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Showing posts from 2009

December - Website of the Month!

In continuing the theme of useful websites that are worth revisiting again and again, my next pick is: (

A brilliant all-round website that is useful, not just for the home, but for businesses and schools. There is a lot of information on recycling different types of waste and a search facility to find the relevant recycling centre that is local to you.

This website is truly a one-stop shop for all things recycling.

So if you're looking at turning a new leaf for next year, let the environment be one of the items on your list.

Website of the Month!

There's so much usefulness to the World Wide Web, that I'm bursting to yell out my favourite website for this month:
searchfreefonts (
With an extensive search facility and categorisation of all those free fonts, you're bound to find the right font for your needs as there are well over 13,000.
There are still references to commercial fonts, if you manage to not find anything.

Image links in IE8

While mocking up a design page for a colleague's website I came across a new browser behaviour in IE8.

This was the first time I used IE8 as my main development browser, due to the fact that the PC was re-installed and high-priority updates were applied. Surprisingly Microsoft branded IE8 as a priority update.

Anyway, back to what I was talking about, here's a sample:
<a href="index.htm"><img src="logo2.jpg" alt="Logo" title="Logo" /></a>

As you can tell, this is using an image for a link, where it behaves well in Chrome, Firefox and in the previous versions of IE (7 and older). But in IE8, this is not the case as the DOM does not treat the image as innerText, only as a child node. As a result, everytime I hover the mouse over this image, an extra gap would come from nowhere shifting any relatively positioned elements.

To fix this I explicitly added a space (&nbsp;), so the line would look like:
<a href="index.htm…

SQL Replace

A colleague recently asked me if it was possible to replace a string in SQL. After a bit of questioning, this is because entities like & in HTML would be encoded to &amp; in his database.

Since it was the case of outputting information from a SQL statement, this can be simply done by using the REPLACE function in the SELECT. For example:

SELECT REPLACE(CompanyName, '&amp;', '&') FROM Company

The same concept applies in Crystal Reports.

Remote Desktop Copy & Paste

Here's a little tidbit. When I used to Remote Desktop onto client machines, they would disable file transfers as part of their security procedures.

One way of transferring files in Remote Desktop is to allow the remote session use your local drives, so you can still navigate your computer from within the session, which is quite slow.

Then you would have the ability of using the clipboard to copy & paste content from one file into another.

But if you want to copy and paste files themselves, this is possible by enabling both of the above. It is a bit slow but it is more convenient and quicker then trawling your local drives slowly to find the file only to face a slow drag and drop procedure.

Free Nero

It's official. The creators of the popular CD/DVD burning software, Nero, has released a free version of it's flagship product for Microsoft Windows.

Not to be confused with the 15 day trial, the free version of its software is limited to only the simple task of burning CDs and DVDs. Their website states:

"This version of Nero 9 contains simply data burning and disc copying features for CDs and DVDs. Additional features and functionality are available with an upgrade to Nero 9 full version."

Of course, many would have turned to the likes of other freeware and open source software such as CD Burner XP Pro (my favourite piece of kit by the way) or ImgBurn. However, Nero's offering maintains their trademark interface and the use of SmartStart for novice users, which many would prefer.

You can download it from here.

Microsoft Bing

It's nice to see the Press taking a much more keen interest in technology and gadgets. So I wasn't that much surprised when the Metro covered the launch of Microsoft Bling.
Currently in beta Microsoft is obviously renewing their competition against Google. I've also noticed that Microsoft has recently replaced the Live search with Bing on their MSN page.
But after using it, why do I get the impression that it's just copying Google with a more colourful interface?

Javascript form validation

One of the most popular uses of Javascript is when it comes to validating user input on a form. The most hateful way, though, is by not using onsubmit. A number of times I come across code where someone uses an image in place of the submit button and uses the onclick event which will validate then submit the form. Yeauch! Very bad practice!
The first thing to do with the form is place the Javascript function in the onsubmit attribute for the form, e.g.
<form name="reg" method="post" onsubmit="return validateForm();"

The use of return lets the form submit when the function returns true. If the function does not return true (i.e. false) then the form will not submit - as shown below.

function validateForm(){
return false;

Getting a reference to the form is the next step. There are a number of ways to do this:
document.getElementById('reg') This will work when id is used on the form
Passing an object refe…

There are many browsers out there, IE, don't use it

Sounds harsh I know, but I mean it. Bah. Microsoft's latest and shiniest browser is out there, yet it still makes me cringe and want to smash my computer to bits with a sledge hammer.

Microsoft's approach to having a standard's browser is commendable, yet many websites won't work, without applying certain hacks, one of which turns it to IE 7. Sometimes there's a ghost opening new tabs for me.

For a revolting experience download it. Or you can use the other browsers out there, such as Firefox and Flock. Google Chrome, though, seems to have hit a soft spot in me.

Design your home like a pro

OK. It does sound like a bit of a spoiler, but there I was trying to design my kitchen as I'm completely renovating my home. The problem: my mum's idea of a plan.

The solution: Sweet Home 3D. Yes, this free program (which is similar to Google Sketchup) allows you to draw plans of your house or individual rooms on a two-dimensional plan and virtualise it on a three-dimensional plan.

You can place various items on the 2D plan and move them around. So you can redesign your living room many times without breaking a sweat!!

Check it out at

Blender Announces Open Source Games

You may remember, I previously mentioned Blender in reference to making 3D images and stuff. Well, the institute has released (around December last year, I think) an open source game to demonstrate their (and the software's) capabilities. This game is called Yo Frankie! as is released under the Creative Common license.

Any budding game developer can freely download all the code and sprites, to see how a game is put together. A great way to learn and if you would like to support Blender (or just the game), you can purchase a DVD of the game from here.

Not only that, they've only gone and made some quality cartoons to enjoy - Elephants Dream and Big Buck Bunny. They are really Pixar quality and can be downloaded in HD format. Or you can just watch Big Buck Bunny on YouTube.

Who says you need expensive software to contend against the big boys in the industry.

Working with the Date in Excel

I was just asked by my colleague how to turn 20080101 (in a file provided by a client) to 01/01/2008 (to be used in our system) in Excel where the cell is presented as text. We can easily recognise the date, but computers are not so intelligent to put up with these variations of how we operate.

There are a number of ways, but mine relies on certain assumptions, that numbers below 10 are pre-padded with a zero (0), ie. the 9th is represented as 09. This method uses the VB functions in Excel, but for simpilicity's sake I will break this down into stages.

For this example, I will use the above date (20080101) which is in cell A1.

Firstly, we need to split the date in and use cells A4, B4, and C4:

So we need to use a formula in A4 to get the year, B4 to get the month and C4 to get the day:
Year =LEFT(A1,4)Month =MID(A1,5,2)Day = RIGHT(A1,2)The LEFT function is to get the first four digits. The MID function is to get the middle 2 digits starting from the 5th position. The RIGHT functi…

IE8 - 1

Aaargghh! I just hate it. While IE8 is still in Beta, Microsoft still has not addressed the problem that some websites (or applications) appear as a blank page, even though they appear correctly in IE7 and other browsers.

Microsoft's excuse is that the engine has be re-written from the ground up. But it's not excusable when those sites are standards compliant. Anyway, at the start they did provide an undocumented feature for IE8 to simulate IE7 to ensure pages render correctly (and show at all).

Just add:
<equiv="”X-UA-Compatible”" content="”IE="7">
to your page header. Not exactly ideal, but a necessary work around till Microsoft gets its act together.

Microsoft bows to Firefox

OK. Not really, but I'm sure certain techy people will have a field day when that happens. However, their web browser's (Internet Explorer) market share has been constantly falling like nobody's business lately.

Some believe that the catalyst for this is when IE appeared in the news for a severe security flaw, which is pretty much the time frame for when (the ever popular) Google released it's own browser - Google Chrome (Just over 1% of the market - according to NetAppliance). Then again, Firefox is a proven web browser and has seen an increased market share (over 21% of the market).

What's more interesting that Apple's Safari browser is being used by more than 8% of computer users. There's no surprise there since Apple built up its image with the iPod and the iPhone. Plus the fact that this company also bundles a web browser with its Operating System.

With this weaking stance in the browser market, Microsoft has finally released an official Live Search …

Panoramic Image Stitcher from Microsoft

For those who cannot afford to shellout for Photoshop and, thus, benefit from its photomerge feature Microsoft has saved the day with a free alternative.

It's been a while since I looked at the Microsoft Research site, so it came as a surprise to see that they have released Microsoft Image Composite Editor (ICE). It really is a neat package and can export your image in various formats (TIF, JPEG, PNG, etc).

While AutoPano leads in the field of photostitchers, it's not free so Microsoft deserves a mention.

Here's my attempt at producing a panoramic shot from my bedroom window and using Microsoft ICE.

Quick think of a password...

"Yeah, why not?"... "Erm...."

Now you hit that stumbling block. You can't think of just any password, it has to be secure. So instead of racking your brains and ending up with a headache, why don't you download a random password generator. Useful for people, like myself, who create systems that require predefined users and passwords.

One tool that tops my list is PC Tools Password Utilities. This tool gives you loads of parameters in building a complex password. Plus, if you do think of one, you can check how strong it is in this tool.

Forgetting passwords is rather annoying and this tool has a Password Revealer function to help you remember. Though it only works with Internet Explorer. Haven't got a need for it yet, but handy to have just in case.