AstraWare’s GTS Racing is considered a classic PalmOS game, as people who want a car racer still flock to this 2004ish title in hordes. Its developer Pazzazz Games now delivered an update called GTS World Racing and put it on a TamsPalm device for review – will it stay on top?

As usual, the game supports a variety of race modes – some of them can take up to an hour to finish:
0 GTS World Racing   the review

Three car types are available – unfortunately, the cars specifications are static and can’t be changed as races proceed(no upgrading here):
1a GTS World Racing   the review 1b GTS World Racing   the review 1c GTS World Racing   the review

The tracks are set up in sixteen locations all across the world. Each difficulty level modifies the track layout(and, amusingly, changes the ambiance) – the shots below show a few track samples:
2a GTS World Racing   the review 2b GTS World Racing   the review 2c GTS World Racing   the review

AstraWare populated the tracks with a few occasional trees, tunnels…and that’s it. For a 2007 game, the tracks appear literally dead most of the time…
3a GTS World Racing   the review 3b GTS World Racing   the review

Finally, it’s possible to get the car thoroughly stuck into the terrain – if that happens, the game must be restarted:
4a GTS World Racing   the review

After starting to play GTS:WR on my Treo, I was shocked to find myself unable to control the car. The steering reacted incredibly slowly – luckily, this can be fixed by increasing the sensitivity in the prefs. People wanting to use mechanical transmission are out of luck: even though the game seems to support this, you cannot assign buttons to change the gear(which leaves your car in 1st all the time). Getting out of the game on a Treo requires use of the menu – the launcher key is disabled…

The game’s sound effects are horribly annoying and essentially consist of high-pitched humming that barely resembels a car’s motor – IMHO, they are the worst ever in a handheld racing game. As for background music: sorry, no such luck either.

GTS World Racing is a decent game that – unfortunately – has been left behind by the evolution of racing games on other platforms. The tracks are plentiful, but the game’s action is sterile compared to other racers(things like nitros, car upgrades, cops, damage models… apparently don’t exist in Pazzaz Village). AstraWare usually manages to get at least the controls right: unfortunately, GTS World Racing is the exception to the rule. Cutting a long story short: fingers off until a significant update is released…

P.S. In case anyone of you is looking for a REAL racing game and happens to own a S60 phone: give Steve Townsend’s racer a pop. Its one of the best games on the market IMHO….

Use the discount code CHEAPGATEWAY to get 20% off Softick Audio Gateway in the TamsShop!

For ages, Palm devices have been plagued by breaking headphone jacks. As I always had issues with headphone cords, Jaybird’s AD2P device seemed like a perfect fit. Unfortunately, Palm OS devices do not support AD2P – can Softick Audio Gateway even up the odds?

The program’s main screen is clear and simple. The toggle at the bottom let’s you choose where the audio goes to. Click one of the icons to launch the corresponding media app. The list at the top allows you to pick your headset:
0a Softick Audio Gateway   the review

A variety of quality options are available to “adjust” the tradeoff between sound quality and CPU load. The settings shown below work flawlessly on my Treo 680 – no noticeable speed losses here:
1a Softick Audio Gateway   the review 1b Softick Audio Gateway   the review

Softick integrated an extra option for silencing the program while a call comes in. Extra points should be awarded to the genius who decided that the ringer should always be played via the speaker…no more missed calls here:
2a Softick Audio Gateway   the review

Generally, I am very satisfied with the performance of the product. Audio quality is excellent, and there is no more stuttering or hissing than on a wired headset. My final torture test involved connecting to a headset and a bluetooth keyboard: occasional audio pauses became audible while typing fast.

This review looked at version 1.21.2120 on a Palm Treo 680. The program needs 468KB of memory and can NOT be run from an external memory card.

In the end, Softick’s Audio Gateway fulfills its promise – my Jaybird JB200 headset works flawlessly with my Treo. Seeing that there is no other way to use an AD2P device with a Treo, the product is a must-have. The well-thought-out extra features make the purchase price of 20$ a bargain…

The folks at Opera’s have updated their Opera Mini browser once again. The latest update is said to bring the improvements shown below:

The Opera Mini 4 servers have been upgraded with quite a few improvements. To begin with the servers should now be nicer to phones that are low on available memory. but what we are are especially pleased with the new feed system and hope you will like it too:
* Improved feed (RSS/Atom) viewer to support for bidirectional text and layout. Oh, and it’s faster.
* Fixed bug with select items being wrongly positioned.
* Fixed problem with images in object tags not being rendered correctly.
* Made sure image maps gets rescaled to fit the screen width.
* Fixed problem with page being zoomed in when going to page which is in history.
* Fixed problem with some phones with little memory getting too many images.
* The server now prioritizes sending images at the top of the document if the phone’s too low on memory to display them all.

And for those of you using the 4.1 beta client:
* Downloading of files which require authentication now works (gmail etc).
* Redesigned the file download page.

Please let us know if you feel any changes on your Treo!

A Palm insider has given us access to information that definitely and finally confirms the existance of two Palm devices currently codenamed Zeppelin and Skywriter.

The document that we are looking at covers a developer program that allows Palm’s favorite developers to make their applications ready for the two new devices AND maybe even comarket them with Palm. All applications must be submitted by May the 30th – this could point at a launch of the device(s) in Q3 2008.

Last but not least, a mock-up of the devices has been included and can be viewed at our sister site TamsPPC along with a copy of the original text!

Use the discount code CHEAPYPUS to get 20% off the product in the TamsShop! This discount code is also valid for the PPC and WMS versions of the game!
AstraWare’s side-scroller Zap2000 remains one of the most popular Palm OS action games ever – it was bundled with some versions of the Treo 600 and is included into the ROM of a lot of GSPDA phones. The title’s age has provoked a few new launches including the excellent – now, AstraWare tries to reclaim the crown..

The game is organized into levels; each of these contains a few areas:
0a Platypus   the review 0b Platypus   the review

Each area contains primary and secondary targets – while secondary targets can usually be taken apart with a single shot, primary targets can take quite a beating(and have cool damage textures):
1a Platypus   the review 1b Platypus   the review

There is a huge variety of primary and secondary targets – players will definitely not get bored with this game:
2a Platypus   the review 2b Platypus   the review

At the end of each area, a ‘tally’ is made and bonus points are awarded:
03a Platypus   the review

Platypus’s power-up system unfortunately isn’t based on money – instead, special waves of enemies drop colored stars that provide approximately 30secs worth of one of four advanced weapons. Unfortunately, the timer starts to tick immediately after the object is picked up and keeps running even when you shoot – not exactly amusing for a shooter pro:
3a Platypus   the review 3b Platypus   the review 3c Platypus   the review

Some bonuses can be shot. Weapon stars sometimes change their color under fire; bonus fruits break up to provide more points(but are more difficult to catch):
4a Platypus   the review

The graphics are comic-like, but provide an amazing amount of details in some scenarios. Volcanoes in the background erupt, ships fly along…someone spent a lot of time tinkering with this:
5a Platypus   the review

This review looked at version of Platypus on a Treo 680. The game was exceptionally stable in the reviewing period, although the Treo powered off a few times while the game was running. Platypus needs 4MB of RAM, but can be run off an external memory card.

In the end, Platypus definitely isn’t an epochal work that changes the face of the shooter genre forever. However, it nevertheless is an excellent game that will surely make all shooter freaks very happy. Some tactical subtleties like bonuses that transform when shot add tactical depth – as for the comic graphics…these are a love-or-hate thing. If you love sidescrollers, definitely get this 20$ game in the TamsShop!

As some of you may know, mobile game producer PDAMill stopped developing and supporting their Palm OS games early last year and took them off the market. Recently though, they posted this on their website:

Several years ago, we developed many of our great titles for the Palm OS platform. However, in February of 2007 the decision to stop development for the Palm platform was made and our products were then discontinued.

Until now, all of these titles were only available to customers who had purchased the games in the past. Due to an incredibly high demand, we have now released all of our past Palm titles for FREE!

Catch the details and download the games for Free here on PDAMills website.

Thanks to Magellan at Brighthand for the tip.

There are a lot of keyguard replacements for Treo and Centro devices. But what when you want to keep the default keyguard an you just need some more information displayed? Then TopGuardEx or TopSignalOnKeyguard by RNS:: might be the solution!
Both applications enhance the default Treo/Centro keyguard with several information. Using the programs ist very simple.
TopSignalOnKeyguard adds the signal status symbol to the keyguard.

rns0004 150x150 Improve your Treo/Centro keyguard!

Installing and configuring is very easy. Just install it via Hotsync etc and run it. It will install itself in the system – enhancing your keyguard from now on.
rns0002 150x150 Improve your Treo/Centro keyguard!

If you want, TopSignalOnKeyguard can hide itself from the PalmOS launcher.

rns0003 150x150 Improve your Treo/Centro keyguard!

That was it – no other steps are required here.
If you want more information than just the signal status then you need TopGuardEx.
TopGuardEx adds additional items such as Bluetooth state, battery level or a clock.
After installing the software you will find it in the preferences panel. In the settings window you can customize your keyguard.

rns0000 150x150 Improve your Treo/Centro keyguard!

Here you can decide what to show. Bluetooth state, phone signal and battery level can be shown at the same time while the clock can only be displayed alone. Clock + Battery e.g. doesn’t work.
So your keyguard can look like this:

rns0001 150x150 Improve your Treo/Centro keyguard!

Or like this:

rns 150x150 Improve your Treo/Centro keyguard!

In that way you can see the most important information just on power-on. There is no need to switch to the launcher in order to check your system status which is very annoying when you are working in another app. Just switch on your Treo/Centro and voilà – there it is.

If you want to have a look on your own at these applications, just visit the developer’s homepage and get the trial!
The full version costs $4.95 (TopSignalOnKeyboard) and $9.95 (TopGuardEx). You can get it via e.g. Mobihand.

TopSignalOnKeyboard at MobiHand (Download Demo and purchase)
TopGuardEx on ranosoft.net (Download Demo and purchase via serveral vendors)

Action-loaded 3d tank combat in the pocket of your hand…sounds like a perfect time waster if done right. RESETgame’s Tank Ace 1944 plans to be exactly this – can it stack up?

The game contains three different campaigns, containing a bunch of missions each:
0a Tank Ace 1944   the review

All missions begin in a terrain map similar to Command&Conquer’s – the map displays the squares currently under combat. A quick tap begins your mission:
1a Tank Ace 1944   the review

The tank can either be controlled with the 5way or via softkeys on the screen:
control Tank Ace 1944   the review

Terrains can be viewed from the top and in a 3d perspective; enemy tanks are rendered in impressive 3d:
2a Tank Ace 1944   the review 2b Tank Ace 1944   the review 2c Tank Ace 1944   the review

Once you actually start driving around, the engine starts to ‘redraw’ the terrain whenever you leave a ’tile’. Since each redraw changes the view angle(and field of visibility), not loosing control is almost impossible. The 1-2sec lags don’t really help the game either:
3a Tank Ace 1944   the review

Even though the developer took an insane effort attempting to create realistic graphics and varying terrain types, the gameplay is lackluster. Most of the time is spent looking for tanks – fighting them is rare:
4a Tank Ace 1944   the review

This review looked at version 1.0 of the game on a Treo 680. Tank Ace needs approx. 750KB of memory and was stable in the testing period.

In the end, Tank Ace delivers its promise of 3d graphics – but at a high price. Finding enemy tanks is extremely hard(radar, anyone). The permanent ‘engine redraws’ happen at the worst possible moments(e.g. in a battle) – furtherly draining the already boring gameplay of fun. The company definitely tried hard – but Tank Ace is one of these games that should be avoided by all non-freaks…

intro Resco Photo Viewer updated
Jan Slodicka from Resco’s has just informed me that his excellent Photo Viewer has seen an update!

Version 3 of the program improves the product’s fax support, makes cropping easier and is significantly faster when handling large folders. Owners of Treos with a green “call” key also get a new feature – they can now use this key in order to open the context menu.

People who have purchased the program in last year can get a new unlock key for free by following the procedures outlined on this web page. All other Resco Viewer owners must pay 50% of the regular price – more information on this option is to be found here.

Opera has recently begun porting its desktop browser to various mobile devices(S60 review here, PocketPC reviews here and here) – the Palm OS was ignored so far(for various non-technical reasons not to be discussed here). However, Palm OS users that have the Palm Java VM installed on their device can use Opera Mini – can the latest beta release stack up?

As usual, a newly installed version of Opera Mini displays a page containing a quick “changelog” and the EULA – it must be accepted before the browser can be used:
0a Opera Mini 4.1 beta   a quick look at the changes 0b Opera Mini 4.1 beta   a quick look at the changes 0c Opera Mini 4.1 beta   a quick look at the changes

Entering an URL now brings up an autocompletition tool – its recommendations are helpful even when visiting unknown URL’s:
1a Opera Mini 4.1 beta   a quick look at the changes

Once an URL was visited, finding it again is really easy:
2a Opera Mini 4.1 beta   a quick look at the changes

Another new feature is the integrated “download manager” – Opera Mini can now download files without forwarding them to the native browser. This has worked decently on my Treo, however, the Java VM’s permission dialogs became more and more garbled as time went by(forcing you to navigate them blindly with the 5way nav):
3a Opera Mini 4.1 beta   a quick look at the changes 3b Opera Mini 4.1 beta   a quick look at the changes 3c Opera Mini 4.1 beta   a quick look at the changes 3d Opera Mini 4.1 beta   a quick look at the changes 3e Opera Mini 4.1 beta   a quick look at the changes 3f Opera Mini 4.1 beta   a quick look at the changes

This “review” is based on beta 4.1.10781(downloadable here), and was performed on a Palm Treo 680 in T-Mobile Austria’s GPRS/EDGE network. The program was exceptionally stable while I tortured it a bit(not a single crash or hangup) – Blazer is significantly more troublesome to use.

In the end, Opera has clearly shown its commitment towards its mobile browser – each version gets significantly better. Opera’s excellent URL autocompleting was rated excellently in our review of the S60 version; and seeing this come to the Palm OS definitely is great! Blazer haters will be relieved to hear about Opoera now handling downloads itself – while downloading has never been much of an issue for me(I use the Nokia N71 for that as its on UMTS and thus faster than my Treo 680); I can imagine quite a few of you celebrating…

iambic has attained universal brand recognition with its Agendus PIM. Now, the folks around Adriano Chiaretta decided to release yet another contact tool – ToolboxToGo is said to unify your contact’s formatting….what does it do?

Starting the app up presents the following screen – each button launches one of the subtools contained in the program:
0a ToolboxToGo   the review 0b ToolboxToGo   the review 0c ToolboxToGo   the review 0d ToolboxToGo   the review 0e ToolboxToGo   the review

For the purposes of this review, I decided to use the Contact Doctor. Click it, and a wizard-type UI leads you through the setup process:
1a0 ToolboxToGo   the review 1a ToolboxToGo   the review 1b ToolboxToGo   the review

The product then displays a list of contact fields and how they will be modified. You can pick which contacts to modify and which to leave alone:
2a ToolboxToGo   the review 2b ToolboxToGo   the review

Confirm that, and the changes get committed – nothing more to see here….

This review looked at version 1.0 of the program on a Treo 680. ToolboxToGo needs 250KB of memory and didn’t cause any issues in my tests.

In the end, ToolboxToGo is a special-interest application. If you feel that your contact database needs some formatting aid, get the application for 10$ and save yourself countless hours of work. However, people with a disciplined data entry behavior(like yours truly) will not gain much here…

Agendus Initial Screen I confess that I am not and have never been an Agendus user, so it’s all new to me. I’ve been very happy using the built-in PIMs since I started using a palm OS device over 10 years ago. Recently, I’ve become unenthusiastic with Blazer, Memos and Versamail and replaced the first two and deleted the third. So when the chance to review Agendus came along, I took it.

First a caveat. I started looking at this app and was taken aback by the plethora of features and options available. I almost decided against writing this review due to the immensity of the task.  So I have not reviewed every feature of this app.  I’ve picked some of the items I thought were significant and looked into them.

INSTALLATION:
First I needed to install the app. In most cases installing a palm application is relatively easy, just extract from a zip archive and install the appropriate prc/pdb files. In some cases there is an exe installer that does the job for you. Iambic gave Agendus a better installer. Put the agendus prc file onto your palm. The first time you run it, it is the installer that runs. When the installer finishes it erases itself. It installs 4 launchable apps: Agendus Pro, Agendus Tour, Iambic Store, and TinyChart (not an application itself but it is used by tinysheet to create the charts in some views in Agendus).

Overview:
I have to admit to being wowed when I first launched the Agendus Pro application. This application should have come as part of the Palm OS. The interface is easy to use, navigation is intuitive and the initial screen brings together everything you might want to see onto one screen. Some things I didn’t even expect to see in this PIM replacement app and was pleasantly surprised. Having the weather is handy, the quote of the day and “this day in History” are nice additions, and if you follow your own stocks, having a mini ticker there is nice (although they do take up screen space and any of the items can be deselected in the slots preferences screen). Each item is collapsible and you can configure how many items (e.g., meetings) you want displayed at a time – the default is 3. I also liked the advertised ability to plan trips and track projects, unfortunately, initially I couldn’t try either of these because each time I tried to create a new project or new trip, my device reset. Note that when I test software I restore a backup set that was created after a hard reset and some fiddling around with deleting and adding certain applications. This is a stable configuration and should not cause a reset. With a little help from Iambic, I was up and running again. It turned out that somehow the files used to store the trip and project information had become corrupted, I deleted these 2 files and they were recreated the next time I tried to create a trip and a project. (thank you to Michael from Iambic quality assurance for setting me straight).

The Agendus Tour which installs with the application is worth taking. For an Agendus newbie like myself, it was very helpful to be shown the meaning of all the various icons. As well as some features that would’ve taken me some time to discover otherwise. Here are some screenshots from the tour.

Agendus toolbarAgendus Hyperlinks

I found Page 8 to be very helpful since I didn’t know what any of the icons meant. Page 3 was informative. I find the fact that you can link to your web browser call a phone number or send an email all from this screen a great feature. Unfortunately I have a TX, so I couldn’t test the phone call link, but otherwise I really liked this ability.

Agendus TripsAgendus Directions

The ability to get driving directions worked seamlessly and came in very handy. Once you use it you won’t want to get directions any other way.  You do need to install the free Google Maps app for it to work.

As you probably already have guessed there are 14 pages of info in the tour. I found all of it helpful.

Agendus uses the databases on your device to populate it’s views. This has it’s ups and downs. When I started Agendus no sort view was selected for the contacts. Which was no big deal, but when I started the built in contacts app again the names were all jumbled up – unsorted. If I sorted them by name in the Agendus Contact view, they are correctly sorted in the built-in contacts view. On the other hand you don’t have to reenter or import any of your data.

On the down side the app is no lightweight – it takes up a couple of MBs of space. According to Memory Info when Agendus is running it takes up about 4mb of DBCache (out of a total of 13mb of usable DBCache on a TX is significant).

No matter how you slice it, Agendus has so many features, both new and from previous versions, that there is something for everyone. I personally found the free time finder extremely helpful. I needed to find four hours to meet with a colleague and so I started Agendus, tapped the title bar and chose the tools menu. I selected Free time Finder and this screen came up:

Agendus Free Time Finder initial screen

Then I tapped Advanced to get this screen (which allowed me to set some more restrictions on how I wanted the search to proceed):

Agendus Free Time Finder Advanced options

I tapped okay and set the time to 4 hours and then tapped okay again. the result was the first screen below. When I tapped the down arrow on the 18th I got the second screen below:

Agendus Free Time Finder - found time monthly viewAgendus Free Time Finder - found time down arrow

Tapping the time designated above (8:00 am – 2:00 pm) brought me to a screen to schedule the meeting.
Agendus Free Time Finder - schedule meeting view

The busier your schedule, the more useful you will find this feature.

This is definitely a program you should try out. And this is also one of those programs you need to read the manual for or you are likely to get lost, even with the tour. Agendus 12.05 is feature rich, and after my first installation problems were solved, it has run like a charm. I tend to look at my files using a file manager quite a bit, so the fact that there was no application named Agendus was slightly confusing. The actual file name of the app is ActNames.prc. Before trying you might even want to go to Agendus’ home page to read about it or to the Agendus page on this website.

Recently Astraware announced the release of a new game, Westward for both Palm OS and Windows Mobile, and it promises to bring the Wild West to your handheld device. Astraware is renown for its quality games and has many smash hits, but how would Westward stack up?

Gameplay

The gameplay is set in the old Wild West where you visit different places, talk to different people, and take part in interesting quests.

 Astraware Westward   The Review Astraware Westward   The Review

Right off the bat I could see Westward has great graphics, and since playing the game for a while, my opinion hasn’t changed. They are really top-notch, keeping with the rest of Astrawares games.

 Astraware Westward   The Review Astraware Westward   The Review

When you start a game for the first time, it guides you through an interactive tutorial. I was always a big fan of interactive tutorials, and this one is implemented perfectly. It doesn’t totally explain everything (like what all the buttons do), but it nudges you in the right direction.

 Astraware Westward   The Review Astraware Westward   The ReviewStory

Westward has a pretty good background story that is interthreaded throughout the game (but I won’t tell you what it is!) You land in your first town after the tutorial scene called “Hope River”. It is pretty easy to get established in this new town as raw resources are very abundant (Trees for Wood, Gold Veins, ect). After you get set up in this town, the game will present you with side-quests. In the beginning, these quests teach you how to do new things that you will need to know in the future (put out Fires, build Bridges, ect.). But I assure you, later in the game these side-quests become very interesting.

Soon you will leave this first town and travel to new ones. It seems that the further you get in the game the harder it is to succeed, and I really think Astraware did a great job with this aspect. It is not so hard where you put the game down in frustration, but not so easy as you walk right through it. You will find yourself saving the game at different intervals quite frequently as you progress further in Westward.

User Interaction

As with all Applications for the Palm OS, there are two ways to control Westward; Using the touchscreen or hard buttons. It seems that Astraware has really tried to have the game controlled totally with either method of input. And they’ve been pretty much successful. I prefer using the hard buttons to control games – even though there are only 4 buttons plus the 5-way navigator on my Palm TX. But with some things, I still had to pull out the stylus. For example, I could never get the hang of multi-selecting a group of people with the buttons, and I don’t think there is any way to reform a drunk with using just hard-buttons. I noticed Astraware makes no use of the other buttons, only the five-way, and I think they could be put to use to make the stylus totally unnecessary. All in all though, the interface is very nice, and once you understand what all the on-screen buttons do, it is very intuitive.

Issues

One of the things I noticed was that the game takes a very long time to load on my Palm TX. Although the seemingly endless amount of tips that are displayed during loading help to offset this, it was still a little bothersome. I’m usually the type of game player that plays for 10 minutes, then comes back to it in a little while, so this was especially noticeable.

One of my other little issues with Westward, was it is a little hard to see some of the intricate details at times. I often found myself squinting to see it in bright lighting conditions. I had no trouble with subdued lighting, but it might be something to consider and make sure is fine for you (there is a free trial available).

Conclusion

All in all I really enjoyed Westward, and this coming from a person who usually doesn’t play games on my handheld device – or anywhere else for that matter. I felt that the great gameplay, graphics, subject, and overall experience certainly outweighed the couple issues I found with it. Credit to Astraware for another quality game.

Westward retails for $20, and can be purchased at the TamsPalm Shop. A free trial is also available.

vfsusage root graphicalI was scrolling through some freeware apps and came upon this gem. Have you ever wondered what was taking up all that space on your card? This app creates a graphical representation of your card which is dynamic (in that you can tap on any section and it zooms in (give it a few seconds to redraw the screen).

You can toggle between the graphical view and a files listing that shows the size of each file and the percent of the card taken up by the file.

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vfsusage root-palm-programs listThe toggle changes from a list graphic in the graphical view to a pie graphic in the list view. When you are in the graphical view and tap a section you zoom into that section and percentages change to be of that section only (instead of a percent of the whole card), while the section percent changes to 100%.

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For example if you change from the root directory view in the first screenshot to the root->palm view to the palm->programs view and then to the palm->programs->powerrun view, the screenshots from my card look like this:

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vfsusage root graphicalvfsusage root-palm graphicalvfsusage root-palm-programs graphicalvfsusage root-palm-programs-powerrun graphical

You can also display the freespace you have on your card by going to preferences and asking it to show free space:

vfsusage with freespace graphical

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VFSUsage is a handy tool to see where the clutter is and clean up your card. It is very similar to the PC utility Sequoia, but is more versatile. You can get it from the freeware section of www.1src.com, or the direct URL is:

http://www.1src.com/freeware/fileinfo.php?id=1720

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