Software

Kon Boot: Getting into a Client’s Computer without using a Portal Gun

March 1, 2012 by bloodphilia. 4 comments

Okay, here you are again. Another computer from another (self-proclaimed) client for you to fix. So, let’s boot this thing and see what’s wrong with it this time. Okay, first obstacle; logging into the client’s user account. Now for me, repairs would usually pause here while I’m waiting for the moment I can get a hold of my client and ask him or her for the correct password. Annoying…

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FFmpeg: The ultimate Video and Audio Manipulation Tool

February 24, 2012 by slhck. 17 comments

What is FFmpeg?

Chances are you’ve probably heard of FFmpeg already. It’s a set of tools dedicated to decoding, encoding and transcoding video and audio. FFmpeg is based on the popular libavcodec and libavformat libraries that can be found in many other video conversion applications, like Handbrake.

So why would you need FFmpeg? Got a video in an obscure format that every other player couldn’t recognize? Transcode it with FFmpeg. Want to automate cutting video segments out of movies? Write a short batch script that uses FFmpeg. Where I work, I constantly have to encode and process video material, and I’d never want to go back to using a GUI tool for doing this.

This post is a follow-up on Video Conversion done right: Codecs and Software, where I discussed the various codecs and containers that you can find these days. For a quick overview, I’d suggest to read this one as well, because it covers some important basics.

Now, let’s dive into the more practical aspects.

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What Browser are Super Users using and why?

February 13, 2012 by daviesgeek. 10 comments

Out of curiosity over a question I saw on Ask Different, I created a poll on web browsers for you. My main goal is to find out why people use one browser over another. Is it actually better, or do you just use it because it’s the default browser? The survey is for users of all OSes, including iOS and Android. We will come back in a couple of weeks to post the results from the survey.

Please feel free to take the survey multiple times if you regularly use multiple operating systems. You can visit my survey on Google Docs here.

You can take a look at the final results in this Google Docs spreadsheet.

Making the Ultimate All-In-One Installation Flash Drive

December 22, 2011 by nhinkle. 3 comments

Super Users often find ourselves installing operating systems. Whether you run your own computer shop, manage an army of thousands of corporate workstations, or are just the tech-savvy friend everyone you know calls for help, you’ve probably had to install various flavors of Windows over and over again. Most of us have also spent a fair amount of time installing different Linux distros, running data recovery disks, and using various live CDs.

The problem that presents itself is managing all of the required disks. There are at least 6 common flavors of Windows 7 alone (Home Premium, Professional, and Ultimate for both x86 and x64, plus Enterprise for you corporate types). Add in various distros of Linux and you start to see why some computer techs carry around whole folders of CDs.

I’ve been aware of Pendrive Linux for a while, which lets you setup a flash drive with multiboot Linux software, and can add a single Windows installation. But what if you wanted to have a single flash drive with all versions of Windows 7, as well as all the standard Linux boot disks? It took some work, but I decided to do this and the final result is impressive.

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Virtualization – Why the Hype?

November 9, 2011 by slhck. 3 comments

It’s time for our Question of the Week. This time, Jacob Hayden asked:

Why is there so much hype about Virtualization these days?

Virtual machine, Virtual server, Virtual disk, etc…… It doesn’t make much sense to me why someone would want to make their things “virtual” when basically that adds another layer to everything (which in most cases will make it run more slow). What’s the purpose of Virtualization in the multiple cases above?

While this sounds like a very subjective question, it gained quite some attention. Our long-term user William Hilsum added a great answer, explaining what virtualization even is, and how it became so useful these days.

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Video Conversion done right: Codecs and Software

November 7, 2011 by slhck. 8 comments

Videos are everywhere. They come in quite a few different formats – all with their own advantages and disadvantages. Converting videos from one format to another is a very simple task, given the right tools. In this post, we will go through the most popular video codecs and the software you need to get the best results.

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A Super User’s Toolbox

October 5, 2011 by music2myear. 3 comments

For the last 10 years I have been fortunate enough to experience many perspectives on IT support. From the early days cutting my tech teeth on my own first computer running Windows 98 and then Windows 2000 and being too poor to pay somebody else to upgrade the system or repair it for me when my own (or my brother’s) stupidity or clumsiness crashed the thing, to being the on-site technical presence as an office assistant in a small not-for-profit, to getting my first “real” IT job for a large-ish not-for-profit doing end user support for 150 on-site users and another 50 remote users, to fixing computer problems for every Tom, Dick, and Harry who came to the service desk at a large electronics retailor, to the white-collar office jobs of the last few years; it has been an engaging, illuminating, educating, frustrating, and ultimately worthwhile pursuit.

While it’s not the most glamorous position nor the best paid, end-user IT support occurs at the confluence of two great passions of mine: people and computers, For me it is an incredibly fulfilling job.

But I’d be nowhere without my tools.

I assume every geek has a list like mine: a list of tools, utilities, tricks, gimmicks, black- and white-magik spells that allow you to tame the raging beasts threatening to consume users. Like others, probably, I don’t hold my list too tightly. If another tool does a better job, it may easily replace an existing tool. However, even if it does a better job, if it doesn’t work the way I want to work or need to work, whichever the case may be, an arguably superior product is not guaranteed inclusion in my toolbox. more »

Customizing Your Bash Command Prompt

September 21, 2011 by danielbeck. 7 comments

When you’re working on your Linux or Mac OS X system’s command line, the prompt is the text to the left of the commands you enter. The default prompt varies for every system, but it usually gives you an indication of your username, your machine’s host name and your current working directory. Also, it ends with a dollar sign $ if you’re working as a normal user. If you’re working with root privileges, it ends with # instead.

The prompt can be customized to include relevant information that can help you increase productivity, to hide information you don’t care about, or to highlight the lines in your terminal output where you entered commands.

This post will show how to customize your bash prompt, and, in the process, explain a few of its more advanced features that improve your productivity. Bash is the default shell on Mac OS X, available for all (or most) Linux distributions, if not already included, and available on Windows via Cygwin.

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Running Windows Applications in Linux

September 19, 2011 by George Edison. 3 comments

Ask some Windows users why they aren’t using Linux and chances are you will hear “because [program] doesn’t have a Linux version.” Although cross-platform software is popping up all over the place, there are still a number of applications that are restricted to a single platform – and for a lot of software, that platform is Microsoft Windows.

However, all is not lost. Although Linux has its own executable format and set of system libraries, a tool exists that will allows us to run a good portion of our Windows applications directly in Linux. This tool is of course, Wine. Wine initially began as a small project that was designed to run simple 16-bit Windows applications. As time went on, the target shifted to 32-bit applications and the long and hard process of rewriting Windows’ user-mode libraries began.

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It’s Saturday night: Do you know where your Laptop is?

August 24, 2011 by jcrawfordor. 4 comments

Say you take your laptop to the coffee shop with you.  You walk away to get your drink, and when you turn around it’s gone. This happens all the time, opportunistic thieves see an untethered laptop and just grab and run. Other times, they’ll break in to a car and steal the contents, including your computer. According to one study, one in ten laptops will ultimately be stolen. The thief now has not just your laptop, but your data – and increasingly often, they’re using it to get to your identity.

nhinkle included some tips on preventing laptop theft in his series on college computing. In this article I’ll present some tools that can help you get a stolen laptop back.

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