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4.06.2008

Free Programs 2.0: Trick Out Your PC Somemore

Aww yeah. More free stuff!

Last year, I did a post on free software. Since then, I have discovered even more free and useful programs. Here are are the best ones:


Skype

Basic usage of this program is free, although there are some pay features. Fortunately, Skype never pressures you to into using them.

Skype is basically a VOiP (voice-over IP) and chat client. It quickly became my primary IM client because of its clean, no-hassles interface. It seems to have a lot fewer problems than chat programs I've used in the past like Yahoo!, AIM, and Trillian. Also, it has excellent voice chatting capabilities.

If you're dissatisfied with your current IM client, try Skype. Unfortunately, you'll have to get some friends to use it as well or there's no point.


Inkscape

This is a vector graphics drawing program. What are vector graphics? Normally, images are represented by groups of pixels which collectively make up and image. Vector graphics use geometric values to make images. Practically speaking, this means you can scale vector graphics to any size without loss of quality. Better explanation here.

Inkscape is great if you are working with SVGs or designing a logo. I recently re-rendered my own personal insignia using Inkscape.


MediaCoder

If you've ever needed to convert one file type to another, then you've needed this program. MediaCoder is a free transcoding program with a wide variety of options for converting video and audio formats. Very useful in certain circumstances.


Notepad++

In similar fashion to Paint.NET, someone decided to take a basic program (Notepad, in this case) and make it way, way better. The result is Notepad++ a source code editor. I used it recently when coding a website from scratch. The syntax highlighting makes coding a lot more pleasant. It recognizes a wide variety of languages from C++ to Python to HTML and many others.


Rocket Dock

Last up is a program is use every single day. It's Rocket Dock which is one of many dock applications for Windows. A dock is basically a quick launchbar which can placed the bottom, top, or sides of the screen. You can drag-and-drop any file, folder, or application on to the dock and it will make a shortcut. That's a great way to de-clutter your desktop! To save space on your screen, you can hide the dock and have it appear only when you hover your mouse near the side of the screen you have chosen to place it on.

It is difficult to describe exactly what using a dock is like, so just try it yourself. It's a great piece of user interface.

4.02.2008

Free Music!

I just wanted to make everybody aware of a couple of opportunities to get some free music, y'know... legally.

Clay Bell

First off is an artist I randomly found called Clay Bell. I guess that's his actual name, although I thought "Rascal Flatts" was someone's name too. Fortunately, Clay Bell doesn't sound at all like Rascal Flatts. In my book that's good thing, anyway.

You can download his album "She and I" here.

His style is akin to Beatles-esque pop, though - admittedly - I'm not the best judge of that having not listened to a lot of Beatles music. Maybe somebody better acquainted with them could confirm or deny this? Whatever... I have no idea what I'm talking about.

Anyways, it's cool music. It's singer-songwriter acoustic stuff infused with touches of really good pop (yes, there is such a thing as "good" pop.) It's a nice break from today's dark tendency toward depressing rock and disgusting hip-hop. A real throwback.

Highlights include "Sarah's Sunshine," "Market Place," and "Oblivion."

Fono

Josh pointed me toward this album last week. While I didn't enjoy it as much as Clay Bell, it has a few good moments, although it's mostly straight-up, unimaginative rock.

The band is Fono; the album is "Too Broken to Break". The download is here.

The best moments on this album are the kick-off track "Dangerous" and the final number "January Rose". Also enjoyable are "Angel's Eyes" and "Still Love?"

That said, nothing is particularly "bad". My main complaint with this album is the serious lack of variety. It definitely doesn't break any new ground musically. The lyrics are often more engaging than the music, especially on the title track which challenges false Christians who are "too lost" in themselves to take Christ's commands seriously.

If you're ever in the mood for "just rock," this album will satisfy.

4.01.2008

Catch-22 and Prayer

Happy April Fools everyone. I hope nobody got pranked too badly today.

Today I just feel compelled to write a post that is perhaps too serious for a day of frivolity, but compulsion knows no restraint. The topic is prayer. The source material is Catch-22. If anyone has read this book, you might be looking rather confusedly at your computer screen right about now.

Catch-22
is not the most serious book; it is, in fact, one of the most awesome non-serious books ever written, up there with Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. You know the book is awesome by the singular fact that it has spawned a new term in our vocabulary.

Anyways, in one of the many subplots of the book, one of the Colonels approaches a Chaplain about praying before sending a squadron of bomber pilots out on missions. The purpose is not to exactly ask for God's protection, but to get into The Saturday Evening Post and to get the Colonel promoted. This is, of course, a totally wrong reason to pray. But when the Colonel is telling the Chaplain what to pray for, I stopped. The attitude seemed very familiar to me. Here is the passage:

"Now, I want you to give a lot of thought to the kind of prayers we're going to say. I don't want anything heavy or sad. I'd like you to keep it light and snappy, something that will send the boys out feeling pretty good. Do you know what I mean? I don't want any of this Kingdom of God or Valley of Death stuff. That's all too negative. What are you making such a sour face for?"

"I'm sorry, sir," the chaplain stammered. "I happened to be thinking of the Twenty-third Psalm just as you said that."

"How does that one go?"

"That's the one you were referring to, sir. 'The Lord is my Shepherd; I--'"

"
That's the one I was just referring to. It's out. What else have you got?"

"'Save me, O God; for the waters are come unto--'"

"No waters," the colonel decided... "Why don't we try something more musical? How about the harps on the willows?"

"That has the rivers of Babylon in it, sir," the chaplain replied. "'...then we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.'"

"Zion? Let's forget about
that one right now. I'd like to know how that one even got in there Haven't you got anything humorous that stays away from waters and valleys and God? I'd like to keep away from the subject of religion altogether if we can."

The chaplain was apologetic. "I'm sorry, sir, but just about all the prayers I know
are rather somber in tone and make at least some passing reference to God."

"Then let's get some new ones."

The reason for the prayer is not a good one, and the Colonel's attitude about prayer isn't exactly so good either.

Modern man wants God's blessing. He hedges his bets, and either believes all paths lead to God or believes that none of them do because there is no God. Even Christians are guilty of having the attitude that the Colonel does. We either do not wish to offend, and thus try to make our prayers and our religion cheery and fluffy and empty, or our faith is just that weak.

Christianity is based on the love of our God, but it also promises severe consequences (namely Hell) for unbelievers. I am perhaps the most idealistic person you will meet. I want everyone to just love one another, so I'm not a fire-and-brimstone type...heck, I don't agree with the death penalty...but I don't want Christians to be so watered-down that others think that the consequences of their unbelief are inconsequential or that there are none.

No Joke this Year

This is a public service announcement from the Vanishing Blog reminding you to watch your back on this April Fool's Day. So... watch your back!

I, personally, don't have a joke to spring on you this year. I was going to come out and say that I supported Ron Paul, but that didn't really seem all that funny. Google, on the other hand, has put up their annual April Fool's joke and I have to say it's much better than last year's. Hmm, something wrong with that link? Sorry, try this one. Wikipedia also re-writes their homepage as a joke which doesn't lend to their credibility. Check it out here: one day only!

One last thing - and seriously, this is no joke - it is the one-year-aversary of the Vanishing Blog! I'm not sure how long I expected this to last. But here we are 1 year, 143 posts, and 5 redesigns later! Yay! So thanks to anybody that bothers to read and thanks to Josh for bothering to write.