CD Shell for multiboot dvds is harder to find than it should be.

Since it took me about half an hour to find a real and working copy of CD Shell despite being shareware, I am going to upload it here for anyone that might need it.

New Blog showcasing my Artwork

I hate calling the paintings and drawings that I make “Art”. The word itself has been sullied by those dirty
mouthed, pretentious asses that frequent the small trendy galleries that line grimey streets in metro area
“Art Districts”. Unfortunately, I still feel odd and somewhat self-conscious about showing my pieces to you;
total stranger, to be judged and compared to what you have seen in the past and in many cases what you create
and maybe even comfortably slip the “Art” moniker on to.

I don’t make “Art” and I have nothing creative to say about that. I only paint and draw and scribble, but for
lack of any better collective term; come look at my art.


Novice’s Guide to the Internet and Computing part 6

Some people don’t know how to properly maintain their computer and don’t understand what’s happening when they boot it up one day and find that it crawls into windows, takes forever to open programs and screeches to a halt for “no reason”. Just like a car stops working for “no reason” when you don’t maintain it. I want you to be your own mechanic in this case and understand some of the easier maintenance tips. The only tools you may need are a phillips head screwdriver a can of compressed air and a little commonsense. Let’s get started talking about the computer’s most common arch enemy.

Dust is a computer killer and many people overlook or just plain forget about it all together. Dust wouldn’t be so bad if it was just standard mold spores and dirt, but unfortunately it contains hair and dead skin cells that are oily and stick to things. Have you ever seen what happens to a ceiling fan after a few months of running without being cleaned? Now imagine that same situation in your computer.

Your computer has to remain cool in order to function. When a computer get’s too hot it will do one of three main things.

1. Shut down to protect itself.

2. Burn up and stop working.

3. Lower the voltage to your processor making it run slower and slower and slower in an attempt to stay in the “safe zone”.

So when your computer mysteriously shuts itself down after running for 5~10 minutes everytime you use it, I would say check your CPU fan and heatsink first, followed by your power supply. If those appear to be relatively dust free and in working condition, boot into safe mode and try running a few scans for malware.

Before attempting the next step make sure you have shut down windows and unplugged your computer from the outlet.

Normally the side panel of a computer case is held on with a screw or two, sometimes they are thumb screws and sometimes it’ll just be a sliding lock. Regardless of the method the panel is held on with you should open it up and spend a minute or two just looking around at what makes your computer tick.  You should see a fan of some sort centrally located on the motherboard, there will also be some aluminum fins that this fan is either sitting on or touching in some other way. Those fins are called the “heat sink” and are used to pull the heat from the CPU like a radiator while the fan keeps the fins cool. Those fins can easily become clogged with dust, which causes poor air flow, which in turn causes heat to build up. Blow out the dust using canned air follow the instructions on the can. You may also want to go outside because the dust will be incredible. Go ahead and dust everything off while you’re in there. Some computers don’t have CPU fans anymore, but will generally have a fairly decent size heat sink.

Processor = CPU

I see a lot of people who cram their computers under the desk in those tiny cubby holes that have very little ventilation. That may be fine for a typical home office computer, so I won’t gripe, but if you have invested some serious money in tons of LEDs and bought a mega gaming computer for $2,000 from DELL, give it room to breathe. Make sure all the fans are free of obstructions and try to keep the exhaust vents from venting into the same are as the intake vents. You can  turn your gaming machine into a really expensive space heater in no time flat by providing poor air circulation.

Security risks are nothing new to computer savvy individuals, viruses, spyware, exploits and phishing just to name a few of the risks out there. The differences may be hard to see from the perspective of a novice user, but power users understand the differences very well. The risk is there whether you know what it is or not.

Exploits are like a hole in a system that wasn’t intended, but becomes painfully obvious once used. A perfect example of this is buffer overrun attacks. These are generally intended to leave a hole in your security to allow access. Every time I go to windows update it’s Buffer Overrun this and Buffer Overflow that. Those updates are the patches that cover those security holes to prevent access in the future.

I’ve been over viruses and spyware in the first part of this series, but needless to say an Anti-Malware program that is out of date isn’t going to catch the most recent threats on the Internet. Phishing is normally a commonsense issue, but keeping yourself updated on phishing attempts will give you more to work with in that battle.

To keep your computer running like it should you also need to  make sure that your hardware drivers are up to date. Drivers let your hardware devices communicate with one another. The most common drivers for an average user will be video, sound and networking. A corrupt  driver causes all kinds of lovely issues like Blue Screens of Death, horrible performance or even no performance. Update your drivers occasionally by either going to your computer manufacturer’s website or the component manufacturer, normally the drivers will be found under a “Support” link then under “downloads”, but of course it may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.

I normally update my drivers about once every 3-4 months if needed, my virus and spyware definitions about once a week when I scan and go to windows update about once a month just for the heck of it. Oh, but wait, you can’t use Windows Update site with Firefox. I use WinDiz Update, the Windows Updater for non Microsoft browsers and now you can too.

Keeping your software updated and your computer clean will make your experience with your computer much more enjoyable. It will also save you money in costly unnecessary repair bills. I know people who charge or have been charged upwards of $80 an hour to do simple stuff like this and they even count the time Windows update runs it’s installer! That can be $80 or more just for it sometimes! So buy a $6 can of air and get busy!

Be sure to check out parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 of this series.

The Novice’s Guide to the Internet and Computing pt.5

Different rules apply to different browsers and nations. I can only speak from personal experience. I use proxies for two reasons, by passing web filters, and getting around bans from forums I’ve trolled. Everything you do on the Internet leaves little clues behind that all point vaguely in your direction. Every search shows your interest or affliction, every website leaves your filthy foot prints on it’s white carpet, everywhere you go you leave a steaming lump of offal called an IP address.

“Trolling” is what fishermen do when they allow their bait to trail behind the moving boat until some gullible fish takes the bait.

Now most people have a dynamic IP and have no real reason to use a proxy except to cover their illegal activities. At least that’s the way it was 10 or so years ago before everyone got broadband. Now you still have a dynamic IP more than likely, but it’s probably only apt to change about once a month or sometimes once every three months like mine is. Now there are still very few real reasons to use a proxy for the average user, but never-the-less I’ll cover some real ones.

Chances are good that if you work at a company that requires it’s employees to use a computer to do menial tasks that require accessing a webpage and you tried to go to your favorite sites instead, you’ve encountered something similar to the Barracuda web filter. Web filters are like firewalls and in many cases are firewalls that keep you from going on MySpace and Facebook during work hours. The things these filters block are normally updated by one giant list at some cold server room with the additional list kept by your System Administrator. Now your System Administrator seems like a cool guy on the smoke breaks, but he probably won’t unban Facebook or MySpace so you can network instead of doing menial tasks. That’s where a simple web proxy comes into play.

I would advise you of my super secret web proxies, but I don’t want my enormous fanbase going and getting my proxies blocked, so just do a search for “web proxy” on google or Altavista or whatever you are using these days. Just don’t be upset when they release your IP to the Feds with all your search history exposed for the world to see. That’s right, I think. try out the new thing! IXQUICK!

IxQuick is a foreigner’s anonymous metasearch engine. It doesn’t store IP addresses even on anonymous users.

Your IP address is linked to you by your ISP and can (normally with a warrant) be used to find you!

Web proxies are well and good enough on their own, but what I really want you to know about is real proxy use. I would like to recommend portable Tor for this guide as it’s already set up, can be carried around on a thumbdrive and uses the Tor network to proxify you. Tor by itself is complicated enough for me not to want to explain it at all, but rest assured you can find plenty of info about it on their download site.

Go to WhatismyIP.com and it will inform you of your IP of course.

I am going to assume you are using my browser of choice, Firefox, for the rest of this tutorial, but just understand that you set up proxy values in Internet Explorer through “Tools”>”Internet Options”>”Connections”>”Lan Settings”.

Open up Firefox, click on “Tools”>”Options” then click on the tabs (it may be under “general” or “advanced” depending on the version) until you see “Connection Settings”. Click on the “Connection Settings” button and you should see a few settings to choose from. 1. Direct Connection to the Internet 2. Auto-Detect proxy Settings for this Network and the real winner 3. Manual Proxy Configuration.

Proxy setup in firefox

Proxy setup in firefox

Select the third option and the options beneath will light up and become editable. In the first box labeled “HTTP Proxy:” Enter in 127.0.0.1 and port 8118 then hit “OK” Now run Portable Tor. Once portable Tor is connected and running try going to WhatismyIP.com again and see the difference. If it’s still the same than something went wrong, go back and try again. When you get tired of browsing through Tor you can go back into the settings again and change the connection back to number 1. Direct Connection to the Internet and click OK again. You will now be back to normal.

There are thousands of proxies available online some free, some pay. I won’t list any here, but a quick search on goo…er...Ixquick.com should get you the info you want right away. All you need to use the public proxies is change the 127.0.0.1 with their IP address and change the port with their port number. When you see their IP it may be listed as something like “64.15.0.0:80” well the IP is the 64.15.0.0 and the port is the 80. That’s what the “:” designates. The default proxy port is 8080 port 80 is the default HTTP port, or the one which websites are served to and through.

Now my Internet ninjas, go forth and be peaceful. try not to do anything that you need a proxy to hide behind and try not to get fired for using the Internet for personal reasons. One more good idea is not to access anything personal through a proxy, you never know who runs the proxy after all.

Be sure to check out parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 of this series.

The Novice’s Guide to the Internet and Computing pt. 4

Friday night 7:30. Boredom has begun to set in because you have nothing to do since you are off of work (because you love your job so much). How will you kill the miserable 48 hours between working and working? Why, watching movies of course! The problem with that is that you have to go to a movie or a video store or you can try the crap shoot that is finding something worth watching on TV. Good thing the Internet is here to save the day once again.

Somewhere in the gray outskirts between Internet piracy and youtube lies an area where copyrighted movies and television shows are streamed 24 hours a day or on demand. That area is normally called China and God bless the Chinese for streaming videos across the world so I can watch movies that are still in theaters from the comfort of my own home.

The easiest way to watch these movies is to find a webpage that has them available for viewing. My favorite two are Watch-Movies.net and Joox.net. All you need is the proper video plugins in your browser and they will play. I have to warn you though, that flashy site MegaVideo has begun restricting their playing time making most movies unwatchable unless you subscribe to their premium service.

The next way and as of this writing the only other way I know to watch this kind of stuff is using a software download. I use Veoh, but I have used Miro in the past. Winamp also has a pretty decent selection of streaming content to watch. A quick google search for “Free Internet TV” will bring up some results for more players and sites. Just be wary of Spyware and Adware.

I started using a certain pay music download service recently and it’s sparked an enormous interest in preserving the melodies of the late 19th and early 20th centuries so called “Pre-Blues” music. It’s also allowed me to expand my music collection, with the help of certain softwares that reproduce the audio, but not all that extra data that bulks out the WMA or MP3 and effectively gives them an expiration date. Sometimes you want more than just the music of the artists that interest you. Sometimes you want video to go along with that audio.

I am a fan of the Holy Modal Rounders. Try finding them on Youtube and you will find some stuff from the rockumentry “Bound to Lose”. I’m not interested in that though as most of it is modern. I want the gritty scathing video of them performing back in the 60’s. Well I didn’t chance upon that so much as them performing with another Revival Folk band, whose name escapes me at the moment. I wanted that video though. I needed to put it in my “Holy Modal Rounders” folder, so that I can always go back and watch it as long as I keep it backed up.

I found this amazingly easy to use program called VDownloader, that works as a search engine of some of the more notable video sites like Youtube. You type in what you are looking for “Holy Modal Rounders” for example, and it returns a list of 16 year olds trying to play “Boobs-A-Lot”, you click on the video to watch it, or you can just download it to your hard drive as if it was meant to be. It allows you to que up files so you can moderate how much bandwidth it will consume.

I hope this was as informational for you as it was entertaining for me to write up. Go forth and watch movies with all the benefits of pirating them, without actually pirating them at all. Your quality may vary…GREATLY.

Be sure to check out parts 1, 2 and 3 of this series.

Coming soon: A mega XLS linking to tons of freeware across the web.

The Novice’s Guide to Computing and the Internet pt.3

Every traveler needs their essentials when traveling in a strange land and the Internet is no exception. There are all kinds of programs and all kinds of files that a “newb” might not be aware of even when the rest of the population knows them so well they can barely exist without them. These are going to be the most commonly needed applications that no one has installed for you or your browser shrugged it’s shoulders at.
Compressed files serve an incredible niche in the virtual world. Think of them as little suitcases crammed as tightly full of clothes as they can be, while 7zip is the fat lady sitting on top forcing the lid to close. Not only does compression put all those “clothes” in the case, but it actually manages to fold them in such a way as to make them take up less space, so now you have more clothing(data) taking up less space and all in one neat little package. Organize your backups, unclutter your hard drive, increase upload speeds, decrease download times. Use compression!
I mention 7zip above, but it is by no means the only compression software out there, but it is one of the best. Another good one to try if you can handle the nag screen is WinRAR which in it’s defense I still use through the context menu on my 64bit XP machine and have used it for years with no complaints.

What’s a “Context menu”? It’s the menu that pops up when you right-click on a file.

7zip can unpack 7z, ZIP, GZIP, BZIP2, TAR,  ARJ, CAB, CHM, CPIO, DEB, DMG, HFS, ISO, LZH, LZMA, MSI, NSIS, RAR, RPM, UDF, WIM, XAR and Z files, but it can only compress in the most convenient formats of 7z, ZIP, GZIP, BZIP2 and TAR. I happen to like compressing to RAR myself, so I wouldn’t mind having WinRAR on any of my boxes. WinRAR only compresses to RAR and ZIP and can unpack CAB, ARJ, LZH, TAR, GZ and TAR.GZ, BZ2 and TAR.BZ2, ACE, UUE, JAR (Java Archive), ISO (ISO9660 – CD image),7Z, Z (Unix compress).

A compressed file is normally called an “archive”

Spend any reasonable amount of time on the Internet and eventually you will come across at least one of these file types, more than likely a RAR, ZIP or 7z file as they are the most common compressions with Windows. Windows XP and newer can actually handle .ZIP on it’s own.
Ok. Ok, so you just downloaded a fresh “Movie.7z” and used one of the programs listed above to extract it and you double-click on the little “movie.avi” file and super huge and bulky Windows Media Player comes plopping and plodding up on your screen 35 seconds later. It tries to load the movie, but no avail. It needs your permission to get some codec or something. ehhh….
Go and get a real media player for your machine. I use 3 different ones. KM Player, Winamp and Gom All three are highly customizable, easy to use and between KM Player and Gom you should be able to play any video that can be thrown at you, if it’s even remotely playable. Winamp is dependant on codec packs generally, but KM Player will install it’s codecs for Winamp to use if you let it. Winamp is also a pretty awesome MP3 player in it’s own right. If you combine it with something like DFX the sound is simply amazing. Maybe you like Windows Media Player 11 or 12 or10 or whatever number it is now. Try out the Combined Community Codec Pack to get your videos playing, but please for the sake of your computer at least try out Media Player Classic.

So now you can make compressed files and play video files on your computer using some of the better media players but what if you want your own DVDs to be backed up on your computer? Well that’s not a problem if you followed along with my 2nd guide.
Your going to need a DVD or CD that you want to make the image from, a DVD-ROM and that amazing little piece of software ImgBurn. Place your disk in your disk drive and open ImgBurn. This time you will want to pick “Create an Image from a Disc”, pick the disk drive as the source and then make sure the destination is where you want it to be. Hit the little icons at the bottom and blammo you have an image of your disc a little while later.
You now have the knowledge available to you to create a backup of your personal movie or music collection, bit for bit, compress them to an archive. Extract them from the archive using the context menu and burn the Image file back onto a blank disk or mount them using Daemon tools.

Please make sure to read Parts 1 and 2 of this series.

The Novice’s Guide to Computing and the Internet Part 2.

A very common issue for a novice computer user is coming across a file and having no idea what it is or how to use it. I remember the first time I saw an image file and how much of a loop it threw me for. I feel it’s important to get a good explanation of what a disc image is and exactly how it’s used and why it’s used. A Disc image is like a snapshot of the disc in it’s current state. Every blank spot, bad sector and data sector is mapped out exactly as it is on the disc the original image came from enabling you to make a perfect duplicate.

There are plenty of reasons to have image files on hand. Backups are a very common use of disc imaging, but creating a disc image is something to tackle later on. First let’s figure out some of the more common image types and learn to burn them to disc and even mount them in virtual drives.There are tons of different programs used to make images of discs, but more than likely you will see either .ISO or .BIN .CUE as they are fairly universal standards.

Let’s begin with a hypothetical situation. You have had a home video DVD sent to you through email as a disc image file. The file is called “Family_reunion.ISO” and you would like to watch it, but….What do you do with this .ISO? Well you probably want to watch this one in the DVD player out in the living room so it would make sense to burn it to an actual DVD, especially since Cousin Pete added in all the fancy menus and such to make it easier to navigate. You’re going to need a DVD burner first off and second a DVD player that will play the home made DVD, not all of them will. Third you need a decent burning software that can handle image burning. I suggest ImgBurn , it’s free, it’s simple and it get’s the job done.

Load your blank into the DVD burner on your PC, load up Imgburn, pick “write image file to disc” choose the source, which in this example is “Family_reunion.ISO” and click the thing at the bottom that looks like a CD on a piece of paper with an arrow pointing toward a CD by itself. A few minutes later you should have a complete new DVD with all the video and menus Cousin Pete put on the image to begin with.

Now let’s skip the hypothetical and get straight to the point. You have an .ISO file and don’t want to burn a disc, but want to run it anyway. Go and download Daemon tools and install it being mindful of any extra packaged toolbars and home page changes. I use Firefox so I let Daemon’s homepage stay on my copy of Internet Explorer. Once installed you should see a little lightning bolt icon in your task bar. Right click on that icon and choose “mount image” then pick the location of your image and bam. You have a DVD or CD in the drive. Open “My Computer” and double-click the new drive. It should function as a normal disk drive would. You’ll notice an increased load on your hard drive though.

Most images are handled in the same way as .ISO images are handled, but .BIN and .CUE files are a little different. .CUE is like a map to different locations on the disk, while .BIN is the disc itself. Now you will mount the .CUE files and also use them to burn images to disc.

While this tutorial won’t work for every instance it should work in at least 90%. A few more of the commonly encountered image files along with the program that created them follow in this handy list from Wikipedia:

Alcohol 120%

.mds

CloneCD

.ccd

CloneDVD

.dvd

CDRWIN

.cue

Daemon Tools

.sav

DiscJuggler

.cdi

MagicISO

.uif

Nero Burning ROM

.nrg

Power ISO

.daa

Be sure to check out part 1 of  The Novice guide to internet and computing .