Saturday, May 31, 2008

Timely Tidbit: Do All Guinness Records Make it Into the Book?

Download Day 2008

Yesterday I blogged about Mozilla's attempt to make Firefox 3 the Guinness World Record holder for Most Downloaded Software in 24 hours, and how I'd pledged to support the cause.

Meanwhile, I also asked whether or not every record Guinness accepts gets put into the book. I took a cursory search online but couldn't find an answer.

Well, coincidentally, the Freakonomics blog just recently posted a Q and A with Guinness editor Craig Glenday, which adds a definitive answer to part of my question:

My principle job is to create the world’s best-selling book, and I’m not going to achieve that if I fill the book with boring achievements. As a company, we might still recognize the odd dull accomplishment, but there’s no guarantee I’ll ever print it in the book. Records have to be relevant to as many people as possible. We had a claim for the Longest Wall of Sausages, a traditional creation in, I think, a small village in deepest Hungary. As well as failing to make the grade on so many levels (what’s to stop you entering a Wall of Cheese and a Wall of Bananas, etc. — see previous point) it’s just too specific to one village. And too weird.
I still want to know exactly how they make the editorial decision over which records make it into the book, and which don't. He offers a partial response here:

The main annual records book provides up to 90 percent of our turnover, but we do have other ways of exploiting our database. We have an over-supply of content, as the number of approved claims, plus the number of classic records that our readers demand to see every year exceed the space we have in a single book. But we have ways of ensuring the records are published one way or another.

Interesting! And remember to sign up for the Firefox 3 record attempt!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Help Make Firefox 3 the Most Downloaded Software in 24 Hours!

Download Day 2008

I absolutely cannot wait until Firefox 3 is released. My excitement for it surpasses even my anticipation for Windows XP Service Pack 3 (which really wasn't all that big of a deal), mainly because of its dramatic memory and speed improvements. If only I wasn't such a pansy about making sure all my necessary extensions and tweaks carry over while retaining all the good stuff about the new release, I'd be rocking FF3 right now.

Anyway, Mozilla is hoping you're excited about Firefox 3 as well, and are aiming to get on the Guinness record books with your help, by being the most downloaded piece of software in 24 hours (do the books Guinness releases yearly have EVERY record they've presided over on it? That seems like a LOT).

If you click on the image above, it should take you to a page where you can pledge your support and sign up for email alerts for when the actual download day is announced. Actually, this is my only real gripe about this project, is that they're organizing this gigantic movement on a date "TBA" (it's supposed to be sometime in June). Can't they just lock freaking release date now and just cram to make sure they make it? Hell, overshoot and say July 1st and just sit tight. It's hard to mark your calendars when there's no definite date.

Anyway, regardless, I'll be there, if I don't finally break down and install a beta myself.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Thoosje Quick XP Optimizer Makes Windows Snappier

Freewaregenius recently featured Thoosje Quick XP Optimizer, which claims to speed up various aspects of Windows XP, including reducing shutdown and startup times, speeding up your internet access, and hard drive access times. As someone who's already gone through pretty great pains to optimize their OS (most especially speeding up shutdown and bootup), this seemed too good to be true, but since it offered one-click restore settings, I figured I'd give it a shot.

As you can see, you have choice to optimize specific options, while leaving other ones alone. When you're ready to go, just hit Optimize, after which it will ask for a restart (immediately or at your discretion).

So how did it work? Well, as I surmised, the shutdown and bootup times were virtually the same, since I'd already optimized those options before. Hard disk access was also virtually the same (I tested by copying a 1.4 gigabyte video file from one partition to another, and back also, and timing it).

What it DID do was seemingly increase the responsiveness of displaying folders in Windows Explorer, as well as showing right-click and Start menu options. I've heard of registry entries that can do this, and I'm assuming this is what this program does. Since those small delays in loading times can add up a lot to a person's computer experience, I'm glad to add these tweaks.

One concern I've got is that I'm not sure whether or not Thoosje's restore function restores registry entries and settings back to factory defaults, or to what I'd had it at when I tweaked it. This can be a concern if/when Thoosje's changes cause problems. But since things are running smoothly so far, it's not a big deal now.

Overall, I'm gonna go and uninstall this application, after I went and set those optimizations. There really isn't much of a point to keep a program like this installed, and in fact I'm disappointed that this required installation to begin with. I'd love to hear what you guys have experienced using this program, especially if you haven't gone and uber-tweaked your system to begin with.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Who's got GDirections for Thunderbird Working for Them?

I'd already featured Jeffrey Palm's awesome GDirections addon for Firefox, which lets you highlight an address in your browser and check it out in Google Maps. Recently I'd been wanting the same feature for Thunderbird, so I can easily map out addresses that've been sent to me.

The official GDirections website claims that the latest version of GDirections (1.1.2) is compatible with both Firefox 2 and Thunderbird 2. I even successfully installed the addon for Thunderbird (don't forget to check out our recent article on how to remove the installation delay for Thunderbird extensions). However, even after configuring the Thunderbird extension exactly the same as my Firefox extension, highlighting an address in an email showed no GDirections context menu.

Has anyone else gotten GDirections to work for Thunderbird?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Thunderbird Time: Remove the Install Delay for Extensions!

A few weeks ago I featured how to get rid of the 3 second delay when installing Firefox extensions/addons. This time around, we'll feature how to do the same when installing your Thunderbird addons.

The basic thing to first figure out is where Thunderbird's about:config console is located. You can access it by clicking on Tools>Options>Advanced. From there you click on config editor:

Now to remove the install delay. The option to modify is actually the exact same one for Firefox, which is security.dialog_enable_delay. In Thunderbird this option is set at 4000, which is four seconds. I changed mine to 100, which is 1/10 of a second, which unless you're a human mosquito or hummingbird, should be basically instantaneous:

And that's it! Stay tuned for other tweaks to Thunderbird using its own config editor, which can speed up your Thunderbird experience!

p.s. - this marks my 150th post to GreasyPC! I can't believe when I started posting that I'd make it this far, especially with my rule of making at least one post per day! Thanks to everyone for sticking around this long.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Remove Laptop Battery to Increase Longevity

(stock image of my laptop... not my actual one)

I believe I've alluded to the fact that while I remain fully dedicated to my desktop, four years ago I also bought myself a used, cheap laptop on ebay. It was pretty low end when I bought it back then, and is ridiculously so now. But you know what? It still works for minor web browsing, word processing, and its battery still holds a charge. I bring it along whenever I go on long trips, like when I go back to my hometown.

I still use it every night to read comic books. I keep it by my bed like you would your favorite novel.

Most recently I've started to notice that the battery's capacity has gone considerably down since I started using it in 2004. I think it holds at most just an hour's worth of charge now (when it used to be almost 3). It's normal for these batteries to lose reliability after this much use, but it's still worth trying to keep it going for as long as possible.

This tip on, appropriately, One Tip A Day, suggests removing the battery when you're not using it. Commenters have observed that this doesn't nearly do as much saving as you'd think, but it certainly wouldn't hurt for people like me that keep their laptops plugged in 99% of the time. It is, after all, that 1% that matters the most.

Here's hoping I can make my laptop last at least another year or two. I already love how it runs just as fast if not faster than my sister's laptop, which hardly holds a charge anymore and takes many more minutes to start up, but was bought new after I bought my used one.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Fix it! Is Your Window Opening in the Wrong Size or Wrong Part of the Screen?

Just another quick solution here, like the one where I told you what to do with a window that's gotten itself stuck off-screen. These are the kinds of Windows problems that many of us just don't take the time to figure out, leaving us frustrated whenever it happens, but never actually remembering what we did the last time the problem popped up. Hopefully this time you'll remember it.

So the problem we're talking about, is when, for some reason, whenever you open a program, like Firefox or Notepad or whatever, the size and location of the application window is something unacceptable. It's either too big, too small, or it's half hanging out of the screen. You change the size and location to something you like and go about your business, but the next time you open the application again it's back to where it was before. Even worse, sometimes your changes actually stick, and it's the inconsistency you feel that's really frustrating. At least that's how I used to feel.

To make sure that your window spawn size and position really stick around next time you open the program follow these steps:

  1. Open the program. It'll look like the way you don't want it to look.
  2. Resize the window and relocate it to your satisfaction.
  3. Here's the important part: CLOSE the program immediately. Don't start working on it, and most importantly, do NOT maximize it. Closing it immediately without maximizing it tells windows that this is how you really want this window to spawn in the future. Maximizing the window cancels out the changes you'd made.
  4. Open the program again. Voila, it spawns the way you want to!

I know this is probably one of those "duh" moments for a lot of you, but for those of us that impulsively maximize our windows, this just compounds the problem. But now you know how to wrangle those wayward windows!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Added: iGoogle Gadget Label to Blog

This coming holiday weekend, I just wanted to direct everybody towards the newly added iGoogle label in the tag cloud to the right which should specifically highlight the various iGoogle gadgets, themes, and tweaks we have featured here in the past.

And of course, don't forget to drop a note in the comments for other gadgets you think are especially useful, and stay tuned for more gadget reviews coming your way!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Blogger's Search Not Up to Par, Back to Widgetbox

When Blogger finally released a search gadget for their blogs, I switched out the search gadget by Widgetbox that I had grown to love. After all, the less reliance on third parties, the smoother the process is on the whole, right?

Well, that was until I noticed that the official search wasn't offering as many search results as the original gadget, which is way weird considering how the official search is powered by Google, right? The best search engine in history? What the hell?

Regardless, I have now switched back to the old gadget, which I always loved for displaying all the search results within the layout of the site, which the official gadget only did as far as the first few results. After that you click a link to show the rest of the results, and it takes you to a google-themed page.

Regardless, thanks Widgetbox, I won't doubt you again! That is until I find something better.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Thunderbird: Right Click and Delete Mail as Junk

Thunderbird has always prided itself in its ability to remove junk mail from your inbox, but it was always kind of silly that there wasn't an easy way to delete the mail in your junk box whenever you want, that didn't involve selecting them all and throwing them in the trash pile.

Delete Junk Context Menu not only gives you a right click option on your junk box to delete the mail marked as junk, it gives you that right click context menu on all your mail folders, if for some reason you're not initially set up to throw all your junk mail in the junk folder.

Now if only this feature gets installed in the next iteration of Thunderbird.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Vertical Taskbar for a More Efficient Widescreen Desktop

When you have a widescreen display like I do (in my case, a 24 inch 1920x1200 widescreen LCD), you often find yourself with far more horizontal space than you do vertical space. This applies when you mainly use your computer for browsing and word processing (as opposed to watching movies and gaming). As such, I've become very sensitive towards tools that let me maximize the viewing experience.

One big change I did recently was switch to a vertical taskbar. Before, I had a normal horizontal taskbar as most of you do:

(My real taskbar is much wider than that image, I cropped it to be more viewable.)

(Check my post on why I decided to stick with the Windows taskbar versus an OSX-like Dock)

While I was perfectly happy with the layout I'd worked for the taskbar, I was still using up about 50 pixels on the bottom of the screen.

Finally, I decided to give a vertical taskbar a try. I'd tried this in the past but I was too impatient to get it to look any way acceptable to me, so I'd always switched back. Looking back on it now, I highly stress that making this switch will require quite a bit of customization for you to get it to look the way you want to, and will take even longer for you to get used to it.

So here's how to do it. First, right click on your taskbar and click "Lock this taskbar." This then allows you to drag the taskbar to the side of your screen. I personally chose to drag it to the left, because I have a 2nd monitor to the right of my primary display, and the start button faces to the right.

As you can see on the image to the right, I've then been able to add far more icons to the Quick-Launch (I decided to stick with shortcuts in the multiples of four, to make full rows). Click here to learn how to attach the Recycle Bin into the Quick Launch.

Below that, I have a toolbar set up for My Computer. To insert or create a custom toolbar, right click on the taskbar, then "Toolbars," and there you can click on My Computer, or select your own folder to create a new toolbar. As you can see, at the bottom of my taskbar I have a folder called "Desktop," where I can access files that go into my Desktop, without having to display the actual files on my desktop.

Here are some more notes on customizing your Taskbar. With the taskbar unlocked, you can drag the width of the taskbar to fit your needs. However, if you make it too narrow, the word "Start" in the start button can and will disappear if it's not wide enough to fit. Likewise, if it's too narrow, your taskbar items might be too short for you to read the name of the windows also.

If you want to change the vertical order of your various toolbars, first keep the Taskbar unlocked. Then, click and hold on the name of the toolbar (like click on the words "My Computer," or "Quick Launch," etc). Now here's where it gets tricky. If you just drag the mouse up and down, all it'll do is increase or decrease the toolbar's height, but not reorder it with other toolbars. Instead, drag your mouse to the side, where the toolbar will snap into a 2nd column on the right. From there, you can click and drag it back into the one column, this time in the place you want it to be. This process can be a headache sometimes, and this is where I insist you practice plenty of patience. It's going to be worth it.

Finally, if you right click on the Toolbar name again (with the taskbar unlocked), you have several other options, including increasing the icon size (making your taskbar look even more like a dock), showing the text of the icon, and showing the title of the Toolbar. Again, you have to play around with this stuff.

Here're some other specific reasons why I like a vertical taskbar.

  1. First of all, I can fit 25 windows in the taskbar before it gets too cramped. Not that I've ever gotten close to having that many windows open, but it's good to have the option.
  2. Secondly, I love having even more one-click access to my most important programs and folders. I can even see how much space is left in my hard drives by just hovering over their icons in the My Computer toolbar.
  3. Thirdly, if you look at the system tray, you'll see that the clock now shows the clock, then the day of the week, then the full date. It's a small but appreciated addition.
  4. And finally, I feel less like I'm wasting my desktop this way. Especially since I switched to a vertical Tabbar for Firefox, I feel like I've just got so much vertical space now to browse online, perfect for when reading long blog posts. It's even better when I've got my instant messaging buddy list dock to the side as well. I've got so much information at my disposal without it becoming too cluttered.

Have you made the switch yet?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Rotten Tomatoes iGoogle Gadget Review

If you're a movie buff at all, you know that Rotten Tomatoes consolidates as many reviews for a particular movie as possible, and gives it a grade based on what percentage of the reviews were positive versus what percentage were negative. For the obsessive out there, it's a good site to give you a glimpse of what movie this weekend to go and see.

The Rotten Tomatoes gadget for iGoogle makes it easy to see the weekend's upcoming movies and what their "Tomato-meter" is, by having it displayed in your gadget. Like most of the best gadgets out there, it gives you the information you need without having to navigate to a different site or clicking on different links.

It installs just like all other gadgets, and requires no sign-in or login at all. You get only one setting to tweak the gadget, and that's to show a synopsis of the movie alongside the link to its page and its Tomatometer. Since there's no setting to choose how many movies are displayed, I choose to keep the descriptions hidden because the gadget can only fit three movies versus five without descriptions.

You can also choose between a list of the past weekend's top movies (it doesn't show how much money they made, it's just ranked by such), or of upcoming movies. I'd assume one would be more interested in viewing the upcoming movies. However, the screenshot I've got shows the past weekend tab.

That's because I've personally tried to not drown myself in movie reviews for movies I haven't seen yet but are very eager to go see. In this upcoming weekend's case, I don't want to spoil myself on Indiana Jones IV reviews. But if you DO want to know what the nation's critics feel about Indy IV or any other movies about to come up, this gadget lets you get your fix at a glance.

If you want to check out other great gadgets that I personally use in my iGoogle page, check out the google label for this site.

Monday, May 19, 2008

VidtoMP3 rips Youtube Audio to MP3

There've been a handful of Youtube-to-MP3 services that've popped up recently, and I'd always thought they were a cute novelty, but seriously, who wants mp3's of inferior quality? That is, until I began searching for music to use in my new animation reel, and the piece of music I'd decided on only existed on Youtube.

I tried several sites for this service, but VidtoMP3 was by far the best. You simply enter the full URL of the Youtube video you want, and the entire conversion process is done on VidtoMP3's end. Once it finishes converting, you just click on the Download link, where you are taken to a second page that lets you download the file.

While the process isn't as elegant as being one-click, for the service it provides it's a lot less of a hassle than many sites out there that are jam-packed with ads and pop-ups. VidtoMp3 isn't completely innocent of this, but it was perfectly tolerable. In fact, if you were to use their service regularly, I'd certainly recommend you send them a donation for their trouble.

(note: as of this specific moment the VidtoMP3 site seems to be down, potentially because of server overload. I'll keep you updated on whether the site comes back up, or if it's just a fly-by-night idealistic novelty.)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Save Custom Views as Folders in Thunderbird

Looks like it's a Thunderbird weekend this weekend, and it's about damn time, I feel like I've seriously been ignoring one of my most-used apps out there in this blog.

Anyway, in the last post I alluded to the fact that I organize my thousands of emails (as of this moment, around 3200 pieces of received mail, and 2700 pieces of sent mail, over just the past two years) into folders that separate my various jobs, as well as family, friends, account information, invites, etc. By doing this I keep my inbox completely clean.

Because of this, there isn't a way to view all my recent pieces of mail across the several folders, or one large view of all my emails. But no fear, that's what Saved Search Views are for.

If you hit the drop down View menu, you see an option called "Save View as Folder."

From there you can customize the message you want displayed in that particular view. In the following example, my "Recent" folder, I've set it up so that all messages that are either unread, less than two days old, or are starred, are displayed in that view.

You also have to specify what folders you want to include in this view. I've selected all my folders (and their subfolders) except for the trash, junk, and sent mail folder. Note that you have to update your checked folders whenever you move/add folders in your account, they don't get automatically added.

As you can see in the shot on the right, I currently use the Recent view, as well as an All view, which just shows all my received emails in one. This is useful when I need to do a quick search for a piece of email whose containing folder I can't immediately recall.

How do YOU organize your inbox?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

FolderPane Tools Selects Your Default Thunderbird Folder (review)

Do you organize your Thunderbird inbox into folders? Is there a specific folder you use more than any other folder? Or is more important, like your email folder for work? Wouldn't it be great if you could set Thunderbird to open and go directly to that folder whenever you set it up?

More so, do you have multiple email accounts and prefer one over another as your default account?

Well, with FolderPane Tools, you can.

As you can see in the preceeding image, I have a multitude of folders that I use to separate out different freelance jobs, as well as friends and family. I also have a Saved Search folder called "RECENT" that shows the last few days' emails from all the folders. I prefer this to my inbox folder, since if the filters are working well, my inbox should be empty. So I'd like to set Thunderbird's default folder to Recent. Meanwhile, I've also got a Yahoo email account I access using the Webmail extension.

FolderPane Tools is a Thunderbird extension/addon that allows you to set default folders and accounts in your folder pane. Check this screenshot to see the settings. It's small and no-frills and works out of the box:

If you're the kind of person that just has one big inbox, and has just one email account, even this small and lightweight extension doesn't deserve a spot in your Thunderbird client. But if you do need more help managing your accounts and folders, FolderPane Tools is right up your alley.

(Version reviewed was

Friday, May 16, 2008

Obsessively Track Radiohead's Tour With 58Hours (review)

Radiohead is not only one of my favorite bands, it's also the band I will have seen the most concerts of come August 24th, when they play the first of their two shows at the Hollywood Bowl. Promoting their innovative (in more ways than one) album In Rainbows, I recently alluded to how I got the tickets with the help of Tab Mix Plus' auto-reload feature.

Naturally, whenever there's a new album to promote, that means a lot more of those songs are played than the band's previous album. This is good if you're a fan of the new album (I would've really loved to have seen Green Day when American Idiot was released), but as a longtime fan you also want to hear the classics.

Want to know the odds your favorite RH song is gonna be played at the show you're going to? 58hours helps obsessive Radiohead fans track Radiohead's entire touring history by not only having written up setlists for what seems to be every live show they've ever played, but cross-references the individual songs to show how many times each has been performed. They even go so far as show you what the most likely songs to precede and follow it are.

58hours is still a work in progress, but I love how it has social networking features built in that let you sign up and check off the shows you've been to, or which of their future shows you've got tickets to. It just feels more inclusive feeling like there's someone you kinda know in that stadium or ampitheater with you.

Clearly these really are for the Radiowhores out there. They take live tips as the songs get played, even what songs were soundchecked before the actual concert, giving you an even clearer glimpse of the immediate future (in case you're that impatient). They also offer member reviews of the shows themselves. So far nothing in the way of photos or videos, but I'm pretty sure those are on the way.

As for me, I'm hoping that by the time the band reaches the west coast on the latter end of their U.S. tour, they'll have found a way to really balance the old stuff and the new. I'm not asking for Creep, but I'll never turn down a No Surprises or, heaven help me, a Let Down.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Review: DExpose2 OSX Expose-Like Feature for Windows

DExpose2 is an application for Windows that brings forth Expose-like features to Windows. For those that don't know, Expose is a feature on Macs that let you view all the open windows at once, resized to fit the entire screen. Here's the feature running on a Macbook, as well as DExpose2 running on an EEE PC

This was always a cool feature in Macs that was a different approach to switching from window to window from Windows' alt-tab (see here for the best Alt-Tab replacement for Windows), and it's cool to see someone try it for Windows. But how well does it get the job done?

First thing's first: DExpose2 works pretty much out of the box. Hitting F11 engages the tool, and it even offers other options that add to its interactivity. From the looks of it, DExpose works by essentially taking a screenshot of all the open windows and renders those individual screenshots whenever you hit F11.

It's an extremely novel solution and one I wouldn't have imagined as a way to do this for Windows. Unfortunately, as a result, it's not as seamless as the way this works for Macs. As you know, I haven't had the most luck with taking screenshots in Windows since I began running three monitors at once, so DExpose2 would routinely chug whenever I hit F11. Worse, to save rendering time, you can also set DExpose2 to take window screenshots periodically, or whenever the window view changes. If you're on any window that changes constantly, like a browser, this will prove quite the hassle. I routinely had Windows explorer chug on me every time I went into a new window.

It also doesn't help that it takes up way too much memory, around 20-35 megabytes of RAM. When Taskswitch XP takes up less than 1 megabyte and also offers window previews, DExpose2 is just unacceptable.

I tried DExpose2 before it was recently featured on Lifehacker, but I was surprised they would endorse a product as resource intensive as this. Sure, my computer isn't the fastest out there, but such a small addition to your operating system should never come at such great a price. When it comes to switching windows, I'm gonna pass on DExpose2 and stick with Taskswitch XP.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Blogging Tip: Open All Links in New Window

I've been designing websites for just over 10 years now (wow!), when my eighth-grade classmate introduced me to Geocities. I quickly taught myself HTML by coding using Notepad, and to this day I have yet to find a WYSIWYG editor that trumps Notepad (though I do use the Compose window for Blogger for the most part).

Anyway, while I don't consider myself much of an expert in XML, XHTML, or CSS, I must admit I was flabbergasted when I found out the code to open all links in a website in a new window was just simple HTML.

Since as of yet, nobody has answered my question of whether or not you guys prefer me to set all links to open in new windows, or for you to make that choice yourself, I decided to follow my gut instinct and go with the former.

Since Blogger couldn't be arsed to add an option to make all outgoing links open in new windows (I still highly recommend Blogger do that, though!), I was having to edit the link html every time to add a target="_blank" tag to open in a new window. It's the only thing that was causing me to jump into the Edit Html tab to get into the code. There had to be a better way, which meant a trip to Google.

Without further ado, here's the one line of code you need to insert to set all links to open in a new window:

[base target="_blank"]

(replace the [ and ] with <>)

Just insert that within the [head][/head] tags, before the [body] tag, and you should be all set! You can edit the HTML layout of your blog and insert it and it should work (I know, it worked for me)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Ask the Readers: Open in New Window, or Not?

Since this blog relies so heavily on linking to older posts and articles from other sites, I am faced with the dilemma about whether or not to set it so that links open either in the same window, or in a new window. I thought I had it figured out, but looking around online maybe I don't.

As it stands, I've set every link to open in its new window. Since some of the pages here don't load very quickly, and are very long to read, I fear that a person accidentally clicking a link will cause them to lose their spot in what they were reading originally. I fear this is especially true for people clicking on thumbnail links.

However, I've since read quite a few sites online that advocate giving readers the choice of opening in new windows/tabs as they wish. Since a vast majority of my users use Firefox, I would assume that most of you are smart enough to figure out how to middle click for new tabs if you wanted to. Many people are actually annoyed by the choice of browser window being made for them.

Unfortunately, as in almost all cases with design, websites are most likely designed to function for the lower end of the bell curve (i.e. lower resolution screens, lower colors, older browsers, and most especially, less experienced readers). So I am at quite a dilemma. What do you think?

Monday, May 12, 2008

With This Tweak, TaskSwitch XP IS the best "better Alt-Tab Solution" Out there!

A few months ago I ran a series of articles that compared various alternatives to Windows' Alt-Tab feature. The first featured Windows' own Alt-Tab Replacement Powertoy . The second featured Taskswitch XP. The third featured the Vista-like WinFlip 3d. All three were impressive improvements over the status quo, but none of them were perfect. In the end, I recommended my original endorsement, the Alt-Tab Powertoy.

I really loved TaskSwitch XP when I reviewed it. It was faster and more feature-rich (almost to a fault) than the Alt-Tab Powertoy, but I was really annoyed by its persistent need to be displaying its System Tray icon (read the original article for more on this), which is a pet peeve of mine. For this small niggle I settled on recommending the Alt-Tab Powertoy, which aimed for lower but hit the target.

That changes today. A comment left by one of our readers, Stanley, aims to scratch Taskswitch's persistent System Tray itch:

Great Review! Thanks for pointing me towards TaskSwitchXP - being unimpressed with the XP powertoy replacement its exactly what I was after! I'm the same as you when it comes to cluttered systrays so I thought you should know; the tray icon isn't mandatory - just make sure the top two boxes in the 'Tray icons' segment on the General settings tab aren't checked. The only downside to this is that you no longer have an instant systray shortcut to the Settings but you can easily add a shortcut to your preferred place in the Start Menu - just make sure the 'Autostart TaskSwitchXP on system startup' is also checked or you'll never know why it's not working!

Fantastic! Not only does this solve the non-working when invisible system tray icon problem, it also solves the problem of having a system tray icon at all! For this simple fix, I am not only ecstatically indebted to Stanley, I am also enthusiastically, finally, endorsing Taskswitch XP as the BEST "better Alt-Tab replacement" out there.

(Prove me wrong again? Write in the comments!)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Spring Cleaning: Re-speeding Bootup!

Checking out yesterday's article, which involved checking Windows boot time, got me to testing my startup speed again. Remember, one of my first posts (and inspiration for starting this blog), was when I got the time it took to boot up my computer from over four minutes to just over one. Well, it's been about six months since I did that, I figured it was time to see if such was still the case.

Using the ol' cellphone stopwatch when I see the BIOS loading screen display trick, I got 1:15, which was about 7 seconds longer than it used to take. Hardly something to panic about, but certainly worth looking into.

I ran msconfig (start>run>msconfig), and clicked the Startup tab. I saw a handful of entries that concerned me:

There were entries for WindowClippings and Orbit (for OrbitDock), both programs I'd previously installed to try out, and uninstalled for one reason or another. I was surprised to see that not only were there entries in there, they were enabled to run at startup!

Normally I just go and uncheck the boxes next to those entries so they would be disabled from running at startup. But this time I was fed up; why were programs I'd uninstalled still registering? Time to visit the registry.

I run regedit (Start>Run>regedit), and did a search for Orbit. Suddenly the folder showed up that seemed to show all the msconfig entries that were rooted in the registry. There they all were.

Now, the next thing I did was to run a backup of my registry (file>export>, select export all). This is extremely important for people not so crazy about editing the registry. In fact, I would not recommend doing this to anyone who would be slightly squeamish about editing the registry.

That done, I went and deleted all the entries that pertained to programs I absolutely did not want loading at startup (during this I did actually delete an entry I didn't mean to, and regedit does not have an undo feature... the backup came in very handy). Remember, be extremely cautious deleting entries you don't know about. Check online for what people say about those entries to see what they refer to, and whether it's safe to delete them.

When all was said and done, I did a restart to clear everything. Then I whipped out the stopwatch and timed: 1:11. Cut down four seconds from the total. It's still a higher value than that first fated time, but it's understandable since I've since added other necessary files to startup, including some Thunderbird extensions. Overall, I can't complain. After all, a little spring cleaning never hurt anyone.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Windows Boot Timer Doesn't Work for Me Right Now

One of the specific impetuses (impeti? impetii? impetiii?) for me starting this blog was back when I decided to reel in the annoying long time it took for my computer to boot up. Writing about the experience of cutting down my startup time from 4 and a half minutes to 1 minute and 10 seconds was too good to pass up.

Back then I simply used the stopwatch on my cellphone to time the startup, from the moment the motherboard's loading screen showed up, until Thunderbird had completely loaded and I was able to open any program I wanted.

Recently I was made aware of a program called Windows Boot Timer, which claims to track the time when the BIOS starts loading Windows. It wouldn't be comparable to the time I used to track, since I went from hard boot to Windows load, but it would be a good, accurate benchmark to use from now on.

Using the program is (or should've been, see below) super easy. Just run the small executable, and the next time you restart your computer, it'll start recording, and give you a pop-up once Windows finishes loading, with the time it took to restart.

Unfortunately, it never worked for me. I restarted several times, and it just wouldn't work. I have a feeling it had something to do with my registry edits that killed applications faster at shutdown (which cut down the Windows unloading time significantly also), but I haven't had the time to properly test that hypothesis.

Let me know your experiences (whether Windows Boot Timer did/did not work, what your time was, what your total restart time was, etc) in the comments!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Show Related Articles in Blogger Posts

Apparently Wordpress can handle showing links to related posts in articles pretty easily, but this feature isn't intrinsically built into Blogger. This is a minor nuisance for ol' Greasy PC as we continue to bring you daily tips and tweaks, our total number of articles soon approaching 150 (aka five months of straight service!)

Luckily, there's a trick to getting a similar result in Blogger featured in the blog Hoctro's Place, and enhanced by Jackbook. It works by displaying a set number of articles that share the current article's tag, and displaying them.

Check out the post in Jackbook for full instructions on how to install into your blog; their version is the easiest to install (I highly suggest copying and pasting from the .txt document they link to that's got the proper formatting of the XML code you'll need to use). Meanwhile, I suggest going to the Hoctro post to read more about what options can be configured, like the maximum number of labels displayed, and maximum number of posts per label.

I wish there was a way to combine the links all into one. Even better, I wish it could display related articles in order of relevancy depending on how many tags they share with the other articles. Alas, this seems to be the best option right now for directing Blogger readers to other related articles, so we'll just make do for now. Of course, if you do find something better, don't forget to let me know!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Firefox: Using Address Bar Searches? Ditch The Search Bar

A few posts ago, I wrote about how to supercharge your Firefox address bar to search different websites. Now that you know how to do that, why not ditch your Search Bar, and free up some room?

Doing it is simple. Just right click on your main toolbar, and click "Customize Toolbars." You then get the palette showing all of Firefox's toolbar properties. Now just go and drag the search bar from your browser into that palette, and your search bar goes poof! In fact, while you're at it, go and get rid of any other toolbar elements you don't really need to use.

Now that you've gone and done that, why not merge your Stop and Reload buttons, and condense your Menu items into one Compact Menu? Once you've gone and done that, you might have a one-row, super sparse toolbar like I have:

Stay tuned to see how I then added that vertical toolbar on the side.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

"File Not Found or No Read Permission" Zipping Problem

I love that in Windows XP you can right click on any file and Send To> Compressed (zipped) Folder. For most users, that functionality freed us from having use to use shareware programs like WinZip that clogged our registries to no end. In fact, it's still my preferred method of working on zip files, only resorting to using the freeware program 7-Zip when I specifically need to archive to or extract non-zip files.

However, early this morning as I was preparing to deliver some HD Quicktimes to a client, I ran into a problem using Windows' zipper: it seems it can't handle files larger than, say, 2 gigabytes (and half of my files were over 3). It was throwing me the error message

File not found or no read permission

I tried a workaround of creating an empty zip file first (Right Click>New>Compressed Archive), and then dragging the large file in. No luck, it still threw up the error. A quick look on google showed lots of other people having the same problem, and no solution.

Well, as much as I'd love to tell you of an awesome registry tweak or hack for this, I can't. It really seems that Windows has an uncrossable barrier when it comes to zipping files larger than around 2 gigs. However, I did notice that I could use 7-zip to archive the file, and it worked like a charm. It involves a few more steps than using Windows itself, so I still would recommend using Windows' zip for small files, but with impossibly large ones, use 7-zip.

p.s. - For ways to edit your "Send To" right click entries, check out this earlier post.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Windows XP SP3 Finally Released via Automatic Update

I wouldn't know since I'd had Service Pack 3 installed for a week or so now, but apparently Microsoft has finally officially released Windows XP Service Pack 3 via Automatic Update. It was originally scheduled to be released April 29th (a week ago), but there had been incompatibilities with a small niche of business customers. But starting today, if you have Automatic Update activated, it should be waiting for you to let it do its thing.

I've been heartily recommending SP3 for a long time, if not for the potential performance gains, but definitely for the increased stability and security. Long live XP!

(Via Tip and Trick)

Monday, May 5, 2008

Search Your Favorite Sites In the Address Bar (Firefox)

Firefox plugin Searchwords lets you easily and painlessly create what are called "search keywords." If you don't know what they are yet, prepare to be blown away.

Search keywords allow you to use a specific site's search engine (anyone from Google, to Google Maps, to GreasyPC's own search engine, to Lifehacker's, to YouTube), and assign a keyword to each of those search engines. For example, I've attached the keyword "LH" to Lifehacker.

Then, using Searchwords, all I have to do is go to the Firefox Address Bar (keyboard shortcut: CTRL-L), and enter LH Firefox and it'll search Lifehacker's site for anything Firefox-related.

Which means that you can search for YouTube videos or Wikipedia entries without having to go to or first!

Installing and configuring Searchwords is easy. Like all Firefox extensions, just go to the extension's home page and install. If you want to save some extra time installing your Firefox extensions, check out this article on how to remove the 3 second install buffer. You'll then be prompted to restart.

Once Searchwords is installed, you can go to any site you want that has a search engine, and right click on the search form. You'll get an option called "Add a Keyword for this Search..." Click on it, and you'll get a window that's basically like creating a bookmark for your search. Put it in the Quick Search folder, and assign it a short, memorable keyword.

I personally prefer using one or two letter keywords, so I'm not wasting time typing the keyboard in. Remember, we're doing this so we can streamline Firefox not having to use a separate search bar.

Once you fill out the necessary info, you're done! Just go to the address bar, type your keyword, then space, then the thing you're searching for.

The sites I use searchwords to search for are: Google, Youtube, IMDB, The Weather Channel, LA Citysearch (for restaurants), Wikipedia,, and Urban Dictionary. What are yours?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Stop Waiting 3 Seconds to Install your Firefox Extensions!

This is one of those tweaks that I'd always wanted to get over with and fix on my configuration of Firefox already but was too lazy to look up. That is, until today, when I saw Lifehacker post the solution from an article on the blog Daily Gyan.

The problem, of course, regards having to wait three seconds whenever you try to install firefox extensions, before you can actually click the Install button. Since you ARE installing software on your machine, I suppose it's good for novices to have that extra safeguard on there, but if you're more of a power user, you'd rather save those precious seconds.

Simply, enter about:config into your address bar, find the entry called security.dialog_enable_delay and change its value to 0 (from the default of 2000). Here's a screenshot of my configuration:

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Schedule Future Blog Posts Now Available For Everyone!

First I asked if there was a way for bloggers to schedule their posts to publish at a specified future time. Then I blogged about Blogger-in-Draft, Blogger's beta testing iteration where you can try out not-ready-for-primetime features, one of which was Future Blog Posting.

Now, it seems normal users not using Blogger-in-Draft can take advantage of future posting, as they've finally rolled it out of beta status.

To use the feature, click down and expand the Post Options section and change the Post Date and Time to some time in the future. When you return to your message list, it will reveal its status as "Scheduled."

Personally I've had no problems using Blogger-in-Draft this entire time, so I'd still recommend using it over the normal version, but if you're a little skittish, now you know there's nothing to worry about.

(note: this article was published the day after it was written)

Friday, May 2, 2008

Add Digg Links to Your Blogger Blog

In another attempt to reach out and grab more readers from the interweb, I've finally bitten the bullet and joined Digg. Never really having used Digg before, either as a user or webmaster (but knowing how it works), I went a-googlin' to see how one goes about adding that "Digg this!" link to all of my posts.

Luckily, Tips-For-New-Bloggers had the answer. Click the link above for more info. Thanks guys!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Split and Merge PDF's With Gios PDF!

A while ago I covered a way to split and merge TIFF files, and a week or so ago I covered how to create multi-page PDFs in Photoshop. Now I'll feature a program that accomplishes probably even more basic than both of those, which is splitting and merging PDF's (without Adobe Acrobat, of course).

Gios PDF Splitter and Merger is a free and open source application created by Paolo Gios, and it handles just splitting and merging, and it does it perfectly. In fact, it's so simple and intuitive the program doesn't even come with (or need) a readme or help file. Peep the screenshot below and I'm sure you can figure out how the whole thing works:

The entire program is just 76 kilobytes and runs straight off the executable. That's right, another awesome program that doesn't need installation. As such, it would be a great addition to your Thumb Drive apps to take wherever you go.

One thing that IS a bit of a pain with these non-install apps is that to keep them organized, you'd have to put them in the Program Files directory yourself and make a shortcut to put in your Start menu if you want it within easy reach. Oh, how I can never be satisfied.