Monthly Archives: January 2009

Run Disk Cleanup Automatically at Startup [Automation]

The CyberNet tech blog details how to create a set-it-and-forget-it scheduled task to automatically run Disk Cleanup every time your computer starts.

The setup requires a few steps, starting with running Disk Cleanup from the command line with the /sageset:1 parameter to choose your settings, and then creating a scheduled task with the /sagerun:1 option to automatically run using the saved settings every time you start your computer.

If you’d prefer to use the reader favorite CCleaner to clean up your computer, we’ve already detailed how to run CCleaner silently with a shortcut, or run it automatically with a scheduled task, which could be adjusted to run on startup. For more on automated maintenance, check out how to create a self-repairing hard drive.

Most Popular Stories of 2008

Perhaps I should break my vow to my wife and build some more workbenches.

During a routine audit of our web traffic on this blog, I was surprised to learn that
the most popular page on the blog in 2008 was the “Workbenches”
. (You can access this page by clicking on “Workbenches” in
the Navigation bar at right. It calls up all the stories I’ve tagged as dealing with
workbenches and workholding. More than 20,000 people browsed that page last year.

Here the next nine most-popular stories, along with some updates.

2. Free
Drawing of the Knockdown Holtzapffel Workbench.
The lesson: Give away something
free about a workbench and it’s bound to attract some attention.  

3. First
Look at the Jointmaker Pro.
This incredible new saw from Bridge City Tools attracted
a lot of interest and controversy. Just this week, Bridge City announced that it is
assembling the Jointmaker Pro. You can read all about that here.

4. The
Handplanes page.
Click on “Handplanes” in the Navigation bar and hope you have
a good connection to the Internet.

5. A
Japanese Workbench.
This was a real shocker. Not a single person commented on
this blog post. And it had a cute photo of one of Harrelson Stanley’s kids. Almost
9,000 people read the story. Go figure.

6. Free
eDrawings of the Tabouret Table
. This was a popular project (I get mail about
it almost every week). So no surprises here.

7. My
First Pair of Pantyhose
. Note to self: Write more stories with undergarments and
cross-dressing in the headlines.

8. The
Holtzapffel Workbench
. Another workbench story. Click.

9. The
Electronic Drawings page.
This is encouraging. We really like the SketchUp and
eDrawing files we provide. And it looks like you guys do, too. Or perhaps we just
got a lot of clicks from Eastern European thieves who are ripping us off.

10. New
Premium Handplanes From Stanley.
Production on these planes has been delayed while
Stanley officials make sure that the quality is where they want it. Officials say
they are very close to being ready to crank up production.

Next week: The least popular stories of 2008. Or maybe not. I’m afraid it will be
my “Personal

— Christopher Schwarz

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Watch Super Bowl Ads Today, Get Stuff Done on Sunday [Super Bowl]

If you’re one of the many who aren’t that into football but stay glued to your TV on Super Bowl Sunday for the commercials, you can head on over to Adweek right now to catch several of this weekend’s big campaigns. While we’re talking Super Bowl, let’s hear whether or not you’re planning to watch the big show this weekend in the comments. [via]

SHOPNOTES: Band saw fence & stop block

I like cutting tenons on the band saw because it's quick, easy, and accurate — especially with this fence and stop block.

Continue reading: "SHOPNOTES: Band saw fence & stop block".

Measurement Lab Checks if Your Connection is Being Throttled [Net Neutrality]

Google and a host of net-savvy partners have opened up a free set of web tools to help anyone determine if their net connection is blocking or throttling BitTorrent or otherwise limits their bandwidth.

At the moment, three tools are available—when their servers aren't jammed up, and they seem to be pretty popular at the moment. The Glasnost tool determines how your ISP is handling BitTorrent traffic and gives a readout on whether it’s being denied, throttled, or otherwise impaired. Network Diagnostic Tool covers other problems that might affect your upload or download speeds. And the Network Path and Application Diagnosis tries to reveal the routing, network tools, and other “last mile” issues that affect net performance.

The tests are fairly simple, and each seems to require a working Java plugin to run. The Glasnost test, for instance, creates a fake BitTorrent stream between your connection point and the test’s servers, then monitors what happens to the packets.

That’s one reassuring block of HTML.

It doesn’t take a senior analyst to see that Google is looking to shine some light on internet providers’ moves against net neutrality, such as Cox Communications’ “time sensitivity” throttling. In fact, the next two products due out of the “Measurement Lab” are DiffProbe and NANO, which will tell a user whether certain types of traffic, for specific applications or users, are getting priority over others. The side effect of the net giants’ tussle, though, are some handy tools that (should) tell the user exactly why they are or aren’t getting the speeds they paid for.

AdSweep Blocks Ads in Google Chrome and Opera [Downloads]

AdSweep is a user script that blocks a good number of ads on some major websites, and works from a simple file you plug into your Opera or Google Chrome files.

The instructions for installing the single AdSweep.user.js file in your Opera or Chrome browser are laid out step-by-step on AdSweep’s main page. Opera users have a mostly graphical process, while Chrome users will have to check their version and then make a few tweaks to enable user scripts. The site notes that AdSweep will work for Firefox as well, along with Safari and Internet Explorer with some third-party add-ons, but each of those platforms has their own ad-blocking solutions, like Firefox’s uber-popular Adblock Plus. Chrome users can also use a proxy solution like the previously detailed Privoxy to get annoying ads out of their way.

We have to say it—the site you're reading right now is, of course, supported by advertising, and we'd ask that you keep them displayed if you dig what we do here. But AdSweep is pretty easily tweaked with, since it's just one file, and can be used for blocking of extremely annoying ads. It's a free download, works where Opera and Chrome can install. Thanks, Saša!

SendVia Changes SMTP Servers On the Fly [Downloads]

Thunderbird only (Windows/Mac/Linux): Experimental Thunderbird extension SendVia changes your outgoing SMTP mail server on the fly while composing a message.

Using the extension is as simple as opening a new message window and selecting your SMTP server from the list, or adding a new one on the fly with the handy New SMTP Server item, which saves to your account settings for next time—a feature the more well known SmtpSelect extension doesn’t have. This extension is useful for anyone that moves their laptop around, as SMTP servers are often blocked by internet service providers to combat spam, and taking a trip to account settings each time is a serious annoyance.

SendVia is a free experimental add-on (meaning you will need a username and password to download it from Mozilla Add-ons). For more useful tweaks for your email experience, see Gina’s list of 8 killer extensions for Thunderbird.

SendVia [Mozilla Add-ons via gHacks]

Building a Bed, Part One

About a year and a half back, my spouse informed me that it was time for a new mattress.
“Why?” I asked. There were no lumps. There were no valleys at the center of the bed.
No rips. No tears. In fact, we were both sleeping fine.

Much to my surprise, I was told we needed new bedding because our mattress was 20
years old. That’s it. The mattress …… was old. Heaven help our cats. Now at 16 years
old, the boys only have four years until their magic number is up. And my number has
come and gone more than twice.

I held off as long as I could, but time finally caught up with me. A new mattress
and box spring arrived. It would be nice to simply switch out the new setup with the
old, but my wife figured this would be a great time to upgrade in size as well – out
went the queen and in came the king. Out, too, went our pencil-post bed frame.

I wasn’t too sad to change out the frame because the posts were an early experiment
with glued-up materials. Each post showed a distinct bend if the canopy frame wasn’t
in place. (Don’t join 8/4 stock with 4/4 stock, then cut a pencil-post design.)

I have the material at hand. I’m using 12/4 for the posts, 8/4 for my rails and 5/4
for the remaining parts of the headboard and footboard. The panels are 1/2″ cherry-veneer

I thought it would be interesting to build this project on the blog. I’m not sure
how many entries there will be. Hey, I’m not sure if something new will happen on
even a weekly basis. (One thing I’ve found since I’ve been on staff at Popular
magazine is a respect for woodworkers who have regular jobs. My production
has greatly suffered from the days of old when I worked 60 hours per week building
furniture.) But you get to keep track and watch my progress.

Shown at the top is a rendition of the headboard of our about-to-be-begun bed. I’ve
posted a SketchUp file (click
to download) of the headboard if you care to take a look and offer criticism
– and please, if you have any better ideas, let me hear them quickly. I have to get
started as soon as possible. My customer is rather impatient sleeping on a mattress
that’s resting on a steel frame.

— Glen D. Huey

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CrunchBang is a Speedy, Dark-Themed Linux Desktop [Screenshot Tour]

CrunchBang, an Ubuntu-based Linux distribution that sports a snappy, low-drag interface and is perfect for thumb drives, live CDs, or speed-obsessed Linux fans. Check out how it looks and runs in our screenshot tour.

Getting started is pretty simple. Head to CrunchBang’s main site, find the Download section, and grab the main ISO file (from BitTorrent or directly). You can burn it to CD/DVD, load it as a virtual system in VirtualBox/VMWare, or install it on a flash drive with UNetbootin. Put your CD or USB drive into your system, or boot your virtualization tool, and hit Enter at the boot prompt to load the live session of CrunchBang.

The first thing you’ll notice is that the default CrunchBang desktop is fairly sparse and almost entirely themed around dark grays and black. There is, however, a pre-loaded Conky on-screen display in the upper-right corner. A full desktop shot is below; click to get the non-thumbnailed full view:

Conky is one of those Linux tools that gets better every time you open it up and poke around. The basic setup in CrunchBang is pretty functional, giving you a list of the (really helpful) Windows key shortcuts (it’s called the “Super” key in Linux land) and basic system stats. You can, of course, modify a single text file to customize Conky for ambient productivity, or try out a pre-configured setup out there, like this beautiful, minimalist setup well-liked by readers.

You might boot up with a lower resolution than you’d like, or (more likely) notice that your keyboard is set up for UK fingers. Everything, and we mean everything, in CrunchBang is accessed through a desktop right-click menu, and the organization is pretty helpful. I was fretting about how to take a time-delayed screenshot of the menu, for instance, until I saw that it could be done from the “Graphics” menu:

Peek around, and you’ll see that CrunchBang has many of the same default apps as Ubuntu and its lower-scale cousin Xubuntu. I do appreciate their default of VLC Media Player for multimedia files, because it’s one of the first things I end up changing on any new Linux install. Here’s what a CrunchBang desktop looks like with some of its default apps open (click for bigger image):

Package management is handled through the Synaptic tool familiar to any Ubuntu user. For the most part, any app that works on Ubuntu and doesn't require some specific, graphically-tied tool will work in CrunchBang. Even the tools that requires 3D compositing—like the OS X-like AWN Dock—can be used by a right-click menu switch that enable compositing (seen above).

Finally, if you’re not down with the strain-reducing black motif, or you want to change any other aspect of CrunchBang, the Openbox platform has its own configuration tool, obconf, that supports themes and tweaks lots of other stuff:

CrunchBang seems to Just Work on the two systems I tested it on, and it looks like a great fit for an on-the-go desktop for your thumb drive, or replacement for a slow-moving Linux boot. Have you tried CrunchBang and like something in particular? Refuse to give up Puppy or Damn Small Linux? Give us your reviews in the comments.

Ubuntu Pocket Guide Available as a Free Download [Ubuntu]

In the midst of the current financial crunch, the popular, free Linux distribution Ubuntu has never looked more attractive. If you’ve considered switching, a free copy of the Ubuntu Pocket Guide is the perfect place to start.

Written by Keir Thomas, author of Ubuntu Kung Fu, Ubuntu Pocket Guide and Reference covers all the beginner-to-expert knowledge you’ll need to make the move to Ubuntu.

We’ve featured excerpts from Thomas’ Ubuntu Kung Fu two times at Lifehacker, and the Ubuntu Pocket Guide and Reference offers the same level of Ubuntu expertise to anyone interested in or already living the Ubuntu life.

  • Focuses on core competencies and background knowledge needed to be an expert Ubuntu user;
  • Readable, accessible, and easy to understand—even if you’ve never used Linux before;
  • 100% new and original! Written from the ground-up to cover Ubuntu 8.04 and 8.10.

Ubuntu Pocket Guide and Reference is available from Amazon for $10, but—best of all—the book is also available as a free PDF download from the official web site. Can't go wrong with free.

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