All posts by Brian

Free Zune Theme for XP – Come to the Dark Side

This has been out for a while, but it’s still worth a mention if you don’t know about it. Microsoft released a black theme for Windows XP last year to help celebrate the launch of their Zune music player. I’m not sure I’ve ever spotted a Zune out in the wild (my university is dominated by iPods), but this theme is pretty slick.

Download link (free):

http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=75078

Installation is simple, and requires no hacking of the uxtheme file (like with most 3rd-party themes). Here’s how it looks:

Lower-Left Corner:

With Start Menu Open:

My Computer:

And the Full Screen:

I didn’t care much for the default background, so I changed it. Here’s my current background-of-the-hour:

I really like this theme. I wish I had known about it earlier. It’s a welcome change from the default XP themes, and I appreciate the simplicity of install.

Have fun.

Dropbox Goes Live – Free 2GB of Synchronized Storage for All!

Dropbox logo

I am pleased to report that Dropbox has fully opened to the public, no more invitations needed! A few weeks ago I reviewed Dropbox (see review) and concluded that it was the online storage service of my dreams. I still hold to that claim.

Everyone who signs up receives 2 GB of storage space. Not only that, you can easily link multiple computers to your Dropbox account and effortlessly keep your files in sync. It’s like FolderShare, but with an online backup element. Yes, it’s a dream come true. 🙂

Clients are available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux (beta). There’s even an iPhone client. Here I am installing the Dropbox client on Ubuntu 8.04.

Freshly Installed

As of now, Dropbox is the free storage service that I recommend most to others. If they rollout a “Pro” version with more features and storage, I’d be tempted to upgrade. Still, the free service is excellent.

If you only use one online storage service, I heartily recommend Dropbox.

File Savr – Another Free 250 GB Storage Account?

If you missed the offer last May for 250 GB of free storage from FileDropper, you may have a second chance. A company called File Savr now has the exact same offer (free premium accounts), valid until September 15.

Signup

If you wish to grab your free 250 GB online storage, use their special link. Though they claim that the offer is for bloggers and Digg users, anyone can register.

FileSavr.com was created as a fresh alternative to sites like MegaUpload and RapidShare. Unlike those sites, we do not reel the user in and make them wait for annoying countdown timers. We do not hide the download link with aggressively placed ads. Our goal is simple, to offer the most basic file hosting and image hosting service so you can share your stuff quickly.

As a thank you to the community we are offering free accounts on FileSavr.com to bloggers as well as members of Digg, Stumble, Reddit, Mixx, Del.icio.us. To get your free account fill out the form below to receive to get $10 monthly account (250 GB) absolutely free. Accounts created before September 15th will have lifetime membership for free. If you like the service we hope you will help us with small donations via paypal.

Offer expires September 15th. WARNING: The service is very slow due to extreme demand right now.

Signing up only requires a username, password, and e-mail address. Painless.

Usage

For all intents and purposes, File Savr is EXACTLY the same as File Dropper. The offer is the same. The interface is the same. The prices are the same. Heck, the only different between the two sites is the logo. It makes me wonder why the people behind File Dropper felt the need to create a re-badged version of their existing site. Let me show you what I mean:

FileSavr Manager

File Dropper Manager

Other than logo, there is no difference. Well, I should mention that File Savr supposedly offers an upload limit of 10 GB, whereas File Dropper limits upload size to 5 GB. So, yes, there is a slight difference.

Admittedly, I’ve had trouble with File Dropper. Every time I try to upload a file larger than 500 MB or so, I receive an error and the upload fails. Perhaps it’s my Internet connection? Perhaps it’s File Dropper? Nevertheless, the result is that I’ve hardly been able to use my account.

Still, between the two, I now have 500 GB of online storage at my disposal. I only hope I’ll be able to take advantage of it.

Act now, and you too can claim 250 GB of space. Just be sure to use their special link. I only hope you’ll have better luck with uploading than I’ve had.

Get Access to Box.net Storage from Ubuntu in Seconds

I’ve had a Box.net online storage account for a few years now. While they only offer 1 GB for free, it’s handy for quickly backing up small important files, such as handouts I create for the classes I teach.

While anyone can log into the web interface at any time, it’s also possible to access your storage space through WebDAV. Here’s how to do it on Ubuntu Linux, though any GNOME-based distro should work the same way.

First, go to the Places menu → click Connect to Server. In the window that spawns, change the Service Type to WebDAV (HTTP).

Enter the following information:

  • Server: box.net
  • Folder: /dav
  • Check the Add bookmark box (so you don’t have to go through this process later)
  • User Name: (optional) enter your Box.net e-mail address
  • Bookmark name: anything you prefer

Click the Connect button, then enter your login credentials in the next window.

I suggest choosing the Remember forever option, unless you are on a shared computer. Voila! You should now have read/write access to your Box.net storage space from within Nautilus. Go ahead and try adding or deleting files.

Quick tip: You can also directly edit files on the Box.net server. In the screenshot below, I’m using OpenOffice on Ubuntu to open a document stored in my Box account.

The only quirk is that OpenOffice spawned a window asking me to provide login credentials again, but after that, it’s just like editing a document directly on your computer (albeit slower).

Tested on Ubuntu 8.04 “Hardy Heron.”

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MyBloop.com – Unlimited Storage and Bandwidth (Online Storage Series)

Now and then an online storage provider comes along and offers features so unrealistic (for free) that one wonders how on earth that company will survive. Nine times out of ten, they do not, and their domain names soon join the endless wasteland of spam parking.

Along comes MyBloop, a free online service that offers supposedly unlimited file storage. According to their FAQ, there are absolutely no limits on storage, bandwidth, or the number of files you can store. Eat your heart out, XDrive.

Let’s take a look at some of MyBloop’s features:

  • Unlimited Storage
  • File upload limit – one gigabyte
  • Multiple file uploading and downloading
  • Nothing required to install
  • File organization – create your own folder hierarchy
  • Ability to delete, rename, and mark files as private
  • Ability to stream certain file types (MP3, FLV, WMA, WMV)
  • File sharing, searching, social networking, and more!
  • All for FREE

Uploading

MyBloop currently offers two ways to upload files – either through their web-based interface or via their open-source Blooploader utility. Uploaded files are limited to one gigabyte, though supposedly this limit will be removed if you purchase one of their upcoming Pro accounts.

I’ve stuck to the Flash interface, which is really slick.

Even within the web interface, you can queue multiple files for upload. You can also select to send each file to a specified directory.

All uploaded files are shared publicly by default. However, you may opt to make a file private either upon upload or at any other point by editing its attributes from within the file manager. Note: I found that I was only able to change sharing attributes through their older HTML interface. Since the MyBloop team is still developing features, perhaps this is an issue they will address soon. Or maybe I just missed something! 🙂

Downloading

MyBloop also aims to be one of the premiere sources for finding shared content on the Web. To that extent, they have implemented searching and social networking within the site. You don’t even have to be a member of MyBloop to search their stockpile of amassed content. Try it now: go to the MyBloop homepage and search for whatever you like. Downloading, streaming, and linking are all encouraged, even for non-members. Which brings me to my next point….

Not ALL file types are allowed for direct download (by other users). At present, music files can only be streamed, not downloaded (for legal reasons). Still, the MyBloop Player is pretty capable, including playback controls, shuffle, repeat, and volume manipulation. It even handles playlists. Here I am listening to some streaming Mozart:

Just for the record, I’ll quietly observe that lesser-known audio formats (such as OGG) are not recognized as music, and are thus available for direct download.

MyBloop aims to be a one-stop shop for all your file hosting and sharing needs. I must say, they do a pretty fine job. Since I started using their service, I’ve begun to rely on them more and more. I only hope that they withstand the test of time.

Considering that they’ve been around since 2005 (BETA), and had their initial release in 2007, I’d say they’re off to a good start. The future is still uncertain, and no one knows what features will be added (or removed) by the upcoming Pro accounts.

Interested in more about MyBloop? Check out this video. It should tell you everything you need to know in 5 minutes.

Good luck, and happy uploading!

Note: MyBloop is currently only available in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. More countries should be granted access soon.

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Install Windows Media Player 11 on XP without WGA Headaches

Disclaimer: This article is for educational and informational uses only. In no way do we condone software piracy. Readers should contact Microsoft if legitimately-licensed OEM software does not properly validate.

I have a legitimate copy of Windows XP (honestly!). However, I refuse to allow any tentacle of Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) to touch my machine. I’ve read far too many horror stories of WGA falsely identifying installations of Windows as invalid, and honestly, I just don’t want to deal with the potential hassle.

If you wish to install WMP 11 on your Windows XP machine, there’s an easy way to do it without requiring WGA validation. Let’s go.

This tutorial works with either WMP 9 or version 10 as a starting base.

Step 1 – Download and Install

First of all, there’s no need to download version 11 from Microsoft’s web site. All you have to do is launch your existing version of WMP (9 or 10), go to the Tools menu, and Check for Updates.

WMP will launch an update window, download a small 1 MB file, then begin downloading WMP 11.

While the file that is downloading comes with a WGA utility, fear not. We’ll bypass it when the time comes. Just sit back and wait while WMP downloads and installs.

When it finishes, it may give you a notification that the installation failed. Don’t worry. It likely installed anyway.

Step Two – Disable WGA

The next step is very important. Before you launch the new version of WMP, you must first rename the WGA tool.

  • Browse to C:\Program Files\Windows Media Player
  • Find the file called LegitLibM.dll
  • Rename it. Something like LegitLib.dll works well.

Step Three – Launch WMP 11

Alright folks, it’s time to fail WGA validation! I’m not kidding. Launch the new version of Windows Media Player and prepare to validate.

Click the Validate button, and GASP! You just failed validation! Oh no!

Again, have no fear. WGA is broken. Just click the Finish button and continue to set up your new version of WMP.

Congratulations! You now have WMP 11 installed, all without the potential headaches of dealing with WGA. Of course, there’s no guarantee that this method will always work. Microsoft may issue an update that re-activates the WGA tool, or they may change the installation procedure. For now, this method works just fine.

Please let me know if the comments if this method no longer works.

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Easily Find a Forgotten Password in Firefox, Opera, or Google Chrome

Do you occasionally forget your passwords? Sure you do, unless you use the exact same login information for every website (terrible idea!). Most browsers today feature the ability to remember passwords, and while we try to remember all of them, sometimes we need a little help.This tutorial will show you how to find saved passwords in Firefox, Opera, and Google Chrome.

Firefox 3

Go to the Tools menu → then choose Options from the drop-down list. Select the Security tab → then click the Saved Passwords button.

To see your passwords, just click the Show Passwords button. That’s it! Note: In the screenshot above, I blanked the Usernames for security reasons.

Opera

Finding passwords in the Opera browser is slightly more complicated, but not impossible. Passwords in Opera are handled by the excellent Wand utility, but navigating to the Tools menu → Advanced → Wand Passwords only yields information about the sites, not the passwords themselves.

Fear not. Viewing the passwords only takes an extra step. We need to add a Power Button to Opera. Browse to this page on the Opera Wiki and click the Read Wand button. Click OK to install the button, which will show up in the Appearance menu under Buttons → My buttons.

Drag the Read Wand button wherever you like in the Opera panels. I stuck mine next to the Home button.

Now, visit a site that has a saved password. Use the Wand to fill in the login information (as usual), but click the Stop button (or just press Esc) immediately. All you have to do now is simply press the Read Wand button to display the password. Voila!

Google Chrome

In the new Google Chrome browser (see review), viewing passwords is easy. Just click the Wrench icon to the right of the address bar → then choose Options from the drop-down list. Select the Minor Tweaks tab → then click Show saved passwords.

As with Firefox, just click Show Password in order to see the password for the selected site.

A quick note about security: while having your browser remember your passwords can be convenient, it is not the most secure way to store login information, as anyone who sits at your computer can potentially have access to ALL your stored passwords.

If you rely upon your browser to store this information, PLEASE be sure to password-protect your operating system login. Also consider setting a screensaver password so that no one can sit at your computer while it’s unattended and access your information.

I should also mention that Firefox has the ability to set a Master password (Tools → Options → Security) that adds another layer of security to your stored information. It certainly doesn’t hurt to use it.

Personally, instead of having my browser store my information, I rely upon the open-source KeePass password manager. In a word, KeePass rules, and I have an upcoming article on using KeePass to manage your login life.

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