Thursday, May 26, 2011

Atomic browser jerky scrolling

There is a heated discussion on the Macrumor forums about why Apple recently forced developers to use broken/poorly written API’s in the Apple Webkit which has caused many of the after market browsers to crash or become slow/jerky when scrolling web pages.  I decided to try the site being discussed - boingboing site (I never heard of this site) to see what the issue is.  The site is somewhat jerky when scrolling around the page.  I decided to try a site I am very familiar with – Engadget.  I visit this site daily and it’s true with the latest update the scrolling is much worse.  I don’t feel it’s unusable but Apple did a crap job here and it’s just inexcusable that they can’t fix their own dev kit. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Pronto remote 3000 unresponsive screen fix

I have been a long time Pronto user.  Pronto’s are the most flexible remotes on the market.  They are not easy to program but once you understand the power of ProntoEdit you can make your life very easy with having one remote to control your home theater.  I know Logitech makes the Harmony remote line, but they can’t touch the power of a Pronto.  The bad news is Pronto was made by Philips and they announced in 2010 they are getting out of the remote business and Philips did not try and sell the Pronto line to anyone.  The reason is probably a simple one, Pronto’s are very expensive.

On to the TSU3000.  My 3000 decided to not respond to any touch screen commands.  I reset the remote, removed the power, re-flashed the firmware and nothing fixed the screen.  I found a thread on remote central where the problem is very common.  You must disassemble your 3000 to fix the issue.  An edge connector on the LCD goes bad.  There is an easy fix using a pin or a sharp pointed knife to fix the contacts.  I made a video to show how to fix the contacts.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How to get rid of the iGoogle sidebar – Super iGoogle

Google made more changes recently to that obnoxious sidebar which broke the Stylish script and iGoogle Tab remover 1.9.8.  There is another popular add-on for Firefox called GreaseMonkey which supports user contributed scripts.  I found a script called Super iGoogle that removes the sidebar and actually works.  

For anyone who does not understand what the iGoogle sidebar is Google decided to create a menu bar that travels vertically down the left side of the screen.  It wastes a tremendous amount of valuable screen space for no good reason.  Most menu bars travel horizontally to not waste space. 

*** Google made more changes which broke Super iGoogle.  It is a minor patch to fix it, just edit the script and change G-KS with G-BT in all locations.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

How to use your old printer with Apple’s Airprint

When Apple introduced Airprint for the iPhone and iPad everyone was thrilled but within seconds the reality set in that you would need to buy a new printer for it to work.  Luckily there is a utility you can install on your Windows PC to allow Airprint to use your existing printer.  It works great.  The only issue is it’s not a “Putz” proof install, you will need some computer skills for this to work.

Here are the steps, I am only going to document Windows 7 but it will work with XP and Vista.

Control panel – Network and Sharing center, change advanced sharing options (upper left corner).  Turn on network discovery, file and print sharing, sharing so anyone with network access and read/write files.  In that same window turn off password protected sharing.

Find your printer from control panel, devices and printers.  Right click the printer and select properties. Select the sharing tab and check the box for “Share this Printer”.

Control panel – Users Accounts.  Manage another account, Turn on Guest.

Download the Airprint utility.  For x64 Windows make a directory C:\Program Files (x86)\AirPrint.  For x32 Windows make the directory C:\Program Files\AirPrint. Unzip the file into the directory you just made.

You must do this step before the below commands.  The Windows Firewall needs to allow access for Airprint.  Control panel – Network and Sharing center, Windows Firewall (lower left corner), select Allow a program or feature through the Windows Firewall.  Use the browse button and navigate to where you unzipped Airprint.  Add the airprint.exe program to the firewall.

Then run the below command for x64 or x32 version of Windows:

sc.exe create AirPrint binPath= "C:\Program Files (x86)\AirPrint\airprint.exe -s" depend= "Bonjour Service" start= auto

sc.exe start AirPrint

sc.exe create AirPrint binPath= "C:\Program Files\AirPrint\airprint.exe -s" depend= "Bonjour Service" start= auto

sc.exe start AirPrint

You can now try and print from your Apple device.  I tested these steps on a Canon MF4690 multi-function laser printer and it works great.

Astra Jigsaw Puzzles for iPad

I never thought I would have so much fun playing jigsaw puzzles.  The iPad is such a gold mine of new user interfaces that allows developers to reinvent how we use computer programs.  With the touch interface jigsaw puzzles are a natural fit for the iPad.

The odd part is it was not so rosy when I downloaded a few jigsaw apps over this past month.  Many of them were very disappointing because the user interface was stupid or the puzzle pieces were so large they were only designed for small children.  I tried one app were the puzzle pieces didn’t even fit right and left gaps in the puzzles!  So as amazing as Apple’s iPad is, some developers clearly are not taking their time to develop good apps.  Luckily Lena Pankratova, the author of AstraJigsaw knows how to write a good app.  Astra Jigsaw is a gem. 

What makes Astra Jigsaw standout are the options for how many pieces you want from as small as 40 to as large as 900 pieces per puzzle.  It is taking me hours to complete one puzzle which is exactly what I wanted.  The games are auto-saved so you will never lose your puzzle.  The other unique feature of Astra is the virtual board.  You can double tap puzzle pieces that will be moved to an alternate area.  Here you can stage your puzzle in groups to try and solve the jigsaw.  It’s easy to move pieces back and forth.  I also like how you can drag larger pieces off the board to help clear an open area. 

Astra comes with 9 puzzles for free with no advertising.  That’s awesome!  Then you can buy additional sets of photos by collection. Collections are Japan, Art, Europe Tour, France and UK, Italy and Spain, Landmarks, My Favorite Things, Tropical, USA and Xmas.  Most collections are $3.99 each.  It also offers a custom jigsaws but it requires you to buy three collections.

A neat 12v channel strip to cleanup your charging setup

I found a nice 6 banana output channel strip at Tower Hobbies to cleanup my charging mess in my car.  I always had alligator clips daisy chained in a mess that would easily disconnect while charging my lithium batteries.  This strip is made by Integy and costs about $22.  It’s a bargain for what you get.  It’s fused protected and 4 of the 6 outlets are switched and have individual power LED’s.  There is also a master power LED for the entire strip. It also includes 3 sets of banana plugs to retrofit some of your chargers.

I decided to remove the feet off the back and use Velcro to mount it to my marine battery.  The cable going to battery is about 4’ which is great if you prefer to keep your chargers out of the car while charging.  

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Make free phone calls on your iPad using Talkatone

With VOIP services it’s pretty easy to make VOIP to VOIP calls for free but in most cases many of us need to call traditional land line phones.  Facetime is built into iPad 2’s but it’s only good for Apple to Apple calls. Using Google Voice and Talkatone you can make free phone calls in the USA with no commitments.  The first step is to setup a Google Voice account and then download Talkatone for your iPad. Both services are free.  Talkatone does not have an iPad app but the iPhone app works perfectly on the iPad.  The lower resolution does look crude but you are just going to use this to make a call, not stare at the screen during the call. 

Talkatone uses your contacts to help make phone calls.  The most complicated step in making this whole thing work is to setup your Google Voice account.  Google will assign you a free phone number with an area code near your location.  Google Voice has so many cool features I would recommend getting setup even if you have no desire to use your iPad for calling.  I use my Google Voice account to send free text messages to avoid the crazy charges that Verizon and ATT like to charge for texting. 

Talkatone will work over 3G or Wifi connections.  The speakerphone on the iPad 2 is surprisingly excellent.  I have had no complaints when using it to make phone calls.  You can also receive calls on your iPad if your friends starting using your Google Voice phone number.