Thursday, March 23, 2006

Italian ISPs Association: Proposals for the next legislature

During a recent convention, Assoprovider, the Italian association of independent ISPs, introduced a list of proposals addressed to whichever coalition will win the upcoming elections:

  • To encourage competition and market liberalization, by splitting TelecomItalia into two companies and encouraging Infratel-like initiatives;

  • Creation of a cadastre of communication resources;

  • Use of standard wireless infrastructures and promotion of wireless broadband based on non-proprietary technologies;

  • Aperture of the mobile market;

  • Encourage the convergence of telecommunications and radio broadcasting;

  • Strengthening and rationalization of the Authorities involved in Internet-related matters;

  • Institution of an Internet parliamentary commission, aimed to safeguard the individual and fundamental freedoms;

  • Consip Marketplace: creation of a telecommunications division;

  • Support to the Venture Capital development and creation of a low-cost stock market for the sector;

  • Complete revision of the current e-government and ecommerce philosophy;

[via] Link

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Friday, March 17, 2006

Zfone, encrypted VoIP from the makers of PGP

Philip Zimmerman, well known amongst the security savvy users for the renowned encryption software PGP (Pretty Good Privacy), just released a public beta version (currently for Mac OS X and Linux: the XP version will be released in April) of Zfone, a VoIP software based on a new protocol called ZRTP, which has some nice cryptographic features lacking in many other approaches to VoIP encryption.ZPhone currently works as an addon to your VoIP client, adding a new layer of security to VoIP calls:
The current Zfone software runs in the Internet Protocol stack on any Windows XP, Mac OS X, or Linux PC, and intercepts and filters all the VoIP packets as they go in and out of the machine, and secures the call on the fly. You can use a variety of different software VoIP clients to make a VoIP call. The Zfone software detects when the call starts, and initiates a cryptographic key agreement between the two parties, and then proceeds to encrypt and decrypt the voice packets on the fly. It has its own little separate GUI, telling the user if the call is secure.

In the future, Zimmerman plans to integrate Zfone into a dedicated and standalone VoIP client.

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

FastStone Capture

A good tool for taking screenshots is one of those programs that will always be on my quick launch bar (and believe me: it's a lot better than the PrtScr key).
In my endless search for the "perfect tool", I've tested many programs out there, as you can see in my Free software list.

This time, it's FastStone Capture time: this little, light (and free for home users) application, from the authors of the well-known FS Image Viewer, is well worth a try.

Once the program is launched, a small panel will appear on top of your window: four little icons will provide quick access to the main features (note that if you don't like the panel, the same functions can be accessed through an icon on the system tray):

The first icon shows a menu of the available capture modes:

  • Capture Window/Object;
  • Capture Rectangle Region;
  • Capture Freehand Region;
  • Capture Full Screen;
  • Capture Foreground Window;
  • Capture From Webcam/Scanner;
  • Pick Screen Color;

From the same menu, you can chose where to send the acquired image:

  • To Image Viewer;
  • To Clipboard;
  • To File;

The second icon allows you to open image files from any location on your computer;

The third icon can be customized with a "Favorite Folder";

The fourth button allows to paste images from the clipboard;

The lower part of the panel is occupied by a big eye, the symbol of FastStone: in this area you can drag and drop images from windows, browsers or other programs, to be captured.

The captured images can be edited with some basic functions, such as Resizing, Flipping, Rotating, Cropping and Color Adjusting, by right-clicking on the image window or using the tool bar activated by the passage of the mouse cursor near the bottom of the window;

By pressing the T key, you'll access the "Text Board", which will allows to add some effects to the image (click on the picture below to enlarge it):

  • Text;
  • Freehand Lines;
  • Arrows;
  • Rectangles;
  • Ellipses;
  • Markers;
  • Watermarks;

For each element you can fully customize color, dimensions, transparency and dropshadow.

FS Screen Capture supports several image formats: JPEG, JPEG2000, GIF, BMP, PNG, PCX, TIFF, WMF, ICO, TAG, EMF, PXM, WBMP and saving to TIFF, GIF, PCX, BMP, ICO, PNG, TGA, PXM, WBMP, JPEG, JPEG2000, PS, EPS, PDF;

Some other interesting features include: magnifier, EXIF metadata support and undo/redo through the mouse wheel.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Performancing Metrics

Performancing just launched Performancing Metrics, a new statistics service for bloggers: all you need is to sign up for a free account, follow a simple wizard and paste the resulting HTML code into your blog template. You'll gain access to a detailed report of your statistics, ordered into three groups:
  1. Visitors: visitors stats (with a detailed report of new visitors, 'repeat visitors', single sessions and Average visit length), geography, languages, browsers, platforms and screen resolution;
  2. Activity: post views (with a 'top n' of your most viewed entries), comments summary (with per day and per post averages), comments by post (with a list of the most commented articles), categories;
  3. Marketing: AdSense clicks (with ranking and avg per day), referrers, search engines, outbound links.

The overall speed (it's Web2.0, after all...) and ease of use, the clean interface, the simple graphs that illustrate the statistics and the rationally organized dashboard (which grants an easy and complete access to the features and the time span settings) make the whole experience even more enjoyable.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

(11) Photographic DIY tutorials roundup

Well, this post is basically a memo to self, but I'm sure that a few of you will find it useful.
Here are some hacks and Do-It-Yourself photography-related tutorials I've collected around the web in the last few months:

  • Macro flash prototype: an extendable, adjustable all-mirrored cardboard construction guiding the light from the hotshoed flash close to the target through a diffuser ;
  • DIY LightBox: great still photos with 5 sheets of foam board;

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Monday, March 13, 2006

Google Mars

If discovering impact craters with Google Earth isn't enough for your inner scientist, maybe it's time to try Google Mars: the guys at Mountain View just launched a new tool meant to be a window on the Red Planet.

The usual markers are organized into categories: Regions, Spacecrafts (it's a dump, down there!), Stories, Mountains, Canyons, Dunes, Plains, Ridges, Craters.

The Planet can be explored in three modes: Elevation (a shaded relief map, generated with data from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft. This map is color-coded by altitude, so you can use the color key at the lower left to estimate elevations), Visible (a mosaic of images taken by the Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft. MOC is like the digital camera you have at home. Basically, this is what your eyes would see if you were in orbit around Mars) and Infrared (a mosaic of infrared images taken by the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) on NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft. Warmer areas appear brighter, and colder areas are darker. Clouds and dust in the atmosphere are transparent in the infrared, making this the sharpest global map of Mars that's ever been made).

P.S.: currently, the Google Earth client doesn't support it.


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Friday, March 10, 2006

Desmoblog - Ducati's Weblog

It's always a good sign, when large companies experiment new ways to communicate with their customers.

Federico Minoli, President and Managing Director of Ducati Motor Holding S.p.A., just started Desmoblog, a brand new weblog named after the Desmosedici, Ducati's desmodromic valve technology (and the GP racing bike).

Minoli writes:

This new space online gives me a new way to communicate with colleagues, fans and bikers about my life, my experience with Ducati, the company, the motorcycles and of course Ducati Corse.

Welcome to the blogosphere!


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If you're wondering what on Earth happened to my categories, here's the answer: they're (temporarily) gone... with
Our beloved social bookmarking service is, in fact, currently unavailable for maintenance:

Just after midnight on Thursday, we'll be bringing down the site to roll out some database changes, which will allow us to release private saving and a few related features in the following week. The site will be down for about four hours; announcements will be made here as we go.

I'm really curious about the new features... in the meantime, check for updates at official blog.

Edit: no wait, they're back.

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Every now and then, it happens that you want to stay updated on the latest posts of a site, which - for some reason - doesn't have feeds: in this case, the solution is called FeedYes: all you have to do is type the URL of the page, and FY will create a feed for you (it can also create a feed for your own site).

In depth: what can you do with

- Generate feeds for any website or specific page
- Save those feeds, so you can read them in any rss reader. One click adding.
- Syndicate those feeds: put the headlines on your own website
- Monitor websites realtime: always know the latest news from any webpage


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Thursday, March 09, 2006


Goowy is a new way to bring different activities on a single browser window, through an ajax and flash-based virtual desktop: with a free subscription, users have access to a mailbox (2 Gigabytes, without POP/IMAP/SMTP access) with a contact manager compatible with CSV files from Outlook, Outlook Express, Yahoo, Thunderbird and the vCard standard; third party addresses (Yahoo!, Gmail, Hotmail and MSN) can be as well managed via Goowy along with the new mailbox.

Amongst the upcoming features, a multi-protocol instant messenger, a virtual file storage service, personal pages and a blogging platform.
Goowy's frequently used features (such as RSS, notes, bookmarks, search, Windows) can be accessed through minis, small specialized applications similar to the popular widgets: the eye candy interface implies a price in terms of system resources, which can be saved - when using older and slower machines - by using the 'lite' client.


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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

PC cooled with 8 gallons of cooking oil

In Strip Out The Fans, Add 8 Gallons of Cooking Oil, Frank Völkel, from Tom's Hardware, explains - step by step - how to build a DIY oil-cooled $2000 Personal Computer.
After some failed trials with distilled water, they filled a modified plexiglas case with cooking oil (although they recommend motor oil) while performing a benchmarking test (!): the result is a perfectly working, silent and cool machine.
I'm daydreaming about a notebook version of the project, and yet watching (video) that yellow fluid slowly reaching and submerging the running components is quite creepy.

[Thanks, Marco and Giorgio]

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006


AJAXPress is a free and open-source Web 2.0 blogging platform written in Javascript with a PHP backend; it requires a server with PHP and MySQL installed and you can import your WordPress database.
A demo version is available here : I'm not really impressed with the (quite basic, unlike the WordPress one) user interface of the admin section (see screenshot), but maybe the equation Ajax = Eye-candy is just a misunderstanding of mine.
According to the home page, in order to properly see/run AJAXPress the browser must be IE 6.0 or Firefox 1.5 (or greater): the funny thing is that I'm experiencing some issues with IE 6.0, while the platform seems to work like a charm with the unmentioned Opera (8.53).

[Via Digg]

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Friday, March 03, 2006

Feedwhip and FeedShow

Here's a couple of new online feed-readers I discovered in the last few days:

Feedwhip keeps track of your favorite site updates, no matter if they support RSS or not: whenever new contents are published, feedwhip sends you the updates via email. The Feedwhip Me! button (a bookmarklet) makes the whole process easier, allowing to subscribe to a site with a simple click.

FeedShow is still in its beta-stage, but looks quite promising: not only - like other readers - it supports OPML (import/export of feed lists) and folder categories (à la Bloglines), but it introduces Feed-to-PDF (or other printable formats) conversion and an interesting system of revenue syndication, based on AdSense.

Update: I must admit that I'm loving FeedShow more than I thought.
After a quick registration (just a valid email address and a password) and a painless OPML import, it's a pleasure to use this little tool: it has a clean and simple interface, it's fast (really), pictures are displayed correctly (believe me, don't take it for granted) and I love the button at the bottom of every post.
The feed/folder management is as easy as it gets, and the optional three panels layout is a pleasure to use: LEFT: feeds list; TOP: posts list; BOTTOM: selected post content.
By now, In my FeedShow wishlist I'd put some hotkeys and a "display only the updated feeds" option.

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

My ideal freeware-only machine

I keep an updated list of my favourite free tools, with some valuable options per category.
Today, I'll share with you my (current) choices, an 'ideal fresh-install setup' for a freeware-only machine:

Security and privacy:

4. Internet:

3. Multimedia:

4. Graphics:

5. Utilities:

6. Office and productivity:

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