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Board Game Micro-review: Wits and Wagers

Today's board game microreview is for "Wits and Wagers".
blogimage

Wits and Wagers is a very clever mixture of trivia, betting, and social interaction.  It's fast to play, super easy for anyone, and easily supports 7 players or more with teams.

Gameplay works essentially like this:  On each round a trivia question is read that has a numerical answer.  All players (teams) write down their answer on a dry erase card, and then all answers are laid out in numerical order.  At this point, everyone can bet on which answers are correct.  In this way, even if you have no idea what the answer is, you have a chance to bet on the answers from people who you think might know.

The social element of seeing what answers others gave, and how confident they are, and the range of answers -- is all quite fun.  And the strategy and risk taking of betting your accumulated chips is very fun.

I've played this twice now with large groups -- the first time was fun but not magical; the second time -- playing with people i didn't know well, was extremely fun.

Highly recommended if you have a large group of adults.  There are special editions for families and kids (though i think it works better with adults).

posted by mouser donate to mouser - July 09, 2014, 08:09:00 AM
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Board Game Micro-review: Telestrations

Another party board game mini-review, this time for a game called "Telestrations".

blogimage blogimage

Telestrations is a light-hearted drawing game that works similarly to the kids game of "Telephone".  Each player gets a secret word (or phrase), and tries to draw it.  They then pass along their pad clockwise to the next player who looks at the picture they drew, and tries to guess (in words) a description what it is a drawing of.  Then that player passes along the pad clockwise and the recipient draws a picture of the description that the previously player wrote.  So as each pad goes around the circle, it becomes a sequence of drawing, description, drawing, description, etc..

After each pad has gone around the circle, players take turns becoming the center of attention and showing off the sequence of drawings and descriptions in their pad while everyone else laughs at how wrong things went.

The best part of this game is that the worst artists create the most fun.  Children will especially enjoy being the center of attention as people enjoy the mayhem.

It's a pure fun game that should work well for any group, has tons of laughs, and is great for kids of all ages.  Highly recommended.

The normal edition supports up to 8 players; there is a "party pack" that goes up to 11 or 12.

posted by mouser donate to mouser - July 09, 2014, 08:09:00 AM
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RIPT (Ript) shareable scrapbook-clipping programme - Mini-Review

Originally posted:2014-04-15
Last updated2014-04-15

Basic Info
App Nameblogimage  RIPT (shareable scrapbook-clipping program)
Thumbs-Up Rating Thmbsup Thmbsup Thmbsup Thmbsup Thmbsup
App URLOBSOLETE http://www.ript.com
App Version ReviewedRIPT v.0.5.0218 (Freeware, 2007)
Test System SpecsWindows Vista Ultimate 32-bit
Supported OSesWindows
Support MethodsNone. (OBSOLETE product)
Upgrade PolicyNot applicable.
Trial Version Available?Freeware
Pricing SchemeNot applicable.

Intro and Overview:
RIPT is a shareable (with other RIPT users) scrapbook-clipping program.
I thought I'd publish a review of this forgotten, elegant program for those who (like me) might find an occasional - if not frequent - use for it. I don't really need it now, as I tend to use:

    Continue reading the rest of the entry and discuss..

posted by IainB donate to IainB - April 15, 2014, 02:11:00 AM
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Micro-review: Scapple

http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scapple.php

I LOVE this program.  For me, it is the perfect brainstorming tool I've always been looking for.

It's easy to change the look of each element.  It's easy to put background shapes around a selection of elements.  It can export easily as images, pdf, whatever.  You don't need a "center" like most mindmaps.  It's easy to link things together with lines or arrows.  It's easy to do simple alignments of elements.

I've been looking for something like this for years.  I tried a whole bunch.  Things like Personal Brain are too fancy and complicated.  Mindmaps never worked for me at all.  Visio is too much and too hard to do simple things.  I settled on Edge Diagrammer (thanks mouser!) for a while because it was the easiest of those flowchart tools to use.  Regular notetakers and outliners are not freeform enough for brainstorming.

 thumbs up thumbs up

    Continue reading the rest of the entry and discuss..

posted by superboyac donate to superboyac - April 05, 2014, 05:23:00 PM
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Review of Zeus Edit

Zeus Edit Review

Basic Info:
App NameZeus for Windows Programmer's Editor
App URLhttp://www.zeusedit.com/
App Version Reviewed3.97o 32-bit
Test System SpecsWindows 7 64-bit/Visual Studio 2010
Supported OSesWindows XP/Vista/7 32-bit and 64-bit/8 32-bit and 64-bit
Support MethodsE-mail, FAQ, Forums
Pricing Scheme$89.95 - A lite version is also available for gratis
Trial Version Available? Yes, 45-day no limitations.
Upgrade PolicyPoint in time upgrade scheme, detailed below by the developer.  45% discount available for further upgrades.
Reviewer Donation Link wraith808

Introduction
Zeus is billed as a programmer's editor, but that is selling it short.  It is a text based IDE in the vein of SlickEdit and UltraEdit Studio.  It is fully scriptable, keyboard centric, fully customizable, and includes throwbacks to hardcore programming like Brief, WordStar, Epsilon, and Emacs keyboard emulation.  It supports visual studio solutions (in addition to it's own workspace format), has built in source control integration for Subversion and TFS, and a variety of other features.  In fact, there are so many features, that I'm going to have to break this review up into separate parts.

Review Notes
Many people swear by Visual Studio as an IDE, and I do like what Microsoft has done with it.  But it takes a while to start up, uses a lot of memory, and is prone to crashes.  I love SlickEdit, but over time, I've had to pare down, and I just haven't been able to justify the extravagant expense to use such an editor.  So, I've stuck with Visual Studio, and just used text editors to support it.  I discovered Zeus, and the price is right, and the feature set is right- I'm just hoping that it lives up to the hype on the site.

    Click here to read the full review now..

posted by wraith808 donate to wraith808 - September 21, 2013, 03:25:00 PM
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Qiqqa - Reference Management System - Mini-Review

Basic Info
App Nameblogimage (FREE version)
Thumbs-Up Rating Thmbsup Thmbsup Thmbsup Thmbsup Thmbsup
App URLhttp://www.qiqqa.com/

Intro:
On 2012-11-04, I made this comment in a discussion thread Re: organize data for research
...[Reference Management software: There is good software in this category that could be seriously useful in research work. For example:
- so this is the belated review of Qiqqa.

Summary description of Qiqqa:
Qiqqa contains everything you essentially need for the five stages of commercial or academic research work/projects:
  • 1. Organize
  • 2. Discover
  • 3. Review
  • 4. Collaborate
  • 5. Create

Most of these projects require collecting and reading a large number of papers or "knowledge items" - sometimes thousands of documents. The sheer volume of these documents can sometimes make it difficult to work with them, sift through them, and keep things under control.
Qiqqa was designed with this task in mind, and it has these main features to help you keep those documents under control and to keep your knowledge expanding coherently:
  • 1. Comprehensive PDF document management.
  • 2. The ability to import documents to the Qiqqa library/database.
  • 3. OCR of imaged documents, with capture of text contained in any imaged PDF documents.
  • 4. Automatic collection/creation of metadata for the documents.
  • 5. "Super Tag" functionality to categorise and cross-reference your document content.
  • 6. Sophisticated Find/Search functionality.
  • 7. Ability to export the contents of your Qiqqa library/database.
  • 8. Knowledge analysis/discovery.
  • 9. Research web browser.
  • 10. Brainstorming (Mindmaps).
  • 11. Knowledge-linking.

    Click here to read the full mini-review now..

posted by IainB donate to IainB - June 08, 2013, 04:56:00 PM
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Google Reader - Mini-Review

Originally posted:2012-12-16
Last updatedN/A

Basic Info
App NameGoogle Reader
(Online RSS feed-reader or "news-reader".)
Thumbs-Up Rating Thmbsup Thmbsup Thmbsup Thmbsup  thumb down
App URLhttp://www.google.com/reader/
App Version ReviewedThis is a free online, browser-based, service, and the version is always "latest".
Test System SpecsMS Win 7-64 Home Premium, using latest Firefox browser.
Supported OSesAny web browser.
Support MethodsHelp: is via Google help forum.
Trial Version Available?N/A
Pricing SchemeN/A - is a $FREE service only.

Intro and Overview:
I thought it might be helpful/useful to post this review, as it could potentially save people a lot of time (if they were not already using a feed-reader).
There are some discussions in the DC Forum that refer to Google Reader, and these two seem most relevant:

If you don't want to have to spend time wading through the often confusing mass or clutter on a website in order to read something of interest, then you can subscribe to posts on the website, or comments in a forum (e.g., including the DC Forum) without having to post something and requesting email notification of responses - as you normally would have to do.
To do this, you have to subscribe for yourself rather than expect the website to do it for you. For example, I have been doing this for several forums and blog sites for years, including the DC Forum.

    Click here to read the full mini-review now..

posted by IainB donate to IainB - December 28, 2012, 07:00:00 AM
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SysExporter - (Screen-scraping) Export data from Windows controls - Mini-Review

Originally posted:2012-11-16
Last updated2012-11-16

Basic Info
App NameSysExporter
(Export data from Windows controls)
Thumbs-Up Rating Thmbsup Thmbsup Thmbsup Thmbsup Thmbsup
App URLhttp://www.nirsoft.net/utils/sysexp.html
App Version Reviewed$FREE 64-bit version (v1.61). There is also a 32-bit version (v1.61)
Test System SpecsMS Win 7-64 Home Premium
Supported OSesCompatible with Win 64-bit/32-bit.
Support MethodsDownload and Support: http://www.nirsoft.net/utils/sysexp.html[/url]
Help file: comes with the software.
Upgrade PolicyUpgrades are $FREE and loaded to the above website.
Trial Version Available?$FREE - as reviewed in this review. (PayPal Donations accepted)
There is no PAID version.
Pricing Scheme$FREE version only.

Intro and Overview:
There is a general problem in Windows OSes - one that has been a continuing source of frustration to me and probably many others - that many System and application displays often contain really useful data that is effectively "protected" from being copied/used.
I had been looking for a way to capture the data from the Windows update history display (this is on a laptop with Win7-64), to put into a database, so that I could analyse the history for failed updates. Looking through the display manually was becoming a tedious experience due to its functional limitations, and I wanted to automate/filter the analysis as much as possible.

    Click here to read the full mini-review now..

posted by IainB donate to IainB - November 16, 2012, 07:37:00 AM
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Logitech Wireless Gaming Headset G930 - Mini-Review

Basic Info
App NameLogitech Wireless Gaming Headset G930
App URLhttp://www.logitech.com/e...rnet-headsets-phones/7248
App Version Reviewed(Not applicable.)
Test System SpecsMS Win 7-64 Home Premium
Supported OSesCompatible with Win 64-bit/32-bit.
Support MethodsDownload and Support via the above Logitech link.
Handbook (US-Eng.) "Getting Started" is here.
Upgrade Policy(Not applicable.)
Trial Version Available?(Not applicable.)
Pricing SchemeAround US$90 - $100 from Amazon.

Intro and Overview:
This review follows on from the DCF thread started on 2010-10-20 by @mouser:
 Glowing web review of Logitech G930 wireless headset
I did at first start to update that thread, but then realised that it was a bit old, so I have done this Mini-Review instead.

Becoming fed up with the leads into my laptop being yanked about whenever I stood up wearing my noise-cancelling headphones whilst forgetting that they were plugged in to my laptop, I decided that I really needed a decent wireless Hi-Fi headset - one that included a mic - and so I ended up deciding to trial and buy the G930 (at a reduced price). My decision was largely based on this PC Mag review: Logitech Wireless Gaming Headset G930.
(Review dated September 26, 2011.)
Quote
Short story: (follow the hyperlink for the full review)
Pros
Long range. High-quality audio output. Handy controls on the headset. Can be used while charging.

    Click here to read the full mini-review now..

posted by IainB donate to IainB - August 08, 2012, 11:12:00 PM
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Rarma Radio (Raimersoft) - Mini-Review

Basic Info
App Name(Freeware)
App URLhttp://www.raimersoft.com/rarmaradio.aspx
App Version ReviewedCurrent freeware version 2.68.2
Test System Specs.Key Features:
Quote
  • Search for and select Internet-streamed radio stations from around the world.
  • Select, sort, manage station Favourites.
  • Select/set some stations as presets for speed of access.
  • Select several stations to stream simultaneously as a grouped "Session". (Like saving a set of tabs in a browsing session, to restart as a set at a later point.)
  • Stream and record multiple stations simultaneously, whilst listening to another station.
  • Uses streamed station data (where present) to collect station logo and album cover art for currently streaming sessions, and song lyrics.
  • Can record either a station stream or just a currently playing song (if the stream data defines the latter).
  • Has facility to create a schedule for automatic recording.
  • Displays station stream information.
  • Displays cover art and lyrics for each song.
  • Can also connect to Internet TV stations.
  • Shutdown timer.
  • Dynamic boost.
  • Splitting files.
  • Playlist files.
Supported OSesWindows 7 is the only one mentioned, but I presume XP would be OK, except maybe not for TV channel viewing.
Support MethodsEmail: Website says "If you need to get in touch then please send an email to: support@raimersoft.com"
Upgrade PolicyFree updates. Check for newer versions from the Help menu.
Other Versions Available?blogimage
Pricing SchemeFreeware

Introduction/Overview:
Quote
A very nice Internet streamed radio/TV manager, and set up for easy find, capture and play.
A simple GUI belying its relatively extensive functionality and a comprehensive set of tools.

    Click here to read the full mini-review now..

posted by IainB donate to IainB - April 25, 2012, 08:42:00 AM
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Hard Disk Sentinel PRO - Mini-Review

Basic Info

App NameHard Disk Sentinel PRO
App URLhttp://www.hdsentinel.com/
App Version ReviewedFreeware Trial version then to paid PRO Version 3.70 (as at 2012-02-03)
Test System SpecsComparison table of features between different versions (Trial, Standard, Professional, Enterprise) is here.
Detailed features are listed here.
Supported OSesWindows XP/2003/Vista/7/2008 32/64 bit
Support Methods
  • FAQ
  • Complete Help
  • Hardware Compatibility (index, details)
  • Knowledge Base
  • Discussion Board
  • Driver Zone (index, details) HDS seems to be able to cover all sorts of disk interfaces and hardware - e.g., including IDE, S-ATA, SCSI, RAID controllers, disk enclosures, USB and other external devices.[/size]
Upgrade PolicyAutomatic free upgrades for free Trial and for paid PRO versions.
Trial Version Available?Yes. Features are detailed here.
Pricing SchemeI started to use the free Trial version in December 2010.
I purchased the paid PRO version in March 2011.
At time of purchase, HDS PRO had a 20% discount coupon (2011-03-18) applicable to purchases of trial downloads. (The Trial is just a hobbled version of the PRO, and the full functionality is enabled on entry of the registration key.)
 - Full price: US$35.00
 - Purchased at 20% discount: US$28
(I did not obtain the price for the Enterprise version as I was not interested in it at the time.)

    Click here to read the full mini-review now..

posted by IainB donate to IainB - February 03, 2012, 02:20:00 PM
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Harvest: Massive Encounter - A unique, moddable, indie Tower Defense game.

Somebody gifted me a copy of Harvest: Massive Encounter back in July and I was so busy I forgot all about it. I just found it in my Steam Library a couple days ago and after looking into the details and remembering it was a Tower Defense game I decided to try it out for the first time.

Made by Oxeye Game Studio (with a programmer who also works with Mojang on Minecraft), Harvest: Massive Encounter is different from other TD games I've played... Here's how the game is different from other TD games I've played before:

First of all, aliens don't travel along a pre-defined path; they attack from all sides and can destroy any building. This changes the strategy compared to typical TDs where the only strategy is only building placement (to block off paths or create bottlenecks) or when/what to upgrade next. In fact, the more I think about it, I suppose that Harvest is more similar to a simplified RTS. You don't get money just from killing aliens. You need to build harvesters to grab the minerals sitting around on the surface of the planet. Also, there's another resource besides money you have to worry about: Power. Every building you build requires not only money to buy, but power to build and in most cases power needs to be regularly replenished (e.g. your harvester will power down after mining a few times and needs a recharge before it can harvest anymore).

    Click here to read the full mini-review now..

posted by Deozaan donate to Deozaan - October 18, 2011, 01:47:00 PM
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King of Tokyo: A Board Game Mini-Review

My review today is for King of Tokyo:

I learned about King of Tokyo from the Cracked LCD Review of it by Michael Barnes and the review on Drake's Flame, which I recommend you go check out.

When Michael said it was a simple game with lots of theme, that was one of the best board games of 2011 -- I just had to try it. And I'm glad I did -- It's exactly what I'm looking for in a game -- a fast fun experience that is easy to learn and a pure pleasure to play.  It's a great game.



It was designed by the same guy who created Magic the Gathering (Richard Garfield).  The artwork is out of this world, cartoon monster styled -- and the components are really fun to look at and read and use.  It's got a big stack of cards that are phenomenal.

I won't go into the rules, you can read them on the Board Game Geek site or the Cracked LCD review I linked to above.  Basically each player controls a monster and they fight to stay alive and gain victory points. Gameplay is fast and furious and there is a lot of luck involved.  But always tricky choices to make and tension and surprise around every corner.  We had a huge amount of fun talking during the game and enjoying watching the process unfold.

This game really worked for me in an area where games often fail for me -- and that is with the rule-changing cards.  King of Tokyo comes with a large deck of (beautifully illustrated) cards that give players special powers and change the (simple) base ruleset.  In many games that use this idea of rule-changing cards, the rules on the cards are long and complicated and are hard to absorb and incorporate.  But King of Tokyo does it so well -- with just minor changes, and perfect themeing -- it just works.

Final rating: 10 out of 10 if you are interested in a quick fun game with people who are learning for the first time.

    Click here to read more Micro Reviews of Board Games From a Non-Competetive Perspective

posted by mouser donate to mouser - October 05, 2011, 08:34:00 AM
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Re: Micro Reviews of Board Games From a Non-Competetive Perspective: Spot It

It's been too long since I posted a new board/card game mini-review, so here's a quickie.

This is my mini-review of a card game for young kids called "Spot It".

I learned about Spot It from my favorite board game review video series by Tom Vassel:
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssNFOCO-mj4" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssNFOCO-mj4</a>

Tom's daughter Melody is a real gamer and she and tom both liked the game.

I thought it might be perfect for my niece during a family visit I took last week, and it was.  Turns out everyone in the family enjoyed it, even my parents.

It's a light game where you are trying to quickly match symbols on the cards.  There are actually several variations you can play, which adds some variety.  We invented a couple of additional variations, including one that used the cards to play go-fish which i think worked quite well.

I'd give this one a 9 out of 10 in the category of quick family games for playing with young children under 10.



Someone mentioned a similar game called "Set", which has won many awards.  Set is definitely in the same vein of identifying similar cards.. and has some more sophisticated elements to it.  I tried Set a while ago but found it completely unfun to play and too taxing on my brain.



Side note: This game can actually be fascinating for the mathematicians in the family and some of us found ourselves deep in thought about the algorithm used to create the cards.  You see the cards are such that: Each card has 8 symbols on it, from a collection of over 50 symbols.  There are 55 cards.  Each card has one and only one match with every other card.  It's not at all trivial to come up with an algorithm that achieves that, or to answer questions such as how many cards can you make given N unique symbols with M symbols on each card..

posted by mouser donate to mouser - September 05, 2011, 05:17:00 AM
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Subjot - My New Twitter but It may Not be for You

Basic Info

http://www.subjot.com

Subjot is a Topic based Twitter except it's not. It's part Quora, part forum, part Plurk (comments, not interface) and part Friendfeed (cross-posts to Twitter/FB only)

What's in it for Twitter users:

It doesn't have an external application that I know of but your homepage design is all Twitter with the extra options not really getting in your way.

Cons:

No retweet

No hashtag (although it has a better list system in-site but that doesn't get imported when posting to Twitter)

No notification of when someone mentions your username (although it has the same notification Quora uses which is much more powerful for when people you know replies back to you)

No saved searches

No auto-url shortening
 
What's in it for Facebook users:

The service still relies on inviting your friends into using it but you don't have to follow their every status updates. Just the ones you want to know about them.

Cons:

No privacy. Right now all posts are public.

What's in it for Plurk users:

Same micro-blogging goodness that includes a comment system.

Cons:

It definitely has no similarity to Plurk's interface.

What's in it for those who have avoided social networks?

Currently it has a nice community. Even the developer is all over the place talking to users publicly in the comments.

Initially the interface may seem scary but it has the feel of a forum. In some parts superior, in some parts inferior.

The limited character count for example is adapted from Twitter but unlike Twitter it has a higher character count.

It may also not allow for titles but subjects are like turning Titles into Twitter streams. Say... you write a mini-review. You can create a mini-review subject and every post you write under mini-review will go there. It is also your own exclusive forum category. Others may make the same title but both of your contents don't cross-post unless people follow both of you.

There's also no direct image hosting or formatting but the textbox is smart. Direct image links show images. Youtube links embed videos.


    Click here to read the full mini-review and add your comments..

posted by Paul Keith donate to Paul Keith - September 05, 2011, 04:27:00 AM
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Quick Review: Ghostery - Best blocker I've used since JunkBuster

I have been interested in maintaining my web privacy for years, wishing to defend myself from the continuing and increasing assault on that privacy, from the advertisers and the Google and other ad-click giants.
So, yesterday out of interest, I downloaded the Ghostery add-on that works in:
  • Firefox
  • Safari
  • Chrome/Chromium
  • Opera
  • IE
(I am using it in Firefox and Chromium.)

I was so impressed with the initial results after installing it that I posted a review and gave it a 5-star vote:
Quote
Best blocker I've used since JunkBuster - Rated 5 out of 5 stars.
Great add-on! Since 1997 I had used JunkBuster to keep the junk out of my browsing and minimise bandwidth utilisation. It worked very well, up until the time when the JunkBuster project was abandoned. I later moved to Ad-Block Plus, then added NoScript, but they were never quite enough, and I have long missed having the fine degree of control over my web browsing that JunkBuster was able to provide me with.
However, with the addition of Ghostery, I think I have nearly got back to the degree of control I had in 1997 - 15 years ago.
Sadly, that is *NOT* a measure of progress.   :-(

    Click here to read the full mini-review now..

posted by IainB donate to IainB - September 05, 2011, 04:26:00 AM
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Review of VistaDB

VistaDb Review


Basic Info:
App NameVistaDB Embedded Database Engine
App URLhttp://www.vistadb.net
App Version Reviewed4.1 32-bit
Test System SpecsWindows 7 32-bit/Visual Studio 2010
Supported OSesWindows XP/Vista/7 32-bit and 64-bit
Support MethodsE-mail, Knowledgebase, Chat, Forums
Pricing Scheme$1295 Site License, Royalty Free, though mISV pricing is available.
Trial Version Available? Yes, 30-day no limitations.
Upgrade PolicyFree updates for new builds of the same version.  Support Subscriptions available.
Reviewer Donation Link wraith808

Introduction
VistaDB is an embedded, single assembly SQL-based database engine for .NET.  VistaDB is highly compatible with SQL Server, down to the ability to execute T-SQL against the database, and utilize native data types and stored procedures.  It has full compatibility with Visual Studio 2008/2010, and allows utilization of CLR procs and triggers, utilizing a fully managed and typesafe c# architecture.

    Click here to read the full mini-review now..

posted by wraith808 donate to wraith808 - May 23, 2011, 03:58:00 AM
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Not-so-mini review of CrashPlan backup software

CrashPlan is yet another entry in the increasingly crowded online backup marketplace. Pricing is competitive, they offer unlimited online backup storage space, and they have a "family plan" that allows up to 10 computers for a single account. Seen as simply another cloud backup option they are appealing enough, but there are some important additional features that may make CrashPlan more appealing to the power user and/or those particularly concerned about data redundancy.

In particular CrashPlan distinguishes itself by providing both local and off-site backup, supporting a large number of platforms, and having a free version that supports unlimited backup size to local devices..

    Click here to read the full mini-review now..

posted by JavaJones donate to JavaJones - March 29, 2011, 07:54:00 AM
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Android apps micro reviews

Last December I switched from a Windows Mobile to an Android phone. This opened up the exciting and vast world of apps and widgets to me. In the past three months I've looked at many apps and widgets, tried some, read about others, tried to find the best ones fitting my needs.

Here I present a selection of apps which I find most useful describing them with a few words only. All the apps presented here are either free or quite cheap.

If you're using an app other than the ones I present here that cover the same or similar functionality or if you'd like to have more information on any of these apps please let me know.

Note: phitsc also posted some Android widget micro reviews.

    Click here to read the Android App Mini-Reviews now..

posted by phitsc donate to phitsc - March 23, 2011, 05:28:47 AM
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Micro-Reviews: Android widgets

Introduction

Last December I switched from a Windows Mobile to an Android phone. This opened up the exciting and vast world of apps and widgets to me. In the past three months I've looked at many apps and widgets, tried some, read about others, tried to find the best ones fitting my needs.

Here I present a selection of widgets which I find most useful describing them with a few words only. All of the widgets presented here are either free or very cheap.

If you're using widgets other than the ones I present here that cover the same or similar functionality or if you'd like to have more information on any of these widgets please let me know.

    Click here to read the full thing and discuss..

posted by phitsc donate to phitsc - March 22, 2011, 11:25:00 AM
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Bringing the computer into PnP RPGaming - A Roundup of Software

Introduction

Recently, I found out that a lot of my friends at work like to game- and not just video games!  I hadn't played in several years, though I've still collected the books for 'some day'.  The concensus was to play Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition.  That wouldn't have been my first choice, but I found that I liked it after playing- gave the standard RPG some tactical options that hadn't been available before, and made 1st level characters something akin to a protagonist from a fantasy novel rather than just a target awaiting an unlucky critical before he ever had a chance to develop.  Anyone who's played a first level wizard with d4 hit points knows what I mean.

After a bit, the DM started getting a bit tired of running his campaign and wanted to play, so I stepped in and said I would DM the Dark Sun campaign which being remade for 4th edition.  But I knew that I didn't want to go through the standard preparations that I formerly took- I just didn't have the time since I was older, with more responsibilities.  So I looked to a computerized way to run my game...

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posted by wraith808 donate to wraith808 - March 17, 2011, 01:46:00 AM
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Mini-Review: Lipsum text generator

App NameLipsum
App URLhttp://lipsum.sourceforge.net/
App Version Reviewed2.0 for Windows
Pricing SchemeLipsum is free.

Intro:

Virtually any designer who works much with text will be familiar with Lorem ipsum which is filler text frequently used in page layouts. Lipsum expands on this and generates meaningless filler text that a designer can use to populate layouts for typographical work, web pages, etc. This dummy content gives a good view of how the layout will look, regardless of subject matter.

Who is this app designed for:

Anyone working with layouts that will ultimately be filled with meaningful text. In this circumstance, it is useful to deploy text that has no particular meaning, the purpose being to see whether the layout itself will be pleasing to the eye, properly balanced and so forth.

The Good

Lipsum will use text already on the clipboard if so desired. More importantly it also comes pre-populated with a variety of texts (including Lorem ipsum). Thanks to a very simple, relatively unobtrusive interface, with a few large buttons, one can choose quickly whether to use text from the clipboard or any one of the preset texts. Further, one can choose the number of paragraphs to generate as well as the length of those paragraphs. Another useful benefit is the ability to generate texts in a variety of languages. The chosen text is then sent to the clipboard  for easy pasting into the layout under construction.

    Click here to read the full mini-review now..

posted by cranioscopical donate to cranioscopical - March 11, 2011, 01:00:00 PM
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MiniReview: "Fileminimizer Pictures" compression tool

Basic Info

App NameFILEminimizer Pictures from balesio
App URLhttp://www.balesio.com/fi...zerpictures/eng/index.php
App Version Reviewed3.0 (free version)
Trial Version Available?This is a free version. Commercial use is not allowed.


Intro:

Compression tool for JPG, BMP, GIF, TIFF, PNG and EMF images


Who is this app designed for:

Those who have large collections of images and who want to reduce storage requirements.
Those who move images, or versions of images, across the web in some manner (posting to collections, email, etc.)

The Good

Simple interface:
  • collect files for compression by browsing or by drag and drop
  • handles individual files or batches of files
  • facilitates emailing of compressed files (compress and email in one step)
  • pre-set compression levels for those wanting a little help
  • custom compression levels for those with specific levels in mind
  • optional context menu entry

    Click here to read the full mini-review now..

posted by cranioscopical donate to cranioscopical - March 11, 2011, 12:58:00 PM
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Mini-Review: Clock-on-Desktop from Positbolt Software

Basic Info

App NameClock-on-Desktop from Positbolt Software
App URLhttp://www.posiboltsoftware.com/
App Version ReviewedExtended Edition

Intro:

Clock-on-Desktop is a pretty good name for this product really, since that's exactly what this software does: it provides you with any number of very elegant-looking clocks that sit right on your desktop. The software comes bundled with over 50 skins which means you'll probably find several that are to your personal taste.

I chose it since I'm always on the lookout for ways to make my desktop 'just so' and I am a fussy old stoat. The clocks are skinnable, scalable and support any timezone. I have ended up with a fairly plain, very clear skin that complements my rainmeter theme nicely. This in itself is quite surprising since I am a terrible one for fiddling with the desktop.

Anyway, initial impressions are good: the interface is very nicely designed, with smooth-looking icons and a reasonably intuitive GUI for setting up the basics. The guys clearly have a pretty talented artist working with them, and it's this that makes the software quite appealing. It's verging on the slightly-chubby, soft, Mac-like look and feel. Luckily we stay just on the safe side of twee.

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posted by timns donate to timns - March 05, 2011, 11:18:00 PM
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Mini-Review: Realtime Landscaping

App NameRealtime Landscaping
App URLhttp://www.ideaspectrum.com/

Intro:

Realtime Landscaping is a software program for helping you design and visualize landscaping ideas.  It's used mainly to plan walkways, fences, flower beds, and other outdoor structures.  

While it has some support for 3d building model constructions, it's not meant to do interior modeling, and cannot support the kinds of detailing building architectures that the serious building modeling tools can (like Chief Architect).  However it does excel at letting you super rapidly sketch and render quite complex outdoor landscaping plans, and the 3d walkthrough rendering is quite pleasing.

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posted by mouser donate to mouser - March 03, 2011, 11:14:00 PM
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Mini-Review: Centerbase CRM

I've been trying to get a CRM in place at my company for years. We're a small software business, specializing in logistics, and in the past we have not had a very coherent strategy for tracking leads, scheduling appointments, tracking customer requests or bug reports. Each of us used different approaches. To be fair, for the most part we got away with it. But as customer base grows, you suddenly reach that "tipping point" where there's just too much to track using an ad hoc approach. This year I finally sat down and really focused on trying to get something that would fix it.

After trialling quite a few low-end and mid-end systems, I settled on Centerbase. Please read this review for why.

    Click here to read the full mini-review now..

posted by timns donate to timns - March 02, 2011, 10:48:00 AM
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Bookmark Docs - MiniReview

I found out about Bookmark Docs through a thread here.  

From the site:
Quote
Bookmark Docs lets you precisely "bookmark" any places in various documents and then quickly return to them whenever you need, and do all that in a unified manner.  Add bookmarks and hyperlinks to Microsoft Office Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF, CHM, and MSDN documents, and to Web pages.

I've seen many bookmark managers over the years (and have bought more than a few), and haven't found anything that really satisfied my needs, so the idea was interesting to me.  The installation was professional and seamless, though you will want to pay attention to the options at the end; Bookmark Docs by default does not put an icon on the desktop, but does want to run at startup, so set your options accordingly.

...

I foresee that this will become one of those applications that I come to rely on heavily.  Though there are a few niggling areas that could be enhanced, it does what it sets out to do, and really is a timesaver.  I give it my recommendation.

    Click here to read the full mini-review now..

posted by wraith808 donate to wraith808 - February 26, 2011, 01:36:00 PM
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Mini-Review: First look at the Scrivener Text Outliner Beta

Scrivener is a tool for writers.

It's basically an rich text outliner with a very nice gui, and the ability to show/edit summaries of a folder's content (the corkboard), and of course the ability to export/compile all those entries as one document (images not supported)

It is still in beta. Initial impressions are good, but I have been able to crash it by importing an image (I have yet to see can I reproduce that), and I have found a bunch of minor bugs. In general it seems well behaved though and very usable.

    Click here to read the full mini-review and view links and videos..

posted by tomos donate to tomos - February 05, 2011, 08:16:00 AM
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StartSSL.com Certificate Provider: Mini-Review

I want talk a little bit about about StartSSL.com, a company that provides SSL Certificates.  They actually do a lot of things under the umbrella of StartCom, but I'm only going to talk about SSL services here, and in particular, SSL Certificates for web sites.

Preface: An Introduction to SSL Certificates

SSL Certificates are a source of much frustration for small companies and indie website operators.

The idea of SSL Certificates is a good one.  They offer a way for users who connect to your website to have some assurance that you are who you say you are -- that the person running the website they are connecting to is really the person in charge of the organization they say they are, and that they aren't being tricked by someone who has intercepted their connection to the web (man-in-the-middle style attacks).

But web browsers (firefox, internet explorer, chrome, opera, safari, etc.) have decided to combine this idea of verifying the identity of the company running a website with the mechanism for establishing a secure connection protocol from your browser to the website (https).  Secure connections can be very important in preventing neighbors and snoops from discovering your login passwords, etc. as you browse the web.

Unfortunately, the way that web browser makers have combined these features has results in a real dilemma for small developers and indie website administrators.

    Click here to read the full mini-review now..

posted by mouser donate to mouser - December 19, 2010, 02:22:00 PM
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Stylizer 5.1 - a sophisticated CSS editor

App NameStylizer
App URLhttp://www.skybound.ca
App Version Reviewed5.1.10.1119
Test System SpecsWindows 7 on a Dell Vostro 1510, 3 GB RAM, about 13 GB free hard disk space
Supported OSsMicrosoft Windows, Mac OS X
Support MethodsE-mail, forum (while e-mails are answered rather fast)
Upgrade PolicyPay per upgrade to a new major version (next would be 6.x): C$ 29.99
Trial Version Available?Free trial version for both OSs available, it does not support multiple browsers though
Pricing SchemeC$ 59.99 per license (includes 1 laptop and 1 desktop)
(A "desktop" is a system without a battery attached during the activation process, so if you only own two laptops, feel free to remove the battery for a few moments.)
Screencast Video URLhttp://www.skybound.ca/stylizer/videos/

Intro:

Stylizer is probably the most advanced CSS editor I have ever stumbled upon. As it lacks a way to edit local CSS files, it follows a completely different approach than Rapid CSS, CSSEdit and all those "alternatives". Basically, you take a website and do some WYSIWYG modifications without having to type everything into a boring text editor window.

After startup, you only have some kind of a browser window with (modifiable) toolbar buttons and (not modifiable) menus. Enter a website or a local HTML page there to make Stylizer parse the included style sheets and the Stylizer controls appear. See the screenshot above to get a clue how it actually looks.

    Click here to read the full mini-review now..

posted by Tuxman donate to Tuxman - December 07, 2010, 09:54:00 AM
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Wibiya: Website Toolbar Utility (Web Review)

Wibiya is a great, free toolbar utility, that you can add to any website, blog, or forum, quickly and easily.

The toolbar itself, is not like the one's you will be thinking about (The one's that fill up the top of Internet Explorer).  Instead, it is one, that sits at the bottom of your website (The pages you choose to put it on) and can be minimized by the user.

With handy utilities like the 'Facebook Like' button, Google Translate, Games, Share and Chat (And much more), that do not take the user off your website, your visitors will have even more reason to come back, day after day.

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posted by Stephen66515 donate to Stephen66515 - October 20, 2010, 05:55:00 PM
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Board Game Review Site Roundup

As some of you know I've caught the board game bug.  More than playing them I enjoy reading about them and thinking about the different mechanics and game design ideas.

I'd like to start a thread collecting various sites and blogs that review board games.  Here's a few to start us of -- fellow board game fans please add more.  I'll link directly to the sites or to DC threads about them:

    Click here to read more and discuss..

posted by mouser donate to mouser - August 18, 2010, 10:38:00 AM
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Review: "Scanning - VueScan and Associates" Pt.I: Intro & Bookscanning

DC member brahman has posted a giant review on scanning using the software program VueScan:

"Since scanning became a minor hobby, I followed the development of VueScan for about 10 years -- occasionally (every couple of years) downloading the trial. This application has now reached a degree of maturity that I decided to do a deeper review for the DonationCoder community. Since VueScan in its expert mode can be quite daunting, some tutorial elements and walk throughs are included so that the reader can feel more at home even with some of the more obscure settings and get a very rich scanning experience out of VueScan. The more I worked on it the more I felt that the review should become even more holistic by also discussing selected software (like scanner utilities,  e-book post processing, and sharpening) and hardware (color calibration targets and monitor calibration devices) that I found over the years which really help a lot to produce great scans in the most effortless way. Then my review grew bigger and bigger - as is the nature of life - until I finally decided to split it in several parts, the first installment you will get to enjoy now."

Part I of the review tutorial deals with an introduction to VueScan, its features, document- and book scanning.

Part II to be published soon will discuss VueScan's color management, profiling, and raw scanning abilities plus more hints and tips and more great software that complements VueScan.

    Click here to continue reading the full review now..

posted by brahman donate to brahman - August 06, 2010, 07:48:00 AM
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Mini-Review: Atrise Golden Section

Introduction:

Atrise Golden section is a design grid for web, graphic, logo and user-interface design.

This program is designed as a tool to help artists, designers, programmers, photographers and others.
It allows the user to design something by applying those proportions defined as the golden section or golden ratio.
Various aspects of the golden section can be overlaid visually on whatever design software you are using in Windows.
See also the Wikipedia article on the golden ratio here.


For whom this app is designed:

Atrise Golden Section has potential for anyone designing a web site, or a user interface, constructing a newsletter, or indulging in digital photography, or a whole lot more.

In use, it positions an overlay grid that 'floats' above your work. Aligning elements to that grid is a quick and efficient way to ensure a layout that the human eye/brain combination will find appealing, often at a level below conscious thought. Without having to know a great deal about æsthetics, it is possible to make very worthwhile improvements to the layout of material at which we ourselves and others will be looking.

http://www.atrise.com/golden-section

    Click here to read the full mini-review now..

posted by cranioscopical donate to cranioscopical - July 15, 2010, 12:08:00 AM
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Mini-Review: Your Next Read - Book Discovery Search Engine

Web Service NameYourNextRead
URLhttp://www.yournextread.com/us/#

Type in a book you've read and get related books whether it be books of the same author as your book or just related searches. As you can see from the screenshot, it also has a reading list.

The search is very powerful for one. I threw a rare book in it and it still discovered it (only it had no related books).

The interface is smart. Just the right clutter and options and the Amazon.com link is exactly where you want it, the Goodreads link is exactly where you want it... this is a testament of a site that may not be doing anything special with their lay-out but they understand where big buttons need to be, where the search size needs to be...it's all good. I can't verify if it's the best suggested book searching engine but it's crazy good.

    Click here to read the full mini-review now..

posted by Paul Keith donate to Paul Keith - July 08, 2010, 12:03:00 PM
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Mini-Review of JungleDisk and ZumoDrive

Basic Info

App NameZumoDrive
App URLhttp://www.zumodrive.com
App Version Reviewed0.987
Test System SpecsWindows XP/iPhone 3GS
Supported OSesWindows (XP/Vista/7), iPhone, Mac, Linux, Android, WebOS
Support MethodsForum, Knowledge Base
Pricing SchemeFree version (1GB + 1GB for completing tutorial) - Free.  10GB - $2.99/month, 25GB - $6.99/month, 50GB - $9.99/month, 100GB - $19.99/month, 200GB - $37.99/month.  500GB - 79.99/month.
Tour URLhttps://www.zumodrive.com/tour/

App NameJungle Disk (Personal Desktop Edition)
App URLhttp://www.jungledisk.com
App Version Reviewed3.0.6
Test System SpecsWindows XP/iPhone 3GS
Supported OSesWindows 2000/XP/Vista/7, Windows Server 2003/2008, iPhone, Mac OSX 10.5 or Later, Linux x86 with KDE or GNOME desktop (GTK2 libraries)
Support MethodsForum, Knowledge Base, Ticket System
Pricing Scheme$3/month + storage fees (see note below)
Other NotesAlso has a portable edition for all three desktop platforms

For a variety of reasons, I’m looking for a Cloud Storage Service.  At one time I was sure I would need two to satisfy my needs, as I need a service that syncs a local folder (preferably several) across machines.  I also need a online storage space for offsite backups- the ability to access it by WebDav is also a nice to have feature, so I can use my own backup software if I want.

    Click here to read the full mini-review now..

posted by wraith808 donate to wraith808 - July 04, 2010, 05:26:00 PM
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Quora - Facebook meets Yahoo Answers meets Wikipedia meets Twitter

Simply put. Quora is just a Q&A site like Ask MetaFilter and Yahoo Answers. It's addictive and well designed user interface is what's getting people excited.

http://www.quora.com

Unfortunately, Quora sounds less interesting compared to actually using it. The initial interface is like Twitter, your later reaction will think Facebook but eventually you'll realize it's like WikiAnswers.

However because of the design of the user interface it works surprisingly clear. You'll be surprised how fast you are jumping from question to question.

Who is this app designed for:

LinkedIn users who want to better represent their expertise.

Quora basically is very reputation based and this is a major part of how it separates itself from other Q&A service.

It also has some active Silicon Valley members already that provide some very insightful answers and really there's so little unhelpful answers as of now that it doesn't feel like a public service at all.

    Click here to read the full mini-review now..

posted by Paul Keith donate to Paul Keith - June 25, 2010, 08:12:00 AM
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Mini Review of SugarSync and DropBox

This review is a comparative look at two cloud synchronizers - SugarSync and DropBox.

With so many things moving to the cloud, and so many having more than one digital device, it becomes an issue to keep everything in sync, and to have access to everything when you need it.  Trying to satisfy these requirements are several cloud-based continuous backup services.

I became aware of Dropbox back when it was in beta, and was able to score an invite.  From the moment I did, I was hooked.  It became very much a part of my computing experience, and I was always looking for new ways to use it.  But for all of that, I never saw a reason to pay for it, figuring that I could keep the documents that I needed within the 2GB limit.  This became a bit harder when I purchased my iPhone, using DropBox as a way to supplement my storage on the device through their iPhone app.

One day I was listening to the AppSlappy podcast, and they reviewed SugarSync as an alternative to MobleMe.  I was intrigued, especially since SugarSync also had a free version.  So I tried it.  During my trial of SugarSync, I began to see DropBox in a new light.  SugarSync had many more features.  But when I started to really implement it, I began to see that it was give and take, so decided to write this comparative review...

    Click here to read the full mini-review now..

posted by wraith808 donate to wraith808 - April 20, 2010, 04:31:00 PM
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