Feature – 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 Install Warcraft 3 on Ubuntu Linux – A Visual Guide http://tipsfor.us/2009/06/04/install-warcraft-3-on-ubuntu-linux-a-visual-guide/ http://tipsfor.us/2009/06/04/install-warcraft-3-on-ubuntu-linux-a-visual-guide/#comments Thu, 04 Jun 2009 22:09:23 +0000 http://www.tipsfor.us/?p=2227 Continue reading Install Warcraft 3 on Ubuntu Linux – A Visual Guide ]]> warcraft3-lichWarcraft 3 may be far from the hottest new game out there, but it’s still one of the most fun games I’ve ever played. And thanks to advancements in the WINE project, it’s also easy to install and run on the Linux operating system. Plus, it doesn’t require massive hardware just to run decently.

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

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

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

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

1. Video Drivers

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

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

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

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

glxinfo | grep direct

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

2.  Install WINE

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

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

sudo apt-get install wine

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

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

wine --version

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

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

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

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

3. Game Installation

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

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

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

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

Update Patch

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

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

blizzard-updater

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

4. Post-Installation

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

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

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

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

Visual Effects

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

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

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

Create Launcher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Icons

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

Warcraft 3 icons.zip

Game Screenshots

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

Image 1:

[See image gallery at tipsfor.us]

Image 2:

[See image gallery at tipsfor.us]

Image 3:

[See image gallery at tipsfor.us]

Image 4:

[See image gallery at tipsfor.us]

Image 5:

[See image gallery at tipsfor.us]

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

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Another Easy Way to Try Linux (Portable Ubuntu) http://tipsfor.us/2009/04/11/another-easy-way-to-try-linux-portable-ubuntu/ http://tipsfor.us/2009/04/11/another-easy-way-to-try-linux-portable-ubuntu/#comments Sun, 12 Apr 2009 04:45:00 +0000 http://www.tipsfor.us/2009/04/11/another-easy-way-to-try-linux-portable-ubuntu/ Continue reading Another Easy Way to Try Linux (Portable Ubuntu) ]]> Want to give Ubuntu Linux a shot, but worry that you will somehow mess up your Windows installation? Fear not! I’ve written before about Three Easy Ways to Try Ubuntu Without Breaking Anything. Now here is another option to try:

Portable Ubuntu – via Sourceforge.net

Portable_Ubuntu_-_Dock_1 With Portable Ubuntu, you can run an entire Linux distribution within Windows. As the name implies, there’s nothing to install – you can run it directly from your hard disk or from a large USB flash drive.

Portable Ubuntu is built from the same base as andLinux, a system that allows you to run Linux seamlessly within Windows. Unlike running Linux from within a virtual machine, there’s no unique desktop – all you get is a taskbar, and any applications that you run hook into the native Windows title bars and other, um… windows.

To get started, first go grab the download package. Big file warning – the download archive is over 430 MB as of this writing. It’s even larger once unpacked, so if you plan to run Portable Ubuntu from a USB flash drive, make sure it’s a big one!

Next, double-click the EXE file to unpack it, or just use your favorite un-archiving utility. You should end up with a folder called Portable_Ubuntu.

Portable_Ubuntu_-_BAT_file

Inside that folder you will find a file called run_portable_ubuntu.bat. Yes, that’s the file to open to get Portable Ubuntu running. On Windows XP, just double-click that file. On Vista, try right-clicking it and choosing Run as Administrator.

Windows_Security_Alert_-_UnblockOnce you’ve launched the batch file, your software firewall will prompt you to unblock a few things, such as coLinux and Xming X Server. Go ahead and unblock them.

Depending on the speed of your computer, it may take a minute or two to get Portable Ubuntu running. Eventually a new menu-bar will appear, likely at the top-center of your screen. Feel free to grab it and drag it anywhere on the screen that you like, though I found that dragging too fast will “lose” the grip on the menu-bar. Tip: yes, it works great in a multiple monitor setup.

The menu bar looks something like this:

Portable_Ubuntu_Bar

Usage

At this point, you can use Ubuntu pretty much like you normally would, with the exception that it is now fused into your Windows installation. Any programs that you launch will look and act more like typical Windows applications. For instance, here’s the Transmission Bittorrent Client running on Windows:

Portable_Ubuntu_-_Transmission

Portable_Ubuntu_-_mnt_CBecause Portable Ubuntu is running within Windows, you should have no trouble creating, editing, and saving files anywhere on your computer. Speaking of which, if you choose Home folder from the Ubuntu Places menu, you will end up by default in /home/pubuntu. To quickly jump to your Windows files, just browse to /mnt/C/ (or whatever your hard disk letter is called).

Everything that you do within Portable Ubuntu is persistent and self-contained. So, feel free to add/remove applications or run a system update. Important: The default root password is 123456.

Any changes will still be there the next time you boot the system, even if you’re running from a USB flash drive on another computer. In fact, this is a great way to carry a familiar working environment around with you if you tend to hop around on different computers a lot.

How is the performance, though? Not terrible, but not native, naturally. Most activities feel just like they’re running in a virtual machine. In my case, I’m still running a single-core processor, and Portable Ubuntu is pretty snappy overall. My main area of complaint about sluggishness is during screen refreshes. For instance, anything that causes the administrative access password prompt to appear may take several seconds to redraw the darkened overlay across the screen. Scrolling in Firefox is definitely slower than when it’s running natively, also. Actually, anything involving video will take a big performance hit, but you wouldn’t try to watch videos or play a game on a virtual system, would you?

Otherwise, Portable Ubuntu is quite usable for most people in most cases. Certainly users who simply wish to gain more Linux experience should be happy with the performance.

If you ever feel like ridding your system of Ubuntu, all you have to do is shut it down (System menu), exit the TrayRun utility, then delete the Portable_Ubuntu folder. Poof, the whole thing is gone!

Summary

Portable Ubuntu is definitely cool, and will appeal mostly to people in one of three categories:

  1. People who have little Linux experience and want to gain more familiarity.
  2. People who want to carry a persistent Linux workstation between multiple computers.
  3. People who enjoy Linux AND Windows, who don’t want to deal with the inconvenience of dual-booting all the time.

I find myself mostly in the third category. How about you?

There we have it – yet another way to try Ubuntu Linux without the risk of breaking your Windows install. Whether or not it becomes your new favorite OS, at least you should have no more fear about giving it a shot. Enjoy.

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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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Avira AntiVir Updates to Version 9 – Make It More Usable http://tipsfor.us/2009/03/18/avira-antivir-updates-to-version-9-make-it-more-usable/ http://tipsfor.us/2009/03/18/avira-antivir-updates-to-version-9-make-it-more-usable/#comments Thu, 19 Mar 2009 00:16:43 +0000 http://www.tipsfor.us/?p=1978 Continue reading Avira AntiVir Updates to Version 9 – Make It More Usable ]]>

In a previous article, I mentioned how to block the annoying popup ad that spawns whenever the free edition of AntiVir updates. This is an update to the previous article to make it more relevant to AntiVir Version 9.

Avira AntiVir is one of my favorite free antivirus programs, and the new Version 9 makes it even better by adding anti-spyware features. However, two aspects that have NOT changed from previous versions are:

  1. AntiVir (free) still does not include POP3/SMTP mail scanning support.
  2. AntiVir still launches an annoying popup ad whenever it checks for updates.

The lack of POP3/SMTP support is not a big deal if you tend to stick to webmail, but the popup ad is annoying and intrusive. Let’s get rid of it.

Disable the Annoying Popup Ad

Let me make one thing clear: I fundamentally disagree with bombarding the user every day with a popup ad about a premium version. Yes, I understand that Avira needs to make money, but purposefully annoying the user in an attempt to make him pay to remove the annoyance is a poor business model indeed.

I think the free version of AntiVir is terrific, and I applaud the company for releasing a free version. However, if a user wishes to upgrade, they should do so because they think the additional features are worth buying (such as e-mail protection, a Rescue CD, etc), NOT because they are harassed into doing so. If anyone from Avira is reading this, I implore you to reconsider your business model and stop (or at least reduce) the annoyance to your users.

For the rest of us, let’s just disable it. The file that spawns the popups is avnotify.exe. You cannot simply rename the file to stop the popup because it will be replaced at the next update. We need to stop it from executing.

Windows Vista

  1. Browse to the Avira program directory (C:\Program Files\Avira\AntiVir Destop).
  2. Right-click on avnotify.exe. Go to Properties.
  3. In the window that appears, click the Security tab. Then hit Edit.
  4. In the Permissions window, browse through all the Users. Next to Read & Execute, click Deny for each User. Click OK as many times as necessary.
  5. Open a cold one. Since avnotify.exe can no longer execute, no more ads will spawn.

Windows XP Professional

1. Go to Start → Run, and type secpol.msc
2. Click on Software Restriction Policy → go to Action (at the top) → Create New Restriction Policies
3. Right-click on Additional Rules (on the right) → Choose New Path Rule


4. Click Browse and find the avnotify.exe file (C:\Program Files\Avira\AntiVir Destop\avnotify.exe)
5. Make sure the security level is set to Disallowed and click OK

Finished! All you have done is implemented a security policy that prevents the avnotify.exe file from executing. In no way have you tampered with or disassembled any part of the program.

Windows XP Home (and Media Center)

  1. Boot into Safe Mode (repeatedly press F8 after boot)
  2. Login under the Administrator account
  3. Navigate to C:\Program Files\Avira\AntiVir Desktop\avnotify.exe
  4. Right-click avnotify – Go to PropertiesSecurityAdvanced
  5. Look under the Permissions folder for a listing of all the system users. Do the following for all the users:
  6. Edit – Traverse Folder / Execute File – Deny – Click OK
  7. Reboot (into Normal mode) when finished

Make Updates Invisible

One final change that I like to make is to prevent AntiVir from interrupting any fullscreen applications (such as Movies or Games) when it decides to update itself. By default, AntiVir launches a minimized window during an update, but I prefer to make it completely invisible.

To do so:

  1. Launch AntiVir. Go to Administration → Scheduler.
  2. Right-click on Daily Update and choose Edit job
  3. Click Next until you reach the Display Mode screen
  4. Choose Invisible from the drop-down list

All done. Now AntiVir won’t interrupt fullscreen applications anymore.

Avira AntiVir Personal is a good program – one of the best among free antivirus applications. These little tweaks make it even better. If you have any additional hacks tweaks that you wish to share, please comment below.

]]> http://tipsfor.us/2009/03/18/avira-antivir-updates-to-version-9-make-it-more-usable/feed/ 53 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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Skin Your Mac OS X Leopard with Magnifique http://tipsfor.us/2009/03/01/skin-your-mac-os-x-leopard-with-magnifique/ http://tipsfor.us/2009/03/01/skin-your-mac-os-x-leopard-with-magnifique/#comments Sun, 01 Mar 2009 13:00:26 +0000 http://www.tipsfor.us/?p=1913 Continue reading Skin Your Mac OS X Leopard with Magnifique ]]> Tired of the way Mac OS X Leopard looks? No, me neither. Still, if you want a change of scenery, it’s easy to try some new Leopard themes with the Magnifique theme manager.

Magnifique – Main site

To get started, install the Magnifique app (drag and drop). Here’s the main program window:

Magnifique - Main
Magnifique - Main

Themes available for download are shown in the bottom-left corner. There are only about 16 themes available as of this typing, but I expect that number to grow soon. You can get a preview (and download) of the theme just by selecting it.

Once you apply a new theme, you can see its new effects by hitting the Restart Finder and Restart Dock buttons at the top of the app. It’s the same as issuing the killall Finder and killall Dock commands in the Terminal.

One quick note: when applying a new theme, notice that you have a few choices available. Certain themes will allow more choices than others.

Be wary when applying a new theme and choosing the Apply custom mods option (if available). Whether malicious or not, it leaves the most room for the developer to harm your system. Read any and all documentation about that theme before you enable this option!

Some Sample Skins

Here are a few themes that I have tried:

Veritas

A beautiful, streamlined theme that includes skins for Quicktime, VLC, and Adium.

Nothing drastic, but this is my favorite theme that I have tried so far. What can I say? I appreciate elegance.

Veritas comes with a dock mod, custom mods, and a selection of wallpapers.

Black Mac OS X

As the name implies, this is a dark theme for Leopard. I tend to like dark themes in general, but this one is not as satisfying as I thought it would be.

The blue and black clash pretty hard. If you have some custom icon packs, that would definitely help.

I’d love to see a dark skin that fully enshrouds the Finder, erasing all blue elements.

Milk (Leopard Port)

This is a lighter-colored theme modeled after a popular Linux skin.

Like most of the available themes, the changes are subtle, but noticeable. Actually, if I were to offer any complaint about Magnifique, it’s that most of the available themes don’t offer much striking contrast. Hopefully that will change with the addition of more themes.

To remove a theme and get back to normal, just hit the Uninstall theme button. Your original Leopard theme will be quickly restored.

Do you have a favorite Magnifique skin for Leopard? Do you use a different skinning program? Let us know in the comments.

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A Very Important Program You Never Knew You Needed (RadarSync) http://tipsfor.us/2009/02/05/a-very-important-program-you-never-knew-you-needed-radarsync/ http://tipsfor.us/2009/02/05/a-very-important-program-you-never-knew-you-needed-radarsync/#comments Thu, 05 Feb 2009 21:23:22 +0000 http://www.tipsfor.us/?p=1813 Continue reading 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.

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An Overview of Free Antivirus Programs – Part XI – Rising Antivirus http://tipsfor.us/2009/02/05/an-overview-of-free-antivirus-programs-part-xi-rising-antivirus/ http://tipsfor.us/2009/02/05/an-overview-of-free-antivirus-programs-part-xi-rising-antivirus/#comments Thu, 05 Feb 2009 12:00:00 +0000 http://www.tipsfor.us/2009/02/05/an-overview-of-free-antivirus-programs-part-xi-rising-antivirus/ Continue reading An Overview of Free Antivirus Programs – Part XI – Rising Antivirus ]]> Rising Antivirus logo Welcome to the eleventh installment in our series on free antivirus programs. Be sure to also see the Main Overview, which contains links to all the separate reviews.

Up for review today is Rising Antivirus 2009 (version 21.24.20).

Product link: Rising Antivirus Free Edition

Rising Antivirus is a relatively new competitor in the free-antivirus arena. Based in Beijing, Rising does not yet have the big reputation in the West that other security programs enjoy, but that doesn’t mean it sucks. Google thinks highly enough of Rising Antivirus to bundle it with Google Pack China, so let’s see how it compares.

Installation

At just over a whopping 60 MB, Rising Antivirus 2009 is one of the heftiest downloads in this series, topping even the latest version of AVG by a few megs. Fortunately, no registration, serial number, or activation is required. Just download and install. Some other free antivirus products could learn from this model.

During installation, you can select components to keep or remove. We applaud the inclusion of an automatic USB Flash Disk scanner. Make sure that box is checked.

Rising Flash Disk Auto Scan (install)

A reboot is recommended after install. Once rebooted, Rising will finalize its setup process and do an initial memory scan. During post-install, you have the option to join Rising Cloud Security (helps them more quickly contain a new malware outbreak). It’s better for the Internet in general to participate, but the option is yours. I read the privacy notice and didn’t see anything alarming.

For the record, I’ve installed Rising on everything from Windows 2000 to Windows 7 without problems. It even works on Server 2008.

Interface

Rising Antivirus 2009 has a slick, dark interface. Here’s the main screen, featuring tabs across the top and buttons for common actions at the bottom:

Rising Antivirus - Main

I appreciate the ability to change the Running Mode from Standard to Silent. The fewer interruptions an antivirus program provides, the better.

Rising Silent Running Mode

Updating

To check for updates manually, just mash the big Update button on the main screen. Like any antivirus program worth its salt, Rising Antivirus includes an automatic update feature. You can adjust any additional Updating parameters by going to Settings – Schedule SmartUpdate.

Rising - Scheduled SmartUpdate

To make sure the updates do not interrupt you or break any full-screen applications, be sure to check the box next to Silent SmartUpdate.

Footprint and Scanning

Rising’s resident scanner occupies roughly 8 MB of RAM on my machine. When I trigger a full scan, the memory usage crept upwards of 50 MB – not the lightest program I’ve tested, but not terrible (unless you scan your computer every two hours). Most importantly, my system feels responsive even during a full scan – a subjective test, but an important one.

Rising offers two main types of scan: a Quick Scan and a Full/Custom Scan. The Quick Scan took mere minutes to run on my machine, whereas the Full Scan allows much more control over which disks and directories to scan, including scanning of memory and the boot sector.

Rising Antivirus - Custom Scan

In prior reviews, I calculated how long it took to run a full scan. Since it has been a year since my last entry in this series and the contents of my disks have changed drastically, that test no longer has a valid basis for comparison. Suffice to say that in my subjective testing, Rising’s scanning speed seems comparable to its competitors.

Types of Protection

Rising is similar to both AVG and Avast in that it scans for viruses and spyware, but does not include a personal firewall. Main features include:

  • On-access and on-demand scanners
  • Spyware detection, blocking, and removal (includes rootkit detection)
  • E-mail monitor (POP3/SMTP)
  • USB Flash, CD/DVD, and Network Drive monitor (Nice!)
  • Embedded Scan (protects Instant Messengers and Download Managers)
  • Web Trojan Defense
  • Malicious Behavior Interceptor (watches for program changes)

Like most antivirus programs, Rising includes a right-click targeted scan in the Explorer contextual menu. When performing a targeted scan, Rising will quickly scan the file or folder, then display the results. Dismissing the results screen exits the program. Not bad, but I still prefer Avast’s method of handling targeted scans – if nothing is detected, the program automatically exits. Why waste a click?

One handy feature is the Audit option. At a glance, Rising will share just how protected it thinks your computer is, based on its own features. There’s not a ton of information, but it will let you know if you have a deficiency, such as not scanning for a while.

Rising Antivirus - Audit

EICAR Test

Here is a link where you can download a harmless test file that should be detected as malicious by antivirus programs. As I’ve mentioned before, it is NOT a real virus. In order to test the functionality of a program, I download the EICAR test file to my desktop and start counting to see how long it takes the antivirus program to find it. Sooner is always better than later. Let’s see how Rising handles it.

Rising Antivirus - EICAR

No problem. The EICAR file is by no means a test of effectiveness, but merely whether the antivirus program is functioning and how it handles malware. I should really try to get my hands on a system chock full of viruses for more effective testing.

Final Thoughts

Rising Antivirus 2009 does a lot of things well. The interface is professional, the features are commendable, and the price is just right. Unlike some programs, it doesn’t nag you constantly to upgrade to the paid version. I also appreciate how silent you can make it run, thereby making it an ideal install-and-forget security program.

Feature-wise, I’d say that Rising is comparable to Avast. Both include anti-rootkit protection by default (are you listening, AVG?), both have IM and POP3/SMTP mail protection, and both include specific plug-ins for protecting MS Outlook.

One killer feature of Rising is the inclusion of the USB Flash auto-scanner. More programs need to do this by default, as we have already seen a number of malware programs that spread via Flash drives.

One area that remains yet to be seen is the long-term performance of the software. Rising Free Edition is still a pretty young product, and its performance record is short. To its credit, it has already won three VB100 awards (all in 2008). Hopefully it will continue piling on awards and accolades.

Rising Antivirus is near the top of my personal recommendation list. As to whether it will de-throne Avast on my XP machine remains to be seen (though it IS my current choice on Server 2008).

Last Christmas, I set up a new machine for my parents, and I installed Rising Antivirus on it since I didn’t want them to have to deal with re-registering Avast every year. I’m not sure I can give any higher recommendation than that.

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Ace that Exam by Studying Flashcards Online (7 Resources) http://tipsfor.us/2009/01/19/ace-that-exam-by-studying-flashcards-online-7-resources/ http://tipsfor.us/2009/01/19/ace-that-exam-by-studying-flashcards-online-7-resources/#comments Mon, 19 Jan 2009 12:00:00 +0000 http://www.tipsfor.us/2009/01/19/ace-that-exam-by-studying-flashcards-online-7-resources/ Continue reading Ace that Exam by Studying Flashcards Online (7 Resources) ]]> Classes have started again at most universities, so now is the perfect time to make sure those grades don’t start slipping. While studying hard and making A’s come naturally for some people, most of us need a little help and motivation.

One of the most tried-and-true methods of studying is to create and review flashcards. While I can personally attest that flashcards have helped me pass many classes (especially Latin – semper ubi sub ubi), I hate dealing with flashcards. It seems that I’m always running out, or losing them, or maybe I can’t read what I previously wrote. It’s a mess.

Fear not. Here are seven online resources for creating and managing flashcards online. With a little luck (and some hard work), they can help you make the grade this semester.

Study Bulb logo 1. StudyBulb

Link – http://www.studybulb.com

StudyBulb describes itself as a free online collaborative community for study materials. The site launched in April 2008 and is still in early Beta. Despite their Beta status, they have a growing number of existing flashcards that you can browse, ranging from Elementary difficulty through College. Of course, you can create a free account and start contributing your own.

One handy feature of StudyBulb is the ability to copy an existing collection of cards to your own account. They also provide a mobile link to each collection for reviewing on a web-enabled mobile phone. Nice!

StudyBulb is promising, but is weak on content right now. The interface is simple and slick, so I hope they continue to grow.

Try it now: Test your knowledge of the King Arthur legend.

Quizlet Logo 2. Quizlet

Link – http://quizlet.com

Quizlet is a popular free online flashcard portal with a number of features. Originally created in 2005 by a lone high-school student with the purpose of making French vocabulary more fun, Quizlet has since grown into a massive site with millions of existing flashcards. Naturally, you can create a free account and start your own collections.

To aid the learning process, Quizlet offers five different review modes, ranging from the simple Familiarize mode to the more fun and strenuous Scatter and Space Race modes. Nothing strains your knowledge like quickly typing answers to overhead flying questions, I suppose.

Other neat features include flashcard sharing (Facebook included) and the ability to add friends and classmates to study groups (public or private). Quizlet can also track your study progress with accuracy scores.

Quizlet is impressive, for sure. Once their iPhone app works out some kinks, it will be even better.

Try it now: Test your knowledge of European capitals.

Study Stack logo 3. Study Stack

Link – http://www.studystack.com

Study Stack offers a number of creative ways to help memorize information. Though the foundation of the site is built around flashcards, Study Stack allows you to test yourself in some engaging and unusual ways. Getting tired of traditional flashcards? Try reviewing your material as a hangman game, or maybe a word search. You can even play a game of bug match, in which you maneuver a rather happy spider across the screen in an attempt to catch the bug that represents the correct answer. Think of it as multiple choice, but with… bugs and spiders. Hey, whatever helps you learn….

Study Stack - Bug Match

If your mobile phone supports Java, you can export data to it for review on the go. Study Stack has a decent amount of existing material, but you can always create a free login and contribute your own.

Try it now: Need to do some review for the A+ Certification Exam?

Flashcard Exchange logo4. FlashcardExchange

Link – http://www.flashcardexchange.com

FlashcardExchange proudly boasts that it is the world’s largest flashcard library. That may be true, considering that the current flashcard count is approaching 17 million. It’s also one of the oldest (launched in 2001). However, it’s also one of the only flashcard sites that separates free from premium services.

A free membership will allow you to create unlimited flashcards, plus the ability to study and share them online. That’s about it. A premium membership adds such necessary features as the ability to print and export flashcards to Word or Excel.

To be fair, a premium membership is only a one-time fee of $20 USD, and it does add some other handy features, such as the ability to add pictures (jpg) and audio (mp3) to your flashcards. It’s up to you to determine if $20 is worth it. I’m glad to see that they offer support for the iPhone and iPod Touch, even for free members.

FlashcardExchange is indeed massive, and they have some nice features. I dig the keyboard support for manipulating cards. If you spring for the premium membership, there’s not much you can’t do. Otherwise, the free version is handicapped.

Try it now: Test your knowledge of the Greek alphabet.

Studyblue - logo5. Studyblue

Link – http://www.studyblue.com

Created in 2006, Studyblue aims to be much more than just a flashcard review site. While flashcards are certainly an integral part of their service, they also offer class notes, textbook outlines, study groups, and tutors. In fact, in their efforts to build quality content, Studyblue is willing to PAY you to upload your class notes and flashcards, up to $5,000 per semester. See their blog for details.

Studyblue is more than an individual study portal – it has features commonly associated with social networks. You can invite friends, create groups, send shouts, and participate in forums. There’s a big emphasis on connecting your profile with specific classes. Before you can do much of anything, you first have to add some enrolled classes. The flashcards and notes that you create will be associated with those specific classes.

The interface is slick and easy to use. Studyblue shows much promise, but there is room for improvement. Flashcard printing is not yet supported, nor did I find anything about exporting or mobile access. However, you CAN attach images to flashcards. Because of the emphasis on class, I found it difficult to link to a specific deck of flashcards. Instead, here’s a screenshot of me trying my hand at some French vocabulary review:

Studybulb - French vocab

Studyblue’s all-in-one approach will appeal to a lot of users. The ability to earn some extra cash is an added incentive.

Flashcard Machine logo6. Flashcard Machine

Link – http://www.flashcardmachine.com

As the name implies, Flashcard Machine focuses exclusively on interactive flashcards. No more, no less. Registration is free. Like FlashcardExchange, the service has been around since 2001. There are currently over 9 million available flashcards.

Concerning features, Flashcard Machine has the basics covered. You can create an unlimited amount of flashcards, plus view all the existing cards by subject. You can even attach audio and pictures to flashcards for free, though space is limited to only a few megabytes. You can’t export flashcards to another format, but you CAN print (via printer-friendly HTML). Mobile access on the iPod is available, but it requires integration with iStudyToGo ($20).

Using Flashcard Machine is simple. No, it doesn’t keep any detailed statistics about your overall accuracy, but for quick-and-dirty flashcard review, it’s hard to beat. You can manipulate the cards with simple keystrokes.

Flashcard Machine - Latin words

Flashcard Machine’s simple interface won’t turn any heads, nor does it have any fancy social networking features, but if all you want is to create and learn some flashcards, it’s got you covered.

Try it now: Need to review a little Greek mythology? You can get an overview of the cards, but actually attempting them requires registration (free).

Anki logo7. Anki

Link – http://ichi2.net/anki

Anki derives its name from the Japanese for “to memorize.” As such, it’s in a league of its own among flashcard sites. I debated whether or not to include it in this article because it is primarily an installable application, but it DOES include online access.

Anki is not just a flashcard creator, it’s a Spaced Repetition System (SRS). In a nutshell, Anki intelligently determines how often to repeat individual flashcards based on how well you’re able to determine the answer. If you know the answer easily, Anki might wait several days to show you the card again. If you fumble with the answer (or don’t know it), Anki will repeat the card soon.

Anki - Main

The program is completely free and open-source, and is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. See screenshots. Anki includes online support – you can sync your cards across multiple computers, plus study them online from any Internet-connected computer. Yes, you can even access your cards on most mobile devices, including the iPhone. Windows Mobile support is currently experimental.

You can use Anki to learn most anything, but it excels in subjects that you plan to study for months or years, such as language. If all you want to do is cram for an exam, there are better choices. If you REALLY want to add material to your long-term memory, Anki is a prime choice. I strongly suggest watching the introductory videos to get going quickly.

You can find an assortment of pre-made decks of cards, but Anki works best if you create your own.

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So, which resource is the best? Naturally, that depends on your needs. Every service that I mention here will allow you to create and review flashcards – it’s up to you to determine which one has the features and the interface that you like most. If sheer numbers impress you, take a look at FlashcardExchange. If you want a flashcard portal that borders on a social network, Studyblue is your best bet. If you really want to learn a topic over an extended amount of time (such as a language), you owe it to yourself to check out Anki.

No matter which service you choose, may there be only good grades in your future!

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