Category Archives: Tweaks & Tech

Thoughts Tweaks & Tech

‘Tis not for i (at least not at this point)

A coworker recently bought an iPad and I had a chance to play around with it for a bit.

It’s a nifty device, and like any other geek I had fun messing around with it – c’mon, it’s a new toy!  That being said though, I do not see myself getting one any time soon.

I’ve never really jumped on the Apple bandwagon.  (I got my first ever iPod last month – because it was given to me)  Yet I have to admit, the interface, the convenience, the simple usability of Apple’s products tend to be spot-on.  In fact, I’m considering (just considering mind you) getting an iPhone when the 4.0 OS comes out.  (but I also plan on looking at available Android models as well)

The iPad really does feel like a gigantic iPhone though.  The screen space is certainly enticing, and browsing entire websites or using the various reading apps available is a treat.  I think that as a media/entertainment device, it will (and already has) appeal to a large number of people.  My coworker got it specifically because he’s able to read download and read entire newspapers while on the train.

For me though, the appeal isn’t quite strong enough for me to rush out and buy it.  It’s heavier than my Kindle, and I already read too much on that to feel the need to get another e-reading device.   I’ll be sticking with what I have for the time being. 🙂

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Tweaks & Tech

Fixed-width printing in IE6

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve had the time (and I suppose inclination) to update things.  What with one thing after another, I’ve either been too busy or too tired to post.

But it’s been a moderately quiet day – and I feel like putting something up 🙂

I’ll save other posts for later (posts that I need to upload pictures for) and will just write a little tech-related blurb.  Probably not useful for the majority of folks, but something I can use for future reference.

In the office we have a web-based vendor application that is fairly ancient.  The hardware itself is not too terribly antiquated, and the OS is running WinXP, but the client application requires requires either Netscape 4.x or IE6(!).  This system has been in place since before I started working here about 4 years ago, and hasn’t really needed much in terms of maintenance.  However, a couple of weeks ago, the hard drive crapped out – from the sound of things I’d guess that the actuator arm was either broken or stuck as it would give a few loud clicks and then putter out.

We replaced the computer, downgraded to IE6 and all seemed well until the users tried to print – turned out that most of the pages were just a few millimeters too wide and would get clipped off during the printing.  So I started troubleshooting…

Initially I thought that it was an issue with the printer driver (we also installed a new printer).  However, I soon noticed that not all pages were clipped off when printing, only some with a few extra characters in a cell.

Turns out that IE7 and above have an auto-fit feature, but not IE6.  When I spoke with the users, I found that they had previously used Netscape which I assume had a method for adjusting page size.

So… I started looking for older versions of Netscape.  I did find them at the old Netscape archive, but was unable to export a necessary security certificate from IE6 to that version of Netscape.  I considered other workarounds like saving the webpage to USB drive and bringing that to a computer with IE7 – which worked, but was not particularly handy.  I also tried saving in different formats and seeing if those would print any differently (it didn’t).  It was an annoying issue – something so minor, but aggravating!

Finally after Googling for IE6 shrink-to-fit alternatives (I quickly found that I was not the only one with this problem!), I came across THIS site.

Adrian’s fix requires the installation of an ActiveX control which then creates a new printer icon that adjusts the page you’re trying to print to the width of the paper.  I don’t pretend to understand exactly how it works, but I do know that it worked perfectly!

It is pretty awesome that a bit of software created almost 7 years ago is still so handy – and best of all FREE!

Tweaks & Tech

Google Chrome

I use Chrome exclusively at on my home computer – have done so ever since it came out.  It’s blazing fast, I love the search-in-address-bar feature, and it’s quite stable.  Plus, with the newly implemented extensions capabilities, it can be just as full-featured as Firefox.  I still use the Firefox+noScript combination at work though – I don’t like the fact that Chrome doesn’t allow the option of specifying just WHERE you want to have it install to.  Found out the hard way after installing at work and wondering why suddenly it was taking forever to log on and off my system.  Of course, it was the Chrome install, which had bloated my profile by several hundred meg.

For home use though, I think Chrome can’t be beat (though I still use IE for work access).  Here’s a rather neat video showing the capabilities of Google Chrome.  A low-tech (but effective) advertisement from a highly technology-driven company.

Tweaks & Tech


Holy smokes, I just noticed that the spam count has skyrocketed – over 600+ spam comments caught this month alone!  It would appear that spammers don’t take holiday breaks – December 25-26 (depending on which timezone you happen to be in) has Akismet catching well over 100 spam comments.  Spammers need to get a life, seriously.

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Tweaks & Tech

DIY – window screen

My new place doesn’t have any real windows.  Rather, the 2 rooms have glass sliding doors that open up onto a small balcony.  The kitchen has a tiny little window that’s more to help the air circulate than to let in any light.  It’s certainly not intended to be used as window to look out onto any kind of scenery – it doesn’t open far enough!

Ideally I would want to leave this little “window” open all day.  Since I keep the balcony doors closed and locked (Japan may be a safe country compared to most other countries, but I’m just not that trusting), my place is always more than a little stuffy when I get home.  Having that little window left open would help circulate the air a little.  The problem?  It doesn’t have a screen!  The window may not be big enough to open up to any kind of scenery – but it’s more than big enough to let the “skeeters” (mosquitos) in.  So… leaving it open is a definite no-no, especially since summer is coming around.

I decided I needed a screen.

Obviously it would have to cover the entire window, and for a while I toyed with the idea of getting a big sheet of netting and wrapping it around the bars outside (the reason the window can’t open up very wide is because of the bars – they do make the outside of my place look a little like a prison, I have to say…).

However, I decided that was impractical.  I needed something on the inside, something that would allow me to open or close the window as needed.  This meant that I couldn’t just stick a netting on the front and leave it (unless I planned on taking down the netting each time I wanted to open/close the window).  I decided to try sewing a zipper onto the screen.

There’s a large sewing/arts/crafts/knitting shop 10 minutes away from my place and I got a zipper, thread, and needles for about 600 yen.  I got the netting and some magnets from Tokyu Hands for about 500 yen.  It took me a good hour/hour and a half to put it all together… but I did it!

I measured out the size of the netting to match the dimensions of the window and cut it just a little bigger.  Then I took a pair of scissors and made a half-centimeter-thick cut up the middle the netting, just long enough to match the length of the zipper.  Finally, I painstakingly sewed the zipper on (only pricking myself once I might add!).

Once all that was finished, I decided to strengthen the sides of the netting by stapling on some discarded polypropylene strapping I had lying around, and voila – my own homemade screen! 🙂

I hung in in place with a few thumbtacks and now my little window stays open all day! (It does let in more noise, but I can live with it).

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P.S. You can barely see them in the 4th and 6th pictures, but the little magnets also serve their purpose – I glued them onto the window sill and the staples (that I had used on the strapping) hang on just strongly enough to prevent the bottom of the screen from flapping around and letting bugs in. 🙂

Tweaks & Tech


A new kind of search engine just launched today.  Dubbed a “computational knowledge engine”, it leverages Mathematica, an extremely powerful technical computing software.  I played around with Mathematica very briefly while in university, but math has always been beyond my ken and my experience with the software was very akin to that of someone gingerly prodding a mysterious and somewhat frightening object with a stick.  It didn’t bite back, but I knew to leave well enough alone.  I did realise that it was capable of much more than I could ever hope to understand though, and the thought left me somewhat wistful even as I bid it adieu.

Now it’s back, and in a much more accessible form dubbed Wolfram|Alpha.  Aside from what I think is a very cool name, it makes complex mathematical calculations possible even by people who are as mathematically dense as myself.  Beyond that though, it presents information in all sorts of fascinating ways as you can see below.

The first query was of my company’s name, and the second was of a random math formula that I ripped off Wikipedia (heavens, don’t even think I would claim to have the slightest inkling of what that formula is looking for – all mathematical formulas make me go cross-eyed >_<)

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You can even do a search for “mongolia weather” or (this is very cool) “International Space Station 4/6/09 at 7:45pm

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Wolfram|Alpha is no Google killer, at least not yet.  The vast majority of internet surfers are not going to change over anytime soon, not when Google finds relevant information so quickly, and so accurately on such a wide range of queries such as telephone numbers to that bakery store down the street, addresses/directions to Yokohama, images of lolcats, reviews of the new Star Trek movie, links to downloads, walkthroughs on gamefaqs… heck, the everyday questions one comes up with.   Wolfram|Alph DOES shine when it comes to more scientific/professional usage, and I can see it becoming a big hit with that community.

It’s still in it’s early stages though.  Google didn’t get to where it is now overnight, and I have a feeling that as time goes by, Wolfram|Alpha will definitely improve and become more accessible.  At the very least it will serve as competition to Google and give users another way to access the constantly expanding amount of data that’s out there.

Tweaks & Tech

Google Chrome tweaks – Accessing Hotmail

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  Last night while troubleshooting Meg’s computer, I learned that Hotmail does not appear to work in Chrome (as of build  You are able to log on to Windows Live, and view your inbox, but are unable to click on any of the messages.  That is rather bizarre, and I don’t know whether the fault lies with the Google or Microsoft.

Personally I like Firefox at work with the NoScript plugin for security, and like Chrome for use at home due to its speed.   Also, I don’t use hotmail (prefer GMail) so it took me a little while to figure this particular puzzle out.

The solution that seems to have solved the trick involves the following steps:

  • Close chrome, making sure no instances are running
  • Go to your desktop (or wherever your shortcut to Chrome is located), and right click on the Chrome shortcut, choosing “properties”
  • When the properties box comes up, look for the “Target” field and paste the following after \chrome.exe:

–user-agent=”Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US) AppleWebKit/525.19 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/3.1 Safari/525.19″

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Two points to be aware of:

  1. Make sure there is a space between chrome.exe and the text you paste (for example: \chrome.exe –user-agent….)
  2. Make sure there are actually TWO hyphens before the word “user” (ie [hyphenhyphen]user-agent, NOT just [hyphen]user-agent)

After you’ve pasted that line after chrome.exe, hit OK, and you should be set!  Double-clicking on the Chrome shortcut should bring up Chrome normally and you should now be able to access the site and logon to check your mail without any problems.

Hopefully this issue will be resolved fairly soon…

Source: Google Chrome Release Blog

Tweaks & Tech

WordPress tweaks – resolving character encoding issues

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Yay – I’m finally able to type in Japanese on WordPress!  I wasn’t able to do so when I was writing about my Kusatsu experiences because of character encoding issues.  Every time I tried writing any Japanese characters, they would display as question marks (??????)

However, after searching around (yay for Google), I found that commenting out 2 lines in the wp-config.php file resolves this issue.

Just for reference, in case anyone stumbles across this post while trying to resolve the same issue, the following lines need to be commented out:

define(‘DB_COLLATE’, ”);
define(‘DB_CHARSET’, ‘utf8’);

Commenting out is easily done, by adding two forward slashes in front of those lines, like so:

//define(‘DB_CHARSET’, ‘utf8’);
//define(‘DB_COLLATE’, ”);

Just remember: BACKUP your original wp-config file – work on a copy, so that you can always restore the original file if something goes wrong!

As a final note, also make sure that permissions to the file are correctly set – for some reason, uploading the edited file removes some of the original permissions, and I have to manually reset them to match the original settings.

Final note!  I would recommend using a program such as Notepad (or even better, Notepad++) to make any edits.  I originally tried Dreamweaver but that scrambled something and WP wouldn’t even let me access the admin logon page anymore…  (x_x)