Technology, gaming, music and things that just don't compute
Not too long ago I got an upgrade to my cable Internet speed — 50Mbps down, 10Mbps up — which finally pushed me to buy a new cable modem. I had been using the same Linksys unit for about 8 years, and it was a reliable, well-designed unit. Sadly, there was only one Cisco/Linksys model listed on my ISP’s compatibility sheet, and it’s not available in stores. I’m not the biggest fan of Motorola products, but there were lots of rave reviews for the SB6141, so I hesitantly picked one up. It performs well, but I soon discovered a major gripe that the reviewers looked over — the LEDs on the front are stupidly, ridiculously, blindingly bright. I set out to remedy that.
We had some severe storms roll through the metro area a couple of weeks ago, and something like 500,000 people lost power. The storm came on a Friday evening, and due to a number of downed trees we had no power in our area until Saturday night. Our iPhones had enough charge to last through Friday night, but by Saturday morning they were almost dead. Sure, we could have just driven around town with the phones plugged into the car until they were juiced back up, but that’s a waste and there weren’t many places we could have gone that still had power. So, with a trip to one place that still had power — the hardware store — I was able to rig up a beefy phone recharger that we could use at home.
While heading out to work one day last week, I went to grab a cup of yogurt from the fridge to find that it was completely dead. No interior light, no control panel lights, no fan or compressor. This concerned me as our LG refrigerator is only about 5 years old (and was pretty expensive when we bought it, $1500). I had no time to diagnose the problem right away, but vowed to figure it out when I got home. Here’s how I revived my fridge and saved $350 in the process.
Here’s yet another problem I recently ran across when dealing with MKV files and subtitles. I had separate video and subtitle files that I needed to combine into one so I could run them through Handbrake, but when I checked out the final file, the subtitles were nowhere to be found. Thus, another lesson in dealing with MKV files is in order.
This is something that caught my attention in this week’s Target newspaper ad. They had mechanical pencils on sale, and also noted that “all other writing utensils” were 20% or whatever. This kind of grammar nonsense gets my goat, especially since I was wearing my new Woot “Costa Nostra Grammatica: Every Time You Miss a Typo, the Errorists Win” shirt.
While “utensil” and “instrument” in general terms, according to the dictionary, are largely interchangeable, here’s how I’ve always used them:
- Utensils are tools or implements with which generic tasks are performed. Spoons are utensils because they don’t require precision to use. With spoons you can stir, scoop, mix, etc.
- Instruments are used to perform precision tasks. Pencils are used for writing, and writing doesn’t involve just scribbling all over the page. It takes skill to use an instrument, and instruments for the most part only perform one specific function.
In short, here’s the example I gave my wife while explaining why I was mumbling to myself at the Target ad: Would you rather have your doctor use a surgical instrument on you, or a surgical utensil?
I just noticed something interesting when adding some new music to iTunes. It’s a jazz album by Yusuke Uotani, who also goes by “USK” (a play on his first name). He sells his music himself and offers it as a FLAC download, which I converted to Apple Lossless with Max. I dropped the files into iTunes, then edited their tags to my liking — specifically, changing the artist name to Uotani-san’s full name, with Western name order (as shown above — I’m still deciding how I want to sort Japanese names in iTunes). Normally, iTunes would sort the name by the first character, in this case Y, unless it can determine that the first word is an article (“the”, “an”, etc.) which it will then ignore. Interestingly enough, iTunes sorted it by last name, slotting it in with other U artists. I checked in all of the advanced sort fields of the files, thinking there might be another tag it’s sorting by, but nope. All of the artist fields specifically say Yusuke Uotani. Perhaps iTunes understands Japanese name order and is automatically assuming that’s how I should sort such artists?
(Incidentally, Uotani is an interesting guy — he has a YouTube channel where he travels the Japanese countryside in search of vintage vending machines. Specifically, vintage ramen and udon vending machines. It’s just as interesting watching him plunk 300 yen into a machine and seeing what comes out as it is looking at the beautiful scenery as he drives around, with his soundtrack playing.)
Die-hard, old-school Mac fans may recognize this mug. And such fans probably also realize just how incredibly rare they are. I’m lucky enough to have one — and I didn’t buy it, I earned it.
If you’ve read my previous post on this topic, undoing ordered chapters (properly known as “segment linking”) in MKV files is a bit of a pain. I just recently noticed a problem with one particular series that I was trying to fix, in that the subtitles would look like crap after being run through UnlinkMKV (and before any other processing was done, such as conversion to MP4 in HandBrake). The subtitles looked fine before the files were fixed; what was the deal?
It took me some tinkering but I managed to figure it all out. The steps and screen shots lie ahead for OS X users.
Plenty of step-by-step guides exist for this machine, and this article is long enough already, so I’m not going to go too in-depth into the process. But what a lot of the guides omit is what you’ll actually face when you crack the machine open, or offering advice on what parts to buy. Here’s my take.
Apple has always pushed the envelope when it comes to hardware design, especially when it comes to the level of noise that its computers produce. There’s been at least a few models that have even shipped without internal fans just to make the machine as quiet as possible (often to the detriment of reliability). Starting with the original aluminum iMacs, Apple began monitoring the temperature of the internal hard drive so that the system’s internal fan could be optimized. The level of complexity with which this system operates has increased with every model, and reached its ultimate with the Mid-2011 iMacs. Mass confusion and anger spread across the Internet once an inkling of what was going on was discovered, but so far I’ve seen no single, definitive explanation of exactly how the system works. I recently picked up the Samsung SSD seen above and decided that there was no better time to tackle this issue, since it would be one I’d have to deal with on my own iMac. Read on.