Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Record Streaming Internet Radio Stations Online

One of the things that I’ve grown accustomed to in iTunes is listening to the streaming radio stations. When you go through an entire work day sitting in front of your computer it’s nice to have a variety of music at your fingertips without needing to assemble your own playlists. Wouldn’t it be nice, however, if you could record some of the songs so that you can listen to them later on?

A few days ago Download Squad dug up an online service that will do just that. Chilirec is completely free, and once you signup you’ll be ready to roll. During the signup process you’ll be prompted to choose from hundreds of online radio stations (many are the same as the ones in iTunes and other media players) that you want to record from. After about 5 minutes the songs will start rolling in from the radio stations that you selected, and you’ll be able to create playlists out of the songs that are being played.

One interesting thing that I noticed is that you can save any song in your playlist to your computer simply by right-clicking on it as seen in the screenshot above. It will be stored in MP3 format which means it shouldn’t have any troubles playing on external devices.

The service is actually pretty incredible. After a little while you’ll be able to start searching/sorting all of the songs that have recorded, and after 2 days it will automatically start putting together “toplists” that show what the most frequently played songs are on the radio stations you listen to. Very cool.

The downside? Yeah, unfortunately there is one. I’ve noticed that some of the songs don’t get “clipped” at the right time. That’s because some of these online radio stations change the “now playing” information (artist, song title, etc…) before the songs actually end. I’m sure there are some radio stations out there that don’t do this, but a lot of the ones I listen to do. It’s definitely worth checking out though.

Friday, April 25, 2008

What Apps Should You Never Install? [Ask The Readers]

One of the interesting things about being a serious Windows user is that very little attention is paid to efficient users of Windows, and that we suffer from a lot of folklore or misinformation that gets passed around.

Useless Crap

Now, I'm not referring to the alleged power users who like to have every toolbar enabled on every program they use, but more the class of Windows users who are as particular about their operating system as most Mac users are about theirs. I count myself in that group, and I'd say there are roughly as many picky Windows users as there are OS X users.

So, the folklore. Due to the proliferation of anything-goes download sites and word-of-mouth system recommendations from well-intentioned experts such as Your Cousin or That Guy At Best Buy, people do all kinds of stupid things to their Windows machines. Some of this advice might even have been relevant 5 or 10 or 15 years ago, but people still keep blindly following along, and then wondering why using their PC is so unpleasant. (Mac users: This is the same as the Cult of Repair Permissions. It bugs the hell out of me for the same computers-are-not-voodoo reasons.)

All that preface aside, it makes sense to point out some mistakes that I still see even savvy Windows users make, and perhaps convince you to break the habit. Here, then, are Windows applicaitons you should never need to install on your system.
Never Install: WinZip

This one makes me poke my eyes out. Guys who grew up using WinZip on Windows 3.1 are always foisting this on newbie users, who are then doomed to spend the rest of their days clicking on the "please stop making me feel bad" nag button. All they're trying to do is unzip a file -- it's built into Windows! This was something Windows actually got right before the Mac did, and there are still people suffering through the bloated, overbuilt WinZip experience.

If you must extract some of the more esoteric compression formats out there, go get 7-Zip. It's free, open source, supports every common format out there, and doesn't spew links all over the place when you install it.
Never Install: Sketchy Codec Packs

There are tons of bogus codec packs out there for download, which promise to let you play back virtually any media file. What most people find after downloading them is that their media players become permanently brain damaged and they're stuck not being able to play the movie or music they carefully pirated acquired. That sucks. Chris Lanier covered the subject in detail and knows of what he speaks. "If you have not figured it out yet, there is ZERO reason to ever install a Codec Pack."

Again, there are people who need support for less common formats, and again, there's a great free and open source option that won't leave you screwed. The abominably-named ffdshow lets you record or play in almost any format, including DivX and XviD movies.

There are many, many more applications that cause more annoyance or harm than they prevent, but this is a pretty good starting point for most people. Of course, a lot of people would also include Internet Explorer on this list, and there's no reason not to Get Firefox. It's also worth noting that all the recommendations here are free, open source tools, but that's not why I recommended them. They just plain work better.

Posted 12:45 AM with tags: 7zip • codec • ffdshow • utilities • windows • winzip


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Previously: Letters of Complaint

Next: Do blogs really have an impact?
Chris Bellini

Posted August 17, 2006 05:38

When somebody requests my help because their Windows PC has slowed to a crawl, what irks me is when I find plenty of “optional” software that’s installed by legitimate applications. It’s tough enough to weed out the spyware/adware/pointlessware without having to deal with this junk.

The “optional” software that I’m referring to are things like toolbars, shortcuts, System Tray icons and so on. Adobe Reader installs the Yahoo! Toolbar for IE. Winamp dumps a shortcut on the Windows Destkop for 50 free MP3s, and the list goes on. All these useless freebies can be avoided if the user would select the “Custom” option during the installation of the app they intended to instead, instead of next-next-nexting their way through the setup. The garbage that legitimate apps are bundling nowadays in their default installs annoys me tremendously.

And don’t get me started on Real Player…

Posted August 17, 2006 06:48

A colleague of mine once gave me the best bit of advice about choosing whether to install a bit of shareware: on his wall, a bit of paper with “VBRUN.DLL” and a giant red X over it.

Posted August 17, 2006 08:09

Very good advice. I don’t even want to think of how many computers of friends and family I’ve had to look at because of codec pack problems.

Liking the new layout and photo!

Posted August 17, 2006 08:29

‘there’s no reason not to Get Firefox.’

Opera? Especially if your machine isn’t much cop.
Jough Dempsey

Posted August 17, 2006 15:21

Windows XP’s built-in zip file support is abysmal and read/unzip-only. If you want to create archives you’ll need a tool like WinZip, which also comes with a self-extracting utility so you can give other people archives.

There are other options of course, but sticking with the built-in support for Windows is NOT an option. One of the first things I do when I install a new Windows system is to disable support for zip files (which itself is a chore). I also hate how Windows displays zip files as folders which is just wrong.

Codec packs are fine if they are virus free. I’d rather keep one programme up to date than have to hunt around for the latest versions of things myself. Keeping bundles like this is really common in *nix but not so much with Windows, and virtually unheard-of on the Mac (mostly because of limited market share, probably).

Firefox is always a good idea.
Anil Dash
Author Profile Page

Posted August 17, 2006 15:36

“If you want to create archives you’ll need a tool like WinZip”

Sorry, Jough, that’s not true. In any version of Windows in the past 6 years or so, you can right-click or choose the File menu and make a New Compressed Folder. That’s how you create a .zip file.

The description of your preferences about .zip files is relevant to you, but I’m talking about normal users who just want to get a spreadsheet that was too big to email. I’d urge all of us who are power users not to inflict matters of preference on people for whom it’d place an undue burden over time.

Posted August 17, 2006 21:44

A good start. Definitely agree about the codec packs. God, what a load of crap those are. ffdshow all the way. (BTW, bleeding edge development of ffdshow is happening here: )

Some other things you never need to install:


Any “official” IM client that only works with one service. Install Trillian or WinGAIM instead.

Adobe Reader. Install FoxIt instead.

Download “accelerators” like DAP. If you must have resumable downloads, install a Firefox extension like DownThemAll instead.

Scott Johnson
Author Profile Page

Posted August 18, 2006 08:52

One that I often see mentioned along with those bogus codecs is Media Player Classic. This is useless crap in its best (worst?) form.

Also, it’s good to see 7-Zip getting some link love. That’s a great app that is much more functional than WinZip and skips those annoying nags.
David Lynch

Posted August 18, 2006 09:11

If you want to play something more esoteric than the norm, there’s a very good codec guide on ZoomPlayer’s format listing.
Ed Wrenbeck

Posted August 18, 2006 10:20

Maybe I just spend too much time unzipping large files, but the built in to windows unzipper is painfully slow, as in an order of magnitude slower than winzip.

Posted August 18, 2006 15:33

Forget even bothering with codecs, I’m surprised no one has mentioned VLC.

Also, TuneUp Utilities is the best maintenance package hands down. It’ll keep your Windows install in top shape.

And if you’re a semi power user, I’d suggest Altiris SVS. It lets you package installs and completely remove or deploy an app with the click of a button. All files, settings, registry entries. (It does it by comprehensively monitoring installs)

Ed: I think you have it backwards. Windows unzip sucks for large amounts of small files. It works fine for large ones.
Mark Napper

Posted August 19, 2006 05:37

VLC is for the large chunk of the windows populous a vastly overcomplex frontend to libavcodec which is the core of ffdshow. I’d much sooner recommend Media player clasic or windows media player itself to the non-power user.

I’d also recommend Winrar as a paid file compression solution if only for its “right click, unpack here” option that I didn’t see in 7zip.

Posted August 19, 2006 13:57

I’d disagree about installing Gaim or Trillian over individual clients. Like Mac users (sometimes we just have to admit “Sorry, I can’t do that, I have a Mac”), Windows users of combined programs sometimes end up not being able to use a feature that a Windows user with a regular program will expect to just work. Everyone else is using official clients, and there are lots of experts in those programs that aren’t power users in other regards. Multiclients are just more likely to cause problems for the regular user.

Posted August 21, 2006 08:46

the windows unzipper is vastly slower on all my pcs then the winzip one is. and i believe osx has had “add to archive” since its first release.

Posted August 22, 2006 06:37

The reason I installed Media Player Classic and the Codecs is so that I could avoid installing RealPlayer. VLC doesn’t appear to play Real streams (accd to the VLC site), so it wouldn’t be an option for me.

For my zip needs, I use JustZipIt. Freeware, though every 10th time or so that you use they put a bookmark to their site on the desktop. I can deal with that.

Posted August 23, 2006 08:24

I recommend TugZip instead of 7-Zip. TugZip has a few more features than 7-Zip such as folder tree view a la Windows Explorer, recent files, encryption, self-extractor creator, and repair. (In general, TugZip is more fleshed out than 7-Zip.) It also supports a few more file types such as the CD images family (BIN, ISO, IMG, NRG).

It’s also free and free of ads.

Posted November 26, 2007 06:40

For a good free unzipper with no fuss, use ExtractNow. I adore this little app. :) Even even does rars and many others.

Also, I use MusikCube as my music player. VERY lightway, iTunes-like interface and has all those great features you would like with the ‘bloated’ media jukeboxes out there.

Posted April 24, 2008 15:54

Hate to say it, but I have to disagree on the Adobe/FoxIt thing. At first, I was in love with FoxIt, loads in a 20th of the time of the resource-bloated Adobe Reader. However, FoxIt consistently gave me errors in which images would be horribly mis-displayed: reversed images, inverted colors, weird graininess - generally turning them into unusable garbage. Adobe does not do this. Especially because I do graphic design and images matter, I had to switch back to Adobe.
Mr. E

Posted April 24, 2008 16:05

You never need to install an internet browser as Internet Explorer is all you ever really need.

Also .zip files are now managed out of the box and most digital cameras you can unload out of the box as well.

Posted April 24, 2008 16:07

@Ryan You should check out SumatraPDF if you want an alternative to Adobe for PDFs. Sumatra is blazing fast compared to Adobe Reader.

Posted April 24, 2008 16:17

Ditch Quicktime and RealPlayer. Quicktime Alternative and Real Alternative are much less intrusive.

Also, I like IZArc for zipping.

Posted April 24, 2008 16:20

Anything by Corel. Includes winzip, word perfect, Corel draw (pre-press nightmare)… pretty much anything by them

Posted April 24, 2008 16:20

I use ALZip for compressing/decompressing files…it is free!!!!

Posted April 24, 2008 16:21

Anything by Corel. Includes winzip, word perfect, Corel draw (pre-press nightmare)… pretty much anything by them

Posted April 24, 2008 16:22

Sony software, as a rule, is awful, be it Connect Player/SonicStage, camcorder software - it’s all pretty awful in my experience. Luckily their camcorders work with Windows Movie Player/Windows Explorer after initial driver installation.

Posted April 24, 2008 16:27

@Mr.E I really hope the IE comment was sarcasm.

Posted April 24, 2008 16:30

that’s it? that’s your list: don’t install winzip and codec packs? wow! thanks for wasting my time ;)
Roger Benningfield

Posted April 24, 2008 16:41

RE: codec packs

No, they’re not necessary for most people, but CCCP is a quick, easily managed way to get ffdshow and a few other bits installed, filetypes associated, and so on.

In addition, if you plan on viewing much h.264 content, run far away from ffdshow and install the CoreAVC codec. It ain’t free, but it makes non-hardware-assisted HD a realistic goal on older machines.


To echo someone else: pony up the cash for WinRAR and forget about everything else.

Posted April 24, 2008 16:48

Media Player Classic is the best out there. Lightweight, fast, and only 2 files. Winrar is the best achieve utility I’ve ever used. I think its better than 7-zip. Though you do have to pay for it. I have to use Adobe Acrobat because I use the advanced functions. But I’ve never liked Foxit or the alternatives. The only alternative I’ve liked is the Mac OS X preview that opens PDFs. Firefox 3 beta 5 is my preferred browser. Switched from opera after firefox got memory usage under control.

itunes, quicktime, and pretty much anything apple makes for Windows is crap. Avoid them.

Posted April 24, 2008 17:07

I would recommend not to install

1. Yahoo Messenger (alternative - Pidgin)
2. Adobe Acrobat reader (altermative - Foxit,Sumatra)
3. WinZip and WinRar (alternative - 7Zip)
4. Internet Explorer (comes by default… but prevent its usage and restrict your browsing to Firefox, Opera)
5. Anti virus/spyware products from pctools (go with AVG,NOD 32)
6. Zone alarm Firewall and Windows default firewall (disable it) - Alternative - Comodo Firewall,AVG


Posted April 24, 2008 17:15

Why not download winrar, then google for the co…oh wait, that would be piracy. But yeah, winrar is by far, the best archive manager out there. For media players, I have found TCPMP ( (The Core) to handle most everything I have ever needed.

Now, in addition to the stuff NOT to load: Any crap that wants you to install a toolbar. yes, firefox is great, but once you start having 20 or so toolbars installed (or other extensions) it gets bloated and acts worse than, god forbid, IE 7 (Ie 8 is not bad). (oh, but you can fix this with some memory tweeks if you know where to look)
Sean Lear

Posted April 24, 2008 17:25

There’s a lot of chatter about Winzip on here, but has anybody discovered the simplicity of “JustZipIt”? Like Foxit reader, it is simple and doesn’t hog up sytstem resources.
Jim Wylie

Posted April 24, 2008 17:57

Another reason to install WinZip is if you require path support. This can be critical when moving zipped files between different machines where many files across many paths are involved.
Mark LaFlamme

Posted April 24, 2008 18:02

“You never need to install an internet browser as Internet Explorer is all you ever really need.”

Wow, Mr. E. Don’t get out much, do you?

Posted April 24, 2008 18:37

CODECs???? Why? Use Kmplayer, a.k.a. ‘Korean Media Player’, extreme fast player, low resources, and Every Codec you imagine inside. If you care about craps in the system, this software don’t need instalattion , can be portable.
Dan White

Posted April 24, 2008 18:40

Jim Wylie: 7zip has path support. shadytrees: use 7-zip via Windows Explorer for a folder tree view, AES-256 encryption, self-extractor creator. If you think it’s going to be needed to be repaired then use PAR. It also supports a lot of file types including ISO’s. It’s also free and free of ads. Jough Dempsey: Right click on a file “Send to” > “Compressed folder”. Instant zipping.

7zip’s native format is far superior to rar and isn’t proprietary people should see the light and ditch WinRAR.
Mark McCann

Posted April 24, 2008 18:50

LINUX !!!!

Everyting you will ever need can be obtained in the add/remove window.

If you get certain distributions you will never need anything everyting you need is there.!!
Brigitte Bone

Posted April 24, 2008 18:59

Hello Anil! I agree with you wholeheartedly!!!!!

Posted April 24, 2008 21:16

“You never need to install an internet browser as Internet Explorer is all you ever really need.

Also .zip files are now managed out of the box and most digital cameras you can unload out of the box as well.”


on a more serious note, Windows. Just don’t install it. There is a fresh new version of Ubuntu out Today I believe :)

Posted April 24, 2008 21:34

See what a LifeHacker bump will do to ya? :-)

I agree 100%. I’m frequently being invited over to friends’ houses to exorcise the crap off their ‘puters.

Posted April 24, 2008 23:12

The worst of the worst though is always anything by Nokia, Having to uninstall the Nokia manager which associates itself with every extension possible is a nightmare, it does not put the extensions back to their original values, so you end up with a system that can not open any typical files because it is looking for its nokia based reader/software.

They even have a section on their website where you can download a tool to completely remove the software, but even that is broken and will still not fix everything… Never ever let anyone install from the nokia cds included with new phones…

Posted April 24, 2008 23:20

I’ll second the nomination of ExtractNow as the best unzip utility. It is elegant, lightweight, and free. My favorite feature is the ability to extract all the zip archives in a folder. It saves me a lot of time. Highly recommended.

Posted April 24, 2008 23:37

How about this one:

Never install any of the crappy “software” on the CDs that come with any cable/DSL modem, router, etc. It’s all junk, providing no additional functionality.

Second, regarding the multi-IM programs, by far the best available for Windows for some time now is Miranda ( It is much more streamlined than the bloated trillian, more powerful than wingaim and extremely flexible (and yes, open source).

Posted April 25, 2008 00:00

Never install symantec products. they are the crappiest coded stuff which kills your machine even if it is a quad-core!!

Posted April 25, 2008 00:41

Linux just won’t do the job for power users…. yet. Yes it’s fun to work with, and configure, and you can look super-cool to other nerds.

Someday soon it will be the ultimate OS, but it isn’t yet… Though I’d suggest having a copy of it on a computer so you’re not lost when that day comes.

As for file archiving, 7zip alongside the native zip functions of Windows is all you need.

For codecs, media player and something that plays divx should be all you need. I can’t understand why people even encode movies in other formats.

For PDF, yeah I’ve seen some documents get messed up by Foxit Reader, so I keep a copy of Acrobat on my system for when I need it (but foxit is the default program)

And for messengers, the only problem I have with multi-client messengers is that they aren’t always fully compliant with the subtle features of each program (for instance, some people on Adium use smileys I dont see on GoogleTalk)

Posted April 25, 2008 01:49

I will never use IE ever again for as long as I live. The only thing I got out of IE was a whole lot of trouble. I would use Firefox or Opera anyday. Although, I mainly use Opera because of Firefox’s slow download times on my computer(not sure of the problem). I reccomend Firefox to anyone who is ignorant or naive enough to use anything else as their browser.

The best media player I have EVER use and will never turn my back on is KMPlayer. The best thing I have ever used. It’s interface is so simple, plays absolutely anything I throw at it, comes with codec pack of any file I’ve had to play and looks nice to boot.

Oh and I use WinRAR. It works really well for me and I have never had any problems with it. Easy to use, just right-click and you can uncompress or archive into .ZIP or .RAR formats.
Some Random Guy

Posted April 25, 2008 01:58

I think that a lot of people have good points here. I have seen many cases where these so called free (or once free) applications install other things that clutter down systems.

@Mr. E — I can’t install IE due to being on Mac therefore it doesn’t meet my needs. TBQH, I wouldn’t recommend IE to anyone. When someone tells me they use IE, I chuckle and direct them to firefox’s website.

I do however have to say that while we are stating that codec packs are never needed, I have grown fond of klite mega codec pack. This is only because some of the vids I used to download wouldn’t play on anything else and Media Player Classic was always the quickest application to launch. I know there are other’s out there.

I use Adium as do some people on here. I would highly recommend that as opposed to using just one client. It’s just more convenient.

One thing I despise is ‘nix users thinking they are superior or better because they use the distro. Get over it. I can’t tell you how many times my father flaunts that he is an Oracle DBA and making fun of windows yet he runs 2k Pro(not to mention mistakes AGP for PCIE,that’s a whole nother story). Doesn’t matter how good you think you are, MS has the upper hand right now and will more than likely always. So when people say “OMG SWITCH TO LINUX…ITS DA WIN!!!!” It’s not for everyone and it most certainly isn’t for your average home user that is all about the point and click.
Charlie Anzman

Posted April 25, 2008 02:22

Anil - You could have added about 1000 more to this, not to mention 100 web-aware apps running simultaneously and people wondering why their computers are slow :)

Posted April 25, 2008 03:32

@Jat Thanks for the recommendation

MusikCube as a Music Player rules.

Posted April 25, 2008 04:20

A note on IE and associated comments (disclamer: I am a techie, administered tons of unix and windows huge networks, managed large installations, yada yada yada)

I used to use firefox, which is a great browser, for years. Then I gave a try to IE7 and: - it is not as powerful as firefox - there are no zillions of add-ons - it is branded Microsoft (which is THE sin) - … and I stick to it because it works for me. It has tabs, usually works, usually displays pages, has ONE PROXY SETTING which is used by the vast majority of Windows programs (so I need to change that only there).

It crashes maybe once a week or so — like any other program. If someone complains about that he/she should use a dishwasher as it usually works fone for years. In our world software do crash and this is how life goes. It sucks, I know. An operating ssytem is not a life-saving device or a plane. It is supposed to be nice, colorful, work more or less and play movies. And MP3.

If you use your broswer as an interface for everything (emacs used to be like that… emacs… what was that?) well then you should maybe install FirefoxOS and yo, no more OS to complain about.

What I want to say here is that 97.7% of users worldwide have an understanding that internet = browser, that they laboriously type in an URL … slowly … and look at the porn^H^H^H^H news. They do nto need a web acclerator and a gmail add-on and a tracker of the current phase of moona nd a weather thingie on the bottom and … and … and .. and…

Now - there is still the 2.3% of power users. It is importnat to create the right tools for these 2.3% of people.

Posted April 25, 2008 05:36

Never install real player or quicktime

Posted April 25, 2008 07:28

Great list. Totally agree. however I disagree with people who commented on VLC. That is a great media player that not only is open source, it plays quite a lot of different formats. Even cd images.
Brian Carnell

Posted April 25, 2008 08:25

The lesson here is that Anil’s “don’t ever install X” is a vastly oversimplistic approach to the issue. For some users, WinZip is a good option. Sometimes, you run into obscure formats and odd conflicts in Windows and you do need to try different CODEC packs.

There just isn’t a one size fits all solution.

Posted April 25, 2008 09:51

You don’t need to install Vista :P

But seriously, things like Realplayer and quicktime are HORRIBLE. Just get VLC. Plays anything and everything. And any HP programs… my laptop came packed with about 15 USELESS games.

Posted April 25, 2008 09:54

Real Player is a virus.

Posted April 25, 2008 10:42

Firefox 2 is a virus… It takes like 40% of your RAM! Install k-Meleon …

Posted April 25, 2008 12:09

Maybe I missed it but I cannot believe that nobody mentioned AOL

Posted April 25, 2008 13:34

Everyone brags about Nero, so I installed it one day. That NAZI warlord software took over everything on my computer! It installed itself everywhere!

Un-installing it was a nightmare. The un-install only un-installed some of itself, and left tons of crap everywhere. I was finding bits and pieces of Nero hidden here and there for a long time afterwards. What a nightmare.

Regardless to say, your experience with Nero might have been better than mine. Personally, I want my applications compartmentalised with one user interface; and when I want to use it: I open the program. Simple. I don’t do a lot of burning, so my Roxio Easy CD Creator works fine, and does the job. I am not likely to try the nightmarish Nero again.

Posted April 25, 2008 13:47

Don’t forget the best example of an entire GENRE of software that has outlived the problem it was created to solve: Screensavers.

On people’s reservations about multi-protocol IM programs not supporting some of the obscure features of particular protocols: that may be true, but I think you’ll find in most cases, these are rarely used. It is also arguably easier for an average user to have a single program to learn and run. Especially considering that most of the IM clients become increasingly more bloated and intrusive. How many times have we all been asked why a computer takes so long to startup, only to look at the system tray to see twenty different IM programs?

I have to second the support for Korean Media Player for more advanced users, its really nice. In case anyone is wondering, yes it is available in english. However, I’d say that for average Windows users, WMP or Media Player Classic are sufficient.

The comment “Linux just won’t do the job for power users” made me laugh. The fact that Linux is far more configurable, stable, secure, and efficient means you could call it the ideal Power User OS, and it has been “doing the job” for Power Users for some time now.

From what I’ve seen, the two extremes have a better time with linux. First are Power Users already know Linux or can easily adapt to it so they can reap the full benefits. Second are beginners who mostly just check email, surf the web, and maybe write a letter or two, and benefit from Linux’s stability and security (once it’s set up, it’ll keep working like a horse, and they have little to worry about from malware, viruses, and other Windows frustrations. It just works.).

In the middle, the people who are most likely to have problems with Linux are the average users who’s understanding of computers is limited to Windows. They have managed to become pretty good with Windows and often think of themselves as being a “power user.” Then they come to Linux with preset ideas about “How Computers Work.” When Linux doesn’t conform to what they expect, they bemoan how “it won’t do the job for power users.” Sure it will, just go find a real one and ask him.

Again, before the inevitable accusations. I don’t have any blind resentment of Windows. In fact, I am typing this now on my Windows PC. I have both on my desktop, and enjoy the best of both worlds.

Posted April 25, 2008 13:53

Firefox 3 Beta 5 is awesome and they fixed the memory problems.

Alzip is what I sometimes use at home. It also adds context menu options. Like New Folder, which creates the folder using a name of a bird.

Posted April 25, 2008 14:37

for protection, I go for AVG Free Antivirus for virus protection, and Spybot S&D -(now has a resident shield) for other malware (AVG free anti-spyware doen’t auto-update or scheduled scan, or have a resident shield)

I’m all for Firefox. My three must-have addons are 1. Adblock plus (blacklists advertisements, so firefox doesn’t even load them) 2. Filterset.G updater for Adblock (auto-updated list of known advertisements) 3. NoScript (allow javascript for your whitelist sites only, or on a temporary basis) NoScript may take a couple weeks of training while you browse your frequent sites, but it is well worth it not to get odd scripts and popups on strange sites.

There are lots of other good ones out there, depending on individuals’ needs, but those are three that I install for anyone for whom I am installing Firefox.

The only thing Win users need IE for is Microsoft Update (for other MS software that auto-update doesn’t cover) - but this can be done in Firefox with the IE engines using the IEtab addon.
Daniel Branconnier

Posted April 25, 2008 15:40

Instead of using a bloated security program like Norton Internet Security, try the freeware SpywareTerminator ( It provides you with Virus and Spyware Protection and doesn’t use up much resources, it’s free and offers real-time protection. I find it better than AVG.

Posted April 25, 2008 17:06

and here I thought I’d see great advice.

true that winzip isn’t the best tool out there, but other people in the world don’t exactly use ZIP as an the default archive tool. 7zip’s ok.

codec packs. true that for the below average user, one shouldn’t even bother with them but if you do more than just typing in spreadsheets and stuff, you’ll probably need a decent video player and stuff to decode your vids. CCCP pretty much covers everything you can throw at it, proprietary formats not included and windows media player isn’t exactly the best at watching videos.

Opera, yep, but only becuase firefox2 is broken (and yeah I do realise this thing was written before firefox2)

bah… I really shouldn’t have to worry about you windows people…

Posted April 25, 2008 17:06

Buy more RAM…LOL…but seriously: - get rid of using Explorer as your default shell for windows (you know - the start button on the lower left, tasks, desktop icons, etc.) There are a multitude of alternatives, but my favorite bloat-free one is called blackbox, originally for *nix systems but ported to windows. You can see screenshots of a bunch of different configs at - if you’re a fan of multi-protocol IM clients, try Digsby. Kinda bloated (but still much much better than having 4 IM programs running at once), but offers LOTS of features including logging into social networking sites. Looks like Pidgin too if u like the interface.
Kyle Green

Posted April 25, 2008 19:32

For most of my life I’ve been a windows user. I’ve only recently developed a taste for Linux by installing YDLinux on my Playstation 3. I am however an expert class user for MS Windows, and particularly, Vista.

Vista is not the evil demon you think it is. It can be reduced to a fully functioning, low-memory cost, almost processor free OS. Yes, it does take some registry tweaks, but that’d be article all of its own. Lets assume for a moment, you’ve installed windows and you’re down to the basics, and you’ve got it simple, secure, (mine is) crash free, and looking just how you like it.

7zip and those other free zip programs you use, well, lets not kid ourselves. Most power users want the best and will pirate if they have to. (Don’t start a controversy argument you twerps, I’m not going to check this page to defend my point)

I use WinRAR. Lets just say, it has a vast multitude of good, daily use features, and not once has it ever crashed. Did I mention it’s compartmentalized, custom shell integration options, and extremely fast? That solves 99.9% of your compressed file issues.

Moving on, the next .1% would be ISO and BIN and DAA files. Disc images (simply put) for those of you who don’t know, or these don’t apply to. Personally, I just have one disc I wanted to copy to HD and mount. I Googled, got PowerISO, and everything has been perfect since. Enough said, lets not argue ISO programs all day. I’m sure there are others for different users.

Media Player Classic? Pull your thumb out of your butt and grow up. Use VLC for all your video demands. If it’s stored with two audio tracks, 4 subtitle tracks, perfection is only a right click away. You can even skin it to look like WMP11, which by the way is a great program to use for the library and to play your mp3s. FLAC files? Sorry, I don’t much care for stuff that’s uncompressed, the internet is too big to be THAT picky and petty.

Codecs! Yes, you may like your codecs, but VLC plays everything I download on the first try. Who needs codecs? Stop downloading k-lite. It’s wasting your space. It’s slowing down your computer. Benchmark it before and after, you’ll see.

Windows Media Center. If you don’t have cable tv running into your computer, I’d suggest you remove/disable this nice piece of software. Otherwise, it’s the bomb diggity and is just terrific and fulfilling your television needs.

Opera, Firefox, IE. Opera is a lowcost browser, but guess what? Firefox is too, at last. The Firefox fanbase is much larger than anything else, and can be customized right down to the chrome. You can tweak every little facet of it much farther than Opera, as far as I can tell. Also, it’s built and set up much more closely to IE so it’s an easy transition for any user who is stuck using that Microsoft made virus. Yes, you might recommend Opera over IE, but both are truly inadequate for for the 2.3% of power users out there. If you think otherwise, you’re just depriving yourself of true awesomeness.

OS interactive experience? Okay. Sit down for this one. Why don’t you install RocketDock right above your taskbar? You’ll have the best of Mac and Windows right in one spot! OMG! No way! Are you serious!?

Hmmm, what else? Messenger software. Now this is where I’m not going to stand by any of you. I use AIM, Yahoo!, ICQ, MSN Messenger (2 accounts), and I don’t have a single messenger program installed on my Vista PC. For those of you who just raised an eyebrow, try I mean, c’mon, you’re sitting at your computer, your web browser is open, it has tabs, so use them! If you absolutely MUST have software installed, then I support Trillian or GAIM or whatever the hell you kids are using these days.

Here’s my short list of things never to install: AOL Messenger software Corel products Avast! Antivirus (uber bloated interface) iTunes (unless you own l337 iPods)

Anything “just because it’s free” - give me a break, noob. You have a job don’t you? Buy it. If you’re too cheap, pirate it. It’s your computer, do it right, or not at all.

Posted April 25, 2008 19:37

You guys are being overly harsh on MrE. There is a very good reason for sticking with IE, it gives you a reason to use Anti-Virus and Anti-Adware programs.

Posted April 25, 2008 19:40

For multi-IM programs, I just use the chat feature in Gmail. No drain on memory, and it logs all of your conversations to your Gmail account. Plus, you never have to worry about uninstalling anything.

Stage6 clone DivXit becomes Vreel

Remember that Stage6 clone called DivXit we told you about yesterday? Apparently the folks at DivX didn't really like its name too much. Because today the site has a new name: Vreel. There's also a new Q&A which makes it clear that while the site was inspired by DivX's defunct Stage6 video sharing service, Vreel will build a brand new video database.

Vreel will, however, use the DivX codec and webplayer which are pretty much the things that made Stage6 special. Stage6 was one of the first sites to offer high definition video streams. While many other video sharing sites have since caught up, the DivX webplayer is still one of the best looking HD video streaming applications we've seen.

The launch date for Vreel has been pushed back a week to May 6th. Vreel says when the site goes live users will be able to upload files up to 800MB, with an eye toward enabling 1GB uploads eventually.

Vreel will eventually offer video downloads in addition to online video streams.

Upload Video Clips to Flickr In Bulk Using Flickr Uploader

While you can upload videos onto Flickr in bulk from the browser, a better option is their desktop based Flickr Uploadr software - recommended when you have multiple videos to upload or the size of individual videos is very large.

There are some extra advantages. With Flickr Uploadr, you can attach tags, titles and descriptions to all your videos, as well as set privacy options. And the software works in parallel meaning you can prepare a second set of videos for uploading while the previous one is still getting uploaded onto Flickr.
Flickr Uploadr software, currently available on the Flickr tools page, doesn’t include support for videos but there’s a new official version (v3.1) that allows uploading of photos as well as videos. Here are the download links.

FlickrUploadr-3.1.0-en.exe [Windows] FlickrUploadr-3.1-en.dmg [Mac]

HOWTO kill/block an RFID

nstructables have just published their latest installment in their series of HOWTOs inspired by my forthcoming novel Little Brother, a young adult book about kids who use technology to wrest liberty from the Department of Homeland Security. This week, it's HOWTO block or kill an RFID chip.

-The easiest way to kill an RFID, and be sure that it is dead, is to throw it in the microwave for 5 seconds. Doing this will literally melt the chip and antenna making it impossible for the chip to ever be read again. Unfortunately this method has a certain fire risk associated with it. Killing an RFID chip this way will also leave visible evidence that it has been tampered with, making it an unsuitable method for killing the RFID tag in passports. Doing this to a credit card will probably also screw with the magnetic strip on the back making it un-swipeable.

-The second, slightly more convert and less damaging, way to kill an RFID tag is by piercing the chip with a knife or other sharp object. This can only be done if you know exactly where the chip is located within the tag. This method also leaves visible evidence of intentional damage done to the chip, so it is unsuitable for passports.

-The third method is cutting the antenna very close to the chip. By doing this the chip will have no way of receiving electricity, or transmitting its signal back to the reader. This technique also leaves minimal signs of damage, so it would probably not be a good idea to use this on a passport.

-The last (and most covert) method for destroying a RFID tag is to hit it with a hammer. Just pick up any ordinary hammer and give the chip a few swift hard whacks. This will destroy the chip, and leave no evidence that the tag has been tampered with. This method is suitable for destroying the tags in passports, because there will be no proof that you intentionally destroyed the chip.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

DivXit: The second coming of Stage6?

Almost two months to the day after DivX shut down its marginally popular Stage6 video sharing site, it looks like a third party group plans to resurrect the service. Or at least to clone it.

There's not much information available about yet, other than the fact that the site should launch next week. We're going to go out on a limb and guess that the folks behind the site plan to implement a DivX web video player and set up online conversion tools that let users upload various video types to share on the service.

No word on how DivXit will be able to make a Stage6 clone profitable when DivX was unable to do so. The company shut down Stage6 because it was spending too much time and energy on the bandwidth-heavy site instead of focusing on its core mission of working with hardware manufacturers to deliver DivX-certified devices.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Best DVD Ripping Tools

Whether you want to watch a movie on your iPod or back up your too-easily-scratched DVDs, DVD ripping is a mysterious realm for many. Even those in-the-know find it difficult to keep up with the best tools for the job, especially in the face of increased copy protection. On Tuesday we asked you to share your favorite DVD ripping tools; today we've sifted through hundreds of comments to bring you the five most popular answers. Hit the jump for a closer look at five of the best and most popular DVD ripping tools, then cast your vote to determine the best ripper of the bunch.
DVD Shrink (Windows)
Despite the fact that the freeware DVD Shrink (download) hasn't been in active development for years, this freeware decrypter, ripper, and compressor is still a favorite all-in-one stop for ripping and backing up DVDs. Its compression feature is what sets DVD Shrink apart, compressing 8GB dual-layer DVDs down to 4GB sizes that will fit on standard, single-layer DVD-Rs (i.e., the type of DVDs most consumers can burn to). It's even inspired us to write our very own DVD Shrink helper application, DVD Rip, which turns the already simple DVD Shrink process into a one-click ripping affair.
HandBrake (All Platforms)
The free, cross-platform HandBrake makes ripping DVDs to a bevy of useful, playable file formats a cinch, with support for iPods, PSPs, Apple TVs, PS3s, and pretty much any other format your device requires. It's fast, free, and takes the difficulty out of both ripping and transcoding. (original post)
DVDFab HD Decrypter
Much like DVD Shrink, DVDFab HD Decrypter cuts through copy protection and rips DVDs to your hard drive. Unlike DVD Shrink, DVDFab does not offer compression tools. DVDFab is shareware, but its trial version lets you do nearly as much as you'd ever need. That said, users who pony up for the platinum edition don't seem to have any regrets. (original post)
Honorable Mentions
This week's honorable mentions go out to AnyDVD (Windows, shareware) and DVD43 (freeware, Windows, original post). I want to put a special word in for both of these, particularly DVD43 since it's freeware. Whenever popular ripping tools like DVD Shrink, HandBrake, DVDFab, or DVD Decrypter fail to break the copy protection, these lightweight tools are a must-have. They run in the background and disable copy protection as soon as the DVD is inserted, leaving any ripping tool free to grab the contents without having to deal with decryption at all.

dvdrip-shot.pngMy third honorable mention is a shameless plug for the free, Windows-only DVD Rip, Lifehacker's very own helper application that works in conjunction with DVD Shrink to set up automated one-click rips. DVD Shrink does all the heavy lifting, but DVD Shrink makes it simple enough that the entirely tech unsavvy should have no problems ripping a DVD.

Last, if you'd like a more detailed look at how you might put these programs to use, check out our previous guide to turning your PC into a DVD ripping monster.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

How to Convert PowerPoint Presentations to Video Files (with Sound)

This step-by-step guide illustrates how to convert a PowerPoint slide-show into video so you can distribute presentations more easily:

1. You can upload these PowerPoint video files to sites like YouTube or MySpace and some of your creation could go viral.

2. Transfer the PowerPoint slides to an iPod or your mobile phone and enjoy the presentations while on the move.

3. If your slideshow is like a photo album with lot of images, convert the PowerPoint to video and burn onto a DVD - you can now watch the presentations on a large TV screen.

The possibilities are endless. PowerPoint files converted to video using this technique also preserve all the voice narrations. And as expected, the total cost is $0.

How to convert PowerPoint into Video for YouTube or iPod

All you need a copy of Microsoft PowerPoint (any version), the PPT file, a webcam or microphone (if you want to record audio) and Internet access. OK, let’s get started:


Step 1: Open your PPT presentation file inside PowerPoint and switch to Slide Show menu to setup the exact time duration for each slide. You have two choices here:

a) Use Record Narration if you want to include audio in your presentations. Record your voice as your move through the slides and say yes when you are prompted to save the changes.

b) Use Rehearse Timings for silent PowerPoint videos. This option lets you define how long a slide should display on the screen before the presentation move to the next slide.


Step 2: Now go to and upload the PPT file you saved in Step 1. AuthorStream is a PowerPoint hosting service where you can PPT files as large as 1 GB. It’s again a good service though not so popular as Slideshare.

Step 3: When you are done uploading the PPT file to the web, Author Stream will convert the PowerPoint file into a MPEG4 video (mp4) that can be directly uploaded to YouTube or you can watch it on an iPod.

download-ppt-video This process may take some time but you’ll get an email notification as soon as your PowerPoint video is ready for download from the web.

The conversion is not instant but definitely worth the wait. And the quality of video created from PPT files is brilliant.

There’s more - other than converting PPT to video, AuthorStream will also create a video podcast version of your presentation that can be directly imported into iTunes. This could a good opportunity for educators who have piles of PPT files on their computer that can be shared with the world.


Update: If you have the budget, you can use a screen recording application like Camtasia Studio to record PowerPoint presentations as video on your desktop.

Free screencasting software like Camstudio may also also record PPT playback but I think the above method is simpler as it takes care of conversion as well as video hosting.

Related: How to Make a Screensaver from PowerPoint File

YouTube Fast Player: Search for more videos without pausing

One of the things that's always bothered us about YouTube is that there's no way to search for videos without stopping playback of the video you're currently watching (unless you open a new tab or browser window). MSN Video has had a feature for a while that lets you search for videos and create a video playlist without interrupting any video you happen to be watching at the time, but if you want to browse YouTube's library in this way you'll need to look to a third party solution like YouTube Fast Search.

YouTube Fast Search is a nifty web site that lets you play any video you can find on YouTube. While one video is playing, you can search for additional videos and drag and drop them to a playlist window at the bottom of the screen. When your first video is done playing, the next video in your playlist will start. Easy as pie, and something YouTube really should implement on its own site.

Friday, April 4, 2008

FriendFeed Tips: Do You Use All The Great Features of Friend Feed

FriendFeed Tips: Do You Use All The Great Features of Friend Feed

By Amit Agarwal on twitter

friendfeed-log Though I continue to remain active on Facebook and Twitter, my current love is FriendFeed - a great service developed by some ex-Googlers who were earlier part of the Google Maps and Gmail team at Google.

We generally use FriendFeed for tracking the online activities of our friends - the blogs they are writing, the photos they upload to Flickr, the books they review at Amazon, the web pages they save onto delicious, and so on.

But FriendFeed is more than just a tool for spying on your friends’ web activity - here are some uncommon but very interesting uses of FriendFeed:

river-of-news 1. Create ‘River of News’ from Your Favorite Blogs

With FriendFeed, you can easily create a River Of News using feeds of your most favorite blogs. Go to "Friend Settings" -> "Imaginary" and Create an imaginary friend.

Give it a name (like "River of News") and attach the RSS feeds of your favorite blogs to this new friend. You can subscribe to this river in any news reader or read it online - see example. Wondering why you need a news river ? Consult Dave.

search-friendfeed 2. Track Your Favorite Topics (like Google Alerts)

Marshall Kirkpatrick earlier explained how Twitter helped him pay the rent as he could gain access to breaking news much faster and then blog about it.

With FriendFeed, it gets even better. Go to their Advanced Search page, type a search phrase ("google acquires" ?) and choose "shared by everyone."

You can further limit this search to blog entries, twitter tweets, etc. Subscribe to the search result page in your RSS reader and let FriendFeed hunt the breaking news for you.

Related: Google Alerts Tutorial

friendfeed-fans 3. Find People Who Enjoy Reading Your Content

After you login to FriendFeed, go to the stats page and here you will a list of people who secretly admire your blog and other content that you have put online.

They are listed because they actively sharing your blog content with their friends or they comment on the entries you have made on FriendFeed.

4. Subscribe to Interesting Discussions

Every item on FriendFeed is like a blog post - it has its own permalink and your FriendFeed contacts can add comments just like they would do on a blog.

For example, this tweet (scobleizer) generated dozens of comments on his FriendFeed page. If you want to track this discussion in your feed reader with having to check FriendFeed several times, click the "More" link followed by "Link to this entry."scoble-tweet

This is the permalink for that discussion. Click the permalink and there you will find a RSS feed for that discussion. Subscribe.

5. Take Your FriendFeed With You

You can add FriendFeed application to your Facebook Page or the iGoogle homepage. If you have a blog, embed your FriendFeed feed as widget in the sidebar. Or if you don’t mind getting an extra email, FriendFeed can send a neat snapshot daily to your inbox.