Software


At last, I’ve gotten my shit together enough to put together the first bits of my guide to free software. At the moment the whole list consists of uTorrent and nothing else…but hey, it’s a start.

Joby’s Free Software Guide

uTorrent installs with a set of fairly good configuration options, but there are a few tweaks that might be useful to some people, as well as a few thoughts I’ve had on how to make it easier on your computer.

do Pre-allocate all files
found in: Options>Preferences>Downloads>Other Settings
By default uTorrent starts with empty files and adds to them as it downloads data. Checking this box will force uTorrent to create a file the size of the file you’re downloading full of dummy data the moment you start the download.

I’m not sure why they chose to make it do this. Maybe so that starting a massive download won’t instantly fill up your hard drive. From a planning perspective, I see not pre-allocating files as being on the same level as buying stuff on credit. Sure, you might want to get every episode of Star Trek (all the generations), but just because uTorrent lets you start the download doesn’t mean your hard drive will let you finish it. With this option checked you know for sure how much hard drive space you have left, even after you finish your current downloads.

Pre-allocating files has an advantage from a performance and stability standpoint too. Since the dawn of Bittorrent I’ve been annoyed by its tendency to create fragmented files. Without pre-allocation uTorrent will write each chunk of each file as it gets it, physically spreading the files all over the damn place on your hard drive. With pre-allocation, though, each file should wind up more or less in one place on the hard drive, in one continuous block of data. This will make your computer access it better, and in the end less prone to file system corruption.

do Auto-Save Files Somewhere
found in: Options>Preferences>Downloads>Location of Downloaded Files

This dialog allows you to automatically save your torrent files in a specific place. That’s nice, but to really make it useful you’ll also want to configure it to move completed files somewhere else. This way adding new torrents to the queue is a snap, as is browsing in windows the ones that are completed.

Mine is configured to save all incomplete downloads in My Documents\My Downloads\My Torrents\Incomplete, then move them up a notch to My Documents\My Downloads\My Torrents when they finish.

maybe Use the Scheduler
found in: Options>Preferences>Scheduler

If you’re like me and your ISP gives you certain times of day when you have unlimited bandwidth you’ll love this one. uTorrent lets you specify, by day of the week and hour, whether to pause everything, throttle back everything, or download like the Internet is about to end. I won’t bother explaining how to set it up, it’s easy.

A sweet laptop, if only I had a laptop...I'm continuing my ongoing project to release a comprehensive guide to making your computer useful for free. The ultimate goal is to compile all the wisdom I've gleaned from countless hours of trying absolutely everything. You name a category of software, I guarantee I've tried more than a couple different options for it. So now I want to save you, my loyal readers (all 3 of you…fucking internet being too big), those countless hours.

Now, I don't have a total list compiled yet, and this notebook is only in the early stages, but it's a start. So here it is, a link to my notes on how to make your computer useful for free:

Make your computer useful for free

dBpowerAMP Screenshotget dMC

dMC first caught my eye on some forum somewhere. I just happened across some MPC files, and I wanted to know what to use to convert them.

The original post:

DBPowerAmp’s dMC is all you need for your format conversion needs:

http://www.dbpoweramp.com/dmc.htm

Free and its as easy as installing it then the appropriate codec from the list on their site and then right click to convert from any format to another. Both MP4 (.m4a) and Musepack (.mpc) are supported via codecs you can download.” (d-a-l.com damn .m4a and .mpc).

I couldn’t agree more, dMC is the audio converter I’ve always wanted.

So get dMC

UPDATE 06-26-06: I’ve come across something way better, and open source, I just can’t remember where now, keep coming back and I’ll have the link.

060611 - J River Media Center ReviewI first tried J River Media Center because I figured "hey, it costs money, it must be pretty sweet, right?" Wrong. It had enough fancy features to keep my interest for most of the duration of the 30 day trial period, but in the end it just didn't work out.

When I first loaded up J River it asked me what theme I wanted. I liked that, because it showed that they have a certain sensitivity to those of us who are anal about visually pleasing desktops.

The experience from there was pretty much all uphill for a while. I loved the interface, it was just so pretty. The theater mode was awesome, letting me pretend I had Windows XP Media Center Edition. The visualizations were also pretty sweet, what with being 3D, minimally system-wrecking and all around nice to look at. The visualizations even had a tendency to incorporate the cover art, which I loved.

Then things started to get ugly, and fast. I realized that it had misread some of my IDv tags, which should have been no big deal. I've dealt with that before. So I tried to update a bunch of tags at once. This was when the pretty interface began to show its poorly thought out underbelly. It took me forever to figure out how to change what tags I could edit en-masse, because sometimes there might be something extra I want to change about a lot of files at once. Not to mention just how slooooooowwww it updates the music library. I'm not even sure it does update the IDv3 tags all the time. Mostly it just fucks with the music library file, which really shouldn't take that long.

Supposedly it also supports iPods, but I've installed three different versions of it over the last couple years, and none of them have been able to update my iPod. One of them tried, and broke the database so that I had to format my iPod, but didn't do such a great job of putting music on it. The latest version couldn't even spot that I had an iPod. So I'll give them a few points in the iPod support category for at least making the effort.
J River was pretty, J River was fun, J River tried really hard all around to add some pizazz to my music experience. In the end though, it didn't have the hard, solid features to back up all that flair, and it fell flat on its face.

I won't even bother giving up a link to it, it's just not worth your time, and especially isn't worth your money.

  • Overall: 5/10
  • Music Management: 5/10
  • Sound Quality: 7/10
  • Aesthetics: 8/10
  • Geek Appeal: 5/10
  • Efficiency: 3/10
  • iPod Support: 3/10

060611-windows-media-player1.jpgI never will be able to say exactly what possessed me to try Windows Media Player in the first place, but I will always remember just how horrible it was. There are just so many things wrong with this player I don't even know where to start, so I'll start with the one thing it did right: sound quality.The sound quality of Windows Media Player was pretty rock solid, with a coherent, if a little unresponsive equalizer. The sound enhancements tool really did make my music sound cooler, maybe not better, but definitely cooler. I left that off most of the time. From the moment I started it up though, I had high quality sound coming out of all of my speakers.

Once I got done fiddling with the sound enhancements though, reality started to set in. I was using an immensely ugly, clunky interface that was a fairly unappealing shade of blue to boot. I had a hard time switching rapidly between playlists, categories within my library, autoplaylists, all that stuff. Everything I wanted to use at any given moment seemed buried behind some button with a title that didn't help, or worse, a button with no label and just some cryptic icon.

Behind all the apparent complexity must be some genuine complexity too. I was outraged by how long it takes WMP to switch between views. I should never have to wait that long to go from Now Playing to my library. Stack on some ugly visualizations that take up completely outrageous amounts of system resources, and a sidebar that sucks up resources and bandwidth to download album art off the internet even when there's perfectly good images in the IDv3 tags, and you have yourself a really, really, really bad music player.

Stay away from WMP, it's just not worth the trouble.

  • Overall: 3/10
  • Music Management: 4/10
  • Sound Quality: 8/10
  • Aesthetics: 5/10
  • Geek Appeal: 3/10
  • Efficiency: 4/10
  • iPod Support: 0/10

I've spent more time than anybody I know dicking around with every media player under the sun. I still haven't found exactly what I'm looking for, but I've come full circle back to my happy(est) place with a surprising player.

Just to show you that I know what the hell I'm talking about, here's a list of every media player I've tried. Some were bad, some were good, some did horrible things that took hours to fix. Some did so much damage that I just deleted all my music and started over, because my tags were ruined and everything was in the wrong folders. Keep in mind that I only use programs with music library managers. I have way too much music to sort through in windows explorer. Every one of these has been given a full, fair chance at managing my library and playing my stuff. Read the reviews, they're helpful…and entertaining!

  • Windows Media Player (yup, I even gave it a shot)
  • Winamp review coming soon
  • RealPlayer review coming soon
  • MusicMatch Jukebox review coming soon
  • Media Portal review coming soon
  • MediaMonkey review coming soon
  • J River Media Center
  • iTunes review coming soon

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