VLC Media Player, or VideoLAN Client, is a program to play a wide array of video file formats as well as act as a video streaming server. It is a free, open source program that is available for Windows, Macintosh and Linux computers. We like VLC because of its universality, as it will play Windows video (.avi, and .wmv), Quicktime (.mov), Flash video (.flv), DivX and other MPEG4 formats such as h.264, as well as standard DVDs. It will even handle Real Player formats and popular audio file formats. It’s definitely a handy program to include in your toolkit.
Official VLC Media Player website
Picasa is a digital photo organizer and editor, and when you add to it the Picasa Web Albums service, you have a terrific all-in-one set of tools to make managing your digital photo collection very easy. It is available for Windows, Mac (Intel Macs only) and Linux computers, and it can easily replace, or at least complement the native imaging programs that come with Windows machines (Windows Photo Gallery) and Macintosh’s (iPhoto). And while Flickr is probably a bit more mature in the online photo sharing service market, Picasa Web Albums is at least competitive. There is even an uploader program that is stand-alone or works as an iPhoto plugin, which makes it a breeze to get your images shared on the web. You also have the option of making images private to only certain individuals that you designate via email. Picasa continuously scans your hard drive for new images that you add to your computer, and it also works as an importer for most digital cameras. It provides many of the basic features for editing images such as resizing, eliminating red-eye, and even straightening and cropping images.
If you would like to integrate Picasa and Flickr you can install a button to do a one-click upload to your Flickr account. You need to download the Flickr Uploader program from the tools page. Then you will need to install the picasa2flickr plugin. The installation (instructions are here) copies a file with a .pbz extension so you need to install Picasa and the Flickr uploader first. Picasa has quickly become a favorite program in the New Media Center. We think it should be part of your toolkit.
If you ever wished that the websites that you bookmark could be available to you wherever you connect to the web, then the Delicious service is just what you need. Once you sign up for an account you can copy web addresses (URLs) from websites you’d like to save, and paste them into the Delicious “Save a new bookmark” form. Additionally, you can tag those saved bookmarks with keywords to help you keep them organized. The social angle of the website happens as other people you know obtain a Delicious account. You can see what others in your network have bookmarked, and you can save bookmarks for other people in your network. In essence you are sending a recommendation of a website for your friends, family, or colleagues to take a look at. When you return to the Delicious site, any bookmarks that have been recommended to you by your network, will be in your Delicious Inbox.
Another powerful feature that is built into the Delicious service is RSS feeds by tag. So let’s say that you tag some bookmarked sites with “education”, the links to those sites can be re-published as a dynamic feed on another website. If you wanted to get really specific, you could have students in a class tag their bookmarks with something like “umweduc220s09″ for the Spring 2009 Education 220 class at UMW. Students in that class could thereby share those found resources with each other.
Delicious not only let’s you save website bookmarks, but you can also save links to media files as well. If you save a bookmark to a media files such as an .mp3, Delicious will provide a small player program for you to listen to the media file. Delicious also provides some tools that you can use to help you manage and save your bookmarks easily through the use of some tools. The Delicious Bookmark tool for Firefox is a great example of a way within the Firefox browser to search and manage your saved bookmarks. It will even keep track of your most visited bookmarks so you have quick links to those most often used resources and websites. There is also a Delicious Bookmark tool for Internet Explorer. Though we do recommend Firefox for lots of reasons. The Delicious service can be as simple as an online bookmark site, or as fancy as a creating a personal podcast using the tools and techniques described above.
Burn is a free, Macintosh program that allows you to burn data files to CDs and DVDs. It has similar capabilities to the commercial programs Roxio (Roxio Toast is available for the Mac) or Nero, you can also create audio CDs, create and burn ISO images (an ISO image would be a multiple file disc saved as a single file), and create bootable discs. There is an equivalent free Windows program is called CDBurner XP.
Official Burn website
HandBrake is a free, open-source program that will take files from an unencrypted DVD, as well as other high quality video sources, and convert them into mpeg4 videos. This includes the “h.264″ version of mpeg4 which is of very high quality and at lower bit-rates. In other words, you can start with a DVD movie that is 4GB in size and convert it to a file that looks as good in terms of quality and is only 1.5GB in size. These smaller files can then be played back from a computer using QuickTime, or in one of our favorite programs VLC Player. They could also be played in a web page with the new Flash player which supports h.264 in addition to flash video (flv). This program is available for both the Mac and the PC.
Official handBrake website
CDBurner XP is a free, Windows only program that allows you to burn data files to CDs and DVDs. Similar to the commercial programs such as Roxio (Roxio Toast is available for the Mac) or Nero, you can also create audio CDs, create and burn ISO images (an ISO image would be a multiple file disc saved as a single file), and create bootable discs. There is an equivalent free Mac program is called Burn.
Latest version of CDBurner XP
courtesy of FileHippo.com
Official CDBurner XP website
Summary: Firefox is a free Internet web browser that works on Windows, Macintosh, and Linux computers. It is feature-filled and extensible, which means you can add functionality to Firefox by installing “Add-ons” (plugins). Read on to find out why you should use Firefox, or go immediately to the page where you can download it.
Why You Should Use Firefox
So there used to be a bunch of reason to use Firefox here, but most of the reasons are also duplicated in all browsers these days. Things such as Tabbed Browsing , Built-in Google Search, Built-in Spell Check, Session recovery. What does make Firefox somewhat unique are its Add-ons! You can extend Firefox’s functionality with small add on “programs” that give Firefox additional capabilities. Here are a few popular ones that we use.
For even more added functionality:
Official Firefox website
Go Get Firefox
Audacity is a free audio editor that can be used on Windows, Macintosh, and Linux operating systems. By itself, Audacity can record, edit and save uncompressed audio files, as well as add special effects. You can also convert sound files to MP3 format for use on web pages, to create podcasts, or to play on an MP3 player such as an iPod. You will need to download an additional file to perform the MP3 export, but it is easily installed on your computer. You can find further information about using Audacity on their wiki page (support site).
You can view a screencast (about 7 1/2 minutes) that will show you how to install and set up Audacity and install the MP3 export feature. You can also view a PDF document on how to install Audacity (PC and Mac) and how to record and save an audio file to MP3 format.
For more information, visit our Digital Audio overview site that will give you background information on audio players, audio recording, editing and more.