Monday, September 27, 2010

Free multi-touch screen games and fun applications for Windows 7 by Microsoft

If you have a multi-touch monitor such as Dell SX2210T, HP L2105tm, Acer T230H, Samsung LD220Z, etc., and your computer is running on Windows 7, you can download and install Microsoft Touch Pack for Windows 7 from Microsoft Download Center for free.

Microsoft Touch Pack for Windows 7 includes 6 applications designed to operate with multi-touch screen. After installation, you'll get:

Microsoft Blackboard, which is an intricate game of physics for you to solve puzzles by creating a fanciful machine on a "blackboard".

Microsoft Garden Pond, which is a game that takes place in a Japanese water gardens. Use your hand to create water ripples in the pond on your screen to guide the origami or to put off fire, without actually wetting your hand.

Microsoft Rebound, which is a game in which you use your fingertips to move Tesla balls with an electrical field between them to try and catapult a metal game ball into your opponent's goal.

Microsoft Surface Globe, which is a program that you can use to explore the earth as a flat 2D map or as an immersive 3D experience, similar to Google Earth.

Microsoft Surface Collage, which is a program that you can use to explore and interact with your photos and arrange them as a desktop background, similar to the one in Dell Touch Zone.

Microsoft Surface Lagoon, which is an interactive 3D screensaver that simulation an underwater world with fishes. You can play around with the water and fishes, without actually wetting your hand.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My Dell SX2210T 21.5" full HD widescreen multi-touch all-in-one active-matrix LCD monitor

Dell is among the pioneer to come out with LCD monitor with multi-touch screen feature. I bought my Dell SX2210T monitor from Dell Online during the previous PC Fair in August 2010, at a discounted price of RM1,099 with 3 years Advanced Exchange warranty.

Unlike those all-in-one PCs (such as Dell Studio One) which also include a multi-touch screen but has limited choice of hardware specification, this Dell SX2210T monitor can plug into any computer of your own specification that runs on Windows 7. It can be used by a game box too.

Currently the multi-touch feature requires Windows 7 Home Premium or above, and I heard that Ubuntu Linux 10.10, to be released soon in October, will support for such feature as well.

The main feature that differentiate this monitor with ordinary LCD monitors is its multi-touch screen. Beside complimenting the mouse actions with your finger to point and tap on the screen, you can have similar experience as using iPhone or iPad by using your finger to scroll, flip, drag, etc. You can also perform actions such as enlarge, reduce, rotate, etc. with more than one finger on the screen.

You can even do more with your finger with Flicks, like copy, paste, undo, delete, save, print, toggle certain key on the keyboard, etc.

Beside that, you can type using the on-screen keyboard. Further more, you can even write and draw on your screen, best assisted with a stylus.

However, you can only handwrite in one language, which is the current language setting of your Windows 7 (can be English, Chinese, Japanese, ...), unless you use Windows 7 Ultimate which supports full multilingual capability, then you can even handwrite Chinese in English Windows as well.

This is a 21.5" full HD 16:9 widescreen active matrix TFT LCD monitor with CCFL edgelight system, supporting high definition resolution of 1920 x 1080 in 32-bit (16.7 million) true colours. It can produce crystal clear display (output from the ATI Radeon HD5770 video card in my PC) with a pixel pitch as small as 0.248 mm.

Although its view angle is only 160 degree, the display is still fully viewable beyond that. You will only experience lost in colour when viewing the screen beyond 160 degree.

Its luminous output is 220 CD/m², pretty bright. It has a typical contrast ratio of 1000:1 (not so exciting) and a dynamic contrast ratio of up to 50,000:1. Its white is really white, and its black makes no different as when it is switched off. It has a very fast grey-to-grey response time of 2 ms only.

It supports 3 kinds of video input: DVI, HDMI and VGA. It comes with a DVI cable and also a VGA cable. HDMI cable is not provided. Normally, we just need to use DVI to connect to the video card in the PC.

Its touch screen is using optical sensor with resolution of 1073 Mpixel. Typical response time is 15 ms, which is pretty fast in picking up. The beauty of optical touch technology is: no pressure is required. You don't even need to physically touch on the screen, just point close to the screen and it will pick up the action.

I call it an "all-in-one" monitor because beside monitor and touch screen function, it also comes together with:
  • 1 built-in webcam with 2 mega pixel sensor, able to capture video up to 1600 x 1200 (UXGA)
  • 2 integrated microphones (located at left and right of the webcam)
  • Audio line-in and line-out ports
  • Optionally can attach with a soundbar
  • 3 USB 2.0 downstream connectors (it acts as a USB hub)
It uses a USB cable (come together in the package) to connect to the PC, to power up all the three USB downstream connectors, as well as sending signals from touch input, webcam and microphones to the PC.

There is also a piece of black cloth comes together with the monitor, for you to wipe off your fingerprints on the touch screen.

This Dell SX2210T monitor is pretty unique from others, that it is running on DC current, and has an external power adapter similar to those commonly used by laptops. Its normal power consumption is only 28W, up to 42W when all USB ports are active as well.

In the CD that comes together with the monitor are:
  • Driver for the monitor
  • Touch screen tools (required for the multi-touch screen to function)
  • Dell TouchCam (for webcam video capturing)
  • FastAccess facial recognition (enables your face to be identified  by the webcam and recognized by the system using biometric technology)
  • Some documentations

This Dell SX2210T monitor is plug and play. To replace the generic plug and play monitor driver with the one in the CD, you need to right click on your Windows 7 desktop, select Screen Resolution, then click on Advanced Settings, click the Monitor tab, click the Properties button. Then, click the Driver tab, click the Update Driver... button, select "Browse my computer for driver software" and look for the monitor driver in the CD to install it.

The 2 mega pixel webcam is good enough for normal usage. When it is operating, its white LED light will be switched on to alert you.

FastAccess is a pretty cool biometric application. You can use it to login Windows with your face, with or without password. You can use it to make sure you are in front of the PC, and lock the PC with password when you are away.

The log function of FaceAccess is quite interesting. With the webcam, it can take picture of the persons attempting to login to your Windows, be the login successful or not successful.

If you are also using this monitor, I strongly recommend you to download the Dell Touch Zone application here.

Dell Touch Zone demonstrates what you can do with your multi-touch screen, including playing drums, piano and other musical instruments on the screen with your hand, getting fun with pictures you've taken and stored in the computer, etc.

Click here to find out more about Dell SX2210T multi-touch all-in-one widescreen monitor.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Resizing harddisk partition in Windows Vista or Windows 7

If we want to resize a harddisk partition in Windows XP, we have to make use of 3rd party software such as GPartEd. In Windows Vista and Windows 7, there is built-in utility for us to resize the harddisk partition.

We seldom need to resize the harddisk partition, but most new computer pre-installed with the OEM OS is partitioned as one big partition only, although the harddisk can be of terrabytes of capacity.

One practical usage of this is to split the big C: drive into two. This will make possible system backup and system imaging of C: to D: drive in another partition.

You might also want to perform partition resizing when one of your harddisk partition is almost full, while there are space in other partition to squeeze out. In this case, shrink the partition with excess storage, and extend the partition which is almost full.

Here is how to do it in Windows 7.

Open the Start Menu, right click on Computer and select Manage. Then, expand Storage on the left panel, and click on Disk Management.

Right click on the partition you want to resize.

You will be given options to extend, shrink or delete the selected partition (a.k.a. volume). Of course, you can't extend a partition if there is no empty partition space next to it, and you can't delete a primary partition with extended partition(s) unless you deleted all the extended partitions first. Beware that deleting a partition will cause total data lost in that partition.

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