Monthly Archives: August 2008

Copy a Single File to Avoid Re-Activating Windows XP [Tutorial]

The Online Tech Tips site offers up a great tip for anyone reinstalling XP off something other than their original CD—such as a slipstreamed and automated installation—or lacking a net connection to run the activation. Before wiping your system clean, grab a file named WPA.DBL from the System32 directory and save it to a thumb drive or other external media. When you load up your new system, skip registration, enter “Safe Mode” from the boot menu, and drop it back into that System32 folder. Now you’re re-activated and free of nagging. Hit the link below for detailed explanation of each step.


ShopNotes: A smooth finish

I like to use MDF to make shop projects. It’s flat, smooth, and inexpensive. To give the MDF some protection and dress up its bland appearance, I usually paint it. Here are a few tips for getting the best results.

Continue reading “SHOPNOTES: A smooth finish”

Startup Delayer Staggers Your Startup Apps for Smoother Loading [Featured Windows Download]

startup-delayer.pngWindows only: Free application Startup Delayer staggers the applications that launch when you log in to Windows by user-defined increments. The reason: To mitigate the common startup bottleneck caused by all of your startup applications fighting to run at the same time. You’d never try launching eight different applications simultaneously under normal circumstances and expect your computer to handle it well, so why should your startup apps be any different? To use it, just drag applications to the delay bar at the bottom of the window. You can visualize the time between the launch of different apps and drag-and-drop the delays until you’ve got the perfect spacing.

Though you’ll likely be delaying app launches by seconds, you can delay a launch for up to 24 hours (though we’re not sure why you would). If Startup Delayer sounds familiar, that’s probably because we featured an identically named application a while back. This Startup Delayer, however, makes the process much simpler and more manageable. Startup Delayer is freeware, Windows only.

Skip the File-Wiping if You’re Caught File-Sharing [File Sharing]

The defendant in a much-watched file-sharing case was dealt a serious blow this week when a judge ruled he tampered with evidence in the case. After first getting notice from the Recording Industry Association of America, Jeffrey Howell, according to Ars Technica,

… uninstalled KaZaA and deleted everything in the shared folder, reformatted his hard drive, downloaded and used a file-wiping program, and then nuked all the KaZaA logs on his PC.

Something to keep in mind if you ever find yourself unlucky enough to get caught. For more on the RIAA’s take-down tactics and defenses against them, check out out this Ask the Law Geek post.


A Dynamic Menu For Your Dynamic Data

So I am still playing around with building a Northwind Dynamic Data web site. Tonight I thought it would be interesting to see what it would take to create a menu for navigating the tables in the site. I was particularly interested in seeing if I could get some grouping or categorization to the metadata so I could create a multi-leveled menu. It turns out it wasn’t too difficult at all (see the screen shot below – the menu is on the left). I have my tables organized into 4 categories: Sales, People, Products and Reports. And the cool thing is that this menu is completely dynamic. You can add, remove or reorganize the categories without touching the UI. And depending where you are keeping your metadata you could even do this without recompiling your app. The grouping is automatically discovered from the metadata and the menu is built solely off the it so everything ‘just works’.

Besides adding the grouping information, I also tagged each of my tables with a custom description that I am displaying under the grids title. Nothing too complicated, but still interesting. Read on if you are curious how I did this and don’t forget to check out the download.

Download

image

Adding Category and Description

When MetaTable objects are created, the Dynamic Data components automatically populate the the MetaTable’s DisplayName property from the DisplayNameAttribute that is hanging off the metadata class (if you are using the default metadata provider). This is why you see the nice ‘Products By Category’ title in the screen shot above. I have specifically told Dynamic Data to use this value because I tagged my metadata class with the DisplayName attribute and given it a value of ‘Products By Category’. Below this metadata …

[MetadataType(typeof(ProductByCategoryMetadata))] public partial class Products_by_Category { }   [DisplayName("Products By Category")] public class ProductByCategoryMetadata {     [ScaffoldColumn(false)]     public object Discontinued { get; set; } }

To add a category and description to the metadata, I just used the existing Category and Description attributes and added them to the metadata class as well. So now we have …

[MetadataType(typeof(ProductByCategoryMetadata))] public partial class Products_by_Category { }   [Category("Products")] [Description("You can use this page to view your products by category")] [DisplayName("Products By Category")] public class ProductByCategoryMetadata {     [ScaffoldColumn(false)]     public object Discontinued { get; set; } }

The Category and Description attributes don’t directly map to any properties on the MetaTable type. But, any extra custom attributes that are applied to in the metadata are passed through to the Attribute collection that hangs off the MetaTable class. So with a couple of pretty simple extensions methods I can add them myself (ignoring error handling for now) …

public static class MetaTableExtensions {     ///      /// Gets the description for the MetaTable     ///      public static string GetDescription(this MetaTable table)     {         return ((DescriptionAttribute)table.Attributes[typeof(DescriptionAttribute)]).Description;     }       ///      /// Gets the category for the MetaTable     ///      public static string GetCategory(this MetaTable table)     {         return ((CategoryAttribute)table.Attributes[typeof(CategoryAttribute)]).Category;     } }

… and now to get at the MetaTable’s description or category I can just go through these methods. So I updated the List template and added a little bit of code that generates a simple title bar generated from the MetaTables DisplayName and Description attributes.

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and now our List pages have a nice dynamic title bar …

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Building the Menu

To build the menu, I am using a ListView tied to a LinqDataSource that uses a Linq query to create a 2 level object structure that I can bind to. First, I wired the LinqDataSource’s Selecting event to the following bit of code that groups my tables by their category …

protected void LdsMenu_Selecting(object sender, LinqDataSourceSelectEventArgs e) {     e.Result =         from vt in MetaModel.Default.VisibleTables         //  use the category to group the tables         group vt by vt.GetCategory() into groups         select new          {             CategoryName = groups.Key,             Tables = groups          }; }

Then I bound this data source to my ListView …

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And that’s all it took to build my 2 level menu. Awesome!

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Conclusion

Can Dynamic Data be used for more than admin screens and prototyping? I think it might. What about you?

That’s it. Enjoy!

UNetbootin Creates USB-Bootable Linux the Easy Way [Featured Download]

Windows and Linux only: Free bootable image creator UNetbootin automates the downloading, imaging, and installing of Linux distributions onto USB thumb drives, creating a persistent, boot-anywhere desktop. We’ve previously featured rather involved guides to putting Linux on a flash drive, but UNetbootin does it all for you, from downloading the right ISO to setting up a USB stick as a bootable Linux drive. It can also convert almost any bootable ISO, so if you’ve got an old, smaller thumb drive not seeing much use these days, you can use UNetbootin to install a partition editor, a file-recovering live CD, or the Windows password-cracking Ophcrack. UNetbootin is a free download for Windows XP and higher and Linux systems.

Bob’s Bench-Free Video, DVD and SketchUp Model

Our October issue is reaching subscribers, and should be on newsstands soon.
The cover story is about my new workbench, a blend of historic designs that is an
ideal work holding solution for hand and power tool woodworkers alike. I’ve written
about it here on the blog as I designed it,
and during
construction
. I’m happy with it-it’s nice and solid and will hold just about any
piece of work for any task.



I designed the bench using Google SketchUp,
a 3-D modeling program that I’ve been using for the last year or so. The nice thing
about using SketchUp is it’s similarity to building something, without the dust and
the noise. You can put things together, take them back apart, and quickly make changes
or see what different variations will look like. My upcoming book features a lengthy
section on using the program for designing cabinets and furniture, and I’ll be teaching
a course or two on using it effectively next year. The price is also right-it’s available
as a free download by clicking here.



These two images were taken from my SketchUp model of the bench. If you have SketchUp
on your computer, you can download the Sketchup model of the workbench and take a
closer look from any angle you want to. If you want to build a version of the bench
that differs in size, you can start with my model and make whatever modifications
you would like. The model is compressed as a .zip file, but it’s easy to open it on
almost any computer. Download the SketchUp model by clicking this link: WorkbenchModel.zip
(332.76 KB)


The model is also available on Google’s 3Dwarehouse. You can download it in SketchUp
(.skp) format by clicking
here
.

We also had the video camera running during the building process, and we have an hour-long
DVD available in our store.
In addition to the video content, there is a printed set of construction drawings,
an enhanced PDF version of the article, a PDF slide show of additional step photos,
and the SketchUp model on the disk. Finally, there is a free five-minute video available
showing some of the many ways to hold work on the bench. This video is available by clicking
here
.

If you have any questions or comments, you can post them here on the blog by clicking
“comment” in the lower right, or you can send me an e-mail by clicking on my name.

–Bob Lang

Control Your Computer with Shortcuts to Common Windows Tasks [Windows]


Many people don’t realize that rather than installing dozens of applications, you can control nearly any aspect of your computer with simple shortcuts that don’t take up any resources. You can even take this approach a step further and assign shortcut keys using the built-in Windows hotkey functionality, or access them from the keyboard using your favorite application launcher. Let’s take a look at a number of simple shortcuts to control some frequently used tasks.

Mute the System Volume

togglemute.pngIf you use your computer to listen to music, you’ve no doubt had to fumble for the volume controls or hit the off switch so the person calling won’t know that you are listening to Cornflake Girl loud enough to wake the dead. What I’ve always done is create a shortcut key that will instantly mute the speakers so I can answer the phone. Of course if you have a multimedia keyboard you probably already have a mute button, but that only works if you are running the keyboard software.

Create a Shortcut or Hotkey to Mute the System Volume in Windows>>

Clean Up Your Computer

runccleaner.pngThere’s loads of commands out there that will let you clear your history or recent documents from a shortcut, but the much simpler option is to setup CCleaner with a shortcut to quickly clear out everything. You can even assign a hotkey to clean your computer with a keystroke. The great thing about this technique is that it runs silently and quickly.

Create a Shortcut or Hotkey to Run CCLeaner Silently>>

Open Task Manager in All Users View

taskmanager.png If you are using Windows Vista, you’ve probably noticed that in order to see the full process list in Task Manager, you have to first open Task Manager, and then click on the All Users button… instead of dealing with that, why not just create a shortcut that opens it directly in All Users view?

Create a Shortcut or Hotkey to Open Task Manager's All Users View in Windows Vista>>

Turn Desktop Icons On or Off

hidedesktopicons.png As a big fan of a clutter-free desktop, I like to keep the icons hidden most of the time, but sometimes it’s just easier to access files through icons on the desktop. You can create a shortcut or hotkey that quickly turns the icons on or off, keeping your desktop nice and clean unless you actually want to see the icons. If you like to see your icons instead, you can always arrange them for productivity.

Create a Shortcut or Hotkey to Turn the Desktop Icons On or Off>>

Clear Your Clipboard

clearclipboard.png If you’ve ever copied a large amount of data to the clipboard, you might wonder how to clear that memory after you’ve already finished pasting. Sure, you could try and copy a smaller amount of data to the clipboard, but a simpler method is to just use this shortcut to clear the clipboard. This also comes in handy if you copied sensitive data to the clipboard and don’t want it sitting there if somebody else is about to use your computer.

Create a Shortcut or Hotkey to Clear the Clipboard in Windows Vista>>

Turn the Windows Firewall On or Off

firewallshortcuts.png When you are troubleshooting connection or network application issues, one of the first things to try is disabling the firewall. If you are using the built-in Windows firewall, there are way too many steps required to turn it off, but with a little command line magic, we can create shortcuts to turn the firewall on or off.

Create a Shortcut or Hotkey to Turn Windows Vista Firewall On or Off>>

Create a System Restore Point

systemrestoreshortcut.png One of the best features in Windows Vista is the revamped System Restore, which unlike the XP version actually snapshots all the important system files on a regular basis, making it simple to roll back to before a system change. Creating a restore point on demand, however, takes far too many steps, so this shortcut to create a system restore point can be a real timesaver. If you are still using Windows XP, you can always follow Gina’s guide to System Restore.

Make a Shortcut Icon to Create a System Restore Point>>

Eject Removable Devices

ejectdevices.pngIn the age of flash drives and digital cameras, we’re always plugging and unplugging drives to transfer files and photos, but the Safely Remove dialog is only accessible from a tiny tray icon. If you like to keep excess icons hidden or just don’t feel like finding the icon in the list, you can create a shortcut or hotkey to the Safely Remove Hardware dialog or even a shortcut to eject the CD/DVD drive. The best option, though, is to create a shortcut that immediately ejects a specific USB drive that you use all the time.

Create a Shortcut or Hotkey to Immediately Eject a Specific USB Drive>>

Start or Disable the Screensaver

screensaver.png Have you ever noticed that many end users refer to the desktop wallpaper as the screensaver? Odd. For those of you that actually know what a screensaver is, you can create a shortcut icon to quickly start a particular screensaver, or even an icon to disable or enable the current screensaver. This comes in handy when you want to start a screensaver, but don’t feel like locking your computer with the usual Win+L keyboard shortcut.

Create Icons to Start the Screensaver on Windows Vista>>

Shutdown, Reboot, Sleep, Hibernate or Lock Your PC

If you dislike the shutdown menu on the Windows Vista start menu, you aren’t alone. Rather than using that tedious popup menu, you can simply place shortcuts for each function on your desktop or quick launch bar.

If you are using a dual boot scenario between Vista and XP, you can even create a shortcut that reboots the computer into the alternate version of Windows, instead of having to wait to choose the other OS from the boot menu.

Create Shutdown / Restart / Lock Icons in Windows Vista>>
Create Shortcuts to Quickly Reboot to the Alternate OS in a Vista/XP Dual Boot>>

Access Your Shortcuts Quickly with the Keyboard

Rather than using the mouse to launch these shortcuts or trying to assign hotkeys to all of them, you can put all of the shortcuts into a folder and then index them in Lifehacker favorite Launchy for quick access from the keyboard.

Instead of using Launchy, you could use previously mentioned Executor, Adam’s (and my) new favorite application launcher to index these shortcuts, or you could take it one step further and assign a custom command to run your shortcut. Simply open up the settings dialog, and drop the shortcut onto the drop box below, and it will fill in all the details. You’ll have to manually choose your keyword and the icon, however.

I decided to use ?cleanup as my custom command to run CCleaner silently to match the other system commands already offered in Executor.

You can add even more shortcuts to your collection of commands with the previously mentioned Nircmd and Wizmo command line utilities.

What shortcuts are most useful for you? Let us know in the comments.

The How-To Geek is a tech writer and geek enthusiast who loves to control every aspect of his computer from the keyboard. More of his tips and tweaks can be found daily at Howtogeek.com.


Rebuild Your Resume with Five Simple Fixes [Job Search]

Once you’ve spotted a great job anywhere online and figured out how much moolah to ask for, you need to get your foot in the door. In most cases, your foot is your resume, and every person you’ve ever met with a job has sincere, if contradictory, advice on making yours shinier than all the others. We’ve picked out five bits of advice that actually help you plan, write, and present your resume, rather than rely on oldie-but-goody generic advice. Follow along and dig up that dusty old Word file to see what you can do to make yourself more appealing the next time you’re stopping at the post office on lunch break. Photo by ceeb.

Start with a big, big list

Far too many of us know the feeling of staying up late the night before a job packet is due in the mail, staring into that blank white word processing window and wondering just what the heck we’re going to write. Next time you’re starting fresh-slate or revamping, The Simple Dollar blog recommends opening up a plain text editor and just smacking away, entering in everything you could possibly consider a job asset or great resume line:

List the details of every job, including every possible relevant accomplishment at each one. List every organized activity you’ve ever participated in, and every noteworthy honor you’ve received in your life. List everything.

It doesn't sound all that simple, until you realize how it ties in with the most powerful part of writing—editing. Run through that gigantic list and kill out the weakest or least-relevant pieces, leaving you with only the strongest stuff you can fit into the smallest spaces. Give an employer condensed flavor instead of a weak one-page broth, and you're a lot more appealing as a hire.

Kill the fluff for more powerful stuff

When you’re asked by strangers what you do, do you respond with, “Work in a fast-paced, cross-functional environment providing reliable solutions for clients”? Then you probably shouldn’t put that on your resume, either. Too many of us have been trained with Pavlovian passion to jam as many “power words” into our resume as possible. This CareerBuilder article on CNN lists 25 words you should scan your resume for, and, once found, think about what they really say, and whether you can put it in more common-sense vernacular. Saying you’re a “people person” doesn’t carry as much weight if your resume makes people scratch their heads and yawn.

Use a good template (or grab a friend’s)

If you’re re-writing your resume for the first time in a long time, or just the first time ever, it can help you move a lot quicker and know what goes where if you’ve got a solid example to work from. The emurse blog has a helpful set of entry-level samples for most types of jobs.

If it’s a higher-level job, however, our commenters suggest (most of them, anyway) skipping the eye-popping design and over-worked objectives and just focusing on experience and accomplishments. If you need a guiding example, why not hit up a friend or contact who’s in a position similar to the one you want? Most people are less scared to send you a resume they aren’t actively using, and at least you know it worked with one hiring manager.

Make your resume “one page,” add more if needed

Ask your fellow Lifehackers if a resume really, truly needs to be just a single piece of paper, and you’ll generate some serious discussion, with a lot of supporters on either side. The best advice, though, is summated by tk3nomanser:

The first page of your resume should be complete in and of itself. That is to say, it should be a convenient splash page that summarizes your skills and desirability.

After that first page, feel free to append as much supporting documentation as you like.

Sound advice. You won't be able to fit your full resume onto one page, but pretend the employer loses all the rest of your packet (and, trust us, they do)—would your first page still work on its own? If you've got references and C.V. material galore, just put it on separate sheets. Photo by J Wynia.

Skip the resume entirely (or write from a different angle)

Marketing guru Seth Godin asked us all a few months ago, “Why bother having a resume?” To our ears, it doesn’t sound like a crazy question. If you can pitch yourself on the strength of a complete, relevant project or a reputation you can call on, putting together a resume might not only be unnecessary, but it might prevent you from being a distinguishable pick in the eyes of a manager.

If you’re not quite there yet, or feel bound by honor or HR requirements to put something together, consider re-writing it from a new perspective, as suggested by the Brazen Careerist blog. That means focusing on what you actually did rather than what your responsibilities were, and giving the employer a reason to ask follow-up questions in an interview.

Those are some of the best tips we’ve seen ’round this here internet for revamping or renewing a resume. What writing tips or must-keep information has stayed on your resume for the long haul? Just as important, what “tricks” can you be sure don’t work? Let’s hear it all in the comments.


Speed Up Your Vista Installation with vLite on a Flash Drive [Step By Step]


Sometimes the most effective way to clean up Windows is to just wipe your hard drive and start over with a fresh re-installation, and that process can be so long and tedious—unless you know the shortcuts. Power Windows re-installers already know about slipstreaming with nLite for XP and using vLite for Windows Vista to trim down your installation disk to just the bare essentials and speed up the process. If you want to speed up your reinstall even further, you can copy your Windows installation files over to a bootable USB stick that has much better transfer rates. Here’s how.

Create Your Custom vLite Install

You already know the details of how to use vLite, since that’s been covered already. What we’re going to do is follow the same steps, customizing anything that you want to change…

Then you’ll want to click the Apply button at the bottom when you are done.

VLite will prompt you to rebuild the installation files, which it copied to your hard drive. This process will take quite a long time, but at the end your source files should be updated.

You should now have a folder with installation files that look very similar to the actual installation CD. These are the files we will need to copy to your flash drive.

Of course you could simply use the regular Vista DVD, or even just mount your vLite ISO image instead, but this saves you from the extra step.

Prepare Your USB Drive

Open up an administrator mode command prompt by right-clicking on the shortcut and choosing Run as Administrator, then type in diskpart to load up the disk partitioning command line tool.

The most important step is to run the following command, which will give you the numbers of the disks, so you can use it in the next command (and not accidentally remove a partition on another drive).

list disk

Now that you know the correct number for the disk, you can use the select disk command, substituting the number 1 for whatever number your flash drive is set to:

select disk 1

Now you can run the rest of the commands, which will remove any partitions before creating a new FAT32 partition and setting it to active so it can boot.

clean
create partition primary
select partition 1
active
format fs=fat32
assign
exit

That final assign command will let you access the drive from Explorer, so we can copy the files. You’ll want to copy all of the files from your installation DVD or from the vLite folder over to your flash drive.

At this point you should be able to stick the USB drive in your computer and boot from it. Note that you might have to enable USB flash booting support in the BIOS, and often it helps to use the shortcut key for your BIOS boot menu.

Got any other tips for a speedy Windows installation? Let us know in the comments.


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