Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Brown sludge in bottom of Blendtec blender cup

I recently came across a brown sludge that coats the metal ring at the bottom/base inside my Blendrec blender cup... any ideas what this stuff might be? I scraped it off with a toothpick, as it doesn't seem to come off with a hot water rinse alone. Doesn't appear to be rust.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Skype crashing on you? It might be a driver issue.

Does Skype keep crashing on your Windows machine? Try this helpful hint: Make sure that your webcam's driver is up-to-date, preferably using drivers developed by the manufacturer.

My mom and I recently had this problem where we couldn't audio or video chat for longer than just a minute or so--sometimes the conversation lasted only seconds. It was very buggy. Skype would crash on her computer, but not on mine (I'm on a Mac, for reference). We found it interesting because I could skype just fine between my home Mac and my work's Dell laptop, so I isolated the problem to my mom's computer, which is a fairly recent and capable model.

The problem stemmed from us not using the correct driver for the web cam, a Logitech Pro 9000. After some troubleshooting, we discovered that Windows automatically installed a default generic driver for the webcam. So we went over to Logitech's website, downloaded the latest driver for it, installed, rebooted, and presto. As I write this blog, I'm video chatting with my mom and the timer is 40:21 and counting.

Apple Mighty Mouse goes ABSOLUTELY BERZERK!

OK, so it's 2:11 AM and I finally figured out why my Apple Mighty Mouse is going berserk.

First, some background. The might mouse is touch sensitive, meaning the top shell can sense where your fingers are and produce the correct type of click, according to where your fingers are. For example, both fingers down will default to a left click, while lifting your index finger (if you're right handed) will produce a left click because it can sense that your left finger is off the top of the shell.

So this evening, I had a little work to do on the company laptop. I pushed my mac keyboard and mouse out of the way to make room for the laptop, did my work, then closed the lid (left the laptop on), and then proceeded to use my mac with the keyboard and mouse.

I noticed some peculiar things happening with my mouse. See, the Mighty Mouse has two side buttons--one on either side--when you squeeze them, it makes a little clicking sound and activates exposé. What was happening this evening was that ANY time I touched my mouse, I'd hear the clicking sound and exposé would activate. It seemed to get worse, then better, then worse again, seemingly at random. Sometimes, it got so bad that it would literally toggle back and forth between activated and deactivated, many times per second--while my hand was simply resting on the damned thing. I could hear the clicks. It was insane.

But it only did it seemingly at random, which pissed me off. So, I sought out a solution.

At first, I tried to take the mouse apart... but in fear of breaking the damn thing, I chose to find other alternatives. Scouring the web left me with nothing--apparently the only major problem people have with the Mighty Mouse has to do with the scroll ball. Alas, I was about to give up and bring it to the Apple Store when I woke up.

But then it hit me: maybe this isn't a mechanical problem, but an electrical problem. Could the Mighty Mouse be short circuiting? Impossible; I bought my Mac over the summer of 2008, and Apple makes some pretty high quality products so I doubt I'd see my poor little mouse go belly up in only a few short months.

Nevertheless, I began to test things. Systematically. Starting with the cord, I jiggled it. After a while of going up and down the length of the cord, I discovered that the problems stopped once I hit the base of the cord where it connects to the keyboard. Could this be it? No, but there's a reason, which I'll detail below.

See, the point where the cord connects to the keyboard is the point at which my hand and arm was completely off of my LAPTOP that was sitting on my desk! Once I put my hand/arm back on the laptop and touched my mouse, crazy shit began to happen again. This was it!

Upon my enlightenment, I smiled with delight--for a couple reasons. One, I fixed my problem myself (yay me!) but two, I don't have to waste time at the Apple Store looking like a total loser because my symptoms would never have shown up. Imagine: "Hi, my mouse is going crazy." Apple tech: "Looks fine to me." Me: "Fuck. Never fails; you go to the doctor for medicine, but magically, by the time you arrive, you feel much better than you did 30 minutes ago."

So I got all excited to write this post to share with the world my discovery, and moved my laptop from the desk to my lap, so I could access my keyboard. As soon as I touched my mouse, what do you think happened? Well I'll be damned: same problem. Mouse went haywire again.

I then put the damn thing on the floor (avoiding contact with it) and what do you know? Mouse is perfectly normal.

So the bottom line is this: this damned Mighty Mouse is sensitive to electrical impulses, such that if an electrical current flows through the top shell that's more than a human's, it throws the whole damn thing out of whack.

2.5 hours of my life wasted, but at least now I know, and so do you.

Friday, December 5, 2008

How to sync firefox bookmarks and passwords

Do you use more than one computer? Well then, this tip may be indispensable: keep all your bookmarks and passwords in harmonious synchronization across every single computer that you use.

One of the best things about Firefox is its extensions--the ability to add functionality to the web browser that didn't exist before--functionality that is limited only by the imagination of developers out there worldwide.

Do yourself a favor and download this must-have Firefox extension, Foxmarks. Add it to firefox on each of your computers, and you'll never have to leave your bookmarks or passwords behind again.

But what if you're on a public computer? No problem, just visit http://my.foxmarks.com to access your bookmarks. Your passwords will not be available to you from here, but at least you've got your bookmarks. Besides, if there's a password you really don't remember but it's on your home computer, that's ok because you could always just use LogMeIn and, well, that solves that problem.

Scotty: Log Me In

Recently I've found myself spending more and more time wishing I could log into my home computer from work. My home computer's a Mac, which explains why I can't simply Remote Desktop from my work laptop running Windows XP. In addition to that, the corporate firewall creates more connectivity issues than I knew existed. What a drag.

But then I found a service on the internet called LogMeIn. All you have to do is create an account, then download the LogMeIn software to the computer you want to log into from a remote location. Once that's done, remote control of your computer is as simple as visiting LogMeIn.com, and literally logging in. Once authenticated, you can click the Remote Control button and be connected to your home computer via your web browser. (Side note: for the best experience, you'll need to install a small browser plug-in, available for Internet Explorer, Firefox, and other browsers.)

Amazingly, this even works using the iPhone. If you're on a WiFi connection, you can access your home computer (or whatever other computer you've set up with the LogMeIn software) remotely and I must say it works great.

Best part: the service is free. You can't copy files or print to a local printer--for that, you pay extra--but that's why it's free. LogMeIn is willing to bet that if you start using its free service, you'll eventually come to appreciate the value of the added functionality of the paid services it offers, of which there are several.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Deceptive website example

OK, this will sound kinda geeky, but that's what this blog is about, right?

So I'm reading some of my mail in gmail this morning, and I did something rare: I looked at the advertisements to see how relevant they were to the context of my email. For reference, I was reading a notification that a billing statement was ready. Of the eight ads on the right hand side, only two caught my eye because they stood out from the rest--not in a good way, necessarily, but they were just different.

You see, while the rest of the ads had a green location of www.WhateverSite.com, these two that stood out had a green location address that omitted the www in replace of an actual word like "balance" or "bills". In this case, I decided to click on the ad with the location of "bills.iGrantCash.com".

I was taken to a page that threw me back to the late 90s with its dithered iGrantCash.com icon (complete with one sole underline under the letters "ash.com"). Anytime I see a web site with shoddy graphics, I immediately throw a red flag because these days, graphics should be very polished since our monitors can display millions of colors.

Anyhow, that was strike one. Strike two came when I glanced at the very prominent top right corner, which touted, "Total grant sites: 57. Sites that were scams: 56. Legitimate sites: 1." Of course, my first question was: is this one of the scam sites? Then I thought, nah, this must be the "1" site that is not a scam. Hmmmmmmm.....

What else did I see? Somehow, this P.O.S. site from the 90s had been featured on such prominent sites as MSN, CNN.com, AOL Search, NBC, CNBC, CBS, Fox News, Forbes, the list goes on. A critical thinker might ask, "how is this so?" considering the web site looks like a piece of trash, while the non-critical thinker (or citizen desperate for cash) just says "whew, that's reassuring." So, with a critical eye, I continued reading on.

The truth finally came at the bottom of the page, where I read this in the fine print:

"As Seen On" logos and trademarks are owned by their respective companies. This site is currently advertised on all the media outlets identified under "As Seen On" logo banner.

So basically, they feel like they can say they've been "seen on" MSN, Yahoo, and others, because they advertise on those sites. Thus it is their advertisement that has been "seen on" those sites, not actual articles about the great product itself, which is simply links to information you can find using any search engine.

So now comes strike three: every single link on this web page directs the unsuspecting visitor to the exact same page: http://www.igrantcash.com/NewForm.jsp?

This is a sign-up page that screams, "Congratulations You are Pre-Qualified
For Free FREE Government Grant Money"

Again, this new sign-up page features logos from major companies such as CNN, NBC, CNBC, and Fox News, which makes the casual web surfer feel comfortable and at ease. My first question was, "gosh, how did little 'ol me get pre-qualified to receive thousands of government dollars for free? was my 'click' simply enough for them to say OK?"

By the way, that sign up page asks for your name, address, city, state, phone and email among other things, and it's not even transmitting the data using the https:// protocol (HTTP Secure). In other words, it's sent across the internet in plain text.

After entering in some fake information, I'm led to a second page asking for my credit card information. This time, however, it does use the https protocol, so at least they're taking my credit card information securely.

That's a nice thought.

So the bottom line is this: you may have read this post and say, "you ain't teachin' me nothin' new, essay!" But that is not the point. This post wasn't written for you. This post was written for those who are skeptical about a site for some reason, but can't quite put their fingers on why. This little lesson, for example, would be a great thing to teach someone in your life who is just getting started on the internet, or who has been using it for a while, but isn't quite as tech savvy with regard to graphics quality, where links go to, and security protocols such as https.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Nicolaus Labor Day Parade and Craft Faire

Oli's Products is striving to spread the word that gluten free food tastes great, one craft faire at a time. Labor Day is typically a holiday when many people head to the water, relax, and have a BBQ. It's a three day weekend, so why not squeeze the Nicolaus Labor Day Parade and Craft Faire into your schedule? Get out of town, enjoy some good food, live entertainment, and explore the local arts and crafts. Come on by and sample our signature Sweet 'n Spicy Sauce or our Thick 'n Chunky Salsa. Check out website for the details.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Peppers are in Season

Here in Northern California peppers are falling off the tables at farmers market and the prices are going down in the grocery store, which can only mean one thing: Oli's Products is in full production. August and September are our busiest months for producing our two main products: Oli's Sweet 'n Spicy Sauce, and Oli's Thick 'n Chunky Salsa, as we strive to use local and fresh ingredients. We also have seasonal offerings, and currently have Oli's Sweet 'n Spicy Sauce: Mango in stock.

Did you know that the haberno chili is the second hottest pepper in the world? We use the habanero in all varieties of Oli's Sweet 'n Spicy Sauce and in the hot variation of Oli's Thick 'n Chunky Salsa. So whether you like a mild taste or you love the burn we've got the perfect treat for you.

As Fall slowly approaches, our craft fair season is gearing up, which means if you're in the greater Sacramento area you can come on out to our booth locations and sample our products in person. On August 17th you can find Oli's Products at the Loomis Basin Community Park in Loomis, CA. The fair is being held in support of the Lewy Body Dementia Association, Inc. and is going to be a fun-filled day of volleyball, food vendors, and crafts. And as a special treat, in addition to our two other product lines, Oli's Products will be introducing its death-by-chocolate brownies. If you can't make it out to see us in person and are having a chocolate craving we welcome you to make a special order at OlisProducts.com.

Friday, July 25, 2008

R.I.P. Randy Pausch (1960-2008)

In late 2007 I stumbled upon a news article about a dying professor giving his "last lecture"... kind of ironic, right? Well, that "last lecture" caught fire, garnering millions of views across the internet. What he was there to discuss was how to fulfill your childhood dreams, and the lessons he had learned on his life's journey. If you haven't seen it, here it is. (1 hour, 16 minutes. Grab a snack.) If you have already seen it, it's worth watching again.

Well, Randy died yesterday (Thursday, July 24, 2008) and news of his death is making tidal waves across the internet. In fact, Pausch has had such a phenomenal impact on people that news of his death takes up 50% of the search terms on today's Google Trends, in addition to trending very high on Summize (now search.twitter.com).

So, this is my little piece of gratitude to him: Thanks, Randy, for living a great life and living just long enough to talk about it. You're an inspiration for generations to come.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

HOW-TO: Print USPS Click-n-Ship postage without the instructions

If you've ever used USPS Click-n-Ship, you've probably asked yourself how you can print only the postage and not the instructions, as Click-n-Ship uses the entire page; half the page for the postage, the other half of the page for the instructions. Once you've printed the postage, what more instructions do you need but to peel it off and stick it on your package?

Well, here's how to do it.
  1. In the Print dialogue box, click Properties and change the page size from 8.5" x 11" to 8.5" x 5.5" (exactly half the height of your printer paper)
  2. Print the page.
What should happen is that the postage prints and the instructions do not. If for some reason this doesn't work, you can always tell the USPS Click-n-Ship application that the page didn't print correctly, then adjust your print settings and try again.

If you've got some special drivers/software for your printer that allows you to create different "print profiles" (a one-click way to change lots of print settings at once), it's a huge time-saver. I called my print profile "USPS Click-n-Ship." I know, creative, right?

Did it work for you?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Disneyland: The Happiest (Gluten-Free) Place on Earth

I recently got back from a trip to Disneyland in celebration of my recent graduation from Sacramento State University, a fine public university if I do say so myself. During my trip, I discovered something about Disneyland that I never knew before: it is perhaps one of the (if not *the*) most gluten-free-friendly places on the face of the earth. My girlfriend, who has been gluten free for about three years now, was super excited to go to Disneyland after she read an in article in the Living Without Magazine that spoke of Disney as a featured gluten-free destination. Apparently the head chef in charge of all the dining establishments at Disney contacted her within 24 hours of sending an email.

When we arrived at Disneyland's City Hall to get this great list of dining options, I was impressed with the 10 pages of choices that were geographically categorized according to where you were located in the park. We were also allowed to bring in some gluten free snacks without any complications. My girlfriend also happens to have a disability and the staff truly bent over backwards to help her out. Between the advantage of being able to bypass the long lines and not being anxious about whether or not the food was going to ruin our day, it was truly one of the happiest days in the happiest place on earth.

Now, on to an entirely different gluten free experience.

During our trip, we also visited Universal Studios in Southern California and it was truly a night and day difference between the two parks. Universal had no literature at all to assist sufferers of celiac to dine safely. The Universal Guest Services department had reassured us that the staff was knowledgeable and that Debbie would just need to ask to speak to the chef at any of the dining options, but that did not go so smoothly. She had to shout over customers in line at the Jurassic Café to speak to the chef who was not knowledgeable about eating gluten free at all. In fact, he thought that if you remove the croutons from a salad it would be safe. She's a real trooper though; she ate a meal replacement bar that she snuck into the park, while I spent $7 on a Dodger Dog and a bag of chips (no drink included in that price; that's just ridiculous). Afterword, we left the park and enjoyed some Chipotle and some Pinkberry for dessert.

Next time we go to Southern California I vote to spend 3 days at Disneyland/CA Adventure. Between the overly chipper staff and their willingness to make sure everyone, regardless of diets or disabilities, has an equally pleasant experience, Disneyland truly lived up to its slogan of being the Happiest Place on Earth.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Review of Firefox 3

I have had the pleasure of using the Firefox 3 beta for some time now and, while initial versions were a bit buggy, the latest release candidate (RC 3 as of this writing) has really won me over with its stability and overall usefulness.

Here are my top 3 reasons you should switch to Firefox 3:
  1. Bookmarks. At long last, bookmarks are now usable and user-friendly. Find a site you want to come back to later? Bookmark it with one click by lighting up the little star in the Smart Location Bar (more about that in a minute). By default, this new bookmark will be stored in the Unfiled Bookmarks folder, so you'll never ever have an unorganized Bookmarks list ever again.

    Should you later decide you'd like to organize this bookmark, you have two options: do it right away by clicking the star again (or double-click it at the outset) to bring up a simple organizing tool, or go to the full-fledged bookmarks organizer, where you can sort out all your unsorted bookmarks.
  2. The Smart Location Bar (AKA the "AwesomeBar"). Instead of pulling up a list of mind-numbing URLs, Firefox now allows you to throw in keywords just like a Google search. The result set is nothing short of absolutely useful; the result is a list of sites you've both visited in the past and/or bookmarked, which contain your keywords.

  3. Speed. Firefox has always been a little bit faster than Internet Explorer, especially if you used the FasterFox extension. Well now, I'm pleased to say that Firefox 3 is dramatically faster, including start up time and page loads. Users of Digg might notice that the site loads at least twice as fast and stories with 100+ comments now load in a fraction of the time. (This, combined with their revamp of the comments system makes the experience even better. Thanks, Digg!). Perhaps even more impressive is how snappy Gmail feels now.
For further review, head over to dria.org and check out this "field guide".

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Qik for iPhone in private alpha testing phase

Hey all you iPhone owners out there: there's a killer new app coming. As previously noted and confirmed, Qik for the iPhone is under development and now in the private alpha testing stage. For those not in the know, Qik is a little app that streams live video from your phone to the internet and saves the stream so you and others can watch it later.

Digg.com founder Kevin Rose recently spoke with the CEO of Qik and confirmed that he'll be part of the alpha testing and it'll be installed this weekend. I'm curious to see how the video compares to the Nokias, but I'm not holding my breath that it'll be any better just because it's an iPhone.

Your thoughts?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Keeping it all in sync

This article is written for iPhone users on Windows who want to sync their Google services (Calendar, Contacts) but have found no easy solutions. It's not 100%, but pretty damn close.

I'll admit it: I'm addicted to Google and its plethora of services. I use its search engine every day, rely on its calendar to keep me abreast of my happenings, and who doesn't use Gmail? (If you don't, why not?)

I also own an iPhone, which doesn't directly sync with any of Google's services. True, I can access all of Google's services on my iPhone, but let's be real: it's still too slow over EDGE, and what happens if you have no signal when you need the info? You're out of luck. This is why, even though web apps are nice, native apps are still king.

I digress. Anyhow, iPhone *does* sync up with Microsoft Outlook, and with a service called Plaxo (currently in beta, as that seems to be the hot new trend these days), you can achieve 99% syncronization between your iPhone or other Outlook-syncing device and Google. (I'll tell you why it's not 100% in a minute.)

As usual, here are the steps:
  1. First, sign up for a Plaxo account.
  2. Next, set up your sync points from within plaxo. Specifically, set up a Google sync point and an Outlook sync point at a minimum. You'll also want to install the Outlook plugin that Plaxo offers to you during this process.
  3. Once Plaxo syncs these two points, you're ready to plug in your iPhone or other Outlook-syncing device and perform a sync.
At this point, all your data should be synced up, with one exception (this is where it's 99% and not 100%). At the moment, Plaxo has limited support for syncing contacts with Google. Basically it works like this: Anything you do in Google will be updated in Plaxo. Anything you do in Plaxo, however, will NOT be reflected in Google. Ergo, if you make a change on your phone, sync it with Outlook, which then syncs with Plaxo and all the rest of your sync points including Google, poor old Google won't get the change because it's only one way: Google ---> Plaxo.

Not sure when they're going to fix that, but my solution has been to just keep all my contacts organized in Outlook and let it sync up with my phone and Plaxo, which then blasts it out to my other web services like Google, Yahoo, etc.

With this simple setup I've been able to keep most my information in sync with a minimal time investment. If you know of a better solution, please post it in the comments. Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out my other tips and tricks!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Firefox 3 Beta 5 - Memory Leak Screenshots

I know that it's still in beta, and I appreciate the speed increases over Firefox 2, but damn it, I thought the memory leaks were supposed to be a thing of the past? Posted for no other reason than I thought it was funny. I love Firefox. Really.

Below: Firefox consuming an ungodly 1.33GB of RAM, while utilizing 49% CPU.

Below: notice the ramp-up before my page file finally caps out, coinciding with the sudden hang of the program (50% CPU usage).

Sunday, May 11, 2008

How to sync your flash drive with your computer

I've always hated the fact that the stuff on my flash drive is usually not found anywhere on my computer, much less backed up on an external device. The scenario is this: Write a paper at home, save it to the hard drive. Go to school to work on it, but guess what: it's not there.

The same is true in the opposite direction. I'm in a programming class working on an assignment, so I save it to my flash drive. When I get home, I have to plug in my flash drive, which has slow read/write speeds compared to my hard drive, and that doesn't work for me.

If you've ever had this problem before, I know you can relate. Enter SyncToy, a teeny tiny little program (971KB) created by some programmers at Microsoft that ends this "syncing sensation" once and for all.

It's as simple as this:
  1. Install SyncToy
  2. Set up a folder pair (tell it that you want the "My Documents" on your flash drive to sync up with your "My Documents" folder on your computer. (If it's your first time using SyncToy, a couple more steps will appear, allowing you to tell the program how it should sync your data.)
  3. Click "Run"
As easy as this process is, there is one downside: as far as I can tell, there's no way to automatically sync your folders each time you pop your flash drive into your computer. If there's a solution like that out there that's easy and free, please post it in the comments.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

2008 Arthritis Walk

And now for this public service announcement. Did you know that over 46 million Americans have arthritis of one kind or another? That's almost 1 in 5 Americans who have arthritis. Chances are, you know someone who suffers from this debilitating disease.

This weekend, my girlfriend (an arthritis sufferer herself) and I walked 2 miles in the 2008 Arthritis Walk to raise money for researchers to find a cure for arthritis. Over 400 people attended this walk in Sacramento, CA, with thousands more doing all over the country so as the days and weeks roll along.

Sacramento's Arthritis Walk has its own success story in Team Derek, a group of individuals who collectively raised over $5,000 in honor of Derek, who was diagnosed with arthritis when he was only five years old. Quite inspiring.

For more information and to find a walk near you, check out http://www.arthritis.org/arthritis-walk.php and raise awareness.
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Monday, April 28, 2008

Migrating (moving) mail from Yahoo! Mail to Gmail

Wow, so I just discovered this open source tool called YPOPs! that magically gives you POP3 access to Yahoo! Mail. How does it do it? From the web site:
YPOPs! is an application which emulates a POP3/SMTP mail server and provides free POP3 and SMTP access to Yahoo! Mail. It does not depend on Yahoo's POP3/SMTP mail server. You can use a mail client of your choice!
I only stumbled across this tool because I was trolling through my old Yahoo! Mail account and noticed that I had some things in there worth preserving (i.e., moving to my Gmail account), so I decided to give it a try.

Long story short? Piece of cake. I took all my mail and transferred it over to my Gmail account. Even my sent mail, which at first seemed impossible because the program doesn't offer to download mail from your sent folder. However, simply by creating a user-defined folder called "MySentMail" and then moving all messages from the Sent folder into your MySentMail folder, you can then add that MySentMail folder to the download list within YPOPs! and then transfer it over to Gmail.

A big thank you to the developers of this useful little tool:
  • Brian Gunlogson: UIDL patch, bug fixes
  • Leif Jensen: UIDL patch, bug fixes
  • Yogesh Khatri: Patches, bug fixes and new features
  • Ssergey: For the translation of the help file to Russian
  • Last but not the least, all the people who have provided their inputs for the help file.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Source: Qik coming to iPhone "pretty soon"

Still in its alpha beginnings, Qik (qik.com) has a really cool concept: stream live video and audio from your mobile phone to the web for anyone to see. The iPhone seems like the perfect match for this service, but it only supports various versions of Nokia phones at the moment.

This may be changing. I hear tell from a little bird that iPhone support is coming soon... "Pretty soon," according to my source inside Qik. While that is a pretty vague response, it's specific enough for me to be excited. Let's hope they get the interface right.

The only catch I'm wondering about is: Will it work on the current iPhone, which uses the EDGE network (slow), or will it only work on future iPhones that will support the faster 3G network? I suppose you could use wifi.

Your thoughts?

UPDATE 6/12/08: This has now been confirmed by Kevin Rose of Digg.com (He's getting it installed this weekend.)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

iPhone speaker volume too soft/quiet? Try this.

If your iPhone's speakers just aren't loud enough, give this a try.

Just a fair warning: doing this will most likely void your warranty, if you care about things like that.

Items required: safety pin or other small, sharp object to prick small holes
  1. Open the iPod application and start a song playing so you can hear the "before" volume and how much it sucks.
  2. Locate your iPhone's speaker. (If you're looking directly at the phone, it's on the bottom-left.)
  3. Using a needle, safety pin or other small sharp object, prick a few holes in the plastic layer that separates the speaker from the outside world. (Why did Apple put this plastic piece here, anyway, knowing how much it dampens the sound and makes the speaker all but useless? Who knows... maybe to protect against moisture damage? Oh well.) Prick as many holes as you'd like. I pricked every last one of those suckers.
  4. Marvel at your ingenuity and enjoy the much louder volume of your coveted iPhone.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Kevin Johnson's mayoral campaign spoofing Caller ID

I just got a call from someone with a Caller ID of 000000000000 (that's twelve zeros). Normaly I don't answer calls from blocked numbers. However, I had not encountered a string of twelve zeros before. Naturally, I decided to investigate and answered the call.

Who might it be calling me that is motivated enough to spoof a Caller ID? Turns out it was the campaign to elect "Kevin Johnson for Mayor" of Sacramento, CA. The call girl asked for me by name, then proceeded to tell me all about why I should support Kevin Johnson for Mayor, before asking me if she could count on my support. I laughed, told her "not today" and hung up.

Pretty dodgy--why not just have the Caller ID show up? It's not like he has anything to hide... or does he?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

iTunes won't close on Windows XP (SP2); uses 50% CPU

UPDATE 6/16/08: If you run NOD32 as your antivirus program, you might want to try this little trick (thanks, nka!): This article describes how to add iTunes to NOD32's exclusion list if you're running Windows XP. If you're running Vista, simply upgrade (free) to the new version of NOD32. If that doesn't work for you, try what I mentioned on the 5/16/08 update below.

UPDATE 5/16/08: Astute readers point out that simply disabling the Bonjour service as follows should solve the problem: Start > Run > services.msc > Double-Click on Bonjour service > Stop it > and in the Startup Type dropdown list, select Disabled. Then disable sharing in iTunes.

If you're reading this, it's probably because you're running Windows XP and iTunes won't exit/close/quit on its own unless you force it to quit (i.e., End Process in the Task Manager). You've been searching for a solution, but have found none.

Maybe you're just about to give up hope. I know I almost did. But then I fought back--and found an answer. Fair warning, though: it's a little extreme. You can experiment and cut out certain steps as you see fit, but I can't guarantee you'll enjoy the success I am currently enjoying. It's up to you.

And so, without further adieu, here's how to get iTunes back up and running (and closing on its own) once again:

0. Read through these instructions to have an idea of what you're going to do before you decide to do it.

1. Add/Remove Programs

2. Remove iTunes (In addition, I removed ALL Apple products, just to be safe, listed as 2.1-2.4)
2.1. Apple Mobile Device Support
2.2. Apple Software Update
2.3. Bonjour
2.4. Quicktime

3. Delete all leftover Apple-related files from C:\Documents and Settings\*
3.0. Note: do NOT delete anything in C:\Documents and Settings\YOUR USER NAME HERE\My Documents\My Music\iTunes (or wherever you store your iTunes music library file. iTunes will automatically use these files again if they're in the default location.
3.1. C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Apple Computer
3.2. C:\Documents and Settings\YOUR USER NAME HERE\Application Data\Apple Computer
3.3. C:\Documents and Settings\YOUR USER NAME HERE\Local Settings\Application Data\Apple
3.4. C:\Documents and Settings\YOUR USER NAME HERE\Local Settings\Application Data\Apple Computer

4. Delete all leftover Apple-related registry entries from the Registry
4.0. WARNING: Make a backup copy first. If you don't know much/anything about the registry, I'd skip this part unless you feel ballsy and like living on the wild side.
4.1. I use a tool called jv 16 PowerTools 2007 to make this task a little more efficient. Otherwise, it's time to just use the Find funciton of the Registry and do the dirty work.

5. Restart (save how-to guide, if you're writing one at the time) ;)

6. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES WHATSOEVER enable the "Share my library on my local network" feature. This will result in iTunes exhibiting the lock-up you experienced upon closing, and it is impossible to recover from this and reset your iTunes preferences unless you follow the painful steps above. This is about my 3rd or 4th time doing this, so I'm confident this will work for you.

Good luck!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

How to effectively silence someone you don't like

Thank God for the internet. If it weren't for the internet, I probably never would have heard about congressman Ron Paul. You see, at one time there were just under a dozen Republican presidential candidates and it would have been easy to silence any one of them by simply not inviting them to the televised debate, as happened to Dennis Kucinich recently, or perhaps taking a more tactful approach by inviting them, but not asking them any questions--or begrudgingly asking them just a few.

That was the case in Wednesday's January 30th, 2008 Republican Debate, which I and many others like to think of as more of a he-said she-said bitch fest. CNN broadcast the debate, which is available on YouTube, in 9 separate parts. All in all, Ron Paul received about 10 minutes of airtime (if that; I haven't done a detailed analysis yet), and poor Huckabee received about the same treatment. Meanwhile, like two schoolboys picking a fight, McCain and Romney were allowed to argue the entire night and throw negative spit wads back and forth at each other.

At one point -- and I timed this one myself after rewinding because I couldn't believe how he got cut off -- Paul was given only 8 seconds to respond to something before the moderator moved on to McCain, who was allowed at least 3 to 4 times as long for his answer. Of note here is that Paul was the only one to come out and say "No" to the question of whether or not Reagan's appointee Sandra Day O'Connor was a good decision. Once the "no" came out and five seconds worth of reasoning was given, the shameless moderator moved on to McCain, making Paul look somewhat like a jerk because, after all, the debate was held in the Reagan Presidential Library, and we don't want to offend Reagan, even if he didn't always make the best decisions. Nobody's perfect.

Huckabee and Paul were both visually disturbed at how little airtime was given to them, as evidenced by Paul's resting his chin in his hand while listening to McCain and Romney duke it out about some technicality on the war in Iraq. It seemed like every time Huckabee was given time to speak, he thanked the moderator and reminded them that there were two men down "at the other end of the (short) table" who would like to participate, too.

Watch the entire debate and tell me if you don't feel the same way as I do -- that Huckabee and Paul were effectively silenced, except of course when they finally butted their way in to try and address some questions. And even then, when Paul asked if he could chime in about an earlier topic that both McCain and Romney had discussed at length, the moderator interrupted with, "I promise, Congressman Paul, you'll get to address that question in about two minutes---uh, I mean that's coming up in about 2 questions."

Bud did that question to Congressman Paul ever come up? Answer: no.

That is how to effectively silence someone, a very un-American act indeed.

Shame on you, CNN.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Help Cure Arthritis

There's a big Arthritis Walk going on during May 2008 across the country and I'm walking in honor of my mother and girlfriend, both of whom have arthritis (girlfriend was actually born with it if you can believe that). Our goal is to raise $100. Can we do it? Your donation is tax-deductable

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