Archive for the 'Media Stuff' Category

Jul 30 2012

Say “Night, Night” to Long Installation Sessions with Ninite

A new computer is a popular high school graduation gift, and a great one at that! However, getting all your favorite applications and software isn’t as exciting, and can be a very time-consuming process. Luckily, Patrick Swieskowski and Sascha Kuzins–two awesome people at Secure by Design, Inc–have created a way to streamline that process for us!

Click here to visit Ninite, a website with a long list of popular software that you can download in a single bundle.

Ninite Software Options

What would you like to download?

Check the software you want on your machine–Ninite (which takes suggestions of what apps to include) offers a multitude of selections in categories such as browsers, imaging, media, developer, and documents.

This is great if you are (as we hope you are) a devout user of Firefox and Chrome, because your average Windows machine, for instance, comes only with Internet Explorer. How about another free favorite of ours, the imaging app Gimp? Yup! It’s there too.

Ninite's Installer

Easy to download the bundle!

After you’ve made your selections, download the installer and treat it like a dot exe file–execute it! All the programs you want will quickly download. It’s as easy as that!

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Nov 19 2011

Hello, Songbird

Here at SfSS, we love open source. I mean, we REALLY love it. And while we also for some reason love Apple (all of us do), we haven’t let that stop us from checking out open source alternatives to what Apple does well. If you’ll refer to my previous post, some of us still keep the faith with Mozilla. Consequently, I’ll be doing posts on Mozilla technologies from time to time. Today, it’s Songbird.

When Songbird came out, people branded it “the open source iTunes killer.” It hasn’t really done that. They also called it “the Firefox of music players” and it’s kind of that. It’s built on Mozilla’s XULRunner framework, making it particularly cross-platform (unless, of course, your platform is Linux, which they don’t support anymore). Consequently, Songbird is extensible – just like Firefox. And that default purple look? You can switch to another skin – er, feather (I am not making this up) – and be on your merry. Or, if you like a minimalist aesthetic, you can put it on “Mini View.”

Their stated mission is “to incubate Songbird, the first Web player, to catalyze and champion a diverse, open Media Web.” Remember that little discussion we had about an open web? Songbird is all over that. For more on what’s meant by an open web – and specifically who’s out there trying to circumvent it – I refer you to this post.

Full disclosure, here: it won’t work with your iPod. What it can do, and I know this is kind of disappointing, is, whenever you import music into Songbird, it can also automatically add it to your iTunes library. It will sync with your Android phone, and there’s a nice, informative post on how to do it here.

The Good:

  • Open source
  • Cross-platform
  • Easy migration/plays nicely with iTunes
  • Android sync
  • Integrated web browser
  • Uses lots of web services like Last.fm, mashTape and SHOUTcast
  • Extensible
  • Lots of feathers (read: skins)

The Bad:

  • No iPod support
  • Not available for Linux anymore

The Ugly:

  • Exiting doesn’t behave like iTunes – you click the X, you close the program (there are workarounds)
  • Memory pig – used 40 MB of RAM when not playing a song more than iTunes did when playing music
  • Albums not delineated like in iTunes

Check it out! Let us know what you think.

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Sep 22 2011

Audio Resources on the Web

Published by under Audio Stuff,Media Stuff

Over the summer, I took a variety of interesting classes.  The most interesting was a Computer Science course called Digital Storytelling.  One week of assignments had to do with creating audio narratives.  I expected these projects to be challenging, not only because I don’t think strongly in terms of sound, but also because I didn’t know of many sites on the web that offered sound bites freely available for use (see: Creative Commons).  Thankfully, my professors had taken it upon themselves to solve this problem for us and compile a useful list of websites.

Ear buds

Sounds by Fey Ilyas on Flickr

If you’re not taking a music course or something like Digital Storytelling where the professor is directly asking you to for some kind of audio work, you might find that a bit of audio spruces up an otherwise visual-only presentation (think PowerPoint, or a video project).  You might be surprised!

Here are the resources:

Freesound.org — A site that aims to create a “huge collaborative database of audio snippets, samples, recordings, bleeps,” and is all available under the Creative Commons license.

Free Music Archive — The FMA is directed by the WFMU, “the most renowned freeform radio station in America,” and was created out of the belief that the radio has always been a venue to offer free public access to new music and should continue to do so.  However, this purpose is often undermined by licenses that were not made in (and could not predict) the digital era.  Here at FMA, you will find great mp3s you can feel good about downloading.

ccMixter — This is a self-described “community music remixing site featuring remixes and samples licensed under Creative Commons licenses.” Here you’ll find the opportunity to be endlessly creative and mingle with fellow music lovers.

Internet Archive — The Internet Archive is a fascinating place that I have yet to really explore.  The IA is attempting to create an Internet library in an age and space where sites and sounds are ephemeral.  Content that appears on a site one day may be completely different the next.  This is a great stop for more than just audio.

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Jan 11 2010

Collages Made Easy

It is a new year and school is starting back up for starving students everywhere.

I’m sure during your winter break you took plenty of pictures of family, friends and perhaps some tropical locales you were lucky enough to visit. Now that you have all these lovely pictures I bet you are thinking about all the cool ways you can display them, right? You could spend your time printing pictures out and arranging them in a neat collage like you did back in middle school or you could head over to Photovisi and make a collage there.

Photovisi gives you lots of great template options to choose from and you can crop images inside the site too.  Best of all you don’t even have to sign-up to use their very easy to use  free tool. When you are done it creates an image perfectly sized for wallpaper on your desktop background. In a few minutes I made this:


cc licensed flickr photo shared by umwdtlt

Ok, so maybe I am not the most creative person in the world (yes that is a pizza box as the background) but, I am sure someone like you could make a collage much better than mine in no time at all. So go ahead and make that collage of you and your friends making fools of yourselves or maybe a secret collage of your celebrity crush. Also, if you happen to make a collage worth putting on everyday items you have the option personalize various products with your collage. Didn’t you always want a mug with your mug on it?


cc licensed flickr photo shared by umwdtlt

So try it out and let us know how it goes. If anything, the best part about online collages is not having to worry about getting glue all over the place or maybe that is just a personal issue…anyway happy collaging!

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Oct 26 2009

What is in a Resizing?

Since it has been awhile since we pointed out the handy work of new media specialist Andy Rush, I figured it was time again to give him props.

While it seems like a deceptively simple question, “How do you resize an image?” if you stop and think about it for a moment you will realize this is no easy matter. Sure you could bust out your MS paint and and do terrible things that new human being should ever do with it or you can take a look at a great resource list Andy blogged about.

So now that you have some tips from the new media pro himself go out and properly resize that blurry image you have on that social networking tool you use, we are tired of staring at pixelation.

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Oct 21 2009

Awesome Aviary Audio

The last time we discussed aviary, SfSS told you all about Aviary (http://aviary.com/home) and its ability to be your photo editor, for free.  Well, while Aviary is still all about that, it has some new functions that you should know about.  Let me introduce you to Myna, Aviary’s new free audio editor.  Have you ever had a dream about being that awesome DJ, spinning incredible tracks with laser lights going off all around you?  This could very well be your first step to realizing your ambitions, you go getter, you!

To start off with let’s talk about the layout:

Picture 5

It looks straightforward and comes with the same basic options that you would find on the older program Fruitloops, for those who have been in to making your own tracks for a while now.  Although the snap shot only shows a few of the tracks it carries ten tracks that you can test.  My favorite thing about this stuff is how absolutely painless it is for me to use.  Everything can be simply snapped to the grid and edited within there.  You have a whole host of options, creating fading in and out transitions, changing the gain, editing the clips, and more.  The best way to get yourself acquainted to this fun tool is to just start playing with it, although there is a helpful quick screencast to get you started.

Clips for this program come from three possible sources.  The library within Myna, which comes with a user’s agreement, boasts a wide range of clips from different cds, all of a techno genre or another.  Next, your own media library can be used as a resource for clips.  However, if you have say a part of a song that would fit so nicely into your mix, unless you have a clip prepared, it will generally pull the whole song, major buzz kill.  Oh and that third source of clips?  Well that is you, of course.  You can record directly into Myna, instruments, your voice, a baby crying, whatever.

Aviary as a whole is really awesome, especially with its support.  I had some funky saving issues when I created my first song, but I dropped aviary a line, got a response in no time flat and straightened the issue out.  So give it a whirl already!

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Aug 28 2009

Media Converter

Converter Magic!

Converter Magic!

Have you ever had a song that you can’t find on itunes and you really want to get it? I have, and this is the way I figured out how to do it for free! A friend of mine introduced me to this website and I think that it is really cool. so the website itself is http://www.mediaconverter.org and this is how I have been using it. First of all this website as far as I can tell is open to anyone and you don’t even have to sign up or give any information. The purpose of this website, or what I have been using it for is to rip the audio track off a video (I use Youtube) and then be able to transfer it to your ipod or musical device. So, this is how you do it (keep in mind there might be easier ways to do this but this is what has worked for me)  When you go to the website on the home page there is a box in the middle of the page that’s called the conversion wizard. Click the “enter a link button” and then copy and paste a link from a video of which you want the song and then hit “ok”  Now the screen should look a lot like it did when you started but now on the far right there is a green arrow that says “go to the next step” click on it. Now it’s going to ask you what output file type you would like select mp3 there are a lot of options here and you could probably play around with it and get it to do something else if you wanted to but I haven’t gone as far to do that yet. So, hit ok and now it should say that there is one file in the queue, hit “start” now there should be a loading bar on the lower half of the page telling you how far along it is. Once that is finished loading then a link should appear that says download, click on that. A screen should pop up asking you what program you want to open it with, this works with itunes however it does have a few quirks. The song title will be whatever the title of the video was and you can’t change it. Also, I have found that once you exit Media Converter that the song becomes unplayable. My suggestion is to put it on your ipod while you still have the site open. This may seem like a hassle but it does work and if you really want a song it is free! One more thing, you might notice that at the top of the box on the home screen it tells you that you have a certain number of conversions left I have been using this for a while and I have never run out**. I also tend to only download one song at a time so maybe if you download say five songs in a short span of time it will make you wait a while before you can download any more. I hope this is helpful to people and if you have any questions I will try and answer them. Thanks!

**The counter lets you know how many conversions you can do in a day.  If you’ve got a free account, which is what we are all about, then you get five conversions per day.  But!  Don’t let that fool you, you can get five conversions a day, which should work just fine.  If dealing with that restriction isn’t for you, check out the cash-money version.  The “pro” isn’t too expensive, but I like it free.

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Aug 19 2009

Help Is On The Way

Like we stated many many months ago when Stuff for Starving Students was first kicking off, we are huge fans of Firefox. One of the best features of Firefox is that ability to use add-ons to extend the functionality of your browser. We have discussed a couple of add-ons in the past, like Zotero, Delicious and Aviary. Today we present another add-on to decorate your browser – Video DownloadHelper.

Video DownloadHelper Icon
cc licensed flickr photo shared by umwdtlt

Video DownloadHelper is capable of searching a site you are on for videos and allows you to download the video off the site so that you can repurpose them in ways you need. Nothing illegal going on here (unless you choose to use the content you download illegally of course) it just gives you easier access to content that your browser is downloading anyway. Wondering how you might use this neat add-on? New Media Specialist Andy Rush has a post on embedding YouTube videos in PowerPoint presentations offline using the DownloadHelper add-on.

After enabling the add-on in Firefox whenever you see the DownloadHelper icon (it looks like a molecule) light up and rotate you will know that there are videos on that site available to download. YouTube is just one of the many sites that this add-on supports. So if you find that perfect video for your next project you no longer need to worry about the internet working in your classroom that day if you have already downloaded it.

There are many more possibilities with this add-on and we are curious to know how you use it in your travels, so leave a comment!

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Jul 23 2009

Jing Thing

Now Jing might sound like the name of a  Chinese dynasty but, it is actually a free piece of software that allows you to do screen captures, create screencasts, and share it all easily. So lets break Jing down.

As a screen capturing software it is great. As some of you Windows users probably have experienced, taking screenshots is a pain in the behind. Jing allows you to capture a window, pane, or region so you get just what you need. Jing also has a simple markup feature so you can add a text box, arrow, rectangle, or highlight what you want. After you have your screenshot you have several options for sharing it. Either creating a link, sending it to Flickr, or just saving it to your desktop. One of Jing’s aims is to make sharing of your stuff as easy & quick as possible and they do this well.

Jing also can let you record up to 5 minutes of video of the window or region of your choice. Creating a quick and cheap screencast is simple with the features that let you narrate on the fly and allow you to upload your product as soon as you finish recording. Along the same lines as screen captures Jing makes it easy to share your screencasts with the world. So before you know it you will be screencasting like Andy Rush!

Now I’ve been speaking strictly about the free version of Jing but, if you find the service useful you may consider upgrading to the pro account for $14.95 a year. With that you have more uploading and encoding options for your screencasts, lose the logo on videos and add webcam footage into your screencasts. If that is not for you Jing still has the basic account for free (and we like free).

Like we always say here at Stuff for Starving Students, try it and see what you think. And if you’ve done something really cool with any “stuff” we have talked about (or haven’t!) let us know and we will feature you.

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Jul 14 2009

The Audacity of Free Audio Editors (There is Hope!)

Ok, pay no attention to the cheesy and poorly written joke in the title of this post. This ‘Stuff’ post features one of my favorite open source software, Audacity, a free audio editor and recorder. Audacity has many features including recording, import & export capabilities, editing and effects. For a free piece of software Audacity has a lot of power.

I have used Audacity to record lectures during classes (very helpful if you learn best through auditory input), to create a quick recording of my friend’s jamming to a song on their guitars and to poorly mashup songs to create a whole new song. From basic recordings to advanced editing Audacity can handle it all. Even if you don’t need a piece of software like this all the time (I certainly don’t) it is a good program to have in your repoitore. Maybe you’ll even find reasons to use it more often once you start playing around with it.

I will mention that in order to export from Audacity and encode your stuff you will need to download something extra but, Audacity will point you to where you need to go. So if you plan on exporting an mp3 from Audacity you’ll need to have the extra file.

So there you have it, Audacity, a handy piece of free audio editing software. Just to reassure you that this piece of software is used by the best, take a look at UMW’s New Media Center and you will discover that this software is endorsed by our New Media Specialist Andy Rush. If you don’t trust his opinion on this new media stuff I don’t know who you can trust 🙂

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