Archive for May, 2007

tech: using an LCD projector with your laptop

If you are like me, my job can involve showing demos or presentation slides to an audience via an LCD projector. The technical gorp that I always hated was resizing my nice big 1400×1050 desktop to fit a small 1024×768 projector, and then enabling the external video port. When I restored my desktop, my open windows weren’t always restored to their original size and location after being scrunched by the 1024×768 resizing. Additionally, any instant messages or screen operations I wanted to do weren’t private – the audience could see them because the LCD projector was an exact replica of my laptop screen.

So here is the solution for Windows XP users: Dualview. You can set up the LCD projector to act like a 2nd independent screen that can coexist with your laptop desktop. So keep your laptop desktop intact and its original size, but you can use the LCD projector as a second desktop that is an extension of the first. The LCD projector starts clean, then open your presentation application, then drag the presentation application off the laptop screen until it appears on the LCD projector. That is the only thing that appears on the LCD projector. So if any instant messages come in during my presentation, I can see it on my laptop screen but the audience won’t see it (i.e., prompts from a friendly mole in the audience). Even better, I can look at softcopy presentation notes while the audience sees my presentation slides.

The only downside is that I need to be able to see the LCD projector screen, since that is the only way to see what is happening on this second desktop. But the upside is that I can configure it and just leave it like that permanently. No more having to resize the desktop to fit the projector and undoing the damage afterwards. Just plug in the projector’s external video cable and go. (I do find that Dualview gets automatically disabled after I suspend or reboot without the projector cable attached, but a few simple clicks can re-enable it.)

Read this article to learn how to enable Dualview. Hopefully your laptop supports it as well as mine, not all do. For the external desktop, size it to be optimized for the LCD projector (usually 1024×768).

Before attempting to drag a window between desktops, make sure that you un-maximize it. Otherwise you can’t drag it. Also be careful after dragging not to drop it in a way that the menu bar controls don’t appear on any screen. Since most applications (including PowerPoint) remember their last screen position when they are restarted, it is possible for an application to restart on the projector desktop without being able to see it such as when the projector is turned off or the cable is disconnected – if this happens, disable Dualview and it should come back to the laptop desktop. Enjoy!

tech tips marcelk 31 May 2007 No Comments

tips: the “newspaper” test for decision making

Have a decision to make at the office, and it isn’t obvious what to choose? Usually we look for positive confirmation using tools such as rationalization. But it can be often helpful to try negative confirmation. This approach can open up a whole new world of insight.

Use this handy little tool that I call the newspaper test. First, make a tentative choice, then think of the worst case scenario for that choice, then plug into this template:

  • Headline: [worst case scenario]. [the choice]. What were they thinking?

Let me give you an example:

  • Headline: Lost all the source code for the product, release date delayed indefinitely. They never got around to putting it into the repository before a hard drive crashed. What were they thinking?

The second stage of this test is to pretend that the above item is printed in a newspaper that your coworkers, management, and competition read. Now put yourselves in your shoes, and ponder on how they might react to such a published item. For example, think about what the newspaper article would infer about your decision and what the consequence might be. For example:

  • Infers: ouch.
  • Consequence: Marcel, call for you on line 2 from the VP. She doesn’t sound happy. Do you have your financial affairs in order?

Now the nice thing about this tool is that it works on a range of data. Let’s try another example:

  • Headline: Lurking bug found minutes before the CDs started manufacturing. They ran the testcases just one more time to be sure. What were they thinking?
  • Infers: awesome. This is a person that makes sure things are right and is constantly thinking about customer satisfaction.
  • Consequences: Marcel, this poster-mounted award check for you doesn’t fit through your doorway by myself. Can you give me a hand?

And as an added bonus, this tool also works for personal situations outside of the office. For example:

  • Headline: Mayhem. Father lets 3-year old play inside car with the keys left in ignition. What where they thinking?
  • Infers: typical male.
  • Consequences: Sir, I’m glad nobody was hurt, but I’m still not clear on why we need to dispatch three tow trucks and a crane to your house.

So, the next time you are wondering what choice to make, give this tool a try!

life tips &tech tips marcelk 24 May 2007 No Comments

fun: Father’s Day gifts

I found what I’d like for a Father’s Day present. If that is a little too pricey, I also have second and third choices. Mmmmmmm.

entertainment marcelk 21 May 2007 No Comments

tech: Akismet spam filter for WordPress

I’ve been in tech since middle school (and I’m not young anymore), but I am still appalled at the amount of spam that is spewing around out there. My email has really good filters, so I don’t see any of it. But if I check the filter logs, there is a ton of it getting filtered, even though I have always been very careful who I give my email address to. For this blog, I run a standalone copy of WordPress and similarly there is a ton of spam submitted as comments to posts. In a recent 4 day period there were 175 spam comments submitted to this blog, and my blog isn’t even popular! I am so tired of being told about places to buy discount pharmaceuticals.

Thankfully, there is a wonderful plugin for WordPress that does a very excellent job of filtering spam. Otherwise I would have to moderate all the comments and continually delete the spam. The plugin is Akismet and it is included in WordPress. All you have to do is get a free user key and activate it. It is wonderfully accurate and wonderfully easy to use. A HUGE THANK YOU!!! to the folks that developed this and were willing to share it.

Until I set this blog up, I had no idea that spamming blogs was so pervasive, but I really shouldn’t be surprised. I call myself a Christian, but I have nothing kind to say about spammers. I’ll just leave it at that. The sad thing is, the spammers are probably making good money. Eventually the network may figure out how to block spam effectively at the source, but I’m afraid there will always be people who exploit in one way or another.

Please do your part: don’t let your machine become a bot. Keep it fully patched and stay away from untrustworthy software.

tech tips marcelk 15 May 2007 No Comments

tools: demo helpers

Do you ever have to give software demos to people that matter? Here are some my of favorite tools.

screen capture movies: Camtasia is a great tool for creating a canned demo that plays like a movie. Not only can you export out in a variety of formats such as Flash, Quicktime, etc., but it is basically a movie editor with a timeline and transitions. Add special effects such as callouts (text in a baloon), etc. I especially like how it generates all the HTML wrappers for a Flash file you can put on a web server, so users can watch the movie via their browser. It’s not free, it’s not cheap, but it does come with a 30-day trial and is worth the money in a corporate setting.

window sizing: Sizer is a neat little utility that is the easiest way to snap a window to a pre-determined size. Need to get a screenshot that you intend to show on a projector that has a resolution of 1024×768? If you don’t get it at the correct size and aspect ratio, it will look fuzzy on the projector. Sizer adds a new function to the right-click options on a menu bar to snap it to your favorite size. It’s a lot better than manually dragging the standard window resizer very carefully until you get the (almost) right height and width. Not only does it work great, it is free.

screen capture: Windows has a built-in screen capture utility. Just press Alt-PrintScreen and the active window will be put onto the clipboard. Then you can go into a graphic tool like Gimp and do a paste (i.e., Paste as New). Press Ctrl-PrintScreen to capture the whole screen to the clipboard. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

image editing: Unless you’ve already got a multi-hundred dollar package like Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro, you need Gimp. It approaches Photoshop with power, but is free. It has layers, PNG support, third party plugins, etc. I even use it for basic tasks like cropping and resizing. It’s quite mature.

If you have any favorites, please comment.

tech tips marcelk 10 May 2007 1 Comment