Coding on Windows – Notepad ++

Notepad++ is a code editor software that can also replace your MS Windows Notepad.

From the research I’ve done, it is one of the most used software for programmers working on a Windows machine. The list of features it has is pretty impressive, such as:

  • syntax highlighting for C, C++, PHP, CSS, Java, HTML, XML, Javascript, Python, Perl, Ruby, and several other languages;
  • auto-completion;
  • a plug-in structure with several plug-ins for you to choose from;
  • macro recording and playback;
  • and the list goes on…

You can run Notepad ++ also from your USB drive through Portable Apps.

What about you, what is your favorite coding program? It’d be interested to know and try out a few other options.

No more Windows XP, will you go with Vista?

Microsoft being smart again saw that Vista wasn’t being very accepted, decided to force people to have no other option. After July 1st, computers can no longer be sold with Windows XP (there are exceptions to the rules such as computer with low specs).

If you bought a computer today would you get it with Windows Vista like Bill wants you to? By the way, Microsoft is planning to release a new OS next year.

Or, will you go with another OS?

IMHO the operating system has lost its critical importance. Users in general need an Office Suite, a web browser, image, video, and audio managers. At this day and age, most known operating systems will work just fine for everyday needs. MacOS will work very well, so will Linux, and even BSD.

Since the operating system itself isn’t that much important anymore, why keep paying for a new one every couple of years? Do you really need a new operating system or do you need one that works well?

For us, Linux is surely the way to go. It is safe, free, easy to use, with Wine many Windows-only programs can be used, and another huge benefit is that a computer will not age quickly over the years. Check out Vista’s minimum requirements and see if you can run it with a computer that is 3-4 years old.

So, dear readers, where will you go without XP?

Prevent RSI with Workrave

workrave mascotWorkrave is a Windows and Linux only program that can help prevent dreaded repetitive strain injuries. Unfortunately techies are quite familiar with RSI.

Once installed, Workrave runs silently in the background monitoring how much time you’re using the computer. In pre-set times of activity, the program gives you alerts on when breaks are needed. You’ll see three types of alarms:

  • Micro-Pause of 30 seconds;
  • Rest break of 20 minutes;
  • Daily limit (to turn off the computer).

The times established for each alarm can be modified according to your preferences or, better yet, you can leave everything as standard.

In its standard settings, after 30 minutes of continuous activity you will see a notification that you need a Micro-Pause, a break of 30 seconds. When the warning is activated you can ignore it, delay it but it is recommended that you obey it. You will be able to see the 30 seconds countdown and in the meantime you can stand up, move a little or just stop typing to give your fingers some rest.

micro-pause

After about one hour and a half of activity its time for you to take a longer 30 minute break. The program takes so much care of you that it will even recommend some exercises for your arms, shoulders, neck and fingers.

exercises

And… after 6 or 8 hours Workrave will tell you to shut off the computer. Enough!! Your daily limit has expired.  While the alarm windows are activated your keyboard and mouse will be locked, so you’re prevented from cheating.

daily limit

You can also extract reports of your activities to measure how much work you’re doing per day. A neat feature that always scares me with the proof that I’m really a workaholic.

All of this to help take care of your health. A really nice program to have installed on your machine, but it is only worth it if you follow the advices and take the regularly scheduled breaks. Which is really hard to do when an alarm comes up in the middle of an important assignment you’re working on.

Make changes to GRUB the easy way with Super Grub

For users who have already made the switch to Linux, first congratulations!!

Most likely you’re now familiar with something called GRUB, the bootloader that will manage your access to the different OSs you have installed. GRUB comes in when you have a dual-boot (or more) installation on your machine.

If you’re sticking with a simple dual-boot Linux install most likely you’ll not have to change anything after you’ve made the OS installation. GRUB should work well. But… in case you start messing around too much with removing or adding other Linux distros or even want to completely remove Linux, things start getting a little complicated.

I had this problem at the beginning of the year. After trying without success to install Linux on my sister’s laptop I gave up, but I was still stuck with GRUB. The safest and easiest way for me to remove GRUB was using Super Grub.

You can run Super Grub from a live CD, floppy disk, or a USB drive. Using it is extremely easy, the developers really made some nice work with their step-by-step information. With it one can easily remove Windows, Linux, from GRUB or add any of these OSs to it.

A highly reccommended live CD for those computer emergencies.

3D modeling with Blender

Blender is an open source, cross-platform 3D content creation program. This kind of stuff is way too off my league, but if you’re in to creating images and want to do some 3D work, Blender will surely be for you.

I’ve heard a great many things about this software. First and undoubtedly that it is feature rich and extremely resourceful. I’ve seen a lots and lots of work done on Blender and they look amazing. But, there is the other side of the world who says that Blender is useless if you want to be a real pro, mainly because the UI and standards it uses will not be the same as those found in other proprietary programs.

Blender example image

Blender's UI and example image

In my opinion, it is surely worth a shot specially for those that are starting out and interested to do this kind of work. If you’re smart and talented enough to do a nice 3D image or animation,  you’ll be smart enough later on to use that expensive software your company bought for you to use.

Want more proof that Blender is good? Check out the animated movie Big Buck Bunny, made entirely with Blender (download of the movie file is also available on their website):

Want to share with us your experiences with Blender? Please write them on the comments bellow.

Review of the New OpenOffice 3 beta

Our favorite office app, OpenOffice has just released the OOo 3.0 beta version. My review can be summed up in two words: it rocks! Ok, now you can go back to your other activities.

Just kiddin, let’s dig a bit deeper. First, since this isn’t a stable release you might not want to install this version yet as your main office application. But, so far the tests I’ve done were without crashes.

The first thing you’ll probably notice is their new Start Center which gives you a fast access to all of the different programs inside OOo, and a few other setup options.

OOo 3 beta startup

Second eye candy will be the new icon set, a needed visual improvement to say OpenOffice doesn’t look that ugly anymore.

OOo icon set

In Writer, the text editor application, you can now navigate through your document with a multi-page view:

OOo multiple pages

Setting by zoom level that you select from a bar that sits on the bottom right of the screen.

OOo zoom

What else is new? Still in Writer you can now have a better support for viewing notes. In Calc you now have a limit of 1024 columns (instead of 256), and improvements in chart options. In Draw and Impress finally you have the option to crop images, but I still wanted to see a “set transparent background” option.

Mac users should be really happy as this release can be installed without the complicated X11. I tried to convert a Mac user before without success, now I can finally try again.

Also, with document formatting OOo will now support ODF 1.2, and even import files from Microsoft Office 2007 . Of course, import here isn’t going to be perfect but it is an easy way for you to view those docx and pptx files even older versions of MS Office can’t open.

A feature that is much expected but will come at a later release is PDF import. This feature is promised for the final 3.0 release, we’ll wait to see.

I installed and ran OpenOffice 3.0 beta on my Windows machine. It installed right beside my main OOo installation, didn’t upgrade the earlier version I had installed. But, this is actually smart so you can still have the stable release in case any problems happen.

A very good release with some important changes. I can’t wait for the full stable release.

Find and remove file duplicates

Duplicate files finder will help you get rid of duplicate files clogging your hard drive. This program runs on Windows, Linux, and since it supports Unix it may work on MacOS X. Any one willing to make this confirmation?

The program is very simple to use:

  • choose the directory you want to sweep;
  • see the list of duplicates and where each file is stored;
  • remove the duplicates you choose and create symbolic links when needed to fill file dependencies.

That’s it! Fast, simple, and easy.

rip CDs with CDex

[Windows] If you want to store your CDs into your hard drive, you can start ripping them using CDex. I always like to convert my audio CDs into files so I can listen to the songs easily on my mp3 player and even to guarantee I’ll always have a copy in hand if I lend the CD to someone or it gets lost somewhere around the house.

CDex streamlines well this process by extracting the audio from the CD and converting it automatically to mp3, ogg, or WAV formats while storing ID3 tags. Besides these main tasks, the software has even more features.

CDex

The interface is pretty simple to follow, converting the audio with just a click of a button.