Windows 7 Settings

So I ran across a cute little trick today that was apparently doing the rounds in January, but I never ran across it. It’s to make it easier to get to all the settings under Windows 7. It works with earlier versions of Windows as well, but apparently will crash 64-bit Vista.

What you want to do is create a new folder with the name XXX.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}, where XXX can be whatever you want (I called it “Master Settings”, but the rest of it, from the . to the closing }, should be exactly as written. This is a developer feature built into Windows; if you create a folder with the extension {YYY}, where YYY is a class ID, only the first part of the filename is shown and it does cool stuff. In this case, it gives you a search folder containing all the various controls you’d normally find in assorted folders in the Windows Control Panel.

If you’re like me, it can be difficult to remember where everything is. You can use the search to find it, which actually works pretty well, assuming you remember what it’s called, but it’s cool to have all the options available in one place.

One thing people have reported is that, should you decide to delete the folder, you might need to start the computer in safe mode. Additionally, while I haven’t tried it yet, there’s the possibility that this trick could allow users to get into settings that they normally shouldn’t. Depending on how you look at it, that could be a good thing or a bad thing; I’ve definitely been in situations where I had to tolerate a minor annoyance because I didn’t have sufficient access to change a setting!

Anyway, not exactly world-shaking news, but I thought I’d share. I’ve been using Windows 7 since the beta and I’m pretty happy with it; on the whole, it seems to work pretty well.

Granted, my websites are still going to run under Apache! :-)

Up to 1 year free webhosting at 1&1

I’ve been using 1&1 webhosting for about a decade now; I got in on a “3 years free” package they were offering and never saw any reason to leave afterwards. I actually ended up upgrading from the basic plan to their $10/month business plan, which includes 3 domains and 250gb of web space, and I have about 30 domains with them. Someone who just wants to hold a small personal site would probably be happy with the beginner plan, which provides 10gb of space for $4 per month. As of last year, all plans offer unlimited bandwidth.

One possible issue is that while they provide a reasonable number of mySQL databases (50 with my plan), they are limited to 100MB apiece, which may be restricting for large dynamic sites; I’ve only recently started putting up WordPress sites, so we’ll see if that actually becomes a problem.

Anyway, the current promotion is 1 year free for a home account (150gb, 2 domains, $7 per month regular price) or 3 months free for the business or developer accounts. If you’re looking for a new provider, they’re probably worth a look.

Upgrading Old Sites to WordPress

I have a book review site that I’ve been updating on and off for over half a decade now; in fact, out of curiosity, I looked up the original (part particularly good!) 2004 design in the Wayback Machine. I’ve gone through, I believe, three different HTML editors, starting with NetObjects Fusion and eventually upgrading to Dreamweaver; my wife actually created the last design. The site never seemed to get updated much, though, partially because it’s a pain to do.

Enter WordPress! A quick installation, a few minutes moving over some of my reviews, and bingo..a shiny new site that couldn’t be easier to update! While I’m in the process of learning to create my own themes (the plan is that Brit will design new WordPress themes and I will code them), for now I used one of the free themes available on the net. It’s not exactly what I want – if nothing else, where are way too many links on the main page (although that may have changed by the time you read this, as I’ll be doing a bit of editing) but it works, was easy to install, and it looks good.

Why am I ramping this up now? I’ve recently been added to the list of regular reviewers with O’Reilly, so I’ll be getting a number of books from them; I’ve been wanting to get into web programming and thought that forcing myself to do regular reviews was a good way to do that. I’m also looking into possible book review columns in a few magazines and I needed some reviews to demonstrate to interested editors.

Anyway, this is what I love about WordPress: even for a site that’s not really a blog (at first I wasn’t even going to turn on comments), it makes keeping your content updated very easy. People think of WordPress as being just for blogging, but it really is a complete content management system.

Why I Love Amazon Prime

Several weeks ago, Brit ordered a large tent for the wedding from an Amazon third party seller, Aubuchon Hardware. The delivery window extended through July 22nd.

On the 21st, it still showed as “shipping soon”, so she emailed them to find out what was up. Their reply? It was backordered and expected around the end of the month. !!!

Obviously, she told them to cancel the order. Amazon doesn’t sell that particular tent themselves, but they sell a slightly better version that costs quite a bit more; on the bright side, we didn’t have to pay the $65 shipping. The page said that it would take an extra 4-5 days to ship, so I paid $3.99 for next day shipping to make sure it’s here in time for the wedding next week. This happened two days ago.

Yesterday afternoon, the tent was delivered. $4 for next-day delivery of a tent that, according to Amazon’s page, weighs 119 pounds (142 pounds shipping weight), and we don’t have to deal with incompetent sellers.

At $79/year for the Prime membership (and free this year with my student email account), that’s what I call a bargain!

Photos of Central City

A few weeks ago, after a day spent preparing for the wedding, Brit and I decided to grab the camera, hop in the car, and head west towards the mountains. Brit suggested Lookout Point, but before we arrived we decided to just keep going; eventually we decided to follow the signs to “Hidden Valley” and ended up in Central City.  I’ve been meaning to check it out for a few years, but wasn’t intending to do it this month! We went in to one of the casinos and lost $5 in a video poker machine for the heck of it, but mostly we just wandered around and took photos.

I thought I’d go ahead and post a few of the pictures here. These have not yet been photoshopped or altered in any way, with the obvious exception of shrinking down the file size so this page doesn’t take forever to load! The photos were all taken with my Nikon D300 using a Tamron 17-50 f/2.8.

Continue reading Photos of Central City

What I’m Reading

I’ve been reading quite a bit of different material lately; here’s a quick roundup.

As I mentioned last week, I recently finished and reviewed SEO Warrior by John Jerkovic; I’m currently reading books on iPhone application design and Javascript programming, which I hope to finish by the end of the month, and I have one on PHP I’ll be reading after that. I’m currently looking for full-time work, and I’ve always been interested in web development, so I decided to take advantage of whatever free time I have to pick up the skills that are in demand in this area. Thanks go out to O’Reilly for keeping me supplied with good books lately!

FiveThirtyEight has an interesting article, with discussion, about the history of countries cutting spending during a recession. The Baltic states, for example, slashed spending immediately after the credit bubble popped in 2008, and have since suffered the deepest recessions in Europe. China, on the other hand, increased government spending with a massive (relatively the world’s largest, although smaller than America’s in absolute dollar terms) that went towards infrastructure (as I’ve argued that most of ours should have); as a result, not only is the country being upgraded, but wages are actually increasing.  In fact, China’s economy grew by 8.7% in 2009.

I’m currently contributing five articles per month to BrightHub, mostly on the topics of college and graduate school (actually, all of my articles are in those two areas right now, but I’ll also be writing on family friendly games and web development). So far my most popular article by far is the one on choosing a PhD thesis topic, though  the one on PhD requirements is a strong second. Occasionally I’ll just browse through the articles and see if I find anything interesting. Today I ran across this cute Sunday School lesson about creation; if I still taught Sunday School I could totally see doing something like this.

Next week I’ll want to start reading up on the hot deals in Vegas in preparation for the honeymoon; we already got half-price tickets for Cirque,  but there are a number of other shows we’d like to see. I particularly want to see Lance Burton, since I just missed his last show when we were there before and this will apparently be his final season.

Have a .edu email address? Get Amazon Prime free has a cool promotion going – sign up for Amazon Student and get a free year of Amazon Prime (and they reserve the right to possibly extend that). For those not in the know, Amazon Prime is a $79 a year service that entitles you to free second day shipping on anything that’s eligible for free super saver shipping (ie, pretty much everything Amazon sells); next day shipping costs $3.99 per item.

When I saw this posted on Lifehacker, I ignored it at first because I already have Amazon Prime; I got in on a free trial years ago and found it to be too useful to do without.  Then a friend of mine who also has Prime added her student account and found that they canceled the remainder of her Prime subscription, refunded her for it, and signed her up for the free year. That got me moving; it turned out I was only a few months from renewal, so I got a year free and a $13 refund on my subscription. Woot!

Scam, scam, scam

I hardly ever get chain emails, because I have a tendency to do a “reply all” debunking everything in them, which annoys the people sending them. I don’t know if they stopped sending them or just stopped sending them to me; either way, mission accomplished!

However, my dad still gets them and he’ll pass them on to me to ask if there’s any truth in them (there generally isn’t). The latest one I got is regarding HR 1388, The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which expands the size of Americorps and other volunteer programs. The email claims that Congress and President Obama  are secretly spending over $20 million to bring members of Hamas to the United States.

As with many email scams, it pulls from several actual bills to create something that will fool the gullible. HR 1388 is a real bill, that has nothing to do with Hamas, and Obama really did sign an order authorizing $20.3 million towards humanitarian needs in Gaza, on top of the $27.5 million that Bush  allocated for the same purpose two years earlier. Neither, of course, had anything to do with bringing members of Hamas (or anyone else) to the US.

Really, people, there’s a pretty simple rule you can follow: if you get it through email and it makes outrageous claims, particularly about the democrats in Congress, it’s almost certainly not true. I’ve gotten dozens of such emails, all of them claiming that Obama or (before Obama) the democrats were doing something nasty, and every single one was easily and demonstrably false; in fact, in every case, a quick trip to Snopes provided documentation to that effect. If you must pass on chain letters, fine, but please, take three minutes to do a little basic research; otherwise, you pass on misinformation and make yourself look dumb when someone takes the time to actually look it up.

Short version: gossip is bad; malicious third-hand gossip is worse and is probably wrong on top of that, particularly when it comes in through mass email. Knock it off!

Update 7/14: got another one today, this time the one that’s been going around since 2004 claiming the ACLU (another favorite target of fake emails)  is trying to keep service members from praying; as usual, a quick check of Snopes shows it to be 100% false. Chain emails, bad; forwarding emails without checking Snopes first, worse!