Archive for the ‘Windows Entertainment’ Category

Play Lady of Spain on your computer with Accordion

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

runs on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Accordion

"Virtual reality" is an interesting concept: reality that isn't real. That's a tough one to wrap your head around. Even if you aren't completely plugged into that, there are little pieces of unreal-reality we deal with all the time. Like TV. Or radio. Watching or listening to things that we think of as real, even through we're really only looking at a box with a window on the front of it, or listening to another box with a bunch of holes in it.

The world of things that are virtually real extends to musical instruments as well. Like synthesizers. These are instruments that aren't really instruments, but they sure do sound like them. Or at least some of them do. Your computer's got the smarts to play that game. There are all kinds of apps out there that let you play piano on your keyboard, or tap out a rhythm on your laptop's touchpad. But what about that most maligned musical instrument of all: the accordion?

Whether its reputation as the instrument that anybody who's cool loves to hate is earned or not, it is kind of the laughingstock of musical instruments. Whether it's some stodgy old polka or the latest Weird Al send-up, you can't help but laugh when somebody fires on of these up (although we did have the opportunity several years ago to hear a 50-instrument accordion band play The Beatles' I Want You (She's So Heavy) to impressive effect at the Cotati Accordion Festival.

Well, now you can have all the fun of the accordion in the privacy of your home or office with Accordion, a free accordion emulator app for Windows and Mac. You don't need any special hardware; you just turn your keyboard sideways and wail away on the keys to polka your brains out.

Accordion is a free download. It's available for both Windows and Mac.

Download Accordion

Put a recording studio on your computer

Friday, March 26th, 2010

runs on Linuxruns on Windows
screenshot of Jokosher

Back in the day, if you needed to do some serious audio recording, you had to go out and rent Abbey Road Studios, or some other equally expensive venue. Fast forward to today, where your computer has the potential to turn your office or living room into a similarly equipped space, if you add the right software to your system.

Jokosher is a multitrack recording studio that lives on your computer. Starting with its easy-to-use interface, you'll be able to record your next podcast or demo record in no time. Once you've laid down your tracks, you can go back and massage them into just what you were looking for—play with the volume, move voices around, add or remove instruments, the whole thing. You can also import and export just about all regular audio formats, so you can add them to the mix or create just the right format to upload or burn to optical media.

Jokosher is available in versions for both Windows and Linux platforms.

Download Jokosher

A free program to learn music

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of LenMus

If you enjoy music, you may want to know more about it. For some folks, making music means firing up their iPod or turning on the radio, but for others, they'd like to participate instead of just watching the process as a spectator sport.

You can read a lot about music and learn tons about its history, but when it comes to actually making music, it's often easiest to learn with a teacher or tutor working with you. Things like recognizing intervals by ear require that you listen to somebody play a piano or some other instrument so that you can actually hear the difference between a Minor Third and Major Third, or correctly identify a Perfect Fourth ("Here comes the bride…") or a Major Sixth (N-B-C). You can't do that yourself, because you're learning, so you may be out of luck. Or you can try LenMus.

This free application can help you to listen and identify intervals, chords, and more. In addition, it's got a built-in score editor, so you can practice such things as writing key signatures and simple musical lines.

LenMus is a Windows application.

Download LenMus

Create your own rhythm section with Weird Metronome

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Weird Metronome

The drummers are rarely the flashy ones. Their job is to sit in the back and keep everybody else in line. If you lay down a steady, consistent beat, then it's up to the rest of them to make or break a performance. While it's not the same as a drummer, a metronome plays much the same role in practice sessions. That steady "tick-tick-tick" gives you a point of reference and hopefully keeps you on track.

Weird Metronome is an electronic version of that old wind-up contraption that used to sit on top of your piano dictating the tempo for your practice. This one, though, does more than just click for you. It takes advantage of all the standard MIDI percussion voices, so you can mix things up a bit to try to fight off boredom. In addition, you can set all kinds of interesting or even syncopated rhythms, something you can't do at all on that old tabletop pendulum model metronome.

Free to download and use, Weird Metronome is a Windows application.

Download Weird Metronome

Turn the volume down while you drop off to sleep

Monday, December 28th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of Goodnight Timer

There are lots of timers and alarms out there that will wake you up, but what about one that will help you go to sleep? Goodnight Timer can do just that.

Just fire it up and start setting times. If you like to drop off while listening to music, it will automatically decrease the volume for you, and eventually power your system down. Choose either a specific time to end, or set an interval—maybe 30 minutes, maybe an hour. At the appointed time, it will begin decreasing the volume coming out through your speakers. You can choose either a linear or geometric profile, to turn things down at a constant rate, or to back-end load the decrease. Either way, it resets your system's volume back to normal when it finishes, so the next time you boot up you'll be able to hear things again.

Goodnight Timer is a free download. It runs under Windows.

Download Goodnight Timer

Find duplicate audio tracks on your machine

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of Duplicate Music Files Finder

If you've got a music collection of any size on your computer, you can almost guarantee that there are duplicate tracks in there. Whether it's because you ripped the same CD twice, dropped files in some unusual location, or even have a "Greatest Hits" compilation, you're wasting space that you could put to better use—maybe even for more tunes! But how do you dig through all that stuff to find potential duplicates?

Duplicate Music Files Finder can give you a hand with this. When it looks for duplicates, it's smart about it. Rather than just looking for identical filenames, it looks inside the audio files themselves, comparing file CRCs, and even looking at MP3 tag metadata to see if any two files really are duplicates of one another. Once you find any duplicates, you can play them in your media player to make sure, and then choose to delete the duplicates. It can also identify duplicates among non-media files as well. If you've got several copies of the Johnson Project report scattered around your hard drive, it'll help you find them all.

A Windows tool, Duplicate Music Files Finder is a free download.

Download Duplicate Music Files Finder

Take control of your iPod with SharePod

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of SharePod

Everybody's got an iPod. That means everybody's got their favorite tunes with them wherever they go. It also means that everybody's subject to the same limitations on what they can do with their favorite take-along audio player. Everybody except folks who have SharePod.

SharePod is a tool that lets you make your iPod behave the way you want it to, and not just the way that iTunes wants it to act. It's easy to add or remove music, videos, and photos from your iPod and move them back and forth onto your PC. It even supports drag-and-drop with Windows Explorer, making it super easy to choose the items you want. Create and tweak playlists so you have total control over the soundtrack of your life. It's easy to edit tags so you can categorize and find individual tracks or whole albums. Add artwork and adjust its size. It even includes support for iPhone and iPod Touch, so nobody's left out.

SharePod is a free Windows application. Unfortunately it doesn't understand your Mac-formatted iPod. Sigh.

Download SharePod

Free drawing program for kids

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of Drawing For Children

Kids and computers go together like peas and carrots. Whether it's because they're all closet geeks, or they just like getting in Mom and Dad's way, they're drawn to our machines. For them, typing a letter or writing a few lines of code holds no interest at all—mostly they like to draw pictures. Now I suppose you could turn them loose with Photoshop and let them figure out layers and masks and all that good stuff (when they've got that all figured out, they can explain them to you), but in all likelihood, that's not going to be what interests them. If you could show them something designed a little more for them, they just might be happy and let you get back to writing that report you need for tomorrow's meeting.

Drawing For Children is an app that your little ones can go nuts with. Choose a paint brush and do some free-form drawing. Add a couple of pre-fab shapes, maybe some text or a piece of clipart, and your little Picasso is good to go. Once they're up to speed, maybe they can give Photoshop another try.

Drawing For Children is a free Windows application. It'll run on anything from Win95 up through Vista.

Download Drawing For Children

Convert YouTube videos to MP3

Friday, September 18th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of Free YouTube to MP3 Converter

When you visit YouTube, it's safe to say you're generally looking for a clip to watch. Whether it's a "how to" demo, or the latest dancing cat video, there's no end of stuff to look at. Sometimes you like what you see enough to save it locally, to watch again and again. There are some situations though where you're more interested in the audio than in the pictures.

It would be nice to have a tool that would let you grab just the sound. Maybe you want to bring your clip along, but you're going to be in the car. With all the bad press about driving while texting, there's no doubt that driving while watching a video is probably even worse. But hey, people have been listening to the radio, tapes, and CDs since forever. And sometimes, the best part of the clip you're looking at is just the sound anyway.

Free YouTube to MP3 Converter is a tool that lets you convert the sound from your favorite clips into MP3 files, suitable for loading on your iPod or adding to an iTunes playlist. Choose to save as low-quality files to save space, or as higher-quality MP3s, or go whole hog and save them off as WAV files and preserve as much sound quality as possible. It'll even integrate into your browser, letting you download and convert right from the YouTube page.

Free YouTube to MP3 Converter is a Windows app.

Download Free YouTube to MP3 Converter

Free Tooth Fairy Letters and Coloring Pages

Friday, September 4th, 2009

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Tooth Fairy Letter

Do you remember when you lost your first tooth? Do you remember when you still had teeth? Either way, even though it was a little frightening—am I falling apart here?—there was consolation in knowing that evening a visitor would come by and convert your tooth to cash or some other little goodie. The Tooth Fairy was an idea that was almost too good for words.

Times have changed. Even though the amount she (he?) leaves has changed from a dime or quarter to five or ten bucks, the excitement is still there. And did you know that she's added another item to her bag of tricks? It turns out the Tooth Fairy can also leave a letter on her visits as well. If you're in charge of helping the Tooth Fairy out at your house, take a look at the offerings at Tooth Fairy Letter. They've got a dozen different letters from the Tooth Fairy to the little ones. There are general letters, notes specific to a boy or girl, and even letters for when the tooth is missing—can you imagine the heartbreak of the kid swallowing a tooth, leaving nothing to tuck under the pillow? In addition, they've also got a bunch of Tooth Fairy-themed coloring pages to keep the little ones entertained. And they feature a couple of pages of information about Tooth Fairy Family Traditions, as well as Tooth Fairy tips for parents.

Tooth Fairy Letters are available to download as free PDF files, or for a couple of bucks you can grab DOC versions formatted for Word, so you can personalize them. And don't forget to floss.

Download Tooth Fairy Letter