We burn CDs and DVDs all the time, and Nero’s all-too-well-known suite isn’t the only option. CDBurnerXp is a free alternative to Nero, if you don’t want to cough up for Nero’s features.
Using The Dropbox
The dropbox feature allows you to browse through your Windows folders and dump the items you want to burn. This way, you don’t need to browse using the CDBurnerXP interface. To use the feature, click the Show Dropbox button on the toolbar or go to View > Show Dropbox. Drag and drop files onto the box that appears at the top left of the screen.
The dropbox shows the size of the compilation and the current path where the folders are being dumped. Right-click on it and click Select Folder To Drop Into. This way you can choose which folder the files get dumped. To get back to the default interface, click the Close button on the dropbox.
Set Media Size Manually
Optical disc burning software generally detects the media inserted in the drive and determines the amount of data that can go on it, but you won’t get accurate information if you’re piling up for a future burn with no disc in the drive.
To tell the software the type and capacity of the media, right-click on the bar for data being burnt and click Select media size. Choose the type of the media you’ll be using. The changes will be seen immediately in the main program as well as in the dropbox.
Printing CD Covers
CDBurnerXP might be a fraction of the size of Nero, but it’s still got basic features like printing CD covers. Once you have all your data in place for burning, go to File > Print cover and select the type of cover. Enter the name of your disc, and if you want to, choose an image for the cover. Select Preview to see how it’ll turn out. If you’re happy with it, press Print.
The file filter feature allows you to filter out file types that you don’t want to burn. For example, if you want to burn all the PDFs in a folder and none of the Excel or Word documents, you will find the feature useful. Click on Edit > File Filter. Enter the file formats that you want to filter with a semicolon to separate them. For example, *.pdf;*.doc;*.xls will only display the PDF, DOC, and XLS formats.
Disc Labelling Data Options
Most of the time, all the CDs and DVDs you burn end up with the same old senseless label—DISC or DISC1. CDBurnerXP can change this. Go to File > Options > Data Options tab. Under Default Disc Label, enter DVD $day $month $year.
There are other variables like $time, $user and $date that you can use as well. Click OK and then restart the program for the changes to take effect.
Burning Audio CDs
If you’re burning data CDs all the time and you want to burn an Audio CD, you’ll notice no option to create a new Audio CD—the only way is to close CDBurnerXP and restart it; only this time, make sure you choose the Create Audio CD button. Now you can drag and drop audio files like you would data files.
If you want to burn an audio CD without spaces between tracks, use the dropdown menu for Burn disc with DAO when in Audio CD burning mode.
Creating A Bootable Disc
Creating bootable discs may be needed while trying to create LiveCDs or booting into them for OS installations. Go to Disc > Boot options and mark the checkbox against Make Disc Bootable. Click the button to select the image and choose the type of emulation from the dropdown menu.
You can also create an image from a floppy drive by clicking on Create Floppy Drive.
Working With Disc Images
CDBurnerXP has features that allow you to create or burn disc images. If you have images that were created on Nero, for example, you can convert them to ISO by going to File > Convert ISO Image. Select the source file—which can be either a BIN or an NRG file—and then select a location to create the image in. Click the Convert to ISO button.
Discs can be replicated in the same manner. If you don’t want to burn them right away, you can have the image created from the disc dumped on the hard drive. Go to File > Copy ISO disc. Select the source drive and instead of the destination drive being the optical disc drive, select the hard drive. Now a new field will appear. Here you can choose the path and a name for the ISO to be dumped.
Nero isn’t just about the Burning ROM software—it’s also about all the extras that come with it. You can find the installer for the trial version of Nero 8 on the November DVD.
Move The Cache Folder
Nero uses a location on the hard drive when it needs to cache files before burning them. If you’re running short on space in your main partition, you would want to change it to one with more free space. Go to File > Options > Cache and click on Browse to choose a new location.
Sounds For Events
Nero has support for sounds but they are disabled by default. Go to File > Options > Sounds tab to set sounds for events. The sounds that come with Nero are in the default locations, but you can select the ones you want by clicking the Browse button.
Nero BurnRights is an application that comes with Nero; it allows you to define which users on your system can burn CDs and DVDs. Go to Start > All Programs > Nero 8 > Nero Toolkit > Nero BurnRights. Select the type of users that you want to give permission to and click OK.
Do Not Eject The Drive
Every CD burnt is immediately ejected from the drive by default in Nero. To keep the CD or DVD in the drive once it’s done, go to File > Options > Expert Features. Check the box against Do not eject the disc after the burn is complete and click OK.
We all miss the Nero Burning ROM from the past years when it was a compact little CD / DVD burning software and not a complete suite with modules we never use. It’s reached a point where there are tiny, hacked, illegal releases of Nero Burning ROM made available on the Internet which take a fraction of the space of the entire suite. If you have the nasty habit of blindly clicking “Next” during the Nero 8 installation, you’ll most probably have skipped the screen where you choose the Custom installation mode. Uninstall your current copy of Nero if you have it installed. Start the installation till you reach the window where you can choose between Typical and Custom installation. Select the Custom install option and click Next. You’ll soon see a window with the list of all the Nero components selected. Click on each one of them and select This Feature Will Not Be Available. Do the same for everything other than Nero Burning ROM and continue with the installation. At the end, you’ll have completed your own clean compact Nero Burning ROM installation the way it used to be.
Searching For Specific Formats
Trying to search for a few selected filetypes you need to burn can be a nightmare in an unassorted folder. To look for a particular file using wildcards, right-click on the folder in the left pane of the browser window. Click on Select pattern. Enter wildcards with semicolons as seperators and click OK. For example, entering *Digit*;*.PDF as the pattern will select all files with “Digit” in their names and PDFs as well.
Encode Audio Files
Nero Burning ROM comes with an in-built audio encoder: go to Extras > Encode Files, click on Add and select the files you want to encode. Using the drop-down menu for Output file format, select which format you want to encode to and click on the Settings button to set parameters for the encoder. Finally, click on the Browse button to select where you want to store the encoded files once encoded. Click Go to start encoding!
One of the issues with media and the way they are burned is that is that they’re not always compatible on all DVD players. There are a few things that can be done to solve this: one of them is to set the high-compatibility mode on for your drive. Click on the Choose Recorder button to the right of the drop-down menu for selecting the drive. Select your drive and click on Options. Check the box against DVD High Compatibility Mode. This will make sure that at least a gigabyte of data is written on the media even if you don’t have that much data.
Another thing you can do is to use the Book Type settings—this is basically is to tell the drive that you have inserted a DVD-ROM (for example) not a DVD-RW or any other kind of DVD. This way, there are better chances of the drive reading your media. Use the drop-down menu for Book Type settings in the drive properties window and select DVD-ROM, as it generally gives better compatibility.
Dynamic Noise Control
If you’re playing CDs or DVDs, you would know that your drives run continuously like your hard drives do. The noise from spinning up and down of the drives can be distracting. Nero’s developers have implemented a feature called dynamic noise control that helps reduce this sound.
You can find this option by right clicking on the Nero ShowTime interface and clicking on Options. Click on DNC. Turn it on if it’s off.
Dynamic Range Control
Dynamic Range Control is not just another fancy name for a feature in Nero ShowTime. It is basically normalisation of the volume of the audio stream—so if you’re listening to music files of different volume levels, you won’t have to jump to the PC every time a loud file plays. Right-click on the ShowTime interface, select Options and go to Audio > DRC.
(Pseudo) Surround Sound On Headphones!
Nero ShowTime is great for watching high-definition videos, and with these, you’re bound to get multi-channel audio as well. Now not all of us have fancy surround sound speaker setups. Nero can simulate surround sound and give satisfactory results on stereo speakers and headphones as well! Right-click on the ShowTime interface and select Options. Under Audio, uncheck the box for Use Windows Settings. From the dropdown, select the type of setup you have—if you select 2 speakers, use Nero Virtual Speaker from the Output mode. If you have headphones, check Nero Headphone.
Nero uses an On-screen Display (OSD) to display information of the video or movie being played. By default, a set of fonts and colours are assigned to it, but you can select a better set of fonts and colours if you wish. Go to Options and click on OSD Settings under General. Make sure Enable is checked, and then click on Set Font to change the font type for the OSD. In the previous menu, you will also find the option for setting a colour and a position where you want the OSD to show up.
Similar fonts are used to display subtitles for movies. There, too, you can set which fonts should be used to display them. In the Options window, click on External Subtitles; check the box against Enable External Subtitles and click the Set Font button to set a different font style.
High-definition playback isn’t very easy for all hardware unless there’s hardware decoding support from your graphics card or if you have a fairly new dual-core processor. Nero has an automatic quality setting that downsizes the quality of the video if your system doesn’t perform too well. You can find this option under Video Quality under Options > Video. The setting should be set to Auto-adjust. If you know your system performs fine, then you would want the best quality—push the slider to Maximum Quality and vice versa if your system isn’t performing as well as you’d like.
Nero’s Image Mounting tool
Nero comes with software called ImageDrive which you’ll find under Nero Toolkit in the Start Menu. It allows you to mount .NRG and .ISO images as a virtual drives so you can load some of your backed-up discs without having to put them in the drive. When you first run it, it installs the drivers which create a virtual drive. Once that’s done, click on the Enable drive checkbox for the first drive. If you want a second drive, you can check that box as well. A new tab called First Drive will appear. Click on it and point to the image you want to mount. Now when you go to My Computer or Explorer, you will find a new drive in the list. Clicking on it will reveal all the files and folders from the image.
DVDs have had a comparatively notorious reputation when it comes to reliability, so it’s very important to use good media and check the data on it. Nero DiscSpeed, under Nero Toolkit, allows you to check for disc quality. Select the Disc Quality tab and insert a burnt disc into the drive. Make sure you have the DVD drive selected from the drop-down menu at the top and click Start. The software gauges the quality of the burnt disc. A final score will be shown in the Quality score field on the right. On Internet forums, you’ll find a lot of such media scan posts. Run this test on different kinds of media you’ve burnt so you know which media works best with your drive.
Google’s all but taken over our online lives now—can you imagine doing anything without it?
Download Albums From Picasa Web Albums
Photos that you see on Picasa Web Albums can be downloaded directly to the Picasa program without having to manually save each photo from within your browser. When on an album page, look for a link on the left side that says Download Album; confirm the download, and once it’s complete, you can view all the downloaded albums by clicking on the Downloaded Album link on the left.
Upload Your Albums
One of the biggest and the most important feature of Picasa is its integration with Google’s online photo hosting service—Picasa Web. Click on the Sign in to Web Albums link on the top right of the Picasa window to log in to the service—use your Google user ID and password. Once signed in, select the images you want to upload and click the Web Album button at the bottom. Give a title to the album and other description if needed. Select the resolution you want so that the images can be resized, and choose whether you want to make the album public or private. Click OK and the images will be uploaded.
Creating Albums With Starred Photos
Just like in Gmail and Google Reader, you can “star” important photos. Browse to the folders or albums where you have all your photos. Select the ones you want and click the Star icon at the bottom of the screen. When you’re done, go to File > New Album and give it a name and description. Now click on Starred Photos, select all the images and drag them into your newly-created album.
Getting More Organised
When you install Picasa and run it for the first time, it asks you whether you want to scan your entire hard drive or just scan your My Documents folder. All the photos on the hard drive appear as folders and albums on the left and there’s no real way of identifying which folders they belong to on your hard drive. Sometimes, unnecessary images like ones from your browser cache folders also make their way into the list. The first thing to do is to manually enter the paths that you want to scan. You can do this by going to Tools > Folder Manager. Choose the folders you don’t want, select the Remove from Picasa radio button and click OK. Add any folders that Picasa may have left out in the same manner.
Another way you can see from where Picasa has listed all the photos is to go to View > Folder View > Tree View.
Backing Up Photos
Every now and again, your hard drive is bound to get clogged with photos that you’ve taken and it is a good idea to keep backing them up from time to time. Picasa gives you the option to burn your photos on to optical discs. Go to Tools > Backup Pictures, select New Set and give a name to it. Also mention what formats you want to save and if you’d like to save the backup into a different folder or a network drive by clicking on Disk-to-disk backup. Click Create to finish. Now check the checkboxes for the folders and albums you want to backup and select Backup.
In the location that you backed up the photos, you’ll find PicasaRestore.exe, which you can run to restore the images to the original path.
Picasa also has a Gift CD feature—go to Folder > Create a Gift CD. Click on Add More to add more folders to the gift CD. Select the resolution for the photos using the Photo Size drop-down menu and give the CD a name. Finally, click Burn Disc to burn the CD.
To add a caption to a photo, double-click on it and you will find a small text area at the bottom of the photo. Enter your caption here and hit [Enter]. To delete the caption, click the Delete this caption icon on the right. To view the captions while in the main photo index view, go to View > Thumbnail Caption > Caption.
Host Your Own Web Albums
If you don’t want to use Google’s online Web space to store your photos, you can upload them to your own personal Web site’s FTP server. Right-click on the album you want to upload and select Export as HTML Page. Enter a name for the album title and the resolution that you want to export the images to. Click Next, choose a template from the list and click Finish. The finished page will be displayed in your default Web browser. You can upload that folder to your site and create a link to it from your main page.
There’s a feature that Google claims as experimental but it allows you to upload the photos to the FTP server directly through Picasa. Go to Tools > Experimental > Publish via FTP. Again, select a resolution, a save location and a template. Now you’ll be prompted to select an account. Click on Account Manager to create a new account. Click Add an Account and enter your FTP server information—address, user and password—and click OK. Now you can select your new FTP server and click OK.
Google never stops plugging new features into Gmail. We take a look through some of the more useful ones added recently.
Colour Labels And Organising
Labels and filters are a good way to sort e-mail. To create a label, go to Settings > Labels, give it a name and click on Create. Now your label will appear in a box to the left side of the window. Click on the blank box to the right of the label and select a colour to assign it to the label.
You can set labels to your mails manually by clicking the checkbox for the mail and clicking the dropdown menu for more actions and selecting the label of your choice. You can set more than one label to the mail.
To set up filters, go to Settings > Filters and click on Create a New Filter. Enter information for the necessary criteria along with wildcards. For example, if you want all your mails from Orkut to be labelled, enter orkut in the subject field. Go to the next step. Check the box against Apply a Label and select a label from the list. Set any other options that you want and click Create Filter.
Connecting To AIM Through GMail
You can now login to your AIM or ICQ user ID using Gmail. When you’ve logged into Gmail, click on Options in the Chat and click Sign into AIM. Enter your username and password and click on Sign in. You will be logged in, and all your AIM contacts will be displayed along with your Google Talk buddies with an AIM logo on the side.
IMAP For Free!
Gmail has had POP3 for a while now and now they’re taking it one step further—you can now get IMAP too! IMAP synchronises mail between the Gmail server and your local machine or devices. So now, you can have the same mails on your Gmail account on the Internet, your desktop computer, your phone and so on, as long as the mail client supports IMAP. Anything that you do to your mail from any device will be updated on the server. So if you move a file from one folder to the other using your phone, that change will be reflected on Gmail and your mail client at home.
First, enable IMAP for our account—once you’re logged into your Gmail account, go to Settings > Forwarding and POP / IMAP. Under the header IMAP Access, click Enable IMAP and click Save Changes. Next, set up IMAP for the mail client. We’ll use Outlook Express since it’s available on every Windows machine. You can use similar steps for any other IMAP-supporting mail client that you may use. Create a new IMAP account by going to Tools > Accounts and select Add > Mail. Enter a display name and your Gmail address. Keep clicking Next till you reach the Window where you need to enter the server addresses. Select the server type as IMAP from the drop-down. Enter the address for incoming mail server as imap.gmail.com and outgoing as smtp.gmail.com. Click Next. Enter your account name as email@example.com. Enter your password and proceed to finish the setup. Click on Properties for the account you just created. Go to the Advanced tab and enter the Outgoing SMTP port number as 465 and incoming as 993. Also check the boxes against This server requires a secure connection (SSL) for both the incoming and outgoing ports. Before clicking OK, go to the Servers tab and check the box against My server requires authentication for the Outgoing Mail server. Click OK and click the Send / Receive button. All the folders on your Gmail server will be downloaded and you can start using your IMAP enabled GMail account.
We’ll be honest here—we’re not the biggest Orkut fans, but you can’t ignore it. With a Firefox add-on called Greasemonkey, you can enhance your Orkut-ing experience quite a bit.
Scripts for Firefox
You can get information on Greasemonkey from www.greasespot. net. Download Greasemonkey from there. Once you’ve installed the add-on, restart Firefox.
Widescreen LCDs are great for gaming and for watching movies. It turns out Orkut on widescreen is pretty useful as well.
There’s a Greasemonkey script which stretches Orkut pages so you see a lot more and have far less vertical scrolling to do.
When you have Greasemonkey setup right, visit http://userscripts.org/scripts/ source/12286.user.js. A window should pop up to confirm the adding of the script. Click Install. Orkut pages will now be stretched to the width of the window.
Add A Formatting Bar
When it’s time to scrap your buddy back and you want to keep things a little colourful, you’re busy looking for the formatting tools like in any other forum. Orkut’s formatting tools can be accessed by clicking the scrap tips link next to the text entry box. There’s also a Greasemonkey script that will make the formatting tools show up right on top of the text box. Download it from http://userscripts.org/scripts/source/12841.user.js.
Adding a Talk gadget in Orkut
We’ve shown you how to use Google Talk in your browser before, but now you can go crazy chatting with your buddies through Orkut itself. Download this script: http://userscripts.org/scripts/source/12532.user.js. Go back to your Orkut home page and you’ll see a Google Talk addon above your friends list. Click Show GTalk to show the application.
Keyboard Shortcuts For Orkut
With the power of Greasemonkey and its scripts, you can now use shortcuts to quickly jump from your scrapbook to your home page, for example. Download the script from http://userscripts.org/
scripts/source/12784.user.js and then use the shortcuts given below.
Home: [Ctrl] [Shift] [H]
Scrapbook: [Ctrl] [Shift] [S]
Friends list: [Ctrl] [Shift] [F]
Communities: [Ctrl] [Shift] [C]
Hiding Your Content
Google’s stepped up their effort to make Orkut a little more private by allowing you to hide parts of your content. As usual, you can find these permissions under Settings > Privacy. There have been some new options added here. Items like photos, videos, feeds and testimonials can now be made viewable only to your friends.
There’s also an option to disable your Orkut profile from appearing in Google’s search results! Click on the hide information radio button and click save changes when done.
Comodo Firewall Pro 3.0
The “Pro” in Comodo Firewall Pro might imply an expensive commercial firewall, but it’s available free on their site—http://personalfirewall.comodo.com and our CD every month. It’s no half-complete software either—it’s loaded with features and plenty of options to play around with.
While installing the firewall, be sure to choose Advanced Firewall with Defense , which gives you more alerts and a few more advanced features.
View Current Connections
Ever wonder which process is hogging all your bandwidth? Comodo Firewall has a feature that allows you to view all the connections going from your PC to the network or Internet and vice versa. Click on the Firewall icon on the top of the window and select View Active Connections.
Here you can see all details such as local and destination ports and IP addresses. You can even force-close a connection by right clicking on it and choosing Terminate Connection.
Disable Popup Alerts
With the Defense feature enabled, the pop-ups you’ll receive will be more than your patience can handle. You’ll get an alert for everything from connection alerts to programs accessing other programs. Right-click on the Comodo Firewall icon in the system tray and un-check Display Balloon Messages. Click Apply.
However, if you don’t want Comodo Firewall to monitor everything, click on Defense and then on the Advanced tab on the left. Click on Defense Settings. Select Monitor Settings and then uncheck the activities you don’t want monitored. Click Apply.
Quarantining Processes And Programs
Similar to looking for connections made by programs to and from the Internet, Defense allows you to look for programs and processes currently active. Like in the Task Manager, you can terminate programs or quarantine them and move them to a safe folder. This is useful to isolate suspicious programs—which might be worms or viruses—on the computer.
Click on Defense from the top bar. Select View Active Process List. Here you can right-click on any process and click Terminate (or Terminate And Quarantine to terminate and move the program into quarantine).
Blocking Networks And Machines
To block IP addresses or entire networks, go to Firewall > My Blocked Network Zones. Select Add > A New Blocked Address… Here, you can choose to block IP addresses or range of IPs or even MAC address. Add the required information and then click Apply.
Policies For Software
Policies aren’t limited to the network in Comodo Firewall—you can create policies for all kinds of software running on your OS as well. You can also create your own custom policies for programs. Go to Defense > Advanced tab. Select Predefined Security Policies to view existing policies and to add new ones. You can change the existing policies by clicking on any one, then clicking Edit and choosing Access Rights or Protection Settings.
To create a new policy, click on Add, and set permissions and access rights in the same manner. To set this policy to an application, click on Computer Security Policy. Select the application you want to set the policy for and click on Edit.
Check the Use a Predefined Policy radio button and then select your custom policy from the drop-down menu next to it.
Now that you have your firewall set up and restrictions in place, you wouldn’t want other users to alter the settings all the time. This is done by enabling the parental control. Go to Miscellane-ous > Settings. Click the Parental Control tab and check the box to enable password protection for the settings you’ve made. Click Change Password to set a password.
Submitting Suspicious Files
Every once in a while, you come across a worm or virus that your anti-virus program can’t clean or even detect. At such times, use the file submission feature to send the file across to Comodo’s developers. Comodo Firewall allows you to upload the files to them so they can analyse and create a possible fix for it. Under Miscellan-eous, select Submit Suspicious Files. Click on Add to add files. Add a description and mail ID if required.
Importing And Exporting Settings
Once you’re done setting up and tweaking Comodo the way you need it, you want to be able to store and load the settings for future use. You can create profiles and switch to any of them whenever you want.
Go to Miscellan-eous and then on Manage My Configurat-ions. Click on Export to export your settings. Give a name and save the file. To import a saved configuration, go to Import > Import and select the file you saved. Now you can switch between profiles by clicking on Select and check from one of the profile.