Archive for the “Software” Category

Windows 8 was a cheap upgrade path for me as the software that I wanted to run was no-longer supported by XP 64. That software, of course, was the sole reason for running Windows. Video games.

If you’ve tried Windows 8, you’ll probably have had the experience of booting up your desktop PC to what appears top be a tablet or smartphone OS and does nothing but get in the way of the normal desktop tasks you are used to. This ‘start page’, part of the Windows 8 Metro interface would be great if you were looking at 10″ portable touch-screen but the fact of the matter is, no matter how hard you prod your 23″ TFT, all you get are pressure splotches and the keyboard and mouse get lonely.

The term 'Metro' can bring back painful memories for some users.

The term ‘Metro’ can bring back painful memories for some users.

Fear not for help is at hand!

Help comes in the form a an open-source software project known as Classic Shell. This software allows you to return a Start Menu to it’s rightful place on the lower left of the taskbar and access your applications (I’ll choke if I have to now call them ‘apps’) in the manner in which you are used to.

Classic Shell also allows you to add back some popular features such as a full path and status bar to Windows Explorer and normal navigation on IE9.

Classic Shell Start Menu on Windows 8

Thankfully, I only really need Windows 8 as an engine for running games so I am spared the painful task of re-learning my workflow from scratch. I dual boot to Linux for serious tasks and with Gabe Newell’s pro-Linux stance for Valve and it’s Steam platform, the need for Windows in future will hopefully diminish.

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If you’ve come across QR Codes before (The square 2D barcodes designed for capture by smart phones) you’ll know they can hold a variety of information.

I recently wanted to offer a map location via a QR Code and handily, the Zebra Crossing Barcode Reader App for Android supports this via the geo: format.

The data format is as follows:

geo:[DecimalLatitude],[DecimalLongitude],[MetricAltitude]

The altitude element (and the comma preceding it) are optional and I’m not quite sure of their value unless some applications allow you to find a room in a tall building this way.

So, if I wanted to give you directions to Paris, France with no altitude information, I would use the following co-ordinates:

Lat: 48.856614 Lon: 2.352222

I need to pass these to a QR Code generator, I use qrencode for Linux which allows you generate QR Codes from the command line.

The following command produces a png image called paris.png of a QR Code which contains the co-ordinates for Paris.

qrencode -o paris.png geo:48.856614,2.352222

 Which produces this QR Code image:

 

 

 

 

When Scanned using the Android Barcode App (The common ZXing one), it offers two immediate options. You can “Show Map” which fires up Google Maps and shows the location or you can “Get Directions”. Depending on the Apps installed, “Get Directions” may offer the choice of getting directions either by Google Maps or via the web browser.

Obviously, this is only an example of how it works for Android users. The geo: tag may work for other handset types, barcode reader apps and operating systems but I have not tested this.

I would be interested to hear from anyone who has tried this using iOS etc.

 

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If you move in tech related circles, you may have heard of Google Wave by now which Google hopes will replace the concept E-Mail.

Google Wave is a multimedia communication platform running on an extended XMPP (think jabber) protocol allowing everything from basic instant messaging thru collaborative document modification to voice/video conferencing.

I also discovered in the last few days that Google Wave will also implement an API or ‘Apps’ platform allowing Apps written by third party developers to be run within a Wave. Barring the obvious potential for attempted malicious use of Google Wave Apps, there could be quite a market for new interactive applications which could draw developers from the Facebook API arena.

For now, Google Wave is a limited closed Beta (invite only). I look forward to getting a look-in soon.

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Earlier today I was introduced to the Left 4 Dead 2 Trailer from Valve.

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I’m not sure what to make of this. It’s a wholely separate game to the original L4D which although probably the best in the Zombie-Survivor genre, gets tired quite quickly. Valve did promise free downloadable content patches (DLCs) for L4D which have so far comprised the ‘Survivor’ mode which introduces one mini-map and an extra mini-campaign will be coming in September.

I can’t help thinking the rest of the aforementioned free DLCs have been packaged up and had a price stuck on their head to cash-in on L4D’s original popularity.

The redeeming feature me is frying-pan-armed combat ;)

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I just came across this FOSS Midi Piano Tutor program which I thought rather shiny.

The premise of Piano Booster is similar in concept to games like Guitar Hero only it turns the note path on it’s side, adds a proper musical stave and just might inadvertently help you to learn to play a real piano. ;)

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I was going to say how it probably isn’t as ‘cool’ as Guitar Hero but then again, if we’re honest, games like Guitar Hero actually make you look like a bit of a prat when played infront of your friends and I suggest that with the necessity for a Midi keyboard, Piano Booster is probably something you’d use on your own anyway.

Although I don’t have any special desire to be able to play the piano, with Midi keyboards now as cheap as $40, it’s a bit tempting to get one just to try out this software :)

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If you’ve ever run a site which uses an SSL certificate, you may have found a problem when your site calls information (images perhaps) from a third-party website which does not use an SSL certificate. The user’s web-browser will often display an icon or some other form of indication that part of the transaction is no-longer encrypted.

Ideally you want to avoid calling the external content on any page which is SSL secured or rather (for the purposes of this statement) only call the content when on a non SSL secured page.

Thankfully, if you’re using Apache and PHP, you’re on to a winner. The following statement checks with Apaches as to whether the current page is being served as HTTPS or not and renders the page with or without the third-party content as appropriate.

<?php  if ($_SERVER[‘HTTPS’] != “on”) { echo ‘this is where you make HTML calls to your external content”;}  ?>

This should hopefully get rid of those pesky browser warnings for your dynamic pages.

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