Category Archives: Cool Tools

Dark Theme for VS2010

This is a really nice and quite readable theme!

http://www.infragistics.com/community/blogs/kiril_matev/archive/2011/02/25/by-popular-request-a-dark-visual-studio-2010-theme.aspx

DropBox – Why it’s cool.

Contrary to popular belief, I don’t jump on all of the latest technology.  If I hear about a new site, I may run out and grab a free account just so I can claim my name for the future, but I don’t always start using the product.  A good example are a few of the Blackberry apps for keeping track of to-do lists, yeah, sorry – I still like a notepad for that.

However, I just started using a product called Dropbox which I love.  You can get a free account that allows you up to 2 gigs of space.  Dropbox installs on your computer and makes a set of folders under your My Documents area.  Anything you put into that set of folders gets copied to your internet Dropbox account.  This means you can access it anywhere, but that’s not all!  If you install it on another computer it syncs the files to the directories on that computer as well.

Basically, you drop a file into it at one computer and by the time you get to your other computer, the file is there waiting for you.  I’ve been using it to get all of my photos and downloads in one place.  Afterall, there isn’t a real point in downloading the same utility on every computer when you can download it just once and have it waiting for you on all of your systems.

Give it a try – it’s free!  They also offer 50 and 100 gig paid plans as well.

My Favorite Windows XP Batch File of All Time

My Favorite batch file for Windows XP ever only contains one line:

net stop wuauserv

When do you use it?  You use it when you are in the middle of trying to meet a deadline and every 5 minutes, the Microsoft Updater jumps up and says “You need to reboot your machine to complete your updates.”

These three words can take away as much stress as your manager calling to say that the meeting has been canceled and you should go home early to enjoy the rest of your day.

Now, I’m not suggesting you completely ignore updates, just ignore them when they are bugging the heck out of you.

 

Move your Firefox cache to a ramdisk and speed up your day

Lifehacker posted a quick article today about moving your Firefox cache to a ramdisk to speed up your browsing.  I read it a few times and then took the plunge.

I’m impressed.  I had to download a free RAMdisk program for XP.  I chose RAMdisk by DataRam.  Setup was easy but my machine locked up right after the install.  After a reboot, though, all was well.  Once installed, I configured it for a modest 50 megs of space (if you have the ram, you can do more).

Next I had to figure out how to get Firefox to use it.  I found this article which covered how to configure Firefox and I was off and running.

Facebook runs a lot faster.  I used to use ram disks all the time in the early days of DOS, but I don’t use them all that much anymore.  It’s a shame, really, because they really do make a massive improvement in cache type operations.

Try this change out, and I think you’ll be pleased with the results.

HOW TO: Disable the Automatic Desktop Cleanup Feature in Windows XP

Dear Windows,

Stop asking me about my unused icons.  I use them, okay?  Don’t you have anything better to do?

…me

Disable the Automatic Desktop Cleanup Feature

To stop the wizard from automatically running every 60 days:

1. Right-click a blank spot on the desktop, and then click Properties to open the Display Properties dialog box.

2. Click the Desktop tab.

3. Click Customize desktop to open the Desktop Items dialog box.

4. Click to clear the Run Desktop Cleanup Wizard every 60 days check box.

5. Click OK twice to close the dialog boxes.

To run the Wizard manually, click Clean Desktop Now on the Desktop Items dialog box. You can perform a manual cleanup at any time, even if you have not disabled the wizard.

via HOW TO: Disable the Automatic Desktop Cleanup Feature in Windows XP.

via HOW TO: Disable the Automatic Desktop Cleanup Feature in Windows XP.

Offline Google is excellent

I think you are going to find you like Offline Gmail. Why, its fast.

The article below is also excellent. Good information with good explanation.

clipped from www.pcworld.com

When Google yesterday launched a system for accessing Gmail without a Net connection, they promised it would act almost exactly like regular Gmail. From my early testing, it seems like that claim isn’t entirely true — in some ways, offline Gmail actually works better than the online version.

The main difference is speed. Regular Gmail is generally fairly quick, but you can still find yourself waiting at times for it to check in with Google’s servers. In offline mode or the very cool Flaky Connection Mode, everything — opening messages, searching for information, labeling missives — happens almost instantly, since all the data is local.

You turn on offline capability through Gmail Labs. If you haven’t already, you’ll need to install Google Gears, the background system that enables offline capability in services like Google Documents and Zoho Mail. Once you okay Gmail using Gears, it’ll start downloading messages
  blog it

GPS: Blind leading the blind?

GPS

GPS

I just returned from the most fascinating trip.  It was a simple ride up to New Jersey from Virginia for a client meeting.  In the past, I went with someone who had a GPS in their car.  I think in NJ, or I guess any state you aren’t familiar with, a GPS is a great tool to have while driving.  New Jersey is especially interesting because of the numerous “jersey” walls where if you miss your turn on the right side of the road, you need to go about four miles up and find a u-turn, then back eight miles to another u-turn and then this time you won’t miss your turn.  I guess you learn quickly not to miss your destination the first go around.  U-Turns aren’t really U-Turns either in NJ.  U-Turns are more of something called a “jug handle” or various other cute names for turns that don’t resemble a “U”, but yield the same results.  The person I went with this trip did not have a GPS so we managed to borrow one at the last minute from someone else at the office.

The GPS worked well in getting us to a destination and pin-pointing various U (or NOT U) turns.   The “fascinating” part of the journey occurred during the trip up and back.  Normally you would take Route-13 up the eastern shore and then there is a State Route 1 somewhere and eventually you find yourself on the NJ Turnpike.  This trip up, the GPS turned us off of that road.  I was quite surprised but thought that just MAYBE it had found a better way to get there.  Maybe a new and exciting road.  After about 20 minutes, it said “Turn Left” and I looked up and realized it had led me to a ferry.  Oh, it was a nice ferry, I’m sure – but I had no intention of taking a ferry to NJ.  I wasn’t sure of anything anymore at that point.  “Could this thing be trusted?” I wondered.  The ferry toll guy directed us to go back about 15 minutes and we’d be right back on SR-1 heading north.  Perfect. 

We continued on, and this time I used my Google Map that I had also printed out for the trip just in case we weren’t able to borrow the GPS at the last minute.  I’ve been this route before, so I had a general idea of what I was doing.  The Google map was flawless.  The GPS was griping most of the trip suggesting that we get off of the turnpike here and there.  I finally turned it down.  When we eventually made it to the hotel, it said that we had 30 minutes remaining.  I couldn’t figure that out.  I mean, I DID enter the address and even though it said that the hotel wasn’t in the same city where I knew it was located, again – I thought that maybe it was just a little off.  Actually being AT the hotel was helpful because even though the GPS didn’t “know” the address or the right address, it was able to pinpoint “your current location” and save it as a point.  For the rest of the visit, I just told it to get us back to the “HOTEL”, which is how I marked it.

When we left there was a typical snow/ice storm going on which turned into a driving rainstorm.  The GPS was set for our office and I anticipateed no problems – I mean, it’s obvious about going up – it just had the wrong address, right?  We did our best to maneuver the signs on the way back in between the wiper blade swipes and promised ourselves to just stay on the same road.  We did, however, after a time, the road looked “different” – just wrong somehow.  I saw signs which I THOUGHT said TurnPike so we kept going.  At 6pm, the GPS suggested we “Turn Right”.  My brain melted a little – I looked up and saw a sign for the Ferry – THE FERRY – the North side of the ferry we were at the other day during the trip up.  I was stunned.  We pulled into a restaurant to grab a bite to eat and review some maps we had with us.  The Google map wasn’t helpful at this point because we were so far off course it was just insane.  The waitress was able to get us some information on the Ferry – it wasn’t horrible – just a quick one hour trip and we’d be on our way.  The problem?  The ferry doesn’t run after 6pm.  While I was looking at maps and trying to find some alternative to driving the 129 miles BACK to where we missed the exit – or at least, the exit we would have normally taken, I heard a lady on the other side of the restaurant talking to her waitress.  “I don’t know what happened.  I was driving and it just took me here.” 

The same thing had just happened to her.  Astounding!  My immediate thought was that some kind of conspiracy was afoot and the restaurant was in on it.  We ate a quick meal and then using bits a pieces from both our map and the waitresses knowledge of the area, and yes even the GPS at some points, we headed out and eventually arrived home.  We were only about four hours late and let’s face it, it’s fun to drive at 2am.

During the last part of the trip, I started playing with the options on the GPS and sure enough, down in a routing submenu was an option called “Ferry YES/NO” and YES was highlighted.  Nice.  So it’s a little bit of user error and I have to admit, some technical issues since the city we were travelling to wasn’t even in the system.

What did I learn?

  1. Always print out a map to take with you.  If you don’t use it, it didn’t really hurt anything to have it. 
  2. Pay attention to signs.  Just because the GPS says “TURN LEFT” – is that really where you want to go?
  3. Maybe old people aren’t as dumb as I thought.  I heard someone older complaining that their GPS never took them the right way to go somewhere.  I figured they didn’t know what they were doing.  Now I think maybe they did.
  4. Choose your GPS wisely – does it have all the maps for where you go?  Can it download them on the fly?
  5. CHECK YOUR OPTIONS – For all you know the defaults may include not only “Use Ferries”, but it might say “Always choose the route near the state prison” and “Avoid the interstate”
  6. Don’t borrow a GPS – just buy one, but buy wisely.  If it says “Maps by Blind Craig” – well…