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Archive for October, 2009

Windows 7 ruined my photo groove

October 29, 2009 Leave a comment

It’s times like last night that I really wish I was allowed to participate in Microsoft user usability studies. They totally ruined the way I manage pictures.

In Vista I would pull of the pictures over from the camera and into a folder where I would then have them sorted by Date Taken. This was easy because there’s a customizable bar at the top of the window allowing you to group and sort on whatever property you want. Then I go through and rename all of the pictures, add tags and fix up red eye. Having them sorted by Date Taken is very important in this process because if they were sorted by name I’d lose track of what I was doing if the files resorted as I was renaming them. After that I would then run TitleSetter (a program I wrote and have posted about) to set the title meta data for all of the pictures, if they didn’t already have a title.

Yesterday was the first time I tried to do this in Windows 7. The experience was bad. First of all Windows 7 doesn’t have that handy row at the top of the window with the properties you can sort/group by. It does have a little button that will let you Arrange by Day (note, not Date Taken), Month, Folder, Rating or Tag. Something that’s frustrating with this is that it doesn’t let you reverse the order. So when you sort by Day it groups them by day, but the order within the day may be reversed. The default button for arranging doesn’t have a way for sorting by Date Taken it was killing me. Because what’s useful is to have large pictures, not in any sort of group, but listed in reverse order so that I can name all of the files with what fits in the contents of the picture.

Barring the file sorting and name the next frustrating part was adding some of the properties. In Vista you can make the Explorer window bigger and it will show more metadata. Not in Win 7. It shows only some basic properties and no more. So now there’s an extra step of pulling up the context menu, select properties and finding the right property.

I ran my TitleSetter program and it didn’t set the title of any of the pictures. Why? Because they were all “        “. Yup, Windows 7 had given every picture a title of spaces. Oh, great. I moved the pictures to my Vista computer and reran the program, expecting it to fail, but it didn’t. It passed. Windows 7 didn’t add a title metadata, but it saw a null title and had the API return one full of spaces.

Another annoying thing I found in the process was that in Vista you can press shift when right clicking in an Explorer window and an “Open Command Window Here” option appears. They took that away. Argh. I used that!

All in all, every step of my picture storing groove was messed up by Windows 7.

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The Task Scheduler is the new Startup folder

October 27, 2009 Leave a comment

In earlier versions of Windows the way to get a program to run at the time the user logs in, is to place a shortcut in the startup folder of the user. This works mostly, but it’s annoying when some program places itself in the hidden all user startup folder and you want to remove it. The other way is a program will create an entry that can be configured in msconfig (I don’t know the details of this).

With my brand new Windows 7 64-bit Asus CG, four programs would start up shortly after anyone logged in. This is fine for the administrator account, but for the standard users it’s really annoying because the four programs requested UAC. The four programs are AsLoader.exe AIManager.exe FourEngine.exe and UpdateChecker.exe. All of them are for Asus. AsLoader is something that deals with graphics enhancements, AIManager is a little app that runs on the desktop to manager the computer, FourEngine is something that monitors the motherboard temperature and power consumption and UpdateChecker is a SourceFourge project which Asus is using to check for system updates.

So three of these are useful for when anyone logs into the computer. But since they don’t interact with the desktop, they should honestly be services. For some reason they are not.

I searched all of the startup folders, msconfig, and the registry. I couldn’t find what was causing these programs to start up when a user logged in. With all of the usual suspects depleted I didn’t know what to do. I uninstalled AIManager because it doesn’t seem that useful, but I wanted to find someway to still have the other three, but not get prompted. At my wits end I installed ProcessExplorer and looked at the properties of one of the programs from ProcessExplorer. It said that the parent process was taskeng.exe. I checked the Windows 7 task scheduler and sure enough, there they were. The three remaining were listed as scheduled to run when a user logs in.

There are lots of options on how to run scheduled tasks. So I changed UpdateChecker to only run when I log in as my administrator account (which is next to never) and the other two to run as Local Service (they don’t interact with the desktop) when any user logs in. Now there are no more annoying UAC pop ups. Asus, why didn’t you do this in the first place?

I like the idea of using the Task Scheduler for this type of work. Programs that load from the startup directory tend to load right when the system is under load. These four seemed to pop up a little after the rest of the startup programs loaded (at the moment all I have Windows Live Messenger), so they could be stressing the system slightly less than other programs. But the nice thing is that you can configure the program to run a few minutes after log in. So if there’s a non mission critical program (think Skype) that I want to run, but I don’t want loading when the system is under load I can schedule it to run a few minutes after log in.

Now the problem is that executables started from Task Scheduler aren’t that discoverable as to their launching location. I was lucky that Asus make an Asus directory in the scheduler. Should this become common place the average user is going to need to know how these programs are getting launched.

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Windows 7 did make something easier, but it was hard for me

October 26, 2009 Leave a comment

On my Windows Vista machine I had subscribed to the marketplace podcast, which Vista placed into some obscure temp folder that no average user would have a chance of finding. Microsoft probably figured that there are many third party apps which could handle podcasts (think iTunes). But Windows has a built in RSS reader, so I figured I didn’t need to use anything more than that. To get the MP3’s synced with my Creative Zen or Walkman I had Windows Media Player monitor the obscure folder.

So while I’m setting up my new Windows 7 computer I’m trying to configure the monitored folders in Windows Media Player and I can’t find them. I looked for over an hour. I finally figured out how to do it. In Windows 7 they have libraries and what I needed to do was add the directory to the music library. It was very easy to do. So easy, it took me quite some time to figure it out.

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Why don’t water heaters have Wifi?

October 12, 2009 1 comment

For the last few weeks Amanda and I have been having issues with our hot water heater. About once every four days the water would get really, really hot. The next day it would be cold. I would check and the internal circuit breaker of the water heater and it would have tripped. I’d set it back, we’d got hot water, and the cycle would repeat. Basically the thermostat would work for a few days, but then it would not shut off the heater. So eventually something figured out the heater was going crazy and the system would trip and turn the power off. On Friday the repair man came out and replaced the thermostat.

Saturday morning there was water in our entry way. The hot water heater has an emergency pressure release valve which empties out onto our entry way and the water ends up finding it’s way to a nearby drain. The water from the hot water heater was very hot, and the internal breaker had tripped. Sunday morning it looked like it had happened again, but this time there was lots of water. Sunday afternoon Amanda and I were home I heard water running and looked and water was gushing out of the emergency valve. The entry way was full of steam from all of the hot water. Sunday was an abnormally cold day and 150° water in 37° weather makes for lots of steam. I went to the condo circuit breaker and turned off the hot water heater manually.

Today (Monday) the repair man came out again and couldn’t believe that there was another bad thermostat. He replaced it and this time cycled it multiple times, making sure that everything was good.

One of the frustrating things to me is that the hot water heater gives no indication if it’s on or not. All I can do is guess when there’s no hot water that the breaker has tripped and press the red button. There are no lights saying if it’s on or off, no thermometer reporting the internal temperature. The way the repair checked that everything was working was by using a volt meter, and testing the current at different points to see that everything was working.

Now of course most people don’t care, because the hot water heater works the vast majority of the time, but I’m someone who likes to know what’s going on. I’ve read articles about houses of the future and how everything is going to be networked, but I don’t really need a blender networked. I could use the hot water heater though.

What I’m thinking is a little Windows gadget (Or Yahoo/Mac widget) that I configure to listen to a certain device on my network. When installing the hot water heater I interface with it through a USB cord, or something like that, and configure the hot water heater for my wireless network. Then I’d have a little gadget running in my sidebar (or on my desktop for Win7) that would report to me if the heater was working, what the internal temp is, etc. Now most of the time I could ignore it, but at least I would know what’s going on what I cared to.

Why hasn’t anyone made that yet?

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Eventful Sunday

October 11, 2009 1 comment

Today in Sacrament Meeting Amanda conducted the ward Choir for the first time. I was in the choir; I’m there primarily to support her. We didn’t have a long walk up to the stand though because Amanda gave the second talk in Sacrament Meeting and I gave the third talk. Amanda’s talk was entitles “Discipleship Bring Purpose to our Lives” and mine was “What Lack I Yet?”.

I was teasing Amanda that this gave her two opportunities to get super nervous and pass out in front of everybody, but she happened to not take either opportunity.

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