Archive for category Tips

A Year of Double-edged Razor Usage in Review

There are a few things that I'm passionate about. I've been a computer nut since I was a kid. I used to look through the JCPenney and Sears Christmas catalogs for toys, and I remember seeing computers in there way back in the 80's. After computers, I've always loved music. I started playing guitar in 1992, but I had a few piano lessons around 1986.  Here lately, I've picked up two more things to be passionate about: mechanical keyboards and double-edged safety razors.
I know, those sound like pretty strange things to be passionate about. I'm passionate about mechanical keyboards because I spend a large portion of most of my days at a keyboard, and I love the response of Cherry switches. I may have to get some dampeners for my Black Widow Ultimate. I think I prefer blue's with rubber o-rings.

But let me get to the subject of this post. I've been using double-edged razors for almost a year and a half. I wanted to update my blog and describe what I've found in that time. This may provide helpful hints to others who are thinking about switching to a double-edge.

Razors

First of all, I've tried three double-edge razors: a Merkur 180, a Edwin Jagger DE89, and a 1962 Gilette Fat Boy. From this experience, I can say that it would be hard to beat the Edwin Jagger DE89. It has a great balance. Though it isn't adjustable like the Fat Boy, it gives me the best shave. I highly recommend this razor.

Shaving Soaps

Next, I've learned a bit about shaving soaps. I've tried Williams Mug Shaving Soap, Proraso, and Taylor of Old Bond Street. I am not a fan of Proraso, though it's probably middle of the road between the other two when it comes to lather. Williams is cheap. It's good to have a few of these stored in case you run out of your favorite soap. They cost around one or two dollars per bar and last about four to six months of normal use. Taylor of Old Bond Street is my favorite so far. It's more expensive than Williams and Proraso, but it lathers like crazy, and I love the sandlewood smell. Also, 5.2 oz of Taylor of Old Bond Street will only last about three or four months of normal use, if that. Whereas 1.7 oz of Williams will last longer. Like I said, keep some cheap Williams Mug around just in case you run out of your favorite. It provides a great shave, it just take more time to get a good lather with it.

Double-edge Razor Blades

Finally, I want to talk about blades. Most people would suggest that you get a variety pack of different brands of blades and try each for yourself. I agree. The different brands of blades behave very differently. I've used Derby, Dorco, Astra, and Feather. I started out with a five-pack of Derby blades and bought one hundred Dorco blades for around $10. I could tell right away that I preferred the Derby blades. I've still have over 60 of the Dorcos. I also have a supply of around 30 Feather blades, 50 Astra, and 90 Derby blades stocked in my bathroom. This will be enough blades to last me a few years. My best estimate is around five years. I have about $40 invested in that. Compare that to the price of an 8-pack of the multi-bladed razors, which would only last about a month for me.

Dorco blades seem to be thicker than the others. They are also slightly less sharp. They are a good beginner blade. Trust me on that. Feather blades are extremely sharp, almost too sharp for me. They are thin and seem to bend/flex more. This has caused me some pain in the past. I like Feather blades, but my overall favorites are the Astra and Derby blades. Of those two, I slightly favor Derby. This is mainly because I have used Derby more. I need to break out my Astra collection and test them more as a matter of fact.

My first thought when reading reviews of blades was that I wanted the sharpest blade I could get. I'm not sure if Feathers are sharper or if they are just more prone to cut me. I'd like to hear opinions from others.

What You Need

Get a good badger hair brush, a nice shaving mug, an Edwin Jagger DE89, a variety pack of blades (or 100 Derby blades), a couple bars of Williams Mug Shaving Soap, some Taylor of Old Bond Street shaving soap, and a bar of alum (for any nicks you may give yourself at first). All of that shipped will probably run around $90 - $100, and it'll last for at least one year before you have to buy more soap and blades. After that, the annual cost will be well below $40 which, for me, was about a month's worth of blades when I used Mach3 and Fusion razors.

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Getting rid of Hiccups

I found a secret to the universe some years ago as I discovered the secret to getting rid of hiccups. I could tell you how to do it, but I can't. The reason I can't tell you right now is because I'm intoxicated by Samuel Adams Boston Lager. When I'm drunk, I can't control my hiccups. It's the only time I can't control my hiccups by the way. It's a good indicator that I've been drinking too much. At any rate, when I'm sober, it's easy to control my hiccups. It consists primarily with controlling my breathing. You must take deep controlled breaths and make sure that you concentrate on the exhalation of air. It has to be slow and controlled. You have to concentrate on breathing hard and holding the hiccups back. It's hard for me to describe how it's done at the moment because I'm drunk and unable to perform the task, but it will be something that I can talk about more in later posts. This is no old-wives-tell cure for hiccups. I can honestly stop hiccups at will.

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So you forgot your router password?

A friend messaged me on Facebook yesterday, because she was trying to connect to her home router but had forgotten the password. She offered to pay me to fix it, but somehow I feel dishonest for taking money from people when their problem is so simple. So, in this blog entry I thought I'd take the time to tell everyone how to quickly fix a problem like this.

Generally speaking, all home routers have a reset in the back. It may be a small button or a recessed pin-hole button. Either way, to reset your router to factory defaults, simple press and hold this button for a few seconds. You can also Google search for your particular router model to find specific details about this. Some routers require the power to be plugged into the router while this is happening. Some require that you hold the button for ten seconds, while other models can be messed up by doing this. Simply search for your router model and find out how to reset it from the manufacturer.

After you have reset the router, you can either login to it using a default login (also available from a Google search of the router model) or you can use the supplied router software to set it back up for your home network.

I know there are plenty of people who make a living at fixing simple things like this for people, but these are really things that people should try to fix themselves. I sense a general fear of technology from a lot of people, and I want to eventually change this. When someone approaches me to fix something for them, I usually judge from experience how much knowledge is required to fix the problem. If it's something that can be fixed with very little knowledge and only the ability to read, I usually point them to another resource. Of course, most people want an expert to fix something so they know that it is done correctly, but most of the technology today isn't geared toward experts. It's geared toward normal users. Sometimes I wish this was not the case, for various reasons.

Such is the case with desktop computers in general. Windows is an OS that can be used by just about anyone, but it's also very easy for anyone to mess up their computer through their actions. The easy desktop is a double edged sword.

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Driver Scanning Scammers

I was trying to locate a simple audio driver for a Windows XP VM I have. Basically, I'm in Linux and I want to watch Netflix but my main VM is having trouble with SilverLight for some strange reason, and rather than deal with that, I decided to use a spare VM. The movies play but I don't have sound in that VM. I realized that the VM was an N-Lite created image, which means that most of the drivers were stripped out of it. So I decided to find the driver and install it.

This is when I started getting furious. The problem is, when you search Google for driver downloads, you will undoubtedly run into nothing but scams. This is the same for Bing and Yahoo. The entire first page of just about any driver download search will have nothing but scams. By scams I mean people trying to get you to download software that costs money, just so you can download and install FREE drivers for you hardware that you've already bought.

So, looking through these scams I realized that there are at least three different pieces of software everyone is trying to sell. The first one I ran into was Driver Detective. This seemed to be the most spammed software out there. Tons of fake sites with fake "Thanks" comments on them, but no true download for your driver, blanket the first page of search results. These sites don't actually have the driver, only a download link for the DriverDetective software. Whether or not the driver detective software works isn't even the questions. The tactics used to sell this software make it nearly impossible for even a very computer-literate person to find the driver they need.

It's days like this that make me appreciate some of the OEMs like Dell, which make it very easy for customers to find drivers. Undoubtedly the adsense to the right of this post will have links to driver software, but that is expected, those are ads. They clearly say so. They are required to disclose what they are selling.

If you run into this problem, here's probably the easiest way to find the correct driver for your system. Open up device manager. This is usually accomplished through the Windows Control Panel. Once there, find the problem device, with the exclamation point beside it, and right click on it. Choose "Properties". Go to the details and look for the VEN and DEV ids. These should each be four characters long. Pull up http://pcidatabase.com on your browser. Search for those ids. You should get the manufacturer and device from that. This will at least help narrow down what driver you need. Get the drivers from the manufacturers website. Don't even bother Googling it.

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How do I Block and Unblock Internet Sites?

Apparently this is a question many people want asked so I'll touch on what I use to block/unblock internet sites from my home network. This method will not require one to purchase any additional software or anything. It is designed specifically to be the low cost effective solution.

First of all, your home router controls all of the traffic going to an from your home computers. Some people don't have routers. The modem, whether it be a DSL, Cable, or dialup modem, handles their routing. These instructions will work for those people as well, but anytime I mention the router, please understand that if there is no router, the modem will be doing all the work.

The router software for various models of routers are different, so it is nearly impossible to have a step-by-step howto for each of them here. Instead, it's suffice to say that most routers have a block/unblock function. Most even let you time these blocks/unblocks. So one can set up rules as to when certain sites can be viewed.

Refer to your router's manual for these instructions. It is usually rather easy.

There is a further step that can either be used in conjunction with the router blocks or by itself entirely. This method involves signing up for a free service call OpenDNS.

OpenDNS is a free service that I've used for a little over a year. It gives you a great DNS service, plus allows you to do various other interesting things like protect your home network. Basically, all one has to do is sign up for the account and change their DNS settings in the router to the IPs provided by OpenDNS. All future DNS request will go to OpenDNS.

I should probably first explain what DNS is to begin with. DNS stands for Domain Name Server/Service. When you type google.com into your web browser, your computer has no idea what google.com is. It's oblivious. First it has to query the DNS server. Usually the IP of the DNS server is provided by your ISP. In many cases, the ISP provided DNS server lags behind a bit. You computer asks the DNS server where it can find google.com. The DNS server then responds with the IP address for google.com. Your browser then knows where to fetch the information.

The DNS server configuration can be changed in your router. You will override the ISP defaults and put in the OpenDNS server IPs instead.

OpenDNS updates much faster than typical ISP DNS servers. When you buy a domain name and direct it to your hosting provider, it can take up to 72 hours for the DNS information to propagate across the internet. OpenDNS usually propagates within minutes.

Some of the protection OpenDNS offers is right up there or better than many parental block software. There are automatic settings to make it easy to block pornography or harmful sites. One can also specify sites to block. Anytime a local user tries to access a blocked website, they are told that it is restricted. This is great free service, and I hope this will help you block those unwanted websites, and if you have any questions drop a comment.

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Adventures in analog video recording on Linux

Linux does many things well, but the multimedia experience can be lacking without the correct bit of hackery. I mean, some cool things can be done with Linux on the multimedia side, but typically it'll take a lot of work to learn how it's done. Mac and Windows make complex things simple, while Linux makes simple things complex.

Back when I purchased my TV tuner card for my PC, I was using Linux as my main OS. I still use it daily but not on my main PC. Only occasionally do I boot to Linux on it. I typically run Windows Server 2008 as I've talked about on previous posts. When I bought the tuner I wanted to make sure that it worked under Linux. So, I purchased one that was made specifically for Linux, a PCHDTV 5500.

It has served its purpose as a TV tuner, since I watched a year or so of cable TV in analog on it prior to the digital switch. I have never been able to get the HD side of things to work on it. Either it's beyond me or my cable company just had all of the channels encrypted. I didn't spend enough time on it to find out.

Recording analog video in Linux can be FUN. By "fun" I mean the type of fun one has pulling their own toe hairs. Be forewarned, getting a good recording is best done from the command line. I tried many ways. I ended up going with mencoder.

That being said, there's not much you can't do with mencoder and ffmpeg from the command line.

I have some VHS recordings I'm converting to AVI and then later on to DVD. I first had to purchase a VCR because, wouldn't you know it, I didn't have one that worked.

After that I had to come up with a good way to connect it to my capture card. The card has coax and component inputs. The new VCR didn't come with any coaxial connections. The capture card had a yellow RCA connection for video. I could use that but then there was the problem with audio. The capture card had a 1/8" jack for audio. Luckily I had an RCA-to-1/8" adapter for one of my gadgets (not sure which). I ended up using two sets of RCA's.

I was amazed I actually got audio and video from it. Here's where more fun came in. I was running virtualbox in the background. Everything I tried to use to record the video told me that /dev/dsp could not be opened. I went through many hoops trying to troubleshoot that issue. I should have realized it sooner but it was all virtualbox's fault. Next time I'll make sure it's not running when I'm dealing with audio.

After all of those problems were worked out, I was able to use:

mencoder tv:///1 -tv driver=v4l2:width=640:height=480:forceaudio:adevice=/dev/dsp -ovc xvid -xvidencopts bitrate=-750:threads=2 -oac mp3lame -lameopts cbr:br=64:mode=3 -o /home/five/homevid.avi

I'll try to explain some of what is going on in that command. Mencoder is the program itself. There's little to be said there. The next part is interesting: tv:///1  That tells mencoder we are using the tv card and that we want to use the composite1 input. Typically it defaults to input=0 or tv:///0, which is the coax TV input. There are three inputs on the card: tv, composite, and s-video. The next part (driver=v4l2) tells mencoder that we want to use Video4Linux2. Then we specify the width and height of the capture. The forceaudio bit was placed there during my troubleshooting. It just forces the use of audio device /dev/dsp. I had tried a couple other devices during my troubleshooting, thus the addition of that option. Then we have the option for output video codec (xvid). I set the bitrate and the number of threads. I actually upped that bitrate considerably later to around 2048. I believe I'll end up upping it even more for the next vid. I did the same with the audio output bitrate. I set it up to 256.

That should help anyone experiencing some of the pain I went through.

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Slow wifi on iPhone 3GS

I bought a new iPhone 3G S yesterday. These things are very nice, and I'm not an Apple fan boy by any stretch. One thing that was bugging me, however, was the slow speed I was getting from the wifi. I was getting faster speeds from the 3G network than my home wireless, and this is while I was sitting right next to the router, so it wasn't a signal problem.

I found the solution to this after reading through many, many forum posts. I saw others were having the same problem as me and were getting responses from people like "reboot the router" or "reset your network settings on the iPhone." This is all well and good and I'm sure those people meant well but there was a big problem with their responses.

First of all, everyone having this trouble said that the wireless worked fine on their computers but not on the iPhone. Secondly, there aren't many settings to "reset" inside the iPhone's network settings. There's just not anything in there that would cause this type of issue.

The solution to the problem ended up being an advanced setting on the router itself. From what I can tell of the issue and it's solution, the iPhone's wifi is just a bit more picky than a standard PC wifi device. Here are the settings I eventually had to change on my Netgear router.iphonewifisettings

The important items here are the fragmentation threshold and the CTS/RTS threshold. Each of these were set to their max value previously. After changing these two settings, my iPhone started working like a champ.

If you are experiencing the same problems with your iPhone or iPod Touch's wifi, change these settings on your router. Also note, these settings have slightly different names on some routers. Refer to your router's manual for more info.

Edit: I've gone much lower with these number with much success for my less powerful mobile devices. Going too low does seem to cause issues with more powerful computers on the wireless network. Test this out with lower settings and post your success or failures in the comments.

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Digital Converter Box Coupon and How to Use it

If you are using an analog TV, chances are it no longer works correctly. As of June 12th all major broadcast companies are no longer broadcasting in analog. It's a strictly digital world now.There is a program to help everyone convert however, in case you haven't heard of it. It's at dtv2009.gov. You can go there and request two free $40 coupons from the government to purchase a converter box. If you have an analog TV and no converter box, you have to order a converter box to watch TV now.

After you request your coupons, the next step is to order your converter box. The absolute best deals on digital converter boxes are
here. They accept the government coupons and let you buy your converter boxes online at the best prices.

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Right-click stopped working in Word

I had this problem with Word 2007 today recently. I thought it would be helpful to post the fix that worked for me. I'm not exactly sure what caused the problem. From what I've read it can be caused by some add-ins. The results of this issue are 1.) no access to Word options(they will be greyed out) and 2.) mouse clicks inside of a document will not work. This limits your ability to use Word completely. It was a rather frustrating fix. I first tried repairing my Office 2007 installation. This didn't fix the problem and actually the repair crashed. I should point out that this is on Windows Server 2008, but others have had this issue in Vista.

After the repair crashed, I tried reinstalling Office. This crashed a few times and I realized I needed to run it as an administrator. Running it as an admin allowed me to uninstall Office but after reinstalling it, I got the same results as before. This led me to believe that maybe there was a permissions issue with the executable. I tried running WinWord.exe as an admin. This didn't help either. So I decided it must be a profile issue. I went through my profile (local and roaming) trying to find all mentions of Office and Word. I deleted those and still had the issue. Sometimes this will fix issues, but in this case it didn't.

After some research I found that the problem could be cured by deleting some registry keys.

Just open regedit. Browse to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\Word

The version number should be 12.0 but I believe 11.0 could be effected by this issue as well. At any rate, select Data. Then, choose File -> Export. Create a backup of the branch. You can name it whatever you want. After you have saved the backup, delete "Data". Close regedit and start Word.

The problem should be alleviated.

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Make Twitter Better

One of the things I like about Twitter, believe it or not, is the simplistic design. There's not a lot of useless options. There not many things to click on at all really, compared to other sites. There are a few missing items that should be on the site, however. I just recently installed a Firefox extension that accomplishes everything I need.

I've found that a lot of the twitter "clients" are lacking. For instance, I can't easily search and follow people from TweetDeck. I really like to just use the web client. I only thing that I could use on the web interface is a notification of @ replies. Every other option that I found useful in the clients is now available on the web client via Power Twitter Firefox extension. There's also a few features I wasn't expecting. For instance, Song.ly is now integrated. I had never tried Song.ly until I installed this extension. I love it.

Check out the extension. It's worth it if you Tweet much at all.

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