Monthly Archives: February 2007

A funny line

Yesterday my friend Jerry Pounds called me to ask if I knew of a florist close to the hospital where our mutual friend Tucker was hospitalized so that he could order some flowers for him. I said, “No, I don’t, but what I’d do is go to Google Local and look one up.”

He said, “Hold on. I’ll do it while we talk.”

Because I always find it easier to guide someone through something if I am looking at the same thing they are, I too went to Google. Once we both got there, I instructed him to “Click on More, and then on the next page click on Even More,” both of which were links on each succeeding page that lead to more of Google’s tools and services.

Then Jerry cracked me up when he said, “I’ve never clicked on More before, and I’ve clicked on Even More even less.”

How to share large video files

This morning I visited with my friend Tucker Childers at the hospital where he had to go this past Thursday because he had pneumonia. While there, I shot a video message from him to share with some of his concerned friends online. Using my Canon Powershot S2 IS, I shot 57 seconds in an AVI format that turned out to be 115 MB in size. Most of the free hosting or sharing services online such as Mediafire, where I have an account, everybody’s favorite, YouTube, and Netscape impose a 100 MB upload limit. So my video was just above their limit, and I had two choices of how to proceed.

I set about to find a service that would host a file larger than that … for free. I found two free services that would. The one I used was Sendspace, which will accept files up to 300 MBs, and the other was Megaupload, which will accept them up to 500 MBs. I fully believe that in the future more services will permit larger uploads like this, but for now, one has to look pretty hard to find services that are willing to accept uploads that exceed the apparently-standard 100 MB limit. So the solution I chose to my dilemma was to find a service that would allow uploading a larger file.

Now it is entirely possible that I could have converted this AVI file to another format that would have resulted in a smaller footprint and that would have been acceptable to my usual haunts, but because this was a personal file I wanted to get out right away, I opted to just try to find a file hosting service that would take my large file. If you are reading this and would like to leave a comment telling me what tool I can download (preferably for free) that will permit such a downsizing conversion, I would be grateful for that advice — mostly for future use — but for now I’m going to leave that possibility aside.

However, there is another solution that I want to mention in this article so that I can say it this once and then just point to this post the next time I need to explain the process to someone else. That solution is to use a free little utility called HjSplit. You can download it here. I noticed, after visiting that site, they have a new version (v 2.3) available. This utility is both a splitter and a joiner.

What does that mean?

Well, it means I could open my copy of Hjsplit and then load my 115 MB file into it and the utility would divide that file into chunks that could be uploaded to some file sharing service, such as Mediafire. I could then send the link to those chunks to friends with whom I wanted to share the file, and they could then download the individual pieces. On their own systems, they could then run Hjsplit to re-join the segments back again into the whole. Hjsplit has an online manual that explains how to do the whole process. And though it may sound complicated, it really isn’t. If you take a look at the manual, I believe you’ll see how easy the process is.

For example, let’s say I have a video file called Example.AVI that is 115 MBs in size. Then let’s suppose I set Hjsplit to break the file into 25 MB chunks. After Hjsplit had completed its task, I would end up with the following 5 files: Example.AVI.001, Example.AVI.002, Example.AVI.003, Example.AVI.004, and Example.AVI.005. My friends who had downloaded them would then point Hjsplit (running in its joining mode) to Example.AVI.001, and if the other files are in the same folder, the utility would find them on its own and recreate Example.AVI. Then they would have the file on their system restored to its original form.

Until file hosting and sharing services begin to routinely offer larger upload limits, Hjsplit offers an excellent alternative. I think it is worth your time to download it and become familiar with how to use it. It can come in quite handy sometimes.

Testing lightbox

This post will probably be temporary because I am making it only to test whether I can activate the lightbox component of this template. If successful, clicking on the graphic below should use the lightbox javascript to display an enlarged version of the image “above” the post with the web page still in the background.

Winston and me me-at-chimney-tops.jpg Multnomah Falls in Oregon

Hooray! It works.

I’m going to leave this post so that you can comment on whether or not it works for you. If not, please leave a comment for me and in it specify what browser you are using. Thanks.

Update: Many thanks to Mike Neel who pointed out in the comments that the images I had uploaded were too large for most monitor resolutions. I’ve modified the original image and uploaded the other two so that all should now display more normally for most people viewing the site. (Note: For those of you viewing this post mirrored on the Knoxbloggers site, you can only see the effect of the lightbox script if you view this post on my blog.)

My first look at Vista

Yesterday, I spent several hours helping my friend Tucker set up his new computer and get connected to the Internet. That gave me my first chance to have a hands-on experience with Vista, albeit with Vista Basic. I have, of course, seen some online video demos of it, but I hadn’t been able to sit in front of a computer on which it was loaded before then. Since I’ll be going back to Tucker’s some time at the first of next week to help him get oriented to being online, I look forward to being able to explore it in more depth then.

My first impression is that it is a bit different, but not terribly so. Despite my familiarity with doing things in Windows, I found I had to search for where things are now and couldn’t figure out how to turn some things on or off. Ordinarily I’d know how to do that kind of thing easily in XP, but I couldn’t find the magic words to make it happen in Vista. So while my time at his computer will be primarily intended to instruct him, it will also be a learning experience for me. I found it was a bit like the experience I had when I was doing tech support for BellSouth’s FastAccess Internet Service from 2001 until 2004 and hadn’t yet installed XP on my home computer. Calls from customers who had XP were more difficult for me since I couldn’t visualize what they were seeing as well as I could for older Windows OSes with which I was more familiar.

In typical Microsoft fashion and (giving them the benefit of the doubt) I’m sure with the intent to be helpful, some of the things in Vista feel a bit intrusive. For instance, there is a panel that opens each time you arrive at the desktop that provides links to a number of explanatory things, such as what’s new in Vista, etc., that I, as an avid reader of documentation might not mind, but for someone like Tucker, who is just wanting to get familiar with doing things on the computer, that panel seems analogous to an insistent demand that you read the entire operations manual for your car before you ever take it out for a test drive. When I go back, I’ll see if I can find a way to turn off that panel’s automatic loading while still maintaining the ability to call it up when you are in the mood to “study.”

Another intrusion is the User Account Control that is designed to help with security. I suspect that it will prove to be a bit like the old DOS confirmation dialog that used to come up when you entered a command in DOS that asked “Are you sure? Yes/No.” And I’m afraid that like that request for confirmation, users may tire of being asked and develop the habit of just clicking “Allow” when prompted by the UAC, just as many of us automatically clicked yes, sometimes to our detriment, in response to the “Are you sure?” question in DOS.

One positive reaction I had to Vista was that when I chose to download something, Windows intelligently designated it for storage under Tucker (the user’s name) –> Downloads. I’ve always made it a practice to create a downloads folder into which I download everything so that for me there was never a question where that newly-downloaded file lived. Vista seems to have adopted that practice too.

As with any new paradigm, the biggest obstacle to being comfortable with it is one’s own preconceived ideas about how things “should be” based on old learning. The more one immerses himself in any new world, the more quickly he’ll be able to adapt to it. Since my current computer doesn’t have the horsepower to run the new OS, I’m not faced with the decision, but even if my computer were up to snuff, I’m not sure I’d be too eager to move to Vista just yet. I’ll get used to it, I suppose, when I must because I buy a new computer on which it is loaded or when situations such as I’m involved in with Tucker dictate that I understand it well enough to explain it to him. As they say, the best way to learn something is to have to teach it to someone else.

Ask, and Ye shall receive

The simple act of forming a question in order to ask it sometimes reveals the answer. And that is a meaning of Jesus’ saying, “Ask, and Ye shall receive,” that I had never thought about before.

Here’s what led to that insight.

This morning I wrote my friend Daryl Houston to ask for his help with a problem I was having at my Fun Addicts website. Daryl is not only a knowledgeable friend but a user of WordPress as well, and my problems were with how to accomplish creating navigation links to sub-pages on my Fun Addicts blog. I spent at least a half-hour formulating my question so that I gave Daryl all the information he’d need to be able to offer me some help. I gave him a link to the relevant page on the WordPress Codex site (the documentation for WordPress) and asked that he help me decipher the instructions listed there.

After sending my email to Daryl, I came back here to my own blog and experimented with creating a sub-page under the Software and Services link at the top of this page. To my amazement, the sub-page link showed up here. (Just hover your mouse over the Software and Services link above and you’ll see the results of my experiment.) That meant that the problem I was having at my Fun Addicts site was template specific. So I could fix that problem there by just changing the template on the FA site to one that supports the functionality I want.

Therefore I wrote Daryl a second time and did my best impersonation of Emily Litella and said, “never mind.” Just by asking, I had already received.

Two down and one to go

On Monday, I spent a bit of time helping a couple of friends with their computer issues.

Tom, who is a friend here in Knoxville, called me over the weekend somewhat distraught because his monitor was showing the desktop in a sickeningly green color. I decided to take over the Samsung monitor I had removed when I got my new LCD monitor at Christmas so that we could test whether the problem was caused by a failing monitor when we were finally able to get together on Monday. Taking that monster over to Tom’s was something of a chore because it weighs almost 60 lbs. Ironically, just as I drove up at Tom’s house, I received a call on my cell phone. It was him saying that the monitor had just healed itself. So I went in anyway and, sure enough, everything looked normal.

We went back downstairs and had some dinner, and just before we left the house for him to show me the new Hall of Fame Drive that has replaced the James White Parkway through downtown Knoxville, I suggested we go back up to his computer room and make sure that everything was still alright with the computer. When he roused it from its hibernation mode, once again the sickeningly green color had returned. Therefore we replaced his monitor with the alternate one I had brought with me and the color returned to normal.

At that point, I suggested we let it go back into its hibernation mode while we went for the drive to see the Hall of Fame Drive and the new traffic patterns it necessitated, just to see whether the second monitor had the same problem when we woke it up from hibernation upon our return. When we got home, the color on the monitor was still normal, so it appears that it was his monitor that was causing the trouble. I recommended that Tom keep the Samsung monitor and let it run for the next couple of weeks, and if the problem doesn’t return, we can definitely conclude that it was a failing monitor that was the culprit and he could buy himself a new one. That made sense to him, so we seem to have identified the problem, at least for the moment.

When I got home from Tom’s, my buddy Phil from Atlanta was calling me on Skype because he was having trouble figuring out how to burn a DVD using the Lite version of Roxio that came with his new computer. We talked for quite a while (we always do), and I was able to talk him through burning a DVD successfully. I explained to him that Windows XP has the ability to burn a DVD, and I pointed him to the proper location that outlines the steps for doing so in the Windows Help documentation. (To find that same set of instructions on your own system, just search Windows help for “burn CD.”) However, to be honest, I had never actually used XP’s native CD or DVD burning capabilities.

The next morning I experimented on my own computer by highlighting a series of photographs from my hard disk and dragging them over the top of my CD burner which on my system is Drive E. That action caused a window to pop up from the system tray saying, “You have files or folders waiting to be copied to CD.” When I clicked that popup, a Windows Explorer window opened where there was a link that said “Write these files to CD.” I inserted a blank CD into the drive, clicked that link, and sure enough Windows burned the CD successfully. I have to admit this is not the first time I’ve learned something from helping someone else solve a computer problem they were having.

So that explains the “two down” part of my title. Now for the “one to go” part.

As I mentioned the other day, I ordered and installed a new IOGEAR PCI USB 2.0 card and then plugged a new USB hub from the same company into it. I also plugged my external sound card, a Sound Blaster Live 24-bit USB device, into that same PCI USB card. Everything functioned as expected after having done all that. That was on Wednesday, the 7th. Well on Monday, the 12th, I noticed after having booted into my Windows ME partition to do some scanning and then returning to the XP partition, I didn’t have sound any more. So I unplugged the sound card from that PCI USB port and plugged it back into the old USB 1.1 port I had been using, and it worked as it should. Next I tested the USB hub by plugging a thumbdrive into it and it was not recognized. So I conclude from these experiments that the new PCI card with the USB 2.0 ports are no longer working. But in the flurry of activity I’ve been doing helping others with their computer issues, I haven’t yet had time to resolve my own. Reminiscent of the old saying about the “cobbler’s children having no shoes,” I am struggling to find the time to take care of my own problems. Maybe later today I’ll get a chance to resolve that.

Early starts and old farts

I don’t know what it is about us old farts, but the older I’ve gotten, the less sleep I seem to need. Again this morning I awoke at about 4:30 A.M., so I tossed and turned for a little while and then decided to give in and get up. I started the coffee, which was set to come on at 6, settled in with a cup of Joe and began surfing the ‘net, as is my usual custom. I find that my mind is unusually active early in the morning. If I were a real writer, I suspect that this is the time when I’d do my best work because for some reason I find it very easy to get lost in thinking about a topic during these early morning hours.

This was even more true back when my old friend, Mary Jane, and I used to spend a lot of time together, because then my mind would race and I’d type away like a demon. Even today I find it really interesting to go back and read some the things I wrote under her influence. They were surprisingly good, phrases were well-turned and not hackneyed, and a lot of my insights about life and what it all meant were surprisingly clear. I haven’t spent any time with Mary Jane in quite a few years now, but I still remember fondly those early morning toasted hours in her presence.