22 December 2008

Dark is the new light

In common with most things professional these days on confusers, taking your interface colours down a notch proves restful for the eyes when staring at a screen for megahours as is common. I recently installed a new theme on Fx called PitchDark, which darkens all the surrounds to my actual web browsing nicely, but I still had the shocking white about:blank page whenever I started Firefox. The solution is as shown to the left made possible by editing the usercontent.css script in your Firefox profile (a task much simplified if you use the MR Tech Toolkit extension) to add the following stuff from this page: http://mozillalinks.org/wp/2007/12/customize-firefox-blank-page/ to it, I just changed the default BRIGHT YELLOW!!! to a more sober #211111. The Firefox logo is encoded in BQSE64 in the css.

7 December 2008

Last day at NewTek Europe

It's my last day at NewTek Europe tomorrow. I have been made redundant because of the drop off of LightWave sales meaning that my position was costing the company too much. It's quite exciting though.

2 December 2008

Quick OS tuning

Don't search for "Free registry cleaner Vista" on Google. You'll get about a million results all of which seem slightly dodgy. Instead go here: http://forums.microsoft.com/msdn/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=2420597&SiteID=1 and a nice chap with the dubious title of S.P.G. tells about a Microsoft solution that worked just fine for me thanks.

Quick Fx tip

To allow you to use Alt S to submit posts in a variety of forum software and to save elsewhere in Firefox you might need to change this: ui.key.contentAccess in Firefox's config. To do so type about:config in the location bar and click to continue. Then enter the above into the filter field and change the 5 to a 4.

29 November 2008

Review: Canon MPS-610

This is an all-in-one colour inkjet scanner, copier and printer. They are widely available these days and I may be overly astounded by the quality of this one since my last colour inkjet printer was an Epson Stylus Photo 900.

The printer is a big silver box that weighs about 8 kg. It plugs into a USB port and the power lead can be changed. The top opens to reveal a control panel with a colour LCD screen, a jog wheel for choosing items and a variety of one-touch buttons, for doing photocopying and the like.

It has two trays, one underneath that has some guides to allow you to hold paper of different sizes snugly, and a back tray for those that like manual feeds. The MP610 has separate ink cartridges for three colours, a photo black and a larger document black for general printing.

The MP610 has an LED scanner with a maximum resolution of 9,600 x 4,800dpi that is pretty speedy in use and scans don't have to be made if all you are going to do is print them out again - the copy buttons (two: one for mono and one for colour) mean that the computer doesn't even need to be switched on to create extremely good-looking copies (I've used this machine for both colour and mono copies and there's none of the usual fading that marks out an inkjet copy compared to the original. About the only thing that differs at first glance is the type of paper).

Scans saved to the computer can be directly placed into an application like Photoshop or Acrobat, or saved in a variety of filetypes (JPG/Exif, TIFF, BMP or PDF) and supplied OCR software can convert scanned images to text (I have Acrobat with built-in OCR so I haven't tried the bundled Nuance OmniPage SE.

For printing from the computer (rather than photocopying), the MP610 delivers bright, very good quality prints even on standard photocopier paper. If you get some 10x15 cm photo paper such as that supplied in the CLI-8 ChromaLife Pack of inks and paper then you'll get photo prints indistinguishable from most photo labs these days.

You can even print out such photos without needing the computer on since the printer has a card reader. It takes CompactFlash, SD, MultiMedia card and MemoryStick, but not xD cards. This is fine for me since my camera uses an SD card, but my mum's camera (a Fuji) uses XD cards so it's no good for her. When inserting a memory card in you are presented with thumbnails on the colour LCD screen so you can instantly see what you will print out and since the printer also adheres to PictBridge and Canon's own FINE systems it means that adjustments will be made to the final image to ensure the best possible colour fidelity.

The MP610 is fantastic, I love it with all my heartses. Even its strangely anachronistic wheezing when its clearing its pipes is endearing and the quality of prints is outstanding. The XD omission does seem odd, duplex printing is frighteningly slow and this machine seems crying out to also be a fax, but then faxes are less and less useful these days and in my opinion won't be long in following the mighty telex in terms of "communications equipment of yesteryear". I don't print all that much so I can't complain that "it doesn't handle multi-thousand sheet print jobs" etc. but then you'd be a fool for expecting it to. On my patented pub scale (out of five allowing you to maintain a grip on a pint) I will happily give this printer a resounding 5/5

Nice Fx extension: Auto Context

Found an extremely nifty extension for Firefox this evening, Auto Context. It watches for when you select some text and then pops up a menu offering you choices, like so:

This is very handy for when you want to just copy text off a page without getting all the HTML so that your word processor doesn't overwrite your existing styles, and the "Search with..." option at the bottom of the list gives you all the search engines you have in the search field. The options you can see are the ones I wanted to keep but there is a very comprehensive options window to put exactly what you want up.

PS. Using this extension I can remove Context Search and Right Click Link.

PPS. I ought to give you the AMO link: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/5714

21 October 2008

Long distance work

Working from home using your computer sounds like a doddle. Using Skype means no expensive transatlantic phone calls and email, online docs, spreadsheets and mind maps make working together easier, right? Well, only so far. If you've never visited your clients you don't know how their office is laid out spatially meaning that if you are dealing with several people in the organisation you don't know if they can just nip over and check on so-and-so, you don't even know if they can see if someone is in the office!

So you end up with half a dozen Skype chat windows, trying to track people down and playing round-robin chasing the people you need, and it's oh-so easy to ignore that flashing Skype window meaning that working becomes a matter of twiddling your thumbs waiting for responses and then not having enough time to do what you need to meaning you go to bed ever later (note to Cory Doctorow: EST is a great idea, but if you also have to live and in another timezone the payback's a bitch).

Anyway, sometimes it's really nice to do, it's just not great for the family.

A taste of autumn

My friend Thomas gave me the end of an enormous butternut squash on Saturday and I tried to tell him how I'd prepare it. In the end, I made it and sent him the recipe by email with these pics.

Here's the recipe:

I removed the seeds from the end of the butternut squash (and put them to one side for planting later) and removed most of the stringy material that surrounds them.

I heated the oven to about 180 deg C and wiped some oil around the inside of the pumpkin bowl.

Once the oven was warmed, I just bunged the pumpkin in on a baking sheet.

While the pumpkin was in the oven, I peeled and chopped an onion and started frying it in a pan gently. After the onion had softened I added a pack of smoked lardons and kept them frying. Once the liquid that leeched out of the bacon had cooked off, I added a tin of chopped tomatoes.

In another dry frying pan I was browning a pack of pine nuts gently. This recipe would work equally well with mushrooms (especially the ceps, girolles and peebles Tom and I went out to get from the wood behind his house last week), but since Finn doesn't like mushrooms...

Once the tomatoes had cooked down a bit I added in some Herbes de Provence to give it some flavour, along with some balsamic vinegar and pepper.

Elsewhere I was whizzing up some brown bread to make breadcrumbs and I added a generous quantity of grated parmesan and salt and pepper at the same time.

By this stage the tomato/bacon mixture had cooked down a bit, so I tipped in the browned pine nuts and added some of the breadcrumb mixture to thicken the juice a bit.

Then I took the pumpkin "bowl" out of the oven, tipped in the mixture and covered with the breadcrumb mixture and put in back in the oven with the temperature reduced to about 150 deg C for twenty minutes.

I took it out of the oven and left it to rest for about five minutes before serving. It was a real taste of autumn with a glass of good Bordeaux red wine.