Open-Source Alternatives.

Let's face it, mortgaging the house to purchase commercial software is not an option. In lot's of instances, there are high quality open-source software alternatives that are every way as good if not better than its' commercial counterpart.
Finding the alternative is sometimes a challenge.

Over at, they maintain a list of open source software and looks like a good starting place in your search. For instance, if you’re looking for an alternative to Photoshop, you can see a list of open source alternatives that are available that may fit what you’re looking for

TechZilla News - My USB drive has fallen and it can't get up!

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On several occasions over the years, clients have reported they had just moved and when they set up thier computer at the new house it no longer could boot up.

And as a rescue measure, I would remove the hard drive from the computer and place it face-down on the kitchen linoleum. Then spin the drive as fast as my hand could make it spin, several times in both directions. Honestly I had a fairly high success rate of getting the drive to work again. My assessment of this solution was based on a couple of things.

The user or the mover likely didn't properly pack or transport the computer and some sort of shock to the hard drive had occured. Bouncing around in a car or back of a truck is a surefire drive killer. Since it was working before and it wasn't plugged into electricity during the transport of the system, the drive electronics should be ok. Also since the drive wasn't spinning during transport, the only part that can move is the read/write heads.

My guess also is that the heads can move beyond the normal read/wite position and get stuck when the drive is subjected to certain levels of shock. Spinning the drive on the floor is an attempt to use centrifical force to dislodge the heads. Since the platters are not moving, this should be relatively safe for your data whether it works or not. This again is because the platters are not spinning.

Other technicians have told me that they put the drive in the freezer for ahwile and use the spin trick but I never tried that mostly because I had a fairly good revival rate anyway.

If this doesn't work, most likely your data is still fine unless the platters were damaged. A lot of it could be recovered in a Drive Recovery Class A Clean Room. Even if you can't afford it now...don't throw the drive away in case someday you can afford it.

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Making your Video Look good on DVD

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The problem is that there are no real set rules to go by to produce consistent high quality videos that will still be "viewed" as high quality down the road. With every change of technology, the rules change. I believe we are not alone on this. Television broadcasters face this same challenge. Not everyone has HDTV or 100% digital capability yet...the smoke will take along time to actually settle.

As a kid, I recall my dad's old super 8 projector. We would pull up the screen and fire off a movie then have to adjust the focus of the lens to find the sweetspot to watch the movie. It's not like a projection room or a theatre of course where the projector is in a fixed location. The only thing constant was the film itself and the size and quality of the projection screen we used. WYSIWYG!

I go into a lot of homes in my business. The vast majority of people have CRT's in the 32" or less range. As these units are being replaced, they look towards the "newer" and "larger" technology. Based on this I would say currently the

 "biggest audience" is the CRT group.

If I were designing a webpage, I know it may not look good on every computer that views it for a couple of reasons. One being the web browser that a user uses to view it and the resolution and quality of the monitor they are using. To combat these variables, a good web designer, tests the webpage using the various available web browsers at several resolutions. Before LCD monitors, you only had CRT's to deal with. The difference being the DPI and resolution capability of the various monitors. LCD's may never achieve the true picture quality of a high-end CRT though...but they are getting very close.

From a practical standpoint, it became quite obvious that setting your own display resolution to 800x600 when designing a webpage is the smartest thing to do. There was a point where absolutly no one had CGA or EGA monitors anymore and everyone had at least a standard VGA monitor that could display at 800x600. This is still a recommended practice I believe even though not all web designers follow this.

Creating a video that will look good on everything from a 4" CRT to 108" LCD or plasma is the challenge. Economically, I cannot afford to buy every imaginable tv set out there to test my video on. I believe there is a work-around for this though.

After shooting and editing a video on the computer, save it back to tape. Besides archiving, this preserves the DVI-AVI in its native format. Then take the camcorder to the local electronics store and pretend to be interested in buying the most expensive highest quality thing on the market. Of course you have to talk the salesmen into letting you plug the camera into several models maybe.

Professional DVD production houses generally request you send them the movie on a DV tape of some type. Some accept movies on a hard drive. But what they really want is the movie in it's "uncompressed" format. That way they only have to deal with the 4:3 or 16:9 ratio, the FPS and the length of your movie in time. They also don't have to deal with the limitations of 4.3 gb blank DVD. This is why you can have a two hour movie with lots of extras on a commercially produced DVD with no noticible quality loss from the origional. This also explains why commercially produced DVD's look better on a wider range of TV sets than homebrew DVD's.

I imagine that in producing commercial quality DVD's they achieve this in part because they work from the origional. Also they likely are able to encode the video using less compression and at higher bitrates.

I think the real bottom line here is the intended audience. If you are producing movies or videos for yourself your job is much easier. It only has to look good to you on the equipment you have now. A portable DVD player hooked up to a high-end tv at the electronics store would also let you see your creation as others may see it should you choose to increase your audience base.

I think the rule here though is that the higher the overall bitrate you are able to achieve when creating your DVD, the better the quality the images will be on the larger screens. The larger screens being capable of processing and displaying more information filling in the spaces so to speak to compensate for the video being stretched to fit. The smaller screens would actually be visually compressing the image and appear to have a higher quality.

The best we can ultimately do though is work within the limits of our imagination, our audience, the time and money we have to invest.

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TechZilla News - DST Are You Ready?

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Actually, it's likely no big deal for the average person. Your system may have already recieved the patch if you doing your critical updates from Microsoft. Even if your not, still no big deal unless having your computer being an hour off for 3 weeks bothers you.  


The easiest way to see if you got the patch is to compare the computer time to your other clocks in the house. The time on the computer is ether gonna be the same or an hour different depending on whether you already moved the house clocks forward before bedtime tonight or not.


There are several versions of the update depending on the system you have. Links to the update can be found down on this page at Microsoft


Another method as a temporary work around is to double-click on the clock in the system tray. Click on the Time Zone tab and remove the checkmark which allows automatic changes when daylight savings comes around. Then set the clock ahead an hour and click ok. While this works remember that the clock will be an hour off this fall also because it's might not be reset automatically.


This makes the Best thing to do is to run Windows Updates and get the patch...


Primarily, this commotion about the DST changes really most affect software likely not running on your system. If you use Microsoft Outlook (not Outlook Express) then there is a patch to update appointments at Microsoft Downloads  Beyond that, unless you are using something that counts down the seconds from one event to another or timestamping financial transactions your probably not really gonna be affected much.


Enjoy the sunshine and get out early. DST is nothing to lose sleep over...If you do, then you'll likey find it again this November.


SPAM WARS - can we defeat them?

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There is Hope!

I started getting tons of emails in my spam folder over the last few months. Normally I just delete them. I have Outlook set not to "preview" emails in that folder also. Lot's of what we consider spam is no more that a few words to a bunch of nonsense. But by looking a little closer, they may have 1pixel x 1pixel image that is literaly invisible and could be anywhere in the message. Even a period at an end of a sentence could be one of these.

While this may seem harmless, the purpose is to signal a server that your email address they have is valid and then the flood gates open.

Anyway, I decided to investigate where these email were coming from and I tracked it back to someone in China, a country notorious for the volume of spam that comes from there. I literally was getting no less than 10 emails for the exact same offer from 10+ email addresses at the same website. Each email identical....and then several other offers all delivered the same way.

Having nothing to lose I decided to break my rules.

I opened one of the emails and found the "unsubscribe" link. That took me to a webpage where I entered the email address. They stated it may take several days for my address to be removed. Believe it or not they actually honored it.  As a rule clicking on an unsubscribe link is  not only a waste of time but unadvisable. It's one way spammers get confirmation that the email address is valid. Also a list of currently valid email addresses alway brings a decent price the the right buyer.

My spam folder is hardly getting anything now.


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TechZilla News - More on IE7

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Never did get IE7 to quit crashing on MSN video although had no problems at Google Video or YouTube. I believe somehow this may be related to the minor anamolies I've had with Windows Media Player since I built my new machine. Other than that it seemed fairly stable. I did uninstall from my desktop and went back to IE6 since it's my main computer I use.

I also installed IE7 on my laptop and had no problems what so ever so far. I believe I may keep IE7 on my laptop to become familiar with it so I'm not a fish out of water at clients homes and businesses. I believe this is going to boil down to a matter of choice as to what browser you want. If you have a friend who has made the plunge, I would go look at it and see for yourself. Microsoft also has a tour located at

One last thing, what I understand is
that users will not be forced to accept IE7 nor will Microsoft
silently install IE7. Users will see a dialog box offering IE7. Users can choose “Install”, “Don’t Install”, or “Ask me later”.  They also have a command line utility that will create the necessary registry change so even that will quit bugging you. I'm not really sure how aggressive the dialog box will be at coming up.

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Techzilla News

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TechZilla Says:

exerpt from WserverNews by Sunbelt Software Nov 20 2006
IE7 Rejected By FBI

InfoWorld has a "gossip" journalist that had an item this week that I thought was immensely entertaining so I'm sending you a short blurb of the "Robert X. Cringely" column!

"Microsoft may be 'gung ho' about Internet Explorer 7, but the FBI doesn't share its enthusiasm. Cringester and gun dealer Robert B. got an e-mail from the Feds saying its NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) does not support IE7. The G-men want to perform a background check on the browser's security flaws before they pull the trigger. (A good idea.) Suddenly Microsoft's plan to roll out IE7 as an automatic Windows update looks even dumber. Maybe Redmond should change that to semi-automatic." Hee hee.


If you use IE6 (Internet Explorer 6) which is the default browser for Windows XP, be aware that Microsoft plans to make IE7 an automatic update. Be aware that not all websites fully support IE7 such as some banks etc. While some of the features seem nice and lots of users like them, some of them including my self do not. One major change I noticed was the toolbar is less configurable. Right after it was released to the public, I installed it and within 5 minutes was uninstalling it because for one it looked funny, and I couldn't quickly make it do what I wanted. Then of course it also crashed my new system for what ever reason.

Since that time, I have learned that it changes the cookies and temporary internet file storage folders to "protected system folders" making them more difficult to browse to on the system and manually delete the items. I'm sure there are other things I will learn about over time.

I plan on installing IE7 again this weekend and will let everyone know what I think before the automatic updates occur hopefully.

Hope all is Well!

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