Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Microsoft Touch Mouse

At first I was unsure about buying this mouse opting to first buy the Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse. After that mouse was stolen, I bought this one.

After using the mouse for 1 minutes I was able to confidently declare that it was worth every penny. By far the best mouse I have ever owned. Now obviously this mouse is not a gaming mouse. It is not designed with that in mind. What it is designed for is every day productivity and in that it excels.

The gestures are natural and useful. You can see in the video all that the gestures can do, but something that is not mentioned is how it works on dual screen setups. My most used feature of Windows 7 is probably snapping windows to the right and left side of my screen. With this mouse you do that with two finger swipes to the left and right. Before this mouse, I could only snap windows to the left of my left screen or the right of my right screen, but not to the right of my left screen or to the left of my right screen, the down side of dual screens I suppose. However, with this mouse using the two finger right and left gestures I can snap windows easily to the left of my right screen and the right of my left screen, allowing me to quickly and easily separate my two screens into four even windows which helps me compare documents, files, pictures and transfer and organize files. That feature alone without any other feature on this mouse makes it worth every cent I paid for it.

As for other nice features, the back and forward gestures with the thumb are comfortable and easy to use along with all the other gestures.

The mouse is fairly ergonomic which is nice to see in a touch mouse.

The Blue Track is great, right now I am using the mouse on my bed sheets and with wrinkles and all, it tracks great. I have used it on sparkly granite counter-top, wood, cloth, sheets my leg and many more. The only surface I had any problems with is a semi-transparent blue glass desk I have at work.

The mouse looks great and feels sturdy, 2 hours after receiving the mouse, a friend of mine walked in and not knowing I had purchased a new mouse commented how nice the mouse looked.

Oh and just in case anyone is wondering, yes it works great in Windows 8 ;)
Biggest downside is the lack of programmable gestures, but I do not feel like I am lacking too much without them. You can turn on and off all the gestures that come on the mouse in the Intellipoint Settings.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Windows 8 - An Initial Look - Part 2

The New Task Manager

After almost 20 years, finally Microsoft has updated the look feel and functionality of task manager. The new task manager is simple, elegant easy to use but can still give you all the information you are used to looking for in task manager. By default task manager gives you a very simple overview of what apps are open and in what state they are.


If you are looking for more information click on more details and you get this:


You can see the total CPU, memory, disk and network. and what percentage each task takes. The task icons help you quickly identify which task you are looking for and the cleaner look helps you see the data you need to see.

Now onto the graphs, the task manager has really cleaned up the graphs:


Again, it is cleaner and simpler.

You can also check the history of any task to see how much resources it has used since it was opened.


The highlighting helps you quickly see which app has historically taken the most of what resources.

A new addition to the task manager tab family is the Startup tab.


Finally, a quick and easy way for normal users to check what apps are set to start on startup and disable the ones they don’t want.

Keyboard For Your Thumbs

I do not have a touch screen PC to use Windows 8 with yet, but I hope to have a slate or tablet PC in the near future. One of the downsides to an on screen keyboard on most tablet computers is that the keyboard takes up half the screen and you have to cradle the device in one arm and type with the other hand if you are walking. It is really difficult to do much as far as typing on the go. With Windows 8, you can switch the standard on screen keyboard to a keyboard designed for your thumbs.

This allows you to type with your thumbs even as you walk, this is great for people that like to use their technology on the go.

Part 1 / Part 2

Windows 8 - An Initial Look - Part 1

Over the last few days I have spent quite some time reviewing Windows 8 Developer Preview. I have installed it in a virtual environment as well as installing it as the primary OS on one of my spare computers. I have watched the Keynotes from the BUILD conference and below are the features that I am most excited about in Windows 8.

Quick Search

I was a little worried when for the first few hours, I thought they had gotten rid of the easy search option that I was used to in the start menu on Windows 7. Turns out, I was just overthinking it and it was easier than I thought. To search in Windows 8 you simply just start typing anywhere on your start menu (Metro UI.) What you type is instantly brought up in a search bar on the right side of the screen.


As you can see, Windows 8 allows you to search your apps (including and desktop applications or programs you have installed,) settings, files or what’s new to Windows 8, search inside of applications installed on your computer. Let’s take that Notespace app for example. If I have jotted down some notes in that app, I use this search function and click on the Notespace app option down on the right side and it will search all the notes I have taken for that line of text. Any developer that writes apps for Windows 8 will be able to make there app searchable without even writing any code for the search function.


If you’re like me, if you ever need to use an .iso image you have to install and use a third party program such as Daemon Tools Lite. With Windows 8, .iso integration comes standard. To mount an .iso you simple right click on it and click mount, or click on the .iso and use the ribbon to mount the .iso.


Then to un-mount the .iso go to your computer in the file browser and right click on the “cd –drive” and click eject.


Having .iso integration has been a long time coming and I am very excited to see it implemented in such a clean an simple way.
(note. the same goes for .vhd files.)

Pause File Transfer

One of the simplest and most exciting features of Windows 8 is the ability to pause a file transfer.


Enough said.

Windows Color: Automatic Mode

I am a sucker for customizability and as gimmicky as it may be to change your windows color around, I can’t help myself. I loved that in Windows 7 I could choose any color and that I wasn’t limited to a set of preset theme options. The flaw came when I combined those colors with my desktop backgrounds. In windows 7, if you chose one windows color (ie. blue) and set multiple desktop backgrounds to cycle through (some blue, some green, some red) you would eventually end up with a red start bar and a green forest for a background, or a blue planet, or any other combination. "What’s the problem" you ask, well they don’t match, and if they don’t match, your computer run slower, everyone knows this. (Sarcasm) Well Windows 8 heard my prayers and came out with this:


You see that rainbow looking icon. What that does is it automatically selects a Windows color that matches whatever your desktop background is. As the background changes (if you have selected more than one background) Windows 8 automatically changes the windows color to match. You have a green forest, and it makes the start bar green, have a red planet and it switches it to red. You have a black and white image and it sets the color to black, white or gray.

Part 1 / Part 2

Force "App" to Close in Windows 8

In Window 8, applications do not need to be closed. When an app no longer has focus, it will then be put into a "Suspended" (freeze-dry) state!

When an application is in this state, it doesn't use up any CPU cycles, or memory. Pretty cool huh? 
So why would i need to know how to close the app?

The problem is that these apps still show up when you Alt + Tab through your open programs.

To close the app, you'll have to bring up the Task Manager 
and close the task from there.

(At the time of this post, there is not a keystroke to close the app with your keyboard)

"Falling In Love" - Talent Show Performance

I don't often promote my own music, because i'm still not where i want to be as a musician. However, i recently performed at a Talent Show we had at my church, and the performance went well.

Once i have both the time, and feel i'm where i want to be with my music...i will get a website up for it. Until then, i'll post the lyrics for this song here.

I feel a little bit attached, intrinsically
Thought it my head
I'm praying for some luck, 
From the powers that be
Because my thoughts, are far from clear

I'm falling in love with you
I'm falling in love with you
I'm falling in love with you
..and i dont know what to do.

It's not unusual for me, over-analyzing
Everything, that's in my head.
The expression on your face,
The inflexion of your voice
And all the things, you've left unsaid

I'm falling in love with you
I'm falling in love with you
I'm falling in love with you
..and i dont know what to do.

I can't help that i, wear my heart on my sleeve!
Take a chance, i promise you'll feel the love..
That emanates right out of me!
And you'll know, yes you'll know.
What love feels like, we'll watch it grow.
I'll steal your heart, and you'll steal mine
You won't be alone anymore!

I'm falling in love with you,
Do you think...
You could too?

I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as i love singing it!

Pulling up the Windows 8 Task Manager

Pulling up the Task Manager in Windows 8 using a keyboard can be done by hitting:

Ctrl + Shift + Esc

(Note: This also works in Windows 7)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Wrong Way, The Right Way, and The Way That I Do It

It's been quite a while since i posted anything, and there's good reason for that! I've had so much freelance work coming my way that i haven't had time to breath, let alone blog about breathing!

...and it's that very state of being to busy that got me into trouble with the very thing that was keeping me busy!

The story goes that i had been doing freelance work for several companies, on many different platforms, in a variety of languages. I say this to clarify my mindset as being scattered! I was presented with a project that required me to work with a company's Sharepoint Server. Now i knew what Sharepoint was, but I've never actually done any development work for i didn't know to just walk away!

I took the challenge and began my research...but immediately ran into a few obstacles. Mainly the company didn't already have an environment setup to develop for Sharepoint, but secondly...they had changed alot of the default settings, added alot of custom fields, and documented none of it! To develop for the Sharepoint 2003 server requires you to have certain packages installed...and those certain packages require specific versions of the software installed. Because of took an entire weekend of installing packages and SDKs to finally have my environment setup. Being i didn't have an extra server lying around i could dedicate to this cause, i chose to use Oracle's VirtualBox software to get this setup. Once it was setup, being i had no direct access to the data of the sharepoint server, nor access proper access to go view custom fields, i spent over a week of guessing and pulling my hair out to finally get the stupid WebPart designed and deployed. I could spend a considerable amount of time explaining how frustrating it is to code in theory, but at this point i was just happy that it was done and i had an environment setup to code for Sharepoint in the future :)

Triumph! ...right?

Yes there was triumph, and many much celebrations over the fact that i would still have hair when i got older. The problem was that i had this all setup in a virtual environment...and i hadn't taken the what little amount of time it would have taken get the code hooked up to my SVN. Also, since i didn't know how many packages i would have to install and how much space that would take up, i chose to setup the drive as a 20GB .vdi, since i figured that would be sufficient. This was only a problem because i told my service that backs my data up to the NAS to ignore large files (since i didn't think it was important to backup my ISOs and large videos).... laptop died...
broken hingeImage via Flickr

3 and a half weeks after my laptop died and had been sent in to Sony's Repair Center in California...i was contacted by the company i did the Sharepoint project for, and they've added a custom field to their server. They want me to add that to the WebPart i created for them; A task that would have taken probably 30 minutes tops, including testing and now put on hold pending the return of my laptop.

Gmail has this handy little tool that lets you see your sessions and where they logged in from and what protocol they used. The same day i'm contacted by them, i see that i had an active session tell me that just a few minutes ago i had an IMAP connection from California. The only machine i had setup to connect via for IMAP is the machine Sony had so i was hopeful!

Unfortunately i was contacted by Best Buy half a week later telling me that my laptop was lost and they were going to issue me an in-store credit for the laptop....but that's another story in and of itself!

The moral of the story is that regardless of my shortsighted choices on size of my .vdi file causing it to not be backed up, if i had taken the time to hook my code up to the SVN, i would only be set back a couple of days in recreating the environment!

Take the time to do things the right way!  ...or you could do it my way!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hitachi External HDD XL Desk Series - Disassembly

So this has nothing to do with programming, except for the fact that this HDD enclosure is what's going to be holding backups of all my source code :) I couldn't find any disassembly instructions using Google, and it's quite easy once you know how to do it!


Step 1:
Say goodbye to your warranty!

Step 2:
Take a small paring knife (or something equally as thin and strong, like a flat bobby-pin) and pop off the front panel. The front panel is the one that has the Hitachi LED that lights up.

Step 3:
Remove the 2 screws hidden behind that panel, and slide the top of the enclosure back!

Step 4:
You should now see 6 screws exposed. You'll need to remove all 6! Pull the Hitachi LED gently upward to remove it.
**Note: up to this point all the screws are the same, and it shouldn't matter which one gets put back where.

Step 5:
The internal HDD rack should now be able to be removed from the enclosure itself. It has 6 screws on the side (mine were black) that have slightly bigger heads than the previous 10 screws you removed. Remove all 6 of these.

Step 6:
The HDD itself should now pull up and out of the little metal rack, and all that's left to do is gently pull the circuit board from the HDD connectors.