Category Archives: Operating Systems

Overarching category for OS’s

Capture Screenshots and Edit Images with PicPick (Windows)

picpick_logo One of my favorite screen capturing and image editing tools is PicPick. Available for Windows only, PicPick is a free tool that does a lot of things well. Here are some features:

  • Multiple screen capture methods (full screen, active window, window control, regions, and freehand)
  • Competent image editor
  • Color picker and Palette
  • A pixel ruler
  • Screen whiteboard (lets you draw on the screen)

Screen Captures

While PicPick has a lot of features, it suits my needs primarily for creating screenshots. It captures images by default in PNG format, though you can easily change it to BMP, JPG, or GIF.

PicPick Tools Menu When PicPick is running, you can bring up a Tray Menu by clicking the icon in the system tray. Navigate to Screen Capture to see available options for taking a screenshot.

I tend to use Capture Region most of the time to capture some kind of square or rectangular area of the screen, but there are other flexible options as well.

For instance, you can use the Capture Window Control option to easily take a screenshot of a scrolling window, such as in a web browser or a document. To do so, just select Capture Window Control, make sure you’re at the top of your desired scrolling window, and hit PRINT SCRN. It only took a few seconds to capture this scrolling image:

Picpick - Window Control Scroll Capture

With PicPick, you can also capture freehand areas, though my freehand drawings tend to suck pretty badly.

No matter which type of screen capture you’re after, I strongly suggest learning or configuring the available hotkeys to speed up the process (PicPick menu –> Capture Settings –> Change Hot Keys). You can configure hotkeys for most any task.

PicPick - Change Hot Keys

If you’re accustomed to using a similar screen capture program such as FastStone or HyperSnap, PicPick also has built-in hotkey profiles for some competing programs.

Other Features

PicPick sports some other handy features, including a built-in color picker, an on-screen pixel ruler, and a protractor. One of my favorite features, however, is the WhiteBoard.

PicPick - WhiteBoard The WhiteBoard is handy if you ever want to draw on the screen BEFORE you take a screenshot, such as to highlight an area, give the user some kind of instruction, or just say “Hi!”

Of course, you can also make edits, adjustments, or create markings on your image AFTER you take a screenshot. The built-in PicPick editor is pretty good actually. I find that it easily handles most common editing tasks that I would typically reserve for something like Paint.NET.

The built-in editor is definitely leagues beyond MS Paint.

Summary

There’s a lot to like about PicPick. It’s free, easy to use, and even comes in a portable ZIP archive. I’ve been using it lately for all screenshots on TipsFor.us.

PicPick is Windows-only donationware. There used to be a bug that caused PicPick to run slowly on Vista if Aero was enabled, but the bug is now fixed.

PicPick – Download

Skin Your Mac OS X Leopard with Magnifique

Tired of the way Mac OS X Leopard looks? No, me neither. Still, if you want a change of scenery, it’s easy to try some new Leopard themes with the Magnifique theme manager.

Magnifique – Main site

To get started, install the Magnifique app (drag and drop). Here’s the main program window:

Magnifique - Main
Magnifique - Main

Themes available for download are shown in the bottom-left corner. There are only about 16 themes available as of this typing, but I expect that number to grow soon. You can get a preview (and download) of the theme just by selecting it.

Once you apply a new theme, you can see its new effects by hitting the Restart Finder and Restart Dock buttons at the top of the app. It’s the same as issuing the killall Finder and killall Dock commands in the Terminal.

One quick note: when applying a new theme, notice that you have a few choices available. Certain themes will allow more choices than others.

Be wary when applying a new theme and choosing the Apply custom mods option (if available). Whether malicious or not, it leaves the most room for the developer to harm your system. Read any and all documentation about that theme before you enable this option!

Some Sample Skins

Here are a few themes that I have tried:

Veritas

A beautiful, streamlined theme that includes skins for Quicktime, VLC, and Adium.

Nothing drastic, but this is my favorite theme that I have tried so far. What can I say? I appreciate elegance.

Veritas comes with a dock mod, custom mods, and a selection of wallpapers.

Black Mac OS X

As the name implies, this is a dark theme for Leopard. I tend to like dark themes in general, but this one is not as satisfying as I thought it would be.

The blue and black clash pretty hard. If you have some custom icon packs, that would definitely help.

I’d love to see a dark skin that fully enshrouds the Finder, erasing all blue elements.

Milk (Leopard Port)

This is a lighter-colored theme modeled after a popular Linux skin.

Like most of the available themes, the changes are subtle, but noticeable. Actually, if I were to offer any complaint about Magnifique, it’s that most of the available themes don’t offer much striking contrast. Hopefully that will change with the addition of more themes.

To remove a theme and get back to normal, just hit the Uninstall theme button. Your original Leopard theme will be quickly restored.

Do you have a favorite Magnifique skin for Leopard? Do you use a different skinning program? Let us know in the comments.

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.

A Very Important Program You Never Knew You Needed (RadarSync)

**–Edit:  Your personal Mileage may vary. My experience was great on an XP Pro Netbook, XP Home Compaq Laptop, and Server2008 Workstation.  Please read the comments of our community after this post before deciding if you are adventurous.  –**

Hardware driver management is not a pleasant task.  It’s painful enough finding the drivers for a system when first setting it up, especially if you have old hardware or hardware of mysterious origins.  Once this initial trial is over, it’s rare to think about updating your drivers (especially if they aren’t malfunctioning).  This, however is no excuse not to.

If you hit up any 3rd party driver download site, you will see countless ads for programs that claim to handle all of this for you, half the adds are spyware (SCAN YOUR SYSTEM NOW!!1) and the other half are very expensive and often times subscription based (Great solutions for multi-seat licenses in which you have to maintain entire networks of computers for a company, etc.).

What I’m talking about here, though, is a free program (Free version of a paid program, in which the pay version is considerably more powerful and useful, but typically more powerful than a home user needs, like most anti-virus softwares):

http://www.radarsync.com/
http://www.radarsync.com/

Now, I consider myself to be someone who takes pretty good care of their workstation, and, having just installed server 2008 on it, figured my drivers were up to date.  After the first scan, I found that about 30 of my drivers were out of date.  These weren’t basic drivers, like sound card, etc.  They were everything from my chipset to my PCI controllers on my intel board.  I did not run any pre-install benchmarks or anything fancy like that, but, after installation, I can definitely see a subtle improvement in the overall functionality of my box.

After you download the software and run the executable, you meet the usual screen:

Click Accept and you get:

Now, here is where it gets hairy.  Nothing corporate is ever free.  They will now give you a series of advertisements for various software you can install (Pretty much all benign).  The presence of these ads is what makes it possible for them to provide this software to home users for free.  Feel free (I strongly encourage it) to decline every offer.

Don’t get caught in the muscle memory of installation where you click Agree, then Install, the Next, Next, and Finish.  You will end up with 8 programs you never wanted.

The next screen to pay attention to:

Un-check Both Boxes.  They try and dupe you with the usual “Add icon to my desktop” check box you find in all installations, but this is icons for “other offers.”

On the next screen you can hit “Finish.”

Now it’s installed.  Run the program and you are greeted by:

Because it’s the free version, pretty much all you can do is click Start Now, or if you have already scanned, click My Downloads to view not yet installed but downloaded drivers.

After the scan you get this. Small pop-ups will appear from the task bar when a download finishes.  Click these to begin auto install, or wait until its all done and install through the “My Downloads” button on the first screen of the program. (Manual installs are good if you want to pick and choose what gets updated, if you know ahead of time of a potential conflict.)

I had luck with most components, but found it especially likes “Big Name” company hardware, your Intels and Nvidias. It may also offer you program upgrades, like the new version of PowerIso it offered me. Install these at your own risk (especially if you have software that makes you re-pay/re-register for large updates.)

You may occasionally see a window resembling this:

Any time you mess with drivers, creating a Restore Point is a great idea.  If you have a conflict (like the myriad of driver conflicts with XP and Service Pack 3) and your hardware becomes non-responsive you can just restore to previous configuration. This is essential, just in case something like what happened to me the other day happens to you – a driver conflict that resulted in my RAID card not functioning anymore, cutting access to my CD-Rom drives.

Now that your drivers are all updated, you can sleep better at night knowing you are getting the most out of your expensive hardware. Enjoy.

Install the Vista Sidebar in Server 2008

So you’ve set up your slick workstation build of Server 2008 (see Part I and Part II) and are wondering which widget software to install.  Here are a couple options:

  1. Yahoo Widgets
  2. Google Desktop

Those are the standard options, but I find each to be a little too intrusive – Google desktop’s consistent desire to search my computer and email along with searching the web – you can turn it off, but it’s only one example of how it goes beyond a basic widget engine. Not to mention Yahoo’s strange widget dock that doesn’t actually dock widgets – Instead, it functions more like a shortcut bar with icons linked to your widgets on your desktop… redundant.

I really just need a clock, and meters showing how full my hard drives are, in a small memory foot print.  So the Vista sidebar is perfect for my diminutive widget requirements.  But it doesn’t come standard with Server 2008.  So, let’s Install it.

Installing Sidebar in Server 2008

Before we begin, please note that I am assuming your Server 2008 install is on the C:\ drive, if for some reason it is not, please adjust the letter in every run command below.

1.  Get ahold of the sidebar files.

The easiest (and most legal) place to acquire these is from a vista disc or installation that you currently own.  If you don’t have that kind of access, you can find the needed files at most any file sharing website, rapidshare, megaupload, etc.  Google is a good place to start.  Be wary, however, of downloading from sources you cannot verify as virus free.

If you are having trouble finding the files, these are few locations (I found from googling) where you can find them [We cannot verify the contents, safety, or legality of these files, download at your own risk and of your own volition.]

[TipsFor.us does not condone piracy, or the breaking of Microsoft EULA]:

32-bit:

Link1

Link2

64-bit:

Link1

Link2

2.  Move the files to a system directory.

Okay, so you got the files.  They should be zipped [unless you got them from a vista installation].  In rare cases, they will have the 7z extension. If this is the case, you will need a great little program called 7-zip to extract them.  Don’t worry, it’s free and fantastic.

Decompress [or  copy] them to the location:  C:\Program Files\Windows Sidebar\ [Your Files Go Here]*

*You probably have to create the directory “Windows Sidebar”

3.  Now to install the program.

Hit up the Start Menu → Run and type in (including the “Quotes”):

"C:\Program Files\Windows Sidebar\sidebar.exe" /RegServer

4.  Register the necessary libraries for handling widgets (regular and custom).

Open Start Menu → Run and paste in these next 2 lines, one at a time.

regsvr32 "C:\Program Files\Windows Sidebar\sbdrop.dll"

regsvr32 "C:\Program Files\Windows Sidebar\wlsrvc.dll"

5.  Now to start the program.

Either double-click on the sidebar.exe file in “C:\Program Files\Windows Sidebar\”  or, if you still have a handy Run box open, just run:

C:\Program Files\Windows Sidebar\sidebar.exe

6.  Make it run at Startup.

Just so you don’t have to do Step 5 every time your computer starts, just right-click the icon on the task bar for sidebar and select properties.

Tick the check box for Start Sidebar when Windows Starts.

7.  Address and Permission Issues. If you are not running as Administrator, you will receive a security warning, asking permission to run the file at Windows start up.  If you do have this problem, it’s easy to fix.

Navigate back to C:\Program Files\Windows Sidebar\ and right-click on sidebar.exe. Go to Properties.

Under the General Tab, click Unblock. Apply.

In some rare cases, this won’t handle the permission issue, and you will have to go under the Compatibility Tab and tick the check box for Run as Administrator, just like you have to do with a lot of gaming software.

8.  Yay.

Now you have Vista Sidebar running in Server 2008. Enjoy!

FREE Book – Ubuntu Pocket Guide (PDF)

For those of you just getting started with Ubuntu Linux (and for you seasoned veterans as well), don’t miss this opportunity to get your hands on a FREE pocket guide (PDF).

Download – Ubuntu Pocket Guide and Reference

Alternate download link (in case the original is unavailable)

Written by Keir Thomas (author of the venerable Ubuntu Kung Fu), the 170-page Ubuntu Pocket Guide is aimed particularly at Windows users curious about the Ubuntu operating system. It covers everything from installation and configuration to security and command-line tricks.

Here’s the Table of Contents:

  1. Installing Ubuntu
  2. Configuring Ubuntu
  3. Getting to grips with the desktop
  4. Users and the filesystem
  5. Hands-on at the command-line
  6. Software management
  7. Securing the system
  • Appendix A: Glossary of terms
  • Appendix B: Learning more and getting help

Don’t feel like reading 170 pages on a computer screen? I don’t blame you. A print edition is available for a mere $10 (Amazon link).

This is definitely a handy resource to keep near your desk, whether you’re installing Ubuntu for the first time or just need a refresher on some CLI magic.

Have fun.

Batch Image Resize in Vista with Image Resizer Powertoy Clone

Back in the days of XP, Microsoft released a great set of tools they called Powertoys.  Potentially the most useful of these being a shell addition that allowed you to right click on a set of selected images and resize them.  Like a lot of people, I figured this function would just be built into Vista…  It’s not.  Also, there is currently no Vista Powertoy that has the same function (There may be, at a later date – I’ve heard rumors of several in development).  But what to do until then?

A wonderful little program has been developed that emulates the identical functionality of the XP resizer Powertoy, on Vista.  It’s called the “Image Resizer Powertoy Clone.” Best news:  It’s open source and free.

You can grab it at Here.

To use it, all you have to do is highlight the images you want to resize, right-click, and select Resize Pictures.  You will then receive a dialogue window prompting you to choose a size from the most common, or you can click Advanced for more control.

It will not overwrite the images. Instead, it will rename the copy to have the image size after the original file name.