Tuesday, December 18, 2007

How To Create PDF Documents For Free!

For those of you that occasionally need to convert documents and spreadsheets into pdf format, here is a great trick.

Google has recently released a free word processor and spreadsheet that can be used online for free. Although not as robust as Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel, these programs do offer an impressive feature set. Google allows you to save your created files online through your Google account, and even upload Microsoft files and view or edit them within Google Documents.

If you need to create a quick pdf file of a Microsoft Word or Excel file, here is a great way to do it for free.

Open up Google Documents and select upload at the top of the page. Browse your hard drive for the file that you want to convert and upload it into Google Documents. After your file uploads, it will appear opened inside of Google documents and you will be able to view and edit your file.

To create a pdf, simply select file and then export as pdf. You'll have a brand new pdf file of your document within seconds.

Monday, September 10, 2007

How to Stream Itunes Plus Downloads to Xbox 360

The new iPod touch players look fantastic. So much so that I've become determined to make the switch to an Apple iPod.

Unfortunately, I use an Xbox 360 and a Roku Soundbridge to stream music throughout my house. The Soundbridge seems to have no problem streaming the "unprotected" Itunes plus tracks, but the Xbox 360 was a no-go.

Here is what I did to get it to work.

Microsoft's Zune software has the same media server abilities as Windows Media Player. However, unlike WMP it is also capable of streaming Apples AAC format as well as mp3's and WMA tracks. Plus, it streams video's and photos as well, which apparently is a requirement of Xbox 360's media streaming function.

I downloaded the Zune software onto my laptop and it automatically imported my Itunes plus AAC tracks into the library. I also downloaded the Xbox 360 update that enables AAC decoding. Its a free download in the games section of the Xbox Live Marketplace.

I disconnected my WMP streaming laptop from the "Computers" section of the system blade in the Xbox 360. Then I went to the Music section and selected "Computer." I was given the option to select a computer to stream from and I selected the "Zune" server.

Xbox 360 was able to see my Itunes plus track but it did not play it. However, it did play AAC music that was ripped from a CD into Itunes. This was progress.

Apparently, the "unprotected" Itunes plus track has some extra data that makes it unplayable in the Xbox 360. Not exactly DRM free. Hopefully Microsoft will address this and fix it in the future. In the meantime, there is a semi-painless workaround.

If you open Itunes and right click your Itunes plus track, you have an option to convert it to AAC. This will slightly downgrade the quality, but it will make the track playable on your Xbox 360. Unfortunately, it also makes an extra copy the track on your hard drive which eats up more space.

Not a perfect solution, but its good enough for me. I'm going to order an iPod touch now.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

3 Ways to Print Wireless

As a wifi laptop user, I often carry my computer to various places around the house to do work. But I only have one printer which is in my office. I often find it frustrating to have to carry my laptop into the office when I just want to print something quickly. Here are three solutions to that problem.

  1. Buy a printer with built-in ethernet or wifi.
  2. Get a router with a built in printer port.
  3. Buy a wireless print server.
If you just bought a printer recently and you don't want to upgrade to a wireless model, your best bet would be to upgrade your router or get a wireless print server.

However, if it is time to upgrade that printer, do yourself a favor and get these features built in. Its an simpler and cleaner solution to wireless printing.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Set up a Cheap THX Certified Sound System

A room busting THX Certified Home theater system doesn't have to completely bust your budget. Although some THX certified theaters can easily sell in the $10,000 + range, a smart consumer can put together a great sound system for under $1000.

The home theater in a boxonkyo hts990thx system is one of the best values in home theater on the market. Here are a few of the details.

  • 110 Watts per Channel Minimum into 8 Ohms, 2 Channels Driven, FTC
  • HDTV-Capable (50 MHz) Component Video Switching (3 Inputs/1 Output)
  • Color-Coded 7.1-Multichannel Inputs (Receive 7.1 Surround Sound from Compatible Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD Players)
  • XM Ready with XMHD Surround

The best part about this system is the price...currently $799.00 at Amazon. And the consumer reviews I've seen have been pretty positive. One of the few complaints is the absence of HDMI inputs.........which may not be necessary if your TV already has HDMI inputs.

Everything you need is in the box. And although its not on par with top of the line systems, it will be very pleasing for most users and you won't have to worry about all the extra work, money and research that comes with a high-end system.

How to Soundproof your Home Theatre

Sound and Vision is currently running a nice article on soundproofing your home theater. Some of the recommendations include double-stacking drywall, installing a dense acoustic matting material or use natural soundproofing materials, beefing up windows and doors and sealing gaps.

The ultimate goal is to increase the STC (sound transmission class) rating which describes a material's ability to affect sound transfer. A rating of 65 or higher usually results in a great soundproof theater.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

How to get free anti virus software and spyware

For those of you unable or unwilling to pay the pricey annual subscriptions for the of Norton Anti-Virus or McAfee, there is another option. AVG offers totally free anti virus programs for non-business users. It is not quite as full-featured as Norton or McAfee, but it is a quality program that can be downloaded for free at download.com. You can use AVG for real-time anti virus protection and to run scheduled daily scans. AVG regularly updates its virus definitions which you can download for free.

While you are there, make sure to download a copy of Ad-Aware 2007, a free anti spy program that is widely used on the Internet.

With these programs, you get anti virus spyware free software that will protect your computer from threats without threatening your wallet.

5 Ways to Listen to Mp3's in Your Car

Mp3 players allow you to carry your entire music collection with you wherever you go. But listening to those tracks on your car stereo isn't always easy and straightforward. Here are 5 ways to get those mp3's playing in your car.

  1. iPod dock - If you have an ipod, this is a great option available in some new cars like the Scion line. Plug in your iPod and browse your tracks through your stereo interface.
  2. Auxiliary jack - Most new cars are now including an aux jack as a standard feature on their car stereo systems. You connect your mp3 player to the aux jack via an audio cable and use your players interface to select tracks. If your car doesn't have this, you can buy a relatively inexpensive new car stereo with an aux jack and replace your current system. Discount mp3 players such as an ipod shuffle or a creative zen stone will work great with this option.
  3. Fm transmitter - This option allows your mp3 player to transmit an FM signal that your car stereo can pick up with its fm tuner. I've tried this option and found the quality to be inconsistent, but it may be an option.
  4. Cassette adapter. This is an old fashioned option that allows you to transmit a signal from your mp3 players line-out to a car stereo tape deck. Again, not the best quality, but it works.
  5. Travel speakers - The final and crudest option is to use a pair of travel speakers that are designed to work with an mp3 player. It bypasses your audio system altogether........but at least you get your own music.