Wired remote control for a BenQ SP831 Projector

October 31st, 2014 No comments

Recently we needed to control a digital projector outside of the IR range of its remote.  The projector and remote were both capable of connecting via a cable, but no documentation was provided on how to do so.  This is what we discovered in testing:

- The plug required is 2.5mm TRS (stereo).  TS did not work.
- Though TRS is required, only two conductors (RS) are used.
- The jack on the remote is recessed far enough that the housing of most 2.5mm plugs we tried prevented them from being plugged in.  We eventually found a mobile phone headset cable that fit.  Its hairlike wires required soldering with painstaking precision.

Due to using pre-installed and unused cable, our finished product was as follows:

Custom-built 2.5mm TRS to RCA adapter -> 50' of RCA cable -> RCA to XLR adapter -> 200' of XLR cable -> custom-built XLR to 2.5mm TRS adapter.

This project would have been significantly simpler if the remote (a) did not have a recessed jack and (b) accepted a TS cable (which would be compatible with TRS).  Since only two conductors are used, it's pointless to design a jack that demands a three-conductor plug.

Update: We discovered that the remote inexplicably stops working if it is plugged in for an indeterminate amount of time.  So, we unplug the remote when it is not in use.

Dairy-free Lemon Tapioca Pudding

October 20th, 2014 No comments

This excellent recipe is just as phenomenal as the original.

2 400 mL cans coconut milk
⅓-½ cup sugar
¼ cup quick cooking (Minute brand or similar) tapioca
1 large egg
Finely-grated rind of ½ lemon
Juice of one lemon

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan.  Beat very well, and then allow to stand for 15 minutes.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring every minute or two to prevent the pudding from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Allow to cool for 30 minutes.  Beat well before serving warm or cold.

Review: Philips SlimStyle LED Bulb

October 19th, 2014 No comments

Canada has already phased out 75- and 100-watt incandescent bulbs, with 40- and 60-watt to follow at the end of the year.  But according to a public opinion poll published on the Toronto Sun's website, 86% of respondents stated they still used incandescent light bulbs.  If this were a political blog, we would explore the topic of why the government is making a product that is used by 86% of voters difficult to buy, instead of encouraging industry to make the alternatives significantly better.  But it isn't, so we won't.

Instead, we'll talk about the new Philips SlimStyle LED bulb.  This bulb was released just this year - none too soon for those who don't care for CFLs, and who have found the performance of every other LED bulb on the market mediocre.

Light quality: Very good.  We could not tell the difference between this and an incandescent bulb.  However, the bulb looked odd in some fixtures when turned to certain angles.

Light quality when dimmed: Noticeable flicker, even though both of the dimmers we used were on the bulb's compatibility list.

Buzz/hum: None observed.

Buzz/hum when dimmed: Moderate.  The bulb could be heard in a quiet room.

RF interference: It was difficult to detect electromagnetic interference, even with a meter.

Price: $6.97 at Home Depot Canada.

More commentary follows.


Lenny, the bot that tricks telemarketers

September 15th, 2014 19 comments

Not all telemarketers are evil.  It's the 99% give the 1% a bad name.

The 99% are the telemarketers who don't respect the Do Not Call List.  Or they purchase a copy of it, and market specifically to it.  Perhaps they're exempt from respecting the DNCL, and they call people who are listed just because they can.  They run credit card or vacation scams.  They spoof their Caller ID so you think it's your neighbour calling you.  They call at 9PM and wake your kids up.

For those telemarketers, there is Lenny.  Lenny is a hilarious set of very convincing recordings designed to fool telemarketers into thinking they've called a real person.  Have a listen:

Want to talk to Lenny, or transfer/conference a telemarketer in with him?  If you use VoIP and can call a SIP URI, he can be reached at sip:13475147296@in.callcentric.com.  Or you can call him at 1-347-514-7296.  (Prank calls to this number are not allowed.  Lenny is for incoming, telemarketing calls only - not for annoying innocent people.)

For plenty more recordings, visit Lenny's YouTube channel.

Download music from CBC.ca via the Brightcove player

September 15th, 2014 1 comment

This is our procedure for downloading music in MP3 format from CBC's Brightcove player.


Can't work with large files via WebDAV or cPanel Web Disk?  Here's the fix.

September 10th, 2014 No comments

cPanel's Web Disk uses the WebDAV protocol to allow you to manipulate files on your hosting account via Windows Explorer, just as if it were a drive letter.  The best part is that support for this is already built in to Windows.  You needn't even install any software.

By default, Windows prevents you from working with files greater than 50MB, and for longer than 30 minutes, but that can be fixed with a simple registry change.  You can make the change with Registry Editor, or copy the text below, save it as a file with the extension .reg, and run it.
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

WinCalcHelper improves the Windows Calculator

September 10th, 2014 No comments

We use the Windows Calculator a great deal, but wanted to make it more efficient.  AutoHotkey was happy to oblige.  This script adds the following features:

  • Pressing your keyboard's Calculator key turns Num Lock on if it is off.
  • Pressing your keyboard's Calculator key recalls the most recently used Calculator, or opens a new one if a Calculator is currently active.
  • Holding your keyboard's Calculator key closes the active Calculator.
  • Using the Windows + Arrow keys allows you to position the calculator.
  • The Num Lock key can be used to clear the calculator.

AutoHotkey allows you to use your mouse buttons to move between browser tabs

September 10th, 2014 2 comments

Here's an AutoHotkey script we wrote that allows you to use the buttons on a mouse to switch between browser tabs.  To use it, hold down the left mouse button while clicking the browser back or forward buttons.
#SingleInstance force
~LButton & XButton1::Send {Blind}{LButton Up}^+{Tab}
~LButton & XButton2::Send {Blind}{LButton Up}^{Tab}
To run or compile this script, here's a free download of AutoHotkey.

Has your router set up secret port forwards without your knowledge?

February 18th, 2014 No comments

I admit the title may be a little bit sensational.  Please forgive me and read this anyway.  For the tl;dr, scroll down to the link to the STUN Test Utility.

It's a common misconception that placing a network device behind a router provides impenetrable security.  This might be true, but if you have a full cone NAT router, your VoIP equipment (and possibly other internet-connected devices) are likely be open to anyone, as if you had forwarded ports or used DMZ.  Instead, you should use a restricted cone NAT router.  Keep reading to find out what these terms mean how to test your router.


Pumpkin Pie

February 15th, 2014 No comments

Pumpkin pie in February?  What Mangosteen wants for Valentine's day, Mangosteen gets!

1 398 mL (15 oz by weight) can pumpkin
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 300 mL (14 oz by weight) can sweetened condensed milk
2 eggs
1 9" deep dish pie shell

Thoroughly mix pumpkin and spices.  Add remaining ingredients and mix well.  Pour into prepared pie shell.  Bake at 425F for 15 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350F and bake for another 45 minutes.  Turn off oven and allow pie to cool.  When the pie plate is cool enough to be safely touched with your hands, remove the pie from the oven and enjoy!

Mango's Guide to Configuring an OBi100, OBi110, OBi202, OBi200, OBi302, and OBi300 ATA

August 16th, 2013 4 comments

OBi100We used Linksys ATAs for many years but upgraded to Obihai when we needed a device with an FXO port.  Obihai has outdone themselves and created some devices that are even more configurable than their older PAP2T, SPA2102, and SPA3102.  OBi ATAs are deficient in only a few ways - for example a mediocre jitter buffer, and no way of routing calls based on Caller ID Name or customizing Caller ID Name.  Perhaps most disappointingly, the FXS/FXO relay has been removed in hardware version 3.4 of the OBi110, meaning that during a power outage, your POTS line will not function.  Fortunately, OBi ATAs' good qualities - particularly their excellent audio quality and powerful call routing - far exceed their shortcomings and they are what we believe to be the finest ATAs available today.

Before you pay $10 to Obihai for annual support, read this link for a workaround.


Improving SpamAssassin accuracy on cPanel (or any other) mail servers - with statistics

July 25th, 2013 4 comments

For some time we've been frustrated by the amount of spam not caught by our spam filter.  We're delighted to say we've developed a simple configuration that results in extremely high accuracy.  Though some of the techniques in this article are related to cPanel servers, the most important points should work with any mail server running SpamAssassin.

Keep reading to see the rules we use and why we use them, as well as statistics for actual mail addressed to Mango's personal email address.


Mango's User Configurable Scheduled cPanel Full Backup

March 12th, 2013 5 comments

Mango has always wanted to make it as easy as possible for users to make backups.  If you're a cPanel administrator, consider this script as part of your disaster recovery plan.  It will rsync a full backup anywhere the user likes, and allows the user to configure the location of the backup and how many backups will be retained.  Since its authorization is by RSA key, it does not require passwords to be stored in the configuration file.

Suggested use for users: By default, full backups are large and take a lot of server resources to create.  Why not exclude your home directory by placing a single * in cpbackup-exclude.conf, and rsync the full backup to your home directory?  Then rsync your home directory to your NAS device a few times per week.  Using rsync requires much less resources because it only copies files that have changed since the last rsync.

Here's the script: http://www.toao.net/pub/cpbackup-mango.php

Map a directory on a MyBook Live NAS to a Windows drive letter over the internet with SSHFS and Samba

February 3rd, 2013 No comments

We needed to be able to access a directory on a MyBook Live via a Windows drive letter and evaluated a few options.  Samba works well if the file server and client are on the same LAN, but we discovered it painfully slow when used via an SSH tunnel over the internet.  WebDAV is typically a good solution, but we found it unstable when used with the MyBook Live.  We settled on two techniques that we use in different situations.  The first technique is SSHFS and Samba - SSHFS for the internet portion and Samba for the LAN portion.  This works relatively well with only a moderate performance decrease.

This article describes our technique for setting up SSHFS and Samba on a Western Digital My Book Live NAS device.


SSH Tunneling - also known as "Port Forwarding on Steroids"

February 2nd, 2013 No comments

If you need to access network resources behind a firewall, you could set up lots of port forwards.  But it can be cumbersome to manage a large volume of these, and depending on the protocol, this practice may be insecure.  Instead, why not use an SSH tunnel?  An SSH tunnel is an excellent method for handling encryption and authentication.


Mango's Opinion of Sage 50

January 1st, 2013 No comments

Mango evaluated Sage 50 accounting software and was underwhelmed.


Free Tools for Windows

December 29th, 2012 No comments

Everyone seems to have their list of free Windows applications they can't do without, and here's ours.  All of these are free for the download and their authors deserve a serious hat tip for all of their excellent work.  We list them in alphabetical order:

AutoHotkey is the quintessential automator that you really must try to see just how powerful it is.  You can automate almost any program by sending it keystrokes and mouse clicks.  You can remap keys on your keyboard or mouse.  One of our favourite features is that you may compile your finished script into a single EXE that may be run on any Windows computer.


How to Download Previously Downloaded Music from iTunes

December 29th, 2012 No comments

Mango accidentally deleted some music he'd downloaded from iTunes.  Fortunately, iTunes will allow you to download previously downloaded music, though it required some hoop jumping.

1) From the Store menu in iTunes, be sure your computer is authorized.
2) Navigate to the iTunes store and click the link for Purchased.  You may be able to download the files by clicking the Cloud icon.  If not,
3) Shut down iTunes, rename your iTunes Library folder, and restart iTunes.  Only after doing this, we were permitted to download the files.
4) If you had to follow Step 3, shut down iTunes again, restore the original iTunes Library folder, restart iTunes, locate the songs you just downloaded, and add them to your library.

On a slightly related note, in doing this we discovered that iTunes now sells DRM-free music in *.m4a format, not *.m4p.  Though this is old news, we were glad to read it.

Should you use Conventional or Synthetic oil in your vehicle?

September 30th, 2012 Comments off

I recently took my car to an oil change shop that really wanted to upsell me on expensive oil for my car.  I told them to put in whatever the dealer would use and they put in semi-synthetic.  This was a somewhat unfortunate illustration that working with a professional is no substitute for knowing what you're doing.  Though the semi-synthetic won't harm my car, the extra $20 won't offer any benefits, based on the car I drive, what I use it for, and the time of year.  Should you use conventional or synthetic oil in your vehicle?  Keep reading.


Disable Firefox AutoFill / AutoComplete in the Address Bar

September 26th, 2012 No comments

Firefox's AutoFill feature, which appears in new versions of Firefox, makes it more difficult to type a URL such as, if is in your history.

To disable this, enter about:config and set browser.urlbar.autoFill to False.

So I had this dream...

September 23rd, 2012 1 comment

So the other night I had this dream.

The company I worked for was doing well.  Really well.  So well, in fact, that we ended up leasing the old Ikea warehouse in Richmond.  THAT'S how much space we needed for our operations.  (On a recent visit back to British Columbia, I discovered the warehouse in question torn down.  My subconscious was, ostensibly, not aware of this fact.)


Use POTS for all outbound calls on an OBi110

August 6th, 2012 1 comment

A user recently stated that they wanted all outbound calls to be passed directly to their POTS line, with no interaction from the OBi110.  Here is one way you can configure an OBi110 to present the user with a POTS dial tone:

Physical Interfaces >> PHONE Port:
DigitMap: (<:>)
OutboundCallRoute: {li}

DIY: OEM Cruise Control on a 2006-2010 Toyota Yaris for $40 shipped!

August 2nd, 2012 1 comment

We're not even kidding.

We wanted to have cruise control installed on a 2010 Toyota Yaris.  We were dismayed when a dealer quoted $500 for an aftermarket system, even more dismayed when we read bad reviews about Rostra products, and finally, even further dismayed when we discovered this Rostra recall.

Then we discovered cruise control functionality is already built into 2006 and later model Yaris that were sold in North America.  There's no need for an aftermarket kit.  All that's really necessary is simply ordering a few parts and plugging them in.  Here's a Yaris cruise control FAQ with detailed installations and photos.  To order the parts, contact CTScott.

There are a few things about the instructions we would like to elaborate on.  The stalk can be very easily scratched, so we recommend you leave the plastic coating on until the installation is complete.  If you do accidentally scratch it, a little PlastX will have the scratch buffed out in no time.  Also, when they say the Torx T30 screws are tight...they're not just joking.  Be sure to use a T30 driver that you can put a great deal of force on - a Multi Tool or an L Key won't work as you're sure to break either the tool or your skin.

Thanks to CTScott and everyone who made this excellent DIY possible!

OBi110: How to use POTS if VoIP or internet is down

July 24th, 2012 No comments

Many users of the OBi110 route local calls via POTS, and use VoIP for long distance.  But what if your internet service is not working, or your VoIP provider's equipment is down?  Fortunately, the OBi110's Trunk Groups feature will allow you to configure the OBi110 to try different routes in a priority fashion.  For this example, let's assume our VoIP provider is configured on sp1.  This technique may be used with any combination of service providers or the LINE Port.


Using an OBi ATA as an FXO port or Google Voice trunk for Asterisk or your IP Phone

July 22nd, 2012 No comments

If you need an FXO card for your IP PBX, expect to pay hundreds of dollars for a good one.  But what if your PBX doesn't have expansion slots, or is in a different location from your POTS line, or your project is for home/small office use and you require a device that works just as well for a fraction of the price?  You're sure to be delighted with an OBi110.  If you wish to add Google Voice to your call routing, any OBi ATA will be more than up to the challenge.