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What is AJAX? A not so technical answer

Ajax‘ is thrown around a lot, but there’s still a lot of confusion about exactly what it is, especially in non technical circles. So here is a quick run through for those of you who aren’t deep in weeds technically.

Ajax stands for Asynchronous Javascript and XML, but what it really means is a way for web pages to query the server without reloading the entire page. Without Ajax, submitting information back to the server involves submitting the entire page back to the server and refreshing the entire page in the browser. But with Ajax, the entire page doesnt need to be submitted. In javascript the browser can make a request in the background to the server. The Asynchronous comes from the fact that the request happens in the background while the user is looking at the page. When the javascript web request finishes it returns data to the browser, sometimes as XML. Its not always XML, a lot of times its JSON or text, but XML was first and that was how it was named. The browser then manipulates the data returned and uses DHTML to display it.

For an example of AJAX put your mouse over here AJAX

In short: Ajax is a way for a web page to communicate with the server without having to reload the entire page.

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August 28, 2008 Posted by | Browser, Internet, Technology | , , , , | 1 Comment

Windows shortcut keys guide

Are you spending too much time using your mouse instead of the keyboard? Using the mouse too much can harm your arm, and good way to reduce that use, is by using the keyboard more, and that’s why I’m going to provide you some keyboard shortcuts that may come in handy, once you get used to them.

You might already be using the Windows key (unless you are using IBM, because they don’t have it) but how much are you using it? For the rest of this document, I’ll refer to the keys like this:

[Ctrl] = Ctrl key
[Alt] = Alt key
[Win] = Windows logo key
[Esc] = Esc key
Etc… You get the picture

So let’s start with the feature I like the most:

[Win] + [E]
This combination opens a new Windows Explorer. This feature I use a lot. Mainly because I work with so many computers daily, and they all have their shortcuts saved differently. Some have it on the desktop, some don’t. Some have it in the quick launch, some don’t. Some even don’t have it in the Start -> All Programs -> Accessories. So this is a nice habit to have, whenever you need to navigate on your hard drive (or an external drive or CD) you can use this combination.

[Win] + [R]
When I got used to using the Win+E combination I was a bit sad to find out that Internet Explorer does not have a win+? combination. Maybe they don’t want to integrate the Internet Explorer too close to the OS (they’ve been there, done that – see more on wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Internet_Explorer scroll down to the United States v. Microsoft part). So how would I open Internet Explorer on any machine (I don’t know where users hide their shortcuts)? – Well this [Win] + [R] combination always comes in handy. It opens the “Run…” box. Now if you know the .exe name of the program that you want, then just type it in here. Here’s a list of my common shortcuts:

iexplore – Internet Explorer
excel – Microsoft Office Excel
winword – Microsoft Office Word
wordpad – WordPad (you guessed it )
notepad – Notepad (again)
calc – Windows calculator
mspaint – Microsoft Paint
inetmgr – IIS administration
cmd – Command Line
mstsc – Microsoft Terminal Services Client
(you can specify arguments like:
“mstsc /console”: This will connect you to the console session of the computer that you are connecting to (the target computer must be running Windows version >= XP)
“mstsc /span”: This will give you a Terminal Server Session that spans over your multiple screens (if you have multiple screens connected and configured) this also requires you to update the Terminal Services Client if you are using XP.
msconfig – System configuration
(be careful with this one – you can specify what services you want to run at startup and things like that, but when you have this much power, you know that it includes a risk that you can make your pc do unexpected things)
regedit – Registry Editor
(As the one above, this gives you power – there are amazing things you can do with the registry – especially if you’re a developer, then you can extend your application’s features through the registry)
mmc – Microsoft Management Console
(Here you can manage many things on your computer, but you need to add SnapIns first in order to use them.)
I’ll let the list stop here.

[Win]+[U]: Utility Manager. I normally don’t use this unless I want to sit far away from the screen and read something, then the Magnifier comes in handy. This is also where you can start the “on-screen-keyboard” if you don’t have a keyboard… (But then again you wouldn’t be able to press [Win]+[U], right?)

Back to the list now!

[Win]+[D]: Show Desktop! This one I use a lot. I always have a lot of windows open at the same time, and sometimes I need to see the desktop. So instead of grabbing the mouse, moving the cursor down to the bottom of the screen, finding an empty space on the task bar, right click -> Show Desktop, I just press [Win]+[D]. And if I regret this action, I just press [Win]+[D] again, and I’m back where I was!

[Win]+[F]: To get the most out of this feature, you should consider downloading the Windows Live Desktop Search Assistant (http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/winfamily/desktopsearch/default.mspx) – The [Win]+[F] is the same as clicking on Start button -> Search. Here you can find files on your computer by specifying some search criteria.

[Win]+[Ctrl]+[F]: Search for computers.

[Win]+[L]: Lock the computer! If you work at a company with just some degree of security, I guess they have told you a couple of times to lock the workstation/pc when you leave your desk, right? Well this [Win]+[L] is just easier than [Ctrl]+[Alt]+[Del] and then selecting “Lock Computer” or [Enter]

[Win]+[M]: Minimize all windows. This is similar to [Win]+[D] but this does not hide windows that are not minimizable. To restore minimized windows, press [Win]+[Shift]+[M]

[Win]+[Break/Pause]: Show computer properties. (Same as right clicking on my computer and selecting “properties”)

[Ctrl]+[Shift]+[Esc]: Show the Task manager! This is a very useful shortcut, when your pc does not respond to your mouse clicks, or it is running slow, then it’s easy to use this combination, and spot the process that is running slow, and perhaps kill it if necessary.

At this point you might see many programs/things that you could start up without having to use your mouse (and still do it faster). It takes practice, but you will get there eventually if you want to. Best of all, this just might save you from some pain in your arm, coming from over-usage of the mouse…

I hope this will be of use for you, and will at least have shown you something that you didn’t know about windows shortcuts. Have a good time using Windows !

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August 28, 2008 Posted by | Microsoft, Technology | , , , | Leave a comment