Download Music for FREE

Millions and millions of college kids are heading back to schools these days. I remember my freshman year of college for many things. I remember skipping freshman orientation because I had reached the end boss in Final Fantasy 7. I recall watching a captain on the football team fair catch a punt on the one yard line in a game that got postponed due to excessive rain. I remember sleeping in a Target parking lot to buy a PS2 on the day it came out. I recall going to a dance club where a guy on my floor met his future wife Angela… except he thought her name was “Avalon” for a full week.

Of all of the things I remember about college, one of the things that I remember the most was my first access to broadband internet. Of course, my cheapo college didn’t have broadband internet. I had to go visit friends across town at Concordia. While there, I’d bring a handful of blank CD-Rs. Armed with high-speed internet for the first time, we’d download literally thousands of songs at a time off of Napster.

At the time, this literally had blown my mind. For the past three years, I’d been tying up our phone line for hours at a time downloading MP3s off of individual webpages using our dialup internet, file download managers, and a program that would automatically hang up the internet connection at 5 AM (aka – before my parents woke up).

Then, the walls came tumbling down. All kinds of networks started to block access to Napster. Being a bit of a tech-wiz, I found loopholes around that. Then, all of the songs you downloaded off of Napster contained an annoying skipping sound. Before too long, the service was blocked completely by Johnny Law.

Over the next few years, all sorts of programs made their way around the interwebs. I tried Kazaa, Morpheus, eMule, LimeWire, Audiogalaxy… they all had all sorts of problems both legal and viral.

Then, a few years later, Apple came out with iTunes and rewrote the music industry. Various other programs (Spotify, Pandora, YouTube, etc) have done quite a bit to change the music industry as well.

How to download music for free

If you use the described process, you are violating the terms of service and possibly committing a crime. I don’t actually download much music anymore. I pay for Spotify Premium, but if I’ve already pre-ordered an album (for example – the Bloc Party’s “Four” which came out last week), I will download it without feeling any ethical guilt whatsoever since they are usually available on the internet anywhere between 2 days to 2 months before you can actually buy them. I go to anywhere from 10-15 live concerts per year and actually support the artists I enjoy, so I don’t lose a lot of sleep over this. I’m the guy that has hundreds of cds and music dvds… I can say honestly that I’m not the guy that “the man” needs to look for. How you use these instructions is obviously up to you, though.

  1. Head over to www.groovedown.me/download and download either the Windows or Mac version of Groovedown.
  2. Install program. Be sure to select “Custom Installation” and deselect boxes to change default search engine and default homepage.
  3. Open Groovedown and click on the settings tab. Change the “Download Savepath” to wherever you want to save these files on your computer.

  4. Click on the Search tab. Type in the name of an artist, song or album and click on search. Once the results come back, click on the blue “+” sign on the left to download a song.

  5. Click on the Downloads tab to monitor how quickly it’s downloading. Go to the folder on your computer where the download is located and you’ll see your music file. Simply import into iTunes (or other media player) and you are ready to go.

That’s literally all you need to get all the music you want. I don’t actually use this program (I prefer a paid program called Grappler from Little App Factory which also grabs YouTube videos), but it should work for you. Unlike Kazaa and Napster, you aren’t sharing your music which should help avoid being a target of one of those frivolous multi-million dollar RIAA lawsuits.

Once again, though… let me get on my soapbox. Please don’t download music exclusively. Support the artists you like… whether it is a Spotify subscription, going to concerts, buying a shirt… whatever.

Backing Up Your Computer for Dummies

Not a month goes by that someone doesn’t tell me “…you don’t realize how much you depend on your computer until it breaks.” I tend to nod and agree. We live in an age where almost everything we do involves computers. Subsequently, all of our important information is stored on our computers. Whether it’s email, family photos, important documents, or videos, you probably have many files on your computer that can’t be measured in monetary value.

Working in IT, I’ve been the guy that’s had to tell people that their computer is dead and their files are irretrievable (unless they want to shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars for the possibility of *maybe* getting their files back). It happens in real life and it can happen to you. There are thousands of real life examples, but here’s a recent story about tech journalist Mat Honan who had a password hacked and lost all of his files. If you have a computer with important files on it and you don’t have them appropriately backed up, it is like living life without health/car insurance. You hope you never have to use it, but you’ll be glad you did. The best news is you don’t need a computer degree to set this all up. With a minimal financial investment and no more than 30 minutes of your time, you can ensure your files are safe forever. This truly is backing up your computer for dummies.

The rule of 3-2-1

This is really simple. For important files, to be 100% certain that your files are backed up, you need to have 3 copies of each file in at least 2 different locations. At least 1 location needs to be offsite.

Why is all of this important? Shouldn’t you just be able to store a backup on a USB drive connected to your computer? When thinking about backups, we need to think about worse case scenario. What would happen if you had a fire, a flood, or a thief in your house? If your main computer is destroyed or stolen, it’s likely that box sitting right next to it will be, too.

The 3-2-1 rule ensures that no matter what happens, your files are safe.

Backups on Hard Drives

There are many different ways to back things up. The simplest way is to run to a local local store or check online and grab an external USB hard drive. Make sure that you have enough space to store all of your files and be sure to leave a lot of room for growth. You can grab a 1-2 terabyte external hard drive for around $70-120. For the average consumer, that is going to be more than enough.

Once you purchase an external drive, we’ve got to schedule backups. If you own a Mac, Time Machine is very easy to setup. The first time you hook up an external hard drive, it will ask you if you want to setup Time Machine. Follow the simple instructions and you will be backing up files in less than five minutes. The process is a little clunkier on Windows XP, but ridiculously easy on Windows 7.

Online Backups

I highly suggest signing up for a reputable online backup service. There are hundreds of backup services out there, but it’s very important to pick the right one. I know of one backup service that doesn’t make backups of your backups. I know of other backup services that offer great deals, but if the company goes out of business or raises prices, you are stuck.

I can give you a real life example. Two or three years ago, I signed up for unlimited online backup at mozy.com. They were offing an unbelievable deal of unlimited backup for $3-4 dollars per month. Being someone who backs up approximately 250 GB online, I needed an unlimited solution. So, I signed up for Mozy and began backing up. Online backup services take a loooooong time for your first backup (depending on your internet upload speed, weeks/months). Once everything is backed up, daily backups take almost no time at all. So after almost a year of backing up at Mozy, they decided to drop their unlimited backup plan. Their new plan was going to cost me $24/month (and rising as I used more data). Not wanting to pay an 800% increase in fees, I switched to a different provider. The bad news, though, my year of backing up data was kind of for nothing.

The best thing about online backups is they are idiot proof. If you have absolutely no idea what you are doing, most of the online backups are going to automatically select all your files. If you are a little bit more of an advanced user, you can select which file types and/or folders you want to ensure are backed up. You can do you research on which online service you’d like to use, but I suggest either Carbonite or CrashPlan. Both of them are priced very competitively (less than $5/month) and both are very reputable companies. I currently use Carbonite, but if I were to purchase online backup today, I’d probably go with Minnesota-based Crash Plan. If you purchase 4-years of service, you can backup up to 10 computers for just $6/month. If you do your own computer, you can get it for less than $3/month.

Which brings us full circle. I understand people who fail to realize how important it is to backup your computer. But now that you’ve reached the end of this (hopefully) educational article, do you really think a one-time investment of $70 and as little as $3/month is too steep a price to pay to ensure your files are safe?

Facebook Sucks

I remember a few years ago when this website named “Facebook” came out. I wasn’t able to get on it because I was already out of school (hence no .edu email address), but a bunch of my friends had started using it. I’d used MySpace before but didn’t particularly like it because of all the themes, auto-playing songs, and just general business.

About a month before I got married in 2006, I started using Facebook. For the first few years, it was absolutely my favorite website on the internet. I was able to connect with some long lost friends. I got to see pictures of what all my friends were up to. On my birthday, about 10 different people said Happy Birthday. It was very simple, but it was awesome.

Fast forward a few years. The website starts to add advertisements. Annoying, but whatever. Then they add apps. Super annoying? How do I turn this thing off? They change the format to this goofy Timeline format. They change their mobile app so it’s almost useless. Now my simple little page has turned into a mess.

What once was my favorite site is now rarely visited anymore. I can’t remember the last time I had an interesting conversation on Facebook. I can tell you the last time someone asked me to add my birthday to their Birthday Calendar or play whatever random game I have no interest whatsoever in playing.

Over the past few months, I’ve debated whether or not I should just delete my account. I feel like it adds absolutely no quality of life. Every time I go on their, I find someone ranting and raving about something political. Or someone that I was on the fence about adding as a friend in the first place winds up posting about 200 times per day. If it isn’t that, it’s the constant games and apps that clog up my timeline. If you watched “The Social Network,” you can clearly see that Facebook was founded on a concept of a simple, clean website. The word “the” was dropped off of “thefacebook.com” because it seemed cleaner. It’s equally as clear right now that they aren’t as concerned about the cleanliness of the site. Seriously… how many more things could they possibly fit onto my screen? I can count 93 things you can click on just on my profile page alone.

As Justin Timberlake (as Sean Parker) said in the Social Network: “We lived on farms, then we lived in cities, and now we’re going to live on the internet!” Unfortunately for Facebook and their bottom line, I’m finding that I’m living less and less on Facebook. Let’s face it: Facebook sucks.

In the past two years, they’ve lost massive amount of money and lost equally as much in user opinion. There has to be changes, though, or the website will be marching towards the well worn path (see: MySpace, Digg) to the website graveyard.

The first thing they have to do is make all of the games/apps cleaner. Take them out of people’s Newsfeed. I’m completely fine if my friends want to play “Zombies vs. the Mafia,” but I don’t need to read about it. Clean up the security options so I can easily click on button and be excluded from reading my friends comments on other people/products I don’t even know. Constantly ask “does this feature user experience better” and if the answer is no, get rid of it. I don’t use chat. I don’t use email. I don’t use whatever that stupid box is in the upper right hand corner. Don’t force Timeline down users throat. Let us decide what we want. And for heaven’s sake, fix your stupid mobile app!

Focus on your strengths. Large user base. Photos. Connections between friends. Do something or become nothing.

What Computer Should I Buy?

Anyone that works in any aspect of the computer industry has heard this question approximately 4,080 times? So, here’s a quick buyer’s guide for what you should be looking for.

First question: Should I buy a Mac or PC

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. If you know for sure you want a Mac or you want a PC, you can easily skip this question because I’m likely no changing your mind.

The first question I’d ask is what are you going to be doing. If you are a fairly “low end” computer user (i.e. – you just use internet and email), you can get either and just be fine. In fact, I’d advise you to get a cheaper computer. Sometimes, you would even be a perfect candidate for a factory refurbished model. It might be a year old, but it comes with a warranty and you are going to save some major bucks. I’d recommend skipping the eBay or Craigslist route, though.

Advantages for Mac
-Less susceptible to getting viruses
-Simple programs if you are into photo/video
-High end video or graphics

Advantages for PC
-More likely to be compatible with your software
-Cheaper – definitely more bang for your buck
-Familiarity

Macs
The popularity of the iPod, iPhone, and iPad has led to increased Mac sales over the past few years. There currently are five models of Mac computers out there. The first question you have to answer for yourself is do you want a laptop or a desktop. Laptops are nice because of the portability, but for some people, having a desktop will suffice. Or maybe, they’d prefer a desktop plus an iPad for the same cost as a laptop.

Laptops – MacBook Air or MacBook Pro

The Air is slightly lower end than the regular Pro. On the standard models, you’re getting less processor, smaller screen, smaller hard drive, and (likely) a lesser video card. On the positive side of things, the Air is cheaper, thinner, and nearly half the weight of the MacBook Pro. Should you decide to go with the granddaddy of the current Apple laptops (the MacBook Pro with Retina Display), you’re getting a machine that has the sharpest display I’ve ever seen. Also, the MacBook Pro has a better chance of having a dvd drive (for the Air or the Pro w/ Retina Display, you must purchase an external drive if you want to be able to read/burn cds and dvds).

Desktops – Mac Mini, iMac, or MacPro

The Mini is a good entry level option. If you have used the Mac and like the interface, but don’t want to spend much money, it’s a great option. The Mini doesn’t come with anything – keyboard, mouse, monitor. If you’ve already got those things, though, it can be a cheap way to dip your toe in the world of Mac. Another great option for the Mini is to use it as a home theater PC. Hooking it up to a big screen tv will allow you to use it for dvds, internet, streaming movies, music, etc.

The iMac is probably the sweet spot for most users looking for a desktop. First of all, it’s a great looking device. Second, it’s not quite as technically stripped down as the Mini. For $1,199, you can get a nice 21.5″ screen along with enough horse power to do some advanced computing things. I opted to spend a little more to go with the 27″ screen and have not once regretted it.

Unless you are made of money (or have some really high-end computing needs), the MacPro is probably too much computer for you. Of course, if you are planning on making a movie like I did, you may with to have the $3,799 12-core MacPro with 12 GB of memory. If you are just looking at pictures of your kids or grandkids and going on Facebook from time to time, though, you are probably wasting your money by getting this much computer.

PCs
PCs have been the staple of the computer industry for the past 20 years. Likely, this is the computer you’ve got at your office (and probably your home). To be honest, there is nothing inherently wrong with PCs. If you are looking at a computer to punch out some college papers, surf the internet, check email, and stream the occasional movie from Netflix, you’ll do just fine getting a new PC.

I’m not going to get into specifics as to which machine is perfect for you. There are simply too many models to name. If you like the Apple looks but not the prices, you can check out “ultrabooks” (the PC answer to the thin, ultra-portable notebook) or all-in-one PCs (comparable to the iMac). If you are getting a PC, though, make sure you stay on top of your antivirus products. Even if it isn’t as bad as it once was, they are still more susceptible to virus attacks than Macs.

How do you know what you are getting is a good deal? Follow some deal sites – I particularly like Gizmodo’s Dealzmodo and SlickDeals. There are thousands of more deal sites out there, though. My biggest advice – don’t buy the cheapest computer a manufacturer makes. The cheapest computer (an example would be your typical WalMart Black Friday $200 laptop) is going to be made with the cheapest parts a manufacturer can buy. In two years, you are going to have a 10 pound paper weight. If you aren’t in a rush, I recommend waiting until Black Friday and checking out tech websites like NewEgg or TigerDirect. They’re going to have a computer in the $500-700 range that will surely be an upgrade on your six-year old dog slow PC.

Should I skip a computer and just get a tablet?

This is another legitimate question for you to ask yourself. An iPad is super portable and enjoyable to use, but certainly has limitations. Printing, although, possible is difficult on an iPad. Same thing with typing… if you are going to be knocking out long term papers, you are going to be forced to get a Bluetooth keyboard. While there are cases with built in keyboards, the keys are cramped. On the flip side, a full sized Bluetooth keyboard limits the portability of the device. The other knock on the iPad is the lack of storage. If you have a ton of movies/music/pictures, you are going to eat through the limited iPad storage very quickly.

But if your computer use is limited to surfing the internet, using email, and the occasional game/app, you might find yourself very happy to go towards the iPad (or other tablet). My mom has the relatively cheap Kindle Fire and uses it far more than she uses her home computer.

If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below and I’ll be sure to get back to you.

Screenshot - Batman - Year One

How to Rip DVD to iPhone (or other mobile device)

If you are anything like me, you’ve got a closet full of old dvds. More and more, dvds are being phased out. Even if it seems to be a little slower, dvds will eventually follow the path of cds and be completely replaced by digital media. Anyway, onto the instructions.

Step 1 – Go to http://handbrake.fr/ and click on the downloads tab. Download the correct version for your computer. For this demonstration, I’m going to be using a Mac but it essentially is the same instructions for both Mac & Windows. Download and install the program. Should be a pretty straightforward install. Once you have it installed, insert a dvd into your computer. Click on the “Source” button in the upper left hand corner of Handbrake.

Example 1
Example 1

Step 2 – Find your dvd. You should see a “Video_TS” folder (see Example 1). There may be an “AUDIO_TS folder as well. Click on “Open.”

You may need to wait a few minutes. Handbrake is now looking at your dvd to try to figure out which file is the actual movie. I’ve had to wait as long as 10 minutes for it to “do it’s thing.” As soon as you see the “Source” change from scanning and the destination grayed out (see Example 2) to the name of your dvd along with a destination and browse button not grayed out(see example 3), you can proceed to the next step.

Example 2
Example 2
Example 3
Example 3

Step 3 – Pick where you want to save the file. Under the “Destination”, you can select where you want to save the file. I typically will save all of my movies to a backup hard drive because I’ve got a lot of them and I don’t use them very frequently.

Step 4 – On the right hand side, you will see a lot of profiles (Example 4). Each profile is going to save the video in a slightly different format. For me, I usually use iPhone 4. This setting will work just fine for you iPad, Android phone, AppleTV, or computer as well.

Example 4
Example 4

Step 5 – Click on Start. It will take a few minutes to complete the ripping process. As soon as it is done, go the folder where you saved the video file. Open up your iTunes and drag the file from the folder to your library in the upper left hand corner (see Example 5). From there, you’ll be able to sync it to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod just like any other music or video file. That’s it… now if you want to put your old DVD of “The Godfather” (or heaven forbid, the $1 dvd you picked up at Redbox yesterday), you can do it in five easy steps!

Example 5
Example 5

Welcome to Techble

You’ve got all of the latest gadgets. The newest smartphone. A smart tv. The highest speed internet. The fastest laptop money can by.

That’s all well and good, but if you don’t know how to use it, who really cares?

That’s hopefully where techble comes in. The purpose we are looking to serve is to become a your personal IT department for your household. We’ll provide information and tutorials on how you can use what you have to do some really cool things. We also hope to provide you with some advice on what technology is worth your buck and what you should pass on.

Hopefully, our weekly updates will give you the ability to work with your technology.