Happy Halloween 2009

Just wanted to say Happy Halloween to everyone this year! I hope to see some good costumes this year!

Just to let everyone know, if you dress up as Digsby or just take a picture of yourself dressed as Digsby then you can win a free t-shirt!

I hope everyone catches at least one good Halloween movie today! Have fun!

Opera 10.10+ Wishlist

Now that Opera 10.10 Beta 1 is out, the Desktop Team has calmed down a bit with fresh snapshot releases. I take this as a sign that Opera 10.10 Final is very near. On that note, I decided to throw together a list of changes I would like to see greeting us on the road to the next big release.

There is no particular order to the following wishlist items, but they are a bit rambled on…

Wishlist

  • Download Opera updates via BitTorrent technology that is already present in Opera to take the bulk of the stress off of servers and mirrors for those already running Opera.
  • Allow Opera to download efficient updates. Instead of downloading the entire installer each time, why can’t Opera download the changes and apply them to the present installation (updating the version of course)? This could dramatically improve the length of time it takes to update Opera, especially on slow connections.
  • Remove the Unite Applications that are installed by default with Opera and download them when they are needed. I extracted the classic installer for Opera 10.10 Beta only to find that the Unite Applications that are installed by default consume approximately 2.12mb, thus dramatically increasing the installer download size! Why couldn’t these be installed via the Internet when the user decides to activate Opera Unite?
  • [done] Install Opera with an Operating System focused skin by default. Opera for Mac is already installed with a tweaked default skin, but what about the rest of us? The current default skin is a major improvement over skins in the past, but on Windows 7 it really doesn’t fit the feel. This is one reason that a lot of people stray away from Opera.
  • Update skins, widgets, unite applications, userjs, usercss, etc. Why has a proper updating system not been put into place to alert you of a skin update? Or to alert you that your favorite widget just got updated and you’re using one that’s a year old? It seems that this may happen with Opera Unite eventually, but what about the content that we’ve used loyally for years?
  • A real User Javascript manager solution. We all know that Firefox has a wealth of add-ons available and one of those just happens to be the equivalent of what I’m talking about. Why has Opera supported User Javascript for so long, yet left the benefits hidden to most users by not supplying an easy solution? There is currently a very handy UserJS manager that has been implemented by an Opera user via an Opera Unite Application.
  • Better memory usage and garbage collecting. If you’ve ever opened several tabs (we’ll say 50+) and worked your way through most while closing them as you go, then you know that Opera’s memory footprint can grow madly. One thing you might have assumed, but not been aware of is that when you close these tabs and empty the trash…there is no release of all of that memory that Opera just claimed. While many loyal Opera fans will tell you that Opera gives this memory back if it’s “really” needed, it shouldn’t just hang onto it in the first place. We all want an optimized application, shouldn’t that be try for memory usage as well?
  • Opera Dragonfly updates! I remember when Opera Dragonfly updates were fairly often and sometimes significant changes would appear even between snapshot updates! Opera Dragonfly has slipped out of the spotlight due to limitations on updates that depend on Core updates in Opera itself. With or without these limitations, I’m sure we would all like to see how Dragonfly is improving. One improvement I’d like to see (that has already been mentioned by @hicksdesign) is UI integration with the rest of Opera and the current skin. Other than that, editing of style sheets in entirety on the fly is one of my most craved updates. A ruler or grid would be nice as well as not having to reload the page before editing it. Also, I’d like to have Opera Dragonfly open on one page while not seeing it on every page that I switch to. ;)
  • UserJS on HTTPS prompts at startup are driving me insane! Why Opera hasn’t implemented an option to ignore this prompt is beyond me. It could easily be configurable via opera:config, but continues to annoy the users who are well aware of what they are doing in the first place.
  • More options synchronized via Opera Link. Also, why can we finally have a completed web front-end to Opera Link? I’m tired of not having passwords stored in the Wand for one computer that I know are saved on another. Shouldn’t all of these settings be synchronized by now? Opera Link (it seems like) was released ages ago and is still far from feature complete!
  • General polishing on common bugs that are persistent in Opera such as redraw bugs, Google Gears and other Google products that just seems to hate working with Opera (Google Wave).
  • [done] A faster JavaScript engine! Frankly, I’m tired of the whole battle over which browser is faster strictly based on Javascript, but the differences at this point in the game are a little ridiculous. Opera apparently has a full team working on the next javascript engine for Opera, named Carakan, and I think we would all welcome it into the next Opera release with arms wide open.
  • One thing about the BitTorrent dialog bugs me. I usually select to use my default torrent application rather than Opera which happens to be uTorrent, but the “Open” and “Save” buttons can be a bit confusing. Why would these not be relabeled to “Start” and “Save“? The Opera download manager already uses the Resume and Restart terminology so it would make more sense to me if it were consistent. If you think about it as follows you might find the confusion: So, I want to save this torrent to my computer right? Or do I want to Open it? What’s the difference? Oh, so apparently save only saves some weird “.torrent” file to my computer. I guess I needed to click open. Shouldn’t they have named it start…or something more logical? :P
  • During Fullscreen mode I often wish I had an easy access bar that I could hover that would drop down the tabs and address bar for tabs open in the current windows, similar to how Firefox manages tabs in Fullscreen mode. I don’t understand why Opera makes this task so out-of-the-way.
  • [done] Windows 7 Jump Lists featuring frequently opened tabs as well as currently open tabs and maybe the last x number of closed tabs.
  • [done] Windows 7 Aero and tabs pulled up into the title bar for more space efficiency.
  • Source View updates. Any update to the source viewer would be welcome. This feature of Opera has been abandoned for far too long (…remind you of Duke Nukem Forever anyone?).
  • [done] I think Opera should remove the Rewind and Fastforward navigation buttons (as well as the home button) by default (for fresh installations). These buttons tend to simply add clutter to the navigation bar for new users who will most likely never use them intentionally. I’ve even started removing them first thing for all instances that I install for friends and family just so that Opera has a simple default feel. Simplicity is one reason that so many people are flocking to Google Chrome.

Have other wishlist items that I forgot? Leave ‘em in the comments!

LifeCam Button Config v1.0.0.0

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I’ve just written a tool that lets you bypass the default Windows Live Messenger prompt when you press you LifeCam’s button on top.

It can be a little annoy, but the good news is that now you can open or focus any application you want with the click of that button.

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As you can see from the image above, I’ve made a simple browse option so you can easily find the file you want. When you open this tool it will automatically display the path to the program that is currently set to open.

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If you later decide that you want to just use the default application (the one set before you change anything) then it’s only a couple of clicks away!

Currently the implementation used could be error prone. I have written the application to “assume” that the default application should be installed to “C:\Program Files\Microsoft LifeCam\icepick.exe” for 32-bit computers and to “C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft LifeCam\icepick.exe” for 64-bit computers.

If problems are experienced with this then please let me know. It may be better to scan for the application rather than to assume it’s in that location, but typically it should always be in that location.

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Thanks for checking out this little tool! I hope you find it helpful. If you’re curious about the source code just fire off an email! It’s currently written in Visual Basic 2008, but could easily be ported to another language especially since I overly document code so others know what I’m doing. ;)

Download163kb

LifeCam VX-1000 Live Call Button Hack

After digging into process and id’s I was able to track down the Guid for the Microsoft LifeCam VX-1000 and inspect several settings assigned to it via the Windows Registry.

As it turns out, there is a very simple hack to use the Windows Live Call button for any program you’d like!

I don’t have time at the moment to write a script or a program for this, but you can manually configure your webcam to open a program. If it’s already open then pressing the Windows Live Call button will simply bring it back into focus.

So far, I’ve only tested this button to open and focus Digsby and Opera, but it could in theory be used to call and or focus any application.

If you’re a little sketched about editing your Registry then that’s a sign that this hack isn’t for you and you should wait until I (or someone else) releases a tool that suits you.

If you’re still reading, then you probably want to get rid of that annoying Windows Live prompt. ;)

  1. Open up RegEdit.
  2. Navigate through the Registry to the following location:
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\ControlSet001\Control\Class\{6BDD1FC6-810F-11D0-BEC7-08002BE2092F}\0000\Settings
  3. The key that you want to edit is conveniently labeled “QuickStartPath“.
  4. Just change this key to the direct path of any file you want to launch. You can test that it works immediately after saving the key. No need to close RegEdit until you’re done.

If it works, great! You’re done! If not, then you’ve done something wrong.

Remember that the original file that was being launched was something similar to “C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft LifeCam\icepick.exe” depending on your platform. Mine is 64-bit, so you’re may not need the “ (x86)” specific Program Files directory (if you’re using a 32-bit computer).

If I find some free time soon I may write a simple program that can be called to do more than just open your messenger. Possibly start a video chat with someone who just signed on. We’ll see in time. ;)

Enjoy this little hack!

Microsoft LifeCam VX-1000

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I just recently bought a new webcam via eBay for a great price of $5.50 and have been catching up with some of my Skype friends just for fun.

What’s great about this little webcam is that it has an excellent turning radius and can tilt to just about any angle you need it to.

microsoft-lifecam-vx-1000-front

Another great feature that this webcam offers is the ability to be mounted are rest just about anywhere. The base of the camera opens if you need to hang it somewhere rather than resting it on your desk or tower. The clip can be used to mount it onto your desktop monitor whether it’s an old CRT or a new LCD and it even mounts on very sturdy to my HP Pavilion dv4000 laptop screen.

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The picture quality of this little camera is great. Not surprisingly, you can pay a little more and get even better cameras such as the VX-3000 or the VX-6000.

With a built-in microphone, I was able to give away my old microphone and maintain the same capabilities. :D

My only complaint is that the focus ring around the lens was never mentioned on or in the packaging so it took me a little while to figure out how to get rid of the blur (just rotate the lens to adjust).

The camera even offers a one-click access button on the top of it that can launch video calls instantly for Windows Live Messenger. I don’t use Windows Live Messenger much myself (read: at all), but I figured I could play around with the drivers in a hex editor and figure out how to make the button customizable…maybe open the Digsby or Trillian contact list (who knows) so I wrote an application to make this button customizable.

I had plug-and-play luck in Windows 7 with this webcam, however, Ubuntu 9.10 x86_64 has been less than forgiving. I’ve been searching around for a little while trying to configure my webcam that seems to be detected, but the video that’s displayed is corrupt. It seems that it’s a small problem with a fairly easy fix, but I just haven’t found it yet. At least it’s recognized! Hopefully I can write a script or a guide to get this webcam working in Ubuntu for others…once I get it working for myself of course. ;)

If you’ve been looking for a webcam and debating whether or not to buy one then I would suggest this one. It’s affordable, has everything you need and extremely good picture quality!

Twitter is nearly live (instant)

Screenshot

I’ve noticed lately that when I chat with friends on Twitter it’s very fast!

If I ever have a quick question, I seem to be able to find an answer faster on Twitter than I can call up or email a friend to find out the same information.

General chatting also seems to be equally as fast. Whether you use Twitter via a web browser or a third party client, it’s very convenient and maybe you should drop your instant messenger altogether. :P

Screenshot

Maybe Twitter will come out with webcam support soon, haha.

Windows 7 Wallpaper Slideshow

Kyleabaker.com never ceases to amaze me. Yesterday, after fooling around with the default Windows 7 Wallpaper, I decided to find more Dual Monitor backgrounds and remembered that I had previously uploaded several to my site for others to grab (I do not claim any ownership of these) and I realized that I should use them if I spent the time to upload them for others.

So….I downloaded several of them to my Dropbox folder (to sync my background for Ubuntu and Windows 7). After opening the personalization window (for the first time) I quickly realized that you can use more than one image as you desktop background. You can in fact “check” multiple images to cycle through in a sorted order or in shuffle mode.

I threw a few images in a folder and quickly found out that a continuously changing background can be fun! You should try it too.

My next goal….write a program that fetches the hottest photos from Flickr (and the likes).

Pandora Internet Radio + Last.fm Scrobbling

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Recently I started using Pandora Internet Radio again (I hadn’t used it in ages) to stream various genres of free radio tunes online. Pandora has a wide selection of genres to choose from and comes as a free and a premium service.

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The free service is all I’m looking for and I’m willing to wait for short advertisement breaks from time to time. If you aren’t patient enough for the short pauses in your tunes or just utterly hate advertisements then you can get the premium service for just $36 a year. This is actually a very affordable deal when you break it down to only $3 a month or just $0.75 per week, especially if you use it regularly.

There are plenty of other free or pay for Internet Radio services or services that just let you pick tracks specifically to listen to. If you interested in those then take a look at Slacker, Dora.fm, Deezer, Napster Web Radio, AccuRadio, iLike, Blip.fm or even streaming from the select tracks that are available at Last.fm! There are many others available as well, but for now I’ll only get into Pandora. ;)

I’ve been using Last.fm for nearly two years now scrobbling tracks from my computer via Windows Media Player and Rhythmbox in Ubuntu. The list of audio players that now support scrobbling to Last.fm is far to long to post here, but if you find one that won’t scrobble by default then chances are someone’s written a plug-in to do just that.

One plug-in, or add-on/extension rather, that I recently came across is called LastFM Firefox Extension. This is a nifty little extension that allows you to scrobble tracks from various listed services with Pandora being one of them.

last-fm-firefox-extension

After installing the LastFM Firefox Extension you’ll notice that it ties in nicely with the other extension icons you may use frequently (pictured above is Firebug, Greasemonkey, LastFM Firefox Extension).

You can get a quick glance at the currently playing song without ever leaving your current tab or having to scroll through tabs to find it in the tab title. Right from the icons you can Favorite or Heart the tracks you like. This will favorite them automatically on Last.fm for you rather than making you manually go to Last.fm to do this. You can also tag songs with any tags that you feel fit that specific song using the Tag icon (I personally haven’t found a good reason to use this yet, but you may know of one!).

To get started with this extension, it currently comes in two flavors: Stable and Beta. I don’t typically promote Beta software, but in this case, you’re far better off using the Beta rather than testing your hit or miss luck with the current Stable.

The steps to get this extension aren’t drawn out very well without a bit of digging, but I’ll guide you through:

  • Login to your Last.fm account and join the LastFM Firefox Extension group (this is mandatory).
  • Depending on your luck you may be forced to wait up to 24 hours before you’re granted permission to install the Beta version. It’s well worth the wait (1 day isn’t that big of a deal is it?).
  • After joining the LastFM Firefox Extension group on Last.fm you will need to download the Beta version from the official extension page. It may ask you to verify that you are authorized. This just means you must be in the group on Last.fm and you probably need to of been in the group for 24 hours or more.
  • Once you get the extension installed simply go to Tools -> LastFM and enter you credentials so it can scrobble your tunes!

Depending on when you come across this post, LastFM Firefox Extension may or may not still be in Beta. Feel free to use the current stable version if you prefer to avoid Beta software. Enjoy scrobbling those tunes!