Friday, February 25, 2011

Silence that video card!

I am not a big gamer anymore.  My system had a GeForce 8800GT video card that sounded pretty similar to a 747 airline jet taking off.  The fan on many 3D video cards are way too loud for my ears. The problem is the video card has little room to allow for a big fan, so instead they use a small high RPM fan which are very noisy.

I decided to downgrade my 3D performance to have peace of mind.  The GeForce GT210 from Asus (EN210 Silent) has no fan.  Instead the card has a huge heat sink on it.  Yes you give up some 3D performance but for many that is not going to be an issue.  You can still play many games with this card, just don’t expect too much.  The EN210 has been rock solid in my Windows7 system. 

The EN210 from Asus has DVI, HDMI and VGA outputs.  The interface is PCI Express 2.0.  It has onboard 1GB of RAM.

ASUS GT210 (EN210 Silient)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dell Vostro 1500 Wireless N upgrade


My Vostro laptop is a couple of years old and only had wireless G capability.  I found that you can replace the Wi-Fi card in this laptop very easily.  I googled around trying to find a generic card to use because we all know Dell will sock it to us with their replacement branded card.  I found the Intel 4965AGN MJP card would work on this Vostro 1500.  Be careful to get the same part number, the last 3 letters come in a variety of models for different laptops like HP or Lenovo. 

You can watch the video for the installation which will take under 5 minutes for the complete upgrade to wireless N.  If you have Windows 7 no drivers are required, Windows 7 detects the Intel card and properly installs the necessary drivers.

The speed increase is great.  I was averaging 22Mbps with wireless G, the wireless N upgrade got me to 75Mbps.  I highly recommend this upgrade if you have an old laptop, I was able to find this Intel card on Ebay with shipping for $18.  


Watch the video for complete installation

Monday, February 21, 2011

Capture the screen using Snipping Tool

Windows 7 has a little gem built right in called Snipping Tool.  You can launch it from the Start button, All Programs, Accessories.  For years I always needed a tool to capture the screen to an image file.  You can save the image as PNG, JPG or GIF.  If you use this often I recommend pinning it to the task bar (Windows 7 only feature).  Pinning an application is easy, just right click the program from the start menu and select "Pin to Taskbar". 

The concept is easy, when you launch the program your screen turns a hazy white and the Snipping Tool window pops up. Just highlight the area you want captured by dragging the mouse from one corner to the other corner while holding down the left mouse button.  Now comes the cool part, it has the ability to draw on your screen capture.  You could circle something you need to draw attention to.  You have the choice of several colors and pen thicknesses.  You also have a yellow highlighter.  There is even an eraser to undo your markups.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

inSSIDer Wi-Fi scanning software

I recently bought an Asus RT-N16 router which I am using as an access point.  I finally upgraded to N and wanted to see how my coverage is.  inSSIDer is a wonderful free utility that you can install on your laptop and roam around your home or business and see how strong your signal strength is.  You can also see what other channels are in use to help find an open channel for a better Wi-Fi experience.

This is a video from the author

For more info go here:
http://www.metageek.net/products/inssider/

Thursday, February 17, 2011

HTC Home Weather/Clock App with video

I added a video for my favorite weather widget.  The HTC weather app is a port from the app you see on the HTC Android phones.  It has a very cool look to it.  You can also download additional skins.  The stock skin is by far the best looking.

They also added a separate clock to the 2.3 version.  The clock also has a few skins built in.

The app requires .Net 4 and only runs on Windows 7 or Vista.  You can also download a portable version which is much easier than worrying about the .NET versions.   The weather source is MSN, Foreca or FreeMeteo.  




Some sample screen shots

Monday, February 14, 2011

Rosie the Robot from the Jetsons

Rosie the Robot, a Hallmark Keepsake ornament is a cool sci-fi robot from the popular cartoon “The Jetsons”.  The Jetsons was a show I always watched as a kid on Saturday mornings.  I was surprised to find out that the 1962-63 series only made 24 episodes.  Some interesting trivia, The Jetsons was the first show that ABC-TV broadcast in color.  The Jetsons only lasted for one season.  It was on Sunday nights against the very popular show “The Wonderful world of Disney”, so it got canceled but lived on in syndication where it did very well.  The Jetsons was eventually brought back in 1985 where they made an additional 40 episodes.  Another interesting trivia piece was Rosie only appeared twice in the 1962 series but was featured much more often in the 1985 series.




Sunday, February 13, 2011

Converting those awkward video files

I like free software.  The problem is most of the free video conversion utilities don't do a great job.  But there is an exception, Handbrake.  It's open source, multi-platformed and works great.  I prefer MKV files and hate WMV files.  Handbrake makes converting files easy and the outputs actually work!  Many folks will rip their DVD and you end up with countless directories and files to play that video.  I prefer one file for my video library.  Handbrake can take the DVD or Bluray structure (it can't decrypt the disk) and make a simple one file video format. You can also change things like the video resolution, bit rate and audio streams.  Another nice feature is batch processing and Handbrake does it well.  Handbrake can also clip a video which can be done by frames or seconds. 

For more info:
http://handbrake.fr

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Firefox Tab Manager

Firefox has very basic tab features.  In the old days I used Avant Browser which was a front end for Internet Explorer which introduced me to what tabs should do in a browser.  But Avant Brower had other issues which finally got me to move to FireFox.  But then the withdrawal started because of the lack of power that Firefox tabs offered.  Then I discovered Tab Mix Plus.  Odd name, but now I have tabs that are on steroids!  This add-on for FireFox has a dizzying amount features and setup options. 

The most important feature I want a tab to do is open a new tab when I click a link that is not part of the same site.  I don’t want to lose my place or have to use the back button to get back to site I started at.  Next, when I select a site from my Bookmarks I want a new tab opened, don’t lose my current tab.  So now hopefully you see the trend here, always open a new tab when navigating to other sites.  It also works the same way in the search window and aliases/keywords. 

The next feature is tab sizes.  I tend to have many tabs open and you quickly end up with a tab bar that won’t fit that many tabs on one screen.  TMP has a feature to shrink the width of a tab based on the title.  You can also control the maximum size of the tab so you can fit many more tabs on one window.  I have my width set to 110.

Another thing I always like is dedicated discussion forums for software.  TMP has one and it’s very active.  http://tmp.garyr.net/forum/

Tab Mix Plus is a must have for Firefox.  Download it here:
http://tmp.garyr.net/

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Cyberpower UPS

Battery backup for your PC is very important.  In my home we lose the power often and throughout the week I usually get several very short outages or brownouts.  Most of these issues would cause my PC to boot which results in possible corruption of the file system on the storage devices and lost work for anything I did not save.  I just recently lost my APC Backups XS-900 due to a power surge and decided to try a different brand.  The Cyber Power UPS is well liked and I can see why.  It is very well made, it has a gorgeous LCD display showing voltage, load level, battery capacity and other info.  Even the power button was well thought out, it's backlit and large.  I can't tell you how many times I have been under a desk trying to figure out where the power button is on some other brands of UPS's.

The software included runs on Windows, Macintosh and Linux.  The software is well done, simple and easy to install.  You also do not need to install their software for basic operation. Windows 7 detected the Cyberpower for standard Windows battery notifications. The other nice feature is the cable is a standard USB type, no RJ45 to USB. They also include a DB9 serial for older systems.

The 600watt/1000AVR includes 5 battery protected plugs and 4 power surge plugs.  The UPS has a nice large red sticker to clearly label which plugs are not battery backed up.  It also has surge protection for your network (RJ45) and COAX for cable TV.  Other nice features are a low profile plug to allow your furniture to go back against the wall.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet

Shifting gears a bit, we all know that most tech folks are also geeks.  Robby the Robot has got to be on my top 10 list of just cool things.  Robby is from the Sci-Fi movie Forbidden Planet.  Forbidden Planet was made in 1956 and stared Walter Pidgeon as a scientist who colonized on a planet and discovered a long lost civilization called the Krell.  He finds an underground lab they left behind that has a cool science gizmo that makes him a genius. He goes on to make his assistant - Robby.  Robby was one cool character in the movie.  Well Hallmark who are well known for their greeting cards also makes an astonishing amount of ornaments and they always gift us with some cool sci-fi stuff from Star Trek, The Jetsons and many other classics.

I made a quick video of Robby the Robot from Hallmark. He talks and has several phrases from the movie.

Video:

Trendnet 8 port Gigabit Switch

Home networks are demanding these days.  Gone are the 10/100 days.  Now everyone needs/wants a gigabit network.  The problem is price.  I love the Trendnet Teg-S80G switch.  They work great and can be had for under $40.  I was using the Netgear GS-608 gigabit switches but had more than a few issues with them.  The Trendnet switch is also well made, the case is metal.  They have plenty of LED's to indicate connectivity and speed.  The multi-colored LED will indicate if you have a gigibit connection.

FYI, gigabit networks need Cat 5e or Cat 6 cables.  


For more info go here:
http://www.trendnet.com/products/proddetail.asp?status=view&prod=515_TEG-S80G

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Pidgin IM chat

I know Facebook has become the new king for communicating but some of us still like the older ways of chatting on our PC's.  I like free software, who doesn't?  Pidgin is an open source project that has been around for many years.  Pidgin is probably right up there with Total Commander when it comes to bland looking software.  It does the job with no glitz.  It supports an array of IM protocols including Google Talk, AIM, MSN, ICQ, Yahoo and many others including Facebook (plugin).

Pidgin is lightweight on your PC.  It also supports logging of all chats.  There is a good amount of configuration options to make it work the way you like.  My only gripe is Pidgin has no forum discussions, instead it uses a mailing list and IRC for support, that's pretty old for today's way of help.  

You can download Pidgin here:
http://pidgin.im/

Firefox shrinks when viewing photos

It does not happen often but some poorly written web sites will cause Firefox to shrink to almost nothing in size when you click a photo/picture.  Then the games starts to manually resize Firefox by dragging the lower right corner back to it's original size and place.  Luckily this is an easy fix that is just buried away in the Tools menu.  Under the Tools menu is Options and then Content.  Look for a check box labeled 'Enable Javascript' and then press the Advanced button next to it.  Make sure the box labeled 'Move or resize existing windows' is not checked. No more shrinking browser!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Windows Media Player won't play that file?

I see this often that my friends think you need to pay for a DVD playback program to play files that Windows Media Player won't play.  In most cases all you need is a codec.  A codec is a decode filter that just translates a different type of video format.  Windows does come not with a complete set of codecs which is the reason you cannot play certain files.

The good news is you do not need to buy or download another video player to play these files.  There is a codec pack called K-Lite that has just about every codec you will ever need to playback any file.  The even better news is this pack is free.  When you download K-Lite there is a basic, standard and full versions.  I recommend the full version but make sure to un-check the option to install Media Player Classic during the install process.  The player works but I prefer to use the Windows player.

There is also a handy utility called mediainfo included with K-Lite.  It will show all kinds of details about a video file like bit rate, codec type, width, height and a bunch of other very useful information. If you install Total Commander you can use the Start Menu with this utility to make for a very easy way to check video file info. I included a screen shot of the setup in TC for mediainfo.



Download the K-Lite package here:
http://www.codecguide.com/download_kl.htm 

Total Commander, the ultimate utility for Windows

I don't know how long I have been using Total Commander (in the old days it was Windows Commander but Bill Gates got the lawyers out ....) but this single program has outlived any other software tool I have used since I started using computers.  It's not sexy looking, but it's the most practical and easiest  file management utility I have ever used.  When I setup a new computer or work on a friends system the first thing I have to install is Total Commander.  I can't live without it.  The premise is simple, a left side and a right side, each side is pointing to something (network share, physical drive, flash drive, FTP or a container).  The concept works, you copy/move files between the left and right sides.  Anybody can understand this.  What's even more cool is when you open a zip/rar/tar file you get the same interface - left and right sides.

There are many other features inside TC.  Another cool feature is Branch View, it hides the sub-directories and shows all the files in one window.  It has the obvious tools too like search, edit and view.  A very unique feature is the Start Menu.  The start menu allows you to setup launching other apps - Photoshop for example.  So point to a file, jpeg in this example and select Photoshop from the start menu, it will launch Photoshop and open the file pointed at the cursor.

It's free with a small nag screen.  But this one is worth buying for one really good reason, free updates for life. It's the best software I ever bought.

You can download it from the authors site:
http://www.ghisler.com/

HTC Weather Widget for Windows

I have always loved seeing this widget on Android phones.  Now you can dress up your Windows desktop with the same weather widget.  It offers many skins for different looks.  It requires .NET, so I installed the portable version to get around those issues.  It works and looks great!

Windows XP users need not apply, you need Vista or Windows 7.  

More info here:
http://www.htchome.org/en/features

Gmail spam counter

I love my Gmail.  I retired Outlook about two years ago and adopted the Gmail interface.  But one minor nuisance is always seeing that Spam counter.  It's just on my mind, it can easily be mistaken for new mail at a quick glance.  I found a tip where you can create a filter to automatically mark any incoming Spam as read so you won't see that counter.

Create a new filter, and fill in the field "has the words" and use in:spam
Leave the rest of the fields blank and click next step
Then check the box "Mark as Read" and create your filter


Spam Counter Filter

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Spektrum announces DSMX technology

The rumors have been circulating for over a year now at RCGroups and various heli forums like RunRyder and HeliFreak about how Spektrum would be replacing DSM2 because of it's issues working at busy flying events like Joe Nall where many pilots were getting locked out using DSM2 radios.  Well they have finally admitted to a certain degree that DSM2 has issues with 'busy' flying fields.

DSMX is their solution to a more reliable connection to better compete with Futaba's FASST and Hitec's Aurora 9's FHHS system.

DSMX is backwards compatible with DSM2 RX's.  So if you upgrade your DX8 (software update) it will still support your DSM2 receivers. DSMX receivers will also work with DSM2 transmitters like the DX7 or DX6i.   The JR9503, 11X, 12X, DX7 and DX6i can be upgraded for DSMX ($75 fee).


For more information read here:
http://www.spektrumrc.com/DSMX/

Upgrade info:
http://www.horizonhobby.com/Content/DSMX.html#eligible