Tag Archives: cd burners

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.


Freeware my PC can’t live without

Back around 2001 I heard about this newer and up and coming garbage that would destroy my internet bandwidth and consume my system resources. That garbage was called spyware. I went with the opinion of a friend and downloaded a free program called Adaware and it cleaned my pc of a few infections. That’s when my obsession started with spyware. I would rather have 12 variants of virii on my PC than 1 piece of spyware. Why? People who write virii do it because they enjoy the challenge and know what they are doing. People who write spyware do it because it’s their job and like a lot of people out there, they really don’t like their jobs. That’s where the problem with spyware begins. Poor coding, memory leaks and hogging your bandwidth all lead to unstable and downright poor performance from your machine.

I already covered Adaware, which is considered the king of spyware removal software. If Adaware is king, then Spybot S&D (the S&D stands for search and destroy) is the uncontested queen of spyware removal. When used in combination they will slaughter the spyware and have your PC running almost like new again.

An all in one solution, still for free, is the web based scanner that searches for all types of malware and virii and that is Trendmicro’s Housecall. Trendmicro’s Housecall will find most of the bad applications and can clean them it also notifies you of critical updates that you may be missing that could represent serious security issues.

Sometimes you need to know things your system specs or task manager just can’t tell you. I like to use a program called CPU-Z to tell me the little interesting details that you can’t just look at with your base Windows applications.

The format for documents I despise the most is .PDF. It’s actually not the format I hate it’s the standard program for opening and reading those documents, Adobe Acrobat. I found a much faster .PDF reader that’s also much smaller it’s called Foxit reader (if you download it get the .exe with out the toolbar). It is very responsive and opens about 4 times faster than Adobe does.

You may have noticed that the new version of Internet Explorer has changed quite a bit from the old version. The changes they have made have been highly influenced by Mozilla’s Firefox. I’ve been using Firefox for about 4 years now and have never looked back. It’s an open source browser that you can customize through plug-ins and themes to get just about anything you want. It has less security flaws than I.E., but doesn’t start quite as fast. I am willing to make that sacrifice though. In fact I removed all of the components of I.E. to free up more system resources and haven’t missed it at all.

Since you can’t go to Windows update with Firefox and I leave the auto update feature turned off, I couldn’t update windows for a long time. I didn’t really need too anyway, but while looking for more security features for my laptop I ran across a website called Windiz Update that acts as a backdoor to the Windows update site and allows those people who don’t use I.E. to update manually. There is no Genuine Validation check or any of the other red tape Windows Update imposes.

Email is a major part of most people’s online time. Some folks use a free service and some use the one there ISP or web servers provide. Assuming you have the option of POP mail I have a few smaller freeware options you can try. The smallest application that I’m familiar with is ReachaMail. It’s small enough to run on most USB thumbdrives and does a fine job of it as well. A more feature rich alternative would be another Mozilla product, Thunderbird. Thunderbird
has all of the features of Outlook Express, but like Firefox, has less security flaws and a slightly faster core. The transition from Outlook to Thunderbird is pretty easy since you can import your settings from Outlook over in one click.

Freeing up disk space might be the first thing people do when their system starts to get that bogged down feeling. Ccleaner is a great system cleanup utility that seems tons quicker than the Disk Cleanup feature of Windows. Another great cleaner is PC decrapifier, but use caution, this program is designed to remove the preinstalled software from PC manufacturers, specifically Dell, and may remove something you use.

Any computer you buy these days just wouldn’t be complete with out a CD burner of some sort. You can use the one that is provided for you or get a real full featured burning software like Nero or you could go another route and try out one of the great full featured freeware burner like CDburnerXP. CDburnerXP can burn data, audio and ISO compilations all with a fairly easy learning curve.

I download a lot of files and normally they are compressed in a .RAR file. I’m not sure if they invented the .RAR format, but WinRAR is still one of the best archivers available. This isn’t technically freeware, but it is shareware with a “nag screen”. I avoid the “nag screen” by right clicking on the archives I want to uncompress and choosing “Extract to [folder name goes here]” if you want to try something a little different and perhaps smaller you can try 7zip. Either way you can’t lose.

Mp3s and video are another thing most people use their PC for. You need a good reliable player. I use VLC and it works like a champ. I also have WinampWinamp you can make playlists of your MP3s, listen to internet radio and watch internet T.V. (if you install Winamp try not to install the 50 free MP3s thing that comes with it and avoid any toolbars they offer). Videos won’t play right if you don’t have the right codec for the different formats. VLC claims to be able to play any video you throw at it, but I somehow doubt this claim, but if you go and download the Defiler pack you should have no issues playing any video. Realplayer and quicktime videos may be the exception. Realplayer is bloated and generally slow, as is Quicktime, the good news is they have alternatives to both available here and here respectively.

Another good MP3 player is called Foobar and uses very little system resources.

Sometimes you will come across a .ISO file or some other variant of a disc image.
you can either use a burner like CDburnerXP to burn it to a disc or use a handy tool like Daemon Tools to mount this .ISO to a virtual drive. This will allow the .ISO to act just like a real disc is in the drive.

Ok so I said that I download a lot of files. Where do I download them from and how? Well I won’t go into all of it, but if you ever come across a torrent file you would like to download the way to do it is to use µtorrent. That symbol apparently means micro, most people just call it Utorrent. Contrary to popular belief, not all file sharing is illegal and torrent files are the common way to share files now. Here
is a site you can try µtorrent on. Try a search on Google for “legal torrents” for more, but NEVER PAY MONEY for a site that allows you to download torrents. I’ve seen plenty of sites that make you pay to download torrents and just redirect you to the illegal download sites once you pay them.

guide for tweaking XP

I’ve mentioned this before, but feel like I should mention it again the virtual NES, is a java Nintendo Emulator that works in your browser and has all of the games already there to play.

I-am-Bored.com is a great site with interesting videos, images, links to blogs and flash games.

Something Awful is a comedy website with a free to browse forum and lots of funny photoshops.

Ok enough of that stuff, stare at the four dots in the following image for 30 seconds then stare at a white wall or ceiling and blink a couple of times.

All right that’s it for now. Thanks for reading.