Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How to downgrade from Windows Vista to Windows XP?

Throughout multiple posts on this blog, I never failed to express my complete dissatisfaction from the currently distributed with new computers Windows Vista. I am not alone showing the negative attitude towards this Windows Operating System. Our business customers refused to accept our equipment managed by Windows Vista. And, from other side, testing our high tech system performance with this OS produced less stable outcomes with original Windows XP. The problem is in ending support by Microsoft (in 2014), and by computer manufacturers (Dell in 2010) for Windows XP. Hopefully, Windows 7 will give the reliable platform not just for hope, but also industrial computer needs as well.
While the Windows Vista drawbacks are maybe less visible for home computers use, many users are still prefer to downgrade the supplied Operating System to more reliable XP. One of the readers of this blog asked for instructions on the OS downgrade. In response to this inquiry, I am offering you the article, published by Scott Dunn at Windows Secrets Web Site.
Windows 7's arrival is just a few months away, but many people aren't waiting and just want to replace Vista's newness — some say weirdness — for the familiarity of XP.

If you long for the good old days of XP and still have your install CD, this step-by-step guide will help you revert to Vista's predecessor.

These days, you have to work to find a new computer that comes with XP installed. Many PC users who upgraded their XP systems to Vista are disappointed with the newer OS's performance and other problems. In either case, as long as you have an XP installation CD, you can kiss Vista good-bye.

"Downgrading" from Vista to XP is not as difficult as you may think, but it does entail some time-consuming operations. Many online sources claim to offer techniques for reinstalling XP without having to reformat your hard disk. Based on my research, however, deleting the Vista partition and installing XP in its place is arguably the easiest approach. Moreover, this method ensures a clean install that is uncontaminated by Vista leftovers.

(Note: In certain cases, you may be able to undo an XP-to-Vista upgrade, even without an XP installation CD, by following the instructions in Microsoft article 933168. The article takes a command-line approach to the XP restoration, and also requires that you have a windows.old folder on your root drive.)

Make a pot of coffee and a new, clean XP machine

With your XP installation CD and your application discs in hand (and maybe a cup o' Joe), you're ready to begin:

Step 1. Back up your data. Unfortunately, you can't restore in XP a backup that you created using Vista's Backup and Restore Center. That means you have to either back up your data files manually or use a third-party backup tool that works in both XP and Vista. One such program is 2BrightSparks' SyncBack, which is available in free and paid versions.

Don't bother backing up your applications; you'll need to reinstall them from their installation CDs after XP is back in place.

Do back up the folders that your portable apps use to store their data. The portable apps themselves won't need to be reinstalled, but you'll have to restore their data files from the backup.

Step 2. If necessary, configure your BIOS to boot your computer from a CD, if one is present. Insert your XP installation disk and reboot.

Step 3. When XP setup loads, follow the on-screen prompts to accept the license agreement and continue installing XP. When you get to the screen prompting you for the partition on which to install XP, select the one containing Vista and press D to delete the partition. You'll need to press Enter and then L to confirm that you want to delete all data and software on the partition.

Step 4. Once you've returned to the partitioning screen, select the unpartitioned space that used to be Vista. You may see that this space has been selected for you automatically. Next, press C to create a partition. Specify the desired partition size, or press Enter to accept the default allotment, which is the maximum possible partition. (Simply pressing Enter instead of C also creates a new partition of the default size.)

Step 5. If you're still seeing the partition screen, make sure the desired partition is selected and press Enter. Choose the option that formats the disk as NTFS and press Enter again.

Step 6. Follow the prompts on-screen to continue the XP installation.

Step 7. Reinstall your applications and restore your data from your backup.

That's all there is to it. If you ever change your mind, you can always insert your Vista DVD and upgrade from XP to Vista all over again.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Use Supercomputer to Buy and Sell Stocks with Profit

The supercomputer dedicated to stock market analysis - this title was widely used in the press, when the online investment assistant, GStock.com, has been review. The latest articles in the New York Times and InfoWorld praised the service for its consistently accurate picking of profitable investments. According to the message delivered on the homepage, 2 out of every 3 “buy and sell” stock picks, made by GStock’s supercomputer in the last 3 years, have made profits for users who followed the advice. This statistics is pretty good if it is accurate enough.

So what does it mean - supercomputer? GStock is constructed of thousands of volunteered home desktop computers around the world, networked into one big distributed supercomputer, which indeed has a super power of combined computer resources. If you join the community, you might be willing to delegate some of your computer power to the main cause, but that is completely voluntary and will not impact the level of services, you can get from the site.

GStock’s will provide simple trading signals assisting the decision making process on any actions to be done with the stock market shares:
  • BUY - Buy this stock and profit.
  • SELL - Sell this stock and monetize your profit.
  • No Signal - Don’t do anything with this stock right now (i.e. All BUY and SELL trading signals expire 7 days after a signal has been given).
Main Features

  • GStock makes informed trading easy. Rather than overwhelm traders with industry education and advice on various sophisticated technical approaches, GStock does all the work. And as we’ve explained, that work involves a vast supercomputing power that analyses each stock independently. So when GStock gives investors money-making BUY or SELL alerts, those alerts are informed. All the investor has to do is BUY and SELL for profit.
  • About 2 out of every 3 GStock trades have produced profit.
  • GStock has used more than 60,000 trades to calculate results. So you can be sure that some “lucky” trade did not influence the results.
  • These results were produced on a period covering 2004 - 2007. Information analyzed from a considerable period of time proves consistency for the results.
How can GStock help you profit

GStock gives you 2 options on the site participation: Free and Premium ($30/month).
1. Open a FREE GStock Account and scroll through recently calculated signals that you can invest in.
2. Increase your chance of profiting by subscribing to the GStock Premium Account. You’ll receive a daily email newsletter with a digested list of all the newly calculated signals, including past statistics and a direct link to each stock’s page.
Once you open an account (either a FREE or a Premium Account), you can build your personal portfolio with up to 100 stocks. This will enable you to:
  • easily monitor these stocks and
  • be notified whenever any of these stocks receive a BUY or SELL alert by GStock.
If you do not want to create account at all, you can proactively come once a while to visit the site and check for fresh buy or sell signals for your stocks of interest.

Gstock Use Recommendations

GStock provides valuable BUY and SELL alerts on over 4,000 large and mid-sized US traded stocks.. But how do you choose which stocks to invest in? Subscribing to GStock’s simple daily alerts email is a good start. Below are several guidelines that we found to be good practice when choosing stocks:

1. Search for cyclicality, not trends.
A past long-term trend is something that each and every strategy would have succeeded in. On the other hand, a strategy that managed to locate the peaks of a stock with cyclical behavior is the one to follow you can be relatively sure that a stock that has ups and downs naturally will eventually go up again. Having a strategy that pinpoints these peaks for you is quite valuable.

2. Timing - Buy no later than 4 days after a BUY signal and sell no later than 90 days after.
A BUY or SELL signal for a specific date is not carved in stone. GStock alerts are sometimes right on the spot - and sometimes they precede or follow a stock’s movement. It’s best to buy or sell no later than 4 days after a signal for a stock was given, and to expect each trade to last about a month on average. If a trade lasts 3 months without a sell signal in sight, it is better to abandon the stock in favor of a stock with a recently calculated BUY signal.

3. Build a portfolio of around 10-20 stocks.
Modern portfolio theory suggests that a balanced portfolio contains 10-20 stocks. This way, the portfolio isn’t too sensitive to an underperforming stock, yet is not too large for beating the market.

4. Don’t forget to add your stocks to Your Portfolio.
This is the most important guideline we could give you. When you buy a stock, add it to your portfolio. When GStock issues a SELL signal to this stock, you’ll immediately be notified via email. You’ll also see a big red SELL sign near this stock in your portfolio. So it’ll be very easy for you to follow alerts on stocks you have bought into.

Website Homepage: http://www.gstock.com/?picks

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Useful Extensions for GMail

Have you ever sent and email and then realized a second later that you forgot an attachment or didn’t include some information? Even worse, if you realized that you sent the email to the wrong person, or included the undesirable recipient in the recipients list. While some email programs, as Microsoft Outlook, give you opportunity to recall the message, if it was not opened by recipient, using less advanced email client or Web-base interface will leave you with no reversal choices. Not anymore, if you use the best free email provider from Google - Gmail.

To help senders with this problem, Gmail has introduced several add-ins from their Labs to enhance the mailing capabilities related to the highlighted issues.

One of the add-in, worth mentioning, is “Forgotten attachment detector”. To add this feature to your Gmail account, click on the Settings link and then go to the Labs tab. Scroll down until you find the related option and enable it. As option will be enabled, it will prevents you from accidentally sending messages without the relevant attachments, prompting you anytime when you mention attaching a file in the body of email but there is no attachment was detected.

The second related add-in is even more powerful, as it gives you a certain grace period of a few seconds to cancel your correspondence sending. You can undo and edit your message before sending again. Search on the list the ‘Undo Send’ option and enable it. Once you do this, after you send a message you will see an undo link above your inbox for a few seconds which lets you recall the message you just sent.

While you are on the Labs page, feel free to look at the other experimental gadgets, offered by Gmail staff to make your mailing experience better. All options are free, so choose as many as you want. You can disable any features, you do not like, anytime later.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Free Web Based FTP Client

Have you ever needed to quickly connect to an FTP site to either upload or download a file, but you don’t have an FTP client handy? You may be on holiday and trying connecting to the internet via a Cyber Cafe, where you may not be allowed to install an FTP client. Or you may be behind a corporate firewall at work, which may block the FTP communications.

In these, and many other cases, the free web-based FTP client will solve all your problems. You connect to net2ftp using a regular web browser and net2ftp translates your requests and takes care of the FTP communication.

When you visit the site, the usage is obvious: you enter the server and login information and then you can do all your FTP requiring activities from within your browser.

Website: http://www.net2ftp.com/

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Free Video Mail to Greet your Friends

You can make your birthday greeting unforgettable to your friends and relatives. Make difference by sending the personal video greeting instead of standard, suing the new video mail technology.

Mailemotion is a video-mail platform that enables anyone with a webcam to quickly send video to family and friends. Record a short message (or upload a video file), specify recipient email(s), add some text to you video-mail, and define date to send.

You can send you video message in 4 easy steps:
  1. Register for free by filling the form on the website.
  2. Create you own video message or slideshow using your Webcam or any kind of file loaded.
  3. Send your private video message by email to your family, friends and colleagues.
Your recipients are only one click away from your video directly in their browser.
Website: http://www.mailemotion.tv/

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Facial Recognition Technology: Development and Applications

I got several questions from the Blog Readers in relation to the Fun Pictures Editors FunPhotoBox and Photofunia as how the embedded picture is transcribed the way that the facial elements are recognized to be plugged in the Customized Templates. While, in these services, the facial recognition is used for pure fun, the technology itself has a very promising future, especially in security and crimes resolution areas. While having a basic knowledge of the algorithm, I decided to provide professional explanation in the attached article.

How Facial Recognition Systems Work

Anyone who has seen the TV show "Las Vegas" has seen facial recognition software in action. In any given episode, the security department at the fictional Montecito Hotel and Casino uses its video surveillance system to pull an image of a card counter, thief or blacklisted individual. It then runs that image through the database to find a match and identify the person. By the end of the hour, all bad guys are escorted from the casino or thrown in jail. But what looks so easy on TV doesn’t always translate as well in the real world.
In 2001, the Tampa Police Department installed police cameras equipped with facial recognition technology in their Ybor City nightlife district in an attempt to cut down on crime in the area. The system failed to do the job, and it was scrapped in 2003 due to ineffectiveness. People in the area were seen wearing masks and making obscene gestures, prohibiting the cameras from getting a clear enough shot to identify anyone.
Boston’s Logan Airport also ran two separate tests of facial recognition systems at its security checkpoints using volunteers. Over a three month period, the results were disappointing. According to the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the system only had a 61.4 percent accuracy rate, leading airport officials to pursue other security options.

In this article, we will look at the history of facial recognition systems, the changes that are being made to enhance their capabilities and how governments and private companies use (or plan to use) them.

Humans have always had the innate ability to recognize and distinguish between faces, yet computers only recently have shown the same ability. In the mid 1960s, scientists began work on using the computer to recognize human faces. Since then, facial recognition software has come a long way.
Identix®, a company based in Minnesota, is one of many developers of facial recognition technology. Its software, FaceIt®, can pick someone’s face out of a crowd, extract the face from the rest of the scene and compare it to a database of stored images. In order for this software to work, it has to know how to differentiate between a basic face and the rest of the background. Facial recognition software is based on the ability to recognize a face and then measure the various features of the face.

Every face has numerous, distinguishable landmarks, the different peaks and valleys that make up facial features. FaceIt defines these landmarks as nodal points. Each human face has approximately 80 nodal points. Some of these measured by the software are:
* Distance between the eyes
* Width of the nose
* Depth of the eye sockets
* The shape of the cheekbones
* The length of the jaw line

These nodal points are measured creating a numerical code, called a faceprint, representing the face in the database.

In the past, facial recognition software has relied on a 2D image to compare or identify another 2D image from the database. To be effective and accurate, the image captured needed to be of a face that was looking almost directly at the camera, with little variance of light or facial expression from the image in the database. This created quite a problem.

In most instances the images were not taken in a controlled environment. Even the smallest changes in light or orientation could reduce the effectiveness of the system, so they couldn’t be matched to any face in the database, leading to a high rate of failure. In the next section, we will look at ways to correct the problem.

3D Facial Recognition

A newly-emerging trend in facial recognition software uses a 3D model, which claims to provide more accuracy. Capturing a real-time 3D image of a person’s facial surface, 3D facial recognition uses distinctive features of the face -- where rigid tissue and bone is most apparent, such as the curves of the eye socket, nose and chin -- to identify the subject. These areas are all unique and don’t change over time.
Using depth and an axis of measurement that is not affected by lighting, 3D facial recognition can even be used in darkness and has the ability to recognize a subject at different view angles with the potential to recognize up to 90 degrees (a face in profile).

Using the 3D software, the system goes through a series of steps to verify the identity of an individual.


Acquiring an image can be accomplished by digitally scanning an existing photograph (2D) or by using a video image to acquire a live picture of a subject (3D).


Once it detects a face, the system determines the head’s position, size and pose. As stated earlier, the subject has the potential to be recognized up to 90 degrees, while with 2D, the head must be turned at least 35 degrees toward the camera.


The system then measures the curves of the face on a sub-millimeter (or microwave) scale and creates a template.


The system translates the template into a unique code. This coding gives each template a set of numbers to represent the features on a subject’s face.


If the image is 3D and the database contains 3D images, then matching will take place without any changes being made to the image. However, there is a challenge currently facing databases that are still in 2D images. 3D provides a live, moving variable subject being compared to a flat, stable image. New technology is addressing this challenge. When a 3D image is taken, different points (usually three) are identified. For example, the outside of the eye, the inside of the eye and the tip of the nose will be pulled out and measured. Once those measurements are in place, an algorithm (a step-by-step procedure) will be applied to the image to convert it to a 2D image. After conversion, the software will then compare the image with the 2D images in the database to find a potential match.

Verification or Identification

In verification, an image is matched to only one image in the database (1:1). For example, an image taken of a subject may be matched to an image in the Department of Motor Vehicles database to verify the subject is who he says he is. If identification is the goal, then the image is compared to all images in the database resulting in a score for each potential match (1:N). In this instance, you may take an image and compare it to a database of mug shots to identify who the subject is.

Next, we’ll look at how skin biometrics can help verify matches.

Surface Texture Analysis

The image may not always be verified or identified in facial recognition alone. Identix® has created a new product to help with precision. The development of FaceIt®Argus uses skin biometrics, the uniqueness of skin texture, to yield even more accurate results.

The process, called Surface Texture Analysis, works much the same way facial recognition does. A picture is taken of a patch of skin, called a skinprint. That patch is then broken up into smaller blocks. Using algorithms to turn the patch into a mathematical, measurable space, the system will then distinguish any lines, pores and the actual skin texture. It can identify differences between identical twins, which is not yet possible using facial recognition software alone. According to Identix, by combining facial recognition with surface texture analysis, accurate identification can increase by 20 to 25 percent.

FaceIt currently uses three different templates to confirm or identify the subject: vector, local feature analysis and surface texture analysis.
* The vector template is very small and is used for rapid searching over the entire database primarily for one-to-many searching.
* The local feature analysis (LFA) template performs a secondary search of ordered matches following the vector template.
* The surface texture analysis (STA) is the largest of the three. It performs a final pass after the LFA template search, relying on the skin features in the image, which contains the most detailed information.

By combining all three templates, FaceIt® has an advantage over other systems. It is relatively insensitive to changes in expression, including blinking, frowning or smiling and has the ability to compensate for mustache or beard growth and the appearance of eyeglasses. The system is also uniform with respect to race and gender.

However, it is not a perfect system. There are some factors that could get in the way of recognition, including:
* Significant glare on eyeglasses or wearing sunglasses
* Long hair obscuring the central part of the face
* Poor lighting that would cause the face to be over- or under-exposed
* Lack of resolution (image was taken too far away)

Identix isn’t the only company with facial recognition systems available. While most work the same way FaceIt does, there are some variations. For example, a company called Animetrix, Inc. has a product called FACEngine ID® SetLight that can correct lighting conditions that cannot normally be used, reducing the risk of false matches. Sensible Vision, Inc. has a product that can secure a computer using facial recognition. The computer will only power on and stay accessible as long as the correct user is in front of the screen. Once the user moves out of the line of sight, the computer is automatically secured from other users.

Due to these strides in technology, facial and skin recognition systems are more widely used than just a few years ago. In the next section, we’ll look at where and how they are being used and what’s in store for the future.

Current and Future Uses of Facial Recognition Systems

In the past, the primary users of facial recognition software have been law enforcement agencies, who used the system to capture random faces in crowds. Some government agencies have also been using the systems for security and to eliminate voter fraud. The U.S. government has recently begun a program called US-VISIT (United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology), aimed at foreign travelers gaining entry to the United States. When a foreign traveler receives his visa, he will submit fingerprints and have his photograph taken. The fingerprints and photograph are checked against a database of known criminals and suspected terrorists. When the traveler arrives in the United States at the port of entry, those same fingerprints and photographs will be used to verify that the person who received the visa is the same person attempting to gain entry.

However, there are now many more situations where the software is becoming popular. As the systems become less expensive, making their use more widespread. They are now compatible with cameras and computers that are already in use by banks and airports. The TSA is currently working on and testing out its Registered Traveler program. The program will provide speedy security screening for passengers who volunteer information and complete a security threat assessment. At the airport there will be specific lines for the Registered Traveler to go through that will move more quickly, verifying the traveler by their facial features.

Other potential applications include ATM and check-cashing security. The software is able to quickly verify a customer’s face. After a customer consents, the ATM or check-cashing kiosk captures a digital image of him. The FaceIt software then generates a faceprint of the photograph to protect customers against identity theft and fraudulent transactions. By using the facial recognition software, there’s no need for a picture ID, bankcard or personal identification number (PIN) to verify a customer’s identity. This way businesses can prevent fraud from occurring.

While all the examples above work with the permission of the individual, not all systems are used with your knowledge. In the first section we mentioned that systems were used during the Super Bowl by the Tampa Police, and in Ybor City. These systems were taking pictures of all visitors without their knowledge or their permission. Opponents of the systems note that while they do provide security in some instances, it is not enough to override a sense of liberty and freedom. Many feel that privacy infringement is too great with the use of these systems, but their concerns don’t end there. They also point out the risk involved with identity theft. Even facial recognition corporations admit that the more use the technology gets, the higher the likelihood of identity theft or fraud.

As with many developing technologies, the incredible potential of facial recognition comes with some drawbacks, but manufacturers are striving to enhance the usability and accuracy of the systems.

Bonsor, Kevin, and Ryan Johnson. "How Facial Recognition Systems Work." 04 September 2001. HowStuffWorks.com. 06 March 2009.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Having Free Fun with FunPhotoBox

I got one of the best feedbacks from the customers, while presenting online free funny image editors, such as Photofunia and Deefunia. If you like the mentioned services, you should check the FunPhotobox as well, and you will not be disappointed. Big variety of the offered effects, fast processing, and descent quality make this site very competitive on the Fun Online Images market.

The FunPhotoBox site is a place where you can create funny pictures from your photos, adding special effects. It is easy as 1-2-3:

Step 1: Select an effect from a list of templates.

Step 2: Upload your photo and select any area of your image to be cropped. The website accepts image in the formats JPEG, GIF and PNG with maximum photo size is limited for by 4Mb.

Step 3: The photo is ready! You can publish it online or save on your Hard Drive. So, the final picture can be easily shared using sites like Facebook, MySpace, Digg and many others or be sent to email. Actually, you can automatically publish results to almost 50 destinations. A site uses well checked algorithm which allow secure your login credentials during communication between the sites.

There is no need to register or login to the website, and there are no limitations or strings attached to use the services.

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