Archive for the ‘Windows/PC’ Category

Orb Welcomes iTunes Into the 21st Century and Back to the 90’s

Monday, November 9th, 2009

I recently stumbled across a piece of software called Orb. Essentially Orb makes it simple to access all of your local media remotely from anything with a web browser. It automagically integrates with iTunes and iPhoto and you can share folders from your computer and even a TV tuner if you have one.

The breakthrough use for me however is easy remote access to your iTunes library and video library. My personal machine of choice is a MacBook from 2007 with a “tiny” 200 GB hard drive. However I have two other desktops I use regularly at home, as well as a machine at work that I spend a good chunk of time on. Getting iTunes to cooperate with all of these and getting my music where I need it is a chore.

I have about 100 GB of media on my laptop, and another 100 GB between my other two personal systems. My collection is horribly fragmented amongst these three machines and I often have a hard time keeping track of what is where. I would prefer to have access to it all on my laptop but I just don’t have space. Not to mention I would not be thrilled to lose my entire collection if the computer got lost, stolen, or otherwise damaged (as laptops can be prone to).

Ideally I would be able to store everything in one place (preferably somewhere semi-secure) while still having access from any of my other systems, and ideally, from anywhere I want. That would enable me to remove almost all of my media from my laptop and keep just enough to entertain me any time I may not have internet access.

Between iTunes Home Sharing and Orb I have been able to setup a system that I have been long awaiting, but to lazy to setup. I consolidated and organized all of my music and videos on to one hard drive in one of my home desktops. This is always running and always connected to the internet. Apple made this transition much easier by introducing “Home Sharing” which enables you to share your library among up to 5 computers on your local network. The breakthrough is instead of just playing media from one computer on another you can easily copy it and move it around freely.

This is where Orb comes in. With all of my media in one place all I needed to do was install Orb on that machine, let it index my collections and log in to watch it or listen to it online. The only draw back I have found is that the online user interface looks like it belongs in the 90’s, it is truly ghetto-fabulous. Otherwise it provides unimpeded access to my music, playlists, videos, and everything else I need.
I am interested to try it with a video tuner. I was given a sling box as a gift several years ago and I’m curious if there is some way to make Orb work nicely with it, because otherwise Orb renders it totally useless. If they could polish the online user interface a little bit this would be a perfect solution for sharing my home media collection with myself.

Increase the speed of my PC

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

How many of you out there have called a relative or friend to fix a slow computer? Many I would guess.  It just so happens that I’m often that relative or friend that people call, so I’ve written this article to assist my family, friends and anyone else who needs help.

SPEED UP YOUR COMPUTER BY CORRECTING THE REAL ISSUES (1-5 hours)

  1. The first step is to understand the issue – I won’t make this overly complicated.  Computers have memory called RAM.  Most programs you have on your computer have background processes that consume RAM – this will slow your system down.  To increase speed, remove the unnecessary programs you have installed on your system (Step 2).
  2. Remove unused programs.  Navigate to your control panel (Start Menu > Control Panel), select “Add or Remove Programs”. Next, remove anything that you haven’t used recently or intend on using in the very near future (you should see a ‘last used’ date next to each program in the list).  Chances are, if you haven’t used a program in a long time, you probably won’t need it in the near future.  If you think you may need the program in the future, make sure you have a disk containing the program files or a way to download the files from the manufacture.
  3. Remove the ‘FREE’ or ‘TRIAL’ programs installed by the manufacturer. This is easy, just download this product:  http://www.pcdecrapifier.com/ (available for Vista and XP, select the software version that pertains to your computer).  If you are unsure of what version of Windows you have, reboot your system and you should see the version during the startup process.  If you still don’t know, call the person or company you purchased your system from.
  4. Stop programs from starting during startup. It is common in the software development community to have ’services’ running in the background of your system, which start during the boot process.  This can be helpful for developers who want their software to react to your input instantaneously.  One example would be spyware software, like Norton or McAfee.  This type software is always scanning your system for troublesome or harmful material.  To be effective, it needs to be constantly running, however your camera software probably doesn’t need to be, so turn it off.
    • Update your startup menu. Within XP navigate to MSCONFIG console (Start > Run >  type: msconfig > hit OK > click the ’startup’ tab).  This list contains all of the software that starts and runs while your system is on – some are necessary, some are not and some may be harmful.  This task takes time to do properly and is worth the investment every couple of months.  The list on the startup menu may not make sense, but there is a website dedicated to helping you figure out what all of these items are; http://www.sysinfo.org/startuplist.php (scroll a little and you’ll see the list – or search for a startup item by going here; http://www.sysinfo.org/ and enter the name in the “Startup Information” search box).

In addition to these four recommendations, make sure you have antivirus software running on your computer and make sure do do virus scans often.  If anyone has any other recommendations please comment on this post.

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