Author: emusings

Removing Control Panel Icons

If you have icons in your Windows Control Panel that link to programs that no longer exist, that ‘cos

  • you removed the host application (this is a somewhat arcane condition as only a few app links persist in Control Panel after the actual app has been uninstalled)
  • the linked application expired (I haven’t encountered this condition as I’m wary of using trial ware. If it ain’t free or open source I’m not interested in being a guinea pig)
  • the installer crashed (this happened most often with the Microsoft Office 2013 aka Office 365 installer – the live download failed to complete yet a Mail icon that linked nowhere kept appearing. )
    PS: If you’re looking for a good free office suite, LibreOffice is great

But you don’t have to live with such broken interfaces any longer. It’s possible (if you didn’t know how already) to actually remove such going nowhere icons.

For Windows XP users I recommend Microsoft’s own TweakUI Power Toy. Find a download link is the hard part as XP nears its end of life. The Microsoft Downloads link I used when I last used XP (was it 2010?) is dead. But you can get a copy from C|Net, FileHippo, SoftPedia and PCWorld.

In Windows Vista and 7 onwards (including Windows 8.x), you need to directly edit the registry. In general Windows Registry Editing is not something you should normally attempt  unless all seems to be nearly lost and there’s no other way to try and fix what’s broken internally.

Do make sure before you begin any Registry editing to make a complete Registry backup (this can be done from within the Registry Editor aka regedit). And before you resort to such extreme measure do first try something like the free CCleaner that includes its own Registry Scan module. If CCleaner can’t find and fix your problem, then you have to engage the Registry.

Here’s what I found online for Windows 7 (works for Windows Vista too):

Control panel applets are usually stored in the Windows\System32 folder, and will have a .cpl extension.

Switch to Details View, sort by Type, scroll almost all the way down to the Control Panel item type, see if the tool is listed there.

There may be other related DLLs that were not removed, but removing the .cpl file if present should keep it from appearing in Control Panel.

For Windows 8.x, things get a little complicated. I’m a coward and just leave things be, errors and all, since an unstable Windows 8 is worse than a Windows 8 with clutter 🙂 Still here goes on how to resolve broken modern app shortcuts via Microsoft Answers:

Head to users/user/appdata/local/microsoft/windows/applicationshortcuts

Once there do a search for each file within application shortcuts using the search bar in the top right of the explorer, you might need to play with the search terms.

I used the following terms, camera, microsoft ((for skydrive)), bing, modern.

You need to delete the little white shortcut tile (I had to adjust security settings first and give myself permission to delete within the app shortcuts file, but Windows will guide you through it.)

For the chat app, just delete and reinstall the calendar/people/mail group and its gone.

Do let me know if you needed this trick. And if you did indeed, how my suggestions worked for you.

Web World – one step forwards but umpteen steps back

Since my last post (on search engine optimization), I realized the post had huge gaping holes. Not that the information contained is bad; its just incomplete. So here’s another promise: I shall write more on SEO.

Other news this week is I was blessed with my own personal Google Plus URL. It sure beats having to remember a string of numbers. And like on GMail, if you forget the capitalization no biggie! The URL will still be found.

I just hope that having my personalized URL doesn’t open me up to more unwanted email. There are a number of people (idiots? morons? imbeciles?) who use GMail but haven’t bothered to understand its naming conventions. I get confidential stuff like bank statements and frequent flyer program updates meant for many such dweebs. One even tried to reset “their” GMail password but failed as my account is linked to a separate authenticator.

Dear Readers, its time to secure your GMail account. If you haven’t followed the suggested security updates, it’s time to DO SO NOW.

The other hot buzz in my life is the WordPress auto-update system. Yes, its handy except when you have a heavily-customized site and you don’t want to upgrade in case the upgrade breaks custom code. Yadda! Yadda! Yadda! I realize if I’d followed standards that wouldn’t happen. But can we trust WordPress Dot Org to ensure that the latest core update doesn’t break some highly esoteric custom programming that’s unique to a single website? Besides I’m wondering if WordPress Dot Org isn’t falling into the same trap that made Microsoft infamous for sketchy software that needed multiple patches before it worked like advertised?

And yes, there’s a way to control / stop these auto updates. But UI wise I’d prefer if one more setting / switch was added.to Dashboard > Settings > General. No make that two more settings. #1 is a check box to enable Auto WordPress Core Updates. #2 a check box to enable Auto WordPress Core Update Notifications. Yes, I’m sure I can make a plugin but why didn’t the core developers think of that. If you do include it remember it WAS an eMUSING IDEA!

I’ve also encountered (and installed) a load of really handy plugins. More about them soon.

Good SEO basics for any web site

The article has been edited a bit. Some obvious (‘n glaring to this ex-copy editor) grammar faults. Required an edit.

I work a lot with WordPress on this blog and when developing websites for clients making SEO (search engine optimization) an important part of the process. New websites need to be ranked quickly especially for companies and small businesses without the brand name recognition or a Nike, Levis or Gap. When you look for the big guys their brand name ending with a dot com gets you there quickly. Mostly. But us minnows need all the help we can get to (a) get in and (b) get a position as high as we can.

Isn’t good SEO complicated?

stock image of remodelled keyboard
custom SEO keyboards

I tell my clients that good SEO ain’t rocket science. Or quantum mechanics. But getting it right the first time is just as important as mistakes do more harm than good. However like all science theories, SEO has thousands of opinions. Many patently false. Like the importance of links. From experience the only links that really work is where links on your website that point to another website need to have a reciprocal link back.My previous company, Indax, linked to client sites via its online portfolio. Each entry included a reciprocal link back to Indax via the web developer credit.

But there plenty of developers who believe link farms are the way to boost rankings. These farms work in the short term. But if your website is blacklisted by a search engine, believe me, the route back in is really hard. Grovelling is the least of your worries.

My definitive starter comes from Google. But each ‘engine has its own. Microsoft’s Bing has its own guidelines; except I couldn’t find an official and public content on Bing’s own site. There are third-party sites with Bing-specific tips and tricks. Do be careful though as some tipsters are actually selling SEO services. I’m sure there’s a definitive guides for Yahoo too. But who uses Yahoo any more?

eMusings’ rules for good SEO structure

  • Make sure your website code (aka its HTML programming) is web-standards compliant. If you’re unsure, the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3.org) – the web standards body – offers a free online validator.
  • Make sure your post/page has a descriptive title that explains what the focus content is about. Your page title can be different from the page name (like in this post as I’m testing what makes for good SEO)
  • Just because engines like Google ignore keyword tags doesn’t mean you don’t add a few relevant (keywords) to both website in general and page/post in focus as Bing and Yahoo still index keyword tags (I think)
  • Include a short, sweet and focused meta description – the two-line descriptor displayed under your URL in search results

Doing the Open Directory dance

Including your website in the Open Directory definitely improves a website’s page rank; especially on Yahoo and Bing. But submitting your URL comes much later. First you have to find the most important (aka primary) category you want to be found under. Then you prepare your submission request. Then you wait until a human editor (not so thick on the ground any more) reviews your request before your website actually appears in the Directory. Be patient: there will be be many false starts before you succeed. eMusings has been online for over a decade but it took me 2 years of repeat submissions before my persistence paid off!

Other things we forget

Don’t forget to submit your URL to the Big Three engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing). This is a step so simple and yet most business owners forget building it doesn’t mean anyone will come. Don’t forget tools like Google Webmaster (includes Sitemaps) and Google Analytics as well as similar services offered by other search engines. It also helps to also publicize via social media like Facebook and Twitter (good reason to tweet).

Remember this post is not THE word on SEO. It’s part of a test I’m running to see if I can tweak the way I post to improve my website rankings 🙂

And do be careful of Google AdWords (I haven’t tried any other ad services as I find them distracting). When I used Adwords I often included content critical of Google. I was then politely warned to cease and desist forthwith. Except AdWords lost to my opinions.