Thursday, July 29, 2004

Teach your mouse some new tricks!

I don't know how many of you are familiar with 'Mouse Gestures'. Users of the Opera browser will know about this. 'Mouse Gestures' is a new way of using the mouse. With your right mouse button pressed you write something on the screen. Depending upon what you write you can configure certain actions. For example, you can write 'E' by keeping your right mouse button pressed and Windows Explorer can open up. Or you can write 'W' and Microsoft Word can start. You can also close an application by writing 'C'. One of the most used mouse action is going back (previous page) and forwards (next page) in Internet Explorer. These can be done by writing a short hyphen going right (forwards) or going left (backwards). If all this stuff sounds Greek to you, I suggest you download this application and check it for yourself. I can guarantee that after a day of using it, you'll wonder how you managed so long without it!

Of course, the actions mentioned above are just some of the very, very basic things that can be done. And all actions are obviously configurable. You can also configure actions to be application specific, for example, writing an 'S' on the screen saves the document when you're in Word or Excel.

Mouse Gestures applications are many, but the most widely used is 'StrokeIt'. No, I'm not trying to be funny, that's what it is called! And it's free of course!

(an example of StrokeIt being used to open Microsoft Word by writing the letter 'W' on the screen!)

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Softwares for Digital Photography...

So, now you're thinking about buying a digital camera. Hmmmm. Have you thought of additional costs? Like more hard disk capacity on your PC, cost of a printer and lastly editing software?

Well, considering costs of hard drives having come down drastically, the first is usually not too much of a problem. Maybe your hard drive was getting full anyway. And as far as a printer goes, you can always have it printed from the neighbourhood print shop. But the biggest cost (besides these two) is getting a good photo editing software. And if you're not earning in Saudi Riyals, practically any of the top end softwares is going to cost you a pretty bundle.

The other cost which is hidden and people don't calculate up-front is the time you've got to be online just to upload the snap to your mail or your favourite website to be viewed by others. And for the others to stay online to download those huge snaps!

Well, there are a few softwares I've come across and have been using for some time which goes a long, long way in relieving these woes.

First, to view the snaps and to be able to do some minor editing, resizing and chopping, the best, the absolute best, software is called 'Irfanview'. Besides opening photos in practically any format, it's amazingly small and quick. The size of the file is just 803 KB, but the number of features it has is quite impressive.

By the way, if all that you want to do is resize your snaps and nothing more, the best is provided by Microsoft itself! It's Called 'Image Resizer', all you have to do is right-click on an image and choose what size you want to save in!

Now, that you're able to see what you've shot with your camera you want to do some major editing! You want to be able to put your snap in front of the Taj Mahal although you've never been there! Or you want to remove your mother-in-law from that wonderful snap of the two of you! Then you need that absolutely top quality software tool which only something like Adobe Photoshop can provide. But instead of keeping that niggardly guilt of having to get a pirated copy, you can use this wonderful software called GIMP. I am absolutely floored by this software. Besides being way more user-friendly than Adobe can ever wish to be, it's absolutely a pleasure to use. (Let me warn you though, while you're working on your snap, you'll have this DOS like window running at the back which shows what is happening. Don't panic though, just ignore it. It goes away when you close GIMP). GIMP requires that you have something called a 'GIMP runtime' on your computer, so here's a link to PCWorld's download site where it clearly puts these two downloads in sequence.

And finally, once you've made your modifications using Gimp and scaled your snap down to a manageable size using Irfanview or Microsoft Image Resizer, you want to upload your snaps. Of course, you can use Yahoo photos. But it is quite a problem to upload snaps one by one. So have a look at Photosite. This PhotoSite AlbumBuilder software allows you to add photos to your album, design your album layout, it's colours, it's fonts, practically everything! And once you're done, only then do you have to upload. So, you don't have to spend an unnecessarily long time online uploading snaps. The AlbumBuilder will take care of practically everything!

The other advantage of Photosite is that you get your own web address to which you can direct others too. Also, shared albums can be password protected so that it needn't be publicly shared. Also, you initially see only the scaled down pictures instead of the full sized ones.

The only catch that I can see with PhotoSite is that the free option allows you a maximum of 150 photos.

Here's the complete list of softwares I use...

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Is that your PC slowing down or your memory?

Do you know what softwares are installed in your system? Yes? Think again. Maybe? Think some more! If you've had your system for over six months, there's every chance that you might not know what all has been installed; both by you and by others (which includes both people and software!).

I came across this utility today called Belarc Advisor and decided to install it and run it and see how well my memory serves me! I must be getting old, because my memory failed me miserably, when I saw the results! I realised I have many programs which I had forgotten I had installed but what was even worse, I couldn't figure out what some of the programs I had installed were there for in the first place! No wonder my system was slowing down! And all this while I was thinking that my reactions are getting faster with age! So I went into each of those pesky folders and deleted all those programs, which I couldn't remember having used in months.

Besides giving the details of the softwares and the ability of opening the folder in which they were lying hidden, I also got a plethora of information about my system. Really, really impressive, to say the least.

And of course, since it's a recommendation from a cheapskate like me, it's free!

Now I shouldn't forget that I've installed this. Maybe I'll tie a string around my finger.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Are you Gaim?


You have numerous email ids, from the days when Yahoo had only a 6 MB file limit. And you've got numerous friends across different IDs. But if you want to chat with all of them you can't. Because Yahoo Messenger logs in only to one Id at a time. What a pain. And what about your MSN Messenger friends? Bigger pain. And what about your ICQ and AOL friends? Wow, the number of Messengers open could crash your system!!

The way out is by this ingenious program called Gaim. No, it's not an acronym, it's just Gaim.

After a disappointing stint with Trillian (another cross platform Chat utility), I was looking around for something for quite some time. Gaim accesses all your favourite messengers and even more than one of each Id. One of the most useful communication tools I've come across.

Plus, it being free helps too!

Friday, July 23, 2004

Better Browsing with Internet Explorer

You only have Internet Explorer and you have your popup blocker but whenever you open some web pages, you have these horrendous flash movies distracting you to no end. Or your images are taking ages to download. Of course, there is a workaround - you can go to Tools->Internet Options->Advanced and deselect all the stuff you don't want. But what if you don't want all this to be disabled permanently? Just for that one offending page?

Bookmarklets to the rescue! These are small javascripts, which do whatever you want them to! So go over to Squarefree's Bookmarklets site and check them out. Especially, the 'Zap Bookmarklets' link. All the gray buttons you see will perform the necessary actions. All you need to do is either drag any of those buttons to your 'Favourites' or as I do, to my 'Links' (you need to have 'Links' enabled from View->Toolbars->Links. Internet Explorer will remind you of your insecurities but once you've overcome them, life's a breeze.

You can rename the links to your heart's contents. There are numerous bookmarklets available. Some of them are really useful, for example, selecting a piece of text and then hit the 'Google' bookmarklet and voila, you've got your Google search results!

Happy browsing!

How to install programs if you don't have Administration Rights on your PC at work!

This is a trick I picked up today at office. I had a number of documents which I had downloaded (none of them illegal music, mind you!). And of course all of them during my lunch break (Yah right!). Anyway, I wanted to upload them to my Yahoo briefcase but because of the inherent 5 MB limit, I needed to zip them. Unfortunately, all zip softwares available for download for Windows have one major problem - they try to update the system registry and since I don't have administrator rights on my PC, I can't install them.

After scratching my head for quite some time to get around this conundrum and sifting through Sourcefourge, it came to me - I should use a Java based zip utility! Since they would be platform independent, they wouldn't need to do anything for which I would need administration rights!! Of course, the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) needs to be already installed, but hey that's usually on if your employer's are smart enough (or dumb enough!). So that's what worked finally. Here's the one I used - it's called 'BigZip'

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Minimize Unnecessary Windows to System Tray!

If you're like me and have lots of windows open, one of the biggest problems is that the Taskbar gets cluttered with bunches of windows being open. Additionally, Windows although the Taskbar has windows in the order they have been created, the Task Switcher (Alt+Tab) goes over the tasks in order of the windows that you have been working with. Which in my opinion is a major pain. So the easy way out is to be able to minimize the windows that you have currently put on hold into the System Tray near the clock.

The best utility (and free!) I've found is the '4T Minimize to Tray'. It's highly configurable with numerous options. You can put windows in the Taskbar; you can also hide windows that you don't want anyone to know you've got open! (Especially useful while updating your resume at work!)

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Time Around the World

How many times do you want to know the time in some other country? Maybe even at home? One of the most useful links that I always maintain on my 'Favourites' menu is Time and Date ( I can also personalise this and get the time and date for the places I need to know regularly. Very useful!

time and date

Update: I recently discovered the Calendar feature which enables you to print calendars of the year or month in formats you can customize! You can also indicate holidays and phases of the moon!

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

BugMeNot - "Please Register to see contents" bothering you?

There are numerous websites which ask for you to register before you can see the contents. So head over to Bugmenot, enter the URL and they will give you a userid and passwords for that site!! I tried a number of websites and they actually worked! What is more hilarious are the UserIds and the passwords!

If you don't want to bother going to every time you need to do this, there is a link called 'bookmarklet' on the main Bugmenot page. DON'T CLICK ON IT. Just drag this to your Favourites in Internet Explorer, then once it's there it'll still show up as bookmarklet, so right-click on it and rename it to whatever you want. And the next time you're on a website which asks you to register, just go into your Favourites and select BugMeNot bookmarklet. Immediately, a new popwindow will appear with the UserId and password for the site you're at!!

Mailinator - A Simple Way of Avoiding Spam

This is a brief from the Mailinator Main Page. It's self explantory, so no smart-ass comments required from me!
Get enough SPAM lately? Have you ever gone to a website that asks for your email address for no reason (other than they are going to sell it to the highest bidder so you get spam forever)?

Welcome to Mailinator(tm) - Its no signup, instant anti-spam service. Here is how it works: You are on the web, at a party, or talking to your favorite insurance salesman. Whereever you are, someone (or some webpage) asks for your email. You know if you give it, you'll be on their spam list. On the other hand, you do want at least one message from that person. The answer is to give them a mailinator address. You don't need to sign-up. You just make it up on the spot. Pick or - pick anything you want (up to 15 characters before the @ sign).

Later, come to this site and check that account. Its that easy. Mailinator accounts are created when mail arrives for them. No signup, no personal information, and when you're done - you can walk away - an instant solution to one way spammers get your address. Its an anti-spam solution for everyone. The messages are automatically deleted for you after a few hours.

Let'em spam.

SnipURL - Tired of Long URLs?

So, every time you send a link to somebody, your email smartly chops it up, so that when your friend actually sees it, (s)he sees some other Godforsaken page.

One easy way out - SnipURL. Just put in the long URL and give it a nickname (if you want to), or othewise just snip the URL. A nice, short URL will appear which can be sent, even memorised easily!


If you register, you can save your snipped URLs as well. An example of one of the great uses would be to giving directions to your place to your friends! Just get to the corresponding address using Yahoo Maps or Mapquest and once you've zeroed in on your place, snip the URL which appears in the addressbar using SnipURL and give it a nickname like address or some such. You can then just give the URL, even over the phone!