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This and that

This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on January 19, 2007
(Issue 2503, Getting Rid of Malware)

Not the most exciting of headlines, I'll grant you. But it's a mishmash of a column – hopefully some good information that helps you out, but no grand thematic cohesion. Just a collection of tidbits on different topics.

Update on DVDs

A few weeks ago, we looked at finding software to make legal backups of your DVDs, a right guaranteed by Supreme Court decision – even though a trial judge currently has made it illegal to own or even link to software that makes it technologically possible to exercise that right.

A reader wrote in with an e-mail with a couple more suggestions that seem legit: DVD Fab and DVD Idle. Both decrypt, copy and re-compress files off of a DVD so you can burn them to a blank DVD (which has a smaller storage capacity than a commercial DVD).

While on the DVD Idle site, I found a free, small utility called Free DVD. It will remove the region code from DVD files you have copied to your hard drive, so if you've purchased DVDs while traveling and then can't play them in your U.S. DVD player, this utility should allow you to do just that.

The Bat updated again

The Bat e-mail client has a new update, now in version 3.95.06. The main change here is full compatibility with Windows Vista - so users of The Bat (which, aside from stability problems, I fully loved until switching back to Eudora last year) can now upgrade to Vista without losing their fave e-mal program.

The Bat is also now compatible with Microsoft Exchange (Outlook) mail servers, so those who are bound to use the Microsoft mail server can still have the security of an e-mail client other than Outlook. It also seems to have more foreign language compatibility (it is an Eastern European outfit publishing The Bat), in both displaying messages and in handling file attachments with non-English characters in the file name.

From online to your harddrive

If you've played any of the popular PopCap games on online game sites like, you've likely gotten hooked on games like "Rocket Mania" or "Bookworm."

The folks at PopCap are now offering these games as downloads – well, they have been for awhile, but I recently had the chance to play the complete version of "Bookworm Adventures" all the way through.

What's neat about "Bookworm Adventures" (and even the free, limited-play version of "Rocket Mania" I downloaded) is that because they were written to be playable in an online environment, they're not very big. And yet, they're both addictive as all get-out.

Know that that combo reminds me of?

The classic 8-bit games we used to play in the 1980s. The old Sierra Online adventure games like "King's Quest."

The graphics are bright and colorful, but not depending on 3-D graphics or even particularly high resolution.

Instead, the games' appearance is based on good artistry, clever design and bold colors.

"Bookworm Adventures" wouldn't look out of place on a Commodore 64 or Atari 800.

At $30, it might be a bit pricey for the niche it occupies. But if they're selling it, who am I to question?

Besides, until I finished "Bookworm Adventures," I played it every day – and it took me about four evenings to finish it. Seeing as I'm a writer and thus a word geek, I probably got through it faster than most folks might.

You can see all the PopCap games at

The Filter

A new utility, available as a free download, offers to automatically generate playlists of like music from your iTunes library.

I've no idea how on Earth the programmers of The Filter determine what these like characteristics are.

It's a 15 MB download, and for now, it's free. Install was seamless, it found my copy of iTunes for Windows immediately (an OSX version as well as a Windows Media Player version for Windows are both in Alpha testing).

To use the filter, it's easy as pie: Choose a favorite song then click on "Create playlist from song." I chose "Lost on the Way" by the late Buddy Blue's San Diego band, The Jacks.

And to be honest, the playlist The Filter generated wasn't bad. It included Buddy's close friend Lee Rocker's song, "Can't Say No," and songs by alt-country-norteño singer Tish Hinojosa, Zappa's Mothers of Invention, San Diego torch singer Steph Johnson (a particular fave of Buddy right before we lost him last spring), Tina Turner and Mick Jagger.

What's fun about The Filter is it finds songs you might not pick yourself. And if one of the songs it fits just drives you crazy, all it's done is create a playlist in iTunes: So go edit the playlist! Lose the song you hate, add another in its place - or go with a shorter playlist.

But for music nuts like me, The Filter is pretty darn fun. I've got almost 5,000 songs in my iTunes library (most ripped from CD or recorded from LP), and some of them undoubtedly do go unplayed and unloved, as The Filter's Web site says.

For a free download, it's pretty hard to go wrong.