Archive for August, 2007

How-to: Free software to catalog your DVD collection

Difficulty: 1.5

Ant Movie CatalogThere are many good reasons to have a list of what movies you own. It can make it easier to choose a film to watch, give you film information and it provides a record of what you had in case they get stolen. I have wanted to catalog my movies for a long time in case they got stolen but did not get around to it as all DVD cataloging software I could find, was shareware and costed money. Besides, I thought I had a good idea of what I had.

Last year my fears came true, I had my entire collection of 400 DVD’s taken from my house. I was lucky as later in the evening, some were found in pawn shops and on the people who carried out the crime, the rest could not be tracked down.

Insurance covered a certain amount of the DVD’s which had vanished, in the form of a voucher. I created a list of the DVD’s from the pawn slips and included the ones I received that night from the cops. Then I headed to the shop to replenish my collection. I thought I would have a good chance of buying the same DVD’s that had been stolen. I ended up not really having a clue, and instead I ended up purchasing a whole heap of DVD’s that were different to what I previously owned, and then ended up missing badly. If only I had a comprehensive list of DVD’s before the series of unfortunate events happened.

This article will show you the Ant Movie Catalog. There are two parts to the software. One part is the editor, which does not look all that great, but it does work. Secondly is the Ant Movie Viewer, which you can see a screenshot of in the picture above. It looks nice and does what I want. Best of all, it is the only free DVD catalog software that I have found which is worth using.

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How-to: Make your own Windows XP startup sound

Difficulty: 1.5

Musical notesThe standard Windows startup sound is shorter that it’s load time, making it a less than ideal indicator of when your machine is ready to use. If you time your startup and make a sound file which is of a similar length to the load time, you are able to use it as an indicator of when your machine is ready for action, giving the start-up sound a real purpose.

This time varies greatly from computer to computer, and changes according to what operating system you are using and what programs and tasks you have running at startup.

Even if you do not want a long startup sound, it is worth placing silence before the sound you currently use so that the startup sound comes to an end at the right time.

Vista has a predefined startup sound which cannot be changed. This is part of their branding. You may want to get around this by changing the login sound instead of the startup sound, though this will not be covered in the article.

This article will show you how to edit or change your current Windows XP startup sound so that you can use it as an indicator of when your machine is ready to use, or to add a personalised touch to your computer. It can also be a nice wakeup call when you get into work as music can lift your spirits and get you in the right frame of mind.

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Windows Software: Audacity

AudacityThe open-source community has done it again with another spectacular piece of software. Audacity is an audio editing/recording software package for your computer which can be as simple or complex as you would like.

At one stage of my life, I was right into using fancy audio software, using Cakewalk, Vegas and Pro Tools to record bands in my loft. I would then use Sound Forge to edit the individual tracks, spending hours on each song to get it right for a release. All of these pieces of software are good, but they are not cheap, costing much more than they really should.

Times have changed, and now all I want is a program that is easy to use and that works well. Audacity is the program for me, as not only will it do everything I want from an audio editor, it is free.

It can as easy to use as loading it up and pressing the record button to record either sounds you hear on your computer, or audio from an external source. It is an ideal application for converting your vinyl to a digital format. Windows sound recorder looks pathetic next to Audacity.

Audacity can also be used for more advanced tasks such as multi-track recording, allowing you to record multiple tracks at once. There are a huge range of special effects you can add to your tracks which are all easy to use and understand. It even shows wave forms as they are created in real time. 

Over the coming days, I will be using Audacity in many of the How-To articles as it is the best tool to use for what we are trying to achieve.

The program itself is very small and runs very fast. Available from SourceForge.

How-to: Setup a cheap Dual Monitor KVM alternative

Difficulty: 2.5

KVM 006A Keyboard/Video/Mouse(KVM) switch lets you use the same keyboard, mouse and monitor to control multiple computers. This helps you save desk space and money as you can use the same peripherals to control and view each of the computers you connect.

If you have a dual screen setup, and you would like to connect multiple computers up to your monitors, people will tell you to spend a large amount of money to get a KVM switch which will handle this. 

For a dual screen KVM switch which you can connect 4 computers, you are looking at spending around $500 and you are also likely to have to spend additional money on the cables, and these can cost more than the switch itself. It is almost worth purchasing extra monitors and peripherals to control your computers, instead of buying one of the really fancy switches.

This article will show you a cheaper option to achieve the same result. Halving the cost comes with the most minor of drawbacks:

  • Switching can no longer be done through the keyboard (still works for one screen).
  • To switch computers, you will need to press two buttons instead of one.

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