Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Vista TIP: New way to capture a screenshot

Animated illustration showing Snipping Tool capturing a free-form snipBefore Windows Vista, you can use the following ways to capture a screenshot:
  1. <Prt Sc> key - captures the entire desktop
  2. <Alt> + <Prt Sc> keys - captures the active window
If you want more fine grain capture, like part of a window, you will have to do one of the above first, paste into Paint and then crop or cut and paste from there. Not rocket science but quite a hassle.

The good news is that in Vista, there is a snipping tool that allows you to capture any part of your screen without jumping through the hoops! Check it out here! Note: This feature is not available in the Home Basic edition of Windows Vista.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ready made LAMP Virtual Machines

Recently, one of the projects I'm working on urgently required a LAMP environment for testing. Rather than going through the hassle (not to mention time consuming process) of securing hardware, getting the infra guys to set up the network and OS and finally getting my own guys to set up the rest of the middleware, I did a search online and found myself a ready made LAMP VM all in a compact 166mb package. Download the package, unpack it into a directory of choice, add it in my Virtual PC 2007 console and click run; it couldn't be any simpler.

Thirty minutes later, I was up and running with my LAMP environment compared to weeks if I had gone the other route. Oh, and half that time was taken by the download... Yeah, my corporate network sucks...

Kudos to the guys at Virtual Appliances. Other than the LAMP VM, they also provide ready made VMs for LAPP (Linux, Apache, PostgreSQL, PHP), Tomcat (App server only, no database), Cacti (Network device monitoring and data collections), and NTOP (Realtime network traffic monitoring). These packages are available in VM formats for Virtual PC (and Server), VMware and Virtual Iron. Oh, and best of all? Its Free! (for now at least as its still in beta)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Upgrading ffp 0.5 and moving it to USB... again

Recently I have been getting some comments on my post on moving ffp to a USB stick asking for help as the instructions seemed to have become invalid. It was only then I found out that fonz has been updating ffp without changing the version number. Alot of changed since I last upgraded to ffp 0.5 and while there are instructions on how to upgrade to the latest version, I decided to play it safe and just do a fresh reinstall. Here is a log of what I did:
  1. Backup the file /mnt/HD_a2/fun_plug and the directory /ffp. (use the sym link to make sure you are backing up your active configurations)
  2. Download the latest packages (i.e. fun_plug and fun_plug.tgz) and put them in /mnt/HD_a2/.
  3. Delete the folder /mnt/HD_a2/ffp if you have it and reboot.
  4. Telnet into the box (default has no username/pswd), disable telnet and enable ssh. (i.e. do a chmod a-x and chmod a+x
  5. Download and install all the core packages found here. After the download, install using the command funpkg -i *.tgz. Also run the command funpkg -u *.tgz to update existing packages. (i.e. those that came in the fun_plug.tgz package)
  6. <-- At this point, we have a working stock ffp working off the hard disk partition /mnt/HD_a2. Now to update the box with extra packages we need -->
  7. Restore the svn startup script from backup (it contains the path to my local SVN repository)
  8. unrar
  9. Transmission
  10. Create a local fun_plug script (/ffp/etc/fun_plug.local) to set up some convenience shortcuts. (/hd1 for /mnt/HD_a2, /hd2 for /mnt/HD_b2 and /usb for /mnt/usb)
  11. <-- Now that we have all the features working, lets move it to the USB stick using the method found here -->
  12. First create the directory /mnt/HD_a2/.bootstrap and download the necessary files into it. (namely and usb-storage.ko)
  13. Edit to make sure that the variable USBFFPPART refers to the right USB partition. If you have only 1 USB drive attached and it has only 1 partition, then this should be /dev/sdc1.
  14. Reboot to get the USB partition up and running. (Check by running df and look for /mnt/usb)
  15. Copy the entire /ffp folder into the USB partition /mnt/usb. (cp -a /mnt/HD_a2/ffp /mnt/usb/)
  16. Create a dummy file .usb-ffp in the root of the USB partition. (touch /mnt/usb/.usb-ffp)
  17. Reboot again to get ffp working off the USB partition. (If you need to troubleshoot, check the ffp log at /mnt/HD_a2/.bootstrap/ffp.log)
A couple of things to note:
  • To have ffp running off the hard disk again, simply remove the file /mnt/usb/.usb-ffp and reboot. You may want to do this when you need to run e2fsck (i.e. file system check) on the partition.
  • To be able to unmount the first hard drive partition (i.e. /mnt/HD_a2) say for disk maintainance, you will need to copy the USB module (i.e. usb-storage.ko) to VRAM (/lib/modules is a good place to put it) before loading it. You can do so by editing the script

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

How to spot a recovering economy?

Now that the year 2008 is drawing to a close, the number one thing on everyone's mind right now must be how the economy will pan out in the new year. The guys at CNNMoney have just published their predictions as well as some advice on how to tell the worst is over (quoted below). Do you agree with this assessment?

The action plan

Keep your eye on three key signs that the overall economic picture is improving. These clues can help you decide when to make moves you may have put on ice for now, such as starting a business or moving to a bigger home.

  • Check the three-month TED spread

It's the difference between the interest rate at which banks borrow from one another (known as Libor) and the rate on three-month T-bills. The wider the spread, the more skittish banks are about lending. It's now just under 3%, far above historical levels; when it drops below 1% you'll know the credit market is almost back to normal.

Where to find it: Go to, search for the three-month Libor rate and the three-month T-bill rate, and then subtract the T-bill rate from Libor.

  • Track real estate inventory

Historically, the number of months' worth of inventory on the market has reliably predicted home prices. Six months of inventory appears to be the sweet spot for a healthy market; right now it's 10 months. The National Association of Realtors puts out the inventory data each month, usually between the 22nd and the 25th.

Where to find it: Go to the Research section of

  • Watch initial jobless claims

The number of new people filing for unemployment benefits, released every Thursday morning by the Labor Department, has been running between 450,000 and 500,000 a week lately.

"When you see those numbers start to come down below 400,000, that'll be a very good sign that the worst of the pain is over," says Brian Wesbury, chief economist at First Trust Advisors.

Where to find it: Do a search for jobless claims on our Web site. To top of page

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Video Clip: Jordan's many faces

Here's a short video clip (more of a slide show actually) of Jordan making funny faces. Camera shots and video editing all done by the ever-so-tech-savvy grandpa! Nice maiden effort on the clip!