Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Tip: Redownload Deleted or Lost Podcast Episodes (without re-subscribing)

This is very valuable to me...I found it originally through this article

In helping the church podcast their sermons, I've several times deleted a specific episode by accident and not been able to find how to get it back without deleting the subscription and starting over. It's actually quite easy, once you know the trick (that apple doesn't bother to tell anyone or put in a context menu anywhere). Collapse the podcast (so you don't see the individual episodes), then hold shift (or command on a mac) while expanding it again (clicking the gray triangle). You'll see it update, and previously deleted episodes will be listed as available for you to "Get".


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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

BBspot - Top 11 Ways Sony Plans to Celebrate Their Blu-Ray Victory

Fun at Sony's (or is it Toshiba's) expense from BBspot:

Ways Sony Plans to Celebrate Their Blu-Ray Victory
11. Add rootkit code to all Blu-Ray DVDs.
10. Send solid gold fruit basket to Time Warner.
9. Change name of Blu-Ray to something more meaningful. Like HD-DVD.
8. Get unused 'Victory for Betamax' banners out of storage. Edit them for the party.
7. Call guys at Toshiba, and play Beck's 'Loser' over the phone.
6. Watch Rising Sun on their HD-DVD player.
5. Release next generation of Higher-Definition video.
4. Get T-shirts printed up that say, 'The HD stands for Hopeless Despair' and send them to engineers at Toshiba.
3. Raise price on Playstation 3 by $100.
2. Release Gigli on Blu-Ray.
1. Savor the brief moment of victory, while preparing for the next embarrassing defeat.

Really, I'm disappointed that HD-DVD didn't win the format war, or that the dual-format decks didn't render the war moot, because from all accounts, the user experience on the HD-DVDs was better. Oh well, it's history now. I find it interesting that Sony does seem to have only extremes- horrible publicity on their DRM software on their CDs a few years ago, crushing defeat on the PS3, but victory here and with most of their electronics (is there any better name than Sony in TVs?). Maybe it's because they can't stand not to enter a market - they seem to make competing devices just so they own the alternate. (On that note, see another of BBspot's articles from a few weeks ago).

I can only hope that within a few years, movies that were released only on HD-DVD will be re-released on Blu-Ray. At least next-gen doesn't render our current DVD collection worthless. That's the one thing both sides did right in this.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Windows Server 2008 Terminal Services RemoteApp Step-by-Step Guide

RemoteApp appears to be a new mode or feature expanding on the Remote Desktop application (mstsc.exe) in Windows (mostly Vista and Server 2003, though it was back-ported to XPsp2). It allows you to run a PROGRAM on a client computer as a native app, even though it's installed on the server, not the client. It looks to the user like any other program, but it's running from the server. For me, this would reduce latency when I try to run some of my programs at work from home by logging into the server, then logging in from there to my's just not a viable option. This would theoretically allow me to run a program on the server that's installed on my desktop, which would be much faster. It would also allow me to run some of the mmc snap-ins from my desktop without having to log into the server.

Microsoft has a RemoteApp Step-by-Step Guide available. I haven't tried it, and I'm a bit confused that it appears to be strictly server (2003 or 2008)-based; I haven't found the steps for running a program installed on my desktop from the server. I also don't know if we have a license that allows us to install the Terminal Server role (which it says is required on the server to serve the program to the client). I'll have to look into all this.

I found this while looking for information about using WinPE as somewhat of a thin client. I found, to my surprise, that if I copy mstsc* from %windir%\system32 and %windir%\system32\{language} into the same structure on my WinPE disk, that I can run remote desktop quite successfully from the WinPE commandline (this is not the case with other apps, such as ones I've written - probably because of their dependancy on Windows libraries, which aren't available in the WinPE environment). My feeling is that it's not legal to do so, however, which is why I was looking for documentation on this process (never found any). RemoteApp would probably do what I needed anyway, and better, since WinPE is reported to reboot every 24 hours.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008


Started hearing about IE7Pro a few days ago (though it's apparently been popular with savvy users for a while), and thought I'd check into it today.

Simple sum-up: it ROCKS!

The only add-on I've found I really liked in IE7 until now was an inline search replacement for the Find (on this page) popup dialog. The great part is that IE7Pro includes this as just one of its features! (Though it did mean I had to actually uninstall the old app from my Control Panel.) Note that this is just an add-on to your existing IE7 (or 6), not a brand-new standalone browser application.

Other GREAT features are
-ad-blocking (not just popup blocking)
-scripting support and pre-installed useful scripts (customizing gmail, for instance)
-spellcheck-as-you-type (it's been helping me on this post as I type it, though apparently it thinks spellcheck is two words)
-a download manager that you can turn on and off easily
-auto-scroll at a selected speed
-mouse gestures (I'll have to play with these before I decide if I like them)
-crash recovery
-better tab handling (tons of options that you can enable or disable as you like - I disabled most of them because I'm pretty used to IE7's way of handling tabs, though I kept super drag and drop, which lets me open links in new tabs by dragging them anywhere on the page [instead of all the way up to a blank tab])
-undo closing a tab
-syncing your bookmarks across several computers (requires a free account)
-Ctrl+M minimizes IE to the system tray (by the clock) - this is GREAT for me, since I usually have a window open that I don't want taking up room on my taskbar (this is probably among my favorite features, with Spellcheck and inline search)

So far, I highly recommend it. Check out their website for a full list of features.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Vista Hands On #17: Solving a pesky resource problem | Ed Bott’s Microsoft Report |

Great information here, especially for Vista which tends to use more resources. This lets you set the shared desktop heap memory higher so that more windows can be open without those weird visual glitches (missing controls or menus, etc).

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Google Demos Android Prototype

This sounds just great: Google Demos Android Prototype

Gotta love Google! :-) Hopefully these phones will be accepted by all the major carriers, and the hardware will do everything I'm looking for: primarily syncing with Outlook, and standard Wi-Fi access - combining those features and syncing over wi-fi wouldn't go amiss, either. Yay for hardware keyboards - hopefully they don't expect you to dial a phone number only using the 1-0 row of keys above the qwerty-style keyboard...

From Paul Thurrott's original article:

The hardware, while still in prototype form, somewhat resembles a cross between Apple's iPhone and a Blackberry-type device, with both a large screen and a hardware keyboard. But the big deal, of course, is the software, which is simple, easy to navigate, and offers PC-like Web browsing functionality. And Google has opened up Android as an open design that it feels will spur innovation and competition. Unlike Apple's highly proprietary iPhone, Android will be offered on a multitude of handsets from numerous hardware makers, and will ultimately be available via every wireless carrier.

Early reports are very positive, and industry experts seem energized by a platform that should jumpstart PC-like usage scenarios on far more mobile devices. Hardware maker TI, for example, claimed that it was able to get Android running on top of its processor in less than a week because of its open design. And wireless carriers believe that Android will cut the time to market--a longtime weak link in the wireless market--from 18 months to 6 months.


Monday, February 11, 2008

One onOne with Mike Wong: Liquid Resize Public Beta - Update 1/31/2008

One piece of software (Liquid Resize) using the image resizing method that's come to be called 'seam carving' or 'retargeted images' (that I wrote about here) is getting ready to be released to the public- first as a standalone piece of software, then later as a Photoshop plugin.

I really can't wait to play with this software, and I hope that the method or similar concepts becomes as ubiquitous in photo editing applications as the clone stamp is now - I use as a free alternative to Photoshop, but I don't think that Photoshop plugins will work with anything but Photoshop. OK, actually I'm pretty darn sure that's the case. :-)

This is a powerful method that deserves more attention and, in my opinion, greater availability in the future for the average home scrapbooker or web designer to have access to. The blog talking about the beta release is below:
One onOne with Mike Wong: Liquid Resize Public Beta - Update 1/31/2008

As a side note, it's an interesting line here- a tool so powerful that the designers certainly deserve all the credit and monetary profit they can get from their ideas, but that is so useful that everyone really needs access to it. Hopefully the companies that hire(d) all the people that did the early work on this concept will be able to publish commercial software with it, make money on it, reward the people who brought the ideas in, then once it's an accepted and high-demand tool, it will proliferate into free software and they'll be able to move onto other amazing projects like this with the company's support. This tool needs to be out there, just not at the expense of the designer's investment of time and money returning to them empty. Unfortunately, the corporate world of today rarely works like that.

Update: Wikipedia's article on Seam Carving lists some links at the bottom of the page to tools that already offer this ability. I tried most of them (you're welcome) ;-) and found that Seam Carving GUI was by far the best solution. This is very cool technology, and you can bet I'll be using it extensively from here on out.

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Thursday, February 7, 2008

Deploying Vista images to computers

This is the process I've found works best for deploying Vista and pre-installed apps to computers around our office. Most of the information was gotten from or links on that page.

You need two computers for this process:

A technician computer (that will NOT get wiped out during this process - this is the computer you use to burn the disks and install the special software you need for this process)

A master computer (the one on which you set up Vista just the way you want it).

On the technician computer:

First, make a WinPE disk with the tool you'll need to image the master computer (this tool is called ImageX). WinPE means Windows Preinstallation Environment - it's basically a very small operating system that installs to memory only (temporary, and not on your hard drive) and can run special WinPE programs and console programs. ImageX is the tool that takes a snapshot of the hard drive partition and saves it in a file.

-Install WAIK (Windows Automated Installation Kit), downloadable for free from microsoft. The download is an .img file. You'll need a third-party software like Alex Feinman's free .iso powertoy, since an .img file is an image of a CD. When it's downloaded, rename the .img file to .iso, right click and choose to burn to CD. When it's done, put the CD in your computer and install the WAIK software.
-Open up Windows PE Tools Command Prompt from Start Menu
-At the command prompt, type: copype.cmd x86 c:\winpe_x86 and press enter
-This creates the structure you'll need at c:\winpe_x86 - primarily you just need the /iso/ subfolder...this is your source for the WinPE cd image you'll burn
-copy imagex.exe from your c:\program files\waik\tools\x86 into the c:\winpe_x86\iso folder.
-copy the servicing folder from c:\program files\waik\tools\x86 into the c:\winpe_x86\iso folder.
-At the command prompt, type copy c:\windows\system32\msxml6*.dll c:\winpe_x86\iso\servicing and press enter. It will copy probably two files into the servicing folder.
-Create an exclusion list for ImageX by copying and pasting the below lines into notepad, then save it as c:\winpe_x86\iso\wimscript.ini
"System Volume Information"

-Now, you need to write everything in the iso subfolder into an actual .iso file, so at the command prompt, run oscdimg -n -bc:\winpe_x86\ c:\winpe_x86\ISO c:\winpe_x86\winpe_x86.iso
-burn the iso onto a CD by right-clicking the .iso file and choosing to burn it onto CD. Now you've got a bootable CD with all the tools you need on it to image a computer. Label this CD WinPE.

Now we can actually set up and image the master computer.

Do this on the master computer:

-Install Windows Vista like normal. Don't enter a key or activate the computer.
-Set up a user account, login and set up the computer just the way you want it. Install any updates you want, install any programs you want, set the homepage, screensaver, etc. You CAN install MS Office 2007, but don't enter your key or activate it. Don't activate any other programs that tie a single serial to a single computer - you'll still need to do this on each computer you install this image to.
-When it's all just the way you want all your users setup, run c:\windows\system32\sysprep\sysprep.exe /audit /restart
-The computer will restart
-When it restarts, you'll automatically be logged in as Administrator. You'll see a window open called sysprep. DO NOT close this window.
-You need to make the settings you created on the other user's account the default. To do this, click start, right-click computer, and choose Properties. Click the Advanced System Settings on the left. Click the advanced tab, then click Settings in the box labeled User Profiles.
-Highlight the user you created (NOT administrator), and then click the button labeled Copy To... In the Copy profile to box, type in C:\Users\Default, then click Change under "Permitted to use". Type in Everyone and click OK. Now click OK, and you'll see the progress of the user getting copied.
-Now highlight your setup user again and click the Delete button. Click OK on all the open windows to get back to the desktop (DON'T close the sysprep window).
-Now delete the user you created - you don't want this user account showing up on ALL the computers you install this image to. Use User Accounts in the Control Panel to do this.
-Run attrib c:\Users\Default +s +h to set the Default profile back to a hidden system file.
-Now the computer is ready to image. In the sysprep window, check the generalize box, then set the dropdowns to oobe and shutdown. Click OK, and your computer will shut down. It's now 'resealed' and legal to image.

-Now put in the WinPE CD, and restart the computer. It should boot into a command prompt with a Vista aura background.
-Switch to the CD drive (probably D:), then run imagex /compress fast /check /flags "Business" /scroll /capture c: c:\install.wim " My Vista" "Vista with all my programs", replacing "Business" " My Vista" and "Vista with all my programs" with your Vista edition, the name of your install, and a description of the image, respectively. You'll see it imaging the computer - it could take an hour or more.
-Now eject the CD and reboot the computer.
-You'll need to create a new user account to get back into Vista, unless you press Ctrl+Shift+F3 when it asks you for a user name, in which case you'll reboot into Administrator.
-Now you'll see a new file on your C: drive, called install.img. Copy this file to a DVD using Vista's DVD burner. Eject this disk and take it back to your technician computer.

Back on the Technician computer:

-Insert your actual retail Windows Vista DVD. Run xcopy c:\VistaFlat /s replacing with the drive the Vista disk is in. (Usually D:)
-Now you have a copy of the Vista installation disk on your c: at VistaFlat
-Eject the Vista DVD, and instead insert the DVD with install.img that you burned on the master computer.
-Copy install.img into C:\VistaFlat\sources. It will ask you if you want to overwrite the existing file, choose Yes.
-Now open the Windows PE Tools Command Prompt from the start menu, and run oscdimg -n -m -lMyVista -h -bc:\winpe_x86\ c:\VistaFlat c:\MyVista.iso (replacing MyVista with the label you want the DVD to have-two places).
-Now on your C: drive, you'll see a new .iso file (called whatever you replaced MyVista with). Right-click that file and burn it to DVD. Label that disc My Custom Vista Install.

-Now you can use that DVD to install your custom Vista and all your programs on any computer. You'll have to enter the key and activate it on each computer, but that's not a big deal, since you don't have to install ALL your programs manually! Note that you MUST have a key for the version of Vista that you imaged. You can't image Vista Ultimate and expect to install and activate it with a Business key.