Saturday, February 03, 2007

Welcome to the Link-Soup Kitchen...

I usually collect a number of links and topics during the week.

I let them stew and simmer and reduce until the weekend.

Then I toss in a bit of herbs and seasonings and then serve up free bowls of link-soup on Saturdays and Sundays.

Self-Serve Buffet

I'm not sure how this weekend will turn out...Mom's hard at work to move back to town from the Hill Country.

She's temporarily laid claim to my brother's flat for the past week, and that may stretch into another week (sorry bro! The parking rules here are murder!).

After a few false-starts, she thinks she has located a new-home floorplan she really likes and wants her two sons to give their feedback and blessings before she inks the deal.

So this afternoon might be busier than usual. And you all know what tomorrow is for all us red-blooded he-men?


Hack the Dolphin's Website Day? ---- no, no, no!

Laundry, grocery, dusting and generally clean the house day!

If I work really hard....I might watch some commercials Sunday night....(I'll update that link when Google updates their page!)

On to the steam tables....

Paul Alan Freshney's Periodic Table - v2.9.0 (freeware) - a wonderfully fascinating tool to help kids young and old alike explore the elements of the Periodic Table. Three serving sizes: Standard (contains small images), Extra (contains high-res images) and Mini (for the diet conscious). Alvis has been using this heavily in a recent science project. It's portable and can be kept on a USB stick if desired. Really cool facts, views, and history of the elements.

Console - (freeware) provides a tabbed interface for Windows command-line. You can easily change the fonts, background, window transparencies, etc. Again, I really find the tabbed interface beneficial when running ping or tracert on several routers in our network. More screenshots and details over at CyberNotes: Using one Console for all your Command Prompt Needs.

Thunderbird 2 News - So far it looks like Tb2 will get a final release in March. I'm still waiting for an RC release version before converting our primary email desktop to it, but last week I did convert Lavie's laptop email to it. She uses Tb to download her Gmail to her local pc with it. The upgrade went very smoothly and integrated with Lightning perfectly. I added a new theme and she is very happy. No crashes. I haven't had time to play with any of the new features, but it looks to be a nice improvement from the current version.

Favicon Picker 2 - Firefox Add-on - I have a quick-link on my work pc to Gmail. I don't usually check it during work, but sometimes I do. Only the Google default favicon is pretty plain. I did a screen-capture of the Google "M" envelope graphic and turned it into a custom icon. Then I used Favicon Picker 2 to change the icon on my Firefox toolbar from the plain icon to the custom one I made. Nice!

Virtual drive mounting tools - ComputerZen sensei Scott Hanselman got a Thinkpad and while doing his load-up of it, tossed on Daemon Tools (ISO-mounter). It blue-screened his system. I know that other users out there either seem to love Daemon Tools or think it is 3vil. I've always had great luck with it on all my systems. Anyway. Scott did some troubleshooting and worked around the issue, but he got a number of suggestions in his post comments on alternative virtual drive/ISO mounting tools:

  • Daemon Tools - (freeware) love it or hate it. Very popular - Running on my XP Home systems.
  • SlySoft's Virtual CloneDrive - (freeware) Pretty nice! I've switched my XP Pro laptop to use this one. Very light and simple. Who doesn't like an angry sheep? No toolbars or "extras". It just works!
  • MagicDisk from MagicISO - (freeware) I really, really like this tool. It has a wealth of features for virtual ISO mounting. I'm running it on my Windows 2000 Pro system. It did BSOD my XP Pro system when I tried to put it on there, but I never took the time to really puzzle out why. And I had had Daemon Tools installed on it prior, so there may have been some driver mojo going on there. So I rolled it back to Daemon Tools before I switched it to Virtual CloneDrive. Next laptop, I think I am going to try it immediately after getting the fresh image on.
  • Alcohol 52% - (freeware) I've used Alcohol 120% in the past and really was impressed with it. This is a "light" version of it with freeware. Installs a toolbar that can't be removed during the install process (unlike Daemon Tools), but you can then uninstall it in the add/remove programs list.

One commenter mentioned that Alcohol and Daemon tools are closely related (somehow) and the technologies they use are very similar, so what is a problem for one, might also be a problem for the other as well. Also, it has been said they both use a "secure" SCSI transport driver (SPTD.sys) which might help them get around some disk copy-protection schemes. This might lead to driver conflict issues on some systems.

So if you use these tools for more mundane tasks like I do (ISO image build testing with virtual machines) and not to krack dizks, MagicDisk or Virtual CloneDrive might be more than sufficient for your needs. If you are making "backups" of disks (software or otherwise) to run virtually and avoid keeping the plastic pizza's in your CD/DVD tray, you might need the beef of Alcohol or Daemon Tools. Your mileage may vary...

Zooomr - Online photo sharing website. Since I pulled the rip-cord on Flickr, I've been looking for an alternative. That led me to Zooomr. It does have some neat features...multi-lingual, illustrate location on maps, add sound, note people shown in photos (community building), private photo basic accounts. Take a tour and see what you think...

Busing the Tables

I really don't mind much of the web-advertising I encounter on the Net. I understand that advertising helps underwrite much of the free and quality content I enjoy and depend upon. Cool. I do prefer the advertising to be as unobtrusive to the primary content as possible (like the ads/sponsor pieces on PBS). I don't like pop-ups, pop-unders, audio-driven ads, and hover-boxes. And if a blogger or website decides to add a little extra $ to their pockets with ads, I respect that and wish them luck.

A number of technology websites I frequent also have advertising content that I truly despise. Advertising that is intrusive and (in my opinion) seriously interferes with my ability to read the content. There are a number of advertising providers who do this, but two that I encounter more times than most others are IntelliTXT and Snap.

These advertisers have done a very clever job in trying to make their partner's products clear to potential customers in a nice way. More power to them. They just seem intrusive to me so I recently found a way to deal with them, at least in Firefox.

The folks at Snap seem to get it. I must give them props because to stop the popup ads (sorry...Snap Previews) from appearing in your browser, just browse over to their site and click a link to set a cookie that tells the Snap advertisements to go-away. Classy! Thank you Snap.

As for IntelliTXT I'm not aware that they have such a feature. So for Firefox users:

  1. go grab the AdBlock Plus add-on for firefox

  2. then add the string *Intellitxt* into the custom filter list.

  3. Done!

Time for Dessert!

Like your sweets?

DannyChoo has finalized his new site "mascot" Mirai Suenaga. She is pretty cute! I'll be adding one of his banners soon. I can't wait to see her in some of the costumes he has sketched out!

Tokyo Times - usually pointing out the more "odd" elements in Japanese life, brings my attention to a grinding halt on some more Perky PCs. These Small Form Factor PC's (which look exactly like my Shuttle system--sans the graphics) are too, ummm, kawaii to pass up! I've done a custom anime-themed front-piece for my system, but the sides are all bare. Looks like I have some design work to do!

A Word of Thanks

My little bro passed on some swag to me a few months ago. He gave me two pieces of sweet hardware that I am enjoying very much:

Seagate 5GB USB 2.0 Pocket Hard Drive - Although just slightly smaller and lighter than a hockey-puck, it has all the head-room I need to keep two massive sets of portable software and utilities for troubleshooting and repairs, while leaving more than enough room to store user-data at work when I am pulling old machines off desks and putting new systems into play. Awesome!

Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeMusic PCI card. - I've always sufficed with on-board sound with all of my systems. Never had a need for anything less. However, this is a pretty high-end card and when he gifted me with it, I wasn't really convinced I needed it. I'm not a hard-core gamer, nor do I listen to much media directly on my system. It generally stays pretty silent. Last week I finally added it into my system--have freed my single PCI slot of its dial-up modem card some time ago when I replaced my failed Shuttle PSU. Wow! The difference in the sound quality is amazing! I'm still just running two speakers and a sub-woofer (no surround-sound stuff) but even with this simple arrangement it is very nice.

Thanks Digger!

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