Saturday, February 28, 2009

I sent this to my friend in the U.K. and he posted it....

This is a comment I made about the Russians overflying our arctic, and being met by our own interceptors, much like the old Cold War days...."let's go backward when forward fails..." My friend added it to his blog, so I won't repeat it all here. Have a look at Eolake's Blog for the whole thing, if you wish.

Friday, February 27, 2009

I never tire of playing with my Canon G9....

Two shots of a nearby peak through a hole in the clouds using the doubler on the G9's zoom.

Does this look like Spring to you ?

Me neither! It's colder than a mother-in-law's heart out there this morning....and trust me, I know exactly how cold that is. Been there and done that twice - (slow learner!)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Spring hasn't quite sprung....and other stuff

This is the view from my window a few minutes before 8:00 a.m. this morning, and I have to ask "Whatever happened to 'global warming' ?" It's nearly March, and usually that means the spring flowers are starting to bloom. This is still 'snuggies weather' around here....

I've just slogged my way through most of a long, long rant by a whole bunch of pseudo-intellectual semi-geeks babbling on about consistencies of design in computer operating systems, which you can find here and the one thing that jumped out at me as I was reading these comments is that here's a bunch of guys, including a few who work at designing software, and too many of them can't even spell their words correctly! The only thing they seem to be really good at is throwing shit at those who do.

I've only been playing with a computer since mid-2004, at which point I had already been retired for 16 years, and was presumably 'set in my ways' - but I'm still able to adapt to new technologies and new ways of doing things. I have to wonder why these bitchers aren't able to get with the program and go with the flow. Sometimes, the Squeaking Wheel doesn't get the grease, it just gets the boot.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

More fun with Windows 7 Themes.....

Today's project was another experiment. I wanted to try a series of six images made from the same original, but using varying amounts of transparency. The above was the faintest one, at 47 percent. The other five are progressively less transparent, until the last is the normal exposure. If the timing of the changes is adjusted to a duration of ten minutes, then it will cycle through the whole series of six images once per hour. - Works for me!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Updated essentials for your Windows 7.....

Get Mark's latest updated collection now in a single download as Sysinternals Suite 1.0, by going to the above website. There are all the usual goodies, and one that I really like is the auto logon tool. When activated, it encrypts your usual password, and then from there on, it automatically logs you on. I like that, because of course we've had that feature in XP for ages. Being the lazy type, I like having the machine do that for me. When I reboot this thing, then I just want to get on with whatever I was doing on it - I don't need typing practice for a password entry..... so this is very helpful. I'm liking this more all the time, as little problems like this logging on get set to match our former O/S operations.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Once again, we've missed Carnival in Rio....

But thanks to the Internet, we can still see the pictures, and get some idea of what it might be like to actually be there (expensive!) and be enjoying it in person.

Moving right along here, tomorrow's the 24th, and my spies tell me that's the day Microsoft will begin sending out test downloads to some of us Windows 7 beta users, to verify their system of updating and presumably our individual program's ability to respond correctly. And on that, I'd just like to say that Windows 7 beta has been working better for me than some of the previous Windows operating systems in their finished retail versions. I'm just guessing here, but I'd say Windows 7 is very nearly ready for 'Prime Time', or at the least RC1. And that might have something to do with why Microsoft will be sending out test downloads and confirming that we're receiving them alright. Again, just my own guess, Folks. But I really like this Windows 7, and I predict that it's going to be a real winner, assuming that the boys in the back rooms at Microsoft don't get carried away and improve it to death before its release. To them, I would say, "Restrain yourselves, Kids - this isn't Vista - Thank God!"

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Fun with gadgets and Widgets....

I must be getting old - during all my babbling yesterday about how very handy the Amnesty Generator is, I completely neglected to show you how it can add gadgets to the Sidebar in Windows 7. My apologies for that to Danny at Mesa Dynamics, who has been very helpful.

You may also notice today another little change to this blog's format - the inclusion of a scrolling text window. It's such a neat Widget, I just couldn't resist. Even at my age, there's still a whole lot of impressionable little kid in me - and I hope I don't lose that.....

Enjoy your day, Everyone!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Yet another discovery....

This creates a sidebar gadget or a widget for your desktop from just about anything, if you can find and copy the code for it, and enter that into the little program window. It was made for use on Vista and with OS-X, but as we discovered today, it will also work in Windows 7.

You can grab your very own ( and it's a freebie! ) right here, Folks, if gadgets really grab you, and you can make all of them that you can park on your monitor. Want YouTube in the sidebar? No problem!

However, as you're filling in the blanks on the program's page, if you're using Windows 7, then down near the bottom, where it mentions "choosing an image", just ignore that part. Leave that little square blank and go on to where it says "Generate" and click that button. Why? That "Image" box is actually meant for an icon or avatar, and if you try to use an ordinary jpeg image in there, it will bring everything to a screeching halt, and you'll have to start over. As you maybe can guess, I wouldn't be telling you all that if I hadn't been there and done that. When it happened this afternoon, I sent an email back to support at Mesa Dynamics, the creators of this program, and I got a very fast reply from Danny, requesting a copy of the details of the error report I'd caused by trying to add that image. After he received that, he tactfully suggested that I should try not adding anything to the "image" box, and as soon as I followed his suggestion, everything finished up very well, and the new gadget joined the others in the collection, and on the desktop. So, if you're running Windows 7, then Danny would like you to know you should not put anything in that "image" box as you're completing the details in the little program window. He is still working on its compatibility with Win 7. But using this work-around, it already works nicely. Check it out....

Friday, February 20, 2009

Ever wondered what Microsoft's offices look like?

I wondered, so I did some Googling, and this is what I found. I'm not sure why, but for some reason, I expected to find something much taller and more splendiferous, instead of something that might be one of your garden-variety widget factories. Is this really where all the bright eyed and bushy tailed whiz-kids toil in obscurity? Gee.... I think I'm disappointed.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

At last some local pictures in Themes

This is one of the pictures I've added to my local Theme folder. This is also why we feel sorry for all those who live on the flatlands further east.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tonight's Speed Test of Windows 7 says....

This is still out-performing any previous Windows, and you've gotta love it !

Are you missing Image Resizer in Windows 7 ?

One thing I've been missing in Windows 7 is the Image Resizer Powertoy for XP that was and is on the context menu of it, for easily resizing images without having to go into a full editor program like Irfanview or PhotoStudio 5.5 - so today, I went hunting for one....

The Good News is, there is one just like XP's Image Resizer Powertoy that works on both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows, as in Vista and Windows 7, and it's called Image Resizer Clone-2.0.msi and you can get your free copy here. I've just got it myself, and just finished testing it in Windows 7, and it works like a charm. I've really missed this in the later versions of Windows, (Vista and Windows 7) so I'm just delighted that this feature is again available for all those of us who love it and use it regularly. I wish Microsoft would make this a part of the final version of Windows 7. This little program is only slightly less convenient than sliced bread, and everybody ought to have it.

Using my own Theme in Windows 7

Just make a folder and name it for a Theme, and then create another inside that one called 'DesktopBackground', into which you will put five or six chosen images. Then, going into that hidden file we mentioned yesterday, put your named Theme folder containing the other one with the actual images into the 'Windows\Themes' folder along with the other themes which will already be in there. Then, you can choose your own theme in the same way you would choose any other using the 'Personalize' feature on the right-click menu in Desktop. This image above is of our public library.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Adding an image to a Theme in Windows 7

One like this, which I added to 'Paul's Paris Theme', for example. Just find a suitable image, re-size it to fit your monitor, enhance it with an editor, and then copy or drag and drop it into the 'DesktopBackground' file of the appropriate Theme folder. The next time you use that theme, it will include your added image or images. So today, we've discovered how to add and subtract images in Themes.

How do I find the My Themes images files?

You've downloaded two or three new Themes for Windows 7, but there are one or two pictures in there that are a little too "artsy" for you - taken at an angle that gives you a sore neck while you're trying to look at it, for example - and you'd like to simply delete it, if only you knew where it's hiding in your files. That word 'hiding' wasn't used accidently, because these images are kept among your hidden files, not normally accessible.

Here's what you have to do:- In My Computer or Windows Explorer, click on 'Tools', then go to 'Folder Options', click the 'View' tab, and put a check mark in the box for 'Show hidden files folders, and drives'. Now you're ready to start going to the file you want...

Navigate to:- C:\Users\(your name)\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Themes\(name of it)\DesktopBackground. If you click on the DesktopBackground file, it opens to show you all the images that are being used for that set of backgrounds. Choose the one you didn't like and click on 'Delete'. Problem solved. Close the file and empty the Recycle Bin, and then don't forget to go back to the beginning, and uncheck that little box for 'Show hidden files, folders, and drives'. Now, as that theme changes images, you won't see the one you didn't like.

Short 'PS': While you're in that images folder, you may also want to re-size those, because most of them are huge - more than 3,000 by 2,000 pixels - which is more than you need for most monitors, whether widescreen or not. When re-sized, these will fit your own monitor better, and use less resources while being displayed, so it's a win-win situation.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Customizing Windows 7 Desktop....

Here's an example of customizing the desktop in Windows 7 - which is something we couldn't do in previous operating systems, and is another nice surprise built into Windows 7.

Instead of using one of the pre-selected sets of "comes-with-the-program" backgrounds for your desktop, you can choose your own from your own collection of photos, or, as above, make up a set of plain backgrounds which will be displayed on the desktop according to how you have set the time for changes, on the drop-down list, and whether or not you have the box marked 'Shuffle' checked or unchecked. When 'Shuffle' is checked, you get a random selection of the set of backgrounds, but if you uncheck it, then the backgrounds are displayed in the order in which they are numbered in your set of backgrounds. (You did number them, didn't you?) That brings me to the obvious - to make them display in a certain order, just make sure you have numbered them consecutively.

This desktop background system in Windows 7 gives the user a lot more input and control over the desktop than we ever had before, and it is nice to have a changing background for it, instead of the same old one until you put up a fresh one. This system can do all that automatically for you, if you just input the right stuff for it. It's like a slideshow in slow motion, or if you insist, you can set it for only one background instead of several different ones.

There are a lot of nice touches like this built into Windows 7, and discovering them is fun.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Another worthwhile discovery.....

This program doesn't replace or conflict with whatever security programs you have already. It simply runs in the background and grabs the harmful stuff that your other protection doesn't know about yet. This works by watching for suspicious behaviors, not waiting for whatever is listed in the next update which may not have arrived yet. It's a free download, so get it.... and I ought to add that it's quite compatible with Windows 7 Beta - works like a charm!

Another look at it.....

This view shows its satellites a little better - and you'll notice that it is wider than it is high, possibly because it's just a big ball of gas - much like a relative we know...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

How about this sunset ?

The weather wasn't all that great yesterday, but the sunset made up for it. For those who aren't familiar with this area, that's Vancouver Island (or part of it) off in the distance. This was taken on a Canon G9 at 6x optical zoom. I hope you like it.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Fun with Stellarium....

You're surfing around the night sky, and you spot Saturn, and decide to have a closer look.....
So you highlight it, by clicking on it, and it is marked by four red marks. Then, you zoom in on it, by clicking the (/) forward slash on your keyboard. The first time enlarges it a little, and the second time enlarges it a lot. (You only get two enlargements, Kiddies!) - And you put it back to normal by using the (\) backslash key. To save these screenshots, you simply use your keyboard's CTRL + S, and those are saved into your "screenshots" folder in Documents. There now, any questions? Good! Check the 'Help' page for all the answers, and have fun!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

You've got Google Earth, but have you got....

This one's "Google Earth" for the can set it for your own location, and adjust it for the correct time, and it shows you whatever you would see in a clear night (or daytime) sky. You can zoom in on distant objects, and follow them as they move across the heavens - or you can speed them up, slow them down, or whatever. Just don't forget to reset it to normal before you leave - and turn out the lights when you go... in fact, turn them out anyway so the stars will show up better. This is your very own planetarium on your computer. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

As the sun sinks slowly in the west....

Not great, but not too bad either. Enjoy, Everyone!

Image burning download

Here's a good little image burning program that is easy to use and very configurable. It will do just about anything you might require, including handling ISO images, and making and reading
DVDs. Why buy a program when this works so well?

You can find it here.

Here's why I wanted Shockwave working....

Some people like Solitaire - I enjoy playing with this one....which you can find on the site of the British Museum, under "Ancient Egypt", look for "Challenge" in the left margin...

And now, for some Good News.....

The above is a collage of some of last year's spring flowers from around our grounds, just to brighten up a dull week around here.

The good news is: I've solved the problem of getting a version of Shockwave Player working in Windows 7. And if you think it was simply a matter of downloading the latest version from the Adobe site, you'd be so-o-o-o wrong, Friend. That just doesn't work, because Adobe took over Shockwave from Macromedia a couple of years back, and it hasn't worked right since - because? - Because they separated the program's "Xtras" from the program itself, and these are special little plugins which perform certain functions in it. For example, one is SWADCmpr.x32 which is a decompressor for the SoundWave Audio. So how do you "fix" this problem?

Basically, you don't. You simply go back to a legacy version like version 8.5 or version 9.0 which has all its related Xtras built right in with it, and use that instead. But first, be sure that you download and use the special uninstaller program designed for removing all of any versions that might be in your system already. That's important, because those can be inside browsers or elsewhere, as well as in System32 in Windows, and must all be completely removed for the fresh install of another version to be successful. I'm now running Version 8, and it works fine. No thanks to Adobe, those pinheads!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Windows 7 Themes and Display Drivers...

If you have a problem trying to change the Theme, and the screen momentarily blacks out, then recovers with the former Theme still there, or you try to download additional Themes from the Windows site, but those won't install properly, there are two possible causes:-

1. You may need a better driver for the graphics card;

2. You neglected to disable the anti-virus before trying to install the driver.

You can get the latest updated drivers from either Windows Updates, or from the website of the maker of your graphics card. Look for those for use with Windows 7. Some sites will scan your computer automatically and tell you which or if any new driver is required.

The other problem, not disabling anti-virus, can cause some drivers not to install all their features properly, so this can be a major problem if you try to use that driver without all its special features working. So before you try to install a new driver, it's a good idea to shut off any anti-virus protection you have running. Don't ask how I know for sure about this.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Meanwhile, up in the hills this morning....

This collage was made with Picasa 3, the latest version from Google. If you haven't got yours yet, then what are you waiting for? This manages your pictures collection, and lets you do lots of neat things with it, both on-line and off. You really ought to try it. It's a freebie, too! And I guess I don't have to tell you that it works just fine with Windows 7 - and incidently, so does Canon's PhotoStitch. That's another fun program, if you like "the big picture".

Sunday, February 8, 2009

For Windows 7 users.......

For all of us using Windows 7, and who prefer to turn off the User Accounts Control (UAC), and who then discover that they've lost the Sidebar and its gadgets - because the two features are linked, to prevent downloading malware - here's how to get your Sidebar and gadgets back:-

In the Search box above Start, type "regedit.exe" and click Enter. Navigate to HK Local Machine\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Current Version\Sidebar\Settings. In the right-hand pane, create a new Dword (32-bit) named "AllowElevatedProcess" and then click on it to modify, and set its value to "1"....(no quotation marks, please) - then close the registry. Your Sidebar will now be enabled again, and you can restore your gadgets. It works for me!

More discoveries in Windows 7....

For those of us who had a desktop icon for "Task Manager" on our former desktop (mine has an icon made from a photo of Dana Delany in her dominatrix role from 'Exit To Eden'), and maybe you miss that, Windows 7 has an alternative called Resource Monitor. This, as they say, is a sort of "super task manager" and you can see that it comes with its own custom icon, if you make a shortcut to it.

You can make that shortcut very easily. Just right-click a blank area on the desktop, and then choose "New" and "Shortcut", and in the blank title box, type RESMON.exe and then click OK. The new shortcut appears on your desktop, as in the above screen shot, (upper left). Clicking on that will help a lot in your recovery from missing Task Manager.

And please do check out these tips and tweaks for Windows 7. You'll be glad you did....

There aren't a lot of security programs yet available for use with Windows 7, but there are some, including Avast, and also check this one out if you'd like one that works along with others to grab the bad guys by their behavior instead of waiting for database listings of them like most do. This sounds like a winner... try it.

And under "Back To The Future", in the little Search box above the Start button, if you type in CMD and hit Enter, it brings up the Command Prompt window.... and then if you type into that at the flashing cursor, "sfc /scannow" (without quotes of course) you get what is now called the Resource Checker, and it scans all your System files to (a) verify integrity, or (b) fix the problems it found. It's a sort of evolved version of Windows Millennium's "System File Checker" with improvements. Not a bad thing, actually.... Especially if, like me, you like to tinker around with stuff that may require a few changes to system files from time to time.
I just checked my system, and so far, it's in mint condition.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Speed Test Results = Windows 7

This speed test was between Vancouver, B.C. and Seattle, WA using Speakeasy. Windows 7 is definitely faster than previous Windows operating systems. At last, a Windows O/S that knows how to move things in a hurry!

Spring has not quite sprung....

This, unfortunately, is a preview of the weekend weather forecast....

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Only five days left to try this.....

Time is running out on your chance to join the rest of us testing and enjoying the new beta of Windows 7, the latest and greatest from those Window-washers in Redmond, Washington. Put a little fun back into computing - get an operating system that not only really works, but does it at record speeds. "And how fast is that?" you ask..... Would you believe downloading speeds of 349 Kb/sec., and uploading speeds of 80 Kb/sec.? That's faster than either Vista or good old XP, by a significant margin. Grab yourself a look at the future..... it's here now. But not for long.....the offer closes on the 10th of February. Got yours yet?

And now, for a really handy Sidebar Gadget....

And that Gadget would be the one in the upper right, above the CPU Meter, showing the time and the date - but not only the time and date. It also is a calendar for this month and next, with an appointments feature you can add listings to, and there's also, on another part of it, an alarm clock you can set for once only or recurring alarm. So this thing's not just a pretty face - it actually is very handy, for keeping track of your appointments, and for waking you up at quitting time - and you know what they say - "If you don't believe the dead come back to life, you should be here at quitting time!"

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Another handy free program....

For those of us who like to install and try out new programs, or new operating systems, and for those of us who just like a cleaner and better running PC, there's a pair of matching programs that you should probably have: Wise Disk Cleaner ( for the Hard-Drive) and Wise Registry Cleaner (for the Registry). These find useless entries and temp files no longer needed, and get rid of them for you. You can find them HERE and you should use the disk cleaner first, followed by the registry cleaner, they say. And the good news is that these are reported to be quite reliable and safe, and will not remove things that are actually needed on your system.

While installing and then re-installing things on here lately, these have helped a lot to keep the temporary clutter from piling up too much, and I can put in a good word for these...

And now, for a sunset......

I'd love to show you more on the left side, but this building's wall is in the way, so this is it....

A handy freebie for hard drive partitions...

Some of our newest computers have really large hard drives, and if you ever wanted to be able to re-partition or re-format one, then I've discovered a handy free program that does all that.
I hasten to add that I highly recommend you download and read the PDF 'User Guide', before jumping into modifying your hard disk's configuration. I didn't do that this morning, and as a result, gave myself a good scare when unexpected things began showing up. All's well that ends well though, and thanks to the self-diagnostics built into Windows 7, it recovered nicely from whatever I did wrong while dividing the single partition of the drive into two parts. Now that everything's up and running again, and the active partition has been defrag'd it is OK again. But do "read the directions".....preferably beforehand, not afterward.

You can find the program HERE.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Yes, Virginia, you can use your own pictures....

You can choose "Background" then "Browse", and select a selection of your own images for the slideshow type automatically-changing backgrounds in Windows 7.

Who needs a Screen Saver when you've got automatically changing pictures in the background on your monitor? The frequency of the changes can be selected on a scale ranging from minutes to once a day. This is just another example of the thoughtfulness and choices offered in this new operating system. You can use the backgrounds (about six in each) which are contained in each Windows 7 theme, or you can make up a selection of your own.

Restored:- Sidebar when UAC is Off ....

God Bless Google! Without whom, I'd never learn these things.... When I turned off the U.A.C. in Windows 7 a couple of days ago, the Sidebar and gadgets mysteriously quit working.

I've just discovered why, and what to do about it. This is done on purpose, to prevent those of us out here among the great unwashed masses from installing some malware-ridden junky gadget while the User Accounts Control is turned off. However, if you're careful about what you're downloading, and scan it before installing with a good anti-virus program, then it should be safe to run the Sidebar and gadgets while the U.A.C. is off.

This involves a Registry edit, and here is where to find it if you're comfortable with modifying your registry. Just take your time, and be careful, and the Sidebar and gadgets will once again be working when you're finished. (See above image.)

I whined about losing these gadgets during one of my "feedback" reports to Microsoft, not knowing about this link between the U.A.C. and Sidebar, and of course, it's part of this deal for testing the beta that we don't get any official help from Microsoft with stuff like this - that's because they want us to help each other, and they may also want to find out how much of that we're able to do on our own. Thanks to Google, we're not doing too badly.....

Monday, February 2, 2009

Hacking Windows 7 Shortcut Icons....

I said in the previous blog post that I would find out if the Vista Shortcut Arrow Remover works on Windows 7, and you'll notice from the image above that it certainly does!

Where do you get it? Check this website for all the details and a site where you can download the free program. Enjoy!

The more I play with Windows 7, the better I like it. I can hardly wait for the finished version. And I fervently hope they don't "improve it to death" because it's nice already.
Want to try it? Better hurry - you only have until the 10th of February to download a copy of the ISO image with which to burn a DVD installation disc. Don't know what I'm talking about? Then better stick to Vista, or good old reliable XP Pro SP3.

Make your own shortcut for shutdown or reboot

"Why?", you ask....Because, you might like to do a shutdown or reboot with just one click.....

For a look at the finished shortcuts, please look in the lower left in the above picture. And for the directions on how to, see The Elder Geek's page for the whole story. And for my next act, I'm going hunting for instructions on getting rid of those pesky arrows on shortcuts!
I've never liked those things, so I'm going to try the same remedy that works in Vista.... if it works in Windows 7, I'll be back with the story on that one.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Ending the month better than it began....

This is my second attempt at writing this - I had it nearly done, and suddenly "Poof! - Gone!" Was it me? Was it someone changing things at Google? Who knows ?

Anyway, our weather is a little better now than at the start of the month, and this January seemed to me to have a steadier stretch of colder cloudy and foggy weather than we usually get around here. I don't doubt the reality of global warming, but it seems selective about where it happens. These cold spells around here prompt people to light fireplaces, and just across the street here there is a low-rise complex of several multi-unit buildings, with more than fifty chimneys. Most of those in cold weather belch out foul-smelling smoke that sure doesn't smell like the real wood fires of years ago. These manufactured fireplace fuels are not good for the chimneys, and create terrible fumes for breathing. I'm always delighted when the weather warms enough so that those fireplaces aren't being used so steadily.