March 27, 2010

The Road To Nowhere

Due to my choice of profession, I tend to spend a lot of time using computers. Consequently, I work with a lot of applications - that means I see lots of different user interfaces. Some are good, some are bad - but every now and then, I find something in between. Sometimes, it perfectly showcases the developer's sense of humor. For example, here's what the "Go To" dialog looks like in Notepad++. You can access it by pressing CTRL+G. Not sure that's the best design for the dialog - but I appreciated the humor.  :)
Tips & Tricks
February 13, 2010

How to Temporarily Disable System Beeps

Computers have a means of communicating without external speakers - they do so via hardware beeps. These are the main scenarios I've seen where a computer beeps: There is a problem when the system tries to boot, so it attempts to communicate what went wrong - via a sequence of beeps. Too many keys were pressed at once on the keyboard. The system is configured to beep whenever an alert dialog appears. The last one I found particularly annoying when I was developing Visual Basic 6 applications at my day job. For some reason, Visual Studio 6 likes to communicate with you via alert dialogs. Visual Studio .NET corrected this - instead of a typical alert box, they list the errors and warnings in another…
February 6, 2010

A Chrome Extension That Does Nothing

Since it was first introduced, Google Chrome has been my browser of choice. So, when version 4 was released, I was particularly pleased to see the new extensions feature. When I went to view the extensions gallery, a particular entry stood out from the rest: Right there among the top rated extensions, I found one that did nothing: When I viewed the details about the extension, it became obvious that many people were fueling the joke by adding supportive comments. Still, you see glimmers of confusion every now and then.
Tips & Tricks
January 31, 2010

Capturing Only the Active Window with Print Screen

Print Screen takes a screenshot of the entire Windows desktop. Ah, yes... Print Screen. I've been using the Prt Scr key for many years now - for a long time, it was my primary method of taking screenshots. However, when I started working as a developer, I quickly discovered the benefits of using specialized screenshot utilities. Presently, I use Snipping Tool and Jing much more than Print Screen. The problem was always that Print Screen would copy the whole desktop, which is particularly frustrating when you have multiple monitors. Soon after starting as a developer, I was told that pressing Alt + Prt Scr would copy only the active window to the clipboard. This proved convenient in the cases where I wanted exactly that - just…
Tips & Tricks
January 30, 2010

Task Manager Has a Tiny Footprint Mode

UPDATE: I made a video explaining this in December 2016. The article can still be read after the video, if you prefer. If you use Windows, chances are, you know about the Task Manager. Windows Task Manager is a task manager application included with Microsoft Windows NT family of operating systems that provides detailed information about computer performance and running applications, processes and CPU usage, commit charge and memory information, network activity and statistics, logged-in users, and system services. The Task Manager can also be used to set process priorities, processor affinity, forcibly terminate processes, and shut down, restart, hibernate or log off from Windows. Typically accessed via CTRL+ALT+DEL, this handy tool was never intended to be widely used. Watch below for a laugh…
Tips & Tricks
January 24, 2010

Changing Drive Letters In Windows

At home, I use multiple external hard drives; however, I don't always leave them on. I usually have just one of them running at a time. Today, when my turned on my main external hard drive, it was assigned the drive letter I by Windows, whereas it usually used F. This caused some problems - some of my shortcuts expect it to be the F drive. When I look at my drives in Windows, here is what I see: Looking at the drives, I don't quite understand why Windows thought I would be a good idea. I'm guessing it remembers another drive that had F, and wants to reserve it. Why it didn't do that before, is beyond me. To correct the shortcuts, I had to…
Tips & Tricks
January 23, 2010

Copying the Contents of Windows Dialogs

As a developer, I very often see error messages - some of those originate from the products I develop, and I have to report them as bugs. Whenever I get an error message in a dialog, I typically take a screenshot, and add that to the bug base issue. That's fine, but it means people can't search for that error message in the bug base - in order to enable that, I'd usually just manually type out the error message, rather than take a screenshot. That was before. Today, I'd just press CTRL+C to copy the error dialog contents. That's right, whenever you see a dialog in Windows, like this: You can press CTRL+C to copy, and then open up Notepad, and press CTRL+V to…
November 21, 2009

To Love and Hate NoScript

Mozilla Firefox has always been one of my favorite browsers. The only contender that was able to knock it from its #1 position was Google Chrome. Even though Chrome is still lacking in a few departments (extensions, bookmark management), I swear by it because of the overall performance. Plus, whenever they release a major version, I know they'll have further performance enhancements - that's just what they do. I also prefer the minimalistic nature of their user interface - which, as it turns out, also integrates beautifully with my operating system, Windows 7. Despite Firefox dropping to #2 in my list, I still use it regularly for web development. They have plenty of extensions to keep me coming back: Firebug, Web Developer, ColorZilla, HTML Validator, and... well,…
RecommendationsTips & Tricks
November 14, 2009

A Good Place to Find Free Loading Animations

As I was working on one of my personal web development projects today, I realized I would need a loading animation. Thankfully, I remembered a very useful web service I discovered a long time ago - The site is specifically designed to provide free, customizable loading animations - in GIF format.  They have at least 25 different types of loading animations - so if you're looking for one, I recommend you check what they have to offer. As for the "free" factor - in case you're wondering: there aren't any specific licenses associated with the images, but the front page clearly states that "generated gifs are totally free for use". That said, enjoy.
DevelopmentRecommendationsTips & Tricks
November 2, 2009

An Easier Way to Search for Domain Names

In the past, whenever I wanted to search for available domain names, I checked with individual domain registrars. While this worked, it really wasn't optimal- every time I wanted to check another domain's availability, I had to press Back in my browser, re-enter a domain, re-submit the request, and then I'd know. Most websites were set up like this, unfortunately. Furthermore, if I wanted to compare domain registration fees, I'd have to check multiple websites. I'm happy to say that these inconveniences are now no longer an issue. The solution lies in a site called Instant Domain Search. The webpage aims to facilitate the process of searching for a domain, and to do so, it: searches automatically as you type lists different rates from leading registrars lists domains names…
HumorPersonal Stories
October 31, 2009

The Wall of Cookies

Back in June 2008, I invited a friend of mine to an Iron Maiden concert here in Montreal. Since he lives in Nova Scotia, this meant that he'd be staying at my place for a few days. Over the years I've known him, it was very clear to me that he really enjoyed cookies... so I thought I should be equipped for his arrival: The cabinet was almost completely full - each package you see in the photo had another identical one right behind it. Needless to say, we didn't finish all the cookies - I had to give them away to friends and family.
Tips & Tricks
October 26, 2009

Blocking Websites with the Windows Hosts File

Sometimes I decide that I never want to re-visit a particular website ever again, and I want a way to block it indefinitely. Normally, I just learned to ignore a website simply out of self-discipline. Lately, I decided I wanted something more secure. After all, even with self-discpline, I could still accidentally visit said site from a link found on another unblocked site. I figured out a good solution: the Windows hosts file. Windows features a special file simply called "hosts", without an extension. This file allows users to map hostnames to IP addresses. More importantly, however, is that when Windows tries to locate nodes on any given network, it will take the hosts file into consideration. It will actually consider the hosts file prior to querying…
HumorPersonal Stories
October 13, 2009

Powerful Mail

A friend recently sent me a package - I couldn't help but laugh when I saw it: I wasn't home when this package arrived, and that meant the mailman had to leave note informing me that a package for "Refghi Power" would be waiting for me at the local post office. When I went to get it, I tried to contemplate how I would prove that I am "Refghi Power", as all my IDs claim I'm "Matt Refghi". Also, keep in mind that mostly everyone around here speaks French. Thankfully, the guy at the post office laughed and said he got it.
September 29, 2009

Yahoo! Answers: Suing Facebook

I was genuinely trying to find out if there was a way to have certain pictures of myself removed from Facebook, until I found this: Can I sue Facebook for putting my pictures on the Internet? I like how all the others answers were, for the most part, completely correct - and yet the chosen "best answer" is ridiculous. UPDATE January 19, 2013: Question was deleted, removed link.