Category Archives: Windows

Microsoft Windows, of course.

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. 🙂

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

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.

A Very Important Program You Never Knew You Needed (RadarSync)

**–Edit:  Your personal Mileage may vary. My experience was great on an XP Pro Netbook, XP Home Compaq Laptop, and Server2008 Workstation.  Please read the comments of our community after this post before deciding if you are adventurous.  –**

Hardware driver management is not a pleasant task.  It’s painful enough finding the drivers for a system when first setting it up, especially if you have old hardware or hardware of mysterious origins.  Once this initial trial is over, it’s rare to think about updating your drivers (especially if they aren’t malfunctioning).  This, however is no excuse not to.

If you hit up any 3rd party driver download site, you will see countless ads for programs that claim to handle all of this for you, half the adds are spyware (SCAN YOUR SYSTEM NOW!!1) and the other half are very expensive and often times subscription based (Great solutions for multi-seat licenses in which you have to maintain entire networks of computers for a company, etc.).

What I’m talking about here, though, is a free program (Free version of a paid program, in which the pay version is considerably more powerful and useful, but typically more powerful than a home user needs, like most anti-virus softwares):

http://www.radarsync.com/
http://www.radarsync.com/

Now, I consider myself to be someone who takes pretty good care of their workstation, and, having just installed server 2008 on it, figured my drivers were up to date.  After the first scan, I found that about 30 of my drivers were out of date.  These weren’t basic drivers, like sound card, etc.  They were everything from my chipset to my PCI controllers on my intel board.  I did not run any pre-install benchmarks or anything fancy like that, but, after installation, I can definitely see a subtle improvement in the overall functionality of my box.

After you download the software and run the executable, you meet the usual screen:

Click Accept and you get:

Now, here is where it gets hairy.  Nothing corporate is ever free.  They will now give you a series of advertisements for various software you can install (Pretty much all benign).  The presence of these ads is what makes it possible for them to provide this software to home users for free.  Feel free (I strongly encourage it) to decline every offer.

Don’t get caught in the muscle memory of installation where you click Agree, then Install, the Next, Next, and Finish.  You will end up with 8 programs you never wanted.

The next screen to pay attention to:

Un-check Both Boxes.  They try and dupe you with the usual “Add icon to my desktop” check box you find in all installations, but this is icons for “other offers.”

On the next screen you can hit “Finish.”

Now it’s installed.  Run the program and you are greeted by:

Because it’s the free version, pretty much all you can do is click Start Now, or if you have already scanned, click My Downloads to view not yet installed but downloaded drivers.

After the scan you get this. Small pop-ups will appear from the task bar when a download finishes.  Click these to begin auto install, or wait until its all done and install through the “My Downloads” button on the first screen of the program. (Manual installs are good if you want to pick and choose what gets updated, if you know ahead of time of a potential conflict.)

I had luck with most components, but found it especially likes “Big Name” company hardware, your Intels and Nvidias. It may also offer you program upgrades, like the new version of PowerIso it offered me. Install these at your own risk (especially if you have software that makes you re-pay/re-register for large updates.)

You may occasionally see a window resembling this:

Any time you mess with drivers, creating a Restore Point is a great idea.  If you have a conflict (like the myriad of driver conflicts with XP and Service Pack 3) and your hardware becomes non-responsive you can just restore to previous configuration. This is essential, just in case something like what happened to me the other day happens to you – a driver conflict that resulted in my RAID card not functioning anymore, cutting access to my CD-Rom drives.

Now that your drivers are all updated, you can sleep better at night knowing you are getting the most out of your expensive hardware. Enjoy.

Install the Vista Sidebar in Server 2008

So you’ve set up your slick workstation build of Server 2008 (see Part I and Part II) and are wondering which widget software to install.  Here are a couple options:

  1. Yahoo Widgets
  2. Google Desktop

Those are the standard options, but I find each to be a little too intrusive – Google desktop’s consistent desire to search my computer and email along with searching the web – you can turn it off, but it’s only one example of how it goes beyond a basic widget engine. Not to mention Yahoo’s strange widget dock that doesn’t actually dock widgets – Instead, it functions more like a shortcut bar with icons linked to your widgets on your desktop… redundant.

I really just need a clock, and meters showing how full my hard drives are, in a small memory foot print.  So the Vista sidebar is perfect for my diminutive widget requirements.  But it doesn’t come standard with Server 2008.  So, let’s Install it.

Installing Sidebar in Server 2008

Before we begin, please note that I am assuming your Server 2008 install is on the C:\ drive, if for some reason it is not, please adjust the letter in every run command below.

1.  Get ahold of the sidebar files.

The easiest (and most legal) place to acquire these is from a vista disc or installation that you currently own.  If you don’t have that kind of access, you can find the needed files at most any file sharing website, rapidshare, megaupload, etc.  Google is a good place to start.  Be wary, however, of downloading from sources you cannot verify as virus free.

If you are having trouble finding the files, these are few locations (I found from googling) where you can find them [We cannot verify the contents, safety, or legality of these files, download at your own risk and of your own volition.]

[TipsFor.us does not condone piracy, or the breaking of Microsoft EULA]:

32-bit:

Link1

Link2

64-bit:

Link1

Link2

2.  Move the files to a system directory.

Okay, so you got the files.  They should be zipped [unless you got them from a vista installation].  In rare cases, they will have the 7z extension. If this is the case, you will need a great little program called 7-zip to extract them.  Don’t worry, it’s free and fantastic.

Decompress [or  copy] them to the location:  C:\Program Files\Windows Sidebar\ [Your Files Go Here]*

*You probably have to create the directory “Windows Sidebar”

3.  Now to install the program.

Hit up the Start Menu → Run and type in (including the “Quotes”):

"C:\Program Files\Windows Sidebar\sidebar.exe" /RegServer

4.  Register the necessary libraries for handling widgets (regular and custom).

Open Start Menu → Run and paste in these next 2 lines, one at a time.

regsvr32 "C:\Program Files\Windows Sidebar\sbdrop.dll"

regsvr32 "C:\Program Files\Windows Sidebar\wlsrvc.dll"

5.  Now to start the program.

Either double-click on the sidebar.exe file in “C:\Program Files\Windows Sidebar\”  or, if you still have a handy Run box open, just run:

C:\Program Files\Windows Sidebar\sidebar.exe

6.  Make it run at Startup.

Just so you don’t have to do Step 5 every time your computer starts, just right-click the icon on the task bar for sidebar and select properties.

Tick the check box for Start Sidebar when Windows Starts.

7.  Address and Permission Issues. If you are not running as Administrator, you will receive a security warning, asking permission to run the file at Windows start up.  If you do have this problem, it’s easy to fix.

Navigate back to C:\Program Files\Windows Sidebar\ and right-click on sidebar.exe. Go to Properties.

Under the General Tab, click Unblock. Apply.

In some rare cases, this won’t handle the permission issue, and you will have to go under the Compatibility Tab and tick the check box for Run as Administrator, just like you have to do with a lot of gaming software.

8.  Yay.

Now you have Vista Sidebar running in Server 2008. Enjoy!

Batch Image Resize in Vista with Image Resizer Powertoy Clone

Back in the days of XP, Microsoft released a great set of tools they called Powertoys.  Potentially the most useful of these being a shell addition that allowed you to right click on a set of selected images and resize them.  Like a lot of people, I figured this function would just be built into Vista…  It’s not.  Also, there is currently no Vista Powertoy that has the same function (There may be, at a later date – I’ve heard rumors of several in development).  But what to do until then?

A wonderful little program has been developed that emulates the identical functionality of the XP resizer Powertoy, on Vista.  It’s called the “Image Resizer Powertoy Clone.” Best news:  It’s open source and free.

You can grab it at Here.

To use it, all you have to do is highlight the images you want to resize, right-click, and select Resize Pictures.  You will then receive a dialogue window prompting you to choose a size from the most common, or you can click Advanced for more control.

It will not overwrite the images. Instead, it will rename the copy to have the image size after the original file name.

Set Windows as the Permanent Default OS when Dual-Booting with Ubuntu

Ubuntu Linux is a great operating system, but one potential annoyance is how it automatically sets itself as the default OS when installed as a dual-boot with Windows. Fortunately, it’s easy to switch it back by editing GRUB (GRand Unified Boot Loader).

To modify GRUB, first boot into Ubuntu, then launch a Terminal (Applications → Accessories → Terminal). Type the following command:

sudo gedit /boot/grub/menu.lst

(Tip: if you don’t want to launch a full text editor, just substitute nano instead of gedit.)

Scan the file until you find this section:

## default num
# Set the default entry to the entry number NUM. Numbering starts from 0, and
# the entry number 0 is the default if the command is not used.
#
# You can specify ‘saved’ instead of a number. In this case, the default entry
# is the entry saved with the command ‘savedefault’.
# WARNING: If you are using dmraid do not use ‘savedefault’ or your
# array will desync and will not let you boot your system.
default 0

The number that follows the word default at the bottom is the critical part. Conventional wisdom suggests that we just have to change the zero to a higher number (usually between 4 and 6). Sure, you can do it that way if you want. Just find the section in your GRUB file at begins with: ### END DEBIAN AUTOMAGIC KERNEL LIST.

Starting with 0, count the entry blocks below that marker to find what the appropriate number is for Windows.

Be warned: the above method is only temporary. The next time a new kernel is passed down through the Update system, GRUB will likely add a new entry for it, breaking your default OS. You may find your computer furiously trying to boot the GRUB divider!

The Permanent Method

To fix that annoying little problem permanently, just type saved instead of a number, so that your GRUB file looks like this (emphasis is mine):

## default num
# Set the default entry to the entry number NUM. Numbering starts from 0, and
# the entry number 0 is the default if the command is not used.
#
# You can specify ‘saved’ instead of a number. In this case, the default entry
# is the entry saved with the command ‘savedefault’.
# WARNING: If you are using dmraid do not use ‘savedefault’ or your
# array will desync and will not let you boot your system.
default saved

The saved option works because Ubuntu so kindly already specifies Windows as the default when this option is invoked. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the very bottom of your GRUB file (emphasis is mine):

# This entry automatically added by the Debian installer for a non-linux OS
# on /dev/sda1
title Microsoft Windows XP Professional
root (hd0,0)
savedefault
chainloader +1

Save your GRUB file and reboot. Don’t be alarmed if your computer does not immediately default to Windows. I found that I had to manually switch it to Windows once, but then GRUB remembered my choice after that.