Category Archives: Nerd Stuff

Dock Icon Set (First Graphics Release from TipsFor.us)

So I’ve been making an icon set for my workstation for awhile, adding the occasional icon when I installed a new program. I finally created enough that Brian recommended I release them on here.  I’m a big fan of visual cohesion within my desktop environment, and Icons are a big part of that.  The problem was, I needed an icon set that would function aesthetically well on both my Server 2008 machine’s Aero look and my KDE4 laptop.  This is my compromise in a (mostly) clear glass look that would function on my home office PC, my admin locked down work PC, and my Linux laptop.

The release contains approximately 57 of my most-used icons. To see what’s included, click the thumb below.

The basic layout is like this:

With a variation on the color for each category. (System = Yellow, Internet = Purple, Media = Green, Office = Red, Graphics = Blue)

The typeface is pretty small overall on these fonts (except for the 3 letter abbreviation) so these icons work best when used on a dock with a Zoom effect.  After a day or two you will know exactly what each one is, but new users may need to glide the mouse over to see.

I intend to add more icons when I have time so if you see a common program (not an incredibly obscure one), that could benefit most people who downloaded this, let me know in the comments. I will try and put out a new version when I get a few requests.

You can get it here (or click the icon below):

Download

An Alternative to ATI Catalyst Control Center

Upon installation of Catalyst Control Center on my workstation, I discovered an immense drag.  I checked my running process and found that 1/3 of my system resources were being used by CCC.exe.  This is a problem, since presumably I need those resources to run high quality graphics, not to run my graphics driver.

A program not made by ATI called “ATI Tray Tools” seemed to be a worthwhile alternative.  (Tray Tools is specifically designed for the Radeon Family, your mileage may vary with other cards).  My first inclination was to uninstall CCC, but that would affect the performance of the card.  Tray Tools allows you to make the exact same (or close to it) changes to your cards performance, but on my workstation the tray tools process is barely using 8megs of memory, a far cry from the several hundred of CCC and 00 CPU power, as opposed to the average 37% of CCC.

I have used this card on 3 other PC setups without major slowdown, it could be due to my recent upgrade to Server 2008, or the new mother board, but either way, other people’s setups may be suffering the same way.  If you notice that CCC.exe is hogging your resources, give Tray Tools a try.  No harm I can foresee, you can always reinstall CCC.

When uninstalling CCC, I recommend you do a custom uninstall and only remove the control center, keep the display driver, unless you want to download it seperately from AMD (This is an option, especially if you think your driver may be out of date).  Tray Tools does not provide a driver for your card, it only allows you access to the card’s control settings.

If you’ve had problems with CCC, let us know.  Likewise, if you have had good or bad experience with Tray Tools, let us know.  I have NVidia on most of my machines, because I enjoy Linux Support and ATI is very late to that party, so I have only tested this software on my main box; with great results.  However, these results may vary, since CCC seems to only act up on certain configurations and I can only assume Tray Tools to be the same way.  Hopefully one or the other will provide what you need.

Moving WordPress to MediaTemple Hosting

I just finished transferring hosting for TipsFor.us from 1and1 to MediaTemple. I had no major qualms with 1and1 other than feeling like we had outgrown them (see the downsides of shared hosting). MediaTemple will give us a lot more room to grow without worrying about the occasional spike of traffic from Digg, StumbleUpon, or whatever.

During the move, I had a heck of a time getting WordPress to work. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t avoid the dreaded WordPress white screen of death. In other words, WordPress only displayed a blank screen, nothing else. Frustration beyond frustrations!

I didn’t get it. I moved all my files from the old server. I exported and imported the database without error. What the heck could be wrong? Manually disabling the plugins by renaming them didn’t help. Messing with the .htaccess file didn’t help. Shouting at it certainly didn’t help (though it DID make me feel a little better). What else could I do?

Tips for a Successful Migration to MediaTemple

If you’re having a hard time migrating WordPress to MediaTemple, try these tips:

1. Remove/Rename your .htaccess file.

In your main hosting directory (html for MediaTemple), you likely have a file called .htaccess. If that file came from your old web host, there may be some wacky stuff in there that is conflicting with the new host. Just try renaming the file to something else. WordPress will create a new .htaccess file when it needs one.

2. Create a new user for your database.

What I found slightly confusing when setting up my WordPress database at MediaTemple is how they do not automatically assign a new user to the database (like 1and1 does). Instead of trying to rely on the default database user (dbXXXXX), just create a new user under the Global Settings.

Once you’ve added a New User, be sure to hit the Permissions button and set the permissions for that user to Read/Write on the specified database.

Now just add the appropriate entries to the wp-config.php file.

3. Disable the WordPress Super Cache plugin completely.

TipsFor.us did not come to life on MediaTemple until I completed this step. The Super Cache plugin, while ultimately helpful, was the culprit in causing the site to only produce the blank screen of death. If you had the caching plugin enabled on your old host, you may need to complete this step.

To completely disable it, first take a look at your wp-config.php file. Look for the line near the top that reads:

define('WP_CACHE', true);

Comment it out by putting a hash mark (#) in front of it. My site came alive after I did this. You can worry about re-enabling the Super Cache plugin later.

Moving to MediaTemple was ultimately a straightforward process. In my case, I ran into a bout of trouble for a couple hours while I figured out what the culprit was. If I could do it all over again, I would definitely disable ALL plugins BEFORE sending it over to the new host. Lesson learned.

Overall, I like MediaTemple a lot so far. I’m still doing some experimenting, but I think I’ll stay here for a while. The site certainly feels more snappy than it did with 1and1. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Get Gmail Tasks on your Desktop with Google Chrome

Gmail Labs Beaker I love Gmail Tasks. It’s my to-do list of choice for its simplicity, portability, and (of course) integration with Gmail. If you’re a fan of Google Chrome, you can also easily add Tasks as an application directly on your desktop.

Enable Gmail Tasks

First things first, if you have not already enabled Tasks in Gmail, it’s time to do so. Within Gmail, go to Settings –> Labs. Scroll down until you find Tasks, and switch it to Enable.

Gmail Tasks - Enable

You will now find a Tasks link near your Contacts. This is all fine and dandy, but now let’s see how you can quickly make it a stand-alone application.

Integration with Google Chrome

Google Chrome has the slick ability to turn any page or site into its own application, similar to Fluid on Mac OS X. With Chrome, we can turn Tasks into a standalone app with just a few clicks. I find it handy to have my to-do list separate so I don’t get distracted with e-mail or Google Chat while I’m working.

Here’s how to do it: Launch Chrome and go to https://mail.google.com/tasks/ig. If it asks for a username and password, check the box to remember it. You should now see a full-browser version of your Tasks, but we’re not finished yet!

Go to the Page Dropdown Menu and click Create application shortcuts.

Chrome - Create Application Shortcuts

A Google Gears window will spawn. Tell it where you would like the shortcuts placed, and hit OK.

Google Gears - Tasks

That’s it! Whenever you open your Tasks shortcut, it will take you directly to your to-do list, no distractions needed. I do suggest resizing the window to something more manageable.

Chrom - Brian Tasks

More about Gmail Tasks.

Get Google Chrome.

FeedRinse: Search and Consolidate your RSS Feeds

OPML are outlines of RSS feeds...
OPML are outlines of RSS feeds...

Have you run into the problem of having too many RSS feeds that only SOMETIMES contain an article that you’re interested in? They publish lots of updates to your favorite sites, but you are only interested in a fraction of those stories. Don’t you wish you could scrub those results? Well, the folks over at FeedRinse.com allow you to do just that, and it’s FREE.

The Simple Steps

  1. Head over to FeedRinse.com and register for a free account.
  2. Grab a list of all your favorite RSS/XML feeds and paste them into the box while setting up your account.
  3. You can filter each feed based on search terms (e.g. allow the post only if “monkey” appears in the title), OR you can create a channel and add your filters to that channel. It’s simply a matter of scope… if you want to apply global rules to each feed, you can do that, or if you want to apply specific rules across multiple feeds, add those rules to the channel.
  4. Once you’ve set up your feeds and your channels, you can “get your rinsed feeds.”

Problems

FeedRinse makes it pretty easy to get the stuff you want. But it can be a pain because its functionality revolves around an OPML file. What’s that? Exactly. Yes, most feed reading programs support it, but if you wanted to simply subscribe to a feed, then this little file won’t help you directly. You can “Copy your reading list link” — but I had a problem with the site. I had to logout then log back in before that link worked. And even after logging out, I still couldn’t get the feed to show up natively in Safari (which has its own built-in RSS feed-reader).

Alternatives

A simple alternative is to use Google News…. that’s one way to generate an RSS feed based on search terms. You don’t get the benefit of being able to specify specific RSS feed URLs, but it’s much simpler, and you aren’t limited by the OPML file limitations.

Here are the quick and dirty steps:

  1. Go to Google.com and type in a search term, e.g. “Denver”
  2. On the results page, about 3 links down will be a section for “News results for Denver”. Click it. (alternatively, you can enter a search term in Google, then hit the “News” tab).
  3. View the source of the News page containing the top stories for your search term. Search for “RSS”, and look for the link that looks like this:

    http://news.google.com/news?hl=en&q=Denver&um=1&ie=UTF-8&ei=6weVSfTcHJqqtQOqm4TCBw&resnum=5&nolr=1&output=rss

    You link to that page as the source of your RSS feed. Poof! Instant filtered news!

  4. You can go to the the “Advanced Search” option for the news stories and restrict your results to different sources (e.g. CNN).

Summary

That’s it: two simple ways of grabbing filtered RSS results for your fast and valuable review.

A Quick Way to Pin Folders to the Start Menu (XP / Vista)

Here’s a quick tip about Windows that you may not know. While both XP and Vista allow you to easily add executables to the Start Menu via a right-click –> Pin to Start Menu, adding a folder is not so easy.

Actually, I lied. It’s much easier!

There’s no need to deal with complicated registry hacks or anything like that to add a folder to the Start menu. You just have to think a little more like a Mac user!

This method works with both XP and Vista/Server 2008.

Drag and Drop

Step 1 – Left-click and hold the desired folder. Do not release the mouse button. On Vista/Server 2008 you will see a translucent folder icon with an arrow.

Explorer - Left-click and hold

Step 2 – While holding the desired folder, smack the Windows key on your keyboard. Naturally, the Start Menu will open. Hint: you can also just hover over the Start Menu orb (or button) for a couple seconds while holding the desired folder. If you simply drop the folder onto the Start Menu orb, it will automatically become the last pinned link in the Start Menu.

Step 3 – With the Start Menu open, drag your desired folder into it. You will see a black horizontal line to help indicate the placement of the desired folder.

Start Menu - Drag in Folder

That’s it. You now have a link to the desired folder directly from the Start Menu. I found that sticking the Downloads and Videos folders into the menu made life a little easier. If you want to remove the link, just right-click –> Remove from this list.

Video Demonstration

Here’s a very short video demonstrating the entire process. Enjoy.

Google Launches Sync for Mobile Phones – General Acclamation Ensues

Google Sync icon Earlier this week Google launched the Beta version of Sync – free tools for synchronizing your mobile phone’s Contacts and Calendar with your Google account.

Phones supported by Sync include the Apple iPhone, Blackberry, Symbian, and Windows Mobile.

As you might suspect, I’m quite excited about Google Sync, and I’m glad to see Windows Mobile support included. I’ve written a few articles already on syncing Windows Mobile Contacts and Calendar with varying services, all without Outlook. Here are some previous tutorials:

  1. Sync Your Windows Mobile Contacts and Calendar Using Funambol for FREE (article link)
  2. Sync Your Windows Mobile Contacts and Calendar with Plaxo, Thunderbird, and Google for FREE (article link)
  3. Sync Your Phone’s Contacts and Calendar with Google for Free using NuevaSync (article link)

I’m definitely going to try my hand at setting up Google Sync, and am especially curious to see how it compares with the mighty NuevaSync. Expect future articles and opinions related to this topic in the near future.

In the meantime, if you have already tried Google Sync, I’d love to hear some thoughts.