Category Archives: tools

cool geek (dev) stuff I ran into lately

... "Mr. Droopy Eyes!"

I’ve had this list around for a while and though that most people would probably have heard of this by now so I didn’t see the point in posting about it.
Until last weekend someone on twitter was happy to find out about Chocolatey. So I guess not everybody knows these little gems yet, hence this blog post!

  • Chocolatey: a Windows packages manager of sorts. A bit like apt-get on Debian. It allows you to install a bunch of Windows software and tools from the command line. It’s pretty cool and is super handy to get a (developer) box up and running in no time. It’s also handy to keep your installed package up-to-date with the “cup all” statement. Sweet.
    There’s lot’s of good stuff in the gallery already, so you’ll probably find your favorite tool in there. If not, you can add it yourself because it’s built on the NuGet package manager system, or browse what’s available and find some new gems you didn’t know about yet.
  • I haven’t really used Boxstarter myself yet, but if you’re planning on using Chocolatey for some serious VM Windows installer magic, it might come in handy. It builds on top of Chocolatey and allows 100% uninterrupted Windows installs. Thought it was worth mentioning.
  • ScriptCS: one of Glenn Block & co little open source coding adventures. He thought it would be cool to use C# and the .NET framework to run scripts on Windows using the Roslyn compiler API. No need for Visual Studio, project files, compilers or anything like that. Just the scriptcs executable and a text file with your C# script code. Much like Node.js or Python for example. You know, scripting languages.
    Turns out this idea took off like a rocket in the community and has all sorts of cool features by now, like Nuget integration and script packs for reusability. It’s awesome.
  • : It’s jsfiddle for C# code. It’s a web site where you can type some C# code in a console application, run it and see your output instantly. Great of small bits of test code. It even has intellisense support so it’s easier if to use than LinqPad for this kind of tests apps if you don’t know all the statements by heart.
  • all web dev docs in one place and easily searchable. Contains docs for thing like the HTML5 spec, JS, HTTP, HTML DOM and the most popular frameworks like Ember, Backbone, Angular, Knockout and Underscore. Also language like Python, Node, Ruby etc. In short, useful stuff for any web developer working with a modern stack.

Image by James Vaughan, cc-licensed.

sync files to your phone with bittorrent sync

Triple Sync

Syncing files with a phone is sometimes a cumbersome and tricky task. I blogged about a few solutions before like this one using FTP, but recently I found another gem.
Bittorrent Sync turns out is awesome to sync large amounts of files over WIFI to and from a mobile device without a lot of effort.

So what is it? Bittorrent Sync is, as you probably guessed, a product from the Bittorrent lads. You can use it to synchronize folders between machines in a distributed, non-centralized way. So you could think of it as Dropbox without having to use the central cloud server. There are
clients for all sorts of operating systems like Windows, Android, Mac and Linux.
The only “downside” here is that you need to have another machine online before the syncing happens as there is no central server that keeps a copy of your files in the cloud. You can also see this as an advantage if you don’t want copies to end up on third-party servers.

So to sync from your main machine to a mobile device, this works perfectly.

Basically you do the following to set up file syncing between your PC and your phone:

  • Install the BTSync application on your PC.
  • Install the BTSync app on your (android) phone.
  • Setup a sync folder on your PC.
  • Scan the QR barcode for this folder from your PC screen with your phone from the app to set up the sync folder on your phone.
  • Sit back and watch the magic happen.

Depending on your settings you can use this to sync in both directions, set up multiple sync-folders, sync with multiple machines etc.

It’s awesome, it’s free and it works like a charm.
I love it.

Addendum: if you upgrade from an older version to v2 of Sync your old sync folders might break. I ended up uninstalling and reinstalling Sync on my PC & phone + recreate the sync folders to have it all work flawlessly again.

Photo by Grant Hutchinson, cc-licensed.

getting good stats without google analytics

I Spy Cynthia K

Google is huge and scary these days isn’t it? I mean they track our ass all over the place and I was actually helping them to do so. On my blog I was using Google’s free Analytics service to keep track of who, when, where and why people came to my blog.

The stats are pretty, easy to understand and extremely extensive. The downside is that all these stats end up in the massive Googleplex data center and are without doubt neatly analysed and lined up with your regular Google searches through that cookie that identifies you no matter if you’re logged on or not.

No me gusta.
So I removed that line of JavaScript from my pages ét voila, no more Google snooping on my watch. Problem is I liked those pretty graphs and lines and I sort of missed taking a peek at them now and then to see what pages where the most interesting and what crazy search results people where using to get to my blog.

Then I ran into something called Piwik. It’s free, open source and it does pretty much exactly the same thing as GA, but stores everything in your own private MySQL DB. It installs as easily as WordPress on your web server, and to activate it you just insert the JavaScript snippet it provides you with. A few seconds later you’ll be getting pretty graphs and figures and spend countless hours spying on your blog’s visitors with the real-time results.


Photo by Flood, cc-licensed. makes a darn good bookmarking service


Still looking for a good bookmarking service after the Delicious takeover by Avos with their fishy policy changes? And the Trunkly takeover by Avos? With equally fishy policy changes? Cause it’s the same company?

So was I.

I didn’t care for the social bit too much or whatever other fuss services throw in these days when it comes to bookmarking. I just wanted to be able to easily save links, tag and search them. Anywhere.  Yeah, not installing software to sync it over different browsers and platforms and stuff, just simple good old-fashioned web-based goodness which makes sure you can access it from anywhere, even from  your bleeding edge smart phone, at work, at home, at a friends place. I think they call that “in the cloud” these days.

As it turns out I’m already using something called Catch Notes to (wait for it…) catch quick notes on my phone, and keep them synced with their cloud service. Yeah. Cloud Service. How hip is that!?
Anyway, they added something new a while ago called streams, which basically lets you group related stuff together. Stuff like links for example.


Indeed. I simply created a “Links” stream (I’m so original), dump interesting sites and pages in there either manually, or by using the Firefox add-on which auto-includes the link with your selected text. Really handy if you hate the tedious operation of copy-pasting and then *gasp* typing some description to go with it. Go figure.
The data is synched with my phone thanks to the Android app, so I also have my links handy there. Even better. I can add bookmarks from my phone using the Share function common to most apps, and read them later on my PC.

Searching? Tagging?
Yep. Can do all that. So it’s pretty damn sweet innit?

Photo by AndyFitz, cc-licensed.

visual studio 2010 becomes slow after saving on Windows 7

Rust and oil inside "Niles machine tool" (HDR)

Ran into this annoying bugger of a problem with Visual Studio 2010 on Windows 7 where every time I saved a file (any file, no matter how large or small it was) the GUI started reacting extremely slow on me. Menu’s didn’t react, keystrokes didn’t appear, scrolling didn’t work. It acted like a whole bunch of stuff was going on, but nothing really was. After a few minutes or so responses where back to normal, until I saved a file again…

While it was happening CPU usage of devenv.exe was fine (very low). Cleaning the solution didn’t help either, which in some cases fixes odd VS behaviour. In short, I was at a loss. Googling for a solution didn’t really bring up a solid answer, until I found a post that mentioned something about jumplists in Windows 7 and VS 2010 being slow. In that post the antivirus software is blamed but that was not the issue in my case, since the issue only started occurring recently without any changes to my setup.

Using the Systems Internals (great tools there btw if you want to dig deeper into your Windows system) file monitoring tool I noticed that a file in a specific path was sort of hanging things. When I looked up the file it did point to those so-called jumplist thingies again. After clearing these shortcut files, VS started acting like normal again.

So, if you’re having issues with a slow VS 2010 on Windows 7 on saving, try clearing the jumplists like this:

  1. Right-click the Start button
  2. Choose Properties
  3. Uncheck both checkboxes under the Privacy group
  4. Click the Apply button
  5. Re-check both checkboxes
  6. Press OK

If you’re lucky, VS should be running smooth as butter again.

Photo by Morgennebel, cc-licensed.

moving the windows documents and settings profile folder

Connecting to the Interweb Tubes

If you’re running out of disk space on your C-drive on a Windows XP system (which other OS has a C-drive anyway?) you might be thinking of moving your C:\Documents and Settings\youruserprofile to another disk. In my case the profile folder was eating away a good 2.5 GB of space. Moving it saved my ass from having to constantly cleanup that drive and end up in trouble in the long run as slowly but surely updates would fill every last available bit anyway.

There’s a procedure from Microsoft that explains how to do this. In short it goes like this:

  1. Login as Admin
  2. Copy the desired profile folder to another drive, such as D:\Documents and Settings\Bob
  3. Start the registry editor (regedt32.exe) and change all references from the old path to the new one.

This last step is quite a job if you’ve been using the profile for a long time, like myself. I tried this on a test account first and I only had to replace a few references so I thought “Piece of cake! Let’s do this!”. Until I started the same thing for my actual profile and had to replace a gazillion references all over the registry. Bloody hell!

The annoying thing was that even after I replaced all references, some software was still referring to the old profile folder somehow. The bastards! My guess is that some software simply doesn’t expect you to move this folder and has a hard-coded reference built-in. However, there’s a solution for that as well. That solution is also a shortcut to avoid that tedious job of having to change all the registry values, which is bloody boring and prone to errors.

The fix is a tad of Unix magic that also exists for Windows NTFS drives, where you can create a link or virtual folder pointing to a physical folder on another drive. The official name is a “junction point”. For example you can have C:\Document and Settings\Bob point to D:\Documents and Settings\Bob, and not a single piece of software will notice that your files aren’t really on the C drive. Sounds pretty neat huh? This only works with NTFS drives, but any modern version of Windows uses that format by default so that shouldn’t be a problem.

So how do you go about this? Well, it goes like this:

  1. Log in as the administrator user (and not the one you want to move the profile for).
  2. Copy the profile folder to your preferred location on a drive with plenty of free space.
  3. Remove the source profile folder (or rename it, just to be safe).
  4. Create the junction point from the source folder, to the new destination folder, like so:
    linkd.exe "c:\documents and settings\bob" "d:\documents and settings\bob"
  5. Log back in with the moved user. You shouldn’t notice a single problem.

Want more info on that junction point magic? Check out how to create and manipulate NTFS junction points then.

Update: if you’re looking for a similar action on Windows 7 or Vista, check out the mklink command, which is basically the replacement for linkd for the newer Windows versions.

Photo by nickwheeleroz, cc-licensed.

open any site in a popup window

Note: This post contains custom html and JavaScript code. So if the bottom part looks messed up in an RSS reader, that’s why.

Would you like to open a website in a separate popup window when you click a bookmark from your browsers’ bookmark tab? I do!

I have one of those for a direct link to a Google Docs document which has all kinds of quick notes and stuff I want to scribble down fast before I forget them. I used to use a short-cut to a text file on my PC somewhere but that didn’t cut it when I wanted to access notes I made at work at home and visa versa. A Google document was the solution, but I wanted a clean window instead of it just opening another tab in Firefox…

To get there I wrote a bit of JavaScript code that generates a bookmarklet that does just that. You could use it for any site really, so here’s a form to make your own auto-popup bookmarklets!

How it works in 3 easy steps:

  1. Enter the URL of the web site to open and  the bookmarklet’s description you want. Optionally you can change the size of the window if the defaults don’t suit you. The popup window can still be resized but it’s always nice if it opens exactly as big as you want it to.
  2. Hit the button to generate the bookmarklet code.
  3. Now drag that freshly generated bookmarklet to your Firefox or Chrome toolbar and you’re done.
    Your very own custom popup web-app. Awesome!
    For Internet Explorer users (I’ve been told they are still out there) you need to right-click the link and choose “Add to favourites”. Then choose the links toolbar. The link should appear on your toolbar shortly after getting a security warning due to the JavaScript in the link.
Document URL
Bookmarklet description
Window width
Window height
Window left position
Window top position
Your bookmarklet will appear right here after you click the button.

Likes, dislikes, problems? That’s what the comments are for!