Be a DJ!

Have you ever wanted to be a DJ? Does the thought of having your own radio station make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? If so, you’re in luck! There’s this new invention called “the Internet” that allows you to (among other things) broadcast your favorite tunes all day long if you wish! So if you’ve ever felt the jones to be your own broadcaster, check out this article! You’d be amazed at how easy is really is to set up your own Internet radio station.

Here’s what you need to get started:

• The latest version of WinAMP
• The Shoutcast DSP plug-in for WinAMP
Shoutcast Server
• A stable Windows-based computer
• A broadband Internet connection

The Big Picture

WinAMP was the first MP3 player for the Windows platform. Although it has expanded over the years to include library functions and the ability to play videos, at its core WinAMP is still just a basic MP3 player.

Shoutcast Server was developed by the same people that made WinAMP. Shoutcast is a streaming audio server. It provides audio streams to listeners. Shoutcast server is available for Windows 9x, Windows NT, Windows 2000\2003, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Mac OS X, FreeBSD, Linux and Solaris.

The Shoutcast plug-in for WinAMP connects the output of WinAMP to the input of the Shoutcast server. It takes whatever is playing in WinAMP, converts it to the appropriate bitrate and\or format, then forwards it on to the Shoutcast server. The Shoutcast server then sends this input out to listeners as a stream of data. The Shoutcast plug-in is also where you enter the name of your station or show and any contact information you’d like to add.

Getting It All Set Up

If you’ve never used WinAMP before, download and install it, then spend a couple of days getting familiar with it. You will especially need to be familiar with the playlist functions, as this is how you’re going to get started as a DJ. Basically, an Internet radio station is just a giant playlist of songs. You’ll need to be able to assemble such a playlist on your computer. The playlist can be as long as you want – in fact, it will need to be several days long if you want to have a full-time station, although it can also be just a few hours long if you want to do brief “shows” instead of broadcasting full-time. Also, note how to save your playlists (click LIST OPTS > SAVE LIST in the playlist window). This is important, since you’ll be tweaking several things during the setup process, and there’s the distinct possibility that you might accidentally erase a playlist you’ve spent hours putting together. It’s just better to be safe than sorry, right?

After you’ve gotten acquainted with WinAMP (or if you’re already familiar with WinAMP), you need to do the next step, which is installing the Shoutcast plug-in for WinAMP. Assuming that you’ve already got WinAMP up and running on our system, click here to download the plug-in. Installation should be simple – in most cases, the plug-in installer will detect where WinAMP is installed on your system and it will then install the plug-in in the correct location. So, for most of you, installing the plug-in will means double-clicking on the plug-in installer file, then clicking Next > Next > Finish.

The final step is to install the Shoutcast server. In most cases, you’ll want to install Shoutcast on the same computer that runs WinAMP. However, there may be circumstances where you’d want to install Shoutcast on a different computer. And the reason why you’d want to do that is really important when it comes to broadcasting.

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Jim’s Guide to Wireless Security

My Dad has a saying about padlocks: “they only keep the honest people out“. His point, of course, is that honest people will see a padlock and keep walking, while a hardcore thief will simply smash the hasp, take the hinges off the door, or shatter a window to break into your house and steal your stuff. I’m sometimes asked what the best way is to secure a wireless network, and when I think about the subject I often think of Dad’s wisdom. Most of the “security measures” in wireless networking only keep the honest people out. Dedicated hackers can find a way to hack in to your network if they choose. So here’s my complete guide to securing a wireless network:

Pick WPA security, and choose a very complex password for it.

Yep, that’s it. My entire guide to wireless security. But since you might ask about some of the other security features available on wireless routers, here’s a point-by-point rebuttal on each one:

Disabling the SSID: Every wireless router has the ability to broadcast its name, or SSID (Service Set IDentifier). Disabling SSID broadcasting means that your wireless network won’t appear in the list of “Available Wireless Networks” on any nearby computer. Theoretically, this makes your network more secure. Since your neighbors won’t be able to see your network, how could they connect to it? Unfortunately, disabling the SSID does nothing to hide your wireless network from hackers using programs that scan the airwaves for wireless networks. In fact, it makes it look like you’ve got something to hide, much like putting an expensive purchase in the back of a hatchback and covering it with a blanket does. Additionally, disabling SSID broadcasting makes it harder to troubleshoot connection problems, and also makes it difficult for your guests to connect to your wireless network. Using WPA with a complex password means your neighbors can see your network, but they can’t access it. And hackers will find your network one way or the other, so let them find yours easily, try to hack it and fail, and move on to the next network.

Changing the SSID: This is actually a good one to do. Most wireless routers have their manufacturer’s name as the SSID by default. If you’ve ever used a wireless network, you’ve almost certainly seen a wireless network called “linksys” at some point or the other. Changing the SSID to something nondescript tells hackers that you’ve at least thought about security enough to do this step. Much like how the automobile security device The Club worked simply by making car thieves move on to another car, changing your SSID just might be enough to make hackers move on to the “linksys” networks.

Enabling MAC filtering: Every networked device – wireless or not – has a unique serial number called a Media Access Control (MAC) address. Most wireless routers have a feature that allows you to enter the MAC addresses of every device you want to connect to the wireless network. So, in theory, only devices that you explicitly approve can connect to your wireless network. The reality is that any hacker that scans your network can find the MAC address of one (or all) of your devices. He or she can then “spoof” the MAC address on their own computer and get full access to your network. Filtering MAC addresses also means that you’ll have to obtain the 12-digit MAC address from any guest that wants to use your network, then enter it into your router’s configuration page. Which is no fun, especially when there’s almost zero payoff from this “security measure” in the first place. Seriously folks – MAC sniffing and spoofing is so easy to do that it’s almost laughable.

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Taco Seasoning!

Ever wanted to make tacos at home but found yourself without taco seasoning? Fear not – it’s dead simple to make taco seasoning at home! And you can even customize the mix to your tastes or health needs! Just start with my base recipe:

2 tablespoons chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

All you’ve gotta do is measure each ingredient and dump it into a Ziploc bag. Once you’ve gotten all the ingredients in, close the bag and shake vigorously to mix. The base recipe makes around 1 ounce, which is good for seasoning 1-1.5 pounds of ground beef. Just brown the beef, drain, add the dry mix and 3/4 cup water and stir well. Allow the mixture to come to a boil, stirring often, then switch heat to low and simmer for several minutes. You can also scale this recipe up and make a huge batch that’ll last for around 6 months in an airtight container.

You can, of course, easily tweak this recipe to your preferences. I like my tacos fiery, so I usually add an extra tablespoon of chili powder, a couple of tablespoons of Habanero Seasoning From Hell, and use 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt instead of 1 teaspoon of table salt (sea salt has a much more pronounced flavor than table salt, so you can use less).

Got Time Warner Cable?

Got Time Warner cable? If so, check out this new site It’s a handy guide to everything available on your OnDemand channels! It’s kind of interesting that no one has done TV listings for OnDemand programming before. Time Warner currently offers hundreds of movies and shows per month, but it’s tiring to sort through all the choices using the remote control. It’s much more convenient using a searchable and highly optimized website instead. Take it for a test drive… I like it!

The Tragedy of the Wilhelm Gustloff

Mention “disasters at sea” and most Americans will think of the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. A history buff might think of the sinking of the R.M.S. Lusitania, a British passenger ship sunk by a German torpedo three years later. Some might even think of the Andrea Doria, an Italian ship that struck the MS Stockholm in the north Atlantic in 1956.

But the fact is, all of these disasters pale compared to the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff in World War II. 1,520 people lost their lives in the Titanic disaster. Lusitania’s sinking lost 1,198 souls. Almost everyone survived the sinking of the Andrea Doria, except for 46 people who were killed on impact with the other ship. At least twice as many people died in the Wilhelm Gustloff disaster compared to Titanic, Lusitania and the Andrea Doria combined. At a minimum, 5,348 people were lost from the Wilhelm Gustloff, although many speculate that the actual numbers of the dead could be twice that number. And sadly, almost no one knows anything about the tragedy.

The Wilhelm Gustloff was the first German cruise ship built under the Nazi’s Kraft durch Freude (“Strength Through Joy”) program. Named after the assassinated leader of the Swiss Nazi Party, the ship was built by the Blohm and Voss shipyards and launched on May 5, 1937. For the first two years of her existence, the Wilhelm Gustloff served her intended purpose of providing leisure activities for Nazi party members. Concerts, dinner cruises and even full-blown vacations aboard the Gustloff were offered as enticements to German citizens for meeting certain goals, or as recognition for a job well done.

Of course, World War II changed all that and the Gustloff was pressed into wartime service. From September 1939 to November 1940, the Gustloff served as a hospital ship; later on in the war she was used as a barracks for U-boat trainees. In this capacity, she was docked at Gotenhafen, in East Prussia (which is now called Gdynia, and is part of Poland).

By January 1945, the Soviet Army was rapidly closing in on East Prussia. In fact, by January 23, 1945 East Prussia was effectively surrounded and cut off from the rest of the German-speaking world. Many Germans had firsthand knowledge of the many atrocities committed by the Wehrmacht during their invasion of the Soviet Union, and reports began to trickle in of Soviet “revenge atrocities”. In many villages, the Soviet soldiers raped every single German-speaking woman they could find. Many German women and children were lined up and shot without mercy. As you might guess, the Germans trapped in East Prussia were terrified of what might happen to them when the Soviet Army came. German admiral Karl Dönitz knew that the war was lost, and on that same date (January 23, 1945) he radioed naval command in Gotenhafen and ordered them to begin “Operation Hannibal”: the evacuation of as many people as possible.

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Get Windows Server 2008 free!

If you’re willing to sit through a Microsoft product launch, you can snag yourself free copies of Windows Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008 and the CTP (Beta) of SQL Server 2008! Yes friends, Microsoft recently started this product launch site where you can sign up for an event in your area. I’ve been to several Microsoft product launches over the years. And while it’s just a trade show where Microsoft beats into your head how good their products are, I have gone away with useful information about new Microsoft products… “such as Local Continuous Replication in Exchange 2007!”

Anyway, pick your closest venue and check it out. At the end of the day, you’ll get free copies of Windows Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008 and  (sadly) a public beta of SQL Server 2008. Enjoy!

Windows 2008 Launch

Quick Pimpage

There’s not a lot going on with the site today, so I just wanted to take a couple of minutes to pimp out some cool apps and sites that I enjoy:

I got a new widescreen monitor for Christmas. As soon as I had it hooked up, I went looking for new and groovy wallpapers… but there was a problem. Many “wallpaper websites” are infested with pop-ups and malware. Many other sites are a couple of years behind and only offer standard 4:3 resolution wallpapers. Many wallpaper sites also don’t have any quality control, and are thus overrun with crappy Photoshop collages of swimsuit models. I somehow managed to find InterfaceLift… and boy was I happy!


InterfaceLift offers quality wallpapers at 2560×1600, 1920×1200, 1680×1050, 1440×900, 1280×800, 480×272 and 1600×1200, 1280×1024, 1280×960, 1024×768, 320×240. You can easily browse wallpapers in your preferred resolution simply by clicking on that resolution on InterfaceLift’s homepage. And what wallpapers they are, folks! Although user-submitted, the wallpapers come in a huge variety and most are stunning examples of photography. Sure, they’re a bit on the “artsy” side, and sure, the site skews towards cityscapes, pictures of beaches and still lifes of flowers… but I guarantee that you’ll find something you like there… and in the resolution you need!

By the way… do you like the screen capture of InterfaceLift shown above? You can create thumbnail pictures of almost any website using a free service called websnapr. All you’ve gotta do is go to websnapr’s site, enter a URL and then select the thumbnail size you want (the InterfaceLift thumb is “medium”). You’ll probably then see a “this picture is in the queue” graphic… just wait a couple of minutes and reload the page and PRESTO! you have a free thumbnail of the page in question. It’s quick, it’s easy and I like it!

Lastly, do you do screen captures often? I do, and although I like Windows’ built-in PRINT SCREEN and ALT+PRINT SCREEN process, it does have its limitations. First of all, PRINT SCREEN only copies an image of your screen to the clipboard. This is fine if you’re pasting the images directly into a Word document, but if you want to save them as “standalone” images, you’d need to paste the screen captures into an imaging program like Phot shop or MS Paint. And then you have to save the images. Which isn’t hard, but it’s still a pain in the butt. And then there’s the fact that PRINT SCREEN lacks granular control. PRINT SCREEN captures your entire screen, while ALT+PRINT SCREEN captures the entire active window. What if you only want to capture a part of the active window, or a small portion of two windows side-by-side? If these are common complaints for you, you just might want to check out Cropper, a free program written by Brian Scott, a .Net Application Architect and Developer in Phoenix. Cropper puts an icon in the system tray: just click it, and a transparent blue box appears on your screen. Just move the box to where you want to capture the screen and drag the edges of the box to the size you need…  anything within that box will be captured when you double-click on the box. Images can be copied to the clipboard or copied as BMP, JPG or PNG images to a folder that you define. You can even have Cropper automatically generate thumbnails of your captures, too! All in all, it’s a nifty little program. It’s free (but requires the .NET Framework 2.0). Check it out today!


Last July I posted this article about iTunes Library Updater (iTLU). iTLU solves an annoying (and major) problem with iTunes: when you first install iTunes, the program scans your computer for music. After that, the only way to add music to your iTunes library is to either rip a CD using iTunes or buy music from the iTunes online store. If you prefer to rip your music using some other program, or if you download music from any other source (legal or not), there’s simply no way to add it to your iTunes library. So if you were to buy some music from Amazon’s new online store, you won’t be able to add it to your library… which means that you can’t put it on your iPod. And that’s where iTLU comes in. You just tell it which folders to scan, and it’ll add any music it finds there to your iTunes library.

I’ve used the program for over six months now, and I’ve found it invaluable. It “just works”. And that’s great. But there’s one nifty feature I didn’t mention in my original post that I thought you might want to be aware of: profiles. When you open iTLU, you’re presented with this window:


You then click the small button next to “Locations” to add folders for iTLU to look in. You choose which file types to look for in the “Extensions” box. You then choose which options iTLU should use (“Add new music”, “Clean orphan entries”). When everything’s ready, you click the “Start” button. Here’s what my iTLU window looks like just before I’d click the “Start” button:

iTLU UI (Mine)

It’s not that difficult to get everything ready to go on my computer, but it does take 11 mouse clicks. You see that button named “Save profile”? This is the nifty feature I wanted to tell you about. “Save profile” will save every setting you’ve chosen in the iTLU window. So the next time you open iTLU, you’d only need to click “Open profile” > [choose profile file] > Start. That’s 3 mouse clicks versus 11 clicks, and that’s pretty neat.

What’s even cooler is that you can use the console version of iTLU (ITLUconsole.exe) to load the saved profile and run iTLU from the command-line. Which means that you can have iTLU update your iTunes library with a single click via batch file, or even have Windows Scheduler run the task automatically! The command-line syntax couldn’t be easier:

[path to ITLUconsole.exe] /p:[path to profile settings file]

What’s even cooler is that the profile settings files themselves are simple XML files, so if you’re comfortable with editing XML, you can easily create custom settings files for different situations. For example, iTLU needs to open iTunes itself to update the library. I would normally have iTunes open anyway when I update my library, so the “Close iTunes” setting in my default profile is “false”. However, if I want to have iTLU update iTunes automatically via scheduled task, I wouldn’t want iTunes left open. So I opened the profile settings file with my favorite text editor and changed the “<closeiTunes>” setting to TRUE, and then saved the settings file with a new name. Cool, eh?

News for 01/25/2008

This has to be a joke! The British tabloid The Sun ran this article a few days ago about the latest crime scam: criminals putting midgets in suitcases, then checking them in for long-distance bus rides. Once stowed in the luggage compartment, the midgets get out of the suitcase, then rifle through the rest of the bags looking for money, jewels and electronics. Once they’ve looted to their heart’s content, they put the stolen goods in the suitcase and zip themselves in. When the bus arrives at its destination, the criminal then picks up the bag and exits the terminal. Come on… this is a joke, right?

Speaking of the UK, their march to complete submission to Islam continued this week when a government agency decided that the story of the Three Little Pigs was offensive to Muslims. Basically, a digital version of the book was submitted to the panel for the Bett Award (apparently an award for childrens’ books, similar to America’s Newbery Medal). The judges decided that a story about pigs would offend Muslims, so they rejected the book completely. And the Brits wonder why some people call their capital “Londonistan”!

The first commercial fax machine was sold in 1861. For real.

According to this Ripley’s Believe It Or Not comic, there are only two people left in the entire world that speak Ayapan Zoque, the indigenous language of the Olmecas people in Mexico. And the thing is, the two men are 70 year-old brothers… that refuse to speak to each other!

Want to save some money? If you’re a coupon clipper, you might want to wait four weeks after clipping the coupons before using them. Apparently, grocery stores have predetermined cycles for which items go one sale, and you’ll often see items on sale four weeks after their coupons appear in your local newspaper. A blogger at the Simple Dollar site says that “around 40%” of the items should be on sale, so just hold off and you can save some money!!

Best Buy gets our “Classy Retailer of the Month” award this month. Apparently one of their stores put up this display within hours of Heath Ledger’s death:

Best Buy - Heath Ledger

Niiiiiiccce. Nothing like a tragedy to move a few DVDs, huh? Coming in second place in our new “Classy Retailer of the Month” competition is British retailer John Lewis. John Lewis stores sell electronics, including Apple computers. A Neowin reader went inside to check out the new Macs when he spotted this display:

Apple Piracy Display

He then noticed that the movie playing on the computer was a pirated version of Pirates of the Caribbean:

Apple Piracy Detail

aXXo is one of the most famous DVD rippers in the Internet underground. He is famous for his high quality rips of DVDs that haven’t hit the market yet (most speculate that aXXo either works in a facility that manufactures or packages DVDs or has a good friend that does). In any case, you’d think that the sales weasels at John Lewis would think to at least rename the file… but no. Instead they simply show the entire world that someone at the store is a pirate! Classy! I bet Steve Jobs is happy to hear this story!


As you probably know, Congress passed some “anti-terror” legislation a few years ago that requires American citizens entering the United States from Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean to have passports, where previously a driver’s license and\or birth certificate might have sufficed. This has led to an explosion passport requests, as people that might never have gotten a passport in the past now need one for almost all international travel.

Part of getting a passport is having pictures of yourself taken for it. While you’ve always been able to use your own pictures, most people opted to get them taken at a professional photo shop. This is mostly likely due to the photo requirements of the passport office: the pictures must be 2×2″ and have a neutral (white or off-white) background. These are hardly insurmountable problems, mind you, but at the end of the day most people opted for the easy route and shelled out $8-$12 to have a “professional” take the pictures for you.

But no more. At the website ePassportPhoto, you can upload a digital photo of yourself and the website will crop it and make sure it fits all of the State Department’s requirements. It’ll then spit out six or eight 2×2″ photographs as a single image file that you can then print using your home printer, or print at your local Walgreens\Wal Mart\photo shop for less than 50¢. All you need to do is take a picture of yourself in front of “a white or off-white background” and make sure that you have a “neutral expression, open eyes, and closed mouth”. A few mouse clicks later and you’ve got passport photos!!


And it’s not just for Americans, either. ePassportPhoto has the skinny on passport picture requirements for over 60 countries, so whether you’re a Peruvian or Brit that needs a new set of passport pictures, ePassportPhoto can hook you up!