TBT: Free and powerful image editing

This post originally ran in July 2008. I am reposting it now, as part of my throwback thursday project, to give some of my older quality posts some love. Until this day, Paint.NET remains one of a number of applications that I immediately install on any new Windows-machine, and it is still in frequent use.

Continuing my series of posts about handy software that I use and love, I’ve now arrived at paint.net. Paint.net is a powerful piece of open-source image editing software which I’ve been using for a long time. It’s what I use to edit all of the images for my blog, and I’ve found it intuitive, practical and simple to use. Here’s what it looks like:

Screenshot of Paint.NET

The full list of features goes as follows:

  • Simple, intuitive, and innovative user interface
  • Layers
  • Active Online Community
  • Frequently Updated
  • Special Effects
  • Powerful Tools
  • Unlimited History
  • Open Source and Free

If you think you’d care to try it out, you can download it here.

Setting up Google AdSense on WordPress

Regular readers may have noticed that ads started appearing on the site back in the beginning of february. While I don’t expect to ever earn a lot of money on this site, it would be nice if it didn’t cost me money. Running a WordPress blog on a hosted domain isn’t all that expensive, and the total cost depends on what host you go with.

At any rate, some time ago, a friend asked me about setting up AdSense on a WordPress blog, and I had to admit that the last time I looked into it was the last time I had ads on this blog, about three or four years ago. The reason I cut them out was that they simply didn’t look good. At all. Well, I decided to try setting it up, to see if the world has progressed in the past three or four years.

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Go to the AdSense site, and set up an account
  2. In WordPress, go to Plugins > Add new
  3. In the search bar, search for Google AdSense, and install the one created by Google
  4. Activate the app, and connect it to your account
  5. Enable ads on the desktop site, mobile site, or both, if you so choose

That’s it; you don’t really need to do anything else. Now, I didn’t like where the ads were placed on the desktop site, so I went to Settings > AdSense, and then clicked the “Manage ads” button, where you can change where the ads pop up. I am very happy with how it looks, and think it works a lot better now than it did back when I fumbled about with it previously. Here’s hoping I actually get some revenue…

#TBT: Internet Explorer and me (Or: Why I choose)

This post originally ran in May 2008. I am reposting it now, as part of my throwback thursday project, to give some of my older quality posts some love. While Internet Explorer may have become better since the article was written, I still opt to use other browsers.

I’ve been using computers more or less actively for about 10 years now. My first encounter with a computer was a hulking 386, which I never really got the hang of. Since then, I’ve encountered computers in many different ways, but the first time I can remember getting a “So that’s what it’s all about” feeling, was back in the summer of 1996. Using Word (!) I constructed my very first website.

Ever since, the web has been a mainstay of mine. I’ve had an email adress since then, and I’ve used it for such things as keeping in touch with friends, maintaining several websites and blogs, applying for jobs, finding an apartment, and so on. The list is nearly endless.

About six or so years ago, I started fiddling around seriously with computers, and one of the first things I realized was that I had already experienced three webbrowsers (Internet Explorer, Opera and Netscape), and settled on a preferred browser (Internet Explorer). I also started to question why I had settled on this one, and so began my quest to find a different browser.

I had some sort of very faint notion that there must be something better than what I had, but I didn’t know what. Not, that is, until I found Mozilla Firefox. Since then, I have challenged my opinion on Firefox repeatedly, but it still sticks out as the best I’ve found so far.

I have two main arguments for Firefox, they are security and usability. Security, not because it is necessarily a more secure browser (as has been shown, it too has its share of problems), but because I believe there’s an innate level of security to not having your webbrowser built into the OS Kernel. As for usabiity, I realise Opera was way before Firefox with tabbed browsing, but I still don’t find Opera the user friendly browser I do Firefox.

Another thing is of course that knowing my way around Firefox, I can use it on whichever OS I wish. When I use Kubuntu, I don’t use Konqueror, I use Firefox. When I use Mac, I don’t use Safari (which isn’t half as much an integral part of the operating system as MSIE or Konqueror), I use Firefox.

Microsoft Internet Explorer was a decent webbrowser, oh about ten years ago. They then stopped developing it, while other software-manufacturers kept developing theirs. Among the prominent webbrowsers today are Mozilla Firefox (Windows, Mac, Linux), Opera (Windows, Mac, Linux), Safari (Mac OS and Windows), Internet Explorer (Windows Only), and Konqueror (Linux only). I prefer Firefox, for a range of reasons, the first being the fact that it is Open Source, and constantly being developed. Another is the fact that it is not an integral part of the OS. Should I tire of it, or wish to remove it for some reason (although I cannot now imagine how that would happen), I can remove it, and all trace of it with a minimum of moves.

Yet another argument is its adaptability and options for customization. It comes with a bare minimum of options, but you can easily add extentions that make your life easier. Mine shows the IP-adress of the site I am visiting, the hebrew date, and has a GUI-button that I can click to disconnect it from the web.

If you want to switch, or think you might like to try it out, please do. Find Firefox here, or Opera here.

It annoys me that there are still developers out there that don’t write for all browsers, and only test their sites in MSIE. I feel this practice is exclusivist and elitist, and I hate it. If I can avoid using these sites, I do. I also inform the webmaster that this is so, and should they remedy the situation, I’d like to be notified. The problem is that MSIE, like many others (Firefox included, though to a lesser degree) has inherent non-compliance issues. This is a problem because many sites don’t work properly (if at all) in other browsers.

The point, in the end, is not about what you choose, but that you do choose. Only through making conscious, informed decisions can we better our days as users of these electronic gadgets many of us love so dearly. Good luck, and good night.

Note on the links in this article: All links to Firefox are rerouted through a program called SpreadFirefox.com. Should you wish to download Firefox, you will be rerouted directly to the download site, and my account with SpreadFirefox.com gets one download added. I do not earn money from this, only recognition. The links to Opera lead directly to the website of Opera Software. Whichever you choose, I think it is important to make a choice.

Music Piracy: Not such a real problem after all

It should be no surprise to you, my readers, that I believe the claims of piracy by the recording and movie industries are weak. Likewise, I have made my views on the way the content industry tries to score points very clear.Further, it should be no surprise that I think that a content creator who wants to ensure that they get revenues from their content, should be the best provider of it, or at least facilitate legal services that their target group can use.

That last point, recently got another, kind of surprising proponent: the Norwegian office of IFPI. In a recent survey, they asked Norwegian respondents under the age of 30 whether they illegally downloaded. In a 2009 survey, a massive 80% answered yes to that question. Compare that to the 2014 numbers; 4% say that they do. I’ll just let that sink in for a moment.

Managing Director of IFPI Norway, Marte Thorsby, commented:

“We are now offering services that are both better and more user-friendly than illegal platforms… In [the past] five years, we have virtually eliminated illegal file sharing in the music industry.”

That is pretty clear; make your product accessible, user-friendly and affordable, and see what happens; piracy is reduced, while revenues increase. This proves a point that many have made before me; the threat of legal action has little to no effect on piracy. Economic incentives (user-friendliness and accessibility count among those) has a massive effect.

#TBT: Apt-get FTW or: How I learned to stop worrying and learned to love Ubuntu

This post originally ran in May 2008. I am reposting it now, as part of my throwback thursday project, to give some of my older quality posts some love. While I still like Linux and, as I have written about last year still use Linux, it is not my main working platform.

I love technology and fiddling with computers and gadgets dearly, and so, one of my long-term goals have been to has an operational computer running Linux, with which I can do most, if not all, of what I am able to do with my Windows computers.

Like most IT-professionals who has been working in the business for more than, say five minutes, I have got a pretty decent stash of computers laying around at home. One of these is a HP Compaq nc6000 portable computer – one of HP’s finer pieces of work in my opinion – complete with 1GB of RAM and an intel WLAN interface card. I’d tried to install this with Ubuntu earlier (version 6.06 – Dapper Drake), but found no joy when trying to get it up and running with wireless LAN. Since a computer with Linux without an internet connection is rather like a bicycle to a fish (in other words,not very useful), I decided to shelf the experiment.

Then, a friend of mine invited me to Linux installation evening hosted by OLUG – Oslo Linux User Group and PING, and told me to bring a computer to install Linux on. So, hoping to get my computer up and running with Linux and WLAN, I brought the aforementioned nc6000.

I booted the computer with the Ubuntu 8.04 Live CD, and chose the install option. The installer installed without a hitch; and when it booted back up, it got online, with wireless LAN, right out of the box.

If you know nothing about Linux; let me tell you this; the most absurdly useful set of commands I have found so far (within 48 hours of installing the computer) are the following three:

apt-get update
apt-get upgrade
apt-get install

Respectively, they check for updates to the system; upgrade the system with said updates, and installs software.

The install command needs an operator, a command that tells the system what program to install. For example, if I want to install the program Amarok; the command would look like this:

apt-get install amarok

Incidentally, the most powerful command in Linux is this one:

sudo

The sudo command does whatever you put after the command in root mode. You can even place the entire console session in root mode, which is practical if you are going to perform many tasks that need root access. If so, the command looks like this:

sudo su

Anyway, the laptop, dubbed WiseBuntu, runs beautifully, and I’ve had it connected to several wireless networks already, with no apparent problems. It has Amarok, complete with Mp3-support, and I’ve already run both a DVD-movie and a .avi-format movie file.

It works, and I have learned to stop worrying and love Ubuntu.

Quick note: this article was, in its entirety, written on the nc6000 computer, while running Ubuntu.

Resolving error code 0x9c47 when installing Internet Explorer 11

A user called in, wanting help troubleshooting an installation of Internet Explorer 11 that repeatedly and persistently failed. The error code was the same, 0x9c47. The error code means that a Windows Update, KB2729094, could not be found on the computer. Because it is listed as a prerequisite for IE11, the installation failed. It did not matter one bit that the update was already installed. Luckily, resolving it is pretty straight-forward – here’s how:

  1. Follow this link: http://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/download/details.aspx?id=30521
  2. Download the update
  3. Run the install

Now, when I did this, I got an error message saying the program did not apply to the computer. I accepted that message, then ran the installation once more, and it immediately installed, no problem.

#TBT: Why Webmail rocks my world

This post originally ran in May 2008. I am reposting it now, as part of my throwback thursday project, to give some of my older quality posts some love. With smartphones, tablets, and computers at home and work, webmail is still relevant; arguably more so than ever before.

I’ve been using email since 1998, and from the get-go I’ve been using various webmail-clients, in addition to locally installed clients such as Outlook Express (urgh), Outlook (Yum-yum), Lotus Notes (Oh-so-bloated) and Thunderbird (Weighed, measured and found wanting). My first email address was a hotmail one, and although that specific incarnation of my online presence no longer exists, I still have a hotmail address.

In addition to my hotmail adress, I’ve got five other main emails, three personal and two professional. All in all, this is a whopping total of five. Two of my four personal addresses are hosted by traditional mail and web hosts, and normally speaking they’d be accessed using a locally installed email client. Not so with me, mine are forwarded to my non-hotmail webmail provider, GMail.

Now, you can like or dislike GMail, it doesn’t change the fact that GMail has garnered a large following, and I for one love the archiving system they’ve got, as I do tend to need old emails from time to time, and at times need to label emails with more than one label.

I’ve spent two years abroad, one in the South England town of Poole, and one all over Israel. Both places, email was a great way of communicating with family and friends back home. However, not having my own computer in England, and not wanting to risk my personal communication being spread for the winds in Israel, webmail was the perfect solution, for a few simple reasons:

  • If you’ve got ‘net, you’ve got mail
  • Read and reply to email when and where you can and want
  • Read old emails at need

Nowadays, getting an email address costs nothing, you get loads of space, and it doesn’t take a lot of time to set up or learn how to use. Simply put; if you know how to use the web, you already have the tools to acquire and start using your very own email adress.

A critical look at the “Great Place to Work” award

These days, the lists of the winners of the “Great Place to Work” award are being announced. I can understand that it is a title that a lot of companies want to lay claim to; after all, it makes them that much more competitive in the hunt for candidates, and it lets them push back on salary demands, arguing that they are, after all, a “Great Place to Work”. I have a problem with the award though. I think it is worthless as anything other than something to used to pat oneself on the back.

The thing about the award is that, not only is it not representative of the labour market, but the participating companies actually pay a fairly hefty price to be considered. In 2013, only 162 of the approximately 514’000 businesses (or 0.031 per cent) in Norway participated, and they each paid somewhere between 50’000 and 100’000 Norwegian Kroner to participate. The businesses have to nominate themselves. Once nominated, which costs money, the employees get a questionnaire to fill out, but no information is available about the response rate.

This year, 176 businesses are participating. With just over 547’000 businesses in Norway, that means that the survey covers 0.032 percent of the businesses in Norway. My opinion is that the award in and of itself is worthless as anything other than a marketing tool. That said, from what I gather, the participating businesses also get a detailed (and I would assume and hope anonymised) report of the responses within their business, which can, and should be used to improve the business, with the goal of becoming a great place to work.

There is nothing inherently wrong with an admission fee, and the end product that the business gets out of it may very well be worth paying the entry cost. In having read through the information on the Great Place to Work website, it seems to me that the cost of entry to evaluation for the award is not that at all, but rather the cost of having GPtW survey your employees and prepare a report that the business can use to identify areas of improvement in the business.

That is all well and good, and I am happy that there are companies like GPtW out there to perform employee surveys. I just wish they would dispense with the whole award. It is inherently flawed, and cannot possibly lay any claim to relevance.

#TBT: Uncovering Model-specific errors

This post originally ran in April 2008. I am reposting it now, as part of my throwback thursday project, to give some of my older quality posts some love. The ability to see trends is an important one to a support analyst, I would go so far as to call it an essential skill.  

Most models of computer have one or two errors that you classically begin to see within about a year of their release. Be it motherboard issues, harddrive failures or simply keyboard malfunction, they all have them. The problem is that for each new model, there’s a new standard error. Some are shared across a range of similar models, whereas some are specific to a batch of computers.

These errors are something that you learn to live with; you learn to roll with the punches as it were, and to diagnose them. The problem here, is of course that what you see (the symptoms) isn’t always what you’ve got.

An example of this is HP’s nc6220 series computers, that presents itself with a Non-System Disk or Disk Error, leading users and supporters alike to assume that the harddrive is dead. Of course, this is partly because a previous model, the nc6000, had a large batch of bad drives that would kick the bucket after about a year or so.

With the nc6220, the error is not, however, in the harddrive, but on the motherboard, more specifically located in the harddrive controller. Other symptoms include slow boot, slow or no access to BIOS and inability to boot from a CD. The ultimate test is, of course, to put the harddrive into a different computer, and test it. If it boots, you know.

With IBM and Lenovo’s T4x-range of computers, the classic problem is a different one, but none the less annoying. Here, too, the motherboard calls it a day (or life if you will), but the symptoms are no output to both the on-board and any external monitors that might be connected.

Personally, I prefer motherboard failures, because, although annoying and time-consuming, the user does not end up losing data, which they would with a harddrive failure.

Show week numbers in iOS calendar

Many places refer to week numbers, as well as dates. This makes it a bit annoying not to be able to check what week it is on your phone. Luckily, there is now a setting to enable displaying week numbers. Here’s how you activate it:

  1. Open Settings
  2. Go to Mail, Contacts, Calendars
  3. Scroll down to Week Numbers, and activate the setting:

Activate Week Numbers

And here is how it looks:

Calendar with Week Numbers