How-to: Schedule Media Center recordings from any computer

WebguideWindows and Vista Media Centers are a great option for anyone wanting to turn their computer into a home theatre PC. Their interfaces look nice and they are easy to use. Get the most out of it by viewing all your music and pictures, or even schedule recordings, while you are away from home.

Having researched a number of programs designed for this task (and having very limited success with them) I had been using Remote Desktop to schedule recordings when I was away from home. That was until I read a detailed article from Lifehacker showing us the inner workings of Webguide. This article has plenty of helpful tips and screenshots to guide you through it. 

Webguide is accessed through a web browser and delivers a powerful set of features. You are able to view pictures, stream music and movies. You can even remote control your Media Centre all through the web interface. My favourite feature would have to be the ability to schedule recordings while on the road.

Webguide was much easier to install than any of the other web control systems I have tried. There is no need to install Apache as Webguide comes with its own web server. It all works straight out of the box if you are using it on a local network.

Making it accessible from computers that are not on your local network is a bit more challenging. You will need to setup port forwarding and install IIS, but there are enough instructions available to get you going.

I recommend giving this one a go. I am already enjoying the freedom Webguide offers. I encourage you to read Lifehacker’s article in parallel with the FAQ of the Webguide website to make the install easier on you. And yes, of course Webguide is free.


How-to: Repair a VHS tape

Difficulty: 2

Photo-vhsVHS tapes are not used as much as they used to be since the development of newer formats such as DVD’s, but many people still have them in their homes as they were often used to store family memories.

The Video Home System (VHS < who would of guessed) is still a very useful format. Many Radio stations use VHS for their pre recorded shows and the majority of recording studios which haven’t gone to hard drive recordings, still use S-VHS format to record their musicians.

The drawback of VHS is that the tapes can stick or break altogether. Sadly, this happens to the most watched videos, which you probably want to see again.

This article will look at how to repair a video. With the help of images in this article, you will be able to dissect one and put it back together. I wrote this article after repairing a video from when I was on TV at the age of 5, which I will finally be able to show my wife. The video has not been playable for many years.

Read the rest of this entry »


How-to: Reset a BIOS password without a password

BIOSPasswordThere are a number of reasons why we might set a password to protect our BIOS from changes. The problem is that we only need to go in there once in a blue moon, making the password easy to forget, locking everyone out.

I had a situation many years ago where a colleague suggested the purchase of a new motherboard because they couldn’t remember the password. I got that little bit more frustrated with my job that day.

There are various options you can use to get back into your BIOS. All of them reset the BIOS back to default values, so make sure you’ve tried all of your regular passwords before attempting these methods. I have tried to keep it brief…

Newer Computers: Most newer motherboards have a jumper on them, which you can change the position of to reset the BIOS. Find your motherboard manual or search for the motherboards model number in Google. You want to find a diagram showing what and where various components and jumpers are on the motherboard. The manual should tell you which jumper needs to be changed.

Once you have changed the jumper, return the jumper back to its original position while the machine is off. You don’t want it to keep resetting itself. Turn on the machine and go into the BIOS. All options will be open to you.

Older Computers: The quickest way to get into the BIOS of an older computer that has been password protected is to remove the battery. The battery keeps the system clock going. Once you remove it, you can put it back in and start the computer.

When you start your computer, you will find your BIOS has been reset to its default values. You are now able to change any settings you want.

General: Some motherboard manufacturers have a secret password that will work, overwriting the password already locking the computer. These are readily available online with a bit of a search. I think this is becoming less common with time.

For more information on the methods above, tech-faq has a great article which goes more in depth.


How-to: Remove annoying ad breaks from pre-recorded TV

LifextenderMany TV stations lift the volume of their ads to ridiculous levels. I wouldn’t mind ads if they were the same volume as the movie, but the stations have taken it too far, requiring watchers to fiddle with their remotes each time an ad break comes along.

If you have a Digital Video Recorder or Home Theatre PC, you may like to consider removing the ads from your recorded shows. This will save you time when you watch old recordings, and save you from the volume hikes.

I have played with a number of ad removal programs in the past, with limited to no success. It is not an easy task for any programmer to write software which will remove ads flawlessly. For it to be done well, it should look like it was easy.

Lifextender is a program which will remove ads from your recordings. I was sceptical when I first downloaded it, but then after recording a few shows and running Lifextender over them, I was really impressed. It worked! There was no manual work or switching between programs required. It looked after it all.

Lifextender sits in the tasktray or can be run manually. You can set it to scan your recorded shows at set times of the day or it can process them once the recording is complete. There are a whole heap of options available to you, but the default settings will suit most needs. I can’t understand why it is still in alpha phase of development. I came across no problems.

Lifextender can run as a Media Center plugin or as a stand-alone application. I have set it to run at 2:00am in the morning so that the processing doesn’t interfere with my general computer use.

Lifextender is available for free from cnet or Lifextender.com.


How-to: Setup a simple web server with SimpleServer:WWW

SimpleserverA web server is a system that helps you deliver pages from your computer to other computers via a web browser. Inspect My Gadget is delivered to you through one. If you want to host your own material from your own computer (perhaps photos or music to share with friends and family), you will need to setup a web server on your computer which will do this task. Setting one up doesn’t need to be too daunting or expensive.

There are a number of free web server packages available, but I have not found any which are as easy to use as SimpleServer:WWW. Once you download the tiny 187k installation file, you can launch the installer. You can have a fully working web server up and running in less than 2 minutes. I wouldn’t suggest to my grandmother to try and install Apache, but I reckon she could handle this one.

There really isn’t much to this program – looking at it from a users point of view. SimpleServer sits in the tasktray. There is a start/stop button to enable or disable the server. The only other control it has is a browse button so you can select which folder the server will host. SimpleServer can be launched with Windows by placing it in your startup folder.

SimpleServer is a great web server. The only thing it lacks is security. The website will be open to anyone in world who knows the address. This shouldn’t be a huge issue, but if it is running and you are serving up a lot of music or movies, be aware that they might end up in the wrong hands. Unlikely, but worth mentioning.

If you have a home network, you will probably need to set up port forwarding in your router. For more information on this, check out this article. If you want to access this site from a computer out of your home network, I suggest you sign up with DynDNS so that you don’t need to remember your IP address everywhere you go.

Get your copy of SimpleServer:WWW for free from AnalogX

AnalogX has made a number of useful utilities which are all available for free. I have used a number of these utilities over the years and they have all worked flawlessly for me. It is a shame that the site doesn’t appear to be updated anymore.