Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tron Legacy Review

Reading this story on Slashdot got me thinking that I should write down a few words on Tron Legacy. The basic premise of the Tron films is that a world exists inside of computers. Our heros get sucked into this world and have all sorts of cool adventures. In theory, this film is a sequel to the original Tron movie which came out in the 1980s.

In practice, there is quite a bit of overlap between the two films thematically. Of course, this makes sense given that most people will not have seen the first film. The film is visually stunning full of some really cool visual effects. So if you are into that sort of thing, definitely see this movie in the theater. If you have not seen the first film, read the plot on Wikipedia or you will be a little confused I think. Overall is a good film, but not a great one: 3 stars out of 5 for me.

A few observations are in order.

  • Whenever computer based life evolves, the first thing they build in their cities is a techno club. Apparently, the night clubs with techno music is a universal constant and requirement of any alien life form. (See this movie and the Matrix) Why can't the head of the resistance work in a grocery store? :)
  • The computer world in this movie didn't incorporate many of the technology advances made since the first movie.  In 1982, no one had heard of the Internet. It just seemed to me things inside the computer had not changed much in 30 years.
  • If the movie does at all well, expect a sequel. The ending of the movie left open quite a few possibilities.
  • Definitely not enough Tron in this film. Goodness sake, the film is named after him. He deserves a lot more than a flashback and a brief cameo here and there.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

iPhone to Verizon will Screw AT&T

iPhone iPad pictureCourtesy of Cult of Mac blog, yet another analyst predicts AT&T's demise once the iPhone becomes available on the Verizon network.

I still don't get this. My iPhone works great in Denver, in San Jose, in North Carolina, and Tennessee. Everywhere I have been in the last 2 or 3 years, no problems. It doesn't work well up in the mountains, but of course, the mountains tend to get in the way of the cell towers.

The only place I have heard AT&T reception is terrible is in San Francisco. Yet, according to the tech media, the AT&T network is terrible! Everyone will move to Verizon instantly! AT&T is doomed.

Frankly, I can't wait for the iPhone to become available on Verizon. Then I don't have to listen to this nonsense any more. And... there will be a lot more extra bandwidth for the rest of us. :)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Best Free Calendar Widget for Windows 7

Microsoft Logo
The other day I was looking for a good free calendar tool for Windows 7. Much to my surprise, I already had it. Click on the date and time in the lower right hand corner of the desktop and look what you get.

The calendar is in read only mode by default. Making it a great browsable calendar widget.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Open Source Screen Shot Utilities for Windows

Microsoft Logo
To help write some posts for this blog, I needed a free Windows screenshot utility. So Googling around a bit, this is what I found.

GreenShot - Installs as a System Tray icon in the lower right hand corner of your desktop. Screen shots can be taken by right clicking the icon or by using the PrintScreen key combinations. Files are saved in the PNG format by default. Simple and easy to use. I'm giving this a try right now.

I also found ZScreen but I haven't tried it yet.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Two Tweaks to Improve Chrome

Webkit icon
Here are two things you can do to improve the Google Chrome browsers user interface.

Add a Home Button
You can add a home button to the interface. To do this, do the following:
  1. Click on the Wrench icon
  2. Choose options
  3. Choose the Basics tab
  4. Scroll down to the Hope Page Section
  5. Check the Show the Home button on the toolbar option

Add the Link Bar
You can show a link bar, like most browsers, it is just a little hard to find.
  1. Click the Wrench icon
  2. Mouse over Tools
  3. Check Always show bookmarks bar

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Must Have Software for a New Windows 7 System

Well, I have been setting another new Windows 7 Home 64 bit machine. So this is my updated list of must have software. Most are free and open source.

I run multiple browsers almost all the time. Firefox as a development and default browser. Chrome or Safari for web surfing, and SeaMonkey for those multiple profile sort of situations.

  • Firefox - Best overall browser and best for development.

  • Chrome - Fast browser from Google. Minimalist interface.
  • Safari - Default browser for a Mac. Small and fast like Chrome.
  • SeaMonkey - Based on the original Netscape browser. Supports multiple profiles.  Can run 2 or 3 browsers, each with its own set of bookmarks.

Internet utililies and cloud applications.

  • Drop Box - A disk drive stored in the cloud. Provides access to a disk from Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Linux, you name it. A must if you want to move files between different platforms and devices.
  • Filezilla - A secure FTP client for Windows. A must for transferring files to and from a Unix system. FTP and SFTP is supported. Lots of features.
  • Pidgin - Open source chat client for Windows. Used to be know as GAIM.
  • Putty - Windows SSH and Telnet client. A must if you do any Linux or Unix work.
  • Skype - Free Internet phone service and chat. You can group chat with up to 5 people
  • Thunderbird - Mozilla's awesome e-mail client.

  • ActivePerl - Perl for Windows.
  • Cygwin - Want a Bash shell on Windows? Want some of your favorite Unix utilities?  Then Cygwin is for you.
  • Jedit - A really flexible programming editor written in Java.
  • Java - Install the 32 bit and 64 bit versions for 64 bit Windows. Just the 32 bit for 32 bit.
  • Komodo Edit - A cross platform open source programming editor. Lots of features for free. A commercial paid full featured IDE is also available.
  • Notepad++ - It is always a good idea to have a good native programming text editor around. For those times when you need a quick tweak or just want to view something. For Windows, Notepad++ is the best option out there.
  • NetBeans - A great Open Source Java IDE.

  • SQLite - File based SQL database.
  • Silk Svn Subversion Client - Windows 7 64 bit command line version.

  • Open Office - Open source office suite.

  • Paint.net - Open source graphics program.  A basic photo app without all the features or price of Photoshop.
  • SVG Anti-Virus - Great free or paid anti-virus you can buy and install online.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Make Your iPad Function Like a Laptop

iPhone iPad picturePopular Mechanics has a short article on how to turn an iPad into a laptop.

Two things mentioned in the article that are key in my mind.

  1. Get an Apple Blue Tooth Keyboard - A must have if you are gonna do any serious data input. It is small, lightweight and has a long battery life.
  2. Install DropBox. The iPad doesn't have any good way to move files to and fro. Dropbox makes this possible.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

iOS: Adding Domain Suffixes to Net Addresses

iPhone iPad pictureThe TipB blog has this post on how to add domains other than .com to address on the iPhone. A very useful and awesome tip.

Windows 7: Stop Windows Explorer from Jumping Around

Microsoft Logo
While setting up a new Windows machine, I noticed an annoying problem with Windows explorer. When I clicked on a shortcut in my favorites list, Explorer jumps down to the Desktop folder and opens the folder I clicked on. Favorites gets pushed down in the left pane and I have to scroll up to see the list again. Not the behavior I want.

So how do you fix this? If you right click on the left pane in Windows Explorer, you get two pop up menu options. Show All Folders and Expand to Current Folder, both are checked. Unchecking the second option prevents the left pane from jumping around. Now when clicking on a Favorite, only the right pane will change. Unchecking the first option, reduces the number of folders displayed in the left pane. Unchecking both gives me the kind of behavior I want with Windows Explorer.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Modifying the SendTo Menu in Windows 7

Microsoft Logo
Ever have the wrong application automatically open a file for you in Windows? If so, there is an easy way around that. Simply right click the file and the select the "Send to" (SendTo) menu. This displays a list of files and applications you can send the file to. But, how do you put an application in the SendTo menu?

In Windows 7, do the following:
  1. Press the Start button
  2. Copy %UserProfile%\Appdata\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Sendto into the search bar at the very bottom of the menu.
  3. Press Enter.
This opens the SendTo Folder. With the folder open you can copy application shortcut to the folder.

With the SendTo folder open, follow these steps to copy an application into the SendTo folder.
  1. Click Start -> All Programs (at the bottom of the menu)
  2. Then navigate to the application you want to add.
  3. Right drag (yes, the right mouse key, not the left) the icon to the SendTo folder.
  4. Release the mouse button.  A menu pops up listing your options
  5. Choose, "Create Shortcuts Here". The short cut is added to the menu.
Now you can send any file to that application. Very handy.

A shout out to the Windows Guide site for explaining where the SendTo folder is in Windows 7.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Explaining Tech for Everyone

Having worked in tech for 20 years, I get a lot of questions about a lot of stuff. So after some thought, I decided to setup this blog to explain tech stuff to regular people. So instead of explaining things to friends and family, I can share things with everyone. In addition, it allows me to separate more general tech posts from my web programming blog, blueskyworkshop.com.

Posts will cover a wide variety of topics, but hopefully will be approachable to most folks. Topics will include: the Web, the Net, Windows, Macs, iPhones, iPads, and much more. I hope you enjoy it.