Between my work-related exhaustion and my as-of-recent under-active imagination I haven’t been able to think up anything interesting to write about. Thus I bring to you the answer to the question no one asked – Brian, can you give me some totally random free crap?
The Arcade Ambience Project by Andy Holfe
Even though I was scant 5 years old at the time, I can still sit in the dark and see in my mind’s eye arcades of yore; the cacophony of bleeps and buzzes, the contrast of neon games in darkened dens, the wocka-wocka of PacMan munching away, the audacity of the exorbitant 50 cent fee for Dragon’s Lair…
If your memory of this scenario is as fond as mine you’ll absolutely relish The Arcade Ambience Project! TAAP features a series of 60-minute audio files comprised entirely of emulated era-specific arcade games (from 1981, 1983, and 1986 respectively) and various crowd noises.
What’s the point? Good question! Incredibly I’ve found more than one use for these electronic aural tapestries.
My first use, which sounds far less useful than it turned out to be, was for the sole purpose of making noise. I found this very helpful while toiling away on school projects ,sequestered away in my basement, feeling alone and… insufficiently distracted, let’s say. The illusion of a busy environment around me felt inexplicably comforting and motivating.
A few years ago I’d been reading about externally invoking lucidity in dreams and tried using these recordings on a loop to convince my dreaming self that I was in an arcade, and then realizing, still in-dream, that I was playing this CD in real life. While I never did get this to work, I still found it rather soothing having soft chaotic white noise in the background which helped lull me to sleep.
Finally, I’m determined to slap together a contiguous bleepy techno mix with arcade ambience in the background. It’d add some atmosphere to the sound, I think, and will make the quiet parts of songs a little more interesting. “Live at the Arcade,” perhaps I’ll call it.
Perhaps a decade ago my dad bought me one of the first 3D accelerated video cards on the market, the Matrox Millennium. Whether the card really accelerated 3D is debatable, but the drivers included a very innovative and, for my friends, enviable feature of memorizing and restoring the positions of desktop icons. For those of us that meticulously align icons across the desktop, such a feature is greatly welcome as there are few non-critical computer errors more annoying than having one’s desktop besmirched.
Thus, it is with elation that I introduce to you one of my favourite free software programs, Iconoid!
Not only does this whiz kid remember where your icons belong absolutely or relative to desktop resolution, it has a bunch of other rather varied and ridiculous yet fascinating features. For instance, it can hide your desktop icons if your mouse cursor is idle, it can toggle shaded icon text or analyse your desktop wallpaper to find the mathematically perfect coloured background for the text, it can partially or completely fade a window when you rest the mouse cursor over the X button, and introduces the hypnotic and befuddling icon dance!
It’s important (well, not really) to note that although this program is free of charge, it is not classified as freeware. Actually, it is categorized as “sillyware”, for which the author asks those who enjoy his software to send him something silly in return! I’ve emailed him a picture or two of some wacky crap in penniless thanks for his tireless efforts to bring me original software that fills a huge void in Microsoft’s Windows desktop. Ain’t I a saint?
nLite by Dino Nuhagic
The last motherboard I used was one of the first to support Serial ATA hard drives. While it did support this standard just fine in Windows, I ran into a snag the next time I tried installing the OS – the blue PXE (pre-boot executable environment) phase of the WinXP install couldn’t see my SATA drive even though my BIOS could! Some research revealed that a floppy disk was required for the F6 SCSI detect phase of the install, but I had no floppy drive so I was, to quote yet another TLA (three letter acronym), SOL!
Thanks to an amazing bit of freeware called nLite my goose was not yet cooked! This application allows you to create customised Windows XP install disks based on legitimate Microsoft-original CDs! It took me less than 20 minutes to study how to slipstream the rare but requisite NVidia NForce 3 SATA driver right on the installation CD so that no floppy was required. My first attempt worked like a charm!
The “fun” only starts here, though. nLite allows you to add all your hardware drivers to an install disk so that no after-installation configuration is required – a MUST for any company who mass-produces identical systems. Additionally, other programs such as Mozilla Firefox and FoxIt PDF Reader can be added to the list of default programs appearing immediately after install. Plus, many features inherent to WinXP can be toggled which is great for power users who routinely enable file extension views in Explorer, reveal system directories, and other such noob-centric annoyances.
Stay tuned for future episodes of Demodulated Crap Theatre!