TWEAK: Thumbnail View Showing Icons in Windows 7

New to Windows 7? I would assume the answer to that is "Y-yess?", obviously, as the OS is relatively new. But I would also assume you are used to Windows XP as you got the very issue that brought you here.

Right at the start of using 7, I immediately disliked the OS. Why? I am used to XP's explorer view where photos are seen as thumbnails instead of 7's icons. This immediately made me wish I didn't had the curiosity to buy and install 7 and had stuck to my "working" XP. Don't get me wrong, Windows 7 is amazingly fast and is much more improved -- which I liked -- but the lack of thumbnail view bothered me a lot. With this dilemma facing me, I turned to the internet and asked my friend Google.

The search was not that helpful at all since the results returned aren't of much value.. They either describe the procedure on setting the view to thumbnails or they describe the "XP"-way of things -- not Windows 7. Either that or I used the wrong keywords. But before giving up, I phoned a friend who happens to be a photography enthusiast and is overly excited on his Windows 7 setup. I often wondered why he liked 7 without thumbnails (I can't imagine digital photography without thumbnails), so I asked him.

He outlined this procedure:

Open a Windows Explorer window (hotkey: [WIN]+[E]). You may press the hotkey combination or search through the programs. You should see a similar display as below.

Thumbnail View Showing Icons in Windows 7

As seen from the screenshot, even the thumbnail view shows icons. This is the same experience I described above. Compare it with the thumbnail view screenshot from an XP machine below.

Thumbnail View Showing Icons in Windows 7

There is a whole lot of difference between the pictures!

To continue with the procedure.. Now on the menu bar, open the tools menu and from the drop down select "Folder Options" (Tools --> Folder Options). If you don't see the menu bar pressing [ALT] on the keyboard will make it appear.

Once the dialog window opens, select the "View" tab and untick "Always show icons, never thumbnails". Select "OK" to accept the changes until all diaglog boxes are closed.

Now refresh or press [F5] on the Explorer view of the directory containing pictures. Or if Explorer is not set to thumbnail view (on Windows 7 I use "Large Icons" view), try setting it. You can now see thumbnails of the pictures. You can also select the size of thumbnails which is cool!

You should see the view change to this:

Thumbnail View Showing Icons in Windows 7

I'm not sure if it is just me, but I strongly believe this behavior should not be the out-of-the-box default. It might be one of the reasons why Windows 7 is faster than XP, but I'd sacrifice a bit of performance for this thumbnail function. Hard disks are faster nowadays, and even a faster RAID set-up could compensate for the performance hit.

With this functionality back, I'm starting to like my Windows 7 setup; and, I think you will too.


HOW-TO: Windows Media Player Cannot Access the File

Do you use your PC to play or view videos? After all the PC can be pretty robust when it comes to this functionality as the bundles of available player+codec software make a mutually potent combo to watch just about anything. However, the most common player available is Windows Media Player (or WMP). And it has its share of headaches, one of which is this error:

"Windows Media Player cannot access the file. The file might be in use; you might not have access to the computer where the file is stored, or your proxy settings might not be correct."

(or this screenshot below)

Windows Media Player Cannot Access the File

I got the above while trying to play an AVI file. No software install has been done in over a week, so this troubled me a bit. No recent changes to the system either. (Yeah, I'm one of those who believe in the saying: If it ain't broken, don't fix it.)

I have checked the permissions all the way to the root folder of the drive but it doesn't really help. I googled a bit, but came out empty.

Paranoia took over, so I scanned for viruses -- none. That didn't help either.

Luckily, I plugged in the Zalman 5.1ch headphones and was about to change the speaker settings from normal stereo to 5.1ch when the solution came. Try this:

(if using "Category" view try..)
Start --> Control Panel --> Hardware and Sound --> Sound

(if using "Icon" view try..)
Start --> Control Panel --> Sound

A pop-up will show stating certain enhancements are interfering with the program. Terminate? (Unfortunately, I wasn't able to take a screenshot as I wasn't aware that this WAS the solution to the problem. And, it is as tragic that I cannot duplicate the problem. So for now, the cause is unknown.) Click "Yes" to this pop-up.

I didn't realize this was the solution until I actually clicked on the AVI file again and it played this time. The procedure above brought back functionality of WMP. I hope it does the same for you.


REVIEW: Arctic Sound E352 Earphones

Chances are you have an iPod or an mp3 player, or listen to music on your notebook. At some point in time, you may have taken a look at a speaker, headphone or another device where you can listen to music. The mobile world, however, presents different choices -- headphones -- to couple with mobile audio players.

I was recently sent a set of earphones, specifically the high-end Arctic Sound E352. I am familiar with Arctic Cooling as a company that produces high quality cooling products but not audio products. As the brand name suggests -- Arctic Sound -- they are now into audio as well. I will test this in my Sony Walkman, Nokia N70 Music phone, iPod and Dell D630 notebook.

The product comes in a package that is clear and you can see the attractive wood-stained earphones. Whats the use of having nice attributes if you don't show it off, right?

Arctic Sound E352 Earphones

Arctic Sound E352 Earphones

Arctic Sound E352 Earphones

Having inspected the aesthetics of the earphones, I was anxious to give it a spin.. I plugged it on the Sony Walkman, then the N70, the iPod and the notebook. The experience is quite undescribable, as you would almost forget that you are wearing earphones. The bass is deep and low. And the sound quality is very good. If you think it looks good, it sounds way better!

The 3.5mm jack is gold-plated and such attribute often translates to better quality. It also comes with a zipper lock case that has a spool-like foamy material to keep the earphones tangle-free.

Arctic Sound E352 Earphones

Not only that, the set of earphones also comes with small, medium and large silicone caps designed to enrich the listening experience and block ambient noise. I tried talking to my wife while listening to the music and it made me wish I knew how to lip read. It is indeed very effective at blocking noise.

The earphones are also very comfortable to wear. It would have been better if it is water-resistant, for jogging and workouts, but I'm not sure about this yet. I could verify that with Arctic Cooling and let you know.

Overall, the remarkable listening experience with Arctic Sound E352 changed my perspective about earphones. With the E352 as the model, earphones can sound better and compete with headphones in producing quality audio.

For more information regarding the Arctic Sound E352, check out its product website. Thanks to Arctic Cooling for sending a product sample for review.


INFO: Mafia Wars -- Bangkok

Are you enjoying playing Mafia Wars? Chances are, we share the same compulsion to play. It probably is one of the many online games that people get hooked to nowadays.

As I am one of the many selected to participate, it is interesting to be playing the expansion to the game (sorry folks I already gave out the three extra passports I was given). There are a few sweet glitches already found and, suffice to say, the developers are quick to get them patched. And if you are wondering about the Bangkok release of Mafia Wars, here are a few information supplied by the developers.

Q: What does "beta" mean?
A: Mafia Wars: Bangkok is currently in a beta release. This means that we are releasing it to a limited number of players, and may make needed tuning changes as the beta progresses - this includes changes to item costs, job costs and payouts, and item drop rates. However, we will not reset or remove mastery progress, experience, or items earned during the beta after the beta period ends.

Q: How long will the beta last?
A: The beta will last as long as is necessary for us to be sure that we are releasing a solid, stable, and bug-free expansion to our players. Watch for further updates on this as the beta period progresses.

Q: Why did it cost me more energy to do a job in Bangkok than my friend who is lower level?
A: In our previous expansions, we have required that players be fairly experienced before they travel to the new locations. For this expansion, we want to provide challenging content to our veteran players, while still allowing lower level players to be able to experience the new content. To accomplish this, we've created a dynamic system similar to that used by our Featured Jobs. High level players will find that the jobs have energy costs and experience payouts appropriate to their level, and lower level players will see those same energy costs and experience payouts scaled down to allow them to complete the jobs as well.

Additionally, the scaling only affects players between levels 20 and 200; players above level 200 will all see the same energy costs for jobs, with the appropriate modifiers for their Top Mafia of course.

Q: What is this "diamond mastery" thing I've been hearing about?
A: We've added a 4th level of mastery to the jobs in Bangkok. This will provide additional challenges and rewards to players, including mastery items with the highest attack and defense ratings of any items we've released in Mafia Wars.

Q: What are factions?
A: Bangkok introduces a new faction system, featuring the big guns of Asian criminal enterprise - the Chinese Triads and the Japanese Yakuza. Each time you are presented with a choice to help one side or the other, you will improve your reputation with the faction you help. Take note, though - the opposing side will not be happy with your choice and your reputation with them will drop slightly as well. You will also be able to switch sides by completing jobs for the other faction and attacking members of your current faction.

Q: What is the faction store?
A: The faction store allows you to purchase additional items to improve your mafia's strength. Both the Yakuza and Triads have a variety of goods for sale, with the Yakuza focusing on offensive goods and the Triads offering an array of defensive items. However, the better the item, the better your reputation with the respective faction will need to be before you can purchase it. Each item will include information on what level of reputation you need to purchase it.

Q: Can I only buy faction items from the faction I have the highest reputation with?
A: You can purchase any item from each faction as long as you have the necessary reputation needed to unlock the item. If your reputation with a faction drops below the level required to purchase an item, you will lose the ability to purchase it until you raise your faction back up to the level required to unlock it again.

Q: Can I max out my reputation with both factions in Bangkok?
A: Yes, you will be able to reach the 'Allied' reputation level with both the Triads and Yakuza. During the beta phase, you may want to leave at least one choice point job unmastered in case you want to change factions. We plan to implement a better solution to switching factions after reaching Diamond mastery before the final release.

Q: When will faction fighting be available and how does it work?
A: While we are not planning on releasing the beta with faction fighting in place, we plan to have it ready for launch on, or soon after, the full release to all players. Basically, each player will have an icon that displays the faction they are currently aligned with (the faction they have the highest reputation with). Attacking players from the opposing faction on the Bangkok fight list will improve your standing with your own faction and decrease it slightly with theirs. If you decide you want to switch factions, you can attack members aligned with your current faction. For example, if you aligned yourself with the Yakuza, but decide you'd rather be friends with the Triads, you can attack other Yakuza players on the fightlist. This will lower your reputation with the Yakuza and raise it with the Triads.

Q: Where are my properties? What are these businesses?
A: Unlike New York, Bangkok does not have properties that continue to provide income every hour whether you play or not. Instead, you will purchase businesses which can be upgraded to improve the quality and quantity of goods produced every three hours, as well as space to store them until you come back to collect them. Owning and expanding your businesses is a great way to earn extra Baht in the new city. Additionally, some businesses in Bangkok will produce items you need for jobs, and others will generate boosts to help you in fights.

Q: Why can't I see all the jobs right away?
A: Each episode in Bangkok has a storyline associated with it, and the choices you make as you progress through the episode will affect which jobs you see. Completing an episode will unlock the next one, as well as allowing you to complete it on the next level of difficulty.

Q: I'm level 18; how do I travel to Bangkok?
A: In order to unlock access to Bangkok, you'll need 4 items - the Thai Note, Yakuza Sake, Triad Coin, and Passport. The Note, Sake, and Coin all drop from specific jobs in New York.

Q: How do I get the Passport?
During the initial beta period, we will be giving out passports to ten percent of our active players. Each player who is selected will receive 4 passports – 1 for themselves and 3 to give out to friends. As the beta progresses, we may introduce other ways to enter the beta. We will release additional details on this as they are finalized. After the game goes into final release, any player who has not yet received a passport can obtain one at that point.

Q: I’m already in the beta and got an extra passport from a friend. Can I give it to someone else?
A: Yes!

HOW-TO: Make Windows 7 Boot Faster

Do you feel that your Windows 7 machine boots faster? If that is so, we share the same sentiments. But since our computer system is newer and more robust, we feel that it is due to the upgrade(s) made. And in due time boot time will degrade due to several factors including but not limited to hard drive fragmentation.

However, Windows 7 has built-in mechanisms and algorithms to make boot up faster -- by utilizing the available processors or cores. This is just one of the many ways to make Windows 7 boot faster. I'd say this is the easiest tweak to perform. Here's how..

Open the "Run.." diaglog window. Press [WIN] + [R] simultaneously. Doing so opens the "Run.." dialog window. Then type in "msconfig" (without quotes). You should see a similar window as below (see screenshot).

Make Windows 7 Boot Faster

Go to the "Boot" tab and select "Windows 7.." as seen above. If you do not have a multi-boot system this is selected by default.

Click on "Advanced options..." and another window will open (see below). Tick the check box next to "Number of processors:" then select the number of processors (or cores) that your system has. In my case, I got a Q9550 so I selected 4 (for 4 cores). This part is easy as Windows automagically identifies the maximum number of processors your system has. Just select the maximum number from the drop down list.

Make Windows 7 Boot Faster

Accept all changes.. Reboot if you wish so you can check the performance improvement.


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