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Category: Gadgets & Technology (page 1 of 2)

Sharing the Moment (from a YouTube clip)

A non-techie friend posted a comment on a Facebook post I created and referenced a scene in a movie for which she had a YouTube URL. Given that the movie is 102 minutes long, it was not the most helpful reference possible, so I put this together quickly to show the 5 simple steps to getting a person to the exact moment you want them to watch a in a YouTube video — and then to be able to share that unique URL on a Facebook post comment that will take a reader to YouTube and then to that moment in the clip, all with a single click.

  1. Locate the exact frame (or a few frames before) you want the clip to start playing. You may want to use the pause button first (lower left, under the video. It looks like a vertical “equals” sign while the video is playing; a right-pointing triangle when it is paused).
  2. Click “Share”
  3. (optional)Click “the Facebook icon” This feature is for those who want to create a new Facebook Post featuring the video, and has nothing to do with creating a link to post in a comment.
  4. Click the box next to the time notation to put a check-mark in it.
  5. Select and Copy the unique URL which has been altered to move the playhead to the moment you selected
  6. Paste that link in the Facebook comment

That’s it.

Helping your Graphics Person when you Edit Documents

Editing for Publication:

When changing text docs that are used in formatted graph design docs, from version 1 to 2 to 3, etc, if possible leave the original text, but indicate changes (additions, deletions, corrections) with the following conventions

Example:This is the original text with no changes.

Below, using strikethrough shows what is out, and red shows what is now in.

Revision: This is the original revised text with no significant significant changes.

In many Mac programs, including Apple Mail, you can do ‘strikethrough’ with the Fonts palette (command-T, in Apple Mail)


And you can easily bring up the color palette (command-shift-c) for coloring selected text, such as the Red, I used.

Mac Color Palette

A Cheap ($10) But Good Digital Audio Recorder and 8GB USB Thumb Drive (AMAZON)

USB 8GB Thumb Drive and Digital Recorder

USB 8GB Thumb Drive and Digital Recorder

This USB digital recorder, available from Amazon, for under $10 (at the time of this writing), is very simple to use.

Fits in your pocket or hang it from a lanyard around your neck (not supplied). Record meetings, class lectures, record family history from elder relatives before they are gone, record an event you may need for later, for example: if you get pulled over.

Plugging it in to your computer charges its battery, and allows it to act like any other 8GB thumb drive. Unplug it from your computer, set the switch to ON and it records audio. It does not record while plugged into your computer. It will hold over 150 hours of audio — but don’t expect the battery to last longer than 8 hours before recharging.

Click here to go to the Amazon product page for this USB recorder.

One reviewer on Amazon says:

It has only an on/off switch, so nothing else to figure out. Turn it on, it records. Turn it off, it stops recording. Plug it in your USB drive on the computer and a folder pops up with the audio file(s) in it. Click on a file and play back the recording. Drag and drop the file to your hard drive audio files folder to save it. How simple is that!?

Front and Back of USB Digital Recorder

Front and Back of USB Digital Recorder

Sending a Web Page, Mac | Safari

appleIf you own a Mac and use Safari for surfing the Internet, occasionally you will run into an article you want to share with someone else. If you use the Mail application on your Mac, you’re all set. Try this:

While in Safari viewing the web page you want to send, do the keyboard shortcut Command-i (⌘-i) — that’s it!

Wait a moment, your Mail app will open and in another moment you will see [usually] the entire page reproduced inside a new message. (Sometimes, because of the way some pages are constructed they don’t look quite right in Mail, but it’s worth a try…) Address it and Send.

If you only want to send the URL (Web Address) from Safari via the Mail app, add the Shift Key to the mix. Shift-Command-i (⇧-⌘-i)

By the way, Send can be done with Shift-Command-D (⇧-⌘-D).

Handy stuff to know.

My Espresso Technique for a Breville Cafe Roma (newer model is Cafe Modena)

I have a technique of packing a “mountain” of grounds…

The mountain of grounds before tamping, Breville Cafe Roma

…into the portafilter so that it’s flat, and 1/8in. (.32cm) or less from the top. Pretty firm pack.

Tamping down the grounds, Breville Cafe Roma

How deep the grounds pack with firm pressure, Breville Cafe Roma

I pack it with the lid of an empty Trader Joe’s sea salt jar which is a perfect fit (I filled mine with coffee beans so it stays near the espresso maker).

My espresso packer for a Breville Cafe Roma

Then I mount the portafilter.

The next step is awesome for extracting: wet the grounds before the pull.

Manually pulse the pumper by alternately turning it on/off in the following pattern:

On for 1 second
Off for 1 second
On for 1 second
Off for 1 second
On for 1 second
Off… for 3 seconds
Then On for a complete pull.

Nice, beginningdark pull after wetting grounds, Breville Cafe Roma

Regular pull after wetting grounds, Breville Cafe Roma

Blondish crema, Breville Cafe Roma

Nice crema, though this one is a bit “blond…”

I got the pulsing idea from watching my friends’ automated Breville machine (below), and it does pretty much that on/off thing by program. But it’s $600

Cleaning Your Kohinoor Rapidograph Pens the Dangerous Way.

Assembling a cleaned Rapid-o-Graph pen

Assembling a cleaned Rapid-o-Graph pen.
Click for larger.

Disclaimer: You are responsible for what advice you choose to follow and the results. Common sense and Great Care are your friends. Proceed at your own risk.

Yeah, Kohinoor is pretty adamant about never taking apart your Rapidograph pen! But I’ve been cleaning my same Kohinoor pens for over 40 years. You just have to be very careful, especially on pen-sizes smaller than #1.

Canister Style Kohinoor pen case.

Canister-style Kohinoor pen case.

Here’s how
After the parts of the pen and pen nib (tip) have been throughly cleaned (there is no substitute for Kohinoor’s own brand of ink solvent: Rapidoease, in a 4oz jar or 8oz bottle, which, unlike other cleaners, will not eat into plastic or metal), you’ll want to reassemble the pen in the following order, with these well-tested steps.

  1. Hold the empty nib (2) in your non-dominate hand, with the metal tip pointing downward. Pick up the cleaning-needle and weight assembly (1) in your dominate hand, needle downward, and gently lower into the nip. DO NOT push it in! Let its own weight be all the pressure needed. If the weighted needle (1) does not drop all the way in, lift it out slightly and drop it straight down (needle downward) trying to visualize the tiny, centered tube you must drop the needle into. Again, DO NOT press it down, as this will likely ruin the needle, rendering the pen unusable. Lift and drop over and over until it finally drops in properly.
  2. Once (1) drops into (2) successfully, the back cap (3) will fit over the metal end of the weight (1) and press into the nib (2). It makes a tight seal by fitting into the inside back-end of the nib.
  3. Thread the assembled nib into the grip (4)
  4. Fill the reservoir (5) with KohiNoor black ink for technical pens, or a good quality water-based ink for easier cleaning. Fill no less than 75% capacity.
  5. Holding the reservoir with the opening upward, press the back end of the body into the opening until there is a snug fit.
  6. Finally, place the ring (6) over the reservoir (5) and thread it onto the body (4), and if you have an extension handle (not shown) thread it onto the ring, making a full-sized pen.
  7. Cap it and store it, tip upward.
If you have one of those canister style pen kits, you can hold it to your drawing table by slipping the shorter part of the metal “L” into the slot at the base, then loosening the wing-nut to open the gripper to just wider than the table thickness, then tightening the wing-nut until you have a snug grip.

Now, get to drawing!

Using the supplied table clamp.

Using the supplied table clamp.

Change it: Your Comcast/Motorola HD Cable Box may be outputting 720p, not 1080i

Just found out that when Comcast installed my Motorola HD Cable box, they set it to output a 720p signal via the HDMI out to my 1080p-capable HDTV — technically this is HD, but at the lower end. Picture seemed blurry compared to other HD sources (BluRay, Netflix, etc).

In some cases your box may be outputting 480p, 480i or 480 Stretch (perhaps others), and the tech-help scripts do not point them to setting the device in the following way.

Fix: I found a solution online. (You must have an HD box and HD service, and your TV must be capable of displaying 1080i or 1080p).

  1. With TV on, turn the cable box power off
  2. Push the Menu button on Remote or Box
  3. Wait several moments for a User Settings menu to appear on screen. (It comes up, even with power off)
  4. Using cursor keys, navigate to the HDMI setting. It probably says 720p next to it. (if it says 1080i, that’s the max. Not many, if any, stations are broadcasting at 1080p)
  5. If it’s 720 or lower, press the OK/Select button. Screen will blank out and reappear with new setting. Every time you press the button, it jumps to a new setting. Do it until you get the highest your box offers.
  6. Once you have 1080i or 1080p showing, turn the power back on with the power button. You should now have a better picture.

For detailed information on the difference between 720p and 1080i click here.

Emergency Number on Your Locked iPhone

Using a custom image as an emergency number for your locked iPhone

Share this:
I.C.E. (In Case of Emergency) Solution for Locked iPhones.

Write the emergency number down and take a picture of it. Set it as your Lock Screen Wallpaper image.

If you are unconscious no one will be able to get into your phone, but when they power it on, they’ll have a number to notify someone!

Go to: Settings > Brightness and Wallpaper > WallPaper > Camera Roll > Choose the photo, then > Set > Set Lock Screen.

Or make a custom Lock Screen image in Photoshop. Use the proper dimensions and resolution for your phone:

• iPhone 3 and older: 480h x 320w pixels @ 165dpi.
• iPhone 4 and newer: 960h x 640w pixels @ 326dpi (Retina displays)
• iPhone 5 and newer: 1136h x 640w pixels @ 326dpi (Retina displays)

Alternate: make your own: “If found, please return to {name, address and email}”

Share this!

VisualHub Disappears. I am sad.

Tyler Loch, the funny, sassy, brilliant mind behind one of the most useful video conversion utilities ever made for a Mac just announced he is closing his website forever. Just a vague explanation as to why:

After much soul-searching (it’s not you, it’s me), for personal reasons, Techspansion is closing its virtual doors.

I think he’s being held by aliens, like Art Bell was a couple of years back.

I could be wrong.

This is sad, to me. For a brilliant mind to have constructed something that made it SO easy for the rest of us to do video conversions, he was also remarkably funny. His button for advanced settings, for example, produced an advanced settings control panel that starts with the warning “Don’t! You’ll screw it all up!” — which was usually true.
Visual Hub
Anyway, boom, it’s gone. Can’t buy it.

He posted backup instructions to users who have bought it, and also claims that the back-up instructions will soon disappear, too. So I am preserving them here.

In honor of a great tool by a great guy…

In order to get VisualHub working if you need to switch computers, you need to back up two things:

1: VisualHub itself
2: The conversion engine

To back up the conversion engine, Copy the folder at:
/Library/Application Support/Techspansion/

…for good measure, you can also back up your Preferences file, containing your registration info in case you lose the original purchase e-mail. It’s at:

As far as I can tell, VisualHub 1.34 will continue to work up to and through Snow Leopard. I obviously can’t predict the future and what Apple will do, though.

Thanks for enjoying Techspansion’s software. It’s been an amazing journey.

And here’s what you get if you cancel an operation in VisualHub:
VisualHub Cancel

Digital TV Converters

The countdown has begun. If I understand correctly TV broadcasts as we have come to appreciate them will cease to exist on Feb 17, 2009… just a little over one year from now. If you’re like about 70,000,000 American’s you do not pay for cable, and you do not have satellite or other means of watching TV other than connecting to a TV antenna.

Next year, that won’t do you any good. All TV stations in America will be required to stop broadcasting that way.

Why the change?
Simple: up to 7 digital channels can be transmitted in the same bandwidth that occupies the portion of the band of one regular TV channel. More programming. More commercials. And all of that, clearer with better sound.

The government (and let me remind you, that’s me and you and our wallets) is offering to help with a $40 coupon to help pay for a digital converter (which is really just a digital tuner that can tune in these digital signals like your older TV tunes in analog signals) that will allow you to use your regular TV and antennae, while adapting the digital signal your antennae gather. The bonus is, most TV stations in larger metropolitan areas are already broadcasting digital signals anyway. Many people do not know that the “snowy, interference-laden” images they currently watch could be eliminated with one of these converters now. With the converter being your only new expense, the TV signals will still be free, and you will be getting a much better picture and sound.

Coupon is valid “while the initial funds of $990 million are available.” (from this Gov’t PDF — Thanks WC.)

This includes HDTV signals. Most modern TVs built in the last 2 years, 27″ or bigger already have a digital converter built in (check your user manual!). If you have recently purchased an HDTV, you do not necessarily have to pay for cable or dish to get HD digital TV. Local stations broadcast these signals for free, and your TV can decode the signal.

All HDTV signals are digital, but not all digital signals are HDTV — don’t get confused. Also, you do not have to buy a “converter” or digital tuner if you already pay for cable or dish: They are sending you a converted signal.

This is only for the people out there like my mom who only pick up TV shows over the air.

Update 2 To the right you’ll see an actual ad from I was looking for what kind of deals can be had online for Digital Converters. Now, of course, this is not the right kind — this is for transferring analog-to-digital signals into your computer.

But look at the incredible slashing of prices going on over at! Why, if I could save like that on everything I buy, I would feel like a purchasing agent for the US Government!

Fixing a Toshiba Laptop LCD Screen

We have a Toshiba Laptop — a Toshiba Satellite 1805-S274 if you must know — which my wife bought from a person at my wife’s office. Not long after the purchase, we noticed the screen would just go black, and waking it up had nothing to do with moving the mouse, hitting the “close-switch” or powering back up.

Then one day I noticed it wasn’t actually black, that there was a faint image of what was just on the screen a moment ago. Like the screen was operating at 2% of its normal light output. I found that pushing the lid-close-switch (the little spring-loaded button that shuts down your laptop when you close it, much like the switch that turns off the light in your drier [you didn’t know the light goes off in your drier?]) would flash the screen off and then bright again, but in a second or less, the screen would go black — er… 2%. Anyway, using all this scientific and logical processing I was able to determine that 1) there was something wrong, and 2) I had no idea how to fix it. Oh, and 3) it was going to be expensive to have it repaired.

Now, I still have rattling around in my otherwise mushy noggin a piece of sage advice my late father spoke to me well back in my teens:

Electronic parts usually don’t just go bad.

With a corollary sage-byte:

Usually reseating — disconnecting then reconnecting — the original joint of the suspect parts or connectors will be all that is necessary to correct what is probably a corrosion or dirt issue.

So naturally, I thought in my oil-paint-tainted mind: I can fix this. There was only one problem and that was that I had no idea how to get to the part that was perhaps connected poorly, coupled with the fact that I had no idea what that part actually was, or where it might be located.

Hats off to real geeks

I’m not a real geek, I just play one at home. There is a deeply curious part of my psyche that is dangerous in the event I choose to open a computer repair store, but otherwise harmless, and to be honest, generally quite useful. I have repaired a number of vacuum cleaners, clocks, stereos, and all sorts of things, just by being curious enough to look under the hood and usually just unseating and then reseating something inside.

I’m not a
real geek
I just play
one at home
Women swoon, and men glory in my apparent brilliance, when I in fact know it is 3 parts dumb luck and 2 parts curiosity and also 1 part not worrying so much since my wife bought the laptop.

Enter the real geeks, the real heroes in the world who rightly own everything and live in fabulous wealth. I found several sites on the Internet that actually show pictures on how to take a laptop apart and some geeks put these sites there. Thanks geeks! Or should I say nerds? I dunno. I am grateful anyay.

So I dug in and started taking it apart.

Before attempting anything like this yourself, consider the wisdom of following the sketchy advice of an oil painter on the subject of fixing your laptop’s LCD screen.

I first removed the uppermost panel where the power switch and a couple of other buttons are. It was as simple as inserting a small screwdriver and twisting [Picture] then simply peeling the panel off [Picture] (which clicks as the little plastic grips unsnap). Removing the keyboard was as simple as removing 2 screws and lifting it out [Picture].

Now, if you are thinking, “But David, removing the keyboard and cooling fan over the CPU will not allow you to access the connection points of the FL inverter which rests behind the LCD matrix” then you are way ahead of me. And I have no idea what you just thought. Perhaps you are thinking I didn’t need to remove any of that stuff, rather that I should have disassembled the upper part of the LCD clamshell.

And it turns out you’re correct.

It seems that the LCD screen is basically a computerized, high-speed version of a Lite-Briteâ„¢ only without the Suzy Homemaker Easy-Bake Ovenâ„¢ light-bulb in it. In other words, an LCD is like the front of the Lite-Brite only [sans light bulb], and without a light source behind it, you’ll probably leave it in your closet or under your bed to get dusty and forgotten and stop playing with it, and then cry when your mom sells it at the garage sale because you don’t use it.

Well, as I found out from the hero geek sites, there is a large flat fluorescent light panel that sits behind the Lite-Brite… I mean the LCD… and it is what allows you to enjoy the colors displayed on this LCD screen. If that light is faulty it’s like the bulb in your Lite-Brite going out. The picture is still there, you just can’t see it or enjoy it as well.

Well, the geek sites told me there was a thing called an FL inverter that essentially rests between the power source and the Fluorescent Panel and regulates the power to said panel. After removing the LCD’s bezel by removing screws and then snapping it off, I was able to disconnect the otherwise loose fluorescent panel by unplugging the data/power cable (see dotted line [Picture]) and reveal the FL inverter, which came loose after removing one screw [Picture]).

I unplugged the connectors at both ends of the FL inverter, and reseated them (connected them again) [Picture]. In some of the reading I did, it turns out that FL inverters cost about $35 – $75 and are the most common reason LCD panels stop working. And now you know you can replace it yourself!

But I did not need to replace mine at all… the LCD works perfectly now, having only reseated the connectors on each end!

Total Time: 75 minutes.
Could do it again Time: 7 minutes

eBay Money Order Scam

Be careful…

I am grateful that I did not fall for this, and in fact I cannot determine how the scam is supposed to have worked, but my suspicions were up immediately when I received an odd e-mail related to a painting I recently sold on eBay.

Within 24 hours someone used the “Buy It Now” button to purchase one of my oil paintings for $350. I was delighted! Excited!

And then I saw that the buyer’s eBay name was folly_001 with a feedback rating of (0), and the info “Member since: Jun-22-06” — that was the day before I posted the item.

Still, I considered that the person saw my art somewhere and decided to get a new account for the first time so that they could buy one of my fantastic pieces. (My ego sometimes keeps things out of sharp focus).

So, anyway, today I got the following e-mail from john steph <> which says:

Dear Seller,
I will like to inform you my intrest in ur item and i will like to pay you through MONEY ORDER,i will pay US $360.10 for this item i will pay you an excess money and i want you to deduct your item money and shipping fees from it and send back the remaining amount to my customer via western union ..I want a quick response from you because i am really in need of the item urgently.Also i want the item posted out immidiately you get the Money Order and also make sure you get back to me as soon as possible with your name and address so the money order could be mailed out Will be expecting your name and address so i can mail the money order out as fast as possible….Include your e-mail address….

Now, does that look a little weird to you? Sounds like a foreign scam, doesn’t it? Like one of those Nigerian scams

First red flag: “ur item” doesn’t seem appropriate for “beautiful painting I just had to have so I bought it with Buy It Now.”

Next red flag: Money Order. I know those can be faked, and many people have been duped.

Next red flag: I will pay you excess money. Why? I think this is where the scam is. I am supposed to see that he paid me too much and send him—out of my checking account or something—whatever was overpaid. When it turns out the Money Order is fake, it’s too late: I have already mailed the artwork (“ur item“) and some money. I’m supposed to think that a Money Order is as good as cash, so before waiting to find out from my bank if it’s real, I just send the item and a check for the overpayment.

Next red flag: Western Union. I have already heard of the Western Union scams

Anyway, I went directly to eBay’s Live Help Chat window and began immediately typing my “story” knowing I had about 8 minutes to wait for an assistant. That speeds things up. Below is my conversation:

While waiting for your chat to begin, you can start typing in your question. To help us address your questions as quickly as possible, please include your email address, eBay User ID and any other pertinent information such as item numbers, error messages, etc. (if available). We may also require your name, address and phone number for verification purposes.
Your entries will become visible to the agent once they have joined the chat. Thank you for your patience.

thirtyin30: I received the following e-mail in response to my invoice, and it smells fishy to me:
thirtyin30: Dear Seller,
I will like to inform you my intrest in ur item and i will like to pay you through MONEY ORDER,i will pay US $360.10 for this item i will pay you an excess money and i want you to deduct your item money and shipping fees from it and send back the remaining amount to my customer via western union ..I want a quick response from you because i am really in need of the item urgently.Also i want the item posted out immidiately you get the Money Order and also make sure you get back to me as soon as possible with your name and address so the money order could be mailed out Will be expecting your name and address so i can mail the money order out as fast as possible….Include your e-mail address….

thirtyin30: That’s the whole e-mail, and it is from a buyer with “0” feedback
thirtyin30: re: item number 120001078892
thirtyin30: buyer: folly_001

Your chat session has started…

thirtyin30: Just received another, while waiting: “I will like to inform you my intrest in ur item and i will like to pay you through MONEY ORDER,i will pay US $350.00 for this item i will pay you an excess money and i want you to deduct your item money and shipping fees from it and send back the remaining amount to my customer via western union ..I want a quick response from you because i am really in need of the item urgently.Also i want the item posted out immidiately you get the Money Order and also make sure you get back to me as soon as possible with your name and address so the money order could be mailed out Will be expecting your name and address so i can mail the money order out as fast as possible….Include your e-mail address….

Melody B.: Hello, welcome to eBay General Support Live Chat! … … Please allow me a moment to review your question.
“his” address:john folly
320 zenith dr (fake, see below)
el paso, TX 79912
Melody B.: Let me check on this a moment please.
thirtyin30: A Google Maps search renders no such address: Click here to see Google results
Melody B.: This total email does not sound good to me in any way.
thirtyin30: Well, I agree, it is bad english, and it smells like a scam, but I can’t figure out how a scam would be pulled off, unless it’s some kind of “send it and you’ll get your money” scam.
Melody B.: Yes I keep reading this over myself, I smell something just not right with this.
thirtyin30: Well, how do I handle it properly?
Melody B.: I would try to contact this buyer by phone is what I would do, get his accurate address from us as well — call them and just find out why he is sending you excess money.
thirtyin30: I already asked that, and received a follow-up of the second e-mail I posted above.
Melody B.: Hmm… did you get the contact information from our system, including a phone number?
thirtyin30: No, I do not know how to do that. Link please?
Melody B.: I will explain!
Melody B.: You can request the phone number of a transaction partner by clicking the link near the top-right corner of most eBay pages labeled ‘Advanced Search’. Then, on the advanced search page, there is a box on the far left side with several links. Click the ‘Find Contact Information‘ link, and then please follow the instructions provided. Here is a quick link as well for you!
Melody B.: Also when this buyer received his “item won” email from the purchase of this item, your address would be there on it when he clicks on the Pay Now to indicate that he is paying a certain method.
thirtyin30: He apparently received the “item won” e-mails, as he copied it to me with the second e-mail.
Melody B.: Yes, so when he clicks on “pay now” then he would have your address and name to “send” the money too.
User ID: folly_001
Name: john folly
City: el paso
State: TX
Country: United States
Phone: (348) 937-2761 (no such area code, or phone number)
Registered Since: Thursday, Jun 22, 2006 01:31:38 PST
thirtyin30: The name “Folly” almost sounds too fake to be good…
Melody B.: Yes, please try calling this person and seeing if he even exists..
Melody B.: also if you get a money order, it must clear before you will ship. and only send for the amount you request that you will not send balances back.
thirtyin30: Very well.
Melody B.: Be very suspicious and delay as long as you can — making sure this buyer remains active on the site and doesn’t turn into a “no longer a registered user”…
thirtyin30: According to Google SMS: Sorry, ‘area code: 348’ did not return any results, nor did the phone number.

What do you mean ‘delay as long as possible’?
Melody B.: So the information that they have listed is incorrect, okay then you will want to file a report on this person to our Trust and Safety department.
Melody B.: May I provide this link for you to contact them?
thirtyin30: yes please
thirtyin30: And what do I do about the selling fees? I put up about $25 to post the auction…
Melody B.: Here is the link to write in to Trust and Safety, they will also advise you on whether you should complete this sale.

Once you get to this page, you will want to go to the “email us” link that is there and write in regarding this situation. Also, If you need to contact us again, you can email us by clicking on ‘Contact Us’ from the left side of all eBay help pages.

thirtyin30: Will I be refunded all the fees?
Melody B.: If you end up filing an unpaid item dispute for this, your final value fees will be credited and you will then qualify for the free re-list.

thirtyin30: My livelihood depends on my selling my paintings daily. I cannot wait a long time for this to process. I need to get hte item back on eBay immediately.
Melody B.: Yes I understand.
thirtyin30: In other words, there is no way to expedite it, even though the phone number is fake and so is the address?
Melody B.: If you feel that this information is not correct and that this item will not be paid for — you cannot escalate this, however you may wish to re-list this. However you may wish to hear back from our Trust and Safety department in order for them to advise you on this for certain.
You will not be able to file a dispute for 10 days after this auction ends.
Melody B.: So this is really a choice you need to make, I would certainly try to locate a number for that address and exhaust my options.

UPDATE Saturday, July 15, 2006

So far the fellow has followed through. Yesterday I received $1500 in counterfeit American Express Traveler’s Cheques [Picture].

At first I was fooled… I thought I had received an anonymous gift from a foreigner. I was baffled. There was no return address, my own address was written very big on the front of a #10 envelope, the Benin, Western Africa stamp and cancellation were in the lower right corner [Picture] and there was absolutely nothing in the envelope except three cheques and the blank, white paper folded around them.

Then I remembered that I before I left on vacation a week ago, I had received another e-mail from this “John Steph” fellow telling me he has sent the money. He reiterated that he would be over-paying and that I should cash them the same day and send him the balance.

With that thought in mind, the cheques “began to look fake.” I could see that the Serial Numbers were “rough around the edges” [Picture], same with the “routing number” [Picture]. This I could see with the naked eye. By comparison to a real routing number [Picture], or the real serialization (check numbers) from my own checkbook [Picture], something just wasn’t right.

My wife and I took them into my bank and asked a teller if he could tell by looking at them if they were real or not. He glanced at them and shook his head no.

“You can’t tell by looking at them?” I asked.

“No. I’m saying these are no good. They are fake. And they are too small to be real.”

I was very impressed at how instantly he knew they were fake.

I used to hear in church that the best way to detect false doctrine was to be extremely familiar with the truth. “If you will just read your bible often, you’ll know when someone is trying to pull something over on you; preaching a false gospel.” More than once, from different preachers, I would hear the story of how bank tellers-in-training work with authentic money. They handle real $100s and $500s, $50s, $20s and $10s. Since they are so familiar wih the real thing, they can spot a counterfeit instantly. Ever see a $1000 bill?

• How to spot a counterfeit bill

The teller got out a real American Express Travelers Cheque to show us. The print was indeed noticeably cleaner, crisper—even though the fakes were pretty clean themselves. Then he laid the fake check on top of the real one. There was a difference in size of less than 1/16″ all the way around—which I am sure I never would have caught, but which he saw at a glance, without even having a real one present to compare to. He was just proving it at this point.

So we collected the checks and went home. Nothing lost.

I scanned them at high-rez and noted a few other things. The plates that the forgers are using (if they are plates at all) are nowhere near the engraved quality of minting plates. Take a look at this image of the counterfeit $500. Not only are the edges of the largest letter broken up into dots, instead of being crisp, sharp lines, but also look at the lines of the long oval and the text inside it—those should be flat and crisp, not made out of dots. Even though your naked eye might not see this at first, your mind will perceive the “softness” created by the imperfect printing.

So currently I am stringing this fellow along, trying to allow time for authorities with FDIC, FBI, Yahoo and others to get involved and track this guy down if they can. I don’t know what they can do with a forger and scammer in West Africa, but with a little more time, they may be able to get somewhere.

My Next Nude?

While I love the lighting in this image and think it would make a fantastic painting, I cannot use it. It’s copyrighted, somewhere. This partial-photo came as an attachment in an e-mail advertising a Canadian Pharmacy.

I am beginning to get a different impression of socialized medicine.

Here’s the full banner ad.

Notice, dead center, the Canadian spelling, I presume, of “which.” That was a tip that I probably was not dealing with actual Canadians. That, and the sentence We are the only store wich gives this great deal you!

Fake Headers
If you look at this e-mail as it come into my Mac’s Mail program, it looks legit—as do most fake e-mails—if you can ignore that the e-mail sender goes by the name Ralph. But when I look at the Raw Source of the e-mail in question, the real “header” is revealed. See it here.

Being the vigilent son of an Eagle Scout, I want to report these things to the proper authorities, so I copy the header info to my clipboard, head over to, and paste into their Interrogate window, click “Interrogate” and wait for the clues. Here’s what I got. You may notice at the bottom, SpamCop has determined the originating ISP, who can then track it down to the individual spammer.

To follow through, I just copy the results from the window above, and click the link(s) provided after REPORT SPAM TO:

For grins, I looked up using I got the following information:


Created Date: Dec 8, 1999
Updated Date: Dec 6, 2005
Expiration Date: Dec 8, 2006

Registrant ID: VALOR
Registrant Address: 201 E. John Carpenter Frwy, Suite. 200
Registrant City: Irving
Registrant State/Province: TX
Registrant Country: US
Registrant Postal Code: 75062
Registrant Phone: 972-373-1169
Registrant Fax: 123 123 1234
Registrant Email:


Note that when I follow the provided link, it does not go to an eBay domain, it goes to this IP address. Always look at the URL/Address when you follow a link that involves your personal data.

Well, I reported it—as instructed by SpamCop—but didn’t call anyone over at in Texas.

I am hoping they will send a much larger picture next time.

I still want to do that painting.

I got a similar scam e-mail that lookes like a legitimate e-mail from an eBay-processed Question from Seller: I’m sure they were trying to take me unsuspectingly to a fake site that looks like an eBay sign-in, and harvest my private log-in info.

Battery: 20 to Life

I have Verizon cell-phone service, and an LG VX4650 speaker phone.

I got it about 5 months ago, and for the last month or so, the battery-life indicator has been dropping to 2 bars out of four, within the hour. Even after a good, long charge.

I took it in to Verizon yesterday to see if I had a defective battery. It turns out, as I was told, I have been over-charging it.

Now, I thought the days of over-charging a battery were in the past… that if there was a device that had to be charged on a routine basis, either the battery or the charger, or both, would have something designed into them that would terminate the process when it was complete.

I was mistaken.

If you leave your charger plugged into the phone for more than four hours maximum—I was plugging mine in every night before bed—it causes overheating of the battery. They battery actually has several cells inside, and some of them had swollen from the heat, were permanently damaged and would no longer hold a charge at all. Since I brought it to their attention within the first six months, I was granted a prorated price on a new one: $20 instead of $40.

So, heads up, people—don’t just set it and forget it. It could cost your battery its life.

The new battery I got was bad. Wouldn’t hold a charge. Had to return it the next day.

“Sometimes we get bad batteries. It happens,” the guy said.

More Fascinating Google Videos

It’s amazing what robotics has come to. Watch this demonstration of robots that look to be a foot tall, or less.

Audio Chatting with Mini-DV Cameras

I hooked up a live audio chat with a client today. My client wanted to read off some changes to a graphic design project I was working on for her company.

For the audio chat—which allowed us each to have our hands free—we each respectively started iChat and then turned on our Mini-DV cameras, camera mode, initiated a Video Chat from the menu, then blocked the lenses. I used a lens cap and she used a piece of paper.

Besides offering privacy, covering the lenses greatly reduces the amount of video data that needs to be compressed and sent (since the software attempts to send only the data that changes from frame to frame of live video) and therefore left the bandwidth to the more important audio information being transmitted.

We were able to have a hands-free conversation for nearly an hour, having a conversation much like one would have over a live intercom. I was able to save and e-mail several full-color PDF files of the job/changes while doing this “video” chat at the same time, using DSL.

Paul English, American Hero

How often do you want to call a company or corporation and speak to a real human being, but have to first swing the monkey bars of multiple menus before they finally tell you—usually as the last option—what number to press to speak tto an operator or agent?

Well, Paul English started charting his findings on what codes to push—some of them odd, secret codes—to jumpr right through to a human being.

All his findings, and those discovered by users who submit their own codes, can be found here on his website.

Thank you Paul!

Be Aware

Sounds like a good Hallowe’en title, but actually, I want to alert readers to a service that allows you to easily check your neighborhood and surrounding streets for the residences of Registered Sex Offenders. The Website is and uses Google Maps Technology to fairly accurately alert you to where these lowest of lifeforms are legally allowed to live in your free neighborhood in our free country. Isn’t it just wonderful that these disgusting former human beings have their freedoms protected so that they can live in your neighborhood near your children?

You can go there and enter the location data—no street number is necessary… or, if you’re suspicious of every website, like I tend to be, you can just list a street nearby for added safety—and a Google-generated map will appear with a blue “push-pin” that represents some general location on your street, and red push-pins representing the residence of registered sex offenders.

If you click a red pushpin, you get a pop-up bubble with the scum’s name and address. If you click their name, you get their picture and list of offenses and various other data on different tabs.

Those of you with young children may want to take a little time for you and your children to memorize these faces, if for nothing more than to trigger a memory down the line—something that sends up a red flag if these faces are ever seen in public. Associating the visual memory of a person’s face with bad or danger could save someone’s innocence—or life.

A Boy and His Father

If you’ve ever seen Jack Nicholson in the creepy horror film The Shining, you will get a kick out of this alternate trailer for it.

It’s amazing the mood that can be created with just the right music and a new voice-over—and some clever editing of original material.

Update My brother John tipped me off to 2 more: Hit That Ship, an alternate trailer for that recent blockbuster horror picture Titanic, and an alternate trailer for West Side Story.

Very creative stuff!

PDF: Pretty Difficult Format?

While poking around Adobe, I found a service they provide where you e-mail them a PDF document, and they process it (free) and e-mail you BACK a text document that contains all the text from the PDF, in an editable format. Nice idea!

Adobe PDF Conversion by Email Attachment
If the Adobe PDF file is on local media, such as a hard drive, CD-ROM, or internal server, it can be submitted as a MIME attachment to an e-mail message. All converted Adobe PDF documents will be sent back to the sender as MIME attachments. For plain text, mail the attached PDF to For HTML, mail the attached PDF to

I had a CD cover that I had designed from which I wanted to extract the track titles and timings. Easy enough to drag this document to an e-mail and send it off. I figured that if it came back quickly enough, it would beat the retyping time.

Well, the list of tracks and their timings came back via e-mail. Just like promised.

Well, the F in PDF doesn’t stand for Fast: I e-mailed it on September 9, 2005. It arrived today, October 6, 2005.

ICE – In Case of Emergency

A campaign encouraging people to enter an emergency contact number in their mobile phone’s memory under the heading ICE (i.e. In Case of Emergency), has rapidly spread throughout the world as a particular consequence of recent terrorist attacks in London.

Originally established as a nation-wide campaign in the UK, ICE allows paramedics or police to be able to contact a designated relative / next-of-kin in an emergency situation.

The idea is the brainchild of East Anglian Ambulance Service paramedic Bob Brotchie and was launched in May this year. Bob, 41, who has been a paramedic for 13 years, said:

I was reflecting on some of the calls I’ve attended at the roadside where I had to look through the mobile phone contacts struggling for information on a shocked or injured person.

It’s difficult to know who to call. Someone might have “Mom” in their phone book but that doesn’t mean they’d want them contacted in an emergency.

Almost everyone carries a mobile phone now, and with ICE we’d know immediately who to contact and what number to ring. The person may even know of their medical history.

By adopting the ICE advice, your mobile will help the rescue services quickly contact a friend or relative – which could be vital in a life or death situation. It only takes a few seconds to do, and it could easily help save your life.

Why not put ICE in your phone now? Simply select a new contact in your phone book, enter the word ‘ICE‘ and the number of the person you wish to be contacted.

In an emergency situation ambulance and hospital staff will then be able to quickly find out who your next of kin are and be able to contact them. It’s so simple that everyone can do it. Please do. Please will you also email this to everybody in your address book, it won’t take too many ‘forwards’ before everybody will know about this. It really could save your life, or put a loved one’s mind at rest. For more than one contact name ICE1, ICE2, ICE3 etc.

I have added the following to mine: ICE1 -Wife’s Cell & ICE2 – Wife/Home so they know who and/or what they are calling. Of course, I pray no one has to use it. —David

Feel free to copy/paste all the text of this message, and e-mail it to others’s you know to get the word passed around.

From Sea to Shining Sea

My best friend is on vacation this week. He and his family are staying in a place in Ocean Isle, NC [Google Map].

His wife took the kids to Myrtle Beach—an hour away—which is apparently the miniature golf capitol of the world; he says that the minature golf venues there look like they are all in competition with each other to be the biggest, baddest miniature golf places in the world… “like they’re built by MGM or something.”

Anyway, so I found this out on a surprise phone conversation I had with him a few moments ago. I saw a little Skype window pop up on my monitor telling me that he had just logged in, and I thought “That’s odd… he’s on vacation…” So, using my Skype software and my headset, I clicked a call button on-screen, and he clicked the answer button on his, and in a split second I could hear him tapping away on his keyboard.

I said “hello?”—which is something I picked up as a kid when starting a remote conversation. I could hear noises in the bacground. I said “Can you hear me? I can here you.” All of a sudden he says, “Oh, you can hear me?”

“Yeah, just fine.”

“Wow… I was fumbling around trying to get my headset… I guess this little pinhole microphone in my laptop is picking me up fine by itself!” He was listening to my voice coming from the laptop’s speakers.

So it turns out he has his laptop out at the beach with him, there in North Carolina, and managed to piggy-back off a wireless broadband connection by getting in close to some unwitting homeowner’s signal.

So there he is, about the same distance from the ocean as I am, only on opposite coasts of the US, and we’re having a phone conversation that is clearer than any regular phone or cell phone I have used.

And he’s the one looking stupid: he’s sitting at the beach talking out loud to a laptop, and laughing. People are probably walking by thinking “How did that homeless guy get a Titanium laptop?”

Connecting the Planet

I love living in this period of technology. I have no idea what will happen after I die, but I am sure that I will enjoy most of the new inventions that come along for the rest of my life. This is so cool!

At the recommendation of Andreas Ramos in his free, brief, monthly newsletter for which anyone can sign up at his website, I downloaded and installed a free program called Skype, which is available for Mac, Windows PC, Linux and Pocket PC (we have it installed on our Mac and our PC computers…drdarrow is our username on Skype) which allows telephone conversations via the internet anywhere in the world. Free. If the other person has Skype and a broadband connection (maybe slower, too. I dunno…) and a special $7 headset like my Labtech, which has a separate plug for Mic and Speaker, you can converse for free anywhere in the world.

I installed mine a week ago and have been chatting free with my sister in Tigard, Oregon any time of day. Tonight, Joanne, a friend of ours that lives in Genoa, Italy with a home overlooking the Mediterranean installed Skype and apparently she imported all her Outlook Contacts and found us as Skype users, and sent a request to be added to our contacts list. Within a few seconds we were talking to our friend in Italy! Free!

The audio quality is better than telephones. It’s more like what you would hear on a radio talk-show. I mean, it is a lot better.

There was no delay (until we switched the audio to external speakers so that Teresa and I could both hear the conversation while she talked. The very slight delay is a feature that prevents feedback). The headset conversation was as instant as a telephone, but so much better!

Skype also offers an optional pay-in-advance plan that allows you to purchase minutes at about 2 cents per minute which lets you call by internet to any phone number in the world, no limit, no minimum, no contract, no premium hours.

We got to talk to Joanne in Italy for ten minutes, free, using the free version. It’s always free to talk to someone else who has Skype.

This is so cool!

Better Check the USB Oil

From a Reuters article on today: Fuel cell motorbike unveiled, but too quiet?: “[The bike is so quiet] that designers are looking to introduce artificial vroom to keep potential customers happy. Powered by a high pressure hydrogen fuel cell, the Emissions Neutral Vehicle produces the equivalent noise of a personal computer fan belt.”

Personal computer fan belt?

Can it be that there is a motorcycle out there that is even quieter than my personal computer carburetor, or even my personal computer alternator? [wink, wink]

Well, never mind that. What could Reuters know about computer fans?

What’s more troubling, though, is the idea that the biker crowd may not purchase this otherwise environmentally-sound, fuel-efficient, two-wheeled, motorized transportation unless the company puts the peacock feathers back on the tail.

Nothing gives me a greater sense of security or speaks of the owner’s masculinity and ample testosterone than the window-rattling sound of a Harley clearing phlegm out of its tailpipe at 4:30 in the morning.

Last summer these little neighborhood hoodlums got pulled over across the street because the arresting officer, Deputy Doogie [is everyone with authority or a stethoscope younger than I am, now?], “got complaints from neighbors about the noise” and was ‘pretty sure’ the bikes were illegal to ride, even with helmets, which the young men had on. Granted, it was nice to be relieved of the sound of a large [old-growth forest] chain saw winding out at the top of its lungs. But as it turned out, according to one of the hoodlums, to whom I e-mailed the entire set of pictures later that day after finishing my margarita in the summer sun, “the cop didn’t even show up in court.” Case dismissed.

Summer’s just around the corner, and these guys will be back at it—I just know it. Maybe I can get some sleep if I can muffle the noise with the sound of my personal computer fan belt.

Did they plan that?

The new Apple Mac mini, like the iPod, looks like it is poised to change the world. The entire computer, including processor, motherboard, RAM, hard drive and CD/DVD player, plus all i/o ports fit into a stylish box 6.5″ wide and deep, and 2″ tall. That’s 1/2″ wider on each side than a standard CD jewel case, and a little taller than 4 of them stacked.

The size and power has not gone unnoticed by innovators outside of Apple:

Melvin Benzaquen, president of Classic Restorations in Sloatsburg, NY realized that at 2 X 6.5 inches, the newly introduced Mac mini could easily fit into a car stereo compartment, creating a powerful “brain” for any car. He’s convinced the new Mac Mini could be one of the hottest innovations the car enthusiast market has seen in years. [read more]

I wonder how a Mac-Mini would look in a ’91 LeBaron.

How To Improve a PC

My loving father and I have been having Mac vs PC wars ever since we each abandoned CP/M in favor of something slightly more useful, back in the 1980s.

I have to admit, however, that today I saw an upgrade to a standard PC that made me envious. This little $500 investment could conceivably bring previously unknown stability to the PC world. Read about it here.

When you’re done there, read from a geek that got Mac OS X to boot up on a Mac Centris computer. Maybe the slowest computer ever, but he did get it to work.

Darth Tater

Now this is just funny:

Darth Tater: The dark side of Mr. Potato Head

PAWTUCKET, Rhode Island (AP) — A spud on the dark side.

That’s how toy maker Hasbro Inc. is promoting its latest Mr. Potato Head figure, Darth Tater.

The toy spud will be available next month, ahead of the May release of “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith,” the latest installment in that film series.

Darth Tater will come with a light saber, cape and helmet, in addition to the regular Mr. Potato Head accessories such as eyes, mouth and nose.

The Pawtucket-based toy maker says children will be able to “have all kinds of mix n’ match, Mr. Potato Head fun with this wacky spud dressed as the infamous `Star Wars’ villain, Darth Vader.”

The toy will retail in the United States for $7.99.

“Star Wars: Episode III,” starring Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman, will open in U.S. theaters on May 19.

Is It Just Me?

This is one of the best-looking retro-but-modern items I have seen out there. My gracious parents handed down their film-version, real “Rollei” to me, though I have only used it a few times. You should follow the link to see what this digital version looks like from different views. Very cool. I wonder how much 39,800 Yen is…

Recently I brought home a great retro-find: two old-school dial telephones from the 80s, with genuine bell ringers. The standard desk phone is decked out in the enduring hue mustard and the other phone, the wall version, is ol’ reliable beige. They were free to me, and I just figured I’d see what they go for on eBay, if anything. They sell all the time.

My daughter went nuts when she saw one.

“Dad, can I have one?”


“They’re so cool!

“They are? It takes forever to dial on them, look…” I dial a zero to prove my point.

That is so cool!

“…and the ringer will wake people up for miles.”


“It has real bells in it.”

“It does?” Her eyes bloomed as big as if I’d just told her I might allow her to date before she’s 35…

“Yeah, I’ll show you.” I plug it into the wall, and then as if irony had completely taken over my home and body, I blithely dial my home number from my cell phone. A ring I have not heard in 30 years resounds from the old phone. Instinctively—and because it is so loud—I answer it on the first ring, and for just a moment I expect to hear an old friend from Playa del Rey at the other end.

It’s just me.

In A World with No Gutters

Now that someone has designed the car of the future, they should begin immediately working on the driveway of the future.

How are you supposed to get that car into your garage?

My Mac Made Me Laugh

Okay, got some free time?

Check out Windows RG.

For more laughs, change the URL by one character and read the 404 error page.

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