How not to make frinds via software

21 January , 2009

Trying to make a software friendly may be a good idea. Making it too friendly is a bad idea. Making software that annoys you might be the worst of ideas, still that’s the experience I most often feel around Vista. I rarely get the sensation that “wow – this is good”, but rather “is this wrong too?”.
My latest annoyance is the problem report. For no apparant reason Vista decides to suddenly and at random times run a problem report check to see if it can solve any of the heaps of crashes and problems Vista has encountered. Today this happened, and Vista searched for a couple of hundred errors (!). It found the solution to three (see picture).
The two first errors are anonymous, while the third is Firefox related. Clicking on the first took me to a screen where it said I should get Nokia drivers for my telephone. Well, I couldn’t think of why I needed that since everything has been working with my Nokia connection to the PC. So when I clicked “Information is confusing” I was asked “what where you trying to do”. And who can remember that, months after the problem may have occured?
Second problem took me to a Bluetooth screen. I am quite happy with my bluetooth antenna, it works perfectly and I can easily send files to my computer from around the house and using phones or laptops. So when I was recommended to go to this site to download a driver I was skeptical. Not to mention that when I arrived at the web site, I found that this was actually gonna cost me heaps of money. Just to upgrade something that works. No good help there.
The third one was Firefox related. The technical information in the corner said I needed to install latest version. Which I always do via the excellent update checker. So that was wrong info too. I tried to figure out what must have been the error, but the help I got was “this is community based”, and a link to Mozilla Inc. was provided (it did not work, but may hopes weren’t high anyway).

So out of hundreds of errors, Microsoft decided to fix three, making them all worse if I had follow through with their help. Thanks, Vista, but no thanks! I’d rather run my computer to a halt without your help…

Pedagoguery Software: Poly

21 January , 2009

A great little freeware to show off today! As a mathematics teacher, and frequent user of whiteboards/smartboards, I am always

looking for nice programs or web sites to use interactively. This is one particularily good program that does just one thing, but does it good. It shows you the most common and a lot of the uncommon geometric solids. You can (use your hands on the smartboard to) zoom in and out on the solids, open them up and crunch them back together again. You can print the layout nets for each solid if you want to make your own physical model. For instance, have your students make footballs (I am talking soccer, not the “other sort” of football, where they mostly cheat by using their hands) from pentagons and hexgons. Solids can be shown transparent or…well..solid.

Go download a free version at


19 January , 2009

Taking a snapshot of your computer screen or a screen region is something I do quite often. Whether for showing students or mom where to find something on the screen, or making tutorials, it’s nice to have a fine little screenshot utility. I earlier used FastStone for this, and this being a great program, it couldn’t stay free forever. So if you can get your hands on older versions of FastStone Screen Capture utilties, do it 🙂

There are fortunately several other options, one is built right into Windows and uses the PrintScreen key. Using this however, causes the entire screen or the entire window of a program to be captured. So it works, although a bit quirky. In Vista this feature has been improved, and you can change the region when clipping.

I prefer to use the freeware utility GreenShot. It easily allows you to edit the screen capture with arrows, textboxes and ellipses. Just what you need to point out important features of the clip. You can download this free utility here:

Edit: Another seemingly good utility for screenshooting (is that a verb in English?) is Screenshot Captor, found by way of Lifehacker at remove empty directories freeware for windows

17 January , 2009

OK, I know that installing lots of small little freeware programs on your system might not be the most clever thing to do. If you have many of them it might slow your computer down, they might cause trouble with other programs and sometimes you forget that you have them, and they just take up space. But then, there are those tiny little programs that sport features you just can’t believe aren’t included in the OS to begin with. RED is such a program. RED – Remove empty directories – is a great little something for tidying up your music folders or program files folders. I ran it on my media center and it found almost two hundred (!) empty folders. That is folders that just contain a user specified set of things. My folders are considered empty if they just consist of folder.jpg…albumart*.jpg… or a picasa.ini file.

I am not sure if my computer got better or quicker of this early spring cleaning, but it felt just as tidy and a bit more satisfying than running the vacuum cleaner on my living room floor.

Download the program here:

Zotero: The Next-Generation Research Tool

6 January , 2009

Zotero: The Next-Generation Research Tool

One of the tools I have began to love the most is this free add-on for FireFox. I used to be a fan of EndNote, which is a great program, but it wasn’t free… And I AM the CHEAP researcher after all.

Zotero allows you to store references in a database, and later on insert the references into, say, Microsoft Word. Inside Word, you look up the reference you want and automagically a bibliography is created at the back. There’s a great little feature that you can store files with it, so that the pdf’s you refer to are in the right place. Another extremly handy function is the way you can get references into the database. Whenever you are on a library site or a bookstore site, you get a zotero icon next to the URL. ‘Click’, and the reference is added to your database. Great. The coming version of zotero will support external cloud storage of references, so you can reach your references from whatever computer you are on. At present the best way might be to keep the zotero files in a folder that you sync with DropBox, mentioned earlier on my blog.

Try this add-on for yourself, and see if you are satisfied!

Giveaway of the Day – free licensed software daily. Edraw Max 4.3 – Create charts, graphics, diagrams, and maps easily.

6 January , 2009

Giveaway of the Day – free licensed software daily. Edraw Max 4.3 – Create charts, graphics, diagrams, and maps easily..

Giveawayoftheday is a pretty cool site, it gives you one piece of software free every day. Of course, this forces a lot of crappy software to be pushed to the readers, but sometimes, gems are found. Today the product is Edraw 4.3, and it seems to be a very good program for drawing diagrams for simple engineering stuff or marketing or if you just tire of MS clipart galleries. also have a sister site,


6 January , 2009

Today a post with no relation to science or software! I will (and must) start by saying I don’t know bricks about art. But I like art (come to think of the scene in Monty Python where the pope wants a picture with only ONE Christ in it!). I also like travelling. And I AM a teacher, even though it may not feel like it from time to time.

There’s a concept I am very fond of, namely sloooooow time. In the Norwegian book “Øyeblikkets tyranni” (perhaps it can translate into “the tyranny of the moment”?) by sociologist Thomas Hylland Eriksen, it is claimed that we have plenty of time – just not enough of the slooooow time. He really nailed it there.

So here I am, not knowing one piece of art from the other, but this blog from my classmate Bodil and some colleagues of her, looks just the right amount of sloooooow. The tagline is

SLOW MILE organizes events with the aim to bring together teaching of art practice and creativity with slow travelling.

Go have a look at

Unfortunately I don’t have any art from Bodil to show you here (did you read that, Bodil?), so check out their blog.