Year End Extravaganza … On Monday: Fun With the News (Day Two) – Free Line 12/28/09

Hello and welcome back to to our Year End Extravaganza … On a Monday: News Maker Edition! On today’s show, we will be taking a look at numbers three and two.

Story #3: The Downfall of MySpace

Why It’s Important: Let’s face it: The proverbial “fall from grace” is always news. The fact that it happened seemingly overnight just made it all the more surprising.
How Did It Happen?: After spending a nice amount of time on research, we were able to narrow it down to five possible reasons.

  1. Shortly after MySpace became the “hip place to be,” televised reports containing phrases like “child predator,” “inappropriate relationships,” and “are our children safe” started to appear on six o’clock newscasts nationwide. The sad music and awkward camera angles that usually accompanied these reports didn’t help calm any nerves.
  2. When the news wasn’t reporting on the horrible things mentioned above, they were talking about the various viruses, malware, and “potential identity thieves” that were hiding behind that average looking profile picture.
  3. Stories about teenagers being bad — dirty messages, online bullying, inappropriate images — helped to make a bad situation worse.
  4. Every article we read felt the need to remind us that MySpace was owned by Rupert Murdoch-controlled News Corporation. This lead us to one obvious conclusion: Millions of writers users suddenly decided that they hated both Murdoch and his company.
  5. Three simple words: The fad ended. It’s as simple as that.

Will It Ever Make a Comeback?: For every one fad to successfully stay/reenter into the public’s consciousness — the yo-yo, Mr. T, The Simpsonsthere are nine that are mocked mercilessly decades after their run on top (Vanilla Ice says hello). If history is any indication, we will be making bad MySpace jokes for years to come.

Story #2: Google

Why It’s Important: According to most of the tech writers out there, the only reason why the sun rises in the morning is because Google says that it’s okay. If that doesn’t make a story important, then we don’t know what does.
So What Did They Do?: Well for starters…

  • Google Android 2.0: This was the mobile phone OS that “all the right people” were talking about. Sure, the iPhone still outsold all of the Android-based phones, but at least it got good press. The kicker? It’s actually worth most of the praise it receives.
  • Chrome (The Browser): It has extensions now!
  • Chrome (The Operating System): Chrome is undoubtedly the most beloved, most revered operating system than no one has ever actually had the chance to use ever. It was so popular, in fact, that famed tech blogger Michael Arrington was calling it the “Windows killer we all have been waiting for” minutes after it was announced.
  • Google Wave: Wave is the “Twin Peaks” of web 2.0 applications: It’s fairly popular and obviously groundbreaking, but no one is quite sure as to what is going on.
  • Google Voice: The app that launched a thousand angry letters to Apple and AT&T.
  • Vint Cerf: He supports Net Neutrality! He supposedly knows the president on a first-name basis! He uses really big words! What is there not for writers to like?

…And there you have it. Be sure to come back tomorrow to see our list of the top five apps and services of 2009. As for our number one news piece … that will just have to wait until New Years. It will be more than 140 characters, we promise you. Until Tuesday, we bid thee a fond adieu.

Year End Extravaganza … On Christmas Eve: Fun With the News (Day One) – Free Line 12/24/09

Hello and welcome back to the Free Line’s special Year End Extravaganza … On a Tuesday Christmas Eve! On today’s episode, we will be taking a look at two of the top five news stories to come out of 2009.

Story #5: Yahoo and Microsoft: Best Friends Forever

Why It’s Important: An agreement between two companies of this size is always important.
…But Number Five? Really?: Yes, really. In many ways, the events surrounding the Microsoft/Yahoo affair parallel the courtship of John Dorian (Zach Braff) and Elliot Reed (Sarah Chalke) on the long-running sitcom Scrubs. Much like the corporate titans in question, the relationship between the two young doctors started casually, but soon blossomed into something a bit more substantial. Thanks to things like petty bickering and a few mental blocks, the couple went their separate ways. By the time the lovers got back together — late last year for Yahoo and Microsoft, season three for JD and Elliot — the general population was primed and ready to see their young romances get their well-deserved “happily ever afters.” There was only one small problem: It didn’t happen. Due to a variety of “concerns” that made little sense to anyone, the seemingly happy tandems broke up in the most bitter and frustrating of ways. By the time they finally did say their “I do’s” (late July for our star crossed multinational corporations, season eight for our star crossed doctors), no one cared. Why? People can take only so many letdowns before they stop caring completely.
Moral of the Story: Strike while the iron is hot.

Story #4: Of Apple, AT&T, and Google Voice

Um … What’s Going On, Again?: Well, it all depends on who you ask…

Apple: It’s no big secret that we don’t like Google Voice. That said, we have no problem releasing the official Google app or allowing previously available apps like GV Mobile to stay in the Apps Store. It’s AT&T that’s causing all of the trouble, not us. They claim that Google Voice “cuts into their core business” or some such nonsense. I stopped paying attention after a few minutes. Anyway, here is what you should take out of this situation: AT&T bad, Apple good. Got it? Great.

AT&T: We here at AT&T have absolutely no problems with Google’s attempt to circumvent our core business by giving phone calls and text message plans away for free intriguing new service. Now Apple, on the other hand … [Pause, then whispering] You didn’t hear this from me, but last night, I heard Steve Jobs talking about how they were going to “get one over” on Google by keeping the voice app in limbo. Rumor has it they also plan on crashing Matt Cutts‘ birthday party and popping all of his balloons just to make him cry. Again, just sayin’.

Google [in a "cute little kid voice" reminiscent of Shirley Temple]: Oh geez … big bad Apple and big bad AT&T won’t let our little app into the App Store. We didn’t mean to hurt anyone, promise! I wish that a big strong adult like folks at the FCC could help us…

Tech Writers: …So Apple is a charter member of the “evil corporations” club? Wow. Didn’t see that one coming. They always seemed so cool and personable, what with their Apple Stores and over the top press conferences and undying love for the turtleneck shirt. Still, if Google says their evil, they must be evil. I mean, it’s not like they have anything to gain from all of this

Why It’s Important: You’ll find that one out a bit later on in the countdown.

…And there you have it. Be sure to come back Monday for part two. Until then, we bid a fond adieu and a Merry Christmas.

Showdown: Free Apps Edition (Day Three) – Free Line 12/23/09

Hello and welcome to the final day of our iPhone app Showdown! On yesterday’s show, we did everything from verbally pick apart a music service to weigh things on our thumbs. So what will we be getting ourselves into today, you ask? Well, you are about to find out…

App #7: The Weather Channel

Positives: It’s (almost) everything we love about the Weather Channel, only in a convenient “app” format.
Negatives: Again, we lament the loss of the classic “Weather Channel soundtrack.” Our “Local on the 8’s” just isn’t the same without having the Vince Guaraldi Trio or Spyro Gyra playing in the background.
Overall: 7; Add the music and/or some gratuitous shots of Jim Cantore getting pounded by a hurricane, then we’ll talk.
Is It Worth Loading? Yes.
Will I Keep It on My iPhone?: Yes.

App #8: ESPN 2010 World Cup: South Africa

Positives: ESPN claims to have developed this app for the “true football soccer fan,” and it shows. It truly does have everything a fan would want, from team stats to previous scores to even a “virtual tour” of every major soccer pitch in South Africa.
Negatives: Those who dislike soccer will be bored to tears by this app.
Overall: 9.5 (For fans); 3 (for everyone else)
Is It Worth Loading? Yes, if you’re a fan of soccer.
Will I Keep It on My iPhone?: No, as I am not a fan of said sport.

App #9: Google Mobile

Positives: What else can we say? It’s Google. If you’ve seen one Google service, you pretty much have seen them all at this point.
Negatives: Aside from the nifty “dictation search” feature, this is merely a collection of previously available apps that have been put together into one tidy package.
Overall: 5
Is It Worth Loading? Not really.
Will I Keep It on My iPhone?: No.

App #10: Hottest App

Positives: Nothing.
Negatives: So what is it that we hate the most about Hottest App? Is it the fact that it keeps on recommending that I load Apple-friendly smut? Is it the fact that I receive push notifications about games that I have no interest in? Is the fact that the app itself has all of the charm and design savvy of a low-rent squatter site? Answer: It’s all of that, and so much more.
Overall: 1
Is It Worth Loading? Hell no.
Will I Keep It on My iPhone?: Again, hell no.

App #11: Fandango

Positives: I like having the ability to order tickets directly from my phone.
Negatives: Not everyone has an AMC movie theater in their area.
Overall: 7
Is It Worth Loading? Yes, but only if you live near an AMC branded theater.
Will I Keep It on My iPhone?: Yes.

App #12: Convert Units for Free

Positives: Ever wonder how many light years are in a parsec? Or how many pounds are in one British long ton? How about the amount of pascals it takes to make one atmosphere worth of pressure? Convert Units for Free will tell you the answers to these burning questions, and so much more.
Negatives: Nothing.
Overall: 9.5
Is It Worth Loading?: Oh yes.
Will I Keep It on My iPhone?: Yes.

…And that concludes the last Showdown of the year. Come back tomorrow for part three of our Year End Extravaganza. Until then, we bid thee a fond adieu.

Showdown: Free Apps Edition (Day Two) – Free Line 12/22/09

Now that you have had a good twenty-four hours or so to “muse” over our little “app list,” it’s time to see what we thought of them. From the top:

App #1: Internet Movie Database

Positives: It’s everything you love about IMDb – the movie news, the cast lists, the argumentative message boards — in an iPhone app.
Negatives: Those expecting something other than “the IMDb website in an app” will be disappointed.
Overall: 8; It does what it promises.
Is It Worth Loading? Yes.
Will I Keep It on My iPhone?: Yes

App #2: Dragon Dictation

Positives: When it comes to dictation devices, it either works or it doesn’t. With that in mind, I bring good news: It works!
Negatives: It isn’t as accurate as we’d like.
Overall: 7
Is It Worth Loading? Why not? It’s free…
Will I Keep It on My iPhone?: I’m not sure yet, though I’m leaning towards “no” at the moment.

App #3: Touch Scale

Note: In order to weigh anything, you have to be able to balance it on your thumb.
Positives: After a few minutes, we became really good at balancing things on our thumbs.
Negatives: It’s not what you would call “accurate.”
Overall: 2 (As a scale); 8 (As something interesting to fidget with)
Is It Worth Loading? Not really.
Will I Keep It on My iPhone?: Again, I’m not sure yet. It’s worthless, but as I’ve said before, I am a world-class fidget.

App #4: Google Earth

Positives: It’s Google Earth. We can’t get much clearer than that.
Negatives: It’s Google Earth. If you dislike the desktop app, then you’ll dislike the iPhone app as well.
Overall: 7
Is It Worth Loading? Once again, it all depends upon if you consider Google Earth to be your proverbial “cup of tea.”
Will I Keep It on My iPhone?: No, as I will get no use out of an app like this.

App #5: Pandora Radio

Note: Pandora, like most streaming audio services, comes in both “free” and “monthly subscription” flavors. For the purposes of this Showdown, we worked with the “free” service.
Positives: Try as we might, we couldn’t think of one positive thing to say about either the app or the service itself.
Negatives:
Ladies and gentlemen, allow to present our top four reasons why we hate Pandora:

  1. The advertisements don’t necessarily correspond with the music that is being played. Most people who listen to a station called “They Might Be Giants Radio” could care less about the new Jay-Z album, for example.
  2. You are only allowed five “song skips” an hour. If you go past your allotment, you are greeted with the following message: “Sorry, our music licenses force us to limit the number of songs that you may skip.” That’s funny … I’ve been using Slacker for almost a year now and I have never once received a message like that.
  3. The app is painfully slow.
  4. The songs picked by the program to compliment a station’s “main artist” are hit and miss. Our Queen-based station, for example, features such acts as Journey, Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Now one could make an argument about The Stones and Aerosmith, but The Red Hot Chili Peppers? Seriously?

Overall: 1
Is It Worth Loading? No.
Will I Keep It on My iPhone?: No.

App #6: Redbox

Positives: Research, locate, and reserve the movie you’re looking for without ever leaving the comfort of your phone.
Negatives: You still have to physically pick up said movie at your local Redbox kiosk, however.
Overall: 8
Is It Worth Loading? Yes, provided that you are a regular Redbox user.
Will I Keep It on My iPhone?: Yes.

…And there you have it. Be sure to come back tomorrow for the exciting conclusion.

Showdown: Free Apps Edition (Day One) – Free Line 12/21/09

As you might have heard, Christmas is coming soon. While I am by no means a psychic, I do have the distinct feeling that many of you will be either giving or receiving a touch-based Apple product this year. Now naturally, you’ll probably want to fill your new toy with all of the best gadgets that iTunes has to offer. That’s we’re we come in. On this special, three-day Showdown, we will be taking a look at twelve of the most popular apps available. Before we can begin, however, there are a few minor things that must be said:

  1. Each of these apps were taken from the “Top Fifty (Free) Apps” list found in the App Store.
  2. The rankings listed below are accurate as of December 20th, 2009.
  3. This Showdown contains 100% new reviews.
  4. We review apps, not games. If you want a game review, we suggest that you look into your friendly neighborhood gaming resource instead.

…With all of that said, here we go:

App #1: Internet Movie Database (IMDb)

Website: http://www.imdb.com
Developer: IMDb
Top Fifty Ranking: Five
Specialty: Movie info
First Impression: “It’s interesting. I’ll give it that.”

App #2: Dragon Dictation

Website: http://www.nuance.com/naturallyspeaking/
Developer: Nuance Communication
Top Fifty Ranking: Eight
Specialty: Dictation
First Impression: “Is there a reason why the ‘record’ button looks like HAL from 2001?”

App #3: Touch Scale

Website: http://www.brothersoft.com/mobile/touch-scale-60563.html
Developer: Jaja & Co.
Top Fifty Ranking: Twelve
Specialty: Weighing small things … and your thumb, apparently.
First Impression: “I don’t understand why I have to place the object on my thumb in order to weigh it.”

App #4: Google Earth

Website: http://earth.google.com/
Developer: Google
Top Fifty Ranking: Fourteen
Specialty: Atlas
Bad Pun Alert: With this app, you can finally have the whole world in your hands.
First Impression: “It has a long loading time.”

App #5: Pandora Radio

Website: http://www.pandora.com/
Developer: Pandora Media, Inc.
Top 50 Ranking: Fifteen
Specialty: Internet radio
First Impression: “I’m trying to think of something to say that [could not be interpenetrated as] ‘this isn’t as good as Slacker or Rhapsody,’ but I can’t.”

App #6: The Weather Channel

Website: http://www.weather.com
Developer: The Weather Channel Interactive
Top Fifty Ranking: Twenty-two
Specialty: The Weather
Sorry to Burst Your Bubble, But…: This app is generally focused on doing one thing and one thing only: Bringing the lauded “Weather on the 8’s” feature to your iPhone. Those expecting to see video after video of extreme forecaster/amateur stuntman/all around crazy person Jim Cantore getting his ass kicked by Mother Nature will be somewhat disappointed.
First Impression: “I wish it had the classic ‘Weather Channel soundtrack’ in the background.”

App #7: Redbox

Website: http://www.redbox.com/
Developer: Redbox
Top Fifty Ranking: Twenty-three
Specialty: Movie rentals
Is “Redbox” Another Way to Say “Netflix?”: No. Redbox kiosks are actually closer to traditional movie rental establishments like Blockbuster or Hollywood Video than Netflix. The major difference is that while Blockbuster has a small army of brick and mortar stores (for now, anyway), Redbox “stores” are usually found next to the instant lottery machines in grocery stores and Wal-Marts nationwide.
First Impression: “I don’t understand why there’s an app for this.”

App #8: ESPN 2010 World Cup

Website: http://soccernet.espn.go.com
Developer: ESPN
Top Fifty Ranking: Twenty-five
Specialty: Soccer analysis
First Impression: “[ESPN] sure has put a lot of effort into creating this app.”

App #9: Google Mobile

Website: http://www.google.com
Developer: Google
Top Fifty Ranking: Twenty-seven
Specialty: …All of that voodoo that you do Google does so well.
First Impression: “It’s Google … in an app!”

App #10: Hottest Free App

Website: http://www.pinger.com/content/home.html
Developer: Pinger, Inc.
Top Fifty Ranking: Thirty-three
Specialty: App tracker
First Impression: “How come all of these apps are smutty? That doesn’t make me feel secure…”

App #11: Fandango

Website: http://www.fandango.com
Developer: Fandango
Top Fifty Ranking: Forty-four
Specialty: Movie tickets and show times
Troy McClure Moment: You might remember Fandango from such obnoxious in-theater advertisements as “annoying paper bag puppets sing badly” and “annoying paper bag puppets mock popular film conventions for absolutely no reason.”
First Impression: “This is very similar to the IMDb app.”

App #12: Convert Units for Free

Website: http://freetheapps.com/
Developer: Free the Apps!
Top 50 Ranking: Forty-four
Specialty: Conversions
First Impression: “What the heck is an Erg?”
Second Impression: “According to this, I weight 7.6 stone. That’s good to know.”
Third Impression: “I am going to have way too much fun with this app.”

…And there you have it. Be sure to come back tomorrow and Wednesday for the highly anticipated “results show.” Due to the three-day Showdown, our “Year End Extravaganza … on a Tuesday” will be moved to Christmas Eve. Until then, we bid thee a fond adieu.

Showdown: Mega-Sized Edition – Free Line 12/18/09

…And we’re back! After dealing with several complicated, multi-syllable words that roughly translate to “cold and flu,” we are primed and ready to give you the Showdown that you all richly deserve. So sit back, relax, and enjoy this no holds barred critical extravaganza. We begin our journey with the iPhone.

Category #1: iPhone Apps

App #1: TuneWiki

Website: http://www.tunewiki.com/
Company: TuneWiki Ltd.
Function: Media database
First Impression: “What is this exactly?”
Positives: It’s an interesting way to add both lyrics and a social element to your music without spending a ton of money.
Negatives: Available lyrics are hit or miss.
Overall: 7

App #2: Bing Mobile

Website: http://www.bing.com
Company: Microsoft
Function: Search portal
First Impression: “It’s Bing! On a phone!”
Positives: It searches.
Negatives: Aside from the traditional search capabilities and the movie guide, nothing else seems to be working at the moment. The map, for example, had a hard time finding any address we typed in, including our current location.
Overall: 6

App #3: RedLaser

Website: http://redlaser.com/
Company: Occipital, LLC
Function: Barcode scanner/price guide
First Impression: “It doesn’t scan my [Little Debbie] Zebra Cakes. Does this mean that I can’t buy Zebra Cakes online?”
Positives: It worked on everything we tried, from an old WCW wrestling VHS tape to an unopened box of Pucca chocolate candies.
Negatives: …And despite it all, it still will not find our darn Zebra Cakes.
Overall: 8

App #4: AccuWeather

Website: http://www.accuweather.com
Company: AccuWeather, Inc.
Function: Forcasts
First Impression: “Yay … weather.”
Positives: It gives you a full fifteen days of weather. The Weather Channel app only gives you ten.
Negatives: It takes forever for the maps to load.
Overall: 7; Work out the speed issues, and then we’ll talk.

App #5: Pocket Tunes Radio

Website: http://www.pocket-tunes.com/
Company: NormSoft, Inc.
Function: Streaming audio
First Impression: “Just how many stations are available, exactly?”
Positives: If it’s an online radio station, then there’s a good chance that it’s listed here. It isn’t limited to traditional stations, either. Online feeds, Sirius and XM feeds (both the US and Canada), even a few select HD radio outlets are available, most at multiple bit rates. You can also record — yes, you heard us right — the song or station of your choice.
Negatives: The elevated price point ($6.99) might be a bit much for the casual radio fan to swallow.
Overall: 8; When you think about it, $6.99 for pretty much every station available online is a damn fine deal.

Category #2: Traditional Software

App #6: Orb

Website: http://www.orb.com/
Company: Orb Networks
Function: Media streaming
First Impression: “Ah … Orb! I like Orb.”
Positives: Syncing your media to the device of your choice — all major video game consoles, other computers, most major cell phones including iPhones and Windows Mobile, certain brands of televisions, and so on in that fashion — is surprisingly simple. Most major file types are supported, as are most well-known operating systems. (We currently have it running on a homemade Windows Home Server system, for example.)
Negatives: The program tended to shut off from time to time on the Windows Home Server computer mentioned above. While that might seem like a horrible flaw, you have to keep in mind that Orb wasn’t necessarily designed for a “specialized OS” like Home Server.
Overall: 9; You know you have a great product on your hands when the biggest complaint levied against it involves an unsupported operating system.

App #7: Jarte

Website: http://www.jarte.com/
Company: Carolina Road Software
Function: Word Processor
First Impression:
“It’s based upon Wordpad? That’s odd…”
Positives: It’s like Notepad, only with tabs and image support.
Negatives: The “click-free” button design leaves much to be desired. It might have seemed like a good idea on paper, but it really doesn’t work as well as it should.
Overall: 7; Replacement for Word? No. Replacement for Notepad? Definitely.

App #8: Pixia

Website: http://www.ne.jp/asahi/mighty/knight/
Company: Isao Maruoka/Tacmi Company
Function: Graphics editor
First Impression: “Hey! It has its own [Wacom] tablet settings built in!”
Positives: One word: Tools. There are tools available here that are usually only found on “paid” — and insanely expensive — programs like Photoshop and Corel Draw.
Negatives: The Japanese to English translations aren’t perfect. A few of the menus still contain an odd Kanji character or two, and some of the tools aren’t explained all that well.
Overall: 9; “It’s surprisingly good.”

App #9: K-Multimedia Player

Website: http://download.pandora.tv/?mode=kmp&tab=1
Company: Pandora TV
Function: Multimedia player
First Impression: “Why are there so many setup screens?”
Positives: Unlike most media players, KMPlayer is more concerned with your hardware than it is with anything else. By being so obsessed with your system, it can give you the absolute best settings at any given moment. While the menus themselves are rather difficult to navigate through, the end result makes it more than worth it.
Negatives: Those who dislike setup menus like the ones mentioned above should avoid this program like the plague.
Overall: 8; For media enthusiasts only.

App #10: EditGrid

Website: http://www.editgrid.com/
Company: Team and Concepts Limited
Function: Spreadsheets
First Impression: “[It seems as if] both the personal and business editions are free. That’s interesting…”
Positives: It’s Excel, only with a few added “collaborative” features.
Negatives: It’s Excel, only with a few added “collaborative” features.
Overall: 6

Category #3: Let’s Get Social

App #11: Mail.Ru Agent

Website: http://agent.mail.ru/ru/
Company: Mail.ru
Function: email/instant messaging
First Impression: “Oh … It’s in Russian!”
Positives: This app does it all — email, instant messaging, Voice over IP phone calls, even text messaging — with a minimal amount of effort.
Negatives: …Provided that you know conversational Russian, that is. Even with English set as the primary language, we ran across way too many Cyrillic characters.
Overall: 9 (For those fluent in Russians); 6 (for everyone else)

App #12: Duck Duck Go

Website: http://duckduckgo.com/
Company: Duck Duck Go, Inc
Function: Search engine/wiki
First Impression: “Cute … and full of duck puns!”
Positives: Instead of providing the traditional “preview,” Duck Duck Go provides the user with a detailed “abstract” of the website in question. Not only does this make searching easier, it sets the fledgling engine apart from the competition.
Negatives: It’s not for everyone. Either you like this sort of thing, or you don’t. It’s as simple as that.
Overall: 7

App #13: Gawkk

Website: http://www.gawkk.com/
Company: Gawkk.com
Function: Social video
First Impression: “It’s Digg, but with videos instead of articles.”
Positives: If you like “social news” portals like Digg and Reddit, then this is the site for you.
Negatives: Not everyone is a fan of the social sites mentioned above.
Overall: 5

App #14: Pivotal Tracker

Website: http://www.pivotaltracker.com/
Company: Pivotal Labs
Function: Project tracker
First Impression: “Ogranization … woo.”
Positives: This is the one program that makes organization fun. It truly has it all — easy to use layouts, online collaboration tools, even a blog that literally begs people to hack its API.
Negatives:
It’s new. Because of this, not all of the kinks have been worked out of the system, as they say.
Overall: 8

App #15: Google Living Stories

Website: http://livingstories.googlelabs.com/
Company: Google Labs
Function: News reader
First Impression: “I am not familiar with the thing that I am seeing.”
Positives: The “time line” the accompanies each news story is a nice touch.
Negatives: At the time of this writing, the only newspapers available are the New York Times and the Washington Post.
Overall: 5 (At the moment. at any rate.)

Best in Show: Pixia. A program this nice usually costs a small fortune.

Final Thoughts: …And there you have it. Until Monday, we bid thee a fond adieu.

One More Day Folks…

Bad news: I am going to have to take one more day due to illness.

Good news: We will back tomorrow with a shocking, unprecedented, fifteen app Shockdown. So please, join us tomorrow to help us send 2009 off in style!

Fun With the Flu (The “Traditional” One)

Thanks to the 24 hour flu, the half-written piece scheduled for today has to be pushed back to tomorrow. I found myself staring at the screen, trying to read the same fluff piece article about Google for roughly three hours. Expect to see today’s piece (and the one originally planned for Thursday, I’m not sure yet) tomorrow.

Year End Extravaganza … On a Tuesday: This Program Is Bad – Free Line 12/15/09

Hello and welcome back to the Free Line’s special Year End Extravaganza … On a Tuesday! On today’s wonderful, award winning episode, we will be taking a look at the ten worst programs, services, and concepts that have come by our desks in the past year.

Note: Programs that didn’t necessarily work properly (Runecats Explorer, we’re looking in your direction) or wear the “legacy” tag with pride (Netscape Navigator) are ineligible for this “award.” With that said, here we go…

App #5: MPlayer

Original Free Line: http://www.freelinereport.com/freeline-3-9-09/
Website: http://www.mplayerhq.hu/design7/news.html
Function: Open source multimedia player
Original Score: 4.5
Why It’s Bad: When you load a media player, what do you want to happen?

A. You want the program to play your files with no problems whatsoever.
B. You want a random Internet radio station to play for no apparent reason.
C. You want to have to compile the entire program yourself … in DOS … with absolutely no documentation.
D. You want to be greeted with the following message: “MPlayer crashed. This shouldn’t happen.”

If you picked B through D, then MPlayer just might be for you. If you want a program that actually works out of the box without troubles, headaches, and DOS prompts, however, we suggest that you give something like iTunes a try.
Note: When we say “MPlayer,” we are only talking about the Windows version. The original Linux version is fantastic.

App #4: KDE for Windows

Original Free Line: http://www.freelinereport.com/thirty-days-of-gnu-kde-invades-windows-free-line-61709/
Website: http://windows.kde.org/
Function: It’s the KDE desktop, for Windows.
Original Score: N/A
Why It’s Bad: On paper, KDE for Windows seems like a good idea — experience the world of Linux without actually having to leave Windows. In practice, however, it is closer to a digitized train wreck than a bridge to the unknown. It is difficult to install, most of the programs have a tendancy of malfunctioning, and it slows down your system to a crawl. It might get better later on, but at this point in time, we doubt it. Our advice? Avoid this at all costs. There are other safer, non frustrating ways to get your Linux fix.

App #3: Photoshop Express

Original Free Line: http://www.freelinereport.com/freeline-2-25-09/
Website: https://www.photoshop.com/express/landing.html
Function: Online photo editor
Original Score: 2
Why It’s Bad: Who wants to use a photo editor that barely works, only accepts JPEG files, and is insanely difficult to log in to? Certainly not us.

App #2: Gaggle

Original Free Line: http://www.freelinereport.com/freeline-7-23-09/
Website:
N/A
Function: Social web browser for the iPhone
Original Score:
Zero. That’s right, we gave this a zero.
Way It’s Bad: To quote the original Free Line:

So what is it that we hate most about Gaggle? Is the gigantic ad that sits at the bottom of the screen at all times? Is it the horribly touchy zoom feature? Is it the fact that for whatever the reason, the now standard “horizontal display” option has been permanently disabled? The answer: It’s all of those things, and so much more. Our apologies for sounding like elitist snobs, but we here at the Free Line would like the ten minutes we spent on this browser back.

App #1: Sleipnir

Original Free Line: http://www.freelinereport.com/freeline-9-14-09/
Website: http://www.fenrir-inc.com/other/sleipnir/
Function: Web browser
Original Score: N/A
Why It’s Bad: Do you even have to ask?

…And there you have it. Until tomorrow, we bid thee a fond adieu.

A Work In Progress – Free Line 12/14/09

As you might have guessed, I am going to cut things a bit short today. My reasons for this are the following:

  1. I’m hard at work testing out the new Lunascape 6 beta. Now you might be wondering why it’s taking me a few days to give a web browser the old “once over.” My answer is simple: It’s Lunascape. It isn’t called the “world’s most advanced browser” (by me) for nothing, you know.
  2. I’m working on a few “larger” projects that I’m not quite ready to talk about yet.
  3. If you haven’t noticed, it is currently a week and a half before Christmas. Because of this, the big league tech sites are filled to the brim with lightweight fluff pieces about Google. At the time of this writing, TechCrunch has five stories, four of which are about a limited-edition, employee only Google Phone that a “normal person” could never get in a million years. Out of the eighteen “above the fold” articles on WebProNews, nine are about the “Big G.” Since my opinions on the so-called “relationship” are well known, I will forgo the soap box rant.

…And there you have it. Come back tomorrow for part two of our “Year End Extravaganza … On a Tuesday.” Until that time, I bid thee a fond adieu.


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