Tips & Tricks
June 25, 2012

How to Pin a Batch File to the Taskbar in Windows 7

One of my favorite features in Windows 7 is the taskbar, as it combines the convenience of Vista's Quick Launch, while organizing windows in a more intuitive manner. I've grown accustomed to dragging program shortcuts into it, and having them remain there permanently. That is, until this morning. For some reason, I discovered that Windows wouldn't let me drag a batch file to the taskbar. In DOS, OS/2, and Microsoft Windows, batch file is the name given to a type of script file, a text file containing a series of commands to be executed by the command interpreter. Even when I right-clicked the file, I didn't see the typical "Pin to Taskbar" shortcut. Seeing as batch scripts can execute programs within themselves, I was surprised they were being blocked.…
The skull mask
Personal Stories
June 16, 2012

The Monk and the Gorilla

It was around the time where I was getting to be too old for Halloween, so I didn't do the whole candy collection thing. Instead, I served as a candy dispenser for the kids who wandered over to my parent's place. I decided I would also dress up to entertain the children that passed, but I wasn't exactly sure of what I would do. All I knew is that I had a mask, and a monk's robe. The mask was designed to make my head look like a large, sinister skull. Not quite unique, I know, but this one was different - when I first saw it, it struck me as being particularly high in quality. As a result, I couldn't help it - I…
DevelopmentRecommendations
March 9, 2012

Thoughts On Cross Browser Testing (And a Tool to Simplify the Process)

If I were asked to identify one primary annoyance associated with a web development career path, it'd be the abundance of browser inconsistencies. From the consumer's point of view, the web is an endless source of content, and they are given the ability explore that world. Browsers permit such exploration, but the resulting experience depends on a multitude of factors, most of them transparent to the consumer. There's an organization known as the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), and their entire goal in life is to ensure the long term growth of the Internet. In accordance with this objective, the W3C took the time to define standards for the core technologies they created, such as HTML and CSS. Yet, the reality is that browser developers don't…
CostumesPersonal Stories
January 3, 2012

Montreal Comiccon 2011: Top 10 Costumes

After my second consecutive visit to Atlanta's Dragon*Con, I decided it was time to give my hometown a chance. In Montreal, the closest we have to Dragon*Con is Montreal Comiccon, which was first held in 2006. Dragon*Con is a much older convention - it dates back in 1987, and comprises of multiple large hotels (lobbies, conference rooms, ball rooms), whereas Montreal Comiccon's primary space is one large convention hall. As a result, the scale of Dragon*Con is far from being matched by Montreal - which means the celebrity guest list is also a bit disappointing, in comparison. Despite the differences, I attended Montreal Comiccon this year - and in my opinion, it's worth doing so at least for the costumes. After all, it is still a young event, and it…
Personal Stories
December 23, 2011

How My Sister Made Her Own iPhone

While I was in Atlanta earlier this year, I tried to convince my sister to buy herself an iPhone. Though I consider myself a PC enthusiast, I can't deny Apple's prowess when it comes to delivering a superior user experience. So, with a firm belief in the iPhone, I proceeded to explain the many benefits of the device. When my sister started showing concern for the inconvenience of re-arranging her cellphone plans, and the associated cost, I suggested first trying an iPod Touch. After all, that's how I came to own an iPhone - I had first tried the iPod, and was amazed by the experience. I then realized that carrying a regular cellphone plus an iPod would be a bit too much, especially since…
Tips & Tricks
December 16, 2011

Using Google Alerts to Fight E-mail Spam

I was recently reminded of the existence of a particular Google service, one which I had completely forgotten. To my surprise, it turned out to be a significant discovery, as the product can be used to improve one's privacy on the web, while reducing spam. The service, Google Alerts, allows users to choose specific search queries that they'd like to monitor. When new results appear in one of these queries, the user can be automatically notified by e-mail. Here are some suggested uses, according to Google: monitoring a developing news story keeping current on a competitor or industry getting the latest on a celebrity or event keeping tabs on your favorite sports teams All very interesting, sure - but what does it have to do with privacy,…
Humor
October 24, 2011

It’s Against the Law

While I was in Atlanta for Dragon*Con 2011, I found myself using their metro system on a fairly regular basis. Over there, they call it the MARTA, which stands for "Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority" - it happens to be the 9th largest metro system in the United States. Unlike Montreal, their trains use a combination of underground and outdoor rails, the latter made possible by the subtropical climate. On one particular day, I found myself waiting for a lift at a MARTA station. Since I had nothing else to do, I began reading a sign that described some of the rules and regulations behind the MARTA. I was particularly curious about whether they allowed eating or drinking on the trains - it clarified this,…
News
September 25, 2011

Learning All The Things

Over the past month, I've been working with Joseph Pereira to create a web-based review show. Primarily intended for YouTube, the show is titled "All Too Convenient", and will start with us reviewing the first season of a particular TV series. At this moment, we have one episode completed; however, due to the comments we have received, we decided to return to the drawing board, and start anew. It was a tough decision to make, mainly because it took us a month to get one episode fully edited and ready to go. This delay was largely due to Joseph's hectic schedule, as it interfered with his ability to edit the video. His job was further complicated by the fact that the episode was scripted, and…
CostumesDragon*ConPersonal Stories
September 24, 2011

Dragon*Con 2011: Top 10 Costumes

Earlier this month, I attended Dragon*Con 2011 - in full compliance with a personal ritual of mine. It was my sister who initially suggested we attend Dragon*Con for the first time, and that was last year. I knew after attending that I wanted it to be repeated on a yearly basis. It was a great excuse to spend time with my sister, and at the same time, it was a lot of fun. It also resulted in three blog posts, and that means the experience was significant enough that I felt it was worth sharing. That is a powerful statement, given my own obsession with posting only the non-mundane. One of those blog posts listed my Top 5 favorite costumes, and I really enjoyed sharing…
Reviews
September 7, 2011

An Analysis of SteamGifts.com

A little over three weeks ago, I discovered a user on Reddit who was giving away invites to a site called SteamGifts. I had never heard of it, but the idea of a site that focused on giving away games appealed to me. I remembered that I had a few extra game copies on my Steam account, and figured it'd be a good way to make sure they were put to use. After all, sending a gift using Steam is quite simple, since it exists purely as a digital credit of sorts - no files have to be sent around. With a use for the site, I requested an invitation code on Reddit, and received it shortly thereafter. Once logged in, I began to poke…
Personal Stories
August 1, 2011

Google AdSense: Banned for Life?

Back when I was a 19 year-old college student and still living with my parents, I was really enthusiastic about video games. So much, in fact, that I felt the need to create a clan, website and all. At the time, we went by the name "Infamous Butchers", also known as Team IB. Yeah, I was pretty serious about it... it all seems somewhat silly today. After a while, I decided I would put advertisements on the website, in an effort to support the team. Naturally, I looked to the most recommended service, AdSense, as offered by Google. I signed up, and despite how small the site was, I received a confirmation e-mail a couple days later. Shortly thereafter, I had the advertisements working as expected, and for…
Personal Stories
July 29, 2011

Will the Real Matt Refghi Please Stand Up?

Back in mid 2009, I discovered an unexpected shipping confirmation in my e-mail inbox. It was sent from my cellphone service provider, and was letting me know that the iPhone I ordered had been sent out to me. Thing is, I never ordered an iPhone, and though the confirmation showed my name, it was being shipped to another address, and was associated with another phone number. It didn't take long for me to realize that this was identity theft. I immediately called my provider, and realized that I would likely have problems authenticating with them. You see, the provider usually asked for two key items whenever I called: birth date, and postal code. Anticipating this, I first told the agent the situation, and he confirmed…
Reviews
July 28, 2011

Detained While Reporting Spam in Livemocha

Ah, yes, Livemocha. If you haven't heard, Livemocha is a site that allows you to learn languages with the help of a community. While it does offer exercises and quizzes that are similar to Rosetta Stone, the most powerful feature is the fact that other users review your submissions. That alone is worthy of a recommendation, so check it out if you haven't already. The community support goes a long way towards motivating a person, and also ensures only native speakers of a language are the ones reviewing. This idea is a very powerful one, but unfortunately, the interface that they offer - the website - is flawed in many ways. Today, I'd like to share my experiences with one of these flaws, which, in my…
Recommendations
July 27, 2011

Distraction-Free Writing in WordPress 3.2

As a fan of WordPress, as soon as 3.2 was released, I found myself reading the changelog. While doing so, I noticed a very intriguing feature addition: Start writing your first post in our redesigned post editor and venture to the full-screen button in the editing toolbar to enter the new distraction-free writing or zen mode, my personal favorite feature of the release Zen mode? Distraction-free writing? Sounded good, so I proceeded to update all my WordPress installations. To fully impress upon you how significant of a feature it is, here's what the typical WordPress WYSIWYG editor looks like: It's a full-featured page, that's for sure - but it also has quite a lot of controls surrounding it. The text editor itself loses some screen space to these…
Personal Stories
July 27, 2011

No More Canned Responses, Please.

Back in 2007, my MattRefghi.com domain served primarily to power my solo development experiments. Behind the scenes, it was hosted by 1&1 Internet - the price was low, which was necessary at the time. All was well in the world of 1&1 web hosting for a while, until I eventually encountered a problem when uploading PHP files to my server. When I ran the files on MattRefghi.com, they would fail - but on my local development machine, everything was working as expected. Eventually I called their tech support team to see if something was wrong with their configuration. The agent helped me resolve the problem, but in the process of doing so, he started modifying my PHP files - without even asking me. During the…