Essential Application Install ListOct27

Saturday, 27 October 2012 by haemoglobin

Here are the applications that are on my essential install list. I install these immediately when I setup a brand new operating system (which I have been doing a bit of recently going through all the Windows 8 developer preview / release candidate / RTM builds):

  • Firefox with Bookmark Sync
    • Addons:
      • Statusbar
      • Scroll Bar Anywhere
      • Read It Later / Pocket
      • Lastpass
  • Chrome
  • Visual Studio 2012 (Dark Theme) / Resharper / NCrunch
  • TortoiseGit / Github for Windows
  • Evernote
  • Launchy
  • Autohotkey
  • Windows Live Writer
  • Dynamic Bing Theme
  • Filezilla
  • Notepad++
  • VLC Media Player
  • Adobe Reader
  • Paint.NET
  • 7-zip

This will normally be enough to keep me going for quite a long time. Everything else I download as I need them.

What’s on your essentials list?

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First Impressions of Windows 8Jun30

Saturday, 30 June 2012 by haemoglobin

Recently I have switched over to the Windows 8 Release Candidate as my main OS at home and, despite all the negative words around the internet about missing start menu’s and the like, I’m actually quite liking it – I don’t feel like going back to Windows 7 at all!

What I Like

Here are just a few little things I have noticed immediately during my time using it:

  • Much faster to boot and reduced time to actually get started working on things than my Win7 setup.
    • Albeit this is a new install so hasn’t had time to accumulate things to slow it down like my Win7 probably has – but I believe MS has devoted a fair bit of resources to performance here.

  • Better multi-monitor support.
    • A different desktop background on each monitor (highly recommend the Bing Rotating Wallpaper by the way).
    • The taskbar stretches across monitors and can be configured to display the apps that are only open on the screen it is on.

  • Deleting a file in windows explorer sends it straight to the recycle bin without the annoying prompt. This is a good example of something that on the surface sounds bad but with some real thought, it’s more likely you aren’t making a mistake and don’t want to be nagged. If you did, just retrieve it from the recycle bin. Simple things make a big difference.

  • If moving / deleting files that are in use, it will display the name of the application that has it open.
    • Less need for applications such as LockHunter (although this is still a great tool and will probably have this installed anyway).

  • Metro start page replacement for the start menu.
    • In windows 7, I progressed towards typing the program I was looking for in the start menu, this is by far the most efficient way of finding an app to open. The Metro start page is no different – you type to find your application, however it is much more sleek/visual and very quick.
    • Searching for files here also has a very nice interface, and much better than the Win7 start menu for doing this.

  • Metro apps definitely have their own advantage.
    • To be honest I’m currently not sold on all of the out of the box ones such as mail & calendar and prefer to use the gmail pages directly for that, but others for example the Photos app is absolutely great. For the first time ever I have actually enjoyed going back through all my photos because the interface to do so is just so nice. The People app I will also likely use for contacts.
    • I’ve also recently installed a Metro twitter client which I think will be the best place to browse tweets, as I always preferred to run my desktop twitter app in full screen anyway, but it will also make it tidy and neat to have the metro twitter app docked to the side of the screen.
    • As above, docking metro apps in general to the side of the desktop I think is a great thing.
    • With two screens, it can be nice having a metro app full screen on one screen, and desktop on the other.
    • Aren’t we actually lucky that we can use all the same apps a tablet will have available, as well as full access to the desktop at the same time? That’s a first in my opinion.

  • Obvious and well talked about improvements to task manager to track the performance of the system.
    • I also like the Startup tab which keeps track of items that start with windows, and tells you how much of an impact they are having on your startup time.
    • File copy dialogs display progress using a chart of copy speed over time.

Keyboard shortcuts

Thankfully Windows 8 was also developed with keyboard shortcuts in mind. The full list can be found here, I tend to use the following (as well as all the usual shortcuts I have been using with Win7 in desktop mode):

  • Windows key: To take me to the start page and type the application I want to open.
  • Windows - D: I use this quite a lot to bring me back into the desktop – this happens fast.
  • Windows - I: To bring up the metro settings side bar.
  • Windows - X: Pops up direct links to desktop related features.
  • Windows - Tab: To navigate between metro apps (and close them by right clicking). 
  • Windows – . : To snap a metro app to the right.

I’ll probably eventually also start using Windows – C to bring up the charms bar for sharing between metro apps.

There are plenty of other extra things Win8 does that can be found around the place, including here, but these are just what I’ve noticed from my initial usage – which has so far been positive even for a primary desktop user.

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Backup Firefox Bookmarks with DropboxDec31

Saturday, 31 December 2011 by haemoglobin

This technique will make use of the mklink command that is available with Vista and Windows 7 which will essentially just link to a folder outside of your Dropbox directory so that Dropbox will include it in its backup routine. There are downloadable tools available for XP however if you are on that.

  • In the Firefox navigation bar, type about:config and press enter (accept the warning message).
  • Search for browser.bookmarks.autoExportHTML and change this value to true. This will create a bookmarks.html file containing your bookmarks in your Firefox profile directory every time you close Firefox.
  • Open a command prompt in Administrator mode (in Windows 7 you can do this by hitting the windows key, typing cmd, then ctrl-shift-enter, then Alt-Y to accept the elevation prompt).
  • Navigate to your drop box directory with cd [Dropbox directory path].
  • Find out where your Firefox profile is located by opening Firefox and finding Help->Troubleshooting Information in the menu. Beside where it says Profile Directory, click the button Open Containing Folder.
  • Copy this folder location (you can do this by typing Alt-D then Ctl-C).
  • Back in your command prompt, where “FirefoxProfile” is the name of the folder you are creating in your Dropbox directory (change this if you wish), type:
    • mklink /D FirefoxProfile then right click and choose paste to insert your Firefox profile location and push enter.
    • You should have something that looks like the following:

image

Your bookmarks along with your entire Firefox profile will be backed up to Dropbox automatically whenever you close Firefox.

If you don’t already have Dropbox, I highly recommend getting it – if you sign up with the following link: http://db.tt/qZpeNIFp you will get an additional 250MB of storage space than the normal 2GB.

Further Reading

At the beginning of doing this, I really only wanted to backup the single bookmarks.html file that Firefox produces when you turn the autoExportHTML option on by creating a hard link to this using the mklink /H option. This would work great normally – however, the way Firefox handles the bookmarks.html file is it will delete it and recreate it again when Firefox closes. This causes the hard link to be disassociated and you end up with a stale copy of the bookmarks.html file in your Dropbox folder that never updates. I then thought that I might as well be backing up my entire Firefox profile anyway.

Also, it’s not compulsory to turn on the autoExportHTML option as your bookmarks will still be in your profile – but I think it’s nice having that there for a rainy day – plus it will also allow Launchy if you use it (which I spoke a bit about here) to index your bookmarks by turning on the following option in the Weby plugin:

image

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Syncing to Multiple Google Calendars on the iPad 2May29

Sunday, 29 May 2011 by haemoglobin

I am now the owner of an iPad 2 and loving it. I am using to catch up on lots of reading during the time I have available in the tube (underground) here in London, mainly using the offline reading apps Read It Later and synced offline RSS feeds using Byline.

One frustration I was having however with the iPad two was not being able to sync with the multiple calendars I have setup in my google calendar– i.e going to m.google.com/sync would not show the iPad device where you could choose the calendars to sync.

Through a bit of googling I found out how to get this going. First of all, it seems you may need to setup your Gmail connection with Microsoft Exchange instead of the Gmail option on the iPad settings. I not you can set this up by going to:

  1. Settings –> Mail, Contacts, Calendars –> Add Account > Choose Microsoft Exchange –> Use your full GMail address as your username –>  m.google.com as the server name when asked.

You can rename this account to something better like Gmail. I then deleted the one I had setup previously with the Gmail option instead of Microsoft Exchange.

After that,

  1. Browse to m.google.com/calendar from your iPad, click “Visit Now” to see the mobile google calendar version.
  2. Click settings in the bottom right and choose the calendars you are interested in and click save.
  3. Your iPad should now appear in the list of devices when you browse to m.google.com/sync (finally!)
  4. Choose your iPad in the list and select the calendars you wish to sync.
  5. Now in your calendar app on the iPad, click the calendars button up the top left.
  6. Tick the calendars you wish to display.

Hope this works for you as it has for me !

Hamish

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ObjectDock/xplorer² Locking USB DriveOct17

Saturday, 17 October 2009 by Haemoglobin

For a while now I’ve been getting frustrated with hardly ever being able to safely remove my external USB HDD, as it was always “in use” even after closing as many applications as I could think of. However, using LockHunter (great tool) reveals the following information:

imageimage_1

Trying to safely remove the device at this point of course gives the following message:

image_2

The first two items are windows handles that do not interfer with the safe removal process – the second two however do.

I have enjoying my use of xplorer² (lite) as a windows explorer replacement that makes life a lot easier when doing a lot of file system maintenance. However, if the last folder you have open with it was on the USB drive, then the process stays alive even after “closing” the xplorer² window (probably for faster reloading?), keeping a hold of the drive in the process. I have found that the following option however fixes this issue (if you don’t tend to use the DOS functionality):

image_3

 image_4As for ObjectDock as far as I can see the only solution to this is not to have the Recycle Bin docklet on the dock – I guess I will just have to live with it being on the desktop for now.

Sometimes it pays to just take a bit of time out to sort out the things that can frustrate you daily and you will be much better off :)

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Welcome Microsoft Security EssentialsOct3

Saturday, 3 October 2009 by Haemoglobin

Based on the general difficultness of locating the free version of AVG (not actually mentioned on www.avg.com - only on the secret http://free.avg.com), along with the nags for upgrading to the professional edition – and finally following the pcworld review comparing AVG Free to MS Security Essentials, I’ve made the switch!

It seems MS Security Essentials was even coming out on top in the comparison.

It seems more lightweight and fast too, and it's free – nice. If you wish to download it you can get it from here.

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How Twitter @Replies WorkJul14

Tuesday, 14 July 2009 by Haemoglobin

It seems that the way twitter replies work have changed since a bit since I read this post a while ago. There are now no longer options to display what sort of reply volumes show up on your home page.

I did a cursory look around the internet for how things currently work including twitter’s own help but couldn’t find much that explains what happens in many cases. So I thought I would do some tests using a second account so I would know for sure.

Here are my findings. We will do this with two people, PersonA and PersonB.

First of all, here are a couple of things taken from the Twitter help pages that are good to know:

Following is not necessary to reply to someone, and all of your replies are visible in the @username tab in your home page sidebar.
If your account is protected, we assume that you only want your followers to see your updates. @replies sent to people who aren't following you will not be seen.  If you want to interact with everyone on Twitter, you should not protect your account.
You can only send a direct message to a person who follows you.
Your home page shows replies made by people you follow to people you follow.
Any tweet beginning with @username is considered a reply.  We call tweets with @username elsewhere in the update mentions.

Wow - what a mish mash, I had to try a few things out myself just to clear it up a bit.

Note that replies and mentions are treated slightly differently, as you will see in the following examples.

Now, I'll show you what I ran through for my testing that should hopefully cover most scenarios I could think of..
Note that for the avid twitter user you will likely already know all these... I still learnt a couple of things though which was good to know.

Lets get started. The Yes / No shows where the message will appear:
Person A and Person B not following each other.
Person A
has a private account.

PersonA PersonA Profile PersonB Profile PersonB Home @PersonB Replies Comments
Hello World ! Yes No No No Obviously.
@PersonB Hey – Just “replying” to you.
Yes No No No Your replies and mentions will not make it to people who don’t follow you if your account is private. You are talking into thin air :) Did you know that? In hindsight it seems I have sent a few into thin air :) Whoops.


PersonA now makes their account public

@PersonB Ok – how about now? Yes  No No Yes If your account is public, your replies and mentions will still go to people who don’t follow you, but only if they look at their reply/mentions section on twitter.com. HOWEVER, at the time of testing the Thwirl and Digsby clients seemed to still show these on the main homepage. Blu on the other hand would only show these in its Replies area. I’d probably prefer it on the homepage myself since I’m don’t to check the Replies section much (maybe you would need that separation though if you were a major celebrity or to fight against general spam for that matter).
d @PersonB Sending you some direct message spam! No No No No Actually – this results in an error for PersonA saying you must follow PersonB before sending a DM.

PersonB now follows PersonA

Hello World ! Yes No Yes No After the follow the PersonA’s updates are now visible on the home page of PersonB (we all know that one).
@PersonB Thanks for the follow. Yes No Yes Yes Replies and mentions will show up in PersonB’s home page as well as the Replies area since they are now following PersonA.
@SomeoneElse Hello someone else. Yes No No No If @SomeoneElse is a valid user but PersonB does not follow them, PersonB won’t see this post on their home page.
Hey @SomeoneElse howsit going? Yes No Yes No Aha – and here is the difference between a reply and a mention – PersonB will see this on their home page even though they don’t follow @SomeoneElse. 
@NonexistantUser Hey non existant user. Yes No Yes  No Whoops – PersonA probably mistyped someone’s username, if this @NonexistantUser isn’t a valid username, this message will actually appear on PersonB’s home page… Interesting find? My guess is in this case it isn’t treated as a reply but takes on the behaviour of a mention of Mr Non-Existant.

PersonB now follows PersonC

@PersonC Hey man – how are you? Yes No Yes No PersonB will see on their home page replies PersonA sends to people they follow.
@PersonC @PersonB Hey guys – you are both cool. Yes No Yes Yes This will also appear in the PersonB reply/mention area. Note that the @PersonB part can exist anywhere in the tweet with the same effect.
@SomeoneElse @PersonB Hey someone else, and B. Yes No Yes Yes Even though this was a reply to someone PersonB doesn’t follow, it will still appear for them because they were mentioned (as you would expect). 
@SomeoneElse Hey someone else and @SomeoneElseAgain Yes No No  No This is treated as as valid reply to @SomeoneElse. Hence only @SomeoneElse and @SomoneElseAgain will receive this message (either just in their replies tab or on their home page depending on if they are following PersonA).  
@NonexistantUser @SomeoneElseAgain Hey Mr No-One. Yes No Yes No OK – as before, this one has sort of flipped to mention mode because of the invalid user to begin with (even though the second user was valid), so this will be visible on PersonB’s homepage and any anyone else following PersonA for that matter.

 

If you think of any other scenarios I might have missed that are interesting or if any of these are incorrect please let me know and I will update it :)

Happy Tweeting :)
Hamish

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My Documents - I give inJul9

Thursday, 9 July 2009 by Haemoglobin

Ok - I'm over applications littering my "Documents" folder with their stuff. For example the automatically created Visual Studio folder, MSN Received files folder, digsby chat history folders, and user settings and files of numerous other applications that chose to put folders in there!

Yes, in each case, which I have been doing, it is possible to change the location of these - sometimes through hacking the registry or fiddling with a config file, but it really is an uphill battle.. so yes, I officially give in :|

Applications, you may use my "Documents" folder all you want now, because I am no longer using it - I have abandoned it for my own "My Files" folder where I can look for things without having to navigate around random application folders. It's like clothes from yesterday (last week / last month - depending on who you are) on the floor that annoy you every time you see them, but you never really do anything about). Now they can have their very own washing basket to play in.

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Vista Sidebar GadgetsApr14

Tuesday, 14 April 2009 by Haemoglobin

Here is my current Vista Sidebar setup - I find these gadgets quite useful.

Especially being able to hit "WindowsKey-Space" and have them popup for quick checking if they are hidden behind an application. 

 

Do you have any favourites?

I will eventually russle together a good collection of these and add them to the well delayed cool tools page. 

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Taskbar and ObjectDock on External MonitorApr4

Saturday, 4 April 2009 by Haemoglobin

If you are like me, you may be working from a laptop with an attached external monitor. I am using a ViewSonic 24 inch which has brilliant crisp colours and size compared to my laptop screen so preferably I would want to to simply set it as my primary monitor. This however does not seem to be possible (in Vista at least) as the option "This is my main monitor" in Display Settings is greyed out for the second screen. 

However, one little trick I didn't know was even possible is that if you unlock your taskbar (found by right clicking on an area of it) you can actually drag your task bar to the second screen which you can benefit from immediately (I realised you could drag it around the screen just not send it to another screen :)). 

My next annoyance was the awesome ObjectDock still being stuck on my laptop screen - this however can also be moved across using the following setting in it's options:

   

 Solid.

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