Computer Lays the Prettiest Brick Walls Since Eladio Dieste : TreeHugger

One of the oldest building materials known to humankind, bricks have great thermal mass and last almost forever. But laying them takes skill, and complex forms and shapes are hard to design and build.

Now Professor Ingeborg Rocker and students at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard have taught a computer to do it.

via Computer Lays the Prettiest Brick Walls Since Eladio Dieste : TreeHugger.

11 Tools Every ASP.NET Programmer Should Install

I found a great list of “6 Free Tools that every Windows Programmer should Install” via a contact of mine on Twitter, which made me want to create my own list, similar to the tools listed in the link above, with a few additions and changes:

  1. Firebug

    If you have Firefox, but you haven’t tried this yet, install it now. You’ll thank me later. Firebug is currently my most essential tool (besides Visual Studio, of course) to web development since it effortlessly debugs JavaScript and shows you the ins and outs of the DOM on any page you’re inspecting. Firebug is available as an extension for Firefox, or as a bookmarklet for any other browser.

    It’s also worth noting that Safari and Chrome (well, anything rendered with Webkit, it seems) have an excellent set of development tools built-in that are very similar to the functionality of Firebug in Firefox, and even IE8 is catching up to the game with its Developer Tools window/pane.

  2. Unlocker

    I agree with Ian, this program is excellent. Gives you some useful information for a change (and something you can do with it) when you get the message “Cannot delete <X>: It is being used by another person or program.”

  3. TortoiseSVN

    If you’ve been using Subversion for source control, I’m sure you’ve heard of this client. If not, get it immediately. It rocks, and integrates exceptionally well with Windows Explorer. (Not to mention Visual Studio, via AnkhSVN or VisualSVN)

  4. IETester

    Since Internet Explorer is the scourge of the Interwebs that will never go away, it helps to be able to test your site in multiple versions of IE, and since only one version can be installed at a time (and since IE8 Compatibility Mode doesn’t really help at all), IETester is a good solution that lets you test IE5.5, IE6, IE7, and IE8 rendering engines in the same tabbed browser. Very cool.

  5. VMWare Player

    …But, as my coworker mentioned, Internet Explorer is pretty invasive and modifies more on your system than just the rendering DLLs, so it’s a good idea to keep a spare VM running each flavor of IE as well. VMWare Player is the free version of VMWare Workstation, which will run pre-existing virtual machines, but can’t create new ones. Since that functionality is missing from VMWare Player, you can use this site to create your own virtual machines from scratch: EasyVMX! Virtual Machine Creator.

  6. .NET Reflector

    RedGate’s description says it best:
    “.NET Reflector enables you to easily view, navigate, and search through, the class hierarchies of .NET assemblies, even if you don’t have the code for them. With it, you can decompile and analyze .NET assemblies in C#, Visual Basic, and IL.”

  7. Sysinternals Suite (includes Process Explorer)

    Ian Hickman’s post (6 Free Tools that every Windows Programmer should Install) suggests Process Explorer alone, which is a superior Task Manager replacement, but I’ll extend it to suggest the whole Sysinternals Suite, since it comes with so many other great utilities and includes Process Explorer along with them. One of my favorite tools besides PE is AutoRuns, which is a msconfig.exe replacement that offers a much better look at your startup apps and services.

  8. WinMerge

    TortoiseSVN comes with its own diff tool, but I tend to end up using WinMerge instead because it does a great job with comparing local files or differing versions of a file in source control, and integrates seamlessly with TortoiseSVN.

  9. Launchy

    I’m definitely a keyboard junkie, so anything I can do to keep my hands on the keyboard is a plus. Launchy is by far my favorite application launcher for that reason. All I have to do is hit Alt+Space (you can reassign the hotkey if you like), and it brings up a prompt that allows me to launch anything on my Start Menu, and do a number of other tasks as well (launch websites, perform quick calculations, etc.). Definitely saves me a ton of time.

  10. Charles / Fiddler

    Of the two apps listed above, I prefer Charles, which is a paid application, but I’ve listed Fiddler as a free alternative. Both apps are proxies that log traffic between your system and the server you’re debugging (even localhost) and both provide valuable debugging information that is particularly helpful when trying to debug web services. From the Charles website:
    “Charles is an HTTP proxy / HTTP monitor / Reverse Proxy that enables a developer to view all of the HTTP traffic between their machine and the Internet. This includes requests, responses and the HTTP headers (which contain the cookies and caching information).”

  11. EmEditorNotepad++ / Notepad2

    All three of the apps listed above are excellent full-featured text editors, but I prefer the feature set of EmEditor, which is a paid application. The killer feature that EmEditor provides which I haven’t yet found in either of the other editors is the Find *and Replace* in files. Notepad++ has a Find in Files option, but I haven’t found a Replace in Files function without opening up every single document and performing a replace in all open documents (info on that approach here: How To “Find And Replace” Words In Multiple Files).

    Notepad2 doesn’t offer the same tabbed document interface that both EmEditor and Notepad++ offer, but it is an incredibly lightweight, and more importantly, self-contained executable that’s a perfect drop-in replacement for Windows Notepad (info on how to do this here: Replace Notepad with Notepad2).

    Any of these apps offer syntax highlighting and are a great alternative to firing up Visual Studio when you need to make a quick edit (or on one of the *many* occasions when Visual Studio slows waaaaay down or locks up your system).

Honorable mention: PhraseExpress
This program rocks. I’ve only started using it recently, and not nearly to its fullest potential, but the clipboard manager functionality alone is worth the download:

Also, I neglected to mention AutoHotkey since I haven’t used it as much as I probably could, but I can say that I’ve had a lot of luck with the AutoHotkey script iTunesAnywhere, which helps since I don’t have a keyboard with multimedia keys and for whatever godforsaken reason, iTunes *still* doesn’t natively support global hotkeys like Winamp does. (I’d switch back to Winamp, but I drank the Apple kool-aid and picked up an iPhone in January.)

The dark side of Dubai – Johann Hari, Commentators – The Independent

Fascinating read, by quite an eloquent journalist:

The wide, smiling face of Sheikh Mohammed – the absolute ruler of Dubai – beams down on his creation. His image is displayed on every other building, sandwiched between the more familiar corporate rictuses of Ronald McDonald and Colonel Sanders. This man has sold Dubai to the world as the city of One Thousand and One Arabian Lights, a Shangri-La in the Middle East insulated from the dust-storms blasting across the region. He dominates the Manhattan-manqué skyline, beaming out from row after row of glass pyramids and hotels smelted into the shape of piles of golden coins. And there he stands on the tallest building in the world – a skinny spike, jabbing farther into the sky than any other human construction in history.

But something has flickered in Sheikh Mohammed’s smile. The ubiquitous cranes have paused on the skyline, as if stuck in time. There are countless buildings half-finished, seemingly abandoned. In the swankiest new constructions – like the vast Atlantis hotel, a giant pink castle built in 1,000 days for $1.5bn on its own artificial island – where rainwater is leaking from the ceilings and the tiles are falling off the roof. This Neverland was built on the Never-Never – and now the cracks are beginning to show. Suddenly it looks less like Manhattan in the sun than Iceland in the desert.

Once the manic burst of building has stopped and the whirlwind has slowed, the secrets of Dubai are slowly seeping out. This is a city built from nothing in just a few wild decades on credit and ecocide, suppression and slavery. Dubai is a living metal metaphor for the neo-liberal globalised world that may be crashing – at last – into history.

(via The Independent: The dark side of Dubai)

Drupal Installation: Turn off register_globals on 1&1 Hosting

Update: If you’re having other trouble with your 1&1 Drupal setup, such as the “500 Server Error” or problems with clean URLs, try this post on Drupal.org:
http://drupal.org/node/232773


Thank you, thank you, thank you! This was bugging the hell out of me, and the link from the Drupal installer is less than helpful for sorting the register_globals issue out:

I run a couple of Drupal sites on 1and1 for historical reasons (3 years free). A while ago, I dutifully upgraded them to Drupal 5.7. And was surprised to find that PHP’s register_globals was enabled.

All this time, I’ve been running with a .htaccess file which explicitly disabled that setting — if 1and1’s Apache was running mod_php only, it turns out. Apparently, such PHP settings in .htaccess files don’t do anything if running PHP in CGI mode.

Since Drupal 5.7 warns you if register_globals is enabled, it became glaringly obvious that they were. Not a happy situation at all. Drupal is coded intelligently and securely in general, but register_globals is inherently a security risk. It should never be enabled. But worse, in many versions of PHP, there is a bug which allows even more exploits to be used when register_globals is enabled. This bug has been fixed in recent versions of PHP, but hosting companies like 1and1 are notorious for not upgrading their PHP, MySQL, etc. versions.

(via Making 1and1 More Secure | Web node for Chris Johnson, Drupal developer.)

For reference, the site above suggests to create a .htaccess file at the root of your hosting directory (~/) and add the following line to it:

AddType x-mapp-php5 .php

This helps with MediaWiki as well, but MediaWiki does have a workaround that auto-forwards the .php file to it’s corresponding .php5 file if it detects that it is running under php4.

America’s Unhappiest Cities: Portland, Oregon is #1!

Supposedly my hometown, Portland, Oregon, is the unhappiest city in the United States. Oh, bother… 😉

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Portland, Ore.

  • Overall rank: 1*
  • Depression rank: 1
  • Suicide rank: 12
  • Crime (property and violent) rank: 24
  • Divorce rate rank: 4
  • Cloudy days: 222
  • Unemployment rate (December 2008): 7.8%

(via America’s Unhappiest Cities: Portland, Ore. – BusinessWeek.)

Prevent Startup Programs from Running Twice in Windows XP

Finally! This problem was bugging me for so long – I just now thought to research it and found this article. Very helpful!

Prevent Startup Programs from Running Twice in Windows XP

A way to solve the problem of programs in the Startup folder being executed twice on Windows XP logon. The applications may appear doubled in msconfig.

Problem

Under Windows XP, programs placed in the Start MenuProgramsStartup folder may be running twice. This occurs even though only one shortcut or icon for each program appears in the Startup folder when viewed through Windows Explorer. When you use msconfig (Startup tab) or autoruns (Logon tab) to inspect the Startup listings, they appear twice. Unchecking one or both disables the program from running at all.

Cause

This situation can occur if the user-specific Startup folder is deleted from the user’s profile. When that happens, Windows looks for user-specific startup programs in the All Users startup folder instead. This causes doubling, because the programs from the All Users startup folder are executed once for All Users and again for the current user.

via Prevent Startup Programs from Running Twice in Windows XP.

Flickr Buddy Icon Reply v3.5 (Greasemonkey)

This and “View on Flickriver” are my favorite Greasemonkey scripts for Flickr:

Back in Oct 2006 I did a little GM script to automate more personalized replies (used to do it manually with a little bit of HTML). After a long period of neglect, I am trying to work on it again to incorporate some user suggestions.

It adds “(reply with name, icon, icon&name)” links at each of the comments under your photo. When you click on the link, the buddy icon html code will be added into the Add your comment box, where you can show nicely who your replies are directed at. Experiment with preview and you will get the hang of formatting your replies in no time. (Should work on photo and discussion thread pages).

It skips over deleted accounts and only offers the name link if the contact has no personalized buddy icon.

Warning: this might conflict with other GM scripts

v1 initial photo and information is here
v2 bugfixes: for iconless accounts
v2_2 bugfixes: name_reply function now works with apostrophes in usernames & group admins
v3 localization and improved (all credits to mortimer? for this great work!!!)
v3_1 added icon&name reply and presentation changed
v3_2 added Spanish localization (thank you v1m0r4) & fixed iconless detection
v3_3 moved the reply links inline with the comment context links
v3_4 updated code for the new HTML DOM structure on the photo page (does not work in discussion threads)
v3_5 updated by Eric Martin to work on both old and new HTML DOM structure, so it now works in both photos and discussion pages (many thanks Eric!!!)

You need to be using Firefox with Greasemonkey extension installed. Then simply click onto the link to my script below and Greasemonkey with prompt you to install,
GM Script: Flickr Buddy Icon Reply v3_5

Flickr: Discussing GM Script: Flickr Buddy Icon Reply v3.5 (updated 11th February 2009) in Flickr Hacks.

Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities

In response to the outrage over the recently removed terms-of-use revision, Facebook has started a group to clarify their terms of use:

This group is for people to give input on Facebook’s terms of use. These terms are meant to serve as the governing document for how the service is used by people around the world.

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with us.

Here are responses to some of the things you’ve written below:

1. You own your information. Facebook does not. This includes your photos and all other content.

2. Facebook doesn’t claim rights to any of your photos or other content. We need a license in order to help you share information with your friends, but we don’t claim to own your information.

3. We won’t use the information you share on Facebook for anything you haven’t asked us to. We realize our current terms are too broad here and they make it seem like we might share information in ways you don’t want, but this isn’t what we’re doing.

4. We will not share your information with anyone if you deactivate your account. If you’ve already sent a friend a message, they’ll still have that message. However, when you deactivate your account, all of your photos and other content are removed.

5. We apologize for the confusion around these issues. We never intended to claim ownership over people’s content even though that’s what it seems like to many people. This was a mistake and we apologize for the confusion.

(via Facebook | Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.)

JPG Magazine Could Be Saved?

I received some very cool news from 8020 Media (the company behind JPG Magazine) today via e-mail:

We couldn’t ask for a better community. In the week or so since our last email, the outpour of support has exceeded our wildest expectations. Your efforts, such as starting savejpg.com, writing blog posts, commenting on Twitter and Flickr, and generally making your voices heard, have provided exciting new opportunities for us.

We’re thrilled to say that because of you, we have multiple credible buyers interested in giving JPG a home. We will be keeping the site up after all, and hope to have a final update in the next week or so on who the acquirer will be. Thank you for making all of this possible.

Laura Brunow Miner
Editor in Chief

In case you hadn’t heard, JPG is/was in danger of going out of business, as they explain via this entry on their blog:

Today is a particularly sad day for all of us at JPG and 8020 Media.

We’ve spent the last few months trying to make the business behind JPG sustain itself, and we’ve reached the end of the line. We all deeply believe in everything JPG represents, but just weren’t able to raise the money needed to keep JPG alive in these extraordinary economic times. We sought out buyers, spoke with numerous potential investors, and pitched several last-ditch creative efforts, all without success. As a result, jpgmag.com will shut down on Monday, January 5, 2009.

The one thing we’ve been the most proud of: your amazing talent. We feel honored and humbled to have been able to share jpgmag.com with such a dynamic, warm, and wonderful community of nearly 200,000 photographers. The images on the website and in the magazine were adored by many, leaving no doubt that this community created work of the highest caliber. The kindness, generosity, and support shared among members made it a community in the truest sense of the word, and one that we have loved being a part of for these past two years.

We wish we could have found a way to leave the site running for the benefit of the amazing folks who have made JPG what it is, and we have spent sleepless nights trying to figure something out, all to no avail. Some things you may want to do before the site closes:

Download the PDFs of back issues, outtakes, and photo challenge selections. We’ll always have the memories!
Make note of your favorite photographers. You may want to flip through your favorites list and jot down names and URLs of some of the people you’d like to stay in touch with. You may even want to cut and paste your contacts page into a personal record.
Catch up with your fellow members. Our roots are in this humble flickr forum and we recommend going back to find fellow members, discuss the situation, or participate in another great photo community.
Keep in touch. This has always been much more than just a job to each of us, and we’ll miss you guys! We’ll be checking the account jpgletters@gmail.com in our free time going forward. We can’t promise to reply to every email (since we’ll be busy tuning up our resumes) but we’d love to hear from you.
Stay posted. Although the magazine is ceasing publication, we’ll be updating you on what’s happening with your subscription early next week.

We’re soggy-eyed messes, but it is what it is. At that, JPGers, we bid you goodbye, and good luck in 2009 and the future.

Laura Brunow Miner
Editor in Chief

Take a chance to check out their back issues if you have a moment. Very cool stuff. I hope they find a new home soon. 🙂

Linux Console fonts for Windows

Pretty cool!

Linux console fonts for Windows

These are fixed-width fonts converted to TTF and FON format from the original X11 sources. You will recognize them as the default xterm fonts; they are widely used. They are especially useful for console apps. We programmers can’t live without them

The main problem you’ll encounter is that, some of them being FON files, they are not usable in all Windows programs. This has been a big issue for a long time but recently I added some Windows TTF format that work really well. They even work in Macintosh

via Linux Console fonts for Windows in TTF and FON.

6 Exceptional Web-based Image Editors – Six Revisions

Web-based image editors have several advantages to its desktop counterparts. The most obvious benefit is that they allow you to work on any computer (that has a browser). In most cases, you can save your work online, avoid having to install desktop software, and interface with other web based services such as Flickr or Picasa. This article shares 6 of the finest, free online image editors that are capable alternatives to desktop applications like Adobe Photoshop and GIMP.

via 6 Exceptional Web-based Image Editors – Six Revisions.

Mashable: 10 Ways Personal Branding Can Save You From Getting Fired

Excellent list of tips from Mashable about how personal branding can help you keep your job – particularly useful in a rough economy such as this…

  1. Become an invaluable asset to your colleagues, professional network & clients
  2. Position yourself as the go-to-person for a specific skill
  3. Gain self-confidence and rise to the occasion
  4. Focus on social equity, not just monetary equity
  5. Build contact lists before you need them
  6. Go on a branding spree by advertising it everywhere
  7. Make your brand so visible that people can’t avoid seeing you
  8. Become so remarkable that complete strangers talk about you
  9. Be a content producer, not just a consumer
  10. Have an “endorsement mindset”

You can read the full details over at Mashable via this link: 10 Ways Personal Branding Can Save You From Getting Fired.

Super Awesome Firefox 3 Tips! (Linux)

Here’s a follow up to my previous post that featured Firefox 3 tips for all platforms – this post highlights tips that are specific to (or have specific details for) Linux, particularly Ubuntu Linux.

These tips include tweaks to userChrome.css for changing display aspects of your browser’s “Chrome”, such as reducing the size of the bookmarks toolbar and removing down arrows from folder buttons, as well as themes to make your Linux installation look more like Windows (if you so desire). Read on for details!

Make Firefox “bookmark toolbar” text smaller

Try adding the following to your userChrome.css (located at “~/.mozilla/firefox/<random>.default/chrome/userChrome.css”) to make the bookmark toolbar text smaller, more like Windows or Macintosh:

/* Menu Bar - Shrink and Fade Text */
#navigator-toolbox .menubar-text {
	font-size: 70% !important;
	color: #999 !important;
	}

/* URL Bar and Search Bar - Shrink and Fade Text*/
#urlbar, #searchbar{
	font-size: 85% !important;
	color: #333 !important;
	}

/* Tabs - Shrink Font and Height*/
.tabbrowser-tabs {
	font-size: 80% !important;
	height: 20px !important;
	}
.tabbrowser-strip {
	height: 22px !important;
	}

/* Bookmarks Toolbar - Shrink Font and Size*/
#PersonalToolbar {
	font-size: 75% !important;
	padding: 0px !important;
	margin: 0px !important;
	max-height: 20px !important;
	}
	/* Seperators - Remove */
	#PersonalToolbar toolbarseparator {
		display: none !important;
		}
	/* Toolbar Buttons - Reduce Margins */
	#PersonalToolbar toolbarbutton {
		margin: 0 -5px 0 -1px !important;
		}
	/* Toolbar Icons - Shrink and Reduce Margins */
	#PersonalToolbar .toolbarbutton-icon {
		max-width: 12px !important;
		max-height: 12px !important;
		margin: 0px 2px 0px 0px !important;
		}

(Thanks to s0l3x on Ubuntuforums for that code!)

Remove down-arrow from folders in bookmarks toolbar

Add the following line to your userChrome.css (again, located at “~/.mozilla/firefox/<random>.default/chrome/userChrome.css”) to remove the folder arrows. You can add it below the code in the tip above…

#PersonalToolbar .toolbarbutton-menu-dropmarker {display: none !important;}

Strata Human Theme Modernizes Firefox in Ubuntu

One of Firefox 3’s notable improvements was shipping with themes that matched the native operating system. In Ubuntu, that meant tiny, vaguely cartoonish orange arrows, which, while color-coordinated, was a disappointment to some. The Strata Human 1.0 Firefox theme does a nice job of adding the larger, rounded buttons of XP and Windows, with a perfectly-matched orange-brown coloration. If that back button looks a bit too big to you, Gina’s shown us how to take it down a peg. Strata Human 1.0 is a free download for Firefox 3.


Strata Human 1.0 [Firefox Add-ons via Daily Gyan]

Strata XP on Linux

Firefox 3’s default XP theme adapted for Linux. Based on Pascal Herbert’s “XP on Vista” theme, tweaked to fix some UI quirks.

2008-12-20_165924

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/9123

The Ultimate Chrome Guide

If the above tips aren’t enough for ya, this site will surely float your boat, as it has a huge list of userChrome.css tweaks that should address just about any Firefox 3 customization desire: http://www.linnhe2.free-online.co.uk/firefox/chrome.html

Speed up Visual Studio – EPiServer Labs

Great tips on how to speed up Visual Studio 2008! Combine this with the hotfix and SP1, and…it’s almost as fast as Visual Studio 2005. 😉

  1. Turn off validation
  2. Turn off the Navigation Bar
  3. Show Live Semantic Errors
  4. Track changes
  5. Animate environment tools
  6. Compile for the correct platform
  7. Speed up debugging by removing breakpoints
  8. Formatting XML for easy diff

Find out all the details at the original post: Speed up Visual Studio – EPiServer Labs.

Visual Studio Incremental Search (Type-Ahead Find)

This is just awesome – with Ctrl+I, you can perform a type-ahead search within Visual Studio, just like Firefox!

Again, my buddy Sairama to the rescue. Just when I think I’ve pretty much got VS.NET down solid (only being use it since Pre-Beta days, right?) I’m thrown a curve ball called incremental search. I guess I just assumed that a feature that was so cool in so many other editors would never make it into VS.NET. Silly me.

So, lest I be the most ignorant, fire up Visual Studio.NET, get some code in there, hit Ctrl-I and start typing. After you’ve found something, use F3 to Find Next. In the words of Chris Sells – It’s pure sex.

via Scott Hanselman’s Computer Zen – My ignorance proceeds me: Visual Studio.NET Incremental Search.

The diskette that blew Trixter’s mind

This is pretty obscure, and super old sk00l, but I am completely fascinated. This guy found a disk that was readable by both C64 and IBM PC – quite a rare find indeed…

This diskette has officially blown my mind.

This is the very first time I have ever seen something like this.  The data for the IBM program takes up more than 160KB as evidenced by a DIR.  The C64 1541 drive is a single-sided drive; IBM’s is double-sided. Based on all this, we can deduce how this diskette is structured and why:

– The IBM version of the game required more than 160KB (ie. needed more than one side of a disk), probably because it has a set of files for CGA/Herc (4/2 colors) and another for EGA/Tandy (16 colors) and either set will fit in 160K but both won’t
– The C64 version required around 80K, based on the fact that every other track is unreadable by an IBM drive
– The publisher had the requirement of using only a single disk to save on packaging and media costs
– Not wanting to limit the game to either CGA or EGA, someone at Artech (the developer) built the format of this diskette BY HAND so that DOS would not step on the C64 tracks, and somehow the C64 would also read/boot the disk

I don’t know how the C64 portion boots since track 0 sector 0 looks like a DOS boot sector, but quick research shows that C64 disks keep their index on track 18.  If anyone knows how C64 disks are read and boot, I’d love to know.

The diskette that blew Trixter’s mind « Oldskooler Ramblings.