Archive for the ‘Tools’ Category

Thunderbird Message Reading Order

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

I finally went looking for one of my pet peeves with the Thunderbird email tool, and the Internet did not disappoint.

I like seeing my message list with the newest items at the top of the list, yet I normally read them oldest to newest.  When I finish reading a message and delete it, Thunderbird’s default behavior is to select and display the message below the previous selection in the list.  My newest-at-the-top sort order causes the next older message to be displayed, which is probably the one I looked at just prior to the one I deleted.  I want it to select the next newer message.

Turns out there is an option for this in Thunderbird’s config options.

Go to Tools->Options…, Advanced tab, Config Editor….
Change the option mail.delete_matches_sort_order to true.

Now if only someone would add the Reply/Reply All toggle that I’ve been pining for….

Open Command Prompt Here

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

I still prefer the command line for many tasks. Sometimes it’s just faster. It can be a deterrent if you want to run some commands in a deeply nested folder, however. So I like the “Open Command Prompt Here” feature, which can be made available in Windows Explorer’s folder context menus.

In Windows 7 it is there, but hidden. Hold the Shift key and right mouse on a folder to see the context menu entry. In Windows Vista it is half there. Holding Shift while displaying the context menu only shows the hidden entry in the righthand pane of the Explorer Window. Prior to Vista, you need to use PowerToys or edit the registry to add the context menu item.

There is more information here.

Which Cygwin package contains a file?

Thursday, July 1st, 2010


You never have all the tools you need.  For Cygwin, I used to hunt through the package list and guess which package had what I was looking for.  Well there is a better way.  And someone else has already written about it.

This link tells you how to determine which Cygwin package contains a file.

In case that site disappears, here’s how (pretend we are looking for the strings command):

  • There’s a web way:
  • and there’s a command line way (if you already have Cygwin installed):

        cygcheck -p strings.exe

…and the answer is… binutils!

Terra Vista kills to_vsb.exe

Friday, April 30th, 2010

I have a Terra Vista project big enough that it takes about 6 hours to convert all the OpenFlight that gets generated to the fast-loading .vsb format.  I use the command line version of the to_vsb.exe tool because there are too many files for the GUI version to handle (because it tries to put them all into its scrolling list boxes).

I was nearing my delivery deadline, so I was doing some Terra Vista processing, and converting some .flt data that had already been generated.  I was waiting and waiting for to_vsb to finish.  Finally I decided to check the processes in the Task Manager.  to_vsb had disappeared!  I finally figured out Terra Vista was killing it, but why!?

Presagis Support had an explanation:  Terra Vista invokes to_vsb to convert its output.  When it is done using to_vsb, it kills all the to_vsb processes.  Not an elegant bit of programming, that.  Anyway, mystery solved.

Presagis suggests that if you want to run to_vsb and Terra Vista concurrently, you should make a copy of to_vsb.exe and rename it so TV won’t kill it.

Convert CSV to Shapefile in ArcView 9.3

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

This is so I don’t forget, since I’m an infrequent ArcView user.  I had a CSV file (text file with comma-separated values) that I wanted to convert to a point Shapefile.

Before I tried ArcView (because it is complicated) I tried a free tool called CSV to Shapefile Converter 2.0.  See below for more on that.

The ArcGIS docs tell you it can be done, but then describe how to import a text file with just 2 columns of data for X and Y point values.  You could do some shenanigans with OIDs and creating a separate table with the attribute fields, then joining them somehow.

Turns out there is an easy way to load the coordinates and the attributes all in one shot.  (I’m using ArcGIS Desktop 9.3.1.)

My input data looks like this:

x, y, z, name, tmapname, tmapsize, rlevel
40.778975, -111.899080, 1296.846000, slca_0434, R0_region_019, 2948400, 0
40.778956, -111.898698, 1297.241000, slca_0435, R0_region_019, 2948400, 0
40.778969, -111.898482, 1297.195000, slca_0436, R0_region_019, 2948400, 0
40.778753, -111.898620, 1297.972000, slca_0437, R0_region_019, 2948400, 0
40.777677, -111.898004, 1300.5800 ...

In ArcCatalog, navigate to your file, right mouse on it and select Create Feature Class -> From XY Table…


VirtualBox Guest Additions

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

VirtualBox LogoMore than once I’ve needed to upgrade my VirtualBox Guest Additions (the piece that runs on the virtual machine and adds devices and capabilities that are needed by the imaginary hardware).  And I would always have a difficult time locating them on the Sun website.

The Guest Additions come as a .iso image file that VirtualBox can mount as a CD for your virtual machine to read.  You could also burn an actual CD from the image, but there is probably no reason.

You can find the Guest Additions, along with VirtualBox installers for many platforms, on the VirtualBox website, at:

Thanks to Petr Dvorak’s blog for helping me find this information.