Creating a shortcut to change the default audio device in Windows

by Shijaz Abdulla on 13.05.2013 at 15:25

Most of us use multiple audio devices. Sometimes its a headset, at other times it’s the default laptop speakers, and at other times it might a speaker system connected to your docking station or even a webcam microphone.

Unfortunately, switching between the various audio devices can be tedious as you need to change the Windows “default device” or the “default communications device” each time for both recording and playback.

Today we’re going to see how you can create simple shortcuts on your taskbar that let you effortlessly switch between audio devices.

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The three shortcuts you see in my little “Audio Control” custom toolbar let me switch between by Microsoft LifeChat LX-3000 headset, Internal Speakers and Logitech c920 HD webcam microphone. Here’s how I created these shortcuts:

Note: I have tried this on Windows 8, but I am pretty sure it will work on Windows 7 too.

1. Download the NIRCMD utility and extract it to a folder on your computer, let’s call it C:\NIRCMD

2. Open your Windows Playback devices (Right click on your speaker icon on the taskbar).

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Note the names of each of the devices you need to change. You can click on Properties to view the correct name. You will need the exact same name for the NIRCMD command to work. If you have two devices with the same name (example: “Speakers”) you will need to rename one of them so that they are unique. Click Properties if you need to rename devices.

Note the names in a text file for easy copy-paste.

In my case, the three playback device names are:

  • “Headset Earphone”
  • “Speakers”

3. Do the same with recording devices. Note the names in a text file. In my case the names of my 3 recording devices are:

  • “Headset Microphone”
  • “Microphone”
  • “C920 Microphone” (renamed)

4. Now open the C:\NIRCMD folder, create a new batch file for each device, let’s call them SPEAKERS.BAT, HEADPHONE.BAT, and WEBCAM.BAT

5. Use similar commands as below for each of the BAT files. Use the device names you copied earlier.

SPEAKERS.BAT

@ECHO OFF
C:\NIRCMD\NIRCMDC setdefaultsounddevice "Speakers" 2
C:\NIRCMD\NIRCMDC setdefaultsounddevice "Internal Microphone" 2
C:\NIRCMD\NIRCMDC setdefaultsounddevice "Speakers" 1
C:\NIRCMD\NIRCMDC setdefaultsounddevice "Internal Microphone" 1

HEADSET.BAT

@ECHO OFF
C:\NIRCMD\NIRCMDC setdefaultsounddevice "Headset Earphone" 2
C:\NIRCMD\NIRCMDC setdefaultsounddevice "Headset Microphone" 2
C:\NIRCMD\NIRCMDC setdefaultsounddevice "Headset Earphone" 1
C:\NIRCMD\NIRCMDC setdefaultsounddevice "Headset Microphone" 1

WEBCAM.BAT

@ECHO OFF
C:\NIRCMD\NIRCMDC setdefaultsounddevice "Speakers" 2
C:\NIRCMD\NIRCMDC setdefaultsounddevice "C920 Microphone" 2

Notes:

  • The “1” in the NIRCMD command line argument indicates that the device is set as “Default Device”. A “2” in the command indicates that the device will be set as a “Default Communications Device” (useful for Skype, Lync etc).
  • The device name string should be EXACTLY the same that is defined in Windows.

6. Test each batch file by double clicking on them and observing if the default device changed.

7. Create a folder "Audio Control” for your custom toolbar. Your NIRCMD folder should look like the below now.

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7. Inside the Audio Control folder, create three shortcuts to the batch files that you created in step 5. Click Change Icon in the shortcut file properties if you want to change the icons like I have done.

8. Right click on an empty space on your taskbar and choose New toolbar.

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9. Choose the C:\NIRCMD\Audio Control folder. You now have an awesome new Audio Controls toolbar.

You will appreciate the one-click ease with which you can now change your default audio device in Windows. Leave a comment and let us know your feedback! 🙂

Automatically changing the Windows power plan

by Shijaz Abdulla on 04.05.2013 at 13:50

I use a Toshiba Dynadock u3.0 to connect my Windows 8 laptop to dual displays, printer, mouse & keyboard, webcam, etc and sometimes when I resume my computer from a Standby state, the displays do not work and I have to restart the computer.

One workaround is to unplug the Dynadock before you resume the computer from standby and re-plug it in once the computer has resumed.

An even better workaround is to create a custom power plan that does not cause the computer to go to standby when connected to AC power. However, if your computer is managed by an organization they might enforce a “preferred” power plan through group policy, which causes your custom power plan to be overridden, leaving you with the same problem.

Today we explore how we can create a custom power plan and create a simple scheduled task that will ensure your custom power plan remains enforced regardless of your organization’s enforced power plan. Bear in mind, that depending upon what privileges your administrator has provided you on your desktop, this method may or may not be effective.

1. Create a custom power plan that does not put your computer on standby. Set this as your current power plan. I’m calling my power plan Dynadock.

microsoftnow

2. Open the Command Prompt and type powercfg /list. Note the GUID of your Dynadock power scheme (highlighted below). You will need this in the next step.

3. Open Task Scheduler (you can search for it on the Start menu/screen. Look under Settings in Windows 8)

4. Click Create Task on the right pane.

5. Choose the options on each tab as follows

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On the Triggers tab, click Newimage

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On the Actions tab, click New

Action: Start a program

Program/script: C:\Windows\System32\powercfg.exe

Add arguments: /setactive <GUID>
(where GUID is the text you copied earlier in step 2)

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Click OK

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Review the other tabs and make changes if needed, the default settings should be ok.

Supply your username and password when prompted and you are all set!

What you have just done is creating a scheduled task that runs every hour to change your power scheme back to your own custom power plan, even if the system reverts back to the “preferred” plan.

Update (27-May-2013): If you use your Windows Domain account for the scheduled task, the job will stop running once your change your password. A simple way to fix this is to open Task Scheduler whenever you change your password and update the new password, or simply use a local account with admin privileges which will not be required to change password by group policies.

Partners: Earn up to 30% incentive with Microsoft solutions

by Shijaz Abdulla on 20.10.2011 at 18:19

The Solution Incentives reward partners for driving sales of specific Microsoft solutions, chosen for their growth and market potential. The program creates opportunities for partners to build new sustainable revenue streams and increase their value to customers.

What partner types can participate?
Solution incentives are customer segment and partner-type agnostic. Partners need to meet eligibility requirements and each opportunity being registered needs to meet the eligibility criteria described in the Program Guide, to be eligible for incentives.

What if the Solution Partner also transacts the order?
Whether the Partner is only advising the customer, or advising and transacting, there will be no difference in the solution incentives calculation and payment.

For more information, check out the following documents:

Management and Virtualization

Windows 7

Application Platform (Microsoft SQL Server)

Microsoft Lync

New to PSX? Check out the PSX resources here.

How to add an Internet Explorer 9 Jump List to your website

by Shijaz Abdulla on 14.12.2010 at 23:09

One of the most exciting new features in Internet Explorer 9 is the ability to “pin” your favorite websites to your Windows 7 taskbar. I just added a jumplist to my blog today!

Try it out – If you’re running IE9, drag and drop the browser tab showing this page on to your taskbar and see what happens.

Not only can your visitors pin your website, you can also add Tasks (or links) when your visitors right click on their pinned website.

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Pinning is really cool because:

  • Your visitors can pin their favorite website to their taskbar
  • The pinned website icon is always displayed on the taskbar and the probability of the visitor returning back to your website is very high. This helps you retain your visitors.
  • Plus, they don’t have to remember the URL
  • You can add common areas of your website as a menu when they right click on the icon of your pinned website, giving them instant, one click access to all areas of your website.

Here are some interesting examples of IE9 jumplists in Action – Amazon, Facebook, Bing and ebay. There are plenty more websites out there already making use of this handy feature.

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So, just how easy is it to add a jumplist to your website? It’s as simple as adding a few <meta> tags.

As an example, to display the jumplist that I added to my blog, here’s the code:

<meta name="application-name" content="microsoftNOW blog"/>
<meta name="msapplication-tooltip" content="Launch MicrosoftNOW Blog"/>
<meta name="msapplication-starturl" content="
http://www.microsoftnow.com">
<meta name="msapplication-task" content="name=About;action-uri=/about;icon-uri=/find.ico" />
<meta name="msapplication-task" content="name=For Partners;action-uri=/category/partners;icon-uri=/man2.ico" />
<meta name="msapplication-navbutton-color" content="black"/>
<link rel="shortcut icon" href="/favicon.ico" />

For more information, check out the Pinned Sites Cookbook on MSDN.

WikiLeaks crisis: Why is BitLocker important?

by Shijaz Abdulla on 01.12.2010 at 20:25

I read with interest news articles on MSNBC and Yahoo about Bank of America’s shares falling on WikiLeaks fears.

[A spokesman for the Bank of America] said that the bank was aware that Wikileaks claimed to have the computer hard drive of a Bank of America executive more than a year ago. "Aside from the claims themselves we have no evidence that supports this assertion," he said.

In an October 9, 2009 interview, Assange told Computerworld that WikiLeaks had obtained five gigabytes of data from a Bank of America executive’s hard drive.

"Now how do we present that? It’s a difficult problem. We could just dump it all into one giant Zip file, but we know for a fact that has limited impact. To have impact, it needs to be easy for people to dive in and search it and get something out of it," Assange told Computerworld.

Why is Windows 7 BitLocker important? BitLocker Drive Encryption is a full disk encryption feature included with the Ultimate and Enterprise editions of Microsoft’s Windows Vista and Windows 7. It is designed to protect data by providing encryption for entire volumes.

If a hard disk protected by BitLocker is lost or stolen, there is NO way for the data to be retrieved by an unauthorized person.

For more information on how BitLocker can help you organization protect its information assets, please speak to your Microsoft representative or a Microsoft partner.

HP Slate 500 is officially released

by Shijaz Abdulla on 23.10.2010 at 16:18

The HP Slate 500, running Windows 7 Professional (32 bit) has been officially released yesterday.

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The HP Slate, priced at $799 in the US, is powered with an Intel® Atom™ Processor Z540 (1.86 GHz, 512 KB L2 cache, 533 MHz FSB), 2 GB of RAM (maximum, non upgradeable), a solid state flash module for storage, and an 8.9” wide-angle touch screen. The unit is shipped with a cradle and a carry case included in the box.

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An HP Slate digital pen is also included as an additional input device. The HP slate features two cameras, one for video conferencing and the other to be used for still photography at 3MP.

The HP slate’s dimensions are 9.21 x 0.58 x 5.91 in (23.40 x 1.47 x 15.00 cm). Average battery life is 5+ hours.

I saw some really interesting close-up pictures of the product on Engadget this morning.

iPad vs. HP Slate

Unlike the iPad, the HP Slate is primarily targeted at the business user rather than a mere collectible for the consumer. Smile

  • Display: The HP Slate features an 8.9” display at 16:9 ratio. The iPad has a 9.7” display with only a 4:3 ratio. Both devices support a maximum resolution of 1024 x 768. The HP Slate supports 1080p video playback, while the iPad can only do 720p.
  • Camera: The HP Slate has two, the iPad has none!
  • USB port: The HP Slate has one, the iPad has none!
  • Processor: iPad has a 1 GHz Apple A4 processor, Slate runs on a 1.86GHz Intel Atom processor.
  • Memory: the Slate comes with 2GB of memory, that’s 8 times more memory than the iPad.
  • Weight: Despite all the extra features on the HP Slate, both devices weigh the same (1.5 pounds)
  • Adobe Flash support: iPad doesn’t support Flash. HP Slate (Windows 7) does. And that makes a big difference.
  • OS: The iPad runs Apple’s iPhone OS 3.2 operating system, which was designed for a phone. The HP Slate 500 runs Windows 7, a “serious” operating system that can run Microsoft Office Smile and a hell of a lot of applications. If it runs on Windows 7, it will most likely run on your Slate.
  • Storage: iPad comes in “flavours” of 16GB, 32GB and 64 GB. HP Slate comes with a 64GB solid state drive and expandable via SD, SDHC and SDXC.

To be fair to the iPad, the only iPad features that I can think of that the Slate doesn’t have are:

  • 3G support
  • Apple talks about 10 hours battery life, while HP Slate gives 5+ hours.

Call me biased, but the HP Slate is the clear winner in the modern tablet era, based on the facts above. I just can’t wait to get one for myself! Open-mouthed smile

Windows 7: നിങ്ങളുടെ Potential, നമ്മുടെ Passion!

by Shijaz Abdulla on 05.05.2010 at 17:06

Malayalam language pack for Windows 7 is now available for download.

As part of the Microsoft Local Language Program, Windows Language Packs are being developed on most local languages, including a large number of Indian languages including Hindi, Assamese, Bengali, Urdu, Kannada, Tamil, Marathi, Oriya, Nepali, Konkani, Telugu, etc.

For downloading Language Interface Packs for Indian languages, be sure to visit the Microsoft Bhasha Project website.

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Browser selection screen in European versions of Windows 7

by Shijaz Abdulla on 20.04.2010 at 21:37

In case you’re wondering how it looks like.

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The order in which the browsers are listed is random.

Source: "Microsoft On The Issues" blog

Establishing an SSTP connection using the Windows VPN client

by Shijaz Abdulla on 05.04.2010 at 20:25

I was chatting with Tom Shinder this evening when he started an interesting discussion on setting up a Windows VPN connection to use SSTP to connect to the corporate network via Forefront Unified Access Gateway (UAG). This would allow Windows 7 users to connect via SSTP without having to log in to the UAG portal.

So far, we’ve seen it only being done on the UAG Portal – where the user has to log in to the UAG portal and open the Remote Network Access application.

So I fired up my UAG lab VMs to see if this is do-able – and we were successful in getting it to work! Here’s how we did it.

 

  1. Open the user’s properties in Active Directory Users & Computers. On the Dial-in tab, choose Allow Access under Network Access Permission. Alternatively, you can configure the NPS Network policy accordingly.

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  2. On the Windows 7 client machine, create a new VPN connection. (Hint: Network & Sharing Centre –> Set up a new connection or network –> Connect to workplace)
  3. For the newly created connection, set the connection properties as below. The host name will be the same that’s configured on your UAG trunk.

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  4. On the Security tab of the VPN connection properties, set the Type of VPN as Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP). Select the option to automatically use te Windows logon name and password.

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  5. You’re good to go. Make that connection! 🙂

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Computer reseller opts for out-of-court settlement with Microsoft

by Shijaz Abdulla on 25.03.2010 at 19:19

Source: ITP.net

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Dubai-based reseller Storm Computers has pledged to sell only genuine Microsoft licences in future after settling allegations that it pirated the software vendor’s products out of court.

Microsoft raided Storm’s premises a few months back and said in a statement that it was "purportedly" found to be selling PCs loaded with pirated versions of its software.

Pirated CDs were also seized during the operation and two Storm employees were arrested, according to the vendor.

Under the terms of a civil settlement between the pair, Storm will only sell and distribute genuine Microsoft software to its customers in future. Both parties also agreed to an undisclosed amount of damages.

Mustafa Ali Khan, manager of Storm Computers, said: "We are highly appreciative of Microsoft’s approach to our case. After talks with the company, we have come to fully understand the value of genuine software and the risks associated with distributing pirated software, both to ourselves and to our valued customers."

Microsoft claims it is making ground in its bid to reduce channel piracy, pointing to recent settlements it has made as evidence that resellers are turning their back on the illegal software trade.

"We expect 2010 to carry over this trend and usher in greater cooperation from resellers," said Jawad Al Redha, IPR manager at Microsoft Gulf. "Although local authorities have gained ground in reducing the incidences of piracy across the Emirates via a combination of awareness campaigns and enforcement activities, they still need more help from the software sector and the public to combat copyright violations."

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