Thursday, June 17, 2010

How to efficiently work with Multiple Monitors


Recent studies revealed that multiple monitor configurations can increase the user productivity and efficiency. Traditionally used in graphic or financial industry as it became more affordable, multi-monitor computing is starting to be very popular in a lot of domains.

Users are given the ability to access more information simultaneously, a more efficient multi-tasking between applications resolving the need to view and process a multitude of information sources at a time – all this can positively impact productivity and morale of the users, making them feel more comfortable and more focused on tasks.

What about the pleasure and convenience of working
with multiple monitors?

In this post I have decided to present some tools that I currently use in parallel with the multi-monitors.

I usually work on my 17’ laptop and my secondary screen is a 24’ screen. The difference between the two screens is big, and adapting from one screen to another can be painful for the eyes.

I had to find a way to split the big screen but not the smaller one. There are a number of applications on the internet serving the purpose of splitting the screen and after testing a number of them, there was one in particular that I considered adapted to my needs and also free: Acer GridVista .
It allows you to allocate the space on each of your monitors and split the workspace in up to 4 sections per screen.


Compared to other tools I found, it had the advantage of allowing the user to choose the grid configuration on each monitor independently, in my case, I chose to split the bigger screen in 4, and deactivate the grid on the smaller one.


Choosing in which section you would like to move the current application is simple. After you defined the grid configuration, just drag and drop the desired application on the grid of the desired screen.

There were a number of things I was not happy about, such as the fact that when you click on the Show Desktop button to minimize all windows, and then you re-click on the same button to restore them, they are not correctly restored as before in grids but in random positions on the screen. So you are forced to reorganize them manually in the defined grids.

The fix for this and also for the fact that there is no simple way to extend the start bar to both screens, was in my case another application – Actual Multiple Monitors .
It comes with a big number of nice features but it is not free, it costs around 30$.

There are also other alternatives to this software such as MultiMon Taskbar which comes in different flavors (TaskBar which is free, and TaskBar Pro) but for me it had some compatibility problems with Windows 7.

A quick-tip for a small visual issue I encountered:
When Acer GridVista is running, it adds to the title bar of each window 3 buttons, allowing setting the transparency, the always on top option and whether the window should be locked to the grid or not. By installing and executing Actual Multiple Monitors, a set of 2 buttons are also added by default to the window’s toolbar (move to monitor, and maximize to desktop, which I personally don’t find useful), that can be disabled from the Configuration menu -> Default settings -> Title Buttons, to prevent the superposition with the previous set of buttons.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Protect your files in Windows 7 using BitLocker

In present there are many products on the market that can help you protect your files. But what most of us are looking for is a quick, simple and reliable encryption for our confidential files, and most of us are not looking to do this on the main disk of our laptop or desktop computer, but on portable devices (USB keys/portable disk drives). In fact, it is a logical desire to protect information as we are transporting it, either if we are talking about personal files or confidential documents.

BitLocker encryption system
Starting with some versions of Windows Vista (Ultimate and Enterprise), an encryption system named BitLocker was introduced. But unlike what it should have been, simple and accessible it was difficult to set up for the normal users.

Starting with Windows 7, BitLocker drive preparation is now completely integrated in the OS. The process of encryption was also simplified a lot;


Encrypting a USB drive can be now done in just a few steps:

1) BitLocker activation
BitLocker can be found under System and Security in the Control Panel. By default, USB stick support is not enabled.
To enable it, connect your USB key then click on BitLocker in Control Panel. Once in the BitLocker Encryption screen, click on the drive corresponding to your USB key, and Turn On BitLocker.

2) Encrypting with password

A new windows will be opened, that will allow you to choose to protect your drive by password, by smartcard or by both. We will choose password; type you desired passowd twice, then click Next.

A new window will ask where to save the recovery key, which is a text document containing information allowing you to regain access to the encrypted USB key in case the password is forgot. Select the path to save the file, the click Next. In the following screen, click Start encryption.

The encryption process is pretty fast, for me it took around 1 minute for a 2 Gb key.

Using the encrypted drive

Once the process is completed, open the File Explorer, then click on the USB key. A windows will ask you to input the password for the previously encrypted drive. Once you did this, the USB key can be used just as a normal drive.

Managing encrypted drives
In File Explorer, the icon of an encrypted drive will have a lock drawn over its standard icon. Once we right click on it, the popup menu will contain a new menu-item, the option Manage BitLocker…
Clicking on it will open a window allowing a number of options to help you manage the the encrypted drive.


Turning off encryption
This operation can be done either from the previous window, either from Control Panel accessing Security Settings, Bit Locker, then clicking on Disable BitLocker for the selected drive.

The decryption process will be a bit faster then the encryption process, once it is finished, your USB drive will be back to normal.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What your e-mail address says about your computer skills



Integrate Twitter in Gmail

A widget created by Twitter Gadget for Gmail users allows integration of Tweeter inside your Gmail interface. This integration is possible via Google Labs Gmail by using the Add gadget by url functionality.
Just activate this option in Google labs. The in the tab Gadgets situated on the same Labs page, add the following url:

The gadget cand handle smilies, lets you consult Replies, Direct messages, Favorites..

Once the gadget is added, it will be directly integrated in the left toolbar of your Gmail interface. You log in on your tweeter account, and you are ready to tweet.


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Run any applications safely on your computer

At one point, by curiosity or necessity, you need to execute a certain application you downloaded from the internet or received from a friend. Even with the presence of an antivirus on you computer, there is always the risk - the application doing something unwanted on your computer like altering a number of files or parts of registry.

The best way to protect your computer from a risk like this would be to be able to run the desired application in a virtual controlled environment that gives full access to the files on your computer but keeps changes separately, keeping the original files untouched.

Sandboxie is exactly the application you would need to do this.


The application is freeware, with the only exception that after 30 days it starts displaying a nag screen to remind you of registering it.

Browsing internet in a sandbox is also possible, you can do this by executing the preferred browser inside the sandbox, and once finish it is enough to close the browser and empty the sandbox.

To enumerate some of the functionalities of Sandboxie: install programs sandboxed, run windows services sandboxes, shell integration – right click on an executable –> Run in sandbox, protection at some extent against keyloggers.


Monday, April 19, 2010

How will you look in 40 years

If you ever wondered how will you look over 40 year, there is a cool site that can simulate aging and a few other transformations of your face.

All you have to do is upload your photo (or your friend’s), choose the age, gender.

This tool called The Face Transformer, is accesible at this address: The Face Transformer


Have fun morphing!


Monday, March 29, 2010

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Backup and Restore computer drivers (Windows Xp, Vista, 7)

When it comes to reinstalling your operating system, and here I am talking about windows, we all agree that it is a real pain. First of all the OS installation, process takes almost always the same amount of time, then the drivers, then your usual programs (all at once or in time as soon as you need them)

In this post I’ll just discuss how you can jump with elegance over the critical step in installing your OS which is installing the drivers.

This can be done by backing-up drivers from the old system, and then restoring them inside the freshly installed system.

From the beginning I have to mention that this migration of drivers works normally when the new installed OS is the same as the old one. Depending on the drivers, driver migration from Vista to 7 and from 7 to Vista may also work.

Double Driver is a free tool that allows you to perform this backup/restore operation for all the drivers. It is the perfect driver manager as it enables you to do a lot of things such as: list your drivers, access full driver details, export and print the list, select exactly which drivers to backup, and how to restore drivers from a previous backup.

double driver


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

How to force delete files in Windows 7 & Vista

Have you ever wanted to delete files from a previous windows installation, but you couldn’t because of a permission error.


Most of the times, it is purely a problem of ownership over the files you wish to delete. If you are the administrator of the computer, than there is a quick solution of taking the ownership of the files, adding the Take Ownership in your right click context menu.


How to add this option in the context menu.
You have to download this file:

Once you did this, extract the contents in a folder. There are two registry files insinde, one that adds the Take Ownership context menu option, the other that removes it.

Double click InstallTakeOwnershipOption.reg

Now right click the folder you want to delete, then select Take Ownership.

take Ownership

Once the operation is completed, you have the full ownership of the folder, and you can go further deleting the file.

To remove this option from the context menu, just click on the other registry file RemoveTakeOwnershipOption.reg

What if I still cannot delete the file

If the problem still persists, then it is not related just to permissions. We could be talking about a file blocked by the system, a damaged file…

If you are sure about what you want to do, I recommend in this case a more advanced solution, a tool that serves exactly this purpose - the Unlocker.

It can handle very well a number of special cases when it comes to deleting a file such as the Access denied, sharing violations, source in use, file in use, ..and so on.


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Set active partition in Windows XP, Vista & 7 using command line

Scenario: you have installed an OS such as Mac OS X on a secondary partition, and after restart you can no longer boot-up your system.

Solution: boot using your Windows cd/dvd; get into the command prompt and type diskpart 


Type list disk to see the list of disks installed in your system. Type select disk 0, assuming 0 is the number of your disk containing your partitions.


Now that we have selected the disk, type  list partitions to get the list of all partitions on the disk.


To activate the desired partition type select partition n, where n is the partition number. 
Now that we have selected the desired partition, we can mark it as active by typing active


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Saving TFS (Team File System) passwords in XP, Vista and Windows 7

This is a small tutorial for those that work with Visual Studion and TFS, and are annoyed by the fact that every time you try to open a project, you have to type in your user credentials. In present there is no simple way to store the credentials in the project itself, at least not yet :)

Instead, there is another solution - to add your credentials into Windows Credential Manager.

In Windows XP

1. Go to Control Panel, click on User Accounts, Advanced, Manage Passwords, then Add
2. Enter the TFS Server address
3. Enter your credentials, username and password

In Windows Vista
1. Go to Control Panel, Click on User Accounts, Manage your Network Passwords, then click Add
2. Enter TFS Server address
3. Enter credentials

In Windows 7
1. Go to Control Panel, Click on User Accounts & Famili Safety, Click on Credential Manager
2. Add TFS Server in Windows Credential Section
3. Enter TFS Server address and your credentials

Edit: This applies also to those that are using tools like Microsoft Office Word or Excel with TFS.

That’s it!


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Dual Boot Windows 7 or Vista with Mac OS X Leopard

Since the beginning of this year I had a lot of fun challenging myself to install Leopard on one of my PCs, a Samsung NP-M55. I could say that the whole process was maybe more pain than fun, but the result worth the time spent – you’ll get a Mac without really buying one.
I don’t have to mention that since a Mac OS X is designed to work only with Apple hardware, even with the big community of people that are trying to mod drivers for PC hardware to work on Mac, there is no guarantee that your computer will ever even boot Mac :)

Anyway, I decided to write a few guides on different topics based on my experiments.
One big problem I faced was dual (triple) booting.

What is needed:

    - Windows 7 or Windows Vista DVD

    - Leopard or Snow Leopard DVD, I used the iPC OSx86 10.5.6 Universal PPF6 Final v1.1.iso which can be found on the internet, but any other image is good.(iPC)
     - EasyBCD 2 (I used beta) get it here

The steps are the following:
1) Install Windows 7, or Vista, or if you have it already installed, you can skip this step, reinstalling is not required.

2) Make sure you have a partition ready formatted or free for installing Mac OSx. Installing Leopard takes up around 8Gb, so I would recommend at least 10 Gb.

3) Boot from the Leopard DVD. When selecting where to install it, open Disk Utility from the menu. Select the empty partition and format it as a Mac OS Partition. Install Leopard on it after.

4) After reboot, you won’t be able to boot back into Windows unless the boot manager is repaired. To do this, use the Windows 7 DVD to boot and select System Recovery. Once the System Recovery Options window appears, choose the Startup Repair Option. As soon as it will finish repairing the boot, restart your computer.Remove the Windows DVD, and continue booting in windows.

4') As an extra step in case you have more than one windows partition on your computer, and the System Recovery could not repair your boot for both Windows installations. This occurs because the partition was marked as inactive. Activating it can be done from System Recovery Command Prompt using diskpart. More details here.
In case you can still boot in one of the Windows OS, execute Computer Management, select Disk Management, right click on your other windows partition, and select Mark partition as Active. Then Reboot.

5) Now to add the boot entry for Mac OS X. Boot in Windows. Run EasyBCD . Click on Add/Remove Entries. Select Mac tab on Add an Entry group, then name your Entry, and in the Mode, select MBR. The click add Entry.

That’s it. Now reboot!
There is the problem of drivers, as the installation is not very easy and you have to do a lot of manual customisation, but I will discuss this in another post. In the meantime check Hackint0sh, InsanelyMac, OX86Project

Enjoy your Mac :)