The Foobar music player

Foobar screenshot

Because of my work writing, I am practically attached to my computer system. Almost all of my activities revolve around my computer and its various capabilities. I write practically the whole day and my computer has become my mute officemate and playmate all rolled into one beige plastic package.My computer is not only an office tool at this point. It is not only my instrument for fulfilling my responsibilities to my job and filling work requirements. My computer is also a device through which I also find a little relaxation. I get my personal emails whenever I have some free time as well as visit my favorite forums and interact with the online community that I have become friends with. I also use my computer for personal entertainment – mainly listening to my growing MP3 collection.

Because of my desire to keep bloatware non-existent or limited to the minimum I do not use the Windows Media Player incorporated into Windows XP. I just find it too superfluous and consumes my PC’s resource quite a bit so it gets harder to multitask. Winamp is a good option but I still want an application that has a smaller footprint.

This quest eventually led me to Foobar – an advanced audio player for the Windows platform. Foobar is a very simple player that consumes very little resources. One great quality of Foobar is that it is highly customizable. You are basically given a “tabula rasa” of a player and you customize it as you see fit or based on your need by downloading various plugins. This makes it a very fun application to have too.

Foobar is a utility that should be in every PC.

Optimize your broadband cable modem and dsl connection

Windows registry

Not many PC users know this but Windows XP or Windows 2000 are not configured properly to receive broadband speeds. Remember that these operating systems came out at a time when broadband still has not been rolled out in a commercial level. Only the top companies could afford broadband then. In order to maximize your Windows XPs abilities to accept broadband speeds you should make a few minor tweaks to the XP registry. What you should do is to open your registry. Do this by clicking on Start, then click on run. On the box, type regedit and press enter. This will open your registry. Now try to locate the key below. Create the DWORD values because most of these values do not exist yet so you will need to create them by clicking on Edit > New > DWORD Value — and then set the indicated value.

DefaultTTL = “80” hex (or 128 decimal) (The default is 32). Specifies the default time to live (TTL) for TCP/IP packets.

EnablePMTUBHDetect = “0” Specifies whether the stack will attempt to detect Maximum Transmission Unit (MTU) routers that do not send back ICMP fragmentation-needed messages. The default is 0.

EnablePMTUDiscovery = “1” Specifies whether the TCP/IP stack will attempt to perform path MTU discovery as specified in RFC 1191. The default is 1.

GlobalMaxTcpWindowSize = “7FFF” hex (or 32767 decimal) Specifies the system maximum receive window size advertised by the TCP/IP stack.

TcpMaxDupAcks = “2” Determines the number of duplicate ACKs that must be received for the same sequence number of sent data before “fast retransmit” is triggered.

SackOpts = “1” Enables support for selective acknowledgements as documented by Request for Comment (RFC) 2018. Default is 0.

Tcp1323Opts = “1” Controls RFC 1323 time stamps and window scaling options. Possible values are: “0” = disable RFC 1323 options, “1” = window scale enabled only, “2” = time stamps enabled only and “3” = both options enabled.

TcpWindowSize = “7FFF” hex (or 32767 decimal) Specifies the receive window size advertised by the TCP/IP stack. If you have a latent network you can try increasing the value to 93440, 186880, or 372300.

After making the necessary changes exit the registry and restart your PC to let the changes take effect. Take note that some of these optimized settings may not work with all ISP configurations. When this happens, you should revert to the default values.

Is your CPU dying?

processor

A CPU is one of those PC components that is both the subject of immense awe (wow! It’s 3.8Ghz monster with that much cache?!) and hair-pulling frustration (why does my darn PC always restart and make that alarming beeping sound!).One of the biggest risks of buying a processor is that there is a chance that you may actually purchase a lemon. The worst thing about this though is that a CPU, once it is found to be broken, cannot be fixed. You will have no choice but to replace it. It won’t be a problem if the processor is still within its warranty period. But if it’s not then you can kiss the money you paid for it goodbye and prepare to bleed while you buy a new one.

If you do get a dead processor you basically have two choices, replace it with a processor of the same “model” or get a new system. Of course, getting a replacement for the processor is more cost effective but with the fast turnaround of technology, the processor in your motherboard may be obsolete now, which will make it nigh impossible for you to get a replacement. Because of this getting a new system is usually the option that is generally taken.

One good thing that comes out of this situation though is that when you replace your bad processor, the replacement is not only cheaper but also faster than your buster component. Because of the steadily falling prices and ever increasing speeds, this is a natural inevitability.

The not so good news though is that if your motherboard does not support the new processor then you will have no choice but to also buy a new motherboard. One way of determining if your present motherboard supports the new processor is by checking with the mobo manufacturer regarding CPU upgrade information.

Defragmenting your Hard Drive

defragmentation

As a PC owner, it is your responsibility to take care of the precious (and likely expensive) hardware that you have bought. Taking care of it not only means wiping dust off the CPU case and on the monitor. You also need to do periodic maintenance on important parts of your PC. One of these very important tasks is to defragment your hard drive.Why is there a need to defragment the hard drive? Well to answer that, we must first explain what happens in a hard drive. When a computer uses a file or files it puts them into various parts of the hard drive. If a certain file is too big to fit in a particularly space then it is cut into many pieces and placed in different places all over the hard drive. As your hard drive becomes filled with more and more disjointed files it gets longer and longer for the computer to find the files that you need. The process of defragmentation will organize the files so that it will be able locate any file more easily.

When defragmenting you should really schedule enough time for this particular chore because it really takes a lot of time to defragment drives especially now when the capacity of hard drives have really dramatically increased.

When defragmenting your hard drive with a disk defragmenter program always remember not to use your computer when the actual process is being performed. Defragmentation is a time intensive process so it would really be best if you allocate a schedule when you will not be using your computer. If you religiously maintain your hard drive by defragmenting frequently, then the processing time of the hard drive will also be lessened because the level of fragmentation is kept low.

Painting a fan: How to do it right

case mod

One of the easiest mods to do is painting the fan used for your PC. It is a project that even a novice case modder can do. The skills needed to do this project is only rudimentary and is a good way to get your feet wet in the case modding hobby.

 

There are two methods used in painting fans. One of them, applying paint manually with a brush, is time consuming and does not really produce great, professional looking results. The better method would be spray painting as it allows you to put even coats of paint on the fan, which results in a more pleasant looking finish.

 

The first thing that you should do when painting a fan is to clean the area to be painted on thoroughly. Make sure that it is free from dust or any other particles.

 

After doing this, put masking tape on the areas that you would not want to paint, leaving only the parts that you do want to paint exposed. Make sure that you also put masking tape on the part where the blade meets the motor so that paint will not get into the motor itself.

 

After doing this, spray one coat of primer on the fan. The primer will ensure that the paint will adhere well. Let the primer dry for a day, and depending on what you want you can sand it lightly. After doing this, apply the first coat of paint. Let it dry and then put another coat if you want to.

 

When the paint has completely dried you can now remove the masking tape – and that’s it! The finished project.

Productivity Utilities that can help you

utilities

With so many things going on in one’s life sometimes it is just hard to manage your PC not to mention your everyday life. Even though you know that need to organize and that doing so will actually improve your productivity there is just no way to really do it without investing a significant amount of time that you don’t already have.

 

It is a good thing that there are various utilities available on the internet that can help in the task of organizing virtual clutter and making life a little easy for most PC users.

 

Here are some of the utilities that I use on a regular basis that I swear by:

 

Active Desktop Calendar – this is a nifty little utility that basically puts a calendar right on your desktop. But unlike other desktop calendars, Active Desktop Calendar allows you to access the calendar itself and use it as an appointments book. The planner functionality of this utility also means that you can freely add a Tasks List or a Notes List depending what your particular needs are. It also has a very low memory footprint that is quite welcome in this age of bloatware.

 

X1 Desktop Edition – is a utility that indexes your computer system. After it has done this task the program can now locate any elusive file, email message, attachment or contact as fast as you can type the inquiry. The first indexing process will take quite a while but after it is done it will update itself constantly surreptitiously in the background based on a schedule defined by the user. For those on a budget, users can employ Yahoo! Desktop Search as it uses the same engine but it is for free.

Mobile power management for Windows Vista

windows vista

Even though it has been delayed, Microsoft’s vaunted new operating system Windows Vista (formerly known as Longhorn) is still one of the most highly anticipated software releases out there. With Bill Gates himself saying that Windows Vista is going to be his company’s first significant version since the transition from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95 the anticipation for this new OS has really grown.With various Windows Vista builds being released as a way for PC enthusiasts and other technical people to take stock of the operating system, a number of important details can now be discussed about Windows Vista.

One of the salient features discussed about Windows Vista is the power management features that will benefit users of mobile PCs. This is quite important especially since power management is a very crucial factor for most mobile PC users who lug around their laptops wherever they go in order to be productive. Usually a mobile PC user will try to manage how their laptop’s battery is expending power especially when they are in a situation where they cannot plug their devices into an AC adapter. These users would constantly check the battery meter and usually when the meter gets below the one hour mark the indicator drops very rapidly.

Windows XP has a little power meter that can be seen in the system tray but battery management will really depend from OEM to OEM. Windows Vista though offers a more uniform approach. Although the battery level can still be monitored in the system try, there is now an option where a user can change certain settings by right clicking. This is allows a degree of freedom for mobile PC users.

Background file transcoding with Windows Media Center

Microsoft’s Windows Media Center is probably one of the niftiest pieces of sotware the Redmond software giant has unleashed to the public. Windows Media Center has helped bring the ease and convenience of its Windows operating system into the entertainment centers of many homes. With Media Center, playing various media files is more intuitive and easier to do.There are many hidden gems inside Windows Media Center that users will discover if they play around with the many features and settings. Unfortunately, not many people will actually do this because of the fear of a new piece of software.

One of the niftier features of Windows Media Center, particularly with the Windows Media Player is the ability to set up an automatic synchronization for a person’s playlists. But what’s more, if the automatic synchronization is enabled, Windows Media Player can actually transcode the video and audio files in the background, allowing the software to the transcoding when the person is not using the computer.

To enable / set up the background file conversion feature, first start Windows Media Player 10, then right click on the toolbar to display the shortcut menu. On that menu you go to Tools and then to Options. When the Options box open, click the Devices tab and then click Advanced. When the File Conversion Options dialog box opens the Allow files to convert into the background check box should be ticked off and then press OK.

Remember though that background transcoding does not work with manual synchronization.

Disable certain Windows XP services

windows

It is a widely acknowledged fact that Windows XP is a bloated piece of software. There are just so many things incorporated into the operating system that not really used by the regular, casual user. The bad thing about these additional features and little applets is that they reside in the system memory, which helps slow down the overall performance of the system.In order to fully maximize the speed of your operating system and also your computer, it would be a good idea to disable some of these unused Windows XP services. To access these, Click on Start, then Run, and type services.msc” then enter.

Among the services that you can safely disable are:

* Alerter – Sends alert messages to specified users connected to the server computer.

* Application Management – Allows software to tap directly into the Add/Remove Programs feature through the Windows Installer.

* Background Intelligent Transfer Service – The Background Intelligent Transfer service is used by programs like Windows AutoUpdate to download files by using spare bandwidth.

* Error Reporting Service – Allows applications to send error reports to Microsoft in case there is an application fault.

* Fast User Switching – Windows XP allows users to switch quickly between accounts, without requiring them to log off.

* Help and Support – Allows the XP Built-in Help and Support Center to run.

* IMAPI CD-Burning COM Service – You don’t need this if you have other software to create CDs.

* Indexing Service – Indexes contents and properties of files on local and remote computers; provides rapid access to files through flexible querying language.

Tweaks you can do for faster internet

internet

Everyone wants to have faster internet connections. The faster, the better because fast loading pages and swift returns on queries to search engines not only means saving a lot of time it also makes surfing the net a much more enjoyable experience.

Of course, if you want a faster internet connection then you should apply for a faster connection plan with your internet service provider. That is the fastest and most effective way of getting the fast speeds that you need.

But even if you do not apply for a faster internet connection there are certain tweaks that you can still do on your computer in order to make pages load faster and squeeze a little more speed on your existing internet connection.

If you have a broadband connection – whether it is DSL or cable – there is a likelihood that you can do a few things that can help optimize its speed. For people who use Windows XP, there are a number of registry settings that refer to how fast data is transmitted to and from the network interfaces. Manipulating these setting to more accurately follow what the capabilities of your connection possess will help in increasing its speed. There are many locations within the Windows registry that can be changed that will result in improvements in the connection speed. Since there are such a great number of files that should changed in the registry it would be a good idea to do research on each of the registry tweaks first to determine which ones will have the best effect on your particular computer.