Arcane Combinations: MaxiVista and UltraMon Tip

Two of my favorite Windows add-ins are MaxiVista and UltraMon. I’ve already blogged about each tool, and respectively. When used together, they provide a great user experience, placing a task bar on each window.

I have discovered one issue when using the combo. My main computer is my big HP laptop. I also have my older desktop which has dual monitors, and my old IBM Thinkpad laptop which is handy for an e-mail monitor. I take these over from my laptop, using MaxiVista. When installed, MaxiVista sets up the HP Laptops internal monitor as #1, the desktop as monitors 2 and 3, and the Thinkpad as #4. I also have a big 21 inch monitor I hook to the HP Laptop, which becomes #5.

My problem arises when I don’t have the desktop turned on. UltraMon seems to check each monitor, and when it finds #2 is not on, it stops putting toolbars out. Very annoying. After a lot of searching I finally came upon a solution, and thought I’d share.

Right click on the UltraMon icon in the toolbar, and select Options… from the popup menu. Now click on the “Ignored Monitors” tab. Click on the monitor numbers that are not active, then check the “ignore this monitor” box.

[Picture of UltraMon Options]













There you go, just click on OK and your taskbar should appear. When you need activate the remote monitors, just open this and uncheck the “ignore…” option and you’re good to go!

Standard disclaimer, I don’t work for either company, nor make any money off sales, or receive any compensation. I just think they are some cool tools!

AL Tools

I found a cool suite of Windows tools I thought I’d tell you about. AL Tools ( has a suite of standard tools that have an attractive interface. They offer a ZIP tool, one for music, one for FTP, one to browse photos, and one to store passwords.

So far I’ve used the ALSee to view my collection of photos. It has a nice feature that will let you resize a slew of photos with just a few clicks, great when you have lots of pics to e-mail to the grandparents or upload to a website.

I’ve also used ALShow to view some of the IPTV shows I enjoy. and for example. So far it’s handled everything I’ve thrown at it, it flows smoothly and resizes very well.

I’ve briefly explored the password program, it looks good for storing passwords to websites but I’m not sure so far if it will work well for non web apps. Eventually I plan to explore the other apps, next on my list will be the FTP program as it seems to have some nice features, such as automatically resuming when a transfer fails and handling transfers over 2 gig.

For personal use, all of their tools are free. I admit I like their interfaces, they are simple and clean, which is refreshing after some of the tools I’ve used lately. Check ‘em out, just make sure to go to the .net address, the .com address is in Japanese. Unless of course you happen to read Japanese, in which case you can go to whichever one you want.


While my life is busy being turned upside down by the SSIS scripts I’ve been testing, let me take this chance to fill you in on a cool new tool I found for Windows (I promise to get back to the SQL Server Compact Edition stuff soon!).

This tool is very cool, no matter what you happen to do for a living, be it a web designer, programmer, or even a housewife who loves graphics. It’s Ruler, it displays a simple ruler on the screen like so:

[Picture of Ruler]

Here you can see I’ve placed the ruler over yesterday’s blog entry. The ruler can be resized by simply holding the mouse cursor over the edge, clicking and dragging as you would resize a normal window.

Pressing the spacebar will flip the ruler from horizontal to vertical. Right click on the ruler to access the menu options. You can control the opacity, and set it to “Stay on Top” mode among other things.

It also supports “nudging” via the keyboard when you need to place or size it exactly. The arrow keys will move the ruler five pixels, CTRL+Arrow moves it one pixel, and CTRL+Shift+Arrow will resize the ruler.

This delightful little tool can be found for free at You can even download the source, in case you want to add your own enhancements. It consists of 3 simple files that don’t even have to be installed, just unzip and place in a directory.

I love this thing, I have often wished I had a pixel ruler and this has found a permanent place in my toolbox. Kudos to Jeff Key ( for writing this gem.

Open Command Window Here Power Toy

If you liked the idea of quickly launching command windows, but want the window separate from your explorer shell you should look into Microsoft’s free “Open Command Window Here” Power Toy.

You can find it and other power toys for XP at or The description is about halfway down, on the right side of the page are links to the downloads.

If you are a Visual Studio developer, you’d probably like to have a version of this to create a VS Command Window. No problem, Scott Hanselman has created some inf files you can use to create these. Find them on his blog at or

Command Prompt Explorer Bar

OK, I admit it. I’m an old time command line junkie. Starting out in the old DOS days I still find it faster to do some tasks by pulling up a command window and

This is a tool that’s been around for a while, but I find few people know about. Have you ever been in an explorer window and wished you had a command prompt that you could easily cut and paste between? Command Prompt Explorer Bar is your answer.

Available at this tool has some cool features. After you install, open a new explorer window. Then hit Ctrl+M or select View, Explorer Bar, Command Prompt from the menu.

[Picture of Command Prompt Explorer Bar]

Down the left side are some handy short cut icons.

[Command Prompt Explorere Bars Shortcuts]

The top icon gives you the standard edit tools you’d have under a normal command window.

The second icon, the little green arrow, is the Synchronize command. If you’ve CD’d around, and want to quickly get back to the same folder as what are displaying in the upper half of the explorer window, just click the Synchronize tool.

The next tool, the one that looks like a blank window, is the CLS command. For those of you who are not a command line junkies, CLS stands for CLear Screen, and basically wipes the display.

The button with green text is the “Get selected items” button. If you highlight one or more files / folders in the upper half of the explorer window, pressing this button copies the file / folder names to the command line. Very useful for passing files to batch jobs.

The fifth icon down looks like a yellow bent arrow is the enter command. Clicking it is just the same as hitting the enter key on your keyboard.

The next item is the ESC key command, it’s the one with red text. Like the enter button, this is the same as pressing the escape key on the keyboard. A lot of older command line programs use escape to exit their program.

The seventh button is a menu that will paste in popular commands, such as “cd..”. Note that it has some shortcuts for .Net. However, this app was last updated in 2002, so don’t expect these to work with VS 2005. However the source code is available for download, so perhaps someone will update this feature.

The bottom two buttons will expand and contract the width of the command window.

There you go, a cool free tool to help out all us old command line addicts.



Arcane Combinations: Multiple Monitors and VirtualPC

I really like Virtual PC, in that it lets me keep all of my development environments separated. I only have to load what I really need, and if my environment gets hosed it’s easy enough to rebuild or restore from a backup.

What I don’t like though, is that I lose my multiple monitor capability. I really like having the ability to drag my Visual Studio watches and other debugging windows into a second window. Fortunately, I’ve discovered an answer.

First, create a second virtual PC. This can be a bare bones system, I removed a lot of the extras like games and such prior to installing. I also run it using a minimal 256 meg of memory.

Now, go get yourself a copy of MaxiVista. I first blogged about this great product on August 30th of 2006: . MaxiVista allows you to go over the network take over a second computer, and use it as a second monitor. Remember yesterday when I said to the network a Virtual PC looks just like a real one?

Install the MaxiVista server program in your main development Virtual PC. Now install the MaxiVista viewer program in the second virtual machine you just created.

Now there is a final, but very important step you need to take. Before you launch either Virtual PC, you need to go into the settings for each one. Go down to Mouse, then be sure to uncheck the box that says “Use Pointer Integration”. If you don’t do this for both virtual machines, none of this will work right.

Now you are ready to go, just launch both machines, and maximize each to full desktop and you’ll be using Virtual PC with multiple monitors!

A couple of things you should note. By turning off pointer integration you will not be able to simply drag your mouse outside the virtual pc to the host one. You will need to hit the right ALT key to release the mouse. Not a big deal, especially since the intention is to run in full screen mode, but something you should be aware of.

Also, this assumes you are running Windows and have a legal copy for each virtual machine you setup. If you have a limited number of copies of Windows, there is one other way to get it working.

I loaded Ubuntu Linux into a Virtual PC environment, then WINE, then the MaxiVista Viewer component. I actually got it to work as a secondary monitor, although MaxiVista’s remote control capabilities did not work. This isn’t something I use every day though, just tried as an experiment so your mileage may vary.

There you go, an arcane combination that will allow you to use multiple monitors with a Virtual PC!


Every so often you find yourself wishing you could remap your keyboard. Find a use for that oddball key you never hit. Or maybe you are on an older laptop and don’t have a Windows key. That’s where SharpKeys can come in handy.

Available at, SharpKeys easily lets you change one key into another. You can select the key from a list, or just type it on your keyboard. In this example, you can see where I’ve remapped my ` (backward single quote mark) to the Windows key.

[Picture of SharpKeys]

To add a new key simply click Add, then in the dialog that appears select the to and from keys from lists, or type them. When you’ve done all the remapping you want, be sure to click the Write to Registry button, then you can close. Editing and Deleting key mappings works similarly.

Be aware, in order for your remappings to take effect, you have to reboot your computer. Annoying, but understandable, and hopefully remapping your keyboard isn’t something you will do often.

When you need to though, it’s nice to know this handy and free utility is there for you.


While we are on the theme of tools that snap, I thought I’d introduce AllSnap. AllSnap is a handy utility that doesn’t have much to display graphically but is a real gem. If you have ever used WinAmp, you are familiar with it’s “Snap” feature. When you get WinAmp close to the edge of the screen, it automatically moves itself to the edge. 

AllSnap is a free tool that gives that functionality to ALL windows. Available at, it’s one of those tools you will quickly get addicted to. 

AllSnap puts an icon in your System Tray, through which you can access it’s settings window. Be sure to check this out, as you can adjust things like the number of pixels you get to the edge in order to trigger a snap, whether it snaps to just the edges or a vertical and horizontal center, and much more. 

I’ve installed AllSnap on all of my systems, and it’s made life in the windows world just a little nicer.


I had the need to capture some screen shots, and old Print Screen wasn’t cutting it. I was unable to capture the menus I needed for my documentation. A quick search found a tool so cool I just had to blog about it.

WinSnap, available at has all sorts of features for doing screen captures. It will do rounded corners, allow you to capture in various color schemes, such as grayscale and sepia, and save in all the standard formats (jpg, gif, bmp, png, and tiff). You can also add watermarks, which is cool.

There are more options than I can cover here, most useful is the time delay feature. To capture an image you just click the new snapshot button. WinSnap hides itself, then after a user specified number of seconds it takes a screen capture. By default it is one second, you’ll probably want to bump it up so you have time to get your app like you want it. I’ve found five seconds to be a good default.

Rather than repeating what they already have on their site, I’ll just point you to the features page (

Take a look, this tool will be valuable to anyone who has ever had to capture screen shots. And since it’s free, the price is perfect!

Remote Desktop Connection

One of the coolest toys to ship with Windows XP is the Remote Desktop Connection tool. Let’s say you have a small home network, and like to take your laptop out on your deck and work under the sunny skies. However, much of what you need is on your desktop. You’d love to be able to control your desktop from your laptop. No problem!

For my example, we’ll assume you want to control your desktop from your laptop, but this will work with any two computers. First, you need the IP address of the computer you want to control. Walk up to your desktop, and open a command window (start, run, type in cmd and hit enter.) Now type in ipconfig and hit enter. After a moment some info will appear, look for the line that says “IP Address”. It will be four sets of numbers separated by periods, for example . Jot this down on a piece of paper, then head out to your laptop.

On your laptop, bring up the Remote Desktop Connection tool (Start, All Programs, Accessories, Communications, Remote Desktop Connection). You’ll see a window like this:

Where it says Computer, type in the IP address you got a minute ago. Now, you could just hit the Connect button, but there’s probably a few options you can tweak that will make your experience nicer. First, click the Options >> button. The screen will now look like:

To save yourself a few minutes, you can go ahead and key in your user name and password you use to login to your remote computer, in this case your desktop.

Note, if your computer is part of a corporate domain (i.e. you are at work), you will probably be able to type in the name of your computer instead of it’s IP address. Just make sure to enter your Domain name in the domain box. You probably won’t be able to control your work computer from home though unless you hook up to your company network using a VPN (virtual private network). You’ll have to check with your individual company to see if this is possible and how it can be done.

Now click on the “Display” tab.

You can use the slider bar to adjust the size of your screen, in case you want something other than the full size screen. If you do want full screen, then leave set to full screen (all the way to the right) and click the Local Resources tab.

This has some options that will make your life easier. The one thing I’d suggest doing here is checking the “Disk Drives” box on. If you do this, if you bring up a “My Computer” window while controlling the desktop, it will show not only the hard drives for the desktop but for your laptop as well, allowing you to easily copy files from one computer to the other.

This is great for small files, but if you have larger files you may want to use a network share instead as it’s faster than using Remote Desktop.

Be warned though, you should trust the PC you are remoting to since this sets up a security vulnerability. If in our example a virus was running around on your desktop, by exposing your laptop’s drives your laptop could then get infected.

Finally, click on experience.

If you have a fast network, you can check everything on and get the full experience. If though you are truly controlling your desktop from somewhere else, as in the VPN I mentioned earlier, you may want to leave a few of these unchecked to make your work experience faster.

Even on a fast connection I typically leave it set to the settings you see above to get the maximum speed when I am VPNing to the office. At home though, controlling one computer from another I check everything on.

And that’s it, just click Connect, and you’ll should see your desktop’s computer appear on your screen. To exit, simply drag your mouse o the top middle of your display. A little yellow bar will pop down with the computer name and the usual X button over on the right to close the Remote Desktop Connection.

If you don’t get connected, there are a few trouble shooting things to look at:

  1. You must have administrative rights on the computer you are controlling, or be a member of the remote desktop users group.
  2. You must have a password on the remote computer, remote desktop won’t work if your password is empty.
  3. Your firewall may be blocking your access. If you are using the built in windows firewall, it sets to allow remote desktop. To get ZoneAlarm to work, set the security settings to Med. (Medium), and make sure to set the rights inside ZoneAlarm to let remote desktop send / receive data. (Open Zone Alarm, go to Program Control, scroll down to the entry for Remote Desktop Connection and make sure everything is checked on. )
  4. Confirm you have the correct IP address.

There you go, now you can sit out on your back deck and enjoy the sunny weather and still have the power of your monster desktop.