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This Week’s Top Downloads [Download Roundup]

05/16/09 5:00 pm

Nimi Adds Visual Effects and Eye Candy to Windows [Downloads]

Windows only: If you’ve waited out Vista and you’re in no hurry to jump into testing Windows 7, Nimi is a fun little program for adding swanky visual effects to Windows XP.

Borrowing heavily from the special effects found in the Mac OS X system and the Compiz effects in Linux, Nimi has a lot to add to your desktop. You can implement shadows and transparency, tweak windows to snap to screen edges or maximize when tapped against them. Application windows can also be tweaked with Jello-like wiggles, bouncing, or other real world motions. There are dozens of tweaks included in the program; conveniently, when you select one that will interfere with another, the secondary option is grayed out to prevent conflicts. Nimi ran without hangups or any lag on our test machine, but make sure to turn off the settings you’ve activated before shutting down Nimi. That’s because closing the application without doing so leaves some of the effects hanging around. Nimi is freeware, Windows only.

Nimi [via Download Squad]

05/16/09 4:00 pm

Store Fruits and Vegetables Properly to Minimize Waste [Kitchen]

If you’ve ever bought fruits and vegetables on a healthy whim, only to end up pitching them because they ended up looking quite busted in your fridge, this informative list is for you.

Whether you’re just picking up a few extra veggies at the market or you’ve got your hands full of some seasonal produce thanks to your community supported agriculture group, this list from F

arm Fresh to You will ensure your food stays fresh until meal time. The list details what kind of container or bag foods should be kept in, special notes on storage, like preferred areas of the fridge for different food types, and some great tips on simple ways to prepare the fruits and vegetables on the rather extensive list. If you have any tips of your own for storing fruits and vegetables share the culinary wealthy in the comments below.

Farm Fresh To You: Storage and Use Tips [via Re-Nest]

05/16/09 3:00 pm

Repper Turns Your Photos into Abstract Patterns [Images]

Repper is a fun and easy-to-use web site that turns photographs into abstract patterns, suitable for tiled-style wallpaper on your computer or web site.

Repper uses a kaleidoscope-style mirror effect to take small portions of your picture and generate patterns from them. You can move the box around and also adjust the width and height of it to vary the effect. Repper also has a catalog of photos for you to tinker with, but you’ll probably want to upload your own for some abstract art. Photos must be in JPEG format and less than 500k in size. Check out the video below to see Repper in action:

As you can see from the end of the video, Repper hosts the image for you. You can share a link to the image, copy the CSS code to use on your site, or download the image itself. One thing to keep in mind when downloading the image is that, just like the tiling backgrounds of yesteryear, the image will be a fraction of the sample you see when creating your pattern. If you want to use it for a background, you’ll need to set your background to tile or manually impose it yourself in your favorite image editing application.

Repper [via MakeUseOf]

05/16/09 2:00 pm

EeeRotate Orients Your Laptop Screen for Easy Reading [Downloads]

Windows only: With the proliferation of lightweight and wide-screen notebooks, it was only a matter of time before someone realized that they make decent e-book readers when they’re sideways. EeeRotate makes swapping orientation easy.

Photo by TeleRead.

Once installed, the tiny application rotates your screen and trackpad input using keyboard shortcuts. CTRL+ALT+RIGHT rotates your screen and touchpad input 90 degrees clockwise, CTRL+ALT+UP returns it to normal. Interestingly, in our tests EeeRotate would rotate the touchpad input, but not the input from the USB mouse plugged into the laptop. The navigation wasn’t difficult using either one of them, and you’d likely not have an external mouse plugged in if you were using it as an e-book reader, but it’s worth noting. Next time you find yourself reading lengthy documents on your wide screen laptop or netbook, EeeRotate can help you take advantage of your expansive screen space. EeeRotate is freeware, Windows only.

EeeRotate [via TeleRead]

05/16/09 1:00 pm

First Look at Wolfram Alpha’s Impressive (and Fun) Knowledge Computation [Webapps]

How many football fields would fit between the Earth and the sun? What’s the likelihood of getting 2 heads in 10 coin flips? One search engine calculates all that on the fly and more.

Mathematician Stephen Wolfram’s much-hyped "computational knowledge engine" Wolfram Alpha just went public, and it’s got more than a few data nerds tickled absolutely pink (myself included). Walpha (as I affectionately call it) finds and visualizes real-world data points from natural language queries.

I’ve just spent the last couple of hours throwing every kind of data query I could think of at Walpha. Some of the results were incredibly useful, others baffling, and others just missing. Here are some of the fun facts I learned using Walpha’s calculations.

Walpha even makes CAPTCHAs and offers web site statistics given a URL.

Still, Walpha’s very, well, alpha, and at times tonight it buckled under the load of the launch rush–but not without a sense of humor. Here’s Walpha’s error page:

Also, Walpha balked on several questions I was sure it could handle, like what the weather in New York was the day my parents got married, and what kind of MPG the Prius gets. Don’t even try things like chicken or the egg or if a tree falls in the woods…

Still, while Walpha’s everyday uses for Joe Normal Web Searcher won’t be obvious, this thing is a goldmine for researchers, students, journalists, and bloggers. If this is the alpha, I can’t wait for the beta.

Fun with Knowledge Computation at Wolfram|Alpha [Smarterware]

Smarterware is Lifehacker editor emeritus Gina Trapani’s new home away from ‘hacker. To get all of the latest from Smarterware, be sure to subscribe to the Smarterware RSS feed. For more, check out Gina’s weekly Smarterware feature here on Lifehacker.

05/16/09 12:00 pm

Water Effectively by Calibrating Your Sprinklers [Household]

Watering your lawn doesn’t have to involve guessing at the amounts or hoping you’ve watered long enough. Calibrate your sprinklers to water your lawn more efficiently and cut down on waste.

Photo by zone41.

If you put together a DIY automated watering system last summer based on our guide, you’re already well on your way to a green and healthy lawn. Whether you’ve got an in-ground automated system, our DIY version, or you drag the old sprinkler around the yard, measuring the amount of water your sprinklers put out can make sure you’re watering effectively. Watering too lightly can stress the grass and cause more damage than not watering at all. Watering too heavily, on the other hand, is a waste of water and encourages fungal growth in the soil.

How-to site wikiHow put together a plain English guide to calibrating your watering schedule. All you’ll need to do is figure out yourself is the output of your sprinklers and the type of soil you have. To measure your water output, grab some some small shallow containers, like empty tuna cans, and carve out around a half hour’s time. After placing the cans around your yard, you simply run the sprinklers for fifteen minutes and use the amount of water in each can to determine if your lawn is getting a proper soaking. Check out the full guide for much more detail, especially the section on matching your watering routine with the type of grass and soil you have.

Calibrate Your Sprinklers [wikiHow]

05/16/09 11:00 am