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Topics - nontroppo [ switch to compact view ]

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Google have just released a new launcher-type app (currently Mac only) called Quick Search Box (QSB):

What is interesting is that the lead developer is Nicholas Jitkoff (aka Alcor), who was the creator of the legendary Quicksilver (QS). Just as with Quicksilver, it uses a simple launcher interface, but allows powerful object—verb—modifier to be used; you take something, do something more to it with additional input.

It has a nice data sources plugin system, pulling in address book items, music items, allows access to your google docs, calender and mail accounts (not fully functional yet), and is fully open source.

One very cool thing, it can search within pages for more content. Notice in the screenshot above I have wikipedia searching for robot. In the list, QSB has already done the search and given me the wikipedia pages that contain robot. I can select one page and then search just that page for another word (drreams, screenshot below), getting the contextual part of the page in QSB's interface without ever visiting a webpage!!!

Can hook into spotlight. Not as visually beautiful or elegant as QS, nor can it manage triggers (noun-verb-modifier blocks bound to keystrokes), no general plugins.

It certainly is no replacement for Quicksilver for power users, but it is a very nice basic launcher nevertheless.

General Software Discussion / Microsoft Songsmith
« on: January 12, 2009, 04:28 PM »
How, but seriously, how on a 1000 earths, does Microsoft come out with the most staggeringly awful, cheesy & cringe-worthy publicity. This must seriously be a clever parody of MS:

“Microsoft, huh? So it’s pretty easy to use?”
"And what a happy home we'll have, with every word in rhymeeeeeeeeee......"

Lisa, the annoying little girl, runs Vista on her Macbook Pro (covered in girly stickers so you don't think it's a mac). I normally hate YouTube for the moronic depressingly idiotic comments, but these comments are spot on:

"Be right back...stabbing my eardrums."

"Music is dead."

Yes, it really is real (maybe even fun, if it wasn't for the searing pain in my brain from watching that wretch-inducing advert):


I'm off to get sink into copious glasses of absinthe; surely it's the only way to erase this pain from my mind...

General Software Discussion / Security Software for OS X
« on: December 08, 2008, 09:22 PM »
Darwin asked me elsewhere if I use any security software in OS X, and I think that is a useful topic on its own for all two OS X users at DC, along with curious Windows users who may enjoy prodding us :D

Here are the Broad Categories and options:

  • iAntivirus - this is by the same guys that make Threatfire and Spyware Doctor for PC. It is FREE. It is optimised to detect OS X threats only (all 88 of them, including regular apps with possible danger like keyloggers, proof-of-concept code and classic OS <10 virii), and thus it has a tiny database.
  • ClamXav - Useful to remove windows virii, open-source and free.
  • VirusBarrier X5 - Fairly well regarded. You can get it And 10 other apps  (including Little Snitch outgoing firewall) for a spectacular discount ATM:
  • Mcafee and Norton - universally reviled as junk, badly written for OS X. Some consider Norton the clearest piece of malware on the mac!
  • Sophos - I've seen no one using this, I suspect it is corporate only.

  • Built-in - Leopard has two outgoing firewalls, an application-based and a port-based (ipfw from FreeBSD, Tiger just has IPFW). Waterroof and Noobproof are very comprehensive GUIs to control it.
  • Little Snitch - an outgoing application firewall. Low resource useage, a very nice UI, and on special offer over winter (see Virusbarrier above).
  • Intego Netbarrier - Same guys who make Virusbarrier, used by quite a lot of users and with generally positive reviews. Both incoming and outgoing firewall, very configurable.

  • Filedefense - a file system level driver which allows you to allow/deny file access for any application. Good idea but horrible UI, makes Vista's UAC seem like fun!
  • MacScan - scans for keyloggers, a few trojans and clean tracking cookies. Nothing major but some people may find it useful (iAntivirus scans for keyloggers and trojans too and it's free).
  • Apple Security Guide - Links to documentation for best practive for Leopard and Tiger

What do I use?
Only Little Snitch. Nothing else except for NOD32 on the XP bootcamp partition. There are no viruses in the wild for OS X. There are a smattering of trojans which require user intervention to gain access to the system, or someone may guess my admin password to install them. This is not a high enough threat to warrant using AV for the moment IMO, as long as I exercise caution about "installing" codecs with admin privileges from web popups!. I only use Little Snitch as much for curiosity over outgoing traffic as necessity. Here is a fair article on security and why you don't need an AV yet:

And for those who saw the "Apple recommends AV software" furore:

What do I miss more than anything for OS X security: SandboxIE - I'd love a robust sandbox to allow more reckless behavior online  :-* Core Leopard components are sandboxed, but there is not an adaptation to run user process in a sandbox yet.

Hi guys, looks like the sysinternals guys have just released their own take on virtual desktops:


A whopping 62kb download (why don't they use bittorrent or a dedicated server farm, my download took ages!), it offers a keyboard friendly, minimalist alternative to some of the other.

Here is some other discussions on VD software over the recent past (my personal fave is Dexpot, though its bugs are slowly driving me off it).


General Software Discussion / Opera 9.5 — New Skin
« on: June 06, 2008, 04:24 AM »
Hi guys,

Just curious on what you Opera and/or polybrowser users think of Opera's new look for 9.5?

For me, it is clearly better than the old baby-blue-everywhere skin, and I prefer the reduced color palette (less distracting). Page (tab) bar is a bit to Vista-like and heavy IMO, with too much padding. But this is less of an issue on OS X, where the native skin is default.

Regshot is the little registry utility that could. Able to do a full registry and directory scan before and after any event, it spit out a detailed HTML report of the changes to your system all in a measly 72kB of .EXE goodness. Not only is it one of the most useful utilities around, it probably packs more usefulness/kB[1] than any other software I know.

Its problem has always been unreliable hosting. It has lived its online existence hosted on endlessly different servers, moving around more than a Mongolian nomad (and thus limiting its fame, along with the fact the developer is Japanese and thus less well know in the anglosphere). But it looks as if the nomad is trading the tent in for a shiny apartment in a large co-hab block; Sourceforge:

Please make sure you have enough bandwidth to download the latest version, 90kB including full source. Maybe I should set up a torrent?  ;)

[1] Of course proper standard units are usefulness/KiB  :P

The holy grail among RAW processing apps is localised image adjustment within app. Lightzone was the first app to allow selective non-destructive editing of image areas, but being Java-based it is slow on all but the fastest hardware. And the interface is not really optimised for the other aspects of image management (metadata, collections, printing etc).

Apple just released aperture 2.1 with plugin support for localised adjustment. However, Aperture actually spits out a TIFF and thus the non-destructive, re-editability is compromised (but the workflow is smoother).

So with extreme delight, I saw the Lightroom team have released a beta of the next version with Lightroom. The killer feature being localised, non-destructive dodge-and-burn. The other killer feature is that it will be a 64bit app, benefiting in terms of memory use and performance (Adobe have released no benchmarks to verify this yet). Numerous other interface and feature changes make this an amazing update. Lightroom is a fantastic app already, and pretty interesting in many ways. For example, the beautiful interface is actually coded in Lua, the worlds fastest and smallest embeddable scripting language.

John Nack, the blogger extrodinaire for the Photoshop team has the best summary of the release:


You can download it at:

 :-* :-* :-* :-* :-* :-* :-* :-* :-*

Does anyone else here use Lightroom? Use another RAW workflow or photo manager?

General Software Discussion / Opera Dragonfly
« on: February 25, 2008, 07:55 AM »

In a recent interview with Dave Storey (chief web-opener at Opera) in a Norwegian paper, some astute readers noticed a pamphlet on his desk for a new project from Opera, called Dragonfly (or the Dragonflyer). Dave is not leaking many more details, but we may see more info coming soonish:

My money is on the set of web-developer tools they are developing. The interface is already set up in preferences:


Another idea is of some kind of peer-2-peer interface hinted at in an older interview some months ago. Anyone care to guess what the Dragonflyer may be?

Find And Run Robot / Enso 2 redesign...
« on: January 31, 2008, 07:25 PM »
This is an interesting article from the Humanized guys on what was wrong in Enso 1 and what will be improved in Enso 2. They are taking their contentious quasimodal interface and modifying it so only the VERB is entered in that mode, the noun/action is modal (or not as they think). Food for though for FARR 3.

General Software Discussion / Humanized Enso going free...
« on: January 16, 2008, 09:40 AM »
It seems Freedom is on the march (the Bush doctrine has had an unexpected domino effect?  ;)), as yet another shareware app is going free, and one whose product area is close to many of our hearts:

(the web site is currently down, but the direct download link is still working: http://www.humanized...ers/EnsoLauncher.exe )

Enso is a launcher, aka expensive FARR clone :Thmbsup:

You can see some DC discussion on it here:


I haven't used it since demoing the first (buggy) release, but fundamentally you will either like it or loathe it, as it uses a a pseudo-modal interface (though you can use a classic trigger key if you want). I actually really like the core UI idea, but it requires too much typing (no shortcuts unless it was added recently). Anyway, it is elegant and interresting to play with.

In a pinch, GrabFS is a file system that shows you a live view of the window contents of currently running applications. In a GrabFS volume, folders represent running applications and image files represent instant screenshots ("grabs") of the applications' windows. You simply copy a file or just open it in place, and you have a screenshot. Open it again, and you have a new screenshot!
Pretty interesting concept based off the FUSE FS wrapper. Amit Singh (OS X's version of Mark Russinovich :) ), who drove the MacFUSE project and wrote GrabFS also wrote ProcFS, a FS representation of process and includes hardware etc. For example, the iSight camera is available as a file to grab cam shots off by copying that file etc.

Living Room / Security numerology and the art of insult…
« on: December 21, 2007, 06:51 AM »
ZDNet published the following analysis by George Ou and Larry Dignan:

So this shows that Apple had more than 5 times the number of flaws per month than Windows XP and Vista in 2007, and most of these flaws are serious.

This of course raised the ire of the pitbull Daniel Eran Dilger, who has previously awarded Ou a zoon award, and in his usual derisory manner rips through Ou's piece at length:


Not knowing where the missing floorboards are doesn’t make you secure as you walk about in the dark. Having Ou wave a flashlight in your face doesn’t help; instead, it makes it more likely that you’ll fall through the floor and into the dark cold basement of Windows. That’s Ou’s intention, and it fits ZDNet’s business model, because Microsoft pays it to lure people into expensive catastrophe and entrapment using the misleading distractions of FUD.

If you overcome the personal attacks, the piece is quite interesting in its reflection of why open source software appears more vulnerable than Windows, at least through meaningless and misrepresented statistics.

General Software Discussion / Keyboard Navigation for Google
« on: December 12, 2007, 12:28 PM »
There is a pretty cool experimental feature for Google search enabling keyboard navigation. To enable this in Opera's search term, Preferences > Search > Google > Edit and change the URL to (note &esrch=BetaShortcuts is all I've added):

Then after doing a "g searchterm", you use:

Key Action
J Selects the next result.
K Selects the previous result.
O Opens the selected result.
<Enter> Opens the selected result.
/ Puts the cursor in the search box.
<Esc> Removes the cursor from the search box.

I normally use Opera excellent spatial navigation and fast-forward and back, but this is a nice addition. You can make this change in Firefox at least though I've forgotten how.

Test it here...

General Software Discussion / Fixing an XP Laptop, when to give up?
« on: November 19, 2007, 06:50 AM »
I have a friends laptop who recently suffered a trojan attack (I suspect via an IE popup and user click but they are not computer literate and are not clear how). The thing was running only NOD32. It appeared to disable NOD32 (yikes!) and wireless stopped working (unintended side effect, NDIS user I/O is broken); system restore did nothing. I installed Comodo firewall just fine, and outbound attempts were coming from IE, which I locked down. As NOD32 was inoperative, I used autoruns to scan for anything in startup / services / IE helpers. Nothing. Process explorer shows no new process running. Rootkit revealer gives me reams of data but I don't have time to deal with that. Trying to reinstall NOD32 causes the installer to fail whenever it tries to copy the NOD executable to the install directory. Installing elsewhere does not fool it. Spybot fails install too, only teatimer.exe installs but disappears on reboot. Adaware installs and claims to clean one trojan, but the OS still can't install NOD after a reboot. AVG, Avast, Bitdefender, Antivir - none of them can install. Avast at least ran a system scan on reboot, cleaning three trojan files, but its windows executable disappears as it boots into Windows. Comodo's BOClean installs and claims there are no problems. What a mess, and a pretty scary testament to the ineffectiveness of security software.

Anyone have any other tips before a full HD wipe (this is a favour and I can't waste huge amounts of time on it), I suspect that somehow permissions have been reset which is why antivirus exe's can't install but permissions of directories look fine in explorer.

A kind-of QS clone, though I don't think it uses any of QSs source:

General Software Discussion / Mobile Browsing: Opera Mini 4
« on: November 07, 2007, 02:58 PM »
For anyone who fearlessly treads into the internets with small boots on, Opera have recently released their next generation mobile browser: mini 4 - play with it on a virtual phone 8)

For those who don't know, Opera mini is a thin 100kb java app (thus works on almost all mobiles out there) that uses highly compressed link to dedicated servers (transmitting 5-12X less data, saves mucho money!). The server does the hard work of content resizing for mobile-sized screen (minimising phone overhead). It uses the latest 9.5 engine, thus offering very advanced standards support.

You can browse in overview mode, then zoom into the content you want (ala iPhone but without the cost). You can also use a landscape mode for better horizontal display space.

You can sync your bookmarks with it via Opera link. It will also auto-magically create custom searches from search-boxes (as Opera desktop does).

It gives the mobile a virtual mouse, and very useful key navigation.

I usually browse NYTimes on the move, and it really does do wonders to the readability of that site on the move. If you do any mobile browsing, you may find your small boots will be just a wee bit more snug...

DC Website Help and Extras / Better Quoting Support for the Forum?
« on: October 21, 2007, 01:28 PM »
On the Opera forums there is a really neat feature, "quick quote". You select the text of part of a persons post, then click quick quote and the correct BBCode with the selected fragment is inserted in the quick reply. The quote function here pastes the whole quote; if you want a conversation-style you end up manually cutting up the reply and copy/pasting [quote...] blocks. Anyone know if quick quote functionality is available for Simple Machines?

Find And Run Robot / CPU Freezes
« on: February 05, 2007, 06:40 AM »
I've been getting occasional freezes of FARR on my work machine. FARR's CPU use goes up and it fails to respond to the trigger key. I have to kill the process. Version is V2.00.41 - I can't determine exactly what causes it yet:


Find And Run Robot / New Launcher (for OS X) - Valet
« on: February 02, 2007, 01:15 PM »
Here is another application launcher (for OS X), differentiated by using a full-screen visual overlay, and voice command activation! The other neat thing is it launches Windows applications that reside on a virtual machine!

It also learns from the applications you launch outside of it what apps you use.

Find And Run Robot / Performance Update V1.11
« on: October 04, 2006, 05:31 PM »
OK, FARR is now both faster and more useable! I assume that is the memory retention. FARR now sits around 10MB whereas before it would drop to 3MB then go up on activation.

Starting up FARR (I let my history show on a blank search) still causes about ~1400 disk I/O operations. This is multiple reads of each history item - I assume this is reading the icon. It would be good if this could be cached somehow too.

The disk is still showing lots of I/O during search, but FARR is snappier than before.

This is promising indeed mouser!


General Software Discussion / Process Explorer V10.11
« on: May 14, 2006, 04:04 AM »
Knowing what exactly is happening to your machine is a pretty fundamental thing when using a computer. Windows has a built-in task manager, but it is primitive.

A wonderful, free alternative is Process Explorer from SysInternals. There isn't information you can't glean from it. It is very customisable, and a great feature are "column sets" - you can save views dedicated to I/O, memory and whatnot and easily switch between them.  My screenshot shows my "general" view of essential resources for each app, this is all customisable.

You can determine working set memory use not only for apps, but dependent DLLs; and you can see which DLLs and handles an app has open.

If a file is locked, it will tell you which app has it opened, it will run google searches on processes you're not sure of. Minimised to the systray it uses few resources and its animated icon keeps you aware of CPU (tooltip tells you the most hungry current app without even opening it!). The new version contains a host of details and more "history" displays to keep track of e.g. I/O operations per-app over time. There are lots of neat touches throughout.

I never leave home without it... ;)

http://www.sysintern...processexplorer.html (which is also a great source of other software)

Find And Run Robot / Google Desktop 3 - FARRified
« on: March 17, 2006, 09:18 AM »
Hi all,

Don't know whether anyone has tried it, but Google Desktop Search now has a popup search field (hit CTRL twice). If you enter application names they are indexed so come up and thus it can be used as an application launcher.


It doesn't do any smart stuff (e.g. being adaptive and using heuristics like FARR), but it does seem to weight start menu entries.

mouser - could we get the CTRL+CTRL key sequence as an option in FARR, it is quite a good and accesible key sequence (good for left+right handers and doesn't require chording two keys together..._

Screenshot Captor / Per-Object Smoothing
« on: February 10, 2006, 11:25 AM »
Hi All,

When I cut and paste bits of a screenshot, I noticed that SSC applies a smoothing filter — note the first opera line (which is a copy-n-pasted object from another bit of the screenshot) is fuzzy:

Performance TP2 v.png

What I want is in the object properties to specify whether smoothing is applied to that object. This allows one to keep smoothing for other bits but turn it off specifically for other screenshot part objects (that look bad when smoothed). I know there is a setting in preferences but I assume that enables/disables app-wide, which I don't want.


General Software Discussion / A Nice Vector Art Program
« on: February 09, 2006, 08:51 PM »
After looking at a nice C++ graphics library called Anti-grain geometry (much better than GDI+ apparantly and cross-platform), I noticed this program made with it:

It seems a very nice vector art program. I should also mention Inkscape which is also cool and free:

General Software Discussion / Process Explorer Upgraded to V10
« on: February 08, 2006, 09:20 AM »
The wonderful Process Explorer has been upgraded to V10, and there is a load of new features for this best-in-class free process monitor. Most importantly for me, one can now get a breakdown of the working set of all DLLs loaded by an application. Also, processes that host services have lists of those services available in the tooltip. One can also graph memory usage over time for each process.

Here is the Whats new list:


The process column is locked on the left side so that it doesn't scroll horizontally out of view
You can configure custom column selections and save them as easy-to-access column sets
Image verification option now verifies images in the background
More refresh intervals
Runas menu entry in the File menu
Run as Limited User menu entry in the File menu to run a process without administrative privileges and group membership
Process menu includes Restart item to kill and then restart a selected process
Can suspend individual threads on Threads page of Process Properties dialog
The Find Window target moves Process Explorer's main window to the back to get it out of the way
Close Window command uses same End Task functionality as Task Manager
Show New Processes option scrolls display to make new processes visible
Heuristics to detect more image packers
User name of account in which Process Explorer is running is shown in the title bar
Services can be stopped, resumed, and paused from the Services tab of the Process Properties dialog
The DLLs that host SvcHost processes are listed in the Services tab of the Process Properties dialog
Services running within a process display on the process' tooltip
As a parallel to the CPU Usage History column there's now a Private Bytes Usage History column
The Process view includes columns that show the working set breakdown of the process in shared, shareable and private pages
New delta private-bytes column to show changes in private virtual memory usage
Can copy lines from the Process, DLL and Handle views to the clipboard
Option to show pagefile-backed (unnamed) sections in DLL view
DLL and handle searching consolidated
The DLL view includes columns that show the working set contributions in shared, shareable, and private pages
The DLL a Rundll32 process hosts is shown in its process tooltip
Packed DLL highlighting in DLL view
Image signing verification available for DLLs
Better DLL properties dialog
Object address shown in Object Properties dialog
File object share flags column for Handle view

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