Tuesday, October 28, 2008

TOTW #14: Cable Winding

Instead of two separate tips this week, here’s one that applies to both computers and multimedia.

A Better Way to Coil Cables

We’ve all been frustrated by knots and twists in cables, rope, hoses, or extension cords when trying to undo a wrapped coil.  Fortunately there is a way to wrap the cables/rope/hoses so that they don’t get all tangled.

The problem comes from what happens when you coil up a cable in the first place.  For each loop in the coil, the cable is twisted one time around (unless it is rolled up on a spool).  By the time you get to the end of a long cable, that is a lot of twists, and because the force they create within the cable has to go somewhere it usually ends up in twists and knots. 

To prevent this from happening, you can wrap the cable in such a way that every twist that is added is also negated with a twist in the opposite direction.  It is a little hard to explain, but I’ll attempt it anyway.  Here are the steps:

1. Start with the end of the cable in your hand.  To make the following steps easier to describe I’m going to assume the cable is in your right hand, with the end facing away from you.

2. Grab the remaining portion of the cable (let’s call it the “tail”) with your left hand, palm downward.  Bring this hand straight over to your right hand, palms facing each other.  This creates a loop with the tail on the outside of the bundle.

3. For the next loop, grab the tail with your left hand, this time with your palm facing upward. Give your left hand a clockwise turn so that your palms are both facing the same direction (toward the left), and add the newly created loop to the bundle.  The “tail” will be coming from inside the bundle, between the existing portion of the bundle and the new loop you just created.  This will undo the twist created in step 2 because it adds a twist in the opposite direction.

4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you have reached the end of the cable.

It is a lot harder to describe than it actually is to do.  But what you’ll end up with is a bundle of cable that won’t knot up.  And when you need to un-wind it, just grab one end and throw the bundle; it should come undone very neatly.

This technique also drastically reduces the amount of damage that is done to cables and ropes from being wrapped in a twisted fashion.  They’ll last a lot longer and look a lot better.

Here are some sample videos I found on the Internet demonstrating this technique:


And some pictures:


Friday, October 24, 2008


I have to laugh a little bit inside whenever I see the word “convenience” used somewhere these days. Or maybe cry. It seems that some people using it seem to misunderstand its intended definition.

For example, in two of the Little Caesars stores running our POS software, they don’t accept credit cards for payment. Instead they accept debit cards. A sign listed on their window, another on the counter, and yet another on each register says, “For your convenience there is a $1.50 fee for debit card transactions.” I’d like to know in what universe it would be convenient for me to pay an extra $1.50 for a service offered for free just about everywhere else.

Another example at a bank… “For your convenience we will be closed on Columbus Day.” That isn’t the least bit convenient for me; in fact it is quite the opposite; it is a wasted trip if someone doesn’t know it is closed, and forces them to come back another day.

What’s next? “For your convenience we will be performing a full frontal lobotomy on you when you go to bed tonight.”

The other kicker is from web sites that sell tickets to various events, like movies and concerts. There is a “convenience fee.” What is that about? They’re charging us more money because it is more convenient for both them and me? What kind of screwed up logic is that?

In conclusion (as if this is a formal paper, heheheh) whenever the word “convenient” shows up anywhere now it sets off alarm bells. Unless the word has been redefined as “another way to empty your bank account” without informing either myself or the fine folks at Merriam-Webster. To those that have redefined this word in this way, here’s another word for you: bogus.

P.S. Reminder: Movie night featuring Iron Man is tonight at 8:30pm.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

More Pet Peeves, a Dead Battery, and a New Sofa

Pet Peeves, part II

Its really annoying too me when people can’t seam two get there spelling write on some very common words.  It really isn’t that hard too keep them strait.  Yet these words are interchanged all of the thyme. ***

  • They’re, Their, There: They are, belongs to them, and a place.  They’re going to get their books over there.
  • Here, hear: This place, listen.  You can hear the ocean from over here.
  • You’re, your: You are, belongs to you.  You’re going to get in trouble if you don’t clean your room.
  • Too, to, two: Also, a preposition or part of an infinitive, and a number.  I’m going to get two ice cream cones, too!
  • Its, it’s: belonging to it, it is.  It’s a shame that the groundhog saw its shadow.
  • Pitcher, picture: Liquid storage device, photograph or painting.  If you take my picture, I’ll make you a pitcher of lemonade.
  • Who’s, whose: Who is or who has, possession.  Who’s going to do whose dishes?


  • Further vs. farther: In addition to, more distance. * Further more, the concert is farther than I want to drive.
  • Then vs. than: part of a conditional phrase or indication of time, used when making comparisons (often accompanies more, less, or fewer).  If you get me a soda then I will give you more jellybeans than Jimmy.
  • Affect vs. effect: verb, noun.  ** Will the effect of a declining stock market affect my pay raise?
  • Please don’t bear testimony or speak in the name of my son.  I don’t have one, and even if I did, I don’t think I’d want anyone speaking in his name without consulting me first.

* Except when used as an adjective, either further or farther can indicate more time or distance. Farther always indicates distance (think: ‘more far’).  ** In most cases the way we use the words today; affect is also used rarely as a noun, and effect as a verb.  But those cases are very rare. *** There are nine spelling errors in the first paragraph of this post.  How many did you catch?

Battery Dies, Finally!

The battery on my razor finally died today.  So it lasted for four months on a single charge.  Amazing.

New Sofa!

It sounds like we might have more people coming for movie night this week than I originally thought would be able to make it.  So I accelerated part of my living room makeover schedule slightly and bought a sofa last night to create tiered stadium seating.  I picked it up this afternoon and it’s now sitting on a temporary platform until I have the time to build and carpet the real one.  With the addition of this sofa, I should have comfortable seating for around 14-15 people easily, more if we all pretend to be good friends.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Movie Night Begins – This Friday: Iron Man

Even though the Living Room isn’t quite done, I think I’d like to start doing movie nights beginning this week. 


This coming Friday (Oct 24th) we’re going to watch Iron Man at 8:30pm.  In glorious full high definition, on a huge projection screen, with full 7.1 surround sound.  :)  It’s going to be an amazing movie watching experience!!!

For this first movie-going experience, it’ll be Bring Your Own Snacks.  We’ll figure out some other arrangement for food later.

Hopefully I’ll get to a point where I can start doing movie nights regularly (weekly?).   I’d like to finish the room upgrades before it becomes that regular, but it is in my plans to do so.  Stay tuned.

If you don’t know where I live and want to come, email me (movienight@djmail.org) and I’ll give you the address and directions.

I have also created a facebook group where I will post updates on what is playing and when.  For automatic notifications please join the group.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Living Room Update II

The painters are gone; they have “done their job.”  Or so goes the theory.  I’m still not impressed, but we live with what we got.

I’ll just start with the pictures. Click to enlarge.  Pardon the mess; it’s still very much a work in progress.

IMG_6178IMG_6183IMG_6184IMG_6188 IMG_6208 IMG_6212It looks a lot different, doesn’t it!  The white walls are quite a change over the hideous wallpaper.  I still would have preferred tan walls, but I wasn’t the one paying the painters, so I can’t complain too much.

Those of you that have been here will notice that there is a large piece of furniture missing.  I got rid of my desk.  One whack with a sledgehammer and it fell to the floor in two large pieces.  (It was too big to get out the door, so it had to be broken up.)  Breaking the rest of it up was really easy, and we were able to fit the whole thing in the garbage cans.  Good riddance!  Now I just need to figure out where to put everything that was in and on it (that’s what’s in the boxes).  The monitors, one professional inkjet printer, and the speaker system are all still available for the asking.

So this leaves me the opportunity to build a platform behind the couch to setup a second tier for the home theater… pseudo stadium seating!  I don’t know when I’ll get to it, but I hope it’s sooner than later.  I’d like to start doing movie nights regularly and I can only seat so many people with the existing furniture arrangement.  Keep your fingers crossed that I’ll find the time and resources to get it done quickly.

TOTW #13: Start Search & Spotlight; Organizing Photos

Computer Tip: Start Search & Spotlight

Here’s a tip for finding programs and files faster on Vista and OS X.  Sorry, XP users; there is no easy equivalent feature for you without add-on software.

In both Windows Vista and Mac OS X there is an easier way to find your programs and files than navigating through your Programs menu or the Finder.  Use Start Search or Spotlight instead.

In Windows Vista, click the Start button (or press the Start key on your keyboard) and begin typing part of the name of the program or file you are looking for.  Windows will search for any matches and place them in the Start menu.  You can either click on the one that you want, or use the arrow keys and Enter to select one from the list.  I use this method exclusively for finding programs in Vista because it is much faster than clicking All Programs and finding what I want there.

Most Mac owners already know this trick, but just in case you don’t: In Mac OS X, click the magnifying glass in the upper right of the menu bar, or press Cmd + Space, and begin typing the name of the program or file you want.  Then, just like in Vista, click on the one you want or use the arrow keys and Enter to select an entry in the list.  Spotlight search results can be customized under System Preferences to include or exclude the various types of files on your computer, and to change the order in which they appear. 

Multimedia Tip: Organizing Photos

If you have had a digital camera for a while I hope by now you’ve come up with a system that makes it easy to go back and find your photos.  Trying to manage one large folder with hundreds or thousands of files sure isn’t easy.

With the tens of thousands of pictures I have taken in the last few years I had to come up with an efficient method for cataloging images.  So here’s what I’ve come up with.

Inside my Pictures folder I have about a dozen major categories… People, Places, Events, etc.  Inside each of those folders is a subfolder with the name of the person/group, place, event, as well as a date.  Then within that folder I might break things up even more.  So if I had been taking engagement pictures for Tim & Angie, the folder would be People\Tim & Angie – May 2008\Engagement or something like that.

Using that system I can always very quickly find the images that I want.  I have seen some people organize their photos solely by date, which might seem logical, but in the long term it gets hard to remember when a given event took place, or the day you took photos of your cousin Harry.  But if I do want to search by date, I can just use my computer’s search feature to look for the month and year as part of the folder name.  Easy as pie.

There are some software programs available that are designed to help organize photos, and some are very good.  But in my experience most of them start to choke on large numbers of images, so personally I have given up on them.  But no matter, the system of using folder has served me very well for a decade.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Pet Peeve

I’m not sure I understand the need for web pages to automatically play music while visiting.  Most site visitors are usually not on a given page long enough to listen to a whole song (or even enough of it to be interesting) so every new page results in the music starting over or a change of song at every click.  Anyway, most of the time while I’m browsing the web I either have the TV or my own music already on, resulting in an acoustical landscape wasteland.  And none of the sites that do this allow me to turn the music off permanently.  Argh.

I’m Home!

I just got back from Spokane last night. Overall a fairly productive trip, despite a shipping mistake by our equipment supplier preventing us from having the computers we needed for the installation by the time we needed it. Fortunately we were able to make other arrangements.

I got to ride a Segway in the parking lot of the store where we were doing our installation. Those are fun!

We (Rob, Jared, and I) stopped in at the local indoor go-kart racing track while we were there. Rob definitely had the best times and best technique. But it was a lot of fun, despite the sore muscle in my back from tugging at the wheel for the duration of the 40-minute race.

We were also in a wee little car accident on the way home from the track. We got rear-ended by a guy in a pickup truck who claimed his brakes were malfunctioning. They weren’t; he just wasn’t paying close enough attention. Both Rob and Jared saw it coming in their mirrors. I didn’t see it, but from something Rob said I knew we were about to get hit. The damage to the car wasn’t too bad, though the trunk lid and rear bumper will have to be replaced. And the most significant “injury” to us were sore necks and shoulders for both Rob and me. Jared seems to have survived unscathed.

Update: Either the Go-Kart racing or the accident did more damage than I thought. My lower back is sore enough that I'm having a really hard time picking up anything that weighs more than about 25 pounds. D'oh.

I was disappointed to find out when I got home that our landlord decided to paint our living room white. Boring!!! They asked for my opinion when they told me they were going to paint it, and I said that I’d like to see a light tan, but I guess they felt like white was the better choice. Interesting.

I’m severely disappointed by the quality of the painter’s work. They have missed a few rather large sections of the wall. And the area of the kitchen ceiling they were supposed to repair just got a skim coat of mud without any sanding before or after, with no attempt to match the surrounding texture. It looks awful.

The paint on the walls of the bathroom has been peeling for some time (apparently when it was painted the last time around the painters didn’t use the proper type of paint for a humid bathroom environment, and the paint now collects mold and peels or falls off if you breathe or look at it funny), and it was supposed to be fixed, but their solution has been to scrape off the very edges of the peeling portions and cover it up with a coat of paint. Not cool. I can guarantee that a week from now the peeling will resume; just running my fingers across the wall or ceiling results in paint falling off; it just doesn’t adhere to the wall any more, and the painter knows it (they knocked off a 8”x8” square section of paint in one fell swoop while investigating the problem. And you can clearly see areas that are rotting behind the existing surface which, of course, are not being worked on. And they haven’t even attempted to fix the areas of the wall that were damaged by a water from a broken water heater a few years ago. There is also a big section of wall under the mirror that wasn’t painted last time around that is still the wrong color. Sigh.

Update: I just talked to the "boss" and they're going to work on the kitchen and bathroom some more, and they fixed the largest spot that was missed in the living room. Whew!

I have only been around for a few hours of what they are doing, but they certainly aren’t in any hurry. The entire job should have been finished in a day, and we’re now on day three with only 3/4 of the job done. They’ll work on something for a few minutes, then leave for quite a while. The guy working on the bathroom has spent about 20 minutes out of the 4 hours he has been here so far today. Pretty sad.

Not only am I disappointed by the color, quality of work, and how long it is taking, but also by the fact that I know I would have done a much better job on my own. I offered to do the work to my landlords. I guess they don’t have any confidence in my abilities, though. But I know I could have done a much better job than what is being done right now; these guys don’t seem to care in the slightest about what they are doing.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

TOTW #12: Free Protection; Zoom, Zoom, Zoom!

Computer Tip: Free Protection

Looking for a free solution for anti-virus and anti-spyware software? You're in luck; there are options available.

Free Anti-Virus #1: AntiVir

AntiVir is very highly rated, and they offer a free version for personal use on a single computer. Personally I like this one better than other free solutions; it feels more polished.

Free Anti-Virus #2: AVG

This is the one that it seems like everyone knows about. It does fairly well at detecting viruses, but it seems to struggle with removing even some of the more common ones. Nevertheless, it is still a decent solution. Also for personal use.

Free Anti-Spyware #1: Microsoft Windows Defender

This is first because you may already have it. It is include with Windows Vista, and is available as a free download for anyone running Windows XP. It isn't the best solution available; it tends to miss some spyware detected by other solutions, but as basic protection it is fine.

Free Anti-Spyware #2: Malwarebytes Anti-Malware

Technically it isn't free; there is a $24.95 registration fee to unlock real-time protection. However, the trial version is fully functional as far as scanning and removal is concerned. it features better detection than many other solutions. Download here.

Noticeably missing

I've see copies of Ad Aware and SpyBot running on a lot of computers as free solutions to spyware problems. I have omitted both here because, while once effective, they both have slipped in their ability to detect a wide variety of spyware infections. If you are running one of these products, it would be best to supplement it with one of the products listed above. You can install multiple anti-spyware solutions (just make sure that no more than one is set to scan in real-time), but I don't recommend installing multiple anti-virus products.

Recommended Commercial Solution

I have been recommending Webroot's Antivirus with AntiSpyware for a while now, and it is holding up quite well. It's Anti-spyware feature is top rated, as is the anti-virus feature. But I especially like it because they offer 3 and 5-computer subscriptions for just a few dollars more than the price of the single computer offering, and if you renew before your subscription expires they give a discount.

Best Solution

The absolute best way to prevent viruses and spyware is to use caution when on the Internet. When visiting a web site you can't fully trust, don't allow it to install anything on your computer. If it pops up a request to install anything, just say no. One of the more common ploys in use today is the request to install a "codec" to install a video. Just don't fall for it.

Along with that, making sure your computer stays up-to-date by checking for and installing Windows updates frequently and automatically. This can go a long way toward avoiding infections in the first place. If you aren't updating as often as you should, it's a good time to start.

Checking for and installing updates also applies to Macs too. Despite what you may hear, there are exploits for problems with OS X in the wild. Macs that are not kept up-to-date can be hacked into faster than Windows Vista, for example.

Personal Experience

Ironic as it might be, I actually don't run my computers with anti-virus and anti-spyware scanners turned on. There hasn't been a need because I just haven't ever had a virus. Spyware, on the other hand, does manage to work its way on to my computers, so I set them to scan once a week. But most of the time all they find are cookies, which actually aren't harmful.

Multimedia Tip: Zoom, Zoom, Zoom!

The most common reason people use the zoom feature of the camera is to attempt to get closer to the subject they are shooting. While zooming does make small objects bigger, it has other effects on an image that aren't immediately obvious. Allow me to explain.

Standing back from an object and zooming in on it produces a very small field of view. If you were to draw a line from the camera to one of the objects at the left edge of the frame, and another line from the camera to the an object at the right side of the frame, this angle would be very small. Objects in this field of view may be large, but they lose any sense of size and depth. The ratio of the size of your subject vs. the size of the background is small. In effect, zooming in compresses space and distance, making objects close to and far away from the camera seem to be at the same distance. As a result, images appear flat, lacking the details that give our eyes a feeling of distance, texture, and reality, and are less exciting visually than those taken with a wide angle lens. (To compensate, make sure your primary light source isn't coming from behind or above you; side lighting helps to re-establish the feeling of depth.)

Stepping forward and zooming out has a different effect altogether. Again, draw an imaginary line from the camera to an object at the left edge of the frame, and another from the camera to an object on the right edge. The angle between the lines is much wider. Objects in the field of view tend to appear smaller than they would if you zoom in, but the sense of distance and space is larger. Zooming out exaggerates space and distance; objects closer the camera feel closer than they really are, and objects farther away feel a lot farther away than they are in reality. If you have ever seen a building, venue or room on TV then seen it later in real life, it usually appears much larger on TV because of the use of wide angle lenses.

So how do you use this when composing a picture? First of all, when taking portraits, stepping in too close and zooming out to compensate will cause distorted features on your subject. Any body part close to the camera will be perceived to be larger than it really is, and conversely any body parts farther away will appear to be smaller than they do in real life. So if making someone's nose or forehead look too big is your goal, step in an zoom out. Otherwise, step back and zoom in. But not too much; we don't want noses to disappear because they have no depth, or ears to appear too close to the face. For SLR cameras, a good guideline is 85mm divided by your camera's focal length multiplier (1.5 on Nikon, resulting in 57mm; or 1.6 on most Canon bodies, for 53mm).

Sometimes we want to convey a message that whatever we are taking a picture of is large, or to make the space between two objects look bigger than it really is. That's when we step forward and zoom out. For the widest views, a wide angle lens is required, however, so you might be limited in just how wide you can go.

Ultimately, however, the Zoom on a camera should be use more like a cropping tool than an attempt to get physically closer to our subject. The vast majority of the time you'll get a more realistic picture if you just step closer and zoom out.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Living Room Update / Free Stuff!

It has taken me about eight hours to move stuff away from the walls in preparation for wallpaper removal and for painting next week.  Two hours the first night to do the front half of the room, and another six to do the second half.  The second half took a lot longer because I had to move two bookshelves, and my desk, all of which have been sitting in the same place for more than a decade.  As a result of moving things around, I have thrown out several hundred pounds of stuff, and have created a real mess.


The up side is that the living room already looks a LOT better without the sleeping bag wallpaper, even if it is rather bland at the moment.

IMG_6166a IMG_6176a

I also promised a picture of the wiring behind my home theater equipment, so here you go:


Free Stuff?

One casualty of moving everything around is my desk.  It just didn’t want to be moved (it’s about 300 pounds), and when Brent and I finally got it to move it decided to crack in half.  It’s barely holding together at the moment, but it isn’t going to be usable again.  So I guess I’m forced to retire the old office area now. 

So I’m getting rid of some old stuff that I won’t need any longer with the old office gone.  To start with, the computer monitors need to go.   So I’m giving away a 19”, two 17”, and one 15” CRT computer monitor.  They all work great, I just won’t need them any longer.  If you need a monitor, they’re available for the taking; just stop by and pick one up.  (Shipping probably won’t be an option; it costs $75 and up to ship a monitor these days.)

Specs: 19” will handle 1600x1200 at 75 Hz, 17”s will do 1152x864 at 75 Hz (or 1280x1024 at 60 Hz), and the 15” will do 1024x768.

I also have a professional quality Epson inkjet printer that I’m giving away.  It needs new ink cartridges (which will run about $100) and a good cleaning.  It has seen very little use and probably has only been used to print a couple hundred pages total.  It is one of those models that can print on CDs.  I just don’t use it, and won’t have a place for it.

More free stuff will follow once I’ve had a chance to triage the remaining pile of stuff.  I’ll start by posting info on my blog for my faithful followers, and anything left after a few days will go up on facebook, then ksl.com.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Busy Week!

So General Conference was this last weekend.  But I didn’t get to see much of it; both of the guys I’m working with on our Point-of-Sale application were tied up with other things, so all customer questions and problems fell on my shoulders.  So I pretty much missed most of Conference.  The part of the Saturday morning session when I could have watched because I wasn’t on a support call was missed because I only got four hours of sleep so I pretty much dozed off right after getting off the phone.  Fortunately I did record it, so I can watch it over the coming weeks.

Saturday night after conference Brad and I headed up to Riverton to visit some old friends.  Our friend Jessica had flown into town from Dallas, and wanted to meet a bunch of friends at Lalis’s apartment that night.  Jenn and Ariel were also there as well as some other people I didn’t know.  It was fun to see everyone.  Lots of good memories.

Since we hadn’t seen Jess since before her mission, Brad and I went to lunch with her yesterday.  Brad had to leave to get back to his studies, but I brought Jess back to my place and we watched August Rush and played some Guitar Hero for a bit.   (Don’t worry, Jared, I had my laptop and cell phone nearby during the movie, and took care of the issues that came up during that two hour window.  I’m not a slacker.)

In a few days I’m flying back to Spokane to help install our software in another Little Caesar’s up there, and to have a multi-day powwow with the rest of the Custom Register Solutions party patrol personnel.    Have you ever noticed that the word powwow is half Ws?

While I’m gone my living room is going to be painted (hooray!!! no more 1980s sleeping bag wallpaper!).  So between now and then I have to move everything away from the walls.  It’s going to be especially fun moving a 300-pound desk that has been sitting in the same place for ten years.  And the bookshelves which have been there for eleven.  I can’t wait to see who what is behind those.  I spent a few hours tonight moving my TV and audio equipment away from one wall so the wallpaper can be removed from behind it tomorrow.  (I’ll have to remember to take a picture of the wiring involved in a fully equipped home theater setup while it’s visible… it’s impressive.)  I’ll need to finish moving everything before Saturday morning when they want to remove the rest of the wallpaper.  I’ll also need to do a bunch of rewiring between now and then to “neaten up” the room.  No more visible wires dangling from the ceiling or clinging on the base of the wall around the corner into the next room… at least as much as I can get away with it, anyway.

As part of the living room makeover I plan to remove the computer and desk behind the couch to add a second row of stadium seating, and to build a new professional rack for all of the A/V equipment.  I was also going to mount my new TV on the wall, but the more I think about that the more I think that isn’t such a great idea; it wouldn’t be visible at all from the kitchen or one of the couches if it were on the wall.  So I’ll have to build a nice (and simple) stand for it at some point.  Things to ponder.

My friend Dave is also getting close to needing my help wiring his studio.  He’s has built a video editing / audio recording studio in his dad’s back yard and it’s now time to run the wires before putting up the drywall.  We went over the last little details before purchasing the wires last night.  But I still need to figure out how to terminate the wiring.  We’re going to be installing about 2 miles of wiring in a couple hundred cables, and I’ll have to add ends to the vast majority of them unless I can teach him how to do it.  Fun.

The POS stuff is going well.  We’ve had about twenty sales in the last two weeks.  And we’re getting more referrals all of the time.  Nearly everybody we show the software to is buying it.  I also just found out that we are trying to get into a tradeshow/convention thing in early November.  Which means I’ll have some big changes, as well as a demonstration video, to make between now and then.

If only I had something to do with my time.

TOTW #11: Multiple Selections; Alternatives to Photoshop; Life Tip #1

Life Tip #1

Don’t let yourself get so busy that you don’t have time to write Tips of the Week for your blog.  And don’t let people talk you into projects that you really don’t have the time to work on, no matter how much they beg.  And when two of your business partners are both unavailable for a significant period of time, don’t try to plan on doing anything besides answering customers’ questions and fixing problems.  And don’t even think about sleep when your landlord wants to remove the wallpaper and paint your living room with less than twelve hours’ notice while all of the above is going on.  And certainly don’t waste time on silly online physics games, no matter how fun they are.

Computer Tip: Making Multiple Selections; Copy & Paste Files

If you have a list of files or objects on your computer and want to select more than one, you probably already know that you can hold down the Control (or Cmd on Mac) key while clicking on each one of them to add them to your selection. 

You might even know that you can click on one file, then hold Shift while clicking on another to select all of the files between the two.

What you might not know, however is that you can use a combination of both Shift and Control (Cmd) to add a group of files to a selection without deselecting your previous selection (I can’t think of a better way to say that).  For example:  If you have files File A through File Z in a folder, and want to select the “vowel” files as well as G through K, first click on File A without any keyboard modifiers, then hold Control (Cmd) while clicking on File E, I, O, and U.  Then to add the range G through K, continue to hold Control (Cmd) and click on File G.  Then add the Shift key (so you are holding both the Control and Shift keys) and click on File K.  Make sense?  Click A, hold Control, click E, I, O, U, G, add Shift, click K.  Got it?  Good.

Now for the fun part.  Say you want to make a copy of these files into another folder, but don’t have the destination folder open (so you can’t just drag them).  Press Control+C (Cmd+C) to copy the list of files to the clipboard.   Then navigate to the destination and press Control+V (Cmd+V).  Or to move the files instead of copying, use Control+X (Cmd+X) to Cut instead of Copy.

Bonus tip: In Microsoft Word, if you want to select a rectangle-shaped area of text/pictures, hold down the Alt key while dragging over that rectangle.

Multimedia Tip: Free and Cheap alternatives to Photoshop

Not everyone needs the full power of Photoshop.  Or can afford the hefty price tag.  There are some nice cheap and free alternatives.  And all of the choices below offer the basic tools necessary to perform the most common repairs and effects.

Cheap Alternative #1: Adobe Photoshop Elements.

Photoshop Elements is a stripped-down cousin of Photoshop.  It has most of the more important elements of the full product, for around $80.

Cheap Alternative #2: Corel Paint Shop Pro

Paint Shop Pro started out as a simple image retouching program over a decade ago. Since that time it is trying to become more and more like Adobe’s flagship product.  It does more than Photoshop Elements, but it isn’t quite as easy to use.  And it isn’t as well known, so getting help if you have a question might be a bit of a challenge.  Price is about $90.

Free Alternative #1: The GIMP

The GIMP is a free photo editing program.  But because it’s free it doesn’t have the polish of its commercial competitors.  The user interface is a bit weird, and it is very slow to make changes in photos, but it is otherwise a fairly capable piece of software.

Free Alternative #2: Photoshop Express

Adobe has created a really stripped-down version of Photoshop and put it up on a web site for all of the world to use.  No software to install, just go to www.photoshop.com/express and begin making basic image corrections for free.  They even give you 2GB of online storage and your own web site to show off your photos.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Great quote… / You won’t believe this!

As I pulled on to my street coming home from Salt Lake tonight my GPS in my truck instructed me to: “Perform a U-turn where allowed, then perform a U-turn where allowed.”  Hmmm.  Why not just say, “do a doughnut?”  You can’t make this stuff up, folks!


I don’t know if others will appreciate this as much as I do, and I’m kind of a nerd for getting excited about it.

I’ve been using the same electric razor for about ten years now.  (It’s a really nice one so I keep giving it new blades and replacing the batteries when they won’t take a charge any longer.)  Back at the end of June it wasn’t taking a charge any longer, so I replaced the batteries, and immediately charged them for the normal half hour.  It is now the beginning of October and it is still running on that same charge.  I haven’t had to charge it in over three months!  On the original set of batteries it would go for about 40 minutes (around 4-5 shaves, or about one week) before the batteries would be dead and it needed to be charged again.  So far it has run for somewhere around 8.5 hours on one charge!  And it’s still going!  Those are some pretty amazing batteries.  Note to self: buy battery manufacturer’s stock; they’ve got something special going on.

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