All posts by Brian

Reminder – iPod Touch Giveaway

iPod-Touch-slim If you haven’t heard by now, TipsFor.us is giving away a brand new iPod Touch 8 GB.

There are multiple ways to enter the drawing, so be sure to take advantage of all of them in order to increase your chances of winning.

The contest ends on Sunday, July 12.

Good luck! The unopened iPod package has been sitting on my desk for over a week now. I’d love nothing more than to tear open the box and claim it for my own! Instead, I must continue to show great restraint and give it away to one of you lucky readers.

Don’t miss this opportunity to win this lovely gadget – the giveaway ends in one week!

iStat Pro is an Awesome Free System Monitoring Widget

icon-istatproFor Mac OS 10.4 or higher: iStat pro is a system monitoring widget that has it all.

iStat proMain site

Like any system monitor worth its salt, iStat pro displays vital information about your:

  • CPU
  • Memory
  • Hard disk(s)
  • Network
  • Temps
  • Fan speed
  • Battery (for laptops)
  • Uptime and System load
  • Running Processes

istat-pro-widget

Unlike some other system monitoring tools for Mac OS X, iStat pro runs in the Dashboard instead of in the System Menu or the Dock. To me, this is preferable because I can quickly send it completely out of the way when I don’t need to check any system stats.

Okay, so it displays system stats. Is that all?

Nope. For starters, one cool aspect of iStat pro is that it displays your external IP address under the Network section. Pressing the i key (provided iStat is the active widget) will copy that external IP to your clipboard, which is handy for network admins.

istat-pro-prefsYou can also customize the stew of the widget. Want only certain elements (such as CPU, Temps, and Memory) to display? No problem, just turn off the others in the Preferences.

Want the stats widget to display vertically instead of horizontally? Yep, it can do that.

Want to rearrange the order of the elements? Just drag-and-drop.

Dislike the default color? Just pick from any of the nine included colors. There’s bound to be one you like.

If you’re totally hardcore about system monitoring, you can buy the iStat for iPhone app ($2) and check your Mac’s system stats remotely from your iPhone or iPod touch.

Hotkeys

For you hotkey aficionados, here’s a list of the available hotkeys for iStat pro, taken directly from the manual.

c – Show or hide the CPU section
m – Show or hide the memory section
d – Show or hide the disks section
n – Show or hide the network section
p – Show or hide the processes section
u – Show or hide the uptime section
b – Show or hide the battery section
f – Show or hide the fans section
t – Show or hide the temps section
s – Swap between tall and wide skins
i – Copy external IP to the clipboard
g – Update external IP
1 – 8 – Change skin colour

iStat pro is freeware/donationware from iSlayer.

TipsFor.us Giveaway – Win an iPod Touch 8 GB

Important: this contest is valid for USA residents only. Our apologies to our readers outside the US.

iPod Touch

TipsFor.us is giving away a brand new iPod Touch! It’s beautiful.

This lovely gadget has 8 GB of storage – enough for roughly 1,750 songs, 10,000 photos, or 10 hours of video. It has a glorious 3.5-inch widescreen multi-touch display with 480-by-320-pixel resolution.

The iPod Touch is far more than just a music player. You can view photos, watch movies and YouTube, surf the web, check e-mail, play games, browse the App Store, and even read Amazon Kindle books. See all features here.

Feeling adventurous? You can also install Skype/Fring on your new iPod Touch to make calls and send text messages.

Did we mention that it’s beautiful? Just look at it.

iPod Touch4

HOW TO ENTER

There are several ways to enter, but only one of them is required.

rss-button-smallAll you have to do to enter is subscribe to TipsFor.us, either via e-mail updates or through our RSS feed. We have just added a code word to the bottom of our articles. The code word is only visible in the e-mail or RSS feed, so you have to subscribe. If you don’t already use an RSS reader, we suggest Google Reader.

Once you see the code word – and you will see it, complete this short entry form, which includes a few questions about your technology interests. No personally identifying information will be shared with outside parties for any reason.

The entry form includes a place to enter the correct code word. Without it, your entry will be deleted. One lucky entrant will be chosen at random.

Earn Additional Entries

Not satisfied with just one entry? Good for you! Here are two additional opportunities to increase your chances of winning.

1. Join our Facebook fan page – Become a fan of TipsFor.us on Facebook and earn one additional entry. If you are already a fan, then your additional entry is already counted.

2. Blog it – Post an entry on your blog with a link to this promotion and earn one additional entry. We will count trackbacks/pingbacks as additional entries. If a trackback/pingback does not show up, simply leave a comment below with a link to your blog post.

Contest Rules

This contest is open until Sunday, July 12 at 11:59 PM. Winning entrant will be chosen at random. The winner will be notified by e-mail on Monday, July 13 and will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is selected. Open to US residents only. This prize is not exchangeable for cash value.

Thanks for reading, and good luck!

WinCDEmu Integrates Disk Image Mounting in Windows Explorer

WinCDEmu - Right-click We’ve written before about Virtual CloneDrive, software that can mount and run disk images as if they are physical disks. A similar free program is WinCDEmu.

WinCDEmu – Main site

WinCDEmu – SourceForge page

WinCDEmu is free and open-source, and makes mounting a disk image (*.ISO, *.CUE, *.BIN, *.RAW, and *.IMG) as easy as double-clicking.

In case you are not familiar with disk images, here’s what you need to know: an image is the re-creation of the contents of a CD or DVD saved into a single file. That file will have an extension such as *.ISO, the most-common type.

These disk images are typically burned back onto a CD or DVD using disk-burning software such as InfraRecorder (free). For instance, if you want to download and use a Linux distro, you typically download the ISO and then burn it to a CD, thus allowing you to boot and run from that physical disk.

Software such as WinCDEmu allows you to skip the actual burn and instead use the ISO as a virtual disk. When you mount an ISO (or other image) as a virtual disk, your computer treats it just like a physical one with the benefit that virtual drives operate much faster than physical drives.

Installation and Usage

WinCDEmu - Verify Installing WinCDEmu seems almost too easy. There’s no notification that the install was successful, nor will you find anything new in the Start Menu. The only hurdle at all is telling Windows that yes, you want to install an unverified driver.

It will show up as part of Add/Remove Programs, so you can uninstall it from there if necessary.

Using WinCDEmu is brain-dead simple. For any disk image on your system, just double-click it to mount, and it will show up in Windows Explorer just as if you popped a CD/DVD in the drive. Yes, it works just like Mac OS X, which is a good thing.

To un-mount (or eject) the virtual disk, simply double-click that same disk image (such as the original ISO file, not the mounted image in Explorer).

You can also right-click the virtual drive and Eject. Piece of cake.

WinCDEmu supports an unlimited number of simultaneously mounted virtual drives. It also supports SMB network shares, but be sure to look up the workaround for a Windows cache bug.

Disable the “Install Updates and Shut Down” Option in Windows

install-updates-and-shutdownHave you ever been annoyed at the Install Updates and Shut Down message that displays after Windows Update runs in the background?

It’s easy to avoid this message entirely and force any pending updates to stay associated with the yellow shield in the system tray. This is one setting that I always configure for any machine under my control, mainly to inspect any pending updates before I choose to install them. It’s also handy for avoiding the dreaded WGA notification tool.

On to business: this tip works on XP, Vista, and Windows 7.

First, launch the Group Policy editor by going to Start – Run, and typing:

gpedit.msc

Note: if you don’t see the Start → Run button, just press the Windows key + R.

Once the Group Policy editor opens, expand Computer Configuration, then Administrative Templates, then Windows Components.

group-policy-editor-windows-components

Select the Windows Update component to view a list of settings. Double-click the setting for Do not display ‘Install Updates and Shut Down’ option in Shut Down Windows dialog box.

group-policy-editor-windows-update

In the window that spawns, set it to Enabled and click OK. I agree that this is somewhat unintuitive to enable it, but remember that you are affirming a negative, if that makes sense.

group-policy-editor-windows-update-enable

That’s it! You should no longer see the Install Updates and Shut Down message.

Create a Bootable Linux USB Flash Drive with UNetbootin

With the rise of the Netbook, optical media (CDs/DVDs) may be marching toward eventual obsolescence. Even if optical media doesn’t disappear anytime soon, certain tasks such as creating a Linux-based boot disc are faster and more convenient when using a USB flash disk rather than a CD.

Let’s work on creating a Linux-based bootable flash disk. To do this, we will use the UNetbootin software.

UNetbootin – Main site

UNetbootin – Download (Windows)

You will also need an empty USB flash drive, preferably 1 GB or larger. I’m using a 1 GB Lexar drive formatted as FAT32.

Boot Disk Creation

UNetbootin is available for Windows and Linux. We’ll use Windows for the purposes of this tutorial. First, you need to download and launch the program (it’s portable – no installation necessary).

UNetbootin - Main

Once it’s launched, you can either provide it with a Linux ISO that you have already downloaded, or pick a distribution from the list and let UNetbootin download the necessary files for you. Most popular distros are supported, including Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenSUSE, and Mandriva. You can also choose various system utilities such as FreeDOS, SystemRescueCD, Parted Magic, and the Dr. Web Antivirus Live CD.

I chose to use an ISO of Ubuntu 9.04 that I had already downloaded. All that’s left to do is make sure your flash disk is plugged in, choose it from the list, and click OK.

UNetbootin - Extracting

Away it goes! UNetbootin will gather the appropriate files, copy them to the flash disk, then automatically install a bootloader. This process may take several minutes to complete depending on the size of the distro. Ubuntu took about 7 minutes or so to complete on my machine, but I’m still using a single-core processor. Hey, it may be slow, but it does everything I need it to do.

When the process finishes, it will prompt you to reboot, which is entirely optional.

UNetbootin - Complete

Hit Reboot Now if you want to go ahead and test your new boot disk on the machine you’re currently using. Otherwise, just exit.

Activate the Partition

Chances are high that your new boot disk will just work, but if you get any strange boot errors, you may need to activate the partition. We can do that with the diskpart utility.

I’m using Server 2008 for this demonstration, but Vista should look and act the same way.

Launch a new Command Prompt (Vista – right-click and choose to Run as Administrator). Type:

diskpart

Now you should have a DISKPART prompt. We need to figure our the drive number for your flash disk. Type:

list disk

If you have several drives, just look at the size to determine which one is the USB flash drive. Mine is obviously Disk 3.

select disk 3

select partition 1

active

That’s it. You’re finished. By typing the active command, you have specified the current disk and partition as active. You can type exit to quit.

Command-Prompt-DISKPART

Booting From the Disk

With the USB flash disk plugged in, go ahead and reboot the computer. This next step is different on many machines, but right as the computer first boots, look for a keystroke to choose a boot device. The key for my motherboard is F8, but it may be F11, F12, or some other key entirely on yours.

Once you find the right key, you should get a menu that allows you to choose a disk or drive from which to boot.

First-Boot-Device

Here I have chosen my Lexar USB flash disk from the boot menu. Provided it boots normally, you should get a UNetbootin bootloader like this:

UNetbootin-Booting

Choose the Default option to start booting, and the rest should function just like a typical live CD. Here’s Ubuntu booting from my USB drive:

Ubuntu-Booting

Once nice part about using flash media as a live environment is that individual programs are far more snappy than when running from a CD. For instance, OpenOffice loads from my flash drive in under 10 seconds. Launching OpenOffice from a live CD might take minutes!

One last thing: remember that the distros that UNetbootin creates are substitutes for CD boot discs, not fully installed Linux operating systems. In other words, they are not persistent – any data that you create or modify will be lost the next time you reboot (just like when working with a normal live CD). Keep that in mind as a limitation. There ARE exceptions, like Puppy Linux, which lets you save your data directly to the USB flash drive.

Happy booting!

Install Warcraft 3 on Ubuntu Linux – A Visual Guide

warcraft3-lichWarcraft 3 may be far from the hottest new game out there, but it’s still one of the most fun games I’ve ever played. And thanks to advancements in the WINE project, it’s also easy to install and run on the Linux operating system. Plus, it doesn’t require massive hardware just to run decently.

I remember trying to get my Warcraft 3 Battle Chest running in Linux a few years ago and ran into several problems. Now, it’s practically a point-and-click experience.

While these directions are specific to Ubuntu, most any other Linux variant should be similar. I tested these instructions on both Ubuntu 8.04 LTS and the current version 9.04. All the screenshots are from Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty,

The main system specifications I used are quite modest ancient indeed, but Warcraft 3 ran fine anyway.

  • Processor – AMD Athlon XP 2400+ (2.0 GHz)
  • RAM – 1 GB PC2100 (266 MHz)
  • Video Card – Nvidia GeForce 7600 GS (512 MB)

1. Video Drivers

ubuntu-hardware-driversIt goes without saying that in order to play most video games, you need video acceleration. Fortunately, the last few releases of Ubuntu have all offered a convenient way to install proprietary video drivers.

To install most common video drivers, go to System → Administration → Hardware Drivers. You can see if you already have a proprietary video driver in use, or if there is one available to install.

Ubuntu found and installed a driver for my Nvidia card just fine. I don’t own any ATI video cards, so I cannot offer any help there. If you run into any trouble, take a look at the Ubuntu Guide.

To see if you have video acceleration enabled, fire up a Terminal and type:

glxinfo | grep direct

If the direct rendering response is Yes, then you’re in business.

2.  Install WINE

WINE is a translation layer with a somewhat-humorous full name of Wine Is Not (an) Emulator. No matter what you call it, WINE provides an easy way to run a growing number of Windows applications on Linux and other POSIX-compatible operating systems.

Installing WINE on Ubuntu is as simple as launching a Terminal and typing:

sudo apt-get install wine

synaptic-wineAlternatively, you can launch the Synaptic Package Manager (System → Administration) and search for wine. Just add a check next to the wine package, then click the Apply button to download and install.

Following these instructions will install the latest stable release of WINE. On Ubuntu 9.04, the current stable WINE release is version 1.01. To find out which version you have installed, launch a Terminal and type:

wine --version

I found that both version 1.0 and 1.0.1 worked well for running Warcraft 3. If you want to install a more-recent Beta version, follow the instructions on the WineHQ site.

wine-configuration-alsaOnce WINE is installed, go ahead and launch it (Applications → Wine → Configure Wine). The default settings should be fine, but I do suggest that you take a look at the Audio settings and ensure that a suitable sound driver is selected.

I suggest sticking with the ALSA driver by default. If the sound is garbled or doesn’t work well, try switching to the older OSS driver.

Click OK to save your settings. Now it’s time to install Warcraft 3.

3. Game Installation

This may come as a shock, but installing Warcraft 3 on Linux is practically no different from installing it on Windows. You will need a copy of the game and valid serial numbers. If you don’t have it, the Battle Chest is pretty cheap.

warcraft3-discPop in the CD for Reign of Chaos. You should see an icon for the disc load on your desktop. Double-click that disc icon to view the contents. Find the file called install.exe and open it. It should open automatically with WINE and start the installation process.

From there, install the game just as you would on a Windows system, including choosing an installation path of C:\Program File\Warcraft III. Yes, WINE handles that for you automatically.

warcraft3-install-directoryAllow the game to install as usual. If you have The Frozen Throne expansion pack, install it as well. Do not play the game yet!

Update Patch

Recent Warcraft 3 game updates have removed the requirement to run with the original disc in the drive. Therefore, unless you’re just a glutton for punishment, I suggest downloading and installing the latest game patch instead of hunting for a No-CD crack.

Here’s a direct link to the patch page. The current game update (as of this writing) is 1.23a. Once it downloads, just double-click to install. It should open with WINE and install just like on a Windows machine.

blizzard-updater

Note: once the Blizzard Updater finishes patching the game, it will try to launch Warcraft III automatically. If the game crashes or freezes, don’t worry. We’ll fix that in the post-installation below.

4. Post-Installation

On my system, the game froze upon first launch. The reason is that it tries (and fails) to play the opening cinematic video. We can easily work around this issue by renaming the Movies folder.

wine-browse-cGo to Applications → Wine → Browse C:\ Drive. Pretend that you’re on Windows now and continue to Program Files → Warcraft III. Rename the Movies folder to something else, such as _Movies.

As you might suspect, this is only a workaround and not a true fix. It prevents any in-game cinematic videos from playing, but does not affect game-play in any way. You can still watch those videos at any time by opening them in something like Totem or VLC.

Try launching the game now. You’ll find it under Applications → Wine → Warcraft III.

Visual Effects

Here’s another minor issue you might run into. When you launch the game, it runs fine, but you still see the horizontal Ubuntu panels across the top and bottom. Annoying, huh?

ubuntu-visual-effectsIt’s easy enough to fix. On my system, I found that they were caused by having some visual effects enabled in Ubuntu. As nice as the eye candy may be, try disabling it before launching Warcraft III.

Navigate to System → Preferences → Appearance and switch to the Visual Effects tab. Set the level to None. When you launch the game again, the panels should be gone.

Create Launcher

Now that the game is installed and working, let’s create a launcher for it.

Right-click on your desktop and Create Launcher. Here are some parameters:

  • Type – Application
  • Name – Whatever you want
  • Command – “/home/your-username/.wine/drive_c/Program Files/Warcraft III/Frozen Throne.exe”

The command is simply the full path to the Warcraft III executable file (in quotes). You can also add some options at the end of the command, after the quotes. For instance, you may get better performance by adding an opengl option, like this:

"/home/your-username/.wine/drive_c/Program Files/Warcraft III/Frozen Throne.exe" -opengl

You can stack the options. For instance, if you want to require opengl AND make the game run in its own window, try this:

"/home/habibbijan/.wine/drive_c/Program Files/Warcraft III/Frozen Throne.exe" -opengl -window

Icons

If you’re looking for a couple of good icons to use with your launcher, feast your eyes on these.

Warcraft 3 icons.zip

Game Screenshots

For your viewing pleasure, here’s are a few screenshots of Warcraft III running on Ubuntu. I ran the game in window mode instead of full-screen to prove that it does work on Linux. Yeah, I enjoy Skibi’s Castle a lot.

Image 1:

Image 2:

Image 3:

Image 4:

Image 5:

Have fun! If you have any additional tips for running Warcraft III on Linux, let us know in the comments.