Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Start to stop, Install to uninstall...

An IT person's favorite joke about Windows is how you click "Start" to stop the computer. The Start button is perhaps the most joked about icon in Windows, but I suppose without some sort of text written on the screen, figuring out what to click in lengthy 2 hour technical support calls would only extend the painful experience.

Of course, VerifyMyPC reduces technical support times from 2 hours to 5 minutes. And you have a more intelligent conversation with the person on the other end. And you don't end up having the user re-install Windows because you can't figure out what they did to mess up their computer.

But that's not what I want to talk about. Instead, Add/Remove Programs finally drove me up the wall. I have a 3GHz PC. Even though it is about 3 years old, it is still a considerably high-end PC. How long does it take to figure out what is installed on my PC? About 1 minute. I've been on slower PCs where it takes several minutes before I can do anything.

I set out on a journey to find a solution. And found one:

http://www.nirsoft.net/utils/myuninst.html

MyUninstaller is a pretty nifty piece of software. I read plenty of reviews on various products. A couple of them sounded like the VerifyMyPC Advanced uninstall feature but I can guarantee you that those types of uninstallers don't work nearly as well as VMPC Advanced. VerifyMyPC is a crazy awesome product to begin with, but VerifyMyPC Advanced has some seriously powerful functionality that blows away installer monitor programs.

Anyway, I installed MyUninstaller. Well, unzipped it. Then I ran it. As it loaded, I thought, "Uh oh. Those reviews didn't say anything about this taking a while to run. They all said it was fast." I let it finish and then fixed the window positioning to my liking. Then I experimented with it a bit to see what all I could do. I put a shortcut on my desktop. Moved some headers around to my liking. Then I closed the app. Then I started it back up. Bam. Instantaneous load. Okay, so it loaded fast. Then for the real test - did it load fast AND pick up new stuff? I had an upgrade to MySQL I wanted to install, so that would be a perfect test. I left MyUninstaller running during the install to see if it would pick up the new software. It didn't. So, I exited and re-entered the app. It picked up the change right away. And still loaded just as fast.

I figured out that if I disabled icon loading, the MyUninstaller loading time is instantaneous and uses less memory. It is just that first scan/use that takes a while. After that, it "works as advertised". Can't really complain - it IS freeware.

Ironic: I installed an uninstaller to uninstall software.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Photoshop Tip...

Amazingly no one has figured out how to make a hollow rectangle with Photoshop. I recently needed to be able to do this and came up with a method of accomplishing this with shapes. Here's how:

1) Create a new document (or use the workspace you want the shape to be added to.
2) Select the shape tool you wish to use. Most people want a hollow rectangle (i.e. rectangle tool), but this works with any of the shapes: Hollow rounded rectangle, hollow circle, hollow ellipse, etc. Even hollow lines (but those are effectively rotated rectangles). You get the idea.
3) Draw the shape on the canvas. A new shape object should be added to the layers palette.
4) Double-click the shape object in the layers palette to open the "Layer Style" window.
5) On the "Blending Options" page, change the "Advanced Blending"'s "Fill Opacity" to 0%.
6) Next, go to the "Stroke" page. If preview is enabled, you should see what I'm getting at by this point. Anyway, change the color and size or use a pattern or whatever. Inside and outside strokes usually look best - especially if you used "Snap To Pixels" in the " Options".

There. You have a hollow shape that is a vector object (more or less). Unfortunately, scaling the image doesn't scale Layer Styles accordingly, so you have to rasterize or fiddle with it, but it is better than trying to eyeball two of the same object. Wish I had figured this trick out for the VerifyMyPC logo artwork. It wouldn't look quite so silly with the bulging inner corners.

Oh well. Hopefully this tip saves someone some effort. Leave a comment if it helps you.