Geeks in Phoenix

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Creating panoramic images with Image Composite Editor 2

One of the things I like to do when I go on vacation is taking panoramic photos. Since my camera doesn't actually take panoramic photos, I have to use software to stitch images together. One of the best image stitchers I have found yet is Image Composite Editor 2 from Microsoft Research Computational Photography Group.

Image Composite Editor 2

Image Composite Editor (ICE) can take photos taken from a single location that overlap and create stunning panoramic images from them. Using techniques from the field of computer vision, ICE scans the images for similarities to each other and then estimates the vantage point for each photo. ICE can even create panoramic photos from videos too.

Sample ICE 2 panoramic image without auto complete
Sample ICE 2 panoramic image without auto complete
Sample ICE 2 panoramic image with auto complete
Sample ICE 2 panoramic image with auto complete

Microsoft Research Computational Photography Group recently released a new version of ICE. The following is quote from the ICE website of changes included in ICE 2:

  • Redesigned user interface
    ICE has a new look that makes all the features more understandable and easier to use.
  • Automatic image completion
    ICE can now fill in any missing pixels around the edges of your panorama, making a smooth boundary even in cases where you missed a shot.
  • Improved workflow
    ICE now guides you through the steps required to make a great panorama. And you can back up a step to change settings, then see the effects of those changes without having to start over from scratch.
  • Full-resolution preview
    Panorama previews are no longer limited by your screen resolution. ICE now allows you to zoom in to see every detail of your stitched panorama, no matter how big, before you export.
  • Built-in Photosynth uploader
    ICE no longer requires the installation of a separate application to upload a panorama to the Photosynth web site. You can now upload and share your panorama directly from within ICE.


Panoramic image of Jasper Forest inside of the Petrified Forest National Park

ICE will work on 32-bit or 64-bit versions of Windows Vista SP2, Windows 7 or Windows 8 / 8.1. For more information on Image Composite Editor from Microsoft Research Computational Photography Group, just follow the links below:

ICE Homepage
ICE Support Forums

Creating stunning documents, spreadsheets and slide-shows with OpenOffice 4

With the cost of Microsoft Office going up, not to mention the subscription / non-subscription thing, it's nice to know there are alternatives out there. One of the best office alternatives has to be OpenOffice. And it just so happens that the Apache Software Foundation recently released a new version of their free productivity software, OpenOffice 4.

The main screen inside of OpenOffice 4
The main screen inside of OpenOffice 4

For those who are not familiar with it, OpenOffice is a suite of office productivity programs that rivals Microsoft Office. It has everything you could need for creating great looking documents, spreadsheets and slide-show presentations. Here's a complete list of all of the programs included in OpenOffice 4.

ProgramEquivalent toProgram type
Writer Microsoft Word Word processor
Calc Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet
Impress Microsoft PowerPoint Multi-media slide-show presentation
Draw Microsoft Paint Graphic design
Base Microsoft Access Database
Math Design Science Mathtype Formula creation

OpenOffice 4 has some major improvements over previous versions. There's a new Sidebar that contains the most commonly used functions for that program, which can be docked, floating or completely hidden. There is also greatly improved compatibly with Microsoft Office documents. The drawing, graphics and gallery functions have also been enhanced, along with the copy & paste and drag & drop functionality.

The new Sidebar inside of OpenOffice 4 shown docked and floating
The new Sidebar inside of OpenOffice 4 shown docked and floating

OpenOffice does use Java, but it's not required for installation, as it can be added in later on. Compatibility with other document formats is pretty impressive, but Star Office is no longer supported. OpenOffice can automatically load / convert and convert / save Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) and Design Science Mathtype documents. The only file types that it cannot save to is the Microsoft Office 2007 - 2013 .???x formats.

And since OpenOffice is open-source, there are hundreds of third party extensions to expand on the functionality of the applications. Add in a copy of GIMP or Paint.NET and you have a complete, and free, desktop publishing package.

OpenOffice 4 is available for the Windows, Linux and Mac operating systems. For more information on OpenOffice 4, just follow the links below:

Apache OpenOffice Open Source Project
OpenOffice 4 Release Notes
Download OpenOffice 4

Sync data between your PC and smartphone with CompanionLink

Like allot of people, I use Microsoft Outlook as a PIM (Personal Information Manager). And being in the computer repair industry, I need to keep all of my personal data (contacts, calendar, etc.) synchronized and up to date on both my PC and smartphone. I found I can do all of this quite easily with CompanionLink.

CompanionLink 5 for Outlook setup screen
CompanionLink 5 for Outlook setup screen

I wrote an article a while back about syncing Outlook with my Android phone using CompanionLink on my PC and DejaOffice on my Android. How it works is you install CompanionLink on your PC or Mac and install DejaOffice on your Android, iPhone / iPad, Blackberry, etc.. You then define what database (Outlook, ATC!, etc.) and what fields (contacts, calendar, etc.) you want to sync.

DejaOffice 2.2 main screen
DejaOffice 2.2 main screen

Recently they released a new version of both CompanionLink (V5) and DejaOffice (V2.2) with more capabilities and features. In fact, they have multiple versions for different applications (I use CompanionLink for Outlook). Here's a quote from their website on the products they offer:

Our products work with Android, iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, HP webOS, Palm OS, and Windows devices. We also sync with Google, Gmail, Google Apps, and Windows Live (Hotmail) accounts

CompanionLink for Outlook
Sync Microsoft Outlook with Android, iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, or any Google/Gmail account. Supports two-way sync of contacts, calendar, tasks and notes.

CompanionLink for Palm Desktop
Sync Palm Desktop or Pimlical with smartphones, tablets, or any Google/Gmail account. Supports two-way sync of contacts, calendar, tasks and memos.

CompanionLink Express
Sync ACT!, Lotus Notes, HighRise, or GroupWise with smartphones, tablets, or any Google/Gmail account. Supports two-way sync of contacts, calendar, tasks and notes.

CompanionLink Professional
Sync Salesforce CRM, Goldmine, or any other supported database with smartphones, tablets, or any Google/Gmail account. Includes all the features of CompanionLink Express, plus the ability to sync to from multiple databases, sync with up to 5 devices, and advanced sync options.

CompanionLink for Google
Sync Microsoft Outlook contacts and calendar to Google Contacts,Google Calendar, and Google Tasks. Works with any Google, Gmail, or Google Apps account. Two-way sync is fully supported so you can make changes to data in Outlook or in Google.

CompanionLink for Outlook.com / Windows Live
Sync Outlook with your Windows Live Hotmail account. Supports two-way sync of contacts, calendar, and tasks.

CompanionLink for Time & Chaos
Sync Time & Chaos with smartphones, tablets, or any Google/Gmail account. Supports two-way sync of contacts, calendar, tasks and notes.

CompanionLink FA
Sync Wise Agent, Infusionsoft, SalesJunction, or Respond with smartphones, tablets, Outlook, or any Google/Gmail account. Supports two-way sync of contacts, calendar, tasks and notes.

CompanionLink for Mac
Sync Mac's Address Book and iCal with any Android device. You can also keep Outlook for Mac in sync with Android. Requires OS X Lion (10.7) or Mountain Lion (10.8).

For more information on CompanionLink and DejaOffice, just follow the links below:

CompanionLink
CompanionLink FAQ's

Using the Microsoft Web Platform to create web apps and websites

When it comes to a complete set of website development tools, nobody does it better that Microsoft. From web server (IIS), database server (SQL), framework (.NET) and development tools (Visual Studio), Microsoft has quite the offering. They even created an application to install it all, the Web Platform Installer (WebPI). And the best of all, they're free!

Spotlight view inside of the Microsoft Web Platform Installer v4
Spotlight view inside of the Microsoft Web Platform Installer v4

Using the WebPI application, you can download and install all of the programs you would need to create and publish a website. You can even download various web apps like Wordpress or DotNetNuke. The app categories range from blog and content management system (CMS) to e-commerce and galleries.

Appilcation view inside of the Microsoft Web Platform Installer v4
Appilcation view inside of the Microsoft Web Platform Installer v4

And with the release of Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 on the horizon, Microsoft is starting to roll out new versions of quite a few of these programs. Here's a quote from Microsoft's site:

With the Microsoft Web Platform you get more than just a powerful set of tools, servers and technologies. You get a complete eco-system of products, technologies and partners all looking to help you succeed on the web.

Powerful Framework
ASP.NET Framework ASP.NET is a free, fully supported Web application framework that helps you build standards-based Web solutions by providing a rich set of features and easy integration with databases and web services.

Flexible Web Server
IIS Web Server Internet Information Services provides a secure, easy-to-manage Web platform for reliably hosting ASP.NET and PHP web applications on the same server.

Robust Database
SQL Server SQL Server® is a complete database engine for running high performance web applications. Easily create data-enabled web applications with SQL Server's support for LINQ, Entity Data Model, and ADO.NET.

Complete Tools
Microsoft Web Design and Development Tools Visual Studio®, Expression Web® and Windows Internet Explorer® with its built-in developer tools, provide a complete environment for building standards-based web sites, applications and services.

Here's a partial list of some of the recently updated applications:

  • Visual Studio Express 2012 for Web
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Express
  • IIS 8.0 Express
  • .NET Framework 4.5

For more information on the Microsoft Web Platform, just follow the links below.

Microsoft Web Platform
Microsoft Web Platform Installer 4.0

Store, access and share your files on the cloud for free with Google Drive

Being in the computer repair business, I find myself going between my workstation, netbook and smartphone quite often. I need to be able to view / edit files on all of my devices and have the changes synchronize back. I'm talking any type of file, not just MP3's and JPG's. I can do just that and more for free with Google Drive.

View of Google Drive from inside of Windows Explorer
View of Google Drive from inside of Windows Explorer

Google Drive, a cloud based storage solution, is the latest addition to Google's catalog of products. With the Google Drive application installed on your computer, smartphone or tablet, you can view / edit files on that device using the programs installed on it. The files then sync back to the Google Drive servers when they are closed. I found it to work great at synchronizing files / folders between my workstation, netbook and smartphone.

View of Google Drive inside of a web browser
View of Google Drive inside of a web browser

Or you can use a web browser to view / edit files directly on the cloud with the web based Google Docs (you get instant access when you sign up for Google Drive). Google Drive also integrates into Gmail and Google+, so you can e-mail and share files with one click. You get 5 GB's of space for free, with larger plans (up to 16 TB) available. There are also business plans too. Here's a quote from the Google Drive website:

Google Drive. Keep everything. Share anything.

Access everywhere.
Google Drive is everywhere you are-on the web, in your home, at the office and on the go. So wherever you are, your stuff is just...there. Ready to go, ready to share. Get started with 5 GB free.

    Google Drive is available for:
  • PC and Mac
  • iPhone and iPad (coming soon)
  • Android devices

Store your files in a safe place.
Things happen. Your phone goes for a swim. Your laptop takes an infinite snooze. No matter what happens to your devices, your files are safely stored in Google Drive.

Go beyond storage. Collaborate.
Google Drive lets you do more than just store your files. Share files with exactly who you want and edit them together, from any device. Google Drive gives you instant access to Google Docs, a suite of editing tools that makes working together better, even when your teammates are miles away.

Work better with the products you use everyday.

Gmail
Say goodbye to bulky email attachments. Send a link from Google Drive in Gmail and everyone has the same file, same version—automatically.

Google+
Your videos and pictures in Google Drive are instantly available in Google+, so you’re never more than one click away from sharing with your circles.

For more information about Google Drive, just follow the links below:

Google Drive
Google Drive Features
Google Drive for Business

Customer service is #1

Here at Geeks in Phoenix, we take pride in providing excellent customer service. From computer repair, virus removal and data recovery, we aim to give the highest quality of service.

Bring your computer to us and save

Our in-shop computer repair service  is based on the time we work on your computer, not the time it takes your computer to work!

Contact us

Geeks in Phoenix
4722 East Monte Vista Road
Phoenix, Arizona 85008
(602) 795-1111

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Geeks in Phoenix is an IT consulting company specializing in all aspects of Computer Repair / PC Repair / Laptop Repair. Since 2008, our expert computer repair technicians have been providing outstanding Computer Repair, Virus Removal, Data Recovery, Photo Manipulation and Website Support.

Geeks in Phoenix have the best computer repair technicians providing computer repair and service in Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe Arizona. We offer In-Shop, On-Site and Remote (with stable Internet connection) computer repair service.

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