Archive for the ‘Windows Entertainment’ Category

A new look for your old ancestors

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of PhpGedView

If you're into the whole genealogy thing, you've probably got piles of old documents, maybe a bunch of photos, and an inbox full of email sent by Cousin Susie and Uncle Fred. If you're totally old school, you've also got a bunch of forms and pieces of paper with notes and arrows scrawled across them, trying to keep track of who's related to whom, and how. Or maybe you're more high-tech than that and you're running some desktop app to try to make sense of it all. Once you get it all figured out and realize that Aunt Rose is also your second cousin, the only way to share all your hard work with everybody else is to once again print it all out, and hope it makes sense. Well, it turns out that your cousins have been doing the same work you have, so there's a huge duplication of effort out there. And maybe they found some important fact you missed, or vice versa. It would be nice if there were a collaborative way to work on this family tree stuff.

PhpGedView is an app that does exactly that. While you could probably run it on your desktop, it's really designed to be installed on a server out there where multiple folks can get at it at the same time. You can enter what you've found out, while other family members can add their information to it. When you're done, you've got the benefit of everybody's expertise and information, and it's easy for even non-contributors to see what you've put together, because the whole thing lives on the web. Realizing that there's some pretty personal stuff in there, security settings are a big part of this app. You can decide who gets to see what, and who can edit which kind of data. You can also add media files, like photos, voice recordings, and all to flesh your data out.

PhpGedView is a free download. To run it, you'll need a web server running PHP 5.2 or better, and a database like MySQL 3.23 or newer.

Download PhpGedView

Upgrade your sight singing skills

Friday, October 7th, 2011

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of GNU Solfege

On the piano, when you plunk the key that plays Middle C, you get Middle C. There's really not a lot you can do to mess that up—it's not going to be sharp or flat, it's just going to sound that note. With many other instruments, there is a similar expectation: on your trumpet, a given fingering will give you a particular pitch, allowing for overtones, adequate breath support, and all that. Instruments like the trombone and violin require paying perhaps even closer attention, as you really have nothing but the sound itself to go on—there's no valve or key combination that "guarantees" a given pitch. And when it comes to the human voice, all bets are off. You really have to hear what you're singing to be able to get along. Ear training is important to the singer, and one of the techniques often used to help improve singers' ears is solfège.

GNU Solfege is a tool to help you train your ear. Exercises help you to drill on hearing (and singing) intervals, chords, and scales. While it comes with a bunch of exercises, it's easy to add your own as well, letting you work on the particular skills you're trying to master. It also features extensive documentation, so you should be up and singing in no time.

GNU Solfege is available for Linux, Mac, and Windows platforms.

Download GNU Solfege

Duplicate your audio CDs

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of Exact Audio Copy

If you're on top of things, you back up your computer regularly. After all, you don't want to lose any important data that lives there. But what about backing up the other stuff in your life? Accidents do happen, and it would be a shame if you had an audio CD that got munched and required you to go and buy it again, when you could have already had a backup copy. That's what Exact Audio Copy is all about.

With Exact Audio Copy, you can create a near-perfect image of any audio CD and burn it to disk. It features advanced error correction, so your new disks should be just about as good as the originals. If you find that there's a bit of a tweak needed here or there, it's also got a built-in sound editor, which can automatically go after ticks and pops, or you can get in there manually to set things right.

Exact Audio Copy is a Windows application.

Download Exact Audio Copy

Grab web content for your eBook reader

Friday, August 26th, 2011

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of GrabMyBooks

Congratulations! You just grabbed yourself one of those fancy, newfangled eBook readers. Goodbye dog-eared pages, hello convenience. It's like sticking a whole library in your pocket or briefcase, perfect for that long trip, day at the beach, or just curling up on the couch with a cup of cocoa. Then there's the matter of filling it up with content. You can buy the electronic version of a new book, or grab some older public domain volume. What if you're looking for something a little different?

GrabMyBooks is an add-on for Firefox that lets you grab online content and convert it into ePub format, which is compatible with just about everybody's eReader (although apparently not your Kindle). Find the site or story you're interested in, push the magic button, and GrabMyBooks will reach out and grab the content off the page, avoiding menus and all the other stuff cluttering up the screen in the process. Once you're imported the content, you can go back and edit and tweak things to help make them easier to deal with. This could all be quite helpful with technical material or sales information that's available only online, or just stuff that nobody's bothered to compile for you to read.

GrabMyBooks is a free download. Since it runs on top of Firefox, it should work just fine on any platform that supports that browser.

Download GrabMyBooks

Edit tags for media files

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of TigoTago

There's data, and then there's data about data. Your web page contains data: the text, images, links, and all that on the page are the stuff that people look at when they visit your site. The source files for the pages on your site also usually contain data about data, in this case called meta data. You've seen those tags in the page headers: description, keywords, that kind of thing. These guys aren't the actual data of your pages, they are additional chunks of information that talk about your data. This kind of data-about-data is used in other contexts as well, like in the media files you deal with every day.

When you fire up iTunes or some other player and see things like performer, album name, and all that, this information comes from tags that are embedded in your media files. These tags can be edited and customized if you have the right tool. Maybe TigoTago is the right tool for you.

TigoTago is a spreadsheet-based tag editor for media files like MP3 and WAV audio files, AVI and WMV video files, and more. Grab the files you want to tweak and open them up with TigoTago. You can edit any of the fields, either one-at-a-time for individual files, or as a group for multiple file operations, like adding an album name or performer name to a whole bunch of files all at once. You get to see that your changes will look like before you commit them—after all, you don't want to have to go back and fix a typo after you've just updated dozens of files.

A free download, TigoTago is a Windows application. It should run under all versions of Windows from Win9x on up.

Download TigoTago

High tech background noise

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of Audio Chaos

We're basically visual people. While iTunes is a popular app, and MP3s are everywhere, we focus a lot on what we see. Just look at a standard model TV set. You've got a great big, super duper, colorful screen to look at, and a little two-inch speaker to listen to. It almost doesn't seem fair. While the visual stuff is important, it's not appropriate for all occasions. Like when you're driving somewhere, or working on the computer, or trying to snooze. In situations like that, it's the audio that's much more interesting.

AudioChaos is a tool that you can use to explore some of this audio world. It bills itself as a "soundscape generator", meaning that it can take music, noise, nature sounds and such, and weave them together into interesting aural backgrounds for your day. Whether it's wind and wave sounds, bird calls, or musical samples, you can create your own soundscapes that invigorate or relax. They've got links to free audio samples to help you get started.

You can run AudioChaos on your Windows machine.

Download Audio Chaos

Go lo-fi with Vinyl

Friday, January 21st, 2011

runs on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Vinyl

There's something about listening to music on vinyl. Some people think it has a warmer sound; others are distracted by the ticks and pops that inevitably end up on the record's surface. And then there's all manner of distortion that can come in because of speed variations in the spin of your turntable platter, warps in the record, and such.

Vinyl is a tool that lets you take a decidedly lo-fi listen to your digital music. You get to choose how you want things to sound, by introducing electrical and mechanical noise to the playback, as well as tweaking the record surface by adding dust, scratches, and just plain old wear. You can even modify the sound by choosing an older date for your record player.

Vinyl works with Pro Tools, VST, MAS, Audio Unit, and DirectX audio applications. It's available for both Mac and Windows systems.

Download Vinyl

Free text-to-speech tool

Friday, October 8th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Panopreter Basic

Why might you want to have your computer read documents to you? Read, as in it speaks the words to you while you listen. Maybe you're busy and this is your way to multitask—listen to that new report while you're working on something else. Maybe you wrote a speech and wonder just what it might sound like. Or perhaps vision issues keep you from being able to make sense of things on your monitor. These or other potential reasons would seem to be plenty.

In the World of Mac, being able to listen to spoken text goes way back. Heck, you can even have system messages spoken to you. But on Windows machines, it's never been that easy to listen to what you're reading. That's why they built Panopreter Basic.

With Panopreter Basic, it's easy to convert text—almost any text—into WAV or MP3 audio files, that you can then listen to. It works with text files, Word DOCs, web pages, and more. Convert your text to sound and listen to it, burn it to a CD, turn it into a podcast—go nuts! It's even got an "immediate mode" that takes text you type into a window and converts it instantly to sound.

Panopreter Basic is a free download. It's a Windows app, and is compatible with systems running Microsoft SAPI 5 or above.

Download Panopreter Basic

Universal audio tag editor

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Mp3tag

If you are a fan of iTunes, or have so many MP3s that you're seriously looking at getting a bigger hard drive, then you know about "tags". These little bits of meta data associated with your audio files are what makes it easy to build playlists by genre, or to figure out who composed which songs on that new album. You can get in there and edit this stuff through iTunes and other audio players, but that's not what they were built for—it's kind of like how you could keep the books for your business on a spreadsheet, but might be better served by using a dedicated finance program.

Mp3tag is a tool designed specifically to tweak the tags in your audio files. Make your adjustments one-at-a-time, or go into full batch mode, editing tags for multiple files at once. You can enter data directly, or let the tool query databases from Amazon, MusicBrainz, and others, so you can get all the info you really need. You can also use it to create playlists, add cover art, and more.

A Windows app, Mp3tag is a free download. The current version runs under WinXP and later, but they do still have down-rev versions available that go back as far as Windows 95.

Download Mp3tag

Open source app manages lyrics, chords, all things musical

Friday, August 27th, 2010

runs on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of OpenSong

If you lead group singing, you can be up for some real challenges. If you're interested in old favorites, where everybody knows the words, it's relatively easy, but if you're teaching your group something new, it gets a lot more complicated. Now you've got to distribute books or songsheets, or use some other mechanism to make sure that everybody is literally on the same page. It's complicated, it's messy, and it isn't necessarily too fast. The folks who created OpenSong had the same troubles.

OpenSong is a free app you can use to lead groups in all things musical, and more. Think of it as a specialized PowerPoint-like tool. Present verses, choruses, or mix them all up. In addition to being able to use OpenSong as a presentation tool, you can also use it for keep track of your music. Create song sheets and lead sheets; include chords, and transpose your piece up or down as needed. And of course you can keep track of the title, composer, copyright information, and all that.

You can download OpenSong for Windows (Win2k+), Mac (OS X 10.3 and later), as well as various flavors of Linux.

Download OpenSong