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Cross-Platform Data Syncing Solutions

Over the past year or so, several solutions have appeared that allow users to synchronize files between a central web site and several computers.  I love having my data up-to-date in and instantly accessible on my home machine, work machine, and laptop, as well as having the ability to access e... read more →

I Hate InstallShield

I can't tell you how many times I've seen InstallShield crash or hang when I try to install or uninstall a program on Windows XP. In many cases, I'll open Process Explorer, kill the hung process, and take a peek at the TEMP directory (in Windows\Temp). I usually find a dozen "temp... read more →

Setting XP Net Connection Priorities

Like most laptops, my ThinkPad X40 has an ethernet port and built-in WiFi. My office at work supports both connection types, so theoretically, when I plug into the ethernet network, the laptop connects via ethernet, and when unplugged, it uses WiFi. However, this was not the case for me. Instead, ... read more →

Putting PowerPoint on a Web Page

I've seen a lot of creative and sometimes hair-brained schemes for publishing PowerPoint files to a web site. But if a timed sequence of static slides works for your presentation, a simple animated GIF is a cheap and easy way to go. The free ImageMagick command line tools make it straightforwa... read more →

Migrating XP with gparted

A few years ago, changing out hardware from underneath a Windows install was a sure way to ruin your OS. So when I received the parts for my new machine this week, I decided to try using various migration tools to get my data from the old machine to the new one. Specifically, I used Microsoft's... read more →

Avoid Copernic Desktop Search 2

Last year, I highly recommended Copernic Desktop Search [copernicdesktopsearch, copernic2] over all the other desktop search apps that I tested. I was using CDS version 1.7. CDS was faster, easier to use, and had a lower system impact than the rest. Unfortunately, Copernic has upgraded CDS to &quo... read more →

OSpell Opera Spell Checker

If you use the Opera [opera-idstring, opera, badoperasites, opera9] web browser (er, you are using Opera, right?), check out this integrated spell checker script called OSpell. It uses Opera's integrated JavaScript to enable in-place spell checking in web text boxes. Very nice! But alas, like ... read more →

Tunneling VNC Over MyEntunnel

MyEntunnel is a cool app for tunneling SSH via Windows. I use it primarily to proxy IM connections from work to my Linux server at home. Today, with some help from StickyC, I set it up to tunnel VNC . Here are the settings. My VNC server is running on the same Linux box as the SSH server. So in... read more →

VirtualBox Rocks

When I was comparing Microsoft's Virtual PC 2007 [virtualpc2007, virtualpcadditions] with the free VMWare Player virtual machine, I lamented having to decide between a polished, easy-to-use solution versus a powerful, yet clunky solution. But then I remembered that InnoTek recently made their V... read more →

Using FolderShare

FolderShare is a neat peer-to-peer file sharing application that was recently acquired by Microsoft. It sits in your system tray and silently synchronizes a specific folder on one computer to a folder on some other computers. Some co-workers and I are giving a talk tomorrow, and we decided to use ... read more →

Using Online Backups

I've been using online backup services since 1999. I realized that I had enough data in Quicken that losing it would be a painful experience. I also realized that I wasn't sure if I could trust local backup media, like ZIP disks (back then) and CD-Rs, especially if there was a fire or floo... read more →

(not) Installing Virtual PC Additions

The more I play with Microsoft's Virtual PC 2007 [virtualpc2007, virtualpcadditions], the more I appreciate the effort from MS, and the more I become disappointed with the Linux guest OS performance on my P4 Prescott-based WinXP machine. I installed the SimplyMEPIS Linux distro in Virtual PC 200... read more →

Trying Virtual PC 2007

Microsoft just released Virtual PC 2007 as a free download. Like VMWare , Virtual PC 2007 lets you install several operating systems on one PC at the same time. I decided to try it out today and compare it to VMWare's free VMWare Player. VPC07 installs nicely, and is unobtrusive. Unlike VMWare... read more →

Beware of Microsoft Update

I never turn my WinXP machine off. Instead, I have it set to automatically go to "System Standby" mode after 1 hour of no activity. When I'm done using the machine, I just Log Off and let it go to Standby. When I return (the next day, for example), I just press Enter, wait a few sec... read more →

Solid Anti-Virus with NOD32

So long McAfee [revertmcafee, mcafeepopmail], I'm done with your constant "Upgrade Now!" nag windows, bloated processes, and slow performance. I just bought NOD32 from eset. I did a lot of research on Anti-Virus software, and was surprised to see NOD32 appear at the top of many compar... read more →

Single Reg Key Sinks Office Updates

For the past 8 months or so, all of the Microsoft Office Security Updates that have come through the Windows Update system have failed to install on my home WinXP machine. I couldn't find any solution to the problem in the Microsoft Knowledge Base, so I've been checking the "don't ... read more →

Loving Google Sketchup

Until now, I hadn't used Sketchup, the 3D design software, since they were bought by Google. The last time I tried to use it, I didn't quite grok the "shaping" metaphors they use. But I recently needed to use some easy CAD software, and I after seeing some nice diagrams, decided ... read more →

Use Opera... Now

Version 9 of the best web browser on earth, Opera, is available for download. Download it. Use it. You'll never use another browser again. After using and developing for Internet Explorer and Netscape for years, as well as using Mozilla, FireFox, Konqueror, dillo, and the IE 7 Beta, there is ... read more →

Reverting to VirusScan 10

Wow, I thought blocked email was the only problem I had with the McAfee VirusScan 11, but there are a few other kinks they need to work out. I decided to revert to VirusScan 10 for a few reasons: The only way to get around that pesky email issue is to disable email virus scanning. But every time ... read more →

Replace Explorer with Servant Salamander

I hate Windows Explorer. Back on Windows 3.1, Microsoft included a serviceable GUI clone of the legendary DOS file manager, Norton Commander. But with the advent of Windows 95, the simple, customizable, two-column File Manager was ditched in favor of Mac-style folder windows. This sucks for a myr... read more →

Beware of McAfee VirusScan 11 and E-Mail

As a Comcast subscriber, I can use McAfee virus scanning and security products for free. This is a great idea from Comcast, and I appreciate having the usually reliable McAfee software. It sure beats the clunky and intrusive Norton security software. This week, the McAfee tray app began pestering ... read more →

Word With No Distractions

There is some pretty innovative software showing up on the Mac these days. An app that caught my eye today is WriteRoom from Hog Bay Software. WriteRoom is a full-screen text editor with… nothing else. Just a blank screen and your text, no OS distractions. Excellent! Alas, I use Windows an... read more →

Video Card Replacement

My WinXP machine suddenly starting displaying random patterns of video garbage Saturday, which I figured was the sure sign of a crapped out video card. Weird, since I haven't had a video card go bad since the Vesa Local Bus days. The computer must have known I was passing by Fry's that day... read more →

Replacing a Sony Vaio Hard Drive

I replaced a failing hard drive in Sony Vaio Z1VA . In retrospect, it was pretty straightforward, but here are some tips that tripped me up: Opening the Z1VA: There are about 13 screws on the bottom of the laptop that need to be removed. 3 are covered by stickers. Before you can remove the plasti... read more →

Sites Not Tested with Opera

Although Opera [opera-idstring, opera, badoperasites, opera9] is my primary browser, I've found some sites that don't work well with it. I'll keep a running list here: https://www.bayareafastrak.org - The "year" field for credit card expiration dates reads 106, 107, 108…... read more →

Copernic Desktop Search beats MSN

I used the MSN Desktop Search for several months on my work machine. I've found that a desktop search app is an invaluable resource in this day and age of gigabytes of data. I can't live without search now. MSN Desktop Search has a lot of great features, but also several annoyances. For m... read more →

Opera IE Spoof

In his PC Magazine column, John Dvorak mentioned how the Opera web browser [opera-idstring, opera, badoperasites, opera9] sends a fake browser ID to web sites. Rather than identifying itself as Opera, it pretends to be Internet Explorer 6. The reason is because of poor (and on one occasion, appare... read more →

A Fan of the Opera

No, not the real Opera, I mean the incredible Opera Web Browser. I downloaded Opera 8.5x a couple of days ago to check the CSS support on MikeyP.com, and I haven't stopped using it since. Several years ago (1997?), I remember downloading an early version of Opera. At the time, I was blown awa... read more →

iTunes Ate my DVD-R

I hardly ever use my DVD-R drive except when I need to rip some music, install software, or archive some stuff. So imagine my surprise when I popped a disk in the drive this weekend only to see… nothing. I opened the "My Computer" folder on WinXP and the drive wasn't even there... read more →

Impressed with Apple Cinema Display

I bought a 20" Apple Cinema Display yesterday to replace my excellent-yet-aging SGI 1600SW flat panel monitor. The Cinema is flawless. It is dead silent (no annoying buzzing like my Dell screens at work), and there aren't any defective pixels that I've noticed so far. And it's r... read more →

Quietly Upgrading my Monitor

The monitor on my main WinXP machine at home is a Silicon Graphics 1600SW. This was the first high-end widescreen monitor available, and also the first LCD monitor that had a refresh rate fast enough for gaming. At its native resolution of 1600×1024, the 17" diagonal screen keeps text so... read more →

Quicktime Player for Windows Sucks

Dear Apple, Your Quicktime Player for Windows sucks. Each time I upgrade iTunes, the Quicktime Player insists on installing a useless tray icon process, even though I disabled it in my previous configuration. Randomly, the Quicktime Player pops a dialog asking me to "upgrade" to a "Pr... read more →

Enclosure-less Enclosures

Who needs an external USB drive enclosure when you can have this? Barebones USB-IDE Cable with Power Adapter Update: Now I see that there are a few of these available. ... read more →

Thinkpad X40 Annoyances

As much as I like my Thinkpad X40 [thinkpadreference, thinkpadx40issues] laptop (from IBM, not Lenovo), the quality just doesn't seem as good as my old Thinkpad X24. As I find various issues with the X40 that I don't like, I'll add them to the list below. If I press the undock button, ... read more →

Rippin' and Burnin' with the NEC DVD-RW

Today I replaced a 3.5" floppy drive, a DVD-ROM drive, and a CD-RW drive in my WinXP machine with a single drive: the NEC DVD-RW ND-3520A. This drive reads and burns all current formats of DVD and CD media. I am able to rip entire albums (such as The Swinging Guitar of Tal Farlow ) to WMA Los... read more →

Searching Windows with the MSN Toolbar

If you're like me and have tens of thousands of emails in Microsoft Outlook, you've noticed that the "Find" function in Outlook is extremely slow. This lead me to try out an Outlook add-in called Lookout that was available on Microsoft's Sandbox site. Lookout was so fast and ... read more →

PocketMirror 3.1.7 Fixes Annoyance

If you run a recent version of MS Outlook like Outlook 2003, you may have noticed a security dialog like this: This dialog prevents unsigned apps like malware and worms from accessing your address book and from sending email without your explicit permission. Programs like Chapura's PocketMirror... read more →

The Definitive ThinkPad Reference Sheet

When shopping for a ThinkPad, IBM's web site can be a bit unwieldy, especially if you want to compare two models of the same series. For example, IBM makes almost 40 versions of the X40, and many are different in very subtle ways. Luckily, there is a better way to shop. Head to IBM's '... read more →

Spell Checker for IE

The pervasive automatic spell-checking in Microsoft's Office product line has had the net effect of making me a lazy… and lousy… speller. That can be a problem when I enter text in a system like my blog, which uses an HTML textarea element for input. Fortunately, there is a really ... read more →

WinXP Help is Actually... Helpful

When the Help item first appeared on the Windows Start Menu back in Win95 or Win98, is was a complete joke for the majority of us who actually knew how to use a computer. Ever since then, I've never bothered to click on the Help item, and have usually used PowerToys to make it go away. It turns... read more →

Buggy Bluetooth in WinXP

As the Sandisk SD WiFi cards are sold out everywhere (unless you want to pay a premium price), I've been experimenting with Bluetooth as a connectivity option on the Tapwave Zodiac. I have a D-Link DBT-120(rev. B4) Bluetooth dongle that, as with all Bluetooth dongles, comes with drivers from Wi... read more →

Thunderbird is no Outlook

Maybe it's obvious, but Mozilla Thunderbird is not a usable alternative to Outlook 2003 . After playing with Thunderbird 1.0, it is a very well done email client app, perhaps the best Windows email client from someone other than Microsoft. But without a full-fledged PIM , a stand-alone email c... read more →

Outlook IMAP Support Needs Help

My mail servers support POP3 and IMAP . Because I'm using multiple clients nowadays, including webmail, Mutt, and Outlook 2003, I changed my Outlook config from POP3 to IMAP. Oops. Outlook's support for IMAP is lacking a couple of features. Yes, it basically works, but here's what it... read more →

LCD Screen Readability (DPI)

In the December 14, 2004 issue of PC Magazine, Bill Howard wrote an excellent article about the problems with fixed-resolution LCD panels and readability. Since most Windows apps can't deal with font DPIs other than 96 (lazy programmers), high-resolution LCD panels are straining our eyes with t... read more →

MS Java Virtual Machine in WinXP

Even though Java Applets are a somewhat rare sight these days, I still run across a web site or two (like iShares.com) that has a useful embedded Java Applet. Since Microsoft no longer distributes their own JVM, most web sites direct users to download the giant and clumsy JVM plugin from Sun. But y... read more →

Burn ISOs with the Windows Resource Kit

I was looking all over the place for a simple command-line ISO burning utility for WinXP. XP's built-in CD burning tools are great, but they can't burn ISOs. I considered using cdrecord, but as versatile as it is, it's also damned complicated. As it turns out, the perfect little ISO-bu... read more →