Mozilla Officially Releases Firefox 5.0

It looks like Mozilla is following through with their promise to churn out new releases of Firefox faster than ever. After just three months of Firefox 4.0’s official release, Mozilla is hitting the ground running with Firefox 5.0, which is out now for your downloading pleasure.

What’s new in this freshly updated version of Mozilla’s web browser? Well, you won’t see much change as far as good looks go — the GUI is practically identical to Firefox 4.0, but 5.0 now comes with support for CSS animations, as well as the usual improvements to JavaScript and memory performance.

Perhaps the biggest change to Firefox 5.0 is the relocation of the Do-Not-Track setting, which is now positioned at the very top of the Privacy tab in Options to increase discoverability. Do-Not-Track is a setting that was introduced with Firefox 4.0 that gives you the option to opt-out of websites tracking you for purposes such as catered advertisements. This should definitely strike a harmonious chord with privacy buffs. Firefox users on Android are getting the Do-Not-Track feature for the first time with 5.0, making it the first web browser to support this feature across multiple platforms.

Mozilla also included a new feature that will make closing tabs a bit more easier. They will now stay the same size while you’re closing them (very similar to Chrome tabs), that way you’re not jumping around the whole time.

However, you probably won’t notice a huge overall difference between Firefox 4.0 and Firefox 5.0, which should make you wonder if it’s worth upgrading. If add-on and plugin compatibility is an issue for you, I would steer clear for at least a short while until the developers update their add-ons to be compatible with the new version. About half of my add-ons are not compatible yet and most users who upgrade should expect the same outcome. If these aren’t of any concern, upgrade to 5.0. Happy browsing!

Let Anyone Send Files to Your Dropbox with JotForm

Let’s say a family member or close friend wants to show you vacation pictures, but 1) There are too many files and 2) Even when zipped, the file size is too large to attach in an email. You suggest they sign up with Dropbox, a free way to sync and share files across any computer. The trouble is, your friend or family member is too stubborn to sign up for a free account (who doesn’t love free?!).

There just so happens to be a web service that gives anyone the ability to send a file directly to your Dropbox. It’s called Dropbox Forms, made by Jotform who provides a wide variety of web form creation tools.

It’s a completely free service with the option to upgrade to premium plans with more available space. However, the free version only allows a max of 100 MB, which was a problem for me right off the bat since I needed to request a 125 MB audio file from a fellow group member in one of my college courses. If you plan on working with files less than 100 MB, you should have no problem.

When you arrive to the Dropbox Forms homepage, simply click “Create a Dropbox Form” to get started. You’ll then need to allow the service to access your Dropbox account. Once that’s finished, you can start creating your form. You have two options for this: Either a direct link to a form hosted on JotForm’s website or embed the form on your own site.

Whenever someones uses the form to send a file your way, it will automatically sync to your Dropbox where you can easily access it!

Another similar service is AirDropper. I found this to be a little more feasible since there isn’t a cap on file sizes. You also have two choice for forms, but it’s a little different from how JotForm does it. You can either create a one-time, one-use form or create a reusable form with a password required. However, AirDropper isn’t a free service. It’ll cost you $12 a month after the 7-day free trial, which is a little more than the $10/month JotForm charges for a premium plan.

The Best Sense ROMs For Your HTC Android Smartphone

If you have an HTC smartphone and are anything like me, you just can’t seem to get away from HTC’s Sense user interface. It’s sleek, intuitive, and has way more features than what the stock Android UI offers.

While some custom ROMs like CyanogenMod are quite popular, I could never quite stick with them because of the absence of HTC Sense. However, you can still get all the great features of a custom ROM without sacrificing the goodies of the Sense UI. Here are a few options:

Note: Before you can flash custom ROMs, you’ll need to root your Android device first. Use Google to find a how-to guide that’s catered towards your specific phone. If you’re still not sure that you want to root your Android device, here are a few reasons that might change your mind.

Redemption

This is currently my primary ROM, mostly because I like the subtle changes to the theme that make it a bit darker, and the developer does a good job keeping it up to date. If you like the stock look of the Sense UI, but want it to look a bit more sleeker without overdoing it, this is the ROM for you.

Redemption ROM

Virtuous

This is a fantastic ROM for those that want the completely stock look of the Sense UI, but don’t want the bloatware that comes with it. It’s also a good choice for users who are new to flashing custom ROMs because of its easy maintenance tools like Virtuous Buddy and EZ-Customizer.

SkyRaider

The best thing I like about SkyRaider is the recent apps in the notification pull-down menu. Surprisingly, I like it better than holding down the home button to view recent apps. SkyRaider also updated the stock Android keyboard to the Gingerbread keyboard.

SkyRaider ROM

Uncommon Sense

If you want the best of both worlds (Sense UI and stock Android), Uncommon Sense is the ROM to use. It includes the wonderful widgets the Sense users love along with the look of the stock Android UI. It’s also packed with all the essential root apps and includes many browser choices by default (SkyFire, xScope and Dolphin HD).

Uncommon Sense ROM

IncROM

If speed and smoothness is the selling point for you, IncROM might be up your alley. It’s probably the fastest and smoothest ROM I’ve tried. Plus, the developer is pretty quick to release fixes for bugs, so dev support is not a problem with this ROM.

IncROM

Warm

The main feature of the Warm ROM is that it’s pretty. If you’re an artistic type, you’ll enjoy Warm. It also has a ton of mods (thanks to the Warm community) that you can install separately and play around with.

 

Warm ROM

 

 

Why I Ditched My Netbook for an iPad

When the iPad 2 came out, I was extremely tempted to get a used or refurbished 1st-gen iPad which are currently selling for around $350 on eBay (dirt cheap for an iPad,) but in the end I forced myself to just stick with my netbook. The biggest problem was that the iPad wasn’t meant as a productivity tool (or at least people didn’t use it that way), but I kept thinking about the possibility and after some more thorough research, I ended up purchasing a used 1st-gen iPad and sold my netbook. Here’s why.

iPad Office Suites Do Exist

The iPad actually has quite a few options when it comes to office suites, which is really all I’m concerned about as far as productivity. iWork (Pages, Keynote and Numbers), Documents To Go and Quickoffice are just a few options that pop into my head. If it’s a free solution that you’re looking for, Google Docs is pretty much all you need. Personally, I ended up getting Quickoffice since it seamlessly supports Dropbox (which I use religiously).

I haven’t had the need for the keyboard dock yet, but I’m sure I’ll get one sooner or later when I end up having to crank out a large document on the road.

iPads Are Extremely Portable

I once thought netbooks were the closest to portability that anyone could get. Boy, was I wrong. Very wrong. The iPad is a device I can easily bust out of my bag and start playing with immediately. My netbook, on the other hand, took a little bit more work to get up and running, including waiting a few minutes for it to boot up and connect to Wi-Fi before I could really do anything.

I also don’t need to lug around that annoying AC adapter brick. There have been times when I would simply just let my netbook die because messing with the AC adapter would have just been a pain. Laziness on my part? Maybe, but with the iPad, all that’s needed is a convenient USB cable and the tiny wall adapter.

iPads Are Faster

Even though iPads have a slower-clocked processor (1GHz compared to the 1.8GHz dual-core my netbook had,) the lightweight OS of the iPad means that applications load way faster than they would on any netbook.

iPads Have Incredible Battery Life

The first-gen iPad’s battery life clocks in at around 10 hours according to Apple, but tech review site Tested did their own test and were able to get almost 16 hours of non-stop video playback. My netbook usually mustered up only a measly five hours of juice — six hours tops.

Weaknesses of iPads (and Overcoming Them)

Obviously (and unfortunately) the iPad isn’t awesome at everything. There are still some downsides of Apple’s tablet that don’t make it an adequate option for a handful of on-the-go users. One of the biggest complaints I hear is that the iPad doesn’t have any other ports besides the 30-pin connector and the headphone jack — in other words, the iPad lacks USB. To this I say, “the cloud is your friend.” Take advantage of Dropbox, Google Docs, iDisk or any other cloud-based service. You’ll end up quickly forgetting about flash drives and external storage (at least I did.)

In the end, the simple fact is that there are things that you’ll just have to sacrifice for portability in general. It’s not just with tablets, but with any netbook or laptop. You won’t be able to run specialized software or have a full-sized physical keyboard with a mouse. The browsing experience won’t be as solid as if you were on a desktop and you won’t have some of the advanced features of a desktop with you while you’re on the go. That’s simply the nature of the [portable] beast.

I’m interested to hear what thoughts you have for using an iPad/tablet over a netbook or laptop (or not). Shout ’em out in the comments!

Image Courtesy: Yagan Kiely



How to Create a Custom Font from Your Own Handwriting

Wouldn’t it be cool if your own crappy handwriting could be used to type out reports and essays in Microsoft Word? There are a few services out there that allow you to do this for a small fee, but I’ll be showing you how to do it using a particular service called Pilot Handwriting. This service allows you type out messages using your handwritten font and send them to friends through email or Facebook for free.

Start off by heading to the Pilot Handwriting homepage and after all the animations have completed, you should see an arrow towards the bottom which you will click to get started. A video will start playing to quickly show you the process of creating your own font and below that will be a couple of arrows. Click the right arrow to continue on after you watched the video.

You will then print out the given template and then write each character in its appropriate box with a pen (they recommend using a “Pilot Pen,” but any pen will do). Be sure to keep the letters centered in the boxes and don’t make the letters too big or too small. It might take you a couple of tries to get it right. Check out my template to see an example.

Once the template is all filled out, you can either scan it, take a photo of it using a digital camera or hold it up in front of your webcam. I found that scanning yields the best results.

After you have the scanned image or photo on your computer (must be .JPG), you will then be asked to upload it. The website will process the image and the individual letters. After that’s complete, you will be able to edit and make changes to the letters just in case some didn’t turn out well. This includes adjusting thickness of the letters, as well as erasing any imperfections.

Then you’re done! The next step is simply typing out a message and sending it to your friends through either email or Facebook.

The downside of this particular service is that you cannot save your handwritten font to your computer and use it in a word processor like Microsoft Word. However, other services like YourFonts and Fontifier allow you to do this for a fee of $10.

Track Your Sleeping Habits with ‘Sleep As An Droid’

While I can say the name of the app is catchy (but not grammatically correct for that matter), I can’t say Sleep As An Droid is just an alarm clock. This new Android app is a supercharged alarm clock on several doses of steroids. By setting your phone on your mattress while you sleep, the app can track your movements throughout the night and get a sense of what your sleep cycles are like. Based on this data, it can tell when you’re in a deep or light sleep.

Besides being able to see your sleeping habits on nifty graphs, the whole goal behind the app is to wake you up in the morning as non-intrusively as possible. To accomplish this, the alarm first goes off quietly and slowly gets louder and louder until you eventually hear it and wake up. It will also attempt to wake you up when you’re in a light sleep state, rather than when you’re in deep sleep (which is obviously a horrible time to get woken up by an alarm). If the app sees that you’re in a light sleep around 10 minutes before the alarm is supposed to go off, it will wake you up then rather than later when you might enter a deep sleep.

One thing that sets Sleep As An Droid apart from other alarm clock apps is the ability to improve its effectiveness by actually learning about your sleeping habits and needs over time. The more you use it, the more accurate it becomes.

Now, there’s a big downside to the app (but one that makes perfect sense). It simply won’t work well if you’re sharing a bed with a significant other or if you have pets that like to jump on the bed in the middle of the night.  These disturbances will give the app inaccurate readings.

Sleep As An Droid is currently priced at $1.35 for the complete “unlocked” version, but you can try it out for free for 14 days before committing. This will give you more than enough time to surf through all the options (believe me, there are a lot) and see how well the app works for you.

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