Under The Wire

Under The Wire

Friday, May 30, 2008

Brand new Google icon, trouble coming?

Photo by manfrys Today while I was doing a Google search I noticed that something strange was going on, but at first I didn't realized what looked unusual.

Some search after, looking at my tabs I discovered what my eyes noticed what was changed: instead of the capital G the favicon of Google is now a little blue g.

Probably at Mountain View they are tired to be called the big G and decided to change their nickname in the most subliminal and easiest way they can go on: just changing they brand.

Do you like this new icon? I hope that the big G is coming back, the little g doesn't represent Google in my mind and makes too confusing to look at my tabs.


Spotlight on Windows 7

This week Microsoft unveiled multi-touch capability of Windows 7.

Looking at the video we can see a well-working multi-touch demo, but nothing on how that technology would be used in every-day works. So far looks like more an advanced mouse replacement than a brand-new way to use pc. I hope that other interface changes, that should enable users to enjoy multi-touch even when working and not only when looking at photos, are Top-Secret classified information and Microsoft choose to perform that demo just to show something to who is asking an early release of Windows 7.

In the last days Steven Sinofsky said that Windows 7 kernel would be an evolution of Vista's one. This is a bad news for the I-will-jump-to-Windows-7 boys that have to update their claim in I-will-jump-to-Windows-8 (or somewhere else). Vista users should be happy of this because of the total compatibility between the 2 OS drivers and software since nothing, especially the driver model, will change.

I was dreaming Windows 7 as a fully .Net based OS, with the old Win32 system virtualized just for old applications support so I feel a bit disappointed. On the other side Vista kernel is already a very good piece of software with the only problem that users aren't feeling this. Hopefully Windows 7 would allow the user have a better configuration on what system loads as already happens in Windows Server 2008, a OS that shares huge part of code with Vista, but surprisingly is not considered as bad. Maybe it's because Apple never choose a character for the server in their stupid advertisements.

The last thing I want to show you is this useful Mary-Jo Fooley post where she wrote what we know about Windows 7. But be careful, don't believe everything you're seeing about Windows 7.

p.s. In the title Spotlight meaning is this, not this.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Photo of the week #02

Here comes another great picture from a spanish photographer, Victor Espinoza.


Monday, May 26, 2008

How to fix CPU-hog Quicksilver

There's one application I particularly love: it's Quicksilver (for Mac).
This week, unfortunately, it started to behave oddly: my PowerBook was continously hot and I quickly found (through Activity Monitor) out that it was Quicksilver's flaw, which was eating 20-90% of my CPU.
I tried to quit and reopen the application, delete the preferences file and to rescan manually my catalog: nothing seemed to work.
After wandering around my Mac's folder for a bit I found the folder containing the indexes used by Quicksilver:
I quit Quickilsilver, moved the folder to the trash and reopened Quicksilver... it worked!
Everything is now back to normal.

A quick explanation Quicksilver builds indexes that make it really fast when searching: they are what makes Quicksilver a pleasure to use.
Considering that I've been using Quicksilver for years, those files might have become corrupted and that was making Quicksilver consuming 20-90% of my CPU.
Clearly the problem was not in the application itself (in fact downloading and reinstalling Quicksilver wouldn't have worked), but it was in some of the files it was using.

One of the most used file is the preferences file ( /Library/Preferences/com.blacktree.Quicksilver.plist ), but deleting it didn't help.
Other files used by Quicksilver stand in /Library/Application\ Support/Quicksilver; but there's another folder used by the application: /Library/Caches/Quicksilver.
You might be wondering "Why isn't the cache in the "Application Support" folder?". It's because cache is something that make the program faster and can exist or not; deleting it might make the application slower but it mustn't affect program settings.
The "Application Support" folder, on the other hand, is used to store customizations of the program, such as plugins, etc...: deleting it would definitely make lose what has been set.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Check if a site is down just for you

971284902_91f02fe8d1_m Have you ever get stuck looking to a page that doesn't load?

With this simple web application you can easily check if the page is really down or if you have to double check something in your configuration.

You can save a lot of time you would have spent waiting for a never loading page knowing if the page is down for the whole Internet.

Do you know any other good simple web application?


Friday, May 23, 2008

IE7 Pro 2.3 is out, browser war goes on

logo Waiting for a stable version of IE8, I'm installing the latest version of IE7Pro, the definitive IE7 Plug-in.

Of course with Firefox Extension you can get a better customization, but I think that for a IE user this is a must have. It adds features and just works without any issue.

Personally I appreciate most the possibility to change the proxy settings with two click, have a real download manager plus a whole set of useful customizations.

On the other side you should try Firefox 3 or Opera 9.27. I discourage to install a browser designed with security in mind.

What is your favorite browser?


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

27% of Vista PCs compromised by malware

A new research published by PC Tools shows that efforts made by Microsoft to improve Windows security might have been in vain.

While the new OS is disliked by many users, it certainly has had -so far- a good reputation concerning security.
But things might change soon: PC Tools has shown that one out of three Vista machine has been infected by at least a malware.
58,000 PCs running Vista were compromised by at least one piece of malware over the six months to May 2008, equivalent to 27 percent of all Vista machines probed.
It's important to notice that Windows XP is doing much worse and that there are very few reasons to stick with the old OS.
Although Vista has resisted many attacks over the months it looks like malware writers are mastering the OS and are becoming a serious threat for Vista.
Microsoft still has not responded to PC Tools' allegations; in the meantime, have you installed any anti-malware software on your Vista PC?


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Who said that a BSOD has to be blue?

1955529162_8fde14b36b_m Don't worry, today I'm not talking about UNIX kernel panic, since UNIX users should be updating and patching their systems or choosing another browser (maybe if it isn't designed for security is safer) I'm only trying to draw a smile on their faces.

First of all read the only way to see a BSOD on Windows Vista. If you don't want to damage your hardware or install divers signed by Apple you have to follow that link to see a BSOD on Windows.

Now you're ready to start customizing your Screen of Death:

  • Start->Run->Sysedit
  • Select the System.ini window.
  • Add under [386enh] the following lines:
    MessageBackColor= COLOR
    MessageTextColor= COLOR
    In place of color you should insert an hexadecimal number where 0 is black, 1 is blue, 2 is green, 4 is cyan, 5 is red, 6 is magenta, 7 is white, 8 is gray, 9 is bright blue, A is bright green, B is bright cyan, C is bright red, D is bright magenta, E bright yellow and F is bright white.
  • Reboot
  • Generate a BSOD and post a comment with a photo.

Thanks to Napolux


Windows, drivers, third-party software, a reflection

Few days ago I was watching my feed list and I saw this article. Judging from the title "The key to Windows success? It’s all about the drivers", I thought it wasn't really interesting, more precisely I thought it was the same article as always so I didn't read it. Today I was reading Massimo Santin's blog that is reporting the same article I didn't read. I decided to take a look.

The article talk about a well-known argument but the thoughts expressed are really interesting. I've only few little notes, I think that "crapware" is an important point of the discussion and it wouldn't be underestimated. The largest part of performance issues depend on the quantity of third-party software installed but I have to agree with Ed Bott when he says that the majority of stability issues are due to badly-written drivers.

Surely OEM need to pay more and more attention about drivers and third-party software. What's your thought about this?! Read the article and then answer this question: do you really think that Vista is worst than XP or do you agree with Microsoft when it says it's not a Vista fault?!


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

World Wide Telescope released: space is on our desktops!

Today Microsoft released World Wide Telescope. With that 2.0 application you can have a telescope directly on your PC form where you can access to terabytes of data form the best ground and space-based telescope.

This project is amazing for scientists who can access to a impressive database, to educators who can teach science using a wonderful tool and to students that may discover their passion for astronomy.

Let's go crying without forgetting to take a screenshot.


Friday, May 9, 2008

Photo of the week #01: Peripatetico

As you probably have noticed "Under the Wire" is growing a lot: that's why we are starting a new column called "Photo of the week".

The first picture I want to share with you is one of my favourite: it was shot by a young italian artist and I find it marevellous.

TERMINI TEMPORALI by ~peripatetico on deviantART

Do you know a great artist? Comment and share!


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Artists are giving away their music. Is that rock 2.0 or just business?


First there was Radiohead, with their last CD sold online at a fee decided by the listener. Everybody was happy about this operation: fans had the chance to choose how much the album worth, nearly every media talked about this new way to sell music and that was an incredible spot to that CD and the better adv to the tour.

Coldplay by kaleidostrophic mind

After that success in the last month other artist choose to leave a preview of their work on the web. Nine Inch Nails decided to let surfers download a full 320kbps mp3 version of their last album while Coldplay decided to promote Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends giving away the first singles Violet Hill and A Spell A Rebel Yell.Nine Inch Nails by _ESA_

Another - and perhaps the most significant - positive opinion to this business model comes form Metallica (Up the Irons!). This is particularly important since that band with a legal battle killed Napster as a popular file sharing software.

Since nobody buys anymore a CD and on line shop aren't as remunerative as hoped the only thing to do is to change the way listeners can get songs. In such a new business model the common listener gets the music he likes for free and in a legal way. He would have picked some songs form p2p networks, so artists and majors aren't losing nothing. On the other hands the CD are sold only to true fanatics of the band. That means a full quality disk, deluxe package and, of course, crazy priced product. Who isn't a true fan listening to songs available (and to every media talking about the band) would probably want to go to to live events, the other main source of revenue for musicians.

Everyone seems to win in this business model: listeners get free songs, fanatics get a full-optional products and artists (with majors) could have the same revenue. It sounds too good to be true, where is the problem? I can't find out nothing strange nor a disadvantage, so I will wait with the hope that something would change.

Here you can pick the songs I talked about on the article. If you know other artists that let you download free music write a comment and I will update this list.


Nine Inch Nails



Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Live Mesh: my first impressions.

After having received an invite for Live Mesh and installed the software I played with the technical preview. Here is what I noted on the weeks I tried Live Mesh instead of studying for my mid-term exams.

Photo By Benjamin Daughtey

I'm going to analyze Live Mesh component by component and then to give an impression about the whole technical preview.

Web Desktop: you can put your files in a web directory and share it with your friends. Both you and your fiends will have the files synchronized into the devices with Live Mesh Client installed. Frankly I can't understand the difference between this service and Windows Live SkyDrive that offers nearly the same things. SkyDrive with a sync client (As Live Mesh Client is) would have been a perfect Web Desktop without the need to make this new service. Since SkyDrive is also a file repository I'd like to prefer it but I think I'm going to use Web Desktop in order to exploit the client. Another time seems that teams in Redmond don't know what another team does.

Desktop client: to install it I had to change my system locale to English US and date in the US format as described by Is started something. The setup was painless on Vista and XP. Everything worked perfectly and the shell integration is good. To share a folder I had just to right-click it and add to Live Mesh. When I open a shared folder I get all the information about last files added or modified in a dedicated panel. The client works perfectly and it is easy enough even for beginners. Desktop Client is definitely a good software.

Other clients: is planned to support also Macs and Phones but aren't not implemented yet, so I have to leave this space blank. Probably since I don't have a Mac nor a Windows Mobile Phone I would have to leave it blank even in the case I could try this feature :-)

My first impression is quite good, the software although is only a Tech Preview works perfectly and now I can access my shared data from every PC connected to Internet and I can also have my files sync' ed on my PCs.

I think that Live Mesh is a great thing but still isn't enough. How can I read and modify my files while I'm using Web Desktop? I think that some Silverlight or AJAX web application would be really useful, otherwise Live Mesh is only a file repository with data synchronization that isn't exactly the killer application I was expecting.


Monday, May 5, 2008

Post-it marries technology: divorce soon?

What happens when the good old post-it meets technology? Well, that's what MIT researchers must have wondered.

They have introduced a post-it featuring a RFID chip which sends what has been written to a program (running on a normal PC) that automatically creates a database of post-its and eventually communicates to Outlook meeting and events to keep track of.
Is this really needed?
Is this the right approach to "getting things done"?
I don't think that the post-it needs to be revived: it works because it's simple, fast and comes in nice colors.
Connecting it to the computer makes it less easier to use and creates a burden on the user: what if the PC is turned off? How are post-it kept synchronized between the computer and the fridge?
It's clear that the first time the post-it is not copied to the computer because it is turned off the user will stop using such device and will return the the old post-it.
Moreover I believe that smartphones have the potential to become the "digital post-it": think about the "Notes" application of the iPhone, isn't it enough?


Sunday, May 4, 2008

The best Do It Yourself Multi-Touch device

Probably Photo by Alex Bartmulti-touch devices are the most exciting way to give inputs to a computer. Since having a multi-touch by buying a Microsoft Surface or an Apple iPhone would be too easy we want to make our own multi-touch device. Just for fun and to see what's the future without having to spend too much.

Surfing the web I found some interesting projects. In my opinion these are the most valuable for the reason I'm going to explain in the next paragraphs.

MT Mini by Seth Sandler

Probably this is the simpler multi-touch device I've seen. You can build it with extremely cheap materials and I think that it is ideal if you don't want to spend too much time in making the device. On the other side this is only a input device, you won't have your screen directly on your MTMini.

MultiTouch Display by BlaXwan

This is a very useful page: it explains what kinds of multi-touch display you can build with some technology tips and the theory behind them. Since the prototype proposed uses Infrared instead of light it's more accurate but it requires more work to make it and it's a bit more expensive. It worths reading this link just to know a little of theory that could be useful even in other projects.

Johnny Lee's Wii remote projects

This is probably the best example of DIY multi-touch application. If you ever wanted to do something like Tom Cruise in Minority Report does you have to build this device. All you need is a Wii Remote and a projector.

Before tcid and sirus begin complaining :-) because of I haven't mentioned their beloved OSX in the whole post I tell you that Bridger is working on a Multi-Touch device for OSX. Since TouchLib is Windows-Only he had to do some work to support his OS but seems he is doing a good job. Seth and BalXwan uses TouchLib, Johnny works in C# so you have to use Windows to control one of them device.


Friday, May 2, 2008

Twine, keep an invitation and dive into semantic web

Yihong Ding invited me to Twine, the first mainstream semantic web application.

Twine produces a personalized knowledge network for every user by allowing them to find, share, and organize information from people they trust. Thinking Space

In this semantic approach the focus is in what you know, not in who you know. That allows you to create a personalized knowledge network without have to know who can give you the information you need. Topic, in the form of Twines, are the key of this application that helps us creating a hierarchy of interests to help you find exactly what you want searching by meanings and not by keywords.

Another point that distinguish Twine form common 2.0 networks is that not necessarily what you insert in your network should be published. You can use that application to store  and organize your knowledge in networks without having to tell the world you've done it.

For more information read this post.

I've few invitations available, if you would get one write down an email address on the comments.


Thursday, May 1, 2008

RSS day, spread the world

RSS Awareness Day

RSS is a way to get updates by sites you follow without having to go to the page to check for news.

It is clear that RSS is a powerful tool to receive updates from web sites and blogs you're interested in. With RSS you can visit a page only to read the fresh content, not just to check if there is any new article, avoiding to waste time looking for news.

On the other side RSS have a big issue. They're too addicting, in a busy day you could get so much news that you can't read, even if you try to do it. In fact when you start using RSS you will subscribe to any site you follow, making your subscription list bigger and bigger, vanishing the time earned using RSS for the few sites you followed in the pre-RSS era.

So add UnderTheWire to your RSS, just to let us know that you're aware ;-) It's easy, click on the orange button in your browser.


Customize Vista start search

Via Channel 10

Do you think that Search Everywhere and Search the Internet is not enough for your Start Search?

Customize it is easy, just do the following things:

  • Press WinKey and type gpedit.msc (Run it as administrator)
  • Open the User Configuration\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Instant Search\Custom Instant Search Internet Search provider policy setting.
  • Enable the policy setting, type provider name in the first textbox, add the address of the search provider you want to have in the second textbox, and click OK. You can find a list of providers at the end of this post.
  • Try a Instant Search. If you can see the third provider you have done the work. In the other case you just have to open a command prompt and type gpupdate/force to immediately apply the new policy setting.

Some providers:

Wikipedia (To get other languages change en with your language code): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%w

Google: http://www.google.com/search?q=%w

Yahoo: http://search.yahoo.com/search?p=%w

The rule to find the URL for the search provider is to search TEST in the search engine, cut the URL of the result and replace TEST with %w.


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