Archive for September 2009

Autumn Hike Photos

Published on September 28, 2009

I went for a walk yesterday at Eno River State Park, and took a few photos. The Early Autumn Hike album is the result. I am going to try to take more photos over the next few weeks, now that the weather is starting to become much more comfortable. Hopefully I’ll be able to hit up some new trails in the area (there are plenty around that I’ve never walked).

A Gamer’s Memory

Published on September 25, 2009

A few days ago, I installed “Serious Sam: The Second Encounter,” a game I haven’t played for many years. Released back in 2002, SS:TSE is an incredibly fun first person shooter. Though the graphics are dated, the gameplay is as fresh and exciting as ever. If anything, playing this game makes me even more excited for the Serious Sam HD remake that’s coming soon.

What really surprises me, however, is how much I remember about the game. It’s astonishing how, after all these years of having not played Serious Sam, I remember the location of nearly every secret area. I can remember areas where enemies pop up unexpectedly (so I know to be on my guard), and I remember most of the various ammo and health drop locations.

If I were to load up Wolfenstein 3D, I could probably take you to 80% of the secrets in the first chapter of that game. The same thing holds true for Doom, Duke Nukem 3D, and countless other titles that I spent time with when I was younger. Have I really wasted that many brain cells to remember stupid things like this?

Firefox Adding a Ribbon?

Published on September 23, 2009

It is being reporting that Firefox will replace menus with an Office-style ribbon interface. Personally, I couldn’t be more against this. I’m no fan of the Office ribbon (it takes up way too much screen real estate and looks clunky), and I fail to see how this interface will make things better for the user. Mozilla is known for screwing around with the GUI, however, so I won’t be surprised when something like this shows up. I can’t imagine how this change will affect many extensions out there, like Googlebar Lite, that add UI elements.

What do you think about the Office ribbon interface? And what do you think of this decision? Thankfully for me, someone will undoubtedly come out with a theme to fix this stupid design decision. Consider me signed up for it already!

Amazon Wish List Bug?

Published on September 18, 2009

Has anyone seen the following bug with the Amazon wish list system? When I purchase something from my list, the purchased item is no longer automatically removed. Instead, it reports a “quantity received” value, and apparently must be manually removed from the list. This is highly annoying, and applying the “unpurchased” filter doesn’t affect the purchased item’s visibility.

Am I the only one seeing this problem?

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Useful Tool: KeePass

Published on September 18, 2009

For this month’s useful tool recommendation, I’ll be focusing on KeePass, an open-source password manager. Hopefully, everyone has already heard of this application and uses it on a daily basis. KeePass makes it easy for you to manage all of your various passwords in one location, and provides a host of security features for keeping those passwords safe. I personally use the older 1.x line of this tool, but a newer 2.x line has recently been released (and is no longer in beta, so it should be stable and safe to use).

KeePass has a number of features that make it instantly attractive. First, and foremost, it’s an incredibly secure application. Your passwords are stored using either the AES or Twofish encryption standards, both of which are rock solid. The 2.x line of KeePass also features some in-memory protection of the various fields, helping to thwart keyloggers and the like.

Another great feature is the password generator, which is incredibly useful for creating very strong passwords. I’ve used this generator in a number of ways: to create WPA keys for routers, for TrueCrypt file containers, FTP accounts, etc. The password generator offers a host of options on how to format the password you desire, so you can easily fit into any password rule set.

Perhaps the most useful all-around feature is portability. KeePass can be run from a USB key, making it easy to carry all of your passwords around with you. This has gotten me out of some sticky situations at work where I quickly needed a password, and didn’t know it off the top of my head.

If you’ve got a ton of passwords to remember (and who doesn’t?), I heartily recommend KeePass. It’s a tool no one should be without.

Two Lotus Notes 8 Tips

Published on September 15, 2009

At work, we are being forced to Lotus Notes 8 by the end of the year. I recently rebuilt my laptop, and performed this upgrade at the same time. Since doing this, I’ve learned a few things that I thought I would share, seeing as Lotus Notes documentation on the web is very poor.

Tip 1: What to Copy During Upgrade

Apparently, copying your data file from one Notes installation to another isn’t a good idea (more specifically, when changing Notes versions). However, there are a few things worth migrating so you don’t lose all of your previous data. Here’s a short list of things I found worth copying:

  • bookmark.nsf
  • desktop6.ndk
  • {USERNAME}.ID (where USERNAME is your user ID)
  • names.nsf
  • user.dic
  • archive/*.nsf
  • mail1/*.nsf

There are other files worth copying, so I hear, but these were the only ones I cared about.

Tip 2: Removing the MS Office Toolbar

One of the more annoying features of Lotus Notes 8 is a new “Office Add-in” that will appear in all of your Microsoft Office applications. It’s a small toolbar containing three icons and, if you turn it off, it will reappear. You cannot uninstall this feature, but happily, you can disable it. Here’s how:

  1. Open a command prompt.
  2. Change to the \notes\framework\brokerbridge directory.
  3. Issue the following command: regsvr32 /u officeaddin.dll

This will deregister the plugin DLL, preventing the toolbar from showing up in your Office applications.

Mint.com Purchased By Intuit

Published on September 14, 2009

I just found out that Intuit will acquire Mint for $170 million. Though I’m not surprised to hear about this, I’m a little disappointed. Intuit is the company that owns Quicken, so there are now fewer players in this game (which is never good). Time will also tell whether or not the service gets any better or worse as a result of this acquisition. The recent updates to Mint were spectacular, so I’m hoping their momentum continues. Being sucked into a large company, however, is never an easy transition. According to the Mint CEO, Mint will remain a free service, though I can imagine Intuit charging users for a “premium” version of this tool in the future. Only time will tell where this goes.

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Animation: Not Just For Kids

Published on September 9, 2009

A recent newspaper review for the new computer animated movie 9 warned that the movie isn’t necessarily kid-friendly, and that young children will most likely be scared from the post apocalyptic setting. Shouldn’t the PG-13 rating indicate that kids under 13 probably shouldn’t be watching it anyway? Why does the reviewer jump to the conclusion that, because it’s animated, the movie is for kids? It frustrates me that Americans think animation belongs solely to children. The medium should be taken way more seriously than it is. Foreign films like Princess Mononoke (another PG-13 film) are proof that animation can be used successfully for adult topics. Someone out there needs to buck the current trend and develop an animated movie purely for adults; maybe something that’s rated R. Though I can only imagine all the angry parents complaining that the movie was “too adult” for their kids.

Why can’t Americans just grow up?

New Photos and Tweaks

Published on September 2, 2009

A new photo album, Random Collection #3, has just been posted for your viewing pleasure. As the title suggests, the album is a collection of random stuff taken over the last few weeks.

I’ve also made some changes to Monkey Album. Image navigation links no longer span the entire image (there’s a ‘gutter’ in between them now to provide direct access to the image), and a few font tweaks have been made. I’ve also squashed a minor bug.

Monkey Album Pagination

Published on September 1, 2009

I’ve been doing some thinking recently about the pagination of my photo albums in Monkey Album. As of this writing, I have 34 photo albums posted, and they are broken across 4 pages (9 albums per page). My main problem with the current layout is that discovering that there are additional pages isn’t as easy or prominent as it probably should be. Here’s a screenshot of the current layout, with the pagination hints and elements highlighted:

Monkey Album screenshot

My goal is to let the user know that there are more than 9 total albums. The first hint I provide is highlighted at the top of the screenshot, showing that the user is viewing albums X to Y of Z total albums (in the screenshot, we’re viewing albums 1 to 9 of 34 total). This is a helpful hint, but it sort of gets buried in the page. Perhaps the font face and color doesn’t help in this regard (in fact, I discovered last night that the font looks terrible when not using ClearType anti-aliasing). Does this hint feel buried to anyone else?

Page navigation buttons reside at the bottom of the page (the lower highlighted section in the screenshot). As a result of displaying 9 albums per page, and as it appears on my laptop with a screen resolution of 1400 x 1050, the navigation buttons are below the fold (to borrow a newspaper term). In other words, the user has to scroll down to see them. When the buttons do come into view, their small size doesn’t particularly help matters in discovery. In addition, having the “Favorite Photos” section directly beneath them also contributes to their getting lost.

With all that said, however, I’m not certain I know of a way of making my older photo albums, which appear on subsequent pages, more discoverable. Does anyone have any ideas or recommendations on how the current pagination scheme could be improved? I could display all my albums on one long page, but (a) the page becomes quite long, and (b) the Favorite Photos section gets pushed way down the page, losing prominence.

If you have a suggestion or idea for improvement, let me know in the comments!

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