Windows Product Key Lookup Tool 1.1 Released

Product Key ToolAn update to our Windows 10 Product Key Utility has been issued that addresses a number of minor issues. Since its initial release in December 2014, the BIOS-Embedded Product Key lookup tool has been downloaded and used over two hundred thousand times, and has quickly become the go-to tool for retrieving product keys embedded in the BIOS or system firmware.

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An ode to FeedDemon.. and desktop software that never dies

feeddemon_logo1I first discovered FeedDemon in the summer of 2004, probably via a promo or plugin in author Nick Bradbury’s other application, HomeSite, while “learning” HTML after ditching FrontPage. Today, almost 12 years later to the day, I googled for “best RSS reader for Windows” while trying to write an RSS-based interface for an RRTP integration for Nest and FeedDemon was still the first result.

FeedDemon “died” in March 2013, after Google killed off its own web-based RSS reader. While RSS isn’t quite dead yet, it’s not exactly as cool as it used to be and the RSS client scene hasn’t seen much activity in that time. (Another standout from the same era is RSSOwl, also still available.)

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A utility for fast, free, and simple Windows 10 uninstallation

Windows 10 Rollback UtilityHave you suddenly found yourself with an unwanted, un-needed, or unasked for copy of Windows 10? Friends or family complaining of an unexpected update to an operating system they don’t know how to use – and can’t figure out how to (safely) get rid of?

Our Windows 10 uninstallation utility lets you or anyone you know quickly and easily revert back to Windows 7 or Windows 8… painlessly. While millions of PCs around the globe are suddenly being updated to Windows 10 without the express notice and consent of their unwitting owners, the bigger problem is the ones that fall between the cracks: an automated update gone wrong, left with a PC that won’t start, and no longer works.

We are happy to introduce the immediate availability of our Windows 10 Rollback Utility, a free tool designed to make switching back to Windows 7 (or Windows 8) as easy as a small download and a few clicks. What’s more, it’ll even protect your PC from automatically updating to Windows 10 in the future, too. (Unless you ask it to, of course.)

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Happy Pi Day 2016!

piIn keeping with the yearly tradition, we find it part of our mission on this earth to make bring the good news to all: Happy Pi Day 2016!

Pi Day, derived from the co-incidence of March (3) the 14th (3/14 here in the USA, and a little more-clunkily expressed as 14/3 for our friends everywhere else in the world) and the first 3 digits of Pi (3.14), is a day of gratitude, thanks, and appreciation for the magic of numbers.

We could probably get away with repeating our post from Pi Day 2008, in which we explore π, Φ, i, and e, but we have more exciting news to share today: in what’s being hailed as a possible breakthrough in mathematics, a new finding has just been published that may further our understanding of prime numbers. The study, published online to the arXiv pre-print and better-explained in Quanta Magazine remarks on a previously-unnoted property regarding prime numbers: mathematicians and amateur prime hunters alike have long-observed that prime numbers have an uncanny tendency to be found in clusters separated by massive nothingness – and now we might have a clue about how the members of the clusters relate (in a very bizarre way) with one another.

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Crunching the numbers – When is the 2016 Skylake Retina MacBook Pro coming out?


It’s a story of two Apples: an Apple that makes consumer products and Apple that makes enterprise products. Devices under or around the $1000 mark like the iPhone, the MacBook Air, and more recently, the iPad Air are eagerly snapped-up by both Apple’s consumer and enterprise marketbases with equal voracity. But Apple’s more “serious” line of hardware where prosumers and enterprises regularly pay anywhere from $2,500 to $8,500 and beyond on a single device for a single employee is another story. A $2500 laptop or a $6000 workstation isn’t a spur-of-the-moment purchase that can be bundled into your wireless bill; it’s a (non-insignificant) portion of any company (or independent professional)’s hardware budget.1

It’s obvious why Apple loves to hold its cards close and keep as tight a lid as possible on news about its product releases, upcoming features, and new designs and then stun, awe, and wow the world which turns into a mesmerized unison of ooooohs and aaaaaahs as Steve Jobs or whomever is mimicking the world’s most famous, talented, and now several years dearly-departed salesman pulls out the newest iteration of an iDevice from a black top hat with a poof, lots of purple smoke, and a “one more thing” declaration.

But what’s not so obvious is why Apple refuses to play ball with its enterprise consumers that are looking for “boring,” run-of-the-mill updates on existing product lines, information on when certain features would become available or when hardware limitations would be lifted so that they can make their next purchase, be it a new $5000 workstation (monitor not included) for an indie developer or an order of fifty or a hundred $4000 laptops at your favorite tech company. While some of these are backed by VCs and are playing the startup game, competing to see who can burn through the most money in the littlest time with the least ROI and still con, err, convince more investors into another multi-million dollar round of investments, some of these are serious companies genuinely watching their bottom line and carefully weighing purchase dates and product update cycles.

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  1. Adjusting for quantity, that is. 

On the growing, intentional uselessness of Google search results

New Google LogoAs most people are aware, Google search results are constantly changing and evolving. In the past couple of years, there has been a conscious and very deliberate shift – and not just by Google – to go from showing you what you want to see to showing you what they want you to see. Be it social network integrations (Google+, Facebook connections, twitter feeds, etc), local results, results based off of previous queries (at least this one is in an attempt to show you “relevant” information), and more. This is all old news and has been hashed to death (and to no avail).

But in the past week or so, I’ve personally picked up on a rather annoying and dramatic uptick in incidences of Google’s penchant for – much like a three year old – understanding perfectly-well what it is that you want and pointedly doing anything but that.

I am speaking of course about the dreaded “Missing: important_search_term that seems to pop up in just about every search result, with an uncanny ability of picking the most relevant keywords and conveniently “forgetting” to include them in your search. Initially, this search feature was reserved for only the most esoteric of search queries that typically turn up only a handful of results (under a few pages total) with all search terms included. In an attempt to be helpful, Google would include additional search results with some keywords removed, so as to remove the burden of extra constraints and widen the search parameters somewhat. Now? It seems like Google’s either come down with a rather bad case of human-robot transmitted alzheimer’s or else we’ve reached an all-new high when it comes to dumbing down the web (newspeak, anyone?).

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srtresync: easy correction of linear drift for srt files

We’ve just open-sourced some code we’ve been using in-house in the form of srtresync, a smart and easy-to-use utility that can correct both traditional “fixed offset” errors as well as the more complicated “linear drift” issues that can affect srt subtitle files.

srtresync has been released under the terms of the MIT license, and is available on github, waiting to be forked and made even more awesome in the way that only open source software can be. It’s cross-platform (written in rust), and can be used on Windows, Mac, Linux, or FreeBSD. Use is quite straightforward in both modes, and the accompanying detailed README file should quite-easily double-up as a man file.

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Case-sensitive SEO URL redirects and routing for IIS and ASP.NET MVC

At NeoSmart Technologies, we have a special affinity for ecosystems running both Windows and *nix in unison, each doing things they excel at. Half of this website is running ASP.NET MVC under IIS 8.0, while the other half is running under nginx on FreeBSD, everything behind an nginx reverse proxy. Windows likes to make things easy for users by being a primarily case-insensitive platform, both when it comes to the local filesystem and the web. FreeBSD and Linux on the other hand, like most of the unix world1 are explicitly and unapologetically case-sensitive.

On the one-hand, IIS defaulting to case-insensitive URL routing means that your users are far less likely to a see a 404 “Page not found” error as a result of a fat-fingered or mangled URL (which as we all know can be the fault of either the user or the developer), but it also means that when Google’s spiders and ‘bots come around looking to index your content, you’re likely to wind up penalized for having duplicate content. The web itself is officially case-insensitive, and technically both and are completely separate, unique, and independent URLs that despite all semantical similarities share nothing in common (though you’d be mad to actually host different content on URLs differing only in spelling).

Welcome SeoRedirect, part of NeoSmart Technologies’ open-sourced Web Toolkit library, which provides case-sensitive routing for ASP.NET on IIS. With the latest update (freshly pushed!), SeoRedirect also gives you control over which GET parameters are also preserved, because apparently worrying about case-sensitivity alone just isn’t enough.

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  1. Mac OS X is a notable exception here, as by default it uses HFS+ in a case-insensitive mode, though an HFS+ implementation w/ case-sensitivity is enabled (but rarely used). 

A smarter month and year input field: solving the credit card expiry conundrum

Every computer-savvy keyboarder has run into this problem before: you’re typing your merry way through a credit card payment form, pounding out your address and credit card numbers, tabbing between the fields so you don’t waste time mucking around with the mouse, when you come across the dreaded expiry date fields:

Expiry Date Fields

You groan. You know what’s coming next. Your card expires in April of 2019. Are they expecting you to type ‘A’ for “April” or to key in “04”? Or maybe it’s just ‘4’? Murphy’s law guarantees that whatever sequence you try typing these options in, it’ll be the last one you try. You sigh. You either try the different options haphazardly, holding your breath and cringing when it doesn’t change, or changes to select the wrong value. Finally, you give up and move your hand those excruciatingly-far 6″ to the mouse, and sigh in despair as you resort to clicking on the drop-down box and scrolling through the entries to select the one you’re looking for.

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