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Archive for the ‘Freakin’ Cool App of the Week’ Category

It’s been a while since I had a Freakin’ Cool App of the Week, but writing this I thought it would make a good entry to the series. I recently found out about another screen capture tool that lets you time lapse video as well as capture screenshots. It’s called VideoVelocity and it might serve your needs better. There is a free version available with some limitations.

It has plenty of options for different times and frame rates. From my short time playing with it, it also seems to be light on memory usage. It can also record from other sources, like a webcam. The resulting video files are quite small in size (not a bad thing), but I’d imagine that would increase if you paid for HD recording. One thing I look for in any program now is a version that can be used without being installed. VideoVelocity provides that.

It’s a little hard to understand the options, but if you play around a bit it becomes easier. My only other gripe is that the preview window can really slow down the computer, but that can be turned off. The free version is limited to standard definition, videos have a watermark, and there’s a recording limit of five minutes per video. The paid versions also come with extra features.

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I’ve had an interest in playing piano for a long time — a time mostly spent with wishful thinking that I could play rather than actually learning something. Though, over the course of trying to learn, I’ve had opportunity to try out a few computer-based music notation apps. I think I’ve finally found what I’ve been looking for in MuseScore.

NoteWorthy Composer, Mozart, Finale NotePad, all of these I’ve used to some extent or another. NoteWorthy’s fast and efficient, Mozart is elegantly designed, and NotePad (was) free and easy. But, of course, they all are for-pay, or, in the case of NotePad, limited in the feature department (now both).

But I just recently found out about MuseScore. Around since 2002, MuseScore in its purest form is a free, open-source clone of Finale (or, indeed, any other notation software). The mechanics are essentially the same: click to add and move notes and rests, etc.  and play back the notes straight from the sheet music (via SoundFonts — so it sounds better than straight MIDI).

It has many of the capabilities of Finale NotePad (last I checked), including MIDI input and multiple note layers, as well as features that only come with more upscale products, like time and key signature changes, clef changes and unlimited staves.

MuseScore

MuseScore provides an interface reminiscent of Finale

Of course, I wouldn’t be me without some negativity:

MuseScore has a tendency to misinterpret what I’m trying to do (or rather I’m doing something wrong). Sometimes the methods of selection don’t make sense. For instance, you have to enter a special “Note Input” mode in order to insert notes, but you have to exit it in order to move notes around.

Playback is difficult due to the lack of an “indication bar” in the status bar that has functionality for skipping forward and backward through measures. Although the current measure is displayed, the only “rewind” option I can find goes back to the first measure which is sometimes cumbersome when trying to scrub through a particular section.

This is remedied, however, by a keyboard shortcut to accomplish the same thing (Ctrl+Left and Ctrl+Right, although I prefer the mouse to do this) and a “Play Panel” that can set the start time.

My only other real complaint is the particularly noticeable load time. On Windows, when I timed it by running it for the first time after a cold boot, it took 38 seconds from icon click to main screen. Subsequent starts take about 13 seconds. I have yet to install it on Linux.

MuseScore is soon to release version 1.0. It’s licensed under the GPL and is available in the usual Windows, Mac, and Linux flavors.

MuseScore

Mind, though, that “the tools don’t make the talent” and all that. I still can’t play piano.

From now on, thanks to the miracle that is autopublish, Freakin’ Cool App of the Week will attempt to be updated on a regular basis — hopefully at least every other Friday.

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Looking for the HOWTO? Feel free to go right to it.

If you use Vista’s sidebar gadgets, you already know the essence of Screenlets. If you use OSX’s widgets or Yahoo! widgets, you already know the essence of Screenlets. Can you guess what it is yet?

Screenlets is a framework for such gadgets and gizmos on, you guessed it, Linux. It’s not the only framework available but according to the site  it’s “… possibly the best open-source widget framework out there”. Considering I never got it to work before today * (some still don’t), I can’t say for sure that’s true.

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When first installed,  there are quite a few ready-to-go gadgets. The usual clocks, calendars, system montitors, and the like. But there are also a couple widgets that struck me as incredibly unique and useful.

I personally never understood the use for gadgets like a system or drive space montitor, but I shouldn’t talk because I took interest in one of the most pointless, yet charming, gadgets yet: A flower.

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The goal is to make it grow from bare dirt into a blossoming flower by remembering to water it daily. Over- or under-water it, and it’ll die. Quirky? You bet. I can’t get it to work though.. :/

There are all sorts of media players available, so what makes this next one so cool might not be obvious. It looks like a normal, unassuming media player, right?

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Right. But it’s for streaming radio. What makes it useful is the ability to create custom stations and store them in the “right-click” list of stations to choose from. It also includes prelisted stations from around North and South America and Europe. It may not look like much, but it’s a boon for me. The radio station in the pic (Frequence3) is what made me stop hating French. Pretty good find, if you ask me.

Finally, the reason I installed Screenlets:  a desktop wallpaper clock. Yes, a desktop wallpaper clock. It doesn’t come out-of-the-box with Screenlets, so it’ll have to be downloaded separately, such as from here, and installed. It looks a bit like this, depending on the chosen wallpaper:

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I’d imagine something like this could be accomplished with an animated wallpaper (yes that is available, at least for Compiz on GNOME. Check gnome-look.org), and it may look a bit cheesy, but the art it would take to both program and design the styles for this widget makes it AWESOME! 😀

I never have been much of one for extraneous eye candy, but hey.

*And now, the mini HOWTO.

I believe the reason I had trouble using Screenlets before was simply that the Screenlets folder wasn’t writable by normal users. I found out through opening screenlets-manager in a terminal and then starting a widget that none of them would start; and all the ones I tried errored out because permission was denied to the install folder.

Since I just learned today that ‘chmod’ doesn’t work for folders, I had to figure out another way. I’m using GNOME, so this may be different for you, but I fixed this by doing the following (GNOME on Ubuntu 8.10):

  • Open Nautilus as root: gksudo nautilus
  • Go to your home folder, and turn on “View Hidden Files” either through the “View” menu or using Ctrl+H
  • Find the “.config” folder, and then locate the “Screenlets” folder
  • Right-click the “Screenlets” folder, choose “Properties”
  • On the “Permissions” tab, under the “Others” label, change the permissions to “Create and delete files”
  • Next time you try to open a widget, it should open.

Now see, I’m single-user so this may not be secure enough for other computers. But I don’t know a lot about Linux permission hierarchy, and this worked for me.

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Consider me weird. Go ahead. I’m waiting. I’m looking forward to it actually.  Bring da pain. Oh, wait, you don’t know why you should?

Because I like driving virtual trains.

For a long time I have been in search of a game similar to the Densha de GO! series, which I have been dying to play ever since I heard of its existence (I have a strange fascination with Japanese trains).

BVE

Well, one fateful day a long time ago I remember stumbling upon Boso View Express, aka BVE. I never could figure out how to play, and it was soon forgotten about. However, last December I picked up a renewed interest and finally managed to understand how to get going, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

BVE is essentially a train route sim, not unlike Microsoft Train Simulator, although I lean toward BVE more. Not just due to the price tag (free!), but it does feel a lot more vibrant and has a great community behind it.

BVE versions 2 and 4 have been out for quite a while, and a Vista-compatible new version is in the works.

BVE2 is, despite being an earlier version, possibly more complex than BVE4. BVE2 has a passenger comfort meter and a station stop meter, both of which are missing from BVE4. BVE4’s biggest advantage is being run completely fullscreen.

Routes are widespread online, and vary in quality. Most are quite good though.

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For those of you on a more open-source, open-content slant, I present to you openBVE.

openBVE is built from the ground up to be compatible with both BVE2 and BVE4, as well as allowing new features such as animated objects.

It has a .Net-built front-end menu system, which is much easier to use than either BVE version. Trains are more easily customizable for each route.

And generally, since openBVE is compatible with routes built for previous releases of the proprietary BVE, as well as openBVE-specific routes, one has a much larger selection of tracks to choose from (yes I am biased for free stuff)

As far as compatibility goes, my experiences have been mostly good with the exception of bugs in making certain surfaces transparent, but I’d wager that on a compatibility issue with the route design rather than an actual flaw.

It has recently bumped up to version 1.0, and appears to get better every release.

Both have somewhat convoluted route installation processes, which if not automatically installed have to be manually unzipped and copied folder-by-folder, which took me a long time to figure out. Once again, though, this isn’t specifically the program’s fault. It’s just the way the routes are architected.

Still, it’s great fun. It may be weird, but it’s a hobby. Call now.

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UPDATE: The MediaFire link has died. Please use the link below instead.
It also only appears to work for 32-bit Vista. Windows 7 may work, but I can’t test it because I have a 64-bit edition.

A commenter going by the name of ‘uploader’ has posted a link to both StyleSelector and FontSelector in a zip file. Link

Original post follows.
 
Ok, so I was kinda getting sick of the annoying glass themes in Vista. Sure, they’re fancy-pants and all that, but after a while they just aren’t satisfying to look at. At least for me, I tend to change my theme about as often as I change my wallpaper, which is to say..quite often.

So I got to hunting. I think I may have seen this program on one of my RSS subscriptions. It’s called StyleSelector and it’s available, among two other programs (a theme font changer and a program to move window control buttons to the left) from hsiw software (dead site, see links above). It says it’s for 32-bit Vista but it may work on 64-bit as well.

Here’s a general rundown of how to use it once you get it unzipped.

When you download a theme (say, from DeviantArt’s “Visual Styles” page), you’ll be downloading a zip file with the theme folder in it. Unzip that to “Styles” subfolder where you placed StyleSelector. That’s the only way the theme will show up to be selected in the program.

If StyleSelector is running when you do this,  you’ll have to restart it for the new theme to show up. Then, it’s just a matter of choosing your theme and optionally selecting “Basic Style” for no glass or “Startup” for..well running the theme on Windows startup instead of reverting when you power off.

Not all the themes listed at DeviantArt work with StyleSelector. More than likely the one you choose will though. I only had two instances where it didn’t.

Also, the glass color is still tweakable from the normal way through the “Personalize” panel.

Now my Start orb is the red light from HAL 9000. 😀

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Vistalizator is a program to change the UI language of Windows Vista using the MUI packs even if you don’t have the Ultimate or Enterprise editions. The MUI packs, by the way, are available online if you know where to look.

I love this program, for the simple fact that it counteracts Microsoft’s stupid decision to not allow localization on the lower-end Vista editions. I’m using Vista in Japanese now and loving it!

It’s ridonkulously fast 😀

http://froggie.sk

And to continue my rant a bit further, whose bright idea was it to not allow all editions to be localized to all languages? What if someone is forced to buy a lower-end computer and doesn’t speak the installed language? Or someone comes to visit who doesn’t speak English?

I’m sick of them eeking out every bit of cash from every corner they can.

This is only another reason to switch to Linux.. sure Vista makes language installs less painful, but that gap gets narrower every day.

I will NEVER EVER understand why they didn’t allow MUIs on all editions. However, thanks to programs like Vistalizator, we can rightly have what we are wrongly denied.

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