Filed under ‘Software’
Smashcasi’s excellent RemoteAmp has changed it’s name to Signal, and now works with the iPhone as well as Pocket PC. Signal allows you control your desktop installation of iTunes from your iPhone or PPC, just like using a remote control. It works with iTunes on the Mac, and also with iTunes, Winamp, or Windows Media Player on a PC. I’ve installed the demo version of Signal on my iPAQ and it works really well, I’ve been using it all day and it looks like all the bugs from the older version of RemoteAmp seem to have been fixed – I’m going to buy it!
» Demo version and more info here.
Mozilla are working on a brank spanking new version of Firefox – with the reassuring working title of “Minefield”. If you simply must be on the cutting edge, there’s a Firefox 3 download available from the Mozilla FTP site.
Apple have released a beta version of Safari for Windows. The Apple website claims that Safari loads pages up to 2 times faster than Internet Explorer 7 and up to 1.6 times faster than Firefox 2. Try it yourself – it’s free!
I’ve been using PortableApps on my USB drive for a while now, mostly to store my passwords and check my email when using other people’s computers. I recently purchased a new U3 enabled USB drive to see what all the U3 hype was about. I was expecing something polished and professionals, but to be honest, compared to PortableApps it really doesn’t have that much going for it. It’s ugly too.
Many new USB drives now include a special U3 partition, which contains the U3 base files – so all you need to do is add some U3 applications. Many of the applications are free (Firefox, Thunderbird etc), although there are a significiant amount that you have to pay for. Although U3 offers everything that PortableApps does, I don’t think the interface is as nice, and unfortunately many USB drive companies (e.g Toshiba) ‘brand’ the U3 launcher interface, which makes it look even worse. U3 requires admin rights to function – which is a serious issue for something that will be used on work and school computers. It also writes to the host computer’s hard drive, and leaves a ‘temp’ directory behind when the U3 drive is removed. One of the big advantages of U3 is that it can password protect the USB drive, so if it’s lost or stolen, you data remains safe(ish) – without the password, Windows can’t identify the USB stick and won’t read it. A warning to anyone that has just purchased a U3 enabled USB drive: DO NOT uninstall the U3 partition! Once you remove the U3 functionality, you’ll most likely never be able to reinstall it.
PortableApps is much the same as U3, but can be installed on any USB drive. PortableApps is proudly open source, as are all the applications – which means they’re all free and generally well supported. PortableApps is available as a ‘suite’ in either a 90MB or 30MB package, or as a 1MB Base Edition which contains only the menu and backup features. The Suite packages contain the most popular applications such as Firefox, Thunderbird and Gaim, whereas the Base Edition requires you to install applications yourself (which involves about 2 mouse clicks per application!). You can also install nearly any ‘self contained’ application that doesn’t require registry entries, and that keeps any configuration files in the same directory as the executable.
Best of both worlds
After trying U3 and PortableApps extensively, I finally made the decision to keep them both on my USB drive. The only feature of U3 that I’m using is the password protection utility, which will prompt for a password when the drive is first plugged in – if the password isn’t correct, then no data on the drive can be read. Although the U3 password protection isn’t bulletproof, it will stop 99% of people accessing any data on the drive if it’s lost or stolen. Once the correct password has been entered, instead of U3 starting up (I’ve disabled U3′s auto start), PortableApps will autorun.
I’ve tried nearly all the major applications from PortableApps, but these are the ones that are staying on my USB drive for good:
- 7-Zip Portable – file archiver and compressor
- ClamWin Portable – Antivirus
- FileZilla Portable – FTP client
- Firefox Portable – browser
- Miranda Portable – AOL, MSN, ICQ, Yahoo IM
- Thunderbird Portable – email client
- PSPad – code editor
- Restoration – file undeleter
- SIW – computer configuration analysis & diagnostics
- µTorrent – BitTorrent client
- VLC Media Player Portable – ‘play anything’ media player
- YamiPod – excellent iPod manager for PCs without iTunes
z2′s PocketLAN not only allows you to view and open all the shared files on your network, but you can also stream MP3s and video from your desktop PC directly to your mobile device – all using WiFi. I use the excellent RemoteAmp on my iPAQ to control my home PC/HiFi (running iTunes) – it does everything it should, but sometimes I want to stream my music collection or watch a video on my iPAQ. And this is exactly what PocketLAN does. As long as I’m within WiFi range, I can use my iPAQ to access movies, music and whatever other shared files I want – all stored on my desktop PC. Other features includes: IP Config, Ping, IP Renew, Port Scan, Trace Route, Route Edit Wake on LAN and more…
» Available from PocketGear