Nik's Technology Blog

Travels through programming, networks, and computers

iTunes Album Art Importer

If like me you've recently bought one of Apple's new iPod Photos, or you use iTunes on Windows and wondered why the album artwork for your favourite CDs didn't get imported with the tracks then you may want to read this.

Windows Media Player and iTunes store album art in different ways. Media player stores them as jpg's within the directory where the music is stored. Apple however make use of the tracks ID3 tags and store the album artwork actually in each of the music files.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods, however when you import music into iTunes it currently ignores the album artwork Media Player put there.

To get around this you could try the following program. It was created using VB.NET, Apples SDK and uses the Amazon Web Service to query Amazon and retrieve the artwork.

You can set it to run on your whole music collection and specify whether to update tracks with existing artwork. It does however crash on occasions, but it's still much faster than doing it yourself.

iTunes Art Importer

Have Anti-Spyware Utilities Become The Killer App?

In the past few days there seems to have been lots of excitement in the computer industry concerning Anti-Spyware utilities - Programs aimed at ridding peoples machines of troublesome and annoying programs.

Firstly Yahoo have launched a new version of their popular Internet Explorer Toolbar which adds an Anti-Spy utility right on the bar (available from http://toolbar.yahoo.com/). I've installed this on a couple of machines to test it and it seems to be fairly successful, although I know of a few friends machines which would give it much more of a thorough test.

This afternoon, the mighty Microsoft launched a Beta version of their own Windows AntiSpyware software, available to all owners of Genuine Microsoft Windows.

This product has clearly come about from the acquisition of Romanian anti-virus firm GeCAD Software in 2003 and New York-based anti-spyware firm Giant Company Software in December 2004.

After installing an activeX component to validate your version of Windows(TM) you are taken to a download screen, where you can download the test version of their new software.

I'll be testing these anti-spyware tools in the coming weeks and will report my findings in the near future.

Microsoft(R) Windows AntiSpyware (Beta)

MySQL vs TSQL Concatenation CONCAT()

Following on from an entry posted last year concerning converting SQL queries from Microsoft TSQL to MySQL I've come across another function which is treated somewhat differently in MySQL than TSQL.

The following SQL code adds the .jpeg file extension onto the end of the image names from tblImages.

TSQL Concatenation

SELECT ImageName+'.jpeg' FROM tblImages

The above SQL syntax is used on Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Access and Sybase

MySQL Concatenation

SELECT CONCAT(ImageName,'.jpeg') FROM tblImages

Oracle Concatenation

SELECT ImageName || '.jpeg' FROM tblImages

The Oracle syntax is the syntax recommended by the SQL specification. It uses 2 pipes || instead of a plus + sign. This avoids the problems of trying to concatenate integer fields which might otherwise result in an unwanted addition.

Previous entry: T-SQL TO MYSQL CONVERSIONS

Symbian OS Bluetooth Security Patch

Since the Cabir virus, which affects various Symbian-based mobile phones, was created as a proof-of-concept earlier this year a Brazilian programmer has decided to publish the source code for two variants of the virus named Cabir-H and Cabir-I. This has caused a stir since it will no doubt cause more malicious variants of the virus when it falls into the wrong hands.

Patches Anyone?

As yet there have not been any reports of the Cabir virus in the wild, however the question I'm asking myself is why haven't the phone companies or anti-virus companies released patches for the virus?

Surely now would be the ideal opportunity to begin to put in place a system to protect the public, the majority of whom will not be aware of any such virus or the potential harm it could do to their phone.

The only advise we seem to be getting is precautionary, but how many people still open email attachments from people they don't know? Precautionary measures don't work, we've obviously forgotten the lessons we learnt from the PC virus epidemics of the not-so-distant past.

I think the lack of any such support by the phone manufacturers, OS software companies and anti-virus firms is due to no one taking ownership of the problem, which if left unresolved could balloon into a major problem in the very near future.

I'll end with the precautionary advise given so far.

All variants of the Cabir virus spread via bluetooth short-range wireless technology. To be completely safe from the virus all you need to do is turn off your bluetooth connection. This however is obviously counter-productive, so when you want to use your bluetooth connection for a headset or to sync with your PC etc, then you should set your handset to 'hidden' mode, this will make your device hidden from any other device in range.

Currently the Cabir virus has to be installed on the phone, which means the user will have to physically intervene allow the software to install by selecting 'yes' to install option upon receiving the virus, the last piece of advise then is to avoid installing software from unknown sources, especially other bluetooth devices, but more-so from future software containing Trojans based on Cabir and it's variants.

Logitech Media Player Remote For Your PC

Gadget of the month has surely got to be the new Logitech Media Play Cordless Mouse.

If like me you've moved your CD collection from your CD's to your PC's hard drive you may find this new mouse/remote control a very useful gadget. It's a cross between a computer mouse and stereo remote control.

It features an extended wireless RF range, (not bluetooth or infra red) so you can control your media player from the comfort of your armchair and use it as a conventional optical wireless mouse when using your PC.

It has all the features you'd expect from a top-of-the range mouse, plus all the usual media player buttons you've come to expect, including:

Play, Pause, Forward, Back, up, down, and a Media Player Launch button (Compatible with Windows Media Player and Win Amp). All of which are illuminated on touch.

Just remember not to lose it down the edge of the sofa! otherwise you'll have to navigate Windows(TM) with your excellent keyboard shortcut knowledge ;-)

Logitech MediaPlay Wireless MouseArticle Image

Converting 3GP Video to AVI

Since my last entry concerning the mobile video format 3GP, I've come across a much more useful and professional program that converts 3GP to AVI.

It even converts 3GP to animated GIF although the picture quality is obviously greatly reduced and you lose sound in this format.

3GSauron

3GSauron is freeware and is a stand-alone EXE, so you don't have to install it. The only downside with the software I can see is that you can only convert files one-at-a-time.

I've added a link to the authors site below where you can download it.

http://www.3gsauron.com/

Is My Google Desktop Search Secure?

After a recent security flaw surrounding Google's Desktop Search Beta discovered by Scientists at Rice University, how do you make sure Googles fix has been applied to your machine?

After reading Google's Blog it seems all you need to do is check for the Beta release version on the 'About' page since the fix should have been applied automatically. You can find a link to this page from the main Desktop Search home page (You can reach this via right-clicking the icon in your taskbar or via the shortcut on your desktop). The version with the applied fix should be 'Beta 121004'.

PC Plus Magazine For Your Java Mobile Phone

PCPlus the UK computing magazine for computing enthusiasts recently launched a mini version of it's popular magazine specially designed for Java-enabled mobile phones.

Having received my 3rd edition of the mini magazine, I felt obliged to shout about it. Since I subscribed three issues ago the service has been improved to include SMS download prompts and much faster loading times (Tested on a Nokia 6600).

It's perfect for those train or tube commuters who wish to while away a few minutes of their journey.

The magazine contains news stories from the industry and reviews of the latest PC hardware.

The service is free and you can view demos and subscribe to the magazine from the link below.

http://www.threeoclock.com

Windows Media Player Now Rips to MP3

As Windows Media Player goes I think it's a pretty good media player, but the new release (Media Player 10) includes a killer feature that now makes it much more useful as a CD ripper.

Previously Windows Media Player could only rip tracks to it's own WMA format, however with the new player you have the option of ripping to unencoded MP3 format. A boon for all you Windows iPod fans.

Not only does it rip to MP3 but it doesn't restrict the rip speed like Musicmatch's Jukebox.

This is a great feature that is long overdue, but I'm sure Microsoft's competitors don't think the same, including the company that used to make the MP3 ripping plugin for the old version of Windows Media Player.

The other feature that's been added to the new Windows Media Player 10 is search functionality, a very useful tool when you have an extensive media collection, and considering it's not a google search it's pretty fast.

Windows Media Home

Preparing an Internet PC

The title of this article speaks for itself, however preparing a Windows based computer for a life connected to the internet is not as plain sailing as it used to be.

With the amount of viruses, worms and trojan horses on the web increasing almost exponentially it's vital to make sure your computer is protected the minute you connect it to the internet.

Reports earlier this year suggest that an unpatched unprotected PC can be infected in less than 30 minutes!

Security Recommendations

The first thing I do when I've finished installing a fresh installation of Windows is to install a personal firewall. I recommend Zonealarm, it's very good and a free version is available from the link below.

Do this before connecting to the internet, if at all possible try to gather a collection of useful tools on a CD-ROM. The CD-ROM should contain a personal firewall, anti-virus software and the most recent Windows Service Pack for your version of Windows.

If you don't have the Windows Service Pack on CD then you'll need to download it. Make sure your personal firewall is up and running, then go to WindowsUpdate.com. Follow the instructions and download all the 'Critical updates'.

Once your updates have downloaded and installed restart your machine and install your anti-virus solution. I recommend the excellent AVG from www.grisoft.com, which also has a free edition.

You may also find that using an alternative web browser to Internet Explorer such as FireFox (www.getfirefox.com) or Opera (opera.com) will significantly reduce your risk of web borne viruses and spyware.

Zonealarm personal firewall