Thursday, November 27, 2008

I need a place to host arbitrary files.

There are plenty of places where one can host photos for free. I have an account at Picasa Web Albums which Blogger uses by default. However, what about hosting arbitrary files? I'm aware of sites like RapidShare, but they annoy the downloader with captchas, waits and annoying ads. They seem to mainly be used for piracy (eg. search Google for rapidshare), probably because that's the only use where such a level of annoyance is accepted. I want a place for legal content, so there must be a better alternative. I asked Reddit about this and got a few suggestions.

Warped suggested file dropper. It seemed familiar and I wondered if it was the site which had a promotion a while ago, giving out free premium accounts. I was right, I was able to log in and I was told "Storage: 0Mb / 250Gb Paid Until: Jan 18th, 2038". I was impressed that the site is still up and responsive. However, they also say "The files are kept forever as long as they are being downloaded.", which means that I have no idea how long files would stay up. Other sites at least give some specific number of days since last download.

Picklegnome suggested It's a site I didn't know about. What I see there seems impressive. Drops can be set to remain for up to a year since last view, and the demo video shows an amazing array of features. So I created my drop at There's nothing there now, but I expect to start using it soon, relating to some upcoming posts.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Looking back on how I stopped scrobbling to

Occasionally when listening to music I remember it's not scrobbled to anymore, and for a moment I feel as if that's a bad thing. Then I remember wasn't useful. I also remember how memorable times involving music are memories in my mind, not lists of songs on a web site.

It might be cool if supported journal entries linked to a particular range time and playlist of tracks listened then. I'm not sure if that would be useful because I'm not sure if I could put those experiences into words in an appropriate way, and I'm not sure if they'd be useful later. However, I'd be interested in trying.

Copying Vista firewall rules

The Windows Firewall with Advanced Security in Vista has a way to export a list of rules, but it has no way to import rules. The only import I could see was for policies, and that to a warning that the current policy will be overwritten. So I searched through the registry for a rule name using regedit and I found HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\SharedAccess\Parameters\FirewallPolicy\FirewallRules. All the rules are there, in human readable format.

I exported that to a .reg file. I used find "Dir=Out" to extract the outgoing rules I wanted and then I edited it in a text editor to remove some more rules and the registry file header. (Grep didn't work initially because the file was UTF-16. Find converted it to an 8 bit encoding but that was okay.) After importing the .reg file on another computer, the rules appeared in the console, but they were not in effect, and attempts to disable or enable them caused errors. I thought the firewall hadn't loaded the rules, so I rebooted. Finally everything worked properly.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Olympus C-770 Super Zoom button circuit board replacement

Earlier I posted about how my camera broke and Olympus refused to help me get the part I needed. Fortunately Black's Photo referred me to another local photo store, which referred me to Nortown Photo, who were helpful and willing to order the part and ship it to me.

Here's the new part, VG052500:

Here is the old one, still glued to a metal plate which also supports the big LCD:

Here are the slide switch contacts. The problem is the connection to the left bottom contact, which is cut at the horizontal line caused by wear from switch sliding. Note that the new part came with the whole slide switch already installed on the board.

The old circuit board had to be removed from the metal plate. It came off like tape. The glue held quite well but it wasn't too hard. Most of the glue stayed on the circuit board, but some remained on the metal plate.

The new circuit board did not come with any glue on the back, and the glue remaining on the metal was insufficient and insufficiently sticky. I cleaned the metal plate with isopropyl alcohol and my nails. Then I used some contact cement to glue the new circuit board, making sure it was properly aligned.

Here's the inside of the camera's back with the buttons (separate plastic pieces) in their positions:

Now it was time to attach the metal plate with the button circuit board and large LCD using four flat head screws:

After that, there is a black plastic film which covers the metal part. It was still sufficiently sticky so no additional glue was needed. The rubber backing for the slide switch and copper foil for grounding the top metal plate (backing for top three buttons) were already attached to the plastic. After sticking on the plastic, I attached the top metal plate with two flat screws. Here is the result:

Since it was almost time to attach the back, I took some photos of the camera with the back removed. In the second photo, note the small indentation in the back border of the battery and card compartment. The switch which detects if the compartment is open is there.

Now it was time to connect the three cables. There's the LCD data cable, a two conductor cable which I assume is the LCD backlight, and the button circuit board. The LCD data cable connector has a latch, so I thought it would be easy, but it was the hardest one. Here is the result:

After this I was able to test the camera a bit. Now it was time to figure out what to do with the remaining screws:

The exploded parts diagram was quite helpful and it was all pretty straightforward. I only took photos of the hot shoe because that was tricky to disassemble. There are no screws visible there, but actually the shiny metal is a springy clip which can be pried out to reveal four screws which hold the thick metal hot shoe channel. Below that is one screw which holds the back.

Finally, here is a photo taken using the repaired C-770. At the top you can see the underside of the slide switch and the edges which rub against the circuit board. Below that you can see the old circuit board.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

APC BackUPS ES BE500U-CN pinout

I already found the USB pinout for the RJ45-10 connector on my APC BackUPS ES BE500U-CN UPS, and I constructed a temporary adaptor which works. APC's list of cables implies only USB is supported, but before making the permanent cable, I wanted to see what else is accessible via that connector and maybe find a way to do remote on/off.

Dumb (voltage level) signalling is present. When unplugged, pin 2 goes to just over 12 volts, and applying 12 volts to pin 8 for over a second causes the UPS to shut off with a single short beep one minute later. I didn't test the low battery signal which is supposed to be on pin 3.

Smart (serial communication) signalling doesn't seem to be present. Sending Y at 2400 baud 8,n,1 does not do anything. This agrees with what I've read online about it not working.

I wonder what pins 5 and 6 are for. None of these signalling methods use them and there is no voltage or resistance to ground at them. Maybe they're not used.

My first impression of Vista Media Centre

I normally don't use Windows Media Center in Vista, and I had almost forgotten of its existence. I recently tried it out, both from my computer and via a TV and remote.

At first, whenever I tried to view photos I'd get the spinning circle and have to wait a long time. After trying various things, I found this was due to a turned off network scanner. This problem made no sense; why would Media Center access the scanner when I try to access a folder of photos on my hard drive? After I disabled that imaging device in device manager, the delays were gone.

The next annoying and stupid thing I noticed was file browsing. Videos and photos need to be browsed separately and music must be accessed via a database. What a terrible way to dumb down a computer!

When browsing my photos subdirectory for videos, I found that videos in .MP4 and .MOV containers aren't recognized. Both can play properly in Windows Media Player and .MP4 videos play while browsing photos in Windows Photo Gallery. It's as if they forgot about cameras which record videos in those formats! I was pleasantly surprised by one thing however: .MKV videos played.

Overall the interface was acceptable for selecting and playing supported videos. It certainly wasn't efficient even then however. For example, folders I added were put at the end of the list of folders, and they were added to both photos and videos.

Note that I didn't mention a tuner card. That's because I don't have a supported tuner card. For whatever stupid reason, Media Center has stringent requirements and video in devices supported by Vista aren't automatically supported by Media Center.

I guess Windows Media Centre is okay for occasionally using Vista via a TV. However, I can't imagine dedicating a computer to it.