Surviving the XP Working Environment – Part 1

By Jake Edwards | Monday, September 27th, 2010 | Permalink | No Comments

Currently in the workplace, Windows XP is the ‘norm’. Disappointingly, Windows 7 has not yet graced the SOE, and by the look of things, it may not for a while yet. In the meantime, I’ve found a few features made my Windows XP SOE a little lacking compared to a standard Windows XP.

ClearType

It still astounds me that this isn’t enabled by default, and our current Windows XP SOE isn’t any different. Below is a link to the ClearType control panel file, which assuming your account isn’t restricted too much (this still runs on a limited Windows XP account), you can adjust and fine tune your computer’s font to make it easier to read.

Adobe Gamma

Corporate-wide desktop distribution often means calibration for multiple monitors (e.g. laptops, desktops) are not taken into account. The Adobe Gamma tool (a similar tool now integrated into Windows 7), is a Windows XP alternative, that may also run without administrative permissions. It allows you to fine tune your displays contrast and brightness  settings, as well as colour information, to make colours appear true.

Distinctive XP Themes

This suggestion may be pushing the boundaries of an SOE, however if you find the default Windows XP blue theme slightly dull, you can install three other known, and Microsoft Certified themes (apart from ‘Silver’ and ‘Olive Green’).

The Royale, Royale Noir and Zune themes are all usable XP themes to make your work environment a little more interesting than Blue, Silver or Olive.

The files will need to be extracted into the C:\WINDOWS\Resources\Themes directory. You will need Administrative privileges to install these files.

Once installed, go to Display Properties, Appearance Tab, then change the Windows and buttons option to the two new options; Media Center Style and Zune Style. The Royale and Royale Noir can be selected under the color scheme field.

More in Part 2…

Synchronizing Lotus Notes with Google Calendar

By Jake Edwards | Monday, August 16th, 2010 | Permalink | No Comments

The Lotus Notes platform cannot sync to Google Calendar.

Synchronize Lotus Notes with Google Calendar

LNGoogleCalSync is a free, open-source solution. It’s a small Java application that will allow you to specify your Lotus Notes details, along with your Google Calendar details, and update any new meetings or appointments from your Lotus Notes calendar to Google Calendar.

Notifications can be transferred as Reminders in Google Calendar, and then also synchronized to a multitude of mobile devices such as iPhones and Android devices.

Regular synchronization of this application is also easy. Running the program with the ‘-silent’ parameter, will hide any GUI prompts. Task Scheduler can be used in Windows XP, Vista and 7, to allow for regular synchronization updates.

The main website seems to be slightly out of date, in terms of information, however the download link will still provide you with the latest version from the Source Forge project page.

Visit the LNGoogleCalSync Website!

Windows 7 Jump Lists: Troubleshooting Missing Items

By Jake Edwards | Friday, June 25th, 2010 | Permalink | 11 Comments

Windows 7 Jump lists are brilliant… until they break :P.

My personal primary use of this tool includes pinning my lecture notes to products from the Office Suite, as well as folders with subject information for quick access.

Unfortunately, I’ve experienced a slight issue, in particular with the Office 2007 Word jump list. While I am now using Office 2010, I felt the problem and subsequent solution was worth publishing should anyone else, still using Office 2007, experience the same issue.

The problem in question; Occasionally I have found that the Jump Lists would be cleared for no apparent reason, and would not allow any documents to be pinned, nor update with any recent documents. This left me with a jumplist like the picture below;

From a technical perspective, the reason behind this is still unknown, however a solution does exist. After some Googling lead me to this post, with a subsequent solution to the problem. While the solution won’t restore the previously pinned items, it will allow you to pin new items, and restore the ‘Recent Items’ functionality.

  1. Navigate (e.g. using Start > Run) to;
    • %APPDATA%\Microsoft\Windows\Recent\AutomaticDestinations\
    • %APPDATA%\Microsoft\Windows\Recent\CustomDestinations\
  2. To prevent losing the existing jump lists for other applications, cut all the items out of that folder, and place them somewhere secure.
  3. Add an item (e.g. any file) into the specific drop-list that was malfunctioning.
  4. Restore the previously backed up items, remembering to not replace any duplicates. This will restore your other jump lists, while also fixing the broken one.

If that doesn’t fix the issue, you can also delete all of these files, in both folders, safely. However, you will lose any pinned items in any other applications on the taskbar.

You should now be able to pin new items to the jump list! Additionally, recent items should start appearing as you view new files and documents.

Keyboard and Mouse Cleaning

By Jake Edwards | Friday, April 16th, 2010 | Permalink | 1 Comment

So you’re wondering what on earth Shadow Productions could do to help with your cleaning routine? Well, not much really — however I can at least appreciate the difficulty of cleaning a keyboard and mouse, especially that of a gamer…

The odd situation is, that I tend to clean my keyboard while having the computer on — while voice chatting or waiting for a new game to install, I subconsciously clean the keyboard, but also tend to write an essay of jargon at the same time from accidental key presses.

This application, “Keyboard and Mouse Disabler” has only one known purpose so far, and that is to make cleaning your keyboard and mouse peripherals easy. With a few clicks, your mouse and keyboard will be temporarily disabled, preventing accidental key presses and mouse clicks — then it’s cleaning time 🙂

There is no install required, it runs straight from the download. While this may seem to be a rather trivial application to release, I thought why not. If someone finds a use for it — great 🙂

Download Keyboard and Mouse Disabler!

Office 2010 Beta

By Jake Edwards | Sunday, November 22nd, 2009 | Permalink | No Comments

I was trying out the Office 2010 beta today and decided to share the new office experience with a few pictures.

You can download the beta edition by visiting this website, then pressing “Get it Now” on the top right. Follow the steps and the ‘Download Now’ buttons, and you are on your way.

Apart from some ribbon GUI revamping, the only things that really stood out were the flashy new startup logo, and a new File/Print/Info menus that work a lot better when compared to previous versions of Office. The ribbon is a welcome change to all products across the Microsoft Office suite, including Publisher and Outlook.

Below are some screenshots of the new GUI across various applications of the suite. My theme is set to ‘Black’ (setting carried over from Office 2007), however you can find a blue and silver version of Powerpoint in the relevant section. Click the thumbnails to make them bigger.

Word

Word - Main WordInfo WordPrint WordShare WordAbout

Powerpoint

Powerpoint Slide Powerpoint - Blue Powerpoint - Silver

Publisher

PubNew PubPage

Outlook

Outlook - Inbox

“Send a Smile or a Frown”

Like something about Office 2010? or dislike something? You can easily give the Office Team feedback by clicking the smiley or frowning icon in the system tray while running Office.

Send A Smile


“Send a Smile also automatically collections the file location of all processes running on your computer. File locations may include user names and other personal information.” —
Well they do need that information to make the products better I guess… It’s all feedback to improve the process…

Windows SSL Revocation Issues and Woes

By Jake Edwards | Thursday, November 19th, 2009 | Permalink | No Comments

Recently one of my computer began to act strange, visiting HTTPS sites would always result in a notification of ‘certificate revocation’, basically that the HTTPS SSL certificate is no longer ‘valid’ or cannot be checked if it has been invalidated. It started to affect multiple things on my computer, particular Live Mesh, Google Chrome updating and general HTTPS browsing (such as Google email login) — and finding a solution wasn’t easy…

And so, that is why I am posting what I have found so far; in-case someone else has this issue as well… All the troubleshooting steps are assuming an install of Internet Explorer 8 with Windows 7.

Summary

SSL Certificates arn’t able to be checked for revocation on Windows 7 Professional 32-bit and 64-bit RTM.

The problem appears to affect multiple applications, all of which rely on SSL.

  • Live Mesh
  • Google Chrome updates (Error 7)
  • General HTTP Browsing

Solution

This error occurred again once when having installed the proxy application, WideCap.

The solution that fixes the issue is simple; in an elevated command prompt ‘netsh winsock reset‘.

Troubleshooting

These are the following steps I took in order to try and resolve the problem.

Preliminary steps I took to verify basic SSL settings are correct:

  1. Check the date and time to ensure it is correct
  2. Clear the SSL State Cache
    Go into Internet Explorer > Internet Options. Change to the Content tab. Press ‘Clear SSL State
  3. Delete all temporary files in Internet Explorer
    Go into Internet Explorer > Internet Options. On the General tab, under Browsing History, press ‘Delete…‘ then, selecting all options followed again by Delete.
  4. Running a virus scan to ensure nothing malicious was causing the issue.
  5. Checking that the BITS service was not disabled
  6. Running sfc /scannow to verify Windows files were in-tact

Unfortunately, those steps did not resolve the issue. These following, more drastic steps seemed to resolve the issue. I cannot attribute a fix to a specific step they were all performed together.

  1. Resetting Internet Explorer settings
    Go into Internet Explorer > Internet Options. Change to the Advanced tab. Press ‘Reset…‘. Then ‘Reset’.
  2. Resetting the Windows Firewall settings to default
    In an elevated command prompt, type netsh advfirewall reset, then press Enter.
  3. Resetting the WinHTTP and WinSOCKS configuration
    In an elevated command prompt, type netsh winhttp reset proxy, then press Enter.
    Then, type netsh winsock reset, then press Enter.

Preliminary Workaround

The issue affected various applications as noted in the summary. This is the following steps I took to resolve some of the applications and their errors.

  • Disabling revocation check in Internet Explorer options.Go into Internet Explorer then Internet Options, changed to the Advanced tab. Scroll down to the Security section. Uncheck ‘Check for server certificate recovation’ and ‘Check for publisher’s certification revocation’. Note: This reduces web browsing security substantially on the system and therefore finding a solution was a priority.

Cause

So what caused the issue to occur?

  • Used a proxy tunnelling application, WideCap
    This program tunnels programs that don’t support proxy protocols through just that, a proxy. This program may have somehow affected the WinHTTP or WinSOCK areas of the operating system. I will continue to use this application to see if the problem regresses.

This issue occurred once again and could be attributed to the WideCap installation noted above.

I hope this helps someone who has a similar problem, as unfortunately I couldn’t find the issue reported anywhere else on the internet.

My WM5 PDA wont analyse the contents of Rat stomachs!

By Jake Edwards | Monday, September 7th, 2009 | Permalink | 3 Comments

CSI: New York has had me baffled with a hidden feature of solitaire on Windows Mobile 5…

As per the CSI: NY story, the team were checking out whether any rats within an infestation had eaten a bullet from their dead body… So, they pull out a contraption and enter the roof space… however, freeze frame shows Mac Taylor holding this device armed with a game of solitaire.

CSI: NY - PDA
CSI: NY - PDA

CSI: NY - PDA

… after using the secret analysis function of Solitaire, the PDA reported a high reading of Lead… bullet found 🙂

CSI: NY - PDA

Now before someone comments on this post, thinking I’m flaming CSI: NY for their lack of real-ism; I’m not. I know its only fictional; the PDA app they used  just intrigued me, after looking oddly like a good-old game of solitaire :P.

So I was installing my webcam drivers…

By Jake Edwards | Monday, September 7th, 2009 | Permalink | No Comments

My laptop (as most do these days), has a webcam integrated into the screen… On installation of the webcam’s drivers, prompted me with the following message:
Unplug that Integrated Webcam!

Bewildered by this message (which wouldn’t go away until it was ‘unplugged’), prompted me to disable the device in Device Manager… that seemed to fix it… 😉

Intel Turbo Memory Drivers for Windows 7

By Jake Edwards | Sunday, August 23rd, 2009 | Permalink | No Comments

With the release of Windows 7 Beta January 09 and the RC release in May, many hardware developers have actively been developing Windows 7 compatible drivers for their products.

The changes between Windows Vista drivers and Windows 7 drivers are not as involved as the changes between XP and Vista. This means that most hardware drivers written for Windows Vista, most likely work with Windows 7 without any hitches. However sometimes driver installations for Vista can not install correctly. Most ‘driver install problems’ on Windows 7 using drivers ‘made for Vista’, are merely a result of the company blocking installation if the OS is not equal to ‘6.0’ or Vista in other words.

Intel Turbo Memory was affected by this. Intel provided Turbo Memory drivers which were downloadable for Windows Vista however compatible Windows 7 drivers were not to be found until the 17th of August 2009. Visiting the Intel download page for Turbo Memory now reveals a ‘Windows 7’ option in the operating system selection. I have installed these drivers and they appear to work without any hitches, and without any ‘computability’ issues.

The drivers can be found specifically on Intel’s website here.

The musical side of your Operating System

By Jake Edwards | Wednesday, June 17th, 2009 | Permalink | No Comments

Most operating systems, namely Windows and OS X, have a well known set of alert, error and message sounds that have become synonymous with the product…. especially the Windows XP Start-up sound on computers with their volume up to loud >_<

Some users take the time to remix these sounds. As the sounds in the mixes are heard from computers on a daily basis, the song has an odd sense of familiarity, while maintaining quite a unique and catchy tune. Below is a compilation of some good remixes people have posted on YouTube.

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