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Best Screenshot Software Hands-Down Primary tabs

If you find yourself sending a lot of screenshots to clients or colleagues, I can't recommend enough the program "Greenshot".  It's free and open source, and allows you to very quickly and easily capture just regions of your screen, certain windows, etc.

Note: this article was originally published on peacocksoftware.com.  

You can then either save your screenshot directly, or edit it in a basic image editor which lets you draw arrows, rectangles, and even blur regions-- very handy if you are sending sensitive information.

The Benefits of Virtual Servers Over Physical Servers

Note: this post was also published on peacocksoftware.com.

If you are considering a new startup or have an existing business with a physical server somewhere on-site (in a closet or something similar), you should consider the benefits of using a virtual server instead.

Full disclosure: I have used the virtual server company linode.com before, though I am not being paid by them and receive no benefit from my endorsement.

Let me break it down simply, by price:

At the time of this writing, a basic capable Linode virtual server costs $20/month.  Through my own benchmarking tests, I've found its processor speed to be comparable with a modern medium-priced physical server.

Keep a Computer In Your Desk Cabinet Without It Overheating

This is a bit of a DIY project.  I'm going to show you how to keep a computer in a desk or cabinet, but we're going to install an external fan in the cabinet to keep the computer from overheating.  (And we can do it for $15 - $25, depending on your setup).

If you've ever tried to keep a computer (or PS3, PS4, Xbox, etc) in a cabinet or other enclosed space, you know they can get pretty hot.  And that can eventually kill your computer.

First things first:  Download a program call SpeedFan.  This program reads temperature sensors on your computer and tells you what they are.  It's the only way we're going to be able to tell if your computer is getting too hot.

Easily Scan to PDF

In the business world, we frequently have a need to create PDF documents which can then be emailed around (for example, contracts and proposals).  The alternative would be to use an old-fashioned fax machine; something most average users do not want to keep up with.  However, many scanning programs do not make it easy to save a multi-page PDF document, instead forcing you to deal with several JPG files or something similar.

I would like to introduce to you my favorite method of scanning to PDF:  "NAPS", which stands for "Not Another PDF Scanner."  It's free, simple, and works with every scanner I've found.  Once you scan your pages, you can easily reorder them if you like, and then save the collection of pages to PDF (or directly email if your workstation is set up with an email client).

Make Spotify Start Playing Over Bluetooth When You Get In Your Car (or any other BT device connects)

I know I'm a little late to the party, but I just recently got a Bluetooth-enabled radio installed in my older car.  I've never had such before, and I LOVE it.  You can get them at Best Buy, and have them installed there for around $70 if you don't want to do it yourself.

I also love Spotify.  The "pro" plan is cheap, especially if you do a family plan which they recently started offering.

Here's my problem:  When my car connects to my Android phone, it starts to play the default Android mp3 player-- and nothing I could do (at the time of this writing) could change that.  I found helpful apps online which would *start* Spotify when the car connected, but nothing that would make it start *playing*.  I still had to do that manually on my phone.

But then I found a solution (for Android anyway)...

The True Price of Using LED Lights

LED light bulbs have recently become much cheaper and more reliable, but what is the real price of ownership?  How long do you have to use them before you "break even" compared to traditional lights?  Below, I do the math so you don't have to!

Some caveats:  I am using 60 watts (eqv) as the base measurement, and prices from Walmart.  At the time of this writing, a reliable LED bulb can be bought for $8, a compact florescent for $3.85, and a standard incandescent for about $1.50.

I am using a rate for electricity costs of 11 cents per kilowatt hour.  Your mileage may vary!

Replacement price:  Factored into these values is the assumption that you will have to pay for bulb replacements as well!  An incandescent bulb only lasts for 1,000 hours.  A CFL bulb for about 10,000.  And the LED bulb in question for 30,000 hours.

At 8 - 10 hours of use per day, 10,000 hours represents around 3 years of real-world use.

Let the data begin!

Hrs of use 60W Incandescent 13W CFL 11W LED
1 $1.51 $3.85 $8.00
100 $2.16 $3.99 $8.12
1,000 $9.60 $5.28 $9.21
2,000 $19.20 $10,56 $18.42
3,000 $28.80 $15.84 $27.63
4,000 $38.40 $21.12 $36.84
5,000 $48.00 $26.40 $46.05

So far, you will notice that the clear winner is the 13W compact florescent bulb (it's the "curly-Q" kind.  Notice, too, the false economy of using the cheaper incandescent bulbs.  Their low price is quickly outpaced by their electricity consumption and frequent replacements.

But, where things start to get interesting is once we start measuring hours by the 10-thousand.  This is because CFL's are only rated for 10,000 hours, and now we must replace them every 10,000 hours!

Hrs of use 60W Incandescent 13W CFL 11W LED
10,000 $96.00 $56.65 $55.26
20,000 $192.00 $121.30 $110.52
30,000 $288 $169.95 $173.78*
40,000 $384 $226.60 $229.04
50,000 $480 $283.25 $284.30

* The jump in price for LED at 30,000 is because we must buy another $8.00 bulb, as it is only rated for 30,000 hours.

Conclusion

After 10,000 hours, the cost of electricity & bulb cost is very close for the CFL and LED bulb, differing by only a few dollars.  Personally, I would stick with the LED bulb.  The extra couple dollars in price (every 30,000 hours, or 9 years) is offset by saving me time not having to change any bulbs!

Also, LED bulbs run cooler, contain no mercury, and generally don't shatter because they are encased in plastic instead of glass (usually).

Also, something to keep in mind:  These prices are based on the time of this writing (2014).  LED prices will continue to drop and drop, and their wattage may lower as well, to become even more competitive.

 

Every Drupal Site Should Be Using Boost

Every Drupal site-- whether 6, 7, or (in the future) 8, should be using the Boost module rather than the default caching system.  If you've never heard of the Boost module, then you're in luck-- that's what the rest of this blog post is about!

 

Drupal - Slow and a Memory Hog!

When a visitor comes to your drupal site, several things have to take place.  Your web server (probably Apache) realizes it's a request for Drupal.  It then hands off execution to PHP.

PHP (through Drupal's bootstrap) must then include() and execute dozens or even hundreds of .module, .inc, and .php files from the various modules you have installed.

Those modules might make dozens or hundreds of calls to your database, gathering all the data needed to display the page to the user.

Finally, the HTML is created and handed down to the user's browser for display to the user.

As you can see, this is a slow and memory-intensive process!  If your site is even remotely popular, it can slow down your server or even cause you to run out of memory on the server.  Never a good thing.

PastePage - Instantly create a web page, no login required

Have you ever wanted to just put something out there on the web, but you didn't want to go through the trouble of setting up a Blogger account, or similar service?

If so, you should check out my new project: PastePage.  Inspired by pastebin.com (an excellent developer resource), PastePage lets you instantly create a web page with no registration or login required.

Just go to pastepage.net, make your basic page, and hit Save.  It will create a new page with a short, random URL, for easy posting to Facebook, twitter, emails, etc.

If you do decide to register, you can edit your old posts (even ones you've saved while not logged in, thanks to a cookie system).

Check it out!

Backblaze - Online Backups on the Cheap

My online backup system of choice, Backblaze, has saved my caboose a few times, so I thought it was time I pay it forward and tell others about this really cool service.

Full disclosure: I am not being paid by Backblaze, and I am receiving no commission for linking to them.

You've probably heard about other online backup services, like Carbonite.  If you haven't, here's the quick version:  files and directories you specify on your computer get backed up, through the Internet, to a remote server while your computer isn't being used.

They are only backed up when they change, so, for example, if you are a programmer, only the files you have altered will get re-sent to the cloud, minimizing the amount of network traffic going out each day.

It's essential that if you need important backups, they be offsite.  That way a fire, flood, lightening strike, theft, etc, won't cripple you; you can always log in and retrieve your data through the web.

Anyway, like Carbonite, Backblaze is $5/month.  Unlike Carbonite, though, it will back up any file by default, just about any size, and I personally just find it easier to use.  $5 a month is the cheapest insurance you can buy for your data.

Another great feature is you can restore files up to a month old.  I had to use this today:  I accidentally did something that ruined a git repository for a project I am working on.  Rather than try to piece it back together again, I logged into Backblaze and downloaded a snapshop of the entire directory as of 11pm last night.  Within minutes I was downloading a zip file of that directory.  So nice.

In case you were wondering Backblaze (and probably Carbonite as well) give you unlimited storage and bandwidth, so feel free to tell it to back up your 2TB hard drive, though realistically I only back up certain directories on my computer.  No need to back up C:\Windows or Program Files.

I also back up my websites by having my site's files and db downloaded every night to my hard drive, which Backblaze then backs up automatically.

So check it out!

 

Dropbox and Eclipse IDE

Even though I have already written about the usefulness of Dropbox for programmers, I'd like to share another tip specifically for the Eclipse IDE, and any IDE based on Eclipse.

You may not have realized it, but Eclipse (and derivatives-- Aptana, Titanium, etc) can be run as a "portable" application.  Meaning, you can just copy the entire Eclipse directory to another computer or, say, a USB drive, and it will run exactly the same, with all of your settings in tact.

This means it is a perfect friend for Dropbox.  I place my Eclipse IDEs in folders under Dropbox, and make sure my Workspace is pointed to a folder within Dropbox, and presto-- my projects, settings, etc, are on all of my computers and ready to go.

And any changes I made to my source code, preferences, layout, etc, are automatically spread to my other computers.

Now, this does require that your Dropbox folder is at the same path location on all of your computers.  But, luckily, Dropbox lets us specify exactly what path to use.  So, for example, you could just make sure that your Dropbox folder is always at C:\dropbox.

 

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