Thursday, August 31, 2006

Vandemataram...

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VandeMataram or Gun-de-Mataram?


Arjun Singh, known for his calculated move, failed miserably this time while issuing this order - making compulsory reciting VandeMataram by students on September 7, 2006; the centenary day of the song.

Dirty politics are been played from all political-religion sections - why to sing and why not to sing VandeMataram.

Every poet, columnist, blogger now has topic - VandeMataram! Courtesy - Arjun Singh. Thanks again Mr. Arjun Singh.

Recently, in our colony's Ganeshotsav, a Kavisammelan was organized. Ratlam's well known poet, Mr. Tulsi Ram Sharma also recited his poem based on VandeMataram.

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Shri Tulsi Ram Sharma is 75 Years old, but he recite poem with the energy of a 20 years young. His energy is immensely watcahble - Just see it to believe it.

(Please forgive me for poor video quality. The original high quality video was 45 MB download, so I had deliberately made it low quality 1.7 MB easy download)

Let's forget our political-religious compulsions and sing together - VandeMataram!



Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Sunday, August 27, 2006

How to buy a better mp3 player ...

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Before buying and Playing mp3 player...



Some inside views and tips for better Mp3 player experience...

Do you want to buy a tiny yet powerful, beautiful portable, personal mp3 player for yourself? Here is a brief guide for you - to how to select a piece of beauty that can deliver things really. And if you already have purchased one, then loose no heart, you indeed have purchased a good one, but we will guide you to how to put that in a better use.

You must remember and consider following things prior to purchase of portable, personal mp3 player-

• Owning an iPod has glamour indeed, but there are many better player instead.


• Buy an mp3 player that don't have built in irreplaceable battery. With an inbuilt irreplaceable battery, it may be possible that when you are listening a beautiful Ghazal by Mehandi Hasan, and midway, your battery gets exhausted. With replaceable battery, you can always have a spare set, and if not, you can always purchase one from roadside pan walla or a nearby drug store. And, again, a rechargeable irreplaceable battery has limited recharge cycle, and you have to throw it away some day!


• Do not buy mp3 player with a hard disk. With mechanical, moving parts, harddisks are bound to fail some day. Static memory cards have less failure rates, and within a year, you can get all kinds of memory flash cards having capacity up to 32 GB! Even now, you can get 1-2 GB memory cards for as low as $20. Flash memory consume less power than harddisks and hence, they are better bet for your player's battery too.

• Buy an mp3 player that has provision to expand its memory through memory card slot. This way, you can collect as many memory card as you can wish, and expand memory of your player to an infinite limit. You can purchase an mp3 player without any inbuilt memory for as little as $10, and if you don't give a damn to their audio quality - then it will be the best-bargain buy for you.


• New portable mp3 player are coming with built in color video player, through which, you can play video files also. These players were indeed better than ordinary mp3 players with added functionality, but buy only if you find that it has TV out and inbuilt speaker system with sufficient large screen.


• If you remain in tour most of the time due to your professional compulsions, then it will be better if you opt for mobile phone with inbuilt mp3 player. It is foolish to carry an additional electronic gadget - an mp3 player when you can converge it in your mobile phone. But be sure that the mobile phone has expandable memory slot, else it will be useless as an mp3 player with its tiny memory.


• The earbud type earphones that come with mp3 players may not better fit inside your ear. So, better buy another good, comfortable one. Further, it is always better to buy External Earphone. They are good on filtering outside noise too.


• If you have a car music system with FM radio, then opt for an mp3 player that has built in stereo FM transmitter. This way, you can play music on your car's FM radio through your mp3 player without any wire connection.


• Finally, you have decided to buy a marvelous portable, personal mp3 player for yourself. Now, divide the money in two parts that you have allocated for this purpose. Buy a cheap mp3 player with half the money and keep the rest with you for a year. Then buy TEN times more powerful and Feature rich mp3 player next year with remaining half amount.

Finally, you have purchased an mp3 player for yourself and you are a proud owner of one. For it's better use, remember following points:

• In mp3 file format, data is compressed at many different bitrates. There is minimum - 32 Kbps to maximum 320 Kbps in general, and most songs are compressed at 128 Kbps. File size as well as song quality with 32 Kbps is lowest and at 320 Kbps, it is highest, therefore many settle in between i.e. at 128 Kbps. You may go for variable bitrate also, which have good quality with smaller file size.

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• If you are going out on a tour for a long duration, and want to stuff as many song as you can in your mp3 player's available memory (or in memory card), then always go for lowest bit rate files. You can convert your ordinary 128 kbps mp3 files in to lower 32 Kbps mp3 files that result in lower file size. If your mp3 player supports WMA file format playback, then convert your files in to still lower, 20 Kbps WMA format. This way, your file size will be approximately 10-15 % of your original 128 Kbps mp3 files and you can stuff many more songs in available memory size. For example, you can stuff only about 30-35 mp3 songs in 128 MB memory stick having 128 Kbps bitrate, whereas you can stuff about 140 songs of 20 Kbps WMA format in the same 128 MB memory. No doubt, the sound quality will be a little lower, but when you are listening in between noise of rail and road, it makes little difference. However, when you are listening songs in the comfort of your living room, always opt for maximum bitrate - i.e. highest quality. You can convert files in any format in any bitrate with the tools like dBpowerAMP with an easy. Just download this tool from this site, along with the required encodings and install these in your computer. Then simply select the sound file and right click on it. Then select Convert in right context menu that appears. Define required parameters like bitrate and encoding format, and you are done.


• Your mp3 player consumes less power when it plays sound files having low bitrate. Thus, it is again advisable that when on the go, always load mp3 song files with lowest bit rates. You can stuff more and you can listen more songs with given resources.


There may be some queries arising in your mind or you may also have some tips to share. Do not hesitate to ask or share it!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Great Indian BabooDom part-2


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The super power indian baboos...

In my previous post , you read about the story of some BPOs threatened by sarkari babus; they must close shops or face criminal prosecution if they work on Independence Day, i.e. 15th August.

A related, interesting story is being circulated in some section of media.

You might have happily read the story about Indra Nooyi, the Indian, Chennai born lady - is all set to take charge of Pepsico, the multinational giant - from October 1, 2006. She is the first ever lady-CEO of Pepsi.



Back home, Naina Lal Kidwai was also made CEO of HSBC India on May 05, 2006. But, Indian baboodom acted swiftly, and citing some age old weird rule, objected this and withheld its clearance since Naina Lal Kidwai also happens to be a director of Nesle, a borrower of HSBC!

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HSBC has clarified that Kidwai's appointment confirms to exacting standards of corporate governance, and it is in step with international practice to have bankers sit on company boards.

RBI is not relenting. Baboos there remain Lakir ke Fakir, sticking to their age old bizarre rules!

**-**

Vyanjal (The satirical Ghazal)

**-**
Nahin tabdili apni lakir
Baithe rahe yun ban kar Fakir


Jamana kanhan se kanhan chala
Aur hum peetate rahey lakir


Sabne badhaye they haath apne
Hamne hi khinchi nahin lakir


Apni khinch nahin pai to
Mita di dusron ki lakir


Apni badhai nahin Ravi ne
Dekha kiye auron ki lakir

**-**


Monday, August 21, 2006

Comrade, working on a national holiday is a criminal offence!

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If you will work ever, you will be prosecuted!

Every true Indian was in joyous mood on Independence Day - the 15th August. There were celebrations everywhere.

But, this little news remain unnoticed to many.









Comrade- ‘Sarkari Babus' of Kerala ordered to ‘shut shop on Independence day or face criminal prosecution' to many BPOs who are bound to operate 24x7 due to services they offer globally.

There is a wired rule in India, according to which, working on a National Holiday is criminal offence!

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After all, India acquired freedom from thousand years of all kinds of foreign rulers on 15 of August, 1947. So why not enjoy the day to its fullest! A true Indian should honor and abide by the rule, and should not work on that day. Any body found working must immediately be prosecuted.

Btw, what did you do this Independence Day? Tell me the truth.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

All new Blogger Beta? No more WordPress?

All New Blogger Beta with rich features and really, really fast!

Yesterday I talked about Blogger's problems and missing features , and today I came to know about new Blogger Beta.

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It has all the bells and whistles that Word press offers, and most Blogspot Bloggers wanted - including categorization of posts by tagging.

• See the complete list of new features here , and if you think there should be more, then fill up your wish-list here h.

Monday, August 14, 2006

No space in Google? Err.. Blogger?

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Honey, I have eaten all the spaces of Google!

Well, not really. Actually, Blogger generates wired error messages when it encounters some problems during handling its huge database.

For example, this was the error message I encountered last evening while publishing one of my blogger blog - but thankfully, it vanished today.

001 java.io.IOException: No space left ...







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No wonder, many people have already shifted to Wordpress, and many more are seriously considering.

Me?

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Nope. Blogger is Dark Horse. In the long run, you can count my word, It will be one of the best blogging platform - many productivity tools compactly sewn in to it.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Is 88 years is too old to fathered?

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88 Years young!









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Well, I enjoyed the old man's saying - the person who talked about Brahmacharya is one who is weak, dysfunctional and incapable!

The so called Rishi-Munis and all - ARE YOU LISTENING?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Blog and advertisement


Blogs-The New Advertising Avenue

Imagine a situation wherein you get a medium that allows you to vent out your opinions on the latest happenings or views on some emerging concepts or even review new products and technologies. Wouldn't it be a boon for people to be able to express themselves with-out any pressures?

Well, with the arrival of blogs, freedom of expression has achieved a new form. It's true about any new breakthrough that we witness. Once it becomes popular, an attempt to bring the element of commerce is inevitable and often hurried. Now, blogs can also be used as an avenue for advertising. There are three ways in which advertising works with blogs-sponsor-ships. advertising or affiliates.

Sponsorships: If a blog is about cricket, manufacturers of cricket goods can sponsor the blog. This way, their products get space and the blog gets money as well. Moreover, this is contextual and not about advertising about shampoos to someone who is bald. The integration helps.

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Advertising: Content-specific advertising can be brought about through tools like Google's AdSense and BlogAds, a blog-specific product. The readers won't find this out of context and chances are high that they'd look forward to the advertisements, especially since they are reading something that interests them. This is a pull effect and is more effective.

Affiliates: Partnerships and alliances with book publishers also make a lot of sense- If a reader is going through a blog on art. it makes sense to show interesting and recent books on art on the blog. For example, http://www.drawn.ca/ is a blog devoted to illustrations, art, cartooning and drawing. Its purpose is to inspire creativity by sharing links and resources.
In essence, it brings art lovers from all over the world together and provides them with interesting, useful information on their common interest.

That blogs are going to make it big, as an advertising platform. According to a report by PQ Media, blog, podcast and RSS advertising are the fastest growing segments of the alternative media industry, as combined spending on advertising through these three platforms surged 198.4 percent to $20.4 million in 2005. Aggregate spending on the three alternative media segments is projected to grow another 144.9 percent to $49.8 million in 2006, the report has found. Blogs are useful for companies as they can get key insights from netizens on the products that they manufacture. Suggestions for improvements or better versions can sometimes come from the netizens and not the in-house product development department. Companies like HP and Sun Microsystems use blogs to interact with employees and like-minded interest groups.

The technological advances in this age of media-fragmentation have translated into emergence of some new media and the media planners better take note of these. The Internet users are rising and broadband rates are declining. The future will be brighter for online media. Blogs will also be looked upon as a reliable advertising avenue. As a particular blog starts becoming popular, advertisers are bound to make a beeline and invest in it. It is indeed interesting that netizens' voice is all set to also become a nice advertising avenue. •

(courtesy - Pitch, June-15 - July15)

How to click better photographs with Digital Cameras?



Some Tips for better photography with Digital Cameras.

Recently, I attended a digital photography workshop conducted by renowned, ace photographer Gurdas Dua. Gurdas Dua has won several national and international photography awards and is involved in professional photography since last 20 years. He is the only photographer in entire MP and Chattisgarh who is using large format CINAR camera. He has also written several articles in many eminent photography magazines. Some advertisement campaign with Dua's photographs became instant hit - that includes campaign of Egg-Coordination Committee, in which, an egg was depicted as computer mouse! How marvelous an idea and, equally, how marvelous photograph.

  • Let me share some tips that I had learned from such eminent personality on that workshop.

  • If you are not taking plain passport size photograph simply to fill a form and paste in an application, never place your subject matter in the center of the photograph. Always give a little extra small room on the facing side of the subject.

  • While taking photographs of a scenery, follow rule of 2/3. That means, divide the frame in three equal horizontal quadrant, and put your subject in 2/3 quadrant. Never place sky and field in 50-50 equal quadrants. For example, if you want to show beautiful formation of clouds, then place the Sky, filled with clouds in all 2/3 upper quadrant and ground in remaining 1/3 quadrant. Conversely, if you want to show beauty of hills and greenery, put the sky portion in only 1/3 upper quadrant and remaining 2/3 lower quadrant should be for ground. This way, your photographs will have more appeal and it will catch onlooker's eye and attention.

  • Try your best to include some sign of life. E.g. - if you add some flying bird, running animals or vehicles in your landscape of a hilly area covered with beautiful formation of clouds, then the total composition will add value to your photograph. You can wait, even for a long time (is worthwhile) for such sign to appear, or simply you can ask some one to go at the far end and you can shoot him as a sign of life.

  • If your landscape photograph includes road then wait till some one coming or some vehicle appear running from across. A road without a passenger or running vehicle is often treated as meaningless and value less in a photograph. And, keep in mind that most portion of road will remain on facing side of the passenger or vehicle.

  • While taking photographs of person, keep in mind the color composition, color balancing and color harmony. Opposite and contrast colors can cause confusion in a person's persona. Color harmony makes a photograph beautiful and attractive. Use background colors that matches with the person's dress.

These were some artistic tips. Now, let me tell you some technical tips that will help you in making you a professional photographer-

  • Try Your best to use BEST digital SLR camera available to date. Use camera having latest technology. The better the camera, the better will be the results. If Gautam Rajadhyaksha takes photographs with a point and shoot camera, then the result will be the same as you have taken a photograph with the same camera. If Atul Kasbekar has to shoot a bikini clad model with your mobile's built in camera, then there will be very little difference between the photograph taken by you with the same camera.

  • Try to keep your camera steady. Try to always use Tripod, and if it is not possible, then use some nearby steady object to place camera while clicking.

  • Uce professional, non compromising equipment - such as best quality, air tight, hermetically sealable camera bag and put Silica jell in the bag so that moisture may not remain which can produce fungus on costly Camera Lens.
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Finally, two main points which I learned at workshop are-

  • For professional photography - your camera, your equipment must also be of professional quality. You must have at least Digital SLR camera (minimum range, for example, Nikkon D-70) , Exposure meter, Flash Gun, Diffused Light Equipment, Light Filters etc. That means, your minimum investment should be up to $2000 for a good quality camera, and another $10000 for photography equipment, then only you can think about professional photography. And, for us armatures, our mobile's built in cameras are more than enough.

  • To add award winning effect in your photograph, it is now legal to use digital, software tools like Adobe Photoshop. Gurdas Dua himself has used software technique extensively to enhance his photographs. For example, in one of his awarded photograph of a shining water reservoir, he added picture of The Full Moon and a boat with the help of software tools. He has also used software tools to balance exposure and color of that awarded photograph. Thus Digital Photography has attracted a new art form and had opened field of new creativity.

I don't have any professional SLR camera, nor intended to buy one. I simply own a Kodak's point-and-shoot type digital camera DX7220 having max. resolution of 2 Megapixel. The photograph given above and below has been shot with this, and has not been corrected by any software tool. But I had kept in mind some artistic technique I had learned as above.

(This is the picture of area surrounding a natural spring near Ratlam which gets energized during monsoon season.)

Do you think, I had shot professional quality photos or not? Had I simply lost my $10 as fee to that workshop?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Forgot Everything….

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GEE..., and I was thinking hundreds of other reasons!

If you find difficulty in remembering things like your beloved one's birthday or your wedding anniversary, stop blaming your genetic disorders. There are more potent, visible cause you can held them responsible.... According to new studies, the actual culprit may be your habit of cleanliness!

Yes, if you shampoo your hair everyday to wash off dandruffs and dirt, your memory may also get washed by shampoo's strong chemicals. The shampoo, which you are using since ages may be good for your hair, but certainly, may not be good for your memory.

**-**


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Vyanjal (Satirical Ghazal)

Bhool Gaya

Kya bataoon ki kaise bhool gaya

Mai to jaanboozh kar bhool gaya

Zindagi ke masle ulzhe bahoot

Kuch yaad raha kuch bhool gaya

Pyar ki baten hamne bhi kit hi

Bhookh se jaldi hi bhool gaya

Sansad ko kisliye voh kanoon

Kal yaad tha aaj bhool gaya

Ban gaya Ravi bhi rajneetigya

Tabhi voh khud ko bhool gaya

**-**

Friday, August 04, 2006

Making most from Winamp

Winamp : make more music to your ears!

One of the big reasons for invasion of PCs in homes is because of its ability to play multimedia files, particularly Music files. And, by and large, on every other PC, music files, especially MP3 files are handled by one and only application called Winamp. Winamp is arguably the most preferred, freely available MP3 player among PCs and considering its clones; it is equally popular in Linux/Unix World. Its plug-in support makes it capable to play virtually all kinds of media files. It is fully customizable since it also supports third party plug-ins including Skins and Visualization plug-ins.

There are various versions of Winamp that has been released periodically. Currently, the latest version is Winamp3, which is still in beta stage. For Winamp3, it has been claimed that it is a brand new version built with the help of brand new methodology of coding called Wasabi. With Winamp3, you will get complete customizability of media playback experience via system of component programming. The skinning system is completely revamped that can be dynamically blend and rendered on the fly. Further, newer version is going to be released for Linux platform too. The new Wasabi coding platform is going to be easily compiled for other Operating Systems and architectures and its Skins need not be modified for platform specific settings.

Here are some tips that you can apply to your Winamp to make more music to your ears. Take note that some settings may not be available or need different tweaking according to your version of Winamp. However, most tips work for latest full version of Winamp (i.e. Winamp2.75).

· The feel & look good factor:

You hardly give a second look to anything if it isn’t feeling good to your eyes. So, beautify your Winamp by applying your preferred Winamp skin. There are hundreds and thousands of Winamp skin freely available across Internet that you can download and use. You can also find numerous Winamp skin in i.t. CDs. So, get these skins (which are specially edited compressed picture files) and copy them to your Winamp’s Skin folder. By default, it is under Program files/Winamp/Skin directory. Restart Winamp. Right click anywhere on Winamp player, and point your mouse pointer to Skin menu that appears. You will see the names of all the Winamp skin that is available in that folder including recently copied skins. Click on the particular skin which you want to apply on your Winamp player and instantly you will see that your Winamp player has been revamped to a new life! If you have dozens of skin collection, then you can organize these to different folders too. In that case, simply set skin directory indicating to that folder. To set skin directory, follow above steps and instead of clicking a particular skin, click on ‘Skin Browser’. Now click on ‘Set skin directory’ button and select the folder you want and click OK. Next time when you restart Winamp, the skins from that directory will be available for you to choose. Further if you want to randomize the skin automatically, you can select the ‘Random skin on play’ checkbox. If size does matter to you, than you can increase to double the size of your Winamp player from Clutterbar that is available at the top left corner of Winamp player. Alternatively, right click on Winamp player and go to options. Click on ‘double size’ (pressing shortcut keys Control and D simultaneously while playing Winamp will give similar results, and every aspect of Winamp can be controlled by keyboard shortcuts that you can see by right clicking on Winamp player and selecting Nullsoft Winamp/ Keyboard Shortcuts ). You will see your lovely player’s face in real size now! And in rare cases, if you are still not satisfied with the available skins that ranged from Aishwarya to Zeba and from Tintin to Taj Mahal, then you can create your own Winamp skin with some freely available Winamp skin maker applications. Making Winamp skin doesn’t require much expertise and you can quickly make Winamp skin from your beloved one’s images in no time. In Winamp3, you can apply your choice of color scheme to your player’s skin by applying different RBG values.

· The sound & light factor

Winamp is a player that has more control over your music than any other player. It has built in Ten Band graphic equalizer capable to control sound from 60 Hz to 16 KHz; that is effective and can be applied on the fly. The Winamp software pre amplifier has good range from -20 db to +20 db. It has panning bar that can be applied real time. Latest version of Winamp comes with more than a dozen equalizer presets ranging from Classical to Rock that you can choose from. You can record your own customized preset and save them for use at other time.

To load Winamp equalizer preset, click EQ button of Winamp player if equalizer window is not visible already. Then click Presets button on Winamp equalizer window. Go to ‘Load’ and then click on ‘Preset’. You will see a list of installed and saved equalizer presets. Select one and click on it. It will load instantaneously if you have set ‘ON’ button which is indicating by green light over ‘ON’ button of Winamp Equalizer window (it is clearly shown on base skin, may not be visible or distorted on other skin). For recording your own equalizer settings, simply move respective bar of each frequency to either up or down position to suit most to your ear, and click on Presets button. Then go to Save, select Presets and type the name by which you will later recognize your setting and click on save. It will be there until you delete it. The equalizer setting can be made either Linear or Logarithmic.

Winamp has built in visualization window that shows you visualization effect corresponding to music being played. It also supports more advanced visualization plug-ins that are astonishing and mesmerizing in visual effects.

Refine sound:

There are settings & preferences that you can change and apply for further refinement to music. Right click on Winamp player and go to Options and click on Preferences menu. You will see various menus in left window pan that appears and corresponding entries in right window pan for further customization. For example, under Plug-ins/ Input menu, you can see entries for installed plug-ins like MPEG audio, WMA, MP3, MIDI, MOD, CD audio and VOC/WAV etc. By default, Winamp plays your MP3 files through Nullsoft MPEG Audio Decoder plug-in. So select that entry and click on Configure button. A settings window called ‘MPEG audio decoder settings’ will appear having various settings tabs. Click on general tab. You will see a section named Full file buffering. If you have sufficient RAM, than you can increase the settings for ‘Buffer entire file from disk if file is smaller than … Kilobytes’. Here, you can increase the value up to 99999 KB. But, choose a safe value but definitely more than default 128 KB (this setting is for better playback and less hard disk activity). Now click on Decoder tab. You will see Output and Quality sections. If you have old computer with old sound card, you may uncheck ‘Allow stereo output’ and ’16-bit output’ and lower the quality to ‘Half’ or ‘Quarter’ for less CPU usage. Similarly, the Equalizer setting can be changed from Linear to Logarithmic. Next, click on streaming tab. In ‘Streaming Data Buffer’ section, you can increase default 64 KB value to 256 or more KB if you have high end system for smooth playback of music over Internet.

Now click on ‘Output’ menu and select Nullsoft waveOut plug-in that is responsible for giving you sound output. Click on configure button. In Output device section, you will see a dropdown tab where installed devices are present. There, you may see entry for your sound card also. Though, Winamp recommends Wave Mapper device, you can choose your sound card device for better performance if it is high end type card. Click OK to apply these settings. Similar settings can be made for other Input and Output devices.


Refine Visualization:

To get most out of visualization plug-ins like Winamp’s Advanced Visualization Studio, follow these steps: Start Winamp preference window by right clicking on Winamp player. Then go to Options and then click on Preferences. Under Plug-ins section, click on Visualization and select Advanced Visualization Studio. Click on Start button that appears at right pan. Depending on your previous settings, Visualization window will appear, along with Winamp AVS Editor. Right click anywhere on visualization window and select newpicks (if it is installed with Winamp then it will be there). You will find numerous visualization entries here. Click on any one of it. The selected visualization will start. You can further customize the selected visualization through Winamp AVS editor. Depending on the selected Visualization, context sensitive menu will appear in the editor window’s left pan. Click on each and try to change values and mathematical expression on the right pan that include color settings to blending and rendering and shapes etc. You may derive a new, dashing Visualization for you. If you find difficulty in finding Winamp AVS editor, then try this: right click on Visualisation that is playing and select ‘Dock in config’. The visualization window will be docked in Winamp AVS editor. You can always play visualization in full screen mode, but your Desktop can also play visualization. For this, click on Settings tab of Winamp AVS Editor and click on Display menu. Ensure ‘Overlay mode’ and ‘Set desktop to color’ check box remain checked. Similarly, for better visualization, select Beat detection settings to ‘Advanced’ (in Winamp AVS editor/settings/Beat detection). The output of visualization window can be directed to overhead projector for a party or for DJ-ing.

With all these settings, Winamp is ready to rock you. The time for playing some serious music has finally arrived. So fire your Winamp and shake your entire surrounding with great sound and light from it. And if you find difficulty in finding your taste of music then there is mini browser right there in Winamp that can download your taste of music from Internet.

Snapshot Descriptions:

  1. Winamp1.bmp: Visualization settings can be changed for personnel preference and building entirely new visualization by Winamp editor.
  2. Winamp2.bmp: Winamps3 has various dock able windows for different settings including skin switcher media library etc.
  3. Winamp3.bmp: Beautify your Winamp through various Skins.
  4. Winamp4.bmp: Go to Options > Preferences for customizing Winamp’s settings.
  5. Winamp5.bmp: Winamp preferences window where every aspect of winamp is customizable including icons, file types etc.
  6. Winamp6.bmp: Enable Winamp agent if you want Winamp in your system tray, ready to sing for you with a single mouse click.
  7. Winamp7.bmp: MPEG audio decoder setting: Increase the value of full file buffering if you have high end multimedia system.
  8. Winamp8.bmp: You can lower down settings of Winamp if you have older Computer and sound card having less resources.
  9. Winamp9.bmp: In wave out plug-in setting, you can assign output device to your sound card if you have better one. Increase the buffer and block size for better, un-interrupted playback.
  10. Winamp10.bmp: Winamp recommends Wave mapper as default output device. But you can experiment by applying your own sound card.
  11. Winamp11.bmp: Winamp has built in visualization window and its settings can be changed.
  12. Winamp12.bmp: Winamp3, able to customize in all respect including Skin color that can be set by applying RBG values.
  13. Winamp13.bmp: Winamp AVS editor lets you change the way the visualization look and perform for you with every beat of music.
  14. Winamp14.bmp: You can find several visualization plug-in with Winamp 2.75 full version. You have to test each and every to know what they deliver and which one matches your taste.
  15. Winamp15.bmp: Winamp AVS editor’s built in compiler has built in functions that can be changed dynamically for desired output.
  16. Winamp16.bmp: Select desired Plug-ins through Presets > newpicks in Winamp AVS editor.
  17. Winamp17.bmp: You can change Mathematical expressions and value of coordinates to customize Winamp visualization.
  18. Winamp18.bmp: Set Winamp’s beat detection to ‘Advanced’ for better visualization.
  19. Winamp19.bmp: Winamp has a mini browser that lets you download music, free skins, free plug-ins, play radio and more from Internet.
  20. Winamp20.bmp: If size does matter, double it by pressing CTRL + D while playing Winamp.
  21. Winamp21.bmp: Winamp has numerous built in graphic equalizer presets.
  22. Winamp22.bmp: Right click on visualization which is playing then click on ‘Dock in config’ in context menu that appears for invoking Winamp AVS editor.

SOT Office - an OenOffice varient...

SOT Office: a free productivity suit for Linux

The freeware office suit, SOT Office is based on trimmed down version of Star Office, called Open Office and is available for Windows and Linux platform. SOT Office has four basic built in programs. It has Word Processor, Spreadsheet, Presentation Tool and a basic Drawing program. The office suit acts as a small yet efficient browser too. The program is rich in features including two extremely useful features- Navigator and Stylist that you may not find in other popular office applications. Navigator allows you to move instantly to the desired part of a document, whereas Stylist can format your document on the fly with a single mouse click. Its word program can suggest you tips and word on the fly during typing (similar to Auto Text and Auto Complete features of MS Word) that you can simply accept by a stroke of enter key. This does not mean that it always suggest right tips and right words. For example, while typing this line, it suggested Forward for every word typed ‘for’, everyday for 'every' etc. Still, this feature is really helpful in making your typing real fast since you can train it to behave accordingly. It has on line suggestion tool that can intelligently change as your type progress. For example, while successively typing 'accordingly', it suggested 'accepts' for acc, 'accomplish' for acco, and finally 'accordingly' for accor; which you finally accept by pressing enter key. Thus you save 5 key strokes in typing word - 'accordingly'. Its spelling check is efficient, but fails in delivering proper grammar check.

This suit can open and save your Microsoft Office document including some other popular file format and can preserve their complex formatting. This article is edited partially in Microsoft Word and partially in SOT Office without any much problem. Its spreadsheet program is also feature full and so is its presentation program. The drawing program is somewhat basic, yet all your need for embedding basic drawing in documents can be fulfilled if you are not intending for real Art.

Though this suit is very easy in use, as usual, installing this program is somewhat tricky in Linux platform. Here is step by step guide for using SOT Office in your RedHat / Mandrake Linux installation.

Installing Package

Login as root and install the RPM file (that is available for download across its web site http://www.sot.com or from i.t. CD) by giving following command:

rpm -ivh soto*.rpm

The rpm file for SOT Office is distributed as single rpm file soto-2002-gen.i386.rpm. So, it will probably not make any dependency problems during installation if you have most common packages for running XWindows installed along with latest Linux distribution. Make sure that you are in the current directory where rpm file of SOT Office is available while giving above command. You can also install this package through RedHat / Mandrake package manager in XWindows. Installing this RPM file makes a directory called /opt /SOTO where all the installation files of SOTO Office are copied. This way, the package is installed, but the application is not yet setup for running. For installing and setting up the application, you have to run its setup program for every user so that it can create desired configuration file for each user.

Installing Application

For installing SOT Office for root user, simply go to the /opt/SOTO directory and run setup from there. For this, you must have XWindows up and running. During installation, it will ask certain small things like installation type etc., that you can left for default and complete the installation.

After installation completes, you may wonder from where you will run this application? There may not be any desktop icon or program group icon created as standard Windows installation. You have to run the application launcher soffice from its installed directory. Alternately, you may create an icon on your desktop for launching this application else you have to go to its installed directory every time to run this application. By default, the program installs in the home directory of user, such as /root/soto unless it is not changed during installation. The typical command for /root/soto installation will be:

cd /root/soto/program

./soffice

For creating desktop shortcut, right click anywhere on the Desktop. Depending upon your windows manager, a context menu will appear that may have entries like - Create New > Link to application. Now specify icon, put the address of the program for launching SOT office (for example, /root/soto/program/soffice). Note that the utility to launch SOT Office named 'soffice' will be at the /program directory of newly installed soto directory and not SOTO directory.

Either way, you can launch your SOT Office from command line or from desktop shortcut that you may create for your self.




Installing Hindi and other fonts

SOT Office has its own font and printer manager. You can install SOT Office compatible printer and fonts separately for this application. Here is step by step method for installing Hindi / Devnagri true type and other fonts:

Start a terminal in Xwindows

Change to the directory where /soto/program is installed

Run the shortcut of executable file spadmin from there by giving command: ./spadmin

A GUI based tool will be launched and you will be presented with option of setting up New Printer or Font. Click on Font button and then click on Add button. In the next window that appears, select the source directory. You can put check mark in the check box 'create soft links only' if you copy these fonts from local hard disk such as Windows/fonts directory. Finally select the fonts you want to install and click OK. Your fonts will be installed for use in SOT Office. Take note that these fonts will not be available for other Linux application or environments.

SOT Office is never intended to become replacement for full fledged commercial Office Suit, but it indeed is a better, free alternate.

Screen shot descriptions:

1. sot_01.jpg Installing applications in Linux were always tricky. There were version conflicts, package dependency issues and more, which are to be addressed before proper package installation. SOT Office needs to be installed as package in your Linux partition prior to running its application setup program.

2. sot_02.jpg Once the package installs, SOT Office setup program runs and completes like any standard MS Windows program.

3. sot_03.jpg During SOT Office setup, you are given option to customize your installation like directory location, components to install etc.

4. sot_04.jpg SOT Office has word processing program comparable to most popular commercially available Word processor.

5. sot_05.jpg At times, SOT Office becomes corrupt and refuses to work properly. You can repair it by running its setup program again. However, some critical errors may still refuse to go and you need to de-install it and then reinstall.

6. sot_06.jpg You may need to create a desktop shortcut or start menu item for launching SOT Office program.

7. sot_07.jpg SOT Office takes a little while on starting but when it is started once, it delivers things real fast.

8. sot_08.jpg You can install and use virtually any type of True Type fonts in SOT Office which has its own font manager.

9. sot_09.jpg You must disable auto correct / auto complete option to use Hindi Fonts.

10. sot_10.jpg SOT Office has powerful presentation tool with some beautiful built in presentation template.

11. sot_11.jpg SOT Office open dialogue box has three pan where you can see some extra attributes of chosen file.

12. sot_12.jpg SOT Office provides you option to work with MS Office documents.

13. sot_13.jpg SOT Office has two extremely useful tool – Navigator and Stylist.

14. sot_14.jpg Installing fonts in Linux application made easy; thanks to their individual Font manager.

Tunning Windows for better performance...

Tips to tune up Windows

Have you ever compared your system’s performance to that of your friend’s and worried that what makes your friend’s old Pentium 233 MMX system gives better performance than your latest Pentium III 500 MHz system? The problem may lie in bad tuning of your system’s hardware and software settings. This happens especially when you purchase your assembled system from a local assembler. Because, some system setting and fine tuning are normally never done by local assemblers since they are ignorant about such issues and they don’t have expertise in tuning up system settings and in some cases, even if they have some expertise, then they do not bother to do so. But don’t loose your heart. You can yourself fine tune your system’s setting with a few precaution and get optimum performance even from an old, obsolete system. Here are few simple tips to fine-tune your system that may work wonders in Windows95 and above versions.

Start from BIOS setting

A great performance boost can be obtained from proper BIOS setting, especially during system boot up. To change BIOS setting, press and hold ‘Delete’ key when you switch on your PC. After a while, BIOS setup utility will start. It may prompt you for a password if a password has been set earlier. Enter password if necessary, and navigate to Dialog box that appear there after. Note that the dialog box may differ as per your version of BIOS chip, whether it is AWARD or AMI, but the settings may remain more or less same. For example, if you never use floppy except in emergency situation as your boot media, then in case of AWARD BIOS, go to BIOS Features Setup, and choose boot sequence as C, A, SCSI and disable boot up Floppy Seek. Now your system will not waste precious time in searching floppy disk each time during its boot up process. Further, make sure that Quick Power On Self Test is enabled and Boot Up System Speed is set to High. Now your system is BIOSICALLY tuned up to perform optimally. However, it is recommended that you write down your default setting before making any change, since fiddling with BIOS may some time make your system go haywire and may not boot at all. So, make a single change at a time and test the result. If you feel satisfied, then make another change and so on. You can always come to default setting later if anything goes wrong, so don’t panic even if your system become un bootable after a certain BIOS setting change, and simply remove the battery and reinsert after a few second or press the switch or set the jumper on Mother Board to restore default BIOS settings.

Configuring system through utilities

Among host of Utilities capable to provide you various system settings, there is a nice, built in utility in Windows called msconfig , through which you can fine tune your windows setting for better performance. Note that some of default settings are made to fail safe operation meant for normal performance. Here, you need to change these settings for good, better or customized performance as per your need. To customize system settings through msconfig, click start button, select RUN and type msconfig in dialog box that appears and click OK button. System Configuration Utility will open up in which you can change numerous settings. Click general tab and create a backup before making any changes by clicking ‘Create Backup’ button so that you can always comeback to your previous setting if anything goes wrong and not satisfied with results of changes. When you finished backing up, you can disable processing of Autoexec.bat and config.sys files during system startup if you think that you need not want dos drivers to load. You can also edit these files as well as System.ini and Win.ini files through this utility. You can put @REM statement in selected lines of autoexec.bat file if you are sure that you normally do not need those DOS drivers during Windows session. Now click ‘Startup’ tab and remove checkmarks from unnecessary yet memory-hogging programs. Some programs like WinampAgent, Microsoft find fast etc. do practically nothing while running in background, and is recommended to be removed from startup. Some anti virus program also run constantly in background, but if your PC is not connected to network or Internet or if you are not working on any downloaded, suspected third party file, then there is no point that your AV program runs constantly in background. You can safely disable these by removing checkmarks against these programs. And when you need them, you can always run from their respective program icon groups in desktop or program folder. Confirm that, in ideal situation, when you do not run any application, when you press ctrl+del+alt keys simultaneously the close program dialog box that appears, display only ‘Explorer’ and ‘Systray’.



Tuning with Tweak UI

Another nice, useful system tweaking utility is Tweak UI. You can find it on your Windows installer CD or alternatively, you can find latest version of this free program in magazine CDs such as i.t. CD. To install Tweak UI, you have to unzip distribution program in to your local hard drive and right click ‘tweakui.inf’ file and choose install. After installation, go to control panel, and double click Tweak UI icon. You are given various options to change and modify right from Mouse sensitivity to Explorer and Network settings, but since we are dealing here exclusively with system performance, go to boot tab and clear check mark from ‘Display splash screen while booting’ option. Next time when you restart your system, your graphic card and eventually your system will take less time to boot since they skip loading windows startup picture file. You can check X-Mouse button which automatically send your mouse pointer to activated window and activated button, but at times you may find it inconvenient and need some time to get used to this auto feature.

Manage your memory

A system’s sure shot performance booster is its memory. If you fine-tune your system’s memory settings, your system will perform optimally. Present day program are more and more feature rich, complex and big and hence need more memory than ever. It is a saying now that you upgrade memory before your system’s upgrade. Today’s minimum Memory requirement is 64 MB of SDRAM, even for simple task like word processing. If you use graphics and multimedia, then more RAM is essential, as well as good graphic card having equally more quantity of VRAM. Though, upgrading to RAM only will not give you proper results unless you set your system to use Swap file judiciously. Set swap file to approximately double the size of your Physical RAM even if you have big Hard Disk and ample free space. You can increase the swap size if you use graphics manipulation programs that require even more memory. When Windows run, it places its currently used data as swap files to the place if empty, where its read write head is resting. This way, the program appears running faster initially, but in long run, due to scattering of chunks of data all around the disk, your system goes slow and need frequent de-fragmentation of Hard Disk. Linux uses fixed swap file system and the word de-fragmentation is unheard here. To avoid frequent de-fragmentation, it is advisable to set fixed swap file, that too in first sector of second partition or second hard disk if available. If swap is set in same hard disk in same partition, then it is recommended to set it immediately after fresh installation of Windows and before installation of any other program. To set swap file, right click My Computer icon in desktop, select Property, go to performance tab, click it, and then click General tab and click Virtual Memory button. Now in Virtual Memory dialog box, select ‘Let me specify my own virtual memory settings’. Select the appropriate hard disk and set the minimum and maximum size equal. For example, for a system with 64 MB RAM, you can set both values to 120 MB. Click OK and ignore the warning messages that appear and again click OK on main dialog box to restart your system to take effect the changes.

Run your PC as Server

When you set your PC to run as Network Server, it appears to run a bit faster, simply because the cache file size that windows hold in its memory increases. To set your PC as Network Server, right click My Computer icon in desktop and select property. Click Performance tab and click File System button. Click Hard Disk tab and in settings window, select Network Server in dropdown list of ‘Typical role of this computer’ field. Click OK. Now click Floppy Disk tab and clear check mark against ‘Search for new Floppy Disk each time your computer starts’. Now your system will run faster and boot faster.

Now despite all these settings and tweaking, if you are still not satisfied with your system’s speed and performance, then it is high time to speed to Computer Market for either upgrading your system or buying a new, latest one.

Managing websites with ZOPE

Zope: Manage your web site a new way.

Dot com bubble may have burst but it is also a hard fact that Internet traffic is increasing day by day and more and more people are rushing to use Internet’s unlimited potential. Great and good web sites will always be in great demand. The only thing that makes the difference between a good and a failed web site is its presentation and content. If your web site has web content that is useful to users and has been put in user friendly way, web surfers are bound to come back to your site very often else they will find little value even to remember your domain name. You can put user specific data and quality content to lure surfers but if your presentation is poor then it is of no value to any one. For example, a fancy web page designed in Front Page Express may not render well in a user’s Netscape Browser. Further, web sites are being evolved as Web application server, where a user can get variety of services through various Web applications. For managing all these, you may need latest tools and applications. There are numerous applications and tools available with which you can build your Web site and Web applications. You may find open source tool like PHP on one hand and commercial product like ColdFusion on other. In between, there is a free, new tool called Zope, which offer you some similar and some extra features in building your Web site.

What is Zope?

Zope is a free, new tool for building dynamic Web sites. Zope consists of several different components that work together to provide you tools to build web applications. Though, Zope has potential to be extended to any field, presently, it has following main component:

[1] A web server:

Zope comes with built in web server. However, if you find your other server like Apache or Microsoft’s IIS good, and do not want to use Zope’s, then you can set it to work with them. In fact, Zope works with any other server that supports CGI.

[2] A file manager:

Zope has web based file manager type simple interface that dynamically interact with web browsers during building web sites and applications. Thus building web sites become a real easy task.

[3] A Database manager:

One of the most prominent features of Zope is- it is having its own object database management capabilities. But it also seamlessly works with other popular relational database like Oracle, Postgres, Sybase etc.

[4] A language:

Zope has its own language called DTML [Document Template Markup Language] with which nearly all kinds of complex web applications can be created. Further, Zope supports most popular languages like Python and Perl etc.

In addition to these common site management tools, Zope comes with numerous built in other tool such as Search Engine, Security and customized services etc. Zope supports almost all modern Internet standard that include: SQL, ODBC, XML, DOM, FTP, HTTP, Fast CGI, RPC, SOAP etc.


Zope is Easy

You may find some of the following features of Zope that make it extremely easy to use:

· Zope has simple file manager interface.

· Zope does not need complex configuration, and it can be used out of box.

· Zope does not require unfamiliar and proprietary development tool. You can work with Zope with the help of any standard Web browser.

· You can scale it to handle any number of developer as well as user.

· You can extend, customize, and redistribute Zope as it is free.

· Zope comes with a very easy, complete practical tutorial through which you can create your complex, yet beautiful; feature rich web site in no time. And, for this, you only need to know some basic HTML and nothing else. And for web administration, there too is a complete guide that will help you in administering your web site.

· Zope is available for both Linux/Unix and Windows platform. It is available in source that can be customized and as well as pre-compiled binary ready to install in any system.

Zope for your every need

If you look in to some successful web sites, you can feel that they have become a sort of web application server. You can find services and applications from e-mail to chat to instant messengers to online shopping and more. These complex web sites need various tools and different applications to address each and every feature. Further, web security, web based management, search, clustering, and syndication etc. need customized tools to manage them. Zope has all the tools built in to address all these and even more. Thus, in Zope, you need only one set of skill and one set of tool to develop complex web application. Zope supports add on that can be created on the fly and if you don’t have time write one for you, then you can find free add ons that covers practically everything from Credit Card processing to Discussion forums.

Some added advantage

An average web site can be managed by any simple application. But if you want to manage large, complex web site, you may not find more than a couple suitable applications. Zope is one of the premier web management applications that can efficiently handle terra bytes of web content. Zope’s programming pattern has been designed for future web models. In Zope, security features can be extended, scaled and customized to every user level. It can provide futuristic network services like serving remote computer programs and other web content.

Want to have a taste of this futuristic application? Just log on to www.zope.org and download free Zope application that is less than 10MB, installs without any problem either in Windows or in Linux/Unix platform and is extremely easy in use.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Give long life to your PC...

Prescriptions for your PC’s longevity

Rx

Have more Memory

Memory may not be an issue if your PC is new enough. Your PC may have installed more RAM than the entire capacity of Hard Disk of a PC that is few years old. If your PC has Hard Disk more than 10 GB and RAM greater than 128 MB then you can safely skip this prescription to follow next one. Simply be sure that if you have assigned virtual memory manually, then it should be sufficient and big enough to dump data of your RAM. But if your PC is few years old and low on memory, you can increase its life by installing more RAM and Bigger Hard Disk (for bigger Virtual Memory), since small RAM makes your Hard Disk and PC to work overtime. Further, do not stuff unwanted programs and files to your Hard Disk even if you have large Hard Disk. These unwanted stuffs may tends to make your PC slow since your PC need to search huge database and scan huge registry for starting and running applications.

Rx

Update Your Device drivers

Scientists, researchers and developers constantly work overtime to refine their products and devices. Every day some new features are added, bugs are removed and products are upgraded. Therefore it is recommended to install latest, updated driver for your hardware; especially for your Graphic card, Sound card, Modem and BIOS chip. Newer PCs have Driver for their mother board too, and this also needs updated. Updated device driver fixes known problems and enhances performances of your devices.

In Windows OS, updating device drivers are fairly easy. Get new driver from manufacturer’s web site and down load the appropriate driver file in your hard disk. Often, they are compressed for quick downloading, so you have to decompress them prior to installation. Now, through control panel’s device manager, you can change driver for your devices. Some driver files are self executable compressed file that expands and installs upon running those. In Linux and UNIX, device drivers are installed as modules in Operating System’s Kernel hence you need to recompile Kernel that may be tricky. BIOS upgrades are also tricky and you need special precautions and procedure to upgrade them. Make sure that to uninstall the old driver prior to installing new one else you may encounter driver conflicts, and your device may stop functioning. You can find updated driver for your devices from some download sites such as http://www.drivershq.com, http://mrdriver.com, and http://www.download.com. In general, device drivers are distributed free. However, keep in mind that some latest driver may not work for older devices and hardware since they are exclusively made for some new features in new devices and new hardware.

Rx

Run Disk diagnostic utilities regularly



Run disk diagnostic utilities such as scan disk and disk defragmenter at regular intervals. With these tools, you can improve your PC’s performance, get advance information about your Hard Disk’s condition, recover lost space and remove hard disk errors. You can also use third party utilities like Norton’s Speed disk and Disk Doctor for fine tuning your Hard Disks and removing errors from it.

Rx

Condition your PC’s power supply

For your PC’s better health, a good UPS that delivers smooth sinusoidal output is ideal. UPS with battery power monitor software lets you save your work prior to power failure. If a good UPS is out of your budget then at least you must use a good Spike suppressor. A mobile spike suppressor is must for your laptop/mobile PC since you never know the condition of power at sites you visit. There are multi socket surge suppressor that provides you protection for you PC as well as some other devices such as modem, printers, scanners, and other USB devices. If you are using Laptop or any portable PC, then you can increase battery life by setting power saving feature from control panel. In Windows OS, Click on Start button, go to settings then click on Control Panel and select Power options. Select either of the option Hibernate or Standby. Whereas Hibernate shuts down the computer at the current state which can be retrieved quickly, standby only close your monitor and hard drive. Both are used as time and power saving tool. Retrieving from standby is quicker than PC’s hibernation, however; if you want your portable PC is to be kept off for considerably longer time then using hibernation is best option. These settings for battery and electric supply must be different in each case and should be considerably lower for battery option (a typical setting is 30 minutes for Electric supply and 3 Minutes for Battery supply).

Make sure to turn off your Laptop or portable PC ten minutes prior to packing it up in your brief case so as to allow it to cool sufficiently. If you pack up it immediately after a marathon presentation, it may be too hot and remain in hot state inside your briefcase for a long time and thus its electronic parts may get damaged.

Rx

Use you PC regularly

Like other things in your life, the phrase “use it or loose it” holds good for your PC too. Most parts of your PC except disk drives are static and hence needs little maintenance. However, since Indian sub continent is situated in tropical zone which is hot and humid most of the year, a little more care is necessary for your PC’s longevity. You have to use your PC regularly to warm it up enough to drive out moisture content off your PC; especially if you are not using Air Conditioning. If you are using Air Cooling in summer, then ensure that Air Cooler’s air flow do not reach to your PC directly, since they contain tiny droplets of water and may harm your PC. Air coolers are notorious in increasing moisture content to a high level. If environmental temperature is too high during summer, you may need to install additional cooling fans inside your PC. Similarly, you have to maintain dust free environment for your PC, and if it is not possible, then you need to clean your PC’s inner parts by blowing air or by cleaning through a soft brush. Suspended dust particles may creep inside your PC and deposit over the parts of circuitry and work as heat insulators. The layer of dust increases your PC’s working temperature. Further, with the help of moisture, dust may cause electrical disturbances and eventual failure of devices. There is a small battery inside the PC that keeps the clock running inside when the PC is off. Some of the batteries are of rechargeable type. When you keep your PC off for a long time, the battery may drain quickly since it may not get charged and your system may give you error messages during boot process.

Rx

Remove removable media

Floppies are on death bed, but CD and DVD are young and running. If you play lot of games, audio or movies off CDROM or DVD drive, then try coping its content to your Hard Disk and running it from there (though some disks are copy protected, and cannot be copied traditionally, and need special technique and software to copy them). Anyway if you run these from CDROM / DVD drive, some of its contents are temporarily being continuously copied to hard disk for processing. When you run your games or movies from Hard Disk, CDROM / DVD drives are kept idle. These high speed drives generates lot of noises and heat. Besides, life of your CDROM / DVD drive’s lens that read and writes through LASER beam is increased this way. Except for saving and retrieving contents, it is advisable to not use removable Media unless extremely essential.

Rx

Use Cleansers and Lubricants

PC and its peripherals need regular cleaning. When you feel jerky movements of mouse pointer, you instantly know that the time to clean mouse rollers has come. Clean it with cotton or cellophane tape. Cotton swab available for ear cleaning can be effectively used for cleaning mouse rollers. Your printer’s Rollers, gears and guide bars also need frequent cleaning and periodic lubrication. You can use maintenance spray like Pidilite’s Zorrik that cleans, protects and lubricates printer’s moving parts and gears etc. After spray, do not forget to clean extra fluid with the help of clean cotton cloth that is free from loose fibers. Colin spray can be used for cleaning monitor screen and other plastic parts of your computer. Key Board also needs frequent cleaning since dust can accumulate between the space of different keys and may cause some of keys to malfunction.

These simple prescriptions can be followed without any pain and you will see in the end that your PC is working forever without giving you any trouble.

Sandboxing your PC

Put your Computer in Sandbox

Believe it or not, when you type a web site’s URL in your browser’s address bar and push Go button to surf that site, you do not go to that web site, but the site actually come to you. Fancy graphics, flashy animations and all kinds of auto-executable codes that includes ActiveX controls and Java Applets gets download on your computer and run there and display the results as stunning, interactive and informative web pages in your web browser’s window. Further, can you believe that these auto-executable codes are capable to perform practically any task- repeat- any task in your computer with or without your knowledge! The real security threat comes to you because of your own act- that is surfing to those sites that may contain malicious ActiveX control or Java applet or any other code that can be a worm or a virus embedded in its HTML page! Now what do you do to safe guard your computer from these?

Towards a safer Internet

You cannot live without Internet. Moreover, in future, all computers (optimists believe that all future appliances) will be connected to Internet any way. As a security measure, you can easily disable running scripts and auto-executable code from your browser settings, but then your web experience will be dead enough, you cannot tap Internet’s full potential and very purpose of Internet is defied. As a Security measure, you can reject all email attachments, turn off ActiveX, Java, JavaScript and VBScripts in your email and browsers and disable Macros in Office applications. What will happen now? You will revert back to ancient age of computing and your productivity will be seriously hampered and your survival in IT field will be jeopardized. As a user, your experience with web pages will be static plain text and dead graphics without any interactivity. Similarly, installing Virus scanner or Firewalls in your computer may not work always. Virus Scanners takes reactive approach to identify Viruses, Worms and Trojan Horses by matching signature database of known viruses. Hence a new kind of Virus that has no known signature database existing, can spread undetected like wild fire. Scanning for viruses and removing after detection worked well in the past when most infection caused through exchanged Floppies and are very slow in spreading; thus before a virus spreads to a potential area, an antidote is worked out and damages are arrested to a great extent. But in this era of Internet, a self replicating virus having multiple strains can spread to hundreds of thousands of computer world wide in no time. Viruses and worms may spread not only through your email attachments but will also spread through your browser and instant messaging programs. Instant messaging services which are among most popular Internet services presently, are most risky applications since users chat in real time; bypassing email servers, filters, firewalls and can download and transfer files that can contain malicious code. Even web enabled cell phones have been attacked by viruses. By the time antidote for the virus is worked out, it can already make intended damages. Further, if a known virus is altered slightly even as compressed zip files, its binary signature is altered thus making its detection by virus scanner, harder. Even your trusted sites that you have permitted in your firewall setting can innocently push malicious code. It seems that there is no way out to tap all potentialities of Internet without fear of damages. No, I bet, yes, you have!

New, Proactive approach

Often, some problems are solved with proactive approach that includes creating simulated conditions in protected, closed environment for studying and analyzing problems and working out for possible solutions. If this approach is applied to the content of Internet that you are using, then potential threat that the web content can do could be studied. The contents are then passed {or failed if not satisfy certain conditions} for further use. This technique is called Sandbox technique, which is a proactive approach to stop the malicious actions of internet code before any malicious activity can occur. The Sandbox application sits between the malicious code and the operating system and intercepts any system calls that code made. It checks its policy database to determine just what the kind of code is allowed to perform certain kind of task and immediately block any unauthorized activity. The Sandbox technique allows Internet’s active content (or any application, known or unknown) to run in a closed, controlled and isolated or virtual machine environment thus create an impenetrable barrier between the suspected content that is running and rest of your computer’s data and operating system. Within this closed environment (Sandbox) any code can run and access calls to system resources, services including change in registry databases but are only allowed within the set precondition to protect the privacy and integrity of your computer. In sandboxing techniques, all the active contents that are being downloaded off Internet through any means are tracked. Then the requests for system resources and services are intercepted and compared to a pre defined set of system policies. If policy violations are not detected, suspicious or unwanted activities are not found, then requests are allowed, else denied or prompted (if you set it so) for your clarifications. According to set rules, the actions of downloaded active content determine whether it is allowed for further running and performing further task or stopped. The Sandbox applications are behavior checker that checks for hostile attacks; also isolate buggy application and deny each and every action for system resources or services whether arises locally or across network if it is set specifically to not allow. This way, any application, even unsecured one along with their entire feature, Web content, email and chat clients, Messenger services, Web Browsers or virtually any other code (including potentially dangerous codes) can run safely (without creating intended damages, since they are stopped by sandbox before their malicious act) in your computer if there is Sandbox software installed.

Now what happens when a new, unknown virus, worm, malicious ActiveX control or Java Applet sneak in to your computer that is protected with sandbox; and try to perform some malicious activity? Since Sandbox software is watching every call for system resources and system services in real time, and sometimes these codes are run in protected, sandbox’s virtual environment, according to sandbox’s access control set policy, activities are allowed, stopped or prompted you for your approval. For example, an e-mail attachment having unknown virus can be safely tamed by sandbox even after opening the attachment if it tries to install, copy or change any thing in your computer with or without your knowledge. This proactive method of protecting access control of codes and applications makes Sandbox Technology a promising, futuristic one. Without having any Virus definition files, a Sandbox application can stop age old C-brain virus, as well as latest Worm- Klez and even the viruses and malicious codes of future that have not discovered yet. The only limitation here is security hole itself in the Sandbox application if there is any. Sandbox technology does not need frequent updating unlike Virus Scanners. In most of the cases, Sandbox technology does not concern with new technology or new application either. Even with the case of new programming language, if the system resources or services are defined to be not allowed to any outsider application or codes than all such services will not be allowed no matter how genuinely and repeatedly they try.

Flexible Security Policies

Sandbox technology offers you security policies that are extremely flexible, broad can be customized to individual user and application level. Different policies could be assigned as per security requirement for different people, groups, resources, active contents etc. The Sandbox can be managed from a central location and can also log events relating to any type of content execution. Take for example, if you want your data fully protected by unauthorized access from ActiveX or Java Applet, then it could only be accessed by traditional methods allowed by Sandbox. Any attempt made by any other application or code will be instantly terminated.

Virus Scanner or Sandbox

In securing your computer, Sandbox software works better than antivirus software because it scans for the actions the virus code takes and not the name or characteristics of virus. With some advanced Sandbox application, you can find out from which site it was downloaded, and how it interferes with your computer. Though it may be fully capable to protect your computer, Sandbox software cannot tell you which virus type you have in your computer neither it can remove the Virus that had sneaked in. It can only tell that you have some suspected, malicious piece of code that can do unwanted things in your computer and protect you from it if you have properly set policies. Pattern matching technology and Virus removing technology that Virus Scanner have can only tell and remove the type of Virus you have. The sandbox technology cannot replace Traditional antivirus scanners, as identification, disinfection and removal of viruses can only be done by virus scanners. However, Sandbox and Virus Scanner can work complementary to each other for providing a fully secure environment. That is why Virus scanner companies like Symantec, F-secure, MacAfee and Trend Micro are adding behavior blocking Sandboxing technology in their Anti virus security software that provides you Antivirus, content filtering and behavior blocking all rolled in one. With Virus scanner installed that sandbox application supports, Known virus can be scanned, unknown virus can be detected and can be removed. So far, the best approach is to have sandbox technology and antivirus both.

Presently, Sandbox software is being developed by small software companies like Finjan Software Ltd (SafeTnet), Pelican Software Ltd (SurfinGuard), Aladin Knowledge Systems Ltd. (eSafe) Etc., but as the concept start delivering things, big fish will definitely jump in the wagon. One promising application is Norman’s new sandbox technology that creates a virtual computer within the computer and then run the codes and applications in virtual pretended environment. Suppose a deadly virus is run completely in virtual environment, which sends email with its replicas, format hard drive, and then flashes BIOS. Since all these things happen in virtual, isolated environment, it does not make any effect in real computer. Moreover, entire process is logged for reference and further analysis. Running sandbox in virtual machine makes it platform independent and you can detect a Windows virus in a Linux machine. Here, sandbox software SafeTnet and SurfinGuard are reviewed for you.


SurfinGuard

Finjan Software’s SurfinGuard, the premier Sandbox software that protects your computer from Internet’s malicious codes as well as computer’s installed applications is fairly easy in use. It has very user friendly interface for security policy settings that needs to be customized for required level of security. It comes with default Medium security settings. It needs Java run time environment installed in your computer (it comes with one) so that it can test applets and scripts whether trusted or not. SurfinGuard supports Latest Windows XP operating system. To define security setting in SurfinGuard, right click in its system tray icon and click advanced. Then fine tune individual settings. Once its security settings are defined, it starts with Windows and constantly run in background unless you turn it off. It shows current running process, application and websites in its dock able menu bar. If it detects policy violations, it instantly shows visual and sound alert. You can set individual security settings for executable programs and codes, ActiveX, Java Applets and JavaScript etc. with SurfinGuard, you can also monitor and control behavior of Host application that includes FTP, Instant Messenger, Mail Client etc. There is a Panic Mode by which you can block all active content of your computer instantly. Any executable file can be run in safe mode, i.e. in SurfinGuard’s protected, sandbox environment. During testing, it detected and stopped slightest policy violations performed by a web site like reading file from your computer (apparently a cookie file). You can download evaluation version of this software from http://www.finjan.com

SafeTnet

Pelican security’s sandbox software- SafeTnet is powerful security tool that protects you from all kinds of malicious activity and virus infection that you may get from Internet. It can monitor host application as well as email clients, FTP clients, Instant Messengers, Web browsers and other Web applications. SafeTnet has a dynamic Sandbox where the active content is executed and monitored; the activity is then compared with security policies and then passed or blocked accordingly. SafeTnet alerts you when a suspected application is started prior to SafeTnet or not supported by it and hence is not monitored by it. In SafeTnet, you can define trusted web sites and applications to exclude monitoring from SafeTnet to speed up things, since monitoring constantly in background may slow down system speed. SafeTnet’s custom security settings let you assign to allow, deny or prompt for action for virtually every file manipulations and running application in your computer. It also supports remote security management and can send you alert email automatically informing you for policy violations. SafeTnet comes with neat help function where you can quickly learn to use the application. It starts with Windows and sits in system tray constantly watching every action of your computer in background. SafeTnet’s menus are accessed by right clicking its system tray icon. It has a built in function that shows status of monitoring running applications and Internet Client.

Trial version of this software can be downloaded from http://www.pelicansecurity.com

It seems that finally, on some day, we will be able to use Internet with all its potential benefits without any fear of security risk with the help of technology like Sandbox.

Screen Shot Descriptions:

1. sand01.jpg Finjan Software’s Surfin Guard, the premier sandbox software that guards your computer from malicious code downloaded across Internet – installs without much interaction.

2. sand02.jpg Finjan Software’s SurfinGuard need Java Runtime Environment installed in your computer.

3. sand03.jpg SurfinGuard supports latest applications and OS including Windows XP

4. sand04.jpg SurfinGuard, the proactive defence against malicious code starts with Windows and guards your computer constantly in background unless you turn it off.

5. sand05.jpg SurfinGuard can also monitor host applications that includes FTP, Instant Messengers, Mail Clients etc.

6. sand06.jpg SurfinGuard can block sites that try to read file from your computer including porn sites.

7. sand07.jpg You can set security policy to low, high or Medium as per your security requirements.

8. sand08.jpg With the help of SurfinGuard, individual code content (executables, ActiveX, Java Applets, JavaScript etc.) execution can be set to allow, block or monitor for your security requirements.

9. sand09.jpg Behavior of standalone application can also be watched and blocked for any malicious action that include genuine program’s buggy actions.

10. sand10.jpg Pelican Security’s Sandbox software “SafeTnet” is a powerful security tool.

11. sand11.jpg You get alerts for applications that cannot be monitored by SafeTnet due to any reason such as version incompatibility etc.

12. sand12.jpg You can set trusted sites / other downloads and web applications to exclude monitoring from SafeTnet.

13. sand13.jpg SafeTnet’s custom security settings let you assign to allow deny or prompt virtually every file manipulations.

14. sand14.jpg Through SafeTnet’s alert settings, you can set it to send alert email at remote end for remote surveillance.

15. sand15.jpg Sandbox application like surfinGuard can log web activities performed by your computer for further analysis.

16. sand16.jpg SurfinGuard instantly detects the policy violations caused by web site’s applets / scripts. It also shows the current running process / web sites in its menu bar.

17. sand17.jpg Individual security settings for e-mail / FTP / Instant Messenger and Web Browser can be assigned through SafeTnet.

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