Monday, September 28, 2009

Trillian Astra

This is an IM client along the lines of Meebo or (presumably, I’ve never used it) Digsby.  Kind of obscure, but a really great program. 

Slick user interface.  Connects to:  AIM, ICQ, Bonjour, Facebook IM, IRC, MySpaceIM, Skype, Windows Live Messenger, XMPP (all Jabber, XMPP, and Google Talk networks), and Yahoo! Messenger.  It also has support for any POP3 or IMAP enabled email account and Twitter.  Lots of great color themes.  The main window doesn’t take up any space in your taskbar, just a small icon in your system tray.  You can switch it from one tabbed chat windows to multiple single-conversation windows.  When connected to certain clients (at least Windows Live Messenger) certain words, when mouseover-ed, pop up a Wikipedia article about that word.  Tested and certain words:  bacon, yay, and The Sixth Sense.  Windows snap to other windows and the edges of the screen.

You must manually reconnect to Facebook every time you log on (basically, when you restart your computer).  Won’t pick up responses from one (only one!) of my friends on Facebook, but I suspect that’s an issue with Facebook.  As far as I can tell, disconnects you when your computer screensavers.

Rating:  9 9/10

Get it here.

About the ratings: 
I copied Wired Magazine’s rating system because I like it and I think it works well.  Here’s the key:
1 = A complete failure in every way
2 = Barely functional – don’t get it
3 = Serious flaws, proceed with caution
4 = Downsides outweigh upsides
5 = Recommended with reservations
6 = A solid product with some issues
7 = Very good, but not great
8 = Excellent, with room to kvetch
9 = Nearly flawless – get it now
10 = Metaphysical product perfection


On the left is the main window, on the right is an open chat windowTrillian Astra
No ma’am, no names here, nothing to worry yourself about.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

My Portable Apps

This is a post I wrote a couple of weeks ago, saved it as a draft on Windows Live Writer until I could get links, and promptly forgot about it:

I’ve got a couple portable apps (only one from the actual PortableApps website) that I like.  Here they are:

Highly Recommended

  • Defraggler
    The best disk defragmenter I’ve ever used.  My favorite function is the Defrag Selected Files feature, so I can defrag just, say, a few files I was moving around.  Also much faster than the Windows built-in defragmenter.
  • Revo Uninstaller
    I’ve raved about Revo before, see this post to see its awesomeness.
  • Everything
    A crazy powerful, crazy fast search engine for files on your computer.  See this post.

Other good ones

  • Portable Google Chrome
    I use this when I want my bookmarks on someone else’s computer, or when Firefox is having beta-derived issues.
  • Weird Metronome
    A really fun and easy-to-use beat maker.  See their website for yourself.
  • Portable Movie Maker
    Replaces all the stuff that Windows Live Movie Maker got rid of.  I don’t make too many movies, it doesn’t get a lot of use, still good to have for when I need it.  Also, my netbook’s built in Movie Maker is FUBAR’d.

Ones I don’t use too much, but are good to have.

  • ClamWin Portable
    Portable virus checking for files; I don’t use this much because I don’t download much on computers besides my own.  Still, good to have.
  • Tor Browser
    On days when I’m feeling paranoid, I use Tor Browser (It’s really just Firefox with built-in Tor).  Sadly, it’s slower than Chrome so I don’t use too often.  Anonymity’s good, though, when I want it.
  • EditPadLite
    A totally customizable version of Notepad; on my computer I use Notepad++ instead.  On other computers, I usually use it as a to-do list sort of thing.

Friday, September 25, 2009


This is meant to be a browser where instead of tabs, it pulls up multiple windows and you can arrange them around a ‘sphere’. Good idea, not so great program.

Good idea for a program.  Easy to resize and move your windows around. 

Hard to see the tiny windows on my MSI Wind’s screen.  Issues with lag.  Leaves behind marks when you move or close a window.

Rating:  4 4/10

You can download it here, if you like.

About the ratings: 
I copied Wired Magazine’s rating system because I like and I think it works well.  Here’s the key:
1 = A complete failure in every way
2 = Barely functional – don’t get it
3 = Serious flaws, proceed with caution
4 = Downsides outweigh upsides
5 = Recommended with reservations
6 = A solid product with some issues
7 = Very good, but not great
8 = Excellent, with room to kvetch
9 = Nearly flawless – get it now
10 = Metaphysical product perfection


Program Testing

I downloaded a whole bunch of new programs today and updated a whole bunch of others.  I’ll use them for a little while, then review them all.  At the end, I’ll give you the list of Programs That Lived.

Expect the first review sometime between now and the day after tomorrow.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

How to Change to Color of Office 2007

The default Office 2007 color is blue; you can change it to black or silver.

If you want pictures accompanying each step, go to this Instructable that I made.

1. Open any Office 2007 window (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc)
2.  Click on the Office 2007 logo in the top left corner
3.  Choose ~ Options, where ~ is the name of your window (Word Options, PowerPoint Options, etc)
4.  Make sure the subsequent window is set to the ‘Popular’ tab. 
5.  Under the dropdown list titled Color Scheme currently set to blue, choose either Black or Silver.  I personally prefer the black scheme.
6.  Click OK.
7.  You’re done!  Doing this affects the following Office 2007 windows: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Access.  It does not noticeably affect OneNote, InfoPath, or Publisher.  I could not check Groove; I did not want to make an account.


6 - Black Window

5 - Silver Window

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Favicons! Whoo!

Look! Look! No longer is Ramblings’ Favicon the default (Bloggers big orange ‘B’)! Now it’s an R (y’know, for Ramblings). Let there be joy.

EDIT: 20 September 2009: The favicon has stopped working for both my father and I. It probably isn't working for anyone else now, either. I shall try to figure out what's going wrong and fix it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Stickies is a small program that creates as many windows as you want (each with customizable background/text color) that you can type in.  They stay where you put them, even through shutdowns and restarts.  They keep their text, even through shutdowns and restarts.  I only have one at the moment, I’m using it to keep track of blog posts that I mean to write.

Here’s my sticky (upper-left corner):
Mah Sticky

Monday, September 14, 2009

Firefox: Uber-maximized Reading Area

I installed some Stylish scripts and some addons and got a Firefox window that is nearly totally reading area, but still has total functionality. I love it. You’ll have to use both addons and Stylish scripts to get this to work like I have it. Here’s the screenshot, to entice you to read further. *NOTE: Screenshots are being taken on my awesome 20” widescreen monitor, so there’ll be a lot of blank space on the sides. Be forewarned.

Enticing Screenshot

Addons I’m using to get this:

  • Hide Caption
    Hides the useless title at the top of a window (Mozilla Firefox, in this case). The close, maximize, and minimize buttons are moved to the navbar, screenshots at the bottom (as usual).
  • Hide Menubar
    Reviewed in my previous post, “My Recommended Firefox Add-ons” Screenshots on that post.
  • Speed Dial
    Shows 8 user-selected clickable thumbnails on a new tab. (Plus a weather thumbnail that… um… shows your current weather. Can be turned into a regular page.) Allowed me to remove 8 icons from my bookmarks bar, so now the whole bookmarks bar fits on my MSI Wind. Screenshots below, still as usual.
  • Stylish
    Reviewed in my previous post, “My Recommended Firefox Add-ons” Screenshots… yeah. I’ll stop telling you this. You probably got it by now.
  • autoHideStatusbar
    Reviewed in my previous post “My Recommended Firefox Add-ons

Stylish scripts I’m using to get this.

Yay! Screenshot time!

Caption Hid!
Caption Hid

Note that the close and such buttons are moved to the navbar:
close on the right

Speed Dial
Speed Dial

Bookmarks Toolbar hid…
Bookmarks Bar hidden

… until mouseover!
bookmarks bar shown

Tabs at the top, woohoo!
Tabs be at the top

Neither back nor forward buttons visible…
New tab, so no back or forward

… here’s just the back button
Just Back Button

Note the lack of home button (the button there is refresh)
No home button

Here’s just the reload button
Page not loading, so just refresh

Now the page is loading, so there’s a stop button too
Loading, so there's a stop button

So there you have it! As always, I apologize for random vertical stretching on some of the pictures.


Questions? Comments? Spam? Just leave a comment on the post and I’ll see it and get back to you as soon as I can.

If you find a typo or a grammar fail, please let me know. Thanks!

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Today, 775 people looked at my blog.  Seven-Hundred Seventy-Freaking-Five.  That’s more than twice the last five months combined.  And yet, still nobody comments.

I wonder what happened today to make so many (well, sorta) people visit my blog. I keep saying to myself, “775. 775. 775.”

Friday, September 4, 2009

My recommended Firefox Add-ons

Here’s all the Firefox Add-ons that I’m using and like.  Some of them are in the official recommended list, some aren’t.  This isn’t necessarily all the ones I like, I may find more that I like later.  Anyways, here goes:

  • about:me
    Collates your Firefox History into a cool-looking page with graphs (type about:me into the address box).  As I write this, it shows the following things:  Most visited Sites, Hourly Browsing Activity, Download Media Types, Daily Download Trends.  Screenshots below.
  • Add-On Collector
    Makes it easier to add Add-Ons to a collection, either for sharing or backup or whatever.
  • autoHideStatusbar
    Pretty self explanatory:  hides the status bar at the bottom unless you hover your mouse a customizable distance from the bottom, defaulted to 5 pixels.  Perfect for me, I work on a netbook. Every little bit of extra space is good.
  • Better Gmail 2
    Some stuff to make Gmail look and work better.  On a side note, my favorite Gmail theme is Shiny.
  • Better GReader
    I use this one a LOT.  Some of my favorite features:  minimalist view (maximized space for viewing articles, again good for my netbook) and clicking on the title of a feed pulls up the page in that tap.  Screenshots below.
  • Cooliris
    A really cool  looking (I actually liked the older version better, though) ‘Wall’ for viewing photos or videos, off of any page with pictures (hover over a picture then click the Cooliris icon that comes up) or from your computer (open the Cooliris page, then choose My Computer) or, once the Cooliris page is open, you can search sites like YouTube, Hulu, DeviantART, Google Images, etc.  Screenshots below.
  • Download Statusbar
    Shows downloads in a bar on top of the statusbar, instead of in the normal pop-up window.  I love it, I do a lot of downloading programs and things.  Screenshots below.
  • FaviconizeTab
    Shrinks an open tab to just its Favicon.  I use it for Google Reader, with the Unread Count in Favicon from Better GReader and for Gmail with the Unread Count in Favicon from Better Gmail 2, so that I can see if I have new mail but still have lots of room for other tabs.  Screenshots below.
  • Fission
    Shows how much a page is loaded in the address bar, like in Safari.  Eye candy.  Screenshots below.
  • Hide Menubar
    Um… Hides the menubar.  Bring it back up temporarily by pressing Alt.  Good for my netbook.  Screenshots below.
  • InvisibleHand
    One of my favorites, InvisibleHand checks the item you’re looking at on Amazon, Newegg, TigerDirect, Target, etc. and tells you if there’s a better deal on any other site.  I have saved quite a bit with it.
  • Personas for Firefox
    I don’t use this one too much, I have the heaven.cube theme installed, but it’s still awesome.  Dresses up your browser with one click.  Nothing but eye candy. 
  • StumbleUpon Toolbar
    I usually have this hidden, with custom shortcuts for Stumbling, Liking, and Disliking (Ctrl+F1, Ctrl+Shift+F1, and Ctrl+Shift+1, respectively).  StumbleUpon is awesome.
  • Stylish
    Lets you install a whole bunch of user scripts, instantly (click Install then click OK) that change how a site looks.  I have a grey-and-black-and-red colored Facebook at the moment, for example

And there you go.  You can download everything here at an Add-on Collection I made, if you want.


about:me page
about me page

GReader page from title

Cooliris Wall – searching DeviantART
cooliris deviantart page

Download Statusbar
download statusbar

Faviconized Tabs
favoconized tab

Fission loading bar – about halfway loaded
fission bar

Look, Ma!  No Menubar!
no menu bar

Please excuse the weird vertical stretching on the last picture.  I don’t know why it does that.


My awesome little netbook is the MSI Wind U100.  It comes with 1GB of RAM installed, and supports up to 2GB of RAM and has a little slot for the right size chip (in this case, I needed a 1GB DDR2-5300 SODIMM)  I just removed the battery, unscrewed the back, popped it off, popped in the RAM, screwed the back on, replaced the battery, and turned it on.  I didn’t have to worry about shock too much:  I live in a place with 80%-90% humidity every day.  I grounded myself off a light switch screw, then got to work.

There is a notable decrease in

  1. Boot time from a shutdown
  2. Boot time from hibernation
  3. Program load time
  4. Lag when I have a lot of tags open

Sweetness!  A really good deal, and really easy too.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Quick Post: What the Heck?

I went to the store yesterday and picked up a Brita water filter:  I’ve been drinking a lot of water lately, trying to get up to 8 cups (I used to usually drink 4).  For the installation of the filter, I had to remove the aerator from the tap, the aerator being a little screw-on that makes the water that comes out more of a tap water look than a pouring out look.  I took out the aerator which had a little screen on the top.  Full of little rocks and sand.  What the heck?  There’s freaking rocks in my drinking water?  Granted, the larger (i.e. largish grain of sand) ones are filtered out, but what about, say, the smaller ones?  Like dust or smallish grains of sand?  Blech.