From The Tips Box: Desktop Clutter, LED Lights And More

Readers offer their best tips for hiding icons on the desktop, saving your eyes from your gadgets' bright LED lights and more.

About the Tips Box: Every day we receive boatloads of great reader tips in our inbox, but for various reasons—maybe they're a bit too niche, maybe we couldn't find a good way to present it, or maybe we just couldn't fit it in—the tip didn't make the front page. From the Tips Box is where we round up some of our favourites for your buffet-style consumption. Got a tip of your own to share? Add it in the comments or email it to tips at

Dimming Annoying LED Lights

Richard shares a hack to dim painfully bright LED lights:

I have about twenty gadgets around the house, from microwave ovens to TiVo boxes to stereos to routers that have insanely bright LEDs announcing the time, whether they're on or off... even techie maven's curse. While it isn't practical to unplug or face them to the wall - or worse yet, cover them with electrical tape, I think I have happened on an elegant solution.

A friend suggested I cover the LEDs with lithographer's tape. Lithographer's tape is a red E-PVC film tape with a solvent-based natural rubber adhesive, used for pre-press stripping, edging and opaquing applications on film materials. So I ordered a roll from Amazon (about $US3 - no art or photo store here in Austin appeared to have it so I surmise it's something of a specialty item). I decided to try it out on my oven clock, which is green and ridiculously bright.

The litho tape has made the clock a pleasant deep red, viewable in the dark but about half as bright as it was before. So I can see the time, but it isn't casting an erie green glow over the kitchen. I next went into the bedroom and attacked my VCR clock display (don't laugh), DVD player blue light, Aiwa stereo that has a kooky display that looks like a slot machine, and my TiVo wireless adaptor LED. All are now an awesome dusty red that is visible but easily blends into the dark.

Surprisingly the bright blue LEDs on my DirecTV box and DVD player are completely blacked out with the litho tape. This isn't a real concern at present but I might have to seek another solution - the litho tape masks too much of the light (i.e., all of it).

Quick Launch, Immediate To-Do Lists

Nicholas shares a quick and easy to-do list solution:

I'm guilty of multitasking like crazy. I'll frequently be working on one thing, then midway through remember I need to work on something else, and both tasks are important, liable to be forgotten, and are tempting because I know I can finish each in only a few minutes.

So I keep a notepad document open (I use notepad because it's so lightweight that it's super reliable), called "Right Now Thoughts", and quickly write myself notes if I need to remember to do something and don't want to interrupt my current task. I don't keep anything there long-term, but use it constantly when I'm busy on multiple things at once.

It's also handy because it allows you to manage multiple clipboard items without a special program for handling multiple copy-and-paste operations.

It's also useful because it strips the formatting from anything you paste into it!

I make it extremely quick to access by saving a shortcut called "now" in the System32 folder. Any time I want to open it, I just hit WINDOWS + R, then type "now" and it comes up immediately. (No load time, the way there would be with Word or a website.)

Reducing Virtual Desktop Clutter

Zarek tells us how he manages to keep his desktop neat:

an easy way to reduce desktop clutter without seeing a folder sitting on the desktop named 'OLD STUFF' is to create a folder, press F2 to rename it, hold down Alt and type 255 on the number pad, let go of Alt and press Enter. This will create a folder with no name. Then, right click it, click Properties, then the Customise tab, click Choose Icon, then choose a blank icon from shell32.dll. Simple, but you kind of have to remember where you put the folder :)

Also note that folders named this way cannot be easily deleted - when you want to delete a nameless folder, you have get into the command prompt. Change your working folder (using cd) to the parent folder of the nameless folder and type:

ren "Alt+255" "NewName"

You actually have to type the Alt+255 part (that is, actually hold down Alt and hit 255 on the num pad). It will show up as a space in the command prompt. Once executed, your folder will be renamed and you should be able to delete it as normal. We've actually highlighted this tip once before, but it's a nice reminder, and we're glad to see it in use.


    I just tried the folder tip and I had no trouble deleting them. Also Alt+0160 works too.

    Just a thought with the second tip. If you store the text file on dropbox, you can do the same thing accross multiple computers.

    I'm sure you could also pin this file to the windows7 taskbar.

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