Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Alt-Tab Alternatives

One of my friends recently discovered Alt-Tab on Windows, which has been available for a very long time. However the utility of the default Alt-Tab behavior is quite minimal. There are two good alternatives that greatly enhance the default Alt-Tab behavior.

The first is the Alt-Tab Replacement (TaskSwitch.exe) from Microsoft which is part of the PowerToys for Windows XP bundle. This improves the Alt-Tab experience to include previews of the windows as one cycles through them. Useful, but not much of a leap compared to the default behavior. Keep in mind that the PowerToys are not supported by Microsoft.

The second alternative is TaskSwitchXP from ntwind software. TaskSwitchXP shows a list of windows with previews with the ability to take actions on them using both the mouse and keyboard shortcuts. It also has a rich set of keyboard shortcuts. Definitely a far better alternative to the default Alt-Tab and the PowerToy.

TaskSwitchXP

Saturday, July 26, 2008

FCC Aproves Sirius-XM Merger

This has been a long time coming but finally the FCC has finally approved the merger of Sirius Satellite Radio with XM Satellite Radio. The combined entity is pretty much a monopoly in the satellite radio space but they are still competing with terrestrial radio. Either way, their stocks, NASDAQ:SIRI and NASDAQ:XMSR should get a good boost on Monday.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Lefthanded Mouse in Java Desktop Environment

Ever wanted to left mouse in Microsoft Windows or KDE? The options to swap mouse buttons are easy to find. In Microsoft Windows it's Start -> Control Panel -> Mouse; in KDE it's Control Center -> Peripherals -> Mouse. On the Sun Ray server, running the Java Desktop Environment this option is buried in an unlikely place. It's at Launch -> Preferences -> Accessibility -> Keyboard -> Mouse Keys -> Mouse Preferences. Mouse settings buried under keyboard accessibility; how's that for usability! (Screenshots below taken with GIMP.)

Accessibility : Keyboard : Mouse KeysMouse Settings

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Happy π Approximation Day!

In the tradition of silly holidays, today's the 22nd of July (7) which makes it 22/7 (for most non-Americans) or π Approximation Day. To get you into the spirit, here's some fun π stuff:

Monday, July 21, 2008

Element Hiding in Adblock Plus

Adblock Plus Element Hiding Helper In addition to the usual methods of blocking images and JavaScript based on URL patterns, the most popular ad blocker - Adblock Plus - has additional sophisticated mechanisms to hide ads on pages. These involve locating nodes in the DOM structure of the page, by any of their attributes (id, class, style, etc.) and hiding them. This technique is called element hiding and typically requires the use of tools like the DOM inspector or the HTML source of the page to figure out what nodes need to be hidden. Adblock Plus has recently made this simpler with the Element Hiding Helper. This utility allows one to pinpoint the element to be hidden visually and then build up the element hiding rule via a graphical interface. Ad blocking (or rather, ad hiding) made simple!

Sun Ray 2FS Virtual Display Client

Sun RayAt work, we've just started experimenting with Sun Rays and I've got a 2FS on my desk. I have used these devices at Java One in the past but this is the first time I've got to take a closer a look at these devices. The 2FS is a sleek package about the size of a notebook. In front, it has a smart card reader slot, one USB 2.0 port, a stereo line level in, a headset jack and a microphone jack. At the back, it has a serial port, a 100 Base-FX optical connection, a 10/100 Base-T Ethernet jack, two USB 2.0 ports, two DVI outputs and the power input. The two DVI outputs are definitely advantage especially for programmers. At present I'm using the Sun Ray with my existing desktop via an Iogear KVM switch (model GCS42UW6) and our office is only wired up for Ethernet. the 2FS uses a RMI Alchemy™ Au1550™ Processor. All that information is based on external appearances and the technical specs from Sun; I haven't looked at the innards yet.

The 2FS comes off as a pretty neat package until you look at the price tag. The 2FS costs $499 plus a $125 Sun Ray Software Right-To-Use (RTU) License from Sun. There's also the cost of the server backend required to support a slew of Sun ray clients. Of course, the purported savings are in the lack of maintenance costs related to upgrades, viruses, etc. That may be meaningful for large companies but for a small to mid-size organization, I'm not convinced about the financial advantages. It definitely puts the Sun Ray out of the home computing market.

Over the next few days, I'll post more information about the Sun Ray based on my use.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Google Docs Adds Template Support

Loan Amortization Schedule templateGoogle has added template support to Google Docs. There are over 300 templates available for documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Some of the useful templates are the ones for resumes and personal finance calculators. At this time there is no mechanism for users to create new templates (other than starting from an existing doc) but this is a step forward in gaining feature parity with desktop tools.

Technobabble Goes Mobile - m.element77.com

MoFuseTechnobabble is now mobile friendly. Mobile access to the site is available via m.element77.com. This is enabled via MoFuse who offer page conversion, image resizing and all their other offerings, including custom domain support, for free. Desktop visitors to the mobile will be provided with a mobile simulator displaying the site. There's even an iPhone simulator version of the page. MoFuse allows sites to be monetized using Google AdSense or AdMob with a 50% revenue sharing agreement. This may be an issue for content providers with high traffic but reasonable for blogs with moderate traffic.

Overall, I'm impressed with the simplicity of setup and the features offered by MoFuse. Definitely recommend it to anyone wanting to expand their blog presence to the mobile world with minimal effort.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Scour Brings Social Searching

ScourScour is a search engine that brings social searching to the web. It is a metasearch engine that organizes and returns results from the three main search engines - Google, Yahoo and MSN Live. Results can be filtered by search engine and rank within each search engine is displayed. In this respect it's little different from other metasearch engines. The social aspect comes in from the ability to vote on the results (a simple positive or negative vote) and also post comments on each and every search result. In order to encourage this social contribution, registered users are awarded 1 point for each search, 1 point for each vote and 1 point for each comment (with daily limits to discourage abuse). Every 6,500 Scour points translate into a $25 Visa gift card. In addition, points are available for referrals.

In order to encourage use of Scour, an IE toolbar and Firefox Search Engine addon are available. A full demo of Scour is here.

Give Scour a shot.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Gentoo: dev-python/pyqt4-4.4 failed on pluginloader.cpp

I've been trying to get the latest version of Amarok to build on Gentoo. This in turn requires PyQt4-4.4 but that ebuild fails with this error on pluginloader.cpp:

pluginloader.cpp: In static member function 'static PyObject* PyCustomWidgets::getModuleAttr(const char*, const char*)':
pluginloader.cpp:284: error: invalid conversion from 'const char*' to 'char*'
pluginloader.cpp:284: error: initializing argument 1 of 'PyObject* PyImport_ImportModule(char*)'
pluginloader.cpp:296: error: invalid conversion from 'const char*' to 'char*'
pluginloader.cpp:296: error: initializing argument 2 of 'PyObject* PyObject_GetAttrString(PyObject*, char*)'
make[1]: *** [pluginloader.o] Error 1
make[1]: *** Waiting for unfinished jobs....
make[1]: Leaving directory `/var/tmp/portage/dev-python/PyQt4-4.4/work/PyQt-x11-gpl-4.4/designer'
make: *** [all] Error 2

There's some discussion of this issue on the forums which leads to bug 222435. Ebuild patches are available in the bug attachments.

To install the patches:

  • Download PyQt4-4.4-r1.ebuild to /usr/portage/dev-python/PyQt4/
  • Download PyQt4-4.4-compile.patch to /usr/portage/dev-python/PyQt4/files/
  • Run ebuild /usr/portage/dev-python/PyQt4/PyQt4-4.4-r1.ebuild digest
  • emerge dev-python/PyQt4