Monthly Archives: November 2008

Five Best CD and DVD Burning Tools [Hive Five]

The internet has made it easier than ever to share media and data with friends, family, and co-workers, but that doesn’t mean burning your own CDs and DVDs is a thing of the past. Blank optical discs are dirt cheap, they work virtually everywhere, and if you bought your computer sometime in the last 5 years, chances are you’ve got the necessary hardware to quickly burn anything you want to a disc in just a few minutes. Now all you need is the right authoring tools. Earlier this week we asked you to share your favorite CD and DVD burning tools, and today we’re back with the five most popular answers. Keep reading for a closer look at your favorites, then cast a vote for the burning tool you like best. Photo by the trial.

InfraRecorder (Windows)

InfraRecorder is a free, open-source CD and DVD burning application for Windows. InfraRecorder covers almost any of your optical needs, including support for burning disc images, copying discs, creating quick audio CDs, writing video DVDs, erasing discs, and more. InfraRecorder is lightweight and decidedly bloat-free, and it’s even available as a portable app you can carry on your thumb drive to satisfy your burning needs no matter where you are.

ImgBurn (Windows/Linux)

ImgBurn is a free CD and DVD Swiss Army knife for Windows (it also runs on Linux under Wine). ImgBurn can write data from a variety of formats, burns audio CDs, ISOs, and video DVDs, including regular DVD, HD DVD, and Blu-ray DVD. As an added bonus, ImgBurn can read a disc to an image on your hard drive and build a disc image from files on your computer. It’s fast, easy to use, and doesn’t cost a penny. Incidentally, this app is still actively developed by the same developer who built the once very popular DVD Decrypter.

K3b (Linux)

K3b (which stands for KDE Burn Baby Burn) is an open-source burning application for Linux. Like the rest, K3b supports common tasks like burning audio CDs, data discs, disc images and disc copying. For movie lovers, K3b can even rip your DVDs to your hard drive in either of the popular DivX or Xvid formats. If you’re running Linux, K3b is easily one of the most popular options for burning anything to your optical discs.

CDBurnerXP (Windows)

CDBurnerXP is a free authoring software for Windows. Despite its name, CDBurnerXP works with Windows Vista, 2000, 2003 Server, and XP; it also burns to CD and DVD, including HD and Blu-ray. It’s got a small footprint, and like most of the other options, burns data discs, audio CDs, and ISOs without a hitch. CDBurnerXP is light, fast, and free, requires .NET 3.5.

Nero (Windows/Linux)

Nero 9 is a shareware optical media authoring tool for Windows that’s long been the go-to favorite for robust, user-friendly CD and DVD burning for a price. Detractors complain that Nero is slow and bloated (and the 370MB download, 2GB free space requirement, and long install time doesn’t inspire confidence to the contrary), but fans argue that you can install only what you need from Nero and that its simplicity more than makes up for the bloat. Nero 9 is an $80 shareware (grab the trial here), Windows only, requires .NET 3.0. Linux users can give Nero Linux a go for $25.

Now that you’ve seen the best, it’s time to vote for your favorite authoring tool.
Which Is the Best CD and DVD Burning Tool?
( polls)

This week’s honorable mentions go out to Windows-only applications BurnAware Free (original post) and Ashampoo (original post), followed by Linux-only Brasero (the Gnome counterpart to the KDE-focused K3b) and Mac OS X-only Toast. Whether or not the CD or DVD authoring tool that’s the apple of your eye made the short list, let’s hear more about it in the comments.

Bulk Rename Utility Blasts Through Your File Naming Tasks [Featured Windows Download]

Windows only: Take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the 747-dashboard of an interface that graces Bulk Rename Utility and you’ll be rewarded with an enormously powerful tool. You can rename files, substitute some or all of the file name, apply numbers and lettering, swap extensions, append with time and date stamps, rename based on image EXIF data and audio ID3 data, and all that just scratches the surface. Concerned that somewhere in the labyrinth of check and text boxes you may have misstepped? The quick preview function is a fast and handy feature to help you sidestep any mishaps. After Bulk Rename Utility came reader recommended in the comments of Ken Rename, it has become a completely indispensable part of my file management work flow. Bulk Rename is freeware, Windows only.Thanks IOStreamCTO!

Send Text Messages From Your Email Account [SMS]

Three years ago we showed you how to send a text message via email to the six major carriers in the US. At the tips and tricks blog MakeUseOf, they’ve compiled a list of over sixty domestic and international carriers and the corresponding email address formats used for each. In the screenshot to the left, you can see the format for sending a plain text message to a user on the Sprint network: Place your friend’s phone number in front of the proper provider domain and you’re on your way. Remember if you get carried away typing, that your poor friend will be reading it on a tiny phone screen and that some services truncate the length of text messages. For more texting tricks, check out how to be a power texter.

Build a Skype server and replace your land line


With some of my family overseas, Skype and iChat have become important tools for voice communication, second only to the cell phone and face to face protocol. It occurred to me that outside of telemarketers and the very occasional late-night pizza dial, the land line has become a relatively unused service. Unused, yet a consistent and not insubstantial monthly bill.

With thoughts of finally ditching the land line, but still a bit resistant to going completely phoneless in the home (what about when my cell battery dies?), I came across an article in Linux Journal by Andrew Sheppard, author of Skype Hacks, that shows you how to reconfigure your home telephone system to be completely routed through a server running Skype and Linux.

My solution was to build a Skype server that provides 24/7 phone service with the minimum of hassle and fuss. By dumping your regular phone company and taking back control of your home phone wiring using a Skype server, you will have not only a phone system with nearly the same capabilities as before–indeed, in some ways better–you will also save a bundle of money! In my case, I save a little less than $700 US each year (this year, next year, and the year after that, and so on), or about 82% off of my old phone bill.

Using a Skype server plugged in to the existing copper phone wiring of your home means that you can lift a receiver anywhere in your home, at any time, and get a regular dial tone. Incoming calls either from Skype users or regular phones ring all handsets throughout your home. Basically, you can make Skype behave like a regular phone line, but at a tiny fraction of the cost.

There are some big benefits to switching to a Skype server. It’s likely a lot cheaper and if you’re a regular Skype user, you can now use the service with any handset in the house instead of sitting at your computer.

There are also some downsides. The phone system still remains one of the most reliable services. It’s more likely that I’ll lose electricity than I won’t have a dial tone, which may be of some concern for fire and bugler alarm systems. You also wouldn’t have 911 service in this scenario, but if you have a cell phone anyway, this may be a moot point.

What are the rest of you hackers doing for phone service these days? Is it time to give up the land line entirely, simulate it with a Skype server or VoIP service, or are you still happily rocking the POTS? Give us a shout in the comments.

Build a Skype Server for Your Home Phone System
Andrew Sheppard's Skype Hacks – Tips & Tools for Cheap, Fun, Innovative Phone Service

WOODSMITH: Checking for square

The most reliable way to check an assembly for square is to compare diagonal measurements. The only drawback is that making these measurments accurately with only a tape measure is often easier said than done. So to aid me in this task, I made a very simple set of tape holders.

Each holder consists of a square block of plywood with two pieces of hardboard attached to adjacent sides, as shown in the drawings. The hardboard laps over the edges of the block on both sides so that the holder can hook over the corner of the assembly. The adjoining ends of the hardboard are mitered to form a slot that can hold the end of the tape or act as a “cursor” for your measurement (drawing and photo).

DrawingThe holders make taking the two diagonal measurements quick and easy. One minor regret is that I no longer have any excuse for an out of square assembly.

Have a nice weekend,
Ted Raife
Editor, Woodsmith

Sling Streams TV and Movies, Steps Up to Hulu [Television]

Web site Sling streams popular television shows and movies through a web-based Flash player. Sling is brought to you by the company behind the Slingbox, a living room gadget capable of streaming live TV from your home to any computer in the world. Sling’s new web interface extends those capabilities if you’ve got a Slingbox at home through the SlingPlayer Live TV page (Windows only for now), but for those of us who don't own a Slingbox, Sling is still an incredible new site for viewing licensed content à la Hulu. Sling hosts content from most of the major networks and studios (as TechCrunch points out, some of their content comes straight from Hulu), but it also hosts videos from smaller sources such as College Humor. Sling videos are embeddable, and as you can see below, the quality is aces.

Of course, many of the videos (like the one embedded above) are coming from Sling via Hulu, but despite the Hulu-Sling partnership, you’ll notice you can find some videos on Hulu that aren’t available on Sling and vice versa. Looks like Sling could be another excellent addition to our list of best sites to stream TV.

Tall Bookcase Plans

Tall Bookcase PlansWhen you’re home celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow, look around your house. If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that we can use more storage – as long as we don’t have to sacrifice a lot of floor space to get it. That’s what makes this tower bookcase so useful. It takes up less than two square feet of floor space – yet gives you six deep shelves for books and collectibles.

You can download the bookcase plans for free – they’re the sample plans offered to people considering joining So while you’re downloading the plans, be sure to check out PlansNOW’s new membership offers. That makes everything kosher (which is also nice on Thanksgiving). Have a terrific holiday!

Date Formatter Examples – Take 3

While working on an iPhone application recently, I needed to convert a date read from an XML stream that was in the following format: 20081122 to a nicely formatted string for display on the device: Saturday November 22, 2008.

How to get there from here is now obvious, however, when I first encountered this dilemma the […]

Redirecting output to syslog

People are always asking this and often when they are not they should be. How do you redirect all the output from a script to syslog?

The obvious is:

my_script | logger -p local6.debug -t my_script 2>&1

but how can you do that from within the script? Simple put this at the top of your script:

#!/bin/ksh logger -p daemon.notice -t ${0##*/}[$$] |& exec >&p 2>&1

Clearly this is korn shell specific but then who still writes bourne shell scripts. If you script was called redirect you get messages logged thus:

Nov 25 17:40:41 enoexec redirect[17449]: [ID 702911 daemon.notice] bar

Alert with TextFields

In a recent discussion with the UI designers for an upcoming iPhone application, I was asked if it’s possible to create an Alert that would overlay the splash screen, prompting for a username and password.

My original response (based on searching the documentation) was a regrettable, no. However, after some digging I did come upon an […]

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