Archive for May, 2010

Play Anything With VLC Media Player

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

The next time your computer complains about missing codecs or plugins when trying to play a video or audio file, give VLC Media Player a try. Unlike almost every other media player available for Windows, VLC doesn’t rely on just the right mix of audio and video codecs being installed to do its magic. Instead, it has support for just about every file format you’ll likely run into on the Internet built right in. It also supports DVD movie playback–an important feature that was missing from Windows Media Player on Windows XP.

Like most of the software we recommend, VLC Media Player is simple to use, free and open-source. It’s also highly portable and available for MacOSX, Linux, and Windows XP, Vista and 7.

Make The Windows 7 Taskbar Perfect

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

So you’ve finally gotten your hands on Windows 7, but aren’t entirely thrilled with the new taskbar? No problem! Lifehacker has a great set of articles on how to tweak the Windows 7 taskbar to exactly your liking. A couple fixes I simply could no longer live without are…

Display thumbnails instantly when you hover over an icon
By default, there’s about a half second delay between the time you hover over an icon and the time its thumbnail previews popup. This makes your workflow a little less efficient and gets really annoying really fast. The following registry hack will make previews popup instantly!

  1. Run regedit (Windows Key+R, type “regedit”, click OK)
  2. Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced
  3. If it doesn’t exist already, add a new DWORD (32-bit) value named “ExtendedUIHoverTime”
  4. Double click ExtendedUIHoverTime and set the value to the number of milliseconds you want the delay to be. The default is 400, but I prefer setting it to something really small, like 50, for an instant thumbnail preview
  5. To apply the change, restart the computer (or just explorer using task manager)

Left click icons to cycle through active windows:
This one goes hand in hand with the tweak above. By default, left-clicking an icon on the taskbar will popup its thumbnail previews, but now that we have previews showing up instantly on mouse-over, that’s a little redundant. So why not simply have the last window in the icon’s group show up when you left click it instead? Here’s how to do it…

  1. Run regedit (Windows Key+R, type “regedit”, click OK)
  2. Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced
  3. If it doesn’t exist already, add a new DWORD (32-bit) value named “LastActiveClick”
  4. Double click LastActiveClick and set the value to 1
  5. To apply the change, restart the computer (or just explorer using task manager)

As always, be sure to take extra care if you venture into the Windows registry to perform any of these tweaks. If you’re unsure about what you’re doing, stop and get help from someone who knows their way around!

So what’s your favorite Windows 7 hack? Have any tweaks that you can’t live without, or is everything fine right out of the box? Let us know in the comments!

Zoodles: A Free, Safe And Kid-Friendly Browser

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

Much like the kid-friendly educational software of yesterday, free web browser Zoodles gives young kids an easy-to-use window into the Internet while keeping them (and your computer) safe. For ages 2-8, Zoodles attempts to always deliver safe, fun, and educational content through a dead-simple interface that can even get more complex as your child grows and learns.

Zoodles is available for Windows and Mac, and comes in either a free version or a $7.95/month premium version which gives parents extra functionality such as enhanced ad blocking, content filtering, and activity monitoring. A free trial of the premium membership is included with the download.

If your kids are older, you should definitely teach them how to use a computer properly without special software installed. However, kid-friendly browsers such as Zoodles are a great way to introduce younger children to the computer and provide them with a safe and enriching experience.