Friday, July 30, 2010

Firefox bookmarks and the lack of sorting of such

As I've said before, two things I constantly have trouble keeping organized is my Start Menu and my browser bookmarks. I recently cleaned my Start Menu amazingly so, even making it easier to clean in the future by actually telling my system that the actual Start Menu folder is inside a folder called "~Unsorted" inside what is actually my Start Menu. Ah, the beauties of having bbLean and not being tied down by Microsoft's crap-splorer.

Anyway, my Firefox bookmarks have long been in the works of cleaning. The thing is, I let them go for so long that there are sometimes 4 of the same bookmark in several places and bookmarks that I placed literally years ago that I don't even remember why I bookmarked. So I'm trying to change that.

I said in another post that the best way I've found to keep my bookmarks clean is to always keep them on the screen so that I'm always aware of how many I have. This is true. Except it makes browsing the internet really freaking annoying. I just moved all of my unsorted bookmarks onto my Bookmarks bar, (which was actually quite a task since they were spread about between folders and 'Unsorted Bookmarks', and I currently have 5 full rows of bookmarks and probably about 2 dozen folders that contain about probably a dozen bookmarks each on average, one of which that is even named 'Crap I still need to look at before organizing'. That's probably like 300 bookmarks right there.

The thing is, I'm really bad at it, and frankly, the urge to click the bookmark icon once and leave it in Unsorted is often too great for me, so this type of shenanigans in the Bookmark Bar is necessary for me. The problem is -as I said before- it makes using my web browser almost unbearable. Maybe it's because I'm slightly OCD, but it bugs me every second my browser is open with 5 rows of bookmarks. I've never liked having toolbars, but I never expected having a ton of space taken up would be like having a crooked picture on the wall.

Nonetheless, it will definitely help me get them sorted since I can't stand browsing like this. Here's a pic for fun. Maybe you can have fun by looking through the favicons or something, I dunno.


[UPDATE] Ok, it's up to 8 rows, 378 bookmarks not counting all in the folders. This will take a while.
-Bry

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Rename symlinks

I've been using symlinks for a while, as they are hella useful, but I just discovered that you can rename them. I've actually been wondering it for a while, the thought occurred to me, but I haven't really had a need to test it until recently. I guess I thought that if you renamed the symlink, it would rename the target folder as well, but that really doesn't make too much sense.

Anyway, hurr durr moment. That's extremely nice for things like creating a link from the C:\Documents and Settings\Google\Chrome folder to C:\Program Files\Google Chrome. (That's not even my path because I've moved stuff around, but you get the idea.) Also really nice for Dropbox, which I'm going to move and symlink as well soon.

-Bry

Autohotkey Function to help with GUI resizing

This is a still a work in progress, but it's a function a la Titan....er, polyethene's Anchor function for anchoring controls to the bottom right of the window. I just felt like I had an idea for doing it and I wrote it out so maybe I can start using it in my scripts.



AdjustResize(controlname,options="wh")
{
 static
 ;Do what you will if the GUI is not a positive integer.
 ifnotinstring, A_ThisLabel,guisize
  return, 404
 Stringreplace, guinum,A_ThisLabel,guisize
 if(guinum="")
  guinum=1
 if !(guinum>0)
  return, 405
 gui %guinum%: +lastfound
 GUI_ID:=WinExist()

 ;If this control hasn't been initialized yet....
 if !%controlname%_start
 {
  Wingetpos, %controlname%_win_last_X,%controlname%_win_last_Y,%controlname%_win_last_W,%controlname%_win_last_H, ahk_id %GUI_ID%
  guicontrolget, %controlname%_last_, pos,%controlname%
  %controlname%_start=1
  return
 }

 ;Get the current positions and adjust them.
 Wingetpos, %controlname%_win_X,%controlname%_win_Y,%controlname%_win_W,%controlname%_win_H, ahk_id %GUI_ID%
 guicontrolget, %controlname%_, pos,%controlname%
 ifinstring, options, w
  %controlname%_w := %controlname%_win_w - ( %controlname%_win_last_w - %controlname%_last_w )
 ifinstring, options, h
  %controlname%_h := %controlname%_win_h - ( %controlname%_win_last_h - %controlname%_last_h )
 ifinstring, options, x
  %controlname%_x := %controlname%_win_w - ( %controlname%_win_last_w - %controlname%_last_x - %controlname%_last_w ) - %controlname%_w
 ifinstring, options, y
 {
;~   ifinstring, options, h
   %controlname%_y := %controlname%_win_h - ( %controlname%_win_last_h - %controlname%_last_y - %controlname%_last_h ) - %controlname%_h
;~   Else
;~    %controlname%_y := %controlname%_win_h - ( %controlname%_win_last_h - %controlname%_last_y)
 }

 ;Aaaaaand move it.
 guicontrol, move,%controlname%,% "w" %controlname%_w . " h" . %controlname%_h . " x" . %controlname%_x . " y" . %controlname%_y

 ;Sets the new parameters of this time to be the old parameters of next time
 %controlname%_win_last_w := %controlname%_win_w
 %controlname%_last_w := %controlname%_w
 %controlname%_win_last_h := %controlname%_win_h
 %controlname%_last_h := %controlname%_h
 %controlname%_win_last_x := %controlname%_win_x
 %controlname%_last_x := %controlname%_x
 %controlname%_win_last_y := %controlname%_win_y
 %controlname%_last_y := %controlname%_y
}


I realize that polyethene's function is probably 10x more reliable and efficient, but meh. It works the exact same way: call the function after your Guisize label for every one of the controls you want it to effect. The options can be a varation of 'x', 'y', 'w', and 'h', and you can just run them together. like 'xw'. x and y will keep the control the same distance from the bottom right corner, and w and h will do the width and height.

Use it in whatever the heck you want, as long as you include a small comment in your code saying "This isn't mine, here's where I got it."
-Bry

Monday, July 26, 2010

I organized my Start Menu!

My Start Menu has been really cluttered for a long time, so I finally decided to organize it. It actually didn't take that long, I was actually putting it off because I've been wanting to write a Start Menu organizer program, but I still can't figure out the UI behind it.

Anyway, it's nicely done! I'm quite proud.....for now. I am probably going to write a quick program that I'll have running all the time that will scan my Start Menu and prompt me for action every time it senses a new folder or file, but this one might be in Python, depending on how much I can pick it up.

Here's a pic, with notes:
  1. I use bbLean so that menu is not Windows Explorer, hence the lack of icons, the custom entries, and the scroll bar.
  2. The window below is Q-dir, my favorite file manager.
  3. Yeah, I was watching a movie whilst organizing. It was Special, and it was.......well, 'special'.

Now if only I could finish my bookmarks...
-Bry

GIMP is not an alternative to MS Paint!

For anyone who keeps recommending this, GIMP is NOT an alternative to MS Paint! I'm not referring to sites like AlternativeTo.net, which is a wonderful site and has it listed as such; that site is supposed to be comprehensive list of all types of software. I'm referring to specific people who respond to specific answers, saying or implying that GIMP is an alternative to Paint. IT'S NOT. GIMP is an alternative to Photoshop.

I can't prove this, but 99% of the time, when people say "I want an alternative to MS Paint," they're thinking "I want something that is lightweight, starts up in a few seconds, and does basic editing," not "I want layers and filters and alpha and feature and feature and feature." Saying that GIMP is an alternative to Paint is like saying that OpenOffice Writer is an alternative to Notepad. Sure, they both do generally the same function, but the target use is completely different.

So when I read a post asked by someone who wants just a simple alternative to Paint and immediately gets GIMP as a response (sometimes as the only response), I want to punch the responder continually in the neck, because the original poster will probably be completely freaked out by GIMP, since they were expecting MS Paint. No one asking for an alternative to Paint is going to try GIMP and think "This is exactly what I'm looking for."

I offer two more tests you can try for yourself:
  1. Right click your MSPAINT.EXE in system32 and click Properties, then note the size. Then do the same to the GIMP folder in Program Files and compare. One happens to be about 100 times bigger than the other.
  2. Start MS Paint and count roughly how long it takes for it to start. Then start GIMP and do the same. For me, MS Paint was up before GIMP's splash appeared.
That is all.
-Bry

PS - Yes, I did discover GIMP by searching for an alternative to MS Paint, and I'm pretty sure it was recommended to me as one. But I also don't need to tell you how freaked out I was with GIMP for the longest time and how much I avoided it for as long as I possibly could since it was (a) not really an MS Paint alternative and (b) not user friendly. I believe my point still stands.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Songbird's blackbird is back.

If you haven't heard of it by now, Songbird is a free, open source, cross platform media library that runs on Firefox's XUL and it happens to be my favorite replacement to iTunes. I've used foobar2000, a little bit of Winamp, some Banshee and a smidgen of Rhythmbox, but Songbird just blows them all out of the water in my opinion.

I know I sound biased, but that's the nice thing about having a blog instead of a software review site. Don't get me wrong, I did love foobar when I used it and I know Winamp is like the god of music library freeware, but I just love Songbird. I guess it's because I've used iTunes for years (not of my own free will...I've owned an iPod) and Songbird most resembles iTunes, almost to a copycat status.

Anyway, all that aside, I was extremely angry at Songbird when the highly anticipated 1.0 release changed the icon to a stupid orange bird instead of the little black dude with earphones. The thing that made the least sense was that they only changed a few icons, while leaving the rest of the website and help icons the same. But with the 1.7.3, I was very surprised and delighted to see the Songbird splash screen with good ol' blackbird looking back at me.

I'm going to use this post as a cheesy segway into me listing a few things that I think the Songbird team has done right and wrong:
-Changed the icon to orange: One of the things I loved about it was the icon. I think the original Songbird mascot has more character than possibly any other freeware mascot.
+Changed the icon back to black: It's not exactly the original, but it's miles better than the stupid "goldfish", as I call it.
+Ditched the web browser: This was a nice feature, but I definitely think the Songbird team made the right choice. Users started to ask too much, even to the point where I saw someone asking if Songbird could be made to manage PDF files. Definite kudos to them for making the hard decision to make a big change.
I really though I could remember them doing this, but I guess not. I wish they would.
-Drop Linux support: I just learned about this, but apparently back in January of '10, the Songbird team announced that they would drop official support for the Linux version and favor the Windows and Mac versions. I do see where they're coming from since the Linux version seems to be alot buggier and they can probably get a ton more features with the time they'd normally spend porting it to Linux, but still...it's a good way to piss people off, and it actually deters me from ever switching to Linux.
I have also just learned that 4 days after dropping support for Linux, some enthusiasts picked up the reigns and started their own "port" or "version" or what have you called 'Nightingale'. But that was in January and it's now July, and there's still not even a download in the Nightingale website.
-Drop official iPod support: Songbird is great because it caters to a ton of devices, but if it can't even work with the most popular media players -iPhones and iPod Touches- it seems a waste. The fact that they completely dropped iPod support and left it to the community is disappointing, and the fact that Songbird still can't support any version of iPhone/Touch is downright disheartening. This should really be a priority, in my opinion.

Anyway, I'm very pleased with the old Songbird being back.
-Bry

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Organizing: the Start Menu and Bookmarks

Two things that are always messy for me are the bookmarks in my browser, regardless of what OS and browser I'm on, and the Start Menu. Now some people might say "The start menu takes care of itself", but it really doesn't, especially mine. I install stuff like noneother, so I have at least 8 web browsers installed 10 media players, 8 media libraries...you get the point. It gets messy, even if it's 'organized', but if I leave it to itself, it becomes almost impossible to navigate.

One nice thing I like about the Start Menu in bbLean is that it always sorts by name, so I never have to worry about sorting it, and it's always predictable. The bad part is that it only goes so big horizontally, and it doesn't fold out into multiple rows like Explorer did. The latter is bad because it can quickly consume your screen and having a menu like that is usually unnavigable, but the former is something I wish I could fix. But anyway, I'm also trying to write a program that will help you organize your start menu. It's a work in progress, and I'm mostly struggling with GUI layout and core concepts.

As for bookmarks, my Firefox is constantly cluttered. I literally spent three days of just sorting bookmarks, and I'm still only about 2/3 of the way done. (True, I got sidetracked for about 50% of the time, but still.) I've learned a few tricks about bookmarking, especially in Firefox:
  • Try to keep up with it as much as you can. If you stumble across a few sites and decide you want to bookmark them, put them in good folders ("Programming", "Videos", etc) at the time of bookmarking them. You may just want to put them in Unsorted bookmarks, but they will build up over time. Same thing goes with tagging and naming. I just recently started tagging bookmarks, and it's really kinda nice, but TONS easier if you do it with every new bookmark instead of going through hundreds.
  • Don't use Unsorted Bookmarks when you can help it. Bookmarks here do not show up in the Bookmark Menu and are not included in Awesome Bar searches, so they are essentially useless, and because most people don't open up the "Organize Bookmarks" window every day, they can go largely unnoticed for a long period of time, and can really stack up.
  • Throw the bookmarks in your Bookmark Toolbar. This might sound crazy, but it might help to suggest the addons Smart Bookmarks Bar and Multirow Bookmarks Toolbar. The reason I personally tend to throw bookmarks directly onto my bookmark bar whenever possible is because I always see my Bookmark Bar so my unsorted bookmarks can't really get out of hand without my knowing it. For example, my Bar currently has almost 2 full rows with several massive folders, so I think it's about time for me to get sorting.
The combination of these three are what drive my 3 folders of 200+ unsorted bookmarks to success. If anyone ever sees my browser and Start Menu, maaaaaan that'll be embarassing.
-Bry

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

How to get "free" internet on an enV2 phone

First off, a few warnings:
  1. This is not foolproof. Companies *coughVerizoncough* are always changing their ways to try to stop things like this, and this may not work for very long.
  2. Companies *coughVERIZONcough* are not happy with people doing this, and they WILL monitor your bandwidth and tell you to stop if you do this alot. (At least that's what I've been told.)
  3. I'm not responsible for any negative consequences that could happen during or after this guide. If Verizon sues you, it's on your head. If you brick your phone, it's on your head. Not mine.
  4. Lastly, there are a good many steps in this process, and it's more of a "Why not?"/curiosity deal than practical. I will not help you beyond this guide. I usually would not say that because this blog is small and insignificant, but I also know that this is a fairly sought after piece of knowledge.
And a few more notes before we start:
  • The phone I have and will be talking about is the LG enV2. I mention this because some steps I'm going to talk about are specific to this model of phone; other phones don't need to do these steps, and other phones still need to do a little more. Instead of trying to make a universal guide which is nearly impossible and would be foolish of me since I don't know how other phones operate, I'm going to talk entirely about this phone.
  • This guide relies heavily on a video from The Fixed, a tech channel on Youtube. I would not have gotten anywhere without that video, but they did skim over a few points, which is the reason I'm making this guide. But all credit goes to them, really.
  • This may seem rather intuitive, but keep in mind this: I figured out steps practically completely backward. I knew where to start and where to finish and backtracked from there. So you're welcome.
  • You'll need:
    • A computer (Windows, Linux, and Mac! All work!)
    • enV2
    • Either the enV2 USB cord or a bluetooth adapter for your PC
    • Bitpim
    • A Hex editor (XVI32 recommended, or a Linux/Mac equivalent)
    • A proxy program (CCProxy or HoTTProxy recommended....CCProxy is only for Windows, but HoTTProxy works on any machine that can run Perl.)



With all those out of the way, let's started! There are two sections of actions that need to be taken: a set that need to be done to set up your phone, and a set that needs to be done to set up your computer. Here's a table of context:



I. The Phone
     1. Getting into the menu
          A. Connecting via Bitpim
          B. Extracting, editing, and replacing the file
     2. Editing the WAP settings
II. The Computer
     1. Setting up the Proxy (CCProxy or HoTTProxy)
     2. (Optional) Setting up No-IP
          A. Setup Host
          B. (Doubly Optional) Dynamic DNS Update software
     3. Port forward
     4. Firewall Exception




I. The Phone
This is the most crucial part and the part that you should try first, because if you can't get this set up, there's really no point in getting the computer side set up first.

1. Getting into the Menu
As I said before, I'm on Verizon and using an enV2 (a VX9100). If what I discuss here doesn't work, you'll have to Google "MODEL service menu" with your model to figure out just how to get into your specific phone's service menu.

For the 9100, there are two menus. Type what's in bold at the home screen, then press Send to access them. When prompted for a "Service code", just enter 000000. There are actually two service menus that I know of: ##lgservicemenu and ##program9100. The first one was used by the guys in The Fixed, but mine had settings under a different menu. You need to find a menu that has "WAP Settings", but also inside of that, has something like "Primary Address". The enV2 uses the latter of the two codes I listed (and the 9100 was specific to my model).

So you're in! But there's still more to do; unfortunately, Verizon doesn't want you editing the ##program9100 menu, so you can't do it until you perform a dirty hack.

A. Connecting via Bitpim
Connect your phone either via Bluetooth or the cable. I can't really go into it very specifically since each bluetooth program is a little different, and I really don't know much about how phone cables work. But pair/connect with the phone and remember the COM port.

Download and install Bitpim, a program specifically for connecting to phones. Fire it up and go straight to Settings. You can try the Phone Wizard, but I find it easier to enter everything manually. Select 'LG-VX9100 enV2' from the Phone Type and enter in the COM port (see? I told you to rememebr it.) If you're not sure what port it is, click the "Browse" button and look for one that could be your enV2 in the "Active" section. When you're done, hit "OK",

B. Extracting, editing, and replacing the file
Back in Bitpim, from the top menu, click "View" > "View filesystem". Click "Filesystem" on the left menu, and wait, it might take a while. DO NOT TOUCH ANYTHING OTHER THAN WHAT I SAY AND ONLY DO EXACTLY AS I SAY. MESSING WITH STUFF COULD SERIOUSLY BRICK YOUR DEVICE. Browse to /OWS and find the file paramtable1.fil. Right click it and press "Save", and save it to whatever folder you want to on your computer; I recommend something easy to find. I highly recommend backing up this file to something like paramtable1.fil_original, just in case.

Let's move away from Bitpim for a second. Download and install a Hex editor if you don't have one already (I used XVI32), and open paramtable1.fil. The value at 2 (which in XVI32 is the third block) should be '00', which needs to be changed to '20'. I have no clue what happens if you change the wrong block, so change at your own risk. Google around if you want to make entirely sure. Save the file and go back to Bitpim. Right click on paramtable1.fil again, and this time click "Replace", and choose your new, edited paramtable1.fil. Close Bitpim, because this part is done.

Reset your phone, and try entering ##program9100. If everything went well, things should be editable now!

2. Editing the WAP Settings
Wooh! Well now that that's over with, let's finally edit the settings. This should be cake after what you just went through. But unfortunately, we don't know what to fill it in with just yet, so leave it here and we'll be back in a jiff.


II. The Computer
This part is mostly just installing and running software, though a bit of config is needed.

1. Setting up the Proxy (CCProxy or HoTTProxy)
This part is relatively easy. It basically consists of just installing and running a program that acts as a proxy using your internet connection. CCProxy is easy to use, but it's limited to 3 users; I'm only going to use my phone for this, so it made sense to me. HoTTProxy is free and open source, but a tad more complicated. So take your pic, I'm going to talk about CCProxy, but the configuration is the same for both of them. CCProxy is just alot easier to explain.

So download, install, and run your program. In CCProxy, click the Options button and change the port for "HTTP/RTSP" to 8080. 8080 is what Verizon phones use by default, so that's what we have to use. Hit OK, then hit the Start button (in CCProxy). Wasn't that easy?

2. (Optional) Setting up No-IP
This program is optional, but it makes everything a heck of alot easier. It actually has alot of uses beyond free wifi on your phone, so I would recommend it. No-IP is a website that provides a static web address for your dynamic IP. In other words, your IP might be something like 65.23.61.10, which changes occasionally and is generally just hard to remember. No-IP gives you an address like peanuts.zapto.org that you can use instead of your IP that will act just like it, and it will always be that URL. It's very useful. Anyway, really the only downside is that you have to register at No-IP.com, but it is free.


A. Setup Host
From your home page on the No-IP website, click "Add a Host", and enter in whatever you want for a hostname. I recommend making it something not explicitly obvious, but simple enough to remember. You'll notice that there's a ton of choices available on the dropdownlist, but don't get excited: only the ones listed beneath "No-IP free domains" can be used by free accounts. Pick one that tickles your fancy or you think that you can remember easily, and go ahead and hit "Create."


B. (Doubly Optional) Dynamic DNS Update software
You're half done. Now whatever you entered (like peanuts.zapto.org) now redirects to your IP. The only problem is that you're going to have go back to the No-IP website and change the IP for that Host every time it changes (which it will, eventually). If you're ok with doing that, then skip this step. But if you don't want to worry about that, you can download a tool put out by No-IP that automatically updates the IP for that Host, meaning you will never have to worry about manually changing it, and the URL you entered will always redirect to your IP. (Click here to go to the Download page for the Dynamic DNS Update, but if the link fails, there should be a "Download" link on the front page.) Once you've downloaded and installed it, just sign in with your No-IP account and it should show a smiley face next to your URL.

3. Port forward
If you already know how to Port Forward, you probably already know what I'm about to say. If you don't you're about to learn a very useful trick; port forwarding is basically telling your router "I want you to reserve this port for only this computer." If you've never forwarded a port, I recommend going to PortForward.com, which has probably every Router out there and detailed instructions on how to access the configuration of your specific model.

Anyway, assuming you find your way to the Applications page of your router's config, forward the port from 8080 to 8080 to your IP (which you can find by typing ipconfig into the command prompt). Done.

4. Firewall Exception
What might seem the most obvious to some was the last thing on my mind. I actually had everything working up till here, except for the fact that my Proxy wasn't working, even on other computers. Then I suddenly remembered the Firewall, added an exception, and everything clicked.

I will not tell you how to do this on Windows 7, because I do not know how. On Windows XP,  Open the Control Panel, and click Windows Firewall or Security Center > Windows Firewall if you have Folder Tasks enabled. Click the Exceptions tab, then press the "Add Program" button. (I do not recommend the "Add Port" option, since adding a program allows that program to access the internet, but adding a port opens that port to anything. It's just much, much less secure.) Choose CCProxy (or HoTTProxy) from the list if it's there or browse to it if it's not, then click OK.

Take a deep breath. We're really almost done now.

...2. Editing the WAP Settings (again)
Ok, now that we have your Proxy setup, we can actually put some values into those WAP settings. Get back into the ##program9100 menu and go to the WAP Settings. Go to Proxy Address Setting, and change both Primary and Secondary address to your new No-IP URL (e.g. peanuts.zapto.org) or your computer's IP if you don't want to use No-IP. Then go back and go to Proxy Port Setting and change both the Primary and Secondary Port to 8080 (if they're not already set to that). Lastly, you can go to Homepage and change it to something else; I highly recommend picking something simple and WAP friendly, like m.google.com or wap.google.com or mobile.google.com, or whatever it is nowadays. This is also nice because after setting your homepage, it will reset your phone, which you would've had to do anyway.


III. You're done. Enjoy the freedom.
Go to Mobile Web, and surf. Instead of the homepage I set, I get this weird Verizon page with a Bing search engine, but I can search from there and get to Facebook, Gmail, or whatever I want. Again, I know that people get a "Cease and desist" type deal from Verizon, so I don't recommend using this little secret every day for hours on end, but if you're expecting an important e-mail or you need to check an address on Facebook for a picnic every now and then, this could end out being a lifesaver.





Wooh! I'm surprised I made it through typing that guide, and pat yourself on the back if you made it through too. It took me an entire night trying to get all of this set up for me, mostly trying to unlock that stupid menu, so I'm hoping this guide might provide a little insight.
There's a few nice things that came from this guide for me, in addition to being able to use internet on my phone:
  • I can now edit the ##program9100 menu, which might come in handy some day.
  • I learned how to set up my own Proxy....with two different programs, and now have it set up in case I ever need to use it for something.
  • I have No-IP, which is a fantastic tool for accessing your PC from anywhere; this will change the way I do VNC and the like.
  • I was reminded that Windows nags you about firewall exceptions for a reason, and the one time they don't nag you about it, you still might need to add one.

This has most certainly been the one of the most interesting, fun, and yet draining ventures I've had. It was worth it when I finally got my proxy working, and then was able to load Gmail on my phone.
-Bry

[UPDATE 7-29-10] It's "internet"....not "wifi"....I don't know why my brain farted and I put wifi in the title. Also, if you're wondering why there are quotes around "free", it's mostly because of Warning 2.

Free MIT lecture series: Introduction to Computer Science and Programming

I was very surprised when I stumbled onto this. I've tried to listen through one past college series, in which the guy used Scheme (which caused Scheme to be the first real programming language I ever laid my hands on), but then I could find pretty much anything past the third episode. This one looks promising because the guy seems to be making alot more sense, since last time he seemed to be talking about extremely basic stuff, but then jumped straight into using Scheme, which took me forever to get set up.

Anyway, there's all 24 lectures on Youtube, about an hour each, and I'm hoping I can get myself to sit down and watch all of them. He already mentioned that Python would be the language used throughout the course, which made me do a fist pump and yell "YESS!!!" outloud.

Maybe I'll keep track of where I am in the series in this post, maybe not. If you want to check it out, click here. If I do finish it, I'll definitely write a few posts about what I learned and about the series itself.

Aspiring Computer Programmer,
-Bry

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

CheckSwagRandom & InChromeNito: new programs written in AHK

I've recently been trying to polish and publish all my programs that are stable enough that I use, but not clean enough to be available to everyone. So I finally wrote out a good version of Randomizer, and now I've tweaked and uploaded two more programs that I've had for quite some time.

CheckSwagrandom: Swagbucks Random Winner Checker
Should be obvious what it does....if you use Swagbucks, you know they have a random winner they post every 30 minutes on their website. CheckSwagRandom (or CSR) checks for you and tells you if you happen to be the winner.


InChromeNito: Google Chrome mode launcher
Chrome has the ever useful Incognito mode, which is wonderful, but lacks a certain feature that I felt could be very useful: a hotkey. If you hold down a certain hotkey while launchign InChromeNito, it will launch Chrome in Incognito, and if no key is pressed, it launches normally.


They're definitely not as advanced as PEM or Skeys (which happen to be my favorites), but I figured that I should just start putting up all my programs, or at least the ones I "finish".

As always, checking out FreewareWire Software will yield a much more complete overview of all my programs.
-Bry

Alien Swarm is free on Steam

Alien Swarm is a game released by Valve for free on Steam. I haven't really played it much, but it does look promising. The whole game reminds me intensely of Dead Space, except for the fact that the player can actually use guns, not just laser cutting tools and saws. Alien Swarm is apparently a graduated Mod from Unreal tournament, but it looks like it could be pretty fun as a game by itself.

Honestly, I've only played the offline training, because Steam screwed up installing Alien Swarm the first try, which then screwed up Steam itself, which took a couple hours to fix. (Hey, I have 62GB of games to backup that I don't want to lose.) But that's another story.

This might be a little premature, but Alien Swarm does look a bit unpolished, at least in terms of menus and instruction. It has no intro movie or no Valve intro screen and the beginning menu is extremely basic. I haven't actually played online yet, but the offline was pretty cool. I liked the look of everything, like the 3rd-ish person view and the graphics of the marines and landscape. The aliens I saw were a tad uncreative, and I could honestly go with less of a "pop" when it comes to killing the aliens, but I'm not one for things exploding into green slime.

When it comes to killing things, the gameplay is obvious and intuitive: move around, aim with the mouse, left click fires, scroll wheen changes weapon, right click melees. But beyond that, I was pretty confused. For example, I welded a door when I was trying to open it, and I shot my teammate when I was trying to deploy ammo for him.

All in all, that's the biggest complaint I have with the offline training: I didn't what the crap I was doing. I don't mean in a sense of where I was supposed to go, but the controls really kind of confused me, and quite honestly, it seems like they should walk you through them. Instead, the game only tells you to "Control the marine" with A to walk left, then "Control the marine" with S to walk down. After that, you're on your own.

I know that obviously the numbers 1-4 have something to do with crap, but there really should be a tutorial. Or at least something that tells you the gist of the controls. Instead, little popups appear like pressing Shift to weld the door, but the Shift does other crap as well and 4 seems to do just about everything, and then 1 does a medkit, but E helps your teammates.....all in all, they need a better way to teach newbies the controls. Truly the best way to do this is a tutorial, a beginner level. And I'm not talking little neat popups, I'm talking complete sentences, saying "1 does this, 2 does this, 3 does this, turrets can be planted and turned, etc". But I didn't outright see one, which is a dissapointment.

The same thing goes for the characters and whatnot; sure each class has its own stats and such, but some of them are kind of vague, and it would be nice to see what they mean....not that each character's life story isn't interesting...

The only other thing that comes to mind is possibly the overemphasis on "point A to B". From what I gleamed from the offline play, it was mostly "get from here to there and kill aliens along the way", which is basically what Halo's entire plot was (and Halo 2 and Halo 3 as well...) So my first impression of the game is basically Halo + Dead Space. That's not saying anything bad at all, since I loved Halo and Dead Space.


So all in all, Alien Swarm does look fun and I would definitely recommend downloading it....as long as it's free. Like I said, I haven't played it much yet, but it looks like it could be entertaining, once you get the hang of it. I really don't know if it's going to be one of those games you can spend hours on, joining game after game, but it does look like a game that you can play with a couple buddies every now and then.

If anyone ever wants to play games with me, whether it be Alien Swarm or Left4Dead 2, go ahead and look me up at hewhoeatspie.
-Bry

Monday, July 19, 2010

Picasa Hidden Folder Finder

I know this might seem sketchy, but hey, it's my diary. I don't use Picasa, but I did for a while and I learned that Picasa keeps folder information in separate INI files for each folder. Then I read a post on 'Wait till I come!' (yeah, I don't get the name....) that Picasa uses a "hidden" tag in the INI file for folders that the user does not want to be included in Picasa. He mentioned Total Commander, but to me, a batch file makes a tad more sense. So I made one.

I did this mostly to learn more about Batch files, but also because I wanted to feel like a 1337 hacker. There's basically one line of code that you can run from the root folder (like C:\), but I just wrote it to be a bit more user friendly by adding a menu that will take you straight to that folder.

PHFF_lite.bat:
findstr /S /I /M /B "hidden" .picasa.ini
The "lite version" is basically just the command; it's fairly easy to remember: 'find string simb hidden dot picasa dot INI' is how I would. /S searches in subdirectories of the current folder; /M prints the filename instead of the line, so it's essential; /I tells it the search is not case sensitive; and /B returns files only if "hidden" is at the beginning of a line.

PHFF.bat:
@echo off
echo %%%%%%%%%%%%%%Picasa Hidden Folder Finder%%%%%%%%%%%%%%
REM Extremely short simple version is 'findstr /S /I /M /B "hidden" .picasa.ini' from the root folder.
echo.
set drive=%cd:~0,3%
echo Scanning %drive%.....
echo.
set i=1
cd %drive%
SETLOCAL ENABLEDELAYEDEXPANSION
for /F "delims=" %%a in ('findstr /S /I /M /B "hidden" .picasa.ini') do (
set __INIFILE.!i!=%%a
echo !i!.  %drive%%%a
set /a i+=1
)
IF %i%==1 (goto NoFiles)
echo S. SAVE
echo Q. QUIT


:DOUNTIL
set /p ChooseFile=Choose a file:
IF %ChooseFile%==Q (exit)
IF %ChooseFile%==q (exit)
IF %ChooseFile%==s (goto Save)
if %ChooseFile%==S (goto Save)
SETLOCAL ENABLEDELAYEDEXPANSION
FOR /F "tokens=2* delims=.=" %%A IN ('SET __INIFILE.') DO (
 IF %%A==%ChooseFile% (
 set var=%drive%%%B
 set var=!var:Picasa.ini=!
 echo Opening !var!
 %SystemRoot%\explorer.exe "!var!"
 goto DOUNTIL
)
)
echo That is not a valid selection.
goto DOUNTIL

:Save
FOR /F "tokens=2* delims=.=" %%A IN ('SET __INIFILE.') DO (
echo %drive%%%B >> %~dp0PHFF.txt
)
echo Saved to %~dp0PHFF.txt
goto DOUNTIL

:NoFiles
echo.
echo No hidden Picasa albums were found on %drive%
echo.
pause

So yeah. I'm not really well-versed in Batch files. The loops confounded me for ages, and I still don't fully understand them.

Anyway, do with it what you may.
-Bry

Randomizer: Random file opener written in Autohotkey

"Randomizer is a very, very small simplistic program designed to do one thing: open a random file."
Frankly, I've written an About window, the FreewareWire Software page, and a FreewareWire Software Update, which is basically saying the exact same thing in three different lengths, so I don't feel like explaining it any more.

I wrote Randomizer in about 2-3 hours, most of which were trying to find a good icon and trying to trim as many characters out of the source as possible. Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention, since Randomizer is so simple, I thought I'd have fun and try to get it to as little characters and lines as possible. When I finally finished, I got it to 40 lines and 448 characters (not counting the Help message).

I will honestly probably never edit Randomizer again, which is kind of nice for me. I just thought of an extremely potential problem, so I guess I'll have to see if I can fix it.
If you put Randomizer in an empty folder so it's all by itself and then run it with no parameters, it will search the current folder for all files and since it is the only file in the folder, it will open itself, repeating the process indefinitely. I don't think this could crash your system or anything, but it could be a nuisance. Really, it's just a few a line of code to make sure that any file can't be A_ScriptFullPath, but I'm too lazy to add it now.

[UPDATE] So apparently I had a few bugs in the code....waaaay bugs, actually, which I had to fix or Randomizer would not work at all. So while I was in there, I made it check to make sure it wasn't launching itself, and also made sure the file it was about to launch is not a System file (since I don't think people want to open Thumbs.db or Desktop.ini randomly).
Anyway, I added about 4 lines and 100 characters, but it should be working, actually more efficient now.

Anyway, check out FreewareWire Software to try Randomizer.

Peace out.
-Jon

Sunday, July 18, 2010

FreewareWire gets spam mail

I usually wouldn't post about this, but it really tickled me when I read it. Here's an e-mail I got for FreewareWire a couple weeks back (product names have been censored):

Dear Editors,

I would like to draw your attention to ProductName, our software tool for USB drives. I realize that you receive hundreds of review requests daily, but I believe that you will consider our solution as an exceptional tool that is worth yours and your readers’ time.
....
I really am not for one on robot-generated e-mails, but this one really made me laugh. Especially the part about "hundreds of review requests daily." I've gotten about 5 since I first started FreewareWire. Obviously the robot that sent me this e-mail didn't notice that my last post was back in January, so I'm probably not going to get around to checking their software. Honestly, if and when I do start up again, I'm going to avoid people who spam me generic e-mails and probably check out the few that actually correspond with me as human beings.

Catering to his hundreds of daily (nonexistent) readers,
-Bry

Go: A start menu launcher written in Autohotkey

My start menu is a freaking mess. Maybe it's because I have a crapload of freeware installed, or maybe it's because I keep installing stuff and then not moving it to an organized folder. Either way, it's not fun to navigate. Rather than spend an hour moving shortcuts around and cleaning it up, I wrote a start menu launcher.



Actually, it was really again one of those "I wonder if I could..." or really just a "It would be really fun..." I was thinking through what to name it, and I thought "Ok, it's really simple. What's simple...Go!" So it's Go. I thought of calling it "Start", but that's so cliche.

Anyway, it basically searches your start menu for all LNK files and then adds those to an index (a very small index), and then you can bring up the search menu by (1) pressing Ctrl twice very fast, (2) pressing Capslock, or (3) bringing it from the tray. It steals alot of ideas from other launchers I've seen: FARR, Launchy, Google Desktop, and nDroid, mostly.

Like Google Desktop, when it loses control, it hides itself. It searches as you type and is semi-intelligent; like it will bring up "Google Chrome" if you type "goo" or "chr". Currently, it just peels off the title of the LNK file and searches that, but in the future, it might search the file description of the target, and other things. It has icons to the left of search results to make it more visual. You can scroll through the results with either the keyboard or the mouse (eventually.....still have a few kinks to work out with the scroll wheel). And it has a few features that either can be implemented extremely easily in the future or are already implemented to some degree.
  • Togglable grid in search results
  • Adjustable font sizes (but not icon, I'm afraid)
  • Customize how many large the dropdown can be (e.g. ten entries)
  • Skinning
The indexing is extremely fast; it usually indexes my entire Start Menu folder in about 2 seconds, though recently it's been more around 9. It won't index every time, though that might be a feature later on since it is so quick. When you select a file, it actually just launches the LNK file in your start menu rather than the actual file, mostly because then I don't have to worry about the working directory, arguments, etc.

The last feature is vaguely reminiscent of FARR's advanced 'weighting'; basically, Go keeps track of how many times you launch an item and then sorts the list accordingly, that way if you launch Firefox a ton, all you're going to have to do is enter "F", and it should pop out on top. Of course, this feature will also be able to be disabled and the list will be then sorted alphabetically, if that's the user's wish.


The reason I wrote Go -other than the fact that it's been quite a while since I wrote anything- is because I wanted a launcher for myself, but everything was too advanced. Google Desktop is really a full blown Search; FARR is far too complex (no pun intended) for a simple start menu launcher; none of the launchers I'd found were simple enough. Plus, it really was kind of fun. Really freaking annoying at times, but fun.

Go is certainly not available for download yet. It might be the next FreewareWire software I upload, but maybe not. If I can get it usable, then I'll definitely clean it up and put it up. But there's still a few more things I need to do:
Missing Features:
  • Options GUI (and INI file)
  • Scroll wheel support in search results
  • Program blacklist (and maybe whitelist)
Bugs:
  • 'Launches' does not survive a new Index
  • Search result height is roughly calculated
  • Selected result is faded grey color instead of blue
  • Can't use cursor to select text
But other than that, it's golden.

Go, Speed Racer, Go!
-Bry

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Call for help: PEM in C++

One of my goals for this summer was to begin learning C++, since I don't have almost any training in formal programming languages, just scripting like Autohotkey, Windows Batch, and barely any Linux Bash. Because I like to get my hands dirty in code rather than read a textbook (which is a bad study habit, I know), I decided that I'd try to convert PEM from Autohotkey to C++. I quickly found out I'm out of my league. I got most of the GUI designed, then turned to trying to actually write the program, and got lost from there.

So to cut to the point, I think I need some guidance. Or maybe just help in general. If anyone out there wants to partner with me to re-write PEM in C++, please send me an e-mail to the address I'll list at the bottom at this post. If you're a programmer by trade and want to help teach a newby, that's awesome. Or if you're on your way to become a programmer but farther along than me, that's great as well. Or if you just know Autohotkey and are also interested in transitioning to C++, that's cool too. I'm not picky in the slightest. The only requirement is that I've got to find at least one person that knows what they're doing or else it will turn from me being confused and frustrated to me and a few other people all confused and frustrated.

I believe I'm fairly easy to reach. I'm use Gmail, gTalk, AIM, YIM, MSN, or any other free service you think might work best to communicate. This really isn't a job or position so there would be no payment, but also no obligation (if you need to back out at any time, you can). I feel like I'm pretty good at the coding I know, but there are many things that a programming language has that a scripting language lacks (like variable types...).

That's about all I can think of. I know that I don't get a ton of readers on this blog because it's frankly as boring as crap, but I figured that it's worth a shot.

Sincerely,
-Bry
freewarewire@gmail.com

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The New Xbox 360

I guess third time's the charm...or at least that's what Microsoft thinks with their gaming console. First came the Xbox 360, and it was good. Then came the Xbox 360 Elite, and people were like, "What the hell, Microsoft". Then came the "new" Xbox 360 (no new name, just "new") and I'm personally just prepared to say "Screw you, Mi-crap-soft". (Ooh. Clever.)

Do you know why I feel this way? Because I don't believe console developers have ever released a system three times. I'm really unsure of the early consoles before the N64/Dreamcast saga, but I'm fairly sure that -unless one of the old consoles had a faulty hardware design that needed correcting that I'm unaware of- three times is ridiculous. The PS1, PS2, and now PS3 have all had "slims" released, and that's fine with me. But Xbox 360 is getting carried away.

The main thing for the Elite was the sheer lack of differences. Basically, it was a regular 360 with (1) a bigger removable hard drive, (2) HDMI, and (3) black. My brother scored an adapter that goes straight to VGA for our original Xbox 360, and it looks just fine on our big screen, but then I've never been a huge fan of HDMI in the first place.

The thing about the new 360 is that I don't entirely hate it. Sure, it's got that weird looking gloss and it's got touch sensitive buttons, but it's also got integrated 2.4Gz 802.11n wifi and the power supply is finally built into the system, instead of having a brick almost the size than the Wii dangling on your power cord. Probably best of all is the new 45nm chipset, which I'm not going to even pretend to know what that means, but it apparently will make it run cooler and thus quieter.

Anyway, the point is not the product, it's that they're "trying again." All of these features could have and should have been included with the original Xbox 360 (except maybe the new chipset

[UPDATE 7-17-10] Actually now that I think about it, the major advantage of the chipset is that the new Xbox 360 will run cooler and therefore quieter; while this specific chipset wasn't available at the time of the first Xbox 360, that really doesn't change the fact that it's not the hardware, but how you use it. Even if the Jasper chipset wasn't around back then, Microsoft could have designed the original Xbox in such a way that it would not have run so hot, but they didn't, and now they're trying to act like saints by fixing their own problem. So I would say, yes, Microsoft could have and should have included all of the new features in the original Xbox 360, including not overheating.

). I'm not sure if n wifi was around then, but it at least could have had built in b/g. Even the Wii has that. Microsoft is fixing problems that were always there, that everyone knew was always there, and everyone complained about. It doesn't take a genius to figure out "I would rather not have a 4 pound brick sitting outside my console."
The whole experience to me is Microsoft pulling another Vista: slightly tweaking an existing product and introducing it as new. I mean, the saddest part is that older hard drives won't even work on the new console. That is sheer stupidity. Because if you create a new version of the same console, the three things that should work right off the bat are the same games, the same controllers, and the same memory.

The thing that really just has my mind spinning is just....what the CRAP, Microsoft? Why not actually put all this effort into creating your NEXT console instead of trying to resell your existing one? Adding a few new features will definitely not help in the race against the PS3 unless you decide to throw in a Blu Ray player and all the stuff that PS3 fanboys love. Instead, you should try to put all of the resources you had going for this model for the Xbox 720 or maybe the Xbox 360 II.

The funniest part is that since this is all new hardware and I believe the Xbox 360 had a rate of failure within the first year of about 24%, I'm betting Microsoft is going to have to recall a ton of these new boxes just like with the initial launch....that is, assuming they actually SELL any of these things.

If I were to speak to an Xbox representative (with no chances of being charged with assault), I would just grab his shoulders and shake him violently, yelling. "STOP TRYING TO IMPROVE ON EXISTING CRAP. THERE ARE NO DO-OVERS IN CONSOLE MAKING. TURN ON YOUR BRAIN AND STOP TRYING TO BRING YOUR VISTA-LOGIC INTO THE GAMING WORLD" until he came to his senses, or passed out.

Angry Video Game Aspiring Nerd,
-Bry

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Video Game Pressure

I find it weird that people suggest video games. Movies make sense, even music, if it's along the same lines. But video games, unless you are bored and have nothing exciting to play (which -if you own Luigi's Mansion- should never be the case), it just seems weird to have people say "Dude, you should play this game." I guess it's because video games aren't like music, which takes maybe an hour to listen to an album, or a movie, that takes 3 hours tops to watch. Most video games -check that, most good video games take a good while for you to fully appreciate them. Most games that you have said to have "played" take at least 4 hours, otherwise it's more of a "played it once/a little" type of deal.

Anyway, I'm getting caught up. If you haven't ever clicked the "Games!" page somewhere on this blarg, you might not know that I'm not very good at start a game and playing it through till the finish. I currently have Dead Space about 50% done, S.T.A.L.K.E.R about 1% in, Overlord at probably 30%, and Bioshock....well, I don't even want to talk about Bioshock. The point is, I just have a difficult time not getting distracted, especially when I run into a difficult part (like Dead Space) or Steam gets a good deal (like how I started Overlord right after starting Bioshock).

So when people come up and say "Dude, you should try playing Team Fortress 2/1", I really don't know what to say. Hell, I own both Team Fortress 1 and 2, both of which I got in bundles, though I've never played either of them. But if I were to start, then it'd be another game to heap on the pile. Then another gamer suggested I look into GunZ, Maple Story, and another title I can't recall at this point. I am only one man! It doesn't help that every time I start a new game, I eventually see my Left4Dead 2 icon in my RocketDock and quickly lose the time I was going to conquer stuff in Overlord to an entire night/morning of Versus/Scavenge.

I need to think up a good way to tell people "Look, I've got enough games lined up, some of which I bought but haven't even downloaded yet. Come back in a year or two." Only without insulting them and sounding like an egotistical prick.

All your games are belong to me,
-Bry

Left4Dead Plushies

A while ago (May 3rd, to be precise) I heard about Valve selling a Boomer plush via the Woot! community. I went to check it out at the Valve store, and it really is not my cup-o-tea. It honestly doesn't look anything like the boomer in the game, but instead looks like a very chubby Elvis with three green bumps on his belly. But what caught my attention is the text "First of five special infected plush designs. Coming Soon!"

The reason for this post is that the Boomer went up at the very beginning of May; it's midway through July. I don't know what the hell Valve is thinking, but apparently releasing plushies every 2.5-3 months is "Soon". Since I'm guessing that each plush will be released one after the other and if they continue the slowpokey schedule they've already decided to take, the last on the list (Tank) won't be released until between mid May and the beginning of August of next year. Now don't get me wrong, I'll a patient guy, but a year seems a tad long to string out a bunch of plushies. Besides, Left4Dead 2 was released in November '09, and Left4Dead was only about a year before that, that puts Left4Dead 3 (which Valve would be stupid to not continue in the franchise) at November '10, meaning that the plushies will keep releasing up through Left4Dead 3, even up to 5 months after it's been out. I guess it just seems kind of delayed, especially realizing the fact that all 5 of the special infected are just the ones from Left4Dead, so no Jockey, Charger, or Spitter.

The thing that pisses me off is just the anticipation. I honestly have only a 9% chance of actually buying any of the plushies just because the Boomer came out at a whopping $50. Unless that sucker is close to life-size, it's way overpriced. But I would love to to just see the other choices as they become available, especially since the Boomer has never been my favorite character, and were the Witch or Hunter cool enough, I might buy them. (The Witch is even next in line, for Christ's sake!)

It's just absurd. The only, only reason I can think of Valve waiting so long is that they're going to sell through every doll one at a time, and the Boomer is not quote flying off the shelves like they thought it would. Well Valve, I honestly think that this whole little scheme is costing you money, since if you had released the plushies like a week apart, I would have either bought the Witch and a few other things, or just the few other things (since I'm waiting....for free shipping).

I do see that ol' Boomer's price has dropped from $50 to $35. Still outrageous, in my opinion, but it might be symbolizing that it's time to move on. I'm just getting sick of checking back.

Fighting the plushie apocalypse,
-Bry

PS - In case you were wondering (which I know you weren't) and for my own future reference, the other items I'm planning on buying from Valve's store are the L4D2 Poster Kit or the L4D Poster Kit, the Portal Weighted Companion Cube Mouse Pad and possibly the L4D2 Logo Hat. That's $28/$47 right thar.

[UPDATE 10-3-10]
Happy 6 Month Anniversary, Boomer Plushie! Another 6 months and you might just lose the "New" sticker! Let's see if it can outlast Half Life 2: Episode 3, Valve! If I'm lucky, I might be able to buy the Tank plushie for my grandchild! #StopBeingStupidValve

[Update 12-30-10]
Well, it looks like they've finally moved on. On December 18th, Valve released the Hunter and Tank. So that brings the total time for the Boomer to 7 months and 15 days, or a total of 229 days. Just in time for Christmas -except not. My brother actually came up to me and said "I thought about getting you the Hunter, but I mean...it just came out." on Christmas day. Don't worry though, he got me a wicked-ass L4D shirt off ThinkGeek. And ThinkGeek isn't supposed to get the other plushies until March of '11. But they're available in the Valve store now, and my birthday is in January.....*coughBuyMeOnecough*

Video Vednesday: The Wii Fit is real

I know I'm extremely late, but I was looking through my YouTube favorites and I came across this Wii Fit Parody by sarcasticgamer. I actually saw this video before I heard of the Wii Fit, so I thought the entire thing was a parody and the Fit didn't actually exist. I thought "Man, can you imagine if Nintendo actually made something like that?" Nope. It is very real.



Simple, Easy, and Not doing anything,
-Bry

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Apple products' cries for attention

I don't know why but Apple seems to make their products very whiney. I don't own a Mac, so I'm not going to say anything about them, but I have used iTunes for years and an iPod Touch for about 7 months.

First up, iTunes.When you open the info page on an item that has the things like "Artist" and "Album" and then switch to another program, iTunes will steal focus, reminding you that the info page is open. And I do mean steal. Not flashing the taskbar, oh no. It will grab you away from whatever you're doing to say "HEY. PAY ATTENTION TO ME. Are you done editing with this item?" And it will continue to do that until you finally close the window. You want to look up some lyrics to a song? Nope, iTunes needs attention. You want to see how Paramore prints the title of "RIOT!"/"Riot!"? Nope, iTunes is calling. It's unnecessary and completely annoying. It really puts off an air of snobbishness to me, but maybe I'm reading things in. It seems like Apple is so convinced that their product is amazing that they assume you'll be solely working in iTunes, not multitasking.


Anyway, on to the iPod Touch. If you've owned one, you know of the super annoying "This accessory is not supported" message. Now I understand the message, that's fine....when you first plug it in. But instead, Apple decided to have the message pop up every few minutes to remind you that the accessory you have had plugged in did not magically transform and become compatible.

First off, it's annoying. Secondly, it will wake up your iPod, not only to show you the message, but also for however long you have set in preferences before auto-lock kicks in. When I first got my Touch, I left it in my Insten Dock all night, and after my computer shut down, it stopped charging. "That's ok," I thought, "It's fully charged, it's already ready for tomorrow morning." I grab it as I'm heading out to work the next morning to discover that the battery is low. Why? Well, my guess is, that stupid error popped up every 4 minutes all night long, every time waking the screen (and probably the wifi as well) and draining power. I didn't see that coming. I suspected it would show you the error once and then shut up about it which is the logical thing to do. But instead, it cried "Mama" till it literally killed itself.

Of course, this is all before iOS 4, in which they very well could have fixed this problem. But the fact remains, even in a 3rd generation iPod Touch, did any Apple employee use the prototype for an extended amount of time and realize "God, this is really freaking annoying"?

Go cry to your motherboard iStuff,
-Bry

 [UPDATE 7-18-10]
I also forget to mention how iTunes will randomly show the pop-up telling you to update, which will steal focus, even moving you several workspaces away.

Monday, July 12, 2010

ResophNotes

I talked a while ago about Simplenote and how there were no Windows apps that supported it, and I was surprised to find that someone commented on that post and mentioned ResophNotes, a free program initially released late June of '10 that does exactly that. I haven't used ResophNotes for that long, so I guess this is a bit of a "first impressions" post, but I'll give it my best go. Also, if you don't use Simplenote, Resoph can also be useful as just an offline note-keeping app.But Simplenote is what really gives it its punch.

After the install the interface is very simple and easy to use, just like Simplenote. Setting up the sync was as easy as checking a box and entering in an e-mail address + password, and boom, all my notes are synced up. One thing that I like about Resoph more than Simplenote itself is that Resoph is set up side-by-side so the list of notes is on the left and the selected note is on the right. Maybe it's personal preference, but I like this more. But then if you prefer vertical orientation, Resoph has the choice for that as well, which is awesome.

It's also got neato features like 'Minimize to Tray' and 'Start Minimized', both of which make it very easy to keep Resoph running at all times and/or start it with Windows/Mac/Linux(?). Resoph's search also blows Simplenote's out of the water, since it's faster and highlights the found word(s). In addition it has 'E-mail' and 'Print' options, which I have not used, but sound incredibly useful. Lastly, it has a 'Backup' and 'Restore' feature that sound relatively new, but could be reallly, really useful in the future, especially if the creator threw in an auto-backup feature.



The only thing I can really find a problem with in terms of Resoph is resources. The ResophNotes folder in Program Files is 14MB, but almost all of that is Qt and SSL. SSL is mandatory for use with Simplenote and Qt is nice because it allows it to be cross platform, but it does add a ton of weight. I think all the Qt stuff accounts for about 12MB of the 14MB install.

But beyond disk space, Resoph seems to be a tad.....jumpy with memory. The first time I synced, I had about 11 notes on Simplenote, and I saw Resoph climb to about 24MB of RAM. What easily makes up for that is that as soon as you minimize Resoph to the tray it drops to 1-2MB of RAM. And after bringing it back from the tray, it stayed around 6MB, which is fine. But anyway, it seems to be a little chunky sometimes, from 8-10MB.....kinda heavy for a Notepad with online sync. Again, that probably attributes to Qt and SSL.


All of that said, Resoph is a sight for sore eyes. Resoph is extremely new, less than a month ATTOTP (at the time of this post) and by the Changelog, the original release was on June 13, so the developer practically made the program in a month. So I definitely don't expect it to be perfect or have all the kinks worked out. Like I said, resources seem to be the biggest "flaw" (in quotes, because that term is far too harsh), and nowadays, 10-20MB is really nothing, especially for having a wonderful Desktop Simplenote app, especially one that outperforms Simplenote itself (in my opinion).


ResophNotes looks wonderful, and since it's new, I expect many great things in the future. Really the only thing it needs to make it completely awesome is folder sync, like Resoph will sync with text files in a folder. I just found that it syncs with an XML file that is apparently encoded which is wonderful, but a folder with individual files for those of us who need less local security would be cool too, especially since there's no password to start up Resoph.



Anyway, I wish best of luck to the developer. It's already been listed on the Simplenote Extras page, and I say kudos!

Still taking notes, cross platform this time,
-Bry

[UPDATE 9-16-10] Well, I finally got around to downloading the new version (ATTOTP, 1.0.12), and it has FOLDER SYNC! Yes! It now has everything that I wanted! Unfortunately, Simplenote has stepped its game up and added a few features, so ResophNotes is a little behind. While Simplenote has annoying ads on it's website and apps now, it also has three new features: Tags, Pinning, and Revision History. Revision History is kinda nice, but I really hope Resoph gets Tags and Pinning eventually. Even without them, I honestly use Resoph more than the Simplenotes site. Why? Because if I leave Resoph running in my tray, it's ten times faster to access it than to bring up the Simplenote website, even if I were to leave it open in a tab all the time (plus it would be annoying). On top of that, since it can sync to a folder of text files now, I'll use that to my advantage in....ways.....ok, I haven't thought of any yet, but I know it will come in handy in the future.

Again: kudos, ResophNotes!

[UPDATE 10-14-10] ResophNotes now has (and has had for almost a month) tag support! Check off one more feature that's needed to catch up to Simplenote itself! Now all that's left is Pinning and Revision History.

On a more negative note, I've noticed that ResophNotes has been having troubles syncing some of my notes; it will create a duplicate with some random jargon at the end, or make the title repeat twice. I'm almost positive this is because I use Folder Sync instead of the one encrypted file, but it's still a tad disappointing. Not enough to make me dislike Resoph even in the slightest, but still disappointing.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Tech Inertia

I've composed a theory that I like to call "tech inertia", and it's that people usually don't move to other forms of tech unless their is a force acting on them to do so. Prime example? Operating systems. A ton of people move to Mac because they're "tired of viruses and crashing," or people update to the latest Windows version because Microsoft practically makes them by shipping it out on every new machine.

That's really why I haven't moved to Windows 7. People say "Why are you still using XP?" I haven't found a compelling reason to upgrade. Right now I have XP set up exactly the way I like it with all my favorite programs installed and everything runs almost exactly the way I want it. I know XP pretty well, and I've spent years using it so I feel comfortable. If I were to switch to 7, I have an impossible time believing that all of my programs would still work exactly as they do now, and I would be on a foreign system. Well not foreign, but different. Basically, I just see no benefit to switching, especially when 7 requires higher specs, leading me to believe it won't run as fast as my XP. Now right after my whole virus incident, I mentioned possibly switching to 7, since if my XP install was toasted, then there would be less inclination for me to stay on XP. But I did stay on XP, the whole scare just gave my tech inertia a little push in the subject of an alternative shell (bbLean).

The same goes with Linux. I've used Linux, I am ok with Linux, but I really have no reason to move to it as my primary OS. All of my programs work on Windows and if something breaks on XP, 9 times out of 10, I can fix it, even if it takes several hours or days. I'd say at least 50% of the problems I've had on Linux I've never been able to solve, often times because no one has been able to solve them. Some Linux people brag about the lack of viruses and such, but I'd actually rather have a Windows system on which I can fix all of the day-to-day bugs that might get a virus than a Linux system that can never get a virus but I'm always having problems with.
(All that is true, but the biggest reason I haven't switched to Linux is because I haven't found the "holy grail" of Linux distros, which I've been talking about alot recently.)

So anyway: tech inertia. It's the reason people (myself included) stick with the same web browser, mp3 player, and Operating System, because unless they have an outside force like money or instability of their current product, they won't change. It's not the most inspired original thought, but it does kind of put things in a tad bit of perspective. It's helpful to remember that if you're talking to someone who stubbornly uses IE instead of the other wonderful choices available, it's just tech inertia.

Not Bill Nye,
-Bry

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Google Chrome Crashes

One of the things that Google Chrome boasts proudly about is that every tab is its own process so that if one tab crashes, the others are ok. Sounds great, but I haven't really experienced that. I have experienced the whole "This page is not responding", which I do like, except I've also experienced the whole "Oh no! Google Chrome has crashed!" error. All of Chrome crashed, and I lost all my tabs. Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to say that Chrome is bad because of it, I'm just going to say that this just places Chrome on the same level as Firefox in terms of that. As much as it sounds lovely for every tab to be independent of each other, this just doesn't seem to be the case.

Or maybe it's because Chrome is still a little faulty itself. I would definitely have to say that Firefox is more stable, which is why I tend to have Firefox as my main browser on my machines, even if I have Chrome installed as a backup (or Midori on Linux).

I still love Google Chrome, I'm just a tad disappointed in Google. Usually, they aren't one for promising something and not following through. (That's Microsoft's job.) Even so, I will definitely continue to use Chrome/ium until I find a secondary browser that's better (like maybe Midori), or until they fix all the kinks, in which case Chrome/ium may indeed be my primary.

Oh Snap!
-Bry

Sunday, July 4, 2010

TekNmotion PulseWave Gaming Headphones

Shortly after getting my first-ever-built PC up and running, I installed Steam and wanted to start gaming. Great, except for the fact that I didn't have headphones. I really didn't know much about headphones, but after searching around a while, I found the TekNmotion PulseWave. The only problem? They were sold out. Everywhere. I found a site that had one pair left, which made me so freaking happy you cannot believe...but needless to say, you probably aren't going to be able to buy this model again unless TekNmotion decides to make more. (I do believe Amazon UK has some now, but very few...)



So why did I want them? To be honest, I saw that they lit up blue, and that really had me hooked. The picture showed Red, Green, and Blue lights on the side of each ear, and the blue looked amazing to me. Also, it has a choice of either USB or standard for input, which I love, just because it could be very, very handy in the future. Lastly, this particular product seemed to get good reviews everywhere I looked, with only a few people saying there were some flaws, but overall good.


Describing my experience opening the headphones....well, literally less that 2 minutes after opening the box, I tried to adjust the headphones to try them on, and a plastic piece broke off. This piece is purely cosmetic, it just hides where the fabric meets the plastic, but it snapped off nonetheless, making me very, very sad. I don't think I just forced it and broke it on my own accord. I genuinely think that it was stuck. After all, I had searched the entire internet for these headphones, then waited weeks for them to ship: I wouldn't force it because I was excited.

ANYWAY, getting past that whole horribly depressing ordeal....after I convinced the tiny OCD part of myself that it was ok that the headphones would not be symmetrical, I actual loved the PulseWave. First off, they are comfy and have good noise cancellation. Secondly, the mic detaches at the left ear, so when I'm not using it, instead of flipping it up, I can actually take it off and put it in a drawer. The main complaint I've read about these headphones is that the Mic breaks easily, but I haven't found that to be the case. And plus, since the mic detaches and uses a 1/4" connection to the headset, it should be pretty easy to replace, if and when it ever dies.

Next, the cord length is great. It's got a 6.5' cord, so it can easily reach around your computer, if that is the case. In addition, it has a little control box that allows you to adjust the volume, lights, input, and rumble (which I guess I'll talk about next). It also has a "Mute mic" button, which makes me feel better, knowing that I have physical control over whether or not my mic is live.

I mentioned rumble, so let me talk about that. But first, let me talk briefly about the lights. From the picture. I imagined it being a constant blue light. Or even just a blue light. But instead, what the PulseWave does is light up the 3 different colors (blue, red, and green) depending on the harshness of the sound going through the headphones. So if you play heavy metal, it will probably be red all the time, whereas classical might be more green or blue. This was a dissapointment to me. Why? Because I like blue. And I wanted blue. And I just didn't even think about the possibility of it changing lights. I though maybe you could choose what color you wanted, and then maybe it flashed that color to the sound. But no. So that was sad.

On to rumble! With the lights, the headset also rumbles with the sound, pretty much exactly like a rumble pack for the N64. (First thing that comes to mind...) I compare it to that because it's also optional. The lights and rumble are powered via USB. If you are using the USB connector, it takes the power through the miniUSB 2.0 connector. If you use the standard, two 1/4" red and green connectors for headphone and mic, it also comes with a little box you can put AAA batteries in and connect via miniUSB, and power your lights and rumble from batteries.

Overall, the lights and rumble features seemed extra for me; even the lights were a bonus, and though they didn't work the way I wanted, I still love the headset. It works great, doesn't get annoying to wear after hours of gameplay, and it....well, it just works. Like I said, I'm not that picky when it comes to gaming gear. I don't necessarily require a Razer or any other of those *coughoverpricedcough* brands that are uber duper specially designed. The PulseWave works great, and that's enough for me.

I guess I should also say that it has a Dolby 7.1 surround sound whatever when it comes to USB....like I said, if it works. I love it. But the USB sound quality ain't bad either.

One last note I'd love to share...another reason I love the PulseWave is the source select on the control box on the cord. Since I don't use the USB, it basically works as a mute switch for me. I split the audio out of my PC between my Altec Lansing speakers and my PulseWave using a cheap 1/4" splitter I picked up for $1 off eForCity, then I plug the PulseWave's microphone plugged into the microphone port. Boom presto: a toggle-able system. If I want to use my speakers, I flip the switch on my headset to "USB" and turn on my speakers. If I want to use my headset, I flip the switch to "Standard" and turn off my speakers. It's not spectacularly amazing, but I just love the fact that I don't have to switch cords in the back of my case or deal with more than one audio device on my PC.


So yeah, I love this headset. The only downside that I can think of is that the earpieces are a tad small. I have small ears, and they feel a tad constrictive on me. Other than that, if the mic holds out, I'll be gaming with these headphones for years to come.


Can you hear me now? (I already used that one...) Um.....boom headshot?

-Bry

[UPDATE 9-20-11]
These headphones were great.....while they lasted. Unfortunately, the plastic on both sides eventually cracked and now they are on their way out. I think this is a problem that I produce, since the exact same thing happened to my Skullcandy Hesh.

The only thing that did disappoint me is that the microphone broke shortly before the phones themselves. I'm not entirely sure if it was the tiny microphone itself, or the connector, but I was very very delicate with it. So if you'd ask me right now if I'd say it's worth buying.....I'd still say yes. It's an awesome pair of headphones.