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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…
Tips & Tricks
January 24, 2009

Using Ping to Monitor Reboots

When you`re rebooting a computer, and you need to know exactly when it is back online, try using this command: ping -t <target> <target> can be an IP or domain name. This command will keep pinging the machine endlessly, which can reveal exactly when the computer is back on the network. As long as you keep getting "Request time out", the machine isn't online yet. When you get a reply, as illustrated below, you know you can connect to the machine. Personally, I tend to put this window on my secondary monitor, while I continue working on the primary monitor.  As soon as the machine is online, I close the window or press CTRL+C to prevent the ping from going on endlessly. Be careful how…
Tips & Tricks
January 17, 2009

Screen Capture Tools and the Evasive Mouse Cursor

So, here's the thing:  I was taking screenshots for another article, and then I noticed that the cursor was not present in them - and I needed it to be. I've used Print Screen for a long time now, and I never really needed the cursor to appear. Whenever I did need to have it the screenshot, it was for work - and there, we have SnagIt, which has an option to show the cursor. While SnagIt is a great application, I wasn't ready to buy a license for home use just yet. I wanted to look for free tools first... so I began my search. I found out a couple interesting applications along the way. Snipping Tool (Windows Vista only) I was surprised to discover…
Tips & Tricks
January 10, 2009

Another Way to Close Windows

A couple of years ago, I discovered a new way to close windows in Microsoft Windows. To be fair, I didn't discover it on my own - I saw a colleague of mine using the alternate approach, and I asked her about it. I was surprised that although I had used various Microsoft operating systems (95, XP, 2000, 2003), that particular trick eluded me. Here's how it works. You know how you can normally close a window by clicking on the top right corner? The "X" button? Well, you can also double-click on the top left corner, and this will usually also close the window. The reason I say "usually" is because some newer applications, like Google Chrome, for example - are not using the…
Personal Stories
January 5, 2009

Not Just Another Passenger

When I was 17, I remember accompanying my father to check out some of the local garage sales. You see, in my hometown (and likely in other towns too), we had yearly garage sale “festivals”. This is what my father jokingly called them - there would always be plenty of people at these things. I would later wonder how effective these people would have been if they had actually used their numbers to support a cause, rather than their own personal desire to acquire material goods, at a bargain; however, on this particular day, I was just looking for cool stuff. On this day, I only bought one item. This item was a 3 foot tall, 3 foot wide – bear. A giant, stuffed bear.…
Tips & TricksTutorials
January 4, 2009

Internet Explorer … provided by Dell?

When I first received my laptop from Dell, I quickly noticed something different in Internet Explorer: Apparently, my copy of Internet Explorer was provided by Dell. I immediately disliked the idea that this reminder would be present every time I used Internet Explorer. I began looking for a way to remove it, and it turned out to be pretty simple. All you need to do is change a registry key, located here: HKEY_CURRENT_USER/Software/Microsoft/Internet Explorer/Main and depicted here: Solution Some of the instructions found in this article involve modifying the Windows registry. If modified incorrectly, serious problems may occur. It is highly recommended by both the author of this article, and by Microsoft - that you back up the registry before you modify it. For information…
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