Saturday, May 30, 2009

Stellarium - your own planetarium in real time

This is looking south-southwest using Vancouver, B.C. as the default location, and showing the sky as it was a few minutes ago. And for all you star-gazers who would like your own copy of this, it's here and it's open-source freeware. Think of it as Google Earth for the sky, because that's about it. You can zoom in on things, and explore the universe, without leaving home. Did I mention it was just updated and it works great on Windows 7 ? Enjoy !

Another panorama of the hills north of town

This was last evening's sunset on the local hills.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Short update on previous post...

Shortly after I wrote that last one, I got a call from the clinic, asking me if I would please re-consider, and go back in the morning for the x-ray. By then, I'd cooled down considerably, so I promised I would. The lady at the clinic said she'd fax over the paperwork, so all I had to do was show up. So this morning, I was first in line among the walk-ins, and got the x-ray before nine o'clock. But I still think we got better service 20 years ago. The folks at the clinic agree.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

More this and that...

This is the kind of thing gardeners do - these were growing in a big clay pot full of large yellow tulips until a few days ago. Now the tulips are gone, and these have the pot all to themselves.

Eye exams aren't what they used to be. Back when, it consisted of covering one eye at a time and reading a chart from across the room, with smaller and smaller letters and numbers toward the bottom. I think the bottom line said "Made in U.S.A." (just kidding...) And then the eye doctor looked into each eye with a bright little light, and mumbled something, and made some notes.

Times change, and now there's a machine where you sit and look at a scene with a little yellow roof and some greenery around it. Then, you sit at another, the Puffer, which checks your eyeballs for pressure by shooting a blast of air at each. That used to be done with drops of freezing, and an actual little pressure gauge touched against the now-frozen eye. Incidentally that was a more accurate reading. And after all that, you move on to the machine in another room, where you see the old familiar eye chart, now projected on a screen. Then you are asked to compare lines of characters and choose which is best among the several choices. Lastly, it's back to another room, where you sit at another machine that takes a picture of the inside of each eye. Afterward, you get to see those on a computer monitor, as the doctor explains what you're looking at.

I also found out that the coating is coming off my expensive progressive lenses, and that those are still under warranty, so at the moment, I'm wearing my older glasses, while those latest ones are at the lab, being examined for that warranty service.

And remember the days when you could walk into the medical lab for an x-ray and get looked after in a few minutes? Not any more. Today, I was sent there, and the girl at the desk said she was all booked up until next Tuesday. Hell, by then I could be dead. I told her to forget it. The doctor doesn't want to know what I look like next Tuesday - she wants to know now. Too bad she isn't going to find out.

And I read recently that all these extra tests they like to send you for these days don't make one damned bit of difference in your survival rate compared to when we didn't have them. The tests aren't helping us live a minute longer - they're just keeping medical staff working and well paid. That's why our health care costs are going through the roof. We're paying for all those fancy bells and whistles that aren't doing us as much good as Grandma's Spring Tonic.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Hovering overhead....

For the size of it, this thing makes a lot of noise. Especially when it's hovering in one spot.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Making your own Theme for Windows 7....

When I installed the RC, I lost my custom themes so I've just re-built one of them. Here's how, in case you'd like to make your own.

Go into your "Documents" folder, and create a new one named DesktopBackground (all one word, like registry entries) and put that into another folder you've also just created there, named for your new theme. Now, choose several desktop-sized (whatever your desktop resolution default setting is) pictures to use in the new slideshow-type theme. Number those consecutively, so they will follow one another in order. Put them into the folder you named DesktopBackground, which is now inside the folder named for your theme.

Make sure you have gone into Folder Options -> View -> Select "Show hidden files & folders". Go to and open: Users -> (your name) -> AppData -> Local -> Microsoft -> Windows -> Themes. Drag your newly-named theme folder into the Themes folder and select "Move here".

To get your new theme working on the desktop, go into its folder, open the one you've put your pictures in (DesktopBackground) and on the Edit menu, choose 'Select all', then right-click on any of them, and choose "Set as Desktop Background". One of those images should now be on your monitor's desktop. Now, you can close those open folders, and do your thing with those hidden files to re-hide them (Folder Options -> View...) Lastly, to put your new theme officially into the works, right-click an empty part of the desktop, and choose "Personalize". Look up near the top of the window that opens showing your themes, and you should see your new one, marked as "Unsaved Theme". Right-click on it and then choose "Save". It will now be saved with the others, and you can change its settings just like those other ones. If you want a different theme with other pictures, just repeat all this.

Difference: Full zoom and no zoom, Canon G9.

The upper photo is in the center in the lower one. Quite a difference.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

More this and that....

Before you ask, I have no idea what these flowers are. We have a gardening crew here and they raise a wide variety of wonderful things, including this little flowering shrub in a big clay pot next to one of the reflecting pools out front. All I do is take these pictures of them which I hope you enjoy.

One thing I've noticed about the RC version of Windows 7 is that there aren't as many of those multi-background themes as there were for the earlier betas. I like those slideshow-like themes with the changing backgrounds. I hope the final version includes some of them. I can make my own, but I'd prefer that someone else did.

I got into one of those forums about Windows 7 a few days ago, and gave them my story about the graphics card and changing to a better one. One of the others on there said that it didn't seem like a graphics card problem, but didn't offer any more information - so I don't know what else I might look at for that. Changing to the new card cured my problems with not being able to enable the Desktop Window Manager - which will shut down automatically if there aren't sufficient resources for running it. I think that's what was happening, because the change to a newer and better card restored it to normal functioning again, and the Aero effects are all back. The new card, however, isn't rating all that much higher on the Windows
Experience Index which tests your system for its ability to run the various functions.

I also notice that this CPU gadget on the sidebar is only showing a total of 3327 Mb for Ram and there's 4 Gb installed, so nearly a quarter of it isn't showing up on there. I wonder why.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Windows telemetry feedback in Windows 7

This feature works quite well. Yesterday, in order to read a document sent to me from a Microsoft Word program, I had to download and install Microsoft's Word Viewer 2003. This morning, I received five updates for it and its security. That didn't take long, did it?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

If you tried dual booting and then changed back...

If you've tried a dual booting setup, and then decided you liked it better as it was before, and you re-partitioned your hard-drive back to one partition, but now you can't get rid of a boot screen at startup that asks you to choose between two operating systems when there's really only one, and you would like to have all that fixed, there's a solution.

Look for a freeware program called VistaBootPRO 3.3 and follow the directions. It will make a backup of your boot sector, and then it will scan it for errors, and when it finds that entry for the now-removed operating system, it will change that one's color, and let you highlight it and delete that entry from the boot record. Then you set the good entry as default, save all your changes, and close the program. The next time you start or reboot, it will be a regular one, without that boot screen asking you to choose from things that aren't there. Your system will be back as it was before you tried the dual booting stuff. And you won't have to risk trying to edit hidden system files.

This program includes elements of Microsoft's Windows code, which are used with their approval, and it works not only on Vista and XP, like it says, but it also works just as well for Windows 7. And it saves you the trouble of re-formatting the drive and starting fresh with a new install of your operating system.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Today, the yellow Magnolia looks good...

This one came out alright.

Another comparison: our moon and Mars

Where numbers are concerned, this is pretty good.... Kids in school should check it out.

Testing Wolfram Alpha for answers...

I asked it for the distance from Vancouver to Toronto, and here's what I got... At first glance this answer seems to be too little, but we must remember that this isn't road miles, but is the direct straight-line distance between the two points. I gave it a rough check on an old map of Canada I have on the wall, which has a scale of roughly 100 miles to the inch, and this answer turns out to be quite accurate. It should, because this is based on 'Mathematica', a computational engine designed by the same creators which solves mathematical problems and answers to formulae.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I'm not alone in my opinion of Windows 7

The Houston Chronicle's technology guru agrees with my opinion of Windows 7 RC. He says that if this RC was released to manufacturing right now, the resulting product would still be better than Vista was when it was first released in a retail version in early 2007.

This is a very nice O/S, and the only problem I've had with it is the rare bug where it hangs during downloading of images from my camera's SDHC card, during the 'Erase' cycle. Instead of completing the erase, it hangs and leaves the images on it. I then have to use the camera's own erase feature to clear the card. But this happens much less often with the RC than it did with the betas before it. Otherwise, this is a very nice system to use, and if your hardware is good enough for all its features, it is a very enjoyable experience. My only real concern now is how much it will cost when it hits the stores. I hope I can afford it because after all this testing, I've got quite attached to it. I've also found several third-party programs that enhance its convenience with additional features, like this one for example. I use it quite a lot. You should try it.

Not yet summer in the hills...

Our season is running behind schedule this year, for sure. Is it the unusually quiet period of our sun just now, or some weird effect from global climate change, or just 'one of those things' ?

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Children's Festival wraps up today...

This picture courtesy of Telemark Systems Inc., and Katkam which you should visit.

The festival is held each year at this time in Vanier Park, next to the Vancouver Planetarium and Museum complex - (look for the cone-shaped roof upper left-center beyond the bridge)
and the tents will remain for other summer events coming soon.

The cruise ships are back...

If you'd like to contact these folks, click here.

The Semantic Web and other stuff....

"What the heck is the semantic web?", you ask. Damned if I know, but thanks to Google, we've heard about it and the Wolfram|Alpha Computational Knowledge Engine. "And what's that?", you also ask.

First things first. Here's where you can read more about the semantic web, which all sounds a bit "iffy" to me. And then, there's that egghead's invention known as the Wolfram|Alpha Computational Knowledge Engine. What does it do? Well as far as I can tell at a glance, it collects information that's related to a given topic and then tries to boil it all down from soup to gravy, until there's just the essential core answer left. So if you asked it "What's the universe for?" you'd likely get an answer like "somewhere for you to live."

That's an oversimplification from an undereducated observer, but I'll take another shot at it - it links diverse sources of information based on their containing a common theme or subject, and then tries to give you an answer based on where you're coming from with the question. And it won't replace Google any time soon, so relax, Kiddies.

Moving along to the Hubble Telescope and NASA, I think we'd be better off spending money on projects like that, rather than on missions to Mars, for example, because Hubble shows us more of the universe than we will ever see any other way. Real life isn't like hopping onto The Enterprise with Captain Janeway and her crew, and whizzing off at Warp 9 somewhere. For starters, if you hit the Warp 9 switch from a near standstill, it would probably plaster everyone against the walls like a fresh coat of paint. They don't mention that. They also don't mention that at the speed of light, which is so far impossible to achieve because of the energy required to do so, a round trip from here to the next nearest star system would take just under nine years. Sending messages there and back would also take that long. And going there in the flesh will continue to be impossible, because it is simply too far away for any kind of technology we've got or are likely to ever have. So let's put the money into something more useful, like Hubble and Hubble Two.... It's time we got smart.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Time for another of my flowers pictures...

Our Magnolia, with a bloom just starting to open. There's a yellow one too, but for some reason, its blooms don't show up very well in photos. Maybe I just don't know how to do it.

While downloading these today, and preparing to resize them, I realized that since I'd put this Windows 7 RC on here, I hadn't gone here for a fresh copy of this handy little resizer program patterned after that great PowerToy from XP. This works the very same, but there's no animations while the resizing is taking place. If you want to watch for progress, then you need something like my CPU Usage gadget on the sidebar, and then just watch the bar-graphs of the various cores as the resizing operation progresses. When all is quiet, it's all done, and then it's safe to close it. There's other resizers that work with Windows 7, but this one is the easiest and most familiar if you have used the PowerToys for XP version. And if anyone from Mighty Microsoft is reading this, please - let us have some PowerToys for Windows 7. A world-class O/S deserves world-class accessories. If you want us to quit using our trusty old XP, then it would help a lot if we could add the same kinds of extras onto our newest operating system. That way, we wouldn't feel like we were losing something. And we wouldn't have to resort to using bootleg versions to get the same convenience.

This just in from Computerworld on Windows 7...

Here's some interesting news about Windows 7, and what Microsoft is saying about Vista, and when we might see Windows 7 in new computers and in stores, and the answer is, it's "Coming Soon" as they say at the movies... Seems logical to me - this RC version is running better than some previous retail versions have, and I'm really enjoying using it. I know nothing about the computer business, but I know what I like, and I like this a whole lot. I haven't been this excited about a new operating system ever. Maybe that's because a little wee bit of my feedback helped to make it what it is. And this time around, Microsoft has done its homework, and got it right. Maybe there's something to be said for listening to us know-nothings out here in the boonies.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor.....

HERE'S where to get yours, just in case you haven't yet tried Windows 7 because you aren't sure if your rig has enough poop for the job. This will tell you. Specifically, that is.

Generally speaking, any computer that runs Vista can run Windows 7, says Microsoft. What they would rather not add to that is that Windows 7 does more with less than Vista needed. But if you're wondering whether your pet PC packs enough power for things like Flip 3D and these Aero transparency effects, this test will soon tell you. Just download, install and run it. I'm sure glad it says I can run Windows 7, because I've been doing that for months now...and you should be too.

I just ran this test on my old XP Pro machine, which was once upgraded to make it Vista capable, and it passed all four of these requirements too. It will, however, need some updated drivers. That's something any new O/S installation should have, and you should get those and save them somewhere (not on the PC you're updating) before you upgrade, because you should do a "clean install" for Windows 7 - that means you lose your files and programs if they are not saved to another device or drive separate from the one you're upgrading. And you will need the updated drivers for your hardware as soon as the new O/S is installed, so put those on a DVD or something from which you can download them back onto the system.

Making those desktop shortcuts, lower left.....

If you'd like a one-click Reboot or Shutdown shortcut like mine, shown here in the lower left of the desktop, here's the way I did it:-

Right-click on an empty part of the desktop, and choose New -> Shortcut. Then in the box, type in as follows: C:\Windows\System32\shutdown.exe -r -f -t 05 and be sure you leave a single space between the "-r", "-f", "-t" and "05".

Here's what that command means:- It's telling the shutdown application to do a reboot, and to force the closure of any open programs, and to begin all that in five seconds from now. You can leave out the "-f" if you don't want to force the closure of open programs, and you can change the numbers after the "-t" to anything from 00 to 30, which are times in seconds, or you can even leave out the "-t" part as well, because a normal operation will occur within 30 seconds anyway as a rule. That's pre-determined by the normal shutdown/startup procedures programmed into Windows. This just tweaks all that a little bit.

If, instead of making a Reboot shortcut, you'd like a Shutdown one, just replace the "-r" with a "-s" in the above command. The "-r" meaning reboot, and the "-s" meaning shutdown, of course. And you can change that one just like the other, if you wish. If you're wondering why I added the "-f" to force closure of any open programs, it's because I've noticed lately that there are some things running in the background sometimes that we don't know about, and those can delay the whole procedure when they don't close promptly. I sometimes have been getting pop-ups telling me that certain things have not closed, and asking if I would like to force them to close. This is a work-around for all that. The system doesn't have to ask me about something that I've already given it a command to do.

You can find nice icons for your new shortcuts, or you could do like me, and make your own. You can get a great program for that here and it will not only edit existing icons, but it can make new ones from any image which you resize down to about 400x400 pixels, so if you want an icon of your Aunt Nellie, you can have it. Have fun!

Friday, May 15, 2009

So, "How am I doing?" Here's the picture.....

This may not look like much to you, but this is the test that determines whether or not your computer is able to show you the fancy Aero graphics and transparency features in Windows.

If your score drops below "3" for Graphics, then you're not going to enjoy the fancy effects, and you might as well be running XP Pro, or Millennium, or Windows 98SE. And I can hear you asking, "How would that old coot know the answer to that - he pre-dates the invention of nuclear fission, and he's even older than the electric typewriter!" - Maybe so, but I ain't dead yet, Kiddies, and the reason I know these things is because I spend 'way too much time here playing with my computer, and it's only nine months old. In fact, it's less than nine months old, and already its graphics card has failed this test, and had to be replaced. And even the new one, with twice the built-in memory of the old one, just barely passes the test itself. And it has 512 Mb of memory on it. Just for the benefit of you youngsters out there, my first old Dell Optiplex desktop only had 128 Mb of Ram for the whole chicken-plucking thing. So here's this new graphics card now with four times the memory that my whole first computer had.

"And how long ago was that, Ancient One?" you're asking.... Well, now, Gomer - let me think. It was away back in the good old days of August, 2004. Actually not all that long ago, really. So technology is flying right along. Graphics cards today need more memory than whole PCs did five years ago. So if you're hoping to run a cutting-edge operating system like this soon-to be-released Windows 7, you'd better make sure your hardware is up for it, and just because you just got it a few months back, that doesn't prove a thing. Because - we don't know whether or not the guys who built it stuffed it full of old parts that were left over from the launching of the first space flight to the moon. You just can't leap to conclusions on that. I know, because I learned it the hard way. I bought a new computer that has parts in it which date back to four and five years ago, when we were still thinking of graphics in terms of scratching lines into a soft flat rock..... Any questions?

This just in from Microsoft.....

Here's the opening paragraph from a friendly newsletter from Microsoft's Windows 7 team -

"Windows 7 Release Candidate: How's it going?

Thanks again for downloading the Windows 7 Release Candidate (RC). Your testing is very important -- having thousands of people use the software helps us make sure we’ve tested thousands of hardware and software combinations. So if you haven’t already installed the RC, please go ahead."

I can remember a few years back after sending a frustrated email to Microsoft's help service, getting back from them a very condescending reply, which left me with no doubt that they were the undisputed experts, and I was the impertinent ignoramus questioning their methods and motives of doing whatever they deemed best for us unwashed masses of computer wreckers out here in the more uneducated corners of cyberspace.

Normally, I would have fired back a sharply-worded caustic comment, but for some reason, I decided not to. Instead, I toned that down and actually got a conversation going between me and an actually quite nice gal named Sally. Sally asked me to tell her what I would really like to see in an operating system, and that just about blew me off my chair, because until that point, Microsoft's reputation for friendly public relations left - to put it mildly - something to be desired. As this back-and-forth progressed through several exchanges of emails, Sally and I were able to have a very informative conversation, and she actually seemed to appreciate some of my suggestions, which she said she would like to pass along to her superiors. And who knows? Maybe that's how it all begins... two people getting past their own egos and moving on to a place where there can be a meeting of minds and an actual well-intentioned spirit of co-operation.

I know I'm making much of a newsletter sent out to users around the world by a company that rules the world in its own field of endeavor, but this newsletter tells me that there's been a change of heart at Microsoft, and an acknowledgement by them of the importance of having us ordinary non-experts out here helping them, in our own simple ways, to do whatever they are doing just a little better than they might otherwise be able to do without our involvement. Together, we're all making a difference, not just in someone's bottom line, but in how we all feel about each other, and in how we are all able to work together creating something better for all of us. I hope we continue in that spirit of cooperativeness even after this testing program has been concluded.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Snob Hill gets another modest cottage....

If this seems a bit less than perfect to you, it's because I was getting out near the bitter end of the doubler's ability to boost this zoom lens on the Canon G9. But it does a good job, all things considered. This new home is only about four streets below the top level of homes up there on the high side of West Vancouver, where, if you have to ask "how much?" then you can't afford it. That's a whole alternate universe up there. They even have their own security patrols to keep the tourists from getting too attached to it. If you stop to take pictures, the Nervous Nellies hang over their railings and pray you're not one of the bad guys. They can do anything they like up there, except get up and down the streets when it snows. Fortunately, us unwashed peasants down here in the lowlands don't have any of those problems. And we can see that view any time we like on Google Images. Just type in "British Properties" or "West Vancouver".

It's half-past May and......

....what, exactly, is the meaning of all this nonsense? Even the skiers are on the golf course. With their snuggies on, I betcha. Welcome to the start of the next Ice Age, Kiddies....

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Windows 7 and Shockwave Player

If you go onto the Adobe site for the player, you'll get a blunt rejection telling you that your system is not supported. I'm here to tell you that your system IS supported, and Adobe doesn't know its ass from its elbow about what Windows 7 is capable of running. They're the guys, after all, who sabotaged their own Shockwave Player back between versions 10.1 and 11.0 when they took out most of the little Xtras plug-ins, like Swadcmpr.x32 which decompresses sound signals, and without which, your attempts to run the program will result in nothing more than a sharp warning about missing plug-ins. Thanks a hell of a lot, Adobe!

The cure for all this is to look for and hopefully find a legacy version of Shockwave such as a version 8 or 9 or 10, which will have all its little bits. There's also that website address I listed in a previous blog (below) which can provide missing Xtras plug-ins if you already have the player itself - although why you'd want the player inoperable without the plug-ins is a mystery to me.

The other trick, and the one I used tonight to get Shockwave back into Windows 7 and working again is simple. I have it on my XP Pro machine, and simply copied it onto a CD, and downloaded that into the Windows 7 machine. Voila! Shockwave, working in Windows 7. So don't believe those who say it can't be done. If I can do it, so can you, and so could Adobe if they got off their complacent flabby posteriors and got on the ball. Would I lie to you?

Here's what a new graphics card can do.....

Windows 7 was working a lot better than my 9-month-old computer was, as I found out when I got this new ATI Radeon HD-4350 graphics card put into it yesterday. I'm sure a lot of the guys in those forums complaining about problems with Windows 7 don't even realize that it's their own cheap and nasty hardware that's causing the problem.

Windows 7 is a cutting-edge operating system, and it was never meant to ride on a donkey!

So make sure you've got a graphics card with its own memory built in - about 512 Mb of it, if you really want to see this software take your breath away. And it will, if you're like me. Some of these new pictures for the backgrounds that come with it are so realistic, you'd almost think you were right there, looking out a window at it. And that's why it's called Windows, I betcha. - Enjoy your day, Everyone!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Dear Mr. Microsoft: I'm sorry! It wasn't your fault....

A couple of these blogs lately have been critical of Microsoft and Windows 7's latest versions, and I want everyone to know it wasn't the fault of the folks at Microsoft. I'm sorry I created a wrong impression about the problems I was having with the display and no DWM enabled. The fact is, my relatively recently-purchased Nvidia graphics card simply wasn't up to the task at hand, and as the development of Win-7 progressively improved, my graphics performance got progressively worse, until it failed the Windows Experience Index tests completely.

Today, it only took about ten minutes at my favorite repairman's computer shop to pull that old card out and put in a new ATI Radeon HD4350, and once i loaded it with a driver approved for both Vista and Windows 7, my graphics problems were suddenly history. So I want to apologize to the folks at Microsoft for implying it might have been their problem. We among the great unwashed masses tend to do that all too often, I suspect. They are a large target, and we're a bunch of snivellers who don't like to admit we didn't have our own acts together.

While I'm ranting on here, let me also say that Windows 7 looks really impressive on a rig that has a decent graphics card and an up-to-date driver for it. So don't be like me and put down the software until you're sure your hardware can handle the latest goodies coming down the road from Redmond. You could end up apologizing for it, just like me.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Still learning how, at my age....

Today, and it's still today just barely, (11:35 PM) I tried something I wouldn't have dared just a few months back. I divided this hard-drive into two separate partitions, and then installed yet another build of Windows 7 on the newly-created empty half of it.

The above is what the "computer" window looks like with two operating systems on it, and the smaller window just shows the build number of this second one. I also made another interesting (at least to me) discovery - once the two systems were installed, instead of spending a lot of time dressing up the new clean install of build 7068 with all its programs and the documents folder full of stuff, I tried something else. I got wondering if I could simply go onto the original partition's O/S, and copy folders from it, and then go back into the new partition's O/S and paste those into similar folders there. And the answer is, "Yes, you can!"

This probably only works if the two O/Ss are compatible, of course, but these are both very nearly identical versions of the same Windows, so it worked out very well. And here ends our lesson for today, Kiddies....and if you're asking yourself "why would he do this?" the answer is "Just to see if I could..." Life's just one long learning experience, after all.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

New Desktop for Mother's Day....

Thanks to Windows 7 RC and a little editing of their theme. And here's the scoop on the term of the license on it. By the time this runs out, the retail versions will be in the stores, and I will never need to revert to Vasta Vista. And I'm just delighted about that.
Happy Mother's Day to all you Moms out there in the blogosphere.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Another handy program....Hardware Monitor

There are others, like Speedfan, but this one, CPUID Hardware Monitor shows the most information in an easy-to-read form. It also is reasonably accurate, if any of these gadgets really are, considering that they're all getting their information from 20-cent detectors in the hardware inside the box. As a Microsoft expert said about that, if we want accuracy of better than within ten degrees, for example within one degree, the devices would cost more than your whole computer. He may have been exaggerating a little, but we get his point - these are only approximate, so don't get too hung up on them. And you'll notice among my icons on the side, our old friend Dr. Watson has returned from wherever, and he's still alive and well in Windows 7, believe it or not. Who'd-a-thunk-it? Gee! all the way from Windows 95/98SE.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Fixing a problem with Adobe Shockwave Player

Today, after re-installing Windows 7, I couldn't get the Shockwave Player to work, because a message popped up saying "Your system is not supported". I laughed, because it worked fine last week with the same system it has today. However, there was a problem, after I once more downloaded the so-called "full" version of the Shockwave Player Installer. In these newer ones,the Adobe people have separated out the many little Xtras plug-ins that made it all go nicely. So the full version really isn't, unless you add those Xtras. I like to play a little board game from the British Museum's Ancient Egypt site, and for that, I need all the Xtras. Maybe you have the same sort of problems these days with Adobe's stuff. Their left hand doesn't know what their right hand is doing. So here's where to get all those extras you need - and when you start to click the little window, and another pops up for something else, just keep on clicking until you get the whole three downloads or so. The website is as follows:-
Once those are installed, your Shockwave Player will work just fine. Mine does.

Need a shortcut arrow manager/remover?

This is the one I use, and it really works. If you look at the image below this one, you'll see that the shortcuts have big arrows on them, like we don't know what they are. Now look at this image above, after using the Vista Shortcut Manager. Looks better, right ? So get one!

How about this for a background ?

This is one of the built-in Windows 7 backgrounds. Reminds me of the Flower Power days....
Back when men were men and the gals were naturally double-breasted.

Adding your own theme into Windows 7....

I may have gone over this once before, but in case not, here I go again. In other operating systems, like Vista or XP, before you could install your own home-made theme, or use any other 3rd-party one, you first of all had to hack the registry to replace three existing DLLs with new ones that you got from the web. If you didn't do that, you had to find a program to do it for you and most of them cost about $20 or so.

The good news is that Windows 7 includes various themes which install not just one background "wallpaper", but display several in a sort of slow and programmable slide-show arrangement. How this helps you install your own is because you only need to install your own series of images into the right folders in the right place, and yours will work just like the original equipment ones do.

Select several images you want for a changing set of backgrounds, and number them in order as you would like them to display. Then, enable the showing of hidden files & folders, so that you can find the ones you need to access. Go to Users ->(Your name) ->AppData -> Local -> Microsoft -> Windows -> Themes. In that folder, create a new one for yours, give it a name, and inside it create another folder named "DesktopBackground" (all one word, without quotes) and into that one, put all your images. After those are in there, and showing, choose "Select All" on the "Edit" menu, so that they are all chosen, and then right-click anywhere on those selected images, and choose "Set as desktop background". Your theme is now in use. And you can do the same to make others, and you can save each on the main page for them when you right-click on the desktop and choose "Personalize". So have fun, Folks.

P.S. - I call this theme "Clouds01" and there's 11 images in the batch, set to change every ten minutes.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Another day, another O/S installed.....

This is getting to be a habit....but I'm getting good at it. Trouble is, it takes a lot of time to get everything back to where I like it. At first, i thought I could save time by copying stuff onto disks, and then just downloading that back onto the newly-installed O/S, but I quickly discovered that it doesn't work with a lot of programs, because they've got those rigged so that you can't move them from one system into another without going back to their site for a fresh copy of it. So the idea of putting things on disks only works for stuff that doesn't involve programs - except for a few that don't seem to mind being moved around. But those usually aren't the ones you really need to get working again. So it takes some time. And I've tried a couple of registry hacks to get that Desktop Window Manager enabled, and they worked, but only for about one second at a time. It comes on and goes right back off again. Yet two days ago, using this same version of this same O/S, everything worked just fine. So it isn't likely my hardware. Very strange. Anyway, Windows 7 beta, Build 7077 has once more replaced the Windows 7 RC, Build 7100. And yes, I'm still having fun :) - and I'm going to wait a while, until they get the bugs out of that RC version before I tackle that again. Hell, I might even just wait until Win-7 hits our local stores. I just hope they don't improve the thing to death before that happens.

So, what do I think of the Windows 7 RC ?

Thanks for asking. I'll try not to swear while I answer that. I think it needs a lot more work, starting with fixing the Desktop Windows Manager showing as being 'disabled' constantly. And it would be very nice if it actually showed more than a black and empty screen, devoid of taskbar, mouse, or anything else after it boots up.

The only way I could get it to show me a normal log-on screen and desktop after booting was to put it into Sleep Mode, and then wake it up out of that. When it comes out of that, it shows the normal log-on screen and background, but who the hell wants to go through all that bullshit to get it up and running, only to find that the fancy Aero transparency graphics won't work, because the Desktop Windows Manager is disabled?

I tried going onto Microsoft's site for Desktop Windows Manager, but I got an empty page with a notice reading "too busy". So I said "The Hell with this!" and grabbed my old XP Pro CD, and right now it's busy re-formatting the hard-drive on that computer, so I can put back onto it something that I know will work. Like Windows 7 beta Build 7077, for example. I should have left it alone on there yesterday, and I wouldn't be having this problem today. Sometimes, cutting-edge technology just plain sucks!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Another useful freebie....

This is probably the best of the top-rated bittorrent clients, if you're into file sharing over the P2P exchange system. It's light, it's very configurable, it helps you set the correct speeds, it doesn't hog resources (like Vuze) and it's a freebie. What more could we ask? If you download music or stuff like ISO image files, then this is the one to use. It has all the features that we're told are the ones everyone wants, and it works. I've used it and I know.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

More helpful programs.....

While I was house-cleaning the other computer's clogged XP system yesterday, one of the first things I did was get the latest versions of the Wise Disk Cleaner and Wise Registry Cleaner from the above website. Both of these come in freeware versions as well as the paid-for ones, and the freeware works very well. It scans through your system, and locates items like registry keys for programs that no longer are on the machine, and other temporary stuff that can safely be turfed, and then it separates these into two groups: safe to delete, and not safe to delete. It will then delete those safe-to-delete ones, and keep the others. These even come with a feature for 'one-click cleaning', so that if you click on that icon, the process is all automatic, and all you need to do is wait for it to finish (it's quick) and then do a reboot. These are handy programs, especially if your operating system has been in use for a while and may have collected some useless clutter.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Spring-cleaning Windows XP Pro....

I've been most of the day, off and on, working on XP to clean up the files and the registry and get it in shape a bit better. One problem with all that is the time it takes to look for advice on how to do something, and then making sure it's done like the directions said, and then finding out whether those actually worked or not. Usually, they do, but sometimes not - as when the instructions were written for a previous version of Windows, and the writer hasn't told us which version was being described in the helpful instructions. There you are, looking through your setup for something that isn't there, and then just by accident, you find out that the writer is talking about Windows 98 or Millennium, and you've been assuming it was all about XP. That's one case where reading the directions doesn't help.

But I hasten to add that there's a whole lot of really valuable - I might even call it invaluable - help on the internet for just about anything that goes wrong with your computer. If you've got the time, then they've got the story. There's hardly-ever a 'quick fix' though. It usually takes about three days to solve the average thorny problem this way (just kidding!) or at least it can seem that way.

While messing with XP's registry and such today, I also found and used another guy's answer for the sometimes-disappearing volume icon in the system tray. You'll notice on the left in the picture that there's a couple of more icons in the bunch. One for the volume control, and one for Winamp, my favourite media player - and the best freebie you ever saw! But getting back to the volume control for a moment, if you have any problem with a now-you-see-it-now-you-don't volume icon in the system tray next to the clock, here's what to do: Go into C:\Windows\System32 and scroll away down to the S's, and look for a file called 'sndvol32.exe'. Right-click on it, and select 'create shortcut' and then look probably at the bottom of that System32 window for your new shortcut with the same name, and drag that out onto the desktop. Go into your personal stash of icons and select a nice one for it, then rename it 'Volume' instead of 'sndvol32.exe', and you're in business. Now, no matter what goes on in the system tray, you've got a volume control handy. And it's easier to hit with your mouse pointer than the little one on the slimline (windowblinds) version of Winamp up top.

Friday, May 1, 2009

It's May, already....

And the neighbour's back yard is looking very nice. If I had their email address, I'd send them some pictures. They spend a lot of time working on the place, and it shows. People who live in high-rises like this one really appreciate a view like this, because we can't grow anything but older in here.

Speaking of 'growing older' that's all I did this morning, while I thought I was being really smart and downloading a torrent image of Windows 7 RC1. After four hours of plodding along downloading the ISO Image for it, and then turning that into a DVD suitable for using to install it, I discovered that it was one of those torrents that are infected by a Trojan - so I had to scrap the whole thing and then carefully scan the computer to make sure it hadn't been infected.

So instead of getting the jump on the public release of the RC on Tuesday, I spent what became a nervous morning making sure I hadn't turned loose a Trojan on my system. So the moral of the story is that 'haste makes waste', and I should have just settled for waiting until next Tuesday like I will be doing now anyway.

Downloading a torrent file using a torrent client like uTorrent.exe (one of the best of the top 10) can be a great way to share files over the P2P system, but it does have its hazards as I learned. Luckily, I've got three different security programs to grab the bad guys as they arrive, and today I needed them. I don't know why I got myself into all that anyway, because the build 7077 of Win-7 is working just fine, and from all reports, there aren't that many changes between it and this coming release candidate anyway. Nothing I can't get along without for another few days, for sure.