Tips & Tricks
September 25, 2009

Reducing E-mail Spam by Eliminating Public Listings

I've been using Gmail as my e-mail service provider for a few years now, and due to their excellent spam filters, I've been able to ignore the continuous stream of junk mail hitting my mailbox every day. Despite their efficiency at identifying and hiding spam e-mails, I remain genuinely concerned about keeping my e-mail address hidden from the public view.  E-mails that are publicly available are easy targets for spambots, which are automated programs that scour the Internet for e-mail addresses. Once "harvested", these addresses are sent junk mail, spam. Photo by Allan Reyes Sometimes, however, it is desirable to have an e-mail address visible to the public - to do so, a special approach should be taken to protect it from spambots. For example, you can…
Tips & Tricks
August 14, 2009

Converting Formatted Text from the Clipboard to Plain Text

Usually when I copy text from web pages, I really don't want the formatting from the webpage to be kept. I  just want to have the text in the simplest format possible, and then I can set my own styles. Unfortunately, this isn't normally how it works. Typically, when copying from a web page in a browser, it may also copy any tables, images, and styles that are applied to or mixed with the text. This does depend on where you are pasting the text, though. In my case, I use Microsoft Word most of the time. Word supports a lot of web page elements, meaning they will likely appear in the Word document. Consider the following text: This is some example text. You'll notice that…
Tips & Tricks
August 8, 2009

Enabling Theme Support in Windows Server 2003

Microsoft's Server operating systems are specifically aligned to offer, above all, top reliability and performance. It is therefore no surprise that Windows Server 2003, at first glance, seems to lack the standard Luna desktop theme that XP users have been accustomed to. Here's the thing: The feature isn't missing, it's just "hidden" by default. Solution Here's how to enable it: 1) Open the Services Management Console by entering "services.msc" in the Run dialog. To open the Run dialog, click Start > Run, or press Windows Key + R. 2) Locate the Themes service, right-click it, and select Properties. 3) On the General tab, select the Startup Type dropdown, and choose Automatic. 4) Click Apply. 5) Click OK. 6) Right-click the Themes service again, and select Start.…
Tips & TricksTutorials
July 5, 2009

How to Learn More About the Background Pictures Featured on Bing

When Microsoft announced their new Bing search engine, I was immediately curious about how it compared to Google. I changed Bing to my default search engine, and tried using it daily. Ultimately, I returned to Google, which always seemed to have slightly better search results - in most cases. Despite this fact, I visit Bing it at least once a day  - but not to search. I visit it daily specifically to see the new background image they are using. They change this background image every day, and each one is usually impressive. In fact, in most cases, seeing it actually makes me want to find out more about what I'm seeing. As an example, consider the following screenshot: Great image - the type of image that…
RecommendationsTips & Tricks
June 12, 2009

File Locking: Access Is Denied? Not Anymore.

I'm sure most of you have encountered this type of error, at one time or another, while using Windows: Cannot delete file: Access is denied. It appears when you try to delete a file or folder that is currently in use by an application. To be completely accurate, the file needs to be in use and locked by the application to prevent external edits - the lock is likely the reason we see the error message. Sometimes it is really obvious which application has a locked handle on the file - for example, if it is complaining about a Word document - perhaps the document is still open in Word. Personally, I consider scenarios like that acceptable because they can be solved easily; unfortunately, all…
Personal Stories
April 30, 2009

How My First Appointment With a New Dentist Resulted In My Being Banned

There are times where I wonder what I'm going to write next for this blog, and then, there are times like today - something totally insane happens, and I have no doubt about what I'm going to write next. Still, I'm very picky about what I put on here - I refuse to post mundane details about my everyday life - one of my most important rules. The only exception to this rule occurs when I feel a particular story could be entertaining, and make people laugh. If I consider it a funny story, then I'll put it up. This is one of those stories. A few days ago, while eating supper, I felt a pain when closing my jaw - it originated from a…
Tips & Tricks
April 29, 2009

Applying a Custom Filter in an Open File Dialog

What I'm going to cover now is a pretty minor feature of Windows. I would of skipped this article, but I encountered a few people that never heard of this trick. I've personally found it useful in scenarios where I was working with custom file extensions... for example, I knew that a particular file with the uncommon extension ".def" could be opened in Microsoft Access.  The file extension ".def" is not typically associated with Microsoft Access, but I knew it was a valid file. To explain how the feature works, consider your typical, everyday "Open File" dialog: In this example, the dialog wants you to select a ".torrent" file by default. Because this is the active filter, you only see files that have a ".torrent"…
RecommendationsTips & Tricks
April 27, 2009

Visualizing Disk Usage With Treemaps

Have you ever been in a situation where you're not sure why your hard drive is as full as it is, and you wonder what exactly what is taking up the most space? I'm pretty sure most computer users have encountered this before. What I used to do when I hit this problem was look around for big folders on my drive. This ultimately works, but it takes some searching to find the problematic folders - and you're likely to miss some stuff. Determined to find a better approach, I looked around for an application that could help me, and eventually found one called WinDirStat that utilized a method called treemapping to help users visualize their disk usage. I tried it out, and was immediately…
HumorPersonal Stories
April 11, 2009

Becoming a Rainbow Six Operative

So lately, Joseph and I have been having fun with Rainbow Six Vegas 2. The game is a fairly well-made first-person shooter, and we enjoy playing co-operative games every now and then. The other day, we discovered that the game has a "Custom Head" feature. The feature allows you to map your own face onto your in-game character.  When we actually got around to trying it, we were pretty impressed with the quality of the results. Consider the following screenshot: If you know me in real life, you'll know that this is a pretty decent representation of what I look like. Not perfect, but still impressive. After trying our regular faces, we decided to try and get the game to accept unusual facial expressions. I…
RecommendationsTips & Tricks
March 27, 2009

Measuring Those Pixels

Ever needed to measure the distance between two HTML elements, without achieving it through code? I found a tool a while ago that allowed me to do just that; it was, essentially, a virtual ruler. Called Pixel Ruler, this free application makes a ruler appear on your screen. You can place it anywhere you want, horizontally or vertically, and use it to measure pretty much anything. It is a little buggy at times, but I still recommend you give it a try.
Personal Stories
March 22, 2009

Dear Santa Claus

I found this little historical gem at my parents place: Let's review this quickly: I like how my first question challenges the logic of his whole operation, and the next one aims to strip him of his disguise. Notice how the area under the word "May" in "May I have these toys please?" is scratched? I probably initially wrote "Can", but then I figured that "May" made more sense. Nice. "Meet me in my room. If I am asleep wake me up." - I'd like to think this was a trap for this Santa fellow. Maybe I was hidden, waiting to de-mask the man as he attempted to wake me up. This was probably not the case. That "signature" is awful, and is nothing like…
March 13, 2009

Web-based vs Offline Help Systems

As you probably know, I work for a software development company -  and during a routine lunch hour, I  began wondering why our software still shipped with offline help files (CHM), rather than offering the help files online. You see, every now and then, our company discovers that the help files are missing some information; however, we can't do anything about it until the next release. Sure, we can temporarily alleviate the problem by creating external knowledge base articles, but it doesn't fix the fact that clients have the same help files, without the new information. This situation brought an interesting question to the table: Why don't our products have web-based help? Example of web-based help I came up with numerous advantages and disadvantages: Advantages:…
RecommendationsTips & Tricks
February 17, 2009

Where’s My Cell Phone?

Last year I decided to get drop my land line, and just get by with a cell phone. All was well, until one day where I wasn't able to find my cell phone. I somehow managed to lose it in my apartment, and since I no longer had a land line, I couldn't call my own phone to get it ringing. To locate it, I ended up sending an instant message to a friend on MSN, and he called my phone. That worked well enough, but it required someone else to be around. The next time I lost my phone, again in my apartment -  I couldn't contact anyone on MSN, so I looked for an alternate solution. I googled around in search of people in…
Personal Stories
February 7, 2009

The Peculiar Ways Of My Cat

Last year, I spontaneously adopted a male kitten from a local pet shop. I'd always walked by this pet shop, but was never actively interested in getting a kitten. Having grown up with cats, they weren't anything new to me - but this particular kitten was different. His fur was blond... I had never seen a cat that color before - the ones I grew up with had been much darker. I was used to black, gray, brown, and mixes based upon those colors. So ultimately, I bought the kitten - and soon realized he was very different from other cats. First off, he isn't afraid of water - at all. In fact, he has a weird attraction to it. Whenever I turn on a…