Fresh Off The Block


Mar
09
2016

3DNes is a NES Emulator with an added dimension

Nintendo rose a fair few eyebrows in technology circles when it announced the 3D Classics line – classic games from older consoles such as the NES and Game Boy with a 3D graphic upgrade, offering a unique way to show of the power of the Nintendo 3DS handheld. While the idea has its merits, with a number of classic Nintendo titles getting the 3D Treatment – and persuading SEGA to join in and do the same to some classic SEGA titles – it has to be said that there are actually very few titles that have had the 3D Classic treatment.

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could take a NES game of your own choosing, and add 3D? If you’ve found yourself thinking that, you may want to check out Geod Studio’s new project, 3DNes – a work-in-progress Unity-based emulator that, as the name suggests, converts NES games into 3D.

3dmario

Considering the simplicity of NES games, translating them into 3D is actually a difficult task. Unlike SNES games, which have four background layers, NES games have a single layer for the entire background. Imagine a diorama or a board game – everything in the background is printed on one board, while all the sprites – like your character the ground, enemies, items – are all just pieces on top. To allow the entire game to look 3D, 3DNes uses an algorithm that analyses the flat background and cuts it up into the pieces that make it up, then attempts to turn each piece into a 3D Object. The software is even clever enough to turn round objects into spheres or tubes, so for example, a ball will actually look like a ball instead of just a circle.

Exactly how well this works depends on the game in question, with things getting messier as the backgrounds get more complex. Games like Mega Man are translated well and benefit greatly from the effect, but games such as Contra or Castlevania somewhat struggle. Perhaps the best-emulated game is the original Super Mario Bros., which the developer admits was the main focus of the emulator and the most tested, which may explain the gap in quality between it and other games.

This having been said, Geod Studio hopes to improve the number of games that work well through subsequent beta releases, with head of the project Trần Vũ Trúc aiming for one-tenth of the entire NES library as his marker for success. He also suggests that there might be the potential for users to individually tailor the emulator for certain games, but is quick to state this is not currently the case, as he wants to ensure there’s “a strong emulation engine as the backbone” first.

At the moment, the emulator exists only online, as a WebGL game playable through the Unity Player. This means it only properly supports Mozilla-based browsers, such as Firefox or Seamonkey. It’s also extremely unstable, particularly when not using a AMD Graphics card, and may fail to go beyond loading the ROM, or even fail to work at all. However, Trần states that future releases of the emulator will be made available as software downloads, so it should only be a matter of time before we all get to try it properly.

3DNes is a NES Emulator with an added dimension" /> 3DNes is a NES Emulator with an added dimension" />

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    Sep
    17
    2015

    [Review] Mini Tool Power Data Recovery 7.0

    We've all had that moment. You delete a file that you didn't mean to, or that you didn't think you'd need at the time; you empty the Recycle Bin; and then suddenly you realise – damn, I actually needed that! You probably also thought the file was gone for good – deleting it from the Recycle Bin was your last chance to get it back, right? Wrong!

    When files are deleted in Windows, Windows simply "forgets" about the file, acting like it no longer exists; and tells the hard drive it was stored on that it can use the space owned by that file again. A file is only truly "erased" when the space it used is fully written over. This means if you act fast, you can usually recover a file that you've deleted entirely from Windows, with minimal to no damage. To do this, you need a File Recovery tool. One such tool is Mini Tool Power Data Recovery – but is it as good as it sounds? In this article, we run it through its paces.

    Setup

    It is not very often when reviewing software that I start by talking about the setup process itself, because most Windows software that uses an installer to set up the software for your computer works in broadly similar ways – click Next, review the Licence and agree to it (if there is one), choose where to put the software, add extra options such as Desktop Icons, and click Next again and let it do its work. The setup for MiniTool Power Data Recovery is no different, bar one exception. As I mentioned in the introduction to this review, it's important that if you are trying to recover a document, you do not write new data to the drive you are trying to recover from, because any new data could overwrite that document and make it irrecoverable. To that end, the setup for MiniTool Power Data Recovery warns you of this fact, asking you to confirm the location you want to install the program to and reminding you not to install to the same drive you want to recover from as soon as you click "Next" on "Select Destination Location" – regardless of where you install the program to.

    That warning message, asking you to confirm you want to install to the specified location

    That warning message, asking you to confirm you want to install to the specified location

    To some, this message may come across as a little scary, and may suggest that any folder you install the program to is wrong. However, it is simply providing useful advice and asking you to double-check your choice to make sure you don't do something you'll regret later. Kudos, Mini Tool!

    First Impressions

    After installing MiniTool Power Data Recovery and running it for the first time, you'll be presented with the main interface for MiniTool Power Data Recovery, which will also appear first in all subsequent runs.

    The main interface

    The main interface

    MiniTool Power Data Recovery is mostly geared towards recovering lost files, whether those accidentally deleted as mentioned in my introduction, or in the case of removable media, through formatting. To that end, the tool includes three file-related recovery options – Undelete Recovery, Digital Media Recovery and CD/DVD Recovery. But MPDR (to give it a shorter title) has a far greater remit, as the tool also includes the ability to recover whole disk partitions that have been damaged (Damaged Partition Recovery) or can no longer be found by the target computer (Lost Partition Recovery). All of these tools are presented on the main interface in large, two-tone buttons (not unlike the tiled interface of more recent Windows and Windows Phone releases); and mousing over an option presents a description of the tool accompanied by a charming animation of the tool’s icon – for example, mousing over “Undelete Files” makes the trash can icon lift and shake its lid for a moment, while the label changes to explain that the tool offers the ability to “Quick scan, recover deleted files”.

    Our testing methodology

    Obviously, when it comes to tools that claim to recover deleted files, it’s important to test that the software can both find deleted files; and how well it recovers them. We tested Mini Tool Power Data Recovery by first creating and then permanently deleting two files to see if the software would succeed in both counts.

    The first of these two files was a text file, which we called “Recoverme.txt”, containing simply a sentence of dummy text:

    (No caption)

    (No caption)

    The second was an image, a copy of our website’s logo. This way, we would get a good measure of the tool’s ability to find and recover both small, simple files and larger, more complicated ones.

    Our website's logo, which we used as part of the test.

    Our website’s logo, which we used as part of the test.

    Undelete Recovery

    For many people, Undelete Recovery is likely to be the feature they will use the most. This tool is designed to help people recover individual files that have been permanently deleted or lost from their computer.

    After clicking "Undelete Recovery" from the first screen

    After clicking “Undelete Recovery” from the first screen

    Upon clicking the icon for Undelete Recovery, there will be a quick loading bar, and the program will present you with a list of drives attached to your computer. Simply select the one where the lost files are found; and click Scan. As the description of the tool states, MiniTool Power Data Recovery performs a quick scan (no more than a minute in my tests on a 250GB hard drive); and then presents you with the files it has found which may be recoverable:

    The same results in "List" view.

    The same results in “List” view.

    The results of the scan can be seen in one of two methods, which can be selected using tabs below the blue toolbar. By default, the list starts in “List” view, which presents you with a list of files and folders similar to browsing a folder tree in Explorer. In this view, files are grouped into the folder the program believes they may have come from, allowing you to find a file by where you last remember it being. There is also a “Lost Files” folder, for files that have no last known location.

    The results of a test scan in "Type" view, one of the two available views.

    The results of a test scan in “Type” view, one of the two available views.

    In “Type” view, seen above, the results are organised by the type of file that the tool has found, with separate sections for “Pictures”, “Archives” (things like Zip Files and installers), and so on, with other files or those of unknown type getting placed into an “Other Files” category. This view can be useful for finding a specific file when you know what it was you need to recover, but can’t remember where it was. However, our testing returned many files that were simply classified as “other”, and only three files that were categorised in any way, suggesting this view may not always work as intended. Results will obviously vary on a person-by-person basis and the level of usage of the drive in question.

    Unfortunately, because Undelete Recovery only performs quick scans, it may not search the computer very thoroughly and may miss files even if they were only recently deleted. In our test, Undelete Recovery twice failed to locate the files we created and deleted despite being ran only a short time afterwards. This means it may fail to be a solution for many people who need their files recovered without waiting for the more thorough, but longer scans to complete.

    Digital Media Recovery

    “Recover lost photos, mp3/mp4 files and video files from flash drives and memory sticks.” While this tool’s name and description may imply that it’s tailored mostly toward scanning SD Cards and USB Sticks etc, or for finding pictures and video, Digital Media Recovery is really MiniTool Power Data Recovery’s equivalent to a “full scan”, as opposed to Undelete Recovery’s “Quick Scan”. As a result, it takes a much longer time to complete, but finds and identifies a much wider array of files – many more than the tool’s description may suggest, including Microsoft Office and OpenOffice Files. In fact, during testing, the same 250GB hard drive that scanned in a minute using Undelete Recovery was estimated to take 9 hours in Digital Media Recovery mode.

    MiniTool Power Data Recovery - Digital Media Recovery - Scan Progress Dialog

    This will take a while…

    This is a preview for an upcoming article, which is not yet completed. Come back soon to read the full article!

    Sep
    10
    2015

    [Review] MultCloud 2.3.1 – put multiple cloud drives into one service!

    multcloud-logoMore and more people are taking their files online and storing them on storage services all across the internet. The reasons they do this are various, but often it's to allow the same file to be gotten at again when on a different computer; to share documents with colleagues or friends; as a backup in case the local computer fails, or just to clear up space on their own computer by using someone else's storage.

    As the desire for online storage increases, more and more companies are setting up their own storage services offering different amounts of space and features. Some users are taking advantage of this by signing up to multiple services, to increase their storage by combining what's available from all the sites; and sharing their files among them based on which service they feel is most useful for each file. MultCloud is designed with these people in mind by allowing them to connect to several services at once, to remove the need to switch between lots of websites. But is it worth your time?

    This is an update of a review originally posted on August 26th, 2013 to reflect changes to the service since the original publication.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Jul
    29
    2015

    [Review] Clean and Optimize Your Mac with Free MacClean 2

    DISCLAIMER: The following guest post was written by one or more authors who work for or have affiliations with iMobie, Inc – who are the developers of MacClean 2. While Technically Motivated has taken steps to ensure facts represented in the article are accurate, we take no responsibility for any claims written herein. Furthermore, as Technically Motivated does not engage in any sponsorship activities, the following article should not be seen as an endorsement of MacClean 2 or any other products.


    Apple has historically claimed that Macs don’t need any cleaning or maintenance unlike Windows-based computers, and you can easily clean out anything unneeded from your Mac manually. However, it takes time and energy. Plus there will always be files left behind, such as the leftovers after you uninstall an application. MacClean 2, a free & intelligent Mac cleaning tool makes it easy and smart to optimize your Mac performance.

    MacClean Main Features

    MacClean 2 updates the previous cleaning and combines a bunch of utilities into a single program. It focuses on removing unneeded files and maintaining peak performance for your Mac. MacClean 2 is divided into two sections: “Smart Clean” and “Utilities”. Here’s a quick compendium of each section.

    Smart Clean:

    You’d be surprised at how many junk files are stored in your Mac and how much better your Mac will perform afterwards by performing the Smart Clean. It helps clean out a variety of space-consuming junk files like Internet Junk, User Junk, System Junk, Development Junk, Trash Bin, and Application Junk. It will definitely speed up the Mac after eliminating a myriad of junk files.

    MacClean Smart Clean Overview

    MacClean Smart Clean Overview

    • Internet Junk – Remove cache, cookies, web browsing history, download history, browsing sessions, site preferences and more from Safari, Chrome, and Firefox.

    • User Junk – Delete user cache files, user log files, user setting preference, and iOS photo caches to make more room for Mac.

    • System Junk – Clean out system cache files, system log files, and system preferences generated by the Mac operating system.

    • Development Junk – Clear the development junk files generated during the app installation or debugging process.

    • Trash Bin – Remove the junk files from both your internal and external hard drives.

    • Application Junk – Locate and delete the app leftovers after you uninstall an app as well as the incompatible applications on your Mac.

     

    Utilities:

    MacClean 2 comes with a wealth of OS X utilities that can help maintain the system. The 9 utilities on offer include: old & large files finder, duplicates finder, file eraser, iPhoto clean, language clean, binary junk remover, app uninstaller, extension manager and trash sweeper.

    MacClean Utilities Overview

    MacClean Utilities Overview

    • Old & Large Files – Locates both the large and old files that haven’t been opened for a long time in a specified folder.

    • Duplicates Finder – Helps find duplicate files including documents, pictures, music, movies, etc.

    • File Eraser – Offers you three standards to safely erase unwanted files from Mac to protect your privacy.

    • iPhoto Clean – Clean up your iPhoto Library by eliminating unneeded copies of previously edited images.

    • Language File Clean – Easily remove the unnecessary language files of the multilingual applications on your Mac.

    • Binary Junk Remover – Reduce app size and boost performance by removing unnecessary binaries.

    • App Uninstaller – Uninstall apps without leaving any associated data and files.

    • Extension Manager – View, allow, stop, and remove any plugins and extensions on Mac.

    • Trash Sweeper – Allows you to completely and safely delete Trash files from your Mac.

    Conclusion

    If you are not an advanced Mac user and don’t know how to manually optimize your Mac performance, or you want to save some time, this free & all-around system maintenance utility MacClean is what you need. You’ll definitely free up some storage space on your Mac and even boost the Mac speed in no time.

    May
    12
    2015

    [Review] Aomei Backupper 2.5 Standard Edition

    Making backups of important data stored on your computer (or media attached to it) is always very important – if something happens to your technology and you can’t use it any more, can you afford to lose what you had stored on it? The importance of ensuring you’re prepared for any failure – and thus never regret not having a copy when the worst happens – is one of the reasons why software to automate and/or simplify the process of making backups is such a large industry, with tons of different tools on the market.

    We’ve reviewed one of these tools – Aomei Backupper – on three separate occasions in the past – but now the developer, Aomei Technology, have been in touch to say that they have released a new version of their popular backup tool which adds even more capabilities to your standard backup software, including features in the free version that are normally only found in paid editions of competing backup products.

    What’s New

    Having said all this, were you to have used a previous version of Aomei Backupper and then upgrade to 2.5, it is unlikely you’ll see much of a difference from first glance:

    Aomei Backupper 1.6 Home Screen (aka Backup Management)

    The “Home” screen shown on opening the software in Aomei Backupper v1.6…

    Aomei Backupper 2.5 Home Screen (aka Backup Management)

    …And the same screen in Aomei Backupper Standard Edition 2.5 (click pictures to enlarge)

    Except for the “Freeware” label having changed to “Upgrade” (as Aomei Backupper is now under a commercial licence and has paid upgrades available), the interface is very similar to that of previous releases.

    There IS, however, a small difference here, which is represented by a new icon on the 2.5 screen depicting an arrow pointing to a box. This leads to a new “Import / Export Configuration” Screen, where the list of Backup Tasks you have set up in Aomei Backupper can itself be backed up for later use, or restored from a previous export.

    The main new feature of Aomei Backupper 2.5 revolves around the System Restore feature. Although the feature itself came in as of v2.1, 2.5 makes huge improvements over the previous editions. A newly supported feature is Universal Restore, which allows Aomei Backupper to potentially move everything stored on one computer to another one. Universal Restore allows a backup made on one type of hardware to be restored on another computer with dissimilar or even completely different hardware, making it perfect for those who might, for example, want to upgrade their laptop or desktop computer but keep hold of all their data. Backupper can also restore backups made on an MBR-based disk to a GPT-based one and vice-versa; so if your new computer boots using a modern UEFI-based system rather than the old style BIOS, you’ll still be able to use the restore. This means there is now little standing in the way of Backupper being able to restore data from different devices even if your new computer ends up having little in common with your old one.

    A slight caveat exists here, however (read more…)

    Mar
    19
    2015

    [Review] Mini Tool Partition Wizard 9.0

    While not a tool that should be used without care, Partitioning Software is something no serious computer user should be without. If you imagine a hard drive as like a pie, partitioning software is the knife and scoop. Traditionally, such tools give you the ability to cut the storage of a hard drive into multiple "slices" (called partitions) so that you can, for example, split one drive into two to keep personal data separate from the rest of Windows, letting you keep ahold of it if you need to reinstall Windows later – or, you can use a slice to install a different system entirely. They also let you move or copy slices from one drive to another, for example for easy backups; and in some cases, even put the slices back together again.

    If you feel the need to manage your drives in such ways – and you're mindful of the dangers – then there are a whole number of Partition Management products you can use, many of which work in broadly similar ways and have similar visuals. Today we review one such candidate: Mini Tool Partition Manager 9.0

    Features

    • Basic Partition Management:
      • Create / Delete / Format / Hide Partition
      • Change Drive Letter
      • Set Partition Label
      • Convert FAT/FAT32 to NTFS; or NTFS to FAT32
    • Advanced Partition Management:
      • Move/Resize Partition
      • Extend Partition
      • Split Partition
      • Align Partition
      • Wipe Partition
      • Explore Partition
      • Set Partition as Primary
      • Set Partition as Logical
      • Copy Partition Wizard
      • Partition Recovery Wizard
      • Migrate OS to SSD/HD
      • Windows Storage Spaces
    • Basic Disk Management
      • Disk Copy
      • Delete All Partitions
      • Align All Partitions
      • Recover All Partitions
      • Rebuild MBR
      • Wipe Disk
      • Convert MBR Disk to GPT Disk, or vice versa
    • Additional Functions (Not in Free edition)
      • Merge Partition
      • Change Cluster Size
      • Resize/Move/Delete/Format Dynamic Volume
      • Change Dynamic Volume Letter
      • Change Dynamic Volume label
      • Wipe Volume
      • Change Dynamic Volume Cluster Size
      • Convert Dynamic Disk to Basic
      • Copy Volume

    Mini Tool Partition Manager 9.0 Website

    Full Review

    MiniTool Partition Wizard aims to be everyone's one-stop-shop for any Partitioning and many disk management needs with a large number of supported features that cover all the bases for managing partitions, master boot records and basic disk management, all available through a streamlined interface common to most software in this category.

    When you open MiniTool Partition Manager, it may sometimes appear at first that nothing is happening. However, after a short delay you should see a splash screen introducing the program; and some time after this, the program itself should appear. The delay in opening and loading the program is to give it time to first ask your computer for information about the disks and partitions currently on the computer; and then process it so that it can show you the correct information and allow you to properly manage everything.

    The main interface of MiniTool Partition Manager, before anything has been selected.

    The main interface of MiniTool Partition Manager, before anything has been selected.

    Mini Tool allows you to select either the entire disk or individual partitions to work with, the options available changing to suit the selection. Selecting what to work with is done either by clicking the name of the partition or the disk on the list; or clicking the box for the partition or the picture of the drive in the upper graph.

    The Wizards

    Using a Partition Manager can be daunting to those who have never worked with partitions before, or who aren’t very familiar with computers. Thankfully, Mini Tool offers four very friendly Wizards to make it easy to perform a range of common tasks, which are always available at the top of the “Actions and Wizards” pane, to the left. The Migrate OS to SSD/HD option, for example, allows moving your entire Windows install to another disk, which could be useful if you recently installed a larger hard drive or a Solid State Drive and want Windows to be able to take advantage of more space or better performance. The Wizard asks which Drive should hold Windows now, although you will not be able to select a disk that doesn’t have enough space for the move.

    An example of the first screen of the Migrate OS to SSD/HD Wizard. Here, the Wizard is not allowing me to move my Windows install to a 15GB SD card because it would not fit.

    An example of the first screen of the Migrate OS to SSD/HD Wizard. Here, the Wizard is not allowing me to move my Windows install to a 15GB SD card because it would not fit.

    Assuming you have a large enough drive, you’ll then be warned that the drive to be moved to will have any existing data erased; you’ll then have the option of how to set up the new drive with Windows installed. The Wizard offers quick options to either have Windows take up all the space of the new disk (“Fit partition to entire disk”) or keep it the same size, leaving any extra space on the disk unused (“Copy without resize”); but you can also make this adjustment yourself by choosing “Edit the partitions on this disk”.

    The next two Wizards are the Copy Partition and Copy Disk Wizards. The first allows you to make an exact copy of one of your partitions into another partition; and the second allows a whole Hard Drive, SD Card, USB Drive or other disk to another; and are the same dialogues shown by clicking “Copy” after selecting a Disk or Partition in the main interface. This is in four steps: First, select what to copy; second, select where to copy to. After clicking Next, you’ll be asked if you want to do any resizing. Finally click Finish, to save the task.

    The final Wizard is the Partition Recovery Wizard, which allows you to scan a drive for lost or damaged partitions and potentially recover them. After clicking “Next” to begin, you select the drive to scan, using a window very similar to the “Migrate OS” window shown above. You’ll then be presented with options for how you want to scan the drive – scanning the whole drive, only space without a partition (if there isn’t any, this option will be disabled), or a range you choose.

    Partition Recovery Options

    Following this screen you’ll be asked if you wish to do a Quick Scan or a Full Scan. Quick Scan skips over a partition once it finds one it deems missing or damaged in order to find others quicker, and is useful if you believe you only have one missing partition or all the missing ones are in one continuous line. Full Scan does a more thorough scan which should give more accurate results, but as a result is also slower. The scan begins after clicking “Next”.

    A Recovery scan in progress

    A Recovery scan in progress

    Other Features

    These Wizards offer an easy way to access some of the main features of the product; and make it very simple for an average user to manage their disks in as simple a manner as possible. However, many other features are offered by the software outside of these Wizards, which appear in the “Disk” and “Partition” menus at the top of the screen; or by clicking a partition or disk in the main interface to work with.

    Selecting a partition, for example, reveals the bulk of the options offered by the software, with the toolbar at the top offering all the common options: Move/Resize, Merge, Delete, Format, Copy, Label and Properties. These options also appear in the sidebar on the left, where they are joined by a number of other options that represent most of the features offered by the program, such as Aligning the partition to increase performance; a Surface Test to ensure it’s working correctly; Wipe Partition which allows the entire partition to be quickly erased if it isn’t needed any more; and various options to view and alter its properties. These options also appear in the “Partition” Menu, at the very top of the program. Selecting an entire disk reveals a much shorter list of options, focusing on managing the entire disk or all the partitions in bulk. The toolbar offers only a “Copy” option to copy the entire Disk; but the sidebar or opening the “Disk” menu reveal many more features – Aligning all the partitions at once; Deleting all the partitions (not recommended!); Rebuilding the MBR; a whole disk Surface Test; a Disk Wipe for erasing the contents of the disk, keeping its partitions intact; a tool to recover potentially lost partitions; and “Convert MBR to GPT disk”.

    Importantly for safety, Mini Tool never performs any of the tasks its asked to do straight away. Rather, for tasks that involve any changes to the disks or partitions themselves – which will be the bulk of the options – the things you ask Mini Tool to do will be added to a queue. The program will only start performing the work – in the order they were added to the queue – by clicking the “Apply” button and confirming you want the program to start work. This allows you to double-check everything you do and offers a safeguard against any mistakes, helping to reduce the potential to leave yourself without a working computer or hard drive.

    Conclusion

    All in all, Mini Tool offers a good bridge between power and simplicity, allowing both power users and the average computer enthusiast access to a huge range of tools to manage their drives and how they’re split up and utilised. Using Mini Tool is fast and responsive; and very pleasing on the eye. While little may be offered over competing products by other companies in terms of features, look or usability, the existence of a free offering with most of the features unlocked; and the existence of Wizards and well-explained User Guides – available via links on the dialogue windows while using any feature – make it well worth considering if you do not already have a Partition Management software you’re satisfied with.

    In a future review, we will look closer into the features of MiniTool Partition Wizard that are not offered by the wizards; as well as look into the performance of creating, deleting and working with partitions; and give a verdict on the performance of each task.

    Mini Tool Partition Manager 9.0 Website

    Nov
    27
    2014

    The Next step in Mobile Email

    Disclaimer: This article was written by a guest publisher who is not affiliated with Technically Motivated. This is not an endorsement.

    Email apps seem to be popping up left and right these days with no clear “winner” in sight. They’re all vying for a coveted “dock” position, or that little space on the bottom of your iPhone where the apps never change no matter how hard you swipe. With so many apps out there asking you to replace the old email app “dock” spot with theirs the question remains; which app really does belong there? After giving many of these apps a quick assessment on speed, looks, and practicality I can definitely say that Gusto is currently my favourite in all three categories.
    Speed wise, I couldn’t find many other apps can keep up with Gusto. The first function I tried was refresh email, and I expected to have to wait for a few seconds for my emails to pop up, but immediately all my emails from all of the accounts I had synced appeared in chronological order, all colour-coordinated to keep me organized. I then checked the photos and files tabs, all of which had been added and organized chronologically already. I quickly tapped their search feature to see if I could find a file an old professor had sent me years ago. It was super simple to narrow the search down to my school email, professor’s email address, and partial file name and presto the file is right there for me.
    The only thing I didn’t immediately like about the Gusto app was the way they displayed my emails, files, and photos. After playing with the app for a few more minutes, however, I found out you can choose between three different views of you emails, files, and photos. All this plus the fact that they already have a beta web page where I can already access my photos and files from my single Gusto account really cemented Gusto in my mind as the email app for me. It looks like my dock will have a new email app to keep the Safari, Phone, and Music apps company.

    Sep
    08
    2013

    [Review] Aomei Backupper 1.6

    Even as more people move more of their work and personal life to the internet – to take advantage of easy availability on any computer, collaborative (working together) features or just to let them store more on their own computers – local storage is never going to completely die. There comes a time when files simply HAVE to be stored on your own drives – after all, computers aren't designed yet to use the internet exclusively for everything they do (unless you count Google Chrome OS); and internet connections aren't always available, online servers can go down, etc. It's always a smart idea, therefore, to keep your own backups on technology you own. And if you need a tool that can help you back up and restore whole disks or partitions, locally or to a networked computer, Aomei Backupper could be just the ticket. But is it any good?

    For the purposes of this review, I decided to try the Windows 7 version of Aomei Backupper. Backupper has since v1.1 been available in two editions – the regular edition, simply known as "AOMEI Backupper", supports all versions of Windows starting from XP or Server 2003, but is larger and less optimized for modern systems. There is also "AOMEI Backupper For Win7", which is smaller but which ONLY works on Windows 7, 8 and Server 2008 or 2012. Both versions are functionally identical, so the version you use shouldn't change the facts presented in this review; although performance may vary.

    Full Review

    Aomei Backupper 1.6 Home Screen (aka Backup Management)Many of you may recognise Aomei Backupper, since it's been covered on Technically Motivated before, having been part of an Aomei Christmas Giveaway we announced last year, while just a few months ago we discussed the release of 1.1.1 and the product's slight name change. With 1.5 releasing only a little while ago and an even more recent 1.6 adding further features and bug fixes, I decided it was time for an in-depth review of the latest release to cover the software as a whole.

    After a brief loading screen (complete with a very cute and friendly, if unusually phrased message of "It is loading, please wait…"), the first thing that will strike you is how simple, yet rather stylish its interface is; consisting of a dark-blue background and light blue foreground that's easy to read. The menu is placed to the left; with just four small links at the top for things like settings and help. The Aomei Backupper window is compact, but large enough to give space to everything on screen and keep it all legible without looking cluttered. However, there's no option to resize if you feel it to be too small.

    From the very beginning, Backupper lets you get straight to business. If you've made backups with the tool before, Backupper's Home Screen (also called the Backup Management screen) lists all your existing backups, showing their name and the time of the backup; otherwise you'll be prompted to do a backup for the first time. You can filter the Home page to only show backups created this day, this week, this month or on a date you choose, if you find seeing all of them at once too distracting – however, Aomei's clear non-English background becomes very apparent here, with the options confusingly described as "Newly Day", "Newly Week" etc. When you have backups showing on this page, Backupper provides a button on each to restore them quickly; and two more buttons revealing menus to update the backups or manage them – we'll get back to these later.

    Aomei Backupper 1.6 Home Screen (aka Backup Management)Performing a new Backup is possible two ways – either click "New Backup" on the home screen, or click "Backup" on the left side menu. This takes you to the Backup page, where you'll be asked for the type of backup you'd like to do. Aomei Backupper is designed to backup disks or whole systems rather than individual files; to this end, three methods of backup are available. The first, "Disk Backup", lets you backup an entire Disk – which can be a Hard Drive, SSD, USB Stick, SD Card or whatever – making copies of everything stored on them; and is probably the tool most useful for the typical user. The second option, "Partition Backup", is really only for experts who like to split their disks into several drives – it lets you back up one partition without backing up the entire disk; so is least likely to be used by a general user. The final backup option is a System Backup, which only backs up your system drive – i.e. what you need to run your computer.

    Share Network/NAS Device ManagementBackupper 1.6's main new feature is that backups can now be saved to Network Attached Storage, meaning you can now backup not just to your own computer, but to others connected to it. This requires you know the network path and, if needed, any login details required to access the share, but if networked storage is of any use to you, these are details you likely know already; and setting up shares and accessing them is just a case of clicking "Share/NAS Device" in the location window, which presents you with a very self-explanatory window (shown left) to connect to or add new shares.

    Schedule Backup Settings

    Another, slightly less new (having actually been introduced in v1.5) but equally useful feature is Scheduling: backups can be scheduled to be performed automatically – at times you decide – without you ever having to lift a finger again. While setting up a backup, clicking "Schedule Off" lets you define a schedule to perform this backup automatically at certain times. Scheduling can be done every day, on specific days of the week, or monthly and set-up is very straightforward, which will be a boost to those looking to have a regular backup routine without any complicated steps.

     

    Aomei Backupper 1.6 Home Screen (aka Backup Management)To test Backupper's performance at doing Backups, I put it through its paces by backing up an 81.3GB System Drive. At default settings, Backupper took 45 minutes to finish the job; and the backup file created was 43.6GB large. At just over 50% of the original size (53.63%), Aomei's compression level is fairly impressive; and I personally found the pace to be very reasonable – but performance will of course be affected by the size and speed of your drives, so your own mileage may vary. The speed or size can be further improved by changing the compression rate, which you can do by clicking "Backup Options" while setting up a backup, or via the "Setting" option that's permanently at the top of the window. Backupper provides "Normal" and "High" compression options – with High making files smaller at the expense of taking much longer to complete – or you can turn off compression completely for fast (but BIG) backups. Other options in "Setting" include splitting backups into multiple smaller files, whether to use "Intelligent Sector" – which keeps unused space out of backups to reduce their size – and whether to enable Windows' Volume Shadow Service to let you work as you backup; "Backup Options" adds to this the ability to encrypt the current backup with a password. A point of note is while changing the Settings under "Setting" affects all future backups, "Backup Options" only affects the backup being made/edited, unless you choose to tick "Would you like to save to global settings?" at the bottom of the settings window.

    While performing a backup, Backupper will show a straightforward progress page, with percentage-labelled bars showing how far along the backup is, a detailed summary of what's going on and just two additional options: To shutdown the computer once the backup completes, or to cancel the backup. All in all, the process is very straightforward.

    Just like the Home page, The "Restore" page presents you with a list of all the backups Aomei Backupper has performed since it was installed, however this time presented in a list format. Additionally you can supply a backup image if for some reason, a backup you wish to restore does not appear on the list. You can also restore a backup directly by clicking its "Restore" button on the Home Screen, so let's go back to that. With backups on the Home Screen, you have full ability to manage them using the buttons that appear when they are hovered over. Clicking "Backup" on a Backup lets you use the same settings to perform a new Full Backup, or change the existing backup by either making an "Incremental Backup", which is a second backup containing whatever wasn't in the first; or a "Differential" Backup which only changes what actually changed since the last backup, saving the time of doing it all over again. This introduces the other new feature of Aomei Backupper 1.6: Incremental and Differential backups can be given comments. What purpose this serves, however, eludes me. Under "Advanced", you'll find options to Delete a backup, check to make sure it hasn't gotten broken ("Check Image"), set up or change a Schedule, go to where the backup is ("Locate Image"), or view properties. There's also an option to look inside the backup to see what it contains "Explore Image", which is very useful.

    Under "Utilities", you'll find the same Check and Explore options we just mentioned; as well as an option to create Bootable Media. This lets you create an emergency disk that you can use to restore backups even if you can't boot into your computer any more, so you always have the means to restore your system or get to your files if the worst comes to pass. Unusually for a free Backup utility, Backupper will create WinPE boot disks as well as Linux disks – which is a major plus point. One final option Aomei Backupper offers is the ability to "Clone" drives and partitions, basically making an exact copy of one drive/partition to save to another. Sadly, I didn't have time to test this prior to this review.

    Aomei Backupper 1.6 takes no system resources while running but not performing backups. While a backup IS in progress, the software's CPU usage tends to hover around the 30-40% mark (tested on a dual-core, 1.65GHz processor); but occasionally spikes or falls sharply. You probably won't want to do high-intensity tasks while performing a backup; but continuing business in Microsoft Office or a similar medium-intense task while it runs should be perfectly fine.

    Conclusion

    Aomei Backupper 1.6 makes for a mostly straightforward tool for backing up whole disks, partitions or system drives – though some dodgy translation issues affect your understanding of certain options. Performance is reasonable, with backups having decent speed and good compression; and an acceptable level of resource usage during a backup. However, where the tool really shines is its ability to save to Network Attached Storage and create WinPE boot disks… all for free. If you want a strong disk backup tool which is capable and schedule-able, but for no money, Aomei Backupper should be high on your list.

    Aug
    26
    2013

    [Review] MultCloud

    Logo for MultCloudMore and more people are taking their files online and storing them on storage services all across the internet. The reasons they do this are various, but often it's to allow the same file to be gotten at again when on a different computer; to share documents with colleagues or friends; as a backup in case the local computer fails, or just to clear up space on their own computer by using someone else's storage.

    As the desire for online storage increases, more and more companies are setting up their own storage services offering different amounts of space and features. Some users are taking advantage of this by signing up to multiple services, to increase their storage by combining what's available from all the sites; and sharing their files among them based on which service they feel is most useful for each file. MultCloud – formerly DropInOne – is designed with these people in mind by allowing them to connect to several services at once, to remove the need to switch between lots of websites. But is it worth your time?

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Acknowledgements: Some imagery from Aomei, used with pe more...
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    Jan
    17
    2013

    Video leaks BlackBerry Z10 details before RIM official announcement

    Previously, Technically Motivated briefly covered BlackBerry 10, Research in Motion's attempt to modernise it's once-popular BlackBerry range of phones and other devices and the proprietary BlackBerry OS system running on them; and to make BlackBerry relevant to the modern generation once again. We also know that BlackBerry plan to launch two models of phone at first to run this system: first, a fully touchscreen model recently officially named the Z10; and then, a month or two later, a keyboard-equipped model akin to its popular Bold line, tentatively known as the T-Series.

    RIM have been keeping very mum over the new system and phones, choosing not to reveal any major details until the official launch announcement of BlackBerry 10, still two weeks away. However, with regular leaks from RIM's manufacturing partners; and tech reviewers getting prototype models, there has slowly been a number of details being released about both.

    A new video making the rounds, however, might be the best look we’ve had yet. German newspaper Telekom Presse, after a hands-on with a prototype model of the Z10, recently released two YouTube videos detailing both the software and hardware of the upcoming BlackBerry phone quite extensively.

    The first seven-and-a-half minute video, which has been given English subtitles to be easy to understand by those who don't speak German, describes almost everything the phone has and does; and assuming RIM doesn’t make any substantial changes to the model that hits markets, you may well be looking at the final product here, albeit without the official explanations and highlighting that RIM will be doing when it’s announced.

    With that said, what are your views on this potential new phone? Do you think RIM has a chance with this new model and system; or are they too far down to be saved? Let us know in the comments!

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