Monday, September 29, 2008

Notepad 2008 - A text editor with the Ribbon UI

Like the ribbon in MS Office 2007? Well, here is text editor for you with a lovely ribbon interface - Notepad 2008. Notepad 2008 is slightly more functional than the default Windows Notepad application and closely resembles Wordpad. You will get the basic formatting functions - justification, font type and size, plus a search and replace feature.


The ribbon, accompanied by three different themes, gives a nice facelift to an otherwise bland text editor. The tabbed interface is also a must these days. It is a good replacement for Notepad but falls short of better Notepad applications like Notepad++.

You may require .Net framework 3.5 to run Notepad 2008.

Download (direct download)

[via Lifehacker]

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Tile opened tabs in Firefox with Split Browser

One of the latest features of Opera version 9.5 is the ability to arrange tabs in cascade or in a grid. Open source developers were quick to come up with yet another extension to mimic the same effect in Firefox. The addon called Split Browser, allows you to split the viewing window of your browser so that you can view multiple tabs at the same time.

Split Browser is flexible and you can arrange the tabs in whatever way you like. To be honest, it's a little confusing and except the horizontally tiled, and the grid layout, any other layout pattern is essentially useless. The one and only use of this addon is if you want to compare multiple web pages, or want to keep a particular page on display at all times. Going by the download figures, however, it seems that it's quite a popular addon.


A lot of screen real estate is essential to do anything productive with this feature turned on.


A productive Split Browser layout


A not-so productive Split Browser layout

Track and recover stolen laptop with open source Adeona

A few months ago I wrote how you can prevent laptop theft, track and recover stolen laptops with four different tools and services. Here is another addition to it - Adeona, the first open source laptop tracking software. A small software client is installed in your laptop which continually monitors the current location of the laptop, gathering information such as IP addresses and local network topology, that can be used to identify its current location. This information is then encrypted and sent to the Open Source OpenDHT distributed storage service. Only the laptop owner can retrieve these information from the storage. If your laptop gets stolen, Adeona will continue to transmit location information of the laptop unknown to the thief which will hopefully enable you to zero in on him or her.

The Mac version of Adeona can also capture picture of the laptop user or thief through the built in webcam like this.

adeona-isight10 adeona-isight11 

Wanted: Dead or Alive! 

Interestingly, each of these tracking tools that I reviewed earlier functions differently.

LocatePC, a freeware, sends you a secret email message from your laptop containing vital information about the laptop location, while Adeona sends information to a central server that is accessible only to you. Both these tools stresses on privacy since nobody but the laptop owner can know about the laptop's location. Laptop Alarm, another freeware, emits an alarm when somebody shutdowns the laptop or disconnects the AC and tries to take it giving you a few seconds to grab the thief and prevent the theft, provided that you are around. The alarm could also startle the thief and he might even abandon it in fright. If the thief manages to carry it away in spite of it, Laptop Alarm will send SMS to you providing information of the laptop location at a price.

Then there are professional services like LoJack and nTrack that will work with the police to track and recover your laptop for you at a reasonable price but by sacrificing your privacy. With free tools like Adeona and LocatePC you will have all the necessary information which you just have to take it to the police. The only thing that needs to be worried is whether the police will work hard enough to nab the thief.

Friday, September 26, 2008

An open source tool to split and merge PDF files

PDF Split and Merge or pdsam is a free, Java based open source utility to split and merge PDF documents. The program's interface looks dated but that's because it runs on the Java platform. And because it runs on Java it is platform independent.

Pdsam is simple to use. To merge documents, select Merge/Extract from the left pane and load the PDF files you want to merge. Arrange the files in the order you want to merge. If a PDF file is password protected, there is a provision to enter the password for the files. You can merge all pages of the file or selected pages by specifying the page numbers, the same way you do when printing pages.


To split a PDF file, select the Split option and load the file. There are different ways in which the file can be split.

  • Split the pdf file into single pages, one pdf file-one page
  • Split the pdf file into files each made of  "n" pages
  • Split the pdf file every even page
  • Split the pdf file every odd page
  • Split  the pdf file at specific page numbers 
  • Split the pdf file according to selected size

It's apparent that the author has put every options that he can think of. But he is smart enough not to make them all available in the basic version. He has decided to make it open source and yet make some money out of it. So there is an Enhanced version which is available at a donation starting from $1. The enhanced version has additional features like:

  • Encrypt your pdf files (RC40 bits, RC128 bits, AES128 bits) and set permissions on them.
  • Add a pdf cover or footer (or both) to your pdf documents.
  • Mix alternate pages taken from two pdf documents in straight or reverse order into a single document.
Plus you get the source code.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Reorder buttons in Windows taskbar with Taskix

Taskix is an extremely small Windows program that allows you to reorder the buttons on your taskbar by simply dragging and dropping. If "Group similar taskbar buttons" is set, you can move these groups around and even reorder buttons inside a group. However, you can't move buttons out of a group.


If you are looking for some more functions, then try Taskbar Shuffle. Apart from allowing drag and drop of taskbar items to rearrange them, Taskbar Shuffle also allows you reorder your tray icons in the same way, close buttons with the middle-click and some minor tweaking of taskbar buttons grouping. Taskbar Shuffle takes up a little more memory space compared to Taskix, but I'm sure you can afford 4MB of memory footprint.

[via Lifehacker]

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Run Linux live CDs within Windows without a restart

Sometimes you might want to run a Linux live CD but don't want to reboot your computer because you are working on something else. One solution to this problem is to set up a virtual system and test the Live CD on it. But if you don't want to bother even with virtualization then MobaLiveCD is the tool for you.

MobaLiveCD is a freeware Windows only application that allows you to run Linux live CDs within Windows. Based on the QEMU emulator, MobaLiveCD does not require any installation. It's extremely light and you can run it from a thumb drive and simply point it to the ISO file. You can also install a small context menu addon that will enable you to run live CDs directly from within Windows Explorer by right clicking on an ISO file. It also allows you to create a virtual hard drive and save data from your live CD sessions.


MobaLiveCD does not require you to burn any CDs, but that is also a disadvantage of this program. It can run only ISO files, which means that if you have a live CD in a physical medium like CD or DVD, you can't run it with MobaLiveCD. Besides, it takes a hell lot of time to launch the OS, but that's expected since you are running an operating system inside another. Otherwise it's a nice little application to add to your collection.

[via Lifehacker]

How to add a start page to your Blogger blog

In Wordpress there is an option where you can choose what to display on your homepage - your blog posts, like everybody else, or a static page that works as a welcome page. In Blogger there is no such option, or is there? You will find out soon. Blogger is extremely customizable and a lot of Wordpress features can be replicated in Blogger with some clever coding. Today I will show you how to add a static start page to your Blogger blog that shows only when you visit the homepage. At first you might like to see a live demo.

Since every blogger template is different, particularly the custom made ones, you will first have to understand the structure of the blogger template in order to know where to make the edits. At first backup your blogger template, which is a must before you do any sort of editing.

A typical layout of a blogger template, with one sidebar and a single footer is shown in the figure below. Some templates have an extra wrapper enclosing the main wrapper and the sidebar. Note, that almost all CSS based sites have this same basic layout.

We will place the start page at the location where the main wrapper appears. So the first thing you have to do is to locate the main wrapper within the CSS description. Different template authors use different names for the main wrapper. To locate the main wrapper, follow this trick:

Press CTRL+F and search for "<b:widget id='Blog1'". The DIV section within which the widget Blog1 resides is the main wrapper. Once you have found the name of the main wrapper, find it's CSS description in the template.
After you have located the main wrapper, copy the content within the { } brackets of the main wrapper description and paste it immediately underneath the closing } bracket. Name this section 'startpage'. Keep margin and padding settings, if any, intact. You can play with color settings if you wish to give the start page a different look. The edited template will now look like this:
#content {
    float: left;
    width: 540px;
    height: 100%; 
    background: #fff;

#startpage {
    float: left;
    width: 540px;
    height: 100%;
    background: #fff;

Now press CTRL+F to launch the search box again and type <body> to locate it in your template. DO NOT expand the widget templates. Right after the <body> tag, the actual blogger template will begin (all the stuff above it is CSS). In a typical blogger template you will first see the div section for the 'outer wrapper' (Refer to the image of the layout above). Then comes another div for the Header section. Finally you will see the main wrapper. There might be other sections in between depending upon the template. The main wrapper will look something like this:

<div id='main-wrapper'>
        <b:section class='main' id='main' showaddelement='no'>
        <b:widget id='Blog1' locked='true' title='Blog Posts' type='Blog'/>

Edit the template so that you get this:

<b:if cond='data:blog.url == data:blog.homepageUrl'> 
   <div id='startpage'>
    <!-- Start Page Goes Here-->

     <div id='main-wrapper'>
        <b:section class='main' id='main' showaddelement='no'>
        <b:widget id='Blog1' locked='true' title='Blog Posts' type='Blog'/>

What we have done is added a new section called startpage which shows up only when you visit the blog homepage. The blog posts are removed from the home page. If you click on any post from the links on the sidebar or visit the labels and categories section, the startpage will disappear and your blog posts will show up. Now all you have to do is design your start page using any HTML editor like Frontpage and copy the code in place of <!-- Start Page Goes Here-->.

The blog as it looks from the Layout page

It's possible to remove the sidebar, footer and even the header and make the start page take up whole of the screen. You just have to use the correct width parameters in the CSS and then place the sections you want to remove within the <b:else/> and </b:if> sections.

Try it. It will make your blog unique.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Read deleted Wikipedia articles on DeletionPedia

Wikipedia articles get deleted all the time. It's no secret. Articles that do not meet the relevant criteria for content of the encyclopedia, as put down by their Deletion Policy, are identified and removed from Wikipedia. Each day, Wikipedia deletes approximately five thousand pages! What if you want to read an article that's no longer on Wikipedia? Visit, DeletionPedia. There is a high chance of finding the deleted article there.

DeletionPedia is a non-wiki based database that automatically picks up articles dropped from the English Wikipedia. Non-wiki based means, it's contents can't be edited. It currently archives more than 63,000 articles. Some of these articles are fit to be deleted, even from DeletionPedia. I mean, who the hell needs a "List of films with monkeys in them"?

[via Lifehacker]

Sunday, September 21, 2008

How to create your own fractal wallpapers

You must have seen this kind of unique wallpapers with colorful abstract patterns and intricate, complex designs. These are fractals. Fractals are mathematically generated geometric patterns that repeat themselves infinitely at smaller scales. The following two examples will give you an idea of how mathematics is related to patterns and how it occurs infinitely.


Fractals are never ending and can be zoomed in on infinitely to reveal more and more intricate patterns. When you zoom in even more, you will notice some of the shapes that you saw in the beginning reappearing, but in large numbers. It's just mind boggling.

The fact is, nature is full of fractals. One good example is the snow flake. Another example is the coastline. How...? If you measure the coastline with a mile long ruler you will get a certain finite length. But if you take foot long ruler and measure every small turns and twists the coastline makes, you will find that the coastline is actually longer than you thought. Now reduce the scale to 1 centimeter, and the same coastline becomes even more longer. If you keep reducing the scale further and further, ultimately, you will find that you can't measure the coastline because it's infinitely long! That's how fractals are.


The famous Mandelbrot set.


A closer view of the Mandelbrot set. Yup, it comes from the same fractal

To be honest, I have no idea by what process the mathematical formulas are transformed into fractals. So how am I going to teach you how to create fractals if I'm as clueless as you? Thankfully, there are lots of fractal generators that can generate fractals for you. All you have to do is get one and play around the equations, colors and zoom level and you can generate your own beautiful patterns. If you are a mathematical genius, you can create fractal patterns giving it shapes as you wish. If you are not, the only thing you can do is blindly tweak the various parameters to generate patterns. Fortunately, almost all fractals are a beauty and you will end up creating lots of cool designs. The trick is to use the zoom feature. As I said, fractals are infinitely zoom-able, you can zoom on and on to get more and more patterns. Besides, different parts of the fractals can produce different patterns. Change formula, zoom, change colors, zoom more ... just go wild!


The software that I used is FractalForge. You can also try ChaosPro which is similar to FractalForge or checkout this big list. I used FractalForge because it's relatively easy to use. It also comes with lots of sample fractals (found under the folder "images") that you can use as a base to generate your own fractals. Go on, make your own wallpapers.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

How to use a background image on an image

Sometime earlier I showed how you can use background images to create cool effects on your website. Recently, I read a nice trick of using background images on images to create cool animations.

You already know that we can set a background image on any element of a website, and under texts. Using the same technique, we can set a background image under an image. Look at the following example. These are two separate GIF animations.


Now by setting the landscape GIF as a background to the running leopard, we get this.

Cool isn't it?

Here is the code:

<div style="width:206px;height:100px; background:url(/landscape.gif)"><img style="padding-top:10px;padding-left:10px" src="/tiger.gif"></div>

Friday, September 19, 2008

AIMP- An excellent Winamp clone and alternative

When I first launched this application, the first thing that I noticed was it's striking similarity to Winamp both in terms of look and functionality. This powerful audio player, AIMP, allows you to listen to your music with astounding quality, thanks to it's wide support of audio enhancing plugins including those made for Winamp. Like any music player, AIMP has an 18 band equalizer with preset settings, a visualization window, audio library and a playlist editor. Now let's talk about some of the features that makes it stand apart from Winamp and why you should try it.

AIMP's playist editor supports multiple playlists, loaded all at the same time in tabs. Holy cow! a tabbed media player. No need to wipe out the current playlist to load another one. Just double click on the tab bar or right-click and choose new playlist. The playlist can be sorted according to song title, playing time, folder etc. Adding or removing songs is same as in Winamp.


AIMP also comes with three extra utilities - an audio converter, to convert music files between various formats; a sound recorder to record through microphone or any device and a tag editor to edit MP3 files' tags.

AIM has an inbuilt DSP manager that provides nice little effects like echo, reverberation, auto sound normalizer, voice removal and a few others fancy effects for the ones who like to tinker around.

Then there is an auto shutdown scheduler that allows you to shutdown AIMP after a certain duration or at a certain time. The player can also start playing at a scheduled time.

Other useful features include

  • A mini-player that floats above the system tray or just about anywhere you drag it to
  • A quick search for media files
  • Supports skin
  • Customizable keyboard shortcuts and hotkeys for player control
  • A CD ripper

The only drawback of AIMP is that it is an audio-only player. It can't play video files. But most people don't use Winamp as their video player either, which makes AIMP an excellent alternative to Winamp. Besides it's lighter than Winamp on system resources. In my test AIMP consumed 7.5MB in memory and 14MB in VM which is significantly lower than 8.7MB in memory and 24MB in VM by Winamp.

NOTE: When you install AIMP, the default interface will be Russian. To change the interface to English. Click on the middle icon on the top left of the player as shown below. This will open the option menu.


Now click on the button Languages and choose English.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Delete locked files on Windows with Unlocker

Sometimes when you try to delete a file in Windows, you get an error message like: "Cannot delete file: Access is denied. There has been a sharing violation", "The source or destination file may be in use", "The file is in use by another program or user", "Make sure the disk is not full or write-protected and that the file is not currently in use" and so on. The file gets locked and you are unable to delete it unless you restart Windows. 


A freeware application called Unlocker adds a new action to the context menu of Windows Explorer allowing you to get rid of this annoying message whenever it shows up and easily delete a file. Simply right click the folder or file you want to delete and select Unlocker from the context menu.


If the folder or file is locked, a window listing of lockers will appear.


Click Unlock All and it's done.

Unlocker will kill the processes, close the handles or unload the DLLs using the file and you can safely delete it without having to restart your computer. Unlocker can also delete the infamous index.dat file that stores all your browsing history (of IE) and which requires quite a manoeuver to remove it from the system. With Unlocker you can delete it just like any other file.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Use your keyboard's Function keys to open bookmarks on Firefox

The computer keyboard has 12 Function keys at the top numbered from 1 through 12. The purpose of function keys is to provide users with shortcuts to perform specific actions in the operating system or an application. The programmer of an application is free to assign any actions to the function keys as he sees it fit, although some function keys have universal actions. For instance, the F3 key will launch the "Find" or "Search" tool in almost any application while the F5 key reloads a page in any browser. In games you will often find the F5 (or F4) key being used as quick save. It's obvious that the function keys are very useful for creating shortcuts even though most of them are usually left unused, including in Firefox.

quickmarksA Firefox extension named Quickmarks, can assign these function keys to specific web addresses turning it into a "quick dial" for opening your bookmarked pages. After you install this addon, click on Tool>Quickmarks settings to open the setting window. Type the URLs of the sites you want to open with the function keys.

Now you can open your favorite sites by just a single keystroke. One problem with this addon is that the function keys will cease to perform any other actions other than opening bookmarks. Which means that F5 will stop reloading pages, F11 will no longer make Firefox full screen and F3 will not launch the Find bar, even if you have not assigned any bookmarks to those keys. Most users won't like that, I guess. But Quickmarks is still an experimental addon and there is plenty of room for improvements.

Combine several RSS feeds into one with RSS Mixer

A new startup called RSS Mixer allows you to combine several RSS feeds from different websites into one, so that you have just one fat feed of updates. Creating mixes is easy; just get the individual feed URLs, add them and click "Mix it". The resulting feed can be read in any feed reader just like any other feed. It's also available as a webpage, mobile formatted page, as an Apple dashboard widget, Yahoo! widget, Vista widget, Google gadget for Google homepage or embedded into your blog or website.


The Mix can then be shared with other users and anybody can subscribe to it. RSS Mixer is also a searchable directory allowing you to search for Mixes created by other users. If you get a Mix you like, you can extend it by adding more feeds to it creating another Mix. RSS Mixer already has quite a lot of handy Mixes like the iPhone Topsites, Political news, Apple news, Gadget news etc.

[via Mashable]

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Gmail Labs new feature - Forgotten Attachment Detector

Many of us has experienced this. We say that we are attaching a file to the mail and then send it without attaching it. A new experimental Gmail Labs feature saves you from this embarrassment by reminding you of forgotten attachment if you mention it in the mail and then hit the send button without actually attaching it. The idea is simple: it looks for the word "attach" in the mail body and if it finds one but with no files attached, it pop-ups this message when you click on Send.


Gina Trapani of Lifehacker has made an interesting discovery. She used the words "File's attached!" and it didn't trigger a confirmation dialog, but the words "See attached file" did. I checked it myself and she is right! Apparently, forgotten attachment detector isn't perfect but certainly a step in the right direction.

You know how to enable Gmail Labs features, don't you? Click on Settings at the top on your Gmail account and then click on Labs. You will find lots of useful tools in it. Enable the ones you like.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Enhance Firefox Live Bookmarks with Boox

If you use Firefox's Live Bookmarks to read RSS feeds, then you should try Boox. No wait, ... you shouldn't try it. You must use it. Boox is an addon for Firefox that will enhance the functionalities of the otherwise bland live bookmarks giving it features that should normally have been available by default, but for some reason isn't. That has always been the problem with Firefox, doing little out of the box and depending too much on extensions. Anyway, this is what Boox does.

The first useful thing that you will notice when you install Boox is that, your bookmarks will begin to show the number of unread items. All unread items will have bolded text and read items will have normal text, making it easier to distinguish between the two.



Hover the mouse over a news item and a tooltip will pop-up with a preview of the feed. This tooltip is customizable.


The feed viewer is customizable too. You can use your own stylesheet or use any one of the several styles that come along with this addon.


Other features include:

  • Mark items read or unread from the context menu.
  • Create live bookmarks from the context menu
  • Search within subscribed feeds with various advanced parameters

Boox makes Live Bookmarks a tad more usable and useful.

I ditched VLC media player for GOM Player

People usually have their choice of media players. For me, it was Winamp for audio and VLC media player for video. Winamp is still my favorite audio player, but VLC isn't anymore. Recently, I downloaded GOM Player out of curiosity. 30 minutes later, it was my new default media player.

GOM Player, like VLC media player, is capable of playing almost any type of video files without installing any codec. Additionally, it can play FLV files which VLC cannot. The best thing about GOM Player is it's aesthetically designed interface and the clever incorporation of so many features into the player without making a mess out of the interface. I had always disliked VLC's crude menus. GOM Player is sleek.


GOM Player has a one click access to it's control panel. Video quality settings like brightness and contrast, audio settings like equalizers, playback speed and some more options are readily available through the control panel. You can also adjust font size, spacing and position of subtitles which is so cool.


The bulk of the settings in GOM Player is in the context menu. Right click on the player and a huge menu will pop up bringing you countless features. One feature that I liked is the Easy Browser under the Open menu. The Easy Browser makes browsing through your hard drive for media files easy. Just hover the mouse pointer over a drive and it will open automatically; no clicking is required. Folders open with a single click. It's actually easier to browse your files since it requires minimal mouse clicks.


The screen capture tool allows you to take screen shots of videos, and you can adjust the image format and quality of the screenshot. You can also schedule the player to take screenshots at definite intervals.

Then there is the Preference window which will allow you to fine tune your player even more. I tell you, there is nothing in GOM Player that you can't tweak. I wonder why I didn't try GOM Player earlier. It has so many features and yet it's so simple to use. GOM Player is skinnable too!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

GeoGebra - Co-ordinate Geometry on your PC

GeoGebra is an award winning open source "dynamic mathematics software for schools that joins geometry, algebra and calculus", in brief, co-ordinate geometry. With GeoGebra you can do constructions with points, vectors, segments, lines, conic sections as well as functions and then change them dynamically to get new shapes, equations and results. That's the beauty of doing maths in your computer. You can make minor changes and get instant results without having to do it all over again.

geogebra2 geogebra3

GeoGebra can do pretty much everything your school geometry book has. You can enter equations and coordinates and the resulting pattern will automatically get drawn in the geometry window. GeoGebra can deal with variables for numbers, vectors and points, finds derivatives and integrals of functions and offers commands like Root or Extremum. There are lots of resources, workshops and examples on their site that you can use in the application.

GeoGebra can also be run online, as a Java applet, without having to download anything.  A wonderful tool for students.

Pixel Pick picks color from anywhere on the screen

If you have ever worked on a graphics program for anything like designing a banner or retouching a photo, or designed a website, you must know how useful and essential the color picker tool is. However, with this tool you can only pick color from pictures opened within the application. What if you want to pick a color on the desktop or some color you liked on a website opened in your browser?

Pixel Pick is a free color picker tool that allows you to pick the pixels color under your mouse cursor from anywhere on the desktop and translates it into a number of different color formats such as RGB, CMYK, HSB, HEX or Web Color format. Previously, I was using another such tool called Absolute Color Picker, but I have found Pixel Pick to be even better. Pixel Pick has a magnifier with 40x zoom making pixel picking even more easy. This high magnification allows you to pick color from a single pixel on the screen. The color value is automatically copied to the clipboard. It also remembers up to 36 recent colors picked.

pixelpick pixelpick_scrii

Pixel Pick is extremely useful if you have a website and want to tweak it's font or background colors, and absolutely essential if you are a web designer and do it regularly. It will save you countless hours or work.

Download Pixel Pick

Friday, September 12, 2008

Tweak Windows functionality with Pitaschio

Pitaschio is a small tool for Windows that greatly enhances the functionality and behavior of Windows by introducing a great number of small tweaks. Here are some of the interesting features brought by this tool.

  • You can make the edges of the window snap to other windows and outer frame of the desktop, something you see in Winamp where the playlist window, equalizer and controls snap to each other when you bring them close together. The distance where the function begins to work can be changed.
  • Make a window to stay within the visible area of the screen. However, this option restricts the movement and resize operation of a window. So you might like to turn this off.
  • Minimize windows to the system tray instead of the taskbar.
  • Enable small icons and list view on the desktop. Recently, I wrote about another program that does this.
  • Adjust sound volume level by rotating mouse wheel on the desktop.
  • Double clicking on blank space of explorer window moves you to the parent folder.
  • Disable Windows key, Insert key, Alt key, Menu key, and Caps lock key. Disabling the Windows key is a little odd, but thankfully it can be enabled again.
  • Statistics such as "How many times was the key pressed ?" or "How much distance mouse cursor was moved ?" are provided. These can be seen from the task tray menu.
  • Additionally, it shows the Moon Phases in a tool tip message when you hover your mouse over the tray icon


Apart from these, Pitaschio brings you a host of mouse shortcuts which can all be configured according to your wants. For example, you can configure to launch the Control Panel when you double click on the task bar, or close a window when you wheel click on the title bar or anything you can think of.

The program doesn't need installation of any kind, just download a small zip file, extract it's contents and run the program. It isn't a plugin for Windows and run as a standalone program, hence it's easy to remove it or turn it off if you aren't impressed.

Minimize full screen games to system tray with GameMinimizer

Often games that run on full screen, which all most all games does, cannot be minimized to the taskbar. If you want to view the desktop or open some other program, you have to quite the game; there is no other way. In some games the Alt-Tab combination works but it's rare. If that's the case, use a small freeware program called GameMinimizer that will minimize any running game to the system tray, by pressing a hotkey, allowing you to truly multitask even when gaming!


The default hotkey is F12, but it can be changed. To change the hotkey in GameMinimizer, go to the folder C:\Program Files\Gameminimizer and open the file GameMinimizer.ini in Notepad. Then change the hotkey to any key of your choice. To prevent any application from minimizing when pressing the hotkey, there is a 'Blacklist' as you can see in the INI file. You can add your own applications to the blacklist.

GameMinimizer is very useful when you quickly need to check a walkthrough or even a cheat when you are stuck in a particularly hard part of the game. Now you can do it without quitting the game.

[via ShellCity]

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Make web pages more useful on Firefox with Hyperwords

Opera users have a very useful feature on their browser. When you select a word and right-click, the context menu shows some actions that you can perform with the highlighted word, like search, translate, dictionary, encyclopedia etc. Hyperwords for Firefox is build upon the same idea, only it goes one step ahead by displaying the results right on the context menu itself. With Hyperwords, you don't have to right-click; just highlight a word and the context menu pop-ups up as shown below. Of course, you can tweak the settings to make it not pop-up by it's own. Talking about settings, you will be overwhelmed when you see the settings window.


Let's go through some of the useful entries on this menu.

Search is self explanatory. You can search on all the major search engines and a host of other websites which can all be configured via the options page. You don't have to click on anything; just hover the mouse on a search engine, say Google, and it will automatically retrieve the results and display it on a small pop-up within the context menu.

The References is similar to search that allows you to get information from Wikipedia, Britannica and the like.

The View menu is interesting. It will allow you to highlight a single, the first or the last occurrence or all occurrences of the selected word in that page with any color of your choice, which is a fantastic implementation of 'search in page' function.

The Go-to is again another Opera behavior, the go-to address which takes you to the page when you highlight a non clickable URL. There are some more options inside the sub menus.

The Email option will allow you to compose a mail directly with the selected text.

The Shopping menu is another extension of the search feature allowing you to search on shopping sites like Amazon, ebay etc.

Over all, this is a great addon for Firefox and I certainly recommend it to all users.

How the LHC works? Learn it through a game

September 10, 2008, i.e. yesterday, will go down into the books of science as one of the biggest day since the big bang, quite literally. For just 24 hours ago the LHC or the Large Hadron Collider began their earth shattering experiment when they started to introduce streams of proton on a 27 Km merry-go-round. Fortunately, it didn't shatter the earth as predicted by some of the self proclaimed know-it-alls creating panic and hysteria throughout the world. The only casualty caused by the LHC so for was when a 16 year old girl in India committed suicide fearing the world was going to end, thanks to Indian news channels.


The best way to learn about the LHC is of course, to google it up and read. But if you are too damn lazy to go through long articles and if most of the technical talk goes over your head, then I suggest the LHC game. It's a good a way to know the working of the LHC; what it does and how it does, described in a visual way. It's actually a game, a sort of, where you play a scientist working in the LHC's control room. You have to control and fine tune the equipment before you can fire up the LHC. You can't proceed to the next stage until you have successfully completed the work you are assigned. What better way to learn than actually take part in it?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Control USB drive letter assignment in Windows with USBDLM

When a removable drive like a pen drive or external hard disk is attached to the computer, Windows assigns it to the first available 'local' drive letter. If the computer is a part of a network and even if there is a network share on this letter, Windows XP will use it anyway for the new USB drive. This results in conflict between the shared hard drive and the removable drive and as a result, often the USB drive appears to be invisible. The drive letter can be changed through the Administrative Tools in the control panel, but it has to be done every time a USB drive is plugged into the system.

To solve this issue and efficiently manage drive letter assignment of removable drives, there is a tool called USBDLM. USBDLM runs as a service and allows you to reserve letters, not used by any shared drives, to be used whenever any removable drive is attached to the computer. Any USB drive will then always take a particular drive letter(s) that the user assigns and not the next available letter.

USBDLM can perform a number of functions for newly attached USB drives

  • Check if the letter is used by a network share of the currently logged on user and assign the next letter that is really available
  • Reserve letters, so they are not used for local drives
  • Assign a letter from a list of new default letters, also dependent on many different criteria as the active user, drive type, connection (USB, FireWire), USB port, volume label, size and others
  • Assign letters for a specific USB drive by putting an INI file on the drive
  • Remove the drive letters of card readers until a card is inserted
  • Show a balloon tip with the assigned drive letter(s)
  • Define autorun events depending on many different criteria

To install USBDLM, download USBDLM V4.2.2 (about 282KB) and unzip it to C:\USBDLM. Now double-click on _install.cmd to install the service. Immediately after, a file USBDLM.ini will be created. Open the file in Notepad and add these lines:


Here, U,Y,Z are the letters that are reserved for removable drives. You can use any other letters. USBDLM can have up to 9 'LetterX' entries in each section and they don't have to be continuous.

The INI file can be further configured to enable more features, but the current one will work for most users. The other features include excluding drive letters, managing letter assignment for card readers, enabling balloon tips etc which are explained in the accompanying help file. Read it if you wish to use those features.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

How to enable List view on Windows desktop

In Windows explorer, there is a setting called View which allows you to change the icon size from "large" to "list" and "details", which is very useful because with reduced size you can view more icons on your screen. This option is however, not available on the desktop. Now some people like to keep a lot of icons on the desktop, and if the "list-view" was available it would have accommodated a lot more icons on it.

A tiny application called Deskview enables the "list-view" option on the desktop, thereby shrinking the icons into small sizes. There are no settings or options in Deskview. Just double-click it to shrink the icons, then double-click it again to return your desktop to the default setting.


You can put Deskview in your Startup folder to automatically launch it each time you start Windows. Deskview doesn’t remember your settings, so if you set it up and reboot your computer the icons will return back to the default size. So you will need to put this program in the Startup folder if you wish to enable this feature permanently, or at least keep it in a handy location.


In Windows Vista, you will need to decrease the icons to the lowest size and then double-click on Deskview to decrease it even further.


How to control your favorite media player from the taskbar

Generally, people listen to music when they are working on their computers. The media player is usually running in the background or minimized to the taskbar while the screen is occupied by some documents or presentations they are working upon. When they need to access the media player to change songs or pause or whatever, the player has to be maximized. A better way to do this is to turn the player into "mini-mode" where the player controls are put on the taskbar and can be directly accessed from it without maximizing the player. I will show you how.

Windows Media Player

The Mini Player for WMP was introduced with version 10. When you use the mini Player, the Player minimizes to the Windows taskbar, but you can still access playback controls and view visualizations and information about the currently playing item.

To use the mini Player

  • Right-click an open area of the Windows taskbar, point to Toolbars, and then select Windows Media Player. This step turns on the feature and only needs to be performed once.

  • Now clicking the Minimize button in  Windows Media Player will minimize the player to the taskbar, as shown below.

  • To maximize the player, click on the Restore button on the lower right of the mini player.


Download Winamp Desk Band, a plugin for Winamp which will add Winamp controls to your Windows taskbar. The desk band features many functions, such as run/show/hide Winamp, playback control, volume control, shortcuts to open file/jump to file dialogs etc are all directly accessible from the taskbar. It can be moved and docked everywhere on the desktop, and even be a floatable window.The toolbar is fully skinnable and customizable.



The mini player for iTunes work exactly the same way as Windows Media Player. To get the mini player

Right-click on an empty area in the Taskbar and go to Toolbars and select iTunes. Now every time you minimize iTunes, the player controls will appear on the taskbar.



FooBar2000 is another quite popular media player. To enable mini player in Foobar2000 download the Advanced Controls plugin. Extract the contents of the zip file into Foobar2000 plugin folder.


This plugin will put all the playback functions of FooBar2000 in the Taskbar Notification Area or System Tray. In a very small space (2 tray icons wide), you have the playback functions (Play / Pause, Stop / Load, Previous, Next) and the volume or the seeking bar. Plus, a right-click menu with all these functions, and more. It also provides a popup balloon with the current song's information, a hotkey to delete the file that is currently playing, skinnable icons, and numerous other functions.

Alternatively, if you are willing to shell out 20 bucks, you can get True Launch Bar and using plugins, minimize a number of media players to the taskbar. Supported media players include all of the above plus Apollo player, Media Jukebox, J.River Media Center, JetAudio, MediaMonkey and    Quintessential Player.

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