Friday, April 25, 2008

Control Your Privacy by Preventing Reverse Lookup of Your Phone Number in Google

If you type in your 10-digit phone number into Google's search field, you might be surprised to see that the names and addresses of the members of your household may appear.

Google allows you to remove your name and phone number information from their search engine. Below the search results where your name(s) and address(es) appear, click on the "Request to have your name removed from this list" link. This sends you to the Google Phonebook Name Removal page, where you submit your name, city and phone number to be permanently removed from Google's Phonebook database. Doing so will also prevent lookup of your phone number by searching for your name. Google notes that this can NOT be undone, and your number will never again be listed on Google's Phonebook. Interestingly, there seems to be no particular method of authentication, so it may be that you can remove anyone's name and address from Google Phonebook without permission.

Great $40 Hose Clamp Tool for Modern Constant Tension Radiator Hose Clamps

A couple of weeks ago, the radiator of our 1999 Dodge Caravan developed a leak. Years ago, when we were considering the purchase of this minivan and I'd just opened the hood to look at the engine compartment, I'd proclaimed to my wife that I'd probably be doing far less repairs to this vehicle, if only because access within the engine compartment was terrible. Contemporary vehicles have increasingly made service access more complicated in attempts to package components in either more compact, aerodynamically efficient or aesthetically pleasing form factors.

Despite my growing reluctance to repair our own cars, I decided to do the radiator change myself. Typically one of the less complex procedures, this project took me two days of effort to complete.

Constant Tension Hose Clamp for 1999 Chrysler Radiator

Having owned no vehicles newer than 1986 prior to the Caravan, this was my first experience with the large-scale "constant tension hose clamps" used by many modern manufacturers. These clamps are apparently used to protect the $500 plastic radiators from the indiscriminate use of worm-gear style hose clamps, which could easily crack the plastic hose fittings when tightened. Further, these constant-tension clamps promise to self-adjust to the hose/fitting join as it heats and cools and is subjected to vehicle vibrations.

Our Chrysler factory service manual listed a "special tool" for the task of removing these hose clamps. In the monochromatic artist's rendition of the tool in the manual, I could see it was a longish set of pliers with some kind of shaped tip at the end of the jaws, and a locking mechanism of some kind (in retrospect, these pliers from Sears are probably similar to the Chrysler-specified tool). I decided to see what I could do with my various pliers.

I attempted to release the hose clamp that was most accessible, and with some difficulty I could get the jaws of a set of Channel-Lock adjustable pliers open enough to span the 1.5 inches between the tabs of the clamp. But it was dicey even with easy access. Some of the other clamps I could barely see, much less reach with a pair of pliers. I struggled for some time with various specialty pliers, achieving only enough to convince me that it was going to be impossible to release the least-accessible clamps.

Some online research revealed that the special tool pictured in the Chrysler manual might be only $30 - but I needed the tool ASAP. I also noticed on the Snap-On Tools website a pair of hose-clamp pliers with a flexible shaft for $77. While planning a trip to some local tool stores to seek out some variation of these pliers, it occurred to me that I had not visited the Sears website. This revealed a rich resource in hose-clamp pliers - at least a dozen products. Only two pieces were listed as being available "in-store" rather than online purchase, and one was the Craftsman Cable Operated Hose Clamp Pliers for only $40. The website reported that it was "in stock" in our local store, and I set out on my shopping expedition with high hopes.

Craftsman 28650-998 Cable Operated Hose Clamp Pliers

I was reminded that Sears hardware departments have fairly large automotive specialty tool sections, and located the cable-operated pliers easily.

This tool is fantastic. Initially, I was so focused on the idea of a set of pliers that I thought the remote cable "specialty" tool would be awkward for anything but difficult-to-reach clamps. But in fact, the cable-operated pliers proved perfect for any situation. Whether easy or hard to reach, I could position the working end of the tool on the hose clamp with one hand, then apply slight tension with the other. I'd then use both hands to compress the clamp until the tool's lock clicked, holding the clamp in its released position. I could then move the clamp around while compressed by the tool (always conscious that the tool might slip and release the clamp onto my fingers - quite dangerous - but no slippage has thus far occurred).

Hose Clamp in Tool End - No Tension

Hose Clamp in Tool End - Full Tension

If you live in the United States, there's a good chance that a Sears near you has these clamps. At $40, it's absolutely worth the functionality for one of the best specialty tools I've ever purchased. I've gotten my value from this purchase even if I never use them again.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Synchronize Digital Camera Time Stamps for iPhoto

Whether it's for a family event or a professional shoot, it's useful to have the internal clocks on all the digital still cameras set to the same time. When combining those exposures in one digital album, the images can then be sorted chronologically to the second. With today's vacation outings often sporting a camera for each family member, it's fun to see all the photos taken by everyone in the group in order they were taken.

However, there will be times when you forget to do change the synchronization of the cameras' clocks, or forget to set their clocks after a battery change. Here is my procedure for addressing this after the fact (or during the shoot) when using iPhoto (v6 in my case):
  • With every camera involved, shoot a still photo of the same clock or watch which displays seconds.
    • It is not necessary for the photos from each camera to be taken at the same time. Just take a picture of the clock/watch with every camera sometime during the day.
    • If possible, use a timepiece that you know to be accurate.
    • If some of the cameras don't belong to you, just make sure at some point during the event to walk around with the timepiece and have everyone shoot a close-up of the current time.
  • Import all the images from each camera into iPhoto.
  • Isolate all the images from each camera, either by importing them into separate albums, or by using a Smart Album and using the "Camera Model" criteria filter.
  • Select all the images taken by one camera at the event.
  • Using either Joe's iPhoto AppleScripts for Date Manipulation (for iPhoto versions up to 6) or iPhoto v7's (iPhoto '08) built-in Adjust Date and Time function, adjust the time (and date, if necessary) of all the photos taken by that camera at once, until the time displayed by iPhoto's "information" pane is exactly correct for the image of the clock. This shifts the time/date for all the selected images. At this point, all the other photos' time stamps will be synchronized with your reference timepiece.
    • Repeat this step with every camera's albums, adjusting the time and date of that camera's images to the picture of the timepiece taken with that camera.
  • After performing the previous steps, combine any or all of the images from all cameras in one album. In iPhoto's "View" menu, choose "Sort by Date." All the images will appear in chronological order, regardless of the camera on which they were taken.
    • Note: These changes to time and date stamps are only reflected within iPhoto. If you export image files from iPhoto after adjusting their date and time, other programs that honor their embedded EXIF data will still reflect the original date and time setting of the camera at the time the exposure was taken.
    • If you really get lost with shifting times/dates, you can use the iPhoto Date Reset script in Joe's iPhoto Applescripts to revert the time stamps of any selected images to their EXIF data.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Restore Calendar Hard Button Functionality to Your Palm T|X

Disappointed that your new Palm T|X's "Home" button can't be configured to launch any application, as it has for every previous Palm model?

ButtonsEx is a free utility (donation requested) by Pierre-Yves Tavernier to customize the "hard buttons" and the 5-way controller buttons on the Palm T5, LifeDrive, T|X and Tungsten E2.

How ButtonsEx Fixed SmartLauncher on my Palm T\X

For many years, I've used SmartLauncher software on various Palm Tungstens to
launch my favorite apps with just a couple of presses of the "hard buttons". So it was quite a shock when I discovered that the new Palm T|X's leftmost hard button (by default, the "Calendar" button in previous Palm models) is now the "Home" button, which can only be configured to launch either the Application Viewer or Favorites. This denied my configuring SmartLauncher to utilize this button, thus halving the number of two-button combinations (SmartLauncher can actually do three-button launching, providing hundreds of combinations - but I'm happy with the 24 apps I can launch with two-button mode). I find this change by Palm pretty bizarre - why alienate existing Palm users instead of adding Home as a Button configuration option?

Other hard-button launchers for Palm exist which can work around the Palm T|X home button, including TealPoint Software's TealLaunch and Ranosoft's HBX. I liked HBX very much - it is quick, simple and I like the full-color icon panel it pops up to remind you after the first button press which applications are assigned to the second press. As one of the first Palm launchers, TealLaunch remains not only incredibly awkward and clunky, but stupidly only allows two-button launching of unique pairs of buttons, and does not allow using the same button pressed twice. So for instance, instead of 16 combinations of 4 buttons:
  • 1+1, 1+2, 1+3, 1+4, 2+1, 2+2, 2+3, 2+4, 3+1, 3+2, 3+3, 3+4, 4+1, 4+2, 4+3, 4+4
TealLaunch can only do six:
  • 1+2, 1+3, 1+4, 2+3, 2+4, 3+4
Really strange.

TealLaunch is very elaborate, and allows launching with pen strokes and Graffiti characters, plus combinations of hard buttons and strokes, but I like my multi-button launching, so as I did many years ago, I passed on TealLaunch.

While reviewing which launcher I was going to buy (you can really nickel and dime yourself into some big numbers buying $15 Palm software), I discovered ButtonEx, and now I can continue to use SmartLauncher. SmartLauncher used to be free, but now appears only available from major Palm software sites as a $10 purchase. Its website no longer exists, so I see no evidence of the original developer - too bad.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Why Your TV Won't Work After February 17, 2009

After 67 years, the United States' television standard is being terminated. Older televisions will no longer be able to receive broadcasts through the air after February 17, 2009, and new televisions can receive high-quality HDTV through the air.

I've posted an article about the impending DTV transition and its impact upon the consumer.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Physics Lessons Online

The wonderfully rich Physics 2000 site hosted at the University of Colorado at Boulder features plain explanations and interactive demonstrations of a variety of physics concepts, from how television screens work to the nature of a Bose-Einstein Condensate.