Mind Maps Free

Digital Media Minute has posted about free mind map software before, but I have to say, for elegance and ease of use, Mind Node is unbelievable. I’m actually looking for reasons to use it! I’ve found the freeware version to be very adequate for my needs so far. Mac only, unfortunately. Again, even if you think your current methods of staying organized, planning out projects, or even planning a party for the weekend are sufficient, do take a look at MindNode and I’m betting that you will go to the trouble of installing it.
I’ll spare you the details of my epic sock drawer rearrangement plan, and offer you this video instead:

Network Discovery Tool

If you need a network discovery tool for information on your network about IP addresses, hosts (and a whole lot more) but command-line tools intimidate you, take a look at this Zenmap tutorial. It works together with Nmap, the free, crossplatform network discovery tool. I think I’ve run across tools that I can use to get this done before but I don’t remember any of them being quite this simple to implement. In any case I have had Zenmap recommended to me before so this tutorial is definitely going into my “you want to look at this later” bookmark folder. Take a look.

Media Converter Online

Here’s a list of nine media converters from Digital Media Minute listed by OS and price, emphasizing recent releases that are either freeware or at least with free trials offered. This list is by no means comprehensive, and I have not tried all of these; my intent was more to compile a list for reference. I’d welcome your feedback and your recommendations.

1) Very frankly, here’s what got me going on this list: a Firefox extension called Media Converter released just weeks ago. Once installed, it tells you when you are on a site whose video can be downloaded and converted to the format of your choice by the extension. Slick. There may or may not be issues with overloaded servers and blockages by video providers, but in terms of usability, it’s hard to imagine a less obtrusive conversion process with fewer steps. Free, premium version $15/month, $150/year.

2) Here’s an old favorite: Media-Convert. It’s a free and web-based online media converter with a very long list of file types that it can handle. Simply browse for the file on your computer, specify the file type, then choose the output file format.

3) Zamzar is another web-based tool with an extremely simple interface, also handles many document formats. It’s free for files up to 100 MB; the paid versions priced at $7, $16, $49 per month allow you allows you to convert files up to 200MB, 400MB, & 1GB respectively, with online storage of 5GB, 20GB & 100GB respectively. I use it regularly.

4) Switch Audio Converter 1.52 for Mac OS X: Free
Converts many types of audio files into many other kinds. Extract audio from imported avi, mov, mpeg video files.

5) Switch Sound File Converter 2.01 for Windows: Free
Will convert the following file types into mp3 and wav: mp2, mpga, m4a, ogg, avi, mid, flac, aac, wma, dct, au, aiff, ogg, raw, msv, dvf, vox, cda, atrac, gsm, dss, sri, shn, dss, msv, wmv. Version 2.01 has MIDI support.

6) Easy DVD Rip 3.0.8 for Windows: Free 7-day trial, $34.95
Enables you to back up DVD to VCD, SVCD, MPEG-1/2/4, AVI, DivX, XviD.

7) Ape Ripper for Windows: Free 15-day, 3-file trial, $29.95
Will split unwieldy APE files into file formats like MP3, WAV, MP2, VOX, G726, and G723, that can be played on your MP3 player.

8) AVS Media Player for Windows: Free
Supports MPEG1, MPEG2, MPEG4 along with DivX, XviD, AVI, Real Media video, Quick Time files, WMV files, WMV-HD, H.263, H.264, 3GP, 3GP2, MP4. Interface and support available in several languages.

9) The Easy CD-DA Extractor for Windows free 30-day trial, $32.87
Advertised by Poikosoft as ‘the Swiss army knife of digital audio’, is an extremely versatile music converter that rips Audio CDs, converts audio files from/to many different formats, edits the metadata of audio files and burns Audio CDs, MP3 CDs and DVDs, and Data CDs and DVDs.

Hundreds of Free Virtual Appliances

VMWare has a community site that provides hundreds of Virtual Appliances for use in their free VMWare Server product. What is a virtual appliance? It is a preconfigured operating system that has been tailored to perform a specific set of functions. There are appliances for Ruby on Rails development, Python Web Development and even Jabber servers. Virtual appliances make great test development environments and allow you to try a wide range of services without the pain of installing the systems yourself!  If you’re unfamiliar with them I would strongly suggest that you bookmark this site and take a look around it when you have a couple of hours. There is unbelievable value here.

2GB Free Online Backup

Mozy Remote Backup give you 2GB of free online and secure backup. When you sign up for the service, you then download a client that automatically backups folder you specify. There is currently only a Windows client, but Mozy promises a Mac client is on the way. What happens when you exceed 2GB? Well you can upgrade your account to a paid account that gives you a whopping 30GB of storage for only $4.95 per month!

UPDATE: The service is advertised as free storage, but they do send you a weekly email with links to relevant sponsors. Still, it seems like a small price to pay.

Create Awesome Header Backgrounds

Veerle Pieters has a fantastic step-by-step tutorial on creating Header Backgrounds in Photoshop. She proves that inspiration can indeed be found in photographs as she creates an awesome header graphic by applying some Photoshop magic to an existing photo. By the way don’t let the formatting of this tutorial confuse you-there is no text on the first page of it, and you have to click through using the “next” link and continue to subsequent pages. Despite this navigational hiccup the tutorial is quite good as it emphasizes a visual explanation process for creating header backgrounds, and it is very easy to follow for that reason.

Free Mind Mapping Software

FreeMind is an interesting piece of free mind-mapping software that is open source and cross platform. Mind mapping is a process of recording your thoughts and ideas and representing them as a diagram. FreeMind is a tool that easily faciliates this process. If you are unsure as to whether or not mind mapping might be useful to you check out this long list of what FreeMind is good for. If you are a person who likes to organize things visually rather than by making lists you really should take a look at mind mapping software generally but especially this Freemind version.

I’ve been playing with it and I think I’m actually going to use it for some tasks that don’t lend themselves very well to a simple list full of bullet points, i.e. more complex jobs that require “nodes” of effort or input from me to get the job done. Go check out the site and you’ll quickly understand what I mean: mind maps are incredibly intuitive.

How to Use script.aculo.us Effect Queues

Rails webdevelopment blog has a great tutorial that explains how to use the new Effect.Queues in the popular script.aculo.us JavaScript library. Effect queues allows you to queue up multiple effects on a DOM node or group of DOM nodes. This is one of the most handy JavaScript scripts out there and if you haven’t tried it you definitely should check it out.

After reading this tutorial it should be pretty clear to you the value of it as well as the methods that you employ to make use of it. I’m trying to feature more Rails related posts here on Digital Media Minute just because of the amount of interest that people are showing the comments.

Free Database of World City Names

United Nations Code for Trade and Transport Locations maintains a huge list of city names for every country in the world with lots of other meta data like geographic coordinates, names without diacritics, subdivision (province, state, etc). You can simply view the data using their search options, or even better download the data in CSV or MS Access format!  It’s not like you’ll need information like this every single day but potentially at some point in the future you’ll create an e-commerce site or just need to populate a database with more cities and information related to them than you’d ever be able to construct otherwise.

SimpleViewer – Free Flash Slideshow Tool

Airtight Interactive’s Felix Turner has developed an excellent free Flash-based slideshow tool that he bills as a customizable image gallery, that is also free. SimpleViewer Download is easy to use and loads images that are specified in a simple XML file. Images are preloaded as the user views other images in the slideshow making this slideshow tool perform very nicely. If you want a Flash slideshow free definitely checkout this tool.

The basic simple viewer  can be viewed on iPhone, iPad and Android, as well as Windows, Mac and Linux. There is also a Pro version that gives you more advanced customizing options without any branding, as well as no limit to the amount of images you can upload.

Hundreds of Commercial Logos

Not sure how this is useful, but it is nonetheless impressive collection of commercial logos in Adobe Illustrator format. There is a rather lengthy disclaimer on the front page of the site regarding the possible risks of downloading any of these fonts, but aside from that issue you’ll find this huge collection of fonts to be amazingly rich. If you’d like to contribute or your own logo there are provisions to do that as well. I cannot recall finding any font resource that was anywhere near as comprehensive as this one is and it could be a godsend for graphic designers all over the world.

Avatar Creation Software?

A colleague of mine is looking to create an avatar of himself for an online course he is teaching. As I’ve never created an avatar before, I was wondering if anybody reading this had any good avatar software suggestions for this purpose. I look forward to the avatar creation software feedback.

I would hope that there is software available that would allow me to make a fairly detailed avatar without it being too difficult to model or be contained in a file that was so large as to be unwieldy. Having said that, I’m betting that there will be huge demand for software that helps you to create realistic online avatars in the near future as more and more of us choose to represent ourselves in various arenas online for one reason or another.

The ‘ly’ Detector

The Passivator is a passive verb and adverb flagging bookmarklet for Mozilla-derived browsers.

Writers try to avoid adverbs whenever possible. This bookmarklet will flag adverbs and passive verbs with the aim to help you write better.  Wow, pretty soon when my browser be able to actually write my articles for me?

I have to say that I really like tools and applications– e.g. bookmarklets– that give me this sort of functionality, normally without having to pay a dime for it. It reflects a completely different paradigm when you think about it: rather than going out and buying a relatively expensive piece of software that does 1000 different things, installing bookmarklets that are specific to just one or two tasks is a brilliant way to essentially customize your computer for the work you yourself actually do with it.

View HTTP Headers in IE

ieHTTPHeaders is an explorer bar for Internet Explorer that will show you the HTTP Headers IE are sending and receiving. This is a minor tweak that will serve to give a little more useful information in the course of your work day.

Mozilla has had a similar extension for a while now, but this link may be useful for those of you who have not yet switched from IE to Firefox. Whoops, are my prejudices showing? Seriously though I wonder how many devout users of Internet Explorer have at least given Firefox a test drive? I would love to know in the comments specific reasons from IE users as to why a might not have done so, if you wouldn’t mind.

What is the Best Font for your Website?

The research paper “A Comparison of Popular Online Fonts: Which Size and Type is Best?” from Usability News involved a research group of sixty participants (16 males and 44 females).

The study explores the following characteristics of fonts used on the Internet:

  • Reading Efficiency
  • Reading Time
  • Perceived Legibility
  • Perceived Attractiveness
  • Font Preference

The paper concludes that “Generally, Times and Arial were read faster than Courier, Schoolbook, and Georgia. Fonts at the 12-point size were read faster than fonts at the 10-point size. In addition, a font type x size interaction was found for the perception of font legibility. In general, however, Arial, Courier, and Georgia were perceived as the most legible. “