Category Archives: Quick Tips

Small but significant tips from us for a better computing experience!

Turn on HTTPS for Feedly’s Chrome app

Feedly enabled HTTPS for all its users a while ago, but there is no way to turn it on permanently on its website.

If you use Feedly’s app for Chrome, right-click on the icon, go to Options and enable HTTPS.

Feedly Chrome Options

Feedly for Chrome HTTPS

If you don’t use the Chrome app (or you use another browser), simply bookmark and use https://feedly.com.

HTTPS provides a secure connection between your computer and the website you’re visiting, and prevents others from eavesdropping on your browsing activity (which is why websites for banking and transactions use HTTPS). You should turn on HTTPS on every website that supports it.

Launch CCleaner Without UAC Prompts [Quick Tip]

If you’re a regular CCleaner user, the UAC prompts which are triggered while launching the app must get to your nerves at times.

Well, there’s good news for you; the latest version of CCleaner (3.19) includes an option to skip the UAC prompts altogether. Follow these steps to enable this option,

  • Upgrade to the latest version of CCleaner (3.19 as of now).
  • Open CCleaner, and go to Options > Advanced. Enable the “Skip User Account Control warning” option.

The UAC prompt will be gone the next time you open CCleaner.

Improve Chrome’s Startup Time By Installing A Background App

Chrome handles most browsing tasks like a champ, but the browser itself can slow down for various reasons. If you’re a Chrome “power user”, you might have noticed that its startup time takes a hit once you have a dozen or so extensions and apps installed.1

chrome background app

Chrome spins off every single app, extension, and tab as a separate process, resulting in a dozen or more processes to launch simultaneously when you start the browser. With every new extension or app, the number of “default” chrome processes increases and so does the startup time.

Thankfully, this problem can be solved by making use of “background apps”, which are unique to Chrome. As you probably guessed from the name, a background Chrome app will keep running in the background, even after you close all the Chrome windows. The obvious benefit of a background app is that it feels more native on your desktop compared to a regular web app. But there’s an added benefit as well – a background Chrome app will keep some of the chrome processes running all the time. So the next time you start Chrome, only a few extra chrome processes will need to be created, resulting in a faster startup. If you miss the good old days when Chrome used to start as fast as Notepad, simply installing a background app will take you back to those days. There are literally no other steps required.

For whatever reason, there aren’t many background apps available in the Chrome Web Store – you can find the few that are available with a simple search. The most popular of the background apps is one which you probably already know about – Google’s Offline Gmail app. If you’re using it, you really didn’t need to read this post. Please stop being furious and enjoy some kitty goodness. 🙂

[1] People using SSDs are unlikely to have this problem, as SSDs are much faster than regular hard disk drives.

How To Easily Create An Oil Painting Version Of An Image Using Paint.NET

There is something about oil paintings that makes me a big fan of them. Sometimes I come across an image, and I am instantly like, that should have been oil painted!

If you are like me, there’s some good news – you can create an oil painting out of any photo using the free Paint.NET! While Paint.NET is Windows-only, there is an identical app called Pinta for OS X and Linux users.

Once you have installed Paint.NET / Pinta, all you have to do is load the photo into it, and then go to Effects > Artistic > Oil Painting. In the new pop-up window, you can adjust two settings,

  • coarseness – make the photo look as jagged or as smooth as you like
  • brush size – bigger brush size gives less details and vice versa

butterfly oil paintingThe effects are applied to the image in real-time, so you can actually see the changes you are making. Once you’re satisfied with the settings, click OK and save the image via File > Save (use File > Save As if you want to retain the original image). Tada!

You will also notice that Paint.NET and Pinta support two other artistic effects, namely ink sketch and pencil sketch, so you can try them out if they are more of your thing.

The oil painting mode of Paint.NET / Pinta isn’t as feature rich as the ones in, say, Photoshop or GIMP, but it’s lighting fast and is a handy feature to have nonetheless.

Delete Your Firefox Sync Data (If You’ve Switched To Chrome)

firefox-sync

One of my favorite features in Firefox has always been the Sync extension. Back when I was a Firefox user, Firefox Sync was my online safe, taking care of passwords for 70-something online accounts, autofill data, and tons of bookmarks. I used to be very jumpy, reinstalling Windows even when the slightest shell crash or blue screen happened, and losing all my local data every time. Without Sync, I’d be pretty screwed.

Anyway, I have fully switched to Chrome since a few months, and today I suddenly remembered I don’t need my Firefox Sync account anymore. An inactive account containing sensitive information is not a good thing at all, so I went ahead and deleted it.

Deleting your Sync profile is quite easy. Just go to this Mozilla page, fill in your username and password, and click on the “Permanently Delete My Account” button. Simple as that. Do it if you were a Firefox user, but have since switched to Chrome (I know many who have).

Temporarily fix “Building font cache” pop-up in VLC player

UPDATE: This bug seems to have been fixed in the latest versions of VLC player, which you can get from VideoLAN.

 

You might have noticed that playing a video on a freshly installed VLC player usually triggers a ‘”Building font cache…” pop-up that stays for some time before allowing the video to play.

Technically, the window should show up only once, thereby making it a lot less irritating that it’d otherwise be. However, an unresolved bug in VLC keeps randomly triggering this pop-up when it shouldn’t, and makes us all wait so much more to watch our movies!

The VLC team suggests disabling subtitles as a temporary fix to this bug. If you can live without subtitles, here’s how to proceed:

  • Open VLC player, and go to Tools –> Preferences (or hit Ctrl + P).
  • In the Preferences window, switch from “Simple settings” to “All settings” at the bottom left corner (see screenshot below).
  • Go to Video –> Subtitles/OSD, and change the “Text rendering module” to “Dummy font rendering function”. Click on the Save button when done

vlc-preferences

Once a new version of VLC comes out, you can re-enable subtitles by repeating the above steps and setting the “Text rendering module” to “Default”.

Everyone else, who can’t do without subtitles, can only hope for a quick fix soon.

Use VLC As A Screen Recording Tool

VLC player is touted as the Swiss Army Knife of all media players, and not without reason. While it practically plays every media file that you throw at it, what’s amazing about VLC is that it does so much more beyond that.

One of VLC’s potential use-cases can be using it as a screen capture/recording tool. Sure, there are other free apps out there that are better equipped for this particular task, but there might be situations when you need to do some quick screen recording, and don’t have a recorder app to work with.

Screen capturing with VLC is fairly simple, and requires just a few steps –

  • Open VLC player, and click on View –> Advanced Controls. A few more buttons will appear on the interface.
  • Now, press Ctrl + C (or, go to Media –> Open Capture Device…).
  • In the new window, set Capture Device to “Desktop”, and the Desired frame rate to “10 fps” (frames per second). You can set a higher value if you want, but 10-12 fps will make just fine screencasts.

desktop recording

  • Click on the Play button, and VLC will start showing your desktop. Make sure VLC isn’t maximized, else all you’ll see is an endless stream of VLC-inside-VLC windows!
  • Click on the Record button to start recording. You should preferably minimize the VLC window so that it doesn’t show up in your screencast.

vlc record

  • Do whatever you need to show in your screencast, then restore the VLC window and click on the Record button again to stop recording.
  • VLC will automatically save an AVI file in your Videos folder, which you can then share or do whatever you want with it.

Before you get all excited about this VLC feature, here are some pretty serious limitations you should keep in mind.

  • There is no way to use your voice in your screencast. You’ll have to record your voice separately and stream that audio file along with the desktop recording. Clicking on the recording button will then save the audio along with the screencast.

Screenshot 6

  • You can only record your entire desktop in RAW format. There is no way to record a part of the desktop. This leads to enormous sized videos (like in GBs!) even for relatively short screencasts. For smaller videos, you’ll have to compress your video using H.264 or WebM.

As I said before, VLC shouldn’t be your go-to screen recording app, but it is certainly a useful feature to have nevertheless.

Use The Fastest Download Server for Your Ubuntu

Ubuntu has nearly 350 server locations all over the world, through which it delivers updates to its few millions users. While installing Ubuntu, it’ll automatically choose a server based on your location, so in theory you really don’t have to worry at all. However the nearest server may not always be the fastest or most reliable, and if there’s indeed a better server somewhere else, you’ve every right to receive updates from that.

Switching servers in Ubuntu is pretty easy. Under System > Administration, go to “Software Sources. (The location of Software Sources has changed in Ubuntu 10.10, which is yet to released at the time of this writing. If you’re using Ubuntu 10.10 or later, you will find it under Ubuntu Software Center instead.)

Software Sources

Ubuntu Software Center

Here, you’ll find a “Download from:” option, with a suitable server chosen for you. As you’d expect, mine is set to India. To change the server, click on the dropdown menu and choose “Other”.

Software Sources

Software Sources

A new window with all of Ubuntu’s download servers will appear. To choose the best server, all you’ve to do is to click on, well, “Select Best Server”.

Choose a Download Server

Ubuntu will start pinging the servers, do some tests, and will finally jump to the server that it finds best.

testing download servers

Do note that every time you run this test, a different server may be picked up, depending on which one responded best during that time. Therefore I’d recommend you to carry this out at least 5-10 times, and pick the server that’s selected the most number of times. If a different server gets picked up every time, just pick one of those randomly! After deciding your server, click on “Choose Server”.

choose a download server

When you close the Software Sources window, you will asked to reload the software information. This is to verify whether the software information on your PC matches with that one the new server or not. Click the Reload button, wait for Ubuntu to download a few files, and close it.

reload software information

As you can see, switching your update servers in Ubuntu is quite easy, and this can help you get trouble-free updates in future.

We have had pretty meager coverage of Ubuntu on PC Tonic, but you can expect more of these posts now that I am rocking an Ubuntu powered netbook. Stay tuned. Smile

Create a Swivel View of Your Photos in Picasa Web Albums [GT Posts]

picasa-logo

…Generally speaking, creating an actual 360 degree view effect requires you to snap photos of the same object from numerous closely spaced angles, arrange them all together in proper order and queue them in a fast slideshow mode. And if you do happen to have a bunch of such photos lying around, you still need to be able to cook up some javascript work to be able to swivel through those photos.

Thankfully, Picasa Web makes the process of adding swivel effect a smooth one. It not only has the feature baked in, but also makes using it really easy

 

How to Get a 360 Degree ( Swivel ) View Of Your Photos in Picasa Web Albums [Guiding Tech]

Bring Mac OS X Style Font Rendering to Windows with GDI++

happy guy

Even though I’ve never used Apple’s famed desktop OS, there’s one thing about Mac OS X that has always made love it – the font rendering. A lot of people don’t get what’s with all the fuss about fonts, but for me it’s always been the little things that matter.

Ever since ClearType was introduced a few years into Windows XP, font rendering on Windows has undergone a huge facelift. ClearType is quite cripsy and sharp, but that’s exactly what I don’t like about it. The fonts look like thin swords cutting through a piece of fabric that is your PC screen. Compare that to the font rendering on OS X, which is like this creamy blending thing that creates more impact on your eyes and…..okay I’ve no idea how to describe it, so let me just say it looks tons better! Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the two –

windows vs os x font rendering [source: lifehacker; click on image to view in full size]

Notice the difference?

  • Yes? Welcome to the camp! I don’t know which of the two you like, but for me it’s easily OS X.
  • No? It’s probably awesome you can’t make out the difference because then you won’t have to like one or the other!

Anyway, for those of you who do like the OS X rendering but are using Windows instead, there’s an easy way to get the former on your PC!

Enter GDI++. This tiny app, when activated, kills Windows’ ClearType font rendering and uses its own OS X-style rendering, which is based off the original gdi++.dll project.

To get started, download the GDI zip file from the link provided at the end of this post, extract the folder anywhere on your PC, and double-click the gditray.exe file to start the utility.

gdi

If the rendering doesn’t change immediately, right click on the gditray icon on your system tray, make sure ‘Enable’ is enabled, and click on ‘Apply Now’. Now, sit back and enjoy the magic!

gditray

If you want to make it start automatically with Windows, make a shortcut of the gditray.exe file and put it in the Startup folder.

gditray startup

Should you want your ClearType back, simply exit the gditray.exe file and everything will be back to normal.

Do note that GDI++ doesn’t work everywhere. For example, I can’t get it to work on Google Chrome and uTorrent, two of my favorite apps, for the love of it. The, err, chrome of Chrome gets rendered in gdi++, but not the webpages. Firefox has no problems.

Also, if you don’t run the gditray.exe file as administrator (right click > Run as administrator), it’ll naturally fail to render areas that require administrative privilege.

Overall though, I’m pretty impressed with GDI++. It does what it says, and it does that really well. Previously, the only way for me to enjoy the OS X style rendering was by using Apple’s Safari browser, which is otherwise a very clunky software on Windows. However with GDI++, I can enjoy the rendering system wide without taxing my processor in any manner (the gditray.exe process uses only about 1-3 MB of memory while running and almost zero CPU usage). Really, small things like this go a long way in making me a happier soul!

======================

Download GDI++ – Make Windows fonts look as smooth as Mac OS X fonts (look out for ‘Download GDI++’ in step 1).

download gdi

All credit for me discovering GDI++ goes to the awesome Lifehacker readers, with the app itself being covered at LH way back in March, 2009! Read the entire comment thread on Lifehacker here.