Featured Movies Sci/Tech Software

Friday Finds – LOTR and Star Wars

Hey, it’s been a while.  Vacations, children, car shopping, attending Sabres games in the press box, all take a toll on my time.  Onto the posts!

Bah, I’ll be impressed when the docking bay is built into a giant Death Star model.

100 facts about the Lord of the Rings movies, many of which you might know if you watched the movies with the DVD commentary on.  Neat for those of us who haven’t.

I just love glaciers, and science.

The Math that Saved Apollo 13 – this is cool.  I had JUST watched a show about Apollo 13 where you saw Lovell with this very manual.

Mimicking nature, always a solid option when you have a technical challenge like this.  These ‘kelp forest’ underwater power generators could possibly be adapter to work almost anywhere.

Really does sort of resemble the Silver Surfer.  It’s a comet, though.

Featured Software

Essential Software

I just got a new laptop (this Toshiba, if you are curious) and as such, have a blank slate for new software to install.  In case it’s helpful, here’s what I put on any new PC:

System Tools:

  • Daemon Tools – No, not for pirated software.  I have, over the years, lost or damaged a lot of game discs.  I end up having to download a replacement, and this lets the computer read it as if it were the real deal.  Also nice if you want to leave your discs at home while travelling but still have access to the software.
  • Avast! – Everyone needs anti-virus software, and this one is free, doesn’t nag you much at all, and is well reviewed.  I supplement with spyware removers and Hijack This when needed.
  • 7-Zip – Once upon a time, there was Winzip, and we all used it.  But then you started seeing downloads in other formats, and needed more than what Winzip provided.  7-Zip covers all the relevant bases (.7z, zip, arj, rar).
  • MyDefrag – Not simple to use, but a powerful and customizable disk defragmenter.  Currently set to do daily tidying up at 4am, and a detailed cleanup every month.
  • TeraCopy – Seems mundane, but if you move large files around a lot, whether they are pictures, videos, disc images, whatever, getting it done faster would be a no brainer.  TeraCopy does that.  Love it.

Games and gaming:

  • Steam – It has some detractors, but I honestly love being able to install one program, and have access to a whole library of my games in one place.  No longer worry about where your damn CD key is or those lost discs like I mentioned.  Pretty freaking awesome sales, too.
  • DOSBox and D-Fend Reloaded – If you’ve read this site, you know I love old games, so DOSbox is essential.  D-Fend Reloaded is a front end that makes DOSbox a lot easier to use.  Handy if you lost – or never had – your DOS chops.
  • FRAPS – Most games have a screenshot feature, but FRAPS is much more customizable, and it lets you see your framerate.  If you ever wanted to capture videos, go for it.  I always forget to start it, though…

Everything else:

  • Inkscape – I’m not a great artist, but I like to dabble, and Inkscape is a great vector art program that’s free.
  • Tweetdeck – Great if you manage more than one Twitter account, though I’ve never used it for Facebook or any of the other stuff it can do.
  • Picasa – Just a simple way to manage and do basic photo editing.  Lifesaver, as long as all my pictures are dated properly.  I’m looking at family that don’t know how to set the time on the cameras.

If you want more stuff, I can go deeper, but these are the apps that are must have for me.  Got any other suggestions?  Comment ’em.

Media Software

Favorite Windows Software/Utilities

As you can probably tell, when I’m not watching hockey and football or playing with my kids, I like to tinker with my computer. I have come across several utilities recently (thanks mainly to Lifehacker and other geeks) and I thought I’d share them with you.

where watch the sound of music film

  1. TeraCopy – My new best friend. I have LONG thought that the regular Windows copy utility is idiotic. If it fails, you have to try and figure out where it left off to retry (or copy over everything again). Teracopy has automatic retry, and will skip a problem file and continue on. You are then presented with a list of failed files to retry after you fix the underlying issue. You can have it replace the normal Windows file copy dialog so normal operation is seamless. And oh yeah, it speeds up file transfers a good bit as well.
  2. MyDefrag – Used to be known as JkDefrag. Unlike other defrag utilities, there’s no dialog box with checkboxes. You simply run one of the included scripts for what you want to do, and you can do a LOT. Plain ol’ defragment, optimize the locations of files on disk, and so on. The real power is for tinkerers, who can customize scripts to do all sorts of things (the Lifehacker post linked mentioned moving all your mp3s together, for example. Honorable mention to Auslogics Disk Defrag for a more traditional alternative to the default Windows defragmenting solution.
  3. Auslogics Duplicate File Finder – Depending on how organized you are, this may or may not be that big of a help, but I love it. Too often I forget that I’ve already off-loaded the camera, or copied those files off, or my wife repeats my effort so I end up with multiple copies. This does exactly what it says, and finds those dupes.
  4. 7-zip – The current champ in file compression/expansion. For those of you who got annoyed with the crap Winzip was giving you. Unzips those .7z files you may have seen. Solid interface, all the integration you expect.
  5. CCleaner – For Crap Cleaner. A very handy way to clean the cache/cookies on all your browsers, Windows temp files, old log files, memory dumps from crashes, and the like. My favorite feature, however, is the Registry cleaning aspect. CCleaner can find all the random .dll files loading and taking up resources that you don’t need any more, things like HP printer files that load at startup despite the fact you no longer have the printer. Can improve speed quite a bit on older systems that have been unformatted for a long time.
  6. VLC Media Player – If you’ve ever done the ‘no codec could be found’ dance for a video you are trying to watch, VLC is for you. Plays most everything, including DVDs when you don’t have a true decoder installed. Very handy.

There you have it, a good start at the stuff I currently install on my Windows Vista machine to make it do what I want the way I want. I may follow up with more stuff, and if you have any questions or suggestions, comment away!

Make OpenOffice Work Better with Word

I’ve used OpenOffice on occasion, and am quite happy with the features it has as far as word processing go. However, conversions back and forth to Word can be spotty. Cnet has an article about how to make OpenOffice play nice with Word docs. Won’t make it perfect, but some of the changes will definitely improve your chances of getting the docs exchanged with minimal formatting impact. Spotted at Lifehacker.

Batch Rename Digital Photos by Date

Lifehacker posted a note about Namexif, a quick and dirty tool to rename your digicam photos based on EXIF date info. It’s a feature that you can get via other means (Irfanview and Picasa have ways to do it) buf if you don’t use either of those, you can try this. The comments on that post have a bunch more options, too.

Lifehack Your Leopard Mac

I know I have at least a few Mac readers based on my site stats, so this one’s for you. Lifehacker has a conglomeration of tweaks for Mac OS X Leopard, from killing the reflectivity and transparency of the Dock, to customizing Quick Look and Time Machine. Take a look, they may have a solution if there are any annoyances you have with your new OS.

GIMP Plugins

TechZilo has a post with links to more than 40 very useful GIMP plugins. There’s a good mix of things, for example new filters, anti-aliasing plugins, the ability to stitch together panoramic images, and a Save For Web plugin. Some links at the bottom as well for folks who may wish to author their own plugin.

Lifehacker: Update Windows, Linux Style

Appupdater is a executable that lets you run command line updates for a wide range of applications, going as far back as Windows 98. If you have used the apt or yum package management available in many Linux distros, it works in much the same way. Looks like it could be a real help to those of us who are a bit forgetful about making sure our software is fully up to date.

Lifehacker's Guide To Free Software And Webapps

Lifehacker has a roundup for 2007 Free Software and Webapps they have featured (and like). Where applicable, they have linked to many of the guides and screenshot tours of the various apps. As usual, anything missed is pointed out in the comments. Some very useful stuff I need to check out.

Free MS Software…Cost: Your Soul

Spotted this at Gizmodo. You can get a free copy of Windows Vista Ultimate, Office Ultimate, Money Plus Premium, or other software, all for the price of letting MS track your computer usage for 3 months. That includes surveys every 2 weeks. It all stems from Microsoft’s Windows Feedback Program. To be honest, I am in for this as I wanted a legal copy of Vista. All MS will find out from the PC they track is that my wife loves Diablo II.

edit: Looks like they are all done with this…supplies didn’t last thanks to /. and Gizmodo.


I was surfing Lifehacker again, and found the link to VectorMagic, and online tool for taking your bitmap images and vectorizing them. It works very well, taking in .jpg, .bmp, .gif, .png and .tiff and giving back .eps, .svg or .png. I’m having a ball uploading various pictures and things and seeing what the output looks like.

Lifehacker: First Look at Firefox 3.0

Lifehacker has a preview of the latest beta build of Firefox 3.0. They have updated bookmarking with STARS, saved searches, as well as the typical design updates you get with a new version.