Author Archive

How to easily switch audio languages in XBMC

March 17th, 2012 3 comments

Japanese anime with English subtitleIf you use XBMC for watching media content from your PC on your TV, you may have noticed that there is no hotkey for switching audio languages. This is particularly annoying if you’re trying to watch anime, as it will typically default to the English audio track instead of the Japanese (which usually has better voice acting.) It’s also a problem if your native language isn’t English.

Here’s how to fix it. Create a new Keyboard.xml file. It should be located at C:\Users\[yourusername]\AppData\Roaming\XBMC\userdata\keymaps\Keyboard.xml (on Windows) or at /Users/[yourusername]/Library/Application Support/XBMC/userdata/keymaps/Keyboard.xml (on MacOSX).

Add the following lines:


(If you already have a Keyboard.xml file, you’ll probably just need to add the <k>audionextlanguage</k> line to the <keyboard> section.)

This will map the ‘K’ key (not used for anything by default) to ‘Switch audio languages.’ I picked ‘K’ since it’s next to ‘L’, which is the default hotkey to enable subtitles. (No, I don’t speak Japanese.)

Additional information about XBMC keymaps is available here:

Categories: How-To, Software Tags: , , , ,

Remove the Ping buttons and sidebar from iTunes 10.0.1 on Windows

October 2nd, 2010 3 comments

If you recently updated to the latest version of iTunes, you probably noticed Apple’s latest force-feeding of their new Ping service.  When you run iTunes for the first time after upgrading, you’ll have a giant Ping sidebar on the right side of your screen as well as icons next to each song.  You can close the sidebar, but there’s no option in the UI for turning off the (in my opinion, annoying) icons next to the song titles.

iTunes screenshot showing Ping icons and sidebar

Here’s how to get rid of them (thanks goes to OS X Daily for pointing me in the right direction, the majority of sites are only giving the Mac method for fixing this which doesn’t work on Windows.  I’ve added a fix for their typo and how to execute the command correctly on a 64-bit system which wasn’t mentioned in their original post):

1) Close iTunes if it’s running.
2) Open a command prompt window.  (Start -> Run -> cmd)

3) Enter the following commands:
"C:\Program Files\iTunes\iTunes.exe" /setPrefInt hide-ping-dropdown 1
"C:\Program Files\iTunes\iTunes.exe" /setPrefInt disablePingSidebar 1

If you’re running a 64-bit version of Windows, you’ll need to use the following commands instead:
"C:\Program Files (x86)\iTunes\iTunes.exe" /setPrefInt hide-ping-dropdown 1
"C:\Program Files (x86)\iTunes\iTunes.exe" /setPrefInt disablePingSidebar 1

It appears that the button for the Ping sidebar will not go away if you have ever activated it. Just close the sidebar once after running the commands above, they will prevent the Ping sidebar from automatically re-opening.

Back to normal:

iTunes screenshot - Ping icons and sidebar removed

Categories: How-To, Software Tags: , , ,

Sony removes PS3 Linux support from customers who have paid for it

April 1st, 2010 10 comments

No more Linux on the PlayStation 3So, even if you haven’t heard the latest news regarding Sony and the PlayStation 3 (additional discussion on Slashdot), it will come as no surprise that they’re up to their anti-consumer practices once again. According to a blog entry on the official Sony web site, they have released a new firmware version (3.21) today (which, coincidentally, is April Fool’s Day; however in their post which was written on March 27th they insist that it is not a joke). This new “update” removes the ‘Other OS’ feature that is present on older PS3s (any model released prior to the ‘Slim PS3’). This feature is the one that allows you to run Linux on your console and use it as a computer as well as a game console.

I turned my console on this morning and, sure enough, I cannot sign onto PSN (which means no online games, store, trials, etc.)  Clicking through to the upgrade page and its associated legal agreement makes no mention of the feature removal at all.  Sony is hoping that everyone who uses a PS3 will simply assume it’s a routine update that includes new features and will simply install it without thinking, thus permanently crippling their system.  I declined the user agreement and refused to install the update; so I can still use Linux but can no longer access any online PSN features.

Sony cites “security concerns” for removing the feature, but a short analysis of the issue makes it clear that they’re protecting their own interests, rather than the customer’s interests as they imply in their announcement. At issue is the Geohot exploit (which only allows access to the hypervisor which is a layer above the operating system, it does not allow any games to be pirated). Sony believes that allowing continued access to the Linux operating system on the PS3 will allow for piracy of their games. Rather than deal with the issue, they’ve decided to simply remove the Linux feature from everyone’s PS3. As usual, Sony is treating their paying customers as criminals. That approach usually does not result in increased sales, as many customers will first begin stealing their content after they’ve been negatively affected by such moves after paying for legitimate content.

Sony is hoping that nobody will care about this change, as very few people utilize this function of their consoles.  I have experimented with Linux installation on the PS3, and while it does have some limitations, there are a lot of possibilities for the system.  The PS3 possesses a powerful Cell processor and can be used for many interesting computational tasks. There have been many stories in the news recently regarding various agencies that are using the consoles for just that. (The U.S. Air Force is a prime example, others are listed here.)  Sony even promised that the feature would not be going away.

The problem with this whole affair is that Sony is removing a core feature from a product that customers have already paid for. The feature is clearly advertised, both at the time of purchase and on Sony’s website itself (They added the part about the feature no longer being available this morning.)  Should a company be allowed to remove a core function of a product without compensating paying customers for its loss? I think not.

Sony maintains that you can simply not install the update, and will then be able to retain the ‘Other OS’ feature. This is untrue; however; since if you refuse to update you will no longer be permitted to connect to the PSN (PlayStation Network), which means no online games or access to the PlayStation Store. Some new games will refuse to run at all without first installing the update. Therefore, the update is mandatory, not optional, and you’re forced to lose either the ‘Other OS’ feature or the ability to use the console for its other primary purpose.

It seems that Sony (of rootkit fame) is now planning to follow in’s footsteps of removing a digital item that the customer has already paid for from their possession. At least Amazon refunded people’s money when they took back 1984 and ultimately made good and apologized and returned the digital book to the customers. I fear Sony will simply continue to ignore their customers and proceed with this and similar changes.

I encourage you to file complaints with the FTC, BBB, and your state’s attorney general’s office regarding this matter if it affects you.  I would not be surprised if a class action suit appears; although that would have minimal benefit to consumers.

In the meantime, do not install the firmware update.  There may be other methods around the problem soon.


Fixing a system stuck on the Windows Resume Loader

December 22nd, 2009 9 comments

Windows Resume LoaderI encountered a fairly annoying problem with my new netbook today (an Acer Aspire One D250 that I upgraded to Windows 7 over the weekend). I left the system running on battery last night, so it automatically hibernated. When I recharged it and powered it back up this evening, the keyboard would not respond on the Windows Resume Loader screen. This posed a problem, as there was no way to get the machine to return to Windows. A quick search yielded a number of other people who have encountered this problem, but not many fixes. Plugging in a PS/2 keyboard was the usual solution given, but as it’s a netbook, there’s no PS/2 port. Connecting a USB keyboard might have worked, but I didn’t have one handy.

I’m not sure why the keyboard would not respond, or if it will happen again; however there is no easy way around the issue, since Windows ignores the F8 key when hibernation data is present, so I couldn’t force it to delete the data. (The menu choice was right there, but couldn’t be selected).

Here’s how I fixed it:

  1. Connected my external USB DVD drive and booted the Windows 7 disc. You’ll also need a USB key with your BitLocker recovery key if you encrypt your drive.
  2. Access the recovery options and bring up Command Prompt.
  3. You need to delete the hibernation data (hiberfil.sys). This is a protected file; however, and it is not easy to delete even at the administrative recovery command prompt. Change to the drive letter for your hard drive. You’ll then need to enter the following commands:
    takeown /f hiberfil.sys
    icacls hiberfil.sys /reset
    attrib -h -s hiberfil.sys
    del hiberfil.sys

    (Those commands are necessary since by default even the administrative user doesn’t have access to modify the file).

  5. Reboot the machine.

The system will then boot normally (but without the hibernation data, it’s a cold boot, so you’ll lose anything you had running when the system originally hibernated)


Day Trip to Washington, DC

September 13th, 2009 No comments

[I’m going to backdate this post since I actually went on this  trip two months ago but never got around to finishing the blog post, which was actually published on 11/20/2009]

One of my friends and I went down to Washington, DC last weekend for the day.  The highlights of the trip were visiting the Capitol, the Library of Congress, and the National Archives.

I was able to book tickets for the Capitol through their web site.  They’re free, and not difficult to get like some other tickets (such as the White House).  We got there nice and early, but the Capitol was closed (some security issue, they didn’t elaborate).  The one advantage to this was that we happened to be standing at the front of where the line forms while we waited, so when they re-opened, we were are the front of the line.   The tour was not all that impressive, they only take you through a few rooms (the basement, the old Supreme Court Chamber, the Rotunda, and Statuary Hall).  If you want to see any of the actual House or Senate chambers, you have to get tickets from a member of Congress in advance (and even if you do, they won’t let you take cameras into the House or Senate chambers).   Still, it was neat to see the parts that they do allow the public in.  The artwork in the rotunda was amazing, and the tour guide showed us why Statuary Hall is sometimes called the Whisper Chamber (if you stand on a certain tile and whisper, you can be heard on another tile on the opposite side of the room due to the acoustics of the ceiling).

After a quick stop in the Capitol cafeteria (and I mean quick, since we decided not to pay the outrageous prices), we went through the tunnel over to the Library of Congress.  We hadn’t planned on coming here, and didn’t want to waste time signing up for a tour, so we just tagged along with a tour that was already in progress.  As a result, I missed the warnings that we weren’t supposed to take pictures in the main Reading Room, so I got a few good shots.  🙂  The tour guide didn’t seem to care, but of course a nosy tourist loudly yelled, “You can’t take pictures in here!”.  Thanks a lot…

After a few pictures outside with the Capitol in the background (experimenting with focal length, took some of the shots with the background slightly blurred), we took the Metro over towards the National Archives.  After a quick stop to take some pictures at the Navy Memorial, we had a quick lunch at Starbucks and then got on line for admission.  After about a half hour in line, we were able to explore the Archives (including another half hour in line to attempt to see the original Constitution).  The room where you can see the original historical documents is very poorly managed.  The guard insisted that “we operate on a no-line system”, once you’ve gotten to the front of the line to actually get into the room, you’re supposed to go right up to the document that you want to see, and lines are not supposed to form around each document.  So, I walked right over to the Bill of Rights, and got yelled at (by the same guard who just said that there were no lines) to “go wait in line if you want to see it.”  Ended up only getting a brief glimpse at most of the documents since we didn’t feel like sitting around for another half hour.  On the way out, they have a comment notebook for suggestions.  I noticed several pages of comments along the lines of, “Is there a line or isn’t there?”

We took the metro back to Greenbelt afterward (definitely the best way to get into the city if you’re coming from the north down I-95), and made a quick stop at the College Park Ikea so I could buy an additional shelf for my bookcase (which I later discovered I already had in the closet, so now I have bonus shelves) and then visited my sister at her college on our way home.
I geotagged the photos, as usual. Here’s the map:

View Larger Map
Read more… (and show photo slideshow)


Ringing the closing bell at NASDAQ

August 28th, 2009 2 comments

Thanks to a contest run by Data Junkies and StockTwits, I had the opportunity to be part of the NASDAQ Closing Bell Ceremony this past Tuesday (8/25/2009).  The employees and interns of Data Junkies and StockTwits were there, along with about 20 people (including myself) who won their Twitter contest to attend the ceremony.  Luckily for me, I didn’t have to travel far to get there since my office is only about a half hour away.

NASDAQ hasn’t posted the video of the event yet (it will eventually appear on the MarketSite Events page), but I recorded the webcast, so here it is for your viewing pleasure:

I also took some pictures while I was there, you can view the gallery here.  If you’re looking for me in the video above, I walk onto the stage around 5:56.

I was a little out-of-place at the ceremony, since it seemed like most people there were professional (or at least serious) investors, and I was just a guy who discovered StockTwits a while ago to read about various stocks that I was interested in (I do have some investments, many of them listed on NASDAQ, but I only invest a small amount).  Still, I enjoyed the opportunity and thank them for having me.  It was awesome to be there as the bell was rung (well, it’s not actually a bell so much as a glowing button that triggers a bell-like noise 🙂 ) and to see ourselves up on the giant screen in Times Square.

We were on TV! (at least for a few seconds)   Here’s a screen capture from CNBC:  Anyone know if we appeared on any other channels?


Photography practice in NYC

August 12th, 2009 No comments

I took the train up to NYC a few weekends ago with one of my friends for some photography practice (and it was an excuse to spend some time outdoors for once). We didn’t do anything specific, mostly just wandering around the city.

Got in to Penn Station in mid-afternoon and hopped on the subway down to the World Trade Center stop. There’s not much to see there at the moment, the site is still walled off and under construction. I took some pictures of the Balloon Flower statue, along with the fountain and a group of nearby pigeons.

I also used this location to experiment with exposure bracketing and successfully took a picture of a water tower on top of a nearby building while exposing the tower correctly (overexposing the sky in the process, but I could crop that out if I had really wanted a picture of the water tower).  I was also able to get a neat picture of the sky and clouds reflecting off the windows of a skyscraper.  After I clean it up a bit, I might try selling that one on some stock photography sites (been meaning to try doing that for a while), but I’ll have to see whether that’s allowed since there’s probably a copyright on the architecture of the building (although it looks like a basic building, so maybe not)

From the WTC, we walked over to City Hall Park.  This was another good photo spot, as there’s a neat fountain with City Hall in the background.  I found exposing this shot to be a challenge, as the picture would either be properly exposed for the building and the sky (making the fountain too dark) or vice versa.  I took three photos at -2, 0, and +2 EV and plan to attempt to make an HDR image of the fountain.  I had limited success here attempting to use my Gorillapod SLR-Zoom (was attempting to attach it to a light post sideways, but the camera kept creeping down, apparently I would need the more expensive Focus model to make this work, even though my camera is not very heavy.  Maybe I just wasn’t attaching it right, but I didn’t want to spend any more time fiddling with it).

Next was a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.  Tons of people were there since it was a nice day, complete with the usual bicyclists cursing at anyone who dared to cross into their lane to get around crowds of stopped pedestrians.   The bridge is a great place for photography, both of the unique architecture of the bridge itself as well as the views afforded of both Manhattan, Brooklyn, and beyond.  I took assorted photos of the traffic (both vehicular and pedestrian), boats, the bridge itself, and scenery in the distance.  I was a bit too far away from the Statue of Liberty to get a decent shot with only a 105mm lens.

Here’s a panorama from the Brooklyn side of the bridge:

We took the subway back from the Brooklyn side over to 14th st.  On our way over to Sammy’s Noodle Shop for dinner (mmm…Thai spicy cashew chicken and curry rolls) we saw an interesting combination of stores next door to each other, and then hopped back on the subway up to 52nd St. to head over to Central Park. I haven’t been there too many times before.  Walked around one of the small lakes (it was too dark to get a decent picture of any of the ducks without my tripod), up near the amusement park, past the large field, and then back out over by the Time Warner Center.  The stores had closed already, but the mall was still open.  I was surprised to find a full-sized Whole Foods Market in the basement;  I don’t think that was there the last time I went there.  It was packed even though it was close to 10pm on a Saturday, they must make a fortune.

The final stop before returning to Penn Station was Times Square.  Most of the streets there are closed to vehicular traffic for the rest of the year, so you can walk right in the middle of the roadway to take pictures (the city even put out chairs to sit on).  Sprint has a giant billboard with a simple video game on it that you can play by dialing an 800 number and then pressing keys on your phone to move the character around the screen.  Apparently it was being ignored by most people. since I was able to play three times despite the Square being packed with people.  (Lost all three times, but I don’t think anything interesting happens even if you do manage to win)

A map of where we walked/rode to:

Or you can view a map with all of the photos plotted on it.

Here’s a slideshow of the rest of the photos.  Click here to see them if the slideshow doesn’t work or if you want to view larger versions of the images:
Read more… (and show photo slideshow)


Added a second widescreen monitor

July 10th, 2009 4 comments

I found a sweet deal on Slickdeals for a Samsung 2333SW monitor, so I picked one up:

I now have dual-screens again, a 22″ Samsung 226BW and the new 23″ 2333SW:

I’m not entirely thrilled with having one of the screens vertical, though, it’s causing alignment issues and I’ll have to use separate wallpapers on each screen.  Unfortunately, the new monitor came with a DVI cable that’s way too short, so I’ll have to rummage around for a longer one before I can turn that one horizontally.

My old monitor is attached to an Ergotron LX mount, so I can move that one freely, but the new one comes on a base that isn’t very movable.  Hopefully I can avoid having to buy another mount.

Now I just need to get the colors calibrated.  The colors are way off on the new monitor (either that or my old monitor has always been way off, in any case, they’re nowhere near close to each other).  Does anyone have a Spyder2 or other calibration device that I could borrow for a few days?


First attempt at photographing fireworks

July 4th, 2009 No comments

My town held their annual fireworks on July 2nd, 2009.  (Yes, two days early, it’s cheaper then; according to the mayor they were done at “no taxpayer expense”).  I took advantage of this to try my hand at taking pictures of fireworks for the first time with my new camera (Canon Rebel T1i).

Before I started, I read some of the tips from Digital Photography School, PetaPixel, and Scott Kelby’s book (page 175).  I decided to use my EF28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 USM lens, set at f/11 on bulb exposure mode (tripod mounted, lens hood attached, wireless remote used to trigger the shutter).  I didn’t want to fight the crowds over at the park, so I set my tripod up on the sidewalk near my house.  I’ve watched from here in past years, the view isn’t bad, but is occasionally obstructed by trees.  I’ll need to find a better spot for next year, as I discovered that there were power lines in the way that obstructed many of the photos that I took.  I cropped them out in most cases, but you can see them in a few of the photos below.

The first half of the photos were taken in JPEG mode because I forgot to switch the camera to RAW mode before I started.  I took 75 photos total, and eliminated about half of them (empty frames, too much blur, only a small bit of firework in the frame, etc.)  I processed the remaining 43 in Lightroom (mostly cropping and exposure adjustments).

What I learned from this experience:

  • Most images were slightly overexposed.  I’ll either try a smaller aperture or will manually set the ISO to 100 or 200 next time.
  • Find a spot where power lines and trees won’t get in the way.
  • Watch out for mosquitoes.  (Ok, not much I can do about that one…)

Overall, I don’t think they came out too badly for a first attempt.  You can see a slideshow of the results below.  (Click here to see them if you don’t have Flash enabled).  You can click on a photo from the slideshow to see a larger version in the gallery.
Read more… (and show photo slideshow)

Categories: Photography Tags: ,

Updating Mozilla Weave for Firefox 3.5

June 29th, 2009 No comments

Firefox 3.5 logoFrom what I’ve read, it looks like Firefox 3.5 is going to be released officially tomorrow, so I decided to grab the release candidate today to see if there are any major changes that would require work on my part.  It’s a good thing I did, since I had to reconfigure my Weave server to work with the new version.

Mozilla Weave logoIf you don’t know about it, Mozilla Weave allows you to synchronize your bookmarks/tabs/saved passwords/etc. between multiple PCs.  The combination of Weave and Dropbox are what I use to keep my laptop and desktop in sync at all times.  (That will be the subject of a future post: a list of the various tweaks that I’ve done to make this work seamlessly so that all of my PCs are always in sync even if they’re not all online at the same time).  When I installed the Firefox 3.5 release candidate, I got the usual warning that most of my extensions were going to be disabled pending compatibility with the new version.  One of the ones that had an update available was Weave.  I was still running the older 0.2 version, but 0.4 has now been released.

Uh oh…My server is still running 0.2 (I run my own Weave server mainly because I don’t want to rely on the Mozilla servers for storing personal information + passwords, even though they’re encrypted, and also because when I first started using Weave their systems were overloaded and they weren’t accepting new accounts, hence the requirement to host it on my own server).   A big change is that they’re not using WebDAV anymore for the storage (fine with me, WebDAV was a pain to set up before), storage is now done using a choice of database engines, MySQL in my case.

Now the fun part, remembering the hackish way that I set up WebDAV for the old version (the new version won’t work if it’s still enabled) so that I could disable DAV.  After a little searching, I found where in the httpd.conf that I put the options before (I remembered to put in a comment when I did it :-)) and successfully reconfigured the web server.  I set up a new database and user, set the config options, and the server was ready to go!  (See the full instructions on how to set up the server for more details, it’s a little more complicated than that)

The current version of the server is 0.3, but it works properly with the 0.4 version of the client.
The new version allows for synchronization of bookmarks, cookies, forms, history, location bar, passwords, preferences, and tabs.  Basically, it means you can close Firefox on your laptop, and when you log onto your desktop, you can resume right where you left off.  Thanks to the development team, you did a great job.  I’m looking forward to future features such as extension synchronization.  Weave is still in beta, and there are still bugs to be worked out (when a problem occurs, it’s often necessary to dig through the verbose log file to try and figure out what happened), but it continues to improve with each revision.