The Best Apps of 2011

As always, this is that time of the year that I list down some of the best apps or software that I have used every day in the past 365 days. Obviously 'best' is very subjective. Something that is awesome for me might not be so for others. Anyway here are what I think is the best Apps of 2011 (in alphabetical order).


When it comes to file compression, I prefer 7Zip because it's lightweight, fast and open-source. 7Zip supports many popular archive formats such as ZIP, TAR, RAR, ISO, DMG and of course their very own 7z format. 7Zip is available for Windows only while for Mac OS I would recommend the open-source equivalent - The Unarchiver.


Audacity® is free, open source software for recording and editing sounds. It is available for Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux, and other operating systems. Cross-platform, free and comes with a multitude of features. What more could you ask?


Boxee is a cross-platform freeware HTPC (Home Theater PC) software application with a user interface and social networking features designed for the living-room TV. Boxee was originally a fork of the free and open source XBMC media center software however I prefer Boxee to XBMC because of it's lighter hardware minimum requirement. Boxee let's you play just about any media format on your TV and with the apps feature you can also surf the web, access Facebook & Twitter and watch streaming video right from your Boxee PC.

Google Chrome

I used to be a loyal Mozilla Firefox browser user for the past 5 years or so before it started to slow down and hogs so much computer memory that I had to switch to Google Chrome. Unlike Firefox, Chrome is much faster, lighter and with the ever-increasing extensions and web applications available, it's a no brainer. I still use Firefox occasionally though, to download videos from YouTube and access my university's online forum which seems to have problem with Chrome.


There is no shortage of online cloud storage to choose from today but ultimately I still prefer Dropbox as my main cloud storage app. Dropbox is available on Windows, Mac & Linux and also accessible from most modern smartphone OS like iOS & Android not to mention the web interface. Although the initial 2GB space is tiny compared to others, I managed to rack up a cool 8GB of free space through its referral program. Of course I do use many different types of cloud storage providers along with Dropbox. offers free 50GB of space for iOS users and Microsoft's Skydrive gives you 25GB free. Apart from that I also use 4Shared, Mediafire, Pogoplug, Adrive, Wuala and also Google Docs to store my files.


Evernote is hands down the ultimate notetaking and archiving app for me. This app can save formatted text, a full webpage or webpage excerpt, a photograph, a voice memo, or a handwritten "ink" note. Notes can also have file attachments and sorted into folders, then tagged, annotated, edited, given comments, searched and exported as part of a notebook. Evernote supports a number of operating system platforms (including Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Chrome OS, Android, iOS and WebOS), and also offers online synchronization and backup services.

FastStone Photo Resizer

The reason this app made it to this list is because I capture a lot of photos and all of my photos are stored on my hard drive and also on one of the many free cloud-based storage that I subscribe. Since digital photos are usually big in size (2MB and above) I usually trim them down to a couple of kilobytes so that they upload faster. That's where FastStone comes in handy. This little app lets me resize hundreds of photos at the same time with just a few clicks.


If you can't afford (a genuine) Adobe Photoshop software, GIMP is the next best thing you can use to manipulate your photos and images. Cross-platform and open-source, GIMP can do pretty much everything Photoshop can, for free.


It's fast, have excellent spam filter and comes with a myriad of features that blows the competitors away. I have been using Gmail from the first day it becomes available and it have become my primary email service of choice since then. I now use Gmail to access and send emails from all my other free and paid email services which means I only need to open Gmail to read and write all my different email accounts today.


ImgBurn is a freeware program that allows the recording of many types of CD/DVD images to recordable media. Burn a file or folder, create image file from CD/DVD, it's the only app you'll ever need. ImgBurn is for Windows only. Mac users can try Burn.


Instapaper is a web service that saves articles for later reading on web browsers, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Amazon Kindle. After registering a free account, the service saves articles that users select with its "Read Later" bookmarklet and presents them in a minimal, readable text layout. If you're too busy to read an interesting article on your phone or browser, just send it to Instapaper for reading later.


MagicISO is a very helpful utility designed for creating and managing virtual CD drives and CD/DVD discs. If your PC or notebook doesn't have a physical CD drive, MagicISO let's you mount a virtual drive from your ISO image and use it like a real CD. Very useful for playing PC games.

Microsoft Security Essential

Never pay for antivirus software again. Free Microsoft Security Essential is good enough to protect your genuine Windows PC from viruses and malwares. For serious virus problems though, I still recommend McAfee alongside Malwarebyte Antimalware.


OmmWriter is a beautiful writing environment that helps you concentrate and create. It has the necessary tools you need to write and manage files, without the distracting elements that you normally find in conventional writing applications. OmmWriter opens in fullscreen mode, and has a number of backgrounds and audio tracks to increase your concentration, and to create an open space where your creativity can roam freely. Available for PC, Mac and iPad.


Springpad is just like Evernote except that it's prettier and the web version loads much faster. I use Springpad mainly to jot down important and regularly accessed to-do list and I especially love the offline access function. Springpad is available from your web browser, iOS and also your Android device.

Sumatra PDF

How would you like to use a PDF application that is light, fast and doesn't bug you with perpetual automatic update like Adobe Reader? Sumatra PDF is just the app you need for opening your PDF files.


I have half about a dozen social networking accounts like Twitter, Facebook & Foursquare so an app like Tweetdeck which allows me to read and post to all of them at once is very useful. Although I am reluctant to use the Adobe-air based desktop app, the Tweetdeck Chrome web app works just as well minus the memory hog. Tweetdeck is also available on iOS and Android.


Unlocker let you avoid that WTF moment when you'd like to delete a file or remove an external drive but can't because some evil program is still accessing it. Windows only.


I've been using Winamp to listen to my favorite music since my teenage years. It's fast, small and doesn't make duplicate copies like iTunes.

XMedia Recode

XMedia Recode is the best multimedia file converter there is. It lets you convert just about any media file format into another easily. You can choose from a preset of settings according to your device like iPhone to Android to most popular multimedia players in the market. XMedia Recode is made for Windows only but for Mac and Linux users there's always Handbrake.

As you can see, most of the apps and software featured here is either open-source or free. I'm a strong advocate of free and awesome software and I do believe that the best things in life should be free. As a matter of fact, the only proprietary software installed on my computers is Microsoft Office. Sure there's LibreOffice & as alternatives but since they usually screw up my Word documents formatting, I'm forced to stick with trusty ole Microsoft Office. They day they're 100% fully compatible with Office is the day I'll start using them.

I hope you will find this list of apps useful to your everyday computing.

How to send & receive POP3 emails from Gmail

How would you like to access all your personal or company POP3 email right inside your Gmail account? Well you can. Gmail has been providing this feature for some time now and you can consolidate all your different POP3 accounts inside Gmail. Plus it's very easy to set up too. All you need to do is follow the following 27 steps carefully.

Okay, just kidding. It's actually just 7 easy steps. All you need is to enter is your POP3 username and password. First step login to Gmail and click on Mail settings on the top right corner.

Go to Accounts and Import > Check mail using POP3 > Add POP3 mail account you own. Enter your POP3 email address.

Usually Gmail will automatically detect your POP3 setting and fill in your POP server and port setting. In case it doesn't, ask your network administrator for the POP3 server and port setting. They are usually with the port number 110. Key in your POP3 email password. By now you can already receive external POP3 emails using Gmail.

This next step allows you to send email using your external POP3 account using Gmail.

Enter a name to identify yourself.

You have the option to let Gmail handle all your outgoing email or you can enter your own SMTP server setting yourself. Obviously the first option is much easier and more reliable because Gmail rarely (if ever) experience any down time. If you insist of sending emails through your own SMTP server, ask your network administrator for the right server name and SMTP port (usually 587 or 25).

Next Gmail is going to verify that you really own that POP3 email address. Click Send Verification.

Check your POP3 email for the verification code and link. Just clicking the link will finish the verification process.

That's it! You can now send and receive email form any of your POP3 accounts using Gmail. It's very handy when you have multiple POP3 accounts or you would like to consolidate all your email accounts inside Gmail. Other than your personal POP3 account, you can also access Hotmail using this method. Yahoo however doesn't allow this because they suck and nobody uses them anymore these days. In fact you have to upgrade to Yahoo Mail Premium to be able to use their POP3 service.

Good luck Jim.

Backup your online services with Backupify

Backupify is a new service that offers archiving, search and restore service for the most popular online services including Google Apps, Facebook, Twitter and more. Although it is unlikely that an established online service will lose your data but once in a while unfortunate things like that do happen. If not that, you may lose your data due to hacker intrusion, viruses or simply user errors such as forgotten password or accidental account deletion.

All online services that are backed up through Backupify are stored on the Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) which provide excellent security and good data duplication policies. Currently Backupify supports many popular online services such as Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Flicker, Blogger, Zoho, Picasa and several others. The free account allows you to backup up to 3 services and 1GB of online space while the paid subscription offers 5 to unlimited online services backup.

After using Backupify for a month, I'm happy to report that this backup service works exactly as advertised. My emails from my Gmail account were restored successfully, my old tweets were exported to a PDF file and my Facebook status and data were duly exported to a json (javascript object notation) format. Restoration service works differently for different services. For example my emails are restored back into Gmail but my Flickr pictures are returned back to my Flickr photostream. Apart from that, you can also opt to download your online backup to your local hard drive for further safekeeping.

For a free service, Backupify can prove to be priceless when you consider how valuable your emails or social networking data could be. Backup are done automatically and once you have configured the initial setup, the only time you have to bother about Backupify is when something goes wrong with your online services. Sign up for Backupify for free at their website.

Spilt & merge PDF files with PDFsam

Have you ever like wanted to merge a few PDF files into one? Or split multiple-page PDF file into separate pages? You can either use the ridiculously expensive (and unecessary) Acrobat® software or you can use the free & open source friendly neighborhood super hero app PDFsam!

Free PDF editing apps are a dime a dozen out there, just try Google. But PDFsam sets itself apart from the competitors by being free, open-source, light and most importantly free of crapware/shareware. PDFsam allows you to rotate, split, reorder and yeah, merge individual PDF files easily within a single application. The result comes out exactly as you wanted without any of those silly watermarks of any kind.

Seriously, if there is such thing as super heroes for PDF files editing, PDFsam would be my hero. Download the latest version from the official website or simply get my personal copy here which already include Java™ Runtime environment required for the app.

Keep track of your phone & laptop with Prey

Have you ever had the unfortunate experience of getting your precious phone or laptop stolen, ever? Once that happen you can only weep in silence and pray that somehow you will see your missing device again or you can attempt to locate them using Prey!

Prey is an open-source and lightweight anti-theft solution that installs a tiny agent in your PC or phone, which silently waits for a remote signal to wake up and work its magic. This signal is sent either from the Internet or through an SMS message, allowing you to gather information regarding the device's location, hardware and network status. Additionally you can instruct the program to trigger specific actions like taking a snapshot using the device's camera, connect it to the Internet or lock your device remotely.

Prey currently supports Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices. The free account let's you track up to 3 devices and send 10 reports daily. After using it for a couple of months, I found this program actually works! It successfully tracked down my phone's exact geo-location and also managed to capture a snapshot using my laptop's webcam (not that they're really missing).

So avoid that hopeless and tragic feeling whenever you lost your important gadgets. Install Prey now in case something bad happen. Once your precious computer/phone ever gets stolen you can assist the police to locate the missing device and even help to nab the culprit. If your local police is useless in this kind of scenarios, you can always ask for help from your preferred local gangster/along/Pekida branch members. Just to be safe, put a BIOS password for your computer or pray the thief is not smart enough as to reset your phone.

Register & download Prey for free on their website.

Dell Inspiron Zino HD

My old IBM-compatible clone PC had gone bonkers last month so it's about time I go shopping for a new computer again. It's not often really that I go shopping around for computers. Apart from the fact that they are expensive, I usually salvage computer parts thrown away by my clients or their companies and build my own PC from scratch.

This time around however, I can actually afford to buy a new one (hey!). I only got 2 models in mind, the cool Mac Mini or this square box from Dell. Since the Mac Mini is still rather expensive to me at RM1,899, I had to settle for the Inspiron Zino HD instead which costs half of the cheapest Mac out there.

Compared to the Mac Mini, the Zino is quite thick, dimension-wise. The 8 by 8 inch compact PC can easily fit 2 regular CD-ROM drives stacked together. Plus, the DVD-drive is still tray loading instead of a slot loading.

Specifications: the Zino is powered by a decent AMD Athlon II P360 Dual-core processor which is comparable to a standard Core 2 Duo Intel processor. RAM is only 2GB DDR3 while the hard drive is standard 320GB 7200RPM SATA. Altogether it has 4 USB 2.0 ports, 2 up front and 2 at the back. It also comes with 2 eSATA ports which I find totally unnecessary because whoever uses eSATA anymore today? Other than that, the remaining ports are pretty standard like VGA, Ethernet and 4 in 1 card reader. The HDMI port however makes the Zino an ideal HTPC you know, to watch and stream movies to your living room TV. Just add Boxee or XBMC and you're good to go.

The top case is easily opened with one click and after unscrewing a couple of screws, you can effortlessly change the hard drive or RAM by yourself. The default operating system is Windows 7 Home Basic 64 bit which has some of the standard features in Windows 7 (like Aero & remote desktop) stripped off. But for home use, I think it's still acceptable. Of course I'm sure you geeks out there can change that in an hour. While your at it, maybe you can turn it into a Hackintosh as well although I heard the network or sound won't work with this one.

Here's a tip: order a different color for your Zino lid and you'll get the default black top for free! To purchase the Zino, you can only do it online at Dell's official website. As far as I know, you can't get this one from any regular brick and mortar shop, including Low Yat Plaza or the sole Dell store at Mid Valley. Maybe that's how they keep the price down - direct selling. Anyhow, the Zino starts from only RM999 up to RM2,100 depending on specs and accessories. If you buy this computer now, they'll throw in a free keyboard and mouse as well (how thoughtful). And no, they don't provide a monitor with this PC. Have to get your own.

Some of the main reasons I bought this particular model from Dell is the price, size and power consumption. I use the computer mainly in our master bedroom back home so since the Zino is so small, I can easily hide it on top of my drawer and the machine only uses 75 watts of power which is quite energy efficient. The Zino is also very quiet too and performance-wise, I think it's comparable to any standard entry-level PCs out there. To get yourself one, head on to Dell's website. Shipping time is about 4 days after confirmed order.

Save web pages for reading later with Instapaper

We discover good content everyday whether through websites, on Twitter or on our RSS feeds. Sometimes these content are to long to read on the spot but you simply must read them because they're that good.

That's where Instapaper comes in. This little bookmarking tool allows you to save or bookmark any web content that you find interesting for reading later, whether using your regular web browser, smartphone, tablet or e-book reader like Kindle. After registering at Instapaper, just drag the Read Later shortcut to your browser's bookmark bar and whenever you find something interesting to read later just press Read Later. The link to that website will be saved in your Instapaper account.

Another cool feature of Instapaper is the Text only mode where it transforms your saved links into a beautifully reformatted versions that strip out ads and other distractions.

Many popular apps and devices supports saving to Instapaper such as Google Reader, Twitter or you can even email the link to an article to your private Instapaper email address.

After you're done reading the link, you can either delete it or archive them in folders for safekeeping. Of course there are similar tools for reading later like Read It Later or Delicious but only Instapaper does it beautifully and right. That's why Instapaper deservingly made it to Time's 50 Best Websites of 2011. Get your free Instapaper account now.

My Supplement

Dieting & weight loss is a huge industry. People spent billions every year on weight loss products, diet food and exercise machines to get that ideal weight. For me personally, I don't believe in supplements and expensive exercise machines. I like to do it the natural and least expensive way. Yes supplements might work for some people, even if the product is totally BS, at least the placebo effect will make them think that they have lost weight. At least for a while. Me, I have never taken any forms of so-called diet food or supplements. I watch what I eat. I eat small portions of food, avoid snacks and junk/fatty food and exercise regularly, every day whenever possible. People nowadays have it easy. They eat too much and didn't do anything remotely physical let alone exercise. They drive everywhere, park in front of the door step and take elevators. And you wonder so many people become obese every year. I don't want to become part of the statistic.

That's why every morning, I will get up at 6:15 am and jog for 2 miles around my neighbourhood. At least I try my best to when it doesn't rain or my alarm clock doesn't fail me. It's tough to wake up that early, especially for working people. But tough is just another excuse. Excuse is just a state of mind. Excuses are for weak people. You want to change how you look then do something about it. Don't let anything get in your way. Eat healthy food, exercise and a huge dose of will power are everything you need to succeed in your weight loss program. Forget about those expensive supplements or diet food or exercise machines. Most of them won't last for long if you don't have the willpower to change.

So here are my supplements. One small Sony Walkman and a pair of cheap Power running shoes which has been abused mercilessly every day and not very sightly to post here. My wife bought that running shoes for 170 ringgit for my birthday 2 years ago. Of course if you can afford Nike or Adidas then by all means buy it. I bought the 1GB Walkman for about 150 ringgit 3 years ago and it had gone through the washing machine once, dried up in the sun for a month and yet survived to this very day. I have also replaced the broken earphone twice, with the latest being this awesome one from Senheiser. In addition to that I also like to listen to great music while I run. Music that makes you want to rock your head back and forth, jiggle your body or run a little bit faster. It may be pop, hip-hop or rock & roll, evergreen, doesn't matter. As long as it sounds great to you. If you like you can download all the music that is currently in my Walkman right now below.

So altogether I spent about 280 ringgit for the Walkman and replacement earphones over 3 years to lose 20 kilos. Not so bad I think. The rest is about stopping yourself from indulging in the good things in life like fast food and that second helping during dinner. And don't eat rice. The fastest way to look slimmer is by avoiding rice, trust me. You can see the difference in a month. Yes your friends or family might not be very helpful seeing you eat so little during lunch or dinner, just ignore them. If they love you they will understand and support you. In the end if you succeed, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Success, it's a state of mind.

Afif's awesome running playlist

Ahmad Dhani & The Rock - Munajat cinta 
Garbage - Push it
Jay Z - Dirt off your shoulder 
Selena Gomez - Who says 
The Script - The man who can't be moved

For Sale: HTC Wildfire Android [Sold]

Dear friends. Today we have one very fine HTC Wildfire Android smartphone for sale. This phone is only 2 months old and is currently owned by yours truly, me. As with any of my gadgets, I take a really good care of this phone. Never dropped it or let Adam or Mia plays with it. This phone comes with a screen protector film, 2GB SD card, charger, sync cable, handsfree kit and a free unused pouch.

The HTC Wildfire is a decent entry level Android smartphone. It's installed with the latest Android 2.2 software with HTC Sense from HTC. Yes Android 2.3 is the latest but you'll have to root the phone to get that one which I haven't done to this phone yet. Other specs include 3.2" capacitive touchscreen, 5 Megapixel autofocus camera and weighs only 118 grams. Hardly noticeable in your pocket.

What I like most about this phone is the complete Google Accounts integration. You can send emails with attachments straight from the Gmail app and it will sync all your Gmail contacts with the phone's contact. The camera is pretty awesome too, well, certainly a lot better than my old 3 Megapixel iPhone 3GS camera. The reason I'm selling this one is simply because I'm moving on with a bigger, better phone. This phone is selling for only RM550.00 which is far below the RM700.00 market price for a new phone. If you are interested, feel free to contact me via email, Facebook or Twitter or call me direct at +6 019 2245907. Delivery is by post or cash on delivery.

Phone has just been sold. Thank you.