Windows – TipsFor.us http://tipsfor.us Tech Tips, Reviews, Tutorials, Occasional Rants Fri, 21 Mar 2014 05:03:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 How to Simply Rip DVDs in 64-bit Windows http://tipsfor.us/2012/07/08/how-to-simply-rip-dvds-in-64-bit-windows/ Sun, 08 Jul 2012 22:33:41 +0000 http://www.tipsfor.us/?p=614 Continue reading How to Simply Rip DVDs in 64-bit Windows ]]> Handbrake iconIn the past, we’ve looked at how to easily rip DVDs on the Windows platform. That method still works great, unless you’re on a 64-bit version of Windows. For those of us now running Windows 7 64-bit, we have a problem: DVD43 – a required decrypter used in the previous tutorial, does not get along well with 64-bit versions of Windows.

The Solution – Handbrake with libdvdcss

There’s an easy solution to this problem, and it only requires the installation of one software program. I’ve migrated to the mighty Handbrake for all my DVD rips. First, install the 64-bit version of Handbrake. As of this writing, the latest version is 0.9.6.

With Handbrake installed, make a mental note of its installation location (probably C:\Program Files\Handbrake). Next, download the libdvdcss-2.dll file from Handbrake’s repository. Here’s a zipped copy of my working file (libdvdcss), just in case.

Take your copy of libdvdcss-2.dll and put it inside your Handbrake installation folder, as noted above. Finally, rename the file to libdvdcss.dll.

Handbrake folder with libdvdcss

 

Let’er Rip

You can now launch Handbrake and rip DVDs as usual. The full Handbrake guide is here, but one quick-and-dirty guide is to:

  • Choose your DVD from the Source button
  • Select your Title (you’re probably looking for the one with the longest duration – that’s the full video)
  • Pick a Destination for your ripped video file
  • Choose a Preset on the right side (I tend to stick with Regular – Normal)
  • Hit the big, green Start button, and let’er rip!
Handbrake - Main window
Handbrake – Click to enlarge

That should do it! You should now be able to decrypt and rip DVDs on Windows 7 64-bit. On a personal note, I’m impressed at how little time it takes to rip a full-length movie on modern hardware versus just a few years ago. I’m showing my age, but I fondly recall ripping DVDs using my beloved antique workhorse from 2001: an AMD 1600+ processor with 512 MB of DDR 133. Ripping a single DVD might have taken 8 hours or more! Today, it takes minutes. You kids today have no idea how lucky you are.

Okay, that’s enough nostalgia for this old timer. Get off my lawn, and I’ll get back to ripping my DVD collection. 🙂

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Microsoft takes another hit: NGINX tops IIS http://tipsfor.us/2012/01/10/nginx-tops-iis/ http://tipsfor.us/2012/01/10/nginx-tops-iis/#comments Wed, 11 Jan 2012 05:24:23 +0000 http://tipsfor.us/?p=2811 Some bloggers have suggested that ripping on Microsoft is going out of style… but this week Microsoft’s beleaguered IIS web server got bested by the open source NGINX web server.

Web Server Statistics
Microsoft IIS goes down

My beefs with Microsoft are many, however, I will tip my hat to Bill Gate’s many generous donations to charity. That’s really the most remarkable thing about Microsoft: it gave birth to one of the most magnanimous philanthropists of an entire generation, and no words can express thanks for that.

BUT…. historically, Microsoft’s products have typically been poor knock-offs of existing technology. You get an inferior product AND you have to PAY for it: it’s the worst kind of insidious lose-lose situation imaginable.

Let’s take a quick waltz through history and review products that Microsoft has ripped-off (thank you David A. Wheeler):

  • BASIC: Microsoft’s BASIC was released in 1975, but BASIC itself had been invented back in 1964
  • MS-DOS: 1981 Microsoft released this hastily written knock-off of Unix.
  • Windows: Released in 1985, clearly inspired by Apple’s Macintosh (which, in turn, had been inspired by Xerox PARC).
  • Windows NT/2000: finally provided limited multi-user capability by liberally borrowing ideas from the pre-existing VAX VMS and Unix systems.
  • Word: Microsoft’s 1983 knock-off of a word processor was based on Lexitron and Linolex (1972), and WordStar and WordPerfect (1979)
  • Excel: Microsoft’s product borrowed from the original VisiCalc (1978) and Lotus 1-2-3
  • Access: uses Codd’s models, which were developed in 1970 (before Microsoft even existed)
  • Internet Explorer: an extension of the older NCSA Mosaic web browser.
  • Active Directory: a re-implementation of the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), with Microsoft’s proprietary variant of MIT’s Kerberos often being used for identity authentication.

Mr. Wheeler sums it up nicely: All major Microsoft products are essentially re-implementations of previous products; none are fundamentally innovative.

So, who is dumb enough to pay top-dollar for a second-rate product? Simple: CORPORATIONS. Big businesses are Microsoft’s last stronghold. They are inefficient, bloated organizations incapable of rational thought. Instead of getting stuff done, corporations are designed to feed you coffee and harvest your pee. And these legal “people” are demonstrably psychopaths who buy Microsoft products.

The thing that is fundamentally wrong with some of these products is that they waste enormous amounts of time. Take Internet Explorer as an example (ah yes, bring forth the whipping boy): how many hours, days, weeks, months, or YEARS of man-hours has that browser wasted for web designers and developers? I’m reminded of the burning of the library at Alexandria or the destruction of non-canonical texts by early Christians: how many hundreds (or thousands) of years did that set back civilization? What a waste. And I have to wonder, how many years has Internet Explorer set back our technological civilization? A similar comparison could be made for IIS.

So to wrap this up, I salute NGINX: may their momentum snuff out the IIS’s inefficient bloat-ware once and for all.

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Networx – Free Bandwidth Monitoring Software (Getting the Most Out of It) http://tipsfor.us/2009/08/01/networx-%e2%80%93free-bandwidth-monitoring-software-getting-the-most-out-of-it/ http://tipsfor.us/2009/08/01/networx-%e2%80%93free-bandwidth-monitoring-software-getting-the-most-out-of-it/#comments Sat, 01 Aug 2009 22:02:26 +0000 http://www.tipsfor.us/?p=2389 Continue reading Networx – Free Bandwidth Monitoring Software (Getting the Most Out of It) ]]>

Systems: Windows Only (2000, XP, Vista, 2008 / Both 32 and 64 bit)

Donationware: Technically it’s free, but when you see the level of craftsmanship in this program, you will want to donate.

Website: Softperfect.com

networx-prevI recently changed ISPs to one with much more consistent service, but the trade off is that I now have a rather small bandwidth cap. As much as we hate them, bandwidth caps are probably in all of our futures. The important thing is to have control over and be informed of your usage (before the bill arrives). I needed a reliable way to keep track of my bandwidth, so I tested out several free bandwidth monitoring softwares. My ISP has its own online bandwidth usage calculated, but I wanted a redundant system (one which I could use to make sure they were honest in their tracking).  In my experiments, I found Networx to be the best. Its primary virtue is its ability to be as advanced as you need it to be. For my multiple computer home network, it has every feature I could ask for. Let’s take a closer look.

The software is so unobtrusive; it even lacks a full control window.  Instead, you can access all aspects of the software from the taskbar icon.

Networxscreen1

A left click will give you a quick bandwidth summary/ a right click will show you the menu.

Networxscreen2

Before we get to ridiculous number of features available in the menu, let’s check out my favorite feature.A right click anywhere on the task bar brings up a windows menu that has a “toolbars” option, if you go there you will find a new entry: Networx Desk Band. Activating this toolbar gives you a quick real time read out.

Networxscreen3

I know what you’re thinking: But I don’t like red and white graphs! Well, you can fully customize that little read out; I’ll get to that a little later on.First, lets go back to that right click menu from the Networx taskbar icon.

Your first 3 options all work together:

Show Graph

– This displays a full size visual read out that you can place on your desktop wherever you want.

Networxscreen4

Reset Graph (Only present if “Show Graph” is clicked first) – This option will clear the current data displayed on the graph, not unlike the trip counter reset in your car.

Enable Click Through (Only present if “Show Graph” is clicked first) – Will make the graph act as if it is not really there.You can literally click through the graph to select things. Be careful though, this means you can’t resize or move the graph window without turning off “Click Through” the same way your turned it on.

Networxscreen5

Speed Meter

– This works sort of like a heart monitor for you bandwidth.You hit “Play” and for the duration you allow it to run, it records average, maximum and total transfer.You can then export it directly to a txt file.

Networxscreen5a

Usage Statistics

– You can access this menu from a double click on the icon.This will probably be your most visited window in the battle to keep informed about transfer totals. The first thing you will see is the “General” Tab:

Not much to do here, except see a quick summary of your total usage all in one place.

Networxscreen6

The Daily Report – Here is where you can really begin to see detail present in this program.If you have this set up on the family computer, you can directly see what day of the month the highest transfer happened.If you are not a fan of the spread sheet, they also provide you a visual readout of the past week.

Networxscreen7

Weekly/Monthly Report – The same data as the daily, but handily calculated for you either size increment.

Custom – The most powerful data aggregator in this entire software. You can give it the date-through-date specifics and it will automatically set up the graph in the most appropriate way.

Networxscreen8

Dial-up Sessions – If you have a minute/transfer based dial-up connection, this tab is vital.It records every time you connect to your dial up provider, the date, amount of time spent, transfers, etc.You might think this is outdated, but you would be surprised how many areas still do not have broadband.

Hourly Rates – for you true statistics hounds out there, you can follow your transfer rates on an hourly basis.

Networxscreen9

Export – Oh yeah, you can also export all of these charts to Excel for easy archiving.

Users – If everyone who uses the computer has separate logons, you can track the data per user.You know, easily figure out which roommate is the bandwidth hog.

Networxscreen10

Quota

This is a handy system for letting you set the maximum transfer/duration.For me that is 50 gigs per month.I set it at 45 gigs, however, because it notifies you with a little pop-up window when you have met your quota.

Networxscreen11

Networxscreen12

Settings

All of the settings for the program.Let’s go one tab at a time.

General – This tab has the settings for “Load on Windows Startup, Check for Updates”, And most importantly: Which internet connection is monitored. This is essential if you have multiple connections, or utilize a different connection for intra-network traffic.

Networxscreen13

Graph – Settings to tweak how the graph output functions.This is really for power users who want control over aspect of their graph.

Networxscreen14

Graph Colors – This may seem trivial or nit-picky, but on some monitors you may want to adjust the colors of the graph for optimal resolution.High contrast is an option in every aspect of most operating systems for those who need it for accessibility.Or, you may just want to make it look pretty.

Networxscreen15

Notifications – This tab’s settings tell the software when you notify you of certain things.It can tell you if your connection falls below it’s usual transfer rate, or if it exceeds a predetermined speed.You can also customize how exactly it notifies you, a tone or a pop up, ect.

Advanced – There is one truly important feature in here.In this tab you can set what day your billing cycle begins on. I’m lucky, my bandwidth resets at midnight on the first.For some of you, it might be on the 14th or 21st, etc. DO NOT FORGET TO SET THIS, OR YOUR TOTAL BANDWIDTH USED FOR THE MONTH WILL NOT BE ACCURATE!

If you have multiple computers using the same network, you will need to install Networx on all of them, and tick the box under “Synchronization” or else YOU WILL ONLY BE TRACKING THE DATA TRANSFERRED FROM THIS COMPUTER.That will not be an accurate measure of the total usage.

Networxscreen16

Trace Route

– This is a power user feature.Your average user will never have a need to track a packet from your computer to a source IP.

Ping

– This works the same way as the command line ping.You enter a location to ping, and it will tell you the millisecond duration of the test transfer.

NetStat

– This is pretty useful, it lists every program or service that is accessing the internet, or has rights to do so, and where it’s sending from and to.

Conclusion

So that’s about all you need to know to keep up with your bandwidth use by utilizing Networx. If you have a different favorite Bandwidth tracker, let us know in the comments below.I am on month 2 of using Networx, and have had no problems, if you have, also let us know.At the end of my first month of use, there was a 458 megabyte discrepancy between my Networx report and my ISPs total report.I attribute this to the Xbox360 updates and purchases along with my iPhone app downloads.

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WinCDEmu Integrates Disk Image Mounting in Windows Explorer http://tipsfor.us/2009/06/24/wincdemu-integrates-disk-image-mounting-in-windows-explorer/ Thu, 25 Jun 2009 02:15:00 +0000 http://www.tipsfor.us/2009/06/24/wincdemu-integrates-disk-image-mounting-in-windows-explorer/ Continue reading 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.

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Disable the “Install Updates and Shut Down” Option in Windows http://tipsfor.us/2009/06/22/disable-the-install-updates-and-shut-down-option-in-windows/ http://tipsfor.us/2009/06/22/disable-the-install-updates-and-shut-down-option-in-windows/#comments Tue, 23 Jun 2009 02:00:23 +0000 http://www.tipsfor.us/?p=2303 Continue reading 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.

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Resize and Create Disk Partitions with EASEUS Partition Manager (Windows) http://tipsfor.us/2009/05/17/resize-and-create-disk-partitions-with-easeus-partition-manager-windows/ http://tipsfor.us/2009/05/17/resize-and-create-disk-partitions-with-easeus-partition-manager-windows/#comments Mon, 18 May 2009 01:00:00 +0000 http://www.tipsfor.us/2009/05/17/resize-and-create-disk-partitions-with-easeus-partition-manager-windows/ Continue reading Resize and Create Disk Partitions with EASEUS Partition Manager (Windows) ]]> Easeus Partition Manager - Main Disk partitioning is a volatile task, but it doesn’t need to be scary. Resizing a disk or partition in Windows is generally safe and easy, but you should still back up your critical files before messing with partitions. You never know what might happen.

EASEUS Partition Manager is a free alternative to popular hard disk management tools such as Partition Magic. EASEUS can easily shrink, enlarge, and move partitions without losing any data. It can also copy disks and partitions, change disk labels, format, explore, convert FAT to NTFS, and hide partitions. The Home edition is completely free for personal use, but it has a few limitations.

Limitations of the free edition:

  • Does not work with server operating systems, such as Windows Server 2008.
  • Only works with 32-bit operating systems. The Professional version supports 64-bit OSes.
  • Bootable CD/DVD not available.

EASEUS Partition Manager is painlessly simple to use. I like that you can preview all tasks before applying any changes. The main interface is simple and uncluttered (and surprisingly similar to Partition Magic!). One of the most common questions users new to partitioning ask is how to shrink an existing single-partition layout and create a new disk partition with the remaining space. The demonstration below will do just that.

Shrink An Existing Partition

Easeus Partition Manager - Resize Before we can create a second partition on our disk, we must first shrink the existing one. EASEUS Partition Manager is designed to resize partitions without causing any data loss, but I suggest first backing up any critical data just to be safe.

Launch the program and select the disk or partition that you wish to resize. Clicking the Resize/Move button at the top will launch a new window that lets you visually drag the edges to resize the partition. You can also click anywhere in the middle of the existing partition and drag it left or right to determine its placement on the disk.

Click OK when you are done. Notice that the visual reference of the partition layout has changes but nothing has actually happened yet. You can see the pending operations on the left side of the program. Clicking Undo will dismiss the operation, and clicking Apply will commit the changes to disk.

Create a New Partition

Easeus Partition Manager - Create Before we apply the changes, let’s create a new partition with the free space that we just allocated by shrinking the existing partition. First, select the Unallocated space and then click the Create button at the top. Just like before, a new window will spawn that allows you to set any additional parameters that you like for the new partition.

The default file system is NTFS, but you can also choose FAT32, plain old FAT, or you can opt to leave it unformatted.

Once you’ve reviewed the Operations Pending on the left, take a deep breath and click the Apply button to start the process.

Easeus Partition Manager - Partitioning EASEUS Partition Manager needs exclusive access to the drive for most operations, so don’t be alarmed when the program asks if it can automatically reboot your computer. Once the computer restarts, the partitioning process will begin.

Your computer will boot into a limited startup state called the EASEUS Partition Master Boot Mode. In this limited state, all the scheduled operations will process. Depending on the size of your hard disk and the number of operations, this process may take a long time, so go grab a cup of coffee and let it work.

When it finishes, your computer will automatically reboot again, and hopefully come back to life with its new partition scheme in place.

For a free program, EASEUS Partition Manager packs quite a punch. Perhaps its greatest strength is its simplicity – even a person completely new to disk partitioning should be up and running in a matter of minutes.

EASEUS Partition Manager works with Windows 2000 SP4 through Vista 32-bit and supports hard disks up to 1.5 terabytes. For an open-source alternative, take a look at GParted.

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Ghost Windows for Free with Paragon Drive Backup Express (A Visual Guide) http://tipsfor.us/2009/04/01/ghost-windows-for-free-with-paragon-drive-backup-express-a-visual-guide/ http://tipsfor.us/2009/04/01/ghost-windows-for-free-with-paragon-drive-backup-express-a-visual-guide/#comments Wed, 01 Apr 2009 17:00:00 +0000 http://www.tipsfor.us/2009/04/01/ghost-windows-for-free-with-paragon-drive-backup-express-a-visual-guide/ Continue reading Ghost Windows for Free with Paragon Drive Backup Express (A Visual Guide) ]]> Paragon - Disk icon Sometimes the healthiest thing you can do with your Windows installation is to just nuke it and start over from scratch. If you’ve ever done that before, you know just how long it takes to get all your files transferred, drivers and programs reloaded, and updates patched. The process can take hours, even days. While a true geek might actually enjoy the process a tiny bit, it’s much more satisfying to create a disk image of your pristine Windows install that you can revert to if it gets screwed up later.

I’ve written about this process a few times before, but today I would like to introduce Paragon Drive Backup Express. Essentially, Drive Backup Express (DBE) is the free version of Paragon’s commercial software. As expected, it lacks features compared to its commercial siblings, but is still quite usable. Hey, it’s hard to complain about free software.

Features

Let’s look at some features of Express (free) versus Personal Edition (commercial) as of 31 March 2009:

Paragon Drive Backup Express Features

Don’t expect too much here – you won’t find any fancy features like scheduling, encryption, incremental backups, or image browsing. The Express version basically gives you the ability to make a backup of your disk/partition, plus the ability to restore it later. No more, no less.

Compared to the free version of Macrium, Reflect, the most glaring omission of DBE is the inability to back up straight to CD/DVD. If you can live with these restrictions (and most people can), DBE is a capable tool. Perhaps because it lacks all the fancy features, it’s also VERY easy to use.

Requirements

Drive Backup Express officially supports all versions of Windows from 2000 SP4 to Vista (32/64-bit). Sorry, no server operating systems are supported by the free edition. Supported file systems include:

  • NTFS
  • FAT16 and FAT32
  • Linux EXT2, EXT3, and swap
  • HPFS

Because DBE supports some Linux file systems, you should be able to back up and restore Linux partitions. I have not tested this capability… yet.

Other requirements are minimal. At the least, you will need:

  • A place to store the image after it is created – yes, DBE can store the disk image directly onto the C:\ drive as it is created, but you need another place to host the image if you plan to erase and restore the C:\ drive. Make sense? A few options include:
    • a large USB flash drive might work (4 or 8+ GB)
    • a blank DVD
    • an external hard drive
    • a spare internal disk or partition

Before we begin, PLEASE BACK UP YOUR CRITICAL DATA! It should be common sense that whenever you are working with disk imaging, you need to have backups of important data. Get a spare hard drive, burn everything to DVD, or look at some online storage (I highly recommend Dropbox).

The Process

Here’s an outline of the entire process:

  1. Install Drive Backup Express
  2. Configure Your System
  3. Create the Disk Image
  4. Verify the Disk Image
  5. Create the Rescue CD
  6. Restore the Disk Image
  7. Final Thoughts

1. Install Drive Backup Express

Here’s the DBE download page. There are separate downloads available for 32-bit versus 64-bit operating systems. Not sure whether your system is 32-bit or 64-bit? If it’s Windows 2000, it’s 32-bit. If it’s XP or Vista, hold down the Windows key and press Pause/Break. Look for the System information.

System - 32-bit

2. Configure Your System

This one is up to you – configure your system in a way that you would like to preserve. A freshly installed state is perfect, but if don’t feel like doing a complete re-install, here are a few suggestions:

  • Get the latest security patches from Windows Update.
  • Defragment your disk.
  • Scan your system for malware.
  • Clean out any unused or unnecessary applications.

I tend to create two disk images:

  1. A freshly installed system with only the latest drivers and security updates.
  2. A full image that also contains all my typical applications.

3. Create the Disk Image

Now it’s time to create our image. When you launch DBE, you will see a Welcome screen featuring a happy guy with an unbranded Macbook. Are we to assume that he just restored his BootCamp partition? Or maybe he’s happy that the Dow Jones Industrial Average actually went UP for a change? Anyway, I digress.

Paragon Drive Backup Express - Main

Click the Back up Disk or Partition option. The Simple Backup Wizard will appear.

Paragon Drive Backup Express - Simple Backup Wizard

Follow the prompts to begin creating the image. First things first, select which disk or partition you would like to image. You may choose either a single partition or the entire hard disk, complete with the Master Boot Record (MBR). Unless you absolutely know what you are doing, go ahead and back up the partition table (called the Hard Disk Track) as well as the MBR. You will need them if you have to do a restore from bare metal.

Paragon Drive Backup Express - Simple Backup Wizard 2

Next, choose a place to store the image. As mentioned before, you cannot burn the disk image directly to a CD or DVD, but you can store it directly on the currently running partition. In other words, if you are running from drive C:\, you can choose to store the image directly on the same drive. Drive Backup Express is smart enough to exclude the chosen storage directory and not create an infinite loop. However, you must move the image to a different location (DVD, flash drive, etc) BEFORE you can restore it since it is not possible to restore a disk from itself.

Store the image wherever you like, such as on the C:\ drive, a spare partition, or on an external disk. Note: you CAN also map a network drive and store the image directly on a networked computer. To do so, click the Network Drive button on the Backup Destination page.

Paragon Drive Backup Express - Backup Destination

Browse to find your networked computer and map a network drive to a shared folder. Enter the login information for the remote user. Note: that user must have read AND write privileges for the shared folder or DBE will not be able to store the image there. Also, though DBE can create your image over the network, I have not yet found an easy way to restore it over the network. Before you can restore it, you must transfer it to a DVD or some other external media.

Paragon Drive Backup Express - Map Network Drive

Once you’ve chosen your destination, hit Next. DBE will immediately begin creating and storing your image. This process may take a while, so go have a coffee break.

Paragon Drive Backup Express - Backup in Progress

And it’s done! Hooray!

Paragon Drive Backup Express - Backup Complete

Now that your backup is complete, let’s talk about how to verify and restore it.

4. Verify the Disk Image

This step is optional, but I encourage you to do it anyway. You don’t want to find out the hard way that something is wrong with the image that you created.

Back on the DBE Welcome screen, click the Check Archive Integrity button to launch a new wizard.

Paragon Drive Backup Express - Archive Integrity Wizard

Browse to find the disk image that you created. DBE also keeps a list of archives that you have made, so you can just select it from the list.

Paragon Drive Backup Express - Archive Integrity Wizard 2

Depending on the size of the archive, it may take several minutes to verify its integrity. Go refill that coffee or maybe play an online flash game.

If all goes well, the verification should complete without errors.

Paragon Drive Backup Express - Archive Integrity Wizard Complete

5. Create the Rescue CD

Before we can restore the image, we must create the Rescue environment. After all, if we’re going to erase and restore the current operating system, we can’t have that system running, can we?

Back on the DBE Welcome screen, click the Build Recovery Media option. The Recovery Media Builder will launch.

Paragon Drive Backup Express - Recovery Media Builder

You have a choice: you can build the Rescue environment on either a CD/DVD or Flash Memory. If you know that your computer supports booting from a USB flash drive, this is a great choice. Otherwise, stick to the standard CD approach, which I will use for this tutorial.

Paragon Drive Backup Express - Recovery Media Type

Before you can build the recovery ISO, you have another choice: Typical settings, Advanced, or User-specified ISO.

Paragon Drive Backup Express - DVD Creation Options

Typical – use this option if you just want to accept the default recovery package and start burning the disk. It will build a Linux-based boot disk with a minimal set of tools for restoring your image(s). If you’re unsure, go with this option.

Advanced – similar to the typical settings, but also gives you an option to add your own files or folders to the standard recovery image. For instance, if you have room on your DVD, you could add the folder where you stored the image itself. That way your recovery media also conveniently contains the disk image. Nice.

User-specified ISO – only choose this option if you already have another recovery ISO in mind to burn. Most users won’t have this.

Once you’ve made your choice, create your media. DBE can burn the disc for you directly, or you can choose the Emulator device option to build an ISO that you can burn later with a tool like InfraRecorder.

Now that your recovery media is ready, let’s move on to the restoration process. Please continue to the next page.

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Share and Sync Your Music Library With MediaMonkey http://tipsfor.us/2009/03/20/share-and-sync-your-music-library-with-mediamonkey/ http://tipsfor.us/2009/03/20/share-and-sync-your-music-library-with-mediamonkey/#comments Fri, 20 Mar 2009 18:00:00 +0000 http://www.tipsfor.us/2009/03/20/share-and-sync-your-music-library-with-mediamonkey/ Continue reading Share and Sync Your Music Library With MediaMonkey ]]> MediaMonkey logo Here’s the situation: my wife owns an iPod Nano. I own a Sandisk Fuze. We BOTH would like to access and share the SAME music library. Furthermore, we use different computers but don’t want to waste storage space by duplicating all the songs. In other words, I want to be able to rip a CD on MY computer and have it show up in HER music library (and vice versa). Is this possible?

YES.

Before we get started, here are a few issues to consider:

  • This article focuses on MediaMonkey installed on Microsoft Windows. An iTunes-based article is forthcoming.
  • In this setup, one PC acts as a server and one PC (or more) acts as a client. All the music files are stored on the host, naturally.
  • Following this tutorial works best if you are setting up a new music library from scratch. Yes, you can share an existing music library, but I strongly suggest backing up your music files and database before you begin. I am not responsible for lost data.
  • If you’re planning to share the same library with differing brands of portable music players, I suggest sticking to the MP3 format. Then again, you probably already knew that.

Why MediaMonkey?

It’s free. It’s easy to use. It plays most any file type. Best of all, it supports multiple types of MP3 players, including my wife’s iPod and my Sandisk Fuze.

Set Up The Host PC (Server)

Shared Music folderAs mentioned above, one computer should serve as the host for the music library files. The first thing we need to do is choose a place to store all the files. In my case, I’m using D:\Shared Music on the host computer. Adjust your path accordingly.

Network Shares

No matter what folder you choose, you need to set it as a network share with READ and WRITE privileges. Instructions will vary slightly depending on the specific operating system, but start by right-clicking the folder and looking for a Share option.

A quick note about User Accounts: unless you want to open up read/write permissions for everyone on the network (a bad idea), you should have a User Account for each client that will log into the shared folder over the network. For instance, I’m setting up my wife’s computer as the host, so I need to make sure that I’ve set up a username and password for myself on her computer. Make sense?

On XP Pro, click Share this folder, then hit the Permissions button. If you don’t feel like giving Everyone full control, click Add –> Advanced –> Find Now to bring up a list of potential Users. Find the User Account for the desired client and click OK twice. For that selected User, click the Full Control option.

Vista - Share Folder On Vista/Server 2008, when the File Sharing window pops up, simply choose the desired client user from the drop-down list. Set the permissions to Co-owner to make sure they have full read/write privileges.

After you’ve set permissions accordingly, make sure you can connect to that network share from the client computer! Try adding and deleting a test file. If everything works, continue to the next section.

Hidden Folders and MediaMonkey Configuration

You can download the free version of MediaMonkey here. Once it’s installed, we need to make a few configuration changes. The files that we need to edit are hidden from the default operating system view, so before you continue, you must enable hidden files and folders.

XP - Folder Options On Windows XP, open any Explorer folder (such as My Documents), go to the Tools menu –> Folder Options. Switch to the View tab, and click the button next to Show hidden files and folders.

On Vista/Server 2008, open any Explorer folder. Go to Organize –> Folder and Search Options. Switch to the View tab, and turn on Show hidden files and folders.

Here comes the fun part. In this next section, we’re going to move the MediaMonkey database and edit the main configuration file. Let’s go.

The MediaMonkey library database is contained in a file called MM.DB. That database, along with the *ini file containing the configuration settings, is in a hidden folder.

Depending on your OS, you can find the required files here:

  • Windows XP – C:\Documents and Settings\USERNAME\Local Settings\Application Data\MediaMonkey
  • Vista/Server 2008 – C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Local\MediaMonkey

Here’s what we need to do: we need to move the database to the shared folder that you created earlier. Then, we need to edit the configuration file to point MediaMonkey to the new database location.

BE SURE MEDIAMONKEY IS CLOSED BEFORE CONTINUING. Once MediaMonkey is fully shut down, move the database file (MM.DB) to the shared folder. Be sure to MOVE it, not just copy it. MediaMonkey will look in the default location first, so you do not want an existing database in the default location.

Next, open the MediaMonkey.ini configuration file in Notepad or another text editor. Find the section that starts with [System].

Somewhere in the section below [System], add a line with a parameter for the database name like this:

  • DBName=\\host-computer-name\shared-folder-path\MM.DB

In the above example, host-computer-name stands for the computer name of the host PC. If you are unsure what your computer name is, just right-click on My Computer and look for Computer Name. Provided your shared folder is shared properly, you should be able to access it by entering \\host-computer-name in the Address Bar of any Explorer window.

For example, my host computer’s name is sparkasse. and my shared folder is called Shared Music. My DBName line would look like this:

  • DBName=\\sparkasse\Shared Music\MM.DB

Make sense? For the record, I placed the DBName line just above the PlayerType parameter.

Note: I strongly suggest sticking to the UNC network name (\\computer-name or \\ip-address) instead of a drive letter since it avoids problems down the road and helps with unification of the path display within MediaMonkey. This is especially important when setting up the client PCs.

Dealing With Multiple Local Users

If several people have user accounts on the local computer, you can grant them all access to the shared music library by moving the location of the MediaMonkey.ini configuration file to the C:\Program Files\MediaMonkey\ folder. All local users will then share the same settings within MediaMonkey.

Otherwise, you should log into each user’s account and edit the configuration file in the default location as described above if you want them to share the same library.

Once you’ve added the DBName line, save the configuration file and re-launch MediaMonkey. If everything works normally, let’s move on to setting up a client.

Set Up The Client PC

Configuring a client to connect to the host PC is simpler. Here’s the process:

  • Enable hidden folders
  • Remove the local database
  • Edit the MediaMonkey configuration file to point to the shared database

UNC Network Name - sparkasse First things first, make sure you can access the host PC by typing its UNC network path into any Explorer window.

My Host PC name is sparkasse, so entering \\sparkasse works for me. Definitely check any Remember Password option that’s available.

Install MediaMoney on the client PC. Run it once to generate the hidden folder, but you don’t need to choose any folders to Add/Scan. Once it’s installed, enable hidden folders (as described above in Setting Up The Host PC). BE SURE TO SHUT DOWN MEDIAMONKEY.

Browse to the location of the hidden MediaMonkey folder:

  • Windows XP – C:\Documents and Settings\USERNAME\Local Settings\Application Data\MediaMonkey
  • Vista/Server 2008 – C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Local\MediaMonkey

Since this is a new install, you have no need for the MM.DB file (it’s empty anyway). Feel free to delete it. At the least, rename it. We don’t want MediaMonkey defaulting to the empty database.

Configuration File

Next, open up the MediaMonkey.ini configuration file. As with the host PC, add a line somewhere in the [System] section that reads:

  • DBName=\\host-computer-name\shared-folder-path\MM.DB

Once again, host-computer-name is the UNC path to the host PC. My example looks like this:

  • DBName=\\sparkasse\Shared Music\MM.DB

Save the configuration file and re-launch MediaMonkey. If you configured everything correctly, you should be able to browse and play songs stored on the host PC.

Other Issues

If everything went well up to this point, congratulations! You now have a shared music library that people can access simultaneously. This process worked fine for me. If it didn’t work for you, re-read the instructions and check for typos in your path and configuration file. The biggest potential problem that I’ve found is that the tracks in the shared library could be grayed out. If that’s the case, see here.

If you have an existing library with a mapped drive that you want to convert to UNC, see this thread.

CD Ripping

MediaMonkey - Set Destination Wizard When ripping a CD (either on the Host or the Client), make sure that the Main Directory destination is set to the shared library via the UNC path (\\host-computer-name\shared-folder-path\).

See the screenshot for an example.

Yes, you can rip a CD while both computers are accessing the library. If the new files don’t show up immediately in the other user’s library, try collapsing and expanding the desired part of the Library tree, such as the Album or Location view.

At worst, close and re-launch MediaMonkey.

Access and Sharing

In the method that I’ve described, one computer (the host) stores all the music files, whereas the client(s) connect to the host over the network. Naturally, the host computer must be ON for this to work. If you have some kind of Network Attached Storage that you can access via a UNC name, this is not a problem.

Another issue is mobility. What if your host PC is an always-on desktop at home, but your client is a laptop or netbook? If that’s the case, accessing the host PC from outside your home network becomes a problem. However, this problem is solved by creating a VPN, or a way to access your LAN over the Internet. Look into LogMeIn Hamachi (free).

One caveat here is that I have not tried running more than three users simultaneously accessing the shared MediaMonkey library (one host, two clients). Everything that I’ve tried works without flaw, including ripping CDs on the host and client simultaneously. I’ve been running this setup for over a month now without a single problem, but I still suggest occasionally backing up your MM.DB file for safekeeping. Here’s a screenshot of MediaMonkey running (as a client) on Virtual PC on top of Server 2008. Notice the file path:

Overall, my wife and I are very happy with our new music setup. From different computers, we can both rip CDs, rate songs, and load our MP3 players from the same library.

If you have any suggestions to make or questions to ask, please comment below. I will do my best to answer them. Another great resource is the official MediaMonkey forum.

Good luck!

One last thing: this article took a long time to research and write. If you found it helpful, please help share it by giving it a Digg, a Stumble, Mixx, or whatever. 🙂

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Capture Screenshots and Edit Images with PicPick (Windows) http://tipsfor.us/2009/03/11/capture-screenshots-and-edit-images-with-picpick-windows/ Wed, 11 Mar 2009 22:05:00 +0000 http://www.tipsfor.us/2009/03/11/capture-screenshots-and-edit-images-with-picpick-windows/ Continue reading Capture Screenshots and Edit Images with PicPick (Windows) ]]> picpick_logo One of my favorite screen capturing and image editing tools is PicPick. Available for Windows only, PicPick is a free tool that does a lot of things well. Here are some features:

  • Multiple screen capture methods (full screen, active window, window control, regions, and freehand)
  • Competent image editor
  • Color picker and Palette
  • A pixel ruler
  • Screen whiteboard (lets you draw on the screen)

Screen Captures

While PicPick has a lot of features, it suits my needs primarily for creating screenshots. It captures images by default in PNG format, though you can easily change it to BMP, JPG, or GIF.

PicPick Tools Menu When PicPick is running, you can bring up a Tray Menu by clicking the icon in the system tray. Navigate to Screen Capture to see available options for taking a screenshot.

I tend to use Capture Region most of the time to capture some kind of square or rectangular area of the screen, but there are other flexible options as well.

For instance, you can use the Capture Window Control option to easily take a screenshot of a scrolling window, such as in a web browser or a document. To do so, just select Capture Window Control, make sure you’re at the top of your desired scrolling window, and hit PRINT SCRN. It only took a few seconds to capture this scrolling image:

Picpick - Window Control Scroll Capture

With PicPick, you can also capture freehand areas, though my freehand drawings tend to suck pretty badly.

No matter which type of screen capture you’re after, I strongly suggest learning or configuring the available hotkeys to speed up the process (PicPick menu –> Capture Settings –> Change Hot Keys). You can configure hotkeys for most any task.

PicPick - Change Hot Keys

If you’re accustomed to using a similar screen capture program such as FastStone or HyperSnap, PicPick also has built-in hotkey profiles for some competing programs.

Other Features

PicPick sports some other handy features, including a built-in color picker, an on-screen pixel ruler, and a protractor. One of my favorite features, however, is the WhiteBoard.

PicPick - WhiteBoard The WhiteBoard is handy if you ever want to draw on the screen BEFORE you take a screenshot, such as to highlight an area, give the user some kind of instruction, or just say “Hi!”

Of course, you can also make edits, adjustments, or create markings on your image AFTER you take a screenshot. The built-in PicPick editor is pretty good actually. I find that it easily handles most common editing tasks that I would typically reserve for something like Paint.NET.

The built-in editor is definitely leagues beyond MS Paint.

Summary

There’s a lot to like about PicPick. It’s free, easy to use, and even comes in a portable ZIP archive. I’ve been using it lately for all screenshots on TipsFor.us.

PicPick is Windows-only donationware. There used to be a bug that caused PicPick to run slowly on Vista if Aero was enabled, but the bug is now fixed.

PicPick – Download

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A Quick Way to Pin Folders to the Start Menu (XP / Vista) http://tipsfor.us/2009/02/11/a-quick-way-to-pin-folders-to-the-start-menu-xp-vista/ http://tipsfor.us/2009/02/11/a-quick-way-to-pin-folders-to-the-start-menu-xp-vista/#comments Wed, 11 Feb 2009 21:30:00 +0000 http://www.tipsfor.us/2009/02/11/a-quick-way-to-pin-folders-to-the-start-menu-xp-vista/ Continue reading A Quick Way to Pin Folders to the Start Menu (XP / Vista) ]]> Here’s a quick tip about Windows that you may not know. While both XP and Vista allow you to easily add executables to the Start Menu via a right-click –> Pin to Start Menu, adding a folder is not so easy.

Actually, I lied. It’s much easier!

There’s no need to deal with complicated registry hacks or anything like that to add a folder to the Start menu. You just have to think a little more like a Mac user!

This method works with both XP and Vista/Server 2008.

Drag and Drop

Step 1 – Left-click and hold the desired folder. Do not release the mouse button. On Vista/Server 2008 you will see a translucent folder icon with an arrow.

Explorer - Left-click and hold

Step 2 – While holding the desired folder, smack the Windows key on your keyboard. Naturally, the Start Menu will open. Hint: you can also just hover over the Start Menu orb (or button) for a couple seconds while holding the desired folder. If you simply drop the folder onto the Start Menu orb, it will automatically become the last pinned link in the Start Menu.

Step 3 – With the Start Menu open, drag your desired folder into it. You will see a black horizontal line to help indicate the placement of the desired folder.

Start Menu - Drag in Folder

That’s it. You now have a link to the desired folder directly from the Start Menu. I found that sticking the Downloads and Videos folders into the menu made life a little easier. If you want to remove the link, just right-click –> Remove from this list.

Video Demonstration

Here’s a very short video demonstrating the entire process. Enjoy.

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