Computer case fan testing

February 10th, 2012 No comments

Mango's case has terrible ventilation at the front and as you will see, an intake fan doesn't really do much.  We tried every configuration to find out what the best possible cooling would be under these circumstances.  Mango doesn't own a hard drive, so perhaps the temperatures are a little cooler than they otherwise would be.

These measurements were taken at stock speeds with stock CPU cooling.  The case fans are Zalman ZM-F1 Plus 80MM, which come with a noiseless adapter that lowers the speed of the fan by about 1000 RPM.  We eventually settled on a single rear fan with noiseless adapter.


Password prompt for PHP CLI

January 28th, 2012 No comments

Do you use PHP from the command line and need a password prompt?  This is how you do.

$scriptpw = new Com('ScriptPW.Password');
$password = $scriptpw->getPassword();
The Windows version requires the file scriptpw.dll.  This comes with some versions of Windows, such as XP, but not others, such as 2000, Vista, or 7.  If you don't have the file, simply copy scriptpw.dll from the system32 folder of another machine to the system32 folder of your machine.  Then, from a Command Prompt window (running as Administrator for Vista and 7) enter the command regsvr32 scriptpw.dll

system('stty -echo');
$password = trim(fgets(STDIN));
system('stty echo');
echo "\n";

Video Editing Software for Windows: Sony vs. Adobe

January 14th, 2012 No comments

These opinions were formed based on recent use of Sony Vegas Pro 10 and Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 on a computer running Windows 7 with a quad core Intel Core i7-2600K CPU @ 3.4 Ghz and 8GB of RAM.

Spoiler alert: Sony Vegas Pro wins!


Dymo Label Printer on a Tomato Print Server

July 8th, 2011 1 comment

In case anyone's wondering, and since we couldn't find any references to this anywhere, a Dymo LabelWriter 400 will work perfectly well with a Tomato Print Server.  We used an ASUS WL-520gU router with the Teddy-Bear build of Tomato firmware.  Setting up the printer on the router was just a matter of plugging it in, and installing the printer within Windows simply required a TCP/IP printer port to be created, using the IP address of the router, and the settings for Generic Network Card.

We noticed stability issues when printing large volumes of labels (50+) via a router with a small amount of RAM.  But for small batches this technique should work perfectly well.

Fax-to-Email for Canada

June 27th, 2011 No comments

Let us start out by saying that finding a fax-to-email solution that met our requirements was a chore.  Most people we asked for advice told us, "Faxing is archaic.  Forget that and use email instead!".  We agree, but as long as people insist on sending us important things by fax, we will need a way to receive them.

Allow us to introduce you to a telecom company called AcroVoice.  AcroVoice is based in Victoria BC and provides business and residential VoIP service, and also wholesales Canadian VoIP 9-1-1 and American E911, 411 Directory Assistance, Caller ID Name / CNAM Lookup, and of course, it also provides fax-to-email.  Keep reading to find the criteria with which we evaluated their fax-to-email service, and how AcroVoice performed.


Easily disable ClearType in Windows 7

June 19th, 2011 Comments off

Because we're sure some of you who adore ClearType will ask, yes, we tried it for well over a month and just couldn't get used to staring at what looked like (to us) blurry text all day.  Fortunately, we found this:

Disable ClearType in Windows 7

It is interesting to note that we had to use the "Auto Adjust" feature on our monitors after doing this.

Which codec should I use for HD YouTube Videos?

December 18th, 2010 2 comments

We wanted to upload some of our video projects to YouTube.  But which format would produce the highest quality, after YouTube's processing?  We decided to test four of the most popular formats: MPEG-2, AVC, Windows Media, (16Mbit/sec each) and uncompressed (over 800 gigabytes per hour!).  Which do you like best?


Mango, do you believe in the supernatural?

December 8th, 2010 2 comments

I was working my company's booth at a trade show last weekend.  I know - mistake.  But it did provide some excellent entertainment.  I had the most interesting customer strut up to me and ask if I believed in the supernatural.


Business Equipment Leasing Tips

May 16th, 2010 1 comment

Mango runs the IT department at his day job, which involves evaluating business equipment for purchase or lease.  Here are a few tips that we would really like everyone to know.  Or if you don't care about leasing but like making fun of sales people, you can just skip to the bottom.


Free Skype-to-SIP Software!

April 25th, 2010 No comments

We don't like Skype.  Actually, that's not true.  We like the concept of Skype, that is, making free calls to people via the Internet.  We just don't like having to use a computer to do it.  We got all excited when we read about Skype for Asterisk, thinking it would be an easy way to receive calls from our Skype-using friends, on a regular phone.

But then we kept reading and said, "Sixty-six dollars per channel!?  Forget that!"

Fortunately, there is a cheaper - and in fact, free - way of accomplishing the same thing.


No, Really, I Don't Need a Bag!

March 5th, 2010 2 comments

I hear that some places around the world have banned plastic bags. Vancouver is not included in this, however some stores such as Whole Foods have voluntarily quit giving them out. Others charge for bags to encourage customers to bring their own. And when you think about how many plastic bags probably end up in the trash, I think it's a great idea! So I, being relatively environmentally conscious, bring a reusable bag for my shopping as much as possible.

Of course, me being Mango, and thus more than relatively eccentric, I take things a bit farther than that.


Making the Simply Accounting Session Date default to today

March 4th, 2010 No comments

In Simply Accounting, the Session Date is used for default dates of transactions.  When one creates, for example, an invoice, the date is automatically assumed to be whatever the Session Date is.  We've found no way to change the default of the Session Date from within Simply, but this can be accomplished by this handy script.


Change Back/Forward buttons to Previous/Next

February 22nd, 2010 1 comment

Over the past few weeks we've been testing the Microsoft ComfortCurve Keyboard 2000 and we love it!  Its keys are nice and responsive, it's comfortable to use, and its buttons are in very intuitive places.  The best part is it's practically a steal - we've seen it for as low as $15.  It has only one minor flaw which is that there are very few multimedia buttons.  There are play/pause, volume up/down, and mute.  But there are no buttons for stop, previous, or next.

There were however browser Back/Forward buttons.  And we never use the mute button.  For some reason, SharpKeys, which we've used in the past wouldn't do the job.  The keyboard came with software called IntelliType but it used a great deal of RAM and, oddly, slowed down our cursor a great deal.  No matter.  This is an excellent excuse to point out again just how much we like AutoHotkey.
#SingleInstance force

Disable Targus PowerPoint Remote Buttons

February 16th, 2010 No comments

A company called Targus makes remote controls designed for use with PowerPoint presentations.  They allow you to control your presentation from some distance away from the actual computer running the show.

While this sounds like a great idea in theory, in practice these remotes are BEYOND frustrating.  The reason is that there are too many buttons, and pressing the wrong button at the wrong time will make the presentation quit working.  And no matter how carefully we instruct the presenter to recover from such incidents, ("If everything stops working press this button labeled Magic Fix-It Button!") ostensibly they will forget.  Every.  Single.  Time.

These buttons, they must be disabled.


Which Email Providers are the Most Popular?

February 9th, 2010 No comments

At Mango's day job, he operates a mailing list for his customers.  Approximately 2,000 customers have subscribed to it.  He wanted to set up test email accounts with various webmail providers to be sure his emails arrived as intended.  But which webmail providers should he choose?  The most popular email providers were easily found with this MySQL query:
SUBSTRING(`email`, LOCATE('@', `email`)) AS `domain`,
COUNT(*) AS `count`
FROM `table`
GROUP BY `domain`
For our list, the results were:

Major regional ISPs - 39%
Hotmail - 14%
Yahoo - 9%
Gmail - 8%
AOL - 1%

The remaining 29% consisted of small ISPs and insignificant webmail providers, each less than 1% of the total.

Shaw Digital Phone Review

February 6th, 2010 3 comments

We like Shaw Digital Phone a lot. Shaw Digital Phone is an implementation of VoIP that is run over Shaw's private network, separate from the Internet.  Shaw's reps actively deny that their service is VoIP - we suspect they want to differentiate themselves from providers of broadband VoIP.  This is perhaps with good reason. Because Shaw Digital Phone doesn't run over the Internet, typical VoIP issues caused by latency, bandwidth sharing, and internet outages are entirely eliminated.


How to Install Asterisk on an Asus WL-520GU Router

January 19th, 2010 2 comments

Update: This article is almost a year old and some of the information is now outdated.  While it is certainly possible to run Asterisk on a WL-520GU router, there is now a better router that has been released since we bought ours.  It has a whopping eight times the memory and flash, and a CPU twice the speed of that in the WL-520GU - this is the best consumer-grade router with open-source firmware we've ever seen.  If you intend to run Asterisk on a router, we recommend the new Asus RT-N16.

We have also discovered that USB flash drives (at least the ones we have tried) are not up to the task of long-term use.  So, you may wish to instead use a CIFS share, or connect a USB hard drive instead of a USB flash drive.  Additionally, Asterisk may be installed on many other devices such as the Seagate Dockstar or many NAS devices such as the Western Digital MyBook Live.  If you have a favourite, please comment and let us know what it is and why.

The original article is below, in case it is still helpful for anyone.

Yes, you read right.  For this project, we're going to tell you how we built a fully functioning Asterisk PBX out of a $25 router.  We designed this project because we wanted an Asterisk server for use as a home PBX that could be built relatively easily, used as little power as possible, and cost as little as possible.  The best part is, a lot of the heavy lifting such as compiling Asterisk has already been done for us.  All we need to do is install it.

The first version of this article was published on the VoIP Tech Chat forum in August 2009.  The article that you are reading right now is the latest version.  The forum no longer allows us to edit the original post so we have moved it here.

A common question people ask is, "Why do you need a PBX for your home?"  The answer is we wanted telephone features that we haven't been able to find for a price we're willing to pay.  Now, we can have nearly any feature we want.  Some of these include termination failover, custom incoming Caller ID, and call recording.  The best part is that when we're done, the device will still function as a router.  You won't even need to wedge another AC adapter into your power strip.


Easily Check HTTP Headers with this tool

December 28th, 2009 No comments

We were trying to solve an annoying bug in our mod_rewrite code today and couldn't quite figure out why our server was acting the way it was.  Fortunately we discovered a nifty tool (Thanks pkhach!) that allows you to view the HTTP request and response headers for any URL you like.  You can even choose between HTTP/1.1 and HTTP/1.0, with and without the Host header.

View HTTP Headers

A reader also suggests this Firefox extension.  Thanks, Eric!

The best part is that both of these are much easier than messing about with Telnet.exe!

VoIP Security - Could Someone be Listening In?

December 27th, 2009 No comments

The question of VoIP security often comes up on various VoIP forums, and it's a good one.  Could someone be listening to your conversation?  While it's theoretically possible, here are a few security tips that will help keep your network secure.  The first thing we'd like to point out is that VoIP can actually be much easier to secure than traditional telephone service!


Our Favourite Christmas Music (This Year)

December 25th, 2009 No comments

Christmas music is one of our weaknesses and every year we seem to find one or two songs that we just can't stop listening to.  Most of these have actually been around for a while but we hadn't heard them until recently.  Here they are, in no particular order:

S Club 8 - Sleigh Ride (YouTube)

Amy Grant - I Need a Silent Night (YouTube)

Josh Groban - Thankful (YouTube)

Wilson Philips - Hey Santa (YouTube)

Dana - It's Gonna Be A Cold Cold Christmas (YouTube)

Chris Rea - Driving Home for Christmas (YouTube)

Big Daddy Weave - Go Tell It On The Mountain (YouTube)

David Foster - The Christmas Season (YouTube)

Do-it-Yourself Photo Booth!

December 8th, 2009 No comments

DIY Photo BoothA friend and her husband recently returned from a wedding with one of the best favours we'd ever seen: a strip of photos that appeared to have come from a photo booth.  But, they were unlike any photo booth photos we'd ever seen: the lighting was textbook, the images sharp and clear, and the colours as good as any professional photograph.  The reason was...that they were professional photographs.  The wedding photographer set up a booth and invited the guests to have their picture taken.

What a fantastic idea.  We simply had to build one.

Mr. and Mrs. Mango are already married but they decided to have a Christmas party this week and thought it an ideal time for a photo booth.  As it turned out, it was very easy to build.


Google Calculator Rocks!

September 20th, 2009 No comments

We always seem to want to convert various forms of measurements to some other various forms of measurements.  We used to have bookmarks for every conversion necessary: one for distance, one for weight, one for currency, and so on.  Then, Mango discovered Google Calculator.  Google has outdone itself and created the easiest conversion tool we've ever seen.  You simply write your conversion in plain English into the Google search box.

Examples follow.


ATAs vs. IP Phones: Which should you choose?

September 17th, 2009 No comments

Instead of using a customary ATA to convert legacy telephones or PBX equipment, some users of VoIP prefer to use a "pure IP" system and use IP phones.  There are advantages to both methods.


Six Notify Sounds

September 10th, 2009 No comments

Here are six "notify" sound effects that Mango made for use in an application, free for the download.

How to Solve Two Four Encore CS3 Quirks

July 4th, 2009 2 comments

Recently we were attempting to build a DVD with Adobe Encore CS3.  Due to Encore's oddities, it took two days to figure out how to do it.  We look forward to the day when Adobe's video editing software will reach the same caliber as its industry standard Photoshop.  Perhaps at this point mentioning "I use Premiere" at a professionals' meeting won't be met with stifled giggling.

Until then, here's how we solved two most notable quirks.  The first was an error message that occurred upon build that went along the lines of: PGC "xxxx" has an error at xx:xx:xx:xy internal software error : %0, line xxxx - PGCINFO: name= xxxx, ref=BPGC, time=xx:xx:xx:xy

This error referenced a point on the timeline approximately one second from the end of the clip.  The last second wasn't significant so we simply trimmed the last second from the clip.  The error then referenced a point on the timeline TWO seconds from the end of the clip.  This was frustrating.