Game Shortcut Manager Released

Game Shortcut Manager Icon

Game Shortcut Manager is a FREE and Open Source Windows application to allow you to place URL links on your Start Menu and Task Bar, as Windows 10 currently does not allow you to pin them to these locations.

Currently there is no way of adding these links to the Start Menu and Taskbar, while still launching via the correct platform. This means that Overlays, tracking of Play Time, and other information is not available to the game’s platform. Launching the game or application via the EXE file will not do this. This is where Game Shortcut Manager comes in.

This tool is designed to to let you put standard URLs, Steam, Epic, UPlay, and Twitch URLs on the Windows Start Menu, and Task Bar.

Basically, you can add a link to any standard URL, Game or App to the Start Menu and Taskbar, while still using the correct platform to launch the URL / Game / Application.

For more information and to download the latest version, visit the Game Shortcut Manager Page

Solution/Fix: Problem with Windows 10 Volume too Quiet at 100%

If you are having trouble with Windows 10 volume too quiet at 100%, then this simple fix might be the solution you are looking for.

TL;DR: Turn OFF Virtual Surround in the Sound Control Panel Enhancements

  1. Right Click on the speaker in the System Tray (bottom right near the time)
  2. Choose Sound Settings
  3. Expand the width of this window until you can see the Sound Control Panel link on the right
  4. Click on the Sound Control Panel link
  5. Select the Speakers, or whatever sound device you are having trouble with
  6. Click the Properties button
  7. Click on the Enhancements tab
  8. **Turn OFF Virtual Surround**, as per the picture below
  9. You can change or leave the other settings as you prefer.
  10. Press OK and you are done!

You should no longer have problems with Windows 10 volume too quiet at 100%!

Speaker Properties Window

The Best way to Name Photo Files, and Why

So, like most people, you have a heap of photos stored in a folder somewhere on your device / computer. You have finally decided to organise them into some sort of structure, because you are tired of searching through them all each time you want to find a particular photo. You may have even named a few with the people in them, or where it was taken, or when, but the idea of doing this to all of your photos is very daunting.

[screenshot of a folder full of photos coming soon]

Summary

TLDR; Too Long, Didn’t Read

Name your files this way for personal pictures:
YYYY-MM-DD_HH.MM.SS_Location/Event_Subjects

Name your files this way for professional use:
Customer_Job_ YYYY-MM-DD_HH.MM.SS_Subjects

Name your files this way for corporate use:
Department_Purpose_ YYYY-MM-DD_HH.MM.SS_Subjects

Work out How You Want to Access Your Photos

Are you an amateur photographer, like most of us, who has a lot of photos of family, children, friends, pets, and holidays etc? Are you taking photos for business use, and need to organise these photos differently? Whatever your purpose and reason, think about how you would like to be able to find those photos.

e.g. For personal photos you may want to look at them by the date they were taken, as you know roughly when your last holiday was. For business or professional photography, you may need to look up photos for your clients, regardless of when the photos were taken.

Generally, regardless of how you choose to organise your files for a given purpose, you should follow this rule of thumb: Start with the most general information, and get more specific. Think of each of these pieces of information in the file name as a group – a way of keeping similar photos together.

e.g. You have a photo of your puppy on her first trip to the beach while on holidays in North Queensland. The most general piece of information would be the date and time – the year, month, day, then hour and minute the photo was taken. Then, because you may have visited a few locations that day, you may want to use the name of the beach or the town where the beach is located. Finally, you probably took photos of a few people, places, and scenes while you were there, so you would want to know what or who was in each photo.

Look at the File Names of the Photos

Chances are, your files are already named with the date and time they were taken. Most digital cameras and smart phones name photos with this information. In my photo folders, I have some fairly awkwardly named photos called things along the line of IMG_20190117_223222.jpg, 20181110_221229.jpg, 01112009007.jpg, and even DSCF0651.JPG.

If you look closer at the first 3 file names above, you may notice that they contain the date and time information of when the photo is taken. The first two show the date and then the time, separated with an underscore. The date and time are backwards to us westerners, using the format of YYYYMMDD_HHMMSS. YYYY = 4 digit year; MM = the 2 digit month number, DD = the 2 digit day; HH = 2 digit hour; MM = 2 digit minute; and finally SS = the 2 digit second.

The third file name is a bit more tricky to decipher at first glance, but is in the format of HHMMYYYYMMDD.

The last one is pretty useless, and doesn’t have any information except to say its an image and its image number 651.

A Note on “Leading Zeros”

You might notice in the examples above, I mention 2 digit values, and in the last file name example, the file is called DSCF0651.jpg and the number part is technically 0651. This leading zero is important because it helps keep all of the images taken in chronological order.

Imagine you have a group of files taken on a holiday for New Years day in 2018. They will be auto named something along the lines of 2018-01-01_091545.jpg. Those leading zeros are important, because if you had a bunch of photos without this zero, then things will look very confusing.

I.e. Imaging a set of files without leading zeros on the Month:
2018-1-01_091545.jpg, 2018-11-01_091545.jpg, 2018-2-21_091545.jpg, 2018-10-01_091545.jpg, 2018-3-01_091545.jpg

They would be sorted like this:
2018-1-01_091545.jpg
2018-10-01_091545.jpg
2018-11-01_091545.jpg
2018-2-21_091545.jpg
2018-3-01_091545.jpg

When they should be sorted like this:
2018-01-01_091545.jpg
2018-02-21_091545.jpg
2018-03-01_091545.jpg
2018-10-01_091545.jpg
2018-11-01_091545.jpg

Don’t Forget Folders

Now you have an idea on how to name your photo files, you can think about what folder structure you want to put them in. Rather than just relying on file sorting to group related images, you can of course put them in a folder of their own. BUT, you do not want to create a bunch of folders without also thinking about how they will be labelled and sorted. They follow the same rules as file names.

Folders will not only help you sort your photos, but is better on your operating system, as having tens of thousands of photos in a single folder can become slow and unwieldy to manage.

Its usually practical to create a series of folders, again considering how you want to find them. One of the simplest ways is to create a folder for each year, and inside that folder, a dated folder for particular events or trips such as birthdays or holidays. The bulk of the photos for that year will sit in the main Year folder, and the ones taken for particular purposes can be placed in the sub directories.

[Screenshot of organised folders and photos coming soon]

How to Rename All of these Photos

Your operating system (Windows, Linux, Mac, Android, iOS etc) has basic renaming functions that can be done on a file by file basis. Some have functions where you can select a group of files, and rename one file, and it will follow that naming for the other selected files, with a number appended to the end of the file name.

While this might be fine for small groups of files, it can be a very lengthy process to manually rename and sort out your whole collection of photos.

There are a number of free tools available to rename bulk files, including the recently released Windows 10 Power Toys PowerRename.

I have created a FREE and Open Source quick renaming tool for folders of photos called Fast Photo Renamer. It will rename photos based on the template rules you set, individually, or in bulk. All renaming actions can be set to be logged so they can be undone at any time. You can also read and edit the photo Exif / metadata to further improve descriptiveness of the file names with the location they were taken, device used, etc.

Use Fast Photo Renamer – Free, Open Source, powerful, and easy to use.

Light Adjusting Wallpaper Changer (LAWC) 0.9.9.0 Released

Light Adjusting Wallpaper Changer (LAWC) [FREE]: Is an advanced and feature rich Windows wallpaper manager that will adjust the images based on the time of day, so they can darken and lighten automatically. The aim is to not only give you much more control over your wallpaper display, but to also minimise glare and blue light at night, and to brighten and increase blue light during the day.

A number of bigger issues with the application have been resolved, and a lot of smaller ones cleaned up too. The source code is also now available on Github.

This release *should* be close to the final 1.0 version, except for bug fixing of course.

Read more, and download it here

Light Adjusting Wallpaper Changer Icon

Detect Network Changes Released

The Release Candiate of the Detect Network Changes application is now available.

Tired of not knowing when your network goes down? Online gaming being interrupted by outages? Use the Detect Network Changes application to get alerted when the state of a network changes in Windows, rather than having to check the network icon.
You simply select the network you want to monitor, and if it disconnects or connects, changes IP Address, network ID, adapter ID, connection ID, Adapter name, or Network name, then you will be notified via a sound, notification and/or a popup.

This software is FREE and Open Source

Feel free to give Detect Network Changes a go! Let me know what you think, and if you find any problems.

Detect Network Changes Application Icon

Great Free Software – Windows Apps For All New PCs

oh-yes-its-freeIf you want to find great free software that is well supported, annoyance free, and works well, then start here.

Any person setting up or cleaning up a Windows PC should take a look at the list below.

  1. Ninite: This site / tool is great!  You just tick off all the great free software you want to install, then download the installation tool.  This little program will download and install all of the software you ticked off, skipping unwanted toolbars, ads, and other annoying stuff.  It will also automatically skip things that you have already installed. The programs in Ninite that I reccommend are:
    1. Firefox Browser
    2. Sumatra PDF – PDF Reader
    3. LibreOffice – for editing / viewing word processing, spreadsheets, presentations etc (Similar to MS Office)
    4. CDBurnerXP – for burning CDs / DVDs
    5. TeraCopy – Great copy tool
    6. Glary – Windows cleanup tool
    7. MalawareBytes – a different sort of malware detection / scanning software.  I usually check things with both an anti-virus program and MalawareBytes
    8. Music Bee – Excellent music manager and player
    9. VLC – video / audio player that doesn’t require any Codecs to be installed
    10. Audacity – if you want a good sound file editor (MP3, Wav, etc)
    11. Handbrake – Converts videos to many formants
    12. WinRAR – great for creating / opening compressed files of many types
    13. Avast – Decent anti-virus software thats not too annoying.  Just remember to turn off the sounds!
    14. Windows Defender / Essentials – antivirus that works well, very unintrusive. Built in to Windows 10
    15. qBittorrent – do you have to ask…. ?
    16. Steam – Great platform for browsing / buying games.  Lots of free games on there too.
    17. DropBox – my preferred web storage too.  Integrates very well into Windows 7 / 8 / 10
    18. Inkscape – Handy vector drawing program, similar to CorelDraw, Adobe Illustrator, etc.
    19. Krita – Great image editing and artwork drawing application
    20. Blender – Top 3D creation tool
  2. HTC Home:  This is a stylish weather / clock for your Windows desktop
  3. LastPass: Excellent password manager. Can take some time to set up and understand how it works, but it is worth it. Once you have put your passwords into LastPass, you can then clean them up to improve your digital security
  4. Light Adjusting Wallpaper Changer: Manage all of your wallpaper images more effectively, with many features that improve on standard wallpaper changers
  5. Rest Relax Reminder: An advanced alarm reminder program that will encourage you to take regular breaks
  6. Moonlight Game Streaming: Stream your games across your network. Very fast and lightweight. Needs an nVidia video card, and works best on a 5G wifi network.
  7. Playnite: Excellent game library manager that combines your game libraries from all of the main game services, into one organisable library. Steam, Battle.Net, GoG, Origin, uPlay, Twitch, Epic, Bethesda, and itch.io are all supported.
  8. emClient: Very handy and lightweight email application that has features comparable to the top applications (eg. Outlook, Thunderbird, etc)

Pro Tip: Re-run the Ninite installer you downloaded, and it will update all of the listed applications with their newest version (skipping ones that are current).

If you have any suggestions on any other great free software to add to the list, please let me know in the comments below.

Change the LastPass Main Password

Your LastPass Main Password (Master Password) is THE most important password to know if you use LastPass. This is the first key to getting access to all of your passwords within LastPass. Here are a few tips on passwords, and how to change the LastPass main password.

Choosing a Master Password

It is always good to know what best practice guidelines you should follow when creating and using passwords.

One thing to think about when choosing a new master password, is to consider using a passphrase. A passphrase is basically 3 (or more) unrelated words, joined together in a way you can easily remember them.

Use 2FA – 2 Factor Authentication

Two Factor Authentication is used as an extra layer of security. One example is that if someone managed to obtain your password for something and you did not have 2FA enabled, they would have access to your account immediately. If you did have 2FA enabled, then they would need to confirm an additional security check, like entering a code from your phone (via SMS or an Authenticator Application). The person with your password would not be able to gain access unless they had access to the 2FA process (eg. your smart phone).

Pro Tip: Always use Two Factor Authentication whenever a website / business provides it.

How To Change the Main Password (Master Password) in LastPass

The process to change the LastPass main Password is fairly easy and straightforward. The process I outline below uses the LastPass extension for Firefox, Chrome, Edge, Opera, etc.

  1. Once you have the extension installed into your browser of choice, and have logged in to LastPass, you should have a red icon available
  2. Click on this icon, and choose “Open My Vault”
  3. On the bottom right of this web page, choose “Account Settings”
  4. The screen that appears has a “Change Master Password” button. Pressing it will open a webpage
  5. Enter your current password
  6. Enter your new password / passphrase, then confirm it by entering it again in the “Re-Enter …” box
  7. Press the “Save Master Password” button
  8. If you already have 2FA enabled, you will need to approve the change.

Read my detailed guide on cleaning up LastPass Passwords

Rest Relax Reminder Released

The Release Candiate of the Rest Relax Reminder application is now available.

You can use this Windows application to time breaks from the computer screen. It will detect when you are working, and will adjust itsself accordingly, so you are not being annoyed by breaks when you dont need one. There are many more features you can check out on Rest Relax Reminder’s main page.

Feel free to give it a go! Let me know what you think, and if you find any problems.

Rest Relax Reminder Icon

Fix Configuration system failed to initialize Errors

If, like me, you have tried the most popular fixes for the error “Configuration system failed to initialize” when you run certain application(s), and the problem is still persisting, then my rather drastic fix might help you too.

Warning: Back up your system before attempting any of these sorts of fixes. And try them at your own risk. I have not tested this fix on other systems.

Here is what I did that fixed the error:
1. Open File Explorer as Administrator
2. Navigate to This PC – your system drive (usually C:) – Windows
Microsoft.NET folder
3. Rename the Framework folder to something else, eg. FrameworkOLD
4. Rename the Framework64 folder to something else, eg. Framework64OLD
Note: You might get some warnings and messages about some apps are still running and using the framework. Stop as many as you can find. Worst case, restart in safe mode to do steps 3 and 4.
5. Start a command prompt as administrator
6. Run the command sfc /scannow
7. When that is finished, open the Control Panel / Settings window
8. Search for Update
9. Choose Check for Updates, and press the button Check for Updates
10. When the Update has finished, reboot the PC.
11. Test the app out, and hopefully the problem is resolved!

Advanced Fixes

If you still get “Configuration system failed to initialize” errors, then have a look in the C:\Users\(USERNAME)\AppData\Local\(COMPANY NAME) folder. Eg, for applications made by Strangetimez which are used by Fred, you would look in the C:\Users\Fred\AppData\Local\Strangetimez folder.
It gets trickier in here, as there could be a few issues. There may be multiple folders for the same application. Within these folders, you may see folders for version numbers (eg. a folder called 1.0.8.123, 1.0.8.129, and 1.1.0.1). Each of these will contain configuration information for that version of the application.
Try checking out the user.config files in the latest version (1.1.0.1 in the example above) of each of these folders. Check that these files do not have errors in them by opening them with Notepad. If there are funny characters in there (non text), then there might be a problem. If the text does not end with something like the following, then that could be another problem:

        </YourAppName.Properties.Settings>
    </userSettings>
</configuration>

You could try editing / fixing the file yourself (difficult if you dont get it right). Another option is to look in the folder of a previous version, and see if there is another user.config file there. As long as the configuration data has not changed between those versions, you can replace the faulty file with the complete / formatted one.

I hope that helps! Please let me know in the comments if you have a fix yourself, or if one of these worked for you.

Wallpaper Modes/Fitting Explained (with Examples!)

Trying to figure out the difference between the choices that Windows (and other OSs) gives you for wallpaper modes, can be very confusing. Even nicely summarised explanations like this and this, can still be confusing without some illustrations to show how wallpapers with different aspect ratios affect these different modes.

So, here are example pictures of each of the modes, with different sized and shaped wallpapers. This is particularly handy to know if you are using LAWC (Wallpaper Changer), and want to change how your wallpapers are displayed.

Wallpaper Modes Explained

Original Images
Centre
Fill Width
Fit / Fill Height
Stretch
Tile
LAWC**
1280x720
720x1280
481x481
3840x2160
2160x3840
Wide Screen Test Pattern3840x1080
Here are example pictures of each of the modes, with different sized and shaped wallpapers. This is particularly handy to know if you are using Windows Wallpapers and LAWC (Wallpaper Changer), and want to change how your wallpapers are displayed.

* The source images are 1280x720 (720p), 481x481, and 3840x2160 (4k). The desktop resolution is 1920x1080 (1080p).
** LAWC mode is only relevant to the LAWC Wallpaper Changer application. Not available in standard installations of Windows, iOS, Linux, etc. LAWC mode will also adapt based on the size and aspect ratio of the image.

Try LAWC – a FREE wallpaper changing application for Windows, that makes the most of these modes.