Aug 10, 2011

Jul - 27 2011 | By

PG&E SmartMeter! and the Kill-A-Watt Energy Auditor

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Glenn went crazy at an Apple sale of older equipment. He bought a Macbook Air & a Mac Mini. These were for a friend but it didn't work out so he returned them both.

Glenn said if you bought a new Mac computer since 6-21, you will be eligible for a free upgrade to the latest operating system. Double check that this info is correct by going to the Apple site.

Being a sole proprietor of a business, Paul likes the applications he can get for the iPhone. He likes the banking app for the Chase bank that allows him to take photos of checks and deposit them. He took things one step further and ask a client to scan a check and send him the pic, thinking he'll then take a picture of the scan and send it to the bank. However, it didn't work and his account was shut down and the failure remains a mystery to him.

Glenn said there are other ways to expedite payments like billpay <a feature many banks offer> or ING Direct Online, which allows you to send a payment to another bank without creating a check: paperless check. Paul mentioned that in Europe they have Giro Bank where all you need to make a payment is the account number at the bank receiving the payment.

An iPhone app often doesn't process the data itself, like the free Dragon Dictate (search for Dragon in the app store) which allows you to talk into your iPhone and get back a transcript. The transcription isn't done on the phone but at a server, which then sends the transcript back to you. Similarly with the banking app, the character recognition is done at the bank.

Paul related a story where he deposited a check more than once and it took the bank 2 weeks to catch the mistake. He normally writes on the check that it's been deposited but he forgot. That led Glenn to suggest using a blue highlighter to write on a document to indicate whether it's the original (or in Paul's case, deposited) because copy machines don't generally reproduce blue.

Around the time of the Iraq War, Paul said, it was revealed that some HP color printers printed a pattern of yellow dots when the printer was used to make a copy. The dots indicated the serial number of the printer. Because color copies had gotten so good, this was done to defeat counterfeiters.

Similarly, Intel has produced CPUs with CPUID to uniquely identify the CPU. It was intended allow purchased software to be keyed to a particular machine. But this allowed the machine to be identified on the internet. On some machines, CPUID can be turned off in the BIOS.

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Glenn said he had to use dialup recently and that his computer slowed to a crawl because of all of the updates it was doing. Paul said that many sites now are difficult to use if you're on dialup because Flash requires so much bandwidth. And Mac machines that don't have an Intel CPU, like the G4 & G5, don't do Flash animation well either. Netflix, for instance, won't work on such Macs, and when software is available, like Flash for watching Youtube, the video is jumpy.

While Glenn had the 2 Macs mentioned above, he tried to download the Lion operating system for the Mac Mini using his iMac (he didn't want to plug in the Mac Mini to upgrade directly) but got the message that an Intel Core2 Duo was required and his iMac had only a Core Duo. He speculated that might be generally true for everyone.

Paul said Leopard was the last OS that would successfully installed on a non-Intel Mac. Such a Mac had to be 800 mega hertz or faster, too. There were hacks to get it to install on slower machines but Apple refuses to support such an installation. He also said there is a similar situation with old software — manufactures don't want to test old software on newer hardware and therefore refuse to support old programs. Office 2003, however, will install on a Win7 machine though it seemingly shouldn't, he said.

Glenn asked for alternative to using Office on a Mac.
– Office is available for the Mac.
Open Office suite will run successfully on a Mac.

The latest Mac operating system will read drives formatted for Windows — the NTFS format. There is software NTFS-3G that allows Macs to write to such drives. It comes in free & commercial versions. But ideally, one would use Mac formatted drives on a Mac. And to use TimeMachine for backups you need to have a Mac formatted drive.
For more info google: ntfs-3g sourceforge

Glenn had trouble with his HR21 High Definition Direct TV DVR and though it started working again, a factory rep suggested he try plugging in an external hard drive for backup, as is possible with the newer HR24.

As a side note about hard drives, Paul told us what SMART means. Hard drives made in last few years have SMART for onboard monitoring of temperature and reliability. He thought the warning Glenn got might mean the drive is nearing its end.

Next Zentech show is on Aug 24 and there is 1 more show on the 5th Wed this month — 8/31/11

Marilyn called and she has friend with a Mac Plus who can no longer get to the documents on the hard drive.
– Open the computer case and find the hard drive (likely a PATA drive). Take the hard drive and put it in an external enclosure. Then connect it to another computer (ideally another Mac) and you should be able to access it.
– It's might be a SCSI drive and you can get a USB to SCSI adapter; plug it into the hard drive & the other end into the USB port on modern Mac.
– If you have the original floppy disk, you should be able to launch the operating system using its floppy drive. You can then copy the documents to that floppy, given enough room. If you don't have the original floppy, you might be able to get a copy by doing an internet search.
– Take the hard drive to a friend with a Mac and ask them to access the documents.
– Paul found an Adaptec USB Exchange Storage Controller fast SCSI 1.5 megabits/sec USB converter for $33 from the CWC Group. To find more, google the words USB SCSI.
– The old Macs may require a Torx driver to open the case.

Glenn said there was an article about a Google's Street View vehicle that crashed and it mentioned that Google has automated vehicles that have logged 160,000 hours. The headline read "Google Self-driving Car Crash Caused by Human Error". Glenn thought that it was navigating by itself but Paul was incredulous — too many things to go wrong.
If you go to and enter an address you'll see blue lines that indicate which streets have been photographed by their Street View cameras.

Paul talked about house concerts — concerts at a private venue and by invitation. With the advent of Facebook & social media, house concerts have really blossomed. Locally there's The Tin House and they have a Facebook page for further info. Being of limited size, many house concerts don't issue open invitations but use an email address that you RSVP for a firm invitation. Paul loves house concerts for their intimacy and access to the artists.
More about Tin House here.

Betsy called. She's been trying to get the list of music in her iTunes to appear in the order that she purchased it.
– In iTunes go to view -> options and put check marks where it says 'date added' & 'purchase date'. That gives you 2 more columns in the list. Click 'ok' to exit.
– Then go to view -> list and click at the top of the 'date added' column. That sorts the list by date added. Click again & it reverses the order (latest added is either at the top of the list or the bottom)

Betsy also asked about having 2 laptops with the same iTunes files on both.
– Apple may allow you to do that but check with Apple or do a search.
– If the machines are on the same network, you can share the list on one machine and play it on the other.
– To do that go to edit -> preferences -> sharing and use 'share my library on a local network'. On the other machine "do a search for local libraries" and that should find the shared music.
Doing that she got an error that said Bonjour is not properly installed and to uninstall & reinstall iTunes. Bonjour & Rendezvous allow Macs & PCs to share libraries of iTunes.
– She'll likely have to follow the instruction to reinstall but, as a disclaimer, you're on your own.

Paul thinks iTunes is the best music management software. It can be used on both the Mac & the PC and you don't need Apple hardware <like iPod> to use it.
However, he has a friend whose music collection completely disappeared after an aborted attempt to upgrade to iTunes 10.4. It turns out iTunes uses a folder in the music folder. In the 'music' folder is a folder called iTunes and in that folder is a hierarchy of folders. There's a setting in iTunes that indicates where those folders are. On his friend's computer, iTunes was pointing to the wrong location. But even when Paul pointed it to the right location, iTunes couldn't find the playlist because iTunes also needs to know where the library is. To get iTunes pointed to the library, start iTunes while holding down the option key or the ALT key on the PC; it will then say "where's the library?".
  Paul said if you're having a similar problem <and you can't figure out what I just wrote>, just send him an email — zen at kvmr dot org

Rick called with an iTunes question. He has an external hard drive with .mp3 files on it and he wants to get iTunes to just play the files from the drive and not to "suck them in".
– iTunes can work in 2 modes. It can take the files off the drive and stick them on your computer ("suck them in")…or not.
– Go to edit -> preferences -> advanced & find where it shows the path to music files. If you click the change button, it allows you to change the path to where the music comes from. And there are 2 important check boxes…
  1) "Keep iTunes media folder organized".
  2) "Copy files to iTunes media folder when adding to playlists".
To do what he wants, he should keep both check boxes unchecked. That way the playlist (.itl files) on the computer's drive will stay updated but the acutal music files won't be copied from the external drive.

Rick then asked if iTunes will then be able to find the music files with the asterisk next to them.
– There's another setting under file -> library -> organize library. Experiment with those settings, but go easy and do a back up first, in case something goes wrong.

Last updated: 5:20 PM 1/13/2012