Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Windows XP Service Pack 3 Delayed

PCMag reports that XP SP3 won't be making the Automatic Update rounds to users today as originally scheduled. Apparently there's some software incompatibility involving small retail businesses using Windows XP. Microsoft is delaying deploying SP3 until they can filter out users that are incompatible.

If you can't wait that long, remember that you can download XP SP3's final release yourself, even from Microsoft's servers. As the article I wrote up a few days ago says, there shouldn't be any problems for you.

Meanwhile, here's a more comprehensive write up to let you know what SP3 is all about.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Alt-Printscreen Takes Screenshot of Active Window

You may remember that I'd been having trouble taking screenshots of my desktop with three monitors connected using the PrintScreen button, which is a major disadvantage when doing a blog such as mine. I was able to get some sort of compromise by disabling two of my monitors when taking the shot, but even that's a pretty big hassle (and I have yet to find a screen captor program I liked).

Luckily, I've found a solution that works much better for me:

Did you know that you can hit ALT-PrintScreen to take a screenshot of just the active window?

As with normal Printscreen, doing so sends the screenshot into the Clipboard, ready to be pasted into your favorite graphics program.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Lightning Review: Windows XP Service Pack 3

Windows XP SP3 arrives tomorrow to XP users via Automatic Update, but several sites online have begun putting up links to download the 300 megabyte install file, and after reading several other users' thumbs-up on security, I decided to take the plunge, partly so I can go ahead and tell you whether the latest service pack was worth it.

First of all, before I went and installed the file, I first defragged my hard drive, then made a full backup of my C: drive using Windows Backup. The SP3 install offers easy uninstallation if you regret the decision, but I figure if something goes wrong I might not be able to access the uninstallation at all, so I decided to play it safe.

Before I installed, I also ran 3dmark03 to benchmark my computer, in case there was some reason why XP SP3 would speed up my computer from a gaming standpoint. I got a score of between 3679 and 3712 (I tested a few times). It's not a great mark at all, but I wasn't surprised given how old my system is.

Well, no worries, because the entire installation went off without a hitch. It required one or two restarts just to get the computer back to its old self, and the only mess that came up was the "Show Desktop" and "Internet Explorer" icons reappearing in my Quick Launch after I'd gone and deleted them. It was no problem to redelete those files.

I ran 3dmark again, and it showed a score of 3709. So, no change at all in gaming performance. I couldn't confirm other reports of a 10% performance gain in Office because I don't use Office.

Overall, XP SP3 wasn't the XP fountain of life I might've hyped myself up for, but it does offer a bunch of security fixes that I'm sure many people concerned about Windows' security would be happy about (I didn't really know how to test those either). It didn't offer any real performance gain at all, and the interface looks exactly the same. It does, however, work as well as it did before, and just for the security fixes, this Service Pack is well worth it and further reason to hold onto XP and not go with Vista.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Quick Firefox Tip: Use Mouse Wheel to Scroll Through Tabs!

Quick Sunday tip for us Firefox users:

Did you know that you can scroll through your tabs using the mouse wheel? This works especially well if you're using Tree Style vertical tabs, but it works for people with a horizontal tab bar as well.

More so, did you know you can middle click on an empty area in your tab bar, and it'll open your last closed tab? An awesome alternative to using the keyboard shortcut!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Save as Multi-Page PDF in Photoshop!

I just recently completed doing storyboards for a close friend's high school football feature screenplay, and I did them all using my Wacom Cintiq and Photoshop. By the end of the long process (I'm not particularly fond of storyboards myself... they're still a lot of work to draw, and they don't have the motion of animatics), I had about 50 PSD's that I needed to deliver to him. And what better way than a PDF?

I'd always known that you could save a file to PDF in Photoshop, which is my preferred method to get something sent to print (as these boards would eventually be). But I could never figure out how to save multiple pages as one file. I know you can do this if you have Adobe Acrobat, but I don't, and was pleasantly surprised to find out that there's such a way to do it all in Photoshop!

Photoshop blog Wipeout 44 had the answer:

Once you've got all your separate image files saved up (as jpeg, PSD, etc), just go to File>Automate>PDF Presentation.

Then just click Browse, and select all the files you want included. You can then tweak the order of the pages by dragging the different entries up and down.

When you're ready to go, save as a Multi-Page Document, select your PDF settings, and you're done! Photoshop opens all the files one at a time and compiles you one nice PDF, ready to send out.

Add this to your knowledge of Automated Tasks in Photoshop, and you've just saved yourself hours of menial, noncreative labor!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Check out Responses to Reviews by the Authors Themselves!

I love the idea that some of the authors and creators of the applications and programs I've featured on this site have taken the time to personally respond to my thoughts on the matter. It shows an active desire on their part to seek out opinions of their product, and strive to take those comments into consideration. What's great is I know that I already love these products (or else I wouldn't use them), but these guys are promising that they'll get even better.

Here are three comments I've received from the creators themselves in response to my reviews and feature articles:

Rentometer Lets You Compare Your Rent W/ Your Neighbors!

Arvin, thanks for covering the Rentometer!

A few things that I think you'll be happy to know.

First off, although we do save user-entered data for future use, we do not currently use it in our comparisons.

Because of that, we have the luxury of computing our statistics using recent rental listings, so our statistics are intended to provide an snapshot of the current market.

Thanks again for the coverage! Feel free to check out our FAQ or contact us if you have any other questions!

Take care,
Owen Johnson

To-Do-List iGoogle Gadget: The Only One I Use

Thanks for the review, Arvin!

I recently updated To-Do List to comply with Google's latest requirements. The gadget is now served from a different Google server than before, and it seems that Google isn't associating everyone's old data with the new To-Do List code. Some people have been able to retrieve their data with this workaround.

If that doesn't do the trick, please contact me. Google provides a contact link for each author if you visit the About page for the gadget, click the author's name, then click Contact on the next page.

I'm Trying to Learn Spanish with Learnit Lists

Hello, this is Nicola from Learnit.

I'm really glad you're using our widget, but it's a shame there's the problems with the Tagalog translations. I'm just going through the word list at the moment to remove any obvious errors - like where the word doesn't get translated.

Our strategy is that we will get each language translation checked by a professional, human translator as soon as we can. For now, we're reliant on users flagging up any mistranslation, but all the translations will be checked before it comes out of beta.

We are about to launch our next version of the widget, with some of the functions people have requested - like grammatical info, tests, sound, speech & context. You're very welcome to join the private beta test of this if you'd like to.

Your comment about the size of the widget has got me thinking... we could produce a learnit widget lite version for people who need the words only, and none of the additional functions. You will also be able to subscribe to an RSS feed for an ultra lite version.

I hope you'll like our new version,

Thanks again everyone, I look forward to seeing the next step in all of your projects!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Magic Pen Review: Full Featured Crayon Physics Game in Flash!!!

I don't normally review or feature games on this blog (my philosophy is, I feature hacks, tweaks, and tricks to boost your productivity on the computer so you have more time and resources to play your games when you've got the free time. What games you play are up to you), but back when I discovered Crayon Physics, I could hardly contain my excitement.

Two months later, seems the original Crayon Physics still hasn't been fully released, but not to worry, as Newgrounds user AleGui has released Magic Pen, which seems to do all the stuff Crayon Physics Deluxe has promised to do, but it's not only available right now, it's all in Flash! No downloading a separate program at all!

If you remember how to play Crayon Physics, Magic Pen will feel very familiar, but there are new features there that will turn your brain knobs anew. I wish there was more of a tutorial on how to use links and hinges, but I guess that's part of the fun!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Search Sound Effects Online with FindSounds

As an animator, I'm always looking out for good sources of sound effects online. If I'm smart enough, I try to remember to save the files I like, and one of these days I hope to be able to create some sort of searcheable database of the files I've got now. You'd be surprised how many different whooshes you can own.

One of my preferred ways of searching for tried-and-true sound files online have been to search for the filename with .wav or .mp3 added afterwards (i.e. "doorclose.wav" "catmeow.mp3"), but even that only really works for straightforward sounds.

Luckily, FindSounds works a search engine searching for wav, mp3, au, and aiff files. I tried it out, and so far worked pretty well. You can even specify bit rate, resolution, frequency, and channel.

(From Lifehacker)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Use a Tag Cloud with Blogger for your Labels!

In a further attempt to increase viewership and direct readers towards the different articles I've written out on the site (almost 120 posts now!), I've switched my list of used labels in favor of a tag cloud, which many blogs use nowadays. It's a novel and elegant way to showing the most blogged-about topics.

Installing a Tag-Cloud widget wasn't the super easiest thing to do, but it certainly could've been a lot harder. Instructions to do so are available here at blog Phydeaux3.

Follow the directions carefully. They're straightforward, but they explain the important settings that let you customize your tag cloud, specifically the color gradient you use (maxcolor and mincolor, using RGB values, and maxfontsize and minfontsize). Using RGB values was kind of a pain since they aren't really used in HTML, but I was able to get mine in a configuration I liked in a few minutes by taking a screenshot of my blog, and using Photoshop to get the RGB value of my current links.

Remember, RGB values (red, green, and blue) work from 0 to 255, with 0,0,0 being no color at all (black) and 255,255,255 being all the colors (white). 255,0,0 would be the value for pure red, 0,255,0 would be the value for all green, and you can guess what for blue.

Good luck using these in your own blogs, and hopefully this'll increase my average pageviews per visit!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Set Multiple Tabs as your Homepage on Firefox and AutoHotkey

Here's a handy tip for those who regularly check multiple sites at the top of their day, or as soon as they hit their browsers.

Firefox parses URL's into multiple tabs when separated by the "|" character (shift-\). Hence, you can enter multiple url's as your homepage by entering: | |

If you use Autohotkey, you can also use it to open multiple tabs by the same syntax:

run, | |

Of course, use discretion when you start up Firefox with multiple tabs; opening up too many at once could slow Firefox down significantly.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Another Ask The Readers: Where Do You Go to Ask Questions?

Another quick polling of the electorate:

Where do you go when you have a specific question to ask of a general topic, be it computer/tech related or otherwise?

I haven't been an active member of a forum in a long time, and the ones that I am a member of are of specific applications and genres (like I'm a member of the Autohotkey forums, which I use when I need scripting help).

But what if I had a more general question about my computer, like "who can recommend good tools to put in my system tray?" Or a question about a certain registry entry.

My immediate urge is to google the topic, but it's hard to explain my entire question sometimes in that search field and have it return proper responses.

I also use Yahoo! Answers for more general questions, like about my car insurance, or watering plants. However oftentimes I ask a question on there that are just too obscure for casual Yahoo! users to know (many members are just there to ask questions for homework). I like Metafilter a lot, but I'm not willing to pay money to ask questions just yet.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Testing New Layout

I'm testing a new, cleaner layout currently to see if the previous layout was not as functional as it could've been. I'm trying to increase viewership and decrease bounce rates, and hope this quick tweak does some good.

What do you think? Do you prefer this simpler look over the old version?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Tab Mix Auto-Reload in Action: Got Me Some Sweet Tickets!

Two months ago I featured a Firefox extension that auto reloaded a tab. Commenter Patchwolf then responded that uber-extension Tab Mix Plus, which I was also already using, offered the same exact solution. I've yet to write up a feature on the feature-rich Tab Mix Plus, but regardless I've since uninstalled the original extension and just use Tab Mix Plus.

Last Saturday this feature came to great use when I used it to score some super coveted Radiohead tickets through Ticketmaster. I'd tried unsuccessfully the day before to score them during a presale (my own fault, I stupidly opened two windows to hedge my bets, but Ticketmaster was onto me).

The tickets went on sale at 10am, so I was up and logged into my Ticketmaster account (including having my credit card on file) by 9:45. I then opened a new Firefox window of the sale page (which was saying "Tickets not on sale yet"), right clicked on the page, and told it to "Reload Every 15 seconds." I moved the new window to my second monitor, and was able to do other stuff while the window refreshed. By the time the page refreshed and changed to show that tickets were now on sale, I was on it immediately.

So take it from me, this stuff works! That being said, I highly recommend against doing anything to increase your chances other than being there the second tickets go on sale, and already being logged in with your credit card information. Ticketmaster tries its best to keep scalpers from trying to score tickets, and if you try tactics they use, you could end up being screwed out of your ticket as well.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Rentometer Lets You Compare Your Rent W/ Your Neighbors!

My roommate and I are about to renew our lease on our apartment, which ends this month. It would be our third year in our place, and despite our rent going up an extra 40 dollars a month each starting in May, we knew that we had a good deal.

Just to confirm, I just checked out Rentometer, a website that lets you input your current rent and address, and then compare it to other apartments of similar value (based on number of rooms and number of units in the building).

It displays a map that shows places around your region, and whether they are cheaper or more expensive:

It also compares your rent with the median price of the area. According to the graph, we're basically on the low end on the scale! Awesome!

Rentometer seems to be running slowly at the moment, as its popularity rises. However, as it does, you get more info to compare with yours, which is all the better. The only thing I've got to gripe about is currently there is no method for selecting only units that are currently renting. While there may be apartments out there that are a better deal than yours, there's no guarantee that they would have units available.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Windows XP Service Pack 3 Due in 2 Weeks!

Oh man, Windows XP Service Pack 3 is due to hit Windows Update on April 29th! Early Release Candidate reports have claimed up to a 10% performance boost (yes!) and better network performance (not as important to me, but I'm sure good for others). This'll be the last Service Pack for Windows XP (meanwhile Vista's Service Pack 1 is already causing problems)

Even awesomer reason to hold on to Windows XP versus moving up to Vista! I've been waiting for this for several months now, and I'm super psyched that it gets me even more mileage out of my current system. Here's hoping it can actually speed up rendering of my video projects and increase performance of my games.

Has anyone out there actually tried the previous SP3 release candidates, and can you vouch for these performance gains?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Quick Comment Poll: Block Ads and Bolding Text?

Two quick questions I'd love to ask the audience, one regarding a web browsing tweak, and another regarding this site itself. It would help me a lot to hear from you guys regarding both!

1) Do you block ads from your browser? I realized after I'd posted it that the screenshot from my last post showed a big honkin' ad from the site I was on, to the point where it might've been distracting from the important stuff.

Personally I prefer to not block ads; yes, they look annoying, but not as much as pop-ups, which I of course block. Most sites worth visiting were gracious enough to integrate ads well into their design, to make them unobtrusive. Sometimes seeing completely blank areas where ads are supposed to be actually look even worse.

Meanwhile, hell, there might actually be (and there HAVE been) instances where I might be interested enough to click ads; I mean come on, they're there because bloggers gotta eat.

What do you think?

2) Secondly, as you guys could see, I'd been formatting my blogs by bolding important keywords and points in my posts. I'd done it to direct the reader's eye towards the most pertinent information. However, I know that most bloggers don't go and do that. Do you guys actually prefer the text to be relatively unformatted, or do you like the extra style?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Vertical Tab Bar with Tree-Style Tabs

It took me a while to warm up to using vertical tabs in Firefox, but eventually having a 24 inch widescreen display at 1920x1200 gives you a lot of potentially wasted horizontal space, at least compared to vertical space. And when you spend as much time on the internet, reading blogs, etc, as I do, you want to save as much vertical space as possible.

Tree Style Tabs is a Firefox extension that allows you to put the tab bar to any side of the screen (though in this case we're obviously putting it on the left side). Not only that, it arranges the tabs in a tree-style where new tabs are attached to the tab from which you opened the new link. See below for a better explanation:

The extension offers a lot more options than just setting up tree-style tabs. Most of them are cosmetic and not necessary to change, but if you want to see how I'd set mine up specifically, here's a series of shots that show all the option panels as I have them now:

Tree Style Tabs works with any platform that supports Firefox.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Did Your Window Get Stuck Offscreen? Move it Back!

Getting a window stuck so far off screen that you can't even get a handle on its title bar to move it back into place can happen if you switch resolutions a lot, or use multiple monitors that have different resolutions. The latter just happened to me a few minutes ago. Here's the sure-fire way to get it back into view:

Just right click on the window's button on the taskbar, and click "Move." Now here's the kicker: take your hand off the mouse, and use the ARROW keys to nudge it back into view. Your mouse doesn't work all the time because technically your mouse can't move outside of the monitor's field of view (hence it won't reach something outside)

Of course this method works best if you know where your window had flung off to. If it went off on the left side and you think it went off to the right, you may well have just pushed it further into oblivion. Beware!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Tiny USB Office - All Your Office Needs in Less Than 2.5 Megs!

TIny USB Office: They really don't make apps like this anymore. An entire collection of office and productivity apps, including a text editor, spreadsheet editor, FTP client, file compressor, email client, and more, all for less than 2.5 megabytes! Even better, none of them require an install, so just put them in your trusty Thumb Drive and execute when you need them!

I just put it in my 2 gig drive and worked like a charm. There's a built in launcher for the programs called QSel but I actually found it more annoying to use, so I didn't bother running it. Meanwhile, when it comes to apps you don't need, you can just go and delete that app's folder. I did so with the MSN Messenger client.

Many of these apps are so good and streamlined I'm tempted to just use them instead of the ones I've already got installed... maybe.

(From LifeHacker)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Set Google Default Date Range View to "Today"!

By default the date range for Google Analytics is the past 30 days, which is fine, except it doesn't include the current day. If you're as addicted to checking stats as I am, you want to know how how your site is doing that very day.

Luckily, instead of having to constantly change the date range in GA to show the current day, blog DansNetwork (run by a guy named Dan, obviously, whose last name I couldn't catch), has written a Greasemonkey* script that sets GA to automatically show the current day by default. Click that link to find the script, I don't find it fair for me to show it here myself.

*Greasemonkey is a Firefox extension that lets you install custom scripts that alters the appearance and functionality of specific websites using Javascript. Many people swear by it, but I don't use it all that often. I've been meaning to write an article on it, but mice and men, you know what I mean? If you don't have Greasemonkey yet, check out their official site and learn more for yourself now.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Google Analytics iGoogle Gadget: Currently Buggy, Still Good

I've blogged about my preferred iGoogle gadgets before, and as you may have read, I'm willing to give them a bit of leeway in terms of bugginess if they still serve a good purpose. That same mantra applies to today's gadget.

The Google Analytics gadget isn't an official Google gadget like you'd think; it was written by Chris McKeever and provides a simple, quick view of your Analytics stats right on your home page. For stats-whores like myself, adding this was pretty much a no-brainer.

Important heads-up about using this gadget, you need to be on a secure server to see the stats. If not, the gadget will tell you. That basically means that instead of going to, you just need to go to I changed my homepage to go to the secure site, for this reason.

The GA gadget offers an hourly view and a daily view. Unfortunately, ever since GA's recent addition of the weekly/monthly/yearly view options, the gadget's hourly view has broken and only shows the total for the current day. The gadget's site seems to have made notice of this issue, and hopefully it'll get fixed soon.

The other, honestly bigger bug that this gadget has is that it honestly only shows the graph about half the time. The other half, the box for the gadget is there, but nothing appears. I haven't yet figured out why it does that, but for now I'm happy enough with its functionality that I'm willing to sacrifice home-page space for it. If/when these bugs are fixed though, BOOYAH!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Google Analytics Adds Week, Month, Year View

Well duh, I use Google Analytics to track web visitors. Using the Google-owned Blogger made that a right easy choice (and also because I use them for basically everything else, like I'm sure many of you do).

One of the things that bugged me in the past was how I couldn't view hits by week, month, or year. This blog has reached a point where it's been running long enough that you can start really making out trends, and being able to see the bigger picture starts becoming important.

Luckily, GA just finally added these long-awaited features to their site, which they document comprehensively on their blog. I noticed it when checking my stats this past weekend; checking their blog confirmed that it was a new addition, instead of a feature that appears after they've tracked a site for a certain length of time.

Here's a screenshot of my views in week mode:

Much better to look at than the really jagged, all over the place graph that daily view had.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Nyko Frontman Guitar for Nintendo Wii Review (& Circuit City online)

Two reviews today, first of the product, then of the place from which I bought it.

Since getting Guitar Hero III for the Wii late last year, my roommate and I have been itching to be able to play head to head and cooperatively, especially since a handful of songs can only be unlocked during multiplayer. Unfortunately, it wasn't until last month that standalone guitars hit the stores.

The official Activision Gibson guitars that are identical to the guitars sold with the game were unfortunately being sold for an exorbitant 70 dollars, which was ridiculous since the guitars still needed a Wiimote, sold separately.

The only third-party guitar out right now is the Nyko Frontman guitar, which was selling online and at Circuit City for 50 dollars, much more doable. I wasn't crazy about getting a third party controller since I'd found myself really not liking the official Rock Band guitar, and I knew I'd be very sensitive to using a different guitar. However, the price was right.

The guitar is great, and definitely a better value than the official guitar. The strum bar snaps better than the official guitar, in my opinion (which is the opposite of the Rock band guitar, which is way softer). The whammy bar is a little stiffer, but I think it'll loosen up with continuous use.

The fret buttons ARE on the softer side, and this was perhaps the part that felt the most different from the official guitar. They're spaced basically the same, though recessed a little bit more. I'd say it's somewhere between the official guitar and the Rock Band version.

One odd thing is that the + and - buttons were switched, which is annoying because the + button is in a far less accessible place than before, which makes it hard when you need to pause the game quickly.

Build quality was solid. It's lighter than the official guitar, though it's about an inch or two longer. This creates a different weight distribution, where the Nyko's heavier towards the neck. Speaking of neck, the neck cannot be removed like the official axe, which makes it harder to take on trips.

The seam that runs along the top edge of the guitar also seems to be narrower, which helps because the seam in the official guitar hit my thumb's joint and caused me to develop a callous.

The guitars, by the way, come in two colors: white and yellow. The box indicates what color is inside, but there was no way for me to select it when ordering online (I got yellow). The package also comes with two pick guard colors, white and black. I stuck with the black.

Overall, I'm happy so far with the guitar. It takes some getting used to, of course, but it's surprisingly easy to pick up after having played with the original guitar for 6 months. Highly recommended, at least until the official guitar lowers its price.
Circuit City

As previously mentioned, I ended up ordering the product online at Circuit City. They offered free shipping on items over 25 dollars, so at 50 dollars, this was a large item being shipped free. Awesome, since none of the Circuit City stores in the area seem to carry the item at all.

They luckily offer ordering without setting up an account, and it worked smoothly and quickly even without doing so. I received a confirmation email after ordering, and you can check the status of your order online by entering your order number (all of this would be easier if you'd signed up for an account online, but I didn't feel like it).

The main surprise came when my guitar arrived two days after I ordered. Why surprise? The site had indicated to me that it would take two WEEKS! Honestly, I figure that's just Circuit City covering their butts, but I also admit there's something about beating expectations, even if they're low.

Overall, a very satisfied customer!

Monday, April 7, 2008

AllSnap: Snap Window Edges Together

As you may recall, I'm the kind of person that prefers to maximize my windows instead of minimizing and arranging the windows myself. However, I'm coming to compromise better between maximized and non-maximized, as I try to come up with better and more organized ways to take care of my various computer-related tasks, mainly taking care of my finances, as I have my bookkeeping software, my online banking accounts, and the calculator all open at once.

Allsnap is a small, simple freeware app created by Ivan Heckman, which makes managing multiple non-maximized windows, well, a snap. But why not check out this video to see for yourself how it works?

Allsnap installs simply, and gives you the option of starting with Windows (by installing an icon in the Startup folder). Once installed and running, you can also right click on the system tray icon and change features such as running in the background without a system tray icon (you know that's important to me!) To unhide the system tray icon, just run the program again.

There are also many other customization options that I'll let you explore yourself. I personally left almost all the settings in the default option, with the specific exception of the system tray icon hide option.

Allsnap takes up 4 megabytes of RAM in the background, which so far is doable for me. It could stand to be lighter-weight, but it's not terrible. As a result, I will be keeping Allsnap installed until I find a better product. Specifically, if someone develops an app that can actually dock windows like many instant messaging apps, I would be in heaven.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Get Rid of "Use the Web Service to Find the Correct Program" Window

How-to-Geek offers a great, quick registry hack that gets rid of the otherwise useless "Use the Web Service to Find the Correct Program" dialog when you try to open a file that Windows doesn't know what program to use on. I mean, don't we all just go to the "Select a Program from the list of installed programs" dialog?

Well, just check out the registry hack here. What's great about this and other How-To-Geek articles about registry hacks is, they offer a downloadable .reg file that you can just double click on, and it installs itself in the registry automatically! Of course, if you're the kind that's paranoid about installing registry files, the article also offers step by step directions on doing the registry hack yourself.

I meanwhile, just went ahead and used the install. Now don't screw me on this, How-To-Geek!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Finally, MY HOST: Hostmonster!

After regaling you all with the various horror, horror-er, and not-so-horrific web hosts I bounced around to and from for my official portfolio site, finally I reveal who I decided to go with, to much satisfaction: Hostmonster.

6.95 a month is, in my opinion, on the high end of "budget hosting" solutions (those including sites that offer 9.95 A YEAR), especially since you pay for a full year up front. However, it's become more than worth it.

First of all, for every account, you get one free domain, registered in your name for as long as you keep your account with them. With domains costing about 7.95 a year, that's like getting 66 cents off per month. Of course, I already had my own domain, so I just went and used the extra free domain name to finally register my name.

Secondly, Hostmonster offers the latest version of CPanel, which, if you may remember, was a dealbreaker for me. Cpanel lets me administer the backend of my site in a user-friendly manner, and I've come to be dependent on it for years now.

Thirdly, Hostmonster offers all of the PHP and CGI script capabilities that I needed to run my site, another thing that ixwebhosting did not have at the time I used their service.

Fourthly, and perhaps most importantly, Hostmonster also offers 24/7 phone tech support. I'd had to call them once and emailed them once with questions about setting my site up, and they responded promptly and courteously. I still think ixwebhosting's support is better, but I really doubt now that I'd be hit with a serious emergency that would need me to call at 3 in the morning on a holiday.

And finally, Hostmonster offers a whopping 1.5 TERABYTES of hosting space, and 15 TERABYTES of bandwidth per month! Yes, I know other sites had offered unlimited space, but for some reason having specific limits on space and bandwidth seem more comforting than having none at all. I've heard of hosts shutting down sites for excessive space and bandwidth even if they were told they would be unlimited, mainly because the hosts never really intended to give them limitless bandwidth, more like "as much as we can handle until we think you're using too much."

1.5 terabytes of space?? I calculated it, at my upload rate of 60 KB/sec, I can upload 216 megabytes an hour, and 5 gigabytes in 24 hours. At that rate, it would take me 289 DAYS of straight uploading to fill up the site! Hell, I can back up my entire computer more than twice over (and is something I'm seriously considering).

*Update: using the server as backup is against their Terms of Service. DO NOT DO THIS, I learned the hard way.

Anyway, I picked Hostmonster after reading its stellar reviews, and carefully checking its features list. I've been hosting with them for two and a half months now and I haven't had an issue with them yet. I highly recommend them.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Web Host Review: ixwebhosting

My anger at crappy, cheapo web hosts is by now well-documented. After five years of using those $9.95 a year, unlimited web space and bandwidth hosting services you can buy on eBay, I've come to realize that they're worth even less than the rock bottom price they go for, at least if you seriously depend on the uptime of your site. In my case, my main email address is connected to my domain, so if the host is down, I don't get email.

Finally, I buckled down and decided to go with a monthly paid, true customer service web host. I looked them up online, and tried to read as many reviews as possible, and weighed their various services, capacities, and bandwidths they offer.

At one point in late 2007, I actually went with ixwebhosting, which was a cheap host at 3.95 a month for unlimited capacity and bandwidth. I went with them mainly because they apparently had excellent customer support (they claim 24/7 phone support via an 800 number).

In fact, when I was setting my site up, it was during a long holiday weekend, and I needed to ask a question to get my email working. I called the number, and after a short holding period, I was put in touch with a well-spoken, genial customer service rep that answered my question easily. I was very impressed.

Unfortunately, IXwebhosting did not use CPanel, the web-based site management app that I and many other webmasters have come to rely upon to set up site services and track visitors. Ixwebhosting offered their own control panel, but it just didn't cut the mustard to my satisfaction. Likewise, IXwebhosting did not offer a MySQL database, which I needed to run my forum. These two things led me to eventually dump my service with them, for which I was able to get a full refund since I did it in the 30 day trial period. Even though it was my own stupid lack of making sure they offered everything I needed, they were still corteous and prompt at their response.

I've since checked out the site and it seems that while the price per month of ixwebhosting has gone up an extra dollar per hour at 4.95 a month, they have added MySQL support, and they seem to have updated their control panel to be more user-friendly.

I think what ixwebhosting offers now is a great deal for the price, mainly because of their stellar customer support service. However, if you feel you need the use of CPanel, don't be surprised to pay extra for it.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

What's going on with my Zune XP Theme?

As I'd blogged about months ago, I've been in love with Microsoft's original Zune XP visual theme: it's dark, shiny, and requires no complicated hacking to get to install properly.

If you want to get it yourself, here's the direct link to the install file.

Now unfortunately, for some reason some elements of my Zune theme aren't displaying correctly. Specifically, it's instead displaying as the Windows classic view. Take a look:

Now if this was properly set up, the gray background for the "System Tasks", "Other Places" and "Details" should be the shiny orange look, and the background for that entire sidebar should be a darker gray.

I've reloaded my other themes and brought back the Zune theme, and it's still that way. I'm at a loss for what to do, and I'm afraid I'd end up changing things that would be a pain to change back if they don't work. Does anyone know what's going on here? If you do, you'll get your own featured article on Greasy PC!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The problem with April Fools' sites

Yesterday being April Fools, there were more than a bunch of sites that took on pranky gimmicks (all of Gizmodo's posts yesterday were Mr. T, Wisebread claimed that getting an Apple tattoo gets you cash and Apple Store discounts, Newgrounds did crap, and of course you probably saw what Google and Youtube were up to).

All funny and cute, but the problem is, it's really only funny the first site you visit. It's not any of these sites' fault (okay, fine the Gizmodo thing got old pretty fast), since they can't help if they weren't the first site a person visits, but perhaps I'm really just that big of a fan of website pranks, or normal pranks.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

See Craigslist Photos from The Listing Directory!

I saw the Craigslist Image Preview Ext Firefox extension blogged about in my usual stomping grounds the past few weeks and thought to myself "cute idea, but do I really need to have it installed, taking up memory?" I decided to move on.

That is until I was suddenly in the market for a new desk, and suddenly this extension saved my life. As you can see in the screenshot below, CIPE (as I'll call it) adds thumbnail views to ad listings that have images attached. Not only that, if you hover your mouse over the image, you get the full size view on the top right of the screen!

I'm still looking for the right desk, but this has certainly saved me time already. Whether or not I'll keep it enabled while I'm not actively bargain hunting, we'll see (probably not), but I'll certainly keep it installed.