Speed Up iTunes January 27th, 2010
Love it or hate it, iTunes has become the de facto application for music handling on my machine; so much so that it has become one of those applications which I would say I couldn’t live without (OK, so perhaps that takes it a little too far but you see where I am going with this).
The problem is that iTunes is an application that Apple never intended to make for Windows; I guess you could say they became a victim of their own success and found themselves having to recode a Windows version as its popularity (and the popularity of the iPod range) grew. It works much faster in Mac OS X, which translated could be written as saying iTunes for Windows is a complete bloat ware that takes up far too much RAM and runs slower than it should, certainly this has become more and more apparent as iTunes has been updated and updated. The cynic in me would start to question whether Apple isn’t too serious about Windows and want to demonstrate to people that iTunes works much faster on Mac OS X because it is a better OS (thereby attempting to increase their sales of Mac hardware and OS X), but with a few simple steps it’s easy to speed things up a little and make iTunes for Windows a little more bearable:
Remove Smart Playlists
A lot of people will love the Smart Playlist feature, if you are one of them then you can skip this, otherwise removing them can make the application start-up speed up to 3 times quicker. If you like me would give up almost anything for speed, then simply remove all the Smart Playlists (the ones with the purple icon) and restart iTunes to feel the improved performance. If you don’t want to remove Smart Playlists altogether then editing them and disabling Live Updating will make a slight difference.
Disable Automatic Syncing
When a device is connected to a machine running iTunes, iTunes automatically starts syncing which I find quite annoying. It can result in your iTunes getting frozen for up to 30 seconds or more. Users don’t always connect devices such as iPods or iPhones for transferring songs; what if you only want to charge your device? In such cases automatic launching of iTunes and syncing doesn’t make sense and isn’t needed. To disable automatic syncing, simply select your connected device from the left sidebar and uncheck the Automatic Sync option.
Disable Options That Are Not Needed
A little bit of common sense if required here as there are various different options that you will come across in the Preferences menu and some may be needed depending on your individual setups, however a couple I would recommend would be to disable Crossfade Songs and Sound Enhancer under the Playback tab and Look for Remote Speakers Connected to AirTunes and Look for iPhone and iPod Touch Remotes under the devices tab. You can also disable Look for Apple TV under the Apple TV tab unless of course you have one! Most users will not need any of these options enabled and yet by default they are enabled adding to the burden, surely it would have made sense to ship iTunes in a more ‘lean’ configuration for the majority and allow the minority who own all these other devices (and let’s face it the kind of person who does is more than technically savvy enough to do this) to configure iTunes to their needs?
While browsing your playlists, you will notice that unnecessary columns are displayed by default (yes, I know it’s a Pop song thanks). Who wants to scroll all the way to the right and then back to the left to view all the columns? It is better to reduce this clutter by hiding those columns that are not needed. This can be done by right-clicking the column bar on top and then unchecking not-needed columns. Not sure if this makes a huge difference to speed or not but it means that you can customise your view to exactly how you want to see it.
Finally, although I haven’t tried this myself I read somewhere that by keeping the Preferences window open whilst songs are converting, the whole process will be quicker! Now there is logic to this; when you are converting a large collection of songs to ACC format, you will notice that after a few conversions the whole process slows down. This is because after each change the iTunes User Interface gets updated (which takes forever when converting large collections). So, how to speed up the conversion and disable the iTunes User Interface from getting updated? Go to Edit and select Preferences; now let it remain open until all conversions are complete!
I’m sure there are other ways to speed things up too, if you know of any leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
Mozilla Officially Release Firefox 3.6 January 21st, 2010
Finally, after all of the recent testing Mozilla has released the much anticipated Firefox 3.6, the latest version of what many consider the de-facto browser.
So what’s changed from Firefox 3.5?
Outlook 2010 + Google Calendar Sync… January 20th, 2010
I have been more than happy with the ability to synchronise my calendars between my Outlook and Google using Google’s own sync tool until recently when I began using Outlook 2010. You see the problem is that Google have yet to release an update to their tool to allow the tool to work with Outlook 2010, a surprise considering how long Outlook 2010 has been available and the positive feedback it has been receiving. Remember that positive feedback equates to more and more people using the latest version.
The problem appears to be not that Google’s sync tool will not work with Outlook 2010 but that it performs a version check on execution and will not get past the fact that it ‘thinks’ it will not work, so it simply gives an error and halts.
There is of course a way round this.
Caveat: I take no responsibility if you manage to break your Outlook installation, remember to take a backup first and if you are unsure or have no experience of Hex editors, perhaps think twice before following these steps. If you do a search on Google there are already Outlook.exe files available for download that have had the change made, although – importantly – be very careful downloading and running .exe files unless you are sure they come from a trusted source!
You’ll need to use a Hex editor, there are a few available in you do a search; I used Notepad++ with the ‘Hex-Editor’ plugin. Firstly locate and make a backup (very important in case something unexpected happens!) of the Outlook.exe file which is located at c:Program FilesMicrosoft OfficeOffice14 and at assembly location 0x000c09b2 change the value to 0×32 in the ascii dump (it will have originally been 14.0.0 but now should read 12.0.0). This in theory should only change the version number that the Outlook Add-In Manager reports to add-ins.
It works fine for me, I’m now happily synchronising between Outlook 2010 and Google once again.
UPDATE: I have been getting a lot of emails asking if I can upload an OUTLOOK.EXE file with the Hex changes in place, so, if you simply want to download a patched file without making the changes yourself heres the link. It goes without saying that you download this file at your own risk. To prevent antivirus programs blocking the file I have placed it inside a ZIP archive so you will simply need to unpackage it and place it into your c:Program FilesMicrosoft OfficeOffice14 folder but please remember as always to backup the original file first. If you find this useful, please leave a comment. Thanks.
Dropbox – Simple, FREE Cloud Storage January 18th, 2010
Up until very recently, if I wanted to share files between my machines, or give access to friends and colleagues I used FTP, the good old fashioned geeky way of doing things. Doing it properly involved using a whole heap of complicated code, messing around with compatibility of different FTP software, and a lot of patience to ensure that the files were available where I wanted them to be, when I wanted them to be. Then, through a good friend I found Dropbox.
Available for PC, Mac (there is even an iPhone app; other mobile devices are supported through a mobile browsing portal with a native Android app in development) and even Linux, the idea is that a centralised folder which will be installed on all of your computers or devices will be background synchronised with the cloud. This is really useful for both home and work use, just how many people only have one machine these days? The notion of dragging and dropping into a folder and it just appearing across all of your machines in near real time is great.
To get started you simply sign up for an account, install the software and then you are ready to go. Literally is takes no more than 2 minutes! You get to choose where you want the Dropbox folder to reside on your machines (the default being within your My Documents). You’re then ready to put files into your Dropbox folder, and create further folders within. Interestingly, you are even able to designate a public folder which allows you to give a unique public URL to files within to share with friends or colleagues, really useful if you want to link to a file or photo in say a forum without having to rely on the inherently slow and annoying public file sharing sites; they’re you files, why not keep control of them!
So simplistically, what does all this mean? Well for example, if you save all of your documents to your Dropbox folder then whenever you make a change and save it, the file is automatically updated on all of your computers rather than just the one that you are working on. In turn this means the hassle of transferring it to a USB drive or CD to take them to and from the office disappears. With more and more of us also now using a netbook at home, Dropbox also ensures that all of your home machines contain the same data, synchronised in real-time. No more having to get off the comfy sofa to run upstairs and get a file off of the office machine.
If you work from home, or need to share files or photos with friends and family across different computers, another really useful feature is the ability to share folders with others. A quick invite to a folder and you can easily share work projects or photos without having to email large files around. There is no limitation of individual file sizes unlike some of the other cloud storage providers so sharing a large (say 100Mb) document with others quickly and easily (assuming you all have a decent internet connection of course) will become second nature. If you are not fussed about private access to certain people you’ve invited, there is also a public folder as I mentioned before, that allows you to put files within and then give out a URL to anyone; another really useful feature.
Of course, you might not be at your own computer with the Dropbox software installed so are you still able to interact with your files? Of course, Dropbox have thought of that too. Connected to the whole system is a simple website that once logged in allows you to view files you’ve got stored, view recent activity, and organise your sharing options. Needless to say, you can also upload and download your files directly from the site too. The site is fairly basic but don’t let that put you off, it means that if you are at a random computer, say at an internet cafe or someone’s office you can still access all of your own files.
Dropbox comes with varying amounts of storage, summed up as either basic or premium packages. The basic package is free and gives you by default 2 GB of storage (though this can easily be increased to 5 GB, read on). The premium packages are chargeable and give you either 50 GB of storage for $9.99 a month (or $99 a year) or 100 GB of storage for $19.99 a month (or $199 a year). As an incentive, when you invite other friends or colleagues to use Dropbox, both you and they will be awarded an extra 250 MB of storage when they register and download the software, this applies up to a maximum of 3 GB so as you can see, it’s easy to get 5 GB of storage on the free package if you spread the word. It’s a win win situation really as by having your friends, family and colleagues also using Dropbox you are able to set up shares between yourselves to move files around easily.
Dropbox is a very clever system but incredibly simple with it; It’s a cloud sharing solution which saves a lot of time for those of us with multiple computers, or just needing to have access to certain files from anywhere without having to carry a USB thumb drive around. How many times has that particular file you critically need been on another machine or not on your USB drive? Even if you run a local area network with file storage already or use some form of NAS, they don’t natively support iPhone access or easy file synchronisation between computers. Sharing files might be a bit boring for all but us geeks, but really, Dropbox makes it incredibly easy!
To sign up, follow my referral link here which means that you’ll start things off with 2.25 GB of data instead of the 2 GB if you go direct, of course you’ll also be giving me an extra 250 MB which will make me a happy bunny!