I wrote a simple DOS batch script that loops through the 'ping' command to test the network connection repeatedly at the user's instruction. I wrote it to test my flaky Android tethering connection.
As I read through one of Amazon’s best selling free Kindle books, Simple Living: Thirty Days to Less Stuff & More Life (Amazon Link) by Lorilee Lippincott, I realized with each passing chapter how much Dropbox had already solved multiple problems Lippincott challenges us to tackle in life. Her book provides us with 30 steps we can take towards a minimalist life, keeping everything organized and out of sight. What’s more out of sight than storing everything digitally, in the cloud, yet having it still available wherever you have a computer, iPhone, Android device, or any other gadget with a web browser?
Briefly, you use the software Dropbox (referral link is that of a friend of mine) as your “My Documents” folder. As you save and organize your files in this folder, they are automatically synced to Dropbox’s servers, where you can access them on the web, another computer logged into your Dropbox account, or smartphone.
Here are some clutter-reducing tasks that Lippincott recommends which, with a little effort, are easily and permanently solved with Dropbox.
- Creating an organized, simple, semi-automated menu for meals
Lippincott urges her readers to turn meals into a weekly or monthly recurrence, having the same meal every Monday night or one day a month. Inside a “Cooking” folder in your Dropbox, you can save great recipes that you stumble across online, along with a weekly/monthly menu incorporating those meals.
Add a new meal? Revise your menu on your laptop and it will sync to your “recipe tablet!” Discover a great recipe while traveling? Save it on your laptop’s Dropbox and it will go live when you get an internet connection!
I personally don’t do much cooking for myself (hey, I’m a college student!), but I use my cooking folder to keep track of the cheapest places to buy simple foods and snacks (PS Harris Teeter wins over Kroger any day).
- Organizing your filing system
Filing cabinets? Bah, don’t make me laugh! Why use such a space waste when you can have all of your documents on the cloud? As minimalist as you can get, with the added bonus of easier digital searchability rather than the nightmare of rifling through filing cabinets.
Keeping any document on Dropbox is easy. Most documents are sent digitally nowadays, but even when you run across paper documents, scan them to yourself and give them a good, descriptive name with multiple keywords that you know you’d probably use to search for it someday in the future.
Don’t have a scanner to do that? My favorite deal site, SlickDeals.net, listed a $40 all-in-one wireless printer/scanner/copier just 10 days ago. Just follow this link and find your own steal.
- Storing all of your favorite pictures
I’m a travel nut. I like to see as many awesome new places as possible and, of course, take many pictures to remind me of the great experiences. Dropbox makes it easy to store my pictures for easy access anytime, anywhere, along with providing features to easily share links to my folders with friends and family.
Additionally, I have Google’s Picasa on my desktop computer set up as a screensaver to slideshow through photo folders on my Dropbox. If I take a picture with my phone or save one on my laptop, my desktop computer instantly gets it and inserts it into the slideshow. The simplest, coolest digital photo frame ever!
Personally, I’m a college student, part-time employee, and Army Reservist currently deployed overseas. Managing these three separate lives certainly provides a challenge. However, Dropbox saves my life time and time again by ensuring every document I ever save is available to me each moment I need it, forever and ever. Of course, remember to set a powerful password!
Quote for today:
“They let us play with markers. But I kept trying to draw infinity.” - Say Anything
I decided to try to fall asleep listening to Pandora from my laptop instead of from my Android phone last night (on which I use SleepTimer). Much to my surprise, I could not find a Windows application for closing a specific program after a certain period of time. I've been eager to put my (albeit very basic) year-college-edumacated programming skills to use, and so I finally had my chance.
I wrote this simple batch script that takes a user-entered time period (or defaults to 15 minutes) and a user-entered program (or defaults to firefox.exe) and closes just that specific application after that period of time. Any program can be entered into "sleep timer" mode, unlike other Windows-based sleep timer applications that turn off the entire computer.
Who knows, maybe one day I'll put a GUI on it!
There's nothing quite like tech envy for someone obsessed with gadgets. When my non-tech savvy friend showed off her iPhone paired with her A2DP stereo system in her Kia Optima, I knew that I was behind the curve. But there's no way I was installing a new stereo or, worse yet, buying a new car for this set up.
That's when I stumbled across the perfect DIY solution for A2DP! This Blackberry bluetooth gateway plugs into a power source and then end of an aux-in jack (which I also had to DIY with a GROM adapter into my Prius when I first got it). Using this wonderful gadget that turns one car charger into two and two USB ports, a mini USB type B cable, and the adapter, I had everything set up in my glove compartment and good to go in no time...
...until I turned it on and discovered the bane of the Prius stereo system: ground loop hum. Because of the electronics within the Prius, anything connected to both a power cable and an audio cable simultaneously tends to emit a shrieking, high-pitched whine that requires a psychiatrist's help to remove the splitting headache caused by the noise.
Google referred me to a series of PriusChat posts recommending a ground loop isolator. The recommendations came with a warning of supposedly slightly reducing sound quality, but the highest quality one was supposedly on Crutchfield by PAC, so that's the one I got--although, I purchased mine from Amazon.
I was more than disappointed when I plugged it in and my audio sounded clear but much lower quality. Despite the whine, I was originally in awe of the quality of the bluetooth set up. It sounded pretty good until I attached the ground loop isolator! I knew this quality-reducing solution wouldn't work.
This is the point where I finally decided to use my own brain. It surprised me when it came up with the idea of a ferrite choke. At $1 and some change from Digi-Key, it surely couldn't be wrong to give it a try, so I ordered three!
I waited a couple days and, when they arrived, I attached them all and turned the car on. I began to accelerate with bated breath - would the hum appear when the engine kicked on? The engine whined into existence, but the sound coming from the cranked-up stereo remained crystal clear and clean! Tada! I eventually removed different chokes to test the effects, and found the one pictured below with the mini USB cable wrapped several times through it to be the most effective:
Now I'm happy! My solution works as good as an integrated solution in a stereo, and I have the massive satisfaction of having done it myself. Not to mention the cost savings of a $60 solution. BAM! (Sorry, that's the satisfaction of my tech envy coming out!)
Voice recording. Yet another crack in my otherwise beloved Android experience where Google fails to deliver an impressive stock experience. The stock voice recorder application suffers from limitations such as confinement to the pathetic quality of the rarely supported 3gp file format, no built-in sharing features, and interruption of the recording with any pop-up notifications such as GO SMS text popups, with no ability to resume recording.
To illustrate, here is a demonstration of how, ahem, feature-rich the Android "Sound Recorder" application is:
And an audio clip from the stock recorder (converted with minimal loss to MP3 for sharing).
Fortunately, the openness of the Android Market one again fills the void of the stock Android features. RecForge Lite, a free (with pay version available) app for voice recording, increases the choices tenfold while still maintaining simplicity. It includes features for sharing with a multitude of services including, my favorite, Dropbox. It includes file format selection of MP3, OGG, and WAV, and also includes the ability to re-encode to another file format after recording. Other nifty features include a CPU usage meter and, best of all, it doesn't stop recording when focus changes due to a pop-up notification or even when the phone is locked either intentionally or unintentionally.
The features do not detract from a very straightforward interface:
A sample of the wonderful, yet still nicely compressed, audio quality:
All of these features are included with the free version with the only limitation being after 3 minutes of recording, it pauses, and can easily be resumed by hitting the record button again. The full version is (currently) only $3.99. Market link: RecForge Lite (Free version).
I was thrilled when I got a Kindle Fire for Christmas! Of course, after modding the heck out of my Samsung Captivate with custom ROMs and, when it was finally available, CyanogenMod 7 (CM7), I knew that I wasn't going to be happy with the Kindle Fire's stock firmware from Amazon. I had been watching the XDA-Developer's forum eagerly for any word on the Kindle Fire development. Fortunately, unlike the Nook Tablet's locked down bootloaders, the Kindle Fire was fairly easy for developers to mod, and CM7 is available in an almost fully functional state! Here's a review.
After being constantly annoyed by the awful-sounding front speakers in my 1996 Subaru Legacy Outback (the rear speakers had already been replaced), I decided to buy the Polk Audio db6501 component speaker system. I found it on Crutchfield, but I wasn't about to pay $200 for it when it was $110 on SonicElectronix.
The speaker system, being a "component system", includes main speakers (woofers) that go in the traditional speaker spot inside the door, little circular speakers (tweeters) that had to be mounted somewhere on the pillars, dash, or sail panel, and finally the crossovers that separate the audio feed to both the woofer and tweeter.
My dad has done audio mods before (the aforementioned rear speakers), so I waited until this weekend for him to be free.
The entire installation went rather smoothly, and took about 4-5 hours. It began with:
1. Removing the inside door panels. This was relatively simple, just going around the edges of the door with a flathead screwdriver popping out a bunch of clips. I also had to remove a few screws.
After the clips were popped, it was as simple as gently pulling the panels up and off and popping out the power window panels.
I set the panels aside and didn't use them again until I installed the crossover in step 5 and 6.
2. Removing the old woofer. This was as easy as unscrewing them from the mount. That made it easy for the next step.
3. Mounting the new woofer. The new woofer had to be attached to a mount included with the system, which was then attached to the Subaru mount.
4. Mounting the tweeters. I decided to surface-mount the tweeter on the door sail panel as shown:
5. Feeding all of the wires into the door panel. The previously removed door panels had a storage area, so I drilled a hole into it and fed the wires through it. The crossover will be placed in here. While feeding the wires through, it was easy to snap the door panels back on in the same step.
6. Wiring the crossover. My dad stripped the ends of the wires for the tweeter, woofer, and input and put them into their spots in the crossover.
7. Mounting the crossover. As mentioned previously, the crossover was going to be stored in the door panel's storage area. But they are not supposed to be loose as vibrations can be damaging. So I took some velcro strips and used them to stick the crossover to the side of the storage area in the door panels.
Project complete! My dad and I were surprised how amazingly smoothly it went. And the sound: absolutely awesome. These speakers are well worth the upgrade from the stock audio!
Quite a long time ago, I upgraded my EEE PC 1000HA wifi card with a nice Atheros 5008 card that supports Backtrack 3, Wireless N, and a third wifi antenna.
Inspired by Vinhtvu2's external wifi adapter on the eeeuser.com forums, I decided to do a similar mod of my own. So I bought the antenna on eBay. Unfortunately, with my small EEE PC case, I didn't want to do the exact same mod as it sticks out too much. And I was afraid to hack away while the warranty was still valid.
So finally, a year and a half later, I was inspired by a random modding blog to try putting in the antenna recessed into the ethernet port.
And it worked fantastically!
The process was tedious (took about 4 hours), but rather simple:
1. Disassemble the entire EEE PC (excluding the LCD screen), which consisted of removing the bottom hatch, the hard drive, RAM, and wireless card, the keyboard, separating the plastic casing, and removing the motherboard and all of the connectors. There are many guides online; that's not what this tutorial is for.
2. Finally, once everything was separated, I had full access to the bottom of the ethernet port. I used a dremel with a cutting head and cleanly cut off the very bottom. I turned the motherboard upside-down and placed the RP-SMA connector down in the port and used Loctite 1-minute instant mixing epoxy. I used a nice amount and it hardened very well; I don't think the connector is going anywhere.
3. I gently sent the motherboard back into the casing to see how it would fit. There wasn't enough room for the antenna's RJ-SMA connector to fit inside, so I took the motherboard back out and took the dremel to the plastic case and made the hole a bit wider, as you can see in the picture of the final product.
4. I checked to make sure that it fit now. It did! So I put everything back together (putting the ribbon cables for the touchpad and keyboard back in was not fun) and locked it up tight.
5. Nervously, I pushed the power button. It booted up and everything worked - whew! There were a lot of connectors that I was nervous about (I luckily took a picture of the motherboard before I removed it.) With everything working, it was now time for some hands-on testing!
All of the power results are from testing in Backtrack 3's terminal.
2 internal antennas only: ~25
External antenna only: ~22
External AND internal antennas connected: ~40
So, as you can see, the results are quite good! It was a fun mod, and it was interesting to see the EEE PC internals. The extra signal will be nice sometime when I am in the middle of nowhere on vacation and want to check out my emails! After all, what good is a netbook if you can't get on the 'net?
From the pictures in my post about installing Windows 7, many people were curious as to what the nifty little keyboard was in the leftmost portion of the photos. I had been meaning to do a writeup on it anyways, so I thought it was appropriate timing!
I grew up playing video games on my PC. I'm glad I did! A PC can be so much more powerful, and cheaper in the long run, than a console. But that's a long, drawn-out debate for another day.
So anyway, as I grew up playing Jedi Knight Dark Forces II (awesome game!), I used the arrow keys so that I had access to the numpad and the box above the arrow keys for extra buttons, which I always used for force powers. And therefore, when I got into games that required fewer keys, like Half-Life 2 and Far Cry, I began to get annoyed with using the arrow keys. I always ended up pushing the keyboard clear across the desk because my hands were too close together when I was using the arrow keys and the mouse. I began to regret that I didn't start with the WASD layout, but it just didn't feel right to me.
And then I saw the WolfKing Timberwolf keyboard, a complete keyboard with an extra section on the left, that contained just a set of WASD keys and some surrounding keys. I wanted it so badly from the moment I saw it!
But, as a full keyboard, it was rather expensive and unwieldy. And so I gave up on my dream. But shortly after, I noticed a deal on Dealnews.com for a WolfKing Warrior Gaming Keypad. A light went off in my head: I surely had heard this brand before! I quickly went to the link. Sure enough, it was the WolfKing Timberwolf, minus the keyboard part! And it was cheap! It was more than I could have asked for; I bought it immediately, and awaited with anticipation for it to arrive.
And finally, it did! And it was all that I could have imagined. It has the feel of the arrow keys, but the accessibility and function of the WASD keys. All the keys are beautifully positioned to allow for terrificly ergonomic and efficient button-mashing.
You can see for yourself how the keypad is set up:
So maybe, if you're a PC gamer like me, you'll make the wise choice to pick one up for yourself! The only con: without sale, it retails at $40 on Amazon.
So getting ready to install was as easy as booting from the Windows 7 Professional CD. As soon as it booted, up came the selection for the settings:
So, I picked the settings and it asked me to install:
Once I chose to install, I was presented with the Windows 7 EULA:
After I, *ahem*, read the EULA, I was given the options to choose an upgrade from Windows Vista, or a fresh install:
Obviously, I chose the fresh install! A menu came up to let me choose the partition on which I wanted to format and install Windows 7. The installation process began.
The entire installation was 100% complete in about 10 minutes! I was absolutely stunned! It cautioned that it might restart several times, but I never noticed it restart at all. So in no time, the install was complete:
Finally, the installer asked for my username and a name for the computer. I entered that information in and, immediately, it went to a screen saying "Preparing your desktop" and logged me on. Now, the beautiful Windows 7!
And so there you have it! Windows 7 freshly installed!
The updater immediately installed the drivers for my audio, the Nvidia drivers, and everything else essential. It was the best installation I've ever done: all I had to do was install my beloved Google Chrome and Firefox, and a few other programs, and it was up and running. It runs extremely speedily, even seeming faster than Windows XP!
So, unbelievably, that's all there was to it. Leave me comments about anything you want to know and I'll write an article on it; I'm all yours!
I couldn't wait to get Windows 7 to say goodbye to Vista! My PC has a dual-core 3 Ghz Intel processor and a great video card (I am a gamer, after all!), and Vista has always ran like a slug. Well, that is, if slugs could run, they'd probably be pretty slow!
So anyway, I got Windows 7 through the Microsoft Partner Program, and I've finally gotten time to install it. I'm going to completely overwrite Vista with a fresh install.
I already have multiple partitions: one for Vista, one for XP, and one for Ubuntu (go Linux!), so I'm going to have to restore the dual-boot with Windows 7 and Windows XP so that it launches after Grub. But otherwise, this should hopefully be a smooth-sailing upgrade.