Archive for the 'Misc 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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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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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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Sep 07 2011 – brainstorming in a (bubbl)e

I’m always on the lookout for new tools to use for brainstorming or mind-mapping as they call it at  The video above gives a brief tutorial on how to use the site.


What basically does for you is what you did for yourself back in elementary school.  Remember when a teacher would assign you an essay topic and you’d have to present some sort of outline before hand?  With the little bubbles? speeds up the process.  I always found it annoying when I would have more thoughts than the little circle I drew on my piece of paper could hold, but with you can manipulate the circle to the size of your choice.  You can also change the color of the bubble to better organize your thoughts.


Another great thing about bubbl is that you can share your brainstorming with other classes.  For my Codes, Culture, and the Postmodern course we’re actually using a bubbl map right now to discuss topics while we aren’t in class (click the little “Map” tab on the website if you want to follow along).


So not only is useful for your own brainstorming, it’s great for classes to collaborate together on topics.  Print it, export it, embed it, what ever, but give it a shot regardless 🙂

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Sep 02 2011

750words – exercise for your brain

Throughout my travels here at UMW, I’ve come across a lot of tools for school on the web.

But I have to say the one I’ve gotten the most use out of is 750words.

photo courtesy of feuillu

The basic concept is pretty simple, you use their nifty little interface to scribble out 750 words of your choosing.  It can be gibberish but that kind of defeats the whole purpose.

What I really use it for is to get the juices flowing.  Brainstorming.  Freewriting is a great way to get started, simply just writing out your thoughts sometimes can help you clear your head to get on to the important stuff.  Or use your words to jump start a project you weren’t sure about.  Write a letter to your grandma or a poem about bagels, it really doesn’t matter.

The great thing about 750words is that you get awards for how you use the site, akin to the foil star stickers you used to get on your papers in kindergarten, called badges.  There’s a Night Bat badge if you frequently write in the late evening, and the Albatross badge if you write for 30 days in a row.  I’m the kind of person that excels with reward systems, and I’m sure some of you out there feel the same.

If you’ve got a paper to write, the clean, no-distractions window makes it easier.   You wanna vent or solve world hunger, do it, it’s all anonymous so nobody can steal your brilliance.

Another cool feature is that you can get your writing evaluated into a little personality chart.  It’ll tell you if, on average, your writing is affectionate or self-important, if you’re more concerned with death or money, and how many times you swear in an average post.  I’m up to an average of 26 curse words per entry apparently.

750 words seems like a lot (3 pages double spaced, actually) but you’ll find that once you get into the groove you’ll fly past that amount.

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Jan 10 2011

What about Google Docs?

Published by under Misc Stuff

So I am new to this particular blog, but I do have to say that the idea of the blog fascinates me. I mean who doesn’t like free stuff? However I am kind of confused, because Google Docs itself has yet to make an appearance. How is this possible? This tool that I use for almost everything? The reason why the idea of Google Docs appeals to me is because I can take it anywhere. I don’t need to have my computer to take notes, or save papers. (trust me, backing up papers is an excellent idea) Also what is really cool is that you can have multiple people editing one document at the same time. But lets back up a bit, and talk more about what Google Docs offers.

Basically you can create a document, presentation or spreadsheet online. All you need is a Google account, and it is free! When I go to class I take notes primarily through Google Docs because I know if something happens to my computer I won’t lose all my work. I also add friends taking the same class to the Google doc so that they too can view it, edit it, and provide ideas. This is also a nice tool in case you miss class, because the notes are easily shared. (No more copying by hand!) However the reason why Google Docs proves to be invaluable to a college student (if I haven’t done so already) is because you can back up your work. I have had a personal experience with my laptop crashing and losing a really important essay a day before it is due. Because of that, I have become OCD about backing up my work. So any source I can use to allow me to do it, I will.

However, there are some small things that bother me about Google Docs. Probably the biggest is that it doesn’t show individual pages for what you have written. It just goes on, kind of like notepad. For notes I don’t mind it as much, but for writing a paper it would bother me. There also aren’t as many editing options like in Word, however for free you can’t really complain. Besides you can’t post a full video to share in Microsoft Word! 😀

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Oct 15 2010

I <3 Free Tools

Published by under Misc Stuff

computer_crash_again Over the summer my computer appeared to be infected with a virus. So I decided to wipe my computer and do a clean install of my Windows XP OS. After re-installing I realized that I had a long list of free and useful software applications that I had accumulated over the four years of owning my laptop. As I went back through re-installing all my lost programs I thought I’d keep a list and share with you some of the applications I thought were worth re-installing.  So here is a list and a brief description of those various applications.

The First Section is those applications we haven’t blogged about (yet):

Evernote – Their motto is “Remember Everything” and they certainly make possible to record things in lots of different ways and view it in lots of different locations. This is a great note-taking advice and we hope to blog on it more extensively soon.

Skype – Is a great tool for instant messaging, voice calls and video chats. They have many other features and you can even call land-lines using Skype. I’ve used it many times to talk to a friend all the way in China with a lot of success.

Foxit Reader – A PDF viewer that has none of the bloat of Adobe’s Reader. I downloaded this after this I got fed up with the way Adobe was acting. Foxit lets you highlight and add notes and comments too, so that is always a plus.

IrfanView – This one is Windows specific (sorry Mac and Linux users). It is a quick and easy image editor that supports a huge variety of formats. This great for quick editing job and has many other capabilities such as creating pdf from images and creating slideshows. A real neat tool that has lots of little features.

HTML-Kit – A great code editor whether you do a little coding or a lot of coding. As described on their site, “HTML Kit is a full-featured editor for HTML, XHTML, XML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP and other text files”.

VLC Media Player – Simply put, this media player plays nearly everything. Don’t put up with other media players that choke on codecs, just use this player.

This second section is stuff we are already blogged about so check out the links to those those SfSS posts:

Browsers: SfSS post on Google Chrome & SfSS post on Firefox
– Also see related posts on cool add-ons for those browsers: Diigo, Zotero, Talon, Delicious,

Audacity – audio editor

Jing – screencasting

Hope you enjoyed this list and check out some of the new stuff (and some of the old stuff too!). Hat-tip goes to Andy Rush for this blog post idea.

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Sep 27 2010

Simply Noise

Dorm life will eventually force you into uncomfortably loud situations that just might make your head split open. Imagine with me! It’s a Thursday night, and the Thirsty Thursday parties perhaps have already begun. Oh but wait, you have a paper due tomorrow and can’t seem to focus at all. Maybe, you have a roommate who has an intense case of sleep apnea, and the pleasant sounds of loud snoring just doesn’t seem to lull you to sleep. Whatever the case, the solution is simple: you need to block that out! However, for some of us listening to music is just as distracting as the loud party-er or the snoring. So, let me offer you an alternative that has been suggested by one university faculty member (who maybe deals with loud parties in neighboring offices?). Simply Noise provides free sound files of different colored noises (white, pink and brown) which can not only help you block out distractions but also allow you to relax from some of that overwhelming stress.

I did in fact do extremely scientific experiments by finding prime examples of the above annoyances while listening to the simply noise files. See Thirsty Thursday and Snoring. Needless to say Simply Noise was super effective! : D

As a final note: Simply Noise does offer a cheap app so you can make their product a little mobile. It might not be worth the 99 cents, but you can always just have your laptop by your bed with some headphones…Meditate, Sleep, Study whatever you got to do let simply noise cancel out the distractions.

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Sep 14 2009

Do the Doodle

Have you ever tried setting up a meeting with a lot of people via e-mail? If you have you probably know the confusion that can occur as people reply, reply-all, change their minds and never respond. Or maybe you already have a day picked out but your group can’t decide where to eat or what movie to see. Is there a web 2.0 solution for your problem? Why yes, yes there is.

Let me introduce you to a lovely site called Doodle.

So how does Doodle work? Let me quote directly from the site
1) Create a poll
2) Forward the link to the poll to the participants.
Follow online what the participants vote for.

I used Doodle to help set up a meeting for those students interested in writing for this site (and if you are let me know!) and with a few clicks I was able to give them many time and day options. A nice feature of Doodle is that it will show you how many votes there are for each day/time combo. It may seem simple but this can give you a visual view of what day/time may be better and if you have more than one option for your get together. Another idea is creating a list of things you need people to bring to a party and have people sign up for what you need.

Give it a try and you will find that is much easier than the back and forth of e-mails and allows for many more nuances than simple e-mailing can’t get at. So throw a party, have doodle help you set it all up and don’t forget to invite your favorite starving students.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by Joe Shlabotnik

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Jul 02 2009

It Is Like Progressive, Except For Books!

Have you ever seen those Progressive insurance commercials where they tell you how they let you compare rates with other insurance companies so you know you are getting the best deal?

Well, BookFinder is a tool that allows you to crawl the web and compare prices on books, including textbooks. If you don’t already shop for your textbooks online you should. I very rarely go to the school’s bookstore because I can often find the books I need much cheaper on Amazon, even when the cost of shipping is included. Last semester I did a little cost analysis and realized I saved an astounding 50% by going through online sellers. BookFinder is a simple little tool that helps you find the best price for whatever textbook you need. So quit spending so much money on textbooks and use this search engine. Also, make sure you share the savings love with your fellow starving student friends.

Riverby Bookstore

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