Sunday, December 31, 2000

A very brief Internet Relay Chat FAQ

Sunday, December 31, 2000 0

What does the @ symbol in front of an IRC nickname mean?

The people with @ symbols before their names are channel operators. They moderate what goes on within the channel and have access to special commands. They have the authority to kick out users who are being particularly offensive, for example.

How do I check to see if my friends are online using IRC?

If you know their IRC nickname and what server they are on, this is really straightforward. Simply type in /whois followed by their nickname. A status box will then appear to tell you whether or not they are online, and if they are online, which channel they are currently in.

If you do not know which server they are on, you can type in /msg followed by their nickname and a brief message. Asking them directly what server/channel they are in might be useful. Alternatively, you can type these details into a DCC chat request box.

I keep seeing the words 'ping pong' while I'm using IRC. What does this mean?

A ping pong is IRC's way of checking to see if you are still online in order to keep your connection alive. You don't have to reply to this message manually, your IRC client will take care of this for you.

What is a netsplit?

A netsplit occurs in IRC when the server you are connected to suddenly crashes and almost all of the users are automatically kicked out.

Wednesday, November 15, 2000

Why when I post a message on some bulletin boards do they not show up straight away?

Wednesday, November 15, 2000 0

This happens because your browser is not set to automatically refresh the page after you post. When you are returned to the forum index you are presented with an old version of the page which has been retrieved from your internet cache (the area of your hard drive web pages are downloaded to) rather than the web server.

To check that your posts have been added successfully, you can hit the 'refresh' button or press the F5 key, yet to make sure that you are always viewing the newest versions of web pages in future, you will have to change the settings of your browser. This way, pressing the refresh button manually will not be necessary. Here's the procedure: select 'internet options' from the 'tools' menu of your browser and prod the 'general' tab. Now click on the 'settings' button in the 'temporary internet files' section, and finally make sure that the 'every visit to the page' option is checked within the 'check for newer versions of stored pages' area.

Thursday, November 09, 2000

What are these bootleg movies the mainstream media is always banging on about?

Thursday, November 09, 2000 0

They are illegal copies of new and old movies (though it's the unreleased blockbusters the MPAA and Co. are most keen to stamp out), created using a variety of disparate techniques, which produce varying degrees of audio and video quality.

The latest releases are reproduced and distributed either for the sheer thrill and challenge of competing with rival release groups, or to profit financially by hawking these hot-off-the-press movies on the black market.

The various forms of bootleg movies can be broken down into the following:

Cam movies are very poor quality cinema recordings usually captured by amateurs using a run-of-the-mill home camcorder. Because the camera operator has to stay hidden if he or she wants to avoid being thrown out of the cinema, tripods are rarely used and therefore the resulting movies can be very shaky. As you would imagine, sound quality is also terrible as the only microphones used are built into the side of the camera.

It's not uncommon to be able to spot members of the audience wandering back and to across the screen, coughing, spluttering, having sex, and so on.

Telesync movies are high quality cinema recordings, which make use of professional video camera and sound recording technology. Unlike 'cam' movies, telesync recordings are made using a tripod, and the camera is positioned in such a way so as to avoid capturing the heads of the people in the audience.

Sound is often recorded in stereo by placing microphones in strategic positions throughout the cinema.

Even better quality telesync recordings are achieved as a result of filming in an empty cinema and by connecting sound recording equipment directly to the sound source.

Screeners are near perfect copies of the pre-release promotional movies which are sent to critics, video rental shops and censors etc. They are copied directly from video or DVD so loss of sound or picture quality is minimal.

Screeners are usually adorned with scrolling anti-piracy and copyright restriction messages as well as tracking 'signatures' used to trace the release back to the source of the leak.

SVCD, or Super Video Compact Discs, utilize MPEG-2 encoding techniques to reduce disk capacity hogging video streams so as to fit onto one or several CD-Rs. The resulting video quality is superior to VHS and video CD.

Telecine movies are bootleg recordings made directly from a cinema reel and encoded into digital format.

TV rips are television episodes which have been captured using a PCTV tuner card and encoded using the DivX or XviD format.

Sunday, October 29, 2000

How do I burn Virtual CD disk images?

Sunday, October 29, 2000 0
Because Virtual CD doesn't by default extract the RAW data required by Nero to burn .iso files, this CD writing tool can have difficulty reconstructing extracted disk images. Luckily WinOnCD is capable of doing just that without making reference to RAW data, so I'd suggest you use this instead. In some cases it is possible to convert disk images created with Virtual CD using ISO Buster or WinISO and then write them to a CD in the usual fashion.

Thursday, September 21, 2000

Why are images created using the bin format so much more bulky than some of the competing image structures?

Thursday, September 21, 2000 0

Bin format files are more cumbersome because they contain extra error analyzing code, which can be used to check whether or not bin files are, or have become corrupt at any number of stages during their creation or distribution. If you discover that a bin file is corrupt you can attempt to repair it or download it again from a different source rather than wasting a recordable disk finding out. Some formats lack this critical feature and so would have to be burnt and play tested before it was possible to determine their error status.

Furthermore, bin files are able to archive a far wider range of file systems, regardless of the number of tracks or modes they comprise, so are the perfect multi-purpose solution. The alternative would be to employ a range of diverse formats, one for each kind of data structure leading to unnecessary complications.

Wednesday, September 13, 2000

Quickie dot coms

Wednesday, September 13, 2000 0
Here's a really nifty web browsing, time-saving tip for you: whenever you type the address of a web site you wish to visit into Internet Explorer's address bar, try omitting the Ws and the .com. Just type the bit in between, press the control and enter key simultaneously and the rest will be filled in for you automatically before your browser attempts to load the site. This shortcut also works in Firefox if you lay off the control key. Note that this only works with .com addresses, but still, that's a hefty chunk of them, right?

Friday, August 04, 2000

Duff bins?

Friday, August 04, 2000 0

When I use Winrar, Winace or SFV Checker to test a homebrew disk image archive, no errors are reported, however, when I extract the bin file, Winrar/Winace reports CRC errors. If I choose to ignore these errors and burn the image anyway, will it work?

This is quite a common problem, yet shouldn't always be a cause for concern. Many bin files despite containing errors will run perfectly well. You may experience very minor glitches from time to time, for instance, video screens freezing or jumpy sound playback, but nothing so serious as to spoil your enjoyment of the game (assuming it is a game we're talking about and not an application). That said, before burning the bin file, it's good practice to attempt to repair it using CD Mage; you have nothing to lose and everything to gain from giving it a shot anyway.

Nevertheless, it could be that you are looking in the wrong department for the source of the error. Plenty of CRC errors result from using faulty RAM SIMMs so I would suggest running some tests on yours using SIMM Tester to eliminate this possibility.

If your RAM passes the health check, yet Winace or Winrar still report CRC errors, your hard drive could be to blame instead - if you are trying to extract the file to an area of the drive which contains damaged clusters, this will have the same outcome. To remove this factor from the equation check your drive using MS Scandisk or try extracting to a different drive if you have more than one.

Another possibility is that your copy of Winace or Winrar needs updating - it could be that your version is outdated and is therefore incompatible with the archive. Ideally you should use a version of Winace or Winrar which is the same as, or newer than the one used to create the archive - a useful thing to check if you're creating and extracting images on different computers.

Sunday, July 30, 2000

What is the c2d format?

Sunday, July 30, 2000 0

The c2d format was originally devised by Cequadrat and is designed to be used with their homegrown CD writing application, WinOnCD. However, this is a very bulky and unnecessary download if you only wish to use it to burn one image file.

Instead, you might like to try ISO Buster - a mere one meg download and free to boot. As well as offering support for WinOnCD file types, ISO Buster can handle Nero, Clone CD, Blind Read and Easy CD Creator formats without breaking into a sweat, so is a good all-round burning program to add to your collection.

Sunday, July 09, 2000

One search engine or ten? Why settle for half measures?

Sunday, July 09, 2000 0
When searching for software, clip art, MP3s, or anything for that matter, use a 'meta' search engine. Meta search engines take a query and submit it to a multitude of diverse search engines simultaneously, amalgamate the results and then present them to you in a logical, standardized format. A single search engine cannot possibly index everything the web has to offer and as a result they miss many relevant hits. Because meta search engines have access to the leading search engines they are able to offer much more comprehensive results than any single search engine. The number of search engines utilized by meta search engines varies considerably, but obviously try to find one which searches the highest number of portals and will therefore harvest the most results. Metacrawler crawls metas like no other if you're open to suggestions.

Wednesday, June 28, 2000

Usenet and newsgroups in a nutshell. Read all about it!

Wednesday, June 28, 2000 1

The best way to help you grasp the concept of newsgroups is probably to compare them to something which you're more familiar with. So, just to make sure we're on the same page, picture an all singing, all dancing state of the art forum. Got that? Now mentally remove all the graphics, the pretty emoticons, avatars, signature graphics, the whole shebang really. Now take away the community spirit, the personal touch and the sense of organization and what you're left with is pretty much the essence of a newsgroup. They've been around since the beginning of time (at least in internet terms), silently lurking in the background with all the pizzazz of a day out in Scunthorpe - the fact that they exist at all often escapes people's notice until they've been using the net for quite some time. As you can tell I'm not the world's biggest fan of newsgroups, but even I have to admit they do still have a lot to offer. What they do, they do well. They're functional, nothing more. You can get in, get what you want quickly and effortlessly and get out again all in the blink of a weary net surfer's eye, which makes them perfect for leeches and lurkers. Personally I happen to believe that there should be more to online communities than quickie downloads, but then everyone's entitled to their own opinion aren't they.

If it helps to put things in perspective, you can think of newsgroups as public notice boards where anyone and everyone can come along, read what has already been written in addition to writing their own messages which can then be pinned up alongside all the other notes. Each notice board contains messages concerning one or a handful of very specific topics that can be as diverse as the people who use them. The conglomeration of all the individual newsgroups, which literally number tens of thousands, comprise what is known as 'Usenet'. Luckily for us, each individual newsgroup isn't left to swim alone in the sea of information that is the net - they are grouped together by their general theme and named accordingly to make them easier to locate. Take the 'rec.toys.lego' newsgroup for example. The prefix 'rec' places the group squarely in the recreation category. As we move from left to right we are given more specific hierarchical information which helps us to get a feel for what the group is all about. It doesn't take a genius to work out that the people participating in this newsgroup will be especially interested, or even dangerously obsessed with that timeless kid's past time, building things out of plastic interconnecting bricks.

Most newsgroup prefixes are fairly self explanatory, which is handy because it means that you don't need to consult a newsgroup manual to work out what sort of theme any particular group is concerned with. Newsgroups prefixed with 'alt' for instance, are designated as alternative discussion arenas, whereas the prefix 'news' indicates that a group is specifically tailored to the discussion of the Usenet system itself. One of the largest categorical divisions, however, is marked with the prefix 'binaries'. You can expect the subscribers of any newsgroup with such a prefix to be most interested in downloading encoded text files, which once decoded can be used in a myriad of different ways. These transformed text files can range from pictures and movies to music and software. The ability to effortlessly harvest this seemingly boundless content represents one of newsgroup's greatest appeals. Amongst the decipherable text messages you will receive via your newsgroup reader you will find segments of larger files encoded as what appear to be gibberish ascii characters. These can be split up to enable them to be transferred over the net via limited capacity newsgroup servers - this is why they are considered an especially suitable medium for the distribution for spanned, compressed archives.

So how do you reap the benefits of these miraculous resources? First of all you're going to need what's known as a newsgroup reader - Forte Agent available from www.forteinc.com is a particularly good specimen. Alternatively, if you're happy to lay out the welcome mat for malware and let it run riot on your system you can use Outlook Express, which more than likely you will already have installed. If this is the case, all you have to do to get started is visit the menu bar at the top of your screen, select the 'tools' option and click on 'accounts'. From within the ensuing dialog box prod the 'add' button and select 'news' from the expanding options menu.

Outlook Express being the inquisitive creature that it is will now ask you which news (or NNTP) server you would like to use to connect to Usenet. Ideally you would want to use the one provided by your ISP - since this is included in the monthly price you're paying for internet access, at least in theory it should be superior to the free ones available elsewhere. The name of your ISP's news server is nearly always the name of your ISP prefixed with the word 'news' or 'nntp' separated by a dot. For instance, if your ISP is Freeserve, the server name you need to enter into Outlook Express would be 'news.freeserve.net' - if in doubt check the FAQs on your ISP's home page.

My tightwad ISP doesn't provide an NNTP server, so now what? You might want to consider subscribing to an independent news server. Last time I checked, eight-ish dollars a month was the average you could expect to pay for such a service. If protecting your anonymity whilst posting messages to newsgroups is of concern to you, you might like to look into the unmonitored options these companies offer. Otherwise shop around for a more advanced newsgroup reader - one equipped with built-in privacy protection features. Keep an eye open for the keyword 'proxy' as you explore your newsgroup reader's help files and you won't go far wrong. That said, many proxies aren't really anonymous at all despite their claims to be. To make sure you know which category yours falls into before using it you can perform an anonymity status check using the proxy tools cited in my anonymity tutorial.

A spot of Googling will soon reveal that a miniscule number of public news servers are provided free of charge, whilst the majority have to be paid for. Since almost anything freely available online is going to be highly sought after, you can expect the free servers to be oversubscribed and infuriatingly slow. Nonetheless, if you're prepared to accept this drawback and embrace a freebie server, I would advise you to visit dmoz's list of free NNTP news servers to see what is on offer.

So you've decided which news server to use, now what? You will be prompted to type in the name and email address you would like to be displayed alongside your posts, if you intend to make any. It is probably wise to use a fake name and/or email address here to maintain your anonymity and prevent your inbox from filling up with the spam of unscrupulous newsgroup email address harvesters. Alternatively, you may want to consider using a 'spam only' email address so that people can still get in touch with you if necessary. Whatever you decide, enter this information now and click 'OK' to progress to the next stage.

With these precursors out of the way, Outlook will ask you if you would like to download a list of all the newsgroups available for subscription. Select 'yes' and wait a moment or two while the information is processed. Decisions, decisions, which ones to choose? Tough isn't it? One way of selecting a newsgroup you wish to join is to scan through the names of all the groups sequentially until you find an interesting sounding one, but this is likely to take you all day. A better way is to narrow down the list using keywords, just as you would when using a search engine to filter out irrelevant web sites.

If you're in the fortunate position of already knowing the names of the newsgroups you would like to subscribe to you can tap in a partial address; if they are supported by your newsgroup server, Outlook Express will automatically fill in the remaining nodes of the address for you. Yet if your ISP is especially over zealous with regard to censorship, don't be surprised if no matches are found at all. If, for legal reasons, the newsgroups you wish to join aren't supported by your ISP you will have to go in search of an uncensored third party server.

Once you've found a selection of groups you wish to participate in, simply click on each one while holding down the control key and poke the 'subscribe' button to add them to your short list. If you glance in the direction of your inbox and then cast your eyes downwards slightly you will see that your newsgroup server has been appended to the bottom of the list of folders, and underneath that is a list of the newsgroups you are currently subscribed to. If you select one of these and click on the 'synchronize' button, a pre-designated number of message headers will be downloaded and placed in the area where the body of your emails usually appear. Note that it is only the headers you are downloading at this stage, not the contents of the messages or the encoded 'attachments'. To read one of these messages simply click on the header and wait for the message body to download.

Having lurked in one of your chosen groups for a while you will get a feel for the sort of subjects considered to be 'on-topic'. When you're ready to contribute to the discussions or share a file or two with the other subscribers all you have to do is click on the 'new post' button, type in a subject title, the body of your message and attach any files you want to upload using the 'attach' button. Surprisingly enough, the final stage involves hitting the 'send' button. If you wish to 'cross-post' - post to multiple newsgroups simultaneously that is - enter the names of all the newsgroups you wish to contribute to into the newsgroup field - separated with commas - and press 'send' in the usual manner.

But enough chat, you want to download the latest digital delicacies, right? Well to do this you are going to have to get to grips with the encoded gibberish text files we spoke of earlier. These aren't really attachments in the usual sense of the word, but since visualizing them as such will likely aid your understanding of the process I won't split hairs. If a message is accompanied with an attachment, a paperclip icon will appear adjacent to the message subject line along with the size in kilobytes of the attached file. Attachments are actually binary files that have been encoded using the UUENCODE format, which to the naked eye looks like scrambled text. This is because to use these attachments as they were intended to be used they first have to be decoded and combined (if they are spanned across multiple posts). To save an attachment contained within a single post simply select 'save as' from the 'file' menu and choose a place to store it. On the other hand, if the file you want to keep is a multi part attachment you will have to select all the messages the file is spanned across using the left mouse button and control key and select 'combine and decode' from the 'message' menu. Whenever you do this you will be asked to arrange the files in sequential order using the up and down arrows. Complete this task and all that remains to be done is to 'OK' the operation and choose a place to store the resultant decoded file.

Other operations you may wish to perform include replying to a post while quoting the author, and contacting the author privately via email. To perform the former, click on the header of the message you want to reply to, press the right mouse button and click on the 'reply to group' button - a new, pre-formatted message window will surface complete with a quoted text appendage to inform other subscribers what it is you are referring to. To execute the latter task, right-click on the message posted by the person you want to contact, press the right mouse button and select 'reply to sender'.

That just about covers the basics of using a news reader to browse the Usenet archives. Congratulations - that's another new skill you've added to your inventory. Some people hate installing extra software that must be regularly maintained and upgraded unless it is absolutely essential to do so. If you're especially opposed to the idea of using a software client to visit your favourite newsgroups, you'll be delighted to know that you can achieve the same ends by visiting a web based Usenet service instead. News reader or web site? The choice is yours.

Sunday, May 21, 2000

I want to backup one of my original CDs. How can I tell whether or not it has been copyright protected?

Sunday, May 21, 2000 0
You can sometimes guess what method of protection has been implemented manually by looking at the contents or the physical structure of a CD, but a much more accurate way would be to use ClonyXXL. This completely free utility will automatically detect the presence of a multitude of different protection systems and report its findings in an easy to understand format. Once you have this vital information at your fingertips, you can enter it into Clone CD to produce a perfect backup.

Saturday, April 29, 2000

Web media divining - tools of the trade

Saturday, April 29, 2000 0

The advent of the widespread availability of fast internet connections, coupled with an abundance of cheap web space has allowed artists, musicians, movie directors and software programmers to distribute their respective works online rather than via more traditional hard-copy mediums. To take full advantage of all the web has to offer it is necessary to seek out and get to grips with a number of essential tools. Amongst these are decompression programs, a download manager, an FTP client and a firewall.

In the realm of computing you are never short of software options; there are literally thousands of equivalent programs available in every category you could possibly imagine, and they're all a mere click of the mouse away. What I've attempted to do here is to narrow down this vast range of options into a more manageable selection. The ones I've chosen are considered the staple diet of the digerati, but they're not everyone's cup of char. If you find that you don't agree with my choices you don't have to stick with them, just pop along to your favourite shareware site, find the search box, tap in a few relevant keywords and take your pick. The world's your lobster... or something.

Getting X from A to B

The first item on the check list is known as a download manager. These go synonymously with internet foraging and are vital in that they allow you to resume broken downloads of bulky files and can handle large numbers of files unsupervised. Assuming you're not completely new to the internet you've probably become accustomed to downloading files using the built-in download manager (if you can call it that) of your internet browser. This is fine for small, single file downloads, but is about as much use as an inflatable dart board for transferring anything else. As an example, imagine trying to download a series of weekly, or even daily, podcasts. You would begin by clicking on the first file (hands slap foreheads across the globe in astonishment!), your browser would then open a dialog box to allow you to choose a suitable location to store your downloaded file and then it would begin transferring. If this process is interrupted due to a failed connection you would have to begin downloading the file again from the first byte - unfortunately internet browsers have very short memories so can't remember what they were doing just a few seconds ago! Some servers are so flaky you could find yourself caught up in an aeonian start-error-restart loop. Not much fun to put it lightly!

Once the first file has downloaded successfully you would then have to click on the next one and wait for that to begin transferring and so on and so forth for each of the remaining files. I don't think you need me to tell you how infuriatingly slow this whole task can be. This is where download managers step into the breach to save you from slipping into a download induced state of insanity. What these do is allow you to queue a series of files and transfer them sequentially, freeing you from your former computer baby-sitting purgatory to do something more interesting, safe in the knowledge that when you return, your computer will still be happily chugging away without the need for any further intervention from you. Instead of getting caught up in a mind-numbing click-wait-click loop you can set your download manager to transfer a specific number of files simultaneously (two is a sensible number if you have a slow connection). Once the first file has safely landed in your downloads directory, the next file in the queue will begin transferring automatically until the entire list has been purged. Best of all though, if the connection with the server you are downloading from is broken you won't have to begin again from square one. Your download manager will simply reconnect, erase the last few bytes which have been downloaded (because they may have become corrupt) and will resume the transfer without even breaking into a sweat.

As you know, dial-up modem connections are very fickle things and can spontaneously be broken for a multitude of different reasons. Not to worry though, this problem has also been anticipated and can be counteracted with the help of your download manager's auto reconnect system. Assuming you have informed your download manager which dial-up account you wish to reconnect to should your connection be lost, it will automatically attempt to dial into the service in the event of any problems. But that's not all they can do. When your download task is complete, providing you have ticked the relevant boxes, your computer will automatically disconnect from the internet and shutdown - now that's what I call hands-free computing!

For a long time, amongst people in the know, Gozilla and Getright were ubiquitously assumed to be the cream of the crop, but now the download manager market is no longer a two horse race. Hot on their heels, Flashget has overnight managed to claw back a substantial proportion of the user base shared by Getright and Gozilla. While Flashget takes all the usual duties of a download manager in its stride, where it really starts to break down the boundaries is in the speed department. Whereas most download managers will open a single connection to a file and keep on plugging away at it until it is complete regardless of the server's transfer rate, Flashget will open multiple connections to various servers allowing a single file to be downloaded much quicker. These multiple connections, known as 'jets' in Flashget Land, are assigned with a particular portion of a file to download. Jet 1 for example, could be downloading the first third of a file while jet 2 downloads the second third and jet 3 downloads the final third.

Flashget attempts to locate the fastest servers, known as mirrors, where the files are stored and will subsequently connect to a selection of them to maximize the bandwidth utilization of your connection. When all the segments have been transferred they are automatically glued back together to form the whole file. In fact, Flashget is so good at its job that using it leads paradoxically to a situation where trying to surf the web while simultaneously downloading feels like treading treacle, but then it would be ridiculous to complain that the transfer speeds are too fast! Incidentally, your download speeds can be restricted so as to prevent Flashget from interfering with your surfing habits. I'm sure the circularity of this compromise is obvious by now. Nonetheless, the option is always there if you want it.

Another area where Flashget makes new ground is its file tracking logs. These are so comprehensive you are always kept informed of what is happening as it happens. If a particular file is causing problems, by taking a swift glance at the server logs you can diagnose the error instantly and take remedial action. This is especially useful if you have left your computer downloading while you get on with something else or go out for the night. If you were using a lesser download manager you would be left completely in the dark as to where the problem lies, but with Flashget the logs are always available for viewing after the event.

Almost unique to Flashget is the ability to download all the files linked from a specific web page with a few measly clicks of the mouse. Subsequent to installing Flashget a new context sensitive item is added to your right click menu. This 'download all by Flashget' option does exactly what it says on the tin. When selected, a menu pops up in front of the web page you are currently browsing allowing you to deselect the files you don't want to download. These will include images which make up the design of the page, amongst other nonessential elements. In a similar vein, where Flashget really comes into its own is when transferring files from web space accounts that have been opened for the sole purpose of hosting downloads. Under these circumstances these will be the only files stored in this location so there is no need to separate the wheat from the chaff, making Flashget's incredibly efficient 'download all' option an even more impressive time saver!

Like Getright and Gozilla, Flashget has its own FTP client built-in to the program. The difference, however, lies in the intuitive nature of Flashget's FTP browser interface which makes navigating FTP sites a breeze. For instance, if you are browsing through several FTP sites consecutively Flashget keeps a record of where you've been so that you can return to these sites with a single click. This hierarchical treelike structure is implemented throughout the client so that you can always see where abouts in the FTP site you are currently situated. It's a simple arrangement, yet one which makes all the difference. Moreover, Flashget's reconnect system is the most reliable I've used to date. Nearly all modern download managers support this function, nevertheless, many of them tend to crash if asked to reconnect to the internet more than a handful of times. Luckily for us, Flashget's redial feature works time after time. Ultimately, the one and only thing to let the side down is the spyware which automatically plants itself into your system when you first install Flashget. Fortunately this can be swept clear using a spyware removal utility such as Ad-Aware (see the anonymity tutorial for further info).

So there's my top download manager tip. Whether you choose to use it is up to you of course. Other people will tell you that Flashget is awful and will stick to their guns no matter what. Because you will hear so many contradictory predilections, it is advisable to try all of these programs and then choose the one that suits you best, as using lots of them concurrently is likely to be a source of conflict. If none of these programs appeal, consider visiting www.reget.com, www.forty.com, www.downloadaccelerator.com and www.netvampire.com to investigate some of the alternatives.

Alternative pathways

Next in the lineup is the humble FTP (File Transfer Protocol) client. An FTP client is used to gain access to remote computers known as FTP sites - another excellent source of freeware, graphics, movies, music, you name it! You can think of these as segregated chunks of space on the other people's hard drives which have been designated as a kind of 'share zone'. If you want to keep things simple you can use your download manager's built-in FTP browser to see what's on offer. These will allow you to download files from FTP sites, but not return the favour - that is upload files. For this task you need a fully functional, standalone FTP client. All the ins and outs of FTP clients will be explained in much greater detail in a later tutorial so I won't delve any deeper into the topic here. For now it will suffice to say that an FTP client is an invaluable addition to your software arsenal so go and find one now even if you don't plan to use it immediately. In my humble opinion the best FTP client available is Bullet Proof FTP - it's reliable, intuitive and looks good to boot.

The decompression chamber

Thirdly, several decompression programs will be necessary to 'unzip' your archive files. Two of the best and most widely used decompression programs are Winzip and Winace and they can be downloaded from www.winzip.com and www.winace.com respectively. Winzip deals almost exclusively with files that have a zip extension. It can handle many other obscure formats, though the majority of these you are very unlikely to ever encounter during your net traversals. Winace on the other hand is capable of decompressing ace, rar and zip files in addition to all the other common compression formats.

Winrar, available from www.rarlab.com, is another indispensable archiving tool every file seeker should equip him or herself with. Although Winace can handle rar archives as well as its own homegrown format, it cannot create new rar archives; for this task you will need Winrar. Apart from this fairly obvious impasse, Winrar is much better at handling rar archives as you would expect seeing as this is precisely what the program was designed for.

It isn't absolutely imperative to install all three of these programs - you could get by with Winrar alone for example, however, each program has its own strengths and weaknesses and to get the best of both worlds (well three worlds actually) it makes sense to use different programs for different tasks. As you would expect, Winzip's most impressive party trick is opening, extracting and creating zip archives so if you are planning to take advantage of all three programs you should associate zip files with Winzip exclusively. The same goes for Winace and Winrar, so associate ace files with Winace and rar files with Winrar. You will be guided through this very simple process by fool-proof wizards following the installation of each program so don't worry about locating the relevant options yourself.

You may be wondering at this stage why three different programs are necessary in the first place. Well this is due to the fact that there is no single, standard format for compressing computer files; some people swear by rar, while others favour zip - you haven't a snowball's chance in hell of getting everyone to agree on a de facto standard, and so to keep our options open we must equip ourselves with as many programs as it takes to process each kind of file.

All three of the most popular compression formats can be spanned across a designated number of archives. This used to be common practice when it was impossible to shoehorn complete archives onto individual, removable media such as floppy disks, or freebie web space accounts. Nowadays this feature is less useful seeing as DVD writer ownership is rapidly becoming the norm. Nevertheless, for historical purposes if nothing else, I'll explain how the various data chunks comprising a spanned archive can be glued back together and decompressed below.

Baffled by data squishing and de-squishing be you not young Jedi. Read on and the compression pool will become much less murky as we go along. You now have the necessary kit in your itinerary so that's a good start.

The finer details

I take it you've downloaded one of these mysterious 'zip' file creatures and are wondering what on earth do you do with it now. Well first you need to understand a little bit about compression. You can think of a zip file, for instance, as an empty beer can (stay with me on this one, all will become clear). While the can is intact you can store the full capacity of liquid in it, however, it takes up a lot of space and is awkward to carry around (it's a king-size specimen, OK?). Now if you put on your size twelve Doc Martins and crush it under your foot, you can no longer store the same amount of liquid in it, yet it is much smaller and easier to carry around. When you want to pour the liquid back into it again, the can is stretched back to its former shape (I'm well aware that you're likely to shred your hands into a bloody pulp in the attempt, but you get the gist I'm sure).

This, in essence is what a compressed archive does. Zip files can consist of a cornucopia of file formats numbering anywhere between one and thousands. If these files were not all held together in a compressed format you would have to click on each one individually in order to download them - this is inconvenient and time consuming to say the least! Also, because the files would be in their expanded, ready to use state they would inevitably take much longer to download. This is where Winzip, Winrar and Winace come in very handy:

If a file has a zip extension I would normally advise using Winzip to extract it since this is the task the program was primarily designed for, but this is far from convenient when you have a large set of files to decompress sequentially. This is why I'd recommend using Winrar to extract the whole shebang simultaneously instead. To get started, open the folder containing the files you have just downloaded, drag a box around all the zip files (using the control key if you need to single out particular files), and then right-click one of them. Select 'extract here' from the context menu and wait while all the files are decompressed.

If when you installed Winrar you didn't agree to have the 'extract here' et al commands added to your context menu, you can achieve the same goal by opening Winrar and browsing for the files that way instead. Once you've located them, drag a box around the whole set and click on the 'extract' button, choose a place to put them and click 'OK'. It is best to choose a separate folder to store the files contained in each archive set otherwise you will soon find yourself swimming in a chaotic sea of orphan files, not knowing which ones belong to which program (or whatever you happen to have downloaded).

Quite often zip archives contain identically named .diz (short for description) text files designed to be read by FTP server software to establish the contents of compressed archives - the information harvested is used to create easily searchable catalogues. These files are far less useful to the end user at this stage, so if prompted to overwrite them click 'yes' to proceed (if your archives are part of a set they will likely be duplicates in any case).

Spanned archives

To complicate matters these can take any one of the following forms...

1. An ace file followed by a series of c?? files.

2. A rar file followed by a series of r?? files.

3. A series of files with sequentially numbered extensions without an initial ace or rar file i.e. .001 followed by .002, .003 and so on.

4. A rar file followed by a series of sequentially numbered files as in the case above.

5. A series of files all with the identical extension, rar. In this case it is the body of the filename which differentiates the files in the set. For example, the first file will be labeled volname.part001.rar, the second file will be labeled volname.part002.rar and so on.

The question marks in the first two file formats represent a series of sequentially ascending numbers, which form a mutually dependent set of files. C?? files are associated with ace archives, whereas 0?? and r?? files are associated with rar archives. These files cannot be decompressed with Winzip so you can close that down for the time being.

If after unzipping, what you are presented with is an ace file followed by a series of c?? files you will need to use Winace to extract them. On the other hand, if you are faced with scenario 2, 3, 4 or 5 from the list above you are best advised to use Winrar to extract them. Although, in theory, Winace can handle both ace and rar formats, sometimes it reports pseudo CRC errors when processing the latter file type. Very often these CRC errors are actually Winace errors rather than real errors within your archive set and are due to a mishandling of the compression format. Scenario 5 represents Winrar's latest default volume naming scheme (as of version 3.xx). Archives compressed using versions of Winrar prior to 2.9 will take the format presented in scenarios 1 - 4. This isn't to say that you have to worry about keeping an old version of Winrar handy for processing older archives, as the latest build is capable of decompressing past and present formats.

Somehow I've managed to make all this sound much more complicated than it really is, but trust me, there's no need to panic. After opening a couple of archives you will be able to recognize and extract these two different file formats as though you're flying on autopilot. All you have to keep in mind is to use Winace for opening ace files and Winrar for opening rar, r01 or 001 files - note that if there is no rar file you will have to open either the 001 or r01 file instead. These function in exactly the same way as any other rar archive, minus the initial double-clickable rar file. Unless you have specifically associated 001 and r01 files with Winrar they will not open automatically, in which case you will have to open the program first, browse for the file and double-click on it yourself. You may even want to modify your file association settings to allow you to simply double-click on these files to open them in future. The procedure goes a lot like this: browse for the file you want to associate with Winrar and right-click on it. Now choose 'open with' and select Winrar from the list in the ensuing dialog box, tick the "always use the selected program to open this kind of file" check box and click 'OK'. The icon representing your newly associated file will change to the default one used by rar archives and you will then be able to double-click it to delve inside. Even I'm not sure if any of that makes sense anymore, but we'll carry on regardless. I'm doing my best, honestly!

The initial rar, 001 or ace file actually represents the first file of a compressed, spanned archive. You have probably already noticed that double-clicking on a c??, r?? or a 0?? file will achieve absolutely nothing unless you have previously modified your file association settings. This is because they are not designed to be opened individually (with the exception of 001 files). Instead they will automatically be processed when you double-click on the rar or ace file. Similarly, when you choose to extract an ace or a rar archive, all the dependent files will be extracted in one go without any further intervention from you. Whenever you do this, depending on the way in which your file associations have been configured, either Winace or Winrar will spring into action and open the archive set in a new window. All you have to do now is choose 'extract' from the menu and select a folder to store the files in, remembering to tick the 'extract with full path' option to ensure that the files end up in the correct folders.

If when you decompress these files you encounter CRC errors it means that one or more of the files have become corrupt during the transfer process. This is usually because they have been transferred too slowly, because they have been resumed too many times or because you are downloading too many files at once and this is causing bytes to be lost or to be incorrectly allocated. It is also possible, however, that the way in which you downloaded them had absolutely nothing to do with the corruption - the files could have been damaged during the initial upload stage instead, in which case there isn't a great deal you can do about it. If your files are corrupt they will need to be either repaired or downloaded again. You can attempt to repair a corrupt archive using the built-in repair tools of Winrar or Winace (click on 'archive' and then 'repair'), but be warned, the majority of damaged archives are beyond help and will need to be re-downloaded instead. If on your second download attempt the files still don't work it is likely that they were damaged to begin with, in which case you are best advised to delete them and start afresh downloading from an alternative location.

Digital safety nets

Finally you will need a firewall to protect yourself from malicious net intruders. Having your computer hacked into and trashed by a bored, spotty thirteen year old living on the other side of the world can be a tad frustrating - especially if you discover after the event that it is easily avoided. You don't have to lurk in undesirable areas of the web to fall prey to such attacks. It could happen while you're emailing your granny, searching for a job or chatting to a friend using Yahoo messenger. Inevitably the more time you spend online, the greater is the likelihood of you becoming a target. Well, 'target' is perhaps too strong a word. If someone hacks into your computer it's unlikely that their motivation stems from a personal vendetta. More likely they're just scanning a range of online computers to see whose 'door' has been left wide open to intruders. If you don't install an efficient firewall this is tantamount to leaving a welcome mat on your porch as an open invitation to whatever malevolent forces may be skulking in the vicinity. To discover more about firewalls try searching my blog for the key phrase "Zone Alarm".

Wednesday, April 19, 2000

How can I download files from servers that make referrer checks before permitting access?

Wednesday, April 19, 2000 0
Whenever you initiate a download using Flashget you are given the option to enter a referrer URL into the properties menu associated with the file. The space where you enter this information is located directly below the file location URL box. If you enter the URL here, you can trick the server into thinking that you are downloading the file directly from the web page where you found the link.

Thursday, April 13, 2000

My game backup CD image is 700mb in size, but when burnt to a CD it only occupies 400mb. Where did the extra 300mb go?

Thursday, April 13, 2000 0

When there is a very large discrepancy between the initial image size and the final size of your burnt CD, it is usually because the image file also contains the game's audio sound track. Because the space occupied by audio tracks isn't represented in the same way as ordinary computer data it appears as though there is much less data on the final CD than there really is.

To witness this effect with your own eyes, try inserting an audio CD into your CD drive and see if you can find out how much space is being utilised by the tracks using the properties menu.

Tuesday, March 28, 2000

How can I force Flashget to download file formats that aren't included in its 'monitor these types' list?

Tuesday, March 28, 2000 0
One way to do this would be to copy the link of the file into your clipboard, select 'new file' in Flashget and paste the URL into the URL dialog box, yet it is possible to achieve the same goal without leaving the web page where you found the link. This can be done by holding down your control and alt keys simultaneously whilst clicking on the link. Bear in mind that this technique also works when downloading files hidden behind redirect and anti-leech script links.

Wednesday, March 22, 2000

Virtual disk drives

Wednesday, March 22, 2000 0

The mystery of eternally dwindling hard drive space, in terms of unfathomability, ranks alongside such condundrums as why certain people insist on responding to each and every question with a drawling "what?" or "eh?" when they've heard you perfectly well, or why some people insist on facing the wrong way when waiting for their bus (surely I'm not the only one to have noticed this phenomenom?). I can't help you get to the bottom of the latter two enigmas, but you'll be pleased to know that help is close at hand where sourcing extra storage space is concerned. One possible solution is to employ virtual storage areas on the web. While this is no substitute for having files stored on your own local hard drive they can help to lighten the load when you find yourself struggling to find a home for your latest digital acquisition or you need a place to store backup copies of your irreplaceable documents. Access to these virtual drives is restricted using a personal username and password to ensure that your data is stored away securely. It is then up to you to decide whether to use this space for your own personal storage requirements, or to pass on the login details to your friends so that they can access your files as well.

The emergence of web drives is clearly good news for file sharers since anywhere between 20 and 500 megabytes of data can be stored on each new account (depending on which company you choose to host your files). Furthermore, you can create as many new accounts as you like as long as you use a different contact e-mail address each time.

Much like free web site hosts the companies who offer web drive services set up business and fold in the blink of an eye, so to keep up you're going to need a well maintained list of what's hot and what's not. Well actually, in the land of virtual drives it's more like a comparison of what's hanging onto life by a thread and what's deader than the proverbial dodo. Nevertheless, Drive Seek fits the bill very nicely. This site provides up to date listings of all the web drive services currently available, reviews, FAQs, a very comprehensive customizable virtual drive search engine and an informative newsletter. If that doesn't quench your thirst for knowledge the online storage section of Epinions.com is also home to a number of enlightening appraisals.

A particularly useful feature proffered by virtual drives is that you can simply copy and paste files straight from the web to your virtual drive to be downloaded at a later date. Over at Freediskspace this function is known as a 'Web Clipper', Freedrive incorporates a similar tool known as 'Surf N' Save', and you can expect the other companies to follow suit in the near future. To make use of these tools you will need to either install a browser plugin or a small desktop application. Virtual drive browser plugins aim to integrate the new 'copy to web drive' option with your current web browser, while virtual drive desktop applications coexist alongside your existing data storage devices (accessed via 'My Computer') and purport to emulate your local hard drive as accurately as possible. In effect all you have to do to upload data to your virtual drive is drag the files you wish to upload onto the icon representing your virtual drive. Note that some of these browser add-ons utilize javascript, so make sure your browser and/or internet security options are set to allow javascript to run.

One question I am frequently asked is "can I use Getright or Gozilla with web drives?". The quick answer is yes in most cases, but there are several caveats you must familiarize yourself with first. To begin with, some web drive services will require you to be logged into your account while downloading. If the server detects a lack of activity it often kicks you out so that you can no longer access your files. Also, if you are using Freediskspace, currently the most popular web drive, you will find that the links to your files are changed every so often (roughly about once an hour), so be prepared for your links to go dead in the middle of a transfer.

Allowing people to use download managers in conjunction with web drives clearly poses a conflict of interests for the web drive providers. Web drive companies are funded by pay-per-click, rotating ad banners or similar forms of advertising - assuming people actually click on them while they are downloading. If you are visiting the home page of a web drive service merely to import direct links into your download manager the opportunity of viewing these ads is drastically reduced. Therefore it comes as no surprise that the people at Freediskspace et al aren't exactly ecstatic about this proposition and so will do everything within their power to make life difficult for you.

The master plan then is that if you can't get your download manager to cooperate, as a last resort you will be forced to make use of their file manager instead and thus be coerced into viewing their ads. It is a constant arms race between the two parties. The file sharing community devises a way to use a download manager with a specific web drive, and this method works very well for a short period of time. When the web drive administrators realise what is going on they put a stop to it by changing the way file requests are sent to their servers so that we the downloaders have to go back to the drawing board and think of a new solution. This tit for tat battle goes on until the web drive people get so sick of toiling in vain that they decide to start charging for their services to deter people from exploiting them, or they throw in the towel and discontinue their services altogether.

The growing pains don't end there unfortunately. Those of you with fast connections may be limited to downloading at much slower rates than your modem is capable of, and some web drive companies set a limit on the maximum amount of data you are permitted to transfer in a single day. Although the situation is improving all the time, certain web drives do not support the resume function. Another threat to the future of web drives is the role they predictably have played in hosting illegal copyright protected media. If the powers that be deem the web drive companies to be willfully facilitating piracy they could well pull the plug - that is if the people running these servers don't engage in virtual harikari first.

If all that hasn't put you off, here's an example to demonstrate how you can get your download manager to communicate effectively with web drives (in this case we'll be using Freediskspace). Once you have logged into your account the first thing you must do is uncheck the 'enable multiple up/downloads option' and hit the refresh button. Now if you hover your cursor over one of the files you wish to download you will notice that rather than a javascript link, a real web address will appear in your browser's status bar. All you have to do now is drag the files into your download manager and select a place to store them in the usual way. Alternatively you could right-click on the files, select properties from the context menu and using the copy and paste function tell your download manager where the files you wish to download are located. If you plan to try this I would suggest downloading one file at a time and refreshing the window periodically so that you receive the latest file locations, even if this necessitates babysitting your PC until the task is complete. One technique that seems to work quite well is to use the Freediskspace file manager to download the largest file in a set whilst using Flashget, Getright or Gozilla to transfer the rest. This will prevent you from being logged out and the file locations from being altered.

The mechanisms used to allow you to transfer files from web drives using a download manager are very diverse so a different set of instructions will be necessary in each case. To find out how to use your download manager with other web drive services try searching my blog using the name of the web drive in question as the keyword.

Is it really worth all the hassle though? Probably not; if you can get your files elsewhere I would give web drives a miss. Nevertheless, there may come a time when the files you require are only available on a web drive and you do not have the luxury of an alternative source. For times like this it helps if you are familiar with all the various web drive workarounds, and in any case, it never hurts to have a few more tricks up your sleeve.

Wednesday, March 15, 2000

I want to get a rough idea of how long it's going to take to download a particular file. How would I go about doing that?

Wednesday, March 15, 2000 0
Pop along to Martindale's file download time calculator, enter the file size of whatever it is you wish to download and click on either the 'KB' or the 'MB' button, obviously dependent on the way in which you specified your file size (whether it was in kilobytes or megabytes). Now scroll down the table of time estimates until you reach the entry which correlates to the speed of your internet connection to discover how long you're going to have to sit twiddling your thumbs waiting for your data to touch down. Give the man a cigar, he's a genius! :D

Friday, March 03, 2000

Why when I try to download a file does my download manager return a tiny web page instead?

Friday, March 03, 2000 0

When accessing certain servers, rather than reporting a connection error itself, your download manager transfers a web page, which when opened in your browser states the cause of the problem, much like an error log. If the file is labeled 404.html or 403.html it should be clear to you what went wrong, yet if the label isn't so helpful you can try opening the page in Notepad to see if it reveals any further clues.

Sometimes the file returned by your download manager is actually a redirect script used to protect the real location of a file to stop people hot linking it. The easiest workaround to this problem is to temporarily disable your download manager's browser integration system using the technique described in an earlier blog entry.

Wednesday, March 01, 2000

I'm trying to burn a CD image file, but it's much larger than the capacity of my CD-Rs. How do I make it fit?

Wednesday, March 01, 2000 0

CD images very often contain more data than you can squeeze onto a 650mb or 700mb CD-R, but this is nothing to worry about. You see, these inflated image files also contain all the necessary formatting information needed to reproduce the original CD. This can occupy anywhere in the region of a few, to hundreds of megabytes. However, what is important is not the size of the file to begin with, but the estimated time it will occupy on the burnt CD.

If in doubt, open the 'CD Info' dialog box within your CD writing software and look for a reference to how many minutes worth of data your CD image is going to require. If this is less than 74 minutes use a standard CD-R, and if it's somewhere between 74 and 80 minutes use an extra length, 700mb CD-R.

Friday, February 11, 2000

How do I bypass the Yahoo Briefcase download limit?

Friday, February 11, 2000 0

Numerous different methods have been used in the past to bypass these limits, with varying degrees of success. Many of them involve a lot of frustrating and fiddley URL editing, and since these tend to be very hit and miss I'd recommend using a Yahoo download manager instead. One such program is Yahoo Hack, a great little tool, which in addition to allowing you to get around the download limits will also fix the CRC errors caused by the infamous 'extra bytes bug'.

Alternatively, you can grab 'Yahoo Leecher', which does the job just as well whilst helping you to increase the number of simultaneous transfers permitted by the Yahoo servers. On the other hand, if you speak German you might be more comfortable using 'Yahoo Mage'. The instructions for this one look like complete gibberish to me - if only I'd known those German lessons would come in handy one day I would have paid more attention!

So where do you find these programs? Well, any sites using Yahoo to host their files will probably provide them for you in their tools section. If not, Google should be able to point you in the right direction.

Wednesday, February 09, 2000

What is an SFV file?

Wednesday, February 09, 2000 0

SFV stands for simple file verification. SFV files can be opened in any text editor and serve to verify the CRC status of a set of compressed files to ensure that the files you have on your hard drive are identical to the ones that were originally uploaded. Apparently, if you want to do it "the sexy way" you can use Hoopy's PD SFV (I don't know, I didn't write it).

Not only will this utility enable you to open your existing SFV files to verify that your archives are corruption free, it will also allow you to create new ones for your own DIY archives.

If, like Right Said Fred (just be grateful you don't know what I'm talking about), you're already too sexy, try one of these instead: Flash SFV, Easy SFV Creator, HKSFV, MooSFV.

Monday, February 07, 2000

Fontastic organization

Monday, February 07, 2000 0

Pssst, come a bit closer to the screen. I want to tell you a secret which will change your life forever. You need Font Lister. Yes you do, trust me, I know best. If you've ever dabbled in a spot of web or graphic design you will recognize the importance of having a good selection of fonts at your disposal. When I say 'good selection', I mean literally hundreds of the little critters, but how do you scan through them all quickly when only one particular font will do and you can't remember which name refers to which font?

If you're a bit of a masochist you could open the directory where you've chosen to store them and double-click on the first font to see what it looks like, close Window's built-in font viewer then proceed to the next font and trudge through your collection looking at each one individually. Although that sounds extremely tempting, a much quicker way to find the perfect font for your project would be to install Font Lister.

If you open the program, select 'view' from the menu and then click on 'fonts in a folder', a preview sample of every single font in your chosen location will be a mere click of the mouse away. You can even choose to install or uninstall a selection of fonts simultaneously without having to tamper with your Windows fonts directory. Nifty eh!

Spring cleaning for your registry

Almost every change you make to your system generates an entry in the registry; the heart of the Windows operating system. Over time these entries become invalid. For example, an entry which records that 'My Home Movie.avi' is stored in the folder 'c:\Brilliant Stuff' becomes useless if you subsequently move the file to another folder. Badly written uninstallers, however, are the worst culprits when it comes to throwing a spanner in the works; they are notorious for leaving behind useless entries once a program has been removed from your operating system. In no time at all these meaningless entries can clog up the registry and slow down your computer. To sweep out these rogue entries and keep your system running smoothly you need to use a registry cleaner. There are lots of these available and many of them are free, yet the most efficient one I've come across to date is Reg Supreme. 9 out of 10 registries prefer it... or so I'm told :D

Friday, February 04, 2000

Why is it that whenever I download a file from Yahoo Briefcase it is corrupt? Surely this is more than a coincidence?

Friday, February 04, 2000 0
This is a known problem with Yahoo servers and is commonly referred to as the 'extra bytes' bug. The problem occurs whenever additional bytes are tacked onto the files you wish to download rendering them inaccessible. For the files to function normally, these extra bytes have to be removed, but don't try and edit them yourself, get YBC Fix to do the job for you instead.

Tuesday, February 01, 2000

Why when I click on the link to a file does nothing happen?

Tuesday, February 01, 2000 0
Because some links function in the same way as pop-ups, any pop-up disabling programs you have installed can prevent the download process from initiating. You can test this theory by temporarily turning off any anti-pop-up devices and clicking on the files again. If it works you'll know what was causing the problem. Also make sure that javascript is enabled in your advanced internet options. To check this, open Internet Explorer and click on the 'Tools' option. Now select 'Internet Options' followed by the 'Advanced' tab - some links, to function correctly, require a javascript enabled browser. If you have javascript disabled, obviously they won't work.

Friday, January 28, 2000

Life's too short for re-installing

Friday, January 28, 2000 0

I followed your instructions in order to make a backup of my Windows partition using Ghost, but didn't include the installation of all my games in this backup. Having formatted my boot partition they no longer run from my extended partition. Is there anything I can do to fix this, or do I have to reinstall all my games?

No, you don't have to reinstall all your games, which should come as a relief since the installation of most modern games can be anywhere between 0.5 and 2 gigabytes in size, and can take a ridiculously long time to setup. The reason they won't work once you've formatted your drive is because the registry entries, which were made when you installed the games have been lost. Without these entries many games will refuse to even read from the CD. What you have to do to fix this problem is get yourself one of the more advanced registry editors/cleaners and use it to backup these registry entries before you format your drive. Reg Cleaner comes highly recommended so why not head over to JV16.org and grab that straight away.

If you install the program and load it up, you will be presented with a list of all the applications and games you have installed on your computer, along with the registry entries associated with them. Now here comes the clever bit so pay attention. If you wanted to be able to play Dune 4 after formatting your hard drive, for instance, you would scroll down the list until you come to the Westwood entries. For this game there are three separate sections, one for each component of the game - the main game, the shared internet components and the auto update feature. Right-click on the first entry and select 'advanced info'. This will open a window containing all the registry keys which would be removed if you were to uninstall the game. Choose the 'save list as text' option and export the information to a text file. Repeat this process for all three sections. Open the three text files in Notepad and combine them into one by copying and pasting the information.

We're almost there now, so bare with me for another minute. You now have to make space at the top of the text file and enter 'REGEDIT4' onto the first line. This serves to inform your operating system of exactly how you would like the file to be processed - using the Windows built-in registry tool, Registry Editor. Rename this text file to something similar to d4.reg (the extension is the important thing here, the filename could be anything) and put it in a safe place where you won't lose it.

To play Dune 4 after you have formatted your boot drive in future, you would simply locate this reg file and double click on it to add the entries back into the registry. After doing that, find the drive you installed the game to and run the main executable from there. To speed the process up for next time, you could make a shortcut to the game and place it on your desktop.

Repeat the process for all your games and you've solved the problem. It may take you a long time, but remember, this only has to be done once for each game.

Monday, January 24, 2000

Using download managers with virtual drives

Monday, January 24, 2000 0

Can I use Getright to download files from Idrive?

Note that subsequent to writing this entry Idrive have gone bust.

Yes, but it doesn't support resuming. First of all you will have to make a few alterations to your Getright configuration. To do this, first locate the 'Tools' menu, followed by the 'Getright Configuration', 'Advanced' and 'More' options. Now change the 'User Agent' to 'Mozilla/4.0 (Compatible; MSIE 5.0; Windows 98)', make sure the 'Send referrer in HTTP requests' and the 'Generated from the download URL' options are ticked and finally drag and drop whatever it is you wish to download into your Getright window.

If the above solution doesn't seem to be working out for you, have a look at the URL of the file you are trying to download. If the prefix of the address reads https:// instead of http:// you can try the following procedure: right-click on the file and select 'copy shortcut'. Now open Getright and select 'enter new URL' from the 'file' menu and paste the URL into the dialog box. The final step is to remove the 's' from the prefix, click on the OK button and proceed to download in the usual manner.

If none of that works, use this as a contingency plan: surf over to PCWorld.com and download the Naviscope web accelerator. Install the program and run it - the program should tack itself onto the top of your web browser. Login into your Idrive account and click on the file you wish to download whilst holding down the shift key (this prevents your download manager from attempting to download the file). As soon as your browser begins downloading the file, its location should appear in the Naviscope window above your browser. Highlight the URL of the file, right-click and select 'copy to clipboard'. Now close the file transfer window, open your download manager, select the 'new URL' option and paste the link into the box which appears. Before clicking on the OK button, tack the http:// prefix onto the beginning of the URL. Once this task is complete, your download manager will take care of the transfer for you.

Just one quick point to note before you dash off to give this a whirl: some download managers get confused if you enter an URL which contains a port number after the .com portion of the URL. Under these circumstances simply omit the port number and carry on as usual.

Is it possible to use Getright with Freediskspace?

Yes, I've already covered this in detail in the 'tools of the trade' tutorial, but if you want the official word on the matter have a look here.

Can I use Getright to download from JustOn accounts?

Note that all JustOn file storage services were discontinued on 31st January 2001. The JustOn technology used to power its file sharing services have now been acquired by Novell, who are currently developing new ways to implement it into future applications.

Yes, with a bit of assistance from a program called 'JustGrx' this is straightforward enough. This works in conjunction with Getright by generating a download list of any number of files stored on JustOn accounts which are linked to from a given web page. Once this list has been imported into Getright you can download whatever you choose in the usual manner.

So what's the URL? Well that, you see, is the problem. JustGrx seems to have vapourized into the ether. You may still be able to find a copy of it, however, using Google.

Another method which works for some people is simpler still and merely involves making a few amendments to your Getright settings. First of all go to the advanced configuration tab and click on the 'more' button. Subsequently make sure the 'send referrer in http requests' and 'calculated from open web browser page' options are checked. Now the tricky part has been taken of, just hold down your shift key whenever you click on a JustOn link, wait for a new window to pop up and release it. If everything goes according to plan, Getright should take care of the rest, but keep in mind that this approach produces somewhat hit and miss results.

Is it possible to use Getright in conjunction with Freedrive accounts?

More changes are afoot: Freedrive has now been acquired by Xdrive.

Yes, where there's a will, there's a way. Log into your Freedrive account, click on the 'administration' tab and select the 'edit my profile' option. Now de-select the 'auto-download' check box in your profile and re-login to your account. Whenever you wish to download a file in future, click on the 'download now' link whilst holding down the control and alt keys. At this juncture Getright will take charge of the reins making the whole process much simpler.

Method two involves getting hold of a copy of DL Tools, which includes the 'Freedrive Leech Tool'. This will log into your Freedrive account and then generate a file list consisting of the real URLs of your files, which can then be opened in your download manager. It supports Flashget, Getright, Reget and Download Accelerator - see the program's help file for more specific instructions.

How do I bypass the download limit using Yahoo Briefcase?

Imagine you're trying to download a file from the following location:

http://i11.yimg.com/14/2d655c/f/45761/family-photos.zip

...but every time you click on the link, you receive the message, "maximum access limit has been reached for this file, please come back later." Obviously the people at Yahoo are talking nonsense, so ignore them for a start and change the '14' after the .com in the URL to a '15' and try again. If it still refuses to download, try one number higher and so on and so forth until the file agrees to cooperate.

Sometimes, to confuse matters further, Yahoo use letters in their URLs instead of numbers. So on the rare occasions that you run out of numbers to try, you can replace the number with a letter instead. A good one to start with is 'a', followed by 'b', followed by... I think you can probably guess where this is leading. Most of the time, however, one or two number changes will suffice.

How do I use my download manager to transfer files from Homestead accounts?

If you haven't already got a copy of DL Tools, go to the homepage now and download it. Run the program and click on the 'Easy Homestead' tab, put a tick in the 'capture links from clipboard' box and visit the HTML page where the file you wish to download is located. Right-click on the file and select 'copy shortcut' - this URL will then automatically be inserted into DL Tools. Now click on the 'get the real links' button followed by the 'create a html file with the real links' button and choose a location to copy this file to. Finally, open this web page and click on the links - your download manager will automatically take charge of the files and begin downloading.

I am attempting to download some files from an I-drive account, but the maximum daily download limit has been exceeded. What can I do?

Note that subsequent to writing this entry Idrive have gone bust.

If you have your own Idrive account you can save the files to that instead and then download from the new location. Because fewer people are likely to be downloading from your own personal account compared with a public one, the chances are that you will get a much better transfer rate.

First of all you will need to download the 'Filo Web Clipping Tool' from the Idrive home page, which will allow you to 'side load' your files. Once this is installed, Filo will be integrated with your web browser allowing you to save files to your Idrive account on the fly to be downloaded at your leisure. Now whenever you come across a file you wish to transfer to your Idrive account (whether it is on another Idrive account or elsewhere on the web), all you have to do is right-click on it and select the 'save target to Idrive' option.

Monday, January 17, 2000

Defragging your hard drive can be fun! No, really.

Monday, January 17, 2000 0
Sitting in front of your monitor while your drives defragment can have a pleasant, calming influence. All your data is magically re-ordered and slotted into its rightful place without you having to lift a finger. This is very relaxing for the first few minutes, but gets a bit tedious when you're still waiting for Windows Disk Defragmenter to finish the process many hours later. It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it. Since the standard Windows tool isn't up to the task, why not give Vopt a chance to mesmerize you with its lightning fast performance instead? You can find out all you need to know by visiting www.goldenbow.com. Now all we need is a life defragmenter to take all the hassle out of organizing reality!

Friday, January 14, 2000

The whys and wherefores of e-groups

Friday, January 14, 2000 0

An e-group is a bit like a bulletin board in that, once registered, anyone can post messages and upload attachments. At regular intervals - usually daily or weekly depending on the activity level of the group - all the subscriber's contributions are compiled in an easy to read format and made available as one long e-mail for your convenience (this is known as 'digest mode'). They key difference between an e-group and a mailing list is that mailing lists are designed to be a one-way form of communication. The role of the latter is simply to keep you abreast of any important changes made to a particular web site, not to give you a platform to voice your own opinion.

One advantage of joining an e-group is that your subscription is very quick and effortless to set up - more likely than not you will already have the necessary software installed on your computer; an email client such as Mozilla Thunderbird or simply a web browser. Besides, if you have a pop 3 or web based e-mail address you are already half way there. To find some interesting groups to join you can begin by visiting an e-group search engine - Yahoo Groups, Google Groups, Your Mailing List Provider, Topica, Smart Groups, Message Bot, List Power and Cool List are particularly good ones to try.

All you have to do is type in your search criteria, select the group you wish to join and submit your e-mail address. Note that with most e-group providers you will first have to register with the company themselves before being allowed to join any of the communities they host. This involves some obligatory form filling, but should not take any longer than a couple of minutes in any case. Once you have completed this initial registration procedure you will never again have to repeat the process should you decide to join additional groups managed by the same company. In future subscribing to a new group merely involves typing your e-mail address into a dialog box and prodding the 'join group' button. The number and scope of e-group communities available to join is only limited by the range of topics comprising life, the universe and everything. So quite a few to explore then!

Tuesday, January 11, 2000

How can I download more than two files at once using Internet Explorer?

Tuesday, January 11, 2000 0

The people at Microsoft in their infinite wisdom have set a limit on the maximum number of simultaneous connections you are permitted to make when using their homegrown browser. This limit can be exceeded by adding the following details to your registry...

REGEDIT4

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings] "MaxConnectionsPer1_0Server"=dword:00000010 "MaxConnectionsPerServer"=dword:00000008

A quick way to achieve this would be to copy this information into a plain text file, save it with a .reg extension and double-click its icon.

Now you'll be able to download up to ten files at once. This should be more than enough for anyone, but if you're feeling especially greedy you can modify the transfer limit figure yourself in Notepad before saving it.

Monday, January 10, 2000

Sometimes when I try to download a file I am presented with a forbidden (403) error message. What's that all about then?

Monday, January 10, 2000 0

403 error messages usually appear when you are trying to connect to an access restricted site, irrespective of which download manager you happen to be using. In order to gain access to the file you will require a valid login username and password - these can be entered into the properties menu associated with the file you are attempting to download.

If you are using Flashget, for instance, you can modify the login details by right-clicking on the file in question and selecting 'properties'. Then you would tick the 'login to server' check box and enter the username and password in the fields below. If you do not possess the necessary login details you can contact the administrator of the site to see if it's possible to have your own account setup, yet very often if a site requires you to login before being able to download, you shouldn't be there in the first place.

On other occasions the file isn't really inaccessible due to username/password restrictions, but nevertheless, your download manager reports the problem as a 403 error. Getright is one such program known to be guilty of this. Luckily a workaround to this dilemma has been discovered. Open the 'advanced configuration' tab, click on the 'more' button and choose either 'generated from the download URL' or 'random from the download URL' from within the 'Protocols' tab.

Friday, January 07, 2000

Whenever I try to download a file from an Angel Fire server using Getright I receive a tiny web page instead of the linked file? What am I doing wrong

Friday, January 07, 2000 0
This is happening because Getright is sending the wrong referrer value to the server. The people over at the Getright HQ have spotted this problem and have provided a registry fix to correct it - you can download it from the FAQ section of their home page.

I created a .bin file a long time ago and have since lost the cue sheet. What do I do now?

If it's an application which doesn't necessarily have to be installed from a CD, you can use ISO Buster to extract the .bin file to your hard drive. Once extracted, all that remains to be done is to sift through the files until you find the main installation file and run it.

Otherwise you can convert the .bin file to another format before burning it. The best tool to accomplish this task is probably Win ISO - in case the name of the program hasn't already given the game away, what I'd suggest you do is convert your bin file to .iso format.

Now use Easy CD Creator or Nero to open the new .iso file, and finally, select the 'create from CD image' option from the file menu and burn it in the usual way.

Thursday, January 06, 2000

I've just burnt a data CD image, but have ended up with a useless audio CD. What am I doing wrong?

Thursday, January 06, 2000 0

Did you load the cue sheet or just the main .bin file before writing the CD? If you've bypassed the cue file stage you've probably confused your CD writing software. Because the cue file lets your software know which mode to use when burning a CD image, if you don't open this file to begin with, it automatically uses the default setting - usually it assumes you want to make an audio CD.

Another possible explanation is that your cue file could contain incorrect file location information. If this is the case you can edit your cue file to check which directory it is pointing to. If your bin file is in a directory other than the one referred to in the cue file, you have two options; you can either relocate the bin file to match the path stated in the cue file, or you can edit the cue file so that it corresponds to the directory in which your bin file is stored. It is often more practical to delete the path reference altogether, leaving just the name of the file. This way, your burning software will assume that the bin file and cue file are situated in the same directory.

Monday, January 03, 2000

Every time I try to download a file from a Xoom server using Getright I cannot connect, so the file will not begin transferring. What's going on?

Monday, January 03, 2000 0
Several recent changes at Xoom have meant that files stored on their servers are inaccessible to Getright without first altering your configuration settings. Visit the advanced configuration tab found under the 'tools' menu and click on the 'more' button. Now in the 'user agent' item, pick a different value. Something starting with Mozilla should work fine.

Sunday, January 02, 2000

Is it possible to download a large set of files without clicking on them one by one?

Sunday, January 02, 2000 0

Yes - this can be done in a variety of different ways providing that all the files are stored in the same location. Hover your mouse over the first file in the set, press the right mouse button and select 'copy shortcut'. Next paste this address into your FTP client, or your download manager's FTP browser and delete the file name. Now if you press the 'connect' button you will be presented with a list of all the files stored in the same directory as the first file in the set. All you have to do now is highlight all the files you wish to download and select the 'download' or 'add' button.

Note that not all servers will let you access these directory listings. Some will present you with a 'forbidden' (403) message and others will just time out before retrieving the list. If this happens you might want to try using a download manager which allows you to download every linked file on an HTML page with a few simple mouse clicks. Reget and Flashget are two such download managers that support this tremendous time saving feature. Refer to the "tools of the trade" tutorial to find out exactly how to go about doing this - you may find it helpful to search for the phrase "download all by Flashget".

 
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