Category: Tips and Tricks

Media Player Classic: No Sound When Playing Multiple Videos – Solution

by
Inf

I’ll confess that I love Media Player Classic (or its newer flavor, Media Player Classic – Home Cinema). I have yet to find a player that has a simple interface yet packs so many features. Undeniably there are other great players out there, such as KMPlayer, SMPlayer and VLC among others. But I still find MPC’s interface to be better than the rest. Or maybe it’s simply nostalgia…

Recently I was having a small problem with Media Player Classic (MPC). When I set MPC to play different videos in different instances, that is, two videos in two different MPC windows, one had sound, one did not.

The volume control was not muted, and it was nothing to do with Windows’ volume settings. It was just a misconfigured setting in MPC and it’s simple to correct.

A quick journey to the MPC IRC channel (#mpc-hc on Freenode) gave me the answer, which was simply selecting the right option from a drop-down menu…

The steps are:

  • View menu – Options
  • On the left, under Playback – select Output
  • Set your Audio Renderer to this option: “Default DirectSound Device”
  • Problem solved

Answers are sometimes as simple as that. I don’t even know how to conclude this post, so I’ll just leave it at that. Thanks for reading, and hope this helps you. 😀

I’ll also thank the developers of MPC for the awesome program they provide to us and the quick help I got from the people present in their IRC channel. No “RTFM” or anything, just a straight answer. Thanks!

Chmod Tutorial

by
Inf

Hello!

I’ve prepared a small Chmod tutorial for people who have difficulty understanding the command.

I hope you find it useful. If you find any mistakes, please let me know through the comments below.

Chmod Tutorial - Jpg

[ PNG version ]

3 Utilities to Schedule System Shutdown

by
Inf

So, a friend of mine wanted to know if she could shutdown her PC automatically at a certain time. Or after a certain period of time. Well it’s possible. And I’m going to show you 3 utilities to do it, and how to do it from within your OS too, in case you don’t want to download. There are a LOT of shutdown utilities out there, but those below, I have used personally.

1. Shutter

Shutter

Shutter is my favourite shutdown utility due to its simplicity, but also because it comes from the author of the great ReNamer that I have already covered on Geekscribes previously.

Basically, you just choose the event that triggers the action. Events can be: countdown, at a specific time,  a period of low CPU usage, a process stops, battery low, among others. After that, you just set the action to do: sleep or shutdown the computer, mute volume, lock the computer, among others. Then just click Start. I don’t like that “Start” button. In my opinion, it should have been “Schedule”. If you want the action to take place immediately, just click “Now”. Shutter also offers an extensive set of options, like showing a message before an action takes place.

Shutter also includes a Web Interface if you want to do “Now” actions, or run commands remotely. This is a really great feature for those of you with a download/torrent box. Note, this can be a security problem, so be sure to set a good username and password when configuring the web server in Options.

Shutter comes in Installer and Portable formats.

2. PowerOff

PowerOff

PowerOff takes another approach at events and actions. It puts everything on the main window. So you just select your action on the left. On the right, set options, like whether you want a warning before the action executes, or whether to force-close applications. Then set the time. Either immediate, or schedule it to execute at a specific time.

There are extensive scheduling options, like at a time, on a fixed day, or a daily schedule, on a weekly schedule, on a day of month, or after a time period elapses. One thing I’d like is the “After” option to allow me to set minutes, hours etc, instead of just seconds.

PowerOff also includes remote-control features, like Shutter. Interestingly, you can have the command execute on a remote computer, if the latter supports it. I haven’t tested that feature though.

PowerOff is portable, and comes with the source code, if ever you want to mess around with it. It’s coded in C/C++ language.

3. Amp WinOff

Amp WinOFf

Amp WinOff, as you can see from the screenshot above, offers extensive options. You can set the actions to execute at a specific time (1st frame, top-right), or use a countdown (bottom-left frame), or when according to CPU load (top-right frame). You then set which action to take. It’s called “Shutdown mode” in Amp WinOff. You can even schedule days in advance.

While the program offers a many options and is very customizable, I don’t like the terminology used. Why is there a “Use the current time + 1 minute” and then a countdown feature? Also, I doubt “Lock Computer” is a “Shutdown Mode”. Anyway, those don’t really matter once you get familiar with the program. Now, the second thing that is annoying with Amp WinOff is that the website has been down for a while now, and I can’t find a mirror that’s still alive. The shot you’re seeing above is not from the latest version.

If you can find the utility somewhere, good.

4. Directly from your OS

Linux:

Yes, you can execute a sheduled shutdown right from your OS. Let’s start with Linux first. It should work on most major distros, but I only tested on Ubuntu.

Fire up your Terminal/Konsole or whatever it’s called in your distro.

Then the command structure is as this:

shutdown [- shutdown parameters] [ time parameter] [ optional message ]

shutdown parameters: r = reboot, h = halt, c = cancel shutdown (time parameter is then not required)

Some examples:

shutdown -r now    <-- Reboot immediately
shutdown -h 19:00  <-- Shutdown (Halt) the system at 19h
shutdown -h +5 "System will shutdown"   <-- Shutdown the system in 5 mins from now, and tell users why.

Quite easy huh? Just note that while a shutdown is scheduled, new users won’t be allowed to login 5 minutes before the shutdown sequence is initiated, i.e. only 5 mins left before shutdown. This is to be considered for multi-user environments.

Windows:

The command is similar to that of Linux, but different syntax and parameter names. Just open a command prompt (type cmd in the search box in Vista/Win7, or Winkey+R, then type cmd, or directly type the commands below in the search box in Win7)

shutdown [- shutdown parameters] [-t xx in seconds] [-c reason]
shutdown parameters: r = reboot, s = shutdown, a = abort shutdown

Some examples:

shutdown -r       <-- Reboots computer immediately
shutdown -s       <-- Shutdown computer immediately
shutdown -r -t 60 <-- Restart computer in 60 seconds
shutdown -s -t 3600 -c "Computer shutting down" <-- Shutdown in one hour (3600 seconds), and tell user why

You should get a confirmation that the command has been accepted. (E.g. Keys icon in the notification area with a message).

That’s it for this post. If you know other methods for scheduling a system shutdown, or maybe to get your favorite utility listed here, drop us a comment. Thanks!

Music Identification using Midomi

by
Inf

I once blogged about Tunatic, which is a service you use to identify a song. It’s useful in situations where you have heard something nice on the radio or from some other source, and you wish to know the song’s details, like the artist’s and song’s name.

There are many applications that allow you to do this nowadays, but most are on the iPhone, such as the now-famous Shazam.

However, I don’t have an iPhone but I wanted to use such a service. Initially, I was using Tunatic, but the latter has not been updated in quite a long time now. I think it’s a dead project. I had to find an alternative. An alternative that can be used from a computer.

I came across this new service, Midomi. It functions just like Tunatic in that you just record a piece of a song using your microphone and it will give you the song’s details.

The thing about Midomi is that you are supposed to hum the song, or sing the lyrics. I can’t do any of those well. So I just stuck my microphone near my speaker playing the unknown song to test the service. Guess what, it works!

I kind of not followed the procedures because I didn’t sing or hum myself but the important thing is that it can identify songs with Tunatic’s simplicity.

What seriously amazed me is how many song Midomi is able to identify. I used it on some well known tracks from Ill Nino and  Muse and it successfully passed the test. I then tested it using some lesser-known tracks from the Drum and Bass genre (which does not have singing and is almost un-hummable). It gave me all the correct titles, where I expected it to fail like Tunatic did. Hell, it even identified a track from the Metal Gear Solid 4 OST which I got from Youtube! (Drebin 893)

Overall, Midomi is AMAZING! It even gives you the option to buy the desired track if that’s what you wish. For me, it’s the Tunatic replacement of choice.

The requirements are that you need a microphone and Flash Player. You’ll need to allow Flash to access your microphone and speakers, but this shouldn’t be a problem since it prompts you.

So if you have some song whose name you don’t know, or who performs it, head to Midomi and give it a try. It does not deceive.

Windows 7: Solutions to can’t sleep problems.

by
Inf

win7-logo

Hello folks. Sorry for lack of recent posts. Been taken up with uni lately. Anyway, I have recently migrated to Windows 7. I have to say Microsoft has done a magnificent job this time, especially when I compare Win7 and Vista. Performance on Win7 is awesome. And there are lots of usability improvements, which makes 7 a very nice software.

However, I was having a problem: I couldn’t manually sleep my computer. If I did it from the Orb/Start menu, the screen would turn off, the PC would shut for like a millisecond, before starting back up, and prompting me for login.

Turns out there are a few things that can cause this error, and they are easy to troubleshoot. Try these steps if you are having the same problem as me.

1) Update your drivers.

This should be pretty obvious. An old driver might be causing an issue. So just update your drivers, specially for your video card and it should correct any problem. If it still doesn’t work, move on.

2) Try to see which requests are keeping the PC on.

Open a Command Prompt. You can do it by typing “cmd” from the Run menu, or simply open the Start Menu, and type “Command Prompt” in the “Search Programs and Files” bar.

Type this command: “powercfg -requests” without quotes. Then press Enter. You will see a list of programs that could be making requests. Windows Media Player is a usual culprit. Just close them, and it should work. If you have “None.” marked, move on.

3) A specific device is keeping the PC from sleeping

Still in the command prompt, type “powercfg -devicequery wake_armed”. You will see a list of devices that can wake up your PC. For me, I got my Network card, Keyboard and Mouse in that list. Turns out it was my mouse that was responsible for waking up the machine.

What to do? Simple: Go to device manager ( Start Menu – Control Panel (View by: Large Icons, top right)  – System – Device Manager (left sidebar) ). Find your device that you think is causing the problem. For me it was the mouse, but I had to try disabling each individually. So, find your mouse in that list, e.g. Mice and other pointing devices, right-click it, choose Properties and go to the Power Management tab. Uncheck the box “Allow this device to wake the computer“.

Validate the windows with Ok, close Control Panel, and you should be all ok. Try sleeping your computer now.

That’s it for this small guide. I hope it helps you. Step 3 solved my problem. My computer now sleeps when I want it to sleep. 🙂

How many spam comments do you get?

by
Guru

Today is my last day at work at Vinivi. Kind of I have completed everything I had to do albeit I took more time I normally would have done these “things”. Just approved 2 comments and I thought, “lets see the stats for the number of spam comments blocked”.

21,257 Spam Comments Blocked

What are your current spam count?

A definition of spam from Wikipedia.

Spam is the abuse of electronic messaging systems (including most broadcast media, digital delivery systems) to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately. While the most widely recognized form of spam is e-mail spam, the term is applied to similar abuses in other media: instant messaging spam, Usenet newsgroup spam, Web search engine spam, spam in blogs, wiki spam, online classified ads spam, mobile phone messaging spam, Internet forum spam, junk fax transmissions, social networking spam, and file sharing network spam.

Source: Wikipedia

An example of a Spam Comment as outlined by the SecuriTeam Blog

<strong>malware blocker…</strong>

Your topic %TITLE% was interesting when I found it on %DAY% searching for %KEYWORD%. Thanks, %URL%…

Some Links of Interest:

  1. What is Comment Spam
  2. Preventing Comment Spam (From Google)
  3. How to Stop Comment Spam
  4. Comment Spam (Six Apart)

You might also be interested in Protecting yourself against Plagiarism.

Note: This is in no way material to protect yourself against comment spam.

Firefox displays weird characters as headings (solution)

by
Inf

I am currently using Firefox, latest version that is 3.0.11 at the time of writing, and I encountered a strange problem on some sites, one of which is the famous Smashing Magazine. The headings were displayed using weird characters, or what it would seem, special characters. You can see a screenshot below.

Smashing Magazine with weird characters

At first, I thought it was a problem with character encoding. Changing to UTF-8 did not solve the problem, nor did switching off Auto-Detect from View menu – Character Encoding solve anything. Well, basically, after a lot of trying out solutions, it was not a problem with charset or encoding.

I tried other solutions but none seemed to work. One of them gave me a clue as to what the problem is. It was going to Tools – Options – Content – (Fonts & Colors) Advanced – (uncheck) “Allow pages to choose their own fonts, instead of my selections above”. This rendered all pages without custom fonts, except my default of Times New Roman. The problem was solved.

The workaround indicated that the problem resided with my fonts. I thus went and checked out the website source and the stylesheet and found out that Smashing Magazine uses Helvetica font as primary font for h2 tags. This line was found in the source and stylesheet respectively (I shortened the code with …’s):

<ul class="topic-list">
<li>
<h2><a...> ... </a></h2>
ul.topic-list h2{font:44px Helvetica,Arial, ...}

If you don’t know, Helvetica is a proprietary font and doesn’t come with installs of Windows by default. It didn’t come with mine, on both my XP and Vista installs, so I’m assuming it doesn’t come by default.

The Solution:

So what can you do? Apparently, nothing. You cannot acquire the Helvetica font for free and install it. Unless you are willing to pay for it, you are stuck.

Now, if you are crafty enough, you can use some Google powers and try to find the font by… let’s just say, alternative means. I am not posting links here, because I do not encourage piracy. I managed to find a copy of Helvetica somewhere, installed it and problem was solved. You can see the results below.

Smashing Magazine Problem Solved

If you do want to do what I did, you just need to find a copy of Helvetica from somewhere, install it, restart Firefox and the problem should be solved.

Another plausible solution would be for sites with such problems to substitute their fonts for those people do have on their machines. But we cannot require this from site designers. Another way would be to be able to find an addon or similar for Firefox that would allow for font substitution. If you know of such a solution, you are free to share it with us.

A bit of strangeness here is that, since Firefox did not find Helvetica on my machine, it should have used Arial. I cannot understand why it did not.

If you do install the Helvetica font and still get the problem, maybe it’s another font being used and that you don’t have.In this case: check the website source, find which element it is, search the stylesheet for that element, find which font it is and install the font. Restart Firefox, and the problem should be solved.

Hope my solution helps. That’s it! Kinda easy, wasn’t it?

Note: I uninstalled Helvetica after I tested the solution, for those of you who were interested! 😛