Windows 7: Prevent thumbs.db on Network Directories

Problem

Windows 7 no longer places thumbs.db files in the directories containing media files. However, it still does this on access, copy or move of media files from or to shared network directories.

Solution

To stop such creation of thumbs.db files:

  1. Open the Group Policy Editor with Administrator privileges. The easiest way to do this is by typing gpedit.msc at the Start menu.
  2. In the Group Policy Editor dialog, drill down to User Configuration β†’ Administrative Templates β†’ Windows Components β†’ Windows Explorer β†’ Turn off the caching of thumbnails in hidden thumbs.db files.
  3. Right-click on this item, edit it and make it enabled.

Tried with: Windows 7

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Windows 7: Minimize Window

There is no single keyboard shortcut in Windows 7 to minimize an active maximized window. Instead the shortcut that works is Win+Down Win+Down.

The first Win+Down resizes the window from maximized size to its non-maximized size. The second Win+Down minimizes the window away to the taskbar.

Tried with: Windows 7

Dexpot

I stopped using multiple displays a while ago, but still find it useful to partition my work windows from my fun windows. Windows 7 does not ship with a virtual desktop manager. Among the available offerings, I find Dexpot to be a good choice of a virtual desktop manager.

Dexpot ships with a lot of features, much more than what I need. Here are my setup details:

  • Disable all features other than virtual desktops, keyboard shortcuts and Dexcube plugin.
  • Reduce the number of virtual desktops to 2: one for work and the other for email-web-music.
  • Remove all the keyboard shortcuts (hotkeys as Dexpot calls them). I only set the shortcuts for Previous Desktop and Next Desktop. My preferred keys for these are Ctrl+Win+← and Ctrl+Win+β†’
  • Enable the Dexcube plugin to show a cube animation when I switch desktops. Enable Multithreading here, else it can be too slow.
  • Save the settings as a profile, so that it can be used on other computers I use.

Tried with: Dexpot 1.5.9

Windows 7: Start Any Application as Administrator from Keyboard

It is well known that you can start any application as Administrator by typing its name at the start menu, right-clicking its name from the list and choosing Run as Administrator.

Charon, one of the readers of this blog, has contributed a far cooler way to start any application as Administrator:

  1. Type the name of the application in the Start menu.
  2. Use the arrow keys if needed to choose the application from the displayed list.
  3. Instead of pressing Enter, press Ctrl+Shift+Enter and the application is invoked with Administrator privileges.

This is an awesome trick to know if you like to open applications from the keyboard without using the mouse. Thanks Charon! πŸ™‚

Windows 7: Blank Taskbar Icons

Problem

Sometimes, all the taskbar icons turn blank. Yes, just like that! This has happened to me a couple of times and I am not able to figure out the reason behind it.

Solution

Since I cannot figure out the reason behind this problem, I use the brute force solution of killing all Explorer instances and recreating it. For details, see the solution in this post.

Windows 7: 256 Colors in Remote Desktop Connection

Why?

Reducing the color depth used for a remote session is one way to speed up the Remote Desktop (RDP) session on a slow network connection. 15-bit is the lowest color depth allowed in the Remote Desktop Connection client (mstsc.exe) of Windows 7. But, the Remote Desktop client of Windows XP had allowed a lower color depth of 8-bit (256 colors). The remote session surely looks crappy with 256 colors, but it can be a lifesaver on a slow connection! πŸ™‚

How?

There is no direct way to choose 256 colors in the Remote Desktop of Windows 7. But, a remote session can be invoked with 256 colors:

  1. Set all the remote desktop settings for the connection and save it to a RDP (.rdp) file by choosing Save As in the General tab.
  2. Open this .rdp file in a text editor. Find the line that reads session bpp:i:16. The value here will read 15, 16, 24 or 32, depending on the color depth you had chosen while saving the file. Change this line to session bpp:i:8
  3. Use this .rdp file to open a RDP session to the remote computer. This can be done by either opening this file in the Remote Desktop Connection client or by double-clicking this file. The remote session will now use a 8-bit color depth.

 

Tried with: Remote Desktop Connection client (mstsc.exe) 6.1.7600.16385 on Windows 7

Netmeter

I was looking for an utility to measure some statistics on the upload and download on an internet connection. The utility Netmeter came recommended for this purpose. However, it does not seem to work with 64-bit Windows 7.

The application crashes with an exception. The creator seems to have abandoned the project last year after open-sourcing it. Finally, the application does not even uninstall correctly, requiring a restart and deletion of all files and directories named Netmeter.

Windows 7: Administrator Command Prompt

If you find yourself opening a Administrator command prompt often, it is useful to create a shortcut icon for that. Create a shortcut icon pointing to cmd.exe and require it to Run as Administrator. It can now be run by pressing the Win key, followed by a few letters of its name.

Tips:

  • The Administrator command prompt has the word Administrator in its title. This can help distinguish from user command prompts.
  • A bright foreground or background color can be set for the Administrator command prompt to distinguish it from user command prompts.
  • A different icon can be set for this shortcut so that it can be distinguished in the taskbar and at the upper left corner of the window.
  • It is a good idea to name it something like Admin Console, so that it is easy to type it. Remember not to have cmd in its name, so that it is never confused with the default cmd.exe shortcut.

Windows 7: Life Without the Volume Control

I try to keep a minimal Windows 7 desktop. One of the desktop elements I can now live without is the Volume Control icon which sits in the Notification area of the Taskbar. The only operations I need it for is to increase or decrease the volume. I assigned keyboard shortcuts for this task and my volume control is useless! πŸ™‚

Hiding the Volume Control

The Volume Control is a System Icon that can be either on or completely hidden. To hide the control, right-click on its tray icon and choose Properties. This displays the Turn system icons on or off dialog. Choose Volume Control, choose Off and press OK. The clock is now gone from the Taskbar.

Keyboard Shortcuts

A convenient way to control the volume using keyboard shortcuts is to use the awesome AutoHotKey (AHK) macro program. For example, the Win+Page Up and Win+Page Down keys can be assigned to increase or decrease the volume using these macros:

#PgUp::Send { Volume_Up   2 }
#PgDn::Send { Volume_Down 2 }

Here the volume increment is 2, you can assign a larger or smaller increment if you wish. (See the Superuser question here for more info.)

Checking Volume Control

For those rare times you need the Volume Control dialog, you can invoke this by pressing the Win key, typing Volume, choose Change System Volume and press Enter.

Windows 7: Fixedsys as Console Font

It does not seem to be possible to set Fixedsys as the Console font for the Windows 7 command prompt. Setting it in the Registry silently fails and it does not appear in the Fonts list of the console. This might be due to several reasons:

  • Fixedsys is the oldest Windows font. It might not support all the current criteria of a console font.
  • Fixedsys is a progenitor of the font Lucida Console, which already appears as an option in the console.
  • Fixedsys is a raster font (also called bitmap font) and the only raster fonts supported for the Windows Console are already listed in the Console.
  • There is no font file named fixedsys.*. Fixedsys is a font name mapped to several old raster fonts with the name pattern *fix*.fon found in the C:\Windows\Fonts directory. These fonts are aimed at different old terminals like VGA, CVGA and others. On Windows 7, these fonts are:
    8514fix.fon
    8514fixe.fon
    8514fixg.fon
    8514fixr.fon
    8514fixt.fon
    c8514fix.fon
    cvgafix.fon
    h8514fix.fon
    hvgafix.fon
    j8514fix.fon
    jvgafix.fon
    s8514fix.fon
    svgafix.fon
    vgafix.fon
    vgafixe.fon
    vgafixg.fon
    vgafixr.fon
    vgafixt.fon
    

If you really want Fixedsys as a console font, get a Fixedsys clone that is available as a TrueType Font (TTF). One such clone is FixedsysTTF which can be used on the console. Set it to size 16 and Bold and it looks exactly like Fixedsys does by default.