29 May, 2014

Excel 2010 multiple documents, multiple windows

This one is short but sweet. It has to do with multiple windows and/or multiple monitors.

In my previous post I mentioned that multiple monitors are a very effective way of working. If you have a single widescreen display, then even there multiple windows can be useful. If you have different application, like MS Word and MS Excel, then this does not represent a problem. You open those two applications, put them side by side and go to work.

Word and Excel - side by side on same screen.
Word+Excel

Problem is that sometimes you would like to have couple of documents of the same type opened and some applications do not always play nice when we want to do it. As far as MS Office is concerned this has been less and less an issue as the new version have been released. In version 2010 pretty much all components allow you to open different documents in separate windows by default. Except for Excel. In Excel, if you open multiple spreadsheets they will open in the same main window. And you will be hard-pressed to get them side-by-side. Normally you could open two documents in a single main Excel window.

Two Excel spreadsheets in a single window


That, however, doesn't work very well if you want to spread them across separate monitors with different resolutions.
There is a workaround.

In order to open multiple documents in separate windows you first need to open a document, like you normally would. When the document is open you then right-click with the mouse on the Excel icon in the taskbar. There select the "Excel" entry.

Open a new Excel instance


Voila, a new Excel window has just opened. All that you need to do is open that additional spreadsheet in the new window, position it besides the original one and you're good to go.

Two separate Excel windows


Enjoy,
Vlayke

03 February, 2014

How to watch Google Photospheres

I'm fairly certain you all know what panorama photos are. If you don't it's those veeery wide photos, that you can take with most of today smartphones and with some digital cameras, that allow you to move from side to side in order to capture wide views of (usually) nature. If you don't have a device that supports this, then you can also use some software tools to make panoramas from multiple overlapping horizontal shots. End results are something like this:
Panorama of Lago Maggiore, north of Italy

Panoramas are swell and perfect. But the only cover some of the story. Google came up with a way to also add all the missing parts, by allowing you to create a sphere photo. Basic idea is the same. You move your camera around and the software stitches it together. Only trick is that you move your camera all the way around. And up. And down.



So now you have a photo that puts you on the spot somewhere and you can rotate to your hearts content. The only problem is that it's a bit difficult to actually view that photo, if you're not an owner of an Android phone.
Sure, someone can send you their Photosphere, as they're called, and you open it on your PC. But you only see this:

The picture is nice, but it's a bit out of shape in lots of places. And it does nothing for your desire to be "on the spot".

Luckily there is a web page called http://photosphereviewer.net/. Smart people there allow you to point your web browser to location on your disk, where you have photospheres that your friends shared with you. And then you can watch them in all their intended glory. And in case you don't have one handy, they have several examples on their page. That's also where the above pic is from.

Have fun,
Vlado


17 January, 2014

How to locate the browser tab that is source of an (annoying) sound

You're going crazy, but you still cannot find where the sounds are coming from!

It's something that probably happened to everyone of us at some point or other. We have lots of tabs opened and in one of them the designer has chosen to add a component that plays some music automatically. Or starts a video. Or has an add that has to talk to us...
Usually if we open the tab, we'll spot the culprit at that time, mute it and be done with it. But it could happen that we will close the browser (or it will crash) and when we re-open it with all the tabs, we won't have any clue where that cursed sound is originating.



So what to do?

There are multiple solutions to this problem. I'll list as many as I can come up with, starting with most complicated ones (and maybe least useful) and going towards simpler ones.

1. Reload the tabs

This option is fairly complicated, because it involves lots of work, depending on the amount of tabs that you have open.Basically you have to go to every tab and reload it (press F5 to speed up the process). When you reach the tab that is the source of the sound, playback will be interrupted while it reloads and you'll know that you have located the guilty party. Apart from having to go through every tab to find the problem, you may reload some pages where you were doing things and inadvertently loose some data. But sanity is more important, eh?

2. Use Volume Mixer control to disable the sound in the web browser

This option is more of a workaround than the solution. It stops you going crazy, but it doesn't really help you finding which tab is the problematic one. It simply mutes all the sound that the web browser generates. Problem with this is that it will also mute the sound in the tabs of that web browser that may actually be useful to you. It's all or nothing.



You can find the Volume mixer, by clicking on the volume icon in your notifications bar and then clicking on the Mixer link.




3. Youtube? No problem.

Youtube has implemented a useful feature a few months ago. If you're watching a video on  Youtube, the tab where the video is playing will display a well known triangle icon that means play. This helps you to quickly determine which of your Youtube tabs is responsible for the noise. This functionality is browser-independent.

Click to view larger


4. Chrome - all is known ;-)
Since Youtube is Google's subsidiary it's probably not surprising that Google took previous feature and integrated it as a generic functionality into the Chrome web browser. Now any pages that generate sound will have a speaker icon in shown in the tab header which will allow you to spot the annoying web page at a glance.
In the example below three out of five tabs are playing video. However one of the three tabs has the video muted, so the speaker icon only shows up on the two active ones.

Click to view larger


Enjoy some good music and don't loose your mind over it,
Vlayke

13 December, 2013

Who or what has access to your Google account and how to revoke that access

Like Facebook, one of the conveniences that Google offers is that it allows you to use your Google account in order to login to different websites. In IT circles this is known as a SSO (Single Sign On) functionality. It's another way of saying, that you don't need to create an account for every single site on the internet. Instead you create one with a well know and (hopefully) trusted provider and use that everywhere. One of the ideas behind this is that you can now have one fairly strong password, which would further secure your online identity. On any site that supports this, you will then have an option to create a local account, or to use your Google login instead.



I can just hear you asking now: "But wait. Doesn't that mean that all those sites will now know my Google login credentials?"
Thankfully, the answer to that is: "No, they won't." :-)

The way how this works (in fairly simplified form) is that other sites have decided to trust Google (or Facebook) to provide the authentication services instead of them. When you come to a www.tripit.com or www.linkedin.com and use your Google login, these sites will essentially ask Google if it can verify that you are, who you say you are. Google will say "yes" and with that the site will let you in. Your password will not be seen by these sites.
That's the good part of the story.

What about the bad?

There are actually a few, potentially, bad sides. And you have to weigh each one on its own to see if convenience outweighs the risks, as far as you are concerned.


  • Google knows (sinister music)
Since your Google account to login to the other sites, Google will know which sites you're visiting. So if you're keen on protecting where on the net you go, this may be an issue for you.
  • Sites know (sinister music)
Depending on the site, there may be a substantial level of information that they will get from Google about you, when you use Google authentication. On the upside, the site where you're logging in with your Google account will always let you know what level of information they want from you, before you allow them to actually access that information. Major problem here is that, often, there is no way of reducing requested privilege level and still be able to use Google login with that particular site.
Here is a bit of information, regarding the access levels and what they mean.
  • You forget that others know (no music)

In my opinion one of the hidden risks with this is that it's maybe too convenient. Lots of sites today use this capability. In some cases you may want to try out a particular site or a service that they offer and you then forget you did so. However the site in question still retains visibility in your personal data.

For the first two things there is no tool. You have to use your head. Unfortunately :-)
For the last thing, however, there is a nice page on google.com, that allows you to check all the sites and services that are at this time allowed to access some or most of your information. It also allows you to easily revoke access to any and all such linked sites and services.
Ha, actually, just as I was re-checking the facts about this functionality, I came across an updated and nicer version of the page, which serves the same function. :-)

I'm willing to bet that most of you, will be slightly amazed, when you see all the connected sites and services, when you visit these pages for the first time.

Have a nice Friday the 13th and enjoy,
Vlayke

05 December, 2013

Gmail - One account, infiinite adresses

So, you've got a Gmail account? Are you registering for a technical newsletter here, shaving forum there, loyalty service in another location? On top of that there are lots of websites or services, like free wireless at in cities or at the airports, that would like to have your email address.


Lots of these services require you to confirm that you can actually be reached through an email address that you provide, before you can use them. As a result quite a few people have taken to create a separate email account just for these registration purposes. It's one of the ways to combat the amount of emails that you get in your inbox and minimize the risk of appearing on someone's spam list.
Problem with this approach is that now you have TWO accounts that you have to use and check. At least when you need to check for confirmation emails or maybe when you need to recover passwords that you forget.

Well, with Gmail, there is a way to have a single account but at the same time have virtually unlimited amount of email addresses associated with it. Actually there are two such ways :-D

D.ot.s a.re (semi)imp.ort.ant

If you're like me, then you created your Gmail account in firstname.lastname@gmail.com format. Some people do it in firstnamelastname@gmail.com format. Or you use whatever other type of account name you like. Doesn't really matter. What matters is that Google will deliver emails to your account even if punctuation is different than what you specified as your username. So, if your default email address is firstname.lastname@gmail.com then also emails to firstnamelastname@gmail.com will reach you. As well as f.irstnamelastname@gmail.com or firs.tnam.elast.name@gmail.com or firstnamelastnam.e@gmail.com or any other combination in between.
Neat, eh? :-)

Gmail+?

You probably know that Google is doing its best to compete with Facebook, with Google+ service, for the status of social network king. If it will succeed or not remains to be seen. But it seems (may be a coincindence) that a bit of that "plussiness" has spilled over to Gmail.
It seems like that, because another way to generate additional email addresses is to add + sign at the end of your username and follow it with a string of characters. For instance firstname.lastname+shawingforums@gmail.com Or firstname.lastname+technewsletters@gmail.com
Of course you could combine this with the first technique but that would likely complicate things a bit.

How does this help me?

Well, one of the things that you can fairly effectively do in Gmail is  creating filters for your incoming emails. The thing is that if you wanted to create a filter for every loyalty program, forum or newsletter, and you weren't using either of the above tricks, then you had to create a lot of individual filters that were based on sender addresses. And additional problem was that, relatively often, sender addresses change. Which means that it can happen that one of your filters stops working all of a sudden and you may have a hard time figuring out why.
With firstname.lastname+loyaltyprogram@gmail.com you just need to create a filter that will rely on your receiving email. And it can be one filter for all loyalty programs for which you registered with that particular address. If sender address changes at any time in the future or if your registration email is provided to some third-party company, then all the extra correspondence will be automatically treated with the same loyalty filter and will not clutter your inbox. Plus (hehe) you will have a better overview in regards with how your email information circulates around the internet.

What this nifty feature will not do?

Email addresses (more properly called aliases, for those of you that are detail nazis) generated like this are for receiving emails only. You will not be able to use them for outgoing emails. Any mail that you send will still be sent under your original username@gmail.com
Also, the login name (what you type in combination with your password when you login to Google services) can only be your original username, that you picked when you subscribed for a Google account.

Enjoy,
Vlayke

28 November, 2013

XBMC Subtitles

I've had a request, after my previous XBMC post, to write about the subtitles in this HTPC application. So here goes.

One of the things that you can easily do in XBMC is to get a subtitle for any movie or TV series that you watch. Most of the time the process can literally be a single-click away.

XBMC is a very extensible platform, through the use of plugins, that you can add to it. One of such plugins is a subtitles plugin. It allows you to connect to one or more subtitle sites on the internet and can be configured to automatically fetch the first subtitle that seems suitable to the title you're currently watching. In some cases it may make mistakes and either download subtitles for the wrong episode or maybe subtitles which have a bit of delay. If that happens, you can simply initiate the download again and then it will allow you to select the subtitle file manually.



So let's see how this can be setup.

Open your XBMC and move to the right where you will find the System menu.



When you enter it there will be the Add-ons section.



Once you enter that, go to the Get Add-ons and there, under the XBMC.org Add-ons entry, you will find the Subtitles section. The only selection there will be the XBMC subtitles. Open that and you will have an option to download it.



Once it's downloaded you will need to set how it will behave. Enter the plugin again and choose the Configure button. First you will set up the languages that interest you.



Then you should decide which subtitle provider or providers you will use. This may depend on your language selection, since not all subtitle providers will offer subtitles in the language of your choice. For English subtitles I have good experience with OpenSubtitles.org. Be mindful that some subtitle providers require that you create an account. In that case, you will have to provide login credentials to the subtitle plugin so that it can retrieve the subtitles properly.



Finally you should go to the Advanced Options tab and check a few entries there. If nothing else, go all the way down the list and check the option which says Auto Download first "sync" subtitle. This will enable the one-click capabilities for you later in the playback window.



We configured the Add-on settings. Now we need to let XBMC know that it will be using this plugin for subtitles. In order to do that, we head back to the System menu and on top locate and enter the Appearance section. Here we move to the right, where there is a - Settings option under the Skin entry.



In the Settings screen we locate the Add-on Shortcuts section and then on the right look for the Video OSD entry. There we need to make sure that the XBMC Subtitles is selected.



After you're done, go back to your TV Shows or Movies section and open the title that you would like to watch. During playback all that you will need to do is to click on the subtitle button and the appropriate subtitle will be downloaded automatically.





Enjoy,
Vlayke

26 November, 2013

XBMC – When watching movies or TV shows is just easy - Part 2

Part 1

Even though you can install XBMC on virtually anything, from an Android phone, iPhone (if jailbroken), Raspberry Pi device, and there are even Linux distributions that are made with sole purpose of running XBMC, I’ll again do the KISS thing and simply install it as an application on my Windows PC. You can go to www.xbmc.org and on the right hand side you will see a nice, large "Download" button that will help you to transfer the installation package to your PC.
When you transfer it (it's around 50MB at the time of writing) you simply go through setup like you would with any other piece of software. Defaults will work fine and when setup runs its course, you have the application itself installed and ready to run.

When you first run it, you will be presented with a nice, large user interface that is designed (also) for TV use. As such, you can completely disregard mouse and simply use your arrow keys to move around the interface. Enter will get you in a particular menu, while Backspace will go one level up. Full list of keyboard shortcuts can be found here. Of course, mouse will work just as well.


Now we will want to let XBMC know where media files are located. We will enter the "Videos" menu, then "Files" and finally "Add Videos..." section.



 First we will add movies to the database. You will get an option to name the media files in the location. If you have more than one location where you store movies then name your location, so that it makes sense to you. I will simply call it "Movies". Then browse to the location where your movie files are. This can be on your PC or somewhere else on your network. Maybe another PC or on a NAS server. In my case it will be a local drive with Y: letter assigned to it.




When you locate the folder where your movies are stored, you confirm it. Then you will be able to let XBMC know, that the folder contains movies in the content selection. This allows XBMC to scan the folder and identify the movies and put up all sorts of nice things about them, such as title image, list of actors, summaries and so on. When you get asked if you want to refresh the info for all items in the path, answer "Yes".



Movies are added, so you need to add your TV series as well. Process is the same as before. Only difference is that you now you specify content as "TV Shows". When you're done you again answer affirmatively to the "refresh info" question. You should now have Movies and TV (or whatever you named them) in your list of libraries.



And that's it! You're done! After the scan of your files is finished and you back out of the menus, you will be able to see two new entries in the main screen. One will be "Movies" and other will be "TV Shows". If you move over them, you should already see what content XBMC was able to find and catalogue.



And if you enter the individual selection, you will be able to see your media files and start watching them.



This completes the initial XBMC posting. Sometime in the future you can look forward to information about remotes, subtitles, TV streaming and similar.

Enjoy this greatly,
Vlayke