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Friday, May 22, 2020

The Best Dog in the World





Sophie was an amazing dog. I have had all good dogs in my life but Sophie was different. From the minute she picked me as her future dad she was a devoted best friend. I never had to "train" her, she just figured it all out by herself. A simple glance or hand signal and she knew what was wanted. Sophie didn't necessarily agree with what I wanted her to do but if it was important, she knew. Occasionally we had to discuss things a little.  Sophie got along with almost everyone but had a good sense for people to be avoided. She didn't need to be leashed very often. At about 6 months we had the opportunity to add Sophie's sister Lily to our family. Sophie and Lily were the best of friends. When we rescued Elliot (a problem child but sweet) the family dynamics changed a lot but Sophie took it in stride and did not get jealous. She knew she was my special soul mate and that no one could take her place. I am not exaggerating this. Everyone who knew Sophie knew how smart and perspicacious she was and what a special relationship we had. She was an amazing cuddler and got me through many scary nights alone with just the dogs. Lily and Elliot are good dogs (Lily is one of the sweetest and most sociable dogs I have ever known) but Sophie was something else. She was incredibly smart but not obsessed or neurotic as smart dogs often are. It was amazing to watch her analyze a situation and make a decision. She always knew where to position herself so she could keep track of dad. She knew the consequences of running through a field of sticker burrs and chose alternate paths unless there was an irresistible temptation. Sophie was always thinking, always loving and always caring.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

DIY Calibrate a Torsion Prescription Pharmacy Apothecary Balance Scale

I could not find instruction on calibrating a Torsion Pharmacy Balance anywhere on the internet. In the US it was legally required that a Pharmacy have a torsion balance on hand for compounding prescriptions. So these scales are very common and since they do not have delicate knife edges and bearings to wear or break, they are often in usable condition but calibration is uncertain especially if they have been shipped improperly or mishandled. You can find information on the internet about use and how to ship them properly but I have never found instructions on calibration techniques.

First basic shipping considerations. All balances should have provisions for locking the balance beam for shipment. Find the mechanism for doing this and be sure to lock the beam. On the balances made by The Torsion Balance Company there are stanchions that are moved into place after loosening a knurled nut on each one on the underside of the balance and then tightening it once in the locked position.  Remove all loose parts and pack separately. Turn the knob that clamps the scale and tape it in place. Also tape the cover in place and wrap the whole thing appropriately for the method of transport. If you balance has a fluid filled dashpot, you will need to remove the cover and secure the top plug and or remove the oil.

Now for calibration secrets. I developed the method on my own so anyone who does this professionally is certainly welcome to comment and suggest other or better methods.

The torsion balance has two rails that operate in parallelogram fashion. Three torsion units act as the main fulcrum and as the fulcrums on which the weighing pans are placed. These are made in the factory with special tools and are difficult or impossible to repair if damaged. So check to be sure that the parts are all in place and that the tension bands are under tension. If you pluck or tap the bands gently you should hear a tone, not a thud. There is probably a desired musical note for each brand and size of scale but I don't know what they would be. If it is a thud there is little or no tension and there is no point in trying to make the balance work.

In all you do to adjust the balance, be aware that the bands can easily be broken and that whenever loosening or tightening any screws or nuts, be sure to oppose the loosening or tightening with a suitable tool so you are not stressing other components, especially the torsion bands. (How do I know this, you may ask?)

The torsion balance is quite simple so anyone who collects and works with scales should be able to understand how it works. Basically there is a center fulcrum and outer fulcrums that the weighing pans are mounted to. Since there are upper and lower beams connected with top and bottom tension bands (actually one band on each position serves as both top and bottom) the balance acts like a parallelogram  and the top and bottom fulcrum points will always be vertically inline if the balance is level and in balance. There is quite a bit of tolerance for error in level and leveling is in fact the method used to fine tune the zero balanced position.

Depending on the type of balance there will be one or more adjustable weights for balancing the torsion assembly. My balance has a dashpot and for that reason there is a lot of additional mass on the right side of the beam assembly. So, there is a large counterbalance on the lower left side. On the right top beam is a fine adjustment. If your balance does not have a dashpot, it may not have the coarse adjustment. It is pretty obvious that these weights are used to get the balance balanced.

To calibrate the balance, you obviously need to remove the cover and put all the parts back on except the cover so you can make adjustments with the balance in working order. Start by leveling the balance with the built in bubble level or a separate one if there is none. My balance has a front to back level but not a side to side one. This is because it is assumed that the balance is calibrated professionally and the side to side is how you zero the scale. Since this might not be the case it is good to level the balance side to side as well as front to back for the calibration procedure.

If you have a dashpot, make sure it is not sticking on the dip rod or internally. Best to take it off and clean it if there is any doubt. Then adjust the various rods and levers to allow it to move from one extreme to the other without any parts touching or binding.

It is obvious how you get the basic leveling of the beam done. Just slide the adjustment weights after loosening the relevant clamp screws. What is not as obvious is the fact that the right fulcrum assembly can be move in and out with respect to the center fulcrum. This is critical in getting the balance to work properly with different loads. If one end fulcrum is closer or farther from the center than the opposite one, the balance will not behave linearly. Adding weight to one side will not be the same as adding weight to the other side for obvious reasons. On my balance the adjusting screws are made with two different pitches on the one screw. The fixing point for the tension band is movable within the beam. Turning the screw cause a differential motion between the fixed and the movable nut because the pitches are different. On my balance turning the screw clockwise (viewed from the end) moves the fulcrum closer to the center. This is the intuitive choice but other balances might be different or they may have entirely different methods for adjusting the position of the tension bands.

To get the arms of the beam equal you may have to adjust the screws that move the right side fulcrum both top and bottom. You can check for the need to do this using two weights that are as close to identical weight as possible. You will get the most amplification of error if you use weights near the limit of the balance but if you are careful and if absolute balance is not critical you can get by with smaller weights. I used 10 gram weights because my set had two of them. When I was finished adjusting the beam I tested with two 50 gram weights and the error was less than 1 mg.

I happen to have an old Mettler analytical balance so i used that to calibrate the 10 gram weights and to make them identical within about .5 mg. Both were a little over according to the Mettler so i sanded them a tiny bit at a time until they were right. The Mettler uses precise rings for reference and as long as you zero the scale and the balance has been cross checked for alignment errors the absolute weight is probably pretty accurate but that does not matter as all you need for calibrating the Torsion balance is two weights that are very close to each other. Another source of very close weights is freshly struck coins from the same run from a reliable mint such as the Canadian government. Uncirculated Canadian Maple leaf coins are probably the best you can get for precision. I checked several from the same batch and they are very close but they do vary by a few mg.  Wire runs pretty accurately as long as it is from the same spool. You can measure identical lengths of wire and cut it squarely. Use a lot of fine wire so the cut does not matter that much nor does absolute precision in measuring length.

Getting the balance to balance with equal weights is easy, just move the adjustment weights until it balances. However that does not insure that it will balance with 10 times the weight or 1/10 the weight on either side. For that the distance between the center fulcrum needs to be precisely the same on both sides of the beams. Critically balance the balance with no weight on the pans. You can do this with both the adjustment slider weights and also using the leveling legs. Be sure that the front to back level gauge is centered and as a final nice touch, balance the scale with the side to side also level so you will then have the most adjust ability when the scale is used.

If the right fulcrum adjustments have not been messed with you can probably get the balance calibrated by adjusting the top and the bottom screws by equal amounts. When noting fractional turns of adjustment take into account that there may be some free play due to thread inaccuracy and it may be different on the top and bottom screws due to wear or ??? Take up the slack each time you change direction of adjustment.

After balancing with no weight on the pans, put equal weights on each side. Note if the balance moves to one side. Whichever side goes low indicated the side where the side fulcrum is farther from the center fulcrum. Adjust the screw both top and bottom little by little until the balances balances with the added weights. Be sure to damp the scale each time you add or remove weights. Undamp it slowly and allow it to settle before deciding if the adjustment was correct and if it was adequate. It is almost certain that the first adjustment will not be enough. When you move the fulcrum you also change the balance point with no load so when you check again you will find that the adjustment weights will also need to be changed likely in the direction opposite to the direction you moved the fulcrum. This is an iterative process, you will probably have to go back and forth several times.

The centering of the fulcrums is critical and will certainly limit the accuracy of the balance if not correct. If the top and bottom are not exactly even and if the scale passes the adjustment procedure described above the error is probably minor and can be ignored. If you are concerned, you can probably figure out how to use a caliper to check that the distance top and bottom are the same but this will be difficult and it is my inexpert opinion that if the balance balances at both minimal and maximal loads it is not a concern if the top and bottom fulcrum distances are not exactly the same. If you can not achieve this then the difference might be too great and this should be investigated. Assuming that the torsion bands were installed precisely and that the adjustment screws were at the same positions when this was done at the factory then the degree to which the screws protrude from the end of the beam should probably appear the same, certainly not varying by a huge amount that is visually apparent. If the band clamps have been disturbed you can not depend on this.

It is a real pain to unlock move and relock the adjustment sliders each time. Every time you lock or unlock them you will move them a little as well. So it is better to add various weights to the top beam or the pans until you have it right and then use the sliders just once. If you get tired of trying to lock the slider weight in place and finding it moves a little each time, you can glue little bits of correction weight on the beam instead. Or use a small piece of wire tied on at an appropriate place. On a scale with a dashpot, the dashpot arm is a convenient place to tie on a wire.

The other adjustment you can make is the knurled weights that move vertically on threaded rods on each side of the lower beam. Their is probably a name for these and for the property that they control but I do not know it. It is difficult to describe what they do but if you move them from one extreme to the other you will see for yourself. They basically adjust for sensitivity vs stability. When the weights are moved higher up, it takes less off balance to move the beam. If the weights are on completely vertical rods then they have no effect on balance when the scale is perfectly balanced. When the scale goes out of balance the weights move the center of mass of the beam farther out thereby adding to the offsetting that occurs. If the weights are too high up the balance will never be stable, the tiniest amount of off balance will send it to the extreme position. The lower the weights are, the less sensitive the balance will be. There is probably a specified amount of off balance that one division is supposed to represent. If you know what this is or if you are after a certain number, you can carefully adjust the knurled weights to achieve this value. Either adjust each side the same amount of check the sensitivity in each direction separately and adjust the weights on the side you want to adjust but be aware that this will also slightly change the sensitivity on the other side too.

Most of the adjustments on the balance will also change other settings. So whenever you make a change, check basic operation again and know what else you might have screwed up. If you use the torsion balance as recommended, the beam is always balanced when taking measurements so all the nasty non linear errors caused by minor geometrical misalignment are likely to be minimal. There is probably a procedure for each balance with a specified order in which adjustments are to be made but that does not seem to be public knowledge. The scale companies keep that a secret so they can charge for calibration services. My Mettler balance has something like 150 points of adjustment so needless to say, i fiddle with just a few of the most obvious ones and cross check everything i do. A torsion prescription balance is a much simpler device and it should be possible to get very good sensitivity accuracy and repeat ability with no special tools and the suggestions made above. I have compared measurements on my torsion balance with the Mettler after i calibrated the torsion and  agree well within the stated accuracy of the torsion balance so i must have gotten the calibration pretty good.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Sweet Lillums

Sweet Lillums has joined her beloved sister Sophie. I'm sure they are tearing up the turf in doggie heaven. Lily never met a dog or human she didn't like. She was just 100% sweet by nature. She is immortalized as the Poodle silhouette adorning our gate in Mendocino and  the Poodle Christmas lights I made with her image.




Monday, December 2, 2013

STL files for 3D printing from image files

I finally figured out how to make STL files for 3D printing using a variety of sources for drawings. I am not good at freehand drawing, especially on the computer with a mouse or a crappy digitizer which I have. So I am stuck with tracing art from other sources. I have screwed around with 123D design and it is so terrible in windows 8.1 that I finally gave up and swore to never open that program again until i hear that the many many bugs have been fixed.

So I have been looking for a way to make an occasional 3D print without paying hundreds or thousands of dollars to buy software that I might use a few times a year. Here is what I want to do and what I finally succeeded at doing:

Create a 2D drawing using ordinary image files as the source and to extrude these into 3D models and edit then in the normal ways. 123D documentation says it will do this but the PC version does not allow import and if you have win 8.1, it will not connect to the cloud based program. It works with my win 7 computer but I hate that computer for other reasons and 123D has such crappy documentation that I am probably best avoiding it for a while anyway. OReilly is supposed to publish a book in February 2014 or so which might change the documentation aspect of things but I am afraid that the reason the book's release date has been pushed forward a few times is that 123D is still in development and is sort of a mess of features that don't really work. O'Reilly published really good books and probably does not want to be associated with a product that doesn't work.

Here is the procedure that actually works. I have tried several others that don't work for a variety of reasons:

Google Sketchup is now a for sale program sold by Trimble but they have a trial version that seems to work. I forget what the limits are or how much a full version costs. Hopefully I can use the trial version indefinitely. It may be possible to use an old Google free version of Sketchup but I don't know where to find one or if it does export .dae files which is necessary for this method. Sketchup allows the import of a variety of standard image files, jpg, png, gif, etc etc and allows the export of COLLADA (.dae) files. You can import almost any image file, trace it with the freehand draw tool (not available from the toolbar icons, you open it from the draw dropdown and selecting freehand) and then export as .dae which can them be converted with another program, MeshLab http://meshlab.sourceforge.net/  This is a great program that allows the import and export a a variety of file formats and will produce STL files that can then be used in your 3D printing program such as Repetier Host.

If you have a recent 64 bit version of windows, don't bother with the 64 bit version of MeshLab. It requires an old version of the Microsoft Visual C++ whatever they call it. MeshLab will not install if you have a newer version of the C++ plus on your computer. Fortunately you can just install the 32 bit version.

I tested this method and it does actually work and produces an STL file that is correctly opened in Repetier Host. Will make a real test file soon and print it to make sure there are no errors in the file that I don't yet see.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

A great sound card

I am posting this mainly for my own reference but also for others who want a good sound card to use with a media server running Media Monkey. I have heard the results and will be getting one of my own as soon as I can afford it. Here is the link at NewEgg for the Asus card that I like:

ASUS Xonar D2X 7.1 Channels 24-bit 192KHz PCI Express x1 Interface Sound Card


It uses a PCI express X1 slot so make sure you have one.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Olive Opus Goodbye for good !!!

The next two paragraphs of this entry are background. If you just want to learn how to get audio files off the Olive Opus version 4, you can skip to paragraph four.

A few years ago, a good friend bought an Olive Opus version 4 with a 1 TB hard drive. His intention was to rip his entire CD collection. This seemed good until he realized how tedious the process would be with the Opus and once accomplished, how terrible the user interface would be. After investing a lot of time he finally gave up and gave me the unit. We put together a system based on Media Monkey and a high quality sound card that works flawlessly. Other entries on this blog cover some of this but I do need to cover this some more.

I also wasted a bunch of time ripping CDs to the Opus assuming that I could deal with the interface and other issues as I do not listen to CDs as much as Richard. Once I was done, I soon realized that the interface options are so horrible that I would never use the system. I tried to find a way to get all of my files off the Opus and contacted support for their help. They had no solutions other than one suggestion that was a total waste of time for reasons I won't bother with here. Typical well meaning but useless support. So, the rest of this entry covers how to get your audio files off the Opus when you decide to give it the hefty heave.

The Olive Opus version 4 (and probably other versions, so please let me know if you have a newer or older version and if these methods work for you ) runs under Linux and uses Linux partitions on the internal hard drive. If you are a Linux person, you will have an easier time getting your files from the drive but for Windows people, it is also possible.

The Opus is a UPnP compliant device and can be accessed through a network for access to the files but as far as I can tell, there is not utility for accessing folders of files in a way that will allow you to download thousands of files all with names such as track 1 track 2 etc, while keeping them from overwriting each other. I could write such a utility but have other things to do. Therefore, it is necessary to temporarily disconnect the internal hard drive and connect it to another computer in order to copy the files. This is also much much faster than UPnP access.

The Opus hard drive is SATA (serial ATA) so you will need a computer that has a SATA drive interface. You can physically remove the drive and temporarily install it as an additional drive in a desktop computer that has a SATA controller. You can also connect it via USB with a suitable adapter or you can use an E-SATA connector. If you use E-SATA you will also need to provide power to the drive so it is best to buy an adapter that does this. Another option is to use an external hard drive that you probably already own and have outgrown to provide the interface. This is what I did because I could not find my other adapters. I had an old 250 gig external drive with USB 2 which I now use as an interface. Before you hack apart an old external drive, check to be sure it uses SATA internally. The universal USB, E-SATA,firewire interfaces that come with power supplies are pretty cheap and useful so it probably makes sense to just buy one of these and try to not loose it. I have two of them somewhere.

If you have a Linux computer, all you have to do is connect the drive and access the relevant partitions. The Opus drive has 7 partitions with the OS and other stuff you will not need on the first 6 of them. It is the 7th partition (may be called partition 6 if a utility is calling the first partition number 0) contains your ripped files. These will be in a folder called "Library" if I remember correctly. I have the Opus back together so I can not verify this but it is the largest folder in partition 7 if you have more than a few CDs ripped. Within this folder are individual folders for each ripped CD. These are named as CD_ and a unique number that was generated by the Opus. Look in any or these folders and you will see a file for each track in the format you ripped to such as MP3 or Flac. These are the files you need to copy. I have not been able to find where the Opus stores its database because of silly computer problems. Since I had all Flac files with metadata within I did not bother to look further and try to find the database. There was one large file named blahblah.dat that looked like a candidate but I could not copy it (silly reasons for this so go ahead and try it if you have WAV files and need to get the metadata some other way) that is probably an Sqlite database or some other accessible format.

If you do not have a Linux computer, fear not. There is a wonderful utility that allows you to "mount" Linux partitions on a Windows computer and copy the files within them. This is "Extsfsd" and is available at http://www.ext2frsd.com There are other utilities also available but this is the first one that I got to work so I know it is a good choice. Unfortunately it did not work on my Win 7 64 bit computer so I had to use an old XP machine. I have Win7 pro and have virtual XP but I have never been able to get USB support for hard drives to work so I did not even try the program in virtual XP. Others may have better luck. Some of the other Linux to Windows PC tools might work under Win 7. If anyone finds one that does, please let me know.

So now, you have an XP machine with either a SATA drive controller and the Opus hard drive connected to it or an external adapter such as a USB to SATA adapter. All you have to do is install Ext2Fsd and give a few waves of your magic wand and you can copy your files to the Windows hard drive. There is a help file that explains all you need to do to access Linux partitions and also a web site with faqs in case the following is not clear enough.

After installing Ext2Fsd and running it you wil be presented with a screen that shows all the attached volumes. Hopefully your Opus hard drive will be shown with all the volumes it contains. Select the largest of the Linux partitions (number 6 or 7 depending on how you like to count) and select "mountpoint management" from the "tools" menu. An "add a drive letter" box will appear. Choose an appropriate drive letter and other options if you wish but in general, the default choices will work fine. If you now check your windows explorer you will fine a newly listed drive letter. Be sure to refresh the "my computer" window if it was already opened. If you double click this letter, Windows will probably tell you that it is not formatted. If this is the case, it is because the "management service" is not running. If you see your folders under the drive letter, all is well, if not, you need to start the "management service". Choose "service management" from the "tools" menu and click the "start" button. If you do not fiddle with default settings, the service will be started each time you run Ext2Fsd. If at any time Windows does not recognize the partition, check to make sure it has an unambiguous drive letter assigned and that the "management service" is running.

Once you have access to the files from the windows browser, you can copy them anywhere you want. For some unknown reason I had copy errors when copying my 6500 tracks. The windows copy system is unforgiving and stops at the first error leaving you to figure out what was and what wasn't copied on your own. I therefore use "Beyond Compare" to do all but the most trivial copying. This is probably the best Windows program ever written. If you don't have it, get it and thank me for recommending it. Get it at http://www.scootersoftware.com/

Be sure to read my blog entries on using Media Monkey and Team Viewer for remote audio file serving. I really should add some more on this and will in time.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Insurance Claim Hints

I recently had a fire in my workshop caused by a powerline surge. My AAA homeowners insurance paid for some of the loss and a lot of cleanup. In the process I learned a lot about what to tell the insurance company when submitting a claim and how they determine payment. I am sharing this information so that others might have a chance to be less screwed.

First I need to mention that it is my impression that insurance companies will do or say anything to delay and minimize payment. Do not trust anything said to you by an agent. Anything you do not have in writing (e-mail does seem to have the power of paper today) is essentially worthless. Agents will intentionally mislead you and or make promises they have no intention of keeping. You may make decisions based on this information and find later that you made a bad choice but that it is too late to change. So get everything in writing and write down the name of every person you speak to.

Property loss compensation is subject to some very confusing rules intended to minimize payment, however (with AAA at least) the need for documentation is minimal affording an opportunity to influence the eventual payment. I was unaware of these rules and lost quite a lot of money.

The two most important considerations are "replacement cost vs. actual value" and depreciation. If you have a replacement cost policy you may be paid the cost to replace your lost property with equivalent items but you will need to replace the items within a fairly short period of time. If you can not replace an item or have no place to house it because your house is gone or uninhabitable or if you would rather have cash and not a replacement item, you should consider taking "actual value" instead.

Actual value has little to do with the actual value of an item. Actual value is based on purchase price minus depreciation. There are some exceptions for things like art and possibly some collectibles or antiques so ask your insurer in advance as to how they treat these items and be prepared for a a bunch of double talk and confusion. Get everything in writing or fight your way through your policy declarations with the help of a lawyer or two to make sense out of it.

Depreciation can be considerable. For tools (including ones that suffer no wear in time and actually increase in value) the depreciation may be 5% per year with a maximum of 80%. That wonderful Starrett tool you bought 20 years ago for $400 will be compensated at $80 even though it costs $1500 to replace today.

Now for the most helpful hints:

The insurance company is not likely to require proof of purchase price especially for an item purchased 20 years ago. They took my word on everything I claimed. I made the mistake of being honest. If you got a great deal, do not tell the insurance company, it will only reduce your payment. Present the highest reasonable purchase price for every item and set the purchase date as close to the present as is believable.

Take pictures of everything you own and keep copies where they will not be destroyed in a fire or other disaster. This may be your only proof that you actually owned the items.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Rural Cell Phone Fix? change home SID

I live in a remote rural location where cell phone coverage is marginal at best. The mountains make it especially difficult to receive a signal in some places. My house is the worst cell reception location on my property. I have a signal booster, sold by Wilson Electronics that makes it possible to use the phone at the house. Previously I used a "yagi" antenna pointed at the closest tower but this required an external antenna connection on the phone and these are very rare on new phones today. The Wilson U-Booster "Sleek" is only about $100 and works with all phones.

The remaining problem is that I have Verizon as a carrier and all of their phones are programmed to switch to Verizon equipment whenever it is available, instead of roaming on another carrier's system. This would be fine if the connection worked. The phones only seem to check the receive signal strength and don't bother to test the connection before switching. I have used various techniques such as trying to shield the antenna from the Verizon signal but this has pretty much stopped working especially with my new phone.

It seems that one key to choosing a connection is the use of preferred SID. Every carrier has a SID number for each area they operate in. Boundaries are often county lines but not always. When a phone checks for available services, it compares the SID of the available signals to the preferred roaming list in the phone. I am not sure how to change this list if it is in fact a list. This is what "updating roaming" seems to do.

For me, changing the "home SID" seems to help the phone stay on the carrier of my choice. You can get lists of nationwide SIDs from the following three pages.



If you know the carrier that provides better service to your area, you can change your home SID to this number if you can access your phones settings. For my phone, this requires "manual programming" mode. I have listed the procedure below but it probably works only for some LG phones. I got the secret procedure from Verizon. They will not tell you anything other than their own local SID but you can probably get them to talk you through the procedure for manual programming on you phone. Pretend that you can not update roaming because there is no Verizon equipment in your area. They will be glad to help you change the SID to one that will not work. I changed my SID from 1076 (Verizon Mendocino) to 1075 (US Cellular Mendocino) To accomplish the same, you will need to find the SID of the best facility in your remote area.

HOW TO CHANGE THE HOME SID NUMBER:
This works on an LG Accolade. Other phones will probably require different manual programming access codes. If anyone knows the codes for other Verizon phones, I will make a list and publish them all.

Key the following as if you were keying a number. ##77647265600 and then press "send" Enter 000000 as the "service code" From the menu that displays, choose the first option "service pro" Click OK until you get to the "Home sid" display. Record the number shown in case you need to restore it. After editing the number, click "OK" until the phone re-boots.

I will maintain a list of manual programming access codes if I am able to get them for other phones. Please contact me if you have any codes to add to the list.

Monday, August 2, 2010

My Web Site Editor

A few months ago, I wrote a program to simplify the editing of basic HTML web sites. A couple of artist friends were having problems maintaining their sites due to the complexity of available programs or the cost of hiring "experts". I put a lot of effort into making the program as simple and automatic as possible. After configuring the program for a specific site, there is virtually no thinking to be done. All the complex stuff is handled by the program. I wrote both a PC and Mac version and learned a lot in the process.

The most difficult part has been getting anyone to try it. I set up a test site that anyone can try. Just download the program and it runs in test mode accessing the test site. The Mac version virtually installs itself. The program was designed for people who have existing HTML (CSSS is fine but flash content and other complexities can not be edited)sites and want to substitute pictures and text easily. Clink on the "check it out here" link below to give it a try and please let me know what you think. Be sure to view the "video demonstration" that shows the program in action.

check it out here

Comparing E-Mail Clients

Now that I have switched, I realize that I have been suffering with garbage for many years. I was an early adopter of "The Bat" for an E-mail client. I was attracted by the many advanced features such as the ability to use "regular expressions" in searches and the availability of a portable version that I could run from any computer using a thumb drive.

"The Bat" started out as a pretty good program with a few annoying bugs such as the world's worst text editor and the inability to properly display HTML in received e-mail.

The editor was the worst problem. Inserting copied text was nearly impossible without destroying formatting. Jumping all over the document was common and I thought it was my doing, hitting hot keys or something. I spent more time correcting an e-mail than writing it. Now that I have a better program I realize that the problem was with "The Bat"s editor, not me. It interprets certain key combinations or sequences as commands to do things like jump to the end of the document or some other place that I can not even describe.

No matter what configuration choices I made, I could never properly display HTML in received e-mail. The rest of the world seemed to have no problem but I had to deal with garbled text in an HTML world.

Rit Labs never answered my support questions. I figured they would eventually sort out the bugs. They had no problem adding useless features and charging for upgrades but they never fixed the basics.

I had heard that Mozilla "Thunderbird" was pretty decent so I gave it a try. There is a little to get used to and a few features that could be better but I am generally impressed. I can't believe the time I wasted with "The Bat".

I have made a new rule and hope to remember and stick with it. If something looks like it has problems, don't give it too much time. I suffered with "The Bat" for over 7 years. It was the advanced features that kept me hooked but I never used them enough to justify the daily suffering.

Of course, "The Bat" uses its own format for e-mail and a address book entries and their feature for exporting to standard formats does not work so saving my 100,000 email was a bit of a challenge. Together with "Thunderbird"s transition tools and an inexpensive (for one user personal use) program called Aid4Mail, I was able to get all my mail into "Thunderbird". I can not get the folders arranged exactly the way I want but that is a minor issue. For some reason, copying or moving between folders takes foreeeeeeeeeeeeever. Various solutions found on the internet for creating folders and moving messages just do not work. I might let the computer take the four days that it will take to copy the messages or I might just learn to live with things the way they are.

GOODBY BAT, I WILL NOT MISS YOU.