Thursday, January 15, 2009

Automatic Wallpaper Changer

Automatic Wallpaper Changer - Create image playlists with the least effort. BioniX Wallpaper is an advanced desktop wallpaper cycler and wallpaper manager.

Low memory usage
Can "smart stretch" big images
Can tile/stretch/center an image
Low flicker when changing desktop image
Automatically starts at Windows startup
Interface can be transparent
Possibility to load more external skins
Doesn't mess your system/registry with dirt
It can remember user's settings

The desktop background of the computer may seem of little importance to some but other users pay very much attention to the image set as background of the screen. It either says something about their personality or it is simply an image conveying their state of mind.

Although the process of changing a desktop background is nothing complicated and implies opening a wallpaper with Windows' image viewer and choosing the option from the context menu, there are ways of completely automating it. BioniX Wallpaper Changer is one of the most appreciated wallpaper managers on the Internet and it comes jam-packed with options.

The application has three versions, one for every pocket: the Lite edition is absolutely free, the Extreme version is $14.2 and the Insane edition is $21.4 but you can get a 30% discount for the last two if you use the coupon code Disc30 upon purchasing from the developer's website. All three are differentiated by the number of active features. For a complete list of features for each of the mentioned versions you can check up this link here.

We're going to test the Insane version, which has all the features of the Lite and the Extreme editions and then some. Besides lifetime access to updates, it gives access to over 125 application skins, enables the wallpaper change shortcut, makes available the “lock on folder” feature and supports an unlimited amount of images in the playlist.

From the moment Bionix Wallpaper Changer is launched you can clearly see that the developer did not aim to impress with the aesthetics of the software but with its slew of features and options. Even so, there are a bunch of skins available to change the main application window and make it more pleasantly looking.

One thing needs to be mentioned about BioniX Wallpaper Changer: it is not a regular wallpaper manager as it is capable of handling an entire folder of images and change them according to a user-set time interval. It can shuffle them for a touch of ‘the element of surprise’ or roll them in the exact order they are stored on the hard disk.

In the main screen of the software there is a set of options very similar to the controls of an audio player. These can help you skip to the next or previous image and start/stop the countdown timer, which can be set down to a second but in this mode you will notice a computer drag as the CPU is used pretty intensely.

The main application window contains a drop-down menu that, once unrolled, gives you access to different menus situated in the lower part of the window: Desktop, Enhance and Lock on Folder. The Info tab shows the amount of free space on the drives of the system. Each of them contains options for configuring the wallpaper style, choosing the resampling quality and the contrast, saturation and brightness for the best looks.

Given the tooltips popping up upon mouse hovering over an option and their brief explanation, working with the application should be a cinch. The list of resample filters includes the famous Lanczos and Mitchell filters as well as B-Spline, Hermite and Bell.

The Lock on Folder feature allows you to spin the images in a specific folder automatically every time you start the program. They make for the software playlist and you can add as many pictures as you want after the locking has been enabled because the application will simply count them all.

Playlist view can be enabled from the main application window (top right) and, just like in an audio player, you get to create as many of them as you want and save them on the hard disk. Sort options let you randomize the list or reverse the order of the items.

Configuring BioniX Wallpaper Changer is nothing complicated and allows for setting up the action to be taken at software start (change wallpaper and then close, start the countdown timer or do absolutely nothing). It can also be set up to start with Windows in minimized mode.

The application supports additional interface tweaks besides the various skins available, consisting of changing the opacity and making it transparent.

Additional options relate to the Playlist Editor. Here you can choose the action attributed to the Delete button (removing the file from playlist only or from the hard disk as well) or select the default resample mode.

If the tooltips are popping up too slow, their appearance time can be changed, together with the duration they remain on screen. The place these can be set up is the Icon/Help tab of the Advanced Settings.

A very interesting option present in the Insane version of the software is the system-wide hotkey. This enables you to change the current wallpaper with the next one instantly without calling on complicated menus. You just press a key combination that supersedes all apps on your computer and the desktop background is immediately switched with the next in line. However, you should be careful for the hotkey not to double with a different action in a different piece of software.

BioniX Wallpaper Changer makes for a great wallpaper manager both in terms of options and regarding the ease of use. It may not be the greatest looking application but its looks are irrelevant compared to the discounted price and the set of features it puts on the table. System resources are kept down to a minimum (in our case peak RAM usage was registered at 9MB while CPU was used only when changing the wallpaper) and it can help you create multiple playlists and load them up one at a time, just like in an audio player.

An exciting caboodle is represented by the Tools menu. It gathers options for hiding desktop icons and even the taskbar. These come in handy when combined with a lower wallpaper change delay as you can watch an whole playlist just like a slideshow on the entire monitor screen, without any hindrance from the shortcuts.

One of the biggest drawbacks of BioniX are the looks. The interface and even some of the skins are not in tone with Vista's shiny slick looks, not to mention with the upcoming Windows 7. Also, we noticed that the main application window and the Playlist Editor do not stick together when moved more vigorously.

The Good
BioniX Wallpaper presents an amazing set of options and features dedicated to automating the way your wallpapers change on your desktop. It is extremely easy to use, runs on low computer resources and can give you details on the fill level of the various drives available on the system.

You can select the time interval for the desktop background to be changed and select a specific folder for the application to take the images from. Each image can run as it is or you can tweak the contrast, saturation and brightness to make it more artsy.

The tested version makes available no less than seven resample modes for the wallpapers to show their best.

The Bad
The looks are nothing Bionix should be proud of. Not even some of the skins can do a better job and the Playlist Editor just can't keep stuck to the main application window if the latter is shaken a tad quicker.

The Truth
If the current discounted prices remain ($9.9 for the Extreme edition and 14.9 for the Insane one) I'm sure BioniX will rake a whole lot more adepts. However, even without the discount BioniX makes for a pretty tempting offer.

It works quite well and besides the aforementioned mischiefs there is little to add on the downside. It can start with Windows and run minimized, you can use a system-wide hotkey to immediately change the current wallpaper and it can be set up to take user-specific actions once it is launched.

Try the Lite version for free for as long as you want, compare the features of the other two versions and decide if it is worth the money (hopefully, the coupon code will become a permanent offer). Download BioniX Wallpaper right now from here.

Here are some snapshots of the application in action:

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

More GeForce GTX 285 Details Emerge

As we are approaching the now inevitable release of the 55nm GeForce GTX 285, more details regarding said card surface on the Internet. NVIDIA's new GeForce flagship graphics card is expected to come as an overclocked version of the company's current GeForce GTX 280.

Also, unlike the current card, the GPU of the upcoming GTX 285 takes advantage of a 55nm process technology, which basically allows for better performance and overclocking capability, while it should also provide a better power consumption level.

According to a recent post on the Chinese language Expreview, the upcoming single-core GTX 285 is expected to boast frequency levels a bit over those available for NVIDIA's current GeForce GTX 280. The core speed of the GTX 285 should settle at 648 MHz, compared with the 602 MHz available with the GeForce GTX280. The Shader and Memory frequencies have also been brought up to 1476MHz and 1242MHz, respectively.

Given that the 65nm-based GTX 280 has Shader and Memory clock speeds of 1296MHz and 1107MHz, the performance boost might not be all that impressive. Still, the performance of the GTX 285 is expected to surpass that of ATI's HD 4870 and to come close to what the HD 4870 X2 can now provide. We are yet to see a comparative review between any pair of aforementioned cards, but we should keep our peeled for one such piece as it would give us a general idea of what we should expect from NVIDIA's next-generation GeForce graphics card.

After the release of the GTX 280 and the dual-GPU GTX 295, the Sunnyvale, California-based AMD is also expected to unveil a new range of cards as well. The rumored Radeons are to compete directly with NVIDIA's upcoming 55nm range of products. What is yet unclear is whether said cards are to remain at 55nm, or whether AMD plans to jump straight to 40nm.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Broken Webpages IE8 Beta Add-On on Vista SP1 and XP SP3

While building Internet Explorer 8, Microsoft is joggling the evolution of IE and its commitment not to break the web, namely content that is tailored to IE6 and IE7. Internet Explorer 8 is not only capable of rendering websites developed with modern standards, but also content that was designed with the shortcomings of its precursors in mind. In addition to building three rendering modes into the browser and ensuring the evolution of Compatibility View, the software giant is also taking the necessary measures to identify the specific websites that fail to play nice with Internet Explorer 8. In this context, the Report a Webpage Problem Internet Explorer 8.0 Beta Add-On is now available for download.

“The Report a Webpage Problem Internet Explorer Add-on appears as a toolbar button and a 'Report a Webpage Problem...' item on the Tools menu,” an excerpt from the tool's description reads. “When the toolbar button is clicked or the menu item is chosen, the control takes a screenshot of the web page currently being viewed. A new tab is then opened containing a report submission form. A scaled down version of the screenshot will be visible at the bottom, and the user has a choice of whether or not to include the full-sized screenshot (choosing No to the 'Include Screenshot' question means no screenshot will be sent).”

The add-on is designed to catalyze feedback for Microsoft when it comes down to webpages with rendering problems, which could contain scripting errors or any additional issues. According to the Redmond company, the add-on is set up to integrate exclusively with the Beta versions of Internet Explorer 8, and will not be available for the final version of the browser. The software giant revealed that the add-on's availability would be discontinued in the Internet Explorer 8 pre-RTM timeframe. The Report a Webpage Problem Internet Explorer 8.0 Beta Add-On would work with copies of the browser run on top of Windows Vista SP1, Windows XP SP3, Windows Server 2003, and Windows Server 2008.

“On the report submission page, the user also has the option to select a category best representing their observed problem. This category selection will be part of the report information returned to Microsoft. A 1000 character limit comment field is provided, if the user chooses to include some description of the problem. Additional data included in the report: the protocol type (http, res, file, etc.) of the URL being reported; the complete URL; a numerical value representing the Document mode,” Microsoft adds.

The Report a Webpage Problem Internet Explorer 8.0 Beta Add-On is available for download here.

New MSNBot (msnbot/2.0b) from Live Search

Microsoft is getting ready to introduce its latest move against Google, an overhauled boot for its search engine. While the Redmond company is laboring to reportedly scrap the Live Search brand in favor of Kumo, with a transition of leadership as Qi Lu takes on the new role of president of the Online Services Group, the organic evolution of Live Search moves forward. In this regard, the latest product on the Live Search front is a new MSNBot.

“Live Search is committed to continuing to improve how we discover and crawl your content. In the coming weeks, we will be testing an update to MSNBot, which may show up as a new crawler name in your referrer logs. The new crawler user agent string will appear as: msnbot/2.0b (+ You’ll still see the current version msnbot/1.1 (+ as Live Search’s primary user agent,” Jeremiah Andrick, program manager, Live Search Webmaster Center, revealed.

Webmasters and web content owners will be the ones directly affected by Microsoft testing the new MSNBot. The new Live Search crawler will generate extra traffic as far as bots are concerned, but the software giant is promising that MSNBot/2.0b will tiptoe on websites and that it will not take a heavy tole on the resources available.

Qi Lu, the new president of the Online Services Group, indicated that one of the pitches that convinced him to join Microsoft was CEO Steve Ballmer's promise that the Redmond company had a strong focus on driving product quality.

“We intend to ensure that any robots exclusion protocol you are using is respected. As such, you don’t need to update your Robots.txt file. We plan on crawling at a slow speed during the tests with the updated version. When the new crawler replaces our current crawler, we will keep you up-to-date,” Andrick added.

Microsoft Is Cooking a Kumo Live Search Rebrand - now on Live Search servers

It remains to be seen whether rechristening Live Search will deliver a positive impact in terms of gathering and keeping fresh eyeballs, if it will just be a strategy with little repercussions in terms of market share, or if it will have just the opposite effect, and drive users away from Microsoft's search engine. However, the fact of the matter is that the software giant is indeed cooking a Live Search rebranding, with Kumo ( as one of the candidate brands.

The fact that Microsoft was considering a brand evolution for Live Search was initially reported by Mary Jo Foley. In this regard, LiveSide has indicated that Kumo is now under Microsoft's control, but accessible only to employees.

Meaning both “cloud” and “spider” in Japanese, Kumo is, without a doubt, intimately connected with Live Search, considering the domain servers the company is using, namely NS.USWEST.SEARCH.LIVE.COM; NS.USEAST.SEARCH.LIVE.COM and NS.ANYCAST.SEARCH.LIVE.COM. However, until this point in time, Microsoft has steered right clear of confirming any future plans related to a Live Search rebranding. As far as Kumo is concerned, mum's the word from Microsoft.

Still, one thing is clear, the Redmond company has nothing short of big plans for The domain has been registered for no less than 10 years, and is scheduled for expiration on July 19, 2018. The registration of, the home of Live Search, is set to expire in 2017.

In the race with Google, Microsoft is not fighting just a search engine, but the technology behind it. Google is a brand that is now virtually synonymous with search, and the Redmond company has nothing to counter this aspect. Windows Live Search, Live Search, and simply do not have sufficient brand potential to go against Google, in the context in which users are no longer searching the web, they are googling it. The question is will anybody be kumoing it?

Microsoft: We're Here to Win Against Google

At the start of December Microsoft confirmed that the former executive vice president of Engineering for the Search and Advertising Technology Group at Yahoo had switched sides and was going to take the lead of its Online Services Group. Scheduled to take on his new position come January 5, 2009.

Dr. Qi Lu revealed that he was gearing up to hit the ground running, while Microsoft's target in term of online search could not be clearer. Lu admitted Google's superiority in the search space, and acknowledged the challenges that Microsoft would face in its attempt to catch up with the Mountain View-based search giant, stating that “we've got our work cut out for us.”

“We're here to win, and my view on this is that to win in the search space, fundamentally you build on the strengths of your product. And we know what it takes to build a compelling user experience and winning product, which is to have a powerful infrastructure, great talent, and put great processes in place so that we can out-develop, out-market, out-innovate our competitors,” Lu stated.

Dr. Qi Lu was recruited at Microsoft by none other than the Chief Executive Office Steve Ballmer. According to Lu, Ballmer promised that Microsoft had a strong commitment on continuing its investments in research and development, while at the same time focusing on delivering high-quality products in order to increase competitive chances on the market. In this context, Lu pointed out that there were a couple of major occasions for Microsoft to compete against Google.

“First, I think there is a genuine opportunity to take our search products to the next level. I see that Microsoft's search product quality is improving at a very, very fast rate, that there are great foundations there,” Lu added. “The second opportunity is to continue building a very powerful advertising platform. Microsoft has made a series of strategic acquisitions, and also built a bunch of internal technologies and products.”

Friday, December 5, 2008

Microsoft to Kill Windows XP 'Blue Edition' - In the fight against pirated software

Microsoft is attempting to kill the “Blue Edition” of Windows XP. In mid-2008 the Redmond company discontinued the availability of retail and OEM licenses of Windows XP, with the exception of copies of the operating system going onto ultra-low-cost laptops and desktops. However, XP “Blue Edition” is by no means a part of Microsoft's efforts to focus consumers and partners on Windows Vista and beyond. Killing XP “Blue Edition” is an illustrative example of the company's actions to stop the software counterfeiting phenomenon affecting its products.

According to Microsoft, “Blue Edition” is nothing more than a fabricated marketing program used to market and sell pirated copies of Windows XP. In this regard, the software giant informed that it had debuted legal actions against multiple online auctioneers worldwide, which were allegedly responsible for selling pirated copies of XP “Blue Edition” and not only via various global marketing schemes.

“Dishonest auctioneers are too often using these online auction sites to sell counterfeit and illegal copies of Microsoft software, taking advantage of unsuspecting customers around the world,” revealed David Finn, associate general counsel for Worldwide Anti-Piracy and Anti-Counterfeiting at Microsoft. “These dealers are peddling bogus products that can put customers and their personal information at serious risk.”

Microsoft has indicated that auctioneers in 12 countries around the world are now facing lawsuits for selling counterfeit software on online auction sites. A total of 63 legal actions involve lawsuits in the US (16), in Germany (12), in France (12), and in the UK (7). In addition, the software giant is also going after software counterfeiters in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Japan, Mexico and New Zealand.

“By taking legal action against these and other alleged counterfeiters, Microsoft is helping ensure that consumers around the world are protected from those who sell counterfeit software over the Internet,” Finn added. “We are also continuing to arm our customers with the information they need to keep from falling victim to counterfeit software. Consumers should be aware that the so-called ‘Blue Edition’ software is nothing more than low-quality counterfeit software burned onto a CD.”
By: Marius Oiaga