Archive for January 2010

Podcast on Today’s Internet Terrorists

January 27, 2010

When I do listen to the radio nowadays, it’s usually not the pop music stations. It’s normally the news stations or college radio, if I’m lucky enough to come into range of their horribly lacking reaching airwaves.

Well, today while driving to the Post Office, I happen to turn on the radio (a rare event indeed) and WMFE was on.

Figuring there was some noteworthy news or chatter today I stayed tuned in, and was pleasantly surprised by an interview I heard.

The interview was a segment from Terry Gross It was about Internet Security in today’s world.

It’s an interesting interview and I liked how Terry Gross tried to get some of the lingo more comprehend able.

For those of you who care about internet security.

Backing up Windows Product Activation file

January 26, 2010

What is Windows Product Activation?

Windows Product Activation is an anti piracy alpha numeric key
used to validate an installed copy of Microsoft Windows Operating System.

It was introduced with Windows 2000 because of the
rise of piracy with software.

What it does is, it makes sure the copy of Windows installed
is legal. That the copy is not pirated. Basically.

Every time you reinstall the operating system you must re-validate
your copy.

If you install more hardware, you must re-validate.
by hardware i mean, other than optical drives and RAM and peripherals (keyboard mice, etc)
If you switch the Motherboard, Video Card,
Sound Card, etc. Big items.

If the file that maintains it gets corrupted,
you must re-validate it.

The point is, you can back this file up manually
when you get ready to install more hardware
or uninstall hardware from your computer so that
you don’t have to keep validating.

You can do this for going back and forth.
Or testing hardware.

WPA.DBL – The Keeper of the Keys (windows product activation database log)

You’ll need to locate and backup the wpa.dbl file
that sides on the local primary hard drive, in the
\Windows\system32 directory.

This file holds the hardware configuration information
and activation state of the current Windows installation.
The WPA.DBL file is actually an RC4-encrypted database
of the expiration info of your installation, the confirmation
of activation, the hardware configuration at activation time,
and the current hardware configuration.

WPA.DBL – The Keeper of the Keys (windows product activation database log)

When you first install Windows, this file is approximately 2K in size.
When you activate Windows, this file grows to approximately 12K-13K,
recording the hardware status of your machine.

At each boot, Windows analyzes your current hardware and
compares it to the stored configuration information it has to see if it
has changed. When you make hardware changes, Windows makes
a note of the changes in the WPA file, but keeps the original
configuration for reference. If you make too many changes, Windows
will reset the WPA.DBL file back to its original non-activated (2K file size)
state, and you have to reactivate.

As mentioned above, the WPA.DBL file can be backed up to permit
activation if you reload Windows. You can also experiment with
different hardware configurations. You would back up WPA.DBL for
each configuration change, so you can roll back whenever desired,
similar to what developers may do frequently, as mentioned above.
If you save a copy of the WPA.DBL file at each change of hardware,
you can roll back to almost any state.

I mention this because if the file does become corrupted
or reset or deleted, using Windows System Restore will not
restore the wpa.dbl file to it’s validated size (12-13k).

So manually backing up this file to a safe location is
an easier method if you will be doing multiple configurations
with your computer.

NOTE: If you have a valid legal copy of Microsoft Windows,
validating it over the internet is real easy these days.
If you have no internet and must use the phone, validation is
still easy, as long you have the Certificate Of Authentication key
handy. You will get an automated voice to guide you through
the process and validate your copy. Shouldn’t take long.

NOTE: The WPA.DBL file was not protected similar to other system files.
If you delete the file, you need to reactivate.

NOTE: The WPA.DBL is not included in Windows XP’s system restore utility.

How to stop the Disk Checking utility from initiating on every boot up.

January 13, 2010

I had a customer recently bring their laptop to me and complain about a disk checking utility that continually scans their hard drive before the computer boots up.

I asked the obvious questions first before running my own disk check on their hard drive to confirm or deny and false alarms their utility may be giving them.

I thought at first, they downloaded something and it corrupted some part of the hard drive and so the disk checker would be checking it every time it loaded up.

That is it’s job.

Well, upon further investigation and process of elimination, i found their hard drive to be fully functional and working properly.

So I suspected maybe the utility was corrupted or something was just giving off false alarms.

It happens, data gets corrupted all the time, you have to reload operating systems, reload software programs, reinstall drivers. It’s quite common. No big deal.

The big deal comes when the hard drive is physically corrupted, or damaged. Then that’s another story.

Typically BIOS disk checkers use small simple utilities like FDisk or the linux alternatives to quickly scan important sectors of the hard drive when it detected a problem on last shutdown.

An easy way to get this to stop uselessly scanning the hard drive is to stop a scheduled disk check.

Note: You must be the administrator of the computer you wish to perform this task on.

When you attempt to scan your hard drive for errors using Check Disk it might schedule a disk check during the next boot because of open files on the drive you want to check.

If you later decide you don’t want Check Disk to scan your hard drive during the next boot you can run a command to cancel the scheduled disk check if you’re not going to be around to press any key right before it starts scanning to abort the scan.

Stop a Scheduled Disk Check

1. Boot the computer up, bypassing the Disk Checking scan by pressing the any key.

2. Once inside Windows, open the command prompt with administrative privileges by typing cmd in the search box in the Start Menu, right-click cmd.exe in the search results, and then select Run as Administrator.

2. Type chkntfs /x d: (where d: is replaced by the drive letter of the hard drive you want to cancel the disk clean on)

So what’s going on here?

Basically the command your giving is saying that you want the check NTFS utility to exclude a particular drive (d:) from the default boot time check.

NTFS is the file system on the hard drive if you have an operating system more recent than Windows 2000 and a hard drive bigger than 30 G. Since that’s most of world today, NTFS (New Technologies File System) is the format your hard drive is in.

The /x is saying to exclude drive: d:. Or whatever drive letter you have issued it to exclude.

Another command prompt screen will appear and disappear.

And it’s done.

To check the results, simple restart the computer. If done correctly, or if that was the only problem, you shouldn’t see the utility display before the login screen.

I performed it on my customers machine, and it did just that.

How To : Running two videos as one in Activinspire

January 10, 2010

I have customers that use many video production and editing programs. Camstudio, Photostory, PowerPoint, Windows Movie Maker, etc.

One of my customers uses Promethean’s Activinspire software for most of their presentations these days. That and powerpoint make up their toolbox of multimedia presentation software.

One of my customers has been having a difficult time trying something new with this new software. Trying to run two separate videos with separate audio together on one screen simultaneously.

They came up with the solution recently and I noted it for this blog.

Basically the idea is similar to computer graphical software like Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator and the like.

What they did was, they grouped together two different objects or layers. Once you group these together they act
as one in the final product. Just like in Photoshop and Illustrator when you group two different layers together and then ‘paste’ them together or group them as one layer.

Here’s the step by step of how they did it:

Insert two separate videos into the project. For this example they inserted two .avi formatted videos in the Activinspire’s project area to play simultaneously.

When you have the video clips you want, next thing to do is to select all video clips and group them all together.

Click Edit
Select All

Then a string of options will appear on top of the two videos inside of the project.

Choose Group from the center top options

Now attempt to play the project. When you run the video now, This will put both videos as one running in sync video
Then when you record it with Camstudio, it will appear as both videos running simultaneously.

This can be done for more than two videos, and more than just videos, it can be done with videos and separate audio for dub over tracks of vocals or alternative audio.

Below is an example of the video:

How To : Get car audio to work in your house.

January 9, 2010

I used to be big into car audio. I bought a lot of equipment for my car that sounded really good.

Then time passed and I got cheap and then I got another car. I didn’t feel like ripping the car apart anymore for sounds so I took all my equipment and put it in my room.

I recently came across it again and decided to hook it back up since my old boom box passed away this year.

I had a car amplifier of 40watts a channel. It’s a 4 channel full range amplifier that I thought I’d never use again.

I also had a pair of 6.5″ tri axle speakers and a nice 2 channel electronic crossover.

Connect that to a 6.5″ house sub and I’m in business.

I didn’t connect these things up to a battery as some people would have you believe. I don’t have car batteries wired in my room, I figure that to be dangerous.

Instead I modded out an old PC power supply that I had just lying around and hooked everything up.

I now have great 2.1 sound for about $5. Mainly because I had everything except for the two RCA cables I needed
to split the signal to the amp for the sub woofer.

you could also use a battery charger for the power, but PSUs (PC power supplies) are cheaper and have many cable with which you can connect many devices for a single power supply device.

The following video will show you how I did it

You could also connect the 24 pin harness connector on the power supply to a manual switch if you’d like to make one for more options. There are tutorials on how to do that. It just makes another power switch option, that’s all.

Remember to connect Pin 14 and Pin 15 on the 24 pin harness connector or the PSU won’t turn on. This is the remote connection, the turn on connection for the PSU. Similiar to the red +5v wire for the remote on the amplifier. It is the signal for the amp to turn on after it’s been supplied with power. The yellow wire is the +12v lead that gives the
amplifier or device it’s positive power. Obviously the black is ground.

Remember to test the grounds beforehand, to make sure which ground is active. Good grounding is very important when dealing with electronics. Distortion and electric fields are produced when using failed or poor ground leads.

Also, as I have mentioned before, with a standard PSU that you can purchase at any electronic or computer store, they have multiple power lines, so you can connect more than one device to a cheap PSU. I have two devices on mine.

Note also, when you work with high powered electronics amperes matter. If you need the power to run these high powered devices, I suggest purchasing a power supply that will supply high currents of power, such as more expensive
PSUs or battery backups or professional power supplies. The only reason I mentioned the cheap way here was for people like me who don’t need to blow the roof off this mother! Ya hear!

Of course it’s up to you to figure out how to house this stuff. It’s all components and not in a nice box. So, you’ll have to
build your own speaker enclosures and something to house your amps and CD players or whatever your configuration is.

If you are going to use speakers around computers, please remember to get some kind of magnetic shielding for them.
Magnets and computer hardware are a dangerous mix!

How To : Get those tunes from cassette to PC, DIY style.

January 9, 2010

Got an old cassette player? Maybe an old boom box or rack mount tape deck? You can even do this with an old car stereo cassette player, if you can wire it for power and convert the speaker levels to mini jack physical format.

Which you can purchase for cheap at your local Target or hardware stores. If so, you can get convert those old mini reel to reels to mp3s for cheap or free, with the right tools.

What you need:

1. a 3.5″ stereo male to male mini jack plug.
2. cassette player of some kind.
3. computer with a mic in or line in port for audio
4. Windows XP or 2000.
5. Cool Edit Pro software or Windows sound recorder

Connect the 3.5″ male to male plug into the headphones or line out of the cassette player and into the line in or mic in on your computer.

Launch Cool Edit and set it to record incoming audio from your line in or mic in port on your computer.

Launch Microsoft’s sound recorder program and adjust the sound levels through your soundcard options in control panel for incoming audio. Do a few tests first, as the sound will most likely need some adjustment before you get it right.

Connect a pair of headphones to the headphones port on your computer so you can hear the audio as the computer captures it.

Play the cassette and raise the volume on the cassette player to maximum volume in order to get the full sound.
Of course adjustments will have to be made here as well.

Hit record on your computer and you should see the graphical representation of the incoming sound as the
computer captures it.

When you have recorded the audio, obviously you are going to want to check the final cuts and make some adjustments. Sound recorder allows you to cut and mix audio tracks within the software.

When you are finished with the .wav files convert them over to mp3 with a free software tool called Razor Lame. It’s an open source mp3 encoder with a great batch system for encoding more than one file at a time.

Then of course, check the final product and maybe back up the originals on a CD or DVD or something and you’re
good to go.

The sound will be as good as the audio cables and computer you record it on are. But it is a cheap and easy solution
to getting those cassette tunes to mp3s without some big expensive equipment and lots of money.

Music software for those stuck on Windows

January 9, 2010

Long has it been my dream to own Garage Band. Mac users know what I’m talking about.

Garage Band is the easiest to use, most flexible and dynamic digital music software available today. There is a catch though. It’s only available for the MAC operating system.

Windows doesn’t really have anything that compares to the ease of use of Garage Band and the vast libraries of instrument samples.

There are programs for Windows out there that are for making music or simply sequences different sounds.

Reason, Frooty Loops Studio, Cake Walk, Hammer Head software. Just to name a few.

But these software programs, save Hammer Head, are not very user friendly. And they can take a while to get used to their interface and operation.

Definitely not for beginners.

But Garage Band was different. It was the first music maker software that really had normal people in mind. The interface was very easy to see and read, the controls were left simplified, the feel of it was way more user friendly. I mean in that
anyone could use this software right out of the package, it didn’t require any training or sitting in front of it for six months before you got it type of thing that the windows programs are kind of notorious for.

Also, these other programs had a lot of restrictions and what not.

I remember using Fruity Loops for about a day. Having never used Fruity Loops or many other music makers before, I was kind of new to it. The interface and complexity of the program did not make things any easier. I got overwhelmed
and uninstalled it and decided to hold out for Garage Band (which I will be obtaining soon, btw.)

I tried Garage Band a long time ago. Probably when it first came out. I think at school. It was easy to use, accepted samples that I had, and saved easily enough as well. Although you had to have iTunes to convert it.

But since then, I figured software programmers would have come up with an equivalent for Windows by now. Surely some type of generic music making program, probably similar to Garage Band for those of you stuck on Windows.

Apparently no one in Windows world is concerned about this.

Because it hasn’t happened yet.


My sister in her ongoing pursuit to find some type of music maker for Windows has come across what she hails as a decent enough music maker for Windows.

Behold, I give you MIXCRAFT 4!

MixCraft is a music program like any sequencer program I’ve ever seen. Except for the fact that it’s designed for the rest of us. Us simpletons who don’t want to earn a degree to use this crap, just want to use this crap.

I was shown a tour of this program, briefly, but nonetheless, and it is easy to use.

She uses it more than I do, presently, so she wrote a review on her blog.

I recommend checking it out, and even trying the program out It’s a 14 day free trial and I believe it’s $75 for a year long license.

No, I’m not trying to push anything on here, but I was looking for some alternative for Windows users that wasn’t total rocket science.