Software

Checkout videos from your own PC with greater ease with Boxee and keep your passwords securely on the move with this rundown of the password apps for mobile devices.

 

Boxee for Windows, Mac and Linux

If you want the full functionality of the World Wide Web, the ability to play multiple media files and access a variety of on-demand video on your television set, you have two choices - you can either invest in a Microsoft Media Center or an Apple Mac Mini.

These are both relatively expensive options. The new redesigned Mac Mini will set you back almost £700 in the UK. Less easy-on-the-eye budget Media Centers from the likes of Dell are cheaper but, in my opinion, having Windows in your living room is as welcome as a lifetime subscription to the keynote speeches of Steve Ballmer.

An alternative could be Boxee. This is a software that works well on both platforms, Linux - and can even work on the highly proprietary and closed Apple TV - which opens up a great deal of unproprietary content that the chic geeks in Cupertino wouldn't like you to have access to.

The beauty of Boxee is that it is available for free with social networking features making it ideal for living rooms. It is built on open source software, which Boxee uses as an application framework for its user interface and media player core platform.

Earlier this year, the first beta version was released for download to be used on Macs, Windows, Linux and Apple TV devices. The company has also partnered with consumer electronics network and storage company D-Link, which has launched the first 'Powered by Boxee' branded device.

Unlike Mac devices, Boxee supports a wider range of multimedia formats - as well as being able to display images from multiple sources, including CD/DVD-ROM drives, USB flash drives, the Internet, and local area network shares. Therefore that ripped copy of  'Avatar' (on your PC's hard drive) can be easily discovered andindexed with added thumbnail artwork and info from the Internet Movie Database.

On both my Intel Core Duo laptop Windows PC and my Mac Mini, Boxee handled high-definition video up to 1080p with no problems - and, although not tested, Boxee is also designed to work on Linux-based operating-systems with relative ease. Apps and widgets can be downloaded as channels. It features BBC iPlayer, Last.fm, CNET, CNN, CBS, YouTube and hundreds of others. But the vast majority of these are geared toward the US market, with content restricted beyond those shores. But the company says it is committed to internationalise as much as possible and tells us that it has met with the other UK channels very recently.

Social networking is an important aspect of Boxee and you will be required to set up a Boxee account. This will allow you to communicate with the fledgling Boxee social Internet community and share views on your favourite movies.

On Windows, Boxee was able to play DRM content from Lovefilm without any issues. On the Mac, it couldn't play iTunes movies - and don't expect any sympathies from Apple.

Overall, Boxee is an improvement to what consumer are currently served with. Where it falls down is the lack of localised UK content. It lacks content from the other terrestrial channels. That would require a great deal of negotiation - I hope the reason for the delay is that the focus is on a project canvas widget next year.But its not possible to record or rip content from other sources. Now you're asking too much.

www.boxee.com

Security apps

 

SplashID Password Manager

This device scores well on the number of mobile and desktop platforms it supports. As well as Windows, Blackberry, Apple and Android, it also supports Palm and Symbian. You can design and create your own record types with full control over the record fields and their content. You can also use the application to store usernames, passwords and banking information. You pay a one-off price for the mobile version but, if you want the desktop version, remember to buy it as a bundle otherwise it will not work. However, it is not truly cross platform. If you change devices, you’ll have to buy the bundle again – so you could feel a bit cheated if you change devices quite frequently.

$9.99 mobile versions

$29.95 desktop mobile bundles

 

Ascendo DataVault Manager

This software stores confidential information such as credit card numbers, usernames, passwords and PINs, on your BlackBerry, iPhone, Windows or Mac using AES, one of the best encryption systems available. The layout is straightforward on iPhone and Blackberry versions, even when you use the advanced security options, tree and list views. It also integrates well with native browser environments and synchronisation with desktop versions. This is a good choice of password vault – particularly if you have a Blackberry as it outperforms the native Blackberry app. The iPhone and Mac versions are newer additions - which bucks the usual trend of apps appearing on Apple’s App store first.

$29.99

 

1Password

As well as securing Web usernames and passwords

and a variety of other account data, this app also allows you to store freeform notes – enabling you to keep any data you’d like safe from prying eyes. It locks your data behind a four-digit code and a master password, both of which you configure. It has a browser built right into it the software itself which enables you to just tap a saved login and you’re immediately taken to the site with your username and password entered. All you have to do is tap. It syncs easily and securely with 1Password for the Mac over a Wi-Fi connection just as long as both the mobile device and the Mac are on the same network. The sync is also two-way, so new information can be easily added on your mobile device and synced back to your computer. A very competent and sturdy piece of security software, but it’s a shame that it is very Apple centric. I think the developers have missed a trick by not developing other platform versions.

$8.99

 

Openintent Safe

This is an open source and free password safe program for the Android platform that protects your passwords and other private data with AES encryption. All encrypted information is stored in a database on the phone and no information is kept online. But you can export your passwords in a CSV file, or create an encrypted backup if you wish. It integrates well with other Open Intent programs such as Notepad (to encrypt notes), Obscura (for photos) and ByBackup Pro (for backing up data). Functionality is currently limited. It really requires a companion desktop app, as importing and exporting from CSV files are not at all secure. This app works well

with all the other OpenIntent apps and development work is ongoing. Currently, it has usability flaws, but updates from the open source community are being introduced thick and fast. Therefore, its functionality is likely to increase. Being open source, official customer support will be non-existent - but the open source community has always been good at providng useful tips, tricks and workarounds.

Free

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