Category: Software

Dealing with Microsoft PowersHell

| October 20, 2011 | 3 Replies

Why, one may wonder, would I be delving into something that ubiquitous Microsoft decides unabashedly to call PowersHell? To start with, and in full disclosure, they capitalize it as PowerShell, a new and improved version of the command line interface that we old timers sometimes still call the DOS prompt.

But why would I use this, when the Gooey does so much? It has to do with too many cameras and too many memory chips. You see, I just went on vacation, a two week, 3,550 mile drive to Yellowstone, the Tetons, and many places in between. I brought home over 4,000 snapshots and video clips taken with 4 cameras.

Why would anyone need 4 cameras? Well, I have a SuperZoom 12Mp, and a pocket camera (the SD1100 that we’ve raved about), and my new Droid. That’s three? Well, I also got a back-up SD1100, that I’ve also rigged up with my first to use as a stereo camera.

So with three of the four cameras all of the same brand, and so many pictures, eventually the 8 character file names (the first four of which are fixed in 3 cameras at “IMG_”) began to overlap. And when I filled up a memory chip, each camera decided to reset to IMG_0001, so I have many overlaps in the lower numbers. Very clumsy. Also it is hard to match up the images from the left and right cameras (each eye stored in its own folder) without looking at each enlarged, and the Windows Photo Viewer doesn’t let me look at two files from different folders side-by-side.

So I decided to rename all the images to use longer names, and decided to use the picture date and time to rename them. My former XP machine had use a nice re-namer that would do this. But now I have Win7, and the old Win95 app won’t run.
But I keep in mind that “Every O/S Sucks”

So I Googled for a new renamer that could handle the task, and stumbled on to this post: Rename multiple files as “Modified Date/Time” using cmd or Powershell. Yee, I thought, Haw! Why install another utility when the O/S does it for me.

But it can’t be done with the old command line. One has to figure out how to use the new, powerful, dangerous PowerShell. I could have just used the code snippet in the Super User post linked above. But I wanted to, a) Know how it works, and b) Do it a little differently.

So once I returned, I did some reading, and playing. But after a minimum of profanity, I got it working on a test folder, and then ran my new script on all my files. Now I can tell at a glance when each picture was taken, and therefore easily glean the where and why.

Just for a laff, here’s a bit about the code name Microsoft used while developing this new shell:

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A Subtle Change to the Way the Web Works

| August 14, 2011 | 2 Replies

A recent article on ZDNet, 10 things you should know about HTML5, brought to mind the good old days. I wrote my first web site in early 1995, back before there was a World Wide Web Consortium, before there were hundreds of thousands of web sites, before Internet Explorer was even a gleam in Bill Gates’ eye, and HTML 1.0 had recently been ratified. I had to manually install a TCP/IP stack in DOS (underlying Windows 3.11), and bought a book on the proposed HTML 2.0 standard to use with my purchased 3½” disc of the new Netscape 2.0. Yes, I wrote my first several sites using Notepad, before moving up to the superior Notepad++. Netscape had some good debugging tools built in that IE never felt the need to mimic.

The first deficiency that I noticed in the HTML standard was that there was no graphical mode. They had no way to draw a box, a line, a circle, or any graphical image except for the img tag to import Microsoft BMP and CompuServe GIF files. The open JPG standard was just coming out. I couldn’t believe it. The HPGL vector language seemed pretty standard to me back then, and has since become the universal vector drawing protocol in plotters and such. But somehow the designers of the new, image-based World Wide Web addition to the Internet had no apparent plan to explicitly support graphics.

Sure, one could buy Flash and embed it as an object on a page. But it was expensive, clumsy, and not widely deployed back in the 300/1200/2400 baud world.

But now, only sixteen years later the W3C is finally putting together the new HTML 5.0 standard, including both vector and video graphics as part of the basic language! Because of the now-entrenched nature of Flash, that isn’t going away quickly. After all, many web sites still use the CompuServe GIF 1989a (formerly proprietary) image format. But Flash or DivX or QuickTime will no longer be necessary to build fully graphical web pages.

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Die, Caps Lock, Die

| October 12, 2009 | 3 Replies
Die, Caps Lock, Die

One of my peeves against propagated obsolete legacy is the caps lock key for computers. I hate it. In the 32 years that I’ve been using computers, I don’t think that I’ve ever hit it intentionally. It is where it is because typewriters used it to mechanically lock down the shift key.

But I have yet to meet anyone who types in all caps, except to indicate online screaming. Even then, it isn’t hard to hold a shift key with a pinky while typing with the other 9 fingers.

But now there is a fix! In every version of Windows since W2K, there is a secret patch that lets you convert any key to another. I’ve chosen to make CAPSLOCK into a simple shift. If I really need to lock caps, I can do it through software, or convert another useless key (e.g. scroll lock) into caps lock.

I found the magical tool in JohnHaller.com’s Useful Stuff essays: Disable Caps Lock. It’s a simple registry tweak that he found at annoyances.org (where they have full technical details).

Just download and launch the tweak. You get warnings, But it works! Just follow the directions and you’ll never be bothered by caps lock again.

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Gray Matter at Wolfram Research

| April 1, 2009 | 1 Reply
Gray Matter at Wolfram Research

As I promised, I have visited the Periodic Table Table on the penultimate floor of the Wolfram Research building. This is a fairly tall building for Champaign, IL and contains some serious brains. We walked in, rode up to the top floor, and asked to see “The Elementary Mr. Gray.”

The receptionist chuckled, made sure that I claimed to have an appointment, and called down to the co-founder and interface designer for Mathematica Software, Theodore Gray. We were escorted down to his spacious office area, in which samples of every element in the universe are kept. Many on open display.

One Corner of the Office

Big SamplesI had budgeted 2 hours, and had to tear myself away after 3. There were huge samples of some things like 99.999999% pure silicon and a massive block of magnesium. There were pretty and ingenious samples of others. The pictures he took for PeriodicTable.com are excellent, but seeing them and holding them is an order of magnitude more impressive.

I got to hold a nice chunk of depleted Uranium (kept in the safe with the gold and platinum and antique samples). Heavy stuff, and almost as big as my sample of equally heavy tungsten. Maybe I should mention the layers of security and cameras, in case anyone gets acquisitive.

PeriodicTableTable and its creator

Notice the lead pipe over by Hydrogen? It was last seen on my patio, and now is part of this collection.

I hadn’t realized that this brain trust is where Hollywood went to get correct math for the TV show Numb3rs. Wolfram staff may not criticize the inaccurate applications, but at least they make sure the formulas written by the actors match what they say they are doing and look cool.

I often regret not having gotten a job at a brain trust back when I was young and quick. It was nice to visit such a place and to be made to feel a collegue.

So, how shall I spin this as a serious post? Real science is a matter of playing with reality and seeing what makes it tick. To understand matter, one should see what there is of it. To understand the mathematical models on which our standard of living depends, it is good to know some real math. I find comfort in knowning that those who really know the math have fun with it.

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You too can be part of the Web 2.0 (if you’re willing to invest time and money on technology).

| February 10, 2009 | 1 Reply
You too can be part of the Web 2.0 (if you’re willing to invest time and money on technology).

I was born in 1956, when ordinary people had far fewer opportunities to communicate their ideas to mass markets. For most of my adult life, there were only a few choices to get the word out. You could send out mass mailings or you could hit the telephones, dialing number after number. You could hang paper flyers on telephone poles and fences. You could knock on doors and talk to the folks house by house. Or you could stand on a soapbox and shout your ideas.

These traditional “techniques” are still available and they are still sometimes quite effective, at least to those with hordes of volunteers at their service. The Internet, however, has opened up many additional possibilities for spreading your ideas far and wide. With that great power, however, comes serious responsibility to spend the time to obtain a working knowledge of the underlying technology. How many bloggers are out there now? At least 100 million.

Being a proficient user of a word processor is only the first step. Putting your written work on your own website also requires you to understand at least the basic tools of blogging software. With those two steps, you might already be on a big slippery slope.

Many people are perfectly happy blogging on a free site such as LiveJournal MSN’s Spaces or Google’s Blogger, or one of the many sites with low fees as long as your traffic is modest (e.g., Typepad). Choosing to place your blog with one of these simple on-line sites keeps things really easy. You needn’t ever load any software or maintain the “backend” of your blog.

In 2006, I suspected that I would want to take advantage of many modern day multi-media tools. That’s why I chose to base my blog on WordPress. Going with WordPress allowed me to take advantage of numerous constantly evolving add-ons. I chose it because it kept my site flexible for using multimedia technology that, in return for its flexibility, can require a substantial investment in time. If you’re like me, you will thus develop a love/hate relationship to the flexible do-it-yourself blogging software and the many multi-media tools that allow you to feed your blog in sophisticated ways. You’ll become enthralled with the power these things give you to package your ideas. But you might also become frustrated when you see how much time it takes to learn to make proficient use of these tools.

Here’s an ironic twist: Since 2006, the free online sites now allow you to easily incorporate many kinds of images, sounds and video on blogs. Therefore, if you aren’t exceedingly greedy for technology or traffic, you can now have it all. Yet you’ll still need to decide how much multi-media to incorporate into your blog, even if it’s free and simple. Therefore, much of this post applies to all of us who have decided to jump into the world of blogging.

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DI is still under construction, but now there’s artwork in our header

| February 2, 2009 | 7 Replies
DI is still under construction, but now there’s artwork in our header

Although more work remains to be done, DI is making progress on its site reconstruction, as you can see. Many of our navigation features are now functional and the site mostly “works.”

Tonight, “Alistair” of Solostream (the company that created WP-Vybe, the WordPress template I’m using) helped me figure out what I had been doing wrong, thereby enabling the artwork to pop into the header. That artwork really helped to class the joint up, I’d say.

I do want to mention that Solostream is a terrific company that provides first rate support. They offer several “magazine” style templates for WordPress websites, and their prices are incredibly reasonable. Check out Solostream’s website for details and tutorials.

I’ll end with a bit of trivia: the “dangerous intersection” you can see in the header is a real-life intersection located at 8th and Cerre, downtown St. Louis, just south of the baseball stadium.

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How to download a youtube video and play that flv file.

| January 30, 2009 | 5 Replies
How to download a youtube video and play that flv file.

How can you download a youtube video and then play that flv file on your desktop?

I’ve been wondering how to do this, because I sometimes find compelling videos where I wonder whether they will be available in the future. Here’s one answer. It’s a site by “applian technologies” (not affiliated with youtube) that advises you to insert “pwn” after “www.” and before “youtube . . . ” It’s all free and it does give you an option to NOT download applian’s propriety browser toolbar. The site also offers a stand-alone .flv player for youtube videos that you download. I tried the downloader and the player and they both worked perfectly.

These might come in handy someday soon.

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Dangerous Intersection is under construction – and a note about Gravatar

| January 23, 2009 | 14 Replies
Dangerous Intersection is under construction – and a note about Gravatar

As you can tell, there have been quite a few changes to the site design of Dangerous Intersection. There are many more changes to come.

Therefore, if you see something that looks not quite right for the next couple of weeks, we’re probably working on it. It’s taken many hours of work–I now know ten times as much about WordPress as I did one month ago. But it’s also been fun and educational. WordPress is a most impressive system, with perhaps too many choices. Too many choices, did I say?

Sign up for Gravatar!

You can personalize your comments with your own image. Truly, it’s EASY. It will take 5 minutes at most, assuming you have an image of yourself ready. It’s totally free.

With Gravatar, you have total control over the image you’d like to use as author of comments (your photo will be displayed next to each comment you make). You can change it any time you want, Total control. Ownership society!

Just visit Gravatar

– Set up an account with the email address you normally use when you leave comments and choose a password

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Separating virtual wheat from chaff

| March 15, 2008 | 4 Replies
Separating virtual wheat from chaff

As usual my head is abuzz with the social media explosion and the impact technology has on my world. While communication has always been a part of the technology, folks that barely own computers are becoming familiar with Linkedin, Facebook, myspace, and twitter.  iPhones are being advertised so deliciously on television ads that my lust […]

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