Thursday, December 30, 2010

How to get custom iPhone SMS ringtones

First off let me say that this guide is gleamed from many, many sites, most notably from iPhoneinCanada, and I just tweaked it a little to get it to work completely. I believe that currently (iOS 4.2.1), this might be the most advanced way to comfortably get new SMS tones into your iPhone.

Here's a few quick notes:
  1. Your iPhone has to be jailbroken.
  2. You need Winterboard; the end result will be a Winterboard theme which means you can toggle it on and off.
  3. You need some application to get files to your iPhone (SSH, iFunbox, iPhoneExplorer, etc.) I personally like iFunbox, but if you're an SSH person, go right ahead.
    *Note: I'm not positive of any application working, just because I'm not sure if STRINGS files need to be converted; every application I've used worked, specifically iFunBox because it's the easiest to use.
  4. You are still limited to 6 tones at a time. This shouldn't make a difference since you can only select one at a time, but just know that you are limited to having 6 active SMS tones on your iPhone, due to Apple. You can create as many Winterboard themes with 6 tones each, but you have to Re-spring every time you want to switch between them.
The Premise behind this little "hack" is that you can create a Winterboard theme with all your tones and the changed text in the menu. Many, many, many sites just tell you the first part and your menu still says the default names, "Tri-tone", "Glass", "Horn", "Bell"......if that's not dumb I don't know what is. So I'll be showing how to not only get the tones there, but also adjust the text.

So anyway, let's get down to it. I'm not going to talk about how to get your ringtones into the right format; the format for iPhone SMS tones is CAT files, but don't worry: it's just an AIFF with a different extension. You can convert MP3s or M4As to AIFF a number of ways, with iTunes, with a ringtone maker, or even with Audacity. You should be able to take it from here, if you don't already know how to convert to AIFF.



Let's assume you now have all 6 tones in AIFF format and you're ready to go. First, for sanity sake, write down a list of the files in the order that you want them to appear in the list.



Create a new folder for you SMS theme, I'll call mine Bry's SMS Tones. Go inside it and create another folder and name it UISounds. Now copy all 6 of your tones into that folder, and get your list ready. Starting from the beginning of your list, name the files sms-received1, sms-received2, sms-received3, sms-received4, sms-received5, and sms-received6. Hold on to that list so you can tell what is what.



Go up one level and create a new folder, and name it Folders. Then inside that, create another folder called Preferences.app. Then inside that, create yet another folder called en.lproj. Finally, inside that folder, create a text file and open it with your editor of choice.



Here's where that list comes in handy. Just follow this template, changing only the text in red:
"DEFAULT" = "This is the first tone";
"ALTERNATE_1" = "This is the second tone";
"ALTERNATE_2" = "This is the third tone";
"ALTERNATE_3" = "This is the fourth tone";
"ALTERNATE_4" = "This is the fifth tone";
"ALTERNATE_5" = "This is the sixth tone";
So with the tones I have, here's what mine looks like:



Save the file, close it, and then rename it to Sounds.strings. (I shouldn't have to say this, but make sure "View Known Filetypes" is off so you're not just editing a text file.) You're done! Your theme is complete. Now all you have to do is add the theme to your iPhone. Run whatever program you use to transfer files to you iPhone -I highly recommend iFunBox- and move the entire theme folder to /Library/Themes.



Respring your iPhone, and BOOM! You have up to 6 custom ringtones, all named to whatever you want.



Enjoy!
-Bry

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Yeah, it's corny, but tis the season to be corny. I noticed that VLC Player is in the holiday spirit, so I figured I might as well join in.


Merry Christmas, Everyone!
-Bry

Friday, December 24, 2010

Video Vednesday: Future First Person Shooter

Here's an awesome video that is basically a first person shooter in the style of Call of Duty. I'm no filmmaker, but from what I can tell, it's very hard to capture the mechanical movements of the video game physics, but this dude does. Perfectly.

Please, check out his channel if you like it. He looks like a very talented dude.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Flattr: Great idea, except for the greed

A while ago, I heard of a website that let you choose things you can donate to and then distribute your donations between them. I was psyched! It sounded almost too good to be true. I forgot the name and wasn't able to remember it until recently when I heard it was mentioned: Flattr.

Flattr is a website for "social micropayments." Essentially, you choose a monthly donation amount, then choose things to "flattr", which get the money split between them. It's quite a good idea, and welcomed, I think, by the software developers of the world. I think Flattr will do well for several reasons:

1. The idea is solid
Very few people donate to freeware simply because (I think) they don't want to throw alot of money, and they can't choose. Flattr is great because you can choose the amount, and you can also choose a ton of free things you enjoy, making it more social, almost like the "Like" function of Facebook. This also helps creators get the word out on their products because, come on, Paypal is great, but most people pass it by.

2. Look & Feel
Flattr's got the looks down. I have noticed increasingly that websites that look good have a much higher chance of success, and Flattr's got that. Plus, it has the catchy, 'clever' name, and a good way to get the word out with "Flattr this" buttons. Overall, it just looks like a winner.

3. Good foundation
Flattr was started by Peter Sunde, one of the creators of The Pirate Bay. That alone would make many people join Flattr just to support him.


Like I said, for those reasons, I think Flattr will do well. However, there is one huge, gaping flaw in Flattr that I see.

Flattr takes 10% of every transaction.
This is absurd, and frankly insulting. The whole concept behind Flattr is the user being able to choose what to give money to and how much. Flattr could have had an extremely cool business model: solely on donations. It could encourage users to Flattr Flattr, and honestly, if people are going to give money to things, who is not going to include the website that makes that possible? But no, instead, Sunde and Co decided to take that choice from the user and institute a flat 10% rate. And it's not even the flat rate. It's the insultingly high 10%. Even 5% would be pushing it, in my opinion. If you're not going to rely on a community who is obviously interested in giving money to those who deserve it, at least make it reasonable. The owners of Flattr should be aimed at giving the most to the developers as possible while taking just enough for themselves, not trying to get filthy stinking rich, which I believe Sunde will do if he keeps the 10%. Overall, I'm just very disappointed in this part of Flattr.


So here are the few things I think Flattr seriously needs to change:
1. Switch to a a Flattr flattr instead of 10%
Honestly, it's not even that they're making money off people. It's that they're doing it without asking. I think they might actually make even more from being flattred.

2. Localize
I understand that it's based in Sweden and that's fine, but they really need to localize, meaning that the user can select their currency and only see entries for their language.

3.Get a hold of the reins and clean up the interface
If you go to Flattr, it is a complete mess, partially from what I mentioned above, lack of localization, but also because anyone can add anything to it. Now I know that Flattr's supposed to be free and open, but there's got to be some rules for what can be added, and right now, it seems like there are none.
But I think this problem mostly springs from Flattr's layout. True, I said it looked good, and it does, but the layout is atrocious. Instead of Flattring a website, like "Diary of an Aspiring Nerd", you can also Flattr individual posts. I've seen individual Wiki articles. Which is ok, don't get me wrong, because then you can see what individual blog posts have been flattred alot recently, giving a clue of a good read. But I believe they should organize it more, so websites come up in searches and then you can expand posts underneath.

That's mostly it. For now, don't expect to see Flattr buttons on this blog, but I may throw a few up on FreewareWire, especally if I can ever release PEM 1.0, if I could get some help with it. But besides, that, I think I'm going to steer clear of Flattr for a while.
-Bry
PS - I'm not going to lie, I really wish I could make a Flattr-ish website solely for software freeware developers. I think it wouldn't be that hard to get started, all I'd need is support from a big name like Mozilla or some such, and then the rest would follow. But alas, I know nothing about coding websites. Sigh.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Comment to post ratio/Self-Sustaining Blog

I don't check the stats for this blog because I never expect it to pull in any traffic at all, but then I also like to over analyze stuff to the point where people go "Woah, this guy's weird..." So I thought I'd see the ratio of comments to posts: (And I realize that this may not be a "ratio" per se, but roll with me on this.)

ATTOTP:
21 comments (other than mine)
160 total posts (including this one)
Which makes the ratio 0.13125. Really, one hopes that it is at very least 1.0, which would mean that there's one comment for every post, although really even that is pretty pathetic. DoaAN is about 1/8th of that.

Or another way to look at it is:
14 comments with posts
160 total posts
Which makes the ratio 0.0875. Again, the maximum and aim is 1.0, meaning that every post you publish gets at least one comment. DoaAN is less than 1/11th of that.


I don't want to make money of DoaAN; I don't feel that it's content is even good enough to make money off of it. But if I could make enough revenue to pay for a domain name, I would be extremely content. And if I made any more, I would probably put it toward registering another domain name for FreewareWire Software, or set it aside until the time came for a FWsw domain name.

Alas, these are all pipe dreams, since the numbers just don't add up. I wouldn't dream of putting ads on any site unless I was sure it was actually bringing in traffic because there's no point in making mere pennies, plus ads (to me) often seem like the blog is there for money, not content (this is mostly true when people overdo the ads).

Oh well, I can dream.
-Bry

Do you Blu-ray?

I know it will probably lessen my web cred (if it exists) but I'm not a fan of Blu-ray. I guess it's because I'm just easily appeased: 192kbps MP3s are fine for me, I've never used FLAC; DVI is fine with me, I only use HDMI if it's an easy option. I'm just not a fan of high-def, I guess, mostly because I've never sat there thinking "Man, this 192kbps song sounds aweful! I wish I could have lossless!" or "This DVD is terrible! I wish I could have HD!" I realize that with these things usually it's kind of a once-you-try-it-you-don't-know-what-you've-been-missing kinda deal, but I guess I figure, I'm content now, I don't see the reason to change. Yeah, I'm lazy.

I'm getting off track. I still stick with DVDs because I just don't see the need to change. The thing that turns me off most about BD is that stupid video that plays constantly at Target, showing the exact same Spiderman 2 scenes and the cheezy announcer voice. "On a normal DVD, the video and audio have to literally be squeezed to fit on the disc." Duh. It's called compression. And if you didn't know that DVDs are compressed, you probably don't know that the M4As you buy from iTunes are compressed too. And (without any research) I'm betting that Blu-rays are compressed too, just to a lesser degree.


Gah! I'm sidetracking again. The real reason I don't switch to Blu-ray is I just don't see the benefit. Like I said, I'm content with DVD and I honestly don't believe that if I compared a Blu-ray to a DVD that I'd notice that much of a difference (although my brother believes I would). To me, it seems like comparing a 192kbps song to a 320kbps song: sure, there might be a quality increase there, but it might be so slight that to most people it's indiscernible. Don't get me wrong, I think that BDs are great because now you can store up to 50GB of data on a disk! That's quite a leap from DVD's 8.5GB. But my question is, does it really make that much of a difference when it comes to video and audio?


In addition to my skepticism, there's another real reason that I doubt Blu-ray's dominance: the timeline. Blu-ray was introduced in 2006 [1], and here it is, almost 5 years later, and DVDs are still prominently the largest format used, both in rentals and sales.
However, I've failed to realize how long it took DVDs to pass up VHS: DVD started in 1997 [2], and it only passed up VHS in 2002 [3]. I think the reason behind that is definitely price, as it took forever for DVD players to come down in price. The same goes for Blu-ray, except I think things are a little different this time. Take for example the Playstation, which is a good example of a cheap DVD/BD player that appeals to a wide audience: the PS2 was released in 2000 [4] at a price of $300, which dropped to $200 in 2002 [5], and continuing until $100 in 2009 [6]; the PS3 was released in 2006 [7] at a price of $500 for 20GB, and is currently $300 for a 160GB (hard to find data in between, even harder to compare because the 20GB doesn't even exist anymore). In any case, I think this shows that the PS3 dropped quite a bit more rapidly than its predecessor, but the point I would argue more is this:
  • DVD releases in 1997 + PS2 releases in 2000 = Passes VHS in 2002
  • Blu-ray releases in 2006 + PS3 released in 2006 + Beats out HD-DVD in 2008 = Still behind DVD in 2010
Notice that Blu-ray has something that DVD did not: support upon release. DVD had to wait for 3 years before it even had a console that doubled as a player, but Blu-ray had the PS3 pushing it almost as soon as it came out. True, Blu-ray was also competing with HD-DVD for a while there, which could have slowed it down a bit (because who wants to create a collection that may end out being completely worthless? I feel kind of bad for the HD-DVD fans at this point.), but they both had HD-TVs helping them. In any case, it seems like it took DVD 5 years to pass VHS, and it's coming on 5 years for Blu-ray, and Blu-ray players have the advantage of playing DVDs (a luxury that DVD did not have with VHS).


And lastly, I am deathly sure that the Blu-ray will have a successor, as everything does. There was a 10 year gap between the DVD and BD, so that puts the next disc/data/movie form at 2016, which really is not that far away.

My logic is not entirely sound, I will admit, and I can definitely say that I could be proven wrong and even change my viewpoint, but this is where I stand today.
-Bry

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Google ending Wave / Google TV

If you haven't heard about Google Wave, don't worry, you're not missing much: it's already here and gone. It was basically a combination of e-mail, instant messaging, and a word processor. I will admit, when I first saw it, I was stoked, but that's because Google (like every tech company out there) made it sound amazing. But it apparently wasn't amazing enough to be kept alive. I read it in Google Blogoscoped a while back (I'm really bad at collecting thoughts and blogging when it's, you know, relevant, so here I am, months later), and I love how short and sweet the article is: Wave doesn't have a purpose. Well, I mean, it does. Kind of. Google basically threw it out there that it could replace e-mail, instant messaging (which frankly doesn't need a replacement, because it's all but dead), and even collaboration, like a wiki. But it just didn't, and here are a few reasons I believe why: 

1. Everyone has to Wave
This is not like Gmail, where you can log on Gmail but you can send e-mails to hotmail, yahoo, aol, and all the others. Every single one of your friends has to be on Wave. Now you may be wondering "What about Facebook?" It's true, since Myspace is basically incompetant nowadays, Facebook is the only social networking option. But notice, there's "social networking"; Facebook was created to fill a position that was already there, whereas Wave is trying to create and fill a position of an all-in-one website, which is much harder because you have to convince people that the position you're creating is worthwhile AND that the site you're creating is good at the same time. 

2. The "features" were not asked for, and were frankly annoying
I didn't know this, but apparently live typing was actually a feature of instant messaging back when it originally came out, but it was disliked so much that they made it where you have to press "Send" (I don't know how accurate that information is though). Whether that's true or not, it does make a good point: I don't always want the other person to read what I'm thinking as I'm thinking it. And not just because I'm pretty atrocious at typing, or I use Pidgin/Firefox to spellcheck for me. Sometimes I think about saying something, and then decide against it, and live typing doesn't let you do that.
And quite honestly, that goes for collaboration as well. I honestly don't think Wave was set up at all to work as a wiki, but even just multiple people working on one document at the same time....it sounds great in practice, but honestly, how many times are people going to use that? Doesn't it just make more sense to work on revisions, rather than both people fixing different places, trying to keep an eye on what the other person is doing? 

3. Some things should remain separate
Maybe it's the way Google went about it or maybe it's just that some services should remain separate, but I just found it confusing that everything was thrown together, instead of productive. Your mail/IMs/wikis/etc are all in one place, jumbled together like strands of Christmas lights. 

4. Google wasn't lucky
You have to admit: Luck plays a big factor in whether or not an online service takes off or not. Look at Twitter: It's probably the least impressive, simplest web service in the history of the internet, and it skyrocketed. And for good reason, because even though it was simple, it had a very distinct purpose, and on top of that, it got lucky. (Hey, if a handful of guys can get a website to take off while multi-million dollar company Google tries and fails, there's got to be some luck involved.)



Now you might have heard about a new Google product: Google TV. It's a box that you can hook up to your TV that will do....um....well, let's see what Google said:
"The coolest thing about Google TV is that we don't even know what the thing about it will be."
Wait, what? Google, haven't you learned? Release things with a purpose.

Honestly, it's nothing extremely new. I've seen commercials for HD-TVs that can do Facebook and Twitter and crap, and here's my opinion of it: why? Why are we bringing features that are meant for a computer to a TV? I just don't understand. Maybe I'm just old fashioned. I want my TV to watch TV shows. I want my computer to browse the internet. That's all. (Oh, and the whole "Apps" thing basically just makes Google TV like a cell phone with a giant screen.)

To put it simply, the way I see it is this: do you know what a TV is? A screen. A big ol' LCD/Plasma/LED screen. Do you know what a computer hooks up to? A screen. With HDMI the standard for all things HD, including both TVs and PCs, it's easy as pie to hook a PC up to your HDTV; I've done it myself. So my big question is, What is so special? I would understand if (a) Google TV was actually a TV instead of just a box, or (b) it could completely replace your current cable/dish, but instead, it's just "an add-on to your regular TV experience." [1] I still can't understand how people say that Google is going to threaten cable providers...with an addon. That's like saying a Firefox addon is capable of threatening Firefox for being a web browser. Plus, Google TV relies on networks, but passively; Google hasn't made any agreements with networks (to my knowledge), it just takes what they put online and brings it to your TV....without paying the networks anything. Why would the networks choose that over cable, which makes them money?

Google TV basically has two features: the full web on a TV, and searchable videos and show. The former is just dumb because the Web is not designed for the TV, nor do I want to surf it there. Have you ever used the Wii to surf the web? It's painful. A computer is better equipped to handle the web because that's what it does. And maybe you add a keyboard, add a mouse or something....but then you've just turned it into a computer, and then what's the point? (I think I already covered that.)
And the latter is a good idea....except it's executed poorly. They suggest using Netflix, Amazon and Pandora....all services that cost, and can be done through the Roku which has Hulu as well. They suggest Youtube, which is honestly a pathetic "feature" for "TV" (considering how amazingly strict Google is on copyrighted material on Youtube). And as for actual networks, I've heard that Google TV has already been blocked by several networks [2], and for good reason.....the networks wouldn't even make any money off of it! But even if for those that are unblocked, I have to speculate that I sincerely doubt that networks are allowing every episode of every show to be available, and if not, then what's the point? (Since that's what Google TV is advertising.)

I mentioned Hulu and that's quite honestly what I thought Google TV would be, but it's just not. Google TV just looks lazy to me, that it's not as well thought out or constructed as Roku, but they throw on Web browsing and the Android market, hoping to make it more "Wow!" It sounds like they basically want the community to create apps for it, and that is quite lazy, and honestly something I would expect from Apple, not Google. *coughiPadcough*

Those are my thoughts on Google's past fail and (what I believe will be its) future fail.
-Bry

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Zoundry Error

wat




[OK FOR SERIOUS NOW]
I thought it'd be funny to leave it at "wat"....but I guess I better be a little serious. Program developers: please try to put a little effort into your errors. I mean how they handle them. Yes, If I clicked "Details", it would have showed the code, but dammit, man, I'm a blogger, not a programmer! (Did I just use a Star Trek reference? Ugh. I must be tired.)

Seriously though. Zoundry is a decent program, but things like this can drive people away. Do you know what the problem was Zoundry when this error popped up? My password was wrong. Simple as that. I had changed it a while back and hadn't updated Zoundry. Don't you think that's something obvious the programmers could check, rather than throwing an "Error: None" back at the user? If I hadn't remembered that, I could have spent time googling and troubleshooting for something as simple as a failed login.

The same goes for Handbrake: tell the user that the folder doesn't exist. Do the developers realize how annoying that is? You could spend 10-20 minutes making a queue, forget that the folder has to exist, then it will just breeze through the queue and you have to make it all over again.

[OK BACK TO FUNNY]
wtf rotf lol

-Bry

xPUD

Wow. A 5 second boot to usable, 5 second shut down, 64MB ISO. What's not to like? I have it sitting in a VM with as low as 256MB of RAM and 5MB of video memory, and it boots up quick and goes down quick. Sure, I've got a decent processor, but still, I can't imagine this thing taking more than 10 seconds to boot up, even on an Atom or ancient processor.

The thing that I find nice about xPUD is that it's got the winning combination: it's extremely light to start out with, but also customizable. It starts out with just Firefox, xterm, and mplayer, but can add things like codecs, Skype, Pidgin, or even OpenOffice. Of course, this will add to the size of xPUD, but there's the beauty of it: it's your choice. Sure, there's not a ton of applications available (at least, officially), but it has enough to function on a simple level: web browsing, media playing, an office suite, IM, etc. And that's what it is: simple.

So there's that, plus the ability for it to be installed in Windows (C:\xPUD) and dual boots alongside Windows. That's like Wubi on steriods. (Is it? Well, something like that.) No partitions for you to worry about, but then, you also have to install GRUB. Of course you can also download an image and set up a traditional install, or even boot from the ISO in GRUB. In any case, you'll have no shortage if ways to use xPUD however you want.

There's one last thing I should mention: the absolute latest version ATTOTP is 0.9.5, but I highly recommend 0.9.2. The former is fairly new and tests out a few new features while the latter is more stable (in my experience, at least). I've yet to install it anywhere, but if I bring my netbook back to life, xPUD will probably be its latest reincarnation.

I would suggest checking it out if you own a netbook or are just curious about "the quickest way to the cloud."

Click here plz! KTHX!

-Bry

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Coexist

I swear, my hand to god, I thought this up a long time ago. Well, I pondered it, but I never actually put it through. Anyway, it's a shirt over on Woot!.


Here's what they are, if you don't know (I didn't know a few):
c - the Apple logo
o - the Ubuntu logo
e - the Debian logo
x- the skyOS logo
i  - the ChromeOS logo as the dot
s - the Solaris logo over the "s"
t - the Windows logo

I seriously had already picked out a few; I too realized that Apple would make a good C and that Ubuntu would make a good O. However, I was possibly thinking that the Windows logo turned slightly would make a good X. I didn't know the Solaris logo, but the artist kind of adapted it a bit, but it still works well. I can't help but think there could have been a better "i", since ChromeOS is not exactly all that popular. And I've never heard of skyOS until this very moment.

But the real reason I love this shirt is the poem that was written with it; allow me to share (and I did not write this, so no credit to me):

There’s often lots of fumin’, and battle lines get drawn
It’s because we’re only human, but what’s really going on?
Well, Apple looks quite nice but everything inside is quirky.
And plus the users tend to be defensive and quite jerky.
Ubuntu has a lot to give and usually runs fine,
But they’ve never even met someone in graphical design.
And Debian, sweet Debian, it really does a lot!
As long as you already think like the designers thought,
But skyOS? Let’s face it, that’s here just to be a letter.
And chromeOS? You really think that Google should be bigger?
Solaris has some street cred, but requires education,
So no one’s really going to bother besides some big corporation.
And finally, good ol’ Windows, about which we would write,
But our system found new updates and rebooted in the night.
Let’s face it, every OS just meets someone else’s needs.
And no one cares for you and me, they just want to succeed.
And we’re not gonna write one, so we’re stuck inside their haze.
It’s sad we can’t accept it, they just suck in different ways.

Vote for and buy this shirt because it's awesome. Or buy me one.
-Bry

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Video Vednesday: "Beyond Black Mesa"

This is the best video I've seen in a long time. It's inspired by Half-Life (though you probably know that by the title), has amazing cinematography and amazing special effects. Overall, I'm shocked and pleased. I really can't say anything else about it. If you like Half-Life or have even played it, watch this trailer. Even if you don't, just watch it. It's amazing.



I discovered it from Bob's House of Video Games, but it has it's own homepage so please click there to BeyondBlackMesa.com.
-Bry

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

John's Background Switcher & Dual Monitor Tools (& Wallpaper Master)

For the longest time, my favorite wallpaper rotator was Wallpaper Master. It is literally one of my very favorite freeware, just because I'm not sure there is one thing I can think of I'd improve about it. It works smoothly, has different collections for images, and runs silently in the tray. It is an amazing freeware....for someone with one monitor. But it's not so great at handling two monitors (at least not the freeware version), so I tried to find another freeware to handle it. It was actually a difficult quest.


But eventually I came across John's Background Switcher. An interesting name, I'll admit, but it does what it says. It's an interesting alternative to Wallpaper Master; it's more internet-oriented, as it can download images from multiple services such as Flikr, Facebook, Google Images, or even an RSS Feed to use as wallpapers. It's fairly feature filled, just with features I don't really desire or use. What it is good at is multiple monitors. It can do the same wallpaper on all monitors, different on each, the same spread across, or even just one wallpaper on the main monitor. In addition, it also has a ton of configuration, arguably more than Wallpaper Master. It's got configurable keyboard shortcuts, things called "montages" which is a collage of pictures, how big the cache should be, and a ton of other stuff to make the program run however you want.

There are a few things I wish it did have. It does not have categories, so it's difficult to switch between groups that you might want. Also, you can't choose what specific wallpaper you want, which is doubly annoying for multiple screens. And lastly, it takes a good while to switch. Wallpaper Master was usually instant, whereas John's takes a few moments, which can be annoying at times.


Nonetheless, it's a great program, and I highly recommend it. But maybe you need a much simpler approach. Maybe you don't need a wallpaper rotator, you just want a tool to easily set different wallpapers for different monitors. I hear you. You're lucky I stumbled upon Dual Monitor Tools. One of the tools is Dual Wallpaper, which is just a tool to very, very simply set wallpapers for dual monitors. And the best part is, it supports both separate images and one shared image, so it is basically all you'll ever need when it comes to your wallpaper needs. Oh, and it's open source, which is awesome. Check out some of the other tools, they're very handy.


So that's about it. Three different programs that all rock in their respective jobs. If you only have one monitor and want to rotate wallpapers, try Wallpaper Master. It will blow your mind and you will love it. If you have two monitos and just want to set different wallpapers or one shared wallpaper, use Dual Wallpaper. It's simple and will do what you want easily. If you have multiple monitors and want to rotate images, use John's Background Switcher, or considering buying the shareware of Wallpaper Master. "What," you're saying, "Shareware? Have you gone mad?" No. I believe that software developers should be rewarded for the time and effor they spent creating a great software. Wallpaper Master is a great freeware, worthy of money. And the shareware has multi-monitor support, so it all works out.

I've considered making a Picasa album for all my wallpapers, that is, assuming I can get them all organized one day. Anyway, hope this helps your desktops look prettier.
-Bry

Monday, November 22, 2010

Oracle bought Sun!

This happened a while ago, but I didn't notice until recently when I installed OpenOffice.org on Windows 7. Sun is gone! It's so weird.....Sun's been there as long as I can remember. I've really liked some of their products, specifically Virtualbox and OpenOffice.org, and I do have to give them credit for Java and Solaris. And to just think that they're gone....well, not gone. But they no longer exist. Well, I mean, they are now a part of Oracle.

The weirdest part for me is that I'd never heard of Oracle before. They must be pretty big to buy Sun, a company that was started in 1982 and have done some amazing things since then. Of course, the buy price must've been pretty high ($7.4 billion, according to Wikipedia).

I dunno why it shocked me so, but it did. I guess it's just cause I've known about Sun for so long, it's like they've always been there. Hell, they're older than me, and then they get bought out by some company I've never heard of before. Just weird. Not bad, mind you, I'm not exactly fond of some approaches Sun takes (mostly in Java), so hopefully some fresh views will make them all the better. But still, it's weird to open up OOo and see "Oracle" in the about screen.

Here's looking at you, Sun,
-Jon
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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Steam L4D2 Slow Loading

[UPDATE 2-14-12]
To the random Googler, the fix was getting more RAM. I can't guarantee that this will fix every instance of slow loading, but read on, and if your symptoms sound similar, you might just need more RAM.
[/UPDATE]

Basically, it's recently been taking me forever to load into a game in L4D2. Like when I'm infected, the survivors will be out of the safe room and shooting crap up before I get in. It's weird. Since I got my second monitor, I've been keeping windows open while I play, specifically HWMonitor, the Task Manager, and occasionally the Wireless status window. I noticed something peculiar about when I join games.

When in the menu or lobby, Left4Dead2.exe will sit around 400MB of RAM. When we start a game, it will climb up to about 1GB of RAM, and when it gets to 1GB, I load in. The problem is that it only loads about 40MB every second, so it literally takes a minute to load in. My connection is fine: it's at 4 bars (or about 80%, when I have the sidebar running). My temps are fine: about 50C for the highest. And no other process is running that is resource intensive (I've been closing Firefox, Dropbox, and uTorrent just to be sure. My ping is usually fine, recently even the best in the game (around 65, which for me is unprecedented.) When I load in, it's usually fine. No lag at all. Just loading screens.

It's pissing me off. I keep getting bumpged to the other team and missing my first infected spawn all because it is taking me longer to load in. My theories are:
  1. My hard drive is too slow. I heard someone say that a hard drive (not SSD) is slower than RAM by far so it is the limiting factor. Since I know that Steam is loading the map into RAM, I'm guessing my HDD is taking too long to read. The weird part about this is that it's been fine on XP, and even on 7 recently. (If you don't feel like looking up my build, my HDD is a WD Caviar Black, which is supposed to be fast, for non-SSD.)
  2. Windows 7 is screwing it up. Since I never experienced this on XP. This could have something to do with memory amount....but I've never capped out on memory. I realized I'm running at about 80%, but would that really matter? I guess the best way I can test this is to get more RAM.
In any case, I'm insanely frustrated. Here are my current plans:
  • Turning off multi-core rendering
  • Defrag the steam files and disk, and verify integrity
  • Get more RAM (probably used, since I don't want to spend a ton for DDR2)
  • Get a SSD (reaaaaally don't want to do right now)
Ugh. Why can't things ever just work?
-Bry

Monday, November 15, 2010

Musicbee psyching out iTunes?/McNinja & QC!

I ran into the weirdest bug recently. I just bought "Plans" by Deathcab for Cutie and I decided to rip it into my iTunes collection with my new DVD drive. But for some reason, when I put the CD in, it didn't show up in iTunes. It showed up in My Computer, but VLC crashed when trying to open it. I know the drive is good since I've used it before, in iTunes even, so I was befuddled.

Several days later, I tried again, and still no success. I stuck in another CD ("Oh! Gravity." by Switchfoot) and it detected it. I tried Plans again, and FINALLY it showed up in iTunes. I tried to import it and got an error: "An unknown error occurred (-50)." Just out of curiosity, I closed Musicbee, which I usually have running side by side iTunes, and tried again. Presto, I have Deathcab.

Anyway, weirdness. The dumbest part is that when I googled the error, the only results that came up were from like 2005, and that either means that Apple is really bad about fixing bugs, or they need to change error codes. Or at least give more info about them.


Is it just me, or are my "hurr durr" and "weird bugs" posts extremely boring? In case they are, I guess I should also throw this in: I got my webcomic-turned-comics today! The Dr. McNinja trilogy and Questionable Content: Vol 1! I even got it personalized by Jeph, and I guess I'll post a picture later.

Hmm...that didn't do alot to make this post not boring. Oh well.
-Bry

Friday, November 12, 2010

Upgrade Wishlist (+Heatsink hurr durr)

I've been giving alot of thought to what I am going to upgrade on my PC and in what order (case obviously being first). I really haven't decided on what order yet, but some things do depend on others.

  • Eventually, I'll have to upgrade my Power Supply. I really didn't know how much I actually needed for my build, but apparently I'm currently pulling about 300-350W. I thought I'd be more around 500W so I'd need to upgrade right away, but it's nice to have a little room.
    Anyway, I am really content with Corsair, but I want a modular supply next. If I get 850W+, I should be set, almost for life. The model I would buy now is the CMPSU-850HX.
  • No one told me to buy a Heatsink, so I'm using stock. Which is probably one of the reasons I'm having temp issues. I really haven't looked into this because I thought it was dependent on my CPU.
    Yes, I had a dumb moment. I know that heatsinks are either for Intel or AMD processors, but I also forgot that one can be both. Like my brothers which came with mounts for both. HURRRRR DURRRRR.
    Anyway, how soon I get a heatsink will depend on how drastically my new case will help my temperature issue.
  • It might just be a Win7 issue, but I might need a new Graphics Card. I've been trying to convince myself to not upgrade until I wasn't able to play games, but it's already kinda happening. With games I've played before. For some reason it's been kinda having issues with LFD2, and I have no clue why.
    Anyway, I'm also considering switching to Nvidia. Why? I dunno, I guess I just think they're heading in a better direction. On the other hand, if I get another ATI, I can use CrossFire or whatever. Still up in the air about this one, and I really don't want to have to buy one anyway....at least not yet.
  • Since I switched to Win7, 2GB of RAM is really not enough. So I need to buy some more. Problem? I still have DDR2. My mobo only supports DDR2, and I really want to spend money on DDR3, not buying more of the obsolete kind. So in order to score some more RAM, I'll need....
    • A motherboard. This is mostly for DDR3 RAM and USB 3.0 compatibility, but it also depends on...
      • The Processor. You can always use more speed, so I'm always ready to buy a new CPU. I've got 2.9Ghz tri-core, and now Quad-core is standard.
        The only thing is....I kinda want to switch to Intel. Why? I really don't know. I mean, I just don't understand the difference enough between the two to prefer one over the other. I just recently learned that you can't overclock Intel processors, which may make me reconsider.
        Basically I need to decide now if I want Intel or AMD. If I want to stick with AMD, I can just keep the CPU I have now, but if I want to switch, then I'll have to get a processor as well, unless I wanted to use the 1Ghz single core Pentium I have in my closet.
  • Speakers...Um, I could get speakers....if money wasn't a factor. But I frankly would rather put the money toward anything else in this list. I don't use my Altec Lansing speakerbar that much, and I doubt I'd use any others as well.
    Buuuut that won't stop me from picking some out: LOGISYS SP8000BK. (4.1 surround sound, 5 eggs....for $40.)
  • Also really low on the list is a Fan Controller, a Card Reader, and other things I don't really need, but might buy cheap from DealExtreme.
's'all.
-Bry

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bry's upgrade wishlist: Case

It's been a while since I built my PC and I think it's about time I got an upgrade. I definitely need to get a new case since mine sucks and I can't believe I paid as much as I did for it. Anyway, I've been searching around a ton, and quite honestly, it's confusing. I mean, in one sense, there are alot of different features that not all cases have. But in another sense, all of them are basically the same.

The thing that I mostly don't understand is how boring most cases are. I understand that airflow and such are important, but why do you have to make them so booooring? I'm not saying that they should be making Giant Optimus Primes or Benders, I'm just saying: how about something other than the standard box? And by standard box, I mean the whole shebang: a boring rectangle with boring 5.25" slots and boring ports. Hesh usually helps make it look a little more exciting, but even then, most case makers tend to just throw hesh on the front and then call it a day. I just don't understand....a case is basically a square aluminum/steel box with fans attached to it. Why does it have to look so boring?


Anyway, here's the things that I've found that I was looking for in a good case (in addition to 5 eggs on Newegg and having a decent amount of drive bays)....in no particular order:
  1. PSU place: Bottom is way better, I've heard. And I frankly can understand why.
  2. Fans: Front, rear, side, and top. I personally wanted all four, or at least the ability to install 4 if I so pleased.
  3. Position of the I/O ports: Top is better if it's going to be on the floor, bottom is better on the desk. My old one had bottom, so I stepped on and broke it.
  4. Color: Mostly LEDs, since you basically have the choice between grey and black for color. (Boooring.) I really like Blue and dislike Red, but that really trims your choices down.
  5. Water Cooling Capable: I understand that if/when I finally switch to water cooling I'll get a very nice case built specifically for it, but I'd also like a case that can handle it, just in case.
  6. Tool-free: This ranges from 5.25" drives, to 3.25" drives, to expansion ports. I'd prefer the more the merrier. But they're are different approaches to this and not all of them work very well.
  7. HDD cage orientation: Kind of a small difference, but I'd really like for mine to be perpendicular. I hate having to get my hard drives in and out in my current case because it's almost impossible to do without removing other components.
  8. Filter: I really don't know how important this is, but filters for the fans is always nice.
  9. Price: Duh!
  10. Size: From what I can tell, the size is mostly dependent on the graphics card now. I don't plan to ever have more than 2, but I don't want to limit myself in the future. But geez, some of the mid towers are just as big as full towers!

So here are my contenders:
  1. Thermaltake Armor A90
    + Well rated; 2 USB ports on the top; favorite in terms of looks; decent compromise of size. (20.30" x 8.30" x 19.80")
    - WC holes are punch out; parallel HDD cage.
  2. Thermaltake Armor A60
    + USB 3.0; weirdo SideClick thing; perpendicular cage
    - Not-so-great reviews; HDD trays are stupid; on the small side. (19.70" x 8.30" x 18.90")
  3. Cooler Master HAF 922
    + Praised everywhere; not too expensive.
    - Red lights; grey interior; maybe too big. (22.20" x 10.00" x 19.70")
  4. Cooler Master Storm Sniper
    + Very good reviews; fan speed control.
    - Price; almost too big (22.30" x 10.00" x 21.70")
  5. Antec Nine Hundred Two
    + Praised everywhere; not too expensive.
    - Not tool-free; parallel HDD cage; don't like the looks; very small. (18.60" x 8.60" x 19.40")
  6. Xigmatek Utgard
    + Fan Control; sweet orange lights; decent compromise of size. (20.30" x 8.10" x 19.30")
    - Parallel HDD cage.
Here are my penultimate thoughts:
  • Favorite appearance: Armor A90
  • Best features: Storm Sniper
  • Safest choice: HAF 922
The whole deal is this: I want a case that (a) I enjoy looking at, and (b) functions well. Now I can either buy a good case that will last me for several upgrades, or I can buy one that is decent that I will ultimately replace. Ideally, I'd want this case to last me for several years, or at least several upgrades. That being said I would like to make sure that it's a good case (silent, functional, etc). At the same time, if I'm going to be stuck with it, I'd like to make sure I like how it looks.

I've been leaning toward the A90 ever since I started searching, since it's actually unique in appearance, a decent size, and has pretty much every feature I want. On the other hand, I don't want to choose the cheaper case again just because I like how it looks.

Therefore, the best choice is the Storm Sniper which has consistently good reviews, the most features, and the most likeliness for expandability. However, it's also the most expensive.

That would lead us to the safest choice: HAF 922. It's got amazing reviews, looks decent, has great features, and is not too expensive. So I know that I'm getting a good product for a cheap price. However, it lacks a few of the nagging features I want.


That's basically where I'm at now. I can choose my favorite in appearance but risk having a poor product. I can choose my favorite in features and spend a buttload of cash. Or I can choose the safe bet and lose out on some of the minor features I wanted.

Tough tough. I'm not going to rush it though since my PC seems to be doing ok in terms of temperature, and hopefully there will be good holiday sales. And I'll be struck with an epiphany of what to get.
-Bry

[UPDATE 11-11-10]
Alright, I'm actually nearing a decision. My current case is so bad that I have to take off the side and point a fan at the Mobo to keep it from tripping 70C and thus my alarm. So there's my motivation.

I've been doing a little more research and thinking some. Here's what I've thought of for each case:
  1. Armor A90: I still like how it looks and its size, but I read in a review something that I'd not thought of before: knobs. The door prevents installing anything that has knobs, like fan controllers. Mind you, I don't have any fan controllers and I have no idea if I ever will, but I don't want to reach a point a few months down the road and think "Man, I need a fan controller, but my case can' handle it." So that alone threw this case out of the running.
  2. Armor A60: It has worse reviews, higher temps, and is smaller than the A90. As much as I'd like some of the features it has (USB 3.0), I just can't.
  3. Antec 902: I never even liked this, I included it because everyone else did. But it lost in the runnings because it's so freaking small! It's barely bigger than my current case!
  4. Storm Sniper: As far as I can tell, it is the nicest case I'm looking at. And also the most expensive. I like how it looks, all of the features, everything. If it were in the same price range as say the Utgard, it would probably win out easy.
  5. HAF 932: I decided that the 932 is better than the 922, so might as well go with it. Plus, the 932 is really more comparable to the Storm Sniper. The 932 is praised way more though, for some reason.
  6. Utgard: My new favorite, after the A90 fell out of the race. Why? Because I like the looks, features, and price. However, it is smaller than the other choices, and not as popular.
Since I couldn't decide with features and size, I decided to look at performance, so I looked at several in-depth reviews. It's hard because each site's review process is different, but I did my best to find a site that reviewed all of them. The reviews proved that the Armors were not very good at performance, the Storm Sniper was amazing, and (if I was reading it correctly), the Utgard was the best of all.

Basically I have a choice:
  • I can choose the Utgard, which is smaller and less popular, although still very good in reviews.
  • I can choose one of the Cooler Masters, which are both good and huge.
Almost almost there. A little more research cut my final list in half, and one more little piece of knowledge could make the decision. But I'm fine with waiting for now, especially since Black Friday is rolling around and there's bound to be a deal on computer cases somewhere.

[UPDATE]
Disregard all of that. I mean, it all still is true, but it really doesn't matter any more. I've found my case: the Cooler Master HAF X. It looks awesome, it's got a ton more features, and it's just amazing. I'm going to sleep on it, but I'm 90% sure this is the one. I'll probably wait until it comes down price for the holidays, or if some random person were to buy it for me *coughIHaveAnAmazonWishlistcough*. Anyway, mystery solved. Ish.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

ReactOS update

I posted a good while ago about ReactOS, an open source Windows NT based OS, capable of running all programs that Windows can run. I've already expressed my undying fascination and praise for the project and I still feel the same way. I wondered if it was going to die out, which would be terrible, but last month, ReactOS 0.3.1.2 was released! Granted, this still puts them behind their tentative schedule, but it definitely is a very good sign when it comes to the project. Like I said before, reverse engineering an OS is no easy task, and I still laud the ReactOS team for their initiative. Hopefully they will keep up the amazing work.
-Bry
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Microsoft's new marketing strategy: Old is bad. Replace it with the same thing.

I'm not really a fan of Bing, even if it's just because of the way Microsoft put it off in the commercials. "What has search overload done to us?" Because apparently Bing isn't a search engine. It's a decision engine. What does that mean? Absolutely nothing. Go to the Wiki page for Bing. Notice the title? "Bing (search engine)". It doesn't take a lot of ingenuity to realize that Microsoft thinks that we are chumps. Listen, I don't care. Maybe Bing does bring up better results than Google. Just stop treating us like idiots. Search engines do not cause us to rattle off incessant facts about a word in a conversation, and Bing searches, it does not decide. It is a search engine. Just like Google. (Oh, and by the way, Bing is nothing new. It's had at least 3 previous forms, all that failed miserably.)

So that came and passed, and I kind of calmed down. Then I just saw an ad for Windows Phone 7. Something along the lines of "We need a phone to save us from our phones." Again. Stating that there is a problem and the answer is the problem itself is just plain dumb. Besides, people love their phones. There are iPhone fanboys, Android fanboys, Blackberry fanboys, and the general population loves their phones. Nobody's thinking "Man my phone sucks. I wish I could have a phone that was different but the same." Our phones do not cause us to text constantly during important or innapropriate times in our lives and the Windows Phone 7 will probably just be another phone. Either better or worse than the current selection, but just another phone.

Geez, Microsoft. I can remember when there were ads you could, ya know, actually relate to.
-Bry

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Pros and Cons of Win7 thus far

I've had Win7 up and running for a few weeks. Here's a few things about W7 I really like, but were surprising:
No more crappy Documents and Settings.
Honest to God, I think that the directory setup for WinXP was designed by drunks. Documents and Settings was such a mess. Now it's under "C:\Users", which is so much better. Plus, all of the Application Data is in one folder...even if I don't understand "Roaming" and "Local."
The Win7 taskbar.
Yeah, I know that it was really "Ooh! Ahh!" when it came out, but I've been thinking, and I do think I might like it. Most of the time I only have one window of a program open, so I just need the icon to identify it. Plus, there's the whole preview and ability to close the window from such. But then if I want, I can switch back to the old-fashioned type. And you can finally drag to reorder.
Win7 Taskbar uses shortcut icons.
This is amazing: I have several Firefox Profiles and I have a different icon for each. Instead of each browser having the same icon, the Win7 taskbar actually uses the shortcut icons! That's amazing! It's a wonderful feature, but it's just....well, honestly not something I'd expect from Microsoft.
The Start Menu search.
This is basically what I wanted from Go!, which I wrote for WinXP.

"Peek"/"Shake"/"Snap".
I kind of like them, but I'm not sure yet. Hovering over a window or the "Show Desktop" button shows only that window, shaking a window minimizes everything except it, and you can snap the windows to certain parts of the screen. It's really, really nice, but it's hard to use the dragging feature because I have two monitors, so one half of the screen won't work.
Alt-Tab.
I'm still up in the air about this, but I like how it shows the preview and how you can use the mouse. It does seem a bit more cluttered though.
Smooth Wallpaper change.
Nice little fade effect.
But of course, it's got some things I don't like as much.
Having to grant Admin access.
I realize it's trying to be safe, but seriously....I have to allow Admin to copy to a folder? To write to the registry? To launch AdvancedDiary? It's just kind of pathetic.
Still no workspaces.
I already wrote another post about it, but seriously. Get off your butt and just write it, Microsoft.
Not as snappy.
I've noticed this kind of recently, and it definitely does not help that I keep moving data around and not defragging, and only have 4Gb of RAM. But it can tend to be slower. But then what do you expect? Moving from Windows XP with a minimalistic bbLean to Windows 7 with Aero is bound to have some consequences. I think once I upgrade my RAM it will be better (still working with 2GB DDR2).
Games don't run as smoothly.
I've noticed this for Steam games. Even Overlord, which I don't think is a very demanding game. This is probably caused by (a) W7 compatibility with my GPU, (b) Running 32-bit Steam on a 64-bit system, or (c) my hardware is failing. I'm not really going to get upset about it since I'm betting it's C. Lord knows I need a new GPU, and a CPU/Mobo combo aren't far behind that.
Overall I'm pretty happy. Win7 seems to just be alot simpler than XP, and that's not a bad thing. It means it can be customized more. (I loved Windows XP because it could be customized, but that's not the way Microsoft wanted it.) Plus, it looks nicer, and it's nice to know that now if someone asks me for help on a Win7 system, I won't have to ask "Where is the _____?"
-Bry
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Tricked into Windows Updates

The other day I installed Windows Live Photo Gallery because I've looked everywhere for a photo organizer that is what I like. (Apparently they're all built around "photos" instead of "images"; what about those of us that want to organize our lolcats?) So anyway, it does something that pisses me off: couples Windows Live Movie Maker with Photo Gallery. Then, after I get it installed, I see the little balloon near my tray. "Windows will apply these 30 updates after a reboot." What? Let me ask again.....what? Seriously? What does the Windows Live Photo Gallery have to do with Windows Updates? Nothing. But it still apparently switched my preference to "Update Automatically."

I don't like Windows Updates, mostly because they tend to break stuff, and because I just don't know what they do. Service Packs are different, but I just tend to ignore updates (and quite honestly, I could never tell a difference with XP.) Nonetheless, I never set it to Automatic because then I am depending on Microsoft to choose what is best for me.

Microsoft = stupid. End The.
-Bry
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[UPDATE 11-9-10]
Apparently Silverlight was included in those updates and for some reason Netflix hasn't updated with to the newest version of Silverlight. So Microsoft broke Netflix for me. Thanks Gates.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Install questions...Et tu, Ubuntu?

I'm installing Ubuntu 10.10 in a VM because I reeaaaally don't feel like trying to get it working in a dual boot system, and honestly I think using a seamless VirtualBox is far more than what I need. (I'll actually probably use it more now since I don't have to leave Windows.) I started to install it, and I noticed....it asks you useless junk at the beginning of the install. I just don't understand why OS developers continue to do this, and I really thought I could remember Ubuntu changing it recently. It does this whole deal with "Copying files", but then it asks you about the user accounts and the time zone and such.

People don't want to do that. People want to click "install", walk away, and have it installed, ready to be configured when they come back. Well, I do anyway. I'm pretty sure Windows even wised up to this. Windows 7 asks for users and crap at the end, I believe, and the timezone as well. Because if it's not required for the installation (and who knows, for Ubuntu maybe it does have to create users to install correctly).

Anyway, that's all. This isn't even really a rant, just a nag. I'm tired, I felt like posting, and Ubuntu is currently using my DVD drive so I can't rip any of the new CDs I got today. And I'm probably being a bit harsh; my linux-loving friend always used to brag about how Ubuntu installed in 7 clicks, and I don't think that numbers gotten any bigger. Plus, I accidentally gave my VM way too few resources, so it probably seemed like it took a lot longer...or something.

Peace out, internet!
-Bry
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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Q: Where are the workspaces, Microsoft? A: Freeware

Ok, so here's what I'm wondering: Workspaces have been around for literally decades now, since at least 1989. (cite) So what the crap Microsoft....after creating an OS that is clearly copying Mac in many ways, are you still neglecting to add workspaces? Macs got Spaces in 2006, so why are you holding off? Sure, in Windows XP you could download a Powertoy, a 3rd party freeware, or even an alternate shell (like bbLean) to do the same, but I'm talking about built in functionality: workspaces. (Or I guess "virtual desktops", but whatever.)
The answer, I guess, is either (a) the "geniuses" at Microsoft think that this isn't a feature that people use (because obviously the other two competitors agree.....NOT), (b) they're waiting to add it to a later version (which is kind of something Apple would do), or (c) they want to keep Windows "different" from the competitors in order to keep people from easily switching over. (Yeah, I'm cynical, and slightly insane.)

Fortunately, people aren't as stupid as Microsoft and decided to make their own. My old favorite was VirtuaWin, which I still love to death; it's just more suited for Windows XP, and since I've moved to W7, I feel as though I need to find one that "fits" more. One that I found is called WindowsPager, and it performs very well, even integrating into the taskbar wonderfully. The downside to this one is that it has 4 desktops exactly: no more, no less. On the plus side, it's got alwaysontop, and more importantly, it's open source, in fact, he gives you the source with every download! Another good one I've heard suggested is Dexpot, which is free for private use. It's pretty much amazing, and here's why.
  • 1-20 desktops
  • Desktop naming
  • Multiple interfaces (Taskbar icon, tray icon, taskbar pagers)
  • Other good stuff (Window Catalouge, Full screen Preview, even a cube!)
  • Rules
It's basically amazing. The only problem is that it's more of a power toy. Did I say problem? Not a problem. It just takes some getting used to. I'm not used to it yet, but then I've only used it for 30 minutes. I'd say that Windows Pager is good if you want straightforward Workspaces. Dexpot is good if you want absolute control, because I'm pretty sure you can get absolute control with it.

So the score is:
Freeware: ∞+1
Microsoft: 0
-Bry
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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Great Article about Linux and its problem(s)

Just found a great article written by a Linux Developer (not an absolute noobie like yours truly) discussing why he thinks Linux has (or will) "hit a wall" when it comes to being a valid Desktop OS. So without further ado, here's the link, and a few quotes (though it's honestly hard to pick quotes from, cause it's so good):

Why Linux will (has?) hit a wall in popularity with normal users...
Ben Collins

"So here's the problem as I see it. Too many choices. Debian used to be a free-for-all where all of the choices were exposed to the user. People who used Debian loved the choices, but the fact isn't that they loved the choices, they just loved that their choice was among them."
"If you didn't have a preference, for example with a Desktop environment, then choices are bad for a user. They didn't know how to pick one. So now, there is a default. That's great, but across many Linux distributions, even if the default is Gnome, the little nuances of each system will overwhelmingly differentiate the entire thing so that no Gnome desktop is truly the same as another distribution."
"The real issue at stake is some company needs to break out of the "We're a Linux distribution" mold. If a normal user somehow gets to the Dell Linux page, and they say "wow, what is this Linux thing?", they will surely go to Google.com and start checking. Bad? Hell yes. The huge amount of information, choices and decisions becomes quickly apparent to them."
The comments are interesting too, especially from the author. He made one comment that is worth quoting as well:
"Look, we can go back and forth on who should be "cool enough" to use Linux, but that's not what I'm writing about. It's easy to say "we can't make it dumb enough for you, so you go use the lame Windows/MacOS". However, it takes real talent to make something simple, and powerful."
And now my thoughts on it:
I agree with everything he's said: Linux is choice, but that can get out of hand. Period. You can have too much of a good thing. If you read the comments, alot of the people come from the standpoint of experienced Linux users, disagreeing because they want choice. Is choice in Linux good for experienced users? Yes. I'm not arguing that, and I don't think Ben is either. We're talking about the average user. The people who don't want to have to mess with stuff through terminal to get Xorg working, or have to decide which package management they want to use. Because they don't care. That's not a bad thing, some people just don't like computers and they don't want to deal with the hassle.
Good stuff. Read it. Don't want to? Too bad! I told you to! Now go!
-Bry
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Friday, October 29, 2010

To Program Creators: LEAVE "MY DOCUMENTS" ALONE

Seriously, what the heck? Did I give you permission to save in "My Documents" folder? Well, Overlord? Digsby? NO. I did not. So save somewhere else! My 'My Documents' folder is extremely hard for me to keep clean and tidy, and you're just making it harder. If it's a file I will probably never intentionally open, KEEP IT OUT OF THE FILES I LIKE TO INTENTIONALLY OPEN.
This also goes for programs that like to create folders called "My ____." "My Google Gadgets?" NO. Leave my folder alone! Jerks.
-Bry
PS - I know Windows 7 changed the name of the folder, but you know what I'm saying.
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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dropbox = Resource Hog?

Dropbox has been kinda taxed on my new system since it has to download dozens of gigabytes of data, but still....it's resting at about 1.9GB of RAM. I have 2GB, people. It's gotten to the point where it will freeze up my Netflix viewer and even the Task Manager for a few seconds, and it's kind of unnacceptible to me. I understand that this is probably because it's downloading a ton of data and some huge files (probably my movies in iTunes), but honestly....it should control itself more.
-Bry
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Data loss and recovery

I really.....REALLY don't know how to start this blog post. Well...I guess I already have then, haven't I?

I lost all my data. ALL OF IT. Like I said, I decided to switch to Windows 7 a while ago and I spent two days getting everything set up Then I had to "register" it. Basically I have a key that only works as an upgrade, meaning I'd have to install WinXP 64 bit and then upgrade it from there, which I didn't want to have to do. So I just 'acquired' a 64-bit Win7 install DVD and installed it that way. For some absolutely stupid reason, I decided to get all my data up and running on it before I registered it. That was mistake number 1.

Then I decided that I was going to keep all of my personal data off on my second hard drive (a 1TB drive), separate from the OS. But instead of having it two places, I decided to only have it there. Mistake number 2. So anyway, I ran RemoveWAT (which worked just fine in my brother's situation, which worked fine on my brother's new PC, who was in the same situation as me). When I tried to boot back up, I ran into a Windows error that I can't remember. Basically it came down to the fact that Windows couldn't boot with or without my data disk.

I could go into a long boring story about all the errors I encountered and all the steps I tried to take to fix it.....and that would mean that I actually cared about documenting this nightmare at the time of it. I did not. This was freaking scary for me. All of my data: all my music, my documents, my programming, my everything was gone. Pictures from 10 years ago. Everything. I did not give a rat's ass about this blog post at the time. All I wanted was my data back. So this post is far, far from complete and does not even begin to express all of my frantic attempts to fix the problem.

Anyway, back on track: my first thought was to boot into Linux, so that's what I did. I tried to use GParted to check it, and then "resize" it to the same size, both with no results. It said it was a "segmentation fault," which I quickly learned was both the nastiest and the vaguest error in the Windows world. I tried some Linux recovery utilities like TestDisk and PhotoRec. I had a little success with PhotoRec, except it only recovered certain filetypes and didn't even name them.

Then I tried to fix the disk. It was beginning to look like data recovery was not an option, but if I now knew that all of my files were there, they were just "lost." I grabbed both my Win7 install disk and the Win7 upgrade disk and after learning that the install disk doesn't have any recovery tools, I turned to the upgrade disk and started Googling for answers on my iPhone. I tried bootrec. Over. And over. And over again. FixMBR? Nope. FixBoot? No way. It didn't work.

So now I'm getting extremely desperate and I decide that the best option at this point is to hire someone to recover my data, and I let it sit (plus, I really hadn't gotten much sleep the last few nights since I'd been working on this furiously, and I desparately needed rest). After some well needed rest, I began to look at recovery people in my area. No offense to those people, but they seemed like they catered to the majority of the Windows userbase: the people who know just enough to get on internet. Certainly not the people who know enough to even simply boot into a Live Ubuntu CD to recover files from a virus. But I thought out of all those people, at least one of them had to be able to actually recover the data, and then I thought, what would they have? Well there's a small chance that one of them may be an experience *nix user that could fix the disk in five minutes. But more than likely, they just bought a fairly expensive recovery program and then use it to recovery data for clients. So then I figured, why can't I just do that?

O started to search for NTFS recovery programs. I found one called 1st NTFS Recovery and I started scanning with it, which would take 6 hours. I decided to also use that time to scan with Recuva, which was already install on my families computer (which I was using at the time, since my Win7 boot was -as previously mentioned- not working). It would also take 6 hours. I tried a ton of different programs, all just that would scan for about 6 hours, and here's my results for each:

  • 1st NTFS Recovery ($100): found everything, including directory structure.
  • Recuva (Free): Found files, but froze when I tried to filter, so I wasn't sure if it got everything. Plus, it did not preserve directory structure.
  • Smart NTFS Recovery ($40): didn't even find anything, if I remember correctly.
  • PC Inspector File Recovery (Free): Same as Recuva, essentially.
  • Pandora (Free): Didn't find anything. At all.
  • MiniTool Power Data Recovery (Free): I did a quick scan by scanning and then stopping it and it found a few directories! But then I ran a complete scan and it didn't find anything.

After running MiniTool, I decided that I could either spend more and more time scanning with software that could not work and could possibly even mess up my drive even more, I'd rather empty out my wallt a tad and be guaranteed to have all my data. so I chose 1st NTFS Recovery. It was really sad because I wanted to use Recuva. I had already decided that I would donate a ton to Piriform if it would recover my data. But unfortunately, it couldn't Well, it could, but the thing is, it found something like 500,000 files (it said 1,2 million, but alot of them were 0 bytes). So if I were to use Recuva, it would recover all those files. Into the same directory. I didn't feel like spending literally 2 weeks to a month going file by file, trying to figure out where they go. Plus, since I couldn't view it in a tree, I couldn't even tell if it had every folder and every file, and I didn't want to take that chance.

So I bought a 1st BTFS Recovery license and started recovering. It worked like a charm, which is great. It took a good long while, but it recovered all of my data. And trying to figure out where to temporarily store ~600GB of data on a 250GB internal drive and a 120GB external drive is no easy task. But I did it....somehow, and I upgraded my Dropbox account to the 50GB because right after my accident happened, I decided that $100 a year is definitely worth it to never have to never have to wrory about that feeling of loss again.

So that was half of the story: my data is recovered! Of course, then I had to worry about getting it back onto my 1TB drive and getting my Win7 system booting again. The first was easily remedied by using GParted in an Ubuntu Live CD. The second was actually easily remedied by the Win7 restore disk with BootRec. (Apparently before it was trying to fix my 1TB drive....) So I then had a functioning Win7 and all my data back! Yay! Happy day! Of course, I had to fix alot of stuff still, but in the end, it was working.

Now take into the account all of this, then add about another 12 attempts (with either Windows or Linux), proably literally 50 reboots, and God knows how many hours of scanning with various programs. Then add onto the fact that my external DVD drive was broken and the very old Toshiba one I was using would decide to randomly not boot, meaning it would take me sometimes 10 reboots to actually get it to just boot into Ubuntu, the recovery disk, or what have you. Then take into account AGAIN that the drive is old so it takes a long, long while just to boot into Ubuntu, and even longer just to get into the Win7 recovery. (Does that seem right to you? Oh well, that's another blog post entirely.)

Time for some closing notes. I would say that I've learned several lessons

  1. Worry about registering before doing hours of crap to set it up.
  2. A "backup" is in two places.
  3. Only have the essentials (i.e., remove the 1TB drive when running RemoveWAT which doesn't need it)

Another closing note is this: I'm really dissapointed in Recuva. I really, really wanted to donate to Piriform, and it almost worked. It just didn't detect the folders, which is one third of recovering data. I'd have to say that the three things it should be able to do (a) recover the files (obviously), (b) recover the names of the files, (c) preserve directory structure. I would so much have rather thrown my $100 to Piriform, but I really can't if it doesn't do the job well enough. In any case, I still love Piriform and I think I always will, I'm just dissapointed in this instance; commercial software beat out freeware here.

Yeah, that's what's been up with me. Of course the one time I can't really blog I have all these ideas for posts. Hopefully I can follow through on them.
-Bry

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hello iTunes 10!

Holy crap! I decided to go with the most recent iTunes for my new W7 install, and....geez! It actually looks.....halfway decent! Maybe it's just because it's on W7 (and everything looks better in 7), but it just looks what I've always wanted iTunes to look like! The sidebar is no longer bulky and eye-grabby, the tabs are small and unobtrusive....overall, I like it alot. Now if they could just get rid of the brushed metal look.....

Keep in mind, this is definitely not saying that I actually like iTunes. I'd rather take MusicBee, Songbird, MediaMonkey, foobar2000 or just about anything other than it. But this is a step in the right direction.

But I wouldn't be Bry if I didn't have something bad to say about Apple in any post I reference them. What's with the new iTunes logo? Lame much? It's so -as my brother so adequately put it- generic. I was never big for the brushed metal, but at least the last icon had style.

-Bry

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What iTunes could learn from Steam

I feel like to some, I might come off as a bit of a hypocrite, because I always say how much I detest DRM, but then I turn around and praise Steam (well, the content delivery....not the application). So here's my brief chance to explain.
It's weird because I've never liked buying digital music. There's something about owning a physical copy of something that gives me a sense of security. If my computer ever goes kapoot, I have all my CDs saving my music. Yeah, you can burn them yourself, but something is nice about having the authentic cover and the booklet and all that.
I'm getting sidetracked. Here's a laydown of how I viewed Steam and iTunes:
  • Product is cheaper than buying the physical copy
    In every online music store, buying the tracks is a few dollars cheaper than buying the CD. Steam has killer deals all the time so you can almost always get the game you want for a lower price than the hard copy, if you don't mind waiting a little while.
  • Product can only be used in one program
    Unfortunately, this is the case with both. It's a much, much larger problem with iTunes since music files have a range of uses and there are dozens of other media playing applications that could make use of them. Steam is a little less of a deal since you don't necessarily have many other choices.
  • Product must be registered online before being used
    Yup, both have this in common. You can't play games or listen to music until you've registered them. This is actually more of a deal for Steam than it is for iTunes.
It seems they are so alike! How can I ever defend my position? Well, here's the single, huge tipping point:
  • Product is credited to your account, meaning you can re-download whenever you want
    Does iTunes have this? I don't think so. See, with iTunes, you are paying for security, but it's not your security. It's Apple's, or the music industry's. You could buy $5000 worth of music on your account, your hard drive crashes, and Apple just says "tough luck." With Steam, I've already bought several hundred dollars worth of games, and if my hard drive ever explodes, I'm calm-cool-collect, cause it's all in the cloud.
    [UPDATE 10-26-10]
    Guess who has this? Amazon. Yes, if Amazon keeps track of all the MP3s you buy and let's you re-download them whenever you want, wherever you want. This is just one more reason people should use Amazon instead of iTunes.
That's basically what did it for me. With iTunes, I'm basically being tied down with DRM, with no benefit to me. With Steam, yeah, it's got DRM. But to balance it out, my DRMed games are always backed up. Now I realize that music companies hate the idea of always having music you payed for ( because that's really unreasonable, right? ) but honestly, who in their right mind is going to say "Man! I just lost 1 TB of DRMed music! I guess I better go buy it all again!" Hell no. If they're even in the slightest bit tech savvy, they are going to say "I bought this, I own it" and go pirate the music they had before. iTunes wouldn't lose any customers from storing records for their customers; they'd gain them. Why? Because I would use a service that backed up my music! (Even with this though, I would never use iTunes because iTunes still uses a low bitrate, and my distrust for Apple is proportional to Steve Job's ego.)
However, I feel like I should add this. One reason I hadn't accounted for before choosing Steam:
  • The Program sucks
    This is most definitely true for both, but probably more for Steam, as much as I hate to admit it. I hate iTunes because it's slow, intrusive, and resource intesive. But it does what it's meant to do (play music/videos). Steam has continually screwed me over when it comes to games being unplayable or not being able to connect me to a game. It's definitely something to take into consideration, and I'm damn well hoping that Valve puts on their big kid boots and starts actually making changes.
On an ending note, here's a message to both companies:
  • Apple: If you want to really get a good music store, give everyone a license to the songs they buy, so they can download them anywhere, anytime on authorized devices.
  • Valve: If you fixed your sucky client, you'd have the best system ever. In anything. Ever. Do it. Now.
-Bry
PS - If you wonder why there's been so many whitespaces in my posts, it's not because I'm trying to add drama. Apparently both Blogpress and Zoundry go crazy with the returns.
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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Switching to 7

Well, today is an important day. It's the day I switch from XP to Windows 7. I've slowly been getting sick of XP constantly freezing on me, and I really need to start learning the in's and out's of Microsoft's new craparating system. So here's to change!




I'm updating from my iPhone because the install is going on right now. I all goes well, I'll have my system up and running by tomorrow night.









(But just in case, I'm installing Mint 9 alongside. I looked through all of my favorite distros, and Mint popped out.)


-Bry




- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

[UPDATE]


Well, after far too many complications, from burning the 7 install CD to getting the partitioning set up right, it's done. I'm currently posting this from Zoundary Raven whilst watching a video on Youtube in my Firefox, with iTunes open alongside. (In other words, all of my data so far has been able to transfer over.)

I've learned a bit through the experience.

  1. Don't mentally commit yourself to switchings OSes unless you're sure your DVD drive isn't broken.
  2. Don't mess with any registry files until you've unhidden the Administrator account.
  3. Windows likes Symlinks instead of Junctions

I like that Microsoft finally caught onto the whole "I don't want my personal folder under Documents and Settings", but I still like to have it right there under the C drive. Normally, TweakUI lets me do this easily, but that is an XP-only deal, so I had to research and learn something new. Changing the individual folders (Documents, Pictures, etc) is easy, I wanted to move the entire profile folder. Additionally, with this new OS, I wanted to try to keep all of my data (both documents and program settings) off in a different folder on a different drive, so if I ever need to back stuff up (or if I upgrade Dropbox, which I've been considering), it will be backupable very easily.

Anyway, long story short, I had to use another 7 install disk to "repair" my install (by just enabling the Administrator account), then I learned (after hours of troubleshooting) that you cannot create Junctions because for some reason Windows doesn't like Junctions. However, apparently symlinks work great. After discovering that random info, I'm creating folders in a nice "Bry Life" folder for both all my files (documents, music and such) and program settings (Firefox profiles, ResophNotes settings, Zoundry Raven settings, Pidgin settings, etc). It's working very well so far. I plan to keep my SteamApps folder off on a different drive as well.

Anyway, I'm kind of giddy. I love doing stuff like this! I don't know why. That's why I can totally see myself in a career with dealing with setting up new systems. Of course, I already have everything mapped out in my mind and it is my data in this case, but hopefully I love it enough to help anyone.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

DVD drive stopping booting

A few days ago, I tried to boot up my PC to find that it wouldn't even reach the point where I could enter the BIOS settings. As you can probably imagine, this had me concerned, especially since I could only think of one thing that would cause a PC to not even reach the BIOS: hardware. Well, considering that I haven't gotten any new hardware other than a USB extension cord (which I highly doubted being the problem), I figured that the best case scenario was that my RAM would be dead which would probably have me out $50, and also with a dead PC until I got some more. (As weird as it is, the two other desktops in my house run on DDR and DDR3. I am alone with DDR2.) This sucks even more since I was hoping to hold off on RAM until I bought a mobo that could handle DDR3.


So anyway, I pull my box out and start trouble shooting (i.e., removing crap). First I tried my Wireless D-Link card, since it had actually randomly shut down on me the night before, and it is possessed with an evil spirit. (I'm only half kidding.) The problem remains. I try both RAM sticks, and neither of them work, so it would mean they both would have to be dead, which seemed unlikely to me. So I pulled the Hard Drives, just to see if I could get to the BIOS. Nothing. I was running out of options. Before pulling the video card, I decided to finally pull all the cords in the back. (Yeah, I know, I shoulda done that first, but all I have connected is my monitors, my Insten Dock, my Headset/Speakers, and my new USB extender. But we'll get to that later.)


So when I pull all the cords, it boots. Woohoo! So I plug back in the dock. Success! I plug back in the USB extension. No dice. So I look at what I had plugged in last to the end of the USB extension: my external DVD drive. I pull it, and the PC boots. Wow.


So short story long: my external slim DVD player (that had Dawn of the Dead in it at the time, by the way) was plugged in with a regular miniUSB instead of the two pronged cord that had come with it can apparently stop my boot. I actually may have bricked the drive since I unplugged it while it was frozen. (Oops.....how many times until I learn to safely remove hardware?) I hope it will still work....we'll see. But on the bright side, none of the hardware that I need to operate my PC was damaged.


Breaking stuff with "WTFs",


-Bry


PS - I think I've used Zoundry before, but I might start putting in a "Powered by Zoundary deal", since I love this piece of software. This post is a test for it, I guess.


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Handbrake while sleeping

Just a quick note: if you decide to queue up a season of Garfield and Friends with Handbrake and then decide to go to sleep, you will be woken up by your computer beeping because your CPU is overheating. Trust me from experience.


-Bry

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Left4Dead 2 for $6.79 (Expired)

I know this is late and it's kind of lame to do this now, but I've just been going through my finances and I just ran across when I bought Left4Dead 2. I bought it during a sale back in December of '09, and I paid $37.49. Steam ran a special a few days ago for both Left4Dead and Left4Dead 2 for $6.79 each. Wow. I got it on a good sale -25% off, I believe- and the new price is 82% off what I paid for it, or 87%  off it's release price of $50.

I was mad at first because of how much money I had to pay for over someone who would buy it now, but then I remembered all the nights I've spent playing games, all of the fun times I've had including playing games with my cousins that live all over the country, and I'd say it's definitely worth the extra $30.

That's all. By the way, anyone wanna play some L4D/L4D2? I've had a hankering for the last week, and it's always more fun to party up. My Steam ID is on the "Games" page of this blarg.
-Bry

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wrong Folder in Handbrake

I've been getting a steady stream of DVDs lately because Amazon has such amazing deals. Today, I decided to start ripping them to my PC so I can put them on my iPhone. So I stick in Shawshank Redemption. I fire up DVD43 (just in case), Handbrake, click the iPhone profile, and press start. The window opens and closes. I try again, nothing. I take out the disk, restart the software, then put it in and start Handbrake again. Nothing. I finally end up thinking that it must have some bizzare protection that DVD43 can't get around.

So then I stick in I Am Legend. Same thing. Now this seems fishy. I am shaking my head wondering HandBrake is failing me when I notice that the path is to "C:\Bry\My Videos" instead of "C:\Bry\Bry Videos." I change it, press start, then see "Encoding task 1 of 1."

I think it's honstly stupid that the folder has to exist for Handbrake to work. Can't it, ya know, create it, or at least ask me? Or even bring it up in the Log? Anyway, I feel stupid. But at least I didn't lose alot of time to it like some of my other hurr durr moments.

-Bry