make my portfolio of content much more cohesive entity, and centralized that is currently capable.

incomedia_website_x5_logo_redI could go on and on, in hashing out the new features, but the best service that I can do for you is to tell you the three tiers that this software come in, and their price points. The starting tier is WebSite X5 Start 13, which includes 25 pages to make/manage, 50 templates, and the ability to make sites for desktop computers. This only cost $19.99 USD; nice budget-conscious price point that allows you to utilize this software much more than what a trial can offer you. The next tier is WebSite X5 Evolution 13, which is what I need for my projects/sites, and the one I recommend for the majority of people, who need web page design software. The cost of this is $79.00 USD, and has many, many more features, templates, pages to manage, and the ability to offer online storefronts. The top-tier of this product family is WebSite X5 13 Professional that has all of the aforementioned features, options, and a full-featured eCommerce suite that supports storefronts, payment systems, registration of users, and an inventory system, second to none. These wide –ranging feature set comes at a higher price than the other tiers, but considering what you get for the price (being able to use a license on up to two machines) the cost of $199.00 USD is a great buy!

logo_800px-blackIf you have ever had the pleasure to interact with Incomedia, whether as a customer, a potential customer, or someone who has some questions to make a decision or solve an issue, you know they stand behind what they publish/sell. This should give you peace of mind, in deciding to either upgrade to the new version/tier or become a new customer for the first time. Whatever you choose, I can tell you that you will never be disappointed that you considered Incomedia, and their products. As always keep on techin’. . .

Dragon Blogger PS4 Pro & Goodie Bag Giveaway

Dragon Blogger Technology and Entertainment has partnered with Togoo TechJaypee Online, Kworld and Hamswan to bring you a PlayStation 4 Pro Giveaway which includes an accessory pack including Kworld Gaming Earbuds and the Hamswan 2.4 GHz Wireless Gaming Headset.

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One winner will receive the PlayStation 4 PRO with 1TB hard drive and this is the newer PlayStation 4 Pro that releases on November 10th 2016, not the original PS4.  This PS4 PRO has a more powerful GPU as well as faster GDDR RAM and is better able to support PlayStation VR games if you add a PlayStation VR later.  This giveaway is open internationally with some conditions so see the official rules on the Dragon Blogger Giveaway page for more information on International rules for the giveaway.

Enter Now For Your Chance to Win a PlayStation 4 PRO

PlayStation 4 Pro and Goodie Pack Giveaway

Product Review: Steganos Privacy Suite 18 In-Depth

Product Review: Steganos Privacy Suite 18 In-Depth

A constant theme and topic of discussion is the arena of Internet security, and its impact and reach in 21st. Century society. Ever since the dawning of this new century, and the advent of global terrorism attacks, the question of intelligence gathering has become the forefront focal point law enforcement, and the importance it plays in prevention of such vile attacks. While it is a vital component to investigation techniques to gather electronic intelligence, the risk/reward balance of intruding on innocent citizens and foreign nationals means that personal vigilance and self-policing should be the correct approach to this problem. As we wrestle with the best ways to navigate through this ethical maze, each of us must undertake a sense of personal vigilance and vanguard to safeguard our personal information and vital identity documents, for ourselves.

A recent changing of the guard has occurred, as the control of the U.S. Internet DNS registry passed from the Federal government to the ICANN organization (a multi-national organization that works across borders, companies, and governments, to establish web standards, DNS indices, and support WC3 committee); a twenty year process that was just completed last week. While uses of the web will see little, surface changes in their day-to-day life; having a decentralized governing body might make a more fluid level of privacy oversight and protection. Such developments make it a greater concern that one must “mind there, own store,” and keep prying eyes and ears away from your sensitive data. What is something that you can do to accomplish this task, you may ask. The answers can be found in the pages of this blog, and this fine article.

Various tools and apps I have brought forward to you, my readers, over the last, few years, have been in this vein of personal Internet security, and today, I have another fine addition to bring your attention, Steganos Privacy Suite 18. This multitasking suite allows its users to cover their various “digital fingerprints/footprints” in nine tools; each with its focus on how your information interfaces with the wider world, and the global Internet. Each application contained inside of the main program has such specialized usage and systematic layouts that you should find it easy in getting this program configured with minimal effort. Each tool will make sure that what you share on the web is safe, acceptable, and only what you want to share, and not what Big Brother may want you to share online.

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Confidentiality is a rare commodity in these digitally-pervasive times; where the personal, intimate details of a person’s life, property, financial, and occupational records can be raided with easy aplomb. Numerous data hacks, leaks, and DDoS attacks have laid bare individuals and celebrities’ information that has led to identify theft, public shaming/embarrassment, and cost people millions, if not billions of dollars in losses.  What can a person do to protect themselves from such risks? The answer, as you probably guessed from my articles and many other’s is a multi-faceted approach to personal Internet security.

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A piece of the puzzle is the use of a secured data storage area. Having a dedicated area, walled off from general access makes the contents difficult to hack into or access, remotely without express permission. It also has the added benefit of keeping people from snooping on your private data, at the local level, too.  The ease of use that Steganos Privacy Suite 18 provides is very intuitive and easy to establish. All you have to do is choose a location, size, and once generated, set a password to lock/unlock the area, and began to transfer/use the area for sensitive data/information. I cannot stress how important it should be for you to utilize such a storage solution if you want a nice peace of mind, and knowledge that what you put inside this region of your system is secure.

Having a dedicated space for locking down your files is an important step, but that alone is not sufficient to occlude your vital information from nefarious entities. You must also take additional steps, one which includes cryptography of individual files. Steganos has you covered in this area, as well. Their Privacy Suite 18 has a module, called Crypt & Hide, that allows you to add files/folders, and text into a secured, password-protected file. In doing so, you can restrict access to its contents from parties that you do not want to get their hands on it. The uses of such a security measure can be utilized alone and/or in conjunction with other encryption-level applications and certificate exchange services (e.g. OpenPGP).

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As recent news and technology has shown us, on a global scale, being able to encode our files in a secure container format and transmit them across the web, via e-mail, cloud storage, or CDN site hosting; in a manner that cannot be easily eavesdropped on or waylaid in route. Only be encrypting your files, can you add the technological protections needed to maintain a sense of privacy and autonomy. Sending/storing the file unencrypted is just asking for trouble, so do not make that mistake, and use the Crypt & Hide module from Steganos Privacy Suite 18.

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I could elaborate on the several, other modules, but from what you have already seen, I am sure that you will agree that what this security suite has to offer is more than the price of admission. The cost of this fine program is $59.99 USD, and they offer a free 30-day trial, so you can test out the program, and see if it meets your needs. This fine company stands behind what they produce and sell, so you know that your satisfaction will be attended to by these professionals. I know that once you try this great, spectrum-spanning array of security tools, you will only say one thing, “I will take it!”Until next time, keep on techin’. . .

Disconnect VPN – Privacy Pro 1.13 In-Depth Review:

Disconnect VPN – Privacy Pro 1.13 In-Depth Review:

My readership knows how much I treasure privacy and security, with growing concerns that gain strength, with more revelations that governments, corporations, and hacktivist groups are tracking our movements, week after week. This occurs many times, without our express, implicit, permission or legal presidents that justify such surveillance. I highlight companies that help the honest citizen, fight back against such invasive and overreaching practices. One such company that is fighting the good fight is Disconnect, a heralded Virtual Private Network Provider (VPN).

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For those of my readership, who have nominal knowledge and experience with VPN services, I can assure you the process is very hassle-free with Disconnect, and their service platforms (extensions, plugins, apps, etc.). The instructions are very straightforward and require basic software operation skills for PC, tablets, and smartphones. The value proposition inherent in using a service like this is weighed carefully, and once you see the benefits, I am sure that you will find the price point a solid bargain.

disconnect_logoOne, key way of analyzing how this might be helpful to you, and worth the cost can be seen in the gains that you make in data consumption. In looking at the benefits of having ads, tracking protocols, and other data-gobbling data filtered out of your connection, (via VPN) will not only give you peace of mind, but also better speed utilization and greater privacy that using a direct connection to the web. In prior articles that I have written, along with a cacophony of other tech insiders, who have documented and well cited the fact that every piece of data that comes in the down-link can both eat up any caps on monthly transmission limits, but also clog the storage and memory usage of the receiving devices. This is particularly true of mobile smart devices and hotspots, as most provides give you limited and/or throttled data thresholds/month; such devices also have limited storage/memory capacity (usually stated in GB’s).

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On top of this nuisance/menace potentiality, malware has become a greater threat, as the “black hats” have undertaken making phishing/impostors apps that mimic and steal vital information from unsuspecting customers. One way that such nefarious programs get onto devices is through bogus websites/tracking telemetry. With Disconnect protecting you web-enabled computers and mobile devices, this risk is greatly decreased and said sources will have a more difficult time getting to your identity and personal information. With breaches at some of the largest tech companies in the world, where people’s info was stolen with legitimate apps, it is vitally important to make sure the bogus one’s do not get through.

disconnect_scree_capture01 Another excellent benefit of having a VPN is the ability to circumvent Geo-fencing, or the practice of restricting Internet access, based on your location. While in the nation of the United States of America (where I live), we still have a U.S. Constitutional First Amendment that guarantees us freedom of speech, but in many parts of the world, that is not the case. Having access to a VPN allows the user’s of that network service the anonymity to get redacted information and share details of the inner workings of oppressive regimes. A secondary benefit of a Geo-fencing masking IP is the ability to set/show your location as another region on the world, to enjoy content is available to that part of the world, alone. This must be done, under the auspices of acceptable terms of use of any web services one may be subscribed to as a member.disconnect_screen_capture_smartphone01

You may be asking what does a comprehensive VPN service cost to use. The answer may surprise you, as the cost has a range of prices to choose from, starting at Free (Basic – Protect One Browser, Block Trackers, and Search Privately), $40.00 USD (Pro –Block Trackers & Malware across the entire system, with a 44% speed increase in performance, 39% less bandwidth consumption, and longer battery life (if applicable), and $50.00 USD/yr.- 3 Devices (Premium – Pro privacy and performance, secure WI-FI, and full location masking with the VPN). In addition to these levels of coverage, they have a one-time purchase that offers a VPN module for iOS, called Privacy Pro. The cost of this app is $29.99 USD, and grants the user of an iDevice a nice amount of privacy protection and tracking protection, via a VPN configuration plugin for the operating system. All together, each of these work well in conjunction with each other and make a fine addition to one’s security protection plan. All in all, this is a nice company and nice products to help keep your life, data, and online activity, private. Tell them I sent you, and keep on techin’!

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’!

SoftOrbits Photo Background Remover In-Depth Review

SoftOrbits Photo Background Remover In-Depth Review

I cannot tell you how many times I have had the need to extract an image or element from a composition. I used the selection tool and the magic wand in various graphic design software programs, for this task. The process is time-consuming, and requires finesse and training to do this effectively. This can be compounded and multiply many fold, when you have to do this multiple times, across several images for a project. I have seen many programs that have come down the pipeline and promised an automation process, that streamlines the time needed, requires less technical know-how; yet allow some oversight and nuanced changes. Suffice to say, those that have come before have sorely disappointed and under-performed in their delivery and results.

Flash forward to today, and an up-and-coming design software company has risen to the occasion. I am speaking of SoftOrbits, and you have seen in my reviews of their products (hopefully you have tried their products, by now), you know the can deliver. In fact, a maxim of business is to under promise, and over deliver; SoftOrbits has taken this to heart, and done that with excellence, in their products, customer service, and how they develop and create future features/programs.

In tackling this challenge head on, they have developed a program that solves this problem, entitled Photo Background Remover. This fine product combines several well-sought features that have been desired, (many that I have alluded to earlier in this review) plus one or two that might not jump to mind immediately. Such additions will seem like a natural fit, and you will wonder that why you did not think of them, yourself. Once I go into these features, individually, you will see what I mean, all the more.

 

As I stated before (in my halcyon days of being a graphic design student), many of the assignments that we were giving required us to take stock images and composite them into collages and projects, with image extraction. On top of Molière patterns and digital noise in the images from scanning them into the computer, we had a difficult learning curve in how best to crop and cutout images, and has them look good and clean. Many of my efforts looked crudely cut out and misshapen and starkly out of place in the composition. Granted in time, and with the passing of years in school, I got better, but it get it just right, required extra effort to get it to an exacting place, even as I was graduating.

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While my life went in a different direction, after my art school years, I always appreciated that I knew how to do this task; ever hopeful that computers and technology would advance to better streamline this process. Thankfully, the abilities of SoftOrbits Photo Background Remover makes this task so much simpler than I thought would be possible, until I tried this software, for myself. I was so impressed that whatever I threw at the program, it would just cut it out, without issue and so cleanly. It looked like it was just an image that was made without a background and created in isolation, rather than being taken as a portion from something else.

While I have my, own experiences in the technical arts, my wife has been a professional artist, illustrator, and graphic designer with eleven years’ experience. I have spoken with her on the benefits and potential of this software for her purposes. She said that it might be useful for her creation of stencils and maybe other applications. One, specific example that we thought might work well would be used for “tubing” applications and projects.

You may ask what that might be. The answer was unfamiliar to me, until my wife informed me that many people use avatars of their favorite artist’s work and pop culture references; the source of these avatars and “digital stickers” are processed artwork, run through programs, such as PaintShop Pro. Their backgrounds and non-needed elements are removed, and stripped out of the images, so they can be overlaid over message boards, websites, online profiles, etc.6147989

The finished images are called tubes, and are in demand with a nice sector of the graphic art market. Sadly, if artist/company-endorsed versions of these artworks are not available, people tend to create “unauthorized” versions that lack the polish and professional quality that is needed, much less lost revenue to the creators that make the images, in the first place.

My wife creates these from her artwork, and it is always time-consuming process. Having this software to not only do this semi-automated background removals, but being able to take advantage of batch processing and watermarking of a collection of images; makes it all the more beneficial and impressive tool that she can utilize to a great end. Since she shares her work on social media for her portfolio promotion, being able make sure that her work gets a proper attribution and legal protection is a vital step in her business workflow. In others words, this is a tool that she has needed for years, and now thanks to SoftOrbits, she has one, finally!

This is a specialized example with very specific and specialized applications. However, this program will serve you well, with the fact that it feathers the selection for your cutouts. While “tubes” need this to look polished, just taking anything out of your images and having it appear natural is invaluable. If you want to fantasize of putting you and your family in Hawaii, but only can afford to go to the lake, the compositing will look flawless. When people see your images, they will ask if you got a tan, not why the picture looks off. This is just one, fun example, and your imagination can run wild

Picture_background_remover_sample02

If you have concerns that you might lack the skills to do this effectively, put those to rest. If you have a strong sense of what you want to take from an image, and what is the background you want to leave behind, it is just a matter of clicking on each element, and choosing whether to keep or clear it. It is just as simple as that. No muss, no fuss, and easy as cutting a picture up with a pair of scissors, without the rough edges.

As I have stated in this article, going through this process manually requires a fair it of time for each edit or mask task. This is multiplied numerous times, if you have a large batch of images to work through. A saving grace of Photo Background Remover is that you can do this, with an automated system that does a bulk edit of one or two steps. It simply chooses the main element of the image, selects it, and either clears the background or fills it with a solid color. This is a great way to get a bunch of your images prepped for making tags, badges, or I.D. photos.

As always, SoftOrbits suite of programs has several tiers of their programs for various applications. Photo Background Remover follows this model, and comes in three versions. The first version is the Personal Edition ($49.99 USD), which is the full version and allows unlimited usage for non-commercial, non-business locations on one computer. The Home Edition ($74.99 USD), is the same as the Personal Edition, except it comes with a license for usage on two computers. The last tier of the software, is entitled Business Edition ($99.99 USD), which has allowed usage in commercial and business environments. Each of these versions includes free updates for minor versions, and unlimited e-mail support.  In summation, this program will change the way that your photos can be used. Just try the trial, and I know that you will be hooked. Tell them I sent you, and keep on techin’!

InComedia WebAnimator GO In-Depth Review

InComedia WebAnimator GO In-Depth Review

You may recall a while back that I reviewed a web creation program/suite from Incomedia, called WebSite X5 V.12. Now those same fine folks have created a companion software program, called WebAnimator Go. This version is designed for basic-to-intermediate animation projects that are very systematic and easy to comprehend for the bulk of the general populace, which wants to add some pizzazz and eye-catching elements to their websites.  Fret not; if you need more advanced features and toolsets than provided in this program, they have fuller-featured versions, simply titled WebAnimator/WebAnimator Plus. No matter which version you might need, this is an excellent program you will need for animation and slideshows that is warranted by the interconnected world of the Internet, today.

WebAnimator_GO_Box

You may be asking yourself, what about WebAnimator GO would make me choose to add this program to my toolbox, over its competitors. First off, this program allows you to import images from almost any format you can think of (.jpg, png, gif, .tiff, etc.), without the need to convert to a specific format, beforehand. As someone, who has had to change my original image to a more usable format for a slideshow/animation, saving a step/generation is a nice change and time-saver.

Secondly, having pre-built, included templates that are ready to use from the get-go, allows you to get a jump-start on your animation, by having a framework to place your images, texts, and overlays into, so you can preview/compile what your final product will be, and then create it, succinctly. This has an added benefit of not having to make a template before you start your work of not having to make a set of templates means that you can start on your work. This difference can be likened to having pre-cut lumber, versus having to fell trees, process the wood, and turn it into lumber before you can build the structure that you have planned out.

Thirdly, once you have your animation finalized, it will save, create, and embed HTML5 code into your object/element, so you can just drop it in the webpage/presentation. As someone who does not have any experience in coding, nor really interest in learning to do so, having a GUI solution that allows me make a viable code snippet is a nice addition. I know that my wife has had to develop websites for construction companies that build custom homes and structures. Many times she has had to create a slideshow that cycle through the images of the various stages of construction. When Flash vulnerabilities began to rear their ugly head, and HTML 5 started to replace that plugin for moving image management, it was an uphill task to try and encode the show in a combination of CSS and PHP. I can only image how much time would have been saved with this tool-set.

WebAnimator_GO_Wizard01

Nor unlike their flagship program, WebSite X5, you just go, step-by-step, with simple to comprehend prompts and dialog boxes. Each step just asks you for what you need nothing more, nothing less, so you always just have enough information to process in your mind and in the program. One key step that you will pay a little more attention to is the animation images/frames that you intend to use for the project. This is not due to an overly complex step, brought on by the program, but rather by the linear nature of animation (first image, second image, third image, etc.; either top to bottom or left to right). You need to place the images on the order that you intend them to be shown.

WebAnimator_GO_Wizard02

If you are not in the place for needing to make a slideshow and/or a presentation, this makes a fine tool for animation and short films, which could be distributed, via the web. I have always enjoyed animation, VFX, and other CGI elements in film and games, but I never had the formal training, nor very much seat-time with software capable of making these (3D Studio MAX, Alias, AfterEffects, etc.) files. However, having a program, such a WebAnimator GO, gives me the option to make flip drawings and minimal, limited animation comic strips as a real possibility. I will not promise to actually make these and share them with you, my readers, but the option is there.

WebAnimator Family

No matter your skill level or potential needs, Incomedia, and their animation software programs have you covered. The cost-effectiveness of WebAnimator GO, WebAnimator, or WebAnimator Plus, makes the value proposition a highly-sought after option for professionals, intermediates, and rank amateurs, alike. The prices for each reflect the various functions and features. If, you are like me, the GO version is all that you will need to get started, with one Template collection, and basic animation functions that writes the code for you. The cost for this is $24.99 USD, and well worth the money. If you need more Template collections (4 or more) and the need to embed audio/video files inside of your animations, I would recommend either the WebAnimator or WebAnimator Plus editions.  The features, sans the media embedded version, is the WebAnimator, and cost $59.95 USD. The top-of-the-line, WebAnimator Plus runs you $89.95 USD, and has the media embed function built-in. Each of these versions can be upgraded, with a customer discount, many times reflective of the differences between cost tiers.

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In my interfacing with Incomedia’s Customer Service, I want to reassure you that they have your best interest in mind, and will do whatever it takes to make sure of your satisfaction. In short, they stand behind what they sell, and works to not only provide you with great products, but beneficial partnerships with ISP’s and DNS/hosting companies, to maximize your savings for web-based commerce. I know that if you have had dealings with them before, or have yet to purchase something, you will enjoy your transactions, going forward, with them, no doubt. Try this animation family of programs, and you will always want to use them for your projects. Tel them I sent you, and until next time, keep on techin’!