Thursday, January 24, 2008

DasBoot - Create a Bootable USB Drive






If you have an Intel Mac, want to optimize your hard drive (or something else), don't reach for one of those CDs in your "utility belt." Instead, make yourself a Mac OS X bootable USB Flash drive with your favorite utilities loaded on it!

Note: DasBoot is not yet OS X Leopard Compatible. Sigh. Works great on Tiger, though!

Booting off an OS X CD isn't fun. You have to remember to push the "C" key down upon startup of your Mac, then wait what seems forever. What if you could skip those troubles on your new Intel Macbook? You can, of course, if you use Subrosasoft's Das Boot. It allows you to...


...take any third party boot CD (such as those shipped by
SubRosaSoft.com Inc, Prosoft Engineering Inc, Alsoft Inc, or Micromat
Inc) and quickly create a bootable diagnostic device that contains any
of your own utilities you may wish to install. You can use your device
to boot and repair Mac OS X computers* as needed without erasing it and
taking away your ability to use it for other purposes such as playing
music, or watching videos. With the help of DasBoot™ you get to carry
all the tools you'll need with you. But unlike expensive third party
alternatives, you'll have plenty of space left over in case you need to
recover data.
Source: Das Boot
Download page

Using Alsoft's DiskWarrior as a starting point, I was able to make a bootable OS X USB Flash drive with DiskWarrior, as well as a few other utilities. But the best part about it was that the process to create a bootable USB Flash drive didn't take that long...and booting up from the USB Flash drive was MUCH faster than off one of those CDs.

I'm sure that some folks may already knew about this, but this is a major time-saver for anyone with an Intel Mac(book) and buying a 1 gig USB flash drive just for this purpose is worth it.

As to what utilities to put on your Mac, there are a few you should look at. The disk optimization ones aren't free, but worth the investment. Again, the neat thing is being able to put more than one utility on a Flash Drive, giving you more functionality than if you just had a
bootable CD from one vendor. Here are a few...what would you add?



DISK DEFRAGMENTING/OPTIMIZATION
As a veteran computer user, I
grew up using Norton's Disk Utilities on my computers throughout the
years. Although operating systems have gotten to be a lot
tougher--especially GNU/Linux for which there is no need to run hard
drive optimizing tools--both Mac and Windows require a bit of help. To
that end, one of the first things I do when investing in Mac and Windows
computers is to purchase a hard drive optimization tool.



When our collection of Macbooks arrived at work, I immediately ordered DiskWarrior
as a general purpose tool. I had experience with DiskWarrior. However,
one of our resident Mac gurus (ex-Systems Engineer for Apple) Larry
Stegall pointed out a new tool, Drive Genius. Another tool is
Micromat's TechTools Pro.

These tools help clean up the bloat, fix file permissions, fix

corruption on OS X volume structures, improve application performance
and verify system integrity (whatever that means). In short, they fix
problems when they are small rather than overwhelming you when they get
bigger and meaner. If I had to point to any one software tool as a
must-have, buy it now from this article, I would have to point you to
one of the three options below. Yes, it is that critical you have one of
these, especially if you are deploying lots of Macs or just have one at
home or work.



Another program you might want to throw on your bootable USB Flash drive
is TechTool Deluxe. I have it because I purchased the Apple Care
Protection Plan. It's described in this way:



TechTool Deluxe is part of the AppleCare Protection Plan for Macintosh
computers. It is based on Micromat's powerful TechTool Pro diagnostic
and repair utility. TechTool Deluxe checks the major computer components
covered under the AppleCare Protection Plan. It is available only by
purchasing an AppleCare Protection Plan for a Macintosh...TechTool
Deluxe can also repair many of the problems it finds.


Of course, on reading the web site, it appears I didn't get the best of
the two TechTools available (Deluxe and Pro). The TechTools Pro version
apparently can do more than the Deluxe version (sheesh!). Oh well. If I
need that functionality, I may have to spring for Drive Genius
which seems to beat out DiskWarrior
and TechTools Pro
. Anyone use Drive Genius in more than the
trial/evaluation mode?



Option 1: Drive Genius - http://tinyurl.com/7m7bn
; Cost: $99.00
Option 2: Disk Warrior - http://www.alsoft.com/DiskWarrior/
; Cost: $99.95
Option 3: TechTools Pro - http://tinyurl.com/psqzc
; Cost: $98.00



MISCELLANEOUS UTILITIES (No-Cost)
Now that you have one of the
big ones out of the way, you might want to consider one or all of these
utilities for inclusion on your bootable USB Flash Drive.



muCommander
If you want file management a la Xtree Gold (if
you know what this is, then you're an old time DOS user!), in addition
to FTP capability, then you must take a look at the muCommander.
MuCommander is available for Macintosh, Windows and Linux and gives you
control over moving, copying files around on your computer or via file
transfer to a remote server or computer. You never know, you may need to
back data off. Download muCommander at http://www.mucommander.com/



Carbon Copy Cloner
Although I haven't used Carbon
Copy Cloner
, I know others have. It describes itself in this way,



Have you ever wanted a simple, complete, bootable backup of your hard
drive? Have you ever wanted to upgrade to a larger hard drive with
minimal hassle and without reinstalling your OS and all of your
applications? Have you ever wanted to move your entire Mac OS X
installation to a new computer? Then CCC is the tool for you!


Download Carbon Copy Cloner from Bombich Software (free) at http://www.bombich.com/software/ccc.html



What else would you add?










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Combining PDFs


I've probably written about combining PDFs before, but it doesn't hurt
to revisit this...



To combine PDFs...






  • ...on UbuntuLinux, at the command line:



1) Install by typing sudo apt-get install gs pdftk


2) Combine files using the following command:


gs -dNOPAUSE -sDEVICE=pdfwrite -sOUTPUTFILE=combinedpdf.pdf -dBATCH
1.pdf 2.pdf 3.pdf



If you have more than one PDF (like Google Calendar printouts), you can
combine them en masse with an adaptation of the command:


gs -dNOPAUSE -sDEVICE=pdfwrite -sOUTPUTFILE=combinedpdf.pdf -dBATCH calendar*.pdf


And, here's a collection
of PDF Tools
.










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Tweak Windows Keys in BootCamp


Although I run VMWare Fusion on my personal Macbook, I found myself at
the end of a budget year without the funds to buy Fusion for the work
Macbook (by design, it's all by design). SO, I spent the hour it took to
setup a Macbook with 160gig hard drive, 2 gigs RAM with Mac OS X and
Windows running off of Bootcamp.



The install went great by the 3rd time I did it <grin>, and everything
loaded without problems. I soon had Windows humming along the way I like
it with my favorite applications. However, one thing was driving me
crazy...how to remap the Apple-Command key to be the Control (CTRL) key.
To do that, I used Key
Tweak,
a free program that describes itself in this way:



Keytweak is a free keyboard remapper for Windows NT/2000/XP. It makes
use of Microsoft's Scancode Map registry key to remap your keyboard. VB6
Runtime files are required, but are already present on Windows 2000/XP.


I used the Half Teach feature to scan a single key. You basically choose
scan a single key then press the Apple-Command key on your Macbook
keyboard, and voila! You can then choose a destination key to map to.







Pretty nice solution!










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Polls and Survey Sites-Free


Conducting surveys and polls is great. When I need to conduct a survey,
I use UCCASS.Over
the years, I have been asked to collect information tracking digital
video distribution system usage, a technology assessment for
paraprofessional staff, available technology assets, and more. Each
time, the effort began as a survey. The hardest part about surveys is
not collecting the data. Rather, it is designing the surveys and then
analyzing the data. Although it would be too much to hope for to
simplify both ends of the process--the design of the survey and data
analysis--what if the latter could be made easier? A free, open source
tool can help you do that. The free survey tool is known as UCCASS and
is available at http://www.bigredspark.com/survey.html



But if you don't have access to your own server, what do you do? You
might use one of the 10 services Wild
Apricot blog points out
:




  1. Poll Daddy


  2. Cool Web Toys


  3. Vizu.com


  4. Blogflux


  5. Quimble


  6. SurveyMonkey


  7. Zoomerang


  8. Survey Gizmo


  9. Ballot-Box


  10. Easy Poll



Here's a quick poll created with Poll Daddy...







polls - Take
Our Poll






 










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Erase Free Space on Your Mac HD


This request came in at work...not as memorable as "O Captain, My
Captain" but I won't complain too loudly...



Mac God,
Do you have any recommendation for a Hard Drive Cleaner? OS
X?


The answer was a bit complicated. I started to recommend Mireth
Software's ShredItX, but then a clarification came...it has to be free.
There isn't much in the free or no-cost department for hard drive free
space wipe programs on a Mac (that I know of), except what's built-into
the OS X. So, I ended up sharing
this information
. Relevant portions sans screenshots available at
link above:



To erase all free disk space, and thereby remove all traces of files
that you deleted previously using the Empty Trash feature, you should
use the Macintosh Disk Utility feature (located in the Applications
folder) to remove this space as follows:


* Open the Applications folder as you normally do.
* Click the
Utilities Folder.
* Double-click Disk Utility.
* From the
left-hand column, click the disk, volume, or image from which you want
to erase free space.
* Click the Erase tab.
* Click the Erase Free
Space button.
* Click the radio button in front of the 7-Pass Erase
of Deleted Files option.
* Click the Erase Free Space button.


If you see a system message that says you are running out of disk space,
you can ignore it. When the utility is complete, your hard drive will
have the same amount of free disk space available as before you ran the
utility.










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Converting Video MOD Files


Someone sent me an email asking, "How do I convert MOD files to
something else on Windows?" I was stumped until I googled the
answer
. Apparently, no conversion is required! You can just use
rename the files to MPG extension and they'll work in a media player (I
like VLC Media Player).










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Web-based Post Its


I was chronicling the Alone
in the Middle story to YouTube movie publishing by young folks
, and
remembered an old presentation in the "pre-computers for presentation"
days. The speaker, who I enjoyed tremendously but have no recollection
of her name, shared how she had a conversation with a young writer.




 



After reading the question...




 



So, thinking this a neat approach, I decided to use it in my article to
represent student exchanges. The article will be posted on LeaderTalk
later this weekend (I'm still downloading the videos from YouTube).



One of the questions I had was, how can i create these post-it notes via
the Web? I didn't want to download and install anything on my computer,
just do this via the Web. A few solutions arose:




Some downloadable solutions:




Anyone know of Mac centric solutions? Linux?










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Flickr Code in PMWiki


How to get images to appear in your sidebar in PMWiki from Flickr:



%sidehead%Photos
'''[[http://api.flickr.com/services/feeds/photos_public.gne?tags=mgpresos&format=rss_200|Conference
Photos]]''' (:RSS
http://api.flickr.com/services/feeds/photos_public.gne?tags=mgpresos&format=rss_200
long 50>:)









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Free Fonts


Looking for free open source fonts? Ruth
Suehle writes
a short entry here, spending more time about the Free
Font Manifesto
, but does have a link to another
article with 40 free fonts
.



Personally, my favorite source for fonts is one I shared
two Thanksgivings ago
--Search
Free Fonts
.




 



There are also a lot of Christmas
fonts...check 'em out
.



There's a bit
of whining about installing fonts on Ubuntu
, and it's justified.
That's why I wrote
this blog entry
in the first place, but Ubuntu isn't arguably the
easiest Linux distro to install fonts on.



Here's what the install of the font looks like on a Mac...




 



...and what it looks like on PCLinuxOS 2007. What' obvious is how
little difference
there is in the process!




 










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WGET on Mac, Windows and Linux





Image Source:
http://www.cobbsheriff.org/Detention/_images/oldJail_Run.jpg



It is undisputed that Defendant possessed unauthorized copies of
Plaintiffs' copyrighted sound recordings on his computer ... Virtually
all of the sound recordings on Exhibit B are in the ".mp3" format. ...
Defendant admitted that he converted these sound recordings from their
original format to the .mp3 format for his and his wife's use.
Source:
Gizmodo


The first thing I did when I bought my CD of Panamanian music--while
visiting Panama this summer--was to rip the music to my computer. I
wanted to take no chances that I would lose copies of music I hadn't
heard since I was a boy, 20-30 years before. The music transports me
back to a time when I was a child, when my mom and dad and I lived in
Panama, to a simpler time. I did dread losing the CD, or having it
scratched up...in fact, I would hate to lose the CD (which has happened
with other's). My MP3 music collection has actually outlived



Yet, that act of digitizing the sound on the CD is considered illegal by
some.



The RIAA...has lodged documents which condemns mp3s stored on
computers from legally bought CDs as unauthorized copies of copyrighted
recordings
. . .The RIAA’s new stance that even personal use copies
on PCs and mp3 players are still illegal makes . . .every single person
in the world who has ripped a song from a disc, ie. 90% of the
population [a criminal].
Source: TechBlorge


In the Washington
Post article cited
, the following appears:



The industry's own Web site says that making a personal copy of a CD
that you bought legitimately may not be a legal right, but it "won't
usually raise concerns," as long as you don't give away the music or
lend it to anyone.


UPDATE 01/01/2008: This Washington Post article has been
challenged. I quote the comment below:



I can't stand the RIAA, but what they said in court documents is that
it's a violation of copyright law to rip a legally purchased CD and
place the music in a P2P file sharing folder. By doing so, the RIAA
implies, they're making that music available for illegal access. This is
a big difference from you ripping your CDs to your computer so you can
play on your MP3 player or iPod...My biggest concern when I see people
misinterpreting events such as this, is that this could end up generate
an accidental court decision that could be interpreted as ripping MP3s
for personal use from legally purchased CDs is illegal. Right now, the
copyright issue is related to 'publication' of the ripped music, not the
actual conversion of the music. The person putting the music into the
shared folder is 'publishing' the music, whether the music is actually
distributed or not.
Source: Comment on Matthew
Ingram post
by Shelley





Consider Jennifer Pariser's, the head of litigation for Sony BMG, point
of view, who shares:



In Pariser's view, "when people steal, when they take music without
compensation, we are harmed." Pariser has a very broad definition of
"stealing." When questioned by Richard Gabriel, lead counsel for the
record labels, Pariser suggested that what millions of music fans do
is actually theft.
The dirty deed? Ripping your own CDs or
downloading songs you already own
.
Source: Ars
Technica






Source: http://www.techcrunch.com/wp-content/riaa.jpg



It seems possible to make a copy of a music CD that you bought so long
as you don't give away the music or lend it to anyone. Yet, when you
consider that the concept of creativity building on the sharing of
others is limited...why do we continue to listen to this music? Why do
we continue to buy CDs? Wouldn't it be better to turn to other sources
of music?



Other sources of music could include:




SO, HOW TO DOWNLOAD MUSIC?



As much as I find Magnatune.com great to listen to on the Web, I don't
have all that much time to sit in front of the computer and just listen.
I'd rather download the music as an audio file and listen to it on my
MP3 player. One easy way to do that--regardless of your platform--is
shared below.



To download music, say from Magnatune.com, you can follow
these instructions
. Although the instructions there will work for
Mac and Windows, you can use WGET to download a whole album using the
m3u file available online. The process involves using a program called
"WGET." WGET is described
in this way
:



Wget is a free network utility to retrieve files from the World Wide Web
using HTTP and FTP, the two most widely used Internet protocols. It
works non-interactively, thus enabling work in the background, after
having logged off.


Wget works on GNU/Linux, Windows, and Mac--all shown below.



WGET ON GNU/LINUX
Instructions for Linux (I was running this
on PCLinuxOS 2007 for Gnome) appear below:



On Linux, right-click and save the m3u file to a directory. Then, drop
to the command line, change to the directory (for example, cd
/home/mg/Desktop/m3u) and type in wget -i filename.m3u

This
will automatically download every MP3 file in the m3u text file to the
directory you're in.


It will essentially look like this:







WGET ON WINDOWS
If you're on Windows, you now have the
option of getting
a copy of WGET for Windows
. Installation is pretty
straightforward...simply download the installer, double-click on the
installer, and take it from there...




 



After installing on Windows, just drop to the command line (click START,
choose RUN, then type "cmd").



Then, at the command line:



cd C:\Program Files\GnuWin32\bin


Assuming you've created a directory where you want the mp3 files to
download (c:\transfado for example), and that you've saved the m3u file
from the web site there (e.g. transfado.m3u), then you would type this:



wget -i c:\transfdo\transfado.m3u


This would download the MP3 files to your computer. Right click the
image below to view it full-size.




 



After that, you have a folder entitled "transfado" with all the MP3
songs you "got".



WGET ON MACINTOSH
I was on to a promising
start (thanks to Quentin Stafford-Fraser's Blog)
on installing WGET
for Macintosh, but then found I couldn't copy the files to the
appropriate location. I realized I would have to run TERMINAL (it's in
your Applications:Utilities folder) then type in the following:



mg-2:~/Desktop/wget mg$ sudo cp wget /usr/local/bin


Password: [my system admin password]


mg-2:~/Desktop/wget mg$ sudo cp wget.1 /usr/local/man/man1


mg-2:~/Desktop/wget mg$ sudo cp wgetrc /usr/local/etc


Everything worked just like on the Windows and GNU/Linux side...it
looked like this:







MUSIC SOURCES
For the purposes of GNU/Linux and Windows, I
used Anamar's work
(pictured below)
. The Play
All Tracks m3u file
came from this
page
. This is my first intro to this music, so I'm going to listen
to it and decide if I really want to invest in it. In the meantime, the
music is hauntingly beautiful and fascinating, even if I don't
understand Portuguese.




 



For the Mac Wget, I used the Magnatune
Compilation for Relaxation/Spa music
. I'll probably be deleting
these once I listen to them since they didn't quite grab me, but in the
meantime, it was fun learning how to use WGET on Mac and Windows (which
I hadn't played around with until now).










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Audio Converters





MediaCoder Audio Edition is an audio transcoding tool based on
MediaCoder. It nicely integrates many audio codecs and tools into an
all-in-one software. It decodes almost all popular formats of audio
files as well as audio stream in video files and encodes them with all
its supported (and even some not claimed supported) audio encoders. All
the codecs are included in the standalone software. With CUE Sheet and
DVD/VCD/CD support and many additional features, audio enthusiasts can
convert all their favorite music freely to any format on-the-fly and in
batch.
Read Source


After reading this write-up on MediaCoder Audio Edition (no cost for
Windows users), an audio converter, I started reflecting on what I use
for audio conversion.



While running XSlimmer
on my Macbook
applications, I realized that I had quite a few
applications on my computer that I seldom used. One of them was a
commercial audio converter for WMA files. Instead of that converter, I
now use the no-cost, cross-platform Switch Sound Format Converter (not
the PLUS version) available for Windows
and/or Mac. As
I review my list of applications, I thought I might review what
applications I use for audio conversion, as well as share a new one I
just became aware of.



This list is cross-platform, so don't be surprised to find Win, Mac and
GNU/Linux apps mixed in.




  1. Switch 1.13 Sound format converter (no-cost version). Converts WMA
    files to MP3 (OS: Mac, Win)


  2. VLC
    Media Player
    using the wizard to convert from almost anything to
    audio. I use this when recording WOW2 interviews. (OS: Mac, Win,
    GNU/Linux)


  3. Audion
    3.1
    Converts (as well as plays) WMA files. (OS: Mac)


  4. Max. (OS: Mac)



On another note, I mentioned in an earlier
post how
great it was to get MP3 audio files from Magnatune.com and
other sites using WGET. On a Mac, you can just use m3u2mp3
to get the job done...sigh.



Another neat audio player caught my attention as I was writing this
entry. Although I now use Audion (preferred it to iTunes) to listen to
audio files, I liked the quick-starting Cog
(on a Mac)
. Unlike Audion, it can't convert to MP3 from audio CDs or
other stuff, but it does have a nice interface. Not sure if I'll keep it
for the long run, but for now...why not?











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Flickr RSS Feed


Tom Barrett asked:



Does anyone know how to create an RSS feed for an image search in Flickr?


The answer is pretty straightforward...



http://api.flickr.com/services/feeds/photos_public.gne?tag=life


Change the word in bold red to whatever tag you want. More
info here
.










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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Portable field mp3 recording devices


I am looking for your recommendations on portable mp3 field recorders.
We want to send students out with easy to use, portable mp3 voice
recorders to conduct interviews in the field. Students would then
download the audio to computers and edit them into final pieces which
would then be shared beyond the classroom. Would you recommend iPods
with voice recorders? Why/Why not? Any experience with iRiver devices?
Or gear from Roland or M-Audio? Many devices are in the $300-$500 range.
Does anyone have experience using $100 devices?
Source: Ed-Tech list email


I'd recommend one of the Olympus WS-100 or WS-110 recorders. We bought
about 100 of the WS-100s for $64 each. This is an easy to use podcasting
tool. The only caveat is that it saves the audio as a WMA file, however,
we encourage teachers to either use iTunes or the no-cost Switch
(cross-platform) to convert it to MP3. In fact, I use Switch to
accomplish this.

More on these points:









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Read Gmail via RSS






I hate logging into Gmail or Thunderbird to read my email...I'd like to
just pull it down like an RSS reader and if I need to, THEN login and
respond. Usually, I'm just wanting to keep in touch. Until now, I hadn't
been able to do that. MakeUseOf.com
explains how,
though:



Gmail has a RSS feed which is called an “authenticated feed” which
basically means you need to enter your username and password in order to
access it. A lot of web-based RSS services, including Google Reader
ironically enough, don’t support authenticated feeds. In fact, they
still don’t. So what FreeMyFeed does is act as the middle man, taking
your feed and swapping it for a proxy that the RSS service WILL accept.
Of course this means that you have to trust FreeMyFeed with your Gmail
username and password. I tested the service with a dummy account and
fake emails but I would never use this service with my main accounts.
With over 10,000 emails, I would have too much to lose if the service
was ever compromised. So you need to decide if you are willing to take
the risk and trust the service with your Gmail user details. Maybe it’s
just me and my paranoia at work. I don’t know.


How to get it done?



Step 1-Go to Freemyfeed.com



Step 2-Paste in this address "https://mail.google.com/mail/feed/atom"
without quotes



Step 3-Enter username and password



Step 4-Subscribe using your favorite RSS reader (i used
GoogleReader)



Step 5-Read Email in RSS reader.



What a great way to keep up with email accounts I monitor without having
to login!!









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New UltraLight Laptop - Acer Aspire One







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Mac Zoom In Shortcut


...are
pretty nice
.




 









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