Archive for September, 2011

MP3 Tags

Helpful Hints, Warnings | Posted by Dennis September 30th, 2011

Music libraries are great because you can search for key terms and pull up anything you want, instantly.  From Artist to Genre, the possibilities are endless.  But there’s an old adage about computers that applies here; Garbage in, Garbage out.  A really good library has all the right information imbedded in the song.  These are called TAGS.  The MP3 standard has built-in tags (specifically called ID3 tags) that most music players can read.  You can also choose other formats, like Microsoft’s WMA or Apple’s AAC, but MP3 is by far the most universal and widely supported.  NOTE:  Most music programs can convert your songs to MP3 from their native format.  And if you’re using i-tunes, you should get a different player!

Besides tags, you can also organize your library by file name and subfolders, and imbed the album art IN THE SONG FILE.  All this can be a daunting task if you’ve got a lot of songs.   To add to the frustration, Windows Media Player does a TERRIBLE job with album art.  In fact, it screwed up my library so many times I finally went in to the settings and told it not to EVER change ANYHTHING.  There are a couple of freeware programs that can REALLY help organize and tag your library.  One is called Media Monkey by Ventis Media, and it’s a VERY powerful tagging and filename tool.  But if you just need to fix the album art, and other little tag details like Artist, etc. I recommend a program called Album Art Fixer by AV Soft.  It’s a little buggy sometimes, but if you just ignore the errors it does a great job of making all your album art behave itself.  PS DON’T FORGET TO BACK UP YOUR MUSIC LIBRARY!

Free Music

Helpful Hints, Warnings | Posted by Dennis September 29th, 2011

Lots of folks love their music, and digital libraries are a fantastic way to keep and listen to all your tunes.  No matter how you play it, most people want freebies.  WATCH OUT because file sharing sites, software and file torrents can be infected with all kinds of the worst critters.  Besides, you never know what kind of quality you’ll get.  A better way to go is the Amazon MP3 Downloads section.  It’s great because Amazon has its own little software gizmo to help you complete your purchase.  Most songs cost from 69 to 99 cents.  (WARNING:  When you buy albums compare the cost to individual songs, especially if you don’t like them all.  You can save $$ this way). BUT they also have a LOT of free stuff!  Most of these are promos or tribute bands, but you’d be amazed at how close to the original artist these can sound.  Occasionally they even do some freebies on popular stuff (e.g. I missed out on a free download of Skynard’s Free Bird yesterday, dangit.  I thought I already had it!).  But ya wanna know the BEST thing about all these downloads?  They are NOT COPY PROTECTED.  That means if you buy it, you can copy it to every single device you own to play whenever and wherever you want.  And you NEVER have to worry about some stupid misfire in Digital Rights Management preventing you from jammin’ to your fav’s.  Next time:  Managing your library.

Privacy vs Marketing

News, Warnings | Posted by Dennis September 28th, 2011

The battle rages on.  Every major company on the planet wants to know YOU, and every detail of your life, so they can SELL YOU STUFF.  It’s gotten to the point that it’s nearly impossible to avoid, and the end goal is to riddle you and your family with a deluge of information designed to TRIGGER you to buy their products.  They use every possible means to do this, from sex to hunger, safety to downright fear.  In the US, you must have money to avoid it.  (i.e. if you’re willing to pay for commercial free radio, software, TV, etc. you can dramatically reduce the amount of garbage assaulting your senses.)  Yet money doesn’t solve every issue.  I encourage everyone to READ THE FINE PRINT when anyone sends you privacy notifications.  There are some very shady practices out there; let’s take the recent ONSTAR fiasco for example.  GM decided it was going to track customers EVEN IF THEY CANCELLED SERVICE.  They could track everything; location, driving habits, crashes, service on the vehicle, possibly more.  The only way you could stop this was to request that the satellite link be cut!  See the full article here.  Fortunately, the public outcry was so intense that GM retracted shortly afterward, and decided not to do this.  Read the follow-up announcement here.  Kudos to Forbes for timely reporting.

More Facebook Changes

News, Warnings | Posted by Dennis September 27th, 2011

If you thought the ticker was bad, wait ’til you see what’s next!  The new Facebook profile is radically different, and coming soon to everyone’s account.  It sounds like they’ll leave it optional, at least for awhile.  The new layout will be based on a timeline of your life, and will try to emphasize the important events along the way.  Most reviews that I’ve read said they didn’t like it AT FIRST.  But after they tried it awhile they decided it was a great improvement.  Here’s an article that describes it in detail.

Digital Photos

Helpful Hints, Warnings | Posted by Dennis September 25th, 2011

Pro photo shops and photographers are getting more savvy about what they’re selling.  Every image they produce is copyrighted.  You have to buy the rights to use it, and the sites where they sell their wares have started making it VERY difficult to use or modify their work.  For example, the picture I have shown is the intellectual property of somebody in Norman, OK.  I used the Win 7 Snipping Tool, then cropped the photo, and left their watermark to show you.  I could get in trouble for this because I haven’t asked permission.  But I figure that they either won’t see the picture, or won’t care because I’m making a point (besides I cropped it to only a portion).  Now, you COULD use a program like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator to remove the watermark (which kinda ruins the picture so you HAVE to buy it) but this is VERY difficult and time consuming, especially on complicated shots.  WARNING:  IT’S ALSO ILLEGAL!  Unless they are YOUR photos to begin with, the only pics you are able to legally publish or use without purchase/permission are called STOCK photos.  :-(

Facebook Ticker

Helpful Hints, News | Posted by Dennis September 24th, 2011

The biggest uproar on all the latest Facebook (FB) changes are about the News Ticker.  Most people aren’t thrilled with the fact that it’s posting EVERYTHING, even people’s LIKES and comments.  Now it’s not like you couldn’t see this info BEFORE, but you had to go to their profile to view it.  Still, people seem to be unnerved by the new display.  You can turn this off for individuals by hovering over their name and selecting the things you want to see.  But this could take FOREVER if you’ve got a long list of friends.  (there are lots of folks posting requests to do this).  But there are other ways.  Some are programs you can download, others are alternative browsers like Google Chrome.  Here’s an article that describes several methods of getting rid of that pesky FB ticker altogether.

The New Facebook

News, Warnings | Posted by Dennis September 23rd, 2011

Well, it made Headline News, and now it’s all over the web; EVERYBODY’s talkin’ about the latest Facebook changes.  Most are complaining, and it DOES seem like it’s simply a change for the sake of, well, CHANGE.  But there’s actually some serious motivation behind this, and it’s called MARKETING.  They want to be able to target very specific people with ads, and sell it.  After all, it’s really the ONLY way Facebook makes money.  I don’t like it either, and one of the things that REALLY irks me is that their software now shows me what IT thinks I want to see.  Ummmm, HELLO!?  How would you know?  Did you ASK?  Meanwhile there are a couple of obvious changes; 1) the ticker and 2) lists.  I’ll go into details later, but the one complaint that is REALLY circulating right now is that PEOPLE DON’T WANT THEIR COMMENTS and likes showing up on everybody’s ticker!  I have a friend that would call this a ‘Yuppie Problem’.  :-)  There are MASS REQUESTS going out on FB for people to go turn this off on all their friends.  I hate to break the bad news, but some have THOUSANDS of friends listed, and it would take them a WEEK to do that.   But I’m guessing their tickers roll by in a blur.  Here’s the CNET article that describes all the changes in more details. 

Startup

Helpful Hints, Warnings | Posted by Dennis September 22nd, 2011

One problem with installing a lot of software is Windows Startup.  The more things that are loading when your PC fires up, the longer it will take to do so, and the less resources you have left when it’s ready to work.  One place to watch is the Startup folder in your Programs list.  But that’s not the main place to look; try running MSCONFIG instead.  This is a program included in all recent versions of Windows that will help remove software that start with your PC every time.  (note: if you don’t want the program AT ALL, remove it from your PC from the Control Panel).  In Windows XP just click Start, Run, and type MSCONFIG.  In Win Vista/7 search for it, then right click and Run As Administrator.  Then click the Startup tab.  Uncheck anything you don’t want to run when Windows starts.  If you don’t know what it is, try doing a web search for it.  For example, mine has the command Reader_SL.exe.  If I do a web search I find out that’s the Adobe Speed Loader (it supposedly makes it faster to pull up pdf files).  After you uncheck what you want, it will prompt you to restart.  You’ll probably notice it’s faster, too!  WARNING:  BE CAREFUL WITH THIS!  If you’re not sure, don’t uncheck it.  It might be a critical driver or program you use. 

Email Encryption

Helpful Hints, Warnings | Posted by Dennis September 21st, 2011

Did you know that all the email you send can be picked off, intercepted, or SNIFFED at any point along the way?  Laws have been passed against these practices, but they’re still common.  How can you guarantee your email is ONLY visible to the recipient?  ENCRYPTION.  Encrypting email is, unfortunately, more difficult than just  doing your files.  The first thing you need is a CERTIFICATE (aka cert).   Some refer to these as Digital ID’s.   Email cert’s are available from several companies, and if you were to purchase one I’d suggest VerisignBut if you want a FREE one, there are several available for personal use.  Here’s one from Comodo, for example.  A cert is the way you encrypt such that not only YOU can read it, but also the RECIPIENT.  The cert’s usually have a pair of keys, one is public and the other private.  It’s the way your computer knows how to descramble the message.  Once you get your cert, follow these directions to install in Outlook.

Email Privacy

Helpful Hints, Warnings | Posted by Dennis September 20th, 2011

With all the spam and junk mail out there, it’s a good idea to keep a few things in mind for email etiquette.  1) Business email should include a confidentiality notice to legally protect the contents (the easiest way to do this is to put it in your signature).  2) If you send to a large group, or forward FROM a large group, remove extraneous addresses from the body, and email it to YOURSELF.  Then put the list in the BCC line (this protects the recipient’s privacy)  3) To prevent getting filtered by spam blockers, I encourage my clients to use Rich Text or Plain Text rather than HTML format for sending.  In Outlook the default settings can be found in Tools, Options, Mail Format tab.  Next time:  Encrypting your email.