Tag Archives: tools

Pixeur Color Picker

For quite a time, Pixeur became one of the tools I almost can’t work without anymore. It is a lightweight and free color picker provided by Veign.

First of all, it’s easy to pick a color from the standard color palette. A great feature is the automated calculation of HSB, RGB and CMYK and Hex (the numbers used in HTML code) values. Which value you ever need, Pixeur does calculate the corresponding color codes. 

Pixeur Color Picker 

The ultimate uber feature is the screen picker tool. You simply drag and drop the pointer to the pixel on your screen you want to know the color code from.

Screen Color Picker

Drag and drop the target icon to whatever pixel on your screen to get the exact color value. In addition a zoomed area of the hovered are is shown in the corner of your screen which makes it quite easy to pin down a single pixel even on some kind of retina like displays.

Picking a single pixel with Pixeur

It’s very simple to use and so far I haven’t had any issues with the tool. Amazingly, the tool worked since ever on various Windows versions I used so far including Vista and windows 7 without the need of updating.


  • easy to use
  • low footprint (~2MB)
  • provides color values in various formats
  • screen wide color picker
  • zoom of the hovered area when picking a color
  • free (i.e. no money, cash, PayPal or diamonds needed)


  • Hard to find on the web

The tool is so great, I usually forget about it until I need to get a color code or pick some pixel’s color from the screen. It’s one of the first tools I install after setting up a new machine, and there’s the problem – if you don’t know where to find it, it’s hell of a job to find the download site.

There are probably a dozen of similar tools out in the wild, and each and every major drawing program probably provides such features. However, as a free, and very easy to use alternative, give it a try.

O’Reilly Books on Your Finger Tips

O’Reilly’s camel book was one of the programming books, I bought quite some years ago. Since then  I am a big fan of O’Reilly books. Eventually, O’Reilly started to provide books in various digital formats. As owner of various e-book readers, I was quite pleased when O’Reilly stated to offer their books for download. Purchasing books not only from O’Reilly rather from a whole bunch of publishers, downloading, updating and copying the books from all these websites became almost  day job over time.

Even more, I was pleased by O’Reilly recently offering a beta service to synchronize purchased books to your Dropbox account. In your Personal Info area, you’ll find the Dropbox settings. Once authorized and the file formats selected to sync, you can start syncing your books.

O'Reilly Dropbox Settings

While newly bought books will synced automatically, previous purchased need to synchronized manually. Therefore, you’ll find a Sync to Dropbox button in the Your Products area to select which previously purchased e-books to download.

Sync to Dropbox

After Dropbox has finished, you have all your selected books as well as future purchases in your local Dropbox\Apps\O’Reilly Media folder. No worries if you delete one if these files, you can initiate the synchronization again as described above.

O'Reilly Media Folder in Dropbox

Not only that your e-books are synced to your computer, once available in Dropbox, the files are also available on all devices supported. Eventually, this means you can easily access your books on iPad, iPhone or Android devices. As Dropbox even supports Kindle Fire,  this might be a good reason to pick up this device. Based on rumors, this might be available early September. Until then, the Kindle stays the last device I have to copy my books manually. However, due to the fact they a re synced to a dedicated folder, it is easy to pick them up.

O'Reilly Media on iOS

Actually, I am that pleased with this great kind of integration, that I have asked Manning (also a publisher, I own a lot of e-books) about a similar feature. Eventually, it was confirmed that such a feature is currently being developed.

If you have no Dropbox account yet, you can support this blog by following this referrer signing up for a free account.

Restore Desktop Layout on Windows

Works on my machine!I continually move between different office places using different setups for monitors with my laptop. Sizes, numbers and orders of the monitors vary from place to place. As a consequence, you either deal with a complete mess on your desktop or you spend several hours per week in rearranging icons on your desktop.

Tired of doing so, I was looking for a nice tool for Windows, easy to use. Desktop Restore by Jamie O’Connell is such a tool available for Windows x86 and x64 systems and it is free to use (while he appreciate donations). For me, it works fine on a Windows 7 64-bit machine.

It integrates well with the Windows Explorer  context menu where you can save and restore layouts for different resolutions. This even allows you to set up your desktop for different locations and restore them with a single mouse click.

Desktop Restore

I have used it for ages, however, I have not really realized how great this tools until I set up my machine from the scratch recently. 

Windows Metafile Preview on Windows 7

Works on my machine!The visual preview of files in Windows Explorer is one of the great features of Windows when looking for a certain file. Unfortunately, with Windows Vista Microsoft disabled the preview for Windows Metafile Format (.WMF) and Enhanced Metafile Format (.EMF) files. As I needed t work a lot with EMF files during my latest book project with Springer, I was looking for some way to enable the preview of the file types mentioned above in Windows Explorer.

Windows 7 without EMF/WMF preview

Fortunately, there is a great plugin called emfplugin written by Daniel Gehringer to enable the preview. The plugin is available for x32 and x64 machines and should work on both, Windows Vista and Windows 7. Once installed (and rebooted) the Windows Explorer is capable of displaying EMF and WMF files.

Windows Explorer EMF and WMF thumbnail preview plug-in

The plugin is licensed under the MIT license, so its safe to go with it. At the very end this raises the question why Microsoft did actually disable the preview for two formats developed by Microsoft itself and whether they might work with Windows 8 again.

Restoring NT Backups using Windows 7

After a recent data loss, I had to restore several backups from various sources. Unfortunately, some of these backups were made on a Windows Server 2003 machine. However, it seems that Windows 7 does not come with any possibility to restore these backups out of the box, though.

The Windows NT Backup – Restore Utility seems to be the solution for this issue. During installation you might get the notification to turn on Removable Storage Management – on Windows Vista.

Enable Removable Storage Management Dialog

However, this is one of the features not available in Windows 7 anymore. Fortunately, Microsoft did release another version of this tool for Windows 7. Even the tool itself is now called Windows NT Backup Restore Utility for Windows 7 and for Windows Server 2008 R2 you will find it only as Update for Windows 7 x64-based Systems (KB974674) on the Web – of course this would be the exactly what you are going to look for, yes?

Once downloaded the right bits and installed, you will see the familiar UI of the former backup tool.

Windows NT Backup Restore Utility for Windows 7 and for Windows Server 2008 R2

Simply follow the Restore Wizard to access your old backups.

I See Clouds of White

For several years, I run my own local server as well as a root server hosted online. I run all kinds of services, some of them I used on a regular base, some of them I used from time to time and others I just set up to learn and experiment. However, the time I set up most of these, was a time when there where not many choices if you wanted to host something online. So I run my local repository, Microsoft Team Foundation Server, my own mail server online, my FTP and Web Server and many other services.

As maintaining all these services became almost a full time job, I finally decided to move anything in to the Cloud – or at least somewhere online. In some way, this is an experiment as I try to achieve to run anything I need (or lets say I want) somewhere online while staying within the budget of my Web and local server.

For the local server I calculate $42 for maintenance and electricity a month while the monthly  rent for the Web server is $70. All together I face yearly costs of nearly $1.350 average fixed costs a year not included software licenses and time invested to maintain and update the servers.

Step by step I now move my services to various online services (free and paid). First of all I moved my blog to wordpress.com. That was a rather easy decision as I already switched to the WordPress software several moths ago on my own server. Exporting and importing the content therefore was quite an easy job. Finally, I picked domain mapping for http://blog.aheil.de which is about $12 a year.

To keep track of stuff to do, I use remember the milk for quite a time now. $25 a year is not that cheap for a simple list of todos, however, I get the Web application, a fine app for iPhone and iPad as well as GMail and Google Calendar Gadgets synced all over the place.

A critical step, however, are my source code repository. I maintain all code I’ve ever written in CVS and Subversion for ages. Without your own server it’s not that easy to grant rights on repositories for friends and colleagues you work with. Here, I decided to move to two different platforms. First of all, I started a new project called aheil code (to keep the corporate identity in sync with aheil blog) at CodePlex. That’s the place I plan to share anything under Ms-PL license. Closed source however, I go to store with Assembla. They provide a limited but cost free program for private repositories which should be sufficient for my needs.

Instead of using my own FTP to exchange files between machines (and people), DropBox appeared to be a great solution. I joined DropBox at a very early beta state and I am still very happy. (If you don’t have an DropBox account yet, follow http://db.tt/kNZcbyI which gives you and me 250MB of extra free space). I use about 4GB of space at the moment for free. However, once you need more there is always the possibility to switch to a paid account. The client is available for almost any platforms and I use it for various scenarios across many of them including Web, Windows, Mac and iOS. Before I used Microsoft Live Mesh, however, canceling the beta, changing the name, running two Microsoft services (Mesh and SkyDrive) at the same time you were not able to combine and finally changing the software drove me finally to DropBox.

I terms of productivity tools, I completely switched to Google Calendar as it syncs nicely with iPhone and iPad and even iCal on my Mac. I used (and really liked) Outlook for many years, but the lack of syncing with third party online services seem to be an epic fail in 2011. I can tell you that you won’t notice this fact within Microsoft (living in a happy Exchange and SharePoint equipped world), but out there in the World Wild Wide Web, connectivity is all that counts.

Also, I joined Evernote to sync, copy and share notes and documents. Again, client software is available for all major platforms including iOS, Windows and Mac. I still try to figure out how to use Evernote on a daily base, but at the moment, the maintenance costs (manual sorting, organizing etc.) are beyond the benefit.

So far, I was not able to cover all services I need, for example I am still looking for a good (and secure) online backup solution, a way to host my IMAP server and Web server as well as a possibility for a local storage solution. At least the last point seems to be almost solved by my new router which allows you use a external HDD as network drive. Using my previous solution, I was able to connect to my local network from anywhere using OpenVPN in a very convenient way. Also here, I am looking for an alternative solution where maybe a router might take care of this.

So far, the experiment to move everything to the “cloud” was quite a success. I was able to migrate quite a lot of my services and only spent 3% of my available budget for services so far.

DropBox with TrueCrypt on Lion and Windows

After receiving my new MacBook, I wanted to sync a whole set of files between both systems. For convenience, I decided to use DropBox instead of a thumb drive and for security reasons, I decided to use TrueCrypt to encrypt some of my confidential data within the DropBox folders.

Using a TrueCrypt container within DropBox is quite convenient as I am syncing my DropBox folders with various machines (e.g. at work). However, I do not want to access these file there nor do I want that an admin might check out my “oooh so secret” files (not saying they would, though).

DroppBox with TrueCrypt on Lion and Windows

With my rusty Mac OS kung-fu, I had to install TrueCrypt first. Of course, this failed and being the first app I did install on Lion, this was somewhat demotivating. Before you have install a version from MACFuse. It seems that the official version is not up to date, however, there are rumors you might use the latest version provided at Tuxera.com.

Once MACFuse and TrueCrypt are set up and the machine is rebooted, create a TrueCrypt container within DropBox. When creating on OS X Lion, you might want choose FAT for the containers file system so you can mount it on the Windows system as well. However, any change within this container will synchronize the container as a whole. Not being very efficient if this is a 256 MB file, it seems that one can turn of the timestamp of the TrueCrypt container to avoid syncing it. This will prevent that the container gets synced after files within the container are changes, however, the itself files are still updated. To turn it of, open TrueCrypt and select Settings / Preferences… chose the Security tab and uncheck the Preserve modifications timestamp of file container checkbox.

TrueCrypt Settings on OS X Lion

Of course, the same has to be done on your Windows system.

TrueCrypt Settings on Windows 7

Once both settings are applied, only the initial sync of the container will take some time. Thereafter, only the files within the container are updated. for me this seems to be a quite good solution to keep my boxes in sync and to avoid rubbernecks seeking through my private stuff. The setup is done quite easily, only the hassle with MACFuse was quite annoying.

Bookmark Backup

Today, TechCrunch reported about Yahoo shutting down the widely used bookmark  service del.icio.us.Right after this, a statement from Yahoo showed a possible alternate future of the service.

Many of you have read the news stories about Delicious that began appearing yesterday. We’re genuinely sorry to have these stories appear with so little context for our loyal users. While we can’t answer each of your questions individually, we wanted to address what we can at this stage and we promise to keep you posted as future plans get finalized.

However, who still wants to quick backup his/her boomarks could use curl following the tips from Martin Koser:

curl --user username:password -o DeliciousBookmarks.xml -O "http://api.del.icio.us/v1/posts/all"

Wo sind meine Signaturen in Outlook 2010 hin

Ein anscheinend weit verbreitetes Problem mit Outlook 2010 scheint eine Fehler mit dem Signatur-Editor Signatures & Stationary zu sein, der es eigentlich ermöglicht Signatur-Dateien für E-Mails zu erstellen und zu verwalten. Der Editor öffnet sich nicht und der Benutzer kann daher keine Signaturen anlegen oder gar auswählen. Speziell für den Geschäftsverkehr sind Signaturen jedoch unerlässlich. Dabei gibt es grundsätzlich zwei Wege an den Dialog zu gelangen.

In einer Nachricht kann über die Schaltfläche Signatures / Signatures… der Editor geöffnet werden.

Signaturen in Outlook 2010 aus Mails bearbeiten

Alternativ kann dies auch über das Backstage von Outlook unter dem Menüpunkt File / Options / Mail / Signatures … geschehen.

Signaturen in Outlook 2010 aus den Einstellungen bearbeiten

Aus unerklärlichen Gründen kann es nun passieren, dass trotz wiederholtem Betätigen der Schaltflächen nichts passiert. Es erscheint kein Dialog, keine Fehlermeldung kein Nichts. Warum? Man weiß es nicht. Muss die Signatur bei jedem Geschäftsbrief von Hand eingefügt werden, steigt der Frustfaktor recht schnell an und Outlook fällt schnell in Ungnade.

Überwiegend lässt sich dieses Phänomen auf Systemen mit einer 64-Bit-Version von Windows 7 und einer 32-Bit-Version von Office 2010 beobachten. Lösen lässt sich das Problem mit wenigen Handgriffen.

Zunächst öffnet man den Registry Editor (regedit.exe) und navigiert zu


hier ersetzt man den Wert für Schlüssel Default den Wert

C:Program Files (x86)Microsoft OfficeOffice14Outlook.exe

ein. Nun wiederholt man das gleiche für


Nach einem Neustart von Outlook sollte dann der Dialog zum Editoren von Signaturen ohne Widersprüche starten und das Wochenende ist gerettet.

Signatures & Stationary Dialog von Outlook 2010

Deutsche Rechtschreibung im Windows Live Writer

Windows Live Writer dürfte auf der Windows Plattform derzeit eines der beliebtesten Blogging-Tools sein. Mit Anbindung an die meisten Blogging-Plattformen und zahlreichen Plug-Ins lässt das Tool kaum wünsche offen. Allerdings ist bisher keine deutsche Rechtschreibprüfung vorhanden. Anstelle dessen konnten unterschiedlichste English-Derivate (es gibt eben Englisch und Englisch) ausgewählt werden. Die Möglichkeit die deutsche Rechtschreibkorrektur zu aktivieren oder eine zusätzliche Sprache hinzuzufügen fehlt bisher gänzlich.

Die Lösung ist recht jedoch einfach. Vorausgesetz auf der betreffenden Maschine ist Office 2010 (32-bit) mit deutscher Rechtschreibkorrektur installiert. Ein Blick in den Ordner

C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office14\PROOF

sollte Gewissheit verschaffen. Hier gilt es die Dateien


in den Ordner

C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Live Writer\Dictionaries

zu kopieren. Nach einem Neustart von Windows Live Writer sollte nun unter Options / Spelling auch der Eintrag German (Reform).

Deutsche Rechtschreibung im Windows Live Write aktivieren