ZoneAlarm Pro 2009 – Free Download Today Only

As mentioned yesterday, Check Point software is celebrating its 15th anniversary today, and YOU get to reap the benefits. Today only, you can download ZoneAlarm Pro 2009 for FREE.

What you get: A professional firewall, plus anti-spyware and ID protection. Note – this is a subscription valid for one year ($40 value).

How to get it: The download link is right below. It will expire on 19 November 2008 at 6 AM PST.

http://download.zonealarm.com/bin/free/sum/index.html

Suggested alternative: If you don’t care for ZoneAlarm or if you missed this deal, you could try Comodo Internet Security instead (free). Look for an upcoming review here soon.

Quick Tip – Force Off-Screen Windows to Return to Your Desktop

We’ve all encountered this problem at one time or another. Perhaps a change of screen resolution caused it, or maybe you disconnected a second monitor without paying attention to window placement. Either way, the problem is that you have one or more windows that are off the screen, with no easy way to click-and-drag them back into place. Frustrating!

Of course, you could just reboot, but what self-respecting nerd would do that? Surely there must be a better way!

There is. The next time you find yourself in that situation, just try this:

1. Make sure the misbehaving window has focus. Use Alt-Tab to select it, or just click anywhere on the visible part of that window.

2. Right-click on that item in the taskbar and select Move.

Keyboard alternative: you could also just press Alt-Space and then hit M.

3. Notice that your cursor now changed and looks like this:

Now, simply press any of the arrow keys on your keyboard (Up, Down, Left, Right). Voila! The misbehaving window should automatically snap back into place on your desktop.

All you have to do is drag the mouse to wherever you want the window and left-click to release it.

Done. This is one quick tip that’s handy to remember, but I admit: it’s too bad that that there’s a need for it at all.

ZoneAlarm Pro 2009 – FREE on 18 November 2008 Only

The link is live. Please see the updated post here.

According to this PC Mag article, ZoneAlarm Pro 2009 will be offered for FREE on Tuesday, November 18 in honor of Check Point Software’s 15th anniversary.

In addition to the firewall, ZoneAlarm Pro offers anti-spyware and ID protection (see feature comparison). The Pro package is normally $40 (for one year of updates). By downloading ZoneAlarm Pro tomorrow, you will receive a free one-year subscription.

The download link will go live at 6 AM Pacific time, and I’ll post an update once it’s available.

Rip DVDs to Video Files Easily with FormatFactory (Windows)

So, you want to rip DVDs to video files on Windows, but you’re not sure where to begin? While there are a ton of guides on the Internet on how to accomplish this task, most of them get complicated really quickly.

In this simple guide, I’m going to show you how to easily rip a DVD to a video file in as few steps as possible. Ready? Let’s get started.

Tools Required

  • A DVD drive for your computer (obviously). If you bought your computer anytime after the year 2000, it probably has one.
  • FormatFactory – FREE media converting software. This is what will do the ripping for us. Version as of this writing – 1.60.
  • DVD43 – FREE decrypting software. Basically, DVD43’s job is to unlock a DVD so that FormatFactory can access it.

Step One – Unlock

First of all, install DVD43. It takes very few brain cells to run DVD43 – the program will sit quietly in your system tray, waiting patiently for a DVD to decrypt. By default the tray icon is yellow (and not so happy).

Once you insert an encrypted DVD, the program will automatically get to work on unlocking it. If successful, the not-so-happy face will turn green (and much more cheery).

Step Two – Start FormatFactory

Next, install and launch FormatFactory. As the name implies, FormatFactory is an all-in-one utility for converting between media types. For our purposes, we’re going to look at the ROM Device\DVD\CD\ISO panel.

Under the ROM Device\DVD\CD\ISO panel, click on the DVD to Video File icon.

Step Three – Configure DVD Ripping Settings

In the DVD to Video window that spawns, there are only a few things you need to do before starting the DVD rip. First of all, select your DVD from the drop-down list at the top. On the left, select the titles/chapters that you want to rip. The video that I’m going to rip is The Big Lebowski (cult classic).

You can choose the format type for your video by clicking the drop-down list under the Output Setting area. The choices are: MP4, AVI, FLV, MPG, VOB, 3GP, WMV, and SWF.

Quality Settings

If you want to alter the video quality settings, click the Quality Setting button.

I recommend sticking with one of the built-in profiles, such as Medium Quality. Of course, you could always choose a Custom profile and alter settings manually.

Subtitles

One of the last steps is to select whether or not you want subtitles included in your video. Under the Output Control area, take a look at the drop-down list next to Subtitle Language.

Select a subtitle language for your video, or just choose None.

You’re almost done. All that’s left is to choose a filename for your video and a location to save it. Under the Output File section, type a name for your video and select an output folder.

When you’re finished, hit the Convert button at the top.

Step Four – Let It Rip

After you hit Convert, FormatFactory will return to the main window and you will see your job lined up in the queue. The final step is to simply hit the Start button to begin processing.

Depending on the speed of your computer and the length of the DVD, the ripping process will likely take hours. Go outside and run around, or maybe do your DVD rips overnight.

That’s it. You’re done. Eject the DVD, and enjoy your new video.

P.S. Need a place to store your new DVD rip online? Give MyBloop a try.

Installing Packages in Linux

I always forget the exact commands required to extracting my little tarballs onto my Linux system after downloading them. But wait! Before you go downloading a tarball, try to download a pre-compiled package using a package management tool like Yum, APT, Aptitude, Pacman, Portage, Yast, etc.. You will save LOTS of time by doing this. However, for the sake of this post, let’s pretend you’ve entered the grim and dark world of un-compiled packages, and now you must must make the sacred journey into adulthood by downloading and compiling your own packages. (There’s still time to back out… are you sure there isn’t a pre-compiled package out there?)

Unpacking a .gz File

For this example, let’s say that you’ve downloaded the file ImageMagick-6.4.4-10.tar.gz (e.g. by using the wget utility or by uploading the package to your Linux server).

tar -zxvf ImageMagick-6.4.4-10.tar.gz

This will extract the file to the current directory.

* You may need preface the commands using the sudo command… as in “sudo make me a sandwich“. You may also want to read the man page: man tar

After Unpacking…

cd into the new directory and read the documentation! It’s a bummer, but when you roll your own stuff here, you gotta RTFM. That’s just part of the sacred ritual. Be glad it’s not adult circumcision we’re talking about.

In a nutshell, the compilation process usually goes a little something like this:

  1. ./configure [with options listed]
  2. make
  3. make install

Each of these steps may take a while… compiling and testing and such. Go get some coffee.

Add Watermarks to Video for Free with MPEG Streamclip

MPEG-Streamclip is a powerful FREE tool for working with video. Not only can it encode/convert between formats, it can also cut, trim, and join movies together. As an added bonus, it can also directly download videos from YouTube and Google Video.

These features alone are enough to make MPEG Streamclip an essential tool for both Windows and Mac users, but the program has another trick up its sleeve: it can also add watermarks to video. I’ll show you how.

Special note for Windows users: MPEG Streamclip requires either Quicktime OR Quicktime Alternative (but not both!). Please see their site for details.

Adding Watermarks

First of all, launch MPEG Streamclip and open the video to which you want to add a watermark. For kicks, I’m going to add a watermark to Jesus and Frosty, the first animated short by Matt and Trey (of Southpark fame).

MPEG Streamclip - Southpark vid

Next, go to the File menu and Export to your desired format.

MPEG Streamclip - File Menu
MPEG Streamclip - File Menu

In the Exporter window that spawns, don’t be intimidated by the multitude of options in front of you. All you need to do is click the Adjustments button near the bottom-right.

MPEG Streamclip - Exporter

Just type the text for the watermark and hit OK. Make any other adjustments to resolution or audio quality that you want, and press Make Movie when you’re finished.

Choose a place to save your newly watermarked video, and voila! Go get a cup of coffee while your video exports.

The watermark will show up near the bottom-right corner of your video. As of this writing, there is no way to alter the position of the watermark.

Demonstration Video

Of course, no article of this nature would be complete without a tutorial video, so here’s a visual guide that walks you through the process of adding watermarks.

A video used to be embedded here but the service that it was hosted on has shut down.

Download MPEG Steamclip (Windows/Mac)

Create Screencasts Easily with Capture Fox (for Firefox)

A while ago I wrote an article on Creating Screencasts on (nearly) Any Operating System. There have been several new developments since I wrote the original article.

One slick program is called Capture Fox. As you might guess from the name, this is a FREE Add-on for Mozilla Firefox (link). Though limited, it allows you to record the action on your screen in two ways:

  1. Record video of just the Firefox window
  2. Record video of the entire screen

There is currently not an option to record a custom-size area of the screen. On the other hand, it does record audio.

Capture Fox is currently available only for Windows XP/Vista/Server 2008.

Video output – AVI

Usage

Capture Fox installs just like any other Firefox Add-on. Once you have restarted Firefox, look under the Tools menu for the Capture Fox option.

To begin capturing video, first bring up the Capture Fox Settings menu (Ctrl+Shift+U). You can also do this by clicking the tiny camera icon in the bottom-right corner of the browser.

Here is the Settings menu:

Once you have chosen your options, hit the Start Capturing button! The video capture will continue in the background until you stop it by pressing the keyboard shortcut (Ctrl+Shift+U) or clicking the camera icon again.

You can also easily keep track of how long you’ve been recording by checking the timer next to the camera icon.

As you can see, my screencast-in-progress is currently 21 seconds long. Yay!

When finished, you can save your new screencast to disk, or start over if you screwed up.

Speaking of screencasts, here’s the obligatory demonstration of Capture Fox in action. In the video below, I’m demoing the use of Switcher (Exposé clone for Vista/Server 2008).

(RSS and e-mail subscribers, you may need to click through to see the video.)

Capture Fox appears to only capture about two frames per second, so it isn’t the smoothest screencasting software available. Still, it’s extremely easy to use, and is hard to beat for ease of installation and tiny download size.

Suggestions: of course, I would like to see versions available for Linux and Mac OS X. I would also love the ability to choose a custom-sized record area. Since Capture Fox is still in Beta, these shortcomings may soon become realities.

Download Link