My Kobo e-Reader is Suddenly Useful

Archaic monster that I am, I prefer paper books, and I’ll spare you the whys. I also have an e-reader. It is a small and entirely outdated Kobo Mini. Here it is:

Kobo Mini with 5
Kobo Mini with 5″ screen

It’s got a small screen, has no light, it’s slow, has only 2GB of memory, an e-ink screen two generations behind the times, and it’s not a Kindle. It’s perfect. Again, I’ll spare you the whys, except to say that it serves my basic needs and addresses a few dislikes I have for the Kindle. And it fits in my back pocket in a pinch.
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Having a Quieter Summer After Shutting Microsoft Security Essentials the Heck Up

Here's the helpful little monster.
Here’s the helpful little monster.

So, summer’s back and with it are the case fans on my home PC. It’s by and large a quiet machine, mostly puttering softly to itself unless being made to run a game or, peculiarly, YouTube videos (because Adobe still doesn’t know how to make a video player that doesn’t consume 100% CPU time). Continue reading

Humble Indie Bundle, Once More

A little update on the HIB#2:

  • Donations now at over 1.6 million dollars.
  • Donations over a certain average get access to all the games that were also in the first Humble Indie Bundle. That’s ten games (about five of which are genuinely very good) for around eight bucks, or you can donate a smaller value and still get the current five.
  • Steam keys now available, meaning you can link the games to your Steam account.
  • Puppy Games has declared that if the donations reach $1.75 million, they will release their game, Revenge of the Titans, as open source. What does this mean? Hard to say, but it potentially may mean that the game will receive significant community updates in the future… or little to no attention at all. Still, a very generous offer.

HIB2 is still a fantastic deal, and one you can feel pretty decent about participating in. One day, fourteen hours remain.

Humble Bundle

An Extremely Minor Reason to Upgrade to iTunes 10

There’s one extremely minor reason to upgrade to iTunes 10 (if you must use iTunes at all), and that’s the fact that Apple seems to have finally figured out how to provide an attractive, intelligent, and functional manner for displaying cover art outside of the main application. No need for a separate CD cover art app any longer.

Standing alone as an album art viewer (this is as small as it gets):

When the mouse hovers over it, iTunes controls show:

Here’s how to get it working:

  1. Click the album art pane in iTunes (see image below).
  2. Move and adjust the cover art window.
  3. Minimize iTunes, because it is still ugly.
  4. Hover over the album art to control iTunes, or use an alternative method (see links below).
  5. Get on with life and living.
Click for larger

Of course, you can also continue to use hotkey solutions as I describe in earlier posts:

iTunes can be downloaded here.

Still not hot on iTunes 10? Here’s how to install it without extra crap that you don’t need.

Create a Custom Game Launcher for Master of Orion I and II

Every time I get a new game of any complexity, I usually create a menu for it using the freeware standalone launcher PStart. For me, it’s part of the fun of getting a new game, and it also consolidates a bunch of game resources in a single executable more attractively than the Start menu. Here’s my menu for the newly re-released Master of Orion from GOG:

As you can see, the GOG package includes both Master of Orion I and II, manuals, and the open source DOSBox emulator pre-configured to properly run both games. It’s a fairly complex setup that GOG has taken some decent steps to simplify for the average player. Putting all these resources into a single menu makes it (for me), even simpler. For example, I’ve been playing around with the various DOSBox settings to get the game to run the way I like, so it’s useful to me to have access to the dosboxMOO2.conf file you see in the above menu.

So, just quickly, here is how you put together such a menu system, for just about any game, for free.

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Non-Horrible Software: AxCrypt

The most you'll need to see of AxCrypt is this right-click menu and the password prompt.

AxCrypt (free, open-source, partially portable) – A seamlessly integrated file encryption utility. It’s getting rare that a genuinely useful bit of security software for Windows isn’t some ad-laden tie-in to a costly subscription product. They pop up ads, make loud noises when they update, and seem to require constant attention because they are, after all, ads themselves. AxCrypt, on the other hand, hardly calls attention to itself at all.

An example: To encrypt a Microsoft Word document, right-click on it, select the appropriate menu option, enter a password, and the file is encrypted as a .doc.axx file. After that, you’re essentially done. Any time you need to open the file, you enter your password, and the file is opened — as a .doc — in Microsoft Word (this is the ‘seamless’ part). Under the covers, AxCrypt has decrypted the file, appropriately renamed it as a .doc so Word doesn’t freak out, and launched Microsoft Word per usual. When you’re done, AxCrypt re-encrypts the file, shredding the temporary .doc first, with no further prompting from you.

Boiled down, this means that any encrypted file basically acts like any other file on your computer, as long as you have the password. It’s almost like AxCrypt isn’t even there. There isn’t even a splash screen. How marvelous.

That’s not all. Right-click a folder, and you can encrypt (or decrypt) every file within it, or even securely shred the whole works. You can open encrypted files on machines without AxCrypt by using a portable AxDecrypt program, or embed a decryption routine within the file itself. AxCrypt has you covered in nearly any situation in which you may want to encrypt files. All this, in an install size that would fit in an email attachment. Utterly indispensable.

Non-Horrible Software is often very small in size and sharply focused on its main use case. It is elegant in function, design, and intent. If you don’t like or need the software, removing it is simple and it leaves no mess behind. No nag screens, bloated runtime dependencies, needless skins, online activation, or other nonsense. Requirements are similar to those of tinyapps.org. Growing list of Non-Horrible Software is available right here.

Non-horrible software: SumatraPDF

SumatraPDF isn't exciting at all. It's perfect.

SumatraPDF (free, open source, portable) – A fast, no-frills PDF reader. For a while, FoxitPDF was great for reading PDFs compared to Adobe’s overweight desktop ambassador, Adobe Reader. Now, FoxitPDF is experiencing its own irritating feature creep, including built-in advertisements for the paid version. Unlike these two jokers, SumatraPDF is a completely non-commercial, portable, free, and open source PDF reader. It made my favorites list recently when I found out that it now automatically recalls the last page of every PDF it opens, which saves much time flipping through pages.  Even if SumatraPDF is too feature-free for advanced use, it’s still worth keeping around because it’s fast and as free of irritants as cotton underwear.

Non-Horrible Software is often very small in size and sharply focused on its main use case. It is elegant in function, design, and intent. If you don’t like or need the software, removing it is simple and it leaves no mess behind. No nag screens, bloated runtime dependencies, needless skins, online activation, or other nonsense. Requirements are similar to those of tinyapps.org. Growing list of Non-Horrible Software is available right here.

Pocketmod Makes Pretty Neat Little Organizer Things

I originally discovered the Pocketmod service some time ago on Lifehacker.com. It’s an interesting little online utility that creates disposable pocket organizers that you print out on plain paper, scribble on, and throw away after about a week or so.

2009-09-30_232336_pocketmod
This is my current PocketMod setup. (I dream of a day without CamelCaps.)

The joy and guilt of PocketMod is in this disposability: it’s incredibly basic and shouldn’t last for more than a week (unless you laminate it for some reason), then, you toss it. There’s a certain elation in keeping a full-featured organizer that doesn’t need batteries, is free, and fits in a wallet. I wouldn’t try synching it with Outlook, though.

To use PocketMod, you design it yourself from a drag-n-drop Flash app, print it out, cut a slit in it, fold it, write on it, refer to it occasionally, then toss it when you’re done. It’s beautiful in its customizability, cheapness, and disposability.

It’s also ugly in its disposability and bowing to our evil capitalistic and productivity-monitoring overlords. Fine, whatever.

Me, I use one about a week every six months or so, then go back to being an organizational wreck. Better than buying a $20 planner every year that ends up with 312 blank pages.

Visit PocketMod.

View doctorfrog’s current PocketMod.