Installing VLC Media Player in a corporate environment

Privacy and Network PoliciesQueue the Madness song “Baggy Trousers” – “Oh what fun we had …”
(Not a lot of fun WAS had actually).

A lot of our customers use VLC Media Player.  I’d put it down to the fact that it plays DVD movies.  Windows Media Player doesn’t*  And our customers do like being able to watch “The Golden Child” on their computers.

The brief?  Deploy the latest version of VLC to 4000+ computers.

Silently.  With some program shortcuts moved & removed.

It was surprisingly hard.  Here’s why:

  • the standard VLC .exe only supports the “/S” silent switch.
    No other customisations are possible.
  • on the first launch of VLC Player, it has an annoying prompt for
    ”Allow fetching media information from Internet”
    ”Check for updates”
    No, I don’t want 4000+ corporate computers going to the internet for updates, so I needed to turn that off.
  • and VLC Cache Generating “DOS Box” appears on first launch.
    Even if you ask for a silent installation, this annoying window pops up:
    I couldn’t fix this and that annoys me.  I mean, why have a silent install option if it’s not going to be silent???

So it looked like I had to create a custom installation package.  The choices where either a MSI based installer package, or customise the NSIS installer VLC uses.  Since I was running out of time, I took the quicker way out and modified the NSIS install script.  Those changes were:

InstallDir "C:\WISEFAQ\VideoLAN\VLC"
CreateShortCut "$SMPROGRAMS\VideoLAN\\VLC media player.lnk" \
"$INSTDIR\vlc.exe" "--no-qt-privacy-ask --no-qt-updates-notif"

And it works.  Mostly.  Except for that darn VLC-CACHE-GEN box still appearing.

“Web delivers new worry for parents: Digital drugs”

Queue the IT news beat-up:

We all know that music can alter your mood. Sad songs can make you cry. Upbeat songs may give you an energy boost. But can music create the same effects as illegal drugs?
This seems like a ridiculous question. But websites are targeting your children with so-called digital drugs. These are audio files designed to induce drug-like effects.

All your child needs is a music player and headphones.

Readers will remember I wrote about binaural tones here.

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Of Tin-Foil Hats and Binaural Tones.

logo There is some thought that listening to binaural tones can improve your attention, concentration, and consciousness.

What are binaural tones you ask?  Good question!

Let’s go with my simple explanation.  Say you are wearing a stereo headset.  In your left ear, a sound is playing at a 400 Hz frequency, and in your right ear, the sound is playing at 410 Hz.  The difference is 10 Hz, which your brain detects as a beat at 10 Hz.  10 Hz places it in your brain’s Alpha frequency range, which is good for relaxation.(1)

Does this actually work?  I don’t know.  But if you want to try it for yourself, visit the I Dose website, where they have a number of Binaural Beats available for streaming media playing.  As I think streaming media generally sucks (ie. tied to your computer, can’t drop it onto your iPod/MP3 player etc.), I have the direct download links here:

I Dose track Benefit File link
Mirage Helps with art & creative activities hallucinations
Super brain Helps in problem solving activities super-brain
Inspiration and Creativity Stimulating inspiration and creativity inspiration
Coffee break Wakes you up and sharpens your alertness Coffee
Aspirin Helps against headaches and general pains Aspirin
Relaxation Relax at the end of busy days and weeks Energy-cleaning
Meditation Helps in getting in meditation state Meditation
Pain killers Helps with general pain Pain-Killers
Lucid dreams Intensifies dreams Lucid-dreams
Energy drink Boost of energy Energy-drink
Focus Sharpens your mind Focus

1 – the sharp-eyed will notice my explanation is similar to the Wikipedia one.  That’s because I borrowed from there.

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Tips for Web page & Blog graphics

Use only JPG or GIF graphics
… as these are the most web friendly.


I heard that there’s GIF87a and 89a.  What are the differences?
GIF89a allows you to do GIF animations, and interlacing.

Millan by Camilla Eriksson 


So what’s interlacing?
Simply put, the image builds up as the end user is watching the download.  Sort of like a preview.

(image courtesy of

So what about JPEG?
Well GIF8x, as good as it is, is limited to 256 colours.  JPEG, 16,777,216.  You can see why it’s popular for photos.
It does compression just like GIF, but you can select how “progressive” it is.  Look at the image below, it demonstrates the effect of more compression across the photo.

 Phalaenopsis - image by André Karwath

(image from wikipedia)


Lets sum it up in a table:

  GIF87a/89a JPEG
Colours 256 16,777,216
Compression Minimal Good, but at cost of image quality
Animation?, interlacing? Yes & Yes No & No
Best use Line drawing, cartoons Photography

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Converting WMA to MP3

I think the Microsoft Windows Media Audio format sucks … when I can’t listen to them in my car, or on my home stereo.  Sure I could replace both, but it’s easier to look at converting the WMA’s into MP3 format.

Now I like the idea of “free”, preferably “free beer”, but I’ll settle, for the moment, for a free WMA to MP3 converter.

Like this one:

You can see here, that I’m converting a batch of Microsoft Podcasts.  The converter is available from
And it also converts WMV and ASF files.

And it works almost as well as free beer.
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