I should have a testable version of my Media Player Classic installer by this evening, at least by tomorrow.  Keep an eye out for it, it’s gonna be sweet.

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I honestly hadn’t given much though to VLC for a while, but recently someone pretty well informed with computers suggested that it might be better than Media Player Classic.

It seemed like the right thing to do to go out, install VLC, and give it a good checking out.

Honestly, I was sort of unimpressed.  The parking cone icon was cool, but all around VLC failed to deliver in a few key ways.

Full screen interface

The first thing I noticed was that VLC is completely without any controls in full screen.  It has a bunch of hot-keys you can learn that will control it in full-screen, but seriously.  We all have enough to memorize without having to remember which letter means “next track.”  Sometimes I like to just use my mouse because it takes very little thought.

I didn’t like having to take movies out of full screen to do stuff.

Media control buttons

Windows has some sort of system, I forgot what it’s called, but what it does is define a standard for communicating media player controls.  The purpose of it was to make those sweet “play,” “pause,” and whatnot buttons on your keyboard work with whatever sort of program you want to use them on.  It’s a cool idea, but for it to work people have to make their programs pay attention.

My media control buttons didn’t do a thing in VLC, and I assume that will be true for everyone.

Shell integration

This is one place where MPC outdoes VLC in an unexpected way: by not even trying. Media player classic doesn’t do shell integration, but that’s fine, because VLC’s shell integration is annoying.  It made the right click menu way too big with all its options, and they didn’t seem to work quite right, and I always wound up with more windows open than I wanted.

Let me tell you, too: having like eight cartoons playing at once is not a pleasant sound.

Google Desktop is an absolutely amazing piece of software, if you set it up right. It also has potential to be unstable, system resource hogging, and all around a pain in the neck. Luckily configuring it right is really easy.
To configure your copy of Google Desktop, right click on the GDS icon in your system tray (it should be a swirly looking colorful icon on the right side of your task-bar). Near the top of the menu that pops up, click Preferences (it’s right above Lock Search).

You’ll be taken to a page with 4 sections listed across the top, and a button that says “Save Preferences.”

Section 1: Local Indexing

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The first option that warrants notice is the option to search inside password protected documents and secure web-pages. This is highly ill-advised, leave the boxes unchecked. Having these files indexed, with their full text freely available to anyone sitting in front of your computer, sort of defeats the purpose of securing them in the first place.

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Another useful feature of GDS is the ability to be readily extended by anyone with a little programming knowledge. Clicking the link here will allow you to browse a massive library of extensions. Some are better than others, but that’s a topic for another day.

That’s it for Section 1, scroll back up and move on to:

Section 2: Gmail and Search Across Computers

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Yup, GDS will search your Gmail account for you. If you’ve got one, search it, it’s very handy. If you don’t have a Gmail account, you should seriously consider getting one.

Next there’s a huge section where you can enable the uploading of your index files to Google’s servers, that way whichever computer you’re on you can search all your other computers. It’s pretty neat, but useless to Average Joe Computer User.

Should you have multiple computers and decide to use this just remember this universal rule: for the love of god, do not allow computers you share with other people access to your Google account.

Section 3: Display

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Here you can configure how you will typically see GDS. I’ve found that the best option here is “None,” since I like software that doesn’t speak unless spoken to. The sidebar can be handy as hell, but tends to suck system resources and can be quite unstable at times. It also really adds to your computer’s start-up time because it loads like amputees run–slowly, painfully and with a tendency to fall flat on its face.

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The quick search box is a new feature to GDS, and is the reason why just a moment ago you chose to have no constant display of GDS.  With these settings all it takes to bring up an instant search of your computer is a double tap on the Control key.  Bringing up the quick search box, all your files are instantly at your fingertips with instant results appearing as you type, search results, and even an option to apply the same search to the web.  If you don’t find what you’re looking for (unlikely), all it takes to make it go away is another double tap of the Control key.

Section 4: Other

There’s only one option in this section, and it’s really just a matter of taste.  I personally trust Google with my usage habits, so I enable the advanced features.  If you don’t want to, though, that’s your prerogative.

That’s It! Click Save Preferences and enjoy your properly configured copy of Google Desktop!

uTorrent installs with a set of fairly good configuration options, but there are a few tweaks that might be useful to some people, as well as a few thoughts I’ve had on how to make it easier on your computer.

do Pre-allocate all files
found in: Options>Preferences>Downloads>Other Settings
By default uTorrent starts with empty files and adds to them as it downloads data. Checking this box will force uTorrent to create a file the size of the file you’re downloading full of dummy data the moment you start the download.

I’m not sure why they chose to make it do this. Maybe so that starting a massive download won’t instantly fill up your hard drive. From a planning perspective, I see not pre-allocating files as being on the same level as buying stuff on credit. Sure, you might want to get every episode of Star Trek (all the generations), but just because uTorrent lets you start the download doesn’t mean your hard drive will let you finish it. With this option checked you know for sure how much hard drive space you have left, even after you finish your current downloads.

Pre-allocating files has an advantage from a performance and stability standpoint too. Since the dawn of Bittorrent I’ve been annoyed by its tendency to create fragmented files. Without pre-allocation uTorrent will write each chunk of each file as it gets it, physically spreading the files all over the damn place on your hard drive. With pre-allocation, though, each file should wind up more or less in one place on the hard drive, in one continuous block of data. This will make your computer access it better, and in the end less prone to file system corruption.

do Auto-Save Files Somewhere
found in: Options>Preferences>Downloads>Location of Downloaded Files

This dialog allows you to automatically save your torrent files in a specific place. That’s nice, but to really make it useful you’ll also want to configure it to move completed files somewhere else. This way adding new torrents to the queue is a snap, as is browsing in windows the ones that are completed.

Mine is configured to save all incomplete downloads in My Documents\My Downloads\My Torrents\Incomplete, then move them up a notch to My Documents\My Downloads\My Torrents when they finish.

maybe Use the Scheduler
found in: Options>Preferences>Scheduler

If you’re like me and your ISP gives you certain times of day when you have unlimited bandwidth you’ll love this one. uTorrent lets you specify, by day of the week and hour, whether to pause everything, throttle back everything, or download like the Internet is about to end. I won’t bother explaining how to set it up, it’s easy.

I just finished packaging Media Player Classic, the finest video player ever conceived by man, into an easy to use Windows installer. It’s going to be wicked handy, and will be a great thing to launch this blog with, once I finish my distributed file hosting access-er gadget (which will also be pretty awesome).