Category Archives: zA High-Tech Blech!

Computers got you down? Microwave wristwatch talking back again? Survival solutions abound.

An IT professional in confessional.

Everyone Pads in the Field

I really enjoyed making fun of the pad.  (Microsoft already invented the iPad, like, forever ago–they called it Notepad.  (That’s funny on so many levels.  (I call this writing style Nesting Absurdities.)))

But I gave myself a good think and me thunk it ain’t so bad.  Yes, it may have been silly to  use the phone OS, but so was making a phone that couldn’t copy and paste.  Still they stumble on.  Reminds me of this song by Lori Anderson where she talks about walking being merely continuously falling and catching oneself.  “Why do we fall Bruce?”  Meh, you get the picture.

It occurred to me, it was like magic really, there was suddenly something new in my brain.  Not merely something I’d misplaced, but a story of a photographer in the field with a camera and an iPad (or any compatible TouchMePad) wirelessly tethered to one another.  Each time a photograph is taken it can be immediately analyzed on the substantial screen (Go Team TouchMePad!).

In a way this is like taking photography back to the days when one needed to carry around the glass plate negatives, only more compact.

I would suspect that graphic designers will also want to be seen with TouchMePads.   And of course the accessories!  “I put one sticker on mine.  Just one.  Ya wanna see it?”  Really?  Hello, Kitty?  That’s so amazing.

And you can have a screen object where shared files can be wirelessly exchanged with nearby TouchMePads?  Ok, yes, that will make many aspects of your job not just easier but also rather Star Trek cool.

Well, that’s where what’s left of my mind is residing.  Where’s your mind lounging?


Unretarding Edit in Vista or Windows 7

In XP it was possible to change which program ran when you chose Edit from the right-click context menu for a particular file, say a jpeg.  In Vista and Windows 7 they have merged that setting with the Open function.  In other words, in XP you could set one application to open a jpeg and a different application to edit a jpeg.  In Vista and Windows 7 if you want to have different applications perform these functions, you have to dig into the registry.

Sure, you can use Open With instead of Open to get to the other application; but, oh wait, Open With only works if you select one file.  What?  That’s right, select two jpeg’s and Open With goes away.

Really, what the fuck is the point of offering Edit and Open as separate options if they both do the exact same thing?


It is easy to arrange this on the Mac OS; it is easy to do in Ubuntu; it was easy to do in XP.  This is what happens when you work towards a Fisher-Price operating system designed for children and the geriatric: it slows the rest of us to a crawl.

Ok, so how do we fix this marvelous error and once again improve the disimprovement Microsoft has handed down from on high?

Obviously we need to hop into the registry editor:

Run —> regedit

Once in the registry editor (as an administrator, so don’t try this as a limited user), you will want to change two registry keys.  Here are the paths/names of those keys:

HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT —> SystemFileAssociations —> image —> shell —> edit —> command

HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT —> jpegfile —> shell —> edit —> command

I think my SystemFileAssociations key originally pointed to Paint and the jpegfile key pointed here:

%SystemRoot%System32rundll32.exe “%ProgramFiles%Windows Photo GalleryPhotoViewer.dll”, ImageView_Edit %1

But I replaced them both with the path below.  Once you find each key, change the contents of that key (either double-click the key or right-click and choose Modify…) to something which will open your preferred editor (I use Photoshop CS3 currently).  Basically it’s “DRIVE:PathTo Your Editor’sexecutable.exe” “%1” so something like this:

"C:Program Files (x86)AdobeAdobe Photoshop CS3Photoshop.exe" "%1"

Click the OK button after each change and then hit your f5 key to refresh the registry (or just close it).  Now you ought to be able to Edit images with a different application than one with which you Open them.

Happy hunting.


Calling for Retired Computers

I run a program I call Linux for Anybody.  Essentially I accept donated machines and build them with Linux (currently Ubuntu) and deliver those machines to persons who otherwise may not be able to obtain a computer.

I am always seeking machines for this project.  The point of this post is to place this request for retiring machines in front of all who read my blog these days.

Is your company getting ready to replace machines?  Will those old machines be retired or sent off to a recycler?

Giving them to me is better than recycling them as they will be directly re-used.  Of course, I only accept fully functional machines and won’t take anything that’s ancient (this is not a museum project).  I can use keyboard, monitors, and mice as long as they are also fully functional (and please talk to me first if what you have are massive CRT’s).

I have what it takes to completely and securely wipe hard drives, so please include the hard drives with the machines.  I am happy to eradicate any potential data before I build the Ubuntu systems.

Let me know if you have any questions and thanks for participating.

On a related note, if you know of someone who might benefit from this program (a student, a teacher, some other struggling person) please talk to me and perhaps we can get them a machine with which they can perform research, surf the Web, communicate via e-mail and chat, and create and store important office documents.


Don’t Lose Your Grip

You may recall my article on using the wonderful Gnome ripping software Grip.  You didn’t read it?  Well, you ought to.  It’s right here.

As fortune would have it, this particular application has been languishing as concerns development.  That is to say that it’s a bit out of date and is using archaic libraries.  As such, or so I am told, Grip has been dropped from the Ubuntu repositories with 9.10 and I see nothing to indicate it will be returning with 10.4 either.  Woe is me.

Now I did find one person who took the time to arrange a repository and installation script all his own.  You can find that over on the Ubuntu forums:

It’s a bit of command line work, but it’s easier than compiling the program yourself.

You should report any troubles you might have on that forum post as you are likely to get faster responses.


Update to My Renaming Script

A while back I wrote a post on renaming FLAC files to include their associated disc numbers. For example, if you have a file from disc 1 named “01 – Track Name.flac” my script would change it to “01.01 – Track Name.flac”.

This updated version of the script allows the user to enter the path to the folder needing files renamed and the associated disc number.

I think this is a slightly simpler method than my previous method for using this script. You can read about the original script here.

Here is the current script:

# by JamesIsIn from
# Do something nice today.

# Prepend album number before track numbers
# 01 - Track Name.flac becomes 01.01 - Track Name.flac

echo "This script will change FLAC file names based on a containing folder and a disc number which you supply."
echo "Example:  "01 - Track Name.flac" becomes "01.01 - Track Name.flac""

read -p "I will require the path to the containing folder: "
if [ -d "$REPLY" ]; then
printf "I have confirmed this is a directory.nn"
printf "I cannot find this directory.nn"
exit 1

read -p "Which disc number, please (01 through 99): "
# add test for 01-99
printf "%bnn" "I will prepend $REPLY to all FLAC files in: $directorynn"

read -p "Press <ENTER> to continue (ctrl-c will abort)."

cd "$directory"

rename "s/^/$newname./" *.[Ff][Ll][Aa][Cc]

This version also handles FLAC extensions in any case (flac=FLAC=FlAc &c).

If I make any updates, I’ll likely just change this post. As such, I should say that this current version is current as of 8 March 2010.

Have fun with that.


NumLock not Locking at Login Screen

I have this old Dell Vectra which I built for a family friend using Ubuntu Desktop 9.10.  I set the NumLock in the BIOS to ON and after I logged into the operating system NumLock was certainly locked.  However, for whatever reason NumLock was not ON at the login screen itself.

I posted an inquiry on the Ubuntu Forums and was pointed to this page.

For those of you seeing this same issue, here is how I fixed this particular machine/OS.

First you’ll want to install numlockx using Synaptic:

System —> Administration —> Synaptic Package Manager

Locate numlockx and mark it for installation then click the Apply button.

Now you just need to add some lines of code to kick that into action at boot time.  You will want to edit your /etc/gdm/Init/Default file:

gksudo gedit /etc/gdm/Init/Default

At the end of that file you should see a line containing only “exit 0”.  Immediately before that line you will add the code to invoke numlockx:


if [ -x /usr/bin/numlockx ]; then
/usr/bin/numlockx on


Be sure to add a comment line like a good programmer (begin a comment line with a #).

So the end of your Default file should look something like this:


# Added by JamesIsIn to enable NumLock at login screen

if [ -x /usr/bin/numlockx ]; then
/usr/bin/numlockx on

exit 0

That’s it.  Save that file and reboot your machine.  NumLock should now be on at your login screen.

Happy Hunting.


Go Do that Gnome-Do that You Do so Well

Gnome-Do is an application launcher, among other things.  It is the fastest, slickest application launcher I have found for any platform.  It was originally designed after Spotlight from the Mac operating system.  However, it has outclassed its predecessor entirely.

With a couple of key-strokes I can launch any application on my system.  Or I could open a folder location.  Or I could just as easily search for something which came to mind.  Or I could use Gnome-Do to access the inner workings of many different applications on my system through its extensive plugins.   Or I could search the Internet.  Or I could search my bookmarks.

Pretty much anything I could imagine.  Just a few key-strokes.

It’s like magic.  I’m surprised Sarah Silverman doesn’t have a show about it.

If you are running Ubuntu (and you ought to be by now), Gnome-Do is available through Synaptic and the standard Ubuntu repositories.  However, if you would like to latest version of Gnome-Do you can add their repositories directly.

Open your repositories (System —> Administration —> Software Sources) and add these two entries (Third-Party Software tab; Add button):


deb [YourVersionHere] main

deb-src [YourVersionHere] main


(Substitute your version as appropriate.  I am running 8.10 and 9.10 so I use intrepid and karmic, respectively.)

You’ll also want to add the verification key for this repository.  The simplest way to do that is by running two commands (Applications —> Accessories —> Terminal):


sudo apt-key adv –keyserver –recv-keys 77558DD0

sudo apt-get update


If you are already running Gnome-Do, you can now update your system (System —> Administration —> Update Manager) and you will get the latest version.  If you need to install Gnome-Do, hop into Synaptic (System —> Administration —> Synaptic Package Manager) and look for it by name.

You will have to start Gnome-Do manually before you can use it (Applications —> Accessories —> GNOME Do) and I set it to auto-start (located in its Preferences dialog, which is where you will also find its plugins).

I believe by default you call up Gnome-Do by using cltr-alt-space.  I have a Microsoft keyboard and so set mine to super-space (Windows-space).  You can choose something you like and which is convenient for you.

Have fun with this.  You’ll wonder how you ever got by without it.  And you will sincerely miss it when you are working on other operating systems.

Thanks to this post for the repository information.


Stitch Some AVI’s Together

So you have that video of your cat doing that thing and that other video of your brother getting startled by the can of joke peanuts, and now you’re thinking “I’m such a wicked director I’m going to edit these films together and put them on the Interwebz”.  Ok.  That sounds important.

In Ubuntu there is a little utility called avimerge which (wait for it) merges avi files.

avimerge -c -o [WhatYouWantItCalled].avi -i [a].avi [b].avi


I know; you’re thinking “dude, that looks like something you type into the terminal window; how am I supposed to do this?”.  Fear not, little tomato.  You just want to replace the stuff in the square brackets with your stuff.  A and B are the two files you are wanting to merge and WhatYouWantItCalled is, well, I think you can manage that one.  Yours might look like this:

avimerge -c -o ScorseseMe.avi -i CuteKitty.avi BroJumps.avi

If your file names have spaces you’ll have to tell the shell (the terminal) how to interpret them:

avimerge -c -o “Scorsese Me.avi” -i “Cute Kitty.avi” “Bro Jumps.avi”


avimerge -c -o Scorsese\ Me.avi -i Cute\ Kitty.avi Bro\ Jumps.avi


(The quotes tell the shell to interpret what comes between them as a single item or word; normally words are space-delimited and here the quotes prevent the command from interpreting the space as the end of the file name. The slash is what is known as an escape character; the character which follows the escape character is escaped and thus not interpreted by the shell but read just as another character.)

Could it be any easier?

Have fun with that.


Bye-bye Inane non-Drive Drive Letters

It’s so easy to poke fun at Windows.  They seem to halt the design process about midway between a great idea and a full implementation—then hand things over to a committee for unrefinement.

(What’s a camel?  A horse designed by committee: loaded with great features but would you look at the thing!)

One such design bumble is that if you have a card reader connected to your machine, Windows likes to assign a drive letter for each slot.  Windows will do this even if the slots are empty.  As an example, my studio machine has an internal card reader (four slots) and I have an external card reader attached most of the time because I can keep it close at hand (four slots); this gives me drives lettered E through L.  All of these drives are of course empty (or more accurately are not drives at all, more below) and so are merely clutter in Explorer (My Computer, &c).  Fortunately I have found a solution for this problem.

Unix systems (Linux, Mac, &c) don’t bother with this.  It’s not simply because they don’t assign drive letters either.  When mounted each drive does receive a designation, but empty card reader slots are not mountable and as such are not assigned any designation.  The device (the card reader) is treated like an adapter and any necessary drivers are loaded upon connection (ie, when you attach the card reader using a USB cable).

Let me explain how the card reader is neither one nor many drives.  In the case of memory cards (like SD cards for a camera) it is the card itself which is the drive.  The reader device is more akin to the IDE controller and cable(s) in your machine by which your hard drive might be connected.  As an example of how it ought to be done, Windows does not assign a drive letter to an unconnected end of an IDE cable where it dangles alone in your box (nor to an IDE channel without a cable).  It’s not a drive until you actually connect a drive to it; the same should hold true for the card reader.

Now, there are those who will assert that the card reader ought to be considered as a CD or DVD drive is considered.  However, this is a false line of reasoning.  There is at least one action which can be performed on a CD drive without any media inserted: you can eject the drive tray (or close it) by right-clicking on the drive letter.  There is no action which can be performed on an empty card reader slot.

The thrust here is that card readers don’t need assigned drive letters if they are empty.  In my example above I display eight (8) alleged drives in My Computer.  If I insert one card I have to guess as to which of those I have loaded a drive.

Now Microsoft has apparently finally seen fit to include a feature in Windows 7 (off by default) which allows users to disable this inanity, but you may not yet be using Windows 7.  (I’m content to wait for the first service pack.)

You can rid yourself of those annoying empty drive letters (and allow inserted cards to auto-assign) using a small service application called USB Drive Letter Manager.  It has other functionality, but I was content using the included sample configuration.

Installation and deployment is easy.

  • Download it from the above link (it’s near the bottom in a section called “Conditions and Download”)
  • Unzip the files into a folder on your root (maybe C:/Tools)
  • Rename “USBDLM_sample.INI” as “USBDLM.INI” (or create your own “USBDLM.INI” file)
  • Right-click on “_install.cmd” and run (you will likely need administrator privileges)

That’s it.  It’s now running as a service.  No more empty card reader slots, and when you insert a card it is auto-mounted (auto-assigned a drive letter).

Thanks to the cats over at LifeHacker for some of this information.

Happy hunting.


Digital Copy Coasters Cost More

You may have noticed that a lot of movies are offering a second or third disc in their multi-disc offerings which include what they are calling Digital Copy. But, really, what the fuck is Digital Copy?

I mean, for starters, the DVD or Blu-ray is already a digital copy of the film.  What’s so special about the capital letter version?  I read a good article that goes into a modest level of detail for being about a page long, and I encourage the curious to follow that link.

In a nut shell, you are paying around $10 for an extra disc which contains a version of the film you are purchasing which you can then play on your computer or portable device.

“But, Jimbo, I can already play DVD’s (or Blu-rays) on my computer.”

Mostly everyone can play DVD’s on their computers, and certainly anyone can rip a DVD into a format that can be transfered to a portable device (avi, mov, mpg, &c).  So now you can ask yourself what you or anyone else might need with Digital Copy.  I mean beyond the obvious “I’m lazy and someone already did it for me” route.

But suppose you really are lazy and would like to simplify this shrinking and portability problem.  Then you should certainly steer clear of Digital Copy.

They are using a scheme of digital rights management that will restrict you to use your purchased movie on one device (iTunes or Windows Media Player or your portable device—not all three).  Further, if you have a problem (like a hard drive failure) you are likely to lose your precious Digital Copy and have no reasonable recourse to reclaim it.

(The article I linked to above has some great personal stories of lost Digital Copy in the comments.)

What I find rather irksome is that with many of the new Blu-ray discs coming out, your only choice is a version which includes Digital Copy.  You cannot opt out of that Digital Copy tax in your purchase negotiations.

It’s these damned marketers at it again.  They tout Digital Copy like it’s the greatest thing since chapter selection, but then they hand you a spoonful of honey to which all the flies have already adhered.


Oh, and if you’ve already purchased some Digital Copy, you can use them as a nice set of movie themed coasters at your New Year’s party.  I am.