Tech tidy

I purged “stuff” (technical term) at home over the December holiday break: clothes; books; kitchen gear; papers; kids (well, one went back to college).

I avoided my trouble spot until there was a critical mass of positive momentum … my tech.

When I finally tackled it, most went easy. Nine mini USB cables when I need two? Sorted. 40gb ATA hard drives? Destroyed. Several sub 1A wall warts? Purged.

Gizmos, be they five-year old laptops or unused-for-years old phones or tablets collecting a real layer of dust, they posed more angst. “But I could do x with it,” I would tell myself.

Starting a new tech job means I will get new tech. So I’m purging my old kit. I’m down to my Google nexus 5 phone and my kindle and an external battery pack. Flying from Detroit to San José without my usual tools proved more of a challenge than I wanted to acknowledge.

I WANT a real keyboard. I WANT a decent screen size. I WANT ample storage. I WANT good battery life.

By ‘want’ I, of course, mean NEED.

If I had my pick now I would probably go with a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 (dual-boot with ubuntu) and a Samsung Galaxy Note 4.

UPDATE: My new work laptop is a ThinkPad T430. My cell phone will only be useful for phone calls and light email duty.

Also on:

Six Weeks of MacBook Air use in a Wintel Corporate World

My trusty ThinkPad X301 running Windows 7 Enterprise was dying. It wouldn’t shut down. It had a hard time starting up. It might Blue Screen of Death (BSoD) while reading email or editing documents. It might decide to not charge either of the two batteries in the case. It might forget that it has a wifi and bluetooth adaptor.

I handed it off to the appropriate internal technical support team. Unfortunately the loaner laptops were all in use. I had three options.

  1. Use my own laptop until my work laptop was fixed
  2. Demand a new laptop without knowing if my current laptop is fixable
  3. Go without a laptop until mine is fixed

Option 3 doesn’t work. I travel too much to go without a laptop. Mobile devices are a gray area, but I shudder to think about editing my budget spreadsheets in an iPad.

Option 2 is within the realm of possibility, but I don’t know what I would take to replace my X301. It doesn’t have the biggest RAM footprint or a current CPU or even competitive graphics. It does have a good display and good battery life and it is light. I’m not due for another laptop until 2013. The longer I can wait the better the hardware will be.

Option 1 is workable. There is only one problem: my laptop is an Apple MacBook Air (late 2011).

My European colleagues can use Apple products. My Asia Pacific colleagues can as well. In the Americas it is a different story. I’ve written about this before.

Nevertheless, things came to a head. I could adhere to the unwritten policy or I could keep working. I chose the latter.

So far the only folks that even care are those in my organisation that would like an Apple option and our VP. I hung a sign on my laptop while using it that told folks: “Don’t Get Your Hopes Up: This is Temporary” for the VP’s benefit. She laughed but also asked how it was working for me.

I told her it’s working well.

The thing is, it’s actually working better than I expected. Here’s why and how.

First, I have a corporate copy of Windows 7 x64 Enterprise running in a Parallels 7 Desktop session. It is on the Active Directory (AD) domain. All of my business applications, even those I could run in OS X, run in the VM. I use Coherence mode to better integrate the Windows apps. It works really well for me.

For the network I carry a USB to 100MB Ethernet adaptor. I assign it to the VM only and use guest wireless access for the MBA. If physical ethernet isn’t available I will fire up a VPN from the VM guest to get it on-line. I can use a USB wireless adaptor as well if I want.

As my team manages the VPN environment, it is a good idea for me to drink our own champagne (as it were). As the head of IT security, the separation of work from personal in a functional way is a powerful example.

I expanded my environment with an Ubuntu guest VM for some GNU and F/OSS tools not available for native Windows for work. I added some of the tools in the MBA via MacPorts just in case.

The other stuff? Being on the domain means links I open in the email client open in IE 9. I can view and edit MS Visio and Project files that can’t be opened in OS X without expensive third-party software using software licenses already assigned to me. I can be permissive and allow opening of files in either environment. I can be restrictive and allow opening files only in one environment.

From the user experience angle, after logging into the VM guest I don’t think much about it. It works really well.

Belvedere on Windows – Keeping a tidy Desktop

Belvedere is a Windows app that automates actions for your PC.

The one biggest advantage of Belvedere is keeping my desktop clean. I hate it when an app decides to install an icon on my desktop. Belvedere helps with that.

First, follow this Lifehacker article. Then add a folder for c:\Users\Public\Desktop and make a transaction to delete the lnk files in that folder.

This will make sure that no app icons will end up on your desktop.

Right shift broken in Synergy & a work-around

I use Synergy, the free/open source multi-platform software package to share a single mouse and keyboard among multiple computers, to control my work ThinkPad and my personal MacBook Air at the same time. The server is the Windows 7 box.

A bug in the Synergy code introduced some time ago broke the handling of the right shift key in this setup. Basically, the server ignores the right shift key when sent by the server. It is an annoying bug.

While the patch is forthcoming I reached a point where the annoyance pushed me to act. I use AutoHotKey, (AHK) so a little addition to my mouse wheel scroll script from the HowTo Geek addresses the bug with two lines:

#InstallKeybdHook
RShift::LShift

Add the first line at the top of your script and the other line somewhere below. Exit AutoHotKey and relaunch your script.

UPDATE: If you lock your Windows 7 host that is your Synergy server, when you unlock the host you have to restart the AHK script for it to work until you lock the Synergy server’s host again. Perhaps someone else knows the fix?

Here’s my complete script. It makes scrolling match on the two laptops, too, by the way:

; Reverse Scrolling Script by How-To Geek modified by prjorgensen

#MaxHotkeysPerInterval 9999999 ; keep the alert popup from showing
#InstallKeybdHook

#NoEnv  ; Recommended for performance and compatibility with future AutoHotkey releases.
SendMode Input  ; Recommended for new scripts due to its superior speed and reliability.
SetWorkingDir %A_ScriptDir%  ; Ensures a consistent starting directory.

WheelUp::
 Send {WheelDown}
Return

WheelDown::
 Send {WheelUp}
Return

RShift::LShift

Launching Org-Capture in Windows with AutoHotKey

I finally figured out how to launch org-capture from anywhere in Windows. I’m using AutoHotKey.

; org-capture
~F9::
If WinExist("ahk_class Emacs")
{
WinActivate
Send ^{c}
Send {c}
}
else
{
Run "C:\emacs-24.0.90\bin\runemacs.exe"
WinWaitActive, emacs
Send ^{c}
Send {c}
}
return
;

I have Ctrl-c c set up as the org-capture shortcut. I know there’s another option through something called org-protocol that might work better.

I just got it puzzled out, so I don’t know what my mileage will be. But I’m pretty jazzed at the prospects. Comments to the code might be forthcoming.

Is this working for you? Do you have a better way to do this?

Lotus Notes and URLs not Opening in the Default OS Browser

03152015 UPDATE #1: I changed employers a few times since I wrote this post. In the interim I was unable to test any recommendations or investigate suggestions or help troubleshoot issues. I am back to a Notes client to use the corporate email system. I won’t promise I can help, but I am in a better place to do so if I can.

03152015 UPDATE #2: I’m embarrassed by the spelling and grammatical mistakes in the original post. I think I corrected them all.

03152015 UPDATE #3: It’s now IBM Notes.

I have Google Chrome installed on my work laptop. I have to install it as a few things don’t work properly in Internet Explorer 9 (IE) yet.

Somewhere along the way Chrome became my Windows 7 installation’s default browser. I didn’t want that. I changed the Windows 7 default browser in “Default Programs” back to IE. The trouble was that one application, Lotus Notes 8.5.2, wouldn’t open IE by default after changing back. I needed links in Notes opened by IE by default. Yet Notes wouldn’t let go of Chrome for some reason.

One might and should question “Default Programs”‘s utility in Windows 7, but that’s a topic for another time.

I reflected on this state of affairs. It could be a philosophical commercial stand by IBM against Microsoft. It’s not. They have better things to do.

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Hanlon’s Razor

… or a lack of attention to detail based on assumptions.

Jorgensen’s Corollary

The error is mostly likely due to poor assumptions by both Google Chrome and Lotus (now IBM) Notes that point to Windows 7 Registry entries that aren’t updated when the default browser changes. It took me a long time to find the answer, but find it I did.

IBM described it here. In short, you need to:

Manually modify the following registry keys to remove Chrome and point it to iexplore.exe:

HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\http\shell\open\command\
HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\https\shell\open\command\

HKCU\Software\Classes\http\shell\open\command\
HKCU\Software\Classes\https\shell\open\command\

… and from there you’re all set. If you want to change your browser to Firefox or back to Chrome I imagine you’ll have to edit those entries again with the relative values. When I edited my registry (and you will make backups when you edit your registry, won’t you?) only two of the four entries required changing.

Enjoy!

Windows 7 Wired Ethernet Adaptor Preference over Wireless

I’m always fighting with Windows 7 when I’m on a wired connection. I don’t want it to prefer wireless by default.

Every article I found talked about playing with the TCP/IP V4 interface metric, but that wasn’t what I was looking for.

I searched around on the web and found the following at the bottom of a thread.

In the start menu, search for ‘network connections’ and press enter.

In the window the comes up, use Alt-key for menu. Choose Advanced. (alt-n-s) On the Adapters and Bindings tab, re-order the connections, putting your wired connection at the top.

This seems to do the trick so far. I’d like to find how to do this via “netsh” since the above isn’t at all intuitive. I also want to spend some time digging into these advanced options.