RecommendationsTips & Tricks
January 9, 2011

Video Wallpapers With VLC Media Player

When I originally bought Windows Vista, I was really excited about the DreamScene feature. It allowed videos to be used as wallpapers in Windows, something that I had never seen before. To use it, you had to buy Windows Vista Ultimate, the most expensive edition. I was happy to do this, given that Windows was the foundation of all the work I did in my career. Unfortunately, the extras included with Ultimate weren't really worth the extra money, in the end. I'm sure they had their applications, but they really didn't enrich my life, personally. DreamScene, in particular, turned out to be a disappointment. It was an interesting idea, but I found that if I played a game, and returned to Windows, the video wallpaper…
RecommendationsTips & Tricks
December 23, 2010

How Fear Can Keep You Writing

As I was searching for tools to help me with my general writing process, I found one that was particularly interesting, and worth sharing. Write or Die is an application that uses negative reinforcement to keep you typing. As long as you continue writing, you'll be fine... but if you stop, Write or Die starts to get aggressive. As a first step, it will start changing the background color of the window to red. As time passes, the red gets more intense. If you don't keep typing, and you let it get totally demonic, you will face one of three possible punishments, depending on your settings. The mildest of these punishments involves a simple pop-up, reminding you to type. Not really significant, as you just…
RecommendationsTips & Tricks
November 27, 2010

Comparing Files and Folders With WinMerge

Before I started working for my current employer, I hadn't yet discovered how useful differencing tools could be. As I began working regularly with Visual SourceSafe 6 at work, I grew to value the fact that I could check for differences before every file check in. It was a standard for my employer, but to me, it was a process I was getting used to. Eventually, I realized that I needed a stand-alone comparison tool, in case Visual SourceSafe wasn't around. This eventually lead me to a WinMerge, an open source differencing and merging tool. There are numerous reasons why I like WinMerge. Most of all, I really appreciate the contextual options. With files, I can select any difference within a file, and choose to…
DevelopmentRecommendationsTips & Tricks
November 21, 2010

Testing Web Performance by Throttling Bandwidth

In the past, I often found myself wondering how some of my websites would perform when accessed from a low bandwidth connection. Unfortunately, I had no convenient way to test such a scenario, so I usually just forgot about the idea. I recently found myself in a similar scenario at work, and my searches returned a useful tool,┬áSpeed Simulator, by Vikas Patial: Speed simulator is a simple throttling proxy which allows you to see how your site behaves under different connection speeds. It was written by me to test AJAX/Flash loaders and see how much my time took to load. You can simulate various speeds like that of a modem or a ADSL. A pre delay function is also there to help simulate delays due…
RecommendationsTips & Tricks
October 12, 2010

Locating Old Versions of Software Packages

Ever wished you could go back to an old version of a particular application? Often times, as software companies release new versions, they remove the ability to download older versions. They may also choose to drop support for such versions, in the long run. Usually, upgrading software is a good idea: more bugs are fixed, new features are introduced, all of that fun stuff. In some cases, however, features are unexpectedly removed, or there are performance problems that result from the update. In these scenarios, I consider it valid to seek out older versions. Whenever I found myself in these situations in the past, I would search for websites that offered the old version. I didn't always succeed, particularly because my freestyle approach depended on…