Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Take Your Movies With You

I'm kinda surprised I haven't gone over this yet.  I get asked about this pretty often these days. So here goes.

Memory is pretty cheap these days.  I've been buying up jump drives and memory cards like crazy especially since I'm doing all this mobile stuff.  Since I've been showing off all my mobile gadgets everyone's been asking how I got my movies to be mobile.

A lot of movie studios are making digital copies available when you buy the DVD or Blu-Ray, but you only get one use of the packaged code.  Lose it or screw up the process and kiss your digital copy goodbye.  Did I mention those digital copies are huge downloads.  Expect to download at least 750 megabytes.  There there's software you can buy that'll save you the hassle.  Since there's nothing geeky about that I'll let you look for those on your own.  I'm going to teach you how to do it for free. ;)

My first step is copying my DVD to the hard drive.  You can skip this step at your own peril.  The next step may or may not work without following this step but I like to be cautious.  The reason I go through this step is to get by any protections that may be embedded in the DVD.  I use DVDFab.  Their software suites will do the whole deal for you...if you pay for them.  Backing up your DVD and Blu-Ray though is a free process on the software.  You can save your movie either in a folder or as an ISO file (that's a cd image).  In a pinch, I'll fall back on DVDShrink.

The actual conversion is done with a program called HandBrake.  Remember I said you might be able to skip step 1?  Well you can go straight to HandBrake and try to convert directly off of your CD-Rom or Blu-Ray drive.  I don't recommend it though but you can give it a try if you like.  Handbrake has presents that you can use depending on the device you're converting you movie for.  The difference is really obvious when you watch a movie formatted for an iPod vs one formatted for the iPad.  Keep in mind though that formatting for bigger devices also means bigger file sizes for your movies.
Here's what the HandBrake interface looks like.

If you converted to an ISO, you might need some help making HandBrake recognize it.  Use MagicDisc to mount your ISO so it acts like a Virtual CD-Rom drive.  It'll pop up in HandBrake ready to be converted. Expect conversion to take at least an hour.

It's pretty straightforward stuff.  Once you know the process it's really easy and before you know it you'll be carrying around entire libraries with you.  Good luck and feel free to share your success stories with me.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Announcing Hector's Law

 Seeing how popular this blog has been <insert sarcasm here> just thought I'd take a moment to announce I've just started a new blog: Hector's Law.

Hector's Law is more my dark side than The Renegade Geek is my light side.  That said, expect snark, sarcasm, pessimism, and mind-blowning musings from yours truly.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Goliath. Meet David.

Yes, that's exactly what you think it is.  It's a battery.  Believe it or not it has a very important role to play in keeping your computer working.  That's the CMOS battery and its job is to power the internal real time clock and the BIOS memory.

Why is that important?  First of all the BIOS keeps the important information necessary to start your computer up.  Fortunately, the default configuration will almost always work which is what the BIOS will eternally route to without the CMOS battery.  Unfortunately your computer will always think it's fresh off the manufacturing belt and revert to the date and time hard coded in the CMOS.  Again, not really that much of a problem until you try to start it.

Yeah, it'll stop right there (at least it does on this computer).  But if you listen closely, it beeps once when it starts.  Turns out it's stuck there because there's an error message.  Good thing I know my keyboard shortcuts.  Alt + Tab will show me what's up.

Funny thing is if you actually do nothing for around 5 minutes it'll ignore this and just start up.

Now had this particular computer had a working laptop battery, you could set the time and restart it just fine.  As long as the system has an alternative power source it'll reserve some to keeping the time and date settings.

And why do we get this message?  Once Windows XP detects that your BIOS time is set before 1996 it triggers this error.

Fortunately for me, the battery on this particular laptop was pretty easy to get to.  I know a few models that require dismantling the entire blamed thing. Trick is now to find a replacement.  The battery itself is common (you probably have one in your wristwatch...if people are still wearing those); it's the attachments you've got to worry about.  I'm considering jimmying a standard CR2016 battery if I can't find one that's made for computers.  It it turns out to be too much hassle, we're looking at eBay.

Friday, November 23, 2012

My Favorite Apps (Part 2)

I figure by now you guys are tired hearing about the tablet.  Well I had to get back on here because it's like everyday I stumble onto something useful to do with this thing.  I've run through quite a few apps and there'll probably be more but I'm taking it step by step.

For those of you who liked my last list, you'll probably like this one too.  Without further ado, here we go:

1. MangaSearcher

If you've read my blog, you should have seen this one coming.  MangaSearcher brings e-reading goodness to my tablet.  I used to use something similar on my cell phone but reading manga on the small screen was just a pain in the you know what.  The big screen was just made for this sort of stuff.  One feature I particularly like is that when I call up an issue I want to read it doesn't just link to the issue.  It downloads it so that I can put it aside and read it offline if I want.  Don't worry about it downloading all 610 chapters of Naruto though (for those of you who keep up), it only retrieves the listing when you first ask for a refresh.  If you want a specific issue you have to click it directly.  Make sure you have enough internal memory though.


It really kicks the llama's ass.  LOL!  Yes, Winamp is classic music player and it does just what I need it to do on the tablet.  It would have been Doubletwist here but it decided to get all kooky on me when I insisted it check for music on the microSD card.  All the basics are here: search, playlists, organization by song, artist, genre and album.  There's also SHOUTcast for web radio, a store to buy upgrades (that famous equalizer is gonna cost you) and a link for Free Music (takes you to Spinner for MP3 downloads and Full CD Listening Party for streaming albums).  One thing I noticed though is it's obvious this was made mainly for the cell phone format.  When you place the long ends towards the ground the album art gets really tiny.  Personally all that empty space drives me nuts so I keep it in book mode (I just invented that term) when I use it.

3. Amazon Kindle

No, my tablet's not a Kindle.  But it can run the Amazon Kindle app.  I've only got two e-books so far (Les Miserables and Shakespeare's Sonnets; FOR FREE!), but I think I can totally get into this e-book thing.  It's really easy to use too.  Just link it to your Amazon account and shop.  You can do it from your tablet or on your PC.  The app will since to check if you bought anything and it'll pop up in your Kindle library.

4. Advanced Task Killer

A must have especially for this tablet.  You let too many apps run wild in the background and this thing'll get much much slower than it needs to be.

5. Dolphin Browser

The built in browser is ok, but I wasn't impressed.  I played with Firefox and found it too bulky and it had trouble with certain links.  Dolphin Browser is the answer.  It's fast and has all the perks the built in browser have and more.

6. Exodus Live Wallpaper

I've only tried a few live wallpapers but I've been stuck on this one.  It just makes my screen look alive.

7. Skype

I've used Skype in the past as an easy way to call toll free numbers but not really to call anyone else.  But hey, I've got front and back facing cameras so that means video chat.  It's cool to have that available.  Not sure how often I'll use it though.

Thanks all I have this time around.  What are your favorite apps?  I'd love to know.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

More Adventures In Rooting

It's funny how adding a new toy to the family changes your needs.  I have for quite some time been using Easy Tether as my de facto tethering application.  It's one of the few apps I paid actual money for.  While it works great on PCs though it's utterly useless with my tablet.  Remember in a previous post where I said that without WiFi access your tablet experience is severely hindered.  Well you never really feel it until you're stuck without the access.

In response to this, I decided it was time to root my main phone: my Motorola XPERT.
You'd think this would be an easy task considering how much the tech community loves messing with Motorala gear.  Well it turned out that Google was a step ahead of everyone.  Since I upgraded to Android 2.3.5 on my phone it was quite a search to find a method to root it.  But I found one and I'm now enjoying the benefits of a rooted phone.

See that photo?  I'm showing off three things here.  First you'll notice that big WiFi symbol.  I installed WiFi Tether and now I can connect my Android tablet to my Android phone for WiFi.  Neat huh?  You'll also see that ghostly blue box that's letting me know Screenshot FREE has Superuser permission.  Fun fact, taking a screenshot on an Android phone is only possible if it's rooted.  That's show off #3: the screenshot itself.

Now naturally this didn't go as well as I had hoped.  For some strange reason my phone sometimes changes my time forward by 4 hours.  I'm guessing this has to do with Sprint homebase being somewhere in the mid-west.  True story: My bank called me one time because they wanted to know why my online account was being accessed somewhere in the mid-west.  It seems to be a minor annoyance right now and it might actually phase itself out *crossing fingers*.  The other annoyance is the built in Sprint app that pops up a warning telling me it can't connect because the service isn't enabled.  Sprint's already collecting an extra $10 a month from me for "premium data" so there's no way I'm letting them charge me for anything else.  Again, it's an annoyance I can live with.

Question now is what else do I want to mess with now that my phone is rooted?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

My Favorite Apps

I'm starting to get the hang of this tablet thing.  If I didn't mention it before I rooted my Coby Kyros allowing me to do more with that tablet than I could out of the box.  So after these past few weeks I've settled on what are now my favorite apps.  Maybe you might like them too.

Wanna take a screen shot on Android?  Gotta root it first. ;)

1.  Google Play

Sorry GetJar, but you are a sad and pale imitation of the Google Play store.  Even Amazon Appstore kicks your ass.  You really don't miss Google Play until you can't use it anymore.  It's opened up a whole new world for my tablet.

2.  ES File Explorer

Yeah, it's the stock file explorer that came with the tablet but once it gets root access it earns its keep.  Keep in mind though that even if you root your device you have to specifically enable root browsing in ES File Explorer.  It's a safety feature because you don't want to mess with root files unless you know what you're doing.  It comes bundled with a decent media player and a process explorer too but I rarely use either.

3.  Facebook

The app is surprisingly better to use than the tablet's browser.  Go figure.

4.  News Republic

What can I say, I like to stay informed.  News Republic will pull current news from a number of sources based on any topic I designate.  I can add new buttons to the front page if for some reason I want to constantly look up news related to the Playstation 3 (not that I've actually done that but now that the idea springs to mind I'll definitely try it and see what happens).  It also pops up breaking news from time to time.  Cool app!

5.  Wifi File Transfer

Because sometimes I don't want to be bothered with finding the mini-USB cable.  Once I enable Wifi File Transfer I can use a browser on a networked computer to explore the files in the tablet.  Not only that but I can upload and download files as well.

6. TripleTown

You know I had to come to a game eventually.  TripleTown is addictive as all hell.  It's a puzzle game where you try to construct the best town.  What's really evil about it though is in its free mode you only get 150 turns that refresh slowly as time goes by.  If you want unlimited play you have to pay for the app.

7.  Battery Solo Widget

Once common trend among all Android devices in my opinion is that the battery analyzer visual just sucks.  I like being able to look at my screen and knowing at a glance how much juice I have left. This app is simple but effective.

8.  Netflix

It can get a little slow on this tablet, but Netflix is still pretty handy.  I could tell you where I especially like watching Netflix but I don't think you'd appreciate the visual.

9.  Draw Something

Another game. The reason I like this so much on a tablet is because I suck so bad at this game on my mobile phone.  Small screens, man fingers, do the math.  At least with the tablet I can keep up with my friends who inexplicably seem capable of constructing elaborate portraits in this game.

10.  MX Player

The built in movie player is a bit limited.  I found that out when I loaded my 32 gig microSD card with all my iTunes formatted movies.  MX Player plays what I need flawlessly and even supports subtitles.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Recharging USB Devices Faster

Here's a common sight these days.  Your average office worker discovers that their phone/tablet/iPod/whatever is low on juice so they pull out a USB cable that fits said device and plugs it into their computer.  It wasn't until this week that a noticed something peculiar. 

For the third time in this blog I'm mentioning my (semi) new tablet.  It's important because I got the realization from that.  My office PC has three available USB ports in the front.  One is always in use for my WiFi.  The other is always in use for my wireless mouse (it's mine by the way, not the government's).  That leaves me just one to freely use for jump drives and charging.  Sometimes though I need to charge my cell phone too.  Good thing I bought one of these.

Mine's red :)
I notice though that the device that charges from the wall charger will be fully charged well before the device charged from the computer USB port.  Turns out there's a logical explanation for this.  A typical USB 2.0 port pumps out around 500 mA of power while a wall charger can supply somewhere in the range of 1000 mA.  Car chargers can supply up to 2000 mA (which is why my stuff charges so quickly in the car).

So what do you think?  Is doubling the speed of your recharge worth the price?  I think it is.  A quick search on eBay and you can pick up a wall charger for around $5.  Just watch out for the vendors from China though or you'll be waiting at least a month for your item.