software

Greasy monkeys

Another wonder-feature Firefox web browser extension is Greasemonkey. This addon gives unprecedented power to web surfers, and could be the bane of their life to website authors.

The deal is this: when you go to read a web page, the Internet doesn't magically transmit a photo-esque lights and sound image to your computer for display. Rather it sends a bunch of boring code, mostly revolving around HTML. The web browser program on your computer reads this code and builds up the visual representation of the page to display to lucky you - the end user. So what? Well, there is nothing to stop you altering the code before it is displayed - which is exactly what this Greasemonkey does.

How to enhance your trial-and-error webdev experience

An exCSSively useful menuAn exCSSively useful menuIn recent times, the Poorhouse has gained a new favourite extension for Firefox. The Web Developer extension, which works on Firefox, Flock, Mozilla and Seamonkey web browsers contains far-too-numerous to list that aid the creation of one's own pages, and dare it be suggested the deconstruction of other people's pages - all in the name of research naturally.

A few favourite features include the ability to immediately disable various features of pages such as redirects, Javascript etc., validate any code under various standards, manipulate forms and images, resize the browser window to standard screen-size resolutions and a whole host of information gathering / layout visualising options.

Double audacity


Not normally one to break into the furore of cutting-edge multimedia development, the Poorhouse recently was "playing with sound", as one does, and found a cool free GPL program which was plenty powerful enough for at least amateur messing, and most likely the more pro podcasts too. This program was Audacity, available via Windows, OS X and Linux-type systems.

Amongst its many varied features, it can record from pretty much any sort of input, create, splice, combine etc. multitrack recordings, apply effects (such as adjust-pitch-without-tempo, remove static hiss, echo), works with numerous file formats and accepts plug-ins to enhance its feature set further. Thoroughly recommended, although of course editing sound live does require a half-decent computer if you don't want to go make a cup of tea between each button press.

Mission (im)possible: Calculating the difference between two dates in Microsoft Excel

It came upon the midnight clear
That glorious song of old
I want to calculate the difference between 2 dates in Excel
Or be left out in the cold.

Yes, the Poorhouse was confronted with the above situation; namely that given a date1 and a date2 in Microsoft Excel we needed to know the difference. Not the difference in terms of random Excel microseconds since 2nd August 1957 type numbers, but an actual, readable "3 years 2 months" type difference.

Perhaps this doesn’t seem like quite the craziest of plans; surely people are forever wanting to calculate someone's age, length of service and so on? But as far as Mr Excel is concerned it is a task as arcane and bewildering as the search for the Holy Grail.

Frozen FTP - be less active

In recent times, the Poorhouse has experienced trouble with FTP transfers that appear to freeze, not even letting you see what is on the remote server. In its usual graceful form, slightly old versions of Windows we had the pleasure of using just froze when trying to use Internet Explorer or the command line "ftp" to access a certain ftp site for a swift transfer. Of course, not a useful error message in sight. The problem wasn't even solved by using a proper FTP program per se goddamnit.

When docmd.transferspreadsheet commands go wrong...

Slightly lazy VBA programmers might enjoy using the less-than-cryptically-named docmd.transferspreadsheet command when trying to automatically move information from an Access database to a spreadsheet or vice versa. It allows you to work with spreadsheet ranges and so on with minimum faffing. It also doesn't work so great and can lead to "unexpected results" when importing from a spreadsheet.

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