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.