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the stupid windows utilities that I always need and can never find

Love it or hate it, windows users have the benefit of the largest library of professionally created, small company and enthusiast software and utilities out there. This is my attempt to share a few stupid apps that help me in daily use of the PC. I have broken them down by the problems that they address.

Stitching Panoramas

I haven't settled on a favorite stitching app although they all fail to preserve the image metadata.

  1. Stitch with Windows Live Photo Gallery. Almost identical to Windows Vista Photo Gallery, the Live team did add the important stickign capabilities into this version.
  2. Restore the metadata with Exifer. While showing it's age, Exifer remains the only app I've found that makes it easy to copy metadata from one file to another. I right click on my new panorama, and choose to import metadata form the fiirst photo I took in the panorama. This brings over all the detaisl about exposure, lens used, date taken; just what Windows Live should have done in the first place. (note: You need to right-click on the exifer app and choose "run as administrator" to get this to work on Vista.)

Ripping my DVD's so I have instant access with my Vista Media Center PC's "DVD Library" capabilities.

Media Center has a "DVD Library" feature designed to work with 1000$ 200 Disc DVD Changers. The truth is that the feature works even better if you rip your DVD's to your hard disk drive.

  1. Enable DVD Library in Media Center. This is actually just a registry setting, but I always have to relocate the setting on the web.
  2. Defeat the latest DVD copy protection with anydvd. You used to be able to get by with just DVDDecrypter, but the fair-use nazi's have upped their game.
  3. Extract the DVDID This allows Media Center to show enhanced metadata for your movie. (more info on TheGreenButton.) (Unfortunately, the installer requires .net 1.1 even when you have a newer version. Download .net 1.1)

Fixing Music Metadata to work in Windows Media Center's anal retentive music library

Let's make this simple, Media Center is needlessly anal about Music Metadata, and it does a really crappy job helping you get into the optimal case. In short, it requires both the "Artist" id3 field and the "Album Artist" field to be set correctly and usually to the same value before it will allow you to browse to you favorite album by artist. It should really just assume that the Album Artist is the same as the Artist, unless there are multiple artists on the same album. It also does a poor job downloading Album Art. Thankfully, iTunes plus one very poorly written, buggy, crashy app is here to help

  1. iTunes iTunes is inperfect, but it does a good job organizing your music files into tidy folders following the artist/album structure that makes so much sense. When adding new songs to the library, i back-up my iTunes library, add the new files, organizie them and wait for the filesystem to catch up, then add them to my master library which Media Player/Center picks up automatically.
  2. AV Art Fixer This terrible application crashes a lot, but it makes it easy to confirm that the Album Artist and Artist fields are in sync. It also does a good job helping you locate album art on Google.


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