Firefox has a setting: "Options - Content - Colors... - Allow pages to choose their own colors, instead of my selections above". This item is selected by default.

If you unselect this item, this will cause problems with Yahoo's webmail interface:

- The Gear icon will no longer display on the top right corner of the page.
- The Emoticons pop-up window will be blank
- The Paperclip icon or the "Attach from my computer" menu item may not work - the File Upload window never displays. (This happened on one computer but not another, so I'm not completely sure of its cause.)

Internet Explorer has similar display problems, when in Internet Options under "General - Accessibility", you select "Ignore colors specified on webpages". If you happen to select "Ignore font styles specified on webpages", that even causes many of the Yahoo Mail action icons to disappear.
This is in lieu of a post I wanted to write, but haven't had time for.

Primary phone line:
blue & white (twisted)
or
red & green (old style)

Modular connectors:
Phone jacks; space for 6 wires:
RJ11 = 2 wires (1 line) = 6P2C (6 position, 2 contacts)
RJ14 = 4 wires (2 lines) = 6P4C
RJ25 = 6 wires (3 lines) = 6P6C
4P4C = smaller plug for phone handset

Ethernet; 8 wires:
RJ45 = 8P8C
CAT5 = ethernet cable (8 pins). Normally only 4 of the 8 wires are used.
CAT5e & CAT6 = also ethernet cable; supports faster speeds.
"gigabit" ethernet - uses all 8 wires.
Hardware involved:
- Audio Cassette Player with a line-out jack or headphones jack
- Computer with a line-in or microphone input jack
- an Audio Cable for connecting them together

Software involved:
- GoldWave (a digital audio editor that supports noise-reduction) - for recording and editing the audio files. GoldWave is not freeware, but there is a fully functional evaluation version if you want to try it out before buying.
- foobar2000 (a freeware audio player) - for converting .wav files to .mp3 files (optional; Goldwave can also generate MP3 files, but I like using foobar2000.)
- MP3tag (freeware Tag Editor) - for adding tags to the MP3 files

Note 1: This process records the audio at regular play speeds. If you have 10 hours of audio to convert, it will take at least 10 hours to convert it.

Note 2: If you record from a microphone input jack, you may not get a true stereo recording.

Steps:

- Hook up the cassette player to the computer using the audio cable. Insert a cassette for test purposes. Set the volume on the player to a medium-low level to begin with, and start playing the cassette.

- Adjust the computer's line-in or microphone levels so that no clipping or distortion will occur (the specific steps for doing this may differ from what is described below, depending on your operating system).

Open the Windows Control Panel and select the "Sound" entry.

On the Recording tab, make sure the entry associated with the line-in or microphone jack is set as the Default Device. Select that entry, open its Properties window, and adjust the settings on the "Levels" tab (more on this below). It may help to temporarily disable any other devices listed on the Recording tab.

On the Playback tab, select the "Speakers" entry and open its Properties window. On the "Levels" tab, if you don't want to listen to the audio while it is being recorded, you can click the speaker icon in the microphone section to mute it. If you don't mind hearing the audio, this doesn't need to be done.

- In Goldwave, click to create a New (empty) file with a length about 40 minutes (greater than the length of the cassette side that you will be recording). The file should be stereo, with a sampling rate of 44100.

- Select "Options - Control Properties" from the menu. On the "Record" tab, set "Record mode" to "Bounded to selection". This will cause recording to automatically stop after 40 minutes (based on the size of the new file). Alternately, you can select "Unbounded", but then you will need to manually press the button to stop recording when the end of the tape is reached. Under "Recording options", select "Monitor input" so that you can see the sound levels of the input. Select "Filter dc offset". The other defaults should be okay to keep as is.

- Select "Tool - Control..." from the menu, to open up a popup window with buttons for starting/stopping the recording, and for playing it back. This window also has a section that displays the input sound levels. This window will likely display a low-level noise even when the audio cassette is not playing. We will remove this noise from the recording later using a noise reduction filter.

- Adjust the cassette player volume and the computer's microphone levels. While the cassette is playing, you want all the sound levels shown in the Control window to be relatively high, yet to always remain below the maximum level. This will avoid clipping.

- After finishing the adjustments, insert the actual cassette you want to record in the player, and if necessary, rewind it to the beginning.

- In Goldwave, right-click in the track window. Choose "All" to display the entire track in the window without horizontal scrolling, and choose "Select All" to select the entire 40 minute track. (If these items are disabled, then they were already selected by default). In the Control window, click the red icon to start the recording.

- Press the Play button on the cassette player.

- Wait for the recording to finish. Then save the file (for temporary backup).

- When viewing the recording's sound envelope, there should be relatively few spikes, or none at all, which extend to the extreme top and bottom of the track window. If there are many such spikes, or if the envelope contains rectangular blocks filling the track window, then the recording likely has clipping and distortion. Re-adjust your microphone and volume settings, and try again.

- Select a small area near the beginning or end of the track where the music was not playing, and copy it to the clipboard. This will be used for noise reduction.

- Select the entire track. From the menu, select "Effect - Filter - Noise Reduction". In the "Reduction Envelope" section, select "Use Clipboard" and click OK. Noise reduction will be applied to the entire track.

- If the recorded track volume ended up too low, select "Effect - Volume - Maximize Volume". After the scan, leave the Maximum (db) setting at 0, and click OK. This should increase the track's volume level as much as is possible without distortion.

- Save the file.

- If desired, edit the track into a separate file for each song. GoldWave's "Cue Points" tool with "Auto Cue" can be used to create cue points in the file in the silent areas between songs, and then to automatically split the file at those points.

- Either save the files as MP3 format in Goldwave, or use Foobar2000 to convert the wav files to mp3.

- If the audio cassettes were commercially produced music albums, you can use MP3Tag to easily tag the tracks with artist/title info. First, search the freedb website to find the Disc-ID of the album. Then in MP3Tag, select the mp3 files, then select "Tag Sources - freedb" from the menu. Enter the ID, and it should pull back the album info. If you are missing any tracks, or if yours are in a different order, use the "Move Up/Down" buttons to adjust them. Then you can add the tags to all the album's tracks at once.
Why, all of a sudden, am I not able to save a temporary file to the Windows\System32 folder, unless using the "run as administrator" option? Is this due to some recent Windows update?

Requiring administrator rights to save files to that folder seems a good idea. But a batch file which I regularly use has apparently been writing temporary files to the System32 folder, and then deleting them without a problem, until today.

The batch file, which applies various changes to a selected file, is listed in my "Open With" context menu. The System32 folder seems to be the default folder used for the batch file's commands - I didn't realize that when I wrote the batch file. Is it possible the default folder used to be different, and that is why it used to work? What could have caused it to change?

Or did the system perhaps previously view me as an administrator automatically, and it no longer does?

It is odd when things like this happen with no explanation.

Changing the batch file to specifically use a different folder for the temporary files fixed the problem.

Open Range

Sep. 2nd, 2013 09:42 pm
I came across an old ad for Open Range internet service. At the time, their WiMAX service sounded intriguing enough that I kept the ad for future consideration.

According to fiercewireless.com, Open Range was founded in 2004 and launched service in 2009. However, the company filed for bankruptcy in October 2011, and is no longer in business.

The ad offered a one-month free trial. "Hurry! Offer Expires 09/30/11".
We bought a new set of cordless phones due to problems with the answering machine on our old set. (After the answering machine had picked up a call, picking up one of the other phones didn't always stop the message from playing. Even pressing the stop button on the base unit wouldn't make the message stop.)

The old set was Uniden, the new set is Panasonic, and both are DECT 6.0.

When in long conference calls, I like to lay the handset on my desk with the speaker phone turned on. Even with normal calls, I tend to use the speaker phone, as I don't like having to keep the handset pressed to my ear.

However, the speaker volume on the new Panasonic handsets isn't as loud as on the Uniden ones. This is a drawback. I wondered whether it was possible to register a Uniden handset to the Panasonic base unit, but considering that they are made by different companies, it didn't seem likely.

While searching for alternate solutions, I found a brochure for a hands-free cordless phone accessory made by Philips. The brochure says "Universal Compatibility. Compatible with virtually all DECT cordless phones." Philips' website states "If your home phone is compatible with the GAP (Generic Access Profile) standard it will be compatible with the handsfree phone."

My hopes were raised. Those statements seemed to indicate that most DECT cordless phones adhere to a generic interoperability standard.

However, after doing some more searching, it unfortunately seems that the GAP standard is mainly implemented in Europe, not in the United States.

I tried registering the Uniden handset to the Panasonic base anyway, to see if it would fortuitously work. It didn't. The base gave a double-beep indicating that some kind of communication had occurred, but the handset showed the message "Registration failed".

I have found another potential solution. The Panasonic answering machine works properly, in that if one picks up any phone which is connected to the phone line, the message stops. Therefore, I can have both the Panasonic and Uniden sets plugged in and operating at the same time, with the answering machine on the Uniden set turned off. Even though they are both DECT 6.0, they don't seem to interfere with each other.
Hide Tab Bar With One Tab - a Firefox add-on that restores the ability to hide the tab bar when only a single page is open in the browser window.

This used to be controllable from within the Firefox options, but the option was removed in one of the recent Firefox updates.

Version 25 of Firefox, named "Australis", is due to bring more UI changes.
This is news to me.

Windows has for many years had a feature called "alternate data streams" whereby one or more files can in effect be hidden within another file or folder. These alternate data streams aren't regular hidden files and aren't displayed in Windows Explorer. One way of seeing them is to use the "dir" command with the "/r" switch, in a command window.

More details here: Hide sensitive files with Alternate Data Streams.

Why questionable downloads use rar archives - Len Boyette explains that when malware is hidden by means of alternate data streams within WinRar archives, many anti-virus programs are not able to detect it.


via [personal profile] andrewducker
Problem: My scanner produces PDF files with faint and blurry text.

I can sharpen the images quite well with IrfanView, but the procedure isn't simple.

Method #1 - using the GUI (can be used to sharpen multiple files at once)

1. Open IrfanView.
2. Select File - Batch Conversion/Rename...
3. On the Batch Conversion page, select these options:

    Work As: Batch Conversion
    Output Format*: TIF
    Use advanced options (for bulk resize...) : selected
    Output directory for result files: select and/or create a (temporary) subdirectory

(*For multi-page PDF files, don't select the PDF output format, as then the changes will only be applied to the first page. This seems to be a bug. For all pages to get updated, TIF must be selected. We will do extra steps to convert the TIF back to PDF.)

4. Click the "Advanced" button and set these options:

    Auto Adjust Colors
    Sharpen
    Contrast (40)
    Saturation (30)
    Overwrite existing files
    Apply changes to all pages (TIF/PDF saving)

Click the "OK" button.
The options and numbers may be adjusted, depending on how much you want to sharpen and darken the text. Other effects may also be selected, if desired.
(This step only has to be done once. After that, the same settings are kept.)

5. Select one or more PDF files and click "Add".
6. Click "Start Batch".
7. After the conversion is complete, click "Return to Batch".

8. Change "Output Format" to "PDF".
9. Un-select "Use advanced options...".
10. Click "Remove All" to clear the output box.
11. Navigate to the output directory, select the TIF file(s) and click "Add".
12. Click "Start Batch".
13. The final PDF file(s) will be generated in the output directory.

(A different output directory must be used, as IrfanView will not overwrite the original PDF files. If you use the same directory, IrfanView will throw an error.)

Method #2 - using a batch file

1. Perform steps #1 - 4 above. After selecting the Advanced settings, click the "Save settings" button on that page. Save the settings with a filename of "i_view32.ini", in a folder of your choosing.

2. Create a batch file with content such as the following:

   "C:\Program Files (x86)\IrfanView\i_view32.exe" %1 /advancedbatch /ini="C:\bat\irfanviewSharpen" /convert=%~n1.tif

   "C:\Program Files (x86)\IrfanView\i_view32.exe" %~n1.tif /convert=%1

   @del %~n1.tif

The batch file takes a single parameter, which is the input PDF file.

The 1st line of the batch file converts the PDF to a TIF file, applying the advanced options to sharpen the image. The "/ini" option should be set to the folder where the "i_view32.ini" file was saved.
The 2nd line of the batch file converts the TIF file back to a PDF file, overlaying the original PDF file.
The 3rd line of the batch file deletes the intermediate TIF file.

Update (2014/02/09): See this post for information on how to avoid losing resolution in the converted PDF file when using the above methods.

Update (2016/01/20): For Method #2, I forgot to mention that I invoke the batch file by right-clicking on a PDF file from within Windows Explorer, and then selecting "Open With..." This causes the selected file-name to be passed to the batch file as the %1 parameter.

The first time you use "Open With...", you can select "Choose default program..." and click the Browse button to select your batch file. Unselect "Always use the selected program to open this kind of file", so that your default program for viewing PDF files won't be changed. The next time you use "Open With..." on a PDF file, your batch file should be included in the sub-list for you to select from.

Update (2016/02/14): IrfanView has another method of sharpening an image, using an "Unsharp mask". This may give even better results than the above methods. This option is available via the menu item "Image - Effects - Effects browser..." When editing a multi-page image, only the current page is updated.

The Unsharp mask can be applied to an image from the command line, using the /effect option. But for a multi-page image (whether PDF or TIFF), effects are applied only to the first page. To apply an effect to all pages, you have to extract all the images from the multi-page file (/extract option), and then apply the effect to each separate image. Then you have to combine the images back into a single file. This page gives an idea of how to do that. There are issues with this method if your paths or file-names contain spaces.

A much simpler option is to use ImageMagick, which can apply an Unsharp mask to all pages in a multi-page PDF or TIFF file in a single step.
Platform: Asus U81A notebook computer, Win7 64-bit

Problem: The built-in card reader works ok the first time a card is inserted. But after ejecting the card, the card reader cannot be used again until after rebooting the computer. If the computer is not rebooted and a card is (re-)inserted, the system makes a deep-toned (~"ga-dunk") problem noise, and the drive is not detected.

Notes:
With a card inserted into the drive (the first time), the Device Manager included the following entries:
"USB Disk" (under "Disk Drives")
   Driver details:
     c:\windows\system32\DRIVERS\disk.sys
     c:\windows\system32\DRIVERS\partmgr.sys

"E:\" (under "Portable Devices")
   Driver details:
     c:\windows\system32\DRIVERS\UMDF\WpdFs.dll ver. 6.1.7600.16385 (win7_rtm.090713-1255)
     c:\windows\system32\DRIVERS\WUDFRd.sys ver. 6.2.9200.16384 (win8_rtm.120725-1247)

Windows indicated that the drivers for both of the above items were up to date.

Solution:
Programs and Features included an entry for "Alcor Micro USB Card Reader" (version 1.2.17.25001). I uninstalled this item and rebooted.

After rebooting, I inserted a card into the reader. Windows automatically re-installed the device driver software and indicated that the install was successful.

After doing this, I am able to eject and re-insert the card multiple times, and to read files from it without a problem.

Notes:
After doing the above, the Device Manager includes the same entries and driver versions as before. The only difference is that the item under "Disk Drives" is now named "Multiple Card Reader USB Device" rather than "USB Disk".
Pictures from a developer's life - Some of these had me laughing so hard, because they're so true... (especially the one with the dominos!)


via [personal profile] andrewducker

Sapphire!

Feb. 27th, 2013 10:26 pm
Sapphire is unscratchable, unbreakable, and the next big thing in touchscreens - those bottom photos show some pretty awesome-looking hunks of sapphire. I wonder how much the sapphire screens weigh compared to current glass screens. And I wonder if touchscreens will end up going in that direction or in the flexible OLED direction. Will we someday have screens that are both unscratchable and bendable?
Google Declares War on the Password
"Want an easier way to log into your Gmail account? How about a quick tap on your computer with the ring on your finger? This may be closer than you think. ..."
Yahoo! Mail Makes HTTPS Available - for the time being, users must manually select it in the mail settings.
Customize the Five Windows Folder Templates - This page explains that Windows 7 categorizes folders into 5 different types. When you customize a folder's display settings and choose to apply those settings to "all" folders (via the "Apply to Folders" button in the Folder Options - View dialog), it only applies the settings to folders of the same type.

This allows you to customize different display settings for "Music" folders versus "Picture" folders versus "General Items" folders, etc. If desired, it is possible to configure all types of folders to display the same way; it simply takes extra effort in that you do need to update all 5 of the folder type templates.

Using the information presented on the above page, I finally know how to configure all my music folders to include "Date Modified" and "Size" columns!
Sometimes when I sort a folder by date in Windows Explorer, the most recently modified files are displayed at the top of the list, and the folders are displayed at the end of the list. I like this, as it allows me to easily access a file I have just saved, without having to scroll down past the folders.

Other times when I sort a folder by date, the folders are all displayed at the top of the list, followed by the files, regardless of when the folders were modified in comparison to the files. I found* that I was able to change this behavior by doing the following:

  • open the folder properties

  • select the "Customize" tab

  • in the "Optimize this folder for" field, change the selected value


In my scenario, the "Optimize..." field was originally set to "Pictures", and I changed it to "General Items". After doing that, the files were displayed at the top of the list like I wanted them to be.

I changed the "Optimize..." value several more times to find out how each value affected the results. Eventually, even with the value set back to "Pictures", the files were displayed at the top of the list when sorting by date! Therefore, I can't say which value should be selected, to achieve a specific sorting behavior. However, the "Optimize this folder for" field does somehow affect the sorting. Therefore, if your files and folders aren't being displayed as desired, you could try changing that setting.


(*) - Stan's comment on this page inspired me to try changing that setting. Stan's reported workaround corroborates my findings: changing the setting makes a difference, but the results aren't always predictable. Stan wanted the files sorted the same way as I did, but he achieved it by changing the selected value from "General Items" to "Documents", whereas I first achieved it by changing the selected value to "General Items".
PDFCalendar.com - This is a useful site that lets you create printable calendar pages in PDF format, customized based on the settings you choose.
I had never heard of this before. Apparently, metal can grow odd-looking tendrils and "whiskers", which can cause electrical shorts and ruin electronics.

USC doctoral student unravels ‘tin whisker’ mystery

... NASA has verified multiple commercial satellite failures it attributes to tin whiskers. Missile systems, nuclear power stations and heart pacemakers also have fallen victim to tin whiskers over the past several decades and they are also considered a suspect in reported acceleration problems in Toyota vehicles.

While manufactures had been able to control some whiskers by mixing small amounts of lead into tin solder, the 2006 European Union ban on lead in most electronic equipment had ignited a debate among scientists about whether whiskers would remain a perpetual problem. Some observers even predict that it’s only a matter of time before miniature devices built after the ban start failing en masse. ...



Introducing a new member to the family: Gold Whiskers - a 2003 NASA article, with several interesting images.

NASA's metal whisker homepage

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