Wednesday, 25 November 2009

TIP - Backup or Synchronise

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Continuing the theme of hunting for a reasonably competent backup tool, and building on the two links I provided in the previous post to some of Gizmo Richards' superb freeware, I have stumbled across a couple more that might be of interest to you. But those will only be revealed to you in the next post.

First, let me put to bed some misconceptions about backups. My whinge in a couple of previous posts was that those dumb-asses at Microsoft appeared to cripple their backup solution by neglecting to backup .EXE, .DLL and .JS files on the grounds that they are executables and that the built-in backup programme is designed to backup only DATA.

Well, yes and no!

Microsoft, in its 'Big Brother' guise chooses to do this, because if you use their built-in proggy that is all you are going to get. Independent manufacturers ALSO choose to do this, for the reasons I shall mention next, but you have a choice of telling the programme that you use (if it isn't a Microsoft offering) that you want EVERYTHING backed-up. An option that would be nice in Windows if M$ allowed the choice!

Here are some reasons why it makes good common sense to exclude 'executables', assuming your installation is a standard one where your C-drive is the one on which you have installed your operating system. And to keep it from getting boring, it is the only drive I shall discuss here ...

  • Drive C:\ has all the Windows system files, 10GB at least. If Windows crashes and has to be reinstalled, all these files will be redone and rewritten by the Windows installer. So it is a pointless exercise backing them up.
  • Drive C:\ has a lot of temporary files, including all the cookies, temp folders, page files, system restore points, prefetch folders and other garbage you've picked up on the Internet. Maybe even some dormant viruses and malware. You want all temporary files to disappear when you reinstall Windows, so backing them up is not only useless, it could be harmful.
  • Boot sector and certain boot-related files ought not to be backed up. Your computer will require the new installation of drivers for its hardware and the old boot files will be of little use.
  • The folder C:\Program Files\ contains executable and graphics files of the programmes you installed. The folders in it are huge and not worth saving, because if you have to reinstall Windows, you have to reinstall all programmes that you installed in the first place (see below).
  • The Registry contains all your programme settings and more. Unfortunately it is a waste of time to back it up either, because the Registry is the first thing that gets irreparably damaged by malware and/or other malfunctions. A Windows reinstall has the specific goal of getting a new uncorrupted Registry.

I have just re-read the preceding 'advice' and I am not surprised that the average user is often confused as to what they should do. Allow me to reiterate: it is pointless backing up the WHOLE of Drive C:\ for the reasons I've laid out above. However, there ARE certain things that are essential to backup on that drive:

  • My Documents
  • My Pictures
  • My Music
  • My Videos
  • e-mail Accounts, Settings and saved Mail

Those are only a few of the things that require your attention, so my advice is to go through Drive C:\, folder by folder, and make sure you manage to identify EVERYTHING on that drive that is of a personal nature that won't be restored by a Windows reinstallation.

If you have more than one drive, or if you have partitioned that large single drive that came with your computer, then it goes without saying that you will need to look at those drives too to ensure you don't forget anything! In the case of multiple drives, the chances are that you needn't worry too much about the drives that don't hold your operating system. On the other hand, if you have partitioned a single drive, please remember that during reinstallation of the OS that there is a very good chance that Windows will require you to reformat the drive, possibly even demanding the deletion of any partitions you may have built. In which case EVERYTHING on that drive will be wiped clean!

There is a great deal more to this subject, but I think that is enough 'first-aid' to get you sorted in case you have to face the inevitable.

Inevitable? Sure!

Take another look at that computer that is sitting quietly by you (some aren't that quiet), and consider this; there are only two or three elements of that computer that are 'mechanical', and the hard drive is one of them. The platters spin at a phenomenal speed, typically 5,400 (desktop) to 10,000 (enterprise) rpm. The two speeds you are most likely to come across are '5400' or '7200'. The latter speed is achieved by using smaller platters, so you can expect the drives to be of a smaller capacity.


Anatomy of a Hard DriveAnatomy of a Hard Drive © Wikipedia 


To achieve the performance demanded of these fragile units they are sealed during manufacture. They all have a filtered 'air hole' to equalise the air pressure when they are spinning at their highest speeds, and the filter is good enough to stop any ingress of dust or debris.


It is when dust, measured in microns, manages to infiltrate the defences that things go dramatically wrong. The most miniscule of particles is capable of dislodging the super-light read/write head resulting in a 'head crash', almost the equivalent of a family car hitting a huge boulder at 100 mph, head-on!

No contest!

The next post will discuss a couple of FREE backup solutions.

Until then, take care ...


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Friday, 20 November 2009

Win, WIN7 …

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Windows 7 installed. Windows 7 working without a hitch. Windows 7 is a winner as far as I am concerned!

If you are still hesitant about taking the plunge, agonising about moving from XP or Vista to Windows 7, let me encourage you to do it now.

You will NOT regret it.

This is a brief update on my trials and tribulations concerning the disk failures I suffered, something that is of really no great importance to you. However, there are a few 'discoveries' I've made during this disaster (why is it that all personal problems appear to be disasters?) that might warn you about following a similar line of laissez-faire (French for 'leave it alone'). The old adage of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is fine under most circumstances. I am here to tell you that adopting that attitude with your computer is bound to eventually give you grief.

A lot of it!

You are probably totally bored with the advice about backing up your system, and I don't blame you. It is a chore that I find mind-numbing in the extreme, although I follow the experts' advice and do a regular weekly backup. Usually on a Sunday. Scheduled for the time I feel I will not be using the computer, which allows the system to backup without any hindrance from me. And without the backup process slowing the computer down to a crawl when I am trying to use it. Makes sense, huh?

Oh, don't forget to backup to an external drive that isn't going to go TU if, or rather when, your hard drive fails. It is a pointless exercise backing up your disk to a partition on the SAME disk. Laughable? You might think so, but I recently read a tech newsletter where a 'professional' confessed rather shamefacedly that he did just that (a temporary measure, he said) and lost everything when his hard drive failed. Huge capacity drives, 1TB or more, are very reasonably priced these days, but it really depends on what value you attach to your personal data. Hiring a commercial company to retrieve your lost data would cost you five or six times the price of an external hard drive. No-brainer!

Next step in the backup process, equally boring, is to make sure that the system is actually doing what you asked it to do. How do you do that? Easy. Select one of the backups and 'Restore' it. I did that with my last computer.


Yep, a huge gotcha! I really didn't pay close enough attention as to HOW Microsoft does its backups. They tell you all the good stuff like how you can restore backups from an old computer to a new one with their built-in functionality, or transfer all your data and settings with one click, or how they have anticipated what you the idiot-user might need. But they don't tell you sufficiently clearly enough that the backup is less than complete. In some respects a total waste of time and space.


They consider these as 'executables', although they DO tell you that the backup is for your DATA only. Sadly, to my simple mind, the promise of a backup and the ability to restore it to how it was was, speaks volumes as to my ability to do just that, expecting my programmes to run seamlessly. Unforunately that isn't so!

Bummer! Had to find that out the hard way!

So in my case it became a 'double-whammy'! I managed to claw back bits of the backups from the unaffected backup disk (Maria doing the hard work of unzipping them), but they were less than complete, missing the executables. My earlier 'tests' to check that the backups could restore worked fine, because the backups reinstalled themselves into the folders that already had those executables in the folder. In those 'test' circumstances, running a programme after restoring a backup doesn't flag up any irregularities. So a dumb-cluck like me is happy that everything is working as it should!

When my web hosts had their concurrent RAID failure and advised all users of the server to reinstall their programmes, I didn't flinch too much. Even when they dismissed my attempts to get them to restore the backups that they ostensibly make on a daily basis. They took delight in informing me (at least, that is how it seemed!) that backups of my sites and databases was my responsibility (read the small print, Sir!). I quickly uploaded all the folders I had retrieved from my own backups to the server using FTP.


And I didn't know it until I started to see evidence of broken scripts on my website and blogs. Things that worked perfectly before the double failures suddenly didn't want to do what they were asked to. Graphics, which were unaffected, wouldn't display because the scripts that ran them weren't available. Mouseovers and pop-up boxes behaved similarly.

It has been a long, tedious process tracking down all these little devils, but I think most have been restored.

Moral of the story? Use a backup programme that backs up ALL your information. Here are a couple of links so that you can take a look for yourself.

Did I mention they are all FREE?

I shall be trying out some of these little gems to see which suits me best, but you needn't wait to go get one that appeals to you if you feel it is an absolute necessity to get into the backup habit.

And you should, you know! So, off you go ...

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Monday, 5 October 2009

Double Disaster …

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Areal 'cracker', this one. First, my hard drives failed without warning. For the geeky, they were set up as a RAID (Redundant Array of Independent [or Inexpensive] Disks) array which, in non-geeky terms meant that everything written to one disk was mirrored to the other. A RAID setup (there are many levels) is a bit of overkill for a home computer and is normally found on a commercial server. But that is the way it was configured when I bought the computer about 18 months ago, and I didn't see any reason to change things.

Effectively this should mean that one never loses information when a disk fails, because the computer should automatically stop reading and writing to the failed disk and continue operating (seamlessly) using the second!


So what happens when both fail at the same time? I guess that's a rhetorical question and needs no answer. I am sure everybody understands what the implied consequences are.

The failure, which I still haven't analysed, forced a trip to the local computer shops and I ended up with a new beast with all the bells and whistles. Never mind that there are still 3 perfectly working computers in the house.

I WANTED A NEW ONE (lying on back and kicking heels in air like a spoilt child).

So I bought it, even though the timing was a bit off. The release of Windows-7 is only three weeks away and I have pre-ordered my copy which will necessitate a 'clean-install'. That isn't such a big deal because I would have backed-up my data before installing and then copied the old stuff across.

But when you find yourself in a situation where you didn't have time to save all the important 'gubbins', you are faced with restoring from your latest backup. Something I do religiously, and on a Sunday, too! The most I am likely to lose is the stuff I've added between Monday and Saturday.

But worse was to come.

The new computer rejected the backups with total disdain. The new computer is a 64-bit OS; the old computer ran 32-bit. That shouldn't have mattered because 64-bit will run 32-bit perfectly well under normal circumstances. My circumstance was obviously 'abnormal'.

Much 'too-ing' and 'fro-ing', with the assistance of Maria who slowly but inexorably unzipped old backups to see what was where, and I've managed to put back some of the more important stuff. But my attempts have been rather listless, knowing I will have to do this all over again in a couple of weeks.

To add to the gloom my web hosts informed me that on Saturday they had a massive RAID failure (where have I heard that before?) and that all user accounts on that particular server would need to be set up from scratch. That would be OK under normal circumstances, but my circumstances at the moment are not. I'm sure I have relatively recent backups of the various accounts I run from that server (this is one of them), but there are a few things missing. And I really can't be bothered chasing down missing files.

So if this blog and Paradise have a graphic or two missing, please bear with me until such time as I can track down the little bleeders and restore them.

One 'positive' that has come out of this is that I was determined to reinstall Windows Live Writer (WLW). Cath had already contacted me, before the failure, to say that she had discovered that WLW didn't work with a 64-bit OS. I sympathised, looked for solutions and forwarded them to her, but couldn't help any further because I wasn't running 64-bit.

I am now. And Cath, I have to tell you that all I did was go to the download page and after checking the system requirements …



… I hit the download button and the programme installed itself without throwing a single 'hissy-fit'!

That's it for now …

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Thursday, 1 October 2009

David Has Left The Stage …

has left the stage. David has abandoned blogland (authorblog) to concentrate on his writing. The last I heard from him he had submitted his second novel to the publishers and was quite a way through the second novel!

No, you didn’t read that wrong. Nor did I mistype it.

His second novel was to be 'The Jadhu Master', but it looks like his publishers managed to convince him that he should complete his THIRD novel, 'Muskoka Maharani' ahead of schedule, which he obligingly did.

And we all know how obliging he can be!

This post is to update regular visitors to his site that one of his featured articles, "The Sunday Roast" will not now succumb to his departure.

The good news is that fellow blogger, Eddie Bluelights of Clouds and Silvery Linings will be picking up where David left off (at David's request I might add), and will continue this feature starting mid-October.

I have bookmarked Eddie's site so that I can follow the feature. Why don't you do the same?


Catch you later …


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Friday, 28 August 2009

TIP - FotoSketcher

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Another delightful little programme, FREE, that will enhance your blogging experience.

But it needn't stop there, because this little beauty will allow you to exercise your artistic skills to the full and produce prints that you could use for cards 'n' stuff to send to your family and friends!

FotoSketcher is completely free and does not contain any adware, spyware or virus. It runs on any version of Microsoft Windows (sorry, no Mac version available).

If you want to turn a portrait, the photograph of your house or a beautiful landscape into a painting, a sketch or a drawing then look no further. FotoSketcher will do the job in just a few seconds.

Don't believe me? Here is an example of something that I completed in less than 30 seconds. Honest!

It was a simple case of fire up the programme, pick a photograph, import it with a click, select the type of output you want, click another button that says "Draw it!", and you're done!

I chose this pic of one of our favourite bloggers, Shrinky (in preference to one of the delectable Anna Kournikova, in full tennis gear, scratching her bum), not least of all because of the strong contrast between the light and dark areas, which usually causes graphic software major headaches ...




... and turned it into this ...




... using the default settings!


The author, David Thoiron, has even produced a YouTube video to walk you through the various steps. It is interesting, but not  necessarily a 'must watch', because the programme is so easy to use that you will probably find yourself converting tons of your digital photographs into cheeky little works of art in no time at all.

Don't hesitate. Go get FotoSketcher now!

Another fine addition to your blogging arsenal ...


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Saturday, 8 August 2009

TIP - MoJoZoom

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Here we go. I've collected all the bits of code, and the explanations, so it shouldn't cause you any headaches incorporating this stuff on your site.

Please remember that there are other 'zoomer' scripts available, but I've chosen 'MojoZoom' over the others for a variety of reasons:

  • Easier to install
  • Easy to configure
  • Fits limited Blogger window space
  • JavaScript and CSS files hosted by me

You are going to add stuff to your template, so ...


1. Find ...

Add the following (copy/paste) just above it ...
<link href='' 
rel='stylesheet' type='text/css'/>
2. Find ...

Add the following (copy/paste) just above it ...
<script src='' 

These two bits of information will let your HTML know where to go to fetch the JS and CSS information when you include it in your post. Please note that both point to a folder on which I host the Playpen so, as long as the Playpen exists, you will always be able to call up the information. I am not planning to go anywhere soon!


3. Select the image you want to display. Make sure it is of a reasonable size, preferably no less than 800 x 600 pixels. This will ensure that the zoomed image, when you mouse-over the smaller image, will be instantly viewable as an enlarged replica.

4. Open your image in IrfanView or a similar photo-editing programme and reduce the image size to approximately 200 pixels in width. Let the programme automatically adjust the height. Now save the smaller version as a 'new' (renamed) image.

5. Upload your images to Blogger or via 'Windows Live Writer' (I've used the former for this example). Here is the code returned by Blogger for the large image:

<a onblur="try {parent.deselectBloggerImageGracefully();} catch(e) {}" href=""><img style="cursor:pointer; cursor:hand;width: 320px; height: 320px;" src="" border="0" alt=""id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5367672029780454514" /></a>

And here is the code returned for the smaller one:
<a onblur="try {parent.deselectBloggerImageGracefully();} catch(e) {}" href=""><img style="cursor:pointer; cursor:hand;width: 200px; height: 200px;" src="" border="0" alt=""id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5367676225132569218" /></a>

The bits you are interested in are the bits in RED, completely ignoring the rest of the blogger code, but DO NOT forget to delete the bit that says ...


... which I have demonstrated by striking it out in the example.

Nearly done.

6. Now for the post itself. Not difficult if you copy/paste all the code and substitute your own image 'links' for the ones I've used for my pic!


<div style="border-bottom: black 1px solid; position: relative; border-left: black 1px solid; width: 175px; float: right; height: 175px; border-top: black 1px solid; right: 3px; border-right: black 1px solid" id="pepper2_zoom"></div> <img style="padding-bottom: 0px; border-right: black 1px solid; padding-left: 0px; padding-right: 0px; display: block; float: none; border-top: black 1px solid; border-bottom: black 1px solid; margin-left: auto; border-left: black 1px solid; margin-right: auto; padding-top: 0px" id="pepper2" src="http://" width="175" height="175" data-zoomalwaysshow="false" data-zoomsrc="http://" />


Some points to note about the code above:
  • As mentioned, my pic links are highlighted in red and will need to be substituted with your own pic links. Just ensure that you insert the SMALL pic FIRST and the LARGE pic SECOND.
  • I have set the width and height parameters (picked out in blue) to 175 to accommodate the width of this particular template's post window. Your mileage may vary, so try slightly larger or smaller sizes if things don't work out from the get-go.
  • You have to give the pics an ID (purple). Use a short name that is meaningful to you.
  • I have set the parameter zoomalwaysshow to "false" (in brown) so that a window isn't displayed until the small image is moused-over. You can set this to "true" if you prefer to have the zoom window displayed at all times.

Now I shall demonstrate what a brave little hacker I am (drum roll, please) by copy/pasting that code above into the 'Source' window of WLW to make 100% sure that if you do the same thing the sky won't fall in on you ...



"By Jove, I think he's got it!"


BTW, if you think this album cover is the same as the one in the previous post, take a CLOSER look. You should at least be able to spot Bill Clinton and Osama amongst quite a few other surprise 'faces', including one or two blogger friends!

That's it.

If it doesn't work first time, don't despair. Compare the various bits of code carefully to make sure that you got everything as you should have. If you still have problems, come back and ask. I am always ready to help!

Can't say fairer than that ...


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Friday, 7 August 2009

TIP - Zoomers

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I have another Blog called Paradise Discovered which is not constrained by the content I have elected to post on this site. But it doesn't mean that I do not use all the 'tips-n-tricks' I throw up here. Indeed, anything I mention here can almost certainly be found in use on the other Blog. Makes sense, huh?

I recently found myself hunting through the Formula One Official Website looking for information on the freak accident that racing driver Felipe Massa suffered during the second qualifying session (Q2) in Hungary on Saturday, 25th July 2009.

I was lucky. They had a fairly detailed explanation of the 'what', 'when' and 'where', and even had an artist's interpretation of what had probably happened. The TV cameras had caught the incident, but it all happened so fast that it was impossible to tell precisely how things had panned out. I am sure that there were other cameras trained on the event that the officials studied in great depth. The point is that the graphic was so tiny that it was impossible to make out some of the points (arrows) that the explanation invited the reader to look at.

That's when it occurred to me that a 'zoomer' window that allowed the viewer to see parts of the original small graphic 'enlarged' in another window would have been a nice touch. So I went looking for a script, preferably FREE, that would accomplish the task on a blog post.

I struck pay dirt on my first search. In fact I found a page that listed FIVE 'zoomer' scripts, four of them FREE! Some are pretty geeky, and I've discounted the paid-for script, which left me with 'MojoZoom' as the clear favourite for use on a Blogger platform.


(reminder to self - must remember to make a small PayPal donation to the author!) - DONE!

The script requires you to be able to host the JavaScript (.js) and CSS (.css) files on a server, but if you wish to use the script, I can provide that hosting - free of charge! All you will need to do is to point the link to the one I provide you with, and you're good to go!

I will give you the details in the next post, but here is an example of what you can expect. The image on the left is the album cover of the iconic Beatles album, 'Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band', which was ground-breaking when it was first published for using 'pop art' in preference to images of the band or individuals. In short, I used this image because it is busy, busy, busy!

Simply run your mouse cursor over the pic to see a magnified version of the area under the cursor that will appear in a hidden window to the right of it almost like magic ...



If you think you can make use of this bit of JS-magic on your own blog, come back for the detail in the next post.

Watch this space ...

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Thursday, 30 July 2009

TIP - Additional Profile

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I am not partial to 'exposing' ME to the WWW but, on occasion, others might find this an easier way to introduce themselves to their visitors. It manages to put a 'human' face on things (you could add a really sexy picture - one that you wouldn't include on your normal blogger profile!), and allows you to disclose stuff that isn't included in the standard 'Profile'.

For example, I've added a bit of information on this blog so that you can get an idea about what I am trying to encourage you to do.

Click on the "... and the rest!" link in the sidebar to see what I mean.


Additional Profile


This requires you to fiddle with the HTML of the template so, before you answer the poll below, think seriously about whether you want the hassle!


Will you use this tweak?


The reason I've added the poll is to ascertain whether it is worth going through the trouble of recording each step. There aren't that many, but it involves a bit more fiddling with the HTML than other tweaks that I have posted before.

Complete the poll and I will accede to the majority view.

Can't say fairer than that ...

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Thursday, 23 July 2009

TIP - Demise of Soapbox

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Just when I thought I'd discovered a real GEM in 'Windows Live Writer', Microsoft has decided to cripple its functionality by closing down their video repository called Soapbox.

Apparently Microsoft said in June that it was re-evaluating Soapbox (it's in direct competition with Google's YouTube), although Microsoft vice president Erik Jorgensen said in a published report that Soapbox might become a site where bloggers and citizen journalists could post videos, possibly for a fee.

Whoa! That's not going to happen!

Microsoft have notified customers that Soapbox will stop accepting videos on July 29 and that users who want to retrieve their videos should do so by August 31. If you've used the feature you will probably receive an email notifying you of this fact. But you'd need to be extra vigilant to spot it because, if you're running a Windoze e-mail client, you will find that it is consigned to the 'JUNK' mail folder as the 'sender' cannot be verified. Hell of a way to run a circus!

A spokesman for Microsoft said, "We remain committed to delivering amazing experiences for consumers while keeping a keen eye on our business objectives during this tough economic climate."

Horse crap!

Microsoft is focusing its resources elsewhere. The company is challenged by declining PC sales due to the worldwide economic downturn and has recently shut down other non-performing businesses, including the online encyclopaedia Encarta.

What does this mean to us, the average blogger?

Not a lot. Unless you are besotted by WLW's ability to upload your home videos!

I suspect that not many bloggers will be too worried about the loss of this functionality. All the other 'Bells & Whistles' in WLW remain intact for the moment so, if you're a fan and user, continue using it until such time as they pull the plug.

End of the bad news ...

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Saturday, 13 June 2009

TIP - 'SnagIt' & Image Mapping

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This post is only a little taste, a teaser, of what you can achieve using SnagIt. It isn't simply a 'screen capture' utility, it can be used to produce small objet d'art.


Can you spot the Google Ad? 

Can you spot the Google Ad?


If you combine a 'good' graphics programme (GIMP is 'Open Source' and FREE) with 'WLW', it is only your imagination that limits what you can produce for the edification of your visitors. Let me put it another way; why would you spend hours behind your camera capturing exotic and unusual subjects, and then serve them up in a frying pan rather than on an elegant Wedgewood dinner plate?

OK, that was a bit of an arrogant statement, but my point is that, despite some of the limitations that Blogger imposes on the average user, you can post images that grab the imagination!

The 'girlies' I have used here have featured before when I showcased  'Thickbox', another great little FREE script. The girls are only a bit of eye-candy and you shouldn't hold it against me!

SnagIt can easily insert 'hotspots' on an image that takes you to a new page when the graphic is clicked. This is called 'Image-Mapping', but it is worth it. Once the hotspots have been created on a single graphic image you can direct the viewer to just about anything you care to link to.

You can do exactly the same thing without needing to invest in a software programme. Visit the Poor Person's Image Mapper page and give it a test run. I am always ready to field questions if you run into trouble!

You won't regret it ...

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Friday, 12 June 2009

TIP - Snipping Tool

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The Snipping Tool is a screen-capture tool that allows taking screenshots (called 'snips') of an open window, rectangular areas, a free-form area or the entire screen. Snips can then be annotated using a mouse or a tablet, saved as an image file (PNG, GIF, or JPEG file) or an HTML page, or e-mailed.

If you are using Windows Vista Home Premium or higher - OR - Windows XP Tablet PC Edition with the Experience Pack, then read on. If you are using any other flavour of Windows, you're out of luck! Of course, the Snipping Tool will be included in Windows 7, but I suspect that the 'lesser' versions, like the 'Basic' offering, will also be crippled!

My preference for taking 'snips' or 'screen captures' has always been TechSmith's SnagIt, but that piece of magical software is a $49.95 package. And my intention has always been to point you to free software, and it doesn't come much 'freer' than a programme you already have on your computer, albeit well hidden!

Here's how to find it: choose Start >> All Programs >> Accessories >> Snipping Tool. If you don't see it there, it may not be activated. Go to Control Panel and open Program and Features (you may have to click Programs first). In the task pane on the left, click Turn Windows features on or off. If necessary, click Continue when prompted by UAC. Scroll through the list of features, check the box next to Tablet PC Optional Components, and click OK. Turning on these features gives you not only the Snipping Tool, but also the Tablet PC Input Panel, Windows Journal, and other stylus-related features. All totally useless if you don't have a Tablet!

If you've found it, and/or activated it, and placed a shortcut icon on the desktop or wherever you feel comfortable placing it, then click on the icon (I've stopped saying 'double-click' as many users, like myself, prefer the 'single-click' method) and this is what you'll get:

The simple start screen.
The simple start screen.


Pretty straightforward as you can see. Choose the type of snip you wish to make and off you go. The monitor screen will go all blurred ...


The screen goes all blurred.
The screen goes all blurred.


... and this is what you get when you've completed the snip:


The completed snip ...
The completed snip ready to be processed ...


And just to be perverse, here is a 'screencap' of the 'Snipping Tool' taking a snip of the 'SnagIt' window. I did it to show that it is as easy to take a snip of a window, as it is to take snips of a 'Free-form Area', 'User-defined Rectangle' or of a 'Full Screen':


A captured window ...
A captured window ...


Go play ...

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Saturday, 16 May 2009

TIP - WLW Exposed

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I have spent some time exploring the many attributes of 'Windows Live Writer' and it continues to surprise me with its versatility.

Your needs will probably NOT be as demanding as mine (I'm a 'geek' who likes to push the envelope), but even for the simplest of tasks, like putting up a new post, this little gem is going to make your life so EASY that when you start to use it you'll wonder how you managed without the darn thing!

This is truly a WYSIWYG editor of unparalleled excellence, because you actually type into the space allocated to you by your blog template. So, what you see in the window is exactly what you get when the post is published. You can format your paragraphs with the alignment of your choice, 'left', 'right', 'centred' or 'justified' (as this post is). It spell-checks as you type, underlining your spelling mistakes just like a word processor does, so there is no longer any excuse for those hilarious 'typos'. You can even select to  'bold', 'italicise', 'underline', 'strikeout' or 'change the colour of the font' on the fly.

What's not to like about that?

And none of this requires you to get your hands dirty with HTML and CSS. The programme does it all for you, although, in its typical Microsoft way the code produced isn't necessarily 'standards compliant'. But I don't suppose you care about that little nicety if you are an 'average' blogger. You should, but I won't hold it against you!

If you haven't already tried it out you're probably wondering what all the hype is about. So I suppose a couple of graphics are in order. I haven't planned any of this, so I shall post and edit, look at how things are being displayed, change formatting to 'present' the post as I'd like it to be presented, then click on the button that says 'Publish', and it is done …


SnagIt capture of the WLW start page

I use 'SnagIt' almost exclusively for my screen captures and this programme comes with a plug-in that allows me to use SnagIt directly from this window. That's a 'wooo-hooo' for me!


WLW Edit window showing history and add-ons

Of course, the graphics 'sizing', 'placement' and 'effects' are far superior to anything I've seen in any other WYSIWYG editor. And the three little tabs at the bottom of the window, 'Edit', 'Preview' and 'Source' do exactly what they are intended to. 'Edit' is the pane I've shown in the screen captures above. 'Preview' is a preview of your post as it would appear on your site, including banners and sidebars. 'Source' shows you the HTML source code, something I am very grateful for as it gives me a chance to insert the little 'extras' that aren't included. I still have to investigate whether little bits of JavaScript and other HTML formatting can be added to the programme, but if it can't I am not going to get bent out of shape about it.


WLW Edit window (bottom) showing additional features

The graphic above is there to emphasise the 'power' of the various features of the programme. When you set up the 'Options' tell the programme to not allow you to publish until it reminds you to add a label or two. You still have the choice of publishing a post without a label, so it will only remind you, not refuse to publish. You can also defer publication date, just like you would do in Blogger, but the option is there for you if you wish to use it.

When I discover more, I'll let you know.

Enjoy, really enjoy, your blogging …


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Thursday, 14 May 2009

No Stopping Me Now …

There really is no stopping me now! This 'Windows Live Writer' programme is so easy to use that I can't think that I shall go back to editing things in either the WYSIWYG (Compose) window, or in the HTML window, or in a text editor - ever again!

This programme even has an HTML window (I'm actually typing in it at the moment) that allows you to insert snippets of code that aren't carried as standard. The 'capital' letter I use to start each new post, for example!


My Patch ...


With a single click you can insert a map, as I have done above. It is the area of Lisbon, Portugal in which I live. Precisely at the apex of the L-shaped building, bottom left, that you can't see in the thumbnail (sorry about that). The bit of 'green' is the space I use to walk the dog and let him exercise a little a couple of times a day. On reflection, it really is a crime to keep a hyper-active Boxer locked up in a 7th floor flat!



Adding images is a GAS. The proggy actually manages to add all sorts of little effects that it would take you a month of Sundays to reproduce with CSS or HTML. The above took one click to produce rounded corners.

Now, how cool is that?

I shall post more about the functionality of 'Windows Live Writer' as I discover the various things it has to offer. In the meantime, why don't you take it for a test drive? The learning curve is so shallow that you'll wonder why this has been such a well-kept secret for so long!

Have a blast …

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Wednesday, 13 May 2009

TIP - Windows Live Writer

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This is  a test post to see whether Windows Live Writer actually works, or whether I should go back to the drawing board …



That pic insert is a WOW! Reflection ‘n’ all.

If this ‘post’ is actually uploaded as I’ve composed it, I shall probably revert to using this software for all my posts.

The software is FREE, but it is a Microsoft offering. You need to be a participant in ‘Windows Live’, and you will need to have the .NET Framework installed.

Pick it up here. What are you waiting for?

You really should consider using it …

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Wednesday, 25 March 2009

TIP - Follow me Follow

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I was trawling the 'blogosphere' wondering what I could stumble across that would interest the visitors to this site when I came across this little beauty!

There is a simple instuction in HTML that advises search engines NOT to follow certain links from your site, for example the Admin page, or other pages that are critical to the security of your site, and it is simply the 'nofollow' attribute. By default Blogger sets the 'nofollow' attribute for ALL links, and that includes user generated content like 'comments', 'linkbacks' and 'trackbacks'. Removing this tag will provide 'link juice' for your visitors although there is a small danger that you might find an increase in SPAM. This last should not trouble you too much if you take the precaution of setting up your 'Comments' section to use the built-in CAPTCHA capability.

As always, when you are fiddling with the HTML of your template, please take the precaution of backing up the existing template in case things go awry.


  • Go to >> Layout >> Edit HTML
  • Check the Expand Widget Templates
  • Search and find 'nofollow' in the edit window.
  • Delete rel='nofollow' in to-to!
  • Repeat the last two steps. There are at least two of these entries, sometimes 3.
  • Save your template. You won't see any obvious changes; the advantage gained is in your search engine ranking and the ability you've just given your visitors and commenters to link to your Blog and to a specific post!
  • You're done!


Instructions for removing the 'nofollow' tag
Instructions for removing the 'nofollow' tag..


Enjoy your increased exposure ...

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Thursday, 26 February 2009

TIP - Sidebar Image Borders

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Cath this time (am I glad that there are questions, or what?), asking how I managed to put borders around her sidebar graphics as the default, rather than inserting the code individually for each picture.

It isn't actually difficult. The reason you don't see many sites with borders around sidebar graphics is more a case of users accepting the default settings and being satisfied with the display that the template brings with it.

Others, like Lee & Cath, want that 'little extra' and are prepared to get their hands grubby fiddling around in the HTML and CSS coding of the template.

If you fall into the second category, here goes ...

  • In your text editor, type in the following code.
  • Please make sure it is a TEXT EDITOR and NOT a WORD PROCESSING package like 'Word'.
/* --------- Terry's sidebar code --------- */

#sidebar img {
border: 1px dotted #FFFFFF;
padding: 2px;
text-align: -moz-center;
#text-align: center;
margin-left: auto;
margin-right: auto

/* --------- end of Terry's sidebar code --------- */
  • Go to >> Layout >> Edit HTML
  • Find          body {          in the edit window.
  • Copy the text you've just typed in your text editor and paste it just above that line. You can even copy/paste directly from the box if you're feeling really lazy!
  • I've commented out (/* ----- text ----- */) the description of the code you've just inserted so that it can be found easily if you wish to edit or remove it later.

Change the border parameters to how you want it to display on your site. 1px thickness can be increased; 'dotted' can be changed to 'dashed' or 'solid'; color (#FFFFFF, white in this example) can be changed to match your colour display.

One important consideration. Some templates refer to the sidebar as a CSS 'class' (class='sidebar'), and others as a CSS 'ID' (id='sidebar'). You need to discover which one your template uses and adjust the above code accordingly.

For templates that use the term 'id', simply use the code I've provided above; it has the symbol [ # ]. For templates that use the term 'class' replace the [ # ] symbol with a period, or dot, or full stop (or whatever you call it). That's it, folks!

Off you go!

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