By aaron.axvig, 6 March, 2009

A week ago I bought some new lead (graphite) for my mechanical pencil.  Looking at the rack of refills, I realized my choice would not be simple.  There are different hardness ratings, in addition to the sizes.  I use 0.5mm.  Summoning memories from my 8th-grade art class, I selected 4H as it was one of the harder options.

This selection of mechanical pencil refills has completely revolutionized my note-taking and homework-completing lives.

  • This lead writes much crisper lines.
  • I have yet to snap the end of the lead off (used to happen frequently).
  • I’m still using the first lead.  It probably lasts twice as long as regular lead
    • I have to click the end of my pencil less.
  • It does not leave dust on the paper, which used to cause smudges.
  • I don’t need to rotate my pencil as much because the edge stays sharp longer.
  • Erasing marks made with this lead leaves virtually no traces of the marks and consumes less of the eraser.

The message is clear: I love this 4H lead so much that next time I buy a mechanical pencil I will throw away the *** lead that comes with it and buy some sweet 4H lead refills.

By aaron.axvig, 28 December, 2008

2019-10-26 - Using TT-RSS on my server now.


I used to use Outlook for my RSS feed reading, and before that IE7.  Outlook was definitely a step up from IE7 as I could group feeds into folders (Microsoft, Tech News, Other, etc.) and then just read all the articles in that folder one-by-one.  However, it was annoying to have to change the location it saved the feed every time that I added a new feed; it would otherwise create a separate folder for every feed.

I re-did my Outlook setup a couple weeks ago due to losing Exchange connectivity, and figured out an easier way to set that up.  I just let each feed create its own folder, and then set up a rule to move all RSS articles into a new "RSS" folder outside of the "RSS Feeds" folder that Outlook uses by default.

However, I just re-installed Windows Vista and found myself setting up Outlook again, but this time the Rules menu is not there.  I think this is because I have no mail account setup.  I can't get Outlook Anywhere to connect through 95% of the NAT routers that I connect from behind, including the one here at home.  Outlook won't connect over Hamachi, and I didn't want to fiddle around with OpenVPN for the seemingly endless hours which that will eat up.  So no Exchange setup in Outlook for now (believe me, I want to get this working so badly but can't figure out anything simple to do it).

Since I couldn't get my rules setup, I figured it might be time to explore a new feed reader.  I have been playing with Drupal quite a bit at work lately and saw that it has a feed aggregator, but that did not meet my needs as it was simply a feed aggregator.  By that I mean there was no way to mark feeds as read or delete them; it just took multiple RSS feeds and combined them into one.

After a few minutes of surfing the RSS feed reader list on Wikipedia, I kind of randomly decided to check out RSS Bandit.  I went and checked out the RSS Bandit site and saw two things that immediately drew me in: it was written in .NET and it supported syncing to Google Reader.

So a quick download and install and it's up and running, and we get to the meat of what this article was really supposed to be: my initial thoughts on RSS Bandit.

The initial folder structure on the left is fairly straightforward.  I promptly deleted all of the existing categories which was tedious.  I added a Microsoft category and started adding feeds.  The wizard for that is 5 or 6 screens long, which gets pretty annoying, but there are a lot of features that it packs in there so I can handle cruising through it with some quick mouse clicks.

Reading feeds is quite similar to Outlook: viewing a category (basically equivalent to an Outlook folder) will show all the articles in a message list/reading pane format.  Read them and they are marked as read, and I also delete them.  An annoyance is that when I need to scroll down in the reading pane the message loses focus so it needs to be re-selected before hitting delete.  There are also some special folders (Special Feeds) setup for things like all unread items which come in handy.

The Google Reader syncing left me disappointed though.  I had been really excited to have the ability to read feeds when online or offline, from both of my computers, and still have everything synced.  I tried to set it up, but it created a whole new list of feeds and I didn't see any easy way to transfer over the feeds and categories that I had already setup on my local computer.  The blame for not getting this working probably lies with me for not putting enough time into figuring it out.

But I quickly found that there is the option to store feed data on a network share.  This would be almost ideal for me, as it is rare that I don't have my tablet PC with me and want to read some feeds, and I could sync my desktop with the share which I would have on my tablet.  I have turned this on, but it has yet to put any data into the folder so I'm not sure what's going on.

A couple last sweet things:

  • For some feeds it will show the comments as sub-members of articles.  Pretty neat.
  • There is a built-in web browser.  No longer does clicking a link in an article open a separate browser window, it just opens a new tab in RSS Bandit.  I have mine set to open in the background so I can keep burning through the feeds and then go back and read the web site later.  When I used Outlook, it would open IE7 and then I would have to Alt+Tab back to Outlook to keep reading.
  • The program stores its data in AppData in the user's profile folder.  As a tech support person that has spent a lot of time getting application to work for users which do not have administrative rights to a computer, it is nice to see a program observing best practices and storing data in the proper place.  Stuffing things in Program Files is not cool.
By aaron.axvig, 17 September, 2007

Every once in a while you find a tool that is just great at doing what it does.  It takes very little system resources, might not even require an install, and works as fast as you can reasonable expect the task to be done.  I found one such tool for removing duplicate photos.

Duplicate File Finder is the latest find of mine to go in this category.  It doesn't require and install, is free, and quickly scanned several thousand photos, and then showed me the path names of each set of duplicate photos, allowing me to choose which ones to delete.  It was a bit tedious to do the selecting, but I think manually doing that is the only acceptable way given the dire consequences of accidentally deleting the wrong photo.