Power Toys (Freebies from Microsoft)

Microsoft PowerToys Windows XP
have been around since late 2004 in their current incarnation but it seems that they are a well kept secret.

So what do they do? Well all sorts of things but before we continue on a pointer. Even though these programs are written by Microsoft (or for Microsoft) and hosted on the Micrtosoft website and all of them say property of Microsoft. They AREN”T supported in anyway by Microsoft, yes I know some of you will say whats changed but I tought you should know.

So lets have a look see at some of what’s available. We will start with my two favourites.

Tweak UI

This PowerToy gives you access to system settings that are not exposed in the Windows XP default user interface, including mouse settings, Explorer settings, taskbar settings, and more. This program is worth the price of admission.

and if you have an LCD monitor you need this one

ClearType Tuner (New)

This PowerToy lets you use ClearType technology to make it easier to read text on your screen, and installs in the Control Panel for easy access.

HTML Slide Show Wizard (Updated)

This wizard helps you create an HTML slide show of your digital pictures, ready to place on your Web site.

Open Command Window Here

This PowerToy adds an “Open Command Window Here” context menu option on file system folders, giving you a quick way to open a command window (cmd.exe) pointing at the selected folder.

Alt-Tab Replacement

With this PowerToy, in addition to seeing the icon of the application window you are switching to, you will also see a preview of the page. This helps particularly when multiple sessions of an application are open.

Power Calculator

With this PowerToy you can graph and evaluate functions as well as perform many different types of conversions.

Image Resizer

This PowerToy enables you to resize one or many image files with a right-click. (I use IIrfanview for this little job)

CD Slide Show Generator

With this PowerToy you can view images burned to a CD as a slide show. The Generator works downlevel on Windows 9x machines as well.

Virtual Desktop Manager

Manage up to four desktops from the Windows taskbar with this PowerToy. I should add here that the Dexpot program I mentioned last week does this job much better.

Taskbar Magnifier

Use this PowerToy to magnify part of the screen from the taskbar.

Webcam Timershot

This PowerToy lets you take pictures at specified time intervals from a Webcam connected to your computer and save them to a location that you designate.

So some are really really useful and some are just silly. Have a look and see what you think. The Clear Type one is a beaut.

Mondays Technology

Bio Computer-On-a-Stick

bio usb thingyHow far away is Christmas? (Hint hint… nudge… wink… hint….) Damn! That long. I so want one of these (don’t worry I’ll get over it). Now if it only came with a Swissarmy knife as well I would be made.

Welcome to your “Portable Personal Computing Environment”
No more using grubby “public” computers with preset setups? (You’ll use IE and you’ll like it). No more leaving addresses and ookies lying around on clients PC when you check the Technet Knowledge base. Your Bio Computer On a Stick solves these worries by providing your own USB powered Linux based bootable private computing environment… protected by a fingerprint scanner of course.

All the standard apps needed are pre-installed, including Firefox web browser, e-mail, IM, and Open Office. Plus you get 512MB of space to store your files and documents. Simply locate a willing host computer, plug-in the Bio Computer, and restart (if the PC wont boot from USB there’s an included mini boot cd). Nothing is written to the host computer hard drive…

I know I already have a laptop and a bunch of USB keys (including the aforementioned Swiss Army model) but this rates a way cool factor that is pretty damn high.

If you already have a USB key ( and who doesn’t) have a look at the post from February, about portable apps and pstart (the menu program. A good place to start playing with this stuff.

But doesn’t it look just so cool.


Monday Morning “Impediment to Productivity” – 20060529


Another Monday, another week and another post.

We we will start the week with some contributions from Jools ( I don’t know whether to start a new section called “Impedimentia” just for her or just keep “Blaming” her.

“This is an Impedimentia for your predilection. From weird to weirder yet.


Serious bandwidth required but it’s worth it.

Now on the subject of SERIOUS bandwidth, there is this little item also courtesy of Jools.

Elephants Dream is the world’s first open movie, made entirely with open source graphics software such as Blender, and with all production files freely available to use however you please, under a Creative Commons license.

The short film was created by the Orange Open Movie Project studio in Amsterdam during 2005/2006, bringing together a diverse team of artists and developers from all over the world.

Trust No One

Things and Everyware

It’s winter, the tele is full of sport, why not read something. Here are two good places to start with.

First off, I just found this speech given by Bruce Sterling at Emerging Technology 2006 back in March. Its at the The Viridian Design Movement: Viridian Note 00459. What’s viridian? well according to WIkipedia it’s green.

Bruce is talking about stuff and “The internet of things”. That’s “Stuff” as in real things that you can walk up and kick. Or at least you will be able to in about 30 years if his guess is right. It’s an interesting read and it begins like this…

Thanks for that kind introduction, Cory Doctorow. Hi, I’m Bruce Sterling. I write novels. Last time I was at an O’Reilly gig, I delivered a screed about open-source software.

One of the things I said in that speech was that, some day, open-source people were going to become political dissidents. Yeah, I meant real dissidents, man, very 1989 style, very Eastern European… That speech was some years ago, of course… Today I’m actually living in Eastern Europe. I’m living in Belgrade and trying to get some novel-writing done in between fits of blogging… Just as I was leaving Belgrade to come here, Richard Stallman arrived in town. Yeah, it’s Stallman, rms, Dr. GNU, he’s there to rattle the skeletons in the closets of the outlaw state…

not much about things there but it gets better.

And for choice number two, in Bruce’s speech he talks about Adam Greenfield’s book Everyware (some sample chapters are available for download). In an interview at AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) Greenfield explained Everyware thus…

“Everyware” is information processing that has been removed from the context of the personal computer and distributed everywhere in the built environment. The qualities of information sensing, information processing and output, for example, have been taken from a box that we address in a one-by-one, one-to-one relationship, and have been, instead, embedded in the objects and services of everyday life. That includes things such as architectural space, ordinary everyday objects, clothing, street furniture, vehicles, you name it—all gathering information, sensing information, processing, responding and feeding them back out into the world.

And over at A List Apart they are publishing some extracts as well, here is a sample…

Everyware is an attempt to describe the form computing will take in the next few years. Specifically, it’s about a vision of processing power so distributed throughout the environment that computers per se effectively disappear. It’s about the enormous consequences this disappearance has for the kinds of tasks computers are applied to, for the way we use them, and for what we understand them to be.

Although aspects of this vision have been called a variety of names—ubiquitous computing, pervasive computing, physical computing, tangible media, and so on—I think of each as a facet of one coherent paradigm of interaction that I call everyware.

In everyware, all the information we now look to our phones or Web browsers to provide becomes accessible from just about anywhere, at any time, and is delivered in a manner appropriate to our location and context.

In everyware, the garment, the room and the street become sites of processing and mediation. Household objects from shower stalls to coffee pots are reimagined as places where facts about the world can be gathered, considered, and acted upon. And all the familiar rituals of daily life, things as fundamental as the way we wake up in the morning, get to work, or shop for our groceries, are remade as an intricate dance of information about ourselves, the state of the external world, and the options available to us at any given moment.

In all of these scenarios, there are powerful informatics underlying the apparent simplicity of the experience, but they never breach the surface of awareness: things Just Work. Rather than being filtered through the clumsy arcana of applications and files and sites, interactions with everyware feel natural, spontaneous, human. Ordinary people finally get to benefit from the full power of information technology, without having to absorb the esoteric bodies of knowledge on which it depends. And the sensation of use—even while managing an unceasing and torrential flow of data—is one of calm, of relaxed mastery.

This, anyway, is the promise.

Between Sterling and Greenfield this should keep me going for a while.
Happy reading.

Create your own Torrents

Geek Alert

I have been looking for a how to make a torrent article for a while now. And over at it looks like I have finally cracked it. , Mayank Sharma has written Create your own distribution torrents.

The BitTorrent protocol is in the process of changing how people share large amounts of data. The key word is share, it works by enabling users to download fragments of a large file from other users simultaneously, rather than waiting for one file to complete, thus speeding the download process. As a result, many popular Linux distributions have started releasing their ISOs through torrents. And it’s not only Linux, Microsoft are talking about using it for distributing their software and the movie industry is looking at it for online distribution, I leave aside the fact that Pirate Bay already seems to have that particular job well in hand.

It doesn’t look all that hard, I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Mondays Technology

Computer books and Car Noises

Computer Books, there seems to be millions of them except when you go into one of your favourite bookstores looking for that one book in particular.

In Pictures computer how-to books are new kid on the block and are working on the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words by creating books that are graphic based rather than text. According to InPics most computer books contain over 50,000 words(that would be that Exchange server manual I looked at last week), In Pictures books contain one-tenth as many.

So rather than put up a few sample chapters so that you can check out a typical In Pictures book, for an (unspecified) limited time, In Pictures books can be downloaded for free. They think the best way to promote them is to let people try them. If you like them, spread the word!

Hmm that viral marketing is getting more and more popular and don’t forget to buy the odd dead tree version. Stroll over to In Pictures: Computer books based on pictures, not text. and check them out. The subjects covered are

computer basics
Windows XP – Mac OS X Tiger – Linspire – Palm Devices

microsoft office
Access 2003- Excel 2003 – PowerPoint 2003 – Word 2003 – Publisher 2003
Base 2.0 – Calc 2.0 – Impress 2.0 – Writer 2.0

web layout
Dreamweaver 8 – FrontPage 2003 – HTML & CSS

web graphics
Photoshop CS2 – Fireworks 8 – Photoshop Elements 4.0

web programming
MySQL Basics – PHP Basics – PERL Basics

Its a pretty wide list. The PDF’s are quite of readable resolution and the content is pretty good. Worth a look.

Now if fiction is more your cuppa,

BMW has commissioned four short stories that feature their cars (makes a change from the butler did it) and produced audiobooks of them, which are available as free, non-DRMed MP3s on their site. They require an unverified email address to get you in.

Presently, they’re featuring stories by Don Winslow, James Flint, Simon Kernick and Karin Slaughter. From the site…

Put on your seatbelt and prepare for highs, lows and plenty of twists and turns. BMW, in conjunction with Random House, brings you BMW Audio Books, a unique series of specially- commissioned short stories showcasing the work of some of the finest contemporary writing talent. Each gripping audio book is yours to download for free. Listen to them on your MP3 player, your laptop or ideally, in the car. So sit back, hit play and enjoy the ride.

Download them from BMW and pop them on your MP3 player or PC and make car driving noises while you are listening.

Brmmm Brm Brm Squeal brrrrmmmmmmm ….