Bowser Size from Google Labs

Browser size has been integrated into Google Analytics and would soon move out of Google labs.

This handy Google Labs tool will allow you to see your website as seen by users with different screen resolutions. One of the major challenges while designing a website template is to design the template so that user can read the relevant information at the very first glance itself. Sadly this depends on the visitors screen resolution. This tool from Google Labs will overlay a transparent ruler like layout to the web address you give it, thus enabling you to see how your web site looks at  screen resolutions other than yours.

Google Labs browser Size Screen cap
Screen Shot of Simple Informations on browser Size by Google Labs

The tool allows basic settings such as transparency adjustment of the ruler. You can use Google Analytics to know what resolution is used by most number of your visitors. Then you can head over to Browser size and see what all portions of your website is viewable at that resolution. This will allow you to make your web site more accessible and improve the “page views/visit” as well as “bounce rate”.

The following is a screen shot of my Google Analytics page showing the details of this blogs visitors and their screen resolution.

Visitor by resolution chart
Statisctics of visitors to this site by resolution – Google Analytics

Link : Browser Size | Google Labs | Google Analytics

Feedreader on your WordPress dashboard

The WordPress community like any OpenSource project has got a highly creative and devout developer base. They never fail to please you with every major release of WP. So the customizable dashboard was also no surprise. But the fact that we can use some applets on the dashboard as makeshift feed reader is what really impressed me. If you have  a self hosted WP blog, you should probably have noticed this, or may be you don’t. So here is how you can view feeds on your WP dashboard.


You can use two of WordPress applets as feed reader which will show you the title with the first few sentences from a feed. The third one is much limited. This is made from the “Incoming Links” applet and so it shows only the first few words of the posts and the link. The two applets that can be used to view latest feeds as excerpts are titled “Other WordPress News” and “WordPress Development Blog”. When you move your mouse over the Title Bar of these applets you can see a configure link.


WordPress dashboard being edited as feed reader

Click on that ad you will be taken to a page where you can set options for that particular applet. The config options include number of posts to be shown from that feed, Address of the feed, Title of the feed and some minor tweaks. I have added this blogs feed to the applet to show you how its is done. Once you have set these options you ca save them and configure the other applet. Coming to the third applet which is a little less mighty, things ecome somewhat different. We cannot edit the title of this applet directly from the dashboard (although we can do it by editing WP core file). You can just edit the address of the feed and the number of posts to be shown.

Subscribed to feed using WordPress dashboard Applet. Click here to get screen shot of my Dashboard

If you would like to keep the original applet feeds, make sure you save the feed addresses before changing them. You can use these applets to subscribe to two blogs which you can never miss out on. Although this can’t be substituted for a regular feed reader this would be fun tweaking.


Get access to all folders in Windows like Linux

On the last article we have discussed about seeing all the files that are part of Windows. Now lets see whether we can directly access these folders. As it turns out Windows by default will not grant you permission to the folder System Volume Information.

Denied access to C:System Volume Information

Thats because the folder contains important System Restore Point informations. So what do you do when you can’t touch your own property. well it is there that the Windows file sharing comes into play. It may sound a little weird at first but it is true. Lets see how.

Step 1 : Go to Tools>>Folder Options and select View tab.

Folder options View Simple File Sharing

Here scroll down to the bottom, you can see a check box named Use Simple File Sharing (Recommended), UNCHECK the box, click APPLY and OK. Now you are done with the settings part. So just take the Properties (ALT+ENTER) or RIGHT CLICK>>PROPERTIES) of System volume Information you can see a new tab named Security here. You can see that there will be a user named SYSTEM there and it has full permission (refer picture).

System user account permission

You need to add your User account as a user here and give full permission to your self in order to gain access. Click Add button and type in your user name and click Check Names your user name will be filled along with the computer name automatically.

Add new user to security access permission

Click OK. now just click on user name of yours and check Full control. Click Apply, OK and you are done.

Allow full control

You can get access to files that return an “Access Denied” error by using this method. are some Files and Folders which need some more work to open I’ll discuss it in next post. Till then try this and figure out what all were hidden from you.

View system files (super hidden) in Explorer

This is the first among a series of posts on administering Windows . It starts with how to see the files and folders that were hidden by Windows for some reason. The series is actually inspired from the one done by Samanathon on Starting your Day with a fresh Computer. He did a good job and I am a regular visitor of Saman’s Blog.

A Super Hidden or a Protected Syetem File is a file that is normally not shown in the Windows Explorer even if you have enabled Show Hidden files (Tools>>Folder Options>>View>>Show Hidden Files and Folders) in Windows Explorer). This is because if some of these files are deleted or changed Windows may encounter a fatal error. Some of such folders are :

  • C:Windowssystem32dllcache
  • System Volume Information – this is in all the drives
  • Recycler – which is also in all the drives

Super Hidden Files in C drive

So the first step involved is to make Windows show all the Super Hidden files. This can be done in two ways. One is directly through Windows Explorer Tools>>Folder Options and the other is through registry. So the former being easier and straight forward I’ll discuss it first.

1 . Through Windows Explorer

In Windows Explorer from Tools (Alt+T) menu take “View” tab in “Folder Options”.Make sure that you have selected Show Hidden Files and Folders and that you have unchecked Hide Protected operating system files options. Click Apply and then OK. This will enable you to see system files that had previously been hidden from your view.

Showing Super Hidden Files in Tools Menu

2 . Through Registry Editing

This is a little more complex.(It is recommended that you read the following posts before you go into the registry. Try this if you know Registry editing. Make a backup of the registry before you proceed.( The Introduction to Windows Registry , Know how to backup your registry )

Follow these steps..

1 . Run ( WIN+R ) regedit and open registry editor.

Super Hidden Dword in registry

Go to the Key HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindows
CurrentVersionExplorerAdvanced
.

2 . In there you will see a Registry DWORD named ShowSuperHidden Make the value 1 instead of 0.

Dword Edit

3 . Now all you need to do is to restart Windows Explorer. to do so you can goto Start>>Shut Down and Click Cancel while holding down SHIFT+CTRL+ALT. Now press ALT+CTRL+DEL this will bring Task Manager. Take File>>New Task and type explorer and press Enter.

Now if you go to any drive you can see the previously Hidden files there. Note that you will still need to enable Show Hidden files option in Folder Option.

Change the default Drive Icons in Windows XP

You can change the default drive icons available in My Computer under Windows XP through the registry. Although it is done via registry the task is pretty simple and straight forward. (You can also use the Autorun method – please read that article if you prefer to do so)

Open registry editor ( WIN+R » regedit )

Navigate to the key
HKLMSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionExplorerDriveIcons

Registry allows you to change the icons associated with each drive

Here you can see some sub keys with name as drive letters in you system.

Each one of them will have another sub key DefaultIcon . The Default string under DriveIcon keyDefault string value here contains the path to the icon used for that drive. Double Click on this and set the path of the icon you want to use.

Default icons for drives in XP xhanged to Vista ones.

This will change the default icon of that drive. Repeat it for other drives also. I don’t know any easier way, but if you know just post a comment and I will publish it here and link back to your blog.

How to view all drives, Disk Management under Windows

The Disk Management object under Microsoft Management console can be used to Change Drive letter association, find unrecognized partitions or Mount a logical drive into a folder as in Linux.

If you want to prevent access to a drive, read 2nd tip in “Points to note” given after this post or read how to Prevent access to select drives using Registry.

One of the key differences between Windows and Linux is the tree structure used in Linux for filesystem. In Linux everything is a hierarchical leaf or branch of the Root “” directory. It was only recently that Linux started loading (mounting) drives other than the system drive automatically. (If you want to know more,  here is an article which will explain the Linux file hierarchy). To implement the Linux style tree structure in windows is pretty easy and is explained here.”

Open Disk Management object by typing “diskmgmt.msc” in START » RUN box or in Command Prompt. Here you can see all the Primary (Blue) and Logical (Green) partitions available on your system.

Disk Management Console object - screen shot.

You will be able to see the Linux partitions too. Select a drive and Right Click on it. Here you can see an option “Change drive Letter and Paths“. Under this option you can remove a drives letter change it or mount a volume into a folder.

Mounted Drives

Screen shot of my H and G drives mounted in a folder “C:Drives”

Some points to note here are …

1. You cannot remove the drive letter association of your system drive.
2. If you do not assign a drive letter or mount the drive to a folder on another drive it will not be accessible by any means in Windows.
3. You can’t add more than one drive letter to a drive.
4. To mount a volume the folder must be on a different partition.

Consider reading The post on Microsoft Management Console if you want to know more.

Microsoft Management Console – make administrative tasks easy

This is the start of a series of posts that will guide you through using Microsoft Management Console to manage your system. In this post most of the text has been excerpted from the MMC help file. The MMC allows you to control and manage the many available options from an easy to use interface. All the options are also available from the Windows Registry. But for many dealing with Registry is not an easy task. Also for simple administrative tasks involving MMC using the Registry will be an overkill for many. (You can find the posts on Registry here) The following i a brief into to MMC from the MMC help available in Windows XP.

The extension of console objects are always msc representing Microsoft Console. They can be found under %systemroot% system32 ” folder. A backup copy of each could be found under “%systemroot%system32 dllcache ” folder

Introduction to MMC

Microsoft Management Console (MMC) can be used to create, save, and open administrative tools (called MMC consoles) that manage the hardware, software, and network components of your Windows system. MMC does not perform administrative functions, but hosts tools that do. The primary type of tool you can add to a console is called a snap-in. There are two general ways that you can use MMC: in user mode, working with existing MMC consoles to administer a system, or in author mode, creating new consoles or modifying existing MMC consoles.

The following administrative tools appear under Windows XP

Component Services

Used by system administrators to deploy and administer COM+ programs from a graphical user interface, or to automate administrative tasks using a scripting or programming language. Software developers can use Component Services to visually configure routine component and program behavior, such as security and participation in transactions, and to integrate components into COM+ programs. For more information, see Using Component Services.

Computer Management

Used to manage local or remote computers from a single, consolidated desktop utility. Computer Management combines several Windows XP administrative tools into a single console tree, providing easy access to a specific computer’s administrative properties. For more information, see Using Computer Management.

Data Sources (ODBC)

Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) is a programming interface that enables programs to access data in database management systems that use Structured Query Language (SQL) as a data access standard. For more information, see Using Data Sources (ODBC).

Event Viewer

Used to view and manage logs of system, program, and security events on your computer. Event Viewer gathers information about hardware and software problems, and monitors security events. For more information, see Using Event Viewer.

Local Security policy

Used to configure security settings for the local computer. These settings include the Password policy, Account Lockout policy, Audit policy, IP Security policy, user rights assignments, recovery agents for encrypted data, and other security options. Local Security Policy is only available on computers that are not domain controllers. If the computer is a member of a domain, these settings may be overridden by policies received from the domain.

Performance

Used to collect and view real-time data about memory, disk, processor, network, and other activity in a graph, histogram, or report form. For more information, see Using Performance.

Services

Used to manage the services on your computer, set recovery actions to take place if a service fails, and create custom names and descriptions for services so that you can easily identify them. For more information, see Using Services.

# To open MMC, click Start, and then click Run (WIN+R). In the Open box, type “mmc“.

# The consoles available in Windows XP are listed below. To access any just type their name (include the .msc) in Windows Run box (WIN+R)

certmgr.msc
ciadv.msc
compmgmt.msc
devmgmt.msc
dfrg.msc
diskmgmt.msc
eventvwr.msc
fsmgmt.msc
gpedit.msc
lusrmgr.msc
ntmsmgr.msc
ntmsoprq.msc
perfmon.msc
rsop.msc
secpol.msc
services.msc
wmimgmt.msc

The follow up posts in this series will deal with managing you computer with the MMC.

Free Vista like search box for Windows XP

The most functional and convenient tool in Vista is the instant Search Box. Here is how to get your own instant search box on for Windows XP. Launchy is a small software that provides XP with an instant search bar like Vista.

Launchy in Action On Desktop

Launchy Indexes the folders you specify and hides itself in the background. When you press a hot key (The Hot Key can easily be configured) the search box is shown. As you type in the characters, the matching results are shown.

Pros :

Easy Searches, inbuilt Calculator, Web search enabled, Easy configurable Hot Key, Indexes all file types, Low on memory, cool looks, skins can be easily made

Cons :

Nothing yet noticed

Specifications :

Mem. Usage (RAM) : 7708 kb
(Virtual) : 45792 kb(may vary)

File formats supported:

Almost all

Price : Free

Download Launchy here

**Tips : The skins can be made by anybody, all you need to do is take the Skins folder and check out the ini file there. It explains how the background image of the skins behave. Also many search engines can be added to it. This can be read from the web site **

PC on steroids, Improve your systems perfomance – start of series

This is the first among a series of post in which I will tell you many tips on how to make your System perform faster. The post frequency in this Series will be one post ( tip ) per week. So check out my other posts on all other days. Being the first in the series lets start with the system booting and BIOS.

BIOS is a central location for you to control all your systems hardware manually.

bios-screen-main.png

image courtesy :Whatever

The unwanted hardware can consume your system resources. So what you can do is to disable them via the BIOS.

1. onboard LAN – if your computer is not on a Local Area Network you may want to disable the onboard LAN adapter. This will allow you not to install and LAN drivers. onBoard Video and Audio can also be switched off if you don’t use them). You can find th options under Peripherals or Integrated peripherals.

2. Make sure that you have set you first boot device to your Hard Disc drive. The option can be found under Boot menu or basic BIOS setup.

3. Disable unwanted ports like parallel and serial ports. Disable floppy drives if you don’t use it.

4. There can be many options that are hardware specific. You may view a list of such options on yourmother board manufacturers web site.

5. Update your BIOS frequently.

These are the most basic things from which you can start to speed up your system. To get into the system BIOS press F2 or DEL key when you start your computer. And make sure you have saved your changes before you exit by pressing F10 and then OK.

Host Files – local DNS lookup

This is a basic introduction to the host file, how they work, how to block web sites or computers on LAN using a host file etc..

Host file is a text file that the operating system uses to store the IP address of computers having a physical name (or site address). It is located at %SystemRoot%system32driversetc ( %systemroot% being the Windows Root Directory – default C:WINDOWS ). Its location can be found out from this key in the registry

HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Tcpip\Parameters\DataBasePath

The form in which IP and computer name is saved in host file is –

<IP> <COMPNAME>

How it Works : When you enter a web sites address into your browser your system checks whether the corresponding IP address is already in your host file. If present you will be taken to that IP. If it is not present in host file then it is cross checked with a DNS server and IP of the site is found.

Advantages : Almost all the time the DNS server is not near you and also it will take more time to first find out the IP and then goto the address. So if the IP of the web address is present in the host file you are saving time.

How to block sites : Your own system is considered as a server for certain purposes and its name is localhost and its default IP is 127.0.0.1. So if you give any sites address and put 127.0.0.1 as its IP in your host file you are just blocking the site..

Sample Host File

# Copyright (c) 1993-2009 Microsoft Corp.
#
# This is a sample HOSTS file used by Microsoft TCP/IP for Windows.
#
# This file contains the mappings of IP addresses to host names. Each
# entry should be kept on an individual line. The IP address should
# be placed in the first column followed by the corresponding host name.
# The IP address and the host name should be separated by at least one
# space.
#
# Additionally, comments (such as these) may be inserted on individual
# lines or following the machine name denoted by a '#' symbol.
#
# For example:
#
# 102.54.94.97 rhino.acme.com # source server
# 38.25.63.10 x.acme.com # x client host

# localhost name resolution is handled within DNS itself.
# 127.0.0.1 localhost
# ::1 localhost
127.0.0.1 anaconda.com

Disadvantage : A Trojan or a “Malicious” colleague can alter the host file with the wrong IP so that you may find yourself in a fraud site or getting pissed off every time you go to some site.

And finally as our Windows always do, there is a problem ,while trying to make things easier. If the host file is larger than 135Kb. Its because all host file is in memory this can also affect boot time – How to prevent system slowdown due to large host file