Windows Software: Windows Media Player

Windows Media PlayerWindows Media Player was a program that I never gave much respect to, until I recently found a new use for it. Windows Media Center relies on Windows Media Player to playback most media files. This means that any changes we make in the Windows Media Player settings will carry through to Windows Media Center. i.e. Windows Media Center does not have cross fading built in, but if we turn on cross fading in Windows Media Player, the music we listen to in Windows Media Center will also have cross-fading. The same goes for setting up visualisations, CD ripping options etc.

There are so many expected and unexpected features in it, and many of them are relatively well hidden within the program. This is great as the hard to find features such as cross-fading or SRS WOW effects won’t need to be changed often. This has allowed the interface to show us the features we want to use all the time. The way the software is laid out lets us use the full screen to organise our media with a very simple drag and drop layout.

CrossfadingWindows Media Player makes it very easy to make playlists that can be used with Windows Media Center. The interface also makes it very easy to add information to files, such as producing your own star ratings. It even makes burning a CD simple. It is a comprehensive package that has now become my tool for managing my media.

This is by no means a review, or an encouragement to use this as your main media player, but it is worth having another look at it to see what it can do. It is a great resource to pull out when it is needed. If there is something you want to do with your media, where your normal media player doesn’t have the facility, it is likely Windows Media Player will. It is very likely to serve your needs. Because it has been tested on every Windows machine, it has become very stable and the chances of it crashing are very low.

After giving it another run, I have found it to be an outstanding media player.

Windows Media Player is available for free from your start menu. 


Windows Software: FTPing made easy with NetDrive

NetdriveMost ISP’s offer a small amount of storage space on their servers that you use to set up a webpage. This space is often included for free as part of their plans. While many people don’t want to create a website, you can still use the space for whatever you would like. You could place your most important files in their as a way of offsite backups, or share files that are too big for email with family and friends.

FTP clients are a great tool for people who spend a lot of time uploading and downloading files from websites or online storage space, but they can be complicated to use if you are not familiar with them. There is an easier way to access this storage space.

Netdrive is a utility that will allow you to show this storage space as a mapped network drive on your computer. This means that you can drag and drop straight into it using the standard Windows File Explorer, bypassing the need for any fancy FTP programs.

Netdrive sits in the system tray, but should only need to be accessed if you would like to add a new site, or change settings.

NetDrive is easy to setup. Once it is installed, create a new site and add in your FTP server settings. You may want to enable load on startup as that will make Netdrive very hands-off in the future. Once the machine is on the storage space will be mapped automatically.

You can then proceed copying and pasting to and from it just like you would with any of your other files or folders.

I have recommended this to a couple of friends, and they have experienced their internet occasionally dropping out while this software is running in the background. Because of this, you may want to load up Netdrive as you require it, rather than loading it at startup.

NetDrive is available from Netdrive.net and is free for home use. Novell also offers a program called Netdrive that does exactly the same thing, with a few less bells and whistles. This is available from Peter’s Useful Crap.


Drive Partitioning made easy with Easeus Partition Manager Home Edition

EaseuspmThere are a number of programs that will allow for easy creation or resizing of drive partitions. Even Windows XP and Vista will let you do this in its disk management utility. However, these free options are not as easy to use as some of the commercial options, and they lack some fairly important features. Until recent times, I did not know of any free programs that would resize a partition and leave the data intact. Vista will do it now, but it is a bit of a challenge.

For many years I have been using Partition Magic as it was the only program that I could find that would resize partitions without losing data. This feature is very important when adding a partition to a computer that is running well. It could save you from needing to resinstall the whole system. Partition Magic is a commercial program which is hard to justify a purchase of, as you may only use it once or twice each year.

EaseUs Partition Manager Home Edition has been labelled a “free replacement for Partition Magic”, and rightly so. The interface is very similar to the popular Partition Magic, and it contains many of the same features.

Features include:

  • Disk resizing without data loss
  • Disk and partition copying
  • Setting partitions active or hidden
  • Disk Labeling
  • Easy to use interface
  • Everything else most people could ever want

This tool is a long saught after tool for those who do a lot of partitioning. Now the job of trying out Linux, or installing XP on a factory installed Vista machine is a lot less daunting, and dare I say it – even enjoyable.

Important Update: Ensure you turn off hibernation and sleep modes before running this program. If it enters these modes while the program is running, you may find your computer is unbootable. Most other tools of this nature run in DOS mode where sleep or hibernate is not a feature, hence not a problem.

Partition Manager has a commercial version available for people who would like a few extra features, but the home version is free and does everything reported in this article. Grab your copy from Partition-Tool.


Wake on LAN from the command-line with mc-wol

Waking a machine up through a LAN connection can be very useful to turn on a computer if the power button is a pain to get to; say if you have a computer under your desk. It is also handy if you want to turn on a group of computers.

There are a number of Magic Packet senders that will wake a computer up over a LAN connection, but these are usually stand alone programs that need to be opened up and have data entered into them before they work. I wanted a more customizable solution.

Mc-wol is a command line utility that enables you to wake up a machine on your local area network. Being a command line utility, it is easy to utilize in a shortcut on your desktop, place into a batch file, or use it in a scheduled task.

Don’t let the command line scare you. The syntax is really simple. To launch a computer, type mc-wol followed by the mac/ethernet address. i.e.:

mc-wol 91:34:eb:de:45:32

Mcwol

Wake on LAN software only works on computers which are in standby or hibernate modes.

Mc-wol is free and available from Matcode.com. You will also find a bunch of useful information on the page about simple settings you will need to check before WOL will work.


Configure the Windows Vista boot menu easily with EasyBCD

EasybcdI had an extra entry in my Vista boot menu that I no longer wanted, so I went for a search of boot.ini. As it turns out, the Vista boot menu no longer uses a boot.ini file. The boot menu is configured in a program called BCDedit.

BCDedit is configured through the command line. I played around with it for around 5 minutes before deciding that it was too complicated for me with a Christmas hangover. I knew that if I made an error, I may make my machine unbootable. There had to be an easier way.

I came across a utility called EasyBCD. EasyBCD let me change all the settings of my boot menu in a matter of minutes. I was able to add a Windows partition to the boot list, rename the operating systems as they are shown in the menu, and change the wait time.

EasyBCD made this job completely simple. The interface doesn’t allow for much user error as it fills in many of the blanks. EasyBCD can even help you add non Windows operating systems into the mix.

If anything does go wrong with the changes you make, and you find your machine unbootable, put your Vista disk in your computer and boot to it. A quick repair job will bring back the default boot menu.

Grab your free copy from NeoSmart.net.