Useful 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:

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.” ( 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.

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

Google Spreadsheets Screenshot

So mere minutes after I made my last post about Google Browser Sync, I discovered yet another little gem in Google Labs. Apparently it was a big day for them and releasing betas of new stuff.

Their latest bit of genius is Google Spreadsheets, which just might put a good dent in the market for Microsoft Excel. At first glance it appears to have the 20% of features that satisfy 80% of Excel users.

It's a full sized spreadsheet, complete with multiple sheets like Excel or Openoffice. It does math, it sorts stuff, as a spreadsheet editor it appears to be nothing special.

If you know Google, though, you know that they never release anything unless it is something special. The sweet feature that really makes Google Spreadsheets interesting is collaboration. Leave it to Google to make something as basic and usually unthought of as a spreadsheet and interactive, team effort.

Multiple users can not only share a single spreadsheet, but they can all edit it at the same time.

I haven't had the chance to actually use it, because I don't have any data that requires a spreadsheet, much less anyone to share it with. Damnit…now I feel inferior.

Google Spreadsheets only accepts requests for membership at the moment, they're only allowing a limited number of users. I got my invitation email right quick though, under an hour.

Get Google Browser Sync

I’ve always really wanted to use bookmarks. I can’t possibly remember EVERY site that I want to go back to sometime. I can usually remember how to Google to it, but that’s way slower than clicking on a bookmark. Also, if I forget completely about a site there’s no bookmark for me to stumble across.

Bookmarks have never really worked out for me though, because between constantly moving between my various work and home computers and reformatting my home computers constantly…I just can’t hold onto them.

Thanks to Google though, those days are over. Their new Firefox extension, Google Browser Sync, uploads my cookies, saved passwords, bookmarks, history and tab configuration to Google, where they store it encrypted using a password of my choosing. Now I can install this extension at work, have all my logins preserved, all my saved passwords (which I don’t use, but it might be cool to some people), bookmarks, and even my history at my fingertips.

Thank you, Google.

Get Google Browser Sync

Google Browser Sync Setup

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