Tag: design

Ashampoo Burning Studio 18 In-Depth Review:

Ashampoo Burning Studio 18 In-Depth Review:

You may recall that I reviewed the flagship burning suite from Ashampoo, called Burning Suite 16, not too long ago. Now they have released the updated replacement, entitled Burning Studio 18, and it is packed with nice features and improved functions. Everything that you loved from the prior entry is here, only better, and easier to use. Now, let’s get into the details, and see what is on offer.

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If you are like me, you enjoy listening to your tunes, when you are out and about. This extends to traveling in the car, and this time of the year, singing along with Christmas music. Many newer automotive makers have vehicle product lines have A/V smart radio receivers are factory installed. This is nice to have, without adding an after-market unit, but it comes with some hurdles. Many different radios can only playback certain file formats, while excluding others from the list.

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Burning Studio 18 has a sure-fire way to make it possible to make a disc that will be compatible for whatever device is in the car, and playback is a breeze. The program is designed to allow you to select from numerous presets for radios/playback devices that take the guesswork out of this process, an excellent program feature for 21st Century music disc authoring. This is a must-have feature for disc authoring of today’s digital music.

People this time of year make numerous photos, video, and memories of the holiday festivities. When they sit down to compile the images into a cohesive whole, and lay out albums, it can be overwhelming and in disarray as to how best to present them to the group. Many have elected to turn them into slideshows and add in music and transitions, so they can be shown on the computer and/or TV.

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Since the release of Burning Studio 18, this excellent program has added the support for MPEG-4 H.264/AAC audio-video file formats. This allows you to create state-of-the-art HD videos that give you the sheen of a Hollywood production, yet star you and your friends and family. Now when you add transitions and sound effects, you will how numerous ways to make your memories sparkle.

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Data breaches and e-mail scandals make the headlines, it seems weekly. From the Executive Branch of the U.S. Government, and the recent election fiasco, on down to local government office being ransomed by hackers, to ordinary people getting their personal computers locked out, unless Bitcoin is paid for its release. Now, more than ever, people need solid, controlled environments to backup and secure their data for these and other reasons. Burning Studio 18, and the stable of single and multi-span volume backups/archives. Knowing that you can put your trust in this program, and know that if the worse happens, you can get your data (and to a certain extent, your life) back. This cannot be understated and brushed aside, as a core feature for burning software.

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These are but a few, key features that have been added and/or improved with this edition of the software. I know that if you try this version, you will be very happy with these changes. If you act now (December 2016), you will find that many of Ashampoo’s products are on sale, with significant discounts to be had. As always, the trial version of the program will allow you try it out for yourself. Until next time, Merry Christmas and keep on techin’ . . .

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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’. . .

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’!

Ashampoo Office Catalog Extension 1.0 Review

Ashampoo Office Catalog Extension 1.0 Review

As I wrote to you last week, Ashampoo has created a family of CAD programs, which allow you design a wide range of structures that you might have a vested interest in your life. In my various articles, I went over the benefits of having these tools at the disposal of select groups (and tailored to the final application and potential profession of the user). In addition, to the main software programs that I referenced in my prior articles, Ashampoo has added a new plug program to the line-up, called Ashampoo Office Catalog Extension 1.0.

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While the office furnishings and design elements present in the main programs are quite nice and offer some versatility and variety, the additional items contained in this add-on are well worth the asking price.

As a disabled individual, I have a high priority in having my electronic equipment in close proximity, and in top-tier working order. In my current residence, I do not have a dedicated office space for myself and my wife, and it impacts our productivity quite a bit. I have lived in quite a few places, but I have been the happiest in my working/hobby life in places where I have had a dedicated space for those tasks. I have not been able to design an ideal office space, up until this point, but I am hopeful that will change in the future. When the opportunity presents itself, I plan on having the necessary ports (HDMI, Display Port, SPDIF, USB, etc.) built into the walls, cabinets, and furnishings to minimize tangling and cable management. Not having to worry about cables being tripped over with my wheelchair or cane, nor the hassle of having to constantly move mine or my wife’s computer equipment to accommodate one another’s projects.scr_ashampoo_office_extension_ml_sideboard

Having a well designed office space can dramatically affect the how quickly and proficiently that you can complete tasks. As a disabled individual, I have specialized seating (wheelchair-accessible), and have the need for wireless keyboard and mouse, that can be placed either in my lap or on a movable/portable table. scr_ashampoo_office_extension_ml_tablesWith this design plug-in, I can have access to a larger pool of design office elements that will allow me to add ergonomic furnishings from the prominent design house, Vital-Office GmbH.

Having these expert design powerhouse included inside of this plug-in, means that if their product line meets or exceeds your design needs, you can layout the items that you need, and transition to ordering them for delivery and placement on the job site/office project. I can say, in watching several home improvement shows, how important it is to not only have a fine design plan, but a nice work-flow and follow-through to make the dream a reality. Having a floor plan and “ideal” elements in your design is fine and good, but when you go to execute the plan if the items you need/want are not available, you have to settle for less than want you have planned. Since Ashampoo has gone to the trouble of arranging the license to use the elements from this esteemed firm, the value proposition for this plug-in only grows.

scr_ashampoo_office_extension_ml_tables2Knowing how much this can expand your capability for design above the base programs, it is well worth the asking price of $14.99 USD. As always, they stand behind the products that they sell. If you, my readers, have any experience with their products, you will not hesitate to purchase this product, and have no regrets. Also keep in mind, this catalog extension does work with the other extension (Kitchen) to expand and round out your options, for design elements, as well as potentially work with future extensions, as they are developed. Bottom line, if you need office ergonomic design elements and have an inclination to create your office with CAD, you need this software. Trust me; you will not regret having this in your toolbox. As always, until next time, keep on techin’ . . .

 

P.S. If you are interested, Ashampoo has given away their Home Designer 3 for free this week. All you have to do is apply for a license, via e-mail, after you download and install the program. This is a nice way to try out their CAD programs in greater detail, than just a demo version. The program, along with some details can be found at the following link: https://www.ashampoo.com/en/usd/lpa/download-0367 I hope you check this out, and enjoy this great program for yourself.

Ashampoo 3D CAD Professional 6.60 In-Depth Review:

Ashampoo 3D CAD Professional 6.60 In-Depth Review:

In my last article, I introduced you to the world of Ashampoo 3D CAD Architecture in my last piece. In that article, I shared with you how this family of tools comes in various forms and tiers, which are aimed at distinct types of construction projects and audiences. The first programs that reviewed covered the home, its fixtures, and some light commercial applications. For people who want to branch out of these types of projects, they have a top-tier program that not covers these uses, but almost any type of project that can be visualized or contemplated, including industrial sites and buildings. This fine program is called Ashampoo 3D CAD Professional 6.

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While I have never been an architect or industrial designer, by profession, I did take some of those classes in college. My experiences taught me that these structures have to adhere to stringent requirements in regards to accessibility, energy usage, “flow,” ambient lighting, parking, function, and rigid federal, state, and local ordinances and regulations, among other constraints. This is so much more the case than private residential requirements.

I also had the experience and privilege of studying in an industrial arts building, during my collegiate career, where I learned to photography and develop orthochromatic (black and white) film for paste-up graphic design work. The fascinating structural design that is worth mentioning is that the darkroom was a walk-in camera. Inside of the room were the developing pans, aperture, and a vacuum-assisted film door, that held the film to be exposed to light for each, separate element to be photographed for optical composing. I can only image what must have gone into the designs and laying out the plans for the building, and in particular that camera room.

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In the days that the structure on the campus was built, they had to rely on manual and mechanical techniques (drafting, blue-line/blueprint drawings, optical compositing, etc.), rather than CAD (computer-aided design) methodology. If they had at their disposal the power, versatility, and materials, and plugins that Ashampoo offers in their flagship program, 3D CAD Professional 6, I can only imaging the solutions that they could have come up with for the construction. This is not to knock or denigrate the engineers or architects, who have worked on such projects with older methods, as the one I have highlighted, but rather to show that speed increases, materials testing/cost estimation, could be used to save money, and expedite the timetables for project completion.

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You may be asking yourself, with such power, versatility, and expansive capabilities, why I would go to the expense of selecting this level of program. The answer is multi-fold, and can be broken down in some key areas. Before I explain further, let me reassure you that this program can be for multiple skill levels, so keep that in mind, as I elaborate on my points.

First all, this program is quite capable and useful in a myriad ways. Its inherent versatility can be liked to Adobe Photoshop, in that you can use it in numerous projects, and at various levels. While cost is a factor (not unlike how Adobe has Photoshop Elements to give people access to some key features, at a reduced price), the entry-tier and mid-tier versions of Ashampoo’s products, can offer some features that you want to sample and test the waters, at a lower cost. However, the different costs associated with the full-featured, “expert” programs are worth the expense. These programs will allow any user to grow and expand with the programs, in tandem with their requisite skill level, and 3D CAD Profession 6 fits this bill, perfectly.

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The cost of this program is $379.99 USD, and that cost might give one pause, but keep in mind that is a good value proposition. I have seen many design programs that cost much more than this, and do not do as much, feature-wise. Safe to say, you get what you pay for, and software is no exception. Design software is a fairly costly category of programs, so some cost is expected to occur with these programs, but Ashampoo has done their best to minimize these issues, offering the program in each version that I have reviewed, so their customers only need to buy what they actually need.logo_w10_comp_blue

I know that once you try any of these versions of the 3D CAD program that I shared with you, the last few months; my readers will jump at the chance to get these programs at these fine rates. They do offer demo’s of their programs for you to try, so you can be sure you are getting what you want. Tell them I sent you, and keep on techin’ . . .

NGWIN PicPick 4.13 Review:

NGWIN PicPick 4.13 Review:

As a blogger, who focuses on the areas of media, games, and adaptive technology, having a tool-set that allows me to capture this images, logos, and screen grabs of what I am reviewing is a vital component. I have used the tried methodology of a keystroke sequence (alt-print-screen, print screen), plus other software capture software suites, but my results have been middling, at best. I have been lucky that most companies/entities have provided images for the reviews that I have done. Nonetheless, many times I have not had the right image or at the correct size, so finding a program to accomplish this has become a paramount concern of mine. My searching is now over, as NGWIN and its PicPick program has come to the rescue!

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This fine program allows you to use a toolbox that has a basic image editor, a screen capture toolbox, and some specialized tools, like a pixel ruler, a screen coordinate cross-hair, protractor, and a whiteboard for brainstorming. Allow of these tools can be used together, as well as the ability to share your files across the web, via cloud services. The tools are easy to access from a small palette icon, residing in your system tray or inside of a window (which can be turned off) that opens when the program is run.

Anyone familiar with Microsoft Paint or GIMP will be very much at home with PicPick’s Image Editor. The basic features allow you to re-size, crop, color, and modify your images with ease. The program has pre-built image profile sizes for mobile screens, so if you are making images that are properly formatted to be viewed on said devices, you are in luck. You can even place watermarks that can both denote and help protect your images, as they go broad across the web. This feature is usually only found in more expensive products, so having it included in this suite is a great boon to your artistic endeavors.

Scroll Capture

The primary purpose of this program is a fully-featured screen capture utility. You can find other programs that accomplish this, but the costs and limitations on their free versions leave something to be desired. Along comes PicPick and blows away the competition, with multiple levels of capture technique.

Region Capture

In my usage of free capture methods, I have always had to settle for whole screen image or just the active window. I have never been able to free select the image capture aperture, nor include the cursor or scroll bars. Now, I can capture all of these details, and do so easily and repeatedly. Each mode is designed to help make your screen capture tasks in an intuitive manner, easy to comprehend and utilize with minimal difficulty. Just try it for yourself, and you will see how easy it really is to do.

Taking images and screen grabs are of nominal usage, if you are not able to put these into practice. NGWIN has you covered here, as well. Whether you want use your images on your local system (clipboard, PDF’s, image files) or distribute them across the web (e-mail, Dropbox, Google Drive, Skydrive, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), support is built/baked into the program, so you are set to carry out these tasks, right out of the box. I know as a blogger, being dependent on web-ready, shareable images are a paramount concern of mine; I need this feature set and so will you.

Freehand Capture

The program comes with some specialized tools, like a color picker/analyzer to help you copy/determine the pixel colors on screen. It also comes with a corresponding color palette to place these colors. It comes with a scalable screen magnifier (nice for us vision-impaired folks) to see details lost to us, as the years go by. The last set of tools that I will highlight is very graphic design specific, in that they are used for print/web layout. The Cross-hair, Protractor, and Ruler tools help us designers to place out images, text, and overall flow. Being able to combine these added value tools with the
aforementioned features is a great supplement to round out this package.

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I know how much you must love this program, so you may ask “How much is this going to cost me?” The answer is not a whole lot, for what you get. The price is scalable, depending on the number of users/licenses that you need, and decreases/license as you go up in numbers. The starting price is $21.99 USD (sale price), and that price is for one license that can be used by a single person on a desktop and one laptop. The paid Pro version does include the usage of this program for commercial applications, so you will not need to pay a second fee to go from personal to business, as well as lifetime upgrades. Nice value for the money, and well worth the cost. However, if you want to check out the program and see if it is a good fit for you, you can download a Home free version that includes ads, no tech support, and manual updates. Whatever you choose, you will find this program will become indispensable, so do yourself a favor, and get this right away. Until next time, keep on smiling!