Sep
14
2013

How to Password Protect and Encrypt your External Hard Disk/USB Drives

As number of external Hard Disk and USB Flash drives at our household keeps increasing, it is important to pay attention to the security of our digital storage devices. Windows7 offers a handy utility to password protect and encrypt your External hard Drives and USB Flash Drives.

 

Here are some simple steps to password protect and encrypt your External Storage Devices:

  • Connect your external hard drive or USB drive into your computer
  • Right click on them and click the option ‘Turn on Bitlocker…’
  • Enter a strong password to protect your drive (the password will also be used for encryption in the consecutive steps)

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  • You will be offered a password recovery key, store it in a safe place
  • After your confirmation the encryption will start
  • Depending on the storage capacity of your drive it might take few hours to few days (for high capacity external drives).
  • The best part is you can pause the encryption process at any point of time and disconnect your drive and connect it again later to resume the encryption process

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Once the encryption is complete, the data stored on the drive will be only accessible with the password you have configured.

 

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Sep
03
2013

Articulate Storyline HTML5 Performance on iPad – An Accidental Discovery

Storyline HTML5 PerformanceArticulate Storyline HTML5 courses generally known for their slower performance on mobile browsers. With the heavier multimedia the mobile browser could be unstable and frequently crash. Articulate support team claims this is due to HTML5 inherent limitations. But in my previous articles i have done some in-depth analysis about storyline’s HTML5 performance while comparing with other major rapid e-learning tools and pointed out few issues with the way articulate storyline courses programmed.

My Previous post to compare leading Rapid e-learning tools -Adobe Captivate7 vs Articulate Storyline vs Lectora Inspire – Side by Side Comparison

But what if you want to stick with Storyline yet looking for options to overcome the HTML5 performance issues? Well, i have made one accidental discovery about how to improve Storyline’s HTML5 performance.

If the storyline course runs inside an Hybrid iOS app (not the Articulate’s iOS App which is a native app) then the performance seems to be significantly improved. What is Hybrid iOS app?  – Hybrid App developed with standard HTML5 technology but wrapped with an iOS app container to function like a native app. There are many pros and cons of Hybrid apps but this approach is used mainly to simplify the development and deployment of apps on multi-platforms (e.g. Single App targeted for iOS, Android as well as Windows).

To load webpages, iOS hybrid app usually makes use of an feature called UIWebview (UIWebview – a Class from Objective C language, Objective C – Programming language used for iOS development). So UIWebview is like an in-built safari browser for hybrid iOS apps. However UIWebview is not exactly safari browser, in fact a lot of iOS developers claim that UIWebview is much slower in performance compares to mobile safari because it does not uses ‘Nitro Javascript Engine’ available on Mobile Safari (Apple claims that Nitro Engine improves javascript execution of mobile safari up to 30x times faster).

So it came as surprise to me how the Articulate Storyline courses performs much stable in Hybrid iOS apps comparing to Mobile Safari Browser.

My best guess for this – Hybrid/Native Apps possibly can consume more memory and resources of iPad than what is allowed for Mobile Safari Browser. I was reminded myself that, storyline tends to perform slower or crash frequently when courses are large in size (lot of pages or lot of multimedia). Obviously large assets consume large system resources and I doubt mobile safari browser is limited by iOS at some point which is not the case with apps. I also believe that e-learning contents such as storyline courses may not be using extreme javascript coding to test the limits of mobile safari or hybrid apps. So Nitro Engine may matters to an HTML5 3D Game but not for a simple slides based e-learning course.

It doesn’t mean Apps never crash, I have noticed a super heavy course (~100 pages with lot of multimedia) crashes on mobile safari just on launching but the same course loads well within the hybrid app but crashes during the mid-point (i was able to proceed almost up to 50-60 pages). So there was still a significant performance improvement when course was viewed from hybrid app.

The Hyrbid app i am referring to is a custom app any iOS developer can build by embedding UIWebview into it. The UIWebview can load your entire LMS into it, or load your sharepoint page with catalog of courses or simply a single course straight forwardly (similar to packaging a captivate based course as an App using PhoneGap framework). So you design your app based on your needs.

So based on my experience, when Hybrid iOS Apps are used to load courses:

  • The Storyline HTML5 courses performance significantly improved
  • You are not bound to any limitations of Articulate Storyline’s iOS App (e.g. no AICC, SCORM support)

If you are interested to learn the how the caching works on these hybrid apps then check out this post – How UIWebview Temp Files/Cookies Storage Managed on iOS Hybrid Apps

 

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Aug
31
2013

Challenges with Deploying Orchard CMS on Shared Hosting

imageThe web is still dominated by the old pal PHP. The widely adopted content management and blog engines such as wordpress, drupal, joomla and so many other matured platforms today powered by PHP. But it doesn’t mean microsoft lovers left alone. I wanted to add an CMS into my website and i wanted to go with one of the .NET based CMS due to personal interests. Orchard is one the best open source CMS available today developed with ASP.NET MVC framework.

I have evaluated some other options for this including DNN, Umbraco and few others but i fell in love with Orchard CMS quickly. Orchard CMS is simply superb and built with the robust MVC framework and backed by a decent community and resources.

After a lot of research i have picked Orchard CMS, but before implementing my idea, i have ended up in a bottleneck. The recent versions of Orchard CMS requires ‘Full Trust’ mode to run. Full trust mode is something the hosting providers (even the big boys like host gator or godaddy) won’t simply allow on the shared hosting environments. On shared hosting only applications compiled for Medium Trust are allowed.

Orchard team provides two reasons for this:

  • Full Trust applications perform better
  • Microsoft officially recommends Full Trust mode for all .NET applications

 

The web is full of small blogs and websites like mine. We can only afford shared hosting. It doesn’t mean no shared hosting providers allows ‘Full Trust’ mode. But it was hard to find one that is affordable yet without compromising on quality and performance. For example, Discount ASP.NET allows full trust application but they charge $10/month for windows shared hosting. Host gator or godaddy are way cheaper than this. We can also have Dedicated Servers and configure whatever security trust levels we want. But Dedicated Server Hosting is way expensive than Shared Hosting (easily could cost 5-10 times more than shared hosting).

As a result, i am in no position to make a huge investment for bringing in Orchard CMS. So I have decided to to consider other alternatives such as Blog Engine.NET (even though it is not based on MVC framework). In the long term, either shared hosting providers should liberalize the trust norms as per Microsoft recommendation or Orchard CMS should consider an option to run in Medium Trust level. Otherwise, Orchard CMS is always going to be difficult to implement for small bloggers like me.

 

Aug
27
2013

Copy Paste Excel 2010 Formula Across Workbook/Worksheets

On a 11th hour of processing complex Excel worksheets, knowing certain time saving techniques could make a huge difference. In this post, I am explaining few useful techniques to reuse excel formula across worksheets and workbooks.

 

Copy Pasting Excel Formula across Worksheets (within Same Workbook)

The easiest possible scenario, you will have to copy the formula from one cell range into another within same excel workbook. For this copy (Ctrl +C) the source cells and do a paste special on your destination and choose the ‘formula’ option from the paste special option (shown below).

 

 

Copy Pasting Formula across Excel Workbooks

The steps for copying formula across excel workbooks are very much same like copying within same workbook. But if you do receive reference errors like shown below then make sure the cell range referenced in the formula are valid in your new workbook.

 

 

Copy Pasting Formula across Excel Workbooks when Formula consists of Cross Sheet/Workbook References

 

Let us take another tricky but a practical scenario. I want to copy the formula which references some cell range from other sheets of the workbook.

I have a table present in Sheet2 of Book1.xlsx like shown below.

 

 

On Sheet1of Book1.xlsx I am using formula to get the sum of Table A + Table B like:

 


 

Now, if you want to copy the formulas from this range into a different workbook e.g. Book2.xlsx you
will notice the formula is copied along with the workbook reference for e.g. SUM([Book1.xlsx]Sheet2!C4:C4)

 

 

So copying the exact formula across workbooks in this case will be slightly tricky. There are lot of confusing/outdated references exist across web for this. But I have researched a simple solution for this problem.

  • First, paste the formula into your destination workbook
  • Now you will have to remove the references of the original workbook source
  • For this, use the ‘Find and Replace’ functionality of excel and remove the formula source reference, in this case [Book1.xlsx] and replace it with nothing

     


 

  • After ‘Replace All’ all your formula source references will be removed and you achieve the exact formula pasting into your destination workbook in line with your source. You only need to ensure the similar named sheets and required data exist at your destination workbook as well

 

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Aug
25
2013

How to Fix Excel2010 Large File Size/Scrollbar Issues

Another day with another issue, this time with Microsoft Excel. All the excel files I have received today for various reasons came in unusually large file sizes against little information stored in them. Working with them was extremely slower and the entire excel application crashed multiple times when processing them. The vertical scrollbar was scrollable all the way down to 1 million rows (the maximum rows supported in an excel sheet) whereas many of the sheets had data for only few rows. Some small cleanup tricks I knew did not help. The references on the web were mostly related to excel 2003 or using small VBA snippets which weren’t helping me to resolve the issue.

But after some trial and error I have managed to optimize the file size and decided to add a post about it here. I am covering only about excel 2010 spreadsheets here.

So here are some useful troubleshooting steps.

 

Step 1 – Make sure the rows or columns are not formatted (like border, color, even white color) beyond the required data range. A lot of people select the row or column headers while adding colors or borders. This often makes excel to think the entire (e.g. from row 1 to row 1 million) rows/columns are not empty and adds additional storage for them (so each sheet could contribute 3 – 5 MB to the file size due to this).

This would also mess the vertical/horizontal scrolling. If you try to scroll slightly, you will end up moving 1000s of rows at a time.

 

Excel Filesize, Scroll Issues

 

So check for such unnecessary formatting in your spreadsheet, clear them and reformat only up to your used range (e.g. 1-200 rows only).

Now save the excel sheet and check if it reduces file size and resets the scrolling.

 

Step 2 - If the step 1 does not help then consider deleting all the unused rows and columns in the sheet. Refer this video for the steps:

 

 

As you can see in this video, the scroll bar is reset after deleting unused rows/columns. The file size also should be optimized after this.

 

Step 3 - For any reason, if the step 1 and step 2 does not helps you, then you can consider rebuilding the entire excel sheet. For this, just copy and paste (only the required range of cells) the data into a newly created excel spreadsheet. This way the scrolling issue as well the file size issue should be fixed.

 

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