PostHeaderIcon WikiPock – Wikipedia in your pocket

WikiPock is a utility for Windows Mobile devices and Blackberrys, that lets you search Wikipedia without being connected to a network.  The costs for this convenience is quite reasonable. The Basic version is $9.99 and the Plus Version, which includes updates for a year and two additional databases, is $14.99.  The additional databases are Wikiquote, and Wiktionary.  The wikipedia database is currently 5 gig in size.  If you don’t have that much free space and you need to buy a memory card, they sell an 8 gig microSDHC card with the database preloaded for an additional $15.00.   The database includes full editorial content except images.

I have found it quite useful and a battery saver.  I find I use it every day.  You can read all about it here: http://www.wikipock.com

The search is real time displaying matches as you type.  Here are some screen shots showing the Search page and the results after searching for HTC  t and then clicking on HTC Touch Pro:

Search Screen Results Screen
image image

PostHeaderIcon Keypad Letter Dialer for Windows Mobile 5/6/6.1

I just recently got a new phone. I had intended to upgrade my Samsung i730 to a Samsung Saga, but I discovered I couldn’t do it without getting a data plan. So I switched back to using a regular Pocket PC (I bought an HP 111 off eBay) and I upgraded for free to a Motorola Q9c). The Q9c is a Windows Mobile Smartphone without a touch screen and with a full qwerty keyboard.  One of the first things that I had a problem with was dialing phone numbers that are a name like (1-800-COMCAST or 1-800-PROGRESSIVE). There isn’t a phone keypad to look at when you dial, so I wrote this program to let you enter the number by name and it will convert it for you.

You can get it here: Keypad Letter Dialer v1.2

It requires the .NET Compact Framework 3.5 or you can download just the .NET CF 3.5 CAB file.

I set a speed dial to launch it, so whenever I need to dial a number by name I just hit the speed dial and then I am able to type the name of the number and press dial.

Updated:

It has been updated to Version 1.2. The following modifications were made:

  • Detects if a phone is available and if it isn’t it disables the dial menu. Added for Pocket PC devices that do not have a phone.
  • Added ability to add converted number to contacts. The text name is used as the name and the converted number is added as the phone number. If the contact already exists a message box is displayed letting the user know that the contact exists.
  • Added “copy to clipboard” menu item.
  • Pressing the enter key (or OK button) will dial the number.

PostHeaderIcon Quake 3 Biker Wood Carving is completed.

Todd has finished the wood carving of the Quake 3 character that I use when I play Quake 3. It was enetered in the New England Wood Carvers Annual Competion and got first place in it’s class. Last Thursday Todd gave it to me. I have put up a series of pictures that show it’s progress from last April through Oct.

Quake 3 Biker Model Wood Carving

PostHeaderIcon It’s a shame that Vista gets a bum rap

I’m sick of Vista getting a bum rap, so I figured I would write a few posts about what I like about it.  My first post is just me complaining and starting to explain about my experience.  I will have several posts in the future explaining about the things that I like and find useful in Vista.

What’s wrong with Vista? Nothing.

PostHeaderIcon Quake 3 Biker Model Wood Carving

A friend of mine (Todd Wisell) is carving me a replica of the Quake 3 model called Biker.  He sent me several images showing the progress, so I decided to put up a web page to document that progress.

Quake 3 Biker Model Wood Carving

PostHeaderIcon Send To Toys – Replacement for SendToX PowerToy

I’ve been a user of the MS SendToX PowerToy utility for years. I especially like the Send To–>ClipBoard (As Name). I use it everyday. One problem though it doesn’t work in Vista. Instead I’ve been using a feature of SmartStartMenu which adds “Copy Pathname” to the explorer context menu. This is useful if you need to copy only one fully qualified filename to the clipboard, but doesn’t help if you have several filenames to copy.

I recently had to copy many filenames multiple times and ended up resorting to doing DIR /b “*.whatever” at the command prompt. So I looked around and found that someone had come to my rescue and had made a replacement for SendToX and it works for Vista and XP. He also added a few extras by giving you several options in how those clipboard entries are built.

One option is to have filenames that contain spaces get enclosed in quotes. You can also have multiple files end up as a list of files or all on the same line. Very useful if you are constantly copying and pasting filenames and paths.

This utility has several other useful functions that replace or enhance the features included in the original SendToX powertoy.

  • Send To “Clipboard (as name)”
  • Send To “Command Prompt”
  • Send To “Default Mail Recipient”
  • Send To “Favorites”
  • Send To “Folder…”
  • Send To “Quick Launch”
  • Send To “Recycle Bin”
  • Send To “Run…”

There is also a Send To “Clipboard” command line utility.

You can get Send To Toys at http://www.gabrieleponti.com/software/

The configuration utility that comes with let’s you manage what is in your “Send To” menu and the options of the included features in Send To Toys. So goto Gabriel’s site and if you like the utility click on Donate.

PostHeaderIcon PowerShell and iTunes

PowerShell is Microsoft’s CMD.exe replacement. It is a very powerful shell that does an excellent job of bridging the gap of the DOS command line, COM objects, vbscript, and .NET. It is hard to describe it’s capabilities. You really have to experience it for yourself and have your own epiphany.

For my first PowerShell script I decided to replace the combo batch file and javascript file that I currently use to load all of the podcasts that I subscribe to into my iTunes. The old way was to run the batch file which scanned a folder and all subfolders looking for files with the archive bit set. For each file that it found it would then call the javascript file, which would load the one file into iTunes. The whole process was kind of crude. It would load any file modified in that subfolder. The files would sometimes include jpg or pdf files or even partial downloads.

Using Powershell I was able to easily include in one script the recursing of the folder structure for files with the archive bit set, selection by file extension, and calling the iTunes COM object api. It works quite well.

I basically have a server that runs Juice 24 hours a day collecting podcasts. When I get ready to synch my iPod I just run the PowerShell script and iTunes is updated. I have smart playlists that automatically organize the podcasts when they are loaded.

For links to the script and a detailed explanation go here.

PostHeaderIcon VB .NET 2008

On Dec 12th I went to the Visual Studio 2008 Installfest in Waltham, Ma. By going there I got a free copy of Visual Studio 2008 Professional. Some of the new features may have me revisting Visual Basic .Net. I always wish they had called VB .Net something different. It is so different from VB 6.0 and it is so much work to port a VB 6.0 application to VB .Net, that I have always considered it a different language and haven’t had any reason to actually use it.

I have been impressed with the overall improvements of Visual Studio 2008 and the additions to VB .Net. It’s too soon to tell, but VS 2008 may become my primary development environment going forward. It still takes way too long to install, but it went off without a hitch. The first time you run it the startup time is slow as it does some configuration. After that it fires up really fast, even on my AMD Athlon 3200 XP (32 bit). It only takes about 3 seconds to start.

I did try converting a few VB 6.0 apps that I have always thought should have been easy to convert and it still isn’t able to convert them. The changes required after converting make it too much of a hack for me to consider actually converting an existing project It looks like I will still have to keep a working copy of VB 6.0 around for quite a while. At least until they get rewritten in some other language. I currently have been rewriting them in PowerBasic or RealBasic as the need comes up to make significant changes.

PostHeaderIcon Vista – After 3 months

For the last 3 months I have been using Vista exclusively on my home desktop and laptop. After turning off Superfetch I have not experienced any slowdowns or odd behaviour. The various patches that have come out for Vista have made it where I can play FSX and MX vs ATV Unleashed without issues even though I was unable to when Vista first came out.

My normal memory consumption with Superfetch and UAC turned off is just under 1 Gig. Playing games puts me over the 1 Gig mark. I recommend that for typical use that 1 Gig of memory is sufficient and then depending on what applications or games that a person uses they may need to increase their memory.

The biggest quirks that I have had to deal with are installation programs that were written before Vista. Some applications can’t deal with the fundamental changes that were made with Vista in the relocation of the application data directory and the restrictions placed on writing to the “Program Files” directory. I even have one game that refused to run because it requires DirectX 9 and DirectX 0 isn’t sufficient. For some reason it trims the DirectX 10 to a zero. Telling it to run in compatibility mode fixes that one.

A program that I have for my Pocket PC would error out during the install because it couldn’t find ActiveSynch. The company said I needed to upgrade to the latest version. The funny part is that PC version of the program works fine under Vista and if I manually installed the program to my Pocket PC (copy the cab file and then run it on the PPC) it still worked fine and would synch using Windows Mobile Device Center without problems. When I asked the vendor how to install it they would only tell me that I needed to upgrade to the latest version. It was the only Pocket PC application that I have that wouldn’t install under Vista. I was surprised the vendor didn’t have a description of the manual method to install their application on their website. I won’t be purchasing from that vendor again.

PostHeaderIcon Vista, MS Developer Tools, ReadyBoost and SuperFetch

Even though my desktop has been heavily upgraded over the years, my XP system partition hasn’t changed since it was first installed. I have never re-installed XP. I was tri-booting XP, Vista, and Ubuntu. Spending most of my time in XP. A couple of things made me decide to finally pull the plug and start clean. I pulled my 3 drives from my system and put them in USB enclosures. I then installed a single 320 gig HD. I decided to go with Vista and not install XP.

My system is an Athlon XP 3200 with 1.5 gig of ram. I’m holding off on upgrading my system a little longer because my next upgrade is going to involve me having to buy a PCI Express video card. I’m perfectly happy with my BFG AGP card. My system has always been responsive in XP but with Vista it seems like a dog. On the other hand my laptop with a Core 2 Duo cpu and 2 Gig of ram seems to run Vista just fine most of the time. Even so it still has it’s random performance hiccups.

With determination to get Vista performing well on my system, I started my long ordeal of installing software. First up was Visual Studio 6. I needed to install VB 6. Microsoft should be ashamed with how they have treated their developers. You would think that Vista would support all of MS’s developer tools right out of the box. When  you install VS 6 on Vista you get a message to get online help.  All you get is saying that C++ has incompatibilities and to contact Microsoft. I can live with just VB 6 out of VS 6, but it seems that there are problems with installing the VS Service Packs. I was able to get SP 6 and install it without too many problems.

Most people would say don’t install VB 6, but I still use it and need to, because MS did such a terrible job on creating VB .NET as the next version of VB. They should have used a completely different name for the product and just said that they were abandoning VB. It is not worth the effort to convert existing VB 6 apps to VB .NET.

You would think that VS 2005 would be just fine on Vista, but it isn’t. You get the same dialogs warning about it’s incompatibilities. This wouldn’t bother me so much except for two things. The time it takes to install and the problems during the install. There are service packs available, but you can’t put them on until you have installed VS 2005. The install for VS 2005 takes a long time. The VS help portion wouldn’t install because I had moved my documents folder to a network drive. I had to figure that out, move my documents folder back locally, install VS Help, and then move it back to the network drive. The informative error message was “invalid drive f:\”. I couldn’t find someone with a similar problem so I had to figure it out.

I thought that Visual Studio and MSDN took way too long to install. I have 1.5 gig of ram and a 2 gig USB using ReadyBoost. I didn’t see any improvement using ReadyBoost. I actually thought the system was slower. I noticed while installing that Vista was always starved for memory as the SuperFetch consistently seemed to fill my memory with stuff I wasn’t using and didn’t leave any room for the stuff that I was loading.

I then installed the Service Packs, the first was taking forever to get to the point where it actually would start installing. I noticed on the web page that I was launching it from that it said if you have UAC enabled that it could take an hour of more while it verified all the certificates. I had been trying to see if I could live with UAC and I decided right then that I couldn’t. I turned off UAC and retried the service pack for VS2005. It still took a long time but was much faster than with UAC on. The VS service pack update for Vista also took a long time.

It took so long to install Office 97, Office 2003, Office 2007, Visual Studio 6, and VS 2005 I was starting to wish that I had just installed XP. I then started testing out my system in this configuration. I didn’t like how it responded. It seemed sluggish compared to my system running XP on a badly thrashed system disk. I started looking at my memory usage and you can’t really tell what your memory usage is. I knew from XP that my max memory consumption was right at 1.5 Gig. I had no idea what my memory was in Vista, but I could tell that the SuperFetch was randomly accessing my harddisk at times that I really didn’t want it to.

I did some research and found some comparisons that showed slower performance using ReadyBoost. It seems that ReadyBoost is really designed to decrease the performance hit of a memory starved system and not really something to improve performance. Circuit City had a sale on memory so I opted to upgrade my system to 3 Gig. I knew I would need it to keep Vista and Flight Simulator X happy.

Knowing I had enough memory I removed my ReadyBoost USB drive and booted up. I didn’t do anything after rebooting. I just watched my memory consumption and I noticed that my system’s memory crept up to the point that I had hardly any free. I have several different usage profiles and I prefer that what is in my cache is stuff that I’m currently working on and that I have plenty of free memory available when I start to do something that I haven’t done before or rarely do. I started looking around for performance tips for Vista and I saw a tip on turning SuperFetch off. I was looking for ways to tune it, but off sounded good to me.

I turned SuperFetch off and rebooted my computer. The first thing that I noticed was that my system was more responsive without ReadyBoost and SuperFetch. I tried a few things and then checked out my memory consumption. After about 30 minutes of using my computer I still had 2 Gig free. Some people will say that is 2 gig wasted. I know that it isn’t. It actually is sitting there ready and waiting for me to use it when I need it. It will then be immediately available without Vista having to find a home for or throw away all the crap that SuperFetch has stuck in my memory.

I believe for some scenarios SuperFetch makes sense. The way that I use my computer it doesn’t at all. If MS decides to give me the option of tuning it by identifying applications to cache, excluding applications from the cache, and the ability to set the size of my free memory pool then I would turn it back on.

I have been using my freshly upgraded system for about 2 hours, with no noticeably hiccups in performance. In the two hours, I haven’t had one need to go to task manager to see what was making my system slow. I still have 1.9 gig free. I’m anxious to try my laptop without SuperFetch. I believe that the reason that my laptop has never felt as sluggish in Vista as my desktop is because of the dual core cpu.