July 31, 2007

Uninstaller Madness (updated August 7th)

Posted in Application Launchers, Beginner at 6:22 pm by gloriouscomputing

Uninstalling programs is quite the burden… by default. Thankfully, we have alternatives.

There are really two main reasons for uninstalling programs.

  1. You don’t like a particular program and wish to rid yourself of it.
  2. You realize you have way too many unused programs on your PC, and you want to go window shopping for free-space and performance. You may have forgotten a lot of the programs you installed.

So in either of these two scenarios, who are you gonne’ call? Well, the simple answer is: 1) Net Tools Uninstaller, and 2) Revo Uninstaller.
Both of these are free to use forever, so if you are a busy person: Enjoy, and thanks for stopping by! 🙂

If you have the time, let me explain my decision for you. First, there is your default choice.

Windows Add/Remove Programs
Unless you managed to never install anything, it takes a good eternity for the list of installed programs to populate. I would only use this if I had to, which I never do on my own computers. Once you install either/both of the other tools I recommend, you too should never have to come back to this.

Net Tools Uninstaller
This uninstaller is the underdog of windows software uninstallers. You probably never heard of it. The reason it goes under radar is that it is bundled with the Net Tools software package, which is entirely free. Net Tools feature some amazingly useful networking tools for intermediate to advanced PC users, but that is another matter, and you don’t even have to look at these if you don’t want to.

Make no mistake, Net Tools Uninstaller is the fastest* way to uninstall a program, unless you already have the program’s specific uninstaller handy.

Net tools

Running NetTools Uninstaller and waiting for the list of installed programs to populate takes under 3 seconds. As you can tell, that’s 215 programs that I have installed.

Also, unlike Windows’s default uninstaller, you can press letters on the Keyboard, and get to the first program with that letter. So I can press “C” to get to “Calculater Powertoy”.

Very good, overall. If you simply wish to uninstall things quickly, this is your program*.

PS: It’s a bit hard to get to by default after you installed Net Tools. However, if you use an application finder, such as Launchy, you can pull it up simply by typing “Uninstaller”.

Revo Uninstaller
Excellent program, again. It is much more feature-rich than Net Tools Uninstaller, but that comes with a cost of taking longer to load. I won’t be too critical here though, because it’s still light years faster than the Windows default.

All the bells and whistles you could want for an Uninstaller are here. A great feature is that it will hunt down some files/registry keys that a program’s uninstaller may have forgotten to remove. Again, this comes with a price of time.

Overall, it’s a wonderful program, and I’d recommend it to anyone. But don’t take my word for it

Enjoy getting rid of software you downloaded while under the influence. I know I do. 😉

*Update August 7th, 2007: A new challenger has arrived!

When I wrote this article, I declared Net Tools Uninstaller the winner of the fastest way to uninstall a program. This program still remains an excellent choice, certainly. However, I have discovered an even faster and more elegant way: FARRv2.

Yes, our good ole’ friend, the Find And Run Robot (Application Launcher) is about to get an update to version 2. Yes, I did say “is about”. FARRv2 is not technically released yet, although you will have little trouble getting the program (a simple email to the author will almost guarantee you a link to the FARRv2 release candidate).

I am trying really hard not to dwell on the general awesomeness that is FARRv2. This is an article about Uninstallers after all. I will say, however, that it has won me over, to the point that I have uninstalled Launchy (using FARRv2, to add insult to injury). It’s that good.

Using FARRv2 to Uninstall

  1. Hit Alt+Space to invoke FARRv2 (or whatever keyboard shortcut you set up)
  2. Type “un “, and start typing the name of the program that you want to uninstall.
  3. Hit Enter once it is found

That’s it. The uninstaller of that program will be launched. Here’s a picture

Yup. Simply amazing.

Summary

If you don’t trust a program to uninstall itself, or you simply wish to obliterate it, use Revo Uninstaller. (Revo was the only program able to uninstall iTunes properly for me)

If you just want to uninstall something quickly, use FARRv2, if that’s your application launcher anyway. If it is not, your best option for a speedy uninstall is Net Tools Uninstaller.

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July 26, 2007

Auto-login and then Lock your PC

Posted in Beginner at 7:24 pm by gloriouscomputing

If you are like me, you run a lot of fun programs on start-up. Of course, you shouldn’t just open everything at start-up, but it easily gets to the point where it takes a significant amount of time for your PC to load up all the programs you love so dearly after logging in.

I like to turn on my PC, walk away, eat a 5 course meal, and then come back. Nothing ruins this more than your PC still not being completely ready for use after you return. I don’t have time to login, wait for stuff to load, and only then use my PC.

So, let’s set it up to automatically log in, and then lock. No less or more secure.

  1. Get Tweak UI
    1. Run TweakUI, go to the “Logon” section, and then “Autologon”
    2. Check “Log In Automatically”, with the user name you wish
    3. Click “Set Password” and give it your password
    4. Click OK, and Apply as needed, and then close TweakUI
  2. Download and run this Registry file. You may wish to Right-Click, and do a “Save As”.

That’s all. Now, if you have a problem getting this file for some reason, or you are just paranoid, here’s how you can manually do the same thing the Registry File does:

  1. Press Windows+R to bring up the Run box
  2. Run regedit.exe
  3. Go to [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run]
  4. Right click, and make a New->String Value
  5. Call it “lock” (or whatnot)
  6. Right click on that, and Modify
  7. Enter the value: rundll32.exe user32.dll,LockWorkStation
  8. Click OK, and you’re done

So yeah, just run the registry file if you don’t want to mess with all that.

Now you have a PC that boots up, logs in, locks, and loads your programs right away.

July 9, 2007

AutoIt – Automate your computing

Posted in Intermediate at 5:41 pm by gloriouscomputing

Glorious Computing is all about eliminating repetitive tasks. It’s hard to say “eliminating repetitive tasks” without thinking of AutoIt.

AutoIt is a scripting language designed for automation. It’s commonly used for:

  • Automating Installers (Thanks to it’s ability to Wait on buttons to show up, and then click them for you)
  • Making prank programs
  • Automating programs that require you to click an unfortunate number of times
  • Automating anything that takes the same multiple steps, and turning into something that takes only one step: running the AutoIt script

I’ve personally used it for simple things like launching PeerGuardian2 and then uTorrent, to more complex things like completely automating the Unreal Tournament 2004 installation process, automatically followed by installing the patch and bonus packs.

Yes, I did say scripting. Trust me though, unless you have a frantic fear of languages that are not English, you should be able to do anything I’ve done after only a moderate amount of learning.

Keeping with the spirit of yesterday’s torrent searching, here’s how to launch PeerGuardian2, wait for it to be running, and only then run uTorrent:

Run(“C:\Program Files\PeerGuardian2\pg2.exe”)
WinWait(“PeerGuardian 2”)
Run(“C:\Program Files\uTorrent\uTorrent.exe”)

The improvement over doing this in a simple batch file clearly comes from line 2. This line waits until it finds a Window which contains the title “PeerGuardian 2”. Until it finds that window, it will not move on to run uTorrent.

This language is rather powerful and simple to get started with. So visit their site now, and reply if you can think of more AutoIt scripts that could be useful to the masses.

July 8, 2007

Search Multiple Torrent Search Engines at once

Posted in Application Launchers, Intermediate at 11:06 pm by gloriouscomputing

Now that you have your shiny new application launcher installed, let’s use a fun hack with it. This works equally well in Launchy and Find And Run Robot.

Before I get started, let me recommend the torrent client uTorrent to you. It only works on Windows, but was designed rather well. The filesize of the program is currently 177kb. It is really fast too. In my experience, it’s been faster than other clients, like Azureus.

If you’re like me, you sometimes have a hard time finding those special legal torrents that you desire. So, you tend to have to search a lot of search engines. uTorrent already helps with that a little bit. It gets you started by having a Firefox-style search bar build in, which is great for searching one engine at a time.
But if you want to search 4 of them, you have to:

  1. Type your search
  2. Hit Enter (First site)
  3. Click the drop down list
  4. Click the next torrent site
  5. Hit Enter (2nd site)
  6. Click the drop down list
  7. Click the next torrent site
  8. Hit Enter (3rd site)
  9. Click the drop down list
  10. Click the next torrent site
  11. Hit Enter (4th site)

Phew! You only had to enter your string once, but that was A LOT of clicking / hitting enter. By this time, your day has ended, and you probably don’t care about whatever you wanted anymore.

Here’s what I have to do to accomplish the same thing (searching 4 different sites):

  1. Type “s “, followed by my search
  2. Press 5 (on the Number Pad)

I say that’s a nice improvement! The key to doing this is a batch file. Once you have the batch file, you just need a really easy way of running it at any time…. like an Application Launcher! 🙂

Here’s the batch file:

@ECHO OFF
ECHO Searching a bunch of torrent index sites…
start “C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\Firefox.exe” “http://www.mininova.org/search/?search=%1 %2 %3 %4 %5 %6 %7 %8 %9”

start “C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\Firefox.exe” “http://torrentspy.com/search.asp?query=%1 %2 %3 %4 %5 %6 %7 %8 %9”

start “C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\Firefox.exe” “http://thepiratebay.org/search.php?q=%1 %2 %3 %4 %5 %6 %7 %8 %9”

start “C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\Firefox.exe” “http://isohunt.com/torrents/?ihq=%1 %2 %3 %4 %5 %6 %7 %8 %9”

Copy that into Notepad and save it somewhere, like C:\Utilities\multiTorSearch.bat
What this does is pretty basic. It starts Firefox with the parameter of the search engine website. The %1 stuff is the parameter of the batch file, the actual search query.
If your Firefox is set up like mine, this open 4 new tabs in your already open Firefox window. If it doesn’t do that for you, go to Firefox’s Tools->Options->Tabs and select “Open new windows in a new Tab”. Simple.

Now that you have your Batch file, just add it to your Application Launcher.
For Launchy, use the Runny plugin.

  • Press Alt+Space to bring up Launchy
  • Right click, go to Plugins
  • Click on Runny, and then Plugin Options
  • Then just pick what you want to type (“search”, perhaps), and then put your batch file on the right, with the parameter $1

Now for my Find And Run Robot people. The way I did it, was that I added this batch file as just another search engine in the “search” Group, that comes with the program by default. So:

  • Hit Ctrl+Space to bring up FARR
  • Click on the Options button
  • Go to Groups, right click “search”, and go to Edit
  • Add this line in the ‘results’ section: “MultiTorrent $$1 | C:\Utilities\multiTorSearch.bat $$1”

If you’re like me, and would rather just type in “s ” than “search “,
change the ‘Regular Expression’ to “^s (.*)”

The key difference with FARR here is that when you type “s MySearchHere”, you see MultiTorrent Search as one of the options, which you can easily start by hitting the corresponding Number Pad key (no need to hit Enter). If this is not for you, put MultiTorrent as the first choice. That’s the one triggered by hitting Enter. This is usually Google, and that’s the way I personally prefer it.

That’s all for today. Enjoy searching multiple sites at the same time!

July 7, 2007

Application Launchers – Be Amazed!

Posted in Application Launchers, Beginner, Intermediate at 6:02 pm by gloriouscomputing

If you are still digging through your Windows Start menu to find programs manually, you are wasting a lot of time. Ever wish you didn’t have to try and remember which company made that quick utility that you are looking for?

With Application Launchers, you just type the first few letters of the program you want to start, and hit Enter. Boom! There’s your program.
For example, when I want to run Notepad, all I have to type is “no”.

These things are smart, and will remember which applications you launch a lot, and give them preference. So if you’re a Notepad junky, “no” means “Notepad”, and not “Norman – Destroyer of Words”. If you did want to launch “Norman”, you would type “nor”.

So, ready to make launching program exponentially easier? Here are some programs I can recommend for this purpose.

Launchy
It’s hard to deny that Launchy is the number one Windows XP application launcher right now. And that’s understandable. It’s very easy to set up, and powerful enough to make most users happy as pie.
If you have never used an application launcher before, install Launchy now!
Get Launchy here

Find And Run Robot
I’ve been using Launchy for a few months now, and was only recently introduced to FARR (Find and Run Robot). I’m very impressed. Personally, I prefer FARR. However, there are downsides here too. It’s a slightly harder to configure, and fuzzy searches do not work out of the box. If you have indexed your music, and you want to find a song with the name “Bob_Likes_To_Sing.mp3”, but you search for “Bob Likes”; you will NOT find it. This is the biggest downside to FARR.

However, at the cost of a slightly more confusing GUI, I find FARR to be more powerful and adapt to my needs. Typing “no” still gets me “Notepad”, that’s a given. I can also type “search Ice Cream”, and am presented with a choice of 9 search engines, including a dictionary. This is extremely customizable. Pressing Enter searches in the first choice of search engines, here configured as Google, but easily changed. To search via search engines 2 through 9, I can just hit the corresponding Number Pad key. So I type “search HTTP”, press 6 (on the Number Pad) , and I go to the wikipedia entry on “HTTP”. Well, personally I don’t have time to type in “search” every time, so I changed it to just “s”. 🙂

If this is the sort of craziness you love, you’ll love this program.
Get Find And Run Robot here

July 2, 2007

Hello world!

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:10 am by gloriouscomputing

Hi! My name is Robin. I’m a Windows XP user,  and I believe  in quick, simple  solutions to every day computing needs.

If you are spending a lot of time doing repetitive tasks every day, that’s a problem. I also believe in security. As an example, I personally use Firefox’s Password Manager so I don’t have to type in all my different user names and passwords over and over again. There are a lot of websites out there that I use, so this helps a lot. To keep this a relatively secure process, I use a Master Password with the Password Manger though. So I just have to enter one password each time I start Firefox.

If this ideology works for you, then go check out this blog. There are also other sites with similar goals. This site is not to be seen as competition, but solely as a complimentary site, filling in the gaps that others missed.

Programs to get you started

Posted in Beginner at 3:23 am by gloriouscomputing

Here are some of my favorite programs to put on a freshly installed Windows computer.

Firefox (Web Browser)
I use Firefox mainly because of all of the extensions it allows. To be honest, if I had to choose between bare-bone Firefox or bare-bone Opera, I would pick the now free Opera. In fact, I would recommend Opera to my parents over Firefox for just this reason. It is simply better right out of the box. http://www.getfirefox.com

Pidgin (IM Client)
Formally known as GAIM, this Instant Messanger client is infinitely better than AIM/ICQ/MSN/Yahoo combined…because, well, it allows you to connect to all of them. If your system tray has 4 IM clients taking up your screen real estate, give Pidgin a chance! Alternatively you can try Trillian. I used to use this latter, but I have since been able to change. My recommendation is to never get used to Trillian, and changing to Pidgin won’t be any trouble. Pidgin is open source, free (as in speech), and has silly things you can do, like mess with your idle time. http://www.pidgin.im

FileZilla (FTP Client)
Many people get away with not having to ever use the FTP protocol. Until one day. On that day, they will resort to painfully hard-to-use ways such as IE or Firefox. Web browsers are horrible FTP clients.
Trust me. One day, you too will meet the FTP protocol, and when you do, you’ll be happy conquer the day by having a trusty FTP client like FileZilla handy.
Besides being an FTP client, it is also an SFTP (Secure FTP, via SSH). I know. It’s ok. Relax. Like most Windows users, I too, was afraid of this idea. Solely hearing SSH was enough to run shivers down my spine. For now, simply forget that I mentioned this extra feature of FileZilla. However, I am planning a future article that will show you just how great having an SFTP server is, and how to do. Don’t worry, it’s not so scary at all. filezilla.sourceforge.net

7-Zip (Zip/Rar/7Zip File Compressor/Extractor)
This is a free and open source solution to compressing and extracting your files. I would also suggest WinRAR. 7zip can make .7z files, which have compression that is generally much better than rar or zip. WinRAR, the long-time PC standard, used by most who have anything other than WindowsXP’s build in zip folder.
I use both WinRAR and 7zip. I used 7Zip for everthing but extracting files. While it does a great job at compressing files, I personally found WinRAR to do a better job at extracting them.
There are other great solutions for this too.
IZArc is another wonderful (also free) program, that is not to be underestimated. For the time being, I would not declare a definitive favorite of mine. Since none of these programs have to run in the background, little harm is done by having all 3 of them. That’s my personal solution right now. Let me know what you all think. http://www.rarsoft.com http://www.7zip.com http://www.izarc.org

VLC (Video Player)
You simply can’t beat this video player. If you watch video files on your PC, you NEED this program. Get it. Now. http://www.videolan.org/vlc

Winamp (Music Player)
Personal favorite of mine. I use Winamp5, but with the classic skin. That way it takes up less memory, so I can have my music blasting while playing computer games.
An alternative is Foobar2000. I tried switching to foobar2000 before, but I was not satisfied with the Shuffle/Random feature. After some research, I gave up on it. It would simply keep playing the same songs over and over, not checking the played ones off. It was frustrating, so I went back to winamp. http://www.winamp.com http://www.foobar2000.org

Xplorer2 (File Explorer)
If you’re still using the defaut file “Explorer” that comes with windows, you’d be amazed how much more efficient it is to use a duel-panel file browser. Xplorer2 also supports breadcrumbs, and an arsenal of more advanced features some of us will love. http://www.zabkat.com
As for alternatives, I’ve tried a few, and nothing came close to beating Xplorer2. If you have any suggestions,  please use the comments as usual. As it stands, I love Xplorer2, and do not require  an alternative.  Free version  should be just fine for most of us.

That’s all for now. Except more advanced, in-depth solutions in the future.