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In the last post I wrote about the history of music on the computer and internet. This post shall be dedicated on the art of obtaining your music collection. You may have to check with your own ethics if you plan to copy copyrighted material into your computer. For me, this is not black and white as the copyright holders will want to let us consumers believe. I have a theory, it is that if I do not particularly like a band/song/album and would like to listen to it every once in a while, like once every 2-3 years, then I am definitely NOT going to go out and pay for the music. It’s like I could wait for it to be played on the radio. These days you can go to libraries and borrow music CD’s. It’s like me going to my local library, borrowing that CD, bringing it home and listening to it. This in no way is going to generate more cash flow for the music copyright holders, and certainly not for the original artist. If you do not already know, artists in many cases do not receive any money in the first couple of years, and some even in the many years to come. All who is benefiting from this affair is the music label. I think Abbey Road Studios or SONY already has enough money. Sorry, I do not help make the multi-billion-dollar corporations even richer.
On the other hand I am all up for supporting talented new artists who set a reasonable price on their music per track and enable multiple fail-safe methods of payment. One such artist is the talented Per Byhring from Norway. Per is one of those talented young artists who not only has his music up for sale on Amazon, but also has it up for grabs in multiple high-quality formats for free download. This is the sort of artist I would like to support. His whole album cost me 80 SEK, or about $9. Worth every öre. However it was a bit of a struggle to try to buy the album. At first I was given the link to the USA Amazon site, that didn’t work since it’s a crime to be in Sweden and trying to buy music in US, so I tried the UK version of Amazon. Same problem, if you don’t live in the UK, you cannot buy music online. CDbaby had similar problem until in the end, I tried iTunes and curiously, it worked !
The problem is that most websites have still not gotten their heads around the Global Community that internet is. Most of their CEO’s still think as if there’s a border around every country and things are in black and white. Are you in US/UK ? You can buy the music and support your favourite artist. Are you not from those countries ? You shouldn’t listen to that music. Period. It’s not as simple as that though. You have to decide whether music is replaceable product or not. I can understand that certain cars are not going to be available in certain countries, but these products are replaceable. You need a car for its offered safety, price, comfort and so on. If you do not find that specific brand or model, you can settle for something else. But music, can you really say OK I am not able to buy my favourite album, I’ll just go and buy something else and listen to that instead ! What if Per Byhring did not offer his music for free ? Music like A Shell in the Pit is a good example. Only one Canadian dollar to buy in multiple formats, it’s also available in complete and in high quality for listening to. If you want to keep it, then you may have to pay the reasonable price of $1. Payments from Sweden also accepted. Simple, easy and effective.
Music should be easy to download and pay for. At least as easy as finding it on pirate websites because after all, if “I” for one cannot pay for my favourite music, I will get it through other means. Huge FAIL for those companies restricting access and purchase from other countries. What do they think they are doing ? They help the illegal downloading/piracy, indirectly.
I believe all music should be freely accessible, just like the example of A Shell in the Pit. If you want to just listen to it, then here you go, if you want to have it, then pay a little bit of money. Fortunately, services like Grooveshark and Spotify allow users to listen to the song without paying for it. However if you still insist on downloading the music, here is a list of the methods I use to download:
beemp3: Bee Mp3 contains millions of tracks. Downloading is as easy as searching for the music, entering the three-character capcha and clicking save-as on the mp3. It’s effective if you are trying to download that difficult-to-get track, but not ideal for albums.
Mp3Skull: Same as above, great search function and you can even play mp3 as streaming, just give it a try !
MusicJunk: This is an Android app that enables users to search for music and find many alternative versions of the same file, different bitrate, remixes and so on. It’s simple and effective. I actually download most of my single track mp3′s on this little app then share it with my PC through DropBox app on Android.
ThePirateBay: The most popular and oldest torrent sites, here you can search for album names, or browse for music genres. If you don’t know what torrents are and how you can use them, please refer to this article.
Google: One of the easiest ways to download mp3′s. There are thousands of web pages in Google’s index which contains millions of mp3 tracks. You just have to search for them the right way. Searching for name and .mp3 is the simplest way, but it may land you on many spam websites. You can try refining your search by typing “index of” + inurl:mp3 + “artist” “album” -txt -pls -m3u in google and replacing artist and album with your desired names. This webpage explains things in more detail and shows you many ways to download music off the good old web.
IRC: The old IRC is showing its age and what once was my main source of finding online friends, chatting, exchanging mp3, ideas, and messaging friends has become almost obsolete with the introduction of web forums, Wiki’s, messengers, bittorrent and file-sharing. Nevertheless, you can still download music via IRC. Just download mIRC and install, make a username and join a random Undernet Server. Then Join #MusicPassion channel and start downloading different lists (@nickname), once you found a song you would like, you can download it by typing !Nickname Musicname.mp3 it’s as easy as that. Although this method has its down sides too, namely, you cannot search for music, you can just download what the person has on their computer. There’s more action happening on Undernet servers than Efnet, which also used to be one of the most popular servers back in 1996-1999
USB Flash Disk: In this method you take what you like from a friend’s computer with a USB drive. Advantages are quick and effective search. If your friend has thousands of tracks and Windows search is too slow, I recommend installing Everything. This gem searches for files in lightning fast speed on any windows. While you’re at it, download and run Space Sniffer which will show you how much space folders and sub folders take, so that you can fit as much as you can on your USB drive.
Streaming music downloads: Streaming music are specifically made so that you cannot download and save them. However if the streaming music is of mp3 format, it is easier to download than other formats. Websites such as Digitally Imported or SomaFM offer a wide selection of different music genres in mp3, windows media and aac format. You can use programs such as Stream Ripper 32 and Station Ripper. These will download the streaming music into different tracks. Although they would work better on certain channels than others.
Obsolete: IRC is almost obsolete, there are several other technologies such as DC++ or BearShare which were once popular and have long lost their momentum. You can of course try these methods but as time goes on, newer methods will inevitably replace the older ones due to better support or more effective search services.
The choice of downloading or paying for music is left up to your own ethics and finances. If you can afford paying for music, then go ahead and pay for it. After all, it is us who should support the artists.
Every now and then you come across an old computer or hardware that you need to install and you cannot find drivers, either for that particular Windows version or no driver at all.
Re-installing same version of Windows
If you are re-installing the same version of Windows, you can save yourself a LOT of trouble by backing up the already-installed drivers and using them later. There are several “driver backup” software out there, I like using MyDrivers v3 and/or DriverBackup! which is freeware and works like a charm. You’ll need mscomctl.dll which you can download from here. After running the program, you can choose List –> Options –> List other providers’ drivers which only backs up non-Microsoft drivers since Windows already contains other drivers.
Finding updated drivers for your hardware
There is a program called Version Tracker that will look for newer versions of your drivers (especially useful for laptop drivers) and downloads them for you.
Finding out the real make/model for unknown hardware
Sometimes, you install windows and it cannot recognize the hardware. You are presented with a yellow exclamation mark in Device Manager and you do not know where to start. There are a few utilities that can help shed some light into what you should be searching for. If it’s a PC hardware, your best bet is to take out the hardware (for example you have no sound installed and you are pretty sure the computer has a sound card) and look for any brand/model or any useful information that you can search on google to find more information about the hardware and related drivers. If you are installing a laptop or cannot access the computer’s internals (ie, locked computer), UnknownDevices is currently the best software out there for this job. Version 1.4 beta supports all windows versions from 95 to Vista (no NT4). Unknown Device Identifier is a freeware from a commercial company (which also created MyDrivers) and tries to push you to buy their driver backup software. Just take the name and search on your own !
Hunting down drivers for known hardware
Now that you know what to look for, or if you already knew the name/brand and model of your hardware, I hope you have a LOT of patience, time and a bit of luck hunting down your driver. The problem is that most manufacturers stop hosting or even listing old drivers and hardware on their website. I do not know why any manufacturer would want to subject their loyal customers to abandon their hardware and go out to buy another version of the same hardware just because they (the manufacturer) do not care to host a small driver on their website. If they expect you to go out and buy another product from the same manufacturer, would you want to be cheated again ? I remember having to chuck my perfectly good Creative Webcam out because it was only supported on Windows 98 and not Windows2000. I have never bought any Creative webcams anymore (currently use Logitech which has Windows XP/Vista support).
There are hundreds of spam filled websites claiming they have your driver, only to find that it’s their useless “driver finder” software which may or may not be bundled with spyware and junk. Currently there are just a handful of sites that actually host the files you need. Unfortunately most, if not all require you to create a login before you can download any of their drivers. They want to send you spam you see ! I would recommend using temporary mailboxes to create usernames for such websites. Remember, never ever ever use your personal email address for registering on such websites. Although every website that requires registration will promise you that they are not going to use your email address to send spam, and at best, will send you selected mail from their sponsors, that selection is very large and in a short time you’ll find lots of spam in your mailbox. You can for example make up a name like email@example.com and go to http://www.tempinbox.com and type in driverzzz to view mail sent for it. Sometimes it takes a few minutes for these registration mails to be sent
Here are a few driver websites and temporary-inbox sites:
- DriversCollection (no registration required)
- cNet.com (don’t expect to find rare or very old drivers)
One of the perks of studying in my University as Business and IT management is that we can download all Microsoft’s modern OS’s with valid serial numbers. Certainly beats having to track cracks for Windows 2008 and such if you just want to try it out.
Since we have Windows 7 Professional, I was wondering what I was missing from Ultimate. Except for Bitlocker which I cannot care more about, there’s the 35 or so MUI language packs. So I installed Ultimate on a test computer and got the Dutch and Swedish language packs installed…. pretty good. It looks like the whole windows is Swedish or Dutch, it transforms everything into those languages. The nice thing about it was that you could create 3 users which would have different language installed for each ! You just log in and use a different language
It’s a pitty that one must get the Ultimate version of Windows 7 just to use some language packs. Nowadays you can download most programs’ language packs and install them, without paying anything or much trouble.
Microsoft however wants to charge for everything. A bit unfair in my opinion. So I set out to find if it was possible to download those language packs (which are only available on Windows Update in Windows 7 Ultimate) and trick Windows 7 Professional into installing them.
Yes, it’s possible:
Supports all versions of Vista (RTM, SP1, SP2) and Win7 (RTM at the moment) and both 32 and 64 bit versions.
Here, you can even find LIP (Language Interface Packs) in even more languages for Vista, 55 of them ! LIPs convert Windows Vista partially (about 80%) and require English MUI to be installed.
There are several small programs I install on every Windows XP system. They add more functionality or make it look nicer. Here I try to list them with link to their pages so you could also enjoy them.
Royale Theme This will make your WindowsXP look like MediaCenter Edition 2005. It’s a Microsoft software so no theme hacking is needed. If your windows is installed on D: drive, make sure you change it in the software because it will always install to C:\Windows by default.
Zune Theme Sleek black taskbar and bright orange start button. Also from Microsoft so no theme hacking needed again.
Vista Drive Icon This will make your hard drive partitions look like Vista
VisualTask Tips Shows a thumbnail preview image of your running applications when you move your mouse over them on the task bar.
Yz Shadow Creates nice shadow around programs and open windows, like Vista
More to be added later:
3dClip, SpaceSniffer, Defraggler, OEM Info, Cacheman 5.5, RegCompressor 4, DosShellEx, Move-to, Copy-to, doPDF, RegClean, NeroShowRealRecordingSpeed, Unlocker, User Profile Hive Cleaner, WinXP AVI Fix, Sandboxie, XP power toys: Alt-Tab, ImageResizer, ClearType, TweakUI
Please leave comments for anything you might have found very useful so I could complete this list.
Installed Windows 7 Professional (MSDN) on my laptop. Since it was an upgrade from Windows XP, I had the wonderful job of hunting down not only Windows Vista drivers, but also making sure they would work with Windows 7 which was not always the case. Windows 7 found and installed most of my drivers by itself, except for a few of those “unknown device”s in device manager. Those are a sore to remove because you don’t know where to look for. Another problem was that my HP/Compaq nc6320 has a finger print reader but Windows 7′s own finger print program would crash whenever I would swipe my finger on the reader… trying to “update” the program online wouldn’t help either since the whole thing is so new.
So gradually I installed all those drivers and updates. Latest version of Intel 945 Graphic driver is now installed but it didn’t help push the system rating higher, currently at 3.1 one may wonder what the graphics driver updates do, if they do not help with the performance. Although it’s a release candidate driver and hopefully in a few months time when Intel releases WDDM v1.1 it will use less system RAM to do normal windows tasks : How Windows 7 handles video memory
Texas Instruments Media Card Vista Driver installed and helped me remove 3 or 4 of those annoying PCI devices with exclamation marks. I then proceeded to install Authentec Fingerprint Driver and its update, hoping to get that Windows 7 Finger Print program to work (unsuccessfully). Then I had this ACPI thing in device manager and it just wouldn’t go away. In the end, after a bit of online search I found that in fact “HP Quick Launch Buttons” had to be installed for ACPI Drivers ! go figure how that’s related !
After about a week of “finger print readerlessness”, I got fed up and searched high and low until I found this: Protector Suite 2009 which sounds more like an Antivirus ! And now I am a proud owner of a Laptop “Designed for Windows XP” which happily runs Windows 7 and had all drivers working.
Next post, I’ll add some Windows 7 specific programs I found.