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Freeware and Freebies

Image via Flickr

I tend to update this page whenever I find something really good. Today’s find is a video converter that makes it pretty easy to watch videos across several devices. Just be careful when installing if you don’t want any of the extra offers that come with it. A clean install is possible. You just have to pay attention when going through the wizard. And if you don’t know what to do when faced with multiple options, ask someone before guessing.

http://www.freemake.com/free_video_converter/

There are a host of other free products by this company that I recommend trying. I especially like the jukebox that searches and organizes YouTube videos. However, same word of caution as above. Unwanted extra programs can be a drag. But they can be avoided.

http://www.freemake.com/free_music_box/

Well, that’s about it for now. Happy computing! :-)

And remember, Earthpages.org is not affiliated with any the companies, organizations or projects mentioned in this blog entry.

Media Players

  • VideoLAN – VLC media player Ever wanted to capture a still image from a video? Most free media players won’t do it. After searching the web and reading all sorts of complicated do’s and don’ts, I stumbled upon this free program, which does it effortlessly. VLC also formats DVD playback in a variety of aspect ratios, which can be nice. And, it plays FLAC audio files.

Video Search

  • Freemake – Jukebox that searches and organizes YouTube videos.
  • Blinkx Not really freeware because there’s nothing to download. But it’s free and a good alternative to YouTube and Google video searches.

Video Conversion

  • Freemake – Awesome and fast
  • Handbrake – Does some formats that Freemake can’t. But can be slow.
  • Bink Video (RAD Video Tools) Converts digital video files into different formats. Especially useful if your digital camera writes Quicktime .MOV files. Bink/RAD will convert them into .AVI files, which Windows Movie Maker can import!

Image Editing/Digital Painting

  • Krita – Someone just recently tipped me off about this. I don’t see any text function. But it might be in there somewhere. Digital artists should give this a try. I can’t draw my way out of a wet paper bag. So this one isn’t too useful for me.
  • Pixlr – This has three versions, each different. I like it way better than Instagram.
  • PhotoFiltre One of my favorite free photo editors with plug-ins, highlighting and “fade last effect” feature, much like Photoshop version 4. PF doesn’t handle multiple layers like the GIMP but it’s light and tasteful. Don’t confuse this with PhotoFiltre Studio, which is not freeware.
  • PhotoScape This is a fantastic program with some great filters, fun photo stuff and useful text effects. I use this to rotate/level photos as I find it’s faster, easier and does a better job than anything else I’ve tried.
  • The GIMP GIMP stands for “GNU Image Manipulation Program.” The GIMP just keeps getting better and better; features include text, drop shadow, bevels, layers, color replacement and lots of fine filters.
  • Gimphelp.org Some cool filters for the Gimp. While Photoshop 8bf filters may still be the industry standard, I find that using freeware opens me up to different graphics and artistic approaches that I’d otherwise never try. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to install these filters. Just read the instructions and enjoy!
  • Virtual Photographer This is a great program for enhancing photos, compatible with the GIMP and other commercial software.
  • Picasa IMHO the strongest thing about this photo editor is the excellent color, lightness and contrast fixing. And it’s very user friendly. Photo rotation is a bit blurry. I use PhotoScape for that.
  • Photo Pos Pro Visually nice to look at, has some good effects and handles layers.
  • Photobie I don’t use this one too much but it has some good filters and is under steady development. Like anything else, software preference is a pretty personal thing. Definitely worth a try.
  • LightBox Solid performer. Free version touches up pics nicely with minimum of effort.
  • UnFREEz Creates animated gifs almost effortlessly, preserves transparency, and does a much better job (in terms of image quality) than MS gif animator.
  • Easy Thumbnails This easily creates good, sharp thumbnails.
  • Vector Magic Not free but you can evaluate for free with saving disabled.
  • Inkscape Good for making banners, working with fonts and converting bitmap to vector graphics.

AntiVirus, Junk and Spyware Removal

  • AntiVir A nice antivirus program from Germany with frequent free updates.
  • AdAware A ‘too good to be true’ program for detecting and cleaning invasive ads and malware that can slow down your computer. With free updates and lots of options.
  • Advanced SystemCare This was recommended by a visitor and it seems very powerful. But some may find it too aggressive and Gizmo’s Freeware says some have reported errors after using. I’ve tested this out and so far have had no probs with WinXP. It gets stuff CCleaner doesn’t, and vice versa.
  • CCleaner Fantastic program for cleaning junk files from your hard drive with frequent updates. Also useful for fixing registry integrity and blocking unwanted Windows startup programs. Use with extreme caution and don’t even think about going past the default settings unless you know what you’re doing!
  • Glary Utilities Recommended by a visitor; still testing…
  • Malwarebytes This is handy if by chance the other stuff listed here can’t help you.
  • Panda Cloud Antivirus Antivirus is available in cloud format, so say goodbye to those irritating virus definition updates.
  • Revo Uninstaller Uninstalling programs with Windows uninstaller can be like having a traveling salesman or woman leave muddy footprints on your carpet. Meaning… all sorts of junk remains in your system. Revo seems to do a very good job at overcoming that. Scans deep to get the junk that normally is left behind.

FTP

  • FileZilla FTP freeware. This is another “too good to be true” program with frequent updates. It just seems to be getting better and better.

Making Web Pages

  • Free Gifs and Animations Lots of good stuff.
  • KomPozer Apparently some techies didn’t like the fact that the buggy but very promising Nvu went into stasis. So they continued where Nvu left off. Great job! From my preliminary test it seems this might be the best totally free WYSIWYG editor around.
  • Amaya A free WYSIWYG html editor. It’s a good, straightforward product that would probably fit the needs of basic to intermediate users. Also has some cool special characters.
  • Evrsoft First Page is a free WYSIWYG editor (with a 5 sec. nag screen). It has advanced features but, as others have said, the last version I tested was a touch slow and, on my computer, a bit buggy. Still, I’ve used it with great results. (And it might have been updated since I wrote this particular entry in May 2008).

Making Music / Audio Production

  • Kristal Audio Engine This is a great program for sound recording in a multi-track format. It’s like a software version of the old Fostex and Tascam cassette recorders. Handles up to 16 audio tracks with effects, copy/cut and paste, bouncing and room for expansion. Although Kristal has been criticized for tracks not being in sync, spending a bit of time at the friendly user forum solved the issue for me.
  • Audacity – This is THE program for freeware sound recording. Check it out.
  • Reaper Reaper isn’t free but is a 60 day demo. After that, a nagscreen reminds you that it’s not free. But it continues uncrippled because the developers believe that crippling their demo is not the best way to go. This is a great program for music producers if you are willing to look elsewhere for VST plugins (like KVR, Vst4Free or the very helpful Bedroom Producer’s Blog).
  • FL Studio Somewhat like Reaper, FL Studio isn’t free but some features continue to work in the demo version. The cool guitar plugin Slayer, for instance, seems to work without limitation in the free demo version. Other plugins cut in and out. Last I heard, Avicii uses FLS. So it’s gotta have something going for it!
  • LMMS This seems really promising. It used to only work on Linux (which is beyond me). But it’s now Windows-friendly. LMMS is mostly about midi, but you can import recorded audio files as samples. So vocalists might want to try Audacity first, or something like that. This program is fairly basic but has its own charm. I did a really quick, silly thing (posted here) while learning it. I never got much further than that!
  • Asio4All So you’re new to audio production and your tracks are out of sync, or there’s way too much delay between hitting your MIDI keyboard and hearing a sound (called “latency”). Enter Asio4All. The genuine Asio driver is made, I believe, by Steinberg and is copyright material. But many people seem to use Asio4All, which I guess is some kind of approximation of the real thing. Perhaps it’s like generic drugs vs. name brands. It comes bundled with the FL Studio demo and is at CNET, so it’s got to be okay.
  • Synthmaster Player I mention this by itself because it really stands out. It’s free, uncrippled, and great. You may not like my freaky music or limited ability. But I used this synth for the bubbly “Berlin Bass” in the tune On a Star.
  • VST Resources There are a lot of really good sites out there telling about great free VST plugins. If you really want to find them all, try Google.  But the three sites I use most are KVR, Vst4Free, and Bedroom Producer’s Blog. BPB narrows down many plugins to his favorites. And I usually agree with his point of view. He’s also open to new suggestions. So it’s a “must visit” site.

Music Listening / Audio Conversion

  • Songza There are lots of services out there. This one is my favorite. I like it so much, I made several playlists for all to enjoy! (shameless plug) ;-)
  • iTunes You don’t have to purchase media with this software. iTunes comes with fantastic, free streaming radio and a 10-band equalizer and preamp with great presets. Travel the world through talk and music!
  • Winamp Music and video player with a 10-band equalizer and preamp to make music come alive. I don’t know what’s going on with Winamp these days. But I used to like it.
  • Live 365.com No download streaming radio portal. Impressive selection of genres.
  • RadioTime Provides links to many streaming radio stations.
  • AudioGrabber Handles WAV and MP3 formats. Audiophiles will probably know that WAV files sound better but are huge. MP3’s are “sonically acceptable” and take up less space for iPods, etc. There are several free grabbers out there but I find this one sounds bigger and fatter than the others I’ve tested. Some audiophiles may like that, others may not.
  • Xrecode This is great for converting to FLAC (a “lossless” format that sounds just as good as WAV with about 45% smaller file size) and many other formats, including Mp3.
  • Freemake – Nice user interface but flac to mp3 conversion test took 5 to 6 times longer than xrecode (which was listed here way before it caught on at CNET, etc).

Create RSS Feeds

  • FeedSpring Web publishers can use this to generate their own RSS feeds.

Get News with RSS

  • RSS Reader Get news stories from all over the web. This is a super program. But a while back I tested a beta version requiring net framework 2.0 and wasn’t impressed. About a third of my RSS feeds didn’t work. So I reverted to version 1.0.88.0 with net framework 1.1 and everything works great.
  • Feedreader Google Reader is no more. I never liked it much anyhow. Doing RSS online is too slow for me. But here’s a program that I use sometimes. It has a good “lookup” feature for specialized articles.

Bandwidth Monitoring

  • FreeMeter Since I’m a regular web cam user, I wanted to know which web cam software is most efficient. Enter FreeMeter.

Scanning, File Conversion, PDF

  • Bullzip This easily converts Windows documents to pdf. Lots of options. Fantastic.
  • Scan2PDF – scan documents to PDF format Scan anything and convert to .pdf (for Acrobat Reader). Also open image files from your hard drive and convert to .pdf. I found that it works best if in “options” you enable the scanner interface to be seen. That way you can adjust the resolution and get really good results.
  • Open Office I tested out the word processor on this suite in 2008 and found it satisfactory, although the English thesaurus was weak, and downloading/installing more dictionaries was a hassle. It was also a bit slow to load and felt heavier on my machine than commercial products. Open Office easily converts to pdf, however, and supports a wide number of languages. And I believe there’s a more recent version.
  • Primo PDF Primo converts Windows documents to pdf.

Multitasking

  • Always on Top I use this with WinXP to keep an application window visible while working with other applications. Examples could be keeping MS Word or maybe a Google chat contact visible while surfing or blogging. This program is very light and works great.

iOS Related

  • Syncios Transfers media files (including video) directly from PC to iPad and other iOS devices—without having to jailbreak. I couldn’t get it to work on Windows 7 64 at first. But after following the help steps and my own good sense, it works fine. The joy of this is that you can transfer media to your iOS device without having to waste bandwidth (and time) thru iTunes (which was a hassle to instal on Windows 7 64) or dropbox.

The software and online content mentioned in this post may be incompatible with your hardware and/or software. By clicking on any of the links mentioned in this post, you agree that Earthpages.org | Earthpages.ca is not liable for any damages that may be incurred from visiting these links or downloading the software.

—MC


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Holiday update

Some children looking at a selection of Christ...

Some children looking at a selection of Christmas Cards during the 1910 holiday season. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy Holidays everyone! I’d just like to highlight the most recent change in Earthpages’ Terms of Use. In a nutshell, I’ve enabled reblogging.

After testing out reblogging at earthpages.ca, it seems I’ve been way too cautious in not enabling it. The benefits are pretty clear to see – More traffic, more user interaction. Exactly what Earthpages is about!

A good example of what a reblog looks like can be seen here:

https://hocuspocus13.wordpress.com/2014/12/23/totem/

Generally, about two or three paragraphs are reproduced, with a link back to the entire article.

I truly hope that everyone who’s been published at Earthpages will be okay with this. If not, you can always get your articles removed. I’ll understand. But I still feel that the benefits of reblogging will far outweigh any potential issues.

Thanks,

Michael Clark, Christmas Day 2014


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Just received a Very Inspiring Blogger Award!

very-inspiring-awardJust received a Very Inspiring Blogger Award, thanks to The Hunt FOR Truth.

This is a wonderful thing. Sometimes I get discouraged with the site. Recognition like this makes me realize that it’s not all in vain… » Read full story in EP NEWS!


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The world is ‘Twitter’pated with technology

Originally posted on Blog of Natalie Gorna

This century is inhabited by people who are addicted to their BlackBerrys, their cell phones, their laptops, and the Internet.  I go online at random and I see thousands of links to social networking sites like Facebook and the famous Twitter.  Ah, Twitter.  The very title brings back memories of Disney’s animated film Bambi, where Friend Owl tells an adult Bambi and his friends about the dangers of spring and the sudden condition of being “twitterpated.”  Ironically, Bambi with his friends all fall prey to love no matter how hard they try to avoid it, succumbing easily to love’s delights and forgetting any of their past misgivings.  The same goes for the use of social networking sites, and I’m a primary example.  I once swore that I would never, EVER use Facebook, but I opened my account with them more than two years ago and now I’m “enjoying” the use of cyberspace connections.  Then there’s Twitter, designed mainly for all who love to text on their cell phones.  Not having a cell phone, I am firm in my decision to not adapt to this site either.  But will I succeed?

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Strange Apocalyptic Sounds WORLDWIDE – Video

English: The HAARP HF Ionosonde Antenna Deutsc...

The HAARP HF Ionosonde Antenna (Wikipedia)

I do volunteer work at allexperts.com. A recent question pointed me in the direction of this YouTube video.

Parts of the video seem like a hoax to me. The sound quality of the strange sound seems way better than the thin audio of the background sounds (I listened thru a big stereo). And in once instance, it seems the same unidentifiable sound continues from one video to another.

This suggests someone mixing the strange sound into the original audio track, which is probably what happened for most of the “evidence” here. But the TV segments seem more convincing. So who knows?

Some conspiracy theorists believe this video is evidence of HAARP in action. Others see it as invisible UFO activity.

Did something really happen, in several locations? Watch and decide for yourself!


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Ethics in the Digital Age

Ethics class

Ethics class (Photo credit: aditza121)

Copyright © Adam Wood, 2013

Whenever a new technology arrives, laws are created to prevent abuses and to ensure fair play among users. The effect of new inventions on society is sort of like the old Wild West. Freewheeling technology users do just about anything they can, and change comes fast. Consumers spend much time and energy mastering their new toys, while companies are mostly concerned with innovation and growth. Ethical issues might be raised but the laws to enforce them come later. This is because new technologies raise novel, complicated questions that require careful consideration.

Think of the automobile. Licensing wasn’t always mandatory in the US and, in the beginning, drivers made their own license plates out of ceramics. These days, practically every country demands certain skills and, of course, paying a government fee to obtain a driver’s license and vehicle plate.

Vonage V-Portal retreiving IP Address

Vonage V-Portal retreiving IP Address (Photo credit: K. Todd Storch)

Other examples can be found with computers and the internet. New laws are being written right now to protect intellectual property, from trending pop tunes to the latest software coding. And recently, the idea of willing your email or social media accounts to another person before your natural death is gaining popularity. Google’s Digital Will allows grieving relatives to remove a loved one’s internet account after they’ve passed, provided the accounts have been willed to them. In the past, some have sued internet-based companies to ensure that a deceased person’s account goes offline.

Human relationships can pose additional ethical dilemmas in the digital age. Imagine two lovers who plan to spend their lives together. But the man deceives and suddenly leaves the woman. He seems happy to be free while the woman is devastated. She asks him to stop emailing her and leave her alone so she can move on. He finds a new partner while she remains single. Despite this, he continues to visit her blog and she sees his IP address through her blog stats. The man knows she can see his IP address, so could his behavior could be taken as a type of attention seeking and possibly emotional abuse?

This might seem to be pushing it. But let’s consider the problem another way. Let’s say the man doesn’t visit the woman’s blog. Instead, he drives to her home every few days and, each time, leaves a signed note in her mailbox saying “I was here.”

Image via Tumblr

How would this be viewed by the law? Would the man be guilty of stalking? If so, the woman could pursue a restraining order to keep him at a psychologically safe distance.

The previous example of the IP address showing up after the man visits her blog isn’t too different. It has a similar psychological effect. But what legal recourse would the woman have to prevent the man from digitally ‘dropping by’ and reactivating the harmful emotions triggered by his lying and abandoning her?

Until laws are drawn up for these subtler forms of emotional abuse, unethical internet users will probably continue to satisfy their own needs at the expense of others who have no legal recourse to stop them.


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A new way to screen your phone calls…

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