My Blog Returns in Perfect Tact

Sort of. The previous formatting disappeared as did the few photos I had uploaded. But at least it’s a start.

My blog went offline after some technical issues several years ago which I never really felt compelled to fix. Getting it up and running again was one of my New Year’s resolutions. I’m doing better with those this year than I think I ever have in the past (mainly because “lose weight” wasn’t on the list this year).

How To Delete Your Last Name from Your Google/Gmail Account

I wanted my Gmail account to show only my first name, but they insist on requiring you to enter a last name. I entered “Chris” as my first and last name. You can also enter a “nickname” which is supposed to be the name displayed when you send an e-mail; however, it doesn’t always work. I recently sent myself a location from Google Maps (click a location pin on the map, click “more,” then click Send), and the “from” name on the message I sent myself was “Chris Chris,” not my nickname.

I tried entering a blank space for my last name but that didn’t work. I figured out you could use an “alternate” blank space to successfully accomplish this. Instructions are below, but this only works on Windows computers (maybe someone will read this and post instructions for how to do it on a Mac).

  1. Go to
  2. Next to the “Email” heading click the “Edit” link.
  3. Remove whatever is in the “Last Name” field. (Click anywhere in the field, hit Ctrl-a, then the Delete key.)
  4. With the cursor still in the “Last Name” field, hold down the Alt key and enter the following numbers from your keyboard’s keypad: 0160
  5. Click “Save.”

Note that you must enter the above numbers from the keypad; using the regular number keys in the main part of your keyboard won’t work. Also note the Alt key needs to be held down the entire time you are entering the four numbers.

After I did this I came back to the Google account email settings page later to see if the blank space was there and it wasn’t. The “Last Name” field was empty; no blank space, no nothing. It looks like they will accept an alternate blank space without throwing up the “Required field cannot be left blank” message , but filter it out later. I sent myself a test message and there was no blank space where my last name should have been; the “from” name was only “Chris.”

Firefox Alt-Click Download

It used to be that you could alt-click a link in Firefox (the Web browser) and it would automatically download the target of that link to the default download location on your computer (specified in Tools > Options > General) without popping up a dialog box or requiring any other action on your part. It was extremely convenient. However, in Firefox version 13 that option was disabled. Here’s how to put it back.

Note: The following requires modifying your computer’s system files. Although I’ve tested and use these modifications on my own computer and verified they are safe, I’m not responsible for any damage to your computer that might arise as a result of attempting these modifications—proceed at your own risk!

  1. In the Firefox address bar enter: about:config
  2. You’ll get a warning message asking you if you want to proceed. Click the button if you do.
  3. At the top of the new window will be a search box. Enter: altclicksave
  4. You’ll see a line that stars with browser.altClickSave. Double click on that so that the “Value” column reads “true.”
  5. Restart Firefox.

Note: The following requires modifying your computer’s system files. Although I’ve tested and use these modifications on my own computer, I’m not responsible for any damage to your computer that might arise as a result of attempting these modifications—proceed at your own risk!

OS X Lion Problems

I recently upgraded my Mac mini to OS X Lion (from Snow Leopard) and discovered two very annoying problems that were not present in Snow Leopard. Both stem from the fact that I have a two-monitor setup: a regular computer monitor connected to the display port as my primary display, and a television connected to the HDMI port as my secondary display.

The first problem I encountered was when I tried to select HDMI as the audio source. I couldn’t. I tried to select it in the Sound panel of the System Preferences, but it kept reverting back to “headphones” as the output (“headphones” means anything plugged into the headphone jack—in my case it’s desktop speakers). After some Google searching that lead nowhere, I decided to unplug the speakers to see what happened and low and behold, I was able to select HDMI for audio output. After further searching, I discovered that Apple considers this a feature and not a bug. This Apple support article says this behavior was added “to mimic the mutually exclusive speaker behavior of iMac and Apple display products that use Mini DisplayPort or Thunderbolt,” whatever the heck that means. Their only “solution” is to unplug the speakers from the back of the Mac mini every time you want to use HDMI for sound. What a pain (and a bunch of wear and tear on the headphone jack).

The second problem is that apps will not display full screen in a secondary monitor. If you attempt to set them to full screen, they will jump to the primary monitor. I used to be able to play video full screen on the television while working (or surfing the Web or whatever) on my main monitor; I can no longer do that. I can view video in the secondary monitor in a window, but then I’m stuck with the window title and status bars, and the video is never as big as it could be.

The HDMI sound issue is an inconvenience, but the full screen video issue is ridiculously bad. A quick Google search turns up a ton of forum posts about this (even in Apple’s own support forums) by people who are scratching their heads at best and outraged at worst. Lion was released almost a year ago, and Apple shows no signs of wanting to address this issue. Shame on them.

Delete a Project in GarageBand 11

I’ve been fooling with Apple’s GarageBand 11 on my MacMini. In the process I created a bunch of test projects, none of which I had any intention of keeping. To my astonishment, I could find no way to delete unwanted projects from within the GarageBand application. Even a Google search didn’t turn up much relevant information, which was equally astonishing. Here’s how I was eventually able to delete the projects.

(This assumes you store your GarageBand projects in the default folder. If you don’t, you’re on your own to navigate to the correct folder in step 3.)

  1. Quit GarageBand (this isn’t really necessary but is a good idea).
  2. Open Spotlight search by either clicking the magnifying glass in the upper right corner of the menu bar or hitting command-space bar.
  3. Type: garageband folder
  4. Hit enter. This should open a Finder window with the contents of the folder your GarageBand projects are stored in.
  5. Select the project(s) you wish to delete.
  6. Hit command-delete to send them to the trash folder.

I Got an iPad

I love my iPhone and I’ve wanted a tablet for some time. The iPad was an obvious choice but I was put off by the high price tag.

I looked into a couple of lower-cost alternatives to the iPad. I tried the Amazon Kindle Fire last year but wound up returning it. I really liked the form factor and great price, but it was clunky compared to my iPhone and you’re stuck with Amazon’s anemic App Store if you want to add new apps.

I also looked at Sony’s Tablet S, which I was very impressed with. It has a unique “folded magazine” shape and was very pleasant to hold; even though it’s about the same weight as the iPad 2 it felt lighter. It also has a higher resolution screen than the iPad 2 and lets you add external storage in the form of an SD card which no Apple iOS product does.

While I was pondering my non-Apple tablet choices, Apple announced their new iPad. The big selling point is a remarkable 2048-by-1536 pixel screen—double that of the previous iPad and unmatched by any other tablet on the market today. One of the things I wanted to use a tablet for was reading, and thoughts of looking at text on an astronomically high pixel-per-inch-count display was too much to resist. Yes the Sony tablet was less expensive, but I reasoned that the cost would be offset by the fact that I had already invested in dozens of apps on my iPhone that could be installed on my iPad for free, where as if I bought the Sony tablet I’d be starting from scratch, thereby effectively increasing the start up cost of ownership. (Yes, I’m very good at talking myself into splurgy electronics purchases when I want to be.) So I bought one. White. 64 GB. Wi-fi only.

It’s been three weeks now, and I LOVE my iPad. It’s at least 1,000 times better than my iPhone for surfing the Web, making music, gaming, watching video, and for reading any block of text that’s longer than a phone number. No you can’t slip it in your pocket like an iPhone, but the new iPad has a higher resolution screen than my 24″ desktop computer monitor and you can take it with you to the bathroom. That is awesome.

There are some disappointments that I can live with but just can’t seem to get used to. It’s heavy, the edges are just slightly sharp, and I just can’t seem to find a way to hold it comfortably for long periods of time. The speaker is terrible; it’s tiny, located on the bottom, and projects the sound backwards away from you. And there’s only one speaker; this is a premium multimedia device, couldn’t they add a second, stereo speaker? The screen, as amazing as it is, is very glossy, and you spend too much time trying to find just the right angle to view the screen without nearby light sources masking the display. There’s also no GPS; you don’t get a GPS unless you buy one of the even more costly cellular-enabled models, and I didn’t want to do that.

Problems aside, I am now as hooked on my iPad as I have been to my iPhone.

Port of Yokohama Bing Desktop Photo

I was at a Microsoft Store and one of the demo laptops had a background image that really caught my eye. Upon closer inspection I realized it was Yokohama, Japan, a place I had visited many times when I lived in Tokyo. The salesperson said I could download the image online, but I couldn’t find it on Microsoft’s website. After some searching I was able to find it on their French-language website. Here is a direct link to the image:

If you’re using a Windows computer you can simply click the link, then right-click the image and choose Set As Desktop Background.

Incidentally, Microsoft has a ton of other great images for download for use as a desktop background; find them here:

Password Security

Think your password is secure? Don’t assume it is. Here a nifty new site that will let you check and see:

If your password would only take a short time (less than a few hours) to crack, try adding one more character and see what a dramatic difference it makes. Also try adding a symbol or two (!#$%^&*), or making one or more letters UPPER CASE.

Of course there are some factors that website can’t account for. For example, if your e-mail address was and you used your username (“johnsmith”) as your password, that would be simple to guess. Also, if your birthday was January 1, 1970, and you used john1170 as your password, someone that knows you might be able to figure that out after only a few guesses. Overall though, it’s a very interesting and useful site.

iPhone Compass Interference Problem

I have an iPhone 3GS. I’m not sure why but the compass stopped working. (Maybe because the phone is a couple of years old, has some cracks in the case, and has seen heavy use.) When I’d start the compass (or any app that used the compass) I’d get a message about interference and an instruction to swirl the phone around in a figure 8.

I tried the using the compass away from all electronics or other metal objects that might cause interference and swirled it around in a figure 8 until my arm was about to fall off. Nothing got it working. Finally after some Google-assisted research someone suggested moving a magnet near the phone.

I had trepidations about putting a magnet near a sensitive electronic device (magnets can erase hard drives), but I figured what the heck, let’s try it.

I grabbed a flat refrigerator magnet, fired up the compass app, slowly moved the magnet close to the right side of the case, and when it got about 1/8″ from the side of the case, BINGO—the interference message disappeared and the compass was working again! No problems with the phone that I can tell, and the compass is pointing in the right direction.

Now I can finally try that SkyView app I bought the other day.

Edit with Photoshop… Shortcut in Windows 7

In a previous post I talked about adding a context-menu shortcut to Windows that would allow you to right-click on a JPG file and get an “Edit with Photoshop…” shortcut right at the top. Very handy.

Unfortunately this does not work in Windows 7 because there is no “File Types” menu like there was in Windows XP. As I am quickly (and somewhat painfully) learning, the designers at Microsoft purposely left a bunch of stuff out of Windows 7 in an effort to make it “less noisy.” Great.

You can still add this convenient shortcut to Windows 7.

Note: The following requires modifying your computer’s system files. Although I’ve tested and use these modifications on my own computer, I’m not responsible for any damage to your computer that might arise as a result of attempting these modifications—proceed at your own risk!

  1. Open Notepad. Copy and paste the following text exactly as shown:
    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
    @="Edit With Photoshop..."
    @="\"C:\\Program Files\\Adobe\\Adobe Photoshop CS4 (64 Bit)\\Photoshop.exe\" %1"
  2. This is the only potentially tricky part: The last line of the above code contains the path to your Photoshop.exe file. If you’re using Photoshop CS4 64 bit and it’s installed in the default location on your C: drive you’re in luck because you can leave the line alone. If you’re using a different version of Photoshop or have it installed in a location other than the default you will need to change the line to match the location of Photoshop.exe.* Note that the line has two backslashes (\\) where file paths usually have one; take care to leave the two backslashes in place, as they are necessary in this instance.
  3. Save the file to your desktop, and name it “owp.reg” (without the quotes).
  4. Find the file on your desktop and double click it. You will have to answer yes to a few security questions to get it to install. After it does, try right-clicking on a .jpg file; Open with Photoshop… should appear second on the list in the context menu. Selecting it should open the file in Photoshop.

* If you’re not sure where Photoshop.exe is, an easy way to find it is to click the Start button, then type Photoshop.exe in the Search programs and files box. Don’t hit enter, just type the name. Photoshop.exe should then appear at the top of the Start menu. Right-click on it and choose Open file location. The path should appear at the top of the Explorer window that opens.