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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Feb 21 2012

A Resource for Life!

Published by under Misc Stuff

Here at SfSS, we editors like to provide our readers with specific tools that deal with a specific problem–GIMP for image manipulation, Audacity for audio. However, we can’t always predict your needs, and that’s why sometimes it’s worthwhile to simply point you in the direction of a great big database that may! The great big database I’m talking about right now is Lifehacker.

Personally, I follow Lifehacker on Facebook (though they also have an account with Twitter), and I enjoy reading the clever tips they share daily. Not everything may apply to the average college student (you probably don’t need to know how to recover your cast iron cooking pan), but you want some tips on jazzing up your productivity level.

Tips Box

"Tips Box" from Lifehacker

Lifehacker is all about streamlining your life. “Hacking” isn’t a term near and dear to many hearts, as many of us associate it with those people who disrupt life on the Internet, who infect your computers with viruses, and so forth. However, this is a misappropriation. Hacking also means to consolidate and improve, to cut through unnecessary red tape and allow you to reach your goal (whether in programming or buying the best toothbrush) with as little wasted energy as possible.

Check it out!

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Feb 02 2012

Making the most of Prezi: how to make yours stand out

Published by under Uncategorized

It seems to be a popular assignment in pretty much any class across all sorts of subjects – presentations.

I have to give at least two presentations a semester and I’ve got some nifty tips for you to try to make yours stand out (Note: a good looking presentation can take your ‘B’ to an ‘A’, trust me!).

Okay, so this will mostly be a tutorial on Prezi.  As far as I know, it’s the leading tool for presenting information in a new way (a.k.a, one that isn’t Powerpoint).

I find that a lot of my professors take a lot more interest in presentations that aren’t made with Microsoft Powerpoint.  Maybe because it breaks up the hum-drum of rectangular slides filled with text.  Maybe because they admire your courage to try something different.  I’m not sure.  But what ever the reason, it seems to work well in my favor!

You can read all about the standard features of Prezi on their homepage, but I want to talk about some of the things that I do on Prezi that are a little bit different.

Prezi comes with pre made templates for your presentation, but I like to take them a little further.  As Prezi grows in popularity, you might find yourself using the same layout as someone else in your class, which doesn’t look very good.  I like to add my own flair.

Once you’re in Prezi, choose whichever template you’d like to start with, then click Colors & Fonts, then Theme Wizard.  After you’re in, click the “Manual” tab at the bottom.

Now, I’m a big lover of of Colour Lovers to find interesting new color palates.  I recommend using this website to pick out which colors you’d like to feature in your presentation.

Next, you input the R, G, and B numbers associated with the specific color you’ve picked out.  Colour Lovers will tell you what these numbers are!  It really can’t get any easier.




Now you have a unique presentation.  It’s really that easy.


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Jan 19 2012

github – collaborative programming

Published by under Uncategorized

A tool that’s been cropping up more and more in my classes lately is github.

So, the very basic idea of this tool is that you can share your code with other users.  Users can then edit that code in a fork (not getting rid of the original work) and you can combine the code together in a mesh of collaborative awesome.

To be completely honest, I’m pretty new to github as well.  But I’m finding the more I use it, the more I understand it.  Github is something you need to plug away at in order to learn.  But once you do, you’ll find it to be a very rewarding resource in regards to your complicated coding projects (God knows how many of these I have in a semester).

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Nov 22 2011

Screw the masses

Published by under Browser Stuff

This one goes out to everyone who’s ever been frustrated (or beyond frustrated) with the comments on Web Service X. Does it seem to you like everyone on YouTube has a chip on his shoulder? (I say his because let’s face it, it’s probably a 13-year-old boy or a 40-year-old man living with his mother.) Is the signal-to-noise ratio on Slashdot too low for you? Does your blood pressure spike every time you happen to glance down just beneath the article?

And has it been that way for as long as you can remember? I have two solutions for you: the pinpoint option and the scorched-earth option. (I went with the scorched-earth option.)

Like the unmanned aerial drone strikes protecting your freedom overseas (hahahahahahahaha), YouTube Comment Snob (also available for Chrome) lets you filter out comments by a number of spelling mistakes that you set, all caps, no caps, excessive punctuation, excessive capitalization and profanity. I don’t have any idea just how arbitrary this guy’s metrics are – I haven’t tested this add-on at all. Apparently (according to the greater Firefox community) this plugin is pretty okay, because it averages 4 stars out of 5 based on 78 reviews. If you try it out, please let us know by posting a – wait for it – comment. I won’t filter you out. It’d show up in my email anyway.

Next up, here’s the plugin I actually use: like a cop using pepper spray on a nonviolent group of students, CommentBlocker indiscriminately disregards everything in its path.

I'm pretty sure it was just like this.

You have two options with CommentBlocker. Allow all sites and blacklist individual ones, or the inverse: disallow all sites and whitelist certain ones. I’ve gone with the latter option and I’m now safe inside my little cocoon of NO STUPID COMMENTS.

Try em out, let us know what you think!
(I’m gonna go on record here and say there’s nothing funny about what happened at UC Davis. I think the DTLT crew summed it up best when they said that the absurdity of these memes mirror the absurdity of just how commonplace this stuff really is. The more people confronted with this image, the more outrage. The more outrage – the more change.)

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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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Nov 18 2011

A Little Glitch in a Giant’s World

Published by under Browser Stuff,Fun Stuff

Glitch is a game that’s most recently captivated my attention.

Glitch Game Official LogoFor those of us who enjoy playing free, cute and inventive games with friends, Glitch succeeds at including all of the above.

You’re play a sprite existing in the imaginations of eleven giants, and its your job to run around squeezing chickens, milking butterflies and generally interact with the world. Yup, living inside the thoughts of god-giants (or giant-gods, as you please) is a strange place, but worry not–your journeys are watched over by a witty, wise rock who takes it upon itself to learn important skills for you (like Animal Kinship or Alchemy) and provide you with quests. You won’t ever get bored.

Even cooler, Glitch is a very new MMO–it debuted in September of this year–and if there’s one thing I love most, it’s watching the way a game grows. So, get in on it now while you can, and see Glitch from its inception.

Tiny Speck created Glitch (and are looking for employees, my lovely computer science and art major readers), and they are obviously sporting a fresh take on the gaming world. I, for one, will be following what they do with interest.

Why else is Glitch cool? When you go to learn skills, they work in real time and even when you’re not playing. Right now I’m learning a skill that will take about 20 hours–but that’s not 20 game hours. My rock buddy studies around the clock just for my little glitch self.  As it is, Tiny Speck’s servers can handle such a task, but I predict big things for this game (at least a devoted cult following, if nothing else), so we’ll see if they are able to keep that up.

Glitch also has a global following. Today I chatted with a player from Russia; we used online translators to transfer what we wanted to say and then copy/pasted the text into the chat room. It was a very surreal, very Internet experience.

Did I mention that you can have your own house, grown crops, and oh, right, squeeze chickens?

Go. Join. Live the glitch life.

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Nov 17 2011

Lest we forget

Do you remember this post by Martha? Of course you don’t. It was just about three years ago. If you’re a freshman here at UMW, you might have been 15 years old and probably not reading this blog – and let’s face it, who wades through the archives of blogs running back at least three years? The answer is: not me, and probably not you.

So we here at SfSS would just like to reaffirm everything Martha said about Mozilla Firefox back in 2008:

  1. Add-ons, Add-ons, Add-ons: Firefox was the first browser to support extensions (or add-ons – the terms are interchangeable) and to date it still has the largest library. If you’ve never tried extensions before, think of them as apps for your browser. They let you do something that you weren’t able to do before, just like an app. I know you go on YouTube a lot. So do I. Are you sick of ads before videos? Install AdBlock Plus and they’re history. It’s only on Firefox. (They try and tell you it’s on Chrome, but it’s never, ever worked for me.)
  2. Standards: Mozilla is all about the open web – where you have the freedom to do anything that you want or need to do without some government or corporation standing in your way and telling you what to do. Sometimes governments do this with misguided laws (see also: SOPA), and sometimes corporations do this with proprietary technology (see also: Apple, Microsoft, Google and on and on and on). Mozilla stands firmly in the way of that, and they do it with open technology: HTML 5, CSS, JavaScript and other open technologies that adhere to the recommended standards.
  3. Security: Okay, here’s the thing. Firefox is open source. That means that the code that defines how Firefox works and runs is freely available for anyone and everyone to look at, tweak and fix, and thousands and thousands of eyes are looking at every single change to the code. So not only are security holes patched as soon as they’re spotted, but if someone tries to add malicious code it gets kicked out immediately.
  4. 100% Organic: This ties in to what I said earlier about Firefox being open source. That means there’s no one at the top controlling everything. Firefox is built from the ground up by people just like you who are passionate about what they do. And they do it so that you can have the freest, best web experience at no cost.

If you’re not running Firefox – if you’ve lost faith – it’s time to jump back in. Mozilla needs you. The web needs you. And you owe it to yourself to give yourself the best browsing experience out there.


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Nov 15 2011

CyanogenMod: because Android vendors suck

Published by under Android

If you’ve got an iPhone, keep right on scrollin’. This will not apply to you at all. Windows Phone 7, too (or whatever they’re calling it). Or a BlackBerry (hahahahaha). Or a dumbphone – Okay, basically, this only applies to you if you have an Android phone. Looking around campus, many, many of you do, so this should apply to you.

Look at this handy little chart:

And, like with so much of what they release into the wild, Google doesn't care

Basically what this says is that, for many models representing the fragmented Android-phone ecosystem (kind of reminds of you the PC market, doesn’t it?), a lot of them are actually released a version or two behind what Google puts out there. That’s like a PC vendor still selling brand-new computers pre-installed with Windows XP. These things just aren’t done, am I right? Fine, maybe you got one of the newer ones, or something not on this list. Maybe you’re current. But look at this chart: HTC, Samsung, Motorola, LG – these are all major vendors, and chances are if you’ve got an Android phone, you got one from them. I don’t know about you, but this chart tells me that these companies want you to buy a new phone more than they want you to be happy with your current phone.

“But Alan,” you say, as you would be right to do – “I don’t care which version I have. I can talk and text and play Angry Birds and look at Facebook all day with no problems.” And in a world where Android was safe, you wouldn’t have to care. But here’s the thing: no, wait. Just go ahead and Google “Android malware.” Versions of Android are released very definitely not-perfect. It’s okay – nothing’s perfect. But as time goes by, certain inherent flaws in the architecture of Android become apparent – an exploit here, a weakness there. They’re found and fixed – in the next version. The version HTC and T-Mobile won’t send out for your phone. So you’re screwed. If your phone gets hacked, you’re out of luck. Too bad, so sad, buy another phone from us!

So what’s a starving student to do? Buy an iPhone? Well, there’s nothing wrong with your phone’s hardware, right? And do you have the money to spend on buying an iPhone and changing your plan? I submit that, since you’re in college, you do not. Enter CyanogenMod.

From their website:

CyanogenMod is an aftermarket firmware for a number of cell phones based on the open-source Android operating system. It offers features not found in the official Android based firmwares of vendors of these cell phones.

What this means for you: If you have any device on this list, you’re good to go. Click on it, then click on the wiki link and your journey begins.

What if your phone is not on the list? They’re working on it. CyanogenMod is still supporting the very first Android phone, the HTC Dream (you might remember it as the T-Mobile G1), so that tells me that yours is coming.

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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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