Tuesday, August 29, 2006

VLC Media Player

Link: VLC Media Player

By now you might have noticed that we have a fondness for small, elegant, free programs that don't bloat themselves with unneeded and unwanted features. If it does it's job quickly, simply and with a minimum of messing around we like it.

And that's why I like VLC Player. It may not have the polished interface of some of the other media players out there (although there are a whole host of plugins and skins available for those who are so inclined) But it does it's job and it does it well. I have yet to throw a video or audio file at it that it wouldn't play, even .iso images and raw DVD .vobs it plays without complaint. It has a few small quirks and problems. But overall it's a wonderful little application.

Kev Says: I really enjoy the VLC player - but it's probably not for everyone! If you've never had a complaint with Window's Default Media Player, than there's probably no need to change to this. But if you download videos or have gotten hold of videos that couldn't play - or you've ever had to fuss with codecs - or you need to play a DVD on your PC and don't want to pay/pirate an application to do it - then i reccomend checking this out.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Treesize



















Link : Treesize Free Website (Download.Com Link)

Having a lot of storage is like having a lot of money: no matter how much you have, you're still probably going to find ways to use it up.

How annoying is it to have problems with your harddrive space?? The thing is, you do a little bit of math in your head and you can't really figure out how you could be filling up that many gigs of info.

Well, Treesize is the answer to such woes. Maybe that 2 gig video file is sitting somewhere completely forgotten about. Temp files to a program that should have been uninstalled. Disk images and ISO's hiding in some forgotten folder. Treesize makes that stuff float to the top.

And it does it, as you can see above, with beautiful graphics. You get a pie chart of your hard drive - you click on the biggest slice, and you get a new pie chart broken down a little more. It's hard to explain - but after clicking for a minute, I guaruntee you'll find all the big files hiding!

Now, this is the first time we're posting something that's technically not free - it has a shareware and pay version. But i can't see ANYTHING that's lacking from the shareware version, it doesn't time out, or limit ability hardly at all. So go to town, and enjoy your new found disk space!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

µTorrent

Link: µTorrent - BitTorrent Client.

We've both used a fair few of the numerous BT clients out there, but µTorrent manages to pack pretty much every feature you could want in a tiny package.
  • Scheduling
  • RSS Support
  • DHT
It's all there - combined with a nice, clean UI and amazing speed.

And did I mention it's only 170k?

(If your unfamiliar with the whole BitTorrent thing head over Here for a nice explanation.)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Fun with iTunes


Obviously iTunes is not a secret piece of software - it's the most popular way of buying music on the internet.

One of the biggest myths I seem to STILL come across with iTunes is you need an iPod to use it. You don't. iTunes is free and will manage your music, burn it to CD, and it is the best pod-cast manager out there. Video and enhanced podcasts keep itunes open on my system pretty much all the time.

But here's a couple of points about iTunes that you may or may not be aware of:
  1. iTunes is a great way to back up your music to disc. Especially to a DVD. You make a playlist for your library, excluding anything you don't want backed up (like podcasts), go to Edit/Preferences/Advanced / Burning - and change the disc format to Data Cd or DVD. Then highlight your playlist and hit the Burn Disc icon in the top right corner. It will calculate how many discs you will need, and step you through burning them one by one. You'll probably want a DVD burner for this if you have a large collection! You should have one anyways- they are so affordable these days, and great for backup.

    UPDATE SEPTEMBER 13 2006 > The new version of iTunes now supports backup without having to make a playlist. Just go to FILE / BACK UP TO DISC. It will let you back up either (a) everything (b) just purchased music from itunes store or (c) just music you haven't backed up yet. Of course, if there is some music you don't care if it's backed up, or you still want more control, then use the playlist method!

  2. You can make a couple of smart playlists to play all of your latest downloaded podcasts in a row. It's like your own radio station with none of the annoying fishing through menus to play the next podcast. Go to File / New Smart Playlist and try these settings.... (click to see bigger)



    You can tweak these settings to make yourself a Video list too, so like your own TV channel, it plays all your video podcasts in a row. This is especially good if you have an iPod with a small storage size- since the actual podcast sync options aren't the most flexible, you can just sync this playlist instead, along with perhaps just the latest podcast from each category. This smart playlist is always what i listen to by default as it's always new - oh you'll also want to sort that list by "date added" so the newest stuff is always on top. (click the graphic at the top of this post to see the what the playlist looks like)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Mighty Google Pack

Link: Google Pack

I just formatted and rebuilt my PC yesterday. It was a pretty painless process due to some preparedness that we'll get to in a few posts time!

But for now, let me tell you the FIRST thing I put on my clean hard drive.

Well, actually it was Windows. But after that, the SECOND thing i put on... was my network driver.

But the THIRD thing - that's what i want to talk about. Google Pack.

Google pack is a collection of great utilites you need for your PC in a single package. But the added bonus is it keeps an eye on all of them and updates them automatically when patches or updates are released.

The only issues i have with google pack are this:
  1. If you already have an installed piece of software included in the pack, it won't maintain its version (no auto updates).
  2. And this one is a bit bigger. All the apps included are free forever - except for Norton Antivirus 2005 SE which will run for a free period of a few months, and then request you change over to a paid subscription. Thee good news is you can unselect this when you install the software, and instead (although not through google pack) install the excellent AVG free instead - see yesterday's posting!!
It should really be one of the first things you put on any PC. Many of these softwares warrant their own posting and no doubt will get one-- but here's the quick rundown -
  • Firefox - Throw away your MS explorer and join those who have rediscovered the web with the greatest web browser out there
  • Picasa - Google's tip top photo manager, now with web hosting, and excellent photo backup
  • Google Earth - Satelite exploration at your desktop
  • Ad-Aware - the best ad and spyware detector
  • Others like screensaver, google toolbar, adobe reader, screensavers
What can I say? Other than the virus scanner, you've got a great toolkit ready to go with 1 download. If i were to improve it i might include WinRar and i'd swap out the virus util. But that's just me.

Adblock

Adblock - Firefox Plugin

Firefox is pretty good at stopping the ubiquitous pop-up and pop-under ads, but it's not so hot at filtering all the online poker and punch the monkey banners. That's where Ad-Block steps up - It lets you block ads - static, gif or flash - based on the originating URL.

Also check out the Filterset.G extension for a pre-compiled list of common ad servers.

Kev Says: You might want to go to Firefox's Extension page to make the install more painless. Follow this link to do that. Heck while you are there you can check out some other fine extensions, like the weathertastic ForecastFox

AVG Free Virus Protection

Links - AVG Free Download (Here's a Link to direct download for Windows XP)
People tend to do one of these things when choosing virus protection-
  1. Use whatever comes with their system, and pay the subscription when the trial period ends.
  2. Use whatever comes with their system, and not pay the subscription when the trial ends, relying on their old virus definitions and hoping that no new virus will attack them
  3. Put fingers in ears, sing "la la la la la"
Well, it's time to stop paying for / pirating / ignoring your virus protection. AVG Free offers all the protection of a Norton or a Symantec - but with no fees whatsoever. It auto updates, it scans your mail, run scheduled checks - what more could you want?

Installation note you might want to change - it defaults to 8 am daily check - you might want to put that to an overnight schedule.

Links - AVG Free Download

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Launchy

Launchy - Application Launcher.

When deciding which application we'd be featuring first Kev an I were in perfect agreement - Launchy is an application we both use countless times a day.

There are a lot of application launchers out there, but I've yet to see one that comes close to Launchy's speed, small Memory/CPU footprint and beautiful simplicity.

Once installed hit the shortcut (Alt - Space by default) to bring up the Launchy box, then just type the first few letters of the application you want to run and Launchy will bring up the closest match for you. If it doesn't guess right first time you can scroll through the list of other possible matches until you find what your after.

It's also adaptive - so if you always choose firefox instead of fireworks it will suggest that first. It's also not limited to shortcuts in the start menu, you can index any directory and any file extension - You could add your Mp3 directory, Documents folder, Anything!

Add to all that the skinable design and less than 1Mb download size and you have a wonderful little application!.

Welcome to Run Like a Geek!

Finding a beautiful PC utility is like finding treasure.

It can make your whole day. And there's so many free, elegant PC tools out there.

The problem is - where do you find them? You stumble across them and wonder where they've been all your life - but you also wonder what else is out there that you don't know about?

When i show my friends these tricks and tips i've come across, they ask me - where do you FIND this stuff. Well - hopefully this can be a central directory where everyone can find treasure.

I'm talking about free virus, backup, music, photo, file, internet and media management utilities you'll wonder what you did without.

Best,
Kev