Archive for the 'Software 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 10 2011

Unzip It ith 7-Zip!

If you’ve ever spent time on the Internet, you’ve undoubtedly encountered zip files. Zip files (.zip) are typically used as a means to send multiple files from one computer to the next in an easy fashion. However, unless you’re a computer science major, you may have had some trouble understanding how to easily open them. Some people turn to programs like WinZip, for which you have to pay, in order to handle the job. You, however, are a poor but savvy UMW student, and you want a better option!

The Express Zipper

"The Express Zipper" by Tam Nguyen Photography at Flickr

I offer you a free program that is just as easy to use: 7-Zip. It’s an open-source freeware for Windows and Linux that I’ve been using for years. In fact, I’ve been using it for so long that when I went to research this post, I desperately needed to update the program from the 4.65 incarnation I was using to its latest, 9.20. That’s how good 7-Zip is, and how useful. It’s a simple program–1mb in size–that never devalues.

7-zip also features an active forum for support and questions. Give it a try, and make your file transfers much easier–and cheaper!

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Nov 08 2011

(Wh)Y Write(r)?

A tool does not make the master, but it certainly make the master’s job easier. That’s why I’m bringing yWriter to the attention of our readers, particularly our creative writers. yWriter is a piece of freeware developed by a writer for writers.

Simon Haynes (author of the Hal Spacejock series) created yWriter after struggling to write his first novel in an organized and efficient manner. “I really struggled with my first novel because I wrote slabs of text into a big word processor file and I just couldn’t make sense of the whole thing at once. No real overview, no easy jumping from scene to scene, nothing,” he states on his website.  As an experienced computer programmer, he possessed the know-how to create a piece of software that would work with him, and then kindly shared it with the world for free (and with regular updates).

yWriter5 Main Screen

The yWriter5 Main Screen

yWriter’s keynote feature is its usage of “scenes” inside chapter files.  As a creative writer myself, I found that thinking about my story in such terms helped me as well, and although I have a plethora of other programs I could write on, I’ve been a satisfied user of yWriter for the past three years.  I first discovered it while participating in NaNoWriMo (which is going on now).

Give it a try.  You might discover that yWriter is the tool that will revolutionize the way your approach and complete your stories. It’s compatible on all system. If you find it useful, consider making a donation of support and thanks.

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Mar 09 2010

Free(Your)Mind

"Free your mind, Neo." (Use FreeMind!)

When Morpheus from The Matrix instructs his pupil Neo to “free [his] mind”, it’s doubtful he was referring to FreeMind–the  online Java program that allows users to form easily editable mindmaps–but I bet Neo would have benefited from using the software, and maybe even figured out he was The One before Switch, Dozer, Apoc, and Mouse had to died.

Alas, Neo chose to do it the hard way.

FreeMind makes it easy to organize your thoughts, letting you construct something reminiscent of the brainstorms your primary school teachers introduced to you.  With FreeMind, however, you’re upgrading from pen and pencil to a digital format that doesn’t require your erasers to shed when you run out of room on carbon paper. And if you haven’t used the brainstorm format since those elementary

FreeMind Screenshot

FreeMind's Digital Method of Brainstorming

school days, it’s a disarmingly simple exercise that’s worth returning to for a try, especially when you’re juggling multiple ideas for that essay due tomorrow.  After all, an overabundance of ideas can crowd the smartest head until a new idea is impossible to generate.

The freeware (yup, free) is a fantastically light addition to your hard drive–4mb for the MS Windows lite version, and 9mb for the all-inclusive package (SVG and PDF export capabilities); and if you’re running a Mac or Linux OS, they’ve got you covered, too.

Stand-out features include the ability to “drag’n drop” nodes (information concepts), the fold- and unfolding of node trees, smart copying & pasting, and a plethora of means to highlight node importance or change its design (icons, background color, bubbles, clouds).  Check out an excellent introduction to FreeMind on YouTube here: FreeMind Tutorial.

So if you’re finding your brain overloaded by your university courses, try freeing up some mental space by dumping it onto your computer’s–and get it all organized at the same time!

Trust me and maybe you’ll find yourself bending some intellectual spoons of your own someday, too.

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Mar 04 2010

Need your system specs? Get Speccy.

Whenever I work with the hardware on my PC, be it dealing with RAM or system cooling, I inevitably have to check my hardware specs to troubleshoot (RAM timings or CPU core temperatures, for example).  I’ve used dozens of programs for this purpose, be it Coretemp or Everest, yet none have held a candle to both the amount of information given or the sleekness in which this information is delivered than Piriform Speccy, a lightweight yet extremely informative system spec analyzer.  Need your RAM timings?  Your motherboard model? Your graphics card temperature?  Your SMART hard drive information?  Speccy will give you everything you could need, both for troubleshooting purposes and pure curiosity.  If you ever need any information on what is in your computer, Speccy will give it to you.  Although its information is lacking in the software department, that can be easily remedied by any number of programs, including the aforementioned Everest, but when it comes to hardware, Speccy is a great go-to program.

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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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Sep 18 2009

Linux for Human Beings

Published by under Software Stuff

What do you have on your computer? Check it out, we’ll wait.

If our stats are correct, odds are good that it’s Windows. Maybe Windows XP, but probably Windows Vista. Maybe you’re getting ready to upgrade to this “Windows 7″ that Microsoft is hyping recently. Want to save your money? Get Ubuntu instead.

Whoa. Whoa. Wait.

WTF is Ubuntu? Ubuntu is a distribution (basically a version) of an operating system called Linux (sometimes GNU/Linux). Ubuntu is built completely open source by people who love what they do and distributed absolutely free (free as in beer and free as in speech ).

You don’t need to be a geek to use Linux. Ubuntu is easy to install, and just about everything you need is a few clicks away. It comes with Firefox and a complete office suite and everything else you need to get up and running right away. It’s not a virus-magnet like Windows (remember how you had to install antivirus software to get onto the network?) because it is stable, reliable and secure. The support community is huge because it’s open source, and the people who know it really know it. Ubuntu and most (if not all) of the software bundled with it is released under the GNU General Public License.

Check out Ubuntu here. Talk to someone about it. Above all, be free.

-A

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Sep 14 2009

IObit SystemCare

I’m one of those people who looks online continuously for computer programs that will help my computer become more lean.  Be it defragging, antispyware, firewall, or antivirus software, I’m always looking for the greener pasture, and although this robs me of work time every now and then, it does mean my computer doesn’t have any viruses.  When I think of computer programs that have improved my productivity, I sometimes actually think of an entire company–IOBit.

IOBit has three major products:  Advanced SystemCare, Smart Defrag, and Security 360, which just left beta testing recently.  These three programs will clean your registry, delete spyware, optimize settings, defrag, and protect your system from threats that one can easily pick up while downloading the latest Jessica Biel screensavers.  While there are paid versions offered, the free versions work pretty much the same except with a few gimped settings, including their periodic scans being locked.

As said earlier, Security 360 is the latest addition to their arsenal and acts much like other anti-malware products do (except better).  Being as the main selling point of these programs is how easy they are to use (and they really are), it only takes one click to scan your system for spyware, and another to protect your computer from malware actively, much like Spybot Search and Destroy uses the its “immunize” function.  It also includes a scan for security holes and a privacy sweeper.

There really isn’t anything like trying these programs out for yourself though, and if it makes you feel any better, they are clean and easy to uninstall, too.

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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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