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Topics - tranglos [ switch to compact view ]

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Found Deals and Discounts / Surfulater at BdJ today ($39.50)
« on: November 23, 2012, 09:14 AM »
Seems to be a long-time favorite among DU regulars.

Surfulater PC Software with a 50% off Discount Coupon Code

You may want to read the comments section though. Upcoming release of Surfulater is going into the cloud.

Living Room / Now this is a Windows 8 review I heartily applaud
« on: November 04, 2012, 01:04 PM »
From the Make Use Of blog. Warning: dripping sarcasm ahead!

Get Great Windows 8 Features Without the Upgrade [Opinion]



Like ads in the "free" apps on your smartphone or tablet? Now you'll have them on the desktop, too.

If anyone, like me, wondered what on earth Microsoft was doing replacing the convenient traditional desktop with a dumb, dysfunctional mobile-device interface, here's your answer: New environment, new rules.

We pretty much won the war against adware on the desktop years ago, but we totally dropped the ball on smartphones and tablets. They were so new and shiny, after all! Well, now your computer is going to be just like your phone.

O, M, G.

Living Room / Western Digital playing kinda loose with your privacy
« on: September 23, 2012, 08:14 PM »
Been away for quite some time, my excuse is that I have meanwhile multiplied, which always puts a damp on your facultative activities, so don't repeat my mistake! There are times though I just can't stay away from my favorite pastime, i.e. grumbling about software and hardware makers alike. When they give me anguish. Which is often.

Today, Western Digital. My favorite hard drive maker has just about made my mortal enemies list, if only I could find the 5 1/4 floppy I saved the list on!

I've recently replaced my old D-Link NAS drive with a new My Book Live Duo 6 TB model from WD. Very nice hardware overall, with a good set of features, including the ability to access your drive contents from the Internet just about anywhere. Watch out for the brittle included software though - the SmartWare setup wizard would quit on me every time, giving only an error code that's nowhere to be found on the net, and WD support doesn't appear to be forthcoming with an answer. Interestingly, when I downloaded the same installer directly from WD website, it worked, so go figure. But that's not what this post is about.

This post is about what happens when you intend to submit a support request (like I did when the software wouldn't install). As part of the process, the drive generates a log file with all sorts of narcissistic insights into itself.  When you do that, you may notice that generating this log file takes a suspiciously long time, so much so you think it's hung. Well, it isn't. It is busy creating an SQLite database that contains all the filenames on your drive and then gets zipped up into the log file. Then you can send your support ticket along with the log.

Let me repeat that: the log contains a complete list of all the names of all the files on your drive. How's that for a privacy poison candy? Nowhere in the process are you told this is going to happen - perhaps they inform you in the EULA, I couldn't be bothered to check.

I got suspicious when I saw how huge the log file was - and it was huge, because in my case the database is 166 megabytes in size (uncompressed) and contains records for over 370 thousand files on my drive, each with a full path, filename, modified date and size. The database table even contains a column named "is_deleted", and when you run a SELECT on that, you will see that the table also contains records for files that you had put on the disk and then deleted. Way to go, WD!

Inside the zip file, the database is stored in a folder called ".mediacrawler" (yep, with a leading dot - maybe on a Linux system I wouldn't even see it was there :-) so I thought maybe the db only contained the multimedia files. But no - it actually holds all the files, and they all go to WD, because apparently the filenames will help them resolve a problem you have with the drive not working correctly.

This is where I should say I will never buy a WD drive again and I recommend that you don't either. Well, no such luck, because WD is the only HDD maker that I trust to make reasonably reliable and reasonably fast HDDs. I had a Seagate once, that thing ran hot like a furnace and loud like one too! Then it died a screeching death. In all fairness, a WD Velociraptor drive once died on me too after 3 years of workig almost 24/7, but at 10,000 rpm its short lifespan was to be expected, and SMART alerted me early enough to make a full backup. Other than that, I've never had a WD drive that failed or gave any kind of trouble at all. So, in my experience, WD makes solid drives and I will continue buying them, albeit with a small inward sigh when I do.

I just won't be sending any support requests to WD, that's for sure.

Tangentially related to mouser's ongoing search for an online backup solution. I'm trying the plain old ftp way, and for that I need an encryption utility with these features:

  • Command-line operation (GUI is ok but optional; this will run from a batch file)
  • Has to work with individual files; bonus points for storing multiple files in a single archive, but this is optional
  • No asymmetric (public key) cryptography, so no gnupg. I want to decrypt with just the passphrase and not worry about losing the private key or having it with me at all times.
  • Must use a known-good cipher with a reasonable key size. I don't care if three-letter agencies can crack it, but it has to be reasonably secure and use a well-known, solid encryption algorithm. No trade-secret, teenage wonder or homebrew solutions.
  • Preferably a mature project, not something that just appeared last week.
  • Must either be open source or come from a vendor I can trust. A small, independent vendor is preferable to a big corp, which will sacrifice security for profit and politics every time. (PGP is now owned by Symantec, yech!) Think TrueCrypt quality.
  • Commercial apps OK, as long as they satisfy all of the above.

I think that's it. Haven't looked at crypto apps in a long time, so I've no idea what's out there now.

Living Room / Another internet lowlife
« on: February 23, 2012, 02:00 PM »
My new site has been up only a couple of weeks now. I've just received the following turd. (Names and addresses blanked out, because these people need to be not known.) It goes like this, emphasis mine:


My name is ______ and I recently stumbled across your blog I work for a company, __________ Inc., that connects bloggers with advertising partners. I currently have clients that are interested in sponsoring a few posts. This helps them with brand awareness and is a great opportunity for you to make some money from your blog.
Check out for more information and testimonials. Please feel free to contact me directly if you are interested in a partnership or have any questions at There is no need to submit the form on our site, as contacting me directly will lead to a quicker response.
If you are interested, contact me at this email address to begin the process.

Oh, and the subject of the email was "I love!" With a double space before the domain name, a tell-tale sign this is a machine-generated script.

I told them what I think of them and where they can stick their brand awareness, but this stuff really makes me mad as hell. They are destroying whatever is left of any credibility on the net. Why the !@#$% is it so easy to be evil?

Living Room / Would you buy me a $0.99 track on Amazon?
« on: February 03, 2012, 04:48 PM »
On the margins of the recent wonders of SOPA / ACTA... I buy tons of (e-)books from Amazon, and every so often I check whether they let me buy anything else. There is one track (pretty niche) I specifically want to buy, but no, I can't:


That's free market for ya. A friend recommended I try They have the album, but (a) they want me to install their crapware first (it's Rovi Corporation, it cannot not be crapware) just so that I can download their mp3s, and (b) they don't just let you buy an album, you must buy a "plan", beginning at €12 a month. No can do to both.


From iTunes I wouldn't buy a cup of water if I was stranded on the Kalahari, because they are fascist and they make you buy the cup and the cupholder and you can't drink anybody else's water in their drinkware or their water in anyone else's glass - but, politics aside, they don't even have that track on iTunes. Good for them!

So would you buy me a single $0.99 track on Amazon? For DC credits or a PayPal transfer? And would that be a crime?

General Software Discussion / How I fought Firefox and won
« on: January 29, 2012, 03:04 PM »
I held out as long as I could, but when every other site tells you your browser is outdated, it's time to give up and move on. So I switched, very recently, from Firefox 3.6 to 9. And well, you know what happened next :-)

Sure, I expected problems with extensions, but not to the point where just lying to Firefox about the extension's version compatibility would no longer work. It no longer works. Something changed dramatically in how Firefox handles menus and toolbars, so each and every extension that added a menu item or a toolbar button is now dead. Completely.

Now, this isn't going to help everyone, but perhaps some DC readers will find it useful. I can give up on a lot, but there are several extensions and modifications that I absolutely cannot live without. They are:

  • "Paste and go" in the address bar and "Paste and search" in the search bar.
  • A Save button on the toolbar for File -> Save Page As command.
  • A context menu command to copy current page title, selection (if any) and address to clipboard.
  • A modification of how Firefox saves pages to disk: (a) use page title instead of the document filename, which is usually "index.php" or something equally useless, and (b) use the selected text, if any, as filename.

For all that I had relied on a bunch of extensions and self-made modifications that I had always been able to carry over from one FF release to another. Until now. With FF 9, I've had to re-do them all from scratch or find alternative solutions. Here's how I did that, FWIW.

(a) "Paste and go" in the address bar and "Paste and search" in the search bar.

This one was easy. The "Paste and go" extension is no longer supported, but its functionality has finally been added to the Firefox core. No doubt it was because Google Chrome had thought of it earlier; the FF developers had never figured out by themselves that the #1 reason to paste anything in the address bar... better late than never! IE still doesn't get that.

(b) A Save button on the toolbar for File -> Save Page As command.

This one required some work, but was easy. The old way no longer seems to work. Happily, there is a new extension that's even better: Custom Buttons. This one lets you create buttons inside the browser, and it is not limited to a predefined set of functions. Instead, you can assign any JavaScript code to a button you create - from a single FF function to a script of any complexity. You can pick your own button image as well, of course, and set a few other options. I'm not all that conversant with Firefox's internals, but the extension home has a detailed FAQs and a user forum if you need help. So after some looking stuff up and tweaking the code, I ended up with a button definition that looks like this:


...and a Save button on the bookmarks toolbar:



(c) A context menu command to copy current page title, selection (if any) and address to clipboard.

This one took some more work. Previously, I had used an extension called CopyUrlPlus. It would add a submenu to FF context menu, with commands like "Copy Title and URL", "Copy Title, Selection and URL", etc. Exactly what I needed. There were not many options, but you could tweak the extension's JavaScript code to add your own related commands or modify their behavior. This one is of huge importance to me, because I run my old, creaky bookmark manager set to capture URLs with titles from clipboard, and I use it to archive almost everything I ever read or want to read later. Well, the extension no longer works at all, as the mechanism for adding commands to the context menu in FF has changed. I suppose I could learn that part and update the extension, but instead I went looking for a newer equivalent.

I found it in QuoteURLText. It does almost the same as CopyUrlPlus used to do, but "almost" makes a big difference in this case. It would only copy current selection and page URL; and if there were no selection, it would do nothing at all. Plus, it would add "field" names before each line, such as "Address: " or "Source:". I don't want that, because it breaks the URL and title recognition in my app. So, JavaScript time again!

I did a horrible hack with that. It was already late and I wanted to get the results I needed as quickly
as I could. I ripped out some prefs I do not need, such as copying with HTML formatting, and changed the code around to suit my purpose.  Instead of two or three separate commands I now have only one. If some text is selected, the extension copies the selection and the URL. If no selection is present, it copies page title and the URL. It does not copy all three, but with some more tweaking it is certainly possible.

I won't post my code here, because I'm not even sure if QuoteText license would permit that, but if anyone wants my modifications, just PM me.

(d) A modification of how Firefox saves pages to disk: (a) use page title instead of the document filename, and (b) use the selected text, if any, as filename.

I really cannot understand why FF does not do it already. It actually contains code that does at least (a), but for some reason that code is never used. As a result, FF saves pages with unhelpful filenames.

Alas, no extension ever did that part, and I don't think it even could. To get what I want, I've always had to hack Firefox's internal JavaScript. Under FF installation folder there used to be a file called toolkit.jar. A .jar file is just a .zip file with a different extension, so it can be easily browsed. Inside it, there's a piece of JavaScript called "contentAreaUtils.js", and in it there is a function named "getDefaultFileName()", which does what it says: generates a filename Firefox uses when you click File -> Save Page As. I have a snippet of JavaScript code that I would simply put on top of that function, copy the .js file back into toolkit.jar and that did the trick.

So I had a near breakdown when I saw the latest FF does not even come with a "toolkit.jar" :-) After some digging, it turns out that several .jar files have been merged into one, now called appropriately "omni.jar". And sure enough, contentAreaUtils.js is inside it, under "chrome\toolkit\content\global". It still contains the getDefaultFileName() function, but its parameters have changed and its code is now different, but never mind. The old trick still works. Put the following on top of that function, and Firefox will instantly become much smarter when saving files:

Code: Javascript [Select]
  1. if (aDocument) {
  2.     // use selection, if any
  3.     var mjSelText = aDocument.getSelection();
  4.     mjSelText = mjSelText.replace(/(\n|\r)+/g, " ");
  5.     mjSelText = validateFileName(mjSelText).replace(/^\s+|\s+$/g, "");
  6.     mjSelText = mjSelText.replace(/ +/g, " " );
  7.     if (mjSelText != "") {
  8.       return mjSelText;
  9.     }
  11.     var docTitle = validateFileName(aDocument.title).replace(/^\s+|\s+$/g, "");
  12.     if (docTitle != "") {
  13.       // Use the document title
  14.       return docTitle;
  15.     }
  16.   }

First, it checks whether any text is selected, and if so, it replaces any illegal characters with spaces and returns the result. Second, if no selection, it does the same with the page title. If neither works, it gives up and Firefox takes over with its own code. Later on Firefox actually checks for docTitle and uses it, but for some reason the function always returns earlier, so that code never runs. I just put it on top of the function instead, preceded only by the check for selection.

Of course Windows will complain badly when you try to replace "omni.jar" under Program Files with your own, but eventually you'll get your way.

And it's all good now.

The major players are obvious:


(all quite expensive, especially the Pro editions; some have smaller editions with a subset of functionality but essentially the same design, which I'm omitting here)

Text expansion:

And of course AutoHotkey, far superior IMO to most if not all of them in efficiency, functionality and reliability, but with a fairly demanding syntax (I'm trying to mince words here :-) and no nice UI to organize your scripts and expansions.

Less well-known (to me! so far!):
  • Quick Macros (lightweight but fast and powerful; scripting language rivals AHK for obsurity and opaqness, if there is such a word)
  • Breevy (very nice, lightweight and fast expander, but with limited functionality, e.g. only abbreviations but no hotkeys)
  • MouseRobot (looks interesting, just downloaded the trial).

So... anything else worth including? I am not looking for tiny apps with a specific, limited functionality; only for apps with feature sets comparable to those listed. I am not including app launchers here, for example; they are a different story and there's no god but FARR.

And in general, what are you using? Any good / bad experience with any of the ones I mentioned? Other, better alternatives? (Except for AutoHotkey; I love it too, no need to gush  :-)) Annoyances?

Screenshot Captor / Request: "File -> Open" command for editor
« on: January 06, 2012, 08:24 AM »
I'm looking for one, but can't find it :)

Now here's why. I needed to take an existing image and crop it to a specific pixel size. This simple task is surprisingly hard in most image editors, because:

1) In most simple editors, the selection rectangle is not persistent: you draw it with the mouse, then it disappears as soon as you click elsewhere. This means that if I need a selection rectangle that's exactly 655 x 342 pixels, I have to get it right the first time. Not easy! Good-bye, Paint .Net.

2) In more capable editors, the selection rectangle "sticks" and you can resize it with the mouse. The editor in ACDSee 10 does that, for example. But would you believe it, it does not display the dimensions of the selection, so you can't tell if the rectangle has the right size. Bye-bye!

3) Even if the selection is sticky and sizeable, often it cannot be moved around the image to cover a different part of it. You can get the rectangle to the required size, but when you drag it around, it moves together with the pixels it contains, leaving a white spot in its original location. Bye-bye, Snagit editor!

Needless to say, Screenshot Captor gets all three tasks perfectly! But I couldn't find a way to open an arbitrary image :) I copied the image to SC's screenshot folder instead, but a File -> Open would still be very useful, if possible.

Oh, and for the procedure I was doing, there's one other thing that would help that no editor does (that I know of). Let me specify the dimensions first, in pixels or percentage, in a dialog box. Click OK, and the selection rectangle is placed on the image at the exact size and can then be moved around to select the desired area of the picture. That would really help a lot, because even with the sticky selection, it's not that easy to change the width or height by 1 pixel or so.

Not urgent, not critical, just a couple of things that would help me a lot when needed.

Living Room / At last, KeyNote done better :)
« on: January 03, 2012, 01:22 PM »
I know this isn't news to many here, but I wanted to come right out and say it: I'm pretty sure that RightNote is the better KeyNote.

After all these years I feel like the burden has passed on to someone else and I don't have to feel guilty about not updating KeyNote anymore.

Now, I've only installed the trial version and played with it a little. I am not vouching that RightNote will not fry your computer and scare off your cats. What I'm saying is that, for better or worse, RightNote is essentially what I intended KeyNote 2.0 to be.

I really only found out about RightNote recently, even though it's been out a few years now. It's eerie how closely RightNote follows KeyNote - from using the same default activation hotkey to the same (sub-optimal) design of the "resource panel". Even the name "resource panel" is the same, though nobody calls them that way. I know I didn't invent the name, but can't recall where I got it from. Everyone else has been calling it a "sidebar" for ten years or so, but in RightNote it's still the "resource panel", and it uses the same F9 key to open it :) And, it has the same implementation of "virtual nodes" (edit an external file as if it were part of your data file), which AFAIK was a feature unique to KeyNote, at the time as well as today.

So it's fun to look at RightNote now, because it's exactly what KeyNote was going to be and it happened without me doing anything about it :) RightNote has all the things I wanted KeyNote 2 to have: a database back-end, RichView notes (hence tables and true hyperlinks among other things), spellchecker, an Excel-like grid, and tags. And it has pretty much the same resulting downsides I was expecting: with database reads, it's nowhere near as snappy as KeyNote when switching between notes, for example.

I won't be registering it, since I do think the KeyNote design (can I say this? "KeyNote design"?) is quite obsolete - just compare how the search works in RightNote vs. Evernote or even CintaNotes. (Although the wretched resource panel does work better on today's widescreen displays.) But now when I get asked about KeyNote, and I still get asked, I can happily direct everyone to RN and be at peace with the universe!

I've been looking at how the UI is translated in various apps, because I'm trying to figure out the optimal way of doing that in Delphi. I know of many Delphi ways, but none is too appealing, so I'm wondering how Real Programmers do it in C or C++. And now for my silly question:

Some C++ apps come with language files that look like this:

HELLOWORLD "Hello, World!"

I'm curious: how is this loaded and interpreted? Is HELLOWORLD a string literal, and you have a long list of conditionals such as  "if id equals "HELLOWORLD" then sHelloWorld = id, else if..."? (That would be quite slow and it's one of the things I'm trying to avoid in Delphi.) Or do these strings map to numeric values somehow? Or something else yet?

Silly question!

OK, so I need to convert this Joomla template: a WordPress 3.x theme. Not a simple task, I know! This is a commercial template (from RocketTheme) that I absolutely love and want to keep using, but I need to kick Joomla out the window. There is nothing remotely similar for WordPress.

The template has some Joomla-specific functionality (e.g. convert page to PDF) that I don't need. The content will be different and the site will live on a different domain. I just need the WordPress site to look as close as possible to what you see at the link above - mostly just the CSS, the menus and colors, and the graphical elements; the layout will be somewhat different in WordPress of course.

The WP theme must be compatible with the latest WP 3.x release, which I suppose means supporting WP widgets and the new custom menus, among other things. The theme should be two-column and fluid, so no fixed-pixel widths, please. Must be able to accommodate images (screenshots). The site will have lots of static pages, which is relevant to the design, because there are a lot of WP themes out there that totally fall apart when the listing of pages grows too wide. (Note the fly-out menus at the top right; they are very small now, but they'll have plenty of items.)

I don't care about the inconsequential issues like whether the search box has rounded corners (in fact, I don't like rounded corners very much, they're too Apply :-) or where it is positioned.

I will of course deliver the Joomla theme source to work with.

I am serious about needing this, but I have no idea how much a job like this may cost. If I can meet the price, I will be positively ecstatic to have it done for me. So if you are or know a web designer who could do this, please pm me or email me at marek then the at sign then

(In case anyone wonders what's wrong with Joomla... well, everything is wrong with Joomla, but here is a good starting point: Go to the main page linked above. Click "New products" on the left. Click "ActiveHotkeys" underneath. You'll see "Download" and "Screenshot" links. This is all as it should be. Now forget about this and just click the "Ethervane Activehotkeys" title link on top of the page you're at (or, for a better moment of Zen, click any title link on the homepage). Now look at the navigation menu in the sidebar and figure out how to get to the Downloads page from here. That's what's wrong with Joomla: it's a big honking CMS with a totally broken navigation, and its authors seem entirely uninterested in rectifying this.)

Living Room / Adware is not freeware, right?
« on: December 23, 2011, 07:03 AM »
Adware is not freeware, right? Never has been, has it? In the beginning, adware makers did try hard to make it a norm to brand their merchandise as free, but they were kicked out and laughed out of court, so to speak (the court of public opinion in this case). Since then, adware is adware, free is free, and we've been living happily ever after.

So why is is suddenly acceptable to call Android adware "free"? 99% of "free" apps on Android Market are adware, though you wouldn't know it from the market descriptions, screenshots or any blogs that recommend the software. Even Wikipedia apps show ads, though I doubt any of the proceeds go to the Wikimedia Foundation.

Seems we may have won a battle but are losing the war. I hate my smartphone today.

Living Room / Google scares me, I think.
« on: November 24, 2011, 04:38 PM »
Okay, now I am spooked. I was talking to a friend on Google Chat (part of the GMail interface). Through stupid absent-mindedness I typed a question, then closed the GMail tab and went to other things.

A minute later the reply came to my Android phone.

Apparently Google figured out that I was no longer "on" the chat and re-routed the message. Useful, yes. But scary, too! My phone is tied into my Google account, otherwise it'd be pretty useless, but I still try to keep up pretenses by disabling GPS, location services, all that. But there is no escaping anymore.

I've just found the almost-perfect outliner: WorkFlowy. You really have to start working with it to appreciate how smooth and intuitive it is, but this requires creating an account and all that, so here are some screenshots:

Basic view of an outline:

Search results:

Isn't it just awesome? Doesn't get much better than that.

But, I'm not going to entrust my data to a service that may drop off the face of the web tomorrow for all I know, and despite how smooth and nice it is to write in it, using a browser is never going to be as convenient as a dedicated desktop app. Unfortunately, there seems to be nothing nearly as good on the desktop side:

Ecco: dead, and all the other features just get in the way

InfoQube: probably too big for what I need, and unfortunately doesn't seem usable just yet. (Open the sample file, then try resizing the panes: IQ starts to "reflow" the text and never seems to finish, have to kill the process every time.)

ToDoPaper: not bad at all, but the outline is nowhere near as neat as in WorkFlowy, the app is buggy and might be dead (version 2.0 announced in February, still not released). But really - not bad at all, I just can't commit to it as it is now.

Main screen:


Search results:


TreeSheets: not really an outliner, extremely odd, can't figure it out, probably doesn't even belong in this list. Have you tried scrolling in it with the mouse wheel?

SainOutliner: Not bad at first sight, but really rudimentary, missing too many features. Can't even change the font size. Typical old Ctrl+F search dialog box, with no "repeat find" (usually F3) feature. No filtering, no highlighting. When you enter a longer paragraph of text, the item area does not resize, so you end up typing in a very long single-line edit box. The area only expands to fit multiple lines when you finish editing. Showstopper: can't select text in multiple items, only within a single item. Read: not really usable just yet, and it's hard to see if it's going to get any of the features it's missing. (Does have a good idea for automatic numbering of items though):


UV Outliner: Another nice idea that never quite got finished. Buggy. Crashes if you leave an item empty, then click it. Little annoyances like when you type at the bottom of the window, some bottom pixels get obscured (truncated) below the window border. Lots of missing features. Worst search ever, with no "repeat find", and sometimes when you jump to a match, pressing Enter deletes the text you've just found. Same showstopper as in Sain: can't select multiple items.  In the "attention to detail" department, this one really needs work. Rare strong point: can create custom columns (but they're just text):


Noteliner: Interesting! Kind of drab and certainly quirky, but has full rich text ability, search with filtering and highlighting, can even add tables inside the outline, can create additional columns... Well, it does crash when you create a new empty file and hover the mouse over the "Note" menu :) But when I said it was quirky, it's really quirky! Can't seem to set the default font, can't find out how to expand/collapse items using the keyboard, plus lots of weirdness. For example, Under a menu called "Page" click "To do". It highlights the current item and all its siblings in yellow - what does it mean? Is it configurable? Who knows... The whole app feels strange like that, like it has tons of small little features but misses major ones. Anyway, this is what it looks like:

Main window:




OK, so it looks like I'm posting another of my scathing micro-reviews. So let me add what I think a single-pane outliner should have:


- Ability to hold more than 1 line of text in an item. Few desktop apps can do that, and almost none does it well. Even MLO can't, and when you're limited to one-liners, you can't really type what you're thinking. Adding notes in a separate pane is not a substitute, since you have to constantly jump between the outline and the notes pane, which kills your flow!
- Fast instant search with filtering, just like WorkFlowy! No Ctrl+F and show a dialog box, that's so 1990s!
- Virtual views, where items are filtered based on user criteria (and shown as a flat list). MLO does that.
- Keyboard shortcuts to edit/rearrange the outline structure
- Some form of appending additional, unobtrusive notes to items.


- Desktop app!
- Ability to add some formatting to items (make bold, make larger, change color)
- Same as above, but automated: define styles and have them automatically applied depending on the nesting level
- Checkboxes!
- Metadata: timestamps for items (date created, date modified), importance level, etc.
- Ideally, user-defined columns for items (but with the possibility of hiding the columns and only showing the outline).
- Rich text inside items
- Since tree hierarchy is very rigid, it'd be nice to be able to "associate" items with each other somehow. Especially if you need to refer to one item in another. If the list is bulleted, you cannot do that at all. If the list were numbered, and I typed here: "see item 17.3.b", the number could easily become invalid as you add/delete items in the list. So instead, some clickable method of saying "See item Foo" is necessary.
- Easy switching between bulleted and numbered list, with various numbering styles (1, 2, 3; I, II, III, i, ii, iii, a, b, c etc.)

WorkFLowy on the desktop, can anyone do that? I'd pay all kinds of money.

Okay, subtitling a movie is easily one of the most annoying chores I've ever taken on voluntarily :)

I have an SRT file with English subtitles, and my own translation without the timecodes. What I'm need to do is basically copy and paste lines from the translation to the SRT file, but that involves a lot of timecode tweaking. (Don't even get me started on apps like Subtitle Workshop or Subtitle Edit!)

So, I'm looking for a video player with the following features:

1) Ability to reload subtitles while playing back the movie. There should be a way to assign a keyboard shortcut to this function. (At the moment after every major change I have to exit and restart the player to check my changes.) KMPlayer has this, but it freezes/crashes on me all the time.

2) Ability to assign a hotkey (like the multimedia keys) to play/pause, so that I don't have to switch to the player every time I want to play back the next 5 seconds of the movie. KMPlayer can do this but has an awful misfeature where pressing Play activates the player, so that you have to alt+tab out of it to get back to the editor.

3) Ability to restart playback from last position when closed. Seems obvious, byt MP Classic can't.

4) Nice to have: ability to overlay the playback timer on the video area. Most players show the timer off-screen, using some tiny little font, and I'm finding it hard to read when working with minutes:seconds for hours on end. Again, KMPlayer can do this, but at the moment it won't even rewind the video without freezing.

KMPlayer is totally broken, even though it supports all of the above. VLC doesn't do (1), which disqualifies it. Zoom player likewise. Media Player Classis Homecinema doesn't even pick my srt file until I load it manually, doesn't seem to do (3) and crashes too.  I love software! :)

Is there anything else I could try?

(How does one create a poll?)

OK, I'm thinking out loud here, so please bear with me or ignore :) Here's a scenario I've had to contend with countless times. I'm translating a large document that contains innumerable specifications, such as power consumption, capacity, operating temperatures, dimensions, weight etc. So, lots of numbers. When translating between English and Polish it involves endless tweaking of punctuation. English "1.5" becomes "1,5" in Polish (decimal separator). English 12,000 becomes "12<non-breaking-space>000" in Polish (thousands separator). Then there are other little tweaks of spacing (we don't put a space before the degree ° sign, for example) and units of measure. You can imagine it gets tedious quickly. Today I've gone though well over a hundred of such lines.

This needs to be automated, and implemented in such a way that it works with any text editing application.  Plus, the solution needs to be abstracted enough to be generally useful.

For a long time I've looked for an excuse to write an app that executes user-created scripts. (At the moment there seems to be a dearth of Delphi scripting solutions that handle Unicode, so this might present a big obstacle, but right now I want to think positive for once :-) Would this be useful at all? Here's what I'm imagining:

1) You press a hotkey, and the as-yet-unnamed app acquires text from the application you are working in. This can be done via the clipboard or (better, harder) by accessing the text directly. So the app grabs the text and:

2) executes a script that you preselected when starting your work. In my case the script would do the appropriate replacements on the various numeric values, but it could do anything. Then:

3) the app puts the result back on clipboard or injects it directly into your editor.


So, does this seem like a worthwhile standalone project? Assume the app does nothing else except the points above.

What existing solutions could be used to achieve the same goal? I suppose AHK could be coerced to do that. Anything else? Is it even remotely interesting?

(Yes, I've considered adding this to Echo, but I am not convinced it's a good idea. For one thing, Echo would be capturing the clipboard and modifying its contents nearly instantly, and that would play badly with other apps that monitor the clipboard. In general, I think it'd create a mess, but I haven't excluded that route just yet.)

Living Room / App vendors discover a new way to abuse Windows
« on: October 07, 2011, 09:38 AM »
As many bad things, it began with Chrome. I'm sure it's only natural for Google to think they can do whatever the heck they please with your computer, but things go from bad to worse when others begin to follow.

What's wrong with this picture?


Yep. Just like Chrome, Swift To-Do List from Dextronet now installs under <user>\AppData\Local instead of under Program Files. This is touted as a "feature" - namely that the app can be installed without admin rights. Things won't be pretty when more vendors start doing that!

I don't think we should have dropped the "complaints" forum :)

Living Room / How many slaves work for you?
« on: October 02, 2011, 07:52 PM »
This is really educational:

Caveat: the survey doesn't work for me in Firefox 3.6.x or the latest IE. Only Chrome worked, and it still took some patience. But it's definitely worth it.

Living Room / Massive Security Vulnerability In HTC Android phones
« on: October 02, 2011, 04:35 PM »
After barely a week with my HTC Sensation I knew I would never buy an HTC product again. Now, this will help me remember if I ever think of changing my mind:

Massive Security Vulnerability In HTC Android Devices

About two weeks ago my Win7 (32-bit) system developed a hugely annoying behavior. When the standard, new "Save as" or "Open" dialog box pops up and closes, the application which opened it freezes for 8-10 seconds, and the open or save operation that the dialog is used for is only completed after the app comes out of the freeze.

Strangely enough, the freeze happens even if the dialog box is canceled, so it seems to be related to the internals of the dialog itself, not to whatever the application does with it.

It doesn't always happen, but often enough to be a big nuisance. Maybe 30-50% of the time, but seemingly at random. Let's say I have 10 tabs opened in Firefox. I go from one tab to another and press Ctrl+S in each to save the HTML document. The freeze will happen for about half of the tabs, but sometimes for all of them. Each time the file gets saved only after Firefox unfreezes.

At first I thought it was a Firefox problem, but no, the freeze occurs in any app that uses the modern Save/Open dialogs in Win7. MS Office apps have their own dialogs, and they're immune. Some old apps stick to the Windows 95-style dialogs, and they're immune too. Only apps that use the latest incarnation of the dialogs get frozen.

I removed everything I have installed recently, removed my machine from the homegroup, tried Autoruns and friends, everything I could think of. I was this close to restoring the system image from a month ago.

Finally I tried disabling the real-time protection in MSSE, and it seems to have helped. I've been running a whole day without a single freeze, so I'm pretty convinced MSSE is responsible, though I can't see how it could be (what in MSSE could freeze the app after the dialog has been CANCELED and no files were accessed at all?).

It seems to have started under two weeks ago, but I can't pinpoint it any better. I did install SP1 more or less at that time, so there's another suspect, although that wouldn't account for why the problem goes away if I disable a part of MSSE, and I think I would have noticed if the freezes started occurring immediately after installing SP1. Has anyone else seen anything similar?  

Living Room / UI Roast #1: cruel but harmless fun!
« on: September 19, 2011, 12:48 PM »
...and if we're lucky, maybe even constructive and useful to present and future programmers who care about their users' sanity.

The image below shows part of the main menu of a macro program named "Quick Macros". Just by looking at the screenshot, how many things that are utterly, horribly wrong with this menu can you name? How many are "just wrong" or "really poor usability decisions"? Would you consider using an application that welcomes you with this menu?


Laugh, cringe or cry?

N.A.N.Y. 2012 / NANY 2012 Release: Ethervane Echo
« on: September 03, 2011, 03:37 PM »
NANY 2012 Entry Information

Application Name Ethervane Echo
Version 1.1.3 (new version May 9)
Short DescriptionLightweight clipboard extender for text
Supported OSes Windows XP, Vista, 7 and later
Download standard version (installer)
portable version (zip file)
Download spelling dictionaries standard version (installer)
portable version (zip file)

See here for info on downloading and installing the spelling dictionaries.
System RequirementsNo special requirements. Win XP and later only!
DescriptionClipboard extender (manager) designed to speed up typing repetitive text. For writers, translators and coders. Fast and lightweight, with instant search. Captures text in all formats, but does not capture clips that do not contain text (e.g,. bitmaps).
FeaturesClean, streamlined interface

Super-fast instant search with filtering

Search using wildcards and advanced logical expressions

Can be used in portable mode (download separate package or modify the master.config file as described in Help)

Virtual views with user-defined sort order and filters (e.g. show only clips captured within the last hour, show only sticky clips, show only clips that were copied from Firefox, etc.)

Automatic positioning of the program window next to text caret or mouse cursor

Clear, configurable display with text wrapping and variable item height

Fully Unicode-enabled

Privacy features, including ability to store clips in memory only

Ability to ignore clips from certain applications

Automatic database maintenance

Importing and exporting clips

Editing clips directly ("in-place") or in separate editor window (now includes spell checker for over 20 languages)

Written in Delphi XE, the best edition of Delphi ever!








InstallationStandard version: Download and run the installer package.

Portable version: Download the portable package and extract all files from the zip archive into any directory to which you have write permission. (That means NOT under "Program Files!) Run "ethervaneecho.exe" to start the app.

Tip: Database performance depends on the speed of your hard disk. If using the portable version, install it on the fastest disk you have.
Using the applicationStart Echo and it will begin capturing clips. Press Win+Insert (configurable) to bring up the main window. Scroll or find a clip, then press Enter to paste it into the active application window. See the Help file for details.

UninstallingDesktop version: Use the Control Panel to uninstall. (Uninstaller will not delete the data and configuration files, because it does not create them when installing. At the moment they must be deleted manually. Find them in application data folder for the logged-in user, under "Ethervane\EthervaneEcho")

Portable version: Delete the application folder. Configuration and database files are stored under this folder as well.
Known IssuesSee topics "Bugs and Known Issues" and "Limitations" in the Help file.
New in this release (1.1.3)Fixed a bug that would cause use count to be unnecessarily incremented in some situations,. e.g. when capturing duplicate clips.

Okaaaay, so... another clipboard manager? Really? I guess :)

When I first discovered clipboard managers ages ago (early versions of Yankee Clipper and ClipMate back then) I loved the idea but couldn't imagine how I could fit such a utility into my workflow. Many years later I was enlightened when I discovered Ditto. For the first time I had all clips at my fingertips, in a single-pane UI, and a super-fast search to find them. I was happy, and my translation work became decidedly more efficient.

A few years went by and some of (what I think are) Ditto's shortcomings were irking me more and more. Excruciatingly slow delete and purge operations. Minuscule, non-configurable font in the search box, which at #over40 I can hardly read. Lack of privacy features. When I wrote down all that was giving me pain in Ditto, I listed about a dozen items. It was time to improve on it.

So, yes, Ethervane Echo rips off Ditto's UI without shame, because it's the best UI for me. In fact, it is so different from Mouser's Clipboard Help and Spell that the two hardly compete with each other. Echo is purely a clipboard extender - nothing more. No categories, no folders, no note-taking or web clipping facilities are available or planned. Also, it will only capture text - not images or any other binary data. This is the intended design of the app. I started by modeling the UI after Ditto, ignoring features I did not need and adding a good number of features I'd always wanted to have. The result is superficially similar to Ditto, so much so any Ditto user should feel comfortable with Echo, but tailored to the requirements of a translator drone who types volumes of repetitive text over and over. Technical writers and coders should have a field fay with it, too - or so I hope.

My last year's NANY submission was released well before its time (and yes, there will be an update of Radio rather soon). This year I wanted to release a package that was reasonably ready for human consumption, so Echo comes with a spell-checker, a complete help file and an installer. See download links above.

Right now Echo is a beta release, because I've only used it on my development machine so far, even though I haven't encountered any crashes or other kill-joy errors since it captured its first clip in March. It's never been run on 64-bit Windows though, so that may bring some surprises. Please post here if Echo misbehaves for you.

Find And Run Robot / FARR window shrinks over time
« on: May 01, 2011, 12:17 PM »
A purely cosmetic issue, but it's there. Here's an initial screenshot I took on April 18th,  two weeks ago:


I had noticed that FARR window had the tendency to shrink, and I was wondering how fast or how slow it was happening. For two weeks I never moved or resized FARR manually. It was only ever opened by pressing the activation hotkey, started and stopped with the system. Today the window looks like this:


And here is FARR's display configuration:


If you exit and restart FARR, the difference is imperceptible, but it adds up over time, so that every two weeks or so it must be manually resized again. Note that I keep "auto shrink"disabled, because it reduces the flicker, and I like to see as may items as I can.

(Win 7, 32-bit. No screen resolution changes, of course.)

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