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.

Disable the Avira AntiVir Splash Screen at Startup

Avira splash screen Avira AntiVir is a terrific free antivirus program, but it needs a little work right after installation to perfect it. We’ve already covered how to disable the annoying popup ads after updates, but now let’s talk about how to disable one other little annoyance – the splash screen that appears on startup.

Though it’s not intrusive or debilitating at all, a splash screen is annoying to some people. I’m one of them.

Fortunately, disabling the splash screen is pretty easy.

1. Go to Start –> Run (or just press Win + R).

2. Type regedit to open the Registry Editor.

3. Navigate to [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run].

4. Double-click avgnt.

Registry Editor - avgnt

5. Add the parameter /nosplash (Windows 2000/XP) or -nosplash (Windows Vista) to this entry.

Registry Editor - editing avgnt

That’s it! The next time you log out or reboot, no Avira splash screen should appear.

Creating Templates in MODx Part II (part V in the series)

Now that you are able to create basic MODx templates from watching the previous video, this video shows you how to extend their functionality even further with the inclusion of reusable chunks of code and dynamic PHP snippets.

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

Vocabulary

You only have to learn a couple new terms to understand what MODx is talking about — it’s not a steep learning curve, so jump in!

  1. Chunk — any bit of reusable text (usually HTML). Text used in a site’s footer is commonly placed into a chunk. MODx references chunks using double curly-braces: {{name_of_your_chunk}}, and they can be used almost anywhere, including page content and templates. Chunks can also contain Snippets!
  2. Snippet— this is a bit of PHP code (I remember Snippet by its double-P’s: sni-PhP-et). You can literally cut and paste almost any working PHP script into a MODx Snippet; once it has been created, you reference it using either double-square brackets or with a bracket and an exclamation point: [[Like_this]] or [!Like_this!], depending on whether you want it to always execute, or whether its output can be cached. See the MODx Wiki for more information.

Clarification

To clarify the process here, first you create a Chunk or a Snippet by logging into the MODx Manager and navigating to Resources→Manage Resources, then selecting the appropriate tab (for Snippet or for Chunk). You paste in the code you want to use, then save it. Back in your documents or templates, you can reference the Chunks and Snippets by name, flagging the names with either “{{ name }}” (for Chunks) or “[[ name ]]” (for Snippets). When MODx parses the document or template, the text in the Chunk will replace the tag, or in the case of a Snippet, the code will execute and its output will replace the tag.

Template Tips

  1. If you keep pasting the same bit of text into lots and lots of pages, consider adding that text into a Chunk. Also consider adding the reference to that chunk to your template.
  2. Set up a good working Snippet to auto-generate your menus. Wayfinder is a very flexible Snippet designed explicitly for this task, and it is included with MODx. Check the official site for up-to-date documentation; there are also lots of examples on the MODx Wiki
  3. Plan your site and its templates before trying to code them; then make sure you code them before adding them to MODx.
  4. If your site has too many templates, you probably are doing something inefficiently. Ask around: is there a better way to accomplish what you’re trying to do?
  5. When adding your templates and its associated chunks/snippets to MODx, take advantage of the “category” field. It offers a simple way to keep your components organized.

Other Tutorials: don’t just take our word for it

  1. Net tuts
  2. Bob’s Guides — Bob is very active in the MODx Forums, and he knows what he’s talking about.
  3. The Coding Pad

Download MODx Templates

You can also download MODx templates from a number of other sites! And since it’s so easy to integrate existing templates, you can download templates for virtually any platform and incorporate them into MODx.

Summary

After watching these two videos, I hope you can see how simple it is to get CMS functionality out of existing HTML/CSS using MODx. Again, the big thing I didn’t explicitly point out in the videos is that MODx stores its template code in its database: you can create and use a MODx template without uploading a single file to your webserver. Of course, if you want to reference CSS or Javascript files on your webserver, it’s accomplished in exactly the same way as you would do it on a static site: just make sure your paths to your resources are correct. I’ll cover how to write your own Snippets in another video. For now, just review the wiki page about MODx placeholders as you build your own templates. Please note, I did make one slip up in the video… Snippet values should usually include backticks, like this: [[MySnippet? &parameter1=`value`]].

Creating Templates in MODx Part I (part IV in the series)

I’m continuing my series of hi-res videos of the MODx content management system, this time I’m stepping through how you can easily take existing HTML and CSS layouts and adapt them for use with MODx. For my example, I take Eric Meyer’s “Complex Spiral” demo and within a few minutes, I have it adapted for use with my site.

It’s an exciting time to be writing about this platform: the first book about MODx was published by Packt Publishing, and we anticipate the release of their “2.0” version (dubbed “Revolution”) later this year.

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

I include the image below as a quick reference for the placeholder tags used by MODx. Refer to the wiki page for a more complete list.

MODx uses simple placeholders for templates
MODx uses simple placeholders for templates

Summary: Creating a Custom MODx Template

  1. Create a working HTML/CSS/Javascript web page. Make sure it works!
  2. Upload the template files to your web server (e.g. CSS, Javascript). Note that the actual template code will live in the MODx database, not on the file system, but you do upload the related assets to your webserver. The recommended location for assets is in a dedicated folder in /assets/templates — make sure that you update your image paths or Javascript paths so that a page at the root of the site can safely reference the assets contained in the /assets/templates/name_of_your_template folder.
    * In the video, I upload the HTML file too just as a final check to make sure it works in the new location.
  3. Replace appropriate areas of your HTML with MODx placeholders. Refer to the image above or to the wiki page so you know which placeholders are available.
  4. Login to the MODx Manager, create a new template in Resources→Manage Resources→Templates. Be sure to save it and give it a good name.
  5. Edit a page and choose to use the new template, and save the page! In other words, you need to tell your MODx documents to use your new template.
You upload the template code to the database, but it still can reference files on the webserver
You upload the template code to the database, but it still can reference files on the webserver

Clarifications

MODx handles templates differently than some CMS’s, and I didn’t point this out in the video. A MODx template lives in the MODx database. You cut and paste the HTML into the MODx manager Resources–>Manage Resources–>Templates. Even though your template code lives in the database, it can still reference files on the web server. For example, if you upload your CSS and Javascript files to /assets/templates/my_template/, then your HTML should use paths like href=”/assets/templates/my_template/style.css”.

Keep Watching…

Part two of this video shows how to add Chunks and Snippets to your template for more dynamic functionality.

Unlocking the iPhone 3G: is it worth it?

Unlock Me.  I dare you.
Unlock Me. I dare you.

I was going to write an article detailing how to unlock your iPhone 3G, but the process is commonplace now… videos on YouTube and blog instructions abound. I don’t have the guts to try it on my phone — I just don’t have time. Furthermore, I have seen the quirky behavior of my friends’ phones after unlocking them, and well… I’d rather not deal with that stuff. Some of the bad behavior that I’m aware of directly from friends includes the following:

Potential Problems with Unlocked iPhones

  • Phone does not ring unless it is active (i.e. you’re in an application or viewing apps on its “Desktop”). This is REALLY annoying if you’re hypothetically being held against your will in a foreign country and REALLY need to call your friend’s iPhone so she can translate for you.
  • Random loss or corruption of contact data (e.g. all names disappear from address book or showing only numbers)
  • No access to the 3G network (which can effectively kill some of the more useful apps like Google Maps, any Location Services, Safari, etc.)
  • Bricked phones with an Incorrect SIM message stuck on the screen

After some quick searches, I found horror stories of people who actually had to buy new phones after unsuccessfully attempting to unlock their phones. Ouch!

There are commercial software packages available for the task that theoretically are more reliable. At least you’d have someone to call for help after Apple gives you the finger (I mean “the finger” as in the rigid digit pointing towards the notice in the store that says “Don’t hack the phone”).

Commercial Software for Unlocking iPhones

Ultimately, I thought it would be more interesting to put the question to the readers: do you think it’s worth it to unlock your iPhone? What are the benefits? The savings? What things can’t you do with an unlocked phone? Did anything break? What are your stories?

We want to hear from you.

Getting Ripped DVDs to Your iPhone or iPod

You’ve got movies, and you want to watch them… you just want to watch them on your iPhone or on your iPod. Well, that shouldn’t be a problem… you simply go to Google, search for some kind of tutorial for ripping the DVDs, and then you’ll be on your way… but you didn’t anticipate the stench-filled sewers you would have to crawl through to attain your goal. You didn’t think you’d have to stoop this low to complete your journey. No, I’m not talking about digital rights management… I’m talking about the fact that someone made a tutorial that showed how to rip a DVD… using the putrid footage of Quentin Tarentino’s Kill Bill.

Comment by Brian: Yes, that is our very own TipsFor.us author Everett playing the role of Quentin Tarentino just for this post. Wow.

Some friends of mine have tried to convince me that Kill Bill wasn’t that bad, but *obviously* their minds have been corroded by Hollywood mediocrity. You can watch the original South Park episode I spoofed above, but I’m warning you: Matt and Trey made a horrible omission when they only took down M. Night Shyamalan and Michael Bay and neglected to reign in the sadistic wanker Tarentino. (Thanks to Nick Broomfield and JG Ballard for including Kill Bill in their lists of the worst movies of all time.)

Required Software (and Hardware)

Okay, on to the main event. There are several ways to skin this cat, and there are a lot of how-tos out there, but I wanted to at least mention some of the pitfalls you might encounter for our take on this topic. The instructions here are valid for Mac and Windows computers, but I’ve got more details about the Mac side of things.

You need to 1) crack the copy protection (i.e. rip the DVD), then you need to 2) transcode it into a format that your iPhone or iPod can read. The latter task is the one that is more problematic — the success rate of the transcoding software varies greatly in my experience, so you may have to try out a few methods to get this to work.

  • Handbrake — this is a multi-threaded video transcoder that you can use to encode (not rip) DVDs on your Mac, Windows, or Linux machine. Just keep in mind that it does not strip copy protection, so you’ll have to use some other software for that task when necessary (e.g. Fairmount or Mac the Ripper).
  • iPhone or iPod — uh, you’re clear on the concept of this article, right? You can stop reading the serious stuff and go watch that South Park episode if you don’t actually have a device to transfer the file to.

Ripping DVDs to iTunes: The Simple Process using Handbrake

Handbrake essentially converts the format of the DVD into something that iTunes (and your iPhone) can read. Handbrake doesn’t circumvent any copy protection though! It’s not a ripper!

  1. Put a DVD into your computer. If the DVD player launches, quit it.
  2. Launch the Handbrake application. Be sure that you’ve installed it in the Applications directory… Handbrake can get squirrely if you install it elsewhere.
  3. Open the DVD. From within Handbrake, select the entire DVD (not just the VIDEO_TS or the AUDIO_TS folders… select the entire volume).
  4. Select a File Destination. Where do you want to save the resulting file? It can be large, so choose a drive that has adequate space.
  5. Choose the correct output Preset. If you don’t see the presets drawer, you can hide/show it from the “Window” menu (or press Apple-T). Notice that there are only 3 relevant presets: iPhone / iPod Touch, iPod High-Rez, iPod Low-Rez. Consider your hardware, and choose.
  6. Click Start. Encoding can take a while… if it doesn’t, you may have a problem. If Handbrake says it’s finished after about 2 seconds, then you have to move onto a more complicated solution. Skip ahead to the next section.
  7. Add the File to iTunes. After you’ve got a playable file, add it to iTunes in your normal way… double-click it or drag the file onto the iTunes icon.
  8. Sync your iPhone or iPod. Depending on your settings, your device may sync everything in your library, or you may have to manually sync the playlist containing the movie. As long as you’ve encoded the DVD on your hard disk in an encoding iTunes can read, then you should be able to transfer it to your iPhone or iPod.

Ripping DVDs to iTunes: Circumventing Copy Protection

* My reading of US Copyright law is that you are permitted to make a backup copy of your DVDs… but I’m not a lawyer.
Sometimes Handbrake gets sassy and you get a flippant message saying Put down that cocktail… Your Handbrake encode is done! It should take a few minutes to encode a DVD… something didn’t work if it’s magically “done” in about 2 seconds. Another possibility is that Handbrake just crashes repeatedly. Either way, it’s not fun. (I only had this problem while attempting the encode on OS 10.4). Check out this related article:

FAQ: My DVD won’t Rip

Well… the problem may be that many DVDs have copy protection that Handbrake does not circumvent. It’s not a ripper, remember? It’s an encoder only.

Before you give up on Handbrake, try the process on a Mac running OS 10.5. My strong suspicion is that something in the PPC/older version of Handbrake was causing problems.

If Handbrake is having trouble because of the copy protection, you need to first strip the DVD (or the disk image) of its copy protection. You can do this using several programs such as Mac the Ripper — there are some instructions here, but the solution described there is no longer free. Below is a brief description of how to use Fairmount on OS X — this will strip the copy protection, but you’ll still need something like Handbrake to handle the transcoding. Windows has lots of ways to strip the copy protection as well, such as DVD43.

  1. Use Fairmount (or similar) to decrypt the DVD. This can happen pretty fast… it doesn’t actually import anything, it just decodes it. You’ll see that the DVD icon changes to a standard disk image icon.
  2. Copy the VIDEO_TS files to your hard drive. Now you only need to encode the video files into a format that iTunes (and your iPhone) can read — Handbrake is designed for this transcoding operation (I hope it’s not giving you grief). Instead of transcoding the DVD, you’ll transcode the VIDEO_TS folder that’s now on your hard drive.

The REALLY Simple Process: Buying and Renting DVDs from iTunes

This probably wasn’t why you came to this article, but consider this option: Go to the iTunes Store and just buy the stupid DVD. I know it sucks to pay for it twice, but you can spend a lot of time trying to make this work and at some point, it’s just not worth your time. Downloading is perfectly Ok. You’re not accepting defeat, you’re merely choosing your battles wisely. You can even rent movies on iTunes now. Nice.

Commercial Alternatives

If you are interested, there are other software packages that are perhaps less prone to error than Handbrake, you just have to pay for them. Here’s a list of some commercial alternatives.

Windows users, be sure to also see Brian’s guide to ripping DVDs using FormatFactory for Free.

Weekend Fun – Drive Yourself Crazy Playing Red Square

Looking to kill a few minutes of time at the end of the workday while still appearing busy? Try the maddeningly frustrating yet addictive game called Red Square.

Red Square – mikemiller.net

Red Square - NormalAs it game, it doesn’t get much simpler than this. All you do is click a red square once and hang on for dear life! That’s right, it’s a bit like bull riding.

Once you click the red square, the blue shapes will start moving automatically around the screen. The object of the game is to avoid conflict – if the red square runs into the wall or a blue shape, the game ends.

The first time you play, I bet you don’t even last one second (no sexual innuendo intended).

After three or four games, you’ll start getting the hang of it, but then you’ll notice that as the seconds tick by, the blue shapes start moving faster and faster. If you manage to make it past twelve seconds, it becomes a game of sheer adrenaline as you desperately try to keep the red square out of harm’s way.

A Few Tips on Increasing Your Score

First of all, avoid all sharp, jerky movements. Those only end in trouble. Keep the mouse movement slow and steady. Next, sit as far back from your monitor as you can. I found that the farther away I got, the easier it became to keep track of all the blue shapes.

Most importantly, don’t focus on the red square! Try not to even look at the square if you can. Instead, you should focus on the movements of the blue blocks. Look for the patterns that they create as they bounce off the walls to get an idea of where they will head next. Keep an eye on the wide rectangle especially – it covers a lot of area as it sweeps across the screen. I found that if I kept at least half my focus on the wide rectangle, avoiding the other blocks was easier.

Red Square - 19508Finally, I suggest that you keep the red square moving at all times. My first plan of action was to find sanctuary zones and keep the block still, but that didn’t last long. When I tried to keep the square moving in a kind of dance around the trajectories of the blue blocks, my “alive time” improved tremendously.

Here’s my personal best time so far: 19.508 seconds. What’s your best record? Let us know in the comments!