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Mysticgeek

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

Seeing how it is the worst day of the week … working for “The Man”.  I figured I would bring attention to a cool game to waste the workday on.  I have not played all of the games on Addicting Games, but Bloxorz is truly addictive.  Very cool graphics and interesting and subtle sound effects.  

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One thing I like to do is point out the extra software applications try to sneak in during installation.  Especially it that software can definitely be considered “Crap-Ware”.  I have found a couple of instances of this while reinstalling Trillian on my Vista machine. 

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This article was written by MysticGeek, a tech blogger at the How-To Geek Blogs.

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This article was written by MysticGeek, a tech blogger at the How-To Geek Blogs.

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I have played with various distributions of Linux for the past 5 years.  I would dabble in Red Hat running a web server, install Mandriva (Mandrake at the time) in a dual boot with XP, and actually build a kiosk for a tech school in my area using Suse Linux.  I have also ran various versions on Virtual Machines over Windows many times.  I have always had a love / hate relationship with Linux.  When I could get things working it was great!  However, when I just needed something like my SoundCard to work, I would find that 2 hours of compiling a driver  just wasn’t worth it.

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I found a cool site today while cruising around the Internet.  Stage.FM is a great site to find new unsigned artists and bands.  This site is a social network for independent, unsigned musicians and fans.  There are several genres of music to choose from, and a lot of it is available for free download or a nominal fee (20 cents).

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This article was written by MysticGeek, a tech blogger at the How-To Geek Blogs.

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One of the features in Vista Ultimate is Complete PC Backup and Restore. This allows for easier system backup of your hard disk, essentially making a clone or image of the current state of the hard drive. This feature is available in Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate versions of Vista.

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A friend of mine sent me a link to this site from albinoblacksheep.com.  This is a flashed based spoof on Windows XP.  You can play around with it and get some pretty hilarious messages.  I thought the one on the image below about Quicktime was pretty funny.  Who knows … this one might be old news to some of you, but for those who have not seen this … it’s worth wasting time on for a good laugh.

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Today I ran into a new version of CC Cleaner v 2.06 which includes the Yahoo Toolbar with the installation.  According to the instructions this allows you to use CC Cleaner from your browsers toolbar.  It seems there are a lot of companies trying to sneak their software into various popular freeware applications lately.  I covered one of them in a previous post.

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Last week I wrote about the hassles I experienced with installing Internet Explorer 8 on my XP machine at work. Overall I have not had too many problems with it … mainly because my default browser is Firefox! However I did run into an annoyance with this beta I would like to point out.

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I am starting off a series of articles today to show you how to get the extra functionality of Windows Vista Ultimate without spending the outrageous cost of $399. In fact we are not going to spend one cent more in currency, the only thing we will have to spend is some time. Hopefully through this series you will be able to spend as little of your own time as necessary by using my easy to follow tutorials.

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Are you sick and tired of Windows trying to save you from yourself by asking you far too many times “Are You Sure You Want To Do That?” I think this is one of the more prominent annoyances of any Windows operating system. Thankfully, there is a small utility out there which allows the dialog boxes to be automatically closed. I have been using this program for several years and thought I should write about it in case you are unfamiliar.

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Miro is a wonderful open source video player.  Miro is the new name for the same project entitled Democracy Player.  The last version of Democracy Player was 0.9.6 – Now with a new name, logo, and interface Miro is definitely ready for prime time.  Miro is available on Windows, Apple, and Linux platforms.

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ClamWin is a very cool lightweight open source anti-virus program. This may not be the best anti-virus solution for beginners, but experienced PC power users should check this out. The download size of this application is around 15 MB. I really like that this application is so light weight and uses little system resources. One downside (if you can call it one) is this development does not yet support real time scanning. You can schedule automatic updates and scans though. ClamWin also creates nifty reports on your updates and scans. You can use it to scan individual files and it also integrates seamlessly with Outlook.

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Here is a quick and handy tip to add a toolbar to any directory in Windows on the taskbar.

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One of the more popular open source IM clients is Pidgin (formerly GAIM).  This client works with pretty much all chat services including the majors MSN, Google Talk, AIM, and Yahoo!  Pidgin works with Linux, Windows, BSD, and other Unix distributions.  If you’re a real minimalist you can even get a text based version.  It is very customizable and there is a lot of open source plug ins for it as well.  Pidgin supports pictures, emoticons, and fonts.  Very customizable IM alternative!

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VLC is probably the most popular open source media player out there. VLC plays basically any type of media file you can imagine. It has a very trim lined interface. The program is very light on system resources as well. Not only is it an incredible media player, it is also a server and a client to stream media across your network or the Internet. Various tweaks in video and audio are limitless. VLC is completely open source and available on Windows, OS X, and pretty much every flavor of Linux and Unix. 

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I recently installed Windows XP 64 on one of my machines the other day.  On that … I have to say my reviews so far are mixed.  I love the fact it recognizes my 4GB of RAM and so far the performance is tight.  I have had a few driver issues … but have a good handle on it. 

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RSSOwl is a multi platform open source RSS Reader.  The overall feel and navigation is just like a web browser.  The RSSOwl user interface is very customizable.  You will notice there are a lot of feeds already entered by default which includes many categories.  Select feeds open up as HTML inside RSSOwl.  As with a browser you can bookmark you favorites as well.  To be honest I just started using this application a day ago and so far am very impressed!  If any of you are experienced RSSOwl users please feel free to comment.

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Portable Apps is a remarkable portable application suite which runs off your USB flash drive.  You can carry around all of your favorite open source applications with this utility. 

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aTunes is an open source iTunes alternative.  aTunes recently upgraded its version to 1.7.0 which includes radio support.  aTunes is able to play mp3, OGG, WMA, WAV, mp4, and FLAC files.  You can also rip and burn audio CD’s with this application. aTunes integrates with AudioScrobbler and Last.fm to add the songs played to your profile.  If you are looking for a music player similar to iTunes this is a good alternative.

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I thought I would take a break from Microsoft and cover the much talked about gOS. This is the Operating System included on Wal-Mart’s $199 PC’s. Although there are a lot of Google applications included, gOS is actually based on Ubuntu Linux and stands for GreenOS. This is a very light weight OS which can run on lower powered systems. To maximize all the features included you will need a High Speed Ethernet connection.

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I realize Internet Explorer 8 Beta 1 has been reviewed on several locations on the net. However, I would not be doing our loyal reader’s justice without expressing our take on the new browser. So, wanna hear it? Here it go!

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Unhappy with the way the shortcut icons on your desktop look?  Here is a quick way to change them to a different icon included in XP.

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