Open Source and Free Applications

Recently I’ve had to work on production and staging environments (windows server 2012), and I’ve been struggling using notepad to edit config files (which happen to be in XML format) – sometimes tags get misaligned or not closed correctly, and then not having the ability to compare files in a nice graphical display. Basically the simple things; I haven’t started to address performance monitoring etc…

I recalled that there are number of great open source applications nowadays, but I didn’t want to “install” them, just copy them onto the server and run them. Well, the ones I needed can do just that.

I’ve decided to compile my list of open source applications and indicate if they have a no-install required. This is not a comprehensive list by any means, and is only focused on Microsoft Windows operating systems.

Server no-Install

Notepad++ Uncompress the zip file and run the executable. As the name suggests this is a better notepad than notepad. It has tabbed documents, understands various programming languages. However, when not installing you will have to create file associations yourself. I also had to add “config” to the User Ext, for XML in the Style Configurator.
WinMerge Uncompress the zip file and run the executable. The application will compare files and most importantly for me; folders. This is the “modern” replacement for a golden oldie I used to use; windiff.exe for the Windows Resource Kit.

Desktop Applications

Notepad++ Supports a no-install download, but I install fully.
WinMerge Supports a no-install download, but I install fully. Though in reality I don’t use it much on my development laptop.
FileZilla FTP Application. Great for getting up and down from a server.
SoapUI Supports a no-install download. Java based tool for testing web services. Its a little tricky to find the no-install version, here’s the direct link to version 5.0.0;


Fiddler Creates a proxy on the fly to capture incoming and outgoing IP traffic. Great for analyzing what applications are sending out, and what exactly is coming in. I use mainly when testing out my web service development.
Visual Studio Express Microsoft has released free versions of their development IDE. As of Nov 2014 the following versions are available; Express 2013 for Web, Express 2013 for Windows, Express 2013 for Windows Desktop, and Team Foundation Server 2013 Express.

This page is a works in progress…

Trouble with IT

How do I increase a Virtual Box Virtual Disk Image’s size?

Need more space on your Virtual Disk image? I installed Windows 7 Ultimate (using my MSDN subscription) on Oracle’s Virtual Box, but didn’t guestimate the size of my virtual disk correctly. Let’s just say that 30gb is not enough if you want to install Office 2010, Visio for Enterprise Architects, and a flavor of Visual Studio.

Seeing as I kept the Virtual Disk dynamic, I theoretically should be able to increase the size of the disk from the Virtual Box console. Well, no such luck.

Here’s a summary of the steps required to achieve this:

  1. Create a virtual disk (as large as you want)
  2. Clone the old disk to the new disk (command line tool)
  3. Detach the old disk from the Virtual Machine (using the Virtual Box console)
  4. Attach the new disk to the Virtual Machine (using the Virtual Box console)
  5. Boot up the Virtual Machine
  6. Using Computer Management, extend disk space (i.e. within Windows 7) Continue reading
Windows 8 Dual Boot Screen

Changing the default OS Partition on a dual boot computer

I’m dual booting on my laptop between Windows 7 and Windows 8. You know how it is, you get comfy with one operating system and then another version comes out, and you’re like “Is it going to be any good?”, “I’m going to have to reinstall all of my stuff, again…”, etc…

My default was set to Windows 7. Now that I’ve been using Windows 8, I hardly ever go back into my Windows 7 partition. So, now I have a problem…

How do I change the default boot OS in the dual boot menu?

Its actually quite simple; use msconfig.exe – the System Configuration Utility. Its already on your computer.

After launching msconfig.exe;

  • navigate to the Boot tab,
  • select the new preferred OS,
  • click on the “Set as default” button, and
  • finally click on the OK button (see below).
msconfig.exe Boot tab options

System Configuration (msconfig.exe) Boot tab options

You may need to restart your computer for the settings to take effect (as was my case).

Wacom Digitizer Tablet

Hooking up my old Wacom Digitizer II Tablet to my MacBook Pro

In this post I explain what I had to do to get my old Wacom tablet to connect to my MacBook Pro.


The Wacom Tablet

I purchased this a long long time ago, in a galaxy far far away. I used it a lot with my Windows 95 PC, and then with my Windows 2000 PC, and then with my Windows XP PC, I finally ended up putting it away back in 2005. Its been lying in a box ever since.

I recently wanted to draw again on my PC, as I was thoroughly disappointed with my iPad’s drawing abilities – it wasn’t fine enough for my liking, it was also missing a stylus. I ended up purchasing a Lenovo x220 Tablet Laptop which had a stylus and it was pretty neat. But I noticed that it couldn’t detect the angle of the stylus, not to mention I had to turn off finger input and only allow stylus input (as the screen could take both, but wasn’t smart enough to ignore palm presses when using the stylus). I could have sworn that my good old wacom digitizer could. So, I went digging for it.

The Dreaded Serial Port Dilema

When I finally unearthed it from the depths of my ancient technology museum, I quickly noticed a problem; it had a 9-pin serial port! My MacBook Pro’s never heard of a serial port, its all USB nowadays. There had to be some solutions out there.

Luckily for me there are solutions a-plentiful; well, for the Serial to USB interfacing part anyway. I ended up purchasing the Trendnet TU-S9 USB – Serial Adapter from Amazon.

Where have all the Wacom drivers gone?

But I still had one more problem; getting the digitizer to work with the MacBook; where are the drivers? The Wacom website was a disaster, there was no mention of my old digitizer tablet anywhere; talk about planned obsolescence.

Open Source to the rescue!

The guys over at ThinkyHead.com have an open source driver for Wacom digitizers. Music to my ears. I really love the Open Source community, its really a passion, why else would you write something for free?

Setup and Installation

Once I received my adapter, I had to install a driver for it. I found it on the Trendnet site here. Installation was reasonably straight forward.

After installing the driver for the serial port, I installed the driver from ThinkyHead.

I then connected the wacom digitizer to the adapter (screwed it together to hold tight), plugged in the power, and then plugged the USB into my laptop.

Amazingly it all worked without a hitch. I could see that the tilt data was being picked up by the ThinkyHead driver! WooHoo!

I then installed Photoshop on my laptop to check out the tablet… <to be continued>


Penny Arcade's sketch on a Surface Pro

Sketching on a Surface Pro

Microsoft finally released their Surface Pro. Is it a tablet or is it a PC? Who knows, but I’m slowly warming up to the idea of owning one, soon.

Interesting how this article by Gabe at the Penny Arcade resonates with me, and I’m not a professional artist.

I bought my Lenovo X220 Tablet Laptop about a year and a half ago for the reasons in the article; tablet with stylus (so I can draw on the screen), and its a PC. I purchased AutoDesk SketchBook Pro for my laptop, and my iPad, had the same gripes about trying to draw with my finger and then the fat styli on my iPad, but it was a helluvalot better on my laptop with a stylus (sorry Steve).

So maybe my next toy will be a Surface Pro as an upgrade to this laptop? Who knows? I’m also trying to get my old Wacom Digitizer to work with my Mac, lets see how that pans out.

Finally, about that Adobe Cloud subscription… its pretty neat, I have it. Its a great way to have all of Adobe’s software on the cheap :)


Windows 8

Jensen Harris is the Director of Program Management for the Microsoft Windows 8 User Experience team. He gave a talk at UX Week 2012 conference in San Francisco in August titled The Story of Windows 8. I’ve included it below. Its definitely worth watching, as he provides insights into why Windows 8 looks the way it does. There are some nice touches in Windows 8, I did notice a couple of them.

Continue reading


Canon T3i EOS Utility

Wow! I couldn’t find my CD that came with my camera and Canon won’t let you install without something being on your computer already. Well that just sucks!!

Anyways thank God for Yahoo! Voices, and all the other gazillion bloggers and online communities out there. I, after much searching and reading, found the following link to help me, bruhaha…

Here’s the link to an article that helped me get to the registry keys I needed to add, yes, REGISTRY KEYS.

All this because I want to learn how to do time lapse photography… sheesh!