David Chandler's Journal of Java Web and Mobile Development

  • David M. Chandler

    Web app developer since 1994 and former Developer Advocate with Google now residing in Colorado. Besides tech, I enjoy landscape photography and share my work at ColoradoPhoto.gallery.

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Archive for the ‘PC Tech’ Category

Custom search shortcuts in Chrome

Posted by David Chandler on July 25, 2011

One of my favorite Chrome features is the “one box” which serves as both address bar and search box. Press Ctrl+L and away you go. It’s also the handiest way to access bookmarks. Press Ctrl+L and start typing the name of one of your bookmarks, and you’ll see it appear as one of the starred items. Just arrow down and press Enter to go to the bookmark. Some Chrome extensions contribute shortcuts to the one box, and you can also create your own.

For example, let’s create a shortcut to search dictionary.com. Right-click in the Chrome onebox and click Edit search providers. You’ll see many defined already. Scroll to the bottom and click in the box that says Add a new search engine. Type “Dictionary.com”, then tab to the next box, where you’ll enter a shortcut. Type the letter “d”, then tab to the next box and enter this URL: “http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/%s”. To save the shortcut, click anywhere on the page.

Now try it out: press Ctrl+L and type “d blogger” then press Enter. As soon as you type the space after “d”, you’ll see that you’re searching Dictionary.com, and when you press Enter, your results appear.

Here are some other useful shortcuts:

In most cases, you can determine the correct URL by doing a search at the target Web site (like weatherbug.com) and observing the URL in the address bar after the search. Simply replace your search words in the URL with “%s” as in the examples above.

Happy shortcutting!


Posted in PC Tech | 3 Comments »

Ditch your land line with Google Voice and the OBI110

Posted by David Chandler on March 12, 2011

In tonight’s “Saturday evening post” you’ll learn why I’m one step closer to ditching our home phone number. For the last several months I’ve been making long distance calls with Gmail calling (ever tried that “Call phone” link in the Gchat sidebar?) It was especially valuable during my recent speaking trip to Sweden as I could use the hotel wireless to call home for free. For these calls, I tethered myself to my laptop using my cell phone earbuds plus this handy adapter to split the 3.5mm earbud plug into separate mic / speaker plugs for my notebook. I’ve also used a USB headset, but the earbuds and adapter roll into a tiny ball I can more easily stuff into a backpack and the sound quality is just as good.

Personally, I love Gmail calling as a phone interface. Being a keyboard shortcuts freak, I simply press “g,p” in Gmail and start typing someone’s name. Their phone numbers appear, I arrow down, press enter, and Gmail dials. Very cool. And of course, thanks to Android, I see the same contacts whether in Gmail or on my cell phone. However, the other people in my house don’t necessarily want to turn on and plug into a computer just to make a phone call.

Enter the OBI110, a VOIP adapter that lets you use your plain old telephone with Gmail calling and optionally, Google Voice for inbound calls. Mine arrived last week and I finally got around to setting it up this afternoon. The steps are simple (though NOT particularly clear in the instruction booklet). After you plug in all the cords and turn it on,

  1. Sign up for an account at obitalk.com. It’s free.
  2. Add your OBI110 device to your control panel (click Add Device in the left nav).
  3. Click Tips, Tricks in the left nav and then click Google Voice Configuration Wizard. Put in your Gmail account info using your full username@gmail.com and away you go…

The OBI110 lets you plug in your existing land line as well as the Ethernet connection to your router, and you can configure it to use Gmail calling for all calls, or only when you dial “**1” first. This way, you can continue to make local calls on your land line and use Gmail calling only for free long distance.

Note: instead of step 3 above, you can also click on the OBI110 device in the dashboard at obitalk.com and click the Google Voice setup button; however, when I tried it this way, it always made my Google Voice # the primary number, even if I unchecked that box in the setup, so I couldn’t make local calls on my land line.

For advanced configuration, you can login to the OBI110 router using your browser by going to its IP address. When you add the device to your account at obitalk.com, it creates an admin password which you can view on the dashboard. This password replaces the default admin/admin and you must enter username admin and this new password in order to connect to the OBI110 with your browser. If you get in trouble, you can always reset to factory defaults using a paper clip in the tiny hole in the back of the device or by logging in to the OBI110 and selecting System Management | Device Update | Reset.

So far, I’ve only made a few test calls to verify that inbound and outbound calls are routed as expected.  If I dial a number directly, it goes through my land line according to caller ID, and if I dial **1 first, it shows up as my Google Voice #. There seems to be a delay of one or two rings before inbound calls on the land line make it through the device to reach my cordless base system.

With the OBI110, you no longer need a computer to use Gmail calling nor a land line to receive calls at your Google Voice # on a corded or cordless telephone. Google has said Gmail calling will remain free at least through 2011, so if you call numbers in the US or Canada, you can make everyone in your house happy with free long distance on your familiar home telephone system.

In case you’re wondering, the event that got this ball rolling was that I got a corporate cell phone (Android, of course), which allowed me to cancel our AT&T family talk plan that we used mainly for free long distance on nights and weekends. We now have much cheaper pre-paid cell phones, free texting through Google Voice numbers, and free long distance at home with Gmail calling. We’ve pretty well drunk the Google Kool-Aid 🙂

Posted in PC Tech | 6 Comments »

Daily defrag? You’ve got to be kidding!

Posted by David Chandler on February 26, 2011

For our second edition of the “Saturday evening post,” consider the case of an old Compaq Presario desktop with Vista that was running painfully slowly. Every time it came out of suspend mode, the hard drive would spin and spin and spin. What on earth could it be doing? Task Manager showed lsass.exe doing a lot of reads and writes, but everything uses that system service. CPU usage was minimal, and AVG was not doing a scan.

I thought I might need to defragment the hard drive so I opened the Tools menu in Windows Explorer only to find that Scheduled Defrag was enabled to run EVERY DAY and anytime on wake-up if the previous run was missed. Those must have been default settings as I certainly don’t remember setting them, but my other Vista machines have not been that obnoxious.

The computer gets less than an hour of use per day and defrag takes a while, so basically it would never finish, leading to the ever-spinning disk.

Now that I’ve disabled the daily defrag, it runs a lot faster and quieter. I also ran CCleaner to remove temp files and installed Google Chrome, and my wife will now be able to check her Gmail just seconds after wake-up.

I wonder what people did on Saturdays before there were computers to fix?

Posted in PC Tech | Leave a Comment »

Resolved: Lexmark Printer Issue in Vista

Posted by David Chandler on February 26, 2011

One or the other of my teenage kids have been unable to print from the Lexmark wireless printer for several months now, and it finally could not be put off any longer.

Vista kept popping up messages saying that the Print Spooler service (spoolsrv.exe) had stopped. I logged in as Administrator and restarted the service, only for it to stop again in a few seconds. Print spooler virus? AVG in safe made checked clean. After several hours of Googling and getting nowhere, I found a post that mentioned C:\Windows\System32\spool. I went to that directory and deleted everything in the Printers folder. Now I was able to restart the Print Spooler service (if you don’t know how to do that, just restart the computer) and Add a Printer in the usual way through the Printers Control Panel.

Just documenting this for myself for next time…

Posted in PC Tech | Leave a Comment »

Everybody please update your Gmail pic

Posted by David Chandler on September 2, 2010

This really neat Chrome extension makes email a lot more personal again.

Posted in PC Tech | 1 Comment »

The ultimate file browser for maven repos and more

Posted by David Chandler on August 26, 2010

Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of work with maven where I needed to verify that the correct artifacts were deployed to a maven repository. While it’s easy enough to view a maven repo in a Web browser, it’s a pain to click through all the levels, and the POMs don’t show up very nicely due to the XML content.

So, I reached way back in time in my toolbox and pulled out lynx, the text-only browser created at my alma mater the year I graduated. (Ironically enough, I was then unaware of HTTP and lamenting that all the interesting work in EE had already been done. I had even used the Internet, as my wife and I would telnet across state lines with our campus VAX accounts to chat on the VT220 terminals in our respective dorms. But I didn’t see the Web coming, and it’s most of what I’ve done for the last 18 years…).

You can quickly browse maven central, for example, using

lynx https://repo1.maven.org/maven2/

For extra speed and the ability to look at POMs in vi, pull in the HTTP repo first (POMs only for speed) with wget:

wget -r -l3 --no-parent https://repo1.maven.org/maven2/com/whatever -A.pom

Now for the really fun part. Inspired by the ability to launch Finder on the Mac with “open .”, I tried

lynx .

Sure enough, lynx has finally cured my emacs file browser envy. Use the arrow keys to navigate, “o” to set options, including vi as your editor, then “/” to search just like in vi and “e” to edit any file. If you have to edit a bunch of files in multiple directories, this definitely trumps tedious “cd” and “vi” commands, even with shell filename completion. For really hardcore users, there’s

lynx -vikeys .

Of course, all this would be unnecessary if the Mac Finder worked a little more like Windows Explorer. Or if I’d learned emacs instead of vi.

For a real blast from the past, pull up the Google home page with lynx. Even Gmail works! I love text, I really do. Although, for the record, I do much prefer GMail and GCalendar in Chrome with keyboard shortcuts on.

Posted in PC Tech | 2 Comments »

Mac tech notes (phantom NumLock stuck, KeyNote)

Posted by David Chandler on August 19, 2010

The latest episode in my adjustment to the Mac involved the nonexistent NumLock key on the MacBook Pro. Twice during presentations, the keyboard has gotten stuck in NumLock mode in which the j,k,l and surrounding keys function as the numeric keypad and no other keys work. Thankfully, my password has a letter in the phantom numeric keypad area so I could diagnose this situation when typing in the login box. The trouble is, the MacBook Pro has no NumLock key (older Macs used Fn + F6), so it is a mystery how I got into this mode. It appears to be a bug in Mouse Keys. The solution is to tap the Option key 5x to turn off Mouse Keys or go into System Preferences | Universal Access and disable Mouse Keys.

On the bright side, KeyNote rocks. I kept noticing that the most polished presenters were using KeyNote, and now I see what they’re seeing: a presentation console on the notebook LCD that shows the current AND next slides (which makes smooth transitions much easier), speaker notes, and a giant digital clock. It uses extended desktop mode beautifully: console on the notebook display, and audience slides on the secondary display, to which you can also drag over all demos, editors, etc. KeyNote alone has finally sold me on the Mac.

Posted in PC Tech | 5 Comments »

I don’t miss Outlook / Exchange

Posted by David Chandler on August 14, 2010

Having previously seen only the personal edition of Google Calendar, I was skeptical of its value as a replacement for Outlook / Exchange in the enterprise. But now that I’m fortunate enough to work for a company that uses Google Apps for the enterprise, I can’t imagine going back. Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order:

  • See anyone’s calendar. Including, of course, other people at work (Apps edition of Calendar has a nice Find a Time feature similar to Outlook), but also my personal Google calendar (yeah! ONE calendar at last!) which I’ve shared from my Gmail account, calendars of other Gmail users who have shared with me, various team calendars, even the Atlanta Braves calendar so I know when to avoid the downtown connector (see Add | Interesting calendars).
  • Google Calendar on my iPhone (and, of course, Android). It’s a beautiful thing, works anywhere, and you can even set your Calendar settings to send you text message meeting reminders. Of course, I can see ALL calendars shared with me on the phone in one unified view, including personal, school, work, etc.
  • Google Calendar widget for Gmail (Settings | Labs to enable). Shows my day at a glance in Gmail. Works well with the Right-side Chat widget (also in Settings | Labs) to make more room.
  • Click and drag to create an appointment. Easy! Quick Add is great, too. Just type “Dinner with Vicki Fri 7-9 pm” and presto, you’ve got a date.
  • Search. Of course.
  • Keyboard shortcuts! This was my biggest fear moving from Outlook / Exchange. Microsoft helped make the transition easier by hiding many of my old favorites in the new Outlook ribbon bar. Happily, I’ve found that Gmail and Calendar keyboard shortcuts are every bit as productive as Outlook. Enable in Gmail and Calendar Settings, then type ? to see a list of available shortcuts. My newest favorite: “/” for instant access to the search box. Makes perfect sense if you’ve ever used vi.
  • Finally, I can get my calendar anywhere, anytime. No VPN required, no installed software. I think Google is here to stay.

Combine all this with Google Docs and Sites, and I really can’t understand why every small business hasn’t moved to the cloud. Google Apps is a sleeper.

Posted in PC Tech | 2 Comments »

How to save a snapshot of a Web page (including GWT)

Posted by David Chandler on May 22, 2010

This week’s “Saturday evening post” presents a useful tool for taking a snapshot of a Web page, including “Web 2.0” pages written in GWT and AJAX frameworks. You might use this technique to create a demo page for sales laptops that don’t always have access to the network. Or you might provide snapshots taken from a live GWT page to a Web designer in order to make it easier to work on CSS and images in a WYSIWYG design tool like Dreamweaver.

Server-side Web apps (JSF, PHP, etc.) generate HTML and send it to the browser, so “Save As… Web page, complete” in IE and Firefox does a decent job of making a local copy of a Web page, including images, stylesheets, etc. But in the case of pages that manipulate the DOM with JavaScript and XHR, there is typically minimal HTML, so this method doesn’t work.

Enter the Scrapbook plugin for Firefox. Scrapbook captures the current state of the DOM and saves it as HTML, along with images if you so choose. The result is a completely static snapshot comprised only of local HTML, images, and CSS. You can also save JavaScript, but it is not necessary, as Scrapbook captures the DOM at a point in time, thereby creating an accurate visual representation. Of course, without JavaScript, GWT widgets on the page won’t actually function.

Once you’ve captured a snapshot, you can export it. This creates a directory containing one or more HTML pages, images, and stylesheets. Simply open the exported index.htm in your browser to view it. Scrapbook even captures multiple frames.

As mentioned in the introduction, Scrapbook goes a long way toward solving one of the greatest challenges of AJAX application development: visual layout and design of pages written primarily in JavaScript. Exporting the DOM as static HTML allows designers to work in a traditional visual Web design tool, which should streamline the visual design process.

Scrapbook is free, with donations appreciated.

Posted in Google Web Toolkit, PC Tech | 1 Comment »

Windoze performance tip

Posted by David Chandler on February 25, 2010

At Tuesday night’s AJUG on Java performance tuning, Kirk Pepperdine was discussing the evils of swap in a RAM-plentiful age and offered this interesting freebie: set your paging file size to ZERO (assuming you do actually have enough RAM to keep everything in memory). Besides the ~10% boost you get from not paging memory to/from disk, it saves battery life on laptops by not spinning the disk as much.

Posted in PC Tech | 5 Comments »

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