Archive for April 26, 2009

Assorted News 20 – Some Antivirus Options :)

Assorted News 20 – Some Antivirus Options 🙂

n this edition:

Generic News

AVG requesting people to update to 8.5 and other Antivirus options 🙂

AVG requesting people update to 8.5

In the last week or so, those of you using AVG Free Edition have been getting popup messages requesting that you download version 8.5.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that they were asking us to upgrade from 7.5 to 8.0; and back then the upgrade made some sense because it gave some additional capability in the form of anti-spyware coverage. However, the change from 8.0 to 8.5 has virtually no new features that I can see, and is probably more of a marketing move hoping to trick you into buying a more capable but unnecessary version…

And Other Antivirus Info…

So, we’re at a point again where we need to decide if AVG is still the way to go. I’m beginning to waver on this point, as increasingly I’m hearing reports on assorted podcasts that the other well known free one, Avast, is outperforming AVG.

If you’d like to stick with AVG, you can update it by clicking here:

* Download size is approximately 60MB – OK for broadband users but about 6-8 hours on dialup.
* (If for some reason that page doesn’t work, try instead)

If you’d like to try Avast instead, you can download it here:

* Download size is approximately 32MB – OK for broadband users, about 3-4 hours on dialup.
* If you’re getting Avast, remember to uninstall AVG before installing Avast – having two at once is like having two cats in one room – sometimes they’ll get on, but other times they’ll … well you know…

And if you want to buy one instead…

If you feel like spending money on a virus scanner, the best one at the moment appears to be “MalwareBytes’ Anti Malware” as it outperforms both AVG and Avast. Fortunately they have a free version too, but it only scans when you tell it to unlike the others above which scan continuously. You can download it and run it now and then just to check if your freebie’s really doing it’s job 🙂 It’s cheap too, and a tiny download – $37.

It’s available from – Approx. 3 MB – 30 minutes on Dialup.

(Nod32 is another popular good choice too.)

Please don’t buy Trend, Norton or ZoneAlarm if possible. Here’s a list of the problems I’ve had with these three products just in this month:

Norton: Allowed a number of viruses and worms through that AVG later detected and removed. (Happens too often these days.)
Trend: Appears to have broken file sharing in an XP Home system, Slowed a PC to a crawl by using 400+ MB RAM
ZoneAlarm: Slowed systems to a crawl by using 400+ MB RAM, broke printing from Office programs to HP Printer, Broke DHCP (wireless networking).

They’ve all caused other problems in the past as well. For those of you with older computers, do you remember how they suddenly became slower when you added or updated one of these monstrosities? 🙂

All of the above three feature a firewall as well as antivirus. This is virtually unnecessary for the average person because Windows already has a firewall; plus for those of you on ADSL Broadband or Recent Satellite connections (Non-USB) your modem is also a firewall.

Cheers, Mike

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How to download Music and Movies from the Internet

How to download Music and Movies from the Internet

Legal or not, many of my customers ask how to download music and movies from the Internet. So, here is a guide on how to do these things safely.

I’ll cover the legal methods first, then head in to murkier waters later. But first, before doing anything be sure to know how much you can download with your internet company – because in the absolute worst case figures you could end up costing yourself around $1,200 for one 4000 MB movie.


Legal Music Downloads


The most common way to legally download music is to use the iTunes program. This does require a credit card to use. Songs are typically 99 US cents each. You can get iTunes free here.

You can also use the iTunes program to copy these songs onto a CD by dragging the songs to the bottom left of the screen to create a playlist, and then right-clicking this playlist and choosing “burn to CD.”

Bigpond Music

Well, as most of you know BigPond is one of the most overpriced internet companies out there; but they do have a reasonably priced legitimate music store. Songs are typically $1.65 each.

MP3 Sparks /

AllOfMP3 is a Russian website which sells music much cheaper than the other two – causing some debate about whether or not the site is in fact legal. Most songs sell for about 20-50 cents, or whole albums for around $4. You can find MP3sparks here.

Debatable legality

In the last ten years there have been many Peer to Peer programs for downloading music from other people for free. The first one, Napster, caused quite a stir and was eventually sued out of existence. Kazaa was the next one to become well known – not only for downloading music but also for buggering up people’s computers! (And that hasn’t changed.) Bearshare is another fairly well known one; but the safest and most common one at the moment appears to be …


LimeWire is a Peer to Peer sharing program. What this means is that when you start it and type in the name of a song or artist; it searches all the other people’s computers to see who else has the same songs and it copies them to your computer.

Generally it’s safe to use, provided you stick to MP3s only. Should you deviate to anything other than MP3s, you run a big risk of getting a virus. (See where it displays type as MP3 in the results.)

Note also how the songs have a number next to their name? This indicates how many other people have that song at the moment. The higher this number, the faster you’ll get the song.

Downloading music that is still in copyright is of course probably illegal, so you take your chances when you do this. The probability of being caught is low because there are so many people using it, and because most of the lawsuits take place in America.

Warning: LimeWire likes to run in the background when you close it. This means that it might be sharing the songs you downloaded when you finished using it. If you’re on wireless broadband on a limited download account; be sure to close it completely from the icon near the clock when done.

Also, LimeWire tends to have times when it simply will not connect. You can’t do much about this other than just leave it running until it connects. (Green bars shown bottom left.)

Legal Movie and TV Show Downloads


As above, you can use iTunes to download some movies and TV shows. Some shows may not be available in Australia due to rights restrictions.

ABC iView

ABC has an Internet-based TV site here. You can watch some missed shows and internet-only shows here.


Well, everyone knows YouTube surely 🙂

Of course, most videos average around 10 megabytes each so be careful if you’re on wireless broadband or a limited download plan.

As a side note, if you’d like to keep a copy of any YouTube movie, you can do this by doing the following:

1 – Install Firefox if you don’t already have it.

2 – Click here to install Video DownloadHelper.

BigPond Movies

In a pleasant surprise whilst researching for this article, I realised that BigPond actually has downloadable movies. (I knew they did scratched DVDs to the door…) The prices look reasonable. You can access them from here.

Note that DRM restrictions apply to BigPond Movies, so you only have 48 hours to watch the movie in before it commits seppuku.

“Free Pay TV?”

TVU Player

OK now here’s a strange category for you. The TVU Player lets you watch live streams of tv channels all over the world; but it’s a bit of a chaotic mess if you’re trying to find a specific show.

I doubt that some of the channels here are here with the permission of the content creators. Some channels however, like Christian TV, etc, are probably grateful of the publicity.

Like any shady website, be careful what you click on! The system itself seems safe, but since it’s advertisement-funded and not censored; who knows what’ll show up on it. You can get it from here. Oh, and like Limewire it likes to keep running in the background – make sure you close it from near the clock when done.

Movie and Music Torrent Downloads – Illegal if you get copyrighted material.


BitTorrent is a way for people to share large files on the Internet without having to pay for a large central server. This is because as you download a file, your computer is also automatically sharing the bits you downloaded to others.

This system can be used legally or otherwise. For example, if you set up a band and recorded a video; you could share it via BitTorrent and not have to pay distribution costs. (Of course, you could use YouTube too but the 10 minute limit can be an issue.)

To find movies, music, etc; you need to visit a website that keeps track of them all. You also need a BitTorrent program. Read on for more…

Step 1 – Mininova

Although the Swedish “The Pirate Bay” website is probably the best known pirate downloads site, Mininova tends to offer more intelligent, searchable results.

Warning: Both Mininova and ThePirateBay are covered in dubious advertisements. Be careful not to click on them. Of course, if you’re smart and have FireFox and AdBlock Plus you’d never see ’em.

Now, Mininova is what is known as a ‘torrent tracker’. The site lets you download a torrent file.

In this example, I’ve searched for the TV show “The Amazing Race”. It says there are 262 possible matching results. Here’s how to work out which is which: (Note: I don’t know if it is illegal to download this show or not. It is shown on free to air.)

Learning the Lingo…

Series and Episodes

Firstly, you might notice things like S14E05 – this means Series 14, Episode 5.

Seeds and Leeches

Seeds are the number of people who have the whole show on their computer. The higher this number, the faster your show would download. If there are no seeds, your download won’t complete – in which case it will stall and wait for a seed to come along.

Leeches are the number of people downloading the show right now – if there are many more leeches than seeds, this might mean a slow download.

Other Terms

There are other terms like DVDRip which means someone copied a DVD. XVID or DIVX are compressed videos to save space. You might even see SCR, which usually means some silly bugger snuck a video camera into a cinema and filmed the movie – usually with lacklustre and occasionally amusing results like a chair blocking the view, out of focus, etc..

The ‘Brands’

There are also certain ‘brands’ of file sharers which can informally be a sign of quality. For example, ‘EZTV’ is a brand that usually means the file is good quality.

The Comments

It’s possible that someone might list a fake show here. The comments / thanks section will alert you to this, so they are worth checking.

Once you have found a file you want, you would click on “download this file” and it should then open up in a BitTorrent program… If you haven’t got one, the best one at the moment is …


uTorrent is a program that takes care of reading the torrent file and getting whatever it is you want to download. (You can get it here.) In the above example, here’s the intereting bits to know: (Click the picture to see it larger)

1 – Size. 174MB in this case. Quite small compared to some shows which can be up to around 4000MB (or 4GB) As usual, be careful if you have limited downloads, or if you’re on a service that charges for uploads as well as downloads.

2 – Progress. (How far through the download you are.)

3 – Seeds, Peers. (Talked about those before)

4 – Down and Up Speed. In this case downloading at 400KB per second, which is the same as 4000Kb per second – or if you like half of the maximum 8Mb that my line can do. (You don’t want to do maximum upload or download because then everything else slows down.)

5 – ETA. How long before the file finishes arriving.

6 – Peers. Here you can see who else is downloading and uploading the file. As you can see there are many countries represented here! And this also makes it clear how easy it would be to identify who’s downloading. At present, the only two methods for preventing this are to use a VPN product such as the soon to be released ipredator program, or to try to hide using PeerGuardian.

7 – The Green Tick means that uTorrent can get through your firewall OK. This is important for speed – as without it your speed will be about 20% of normal. If you can’t make this tick go green, you’ll either need help from an IT-aware person, or can try your luck at

Other things that can happen…

As you can probably guess, this is a ‘geek’s world’. As a result, some of them do some geeky things which can occasionally cause problems for the rest of us. (Or the rest of you? Am I a geek?)

Most video files are AVI files. Most of these play automatically, but if not try VLC Media Player.

Sometimes you might end up with a .iso file – which is a copy of a CD or DVD. You can probably burn this with a program on your computer; or if you have XP you can skip this step and ‘mount’ it with MagicDisc. (This might work on Vista too, but not sure. Last time I tried, it killed Vista but that was ages ago.)

The same will also work for UIF files, and NRG files.

You might hit a weird one that has tens of files numbered something.rar, something.001, something.002, etc. For this you’ll need the freeware 7-Zip – simply open the one that ends in rar with it, and click Extract.

Finally, you might hit a really annoying one called .daa – for which you’ll probably need the daa to ISO converter. (Not sure what they do that for.)

Watch and Record TV

So there you go. Overloaded yet? Well, there’s one other way you can get shows for free of course – watch TV! As mentioned in a previous Blog Post, you can now buy for about $70 a USB TV tuner, and add it to your computer using either it’s included software or the free GB-PVR program. You can then mark on the TV guide which shows you like and it’ll automatically record them for you. Once set up, even a non-technical person can use it with ease, complete with a $30 remote control if needed.

Most modern TVs will take a connection from a computer to use it as a screen.

Don’t want to do that? Well you can buy hard disk recorders from electronics shops to do the same sort of thing.


The other things you might want to check out are Podcasts and Vodcasts. Examples are:

ABC Podcasts
The Moth Podcast
.. and more. (I’m getting tired now 🙂 )

Assorted News 19 – Music and Movie Special :)

Assorted News 19 – Music and Movie Special 🙂

In this edition:

This one contains the long-promised guide to internet music and movies, plus some other small bits and pieces.

Generic News
How to watch and download music and movies on the Internet, safely.
Fibre to the Home?
Online Accounting.
A new technology that could change computing.

A way to get rid of Junk Mail.
Drunk or Drugged?
Get back deleted photos and files with Recuva.

Still in the Nissan.
Life as usual…
Freeview Update?
My New Green Tele 🙂

How to watch and download music and movies from the Internet, safely.

A few times lately I have promised some of you that I would be providing a comprehensive guide onto how to download music and movies from the Internet, safely. This has become more important recently as more customers have been moving to Wireless Broadband, because if you don’t pay attention to what you’re doing, it’s not hard to run up a bill of $100 or more.

This article has many images, so to be fair to all of you; rather than emailing the article to everyone, I have posted the article on the blog.

Even if you’re not planning on ever downloading music and movies, you might still find it interesting.

You can get it here:

It covers a broad spectrum of programs from 100% legal to those that are often used illegally, and includes the following programs and sites:

* BigPond Music
* BigPond Movies
* iTunes Music
* iTunes Movies
* YouTube
* ABC Podcasts
* LimeWire
* TVU Player
* Mininova
* uTorrent

Fibre to the Home?

Well, the latest bit of news in the Internet world is the idea of Fibre to the Home. At the moment, I’m a bit pessimistic about it; but in years to come it could be just like the Sydney Harbour Bridge – an investment in the future. In short, this is what has happened as I understand it.

1 – The original Optus Elders plan fell through / was canceled
2 – The government put out a request for tender to build a “national broadband network”
3 – Telstra’s bid appeared / was declared invalid as it didn’t answer all the requirements of the Tender process.
4 – The government determined that all the other bids were not capable of achieving what they wanted – only Telstra could do that.
5 – The government could no longer trust Telstra either, so were in a no-win situation.
6 – The government decided to go it alone independently and build a new wholesale network.

The good things in this proposal are that being a wholesale network means that existing providers can offer services on it, so it won’t kill off existing businesses (except perhaps Telstra if they can’t differentiate themselves enough on the level playing field) and of course the speed will be much better and finally obsolete the failing (rusting) copper network that currently exists. Fibreoptic cable doesn’t rust, and has theoretically no speed limit so it is relatively futureproof.

While I would like to see continued investment in wireless Internet because it’s so much more economical than digging up everyone’s road and footpath; I can also support that having faster internet will enable new services to exist that don’t exist currently. The 1000 person minimum town limit sounds reasonable to me too.

Online Accounting?

While casually reading on the Internet (which is what I do to relax) I read a Whirlpool thread where a number of people were arguing about which was better – QuickBooks or MYOB. See but be warned it gets a bit techy at times. One of the interesting things they talked about was the concept of ‘online accounting’ where you don’t actually buy an accounting program for your computer, and instead do it all online. Some sites that might be worth checking out are and

A New Technology that could change computing?

Well the world of computing is still changing… Increasingly more things are done on the Internet and less on a standard computer; making it increasingly possible to have a basic computer or even a high end mobile phone and still be able to do most of you daily work on it. It is not far from the point where it won’t matter whether you have Windows, Mac, Linux, Ubuntu or something else as long as it can get on the ‘net and run Firefox, etc. (Which is a bit of a worry for Microsoft.)

A recent podcast I listened to (while mowing the lawn) mentioned that there is a new service coming out in the US where you can play some of the latest games through your TV with just a tiny iPod-sized box. To play these games at home would normally require a computer with special parts that would cost more than $2,000. Instead, the company offering the service owns the high tech expensive computer(s) and does all the work for you, sending you the picture to your TV and receiving the signal from whatever the controller is that you’re mashing.

Why is this a big thing? Well it means that rather than having to buy your own expensive computer or games console and having to buy the games as well taking the risk that they might be crap, you could buy a cheap little box (or use a basic computer) and as long as you have fast internet you’re ready to go!

Gaming is one of the hardest things for a computer to do – so in theory with this kind of service you can do just about anything computer-based without having to have your own high powered computer. It’s also a good example of how the Fibre to the Home scheme would be beneficial, as this sort of service needs at least 1Mbps and up to 5Mbps – possible now with ADSL but only just.

Getting Rid of Junk Mail?

Now that 95% of email is Junk Mail, it’s more important than ever to be able to get rid of it. To date I’ve still only found one free method that works really well, and the good news is that it can work with most email addresses provided your ISP lets you forward email. (This includes BigPond email addresses.)

The simple solution is to get yourself a free email address on Google – that is an address at; and then tell your current email provider to forward your email to this new address.

The reason it works so well is because Google is huge. They can see the junk mail as it arrives to multiple places at once and remove it automatically. They also have a ‘report spam’ feature so if someone gets a junk message and reports it; it’ll get rid of it for you, and also for anyone else who gets a similar one.

Another advantage in adopting this new address is that it then frees you to choose a new internet company in the future without being tied to your current company’s address – a common problem for those stuck in a big pond or a chariot with broken wheels. (In other words, you’ll always have the google address no matter what internet company you move to.)

You can access Gmail from Outlook Express and other email programs just as you do now; so the change, once set up, is effectively transparent.

(This tip assumes that Google won’t suddenly die – but so far they’re pretty reliable.)

As an example of how to do this, go to and register for a new account – might take a few guesses because the downside of having billions of users is that there’s likely to already be someone with your name on there – who of course you can email later if you want to meet your alter ego?

Next step is to go to your current internet company and ask them to forward your mail to the new address – you can do this yourself if you’re on BigPond, but the process varies for other providers.

It can be a bit tricky getting Gmail working in Outlook Express / Outlook / Incredimail but it can be done – you know who you can call if you need help 😉

By the way, your junk mail won’t get delivered to your computer, but you can access it from the website so in the rare case that it could bit something important, you can still get it.

Drunk or Drugged?

If there is one thing that is guaranteed to annoy me, it’s ringing me while drunk or drugged. Repeat offenders are added to my voice call management systems as ‘do no answer’. If it takes more than ten minutes to get you to find type something into the Google box and left-click the search button… I may just hang up 🙂

Get back deleted photos and files with Recuva

Have you ever accidentally deleted a file that you wanted to get back? Up until recently you had to buy special software to get it back. Now, there’s a free program called Recuva which does quite a good job of retrieving lost stuff. The key with this sort of mistake is to stop as soon as you’ve accidentally nuked something because when you nuke a file, all that happens is that the space where it lived on the drive or memory card is marked as free to be overwritten. It works for cameras, memory sticks, hard drives, etc. Free from

Still in the Nissan…

Well, I’m still in the Nissan. It’s still doing just under 9 litres per 100KM which is surprising for it’s age. However it’s quite anonymous at the moment so I’m doing one or two things to help here. One is to get some new signage on the rear window similar to what’s on the Kingswood – although I’m thinking of going upmarket this time and getting a transparent type. The other idea is to take advantage of the dead paint on the bonnet and use the entire bonnet for signage. (It spent 6 years in a shed in Mildura under that laserlite roofing – baked the paint off the bonnet.)

The Kingswood is going in for overdue repairs next week and will be back on the road soon. Some of you have missed it. Some are happier with the boxy Nissan. I must admit I’m spoilt by the Auto transmission in the Nissan – went to start the Kingswood after a two month break last week and forgot it was a manual! (Crunched a cardboard box against the wall with the starter motor, no harm done.)

Life as usual…

So far the GFC hasn’t really affected me that much. Work is still pretty busy 🙂

FreeView Update?

Want to know more about what’s happening with FreeView? You can find out here: – note, a little bad language.

My New Green Tele 🙂

Well as you’ve probably heard, they’re planning on hiking our power bills by 20%. Now, my bills are usually around $500 a quarter as it is so it’s not an attractive proposition. As a result – and this partly explains why this newsletter’s late – I’ve gone on a power saving binge around the house. (Plus we have a new tropical fish tank which of course is not a green choice.) The changes made:

One computer – previously used as a TV – permanently decomissioned.
Another computer – previously used as an answering machine and remote access – now only on 5% of the time. (Wakes up, syncs with another system, hibernates.)
One always on set top box decomissioned.
Three video sender / receiver units decomissioned
One VGA to Composite unit decommissioned.
Multiple idle wall warts removed
Office rewired for switched circuitry for charging, etc.
Countdown timer added to bedroom heater (runs for 10 mins, then cuts out)
Sensor light replaced for Garage – weatherproofed this time.
Sensorlight fitted to front door – energy saving bulb always on, 100W spot only runs on motion
Negative: Built a heated dog bed, maintains 19 degrees when no dog present, can monitor from the Internet.
Decommissioned one full time VCR, TV standby circuit, radio standby circuit.

Time will tell how much I have saved, but it should be a little. At the moment, the sensor light units are only $6 each at Sams Warehouse so most rooms in the house now light up as you enter them 🙂

The most time consuming process was building the new TV computer – it has two digital tuners, one analogue tuner and an FM radio built in. Dual flat screens, and a new $30 remote control. It’s great 🙂 Here’s why:

It automatically loads the TV guide from the digital television signal.
You can search the guide alphabetically and mark off the shows you want to watch (including entire seasons)
You can watch live TV or recorded shows from any other computer in the house. (Only need one antenna.)
This computer is also the answering machine – links in to my home made accounting system so it can read out the names of who’s calling.
It displays random photos on the second screen every few minutes using “John’s Background Switcher”

Because of Microsoft Virtual PC, this machine also runs the Auzzie Dialup Accounting System, remote backups and a few other network monitoring processes, making optimal use of the dual-core hardware.

It’s not hard to build such a computer using free programs. The key program in this case is gb-pvr which is free from

I can give you a demo on the laptop if you track me down 🙂

Anyway, that’s it for this newsletter – took ages to write so hope you enjoy it 🙂

Cheers, Mike

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How to launch programs with HID

How to launch programs with HID

(Alternative descriptions for Google: How to launch applications with HID, How to start programs with HID, How to start applications with HID, cannot start program with HID, cannot focus explorer.exe HID)

Short answer: Don’t bother, try this instead.

While HID seems quite a capable program, it fails to do one basic thing easily – launch an application based on a key stroke or button press.

It says it’s capable of doing it using the ‘system-wide keys’ on the ‘alternate input’ tab, but this tab may be unavailable if you use keyboard control option. (You can try generic HID instead.)

I could not get this feature to work reliably; and ended up giving up on this application and moving to a nice freeware program called AutoHotKey from

To make it work, you need to add a few lines to a text file such as these:

^a::run “E:\Program Files\WinFast\WFDTV\WFFM.exe”
!#enter::run “C:\Program Files\Devnz\GBPVR\PVRX2.exe” -noframe
^+t::run “E:\Program Files\WinFast\WFDTV\DVBTAP.exe”
^g::run “C:\Program Files\Devnz\GBPVR\PVRX2.exe” -direct “TV Guide”
^+z::send p
^e::run “F:\Recorded Shows”
^i::run “G:\Internet Shows”
^m::run “C:\Program Files\foobar2000\foobar2000.exe”

For example, pressing the “Radio” button on my generic MCE remote sends Ctrl A as a standard keyboard stroke. The first line above will start WFFM.exe when I press this Radio button.

One of the programs, WinFast DTV, responds to the letter P to enable Pan&Scan; but the remote’s aspect button sends Ctrl Shift Z, so the line above that has ^+z catches this and instead sends the letter P.

The program can be set up with lots of scripting etc, but I haven’t needed to get that far into it yet. It lacks a nice programming interface so it’s a little fiddly copying and pasting application paths from their icons; but it works 🙂 (It looks like it obsoletes Iolo Macro Magic, my previous tool of choice.)

To find out what keys your remote sends, there is a handy ‘recording’ program included with it that shows you the actions you’ve performed.

Have fun!

Windows losing focus every 30 seconds or minute XP

Windows losing focus every 30 seconds or minute XP

There are a few possible programs that can cause this behaviour. In today’s instance it was a combination of a bluetooth software application and possibly some Ericsson software. Try disabling bluetooth to see if it’s the cause.