LifeCam Button Config v1.0.0.0

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

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.

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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.

microsoft-lifecam-vx-1000-side

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. 😀

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!

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).

Trillian 4.1 and Windows 7

I’m really digging the new ideas for Trillian 4.1 to integrate better with Windows 7. If you haven’t read about it yet then take a look at this..

Trillian-4.1-W7

Trillian 4.1 will take advantage of the new Windows 7 Taskbar in several ways that will be very beneficial. The most beneficial of these in my opinion is the new way of reflecting the total file transfer progress from the Taskbar button itself!

If you look closely (click the image to view a larger version) then you’ll notice that the background color of the Taskbar button for transfers is a progress bar all of its own. This is a very impressive approach to keeping the visual aid simple and clean (something that I have been disappointed with Trillian in the past for).

Trillian 4.1 will also take advantage of Jump Lists. This is the list you get when you right click an icon in the Taskbar. While most of these options are available by default from right clicking the system tray icon, Windows 7 has made the system tray a little less important in this round by hiding most of your icons by default. This is a very welcome change for me. In the past I always found the system tray icons to been too cluttered and wasteful of useful Taskbar space. You could then and you can still now adjust which icons to show and which icons to hide in the extras arrow, but adding this feature to the Jump Lists may be an even better approach.

In the future I can see a “Frequent” list for the buddies that you chat with most often. Not just adjusting your status and a couple other options.

Last, but not least, the Taskbar button will feature higher quality icons that can easily tell you what your current status is at a glance and look elegant doing so.

There are a few other Windows 7 improvements, but these are the ones that stood out the most to me. If you’d like to see more about Trillian becoming more Windows 7 friendly just take a look at their blog post explaining everything.

I’ve been using Trillian for several years now and I even helped with the Trillian Astra alpha builds way back when. When Digsby came around the corner and introduced frequent updates with a quality interface I nearly ditched Trillian completely. Let’s face it, Trillian’s interface can be a bit overly complex for a simple chat client that’s supposed to make your life easier…right?

Two things that I’d love to see Trillian 4.1 accomplish is to overly simplify the interface and bring those common tasks that we all need right there to the interface rather than hiding them in menus and sub-menus. The second thing which is important to me is operating system integration. They already began work on this, but I think all of us Windows Vista/7 users would like to see a little Aero in our clients so they feel like they could have come prepackaged to work with Vista/7.

If Trillian continues to make these types of improvements (simplifying the interface and making it integrate more with Aero) then I’ll highly consider spending the $25 it costs for a Pro account to support their hard work. 😉

Until then I’ll be switching heavily between Digsby and Trillian Basic until one of them wins me over.

Windows 7…

I’ve been using Windows 7 Professional for a short time now, but I’m already very much impressed.

Not only is Windows 7 faster and more responsive than Windows Vista, it’s also a lot better looking!

Windows Vista had a sorry excuse of an update for the Taskbar, but in Windows 7 the Taskbar has been dramatically improved. The ability to re-arrange programs and icons in the Taskbar freely as well as pinning frequently used icons to the Taskbar is a major enhancement that I now won’t be able to work without!

While many past reviews from others have related and/or compared the new Taskbar to the pre-existing Mac Dock, I beg to differ. While skin deep the Taskbar and Dock appear to have a great number of similarities, they are far from the same.

One of my favorite features of the new Taskbar is the way the application icon appears to be stacked when multiple windows are opened. The thumbnail view of applications and windows is also a very nifty feature, especially when you have several multiple windows open that you can choose from.

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Windows 7 has an awesome new focus feature that basically makes every application that isn’t in question become transparent. In the image below, I’ve hovered over the Taskbar thumbnail for Opera. The effect is that only this window will appear and others will fade away, as seen by the translucent appearance of the Windows Media Player window.

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If you want to view the desktop, there’s still a button to do that. However, the button is no longer just a quick links shortcut and is now a built-in part of the (end of the) Taskbar. Clicking this button will minimize all open windows. Clicking it again will restore those windows to their original state.

The cool new feature, however, is that if you hover this button for a few seconds, the open windows will fade out so you can see through to the desktop and not actually move any windows.

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For some reason with Windows Vista I never found the Desktop Gadgets to be useful. Somehow they always managed to be, or seemed to be, in my way. With Windows 7 the Desktop Gadgets can be very useful and have thus far seemed to be completely out of my way.

There are a great number of other enhancements to Windows 7, but the updated Taskbar is by far the most useful for me. After using Ubuntu for so long and developing a pride in Linux, it’s amazing how quickly Windows 7 has won my support!

The visual effects found in Windows 7 can be implemented fairly completely in Linux using the KDE environment. I’m personally not a big fan of KDE, preferring Gnome much more instead. To me, KDE is a great environment in concept, but the icons and graphics in general seem to be off very poor taste and KDE feels overly complicated for such a shiny interface. This is where Windows 7 has done a great job with a clean and simple interface as well as a nice set of icons and graphics.

One very useful program that I highly recommend is UltraMon. Another alternative application for this is DisplayFusion, though I’ve never tested it. I’ve been using UltraMon for a few years now as a way to extend the Windows Taskbar across multiple monitors for XP, Vista and now Windows 7 (with the latest beta).

I’m still unsure as to why Microsoft refuses to implement the ability to stretch the Taskbar across multiple windows by default. This is very easily accomplished on most other platforms.

I’m sure others have found Windows 7 to be a major improvement. I’d really like to hear some opinions on Windows XP vs Windows 7 since there is still such a large group of Windows XP supporters. I’d especially like to hear some views of XP being better than 7. 😀

Install Boxee in Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty x86_64

After coming across details regarding Boxee and the extended number of sources that it can pull videos from, I just had to give it a test drive.

First of all, Boxee is a media player that is being developed for multiple platform use. It’s not restricted to videos and is able to stream music from Pandora as well as Last.fm.

One of the first things that I noticed upon registering for Boxee (which is free) was that it is currently only available for Mac and Ubuntu. A Windows version is in development, however, it’s not currently possible to get an install of the alpha/beta Windows builds.

To further disappoint me just a bit, I found that the installers for Ubuntu were for 32-bit machines only. fortunately there is that geeky thing you can do called “force-architecture” or “force-all”. 😛

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After using my online best friend (Google) I was able to come across several guides for installing Boxee on Ubuntu 9.04 64-bit. Some of them were correct and some of them weren’t. Some of them were scattered and unorganized and…well…none of them were pathetically easy to follow.

That’s why you’re here. 😉

If you want to install Boxee on Ubuntu 32-bit, just follow the installation instructions provided after registering. If you’re installing in Ubuntu 64-bit (Jaunty Jackalope I might add) then please continue.

Installation

  1. Install “getlibs-all” by downloading it from here and double clicking to install or by copy/pasting the following terminal commands. (More details about getlibs here).
    wget http://frozenfox.freehostia.com/cappy/getlibs-all.deb
    sudo dpkg -i getlibs-all.deb
  2. wget http://apt.boxee.tv/dists/jaunty/main/binary-i386/Packages.gz
  3. zcat Packages.gz | grep Filename
  4. Make sure that the bold part in the following command matches the file name from the above command (ignoring the jaunty and intrepid folder differences).
    wget http://apt.boxee.tv/dists/intrepid/test/binary-i386/boxee-0.9.11.5777.deb
  5. sudo dpkg -i –force-all boxee-0.9.11.5777.deb
    sudo dpkg -i –force-architecture boxee-0.9.11.5777.deb
  6. The following command may take some time to complete, however, be patient and wait for getlibs to prompt you whether or not to install additional libraries to make Boxee work on your machine. Be sure to answer yes or y. 😉
    getlibs /opt/boxee/Boxee
  7. sudo apt-get install lib32nss-mdns

After being patient and completing these (honestly) few steps, you should be able to launch Boxee from the application menu and start enjoying some Internet videos!

For further reading or more detailed/technical instructions please see the source thread of this process.

Also, for the record, Netflix Watch Instantly does not work in Boxee for Ubuntu as far as I can tell (due to the lack of DRM support).

I hope I’ve been able to help in some way. Best of luck with Boxee!

Trillian Astra Now Open to the Public

If you’ve been keeping up with this blog for a while, then you may know that I’ve been testing Cerulean Studios’ latest version of Trillian which has been coined for some time as “Astra”.

Trillian gained a great deal of popularity in recent years when Trillian 3 was released and harnessed instant messenger features that had never before been seen.

Today, Cerulean Studios officially removed the restricted access and have made Trillian Astra available to everyone! Just head on over to the download page if you want to check it out!

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While Trillian Astra is still not in a final release stage, it should be close enough for you to depend on as your main messenger.

I will be interested to see how Trillian Astra competes with Digsby now that they are both openly available to the masses.

The day the Music Died..in Ruckus

ruckus_shieldRuckus, which was once a source of free music in a legal way of obtaining it and was based on advertisements. The way that I was introduced to Ruckus was through my University and I found it to be a pretty good service even with the DRM protected content.

Over the weekend, however, I found that upon visiting Ruckus.net I was greeted with an “Unfortunately the Ruckus Service will no longer be provided” message.

At first I thought I must be at the wrong website, maybe a fake one. Nope, it’s true and it was for me without warning.

Oddly enough, I had just used the service on February 5 and it turned out that the very next day they closed their doors.

For those of you who spend a lot of time building a DRM protected library in Ruckus, I’m sorry to say that your music will slowly become unplayable. Your best bet is to find an alternative or get to cracking that protection as soon as possible. 😉

I turned to a service that I had looked into in the past, but never got around to trying. SpiralFrog will hopefully be a good replacement to Ruckus for me, but so far I’ve been disappointed to say the least with their song and artist selection of available for download tracks.

Another thing that I dislike about SpiralFrog is the fact that the download manager seems to only handle one song at a time and is fairly poor at doing even that!

Ruckus was capable of downloading multiple tracks at once and downloaded them very fast through the client which was a download manager and player all in one (a long with the advertisements).

ruckus-client

Are there any other good alternatives that I should look into that are legal and free?

Free Windows Vista to Windows 7 Upgrades

windows 7 startup boot screenAccording to Tech ARP, Microsoft has been drafting a plan that will allow some Windows Vista users to upgrade to the next version of Windows, Windows 7, for free.

This upgrade plan, which is temporarily named “The Windows 7 Upgrade Program,” is being developed in order to “assist Microsoft’s OEM partners in minimizing the number of end users who may postpone acquiring a new computer because of the impending release of the Windows 7 operating system. This program allows OEMs to offer an upgrade to Windows 7 to end users who qualify.”

While plans and drafts have been developing since December 10, 2008, there is still no official word on the exact eligibility rules. However, according to a draft, eligibility will apply as follows and a requirement must be met before you are eligible.

End users must purchase a new PC that is pre-installed with an eligible Windows Vista Operating System (OS), during the program eligibility window.

The PC must have a valid Certificate of Authenticity (COA) attached.

The only Windows Vista® versions eligible for the program are :

  1. Windows Vista® Home Premium
  2. Windows Vista® Business
  3. Windows Vista® Ultimate

* Microsoft Windows Vista® Home Basic, Windows Vista® Starter Edition, and Windows® XP (all editions) are not qualifying products under the program.

The Program does not support multiple upgrades for medium, large, or enterprise customers. Customers that want to upgrade multiple PCs should use the appropriate Microsoft Volume Licensing program. See www.microsoft.com/licensing for more details.

The following are the only valid upgrade paths under the program :

  1. Windows Vista® Home Premium -> Windows® 7 Home Premium
  2. Windows Vista® Business -> Windows® 7 Professional
  3. Windows Vista® Ultimate -> Windows® 7 Ultimate

For those of us who forked out the cash to buy Windows Vista Ultimate, it looks like we are getting the shaft end of the deal to the extreme. If the program is revised and Vista Ultimate users are allowed an upgrade then I will continue to support Microsoft with future releases. However, if I am forced to purchase Windows 7 after having purchased Vista Ultimate with absolutely no benefits then I plan to simply boycott Microsoft. (Period).

My One Year Anniversary With Netflix

As you can tell from the goofy title, I’ve been with Netflix for one year now!

I must say that I’ve loved the service! I use the Watch Instantly feature daily and get two in the postal mail every 3-4 days!

I recommend it to all of my friends if you don’t have it already. If you’re even the slightest bit tech savvy then you’ll also find that it’s easy to stream movies from Watch Instantly to your television!

My laptop has an S-Video out and my television at home has an S-Video in. If you’re not sure what S-Video is then here’s an image.

s-video-port s-video-cable

The image on the left is the port that you should look for on your television and computer, while the image on the right is the cable that connects the two. You can click on the images to view a larger version.

The only problem that some of you may run into after getting the two connected is figuring out how to switch the computer view to an output source. I won’t go into too much detail on that since there will be far too many computers and layouts for me to cover, but simply put there is typically a button on your keyboard up on the top row that will toggle output sources. You may need to use a key combination such as the function key and the output source key which for me is Fn+F4.

I hope that helps and for those of you who suddenly realized the potential of Netflix (and other video sources such as Hulu), I hope your on your way to streaming more. 😉