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101  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Lazy guy query: taggable file mgr on: September 02, 2008, 07:15:40 PM
Sorry to be so lazy (really I'm just super busy and trying to squeeze in one more project...) but I just don't have time to search all over for this right now. But I'm sure somebody here would know about it if it exists.  embarassed

I'm looking for a file manager that works like a backup program. (Freeware preferred.) I want something that will let me tag files and folders hierarchically the way a backup program does, but instead of archiving them, move them all at once to target drive/folder.

Actually archiving them wouldn't be so bad, as long as it used zip files and could restore them easily.

So maybe that's just... a backup program? But I don't want to image my drive or do thing on a schedule - just a simple batch tag -> backup or copy operation.

I'm sending a laptop off for repair and I want to re-image the drive with the restore disk first, to eliminate any potential driver issues, etc. I need to back up my docs, profile folders, etc. but my external drive has limited space and I don't want to wait for the entire contents of temporary internet files (for example) to come along for the ride.

Anyway, any quick help would be appreciated. Thanks!
102  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Advice: Never use your ISP provided email address on: July 21, 2008, 09:31:31 AM
Just a quick addition - you don't have to host a domain name in order to have an unchanging emaill address.

For years now we've had my wife's e-mail through It's a service that simply receives e-mail and forwards it on to any address you specify. Change ISPs? Simply change the address your e-mail is forwarded to.

The annual fee is really low, and you can even have multiple aliases for aggregation, etc. For a less technical user who doesn't want to deal with the whole domain regsitration/setup/maintenance process, I'd definitely recommend this service.
103  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: Computing annoyances and what to do about it on: July 01, 2008, 07:56:26 PM
Pretty simple, really. New features sell, and can be charged for. Bug fixes cost as much as new features to implement, but you won't be able to sell them by themselves. Users think they should get them for free.

Also, change is hard in a market as mature as the PC market. Remember BeOS? It was a radical departure based on a manifesto of sorts: one processor per person is a dumb idea when CPUs are so cheap. Be OS was designed to run on proprietary multi-cpu BeBox hardware, and to handle the demands of a fully multi-cpu ecosystem. The hourglass would be a thing of the past.

Crash. Burn. A decade later we're just now getting multiple processors per user as the default on the desktop (and only since Intel figured out how to get them onto the same chip. Why was that so necessary?) Be Inc. gave up on the multi-cpu box first, then their OS puttered along for a while until it went down for the 3rd time.
104  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: How can I get hard drive space... without deleting (my) stuff? on: June 19, 2008, 03:44:11 PM
16gb thumb drive = about $30 on eBay.

Are you using folder compression? Folder -> Properties -> General tab -> Advanced... -> check "Compress contents to save disk space" then say OK.

Works better for some file types than others, but if you've got lots of MS Office documents or uncomressed files like WAV or BMP, you could see some gains. Wouldn't do this on the WINDOWS folder, though.
105  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: What are your favorite gadgets and gizmos? on: June 19, 2008, 03:28:30 PM
Somebody beat me to posting the ZyXel. I have one and it is a way cool gizmo. I seldom really need to use it, but every time I do, I get to feel like a secret agent! Cool There are other WiFi finders, but few as capable as the ZyXel. (Plug it in to your PC, and it can work as a WiFi access point, letting you set up a temporary WiFi network without having to muck around with ad-hoc mode.)

But to anyone who knows me, my "gadget" always refers to my PDA. I've always liked the idea of a Swiss Army computer you could carry in your pocket, but always balked at spending hundreds for something that could get dropped in a puddle at any time. Currently I have an iPaq 3670, which is ancient by most people's standards, but it was super cheap and there's still tons of freeware available for it. Among other things I can use it to read novels, check the current phase of the moon or keep my daughter entertained in the restaurant while we're waiting for dinner.

My wife has said she might buy me an iPhone for Christmas, and as much as I relish the idea, I'm slightly worried that I'll actually have to take a step down in the functionality department when I give up my old PocketPC. Plus I'll have to be a lot more careful around puddles.  tongue
106  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Accessing the contents of another computer's hard drive on: June 19, 2008, 02:59:32 PM
Sharing whole hard drives may be a bad idea, but it's the default in many versions of windows.

Browse to \\machinename\c$ on any machine where you have an admin account. Enter your admin username and password if prompted. Helllooo C drive!

Basically, any machine on which you are an admin is an open book, either at the keyboard or across the network. I don't recall having to disable simple file sharing to do this, either.
107  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: Let go of your bookmarks! on: June 19, 2008, 02:46:39 PM
I find for the sort of things I often bookmark, Google isn't all that useful.

First of all, to Google something I've got to remember what it is first. There's no reminder functionality which bookmarks provide.

Second, try googling "windows xp tips". You get thousands of hits. Which one is that particular tips site I saw a few months ago that had that list of obscure RUNDLL32 functions? Bookmarks to the rescue!
108  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: What annoys you to no end? on: June 16, 2008, 02:37:17 PM
Ooops - late to the party, and don't really have anything to say about global warming, but stuff that annoys me  Thmbsup

* Lawyers without ethics
* Modern-day Pharisees
* The sad, sad state of education in the U.S.
* Wire coat hangers (Quote: "Wire hangers are the world's grouchiest items." - Oscar The Grouch)

...and the special prize for being the most consistently and enduringly annoying:

* Microsoft
109  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: Let go of your bookmarks! on: June 16, 2008, 02:13:45 PM
I don't have more than a hundred or so bookmarks in any bookmark system...

Of course, I've got at numerous bookmark systems  Cool

* Work-related bookmarks (and browsing) in Firefox
* Personal interest sites that I'm likely to come back to repetedly (or at least once in a while) in Maxthon
* Project-related searches & sites saved as Groups in Maxhton (different list from bookmarks)
* Odd sites that I probably won't vist that often, but that might interest others, in
* A surf list for sites I want to visit in OneNote
* Hotlinks for frequenly-visited webcomics & entertainment sites in the K-Meleon install on my thumb drive

I also have a wish list in, which is essentially a special purpose bookmark list.

Despite all this, I usually just go to lifehacker, consumerist, donationcoder.  tongue
110  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: IDEA: CD-RW/DVD-RW emulated drive? on: June 13, 2008, 09:08:08 AM
Well, to go off in a different direction, is it possible (or practical) to simply capture the audio out of the Audible player and work with that?

I've used Total Recorder ( for years to break out DRMed music so I could put it in MP3 format. It's a virtual sound card driver and recorder program that records the output of any application that plays audio and can save it as a WAV or MP3.

If the Audible player can play an entire audio book at one go on the PC, you could start it playing overnight and in the morning have an MP3 file of the thing ready to slice/dice/burn as you please. Total Recorder is pretty smart about not recording silence, system noises, etc.

It's a great tool, and reasonably priced (about US$30 as I recall).
111  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: Unallocated drive space on: June 04, 2008, 02:30:11 AM
A lot of systems (Compaqs esp.) have a small partition on the disk that they use to store setup/recovery info. Some systems use this scheme to store the setup program, instead of running it from CMOS memory.

These partitions can have weird formatting (FAT12? or some proprietary format) that can be tough for disk part programs to deal with.

Not sure how you'd get around this one. Acronis Disk Director or similar can identify many of these partition types, but that doesn't mean you can do anything with them. And you don't want to wipe it out as it may cripple your PC's ability to run setup.

Your best bet might be to visit the PC manufacturer's website and poke around. They may have a downloadable system setup disk that will give you access to this partition, or let you recreate it on a new disk.

As for W2K, check to see if there's a "makedisk" or "makefloppy" program buried somewhere in the WINNT folder. You can use this to create the 4 floppy disks needed to boot W2K. They are setup diskettes whose purpose is to get the OS up and running to where it can read from the CD and finish setup, but they also let you run a limited recovery-console style command prompt, which you might find useful in your tinkering.

Good luck!
112  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: What makes software 'good'? on: May 08, 2008, 12:29:57 PM
Actually, there's a whole field dedicated to solving the problem of what makes good software. It's the Usability/Human Factors profession.

The problem with developing a "standard" is that the measure of how good software is depends on who is using it. Is a CD burner application with hundreds of options good software? It could be, if you are an audio engineer charged with mastering CDs for mass duplication. Probably not so much if you are a teenager who wants to make "backup" copies of CDs you've purchased.

To determine how good a piece of software is, you have to analyze how well it serves the needs of its users, and how well it matches to the way they work, the other tools they use, how they use their computer, and a range of other factors. It's like relativity - there's no privileged frame of reference. Goodness is measured relative to the users of the application.

The word "intuitive" gets thrown around a lot in these kind of discussions, but it's usually just shorthand for "who the heck knows?" "Intuitive" is a popular term because it removes responsibility from developers. By definition, it implies a certain immunity to logical analysis. But the thing is, there are perfectly objective, measurable ways you can design software that works well and serves the needs of its users. Unfortunately, there are many companies (and individuals) who don't see the need, don't want to spend the time/money or simply don't know that it can be done.

All that said, there are certain qualities of "usable" software that can be taken as touchstones of its "goodness". These were defined by Jakob Nielsen in 1993, and they are:
  • Learnability - How easy is it for new users to learn how to use the software without extensive training/assistance?
  • Efficiency - How well does the software accomplish the tasks the user is attempting to do? Does it speed the process or throw up barriers?
  • Memorability - Can you easily find that function you last used a week ago? Can you come back to the software after a few months away and still use it like a pro?
  • Error Handling - How gracefully does the software cope with the unexpected, either in interacting with the user or as the result of its own internal processing?
  • Satisfaction - How do people feel about using the software? Do they love it, hate it or just think "eh"?

This may not be an exhaustive list, but I'd say that any program that exhibits all of these qualities in abundance will be thought of as "good" software by the people who work with it.
113  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: Your fav' audio CD burner? on: May 08, 2008, 12:09:57 PM
Winamp will also burn CDs, but I primarily use it as a player and haven't really tested that aspect of it.
114  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: questions for programmers on: May 03, 2008, 07:54:30 PM
Just saw this thread - what a great topic! Thanks, Nikki & Gally for getting it started.

As far as the first programming language and how to get started, I was reminded of Hackety Hack:

In the 1980s, a language called BASIC swept the countryside. It was a language beginners could use to make their computer speak, play music. You could easily draw a big smiley face or a panda or whatever you like! But not just BASIC. Other languages like: LOGO and Pascal were right there on many computers.

In this century, you may have dozens of programming languages lurking on your machine. But how to use them?? A fundamental secret! Well, no more. We cannot stand for that. Hackety Hack will not stand to have you in the dark!!

Hackety Hack is a learning environment based on Ruby that aims to re-create the workflow of those early BASICs - type, run, see something cool happen, tweak, and so on. It's Internet focused ("Code your own blog in 6 lines! Your own IM in twice that!") but there's no reason you couldn't write desktop apps with it too.

Might be worth a look to aspiring programmers of any age.
115  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Windows is Trying Hard to Push Me Over To a Mac... on: April 23, 2008, 09:31:05 AM
This may be redundant, but have you ruled out hardware issues?

I had a lot of freezing/crashing issues with one of my XP machines until I ran MS's memory testing utility and found that one of my RAM chips was failing some of the tests. Replaced it and my system's been much better ever since.

Bad hard disk sectors could also cause issues like you describe.
116 Software / Finished Programs / Re: tv_out: a shortcut for quickly turning extended desktop on/off on: April 21, 2008, 12:33:58 PM
Got it. Thanks!
117 Software / Finished Programs / Re: tv_out: a shortcut for quickly turning extended desktop on/off on: April 18, 2008, 03:48:38 PM
I have a script that enables my 2nd monitor and sets it to a particular vertical offset to match the physical arangement of the screens on my desk. It's a total hack based on simulating mouse clicks & drags (although watching the mouse pointer move that 2nd screen into position every time always makes me smile, and think about how many months I spent doin it by hand.)

I never bothered adding the ability to disable the 2nd monitor because it seemed like too much effort for the return on investment, since that only takes two clicks anyway.

I'll have to take a look at the code and see if I can adapt it to use screen offsets. THANKS!

BTW - I didn't seem to get the ICL in my copy of the zip file. Should it be in there?
118  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Home Network Recommendations? on: April 13, 2008, 06:58:44 PM
Well, depending on the version of your router, you might want to look into the alternative firmwares for the WRT-54G. Not all versions of the router can support it, but if yours can it could give you some very nice extended cababilities for no extra costs, and might improve stability as well.

Check out Tomato, Sveasoft Talisman or DD-WRT for alternative firmware possibilities.

119  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: Confirmed: UAC designed to annoy us! on: April 13, 2008, 10:41:44 AM
I don't run Vista, but I have to ask... are you folks who are seeing so many of these popups running as Administrator?

Because isn't that supposed to be the point? To break people of the "habit" of running in Adminstrator mode, and breaking developers of the habit of assuming their apps will run in Administrator mode?
120  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: ideas or suggestions for mostly free html editor. on: April 13, 2008, 10:34:47 AM
Aw shucks! You're welcome!  cheesy

Will do (the fingers crossing bit). Can't wait to see it!
121  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: ideas or suggestions for mostly free html editor. on: April 11, 2008, 04:34:17 PM
I took a look at this. First I have to say I'm mighty impressed. This is a nice bit of coding, and I especially like the drag-and-drop of components into the window.

What follows may not be the kind of feedback you want to hear, but I'm going to go ahead and say it anyway.

Given that there are lots of programs out there that do what yours does, you might want to give your program a little extra something to make it stand out. I humbly suggest that you make that something real support for styles.

Your app doesn't get styles. Doesn't really get them.  Don't worry, it's in good company. Most WYSIWYG HTML editors don't either.

But in 2008, there's really no need for another HTML editor that generates HTML 3.2, with hard coded formatting attributes embedded in the markup. It's time we all moved on.

What a WYSIWYG editor ought to really do is understand that what I want is well-formed, CSS-compliant HTML, even if I don't know that's what I want. It should understand that when I highlight a paragraph and format it with "Trebuchet MS" I don't  really want a "font face=" tag on that paragraph. What I really want is for the program to: 

1. Create an entry in the stylesheet for me called something like "Normal_TrebuchetMS"
2. Apply that style to the "p" tag on my paragraph
3. Make that style available up in the style dropdown box, so that I can apply it to other paragraphs.

The WYSIWYG program has to understand that on the web today, the stylesheet is not an afterthought but an integral part of the page. It should offer me some control over it; the option to save it as an external file or embed it in the page header, for example. It should let me import or attach an existing stylesheet (as you already do).

But it shouldn't make me monkey around with it too much. It shouldn't just dump me into an "enter CSS here" text box with no guidance, let me fend for myself as best I can, and then basically treat that part of the job as if it never happened. In MS Word, the Style dropdown shows me all the styles used in my document, or those available in the attached template. I can't understand why no WYSIWYG HTML editor does this. Why bother to let me design styles at all if I can't then apply them through the GUI?

The application should handle the creation, application and maintenance of style definitions for me, because that's what computers are good at. And if I'm using a WYSIWYG web editor, that's probably not something I'm good at. Yet it's something I really need to do, even if I don't realize it. And you know what? Even though I personally can code CSS styles by hand without too much trouble, I'd still prefer the program handle it for me, provided it did so in the right way. Hand-coding CSS is not a fun part of the job, any more than hand-coding HTML is. If the program spares me from one tedious chore, why not the other too?

I realize that this is not a trivial task, and that it requires functionality that's not included and would probably be difficult to implement with the default components available to developers. I can understand why a developer wouldn't want to take the uphill path on this. But I have a list as long as my arm of WYSIWYG HTML editors I've tried, and they all pretty much do exactly the same thing. I can't understand why a developer would want to spend their time building yet another Nvu, or another Komposer, or another WebDwarf, or another...  Well, you get the idea.

So I'm sorry if this post comes across as negative. I do like your program and heaven knows it's better than anything I could ever build. But I really feel strongly that until some bright developer realizes that CSS is no longer an optional part of HTML, and makes the effort to embrace all that implies, we're just going see this endless string of the same darn thing over and over when it comes to these kinds of programs.
122  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Most useless on: April 11, 2008, 10:27:54 AM
Oh, the :Cue Cat! Yeah, I've got two of them. There's a cool hardware hack where you wire together two holes on the circuit board and the thing turns into a regular barcode reader. I did this quite recently when I had a project that required barcode scanning. Worked like a charm.

Digital Convergence's death certainly was well deserved. They were a scummy company. Was it really ten years ago? Yipe!
123  Other Software / Developer's Corner / Re: Coding Horror Blog Essay On Free Software vs. Commercial Software Trends on: April 11, 2008, 10:05:07 AM
I read the Coding Horror entry when it was posted. He makes some good points.

The company I work for has a polciy: no personal software licenses on their machinery. This means that my software choices come down to:

1. Choosing from the already offerred software suite, which covers the basics such as MS office.

2. Going through a fairly inconvenient process of getting the company to buy a software title I'm interested in. This means getting my manager involved, justifying the purchase to IT, a PO process, etc. There's the justification piece: Do I really need it? Why? How much do I need it? Should we consider a site/group license in case other people will need it? To tell the truth, if it were a title that isn't carried by CDW, I doubt I'd ever get the company to buy it for me. The request would probably just fall into a process balck hole.

3. Download and install a FOSS title that's close to what I want.

Guess which option I choose 99% of the time?

I think another key thing to remember here is that software is software, and open-source and commerical titles are more alike than different. Software that focused on the fun stuff (new features) to the exclusion of the not-fun stuff (bug fixing and docs)? I've seen that plenty in the commercial software world. Developers that just walk away from a product after you've made an investment in their technology? Ditto. After all, isn't that one of the things that SPAWNED open source software? The idea of a hedge against vendors dead-ending a product you rely on?

The thing is, the open source ecosystem is a developer's party. So is the closed-source ecosystem when you come right down to it. (Microsoft has been described as a cult of developers, and I think there's some truth to it.)

Developers don't think it's fun to write docs? Well, guess what, there are plenty of tech writers who DO, but where's the welcome mat for them? "Sure you can contrbute - just go this developer's website, download this suite of developer's applications, learn this developer-only source-control technology and then figure out how to fit what you're working on into its constraints. You'll need to compile binaries form source code, but you know how to do that, right? Well, it's not that hard, just look at these 27 interlocking forum postings and you'll figure it out. So once you're all set up, feel free to contribute!"

One thing commercial dev shops (usually) have going for them is they recognize that there's more to software than writing code. They make developers work with the others in the field who are needed to support their efforts. I don't see this nearly as much in the FOSS world. I think it could happen and is more likely to happen in a community setting, but it's hardly a given there, either.
124  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Most useless on: April 10, 2008, 12:54:44 PM
1. Yes  smiley

2. Probably some sweater I never wore.

3. This is a tough one. I'd say it's a toss-up:

Most useless PC thing that I LOVED - Snappy, from Play Inc. It was a totally cool gizmo, but I think I actually used it about 3 times, and never for any real work. Part of that may have been that it never quite delivered on its own marketing hype. Still, I miss Play, Inc. Sad Serious Magic, too.

Most useless PC thing that I HATED - iConcepts (Sakar) cordless mouse with keypad. Bought it to use mouse and keypad at the same time, but the product was designed to hide the fact that you couldn't do this until after you'd purchased the thing. Then, when I used the keypad, it also enabled the embedded keypad on my laptop keyboard, rendering the main keyboard unusable. Plus the thing ate batteries, and wouldn't work relably more than a few inches away from it's USB dongle.
125  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Do you collect anything? on: April 10, 2008, 12:44:22 PM
I have the world's largest seashell collection.

You've probably seen part of it. I keep it scattered on beaches all over the planet.

 Cool (Steven Wright)
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