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.