All posts by Keshav Khera

Keshav Khera is a young freelance writer from India. Alongside writing for the web, he also attends school and tries not to bunk classes. He keeps interest in music, table tennis, reading and of course, twitter (@keshav)

Know Your System’s Details With Speccy [Hardware Analysis]

[Windows Only] Coming from the same guys who made CCleaner and Defraggler, this one called Speccy from Piriform sure takes a hit at being simple and doing just what it should. Speccy is a hardware information tool that scratches your system for details and lists down everything about your hardware in a neat and tidy interface.

For people using Windows, CCleaner has been a clear favorite when it comes to quick system maintenance. Falling in the same league, Speccy allows you to have a glance of all the system details swiftly without any fuss required at the user-end.

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The application caters to all aspects of hardware, from the CPU to Network to Graphics and whatever comes in between. There’s a summary page where you can see all the details in brief and then click through them to have them explained. If you’re the regular forum bird, Speccy can come in handy in a lot of situations where you need to hand over your system specs to another party, for Speccy allows you to take a screenshot’ of your configuration and have it saved to a file. This screenshot is not a jpeg as many would have assumed. It is a .speccy file which you can send over to another party and can only be opened with the Speccy application. When opened, it will present a duplicate copy of configuration as snapped from your PC.

Like other Piriform apps, Speccy is available as an installer and a portable zip file which, again, can come in handy if you’re the de facto tech support for everyone around you!

Thanks to Lee at DownloadSquad for the hat tip!

Fedora 13 Beta Released

500px-RH-Fedora_logo-nonfreeFedora 13 Beta was just released a few hours ago. Named Goddard, the final version of Fedora 13 will sport many new features such as KDE 4.4, latest builds of the XFCE environment and Sugar Learning Environment apart from the usual bug fixes and functionality additions.

If you are looking for the bigger catch, wait up for the final release in the middle of May this year. For those restless, download the beta iso from here. And of course, if you don’t know your way around bugs and geeky mosquitoes, don’t download this. The Beta is presumably the last crucial milestone of Fedora 13, and as such, only critical bugs will be fixed now for the coming final release.

The Beta has a number of new features, such as automatic print driver installation with the help of PackageKit; new software such as ShotWell photo manager, Pino microblogging client; NetworkManager improvements over bluetooth and mobile broadband connectivity; support for the latest iPods and iPhones and 3D graphics support backed solely by open source drivers.

That’s not all. There’s also better color management: so your documents bear the same color on screen and on paper. Also, the user management portal has been completely redesigned for easier access and use.

The above is the feature-list that may interest the end user, Fedora 13 has got several goodies for both developers and administrators as well. Developers get easier Python debugging when using gdb and support for NetBeans Java EE 6 among other features. For sys admins, there’s quite a few improvements with BFO (allows users to download a single, tiny image and install current and future versions of Fedora without having to download additional images), SSSD (provides expanded features for logging into managed domains), IPv6 support, support for Zarafa Groupware (Microsoft Exchange alternative) among others. Check out a detailed feature list here.

How To Link Foobar With Google Talk’s “Show Current Music Track” Feature

Foobar [Windows Only] When it comes to desktop music players, Foobar is my software of choice. It’s got features, it’s got speed and it can be customized like a ball of soft clay. Previously, I have written about how to turn the minimalistic interface of Foobar into something more expressive, and here’s something adding to it.

If you use Google Talk as your primary Internet Messenger and prefer Foobar for listening to music, you would have noticed that when setting the status in Google Talk, the Show Current Music Trackfeature doesn’t work. Well, it is not really supposed to work as such. Apparently, Google Talk only supports iTunes, Windows Media Player, Winamp and Yahoo Music Jukebox. The small number of supported players is actually justified because given the state and construction of every music player, the developers would have to utilize and bring to work a different API for each media player, which is not a viable option provided the large number of music players available.

So what does a user of a lesser known media player like Foobar do? Given the extensiveness of the audio player in question here, it is pretty easy. All it needs is a plugin, a little hack and minor registry editing.

Blogger Siddharth from UberUllu.com shows you how to make the task at hand happen. You should read the post over there, but I will explain briefly how it works. First you get a plugin, or component in foo-speak and install it to your Foobar. Next you’ll need a registry hack. And then you will need to create an empty playlist file in the Foobar directory. Now since Google Talk happens to support Winamp, when you choose the Show Current Music Trackoption, it will look for Winamp on your system. The registry hack that was applied earlier now deceives Google Talk into believing that Winamp is actually located in your Foobar installation folder. The Foobar component that was installed emulates a Winamp 2.x window so that other plugins and applications (Google talk in this case) can work with Foobar without any trouble. The empty playlist file probably facilitates the process.

So ultimately, now you can update all your contacts with the music track you are tuning into.

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Put.io Fetches Content From Almost Everywhere And Brings It Together

Put.io Ever seen the movie The Rundown with Dwayne Johnson playing a retrieval expert? I think that was a great movie. A retrieval expert. What a nice job. Even better if you have someone to do it for you. On the Internet, you ain’t got no Dwayne Johnson. Here, you got Put.io. Put.io is your personal retrieval expert. Say Hello!

Let’s say you download a lot of stuff through different mediums. There’s bittorrent, rapidshare, podcasts, rss feed enclosures, file sharing with friends etcetera. Now imagine if all the content you require from all these different places land up in one single spot on the internet from where you can choose and download whatever you want. Don’t want to download? How about streaming the movie you just torrented? Better? Right.

That is exactly what put.io does. It fetches content from torrents, rapidshare, http, ftp, standard download websites and even scrapes out content from rss feeds and podcasts. You tell put.io what to download; it’s servers will download the file onto themselves and then you can either stream or download the media to your computer through normal http links. You can access and download your data to your computer/iPhone/Web based device anytime you want. You can also conventionally upload files from your computer. It’s like a middleman for fetching content, only this man has got many hands.

If you are fetching torrents with put.io, it’s good to know that after downloading, put.io will also seed it uptil ratio of 1:1, and for those interested to know, put.io is currently experimenting with their server side torrent client and mostly use different builds of Transmission and rTorrent. If you are fetching music, you can stream it right inside the browser. If it is video, you will need the DivX browser plugin (link provided on the video page) to stream the video in the browser. In case you prefer desktop streaming, you should be doing good, as a link for direct streaming via desktop players like VLC is also provided. Entire folders can be downloaded as zip files.

A Bittorrent Download

Put.io has also kicked in on the social aspect of the service. You can mark fellow users of the site as friends and then share files with them individually or with all of them. All it takes is a press of a button. Its servers are connected to the internet through Gigabit ports because of which they can fetch files faster than normal home connections their website says.

Sharing on Put.io

In case you are a media fanatic, you will need to get your fix as put.io has it’s own set of (lenient) limits. You will get a total of 50GB storage and 150GB of bandwidth. Any single file should not be over 20GB and if the servers are high on load, you will be limited to 3 simultaneous downloads (when fetching). Put.io will not extract any archive containing more than 500 files and as for private torrent trackers, not all of them are supported.

Video Player on Put.io

Put.io is currently in closed beta and you will need an invite to get in. Also, there are plans to take the service on a subscription based model where the user will have to pay to use the service. Certainly, after the beta period, put.io will become a paid-for service. So you better sign up now and reap the benefits for as long as they are available.

If you’re thinking This ship is going to sink in its own dockyardthat is something only time will tell. Sure it can be used for downloading copyrighted material and even used as a seedbox, but nonetheless, it is still a middleman*, or a retrieval expert. And as far as I know, retrieval experts are legal in USA ;) On a brighter note, Put.io assures to remove any infringing material from its servers as and when it gets a DMCA complaint.

So that’s all that Put.io is all about. Want in? Keep an eye on invites given away on Put.io’s Twitter.

*Copyright laws flummox me. I should be the last person to be asked about them. Thanks!

Post To Tumblr From Google Chrome [Chrome Extensions]

We have talked about the various ways through which you can post to Tumblr; through the desktop, mobiles or browsers. Putting stuff on tumblr is so easy, that you can also do it through email and a phone. However, all that aside, right now I have two Google Chrome extensions to tell you about.

Tumblr Dashboard Tumblr Dashboard: the Tumblr Dashboard extension for Google Chrome brings together the Tumblr interface for iPhone and the Tumblr bookmarklet for the web. If you need to see your dashboard quickly, see it through the iPhone interface. If you need to post content, you get the bookmarklet interface. In the dashboard mode, clicking on a post shows you details such as number of notes and options like the ability to like and reblog a post. If you click on a picture thumbnail, the extension will enlarge it for you.

Share on Tumblr: If you just want a quick and easy way to post content, the Share on Tumblr extension might be what you are looking for. It gives you the same features of the Tumblr bookmarklet, in fact, all the extension does is load the bookmarklet in a frame. You can choose this option if you like a fixed placement for the frame and want an interface the feels native to the browser, as compared the bookmarklet.

Listen To Online Radio While Browsing The Web

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For Google Chrome on Windows and Linux Only: The Chrome Radio extension for Google Chrome makes it much easier to playback online radio streams right inside the browser. The extension is very nifty, streamlined and fits smoothly in the browser without interfering with the user’s browsing experience.

Radio stations can be saved within the extension and can be organized in groups, or say, genres. You can also assign quick access keys to five of your stations so that your favorites stay at your fingertips. The extension keeps track of your most played stations and if you want, will also autoplay the last played station on browser startup. Import and Export of station database is also supported.

Coming to the source of media, you can add radio stations from sites like di.fm, sky.fm and shoutcast. Just copy the playlist url (or stream url) from the webpage and add it to the extension. If you get lost, the extension should help you out with its FAQ page which highlights many questions such as how to add stations, where to find them et al.

Download Chrome Radio Player | Developer’s Website

How To Create A Cue Sheet

On Tuesday, we talked about splitting large music tracks into smaller ones with the help of cue files. I’d mention that I’ll soon write a tutorial on creating a cue sheet yourself. True to my word, here’s the tutorial on creating a cue sheet with your own hands!

For a quick recap A cue sheet has an extension of .cue and its contents tell the splitting program where each individual track starts and ends.In technical terms It’s a metadata file which describes how the contents of a CD, DVD or a compilation are to be laid out.

So, let’s say you have a music mix called Junkyard Mix.mp3. It’s music mix containing all the tracks interlocked. There’s no cue file available so you just can’t use a cue splitter and split the file as easily. You’ll now need to create a cue sheet.

Creating a cue sheet is pretty simple. There are a few commands/tags you’ll need to take care of and the syntax is simple. Just like many other scripts, you’ll need to create this one in a text editor; for example Notepad. I will first go through the tags and will then explain with an example.

TITLE: This tag is used two occasions. Once while mentioning the name of the album and the second time when you mention the title of an individual track. In the former case, the tag is used in the beginning of the document; in the latter, it is used after that TRACK tag

PERFORMER: Once used to define the artist of the album as a whole and second time after the TRACK tag to define the artist of an individual track.

FILE: Defines the name of the compilation file, from where to derive the data (Junkyard Mix.mp3 in this case)

TRACK: Defines a track by its number and data type. Other tags that define the track are placed under it in the hierarchy.

INDEX: Indicates the start position within the data where a given track begins, in MM:SS:FR (minute-second-frame) format (for example, 04:18:63 = 4 minutes, 18 seconds, 63 frames).

That covers the rudimentary tags of a cue sheet. That’s probably all you will need to get started. Now let have it with an example. Let’s say Junkyard Mix.mp3, the album, is composed of two individual tracks: Grease Sweep and Burning Tires. Let’s say the album’s artist is Johny Wrench. (Don’t google them! They’re all hypothetical :D) This is how the cue sheet should be laid out in this scenario:

2967338475_bc48bd8d93_bTITLE Junkyard Mix

PERFORMER Johny Wrench

FILE Junkyard Mix.mp3MP3

TRACK 01 AUDIO

TITLE Grease Sweep

PERFORMER Johny Wrench

INDEX 01 00:00:00

TRACK 02 AUDIO

TITLE Burning Tires

PERFORMER Johny Wrench

INDEX 01 12:42:00

Let’s go through it again. The TITLE track at the beginning marks the name of the album. The next PERFORMER tag marks the name of the album artist. FILE is for the file name of the compilation. Next we have definitions the comprising tracks. TRACK 01 AUDIO marks the definition of the first track. It says that the first track’s track number is 01 and its data type is audio. It then goes on to define the TITLE of the song and its PERFORMER in the respective tags. The second track has also been handled in the same way. The INDEX tag tells the program where the song is beginning.

The first track always begins at 00:00:00. You’ll have to mark the beginnings of each track so that you can define the correct beginning and therefore, ending of each song. It is crucial that your timing is correct or the results won’t be appealing.

After everything is done, save the document with a .cue extension and then use it to split the music compilation with the help of this tutorial.

Photo by Dani Sarda

How To Split Large Single-File Compilations And Mixes Into Individual Separate Tracks

If you have ever downloaded or bought a musical compilation or mix, you might have come across a single large mp3 file that contains all the tracks joined together. Music mixes were initially made to be a single file track, however, with the advent of portable music players that may not always have storage spaces as large as desktop or laptop computers, handling and listening to such music files is not a very convenient task.

If you have a large music compilation or mix that you’d like to split up in individual tracks, you’ve come to the right place.

greenshot_2010-03-16_20-57-46 To split a large a mix into individual tracks, we’ll need a cue sheet. A cue sheet file has an extension of .cue and its contents tell the splitting program where each individual track starts and ends. The splitting program we are going to use here is Medieval Cue Splitter. After you’ve downloaded the program, you will need the cue sheet. A cue sheet is necessary in this process, if you don’t have one already, you will need to create one yourself. I’ll write down the process of creating a cue sheet in a separate post.

Ok, so to split a the file, follow this process:

  • Let’s say the mix/compilation is called mix.mp3. In most cases, the cue sheet will be called mix.cue. Have them both in the same folder.
  • Open Medieval Cue Splitter. Go to File → Open cue file. Select the cue file and then the mix (mix.cue and mix.mp3)
  • Now you can edit the details about the individual tracks that are are going to be made from the mix. You can change the titles, tags, genres, artists and other track details.
  • Click the Split button, select the location to save the tracks and you’re done.
  • If you’d want to add album art to each of the smaller tracks, click to read how.

Now that a large mp3 has been broken down into smaller tracks, you can easily share the music with your friends online, transfer it to your mobile phone or simply sync it with your iPod or any other music player.

A Comparison Of Twitter Clients For Google Chrome

In recent days, Google Chrome has really picked up pace. Hot on the heels of Firefox, Opera, Safari and pretty much any other browser out there, Google is trying to grab some significant market share and establish itself in the browser mart. When Chrome was still young, people hesitated to change browsers because they were wary of Chrome’s lack of support for extensions and other features that mature browsers like Firefox had, especially those gained by addons. Now that Chrome supports extensions and has nearly 4,500 of them in its repository people are considering using Chrome as a primary browser and ditching Firefox for the memory hog* that it is.

If people are going to use a browser full time, how can it not have support for Twitter? Chrome has had a few nice extensions for Twitter and we’re going to see which one is the best.

Chromed Bird

greenshot_2010-03-16_02-58-57 Chromed Bird is perhaps the first Twitter client that I tried on Chrome and I have been hooked onto it since day one. The only problem with Chromed Bird is that I can’t find any problem in it. Really. It just works, that’s all. It’s regularly updated and several of it’s setting can be modified from an options’ page. It has support for Lists and can also preview short urls on mouseover. Other than that, you can set refresh intervals for each column, define font for the text and color for the columns. People who’d like to keep a track of their shortened links would be delighted to know that Chromed Bird supports bit.ly authorization through it’s api key.You can also choose from 3 provided themes for the extension.

Pros: bit.ly and lists support,   agile, notifications.

Cons: No support for Twitpic or other similar services.

Tweetings

greenshot_2010-03-16_03-00-12 The first thing that you are going to notice about Tweetings is its beauty. It’s got that Mac-like look with sleek columns and shiny buttons. It looks just elegant. However, beauty and brains should go together, and for Tweetings, this combination came hereditarily. Tweetings is based on on Chromed Bird. The underlying engine is probably same and the functions and features are also identical. All you get apart from Chromed Bird is a new design a good design. (Tweetings is also available as a separate application for Windows and iPhone)

Pros: Personal account support for bit.ly and twtn.gs. Customizable retweet format.

Cons: No support for Twitpic or other similar services.

Metrist

greenshot_2010-03-16_03-00-51 Metrist’s design is nothing better than mediocre. Like all the others, you click a small icon in the menu bar and the application comes rolling down. Unlike Tweetings and Chromed Bird, Metrist doesn’t support Twitter’ oAuth, so you’ll have to enter in your Twitter username and password. Also, there is no support for lists, favorite-ing a tweet or Twitter new Retweet API. In spite of a dire lack of features, Metrist still stands as a decent Twitter client, for those who don’t need much except to post their one-forty characters.

Pros: Simple minimalistic design, agile.

Cons: No support for oAuth, no url shortening, no Twitpic, no new retweets or favorite-ing a tweet.

Skeet

greenshot_2010-03-16_03-01-26 The description for this extension is A simple, usable Twitter client for Chrome. Ok let’s see. Skeet might be simple but there ain’t no fun of being simple when you ain’t usable. All I could get on installing skeet was a 400error. The developer said that this error occurs when the user has crossed his Twitter API limit. However, I was still afar from reaching my limit when I always got this error. So instead of taking the pain myself, I referred to Clif’s review of Skeet that he made a few days ago. He says: Currently, my biggest problem with Skeet is that it disappears as soon as you click away from it. This can be maddening if you are in the middle of tweeting or replying, because your unfinished message also disappears.Oh well, I know how that feels. Making a compact 140 character tweet from thoughts of a million words takes effort.

Pros: Search twiter from within the client, attractive UI.

Cons: Unstable.

Verdict

If you ask me, I’d say Chromed Bird any day; but if you want your tweet workstation to look pretty, there’s no harm in using Chromed Bird’s little brother Tweetings.

*Memory hog: Now people may comment that firefox is no memory hog. People, once you use Chrome, firefox looks like a fox with a butt larger than Manuel Uribe. Believe me. :P

How To Create Your Own Comic Site In Minutes [Webcomics]

The literary meaning of comicis pertaining to comedy. If we look back at our childhood, we’d all remember how much we used to love comics. We’d all love and some may fanatically collect strips of Spiderman and X Men. Times have changed, mediums have shifted but the love has not.

The newest rage and most preferred way to start a new comic these days is through the internet. It’s called a Webcomic. If you haven’t been living under a rock, you probably are aware of the popular xkcd. There are also other popular comic publications/sites like Doghouse Diaries and Explosm. To give expression to your thoughts in a graphical form, you no more need a publication house. It can all be done through the internet, in minutes, all by yourself. Even better, you’ll be saving paper!

So if you have got the artistic talent to draw and the capability to put people into fits of laughter, this is where you should be starting out. Read on to see how you can create a comic site, or a webcomic in minutes.

Webcomic

fa442c55cf0f4497bec28cb30d515d49 Webcomic is a plugin for WordPress that helps you set up and manage comic sites in little time. It is inspired by the ComicPress theme that was probably the first theme specifically built for a comic site. It works together with its sister theme Inkblotand surpasses ComicPress with features like Flash comic support, user-submittable transcripts, multi-comic support, support for loading entirely different WordPress themes based on the current comic, advanced storyline navigation, WordPress MU support, and internationalization support. The plugin also provides support for independent comic libraries. With ComicPress, people often complained about the lack of flexibility. Webcomic won’t let you feel that. If you decide on this, don’t forget to checkout the video tutorials.