Category Archives: Technology

How to override and re-enable form auto-complete that has been disabled on a webpage

One of the most annoying problems I encounter when filling out online forms is when a website owner has disabled the autocomplete feature of your browser, by programmatically locking down form fields.
One example where I need to use auto-complete, is when filling out those Kroger surveys that gives you extra 50 fuel loyalty points every 7 days. There are legitimate reasons why website developers would want to disable auto-complete but in my opinion, online surveys are not one.

To save myself from redundant typing every week, I decided to write a bookmarklet that can be used in Chrome to quickly re-enable most auto-complete fields that have been disabled. I have been using this for over a year now without problems and decided to share here.

Drag and drop the button below into your Chrome bookmark bar:
Enable auto-complete form

To use the bookmarklet,  simply drag and drop the blue button above to your Chrome bookmark bar.
Next time you are on a webpage with disabled auto-complete, simply click the bookmarklet and this should enable the form fields for auto complete.

One very important point: Never auto-complete forms on a website you don’t trust. Auto complete phishing is a known way for malicious webpage owners to obtain your sensitive data via hidden fields without you realizing. In addition, please consider that some websites may have a legitimate reason to disable auto-complete so you should always use auto-complete feature with caution, and always at your own risk.

Feel free to post suggestions or comments. If this is not working for you with a webpage you are trying to use. When I find the time I’ll try to revise the code to make it work for you.

Samsung 4TB SSD drive is a monster of a storage

Samsung has just announced the launch of Samsung 850 EVO – 4TB – 2.5-Inch SATA III Internal SSD drive that will start shipping on July 31st.

It was only a couple of years ago that the conventional HDD 4TB drives were almost pushed to the limit to accommodate the large storage. There has always been reliability issues as well with spinning drives, not to mention noise and heat. I personally had several 1TB and up drives fail both at places I worked and home.

In contrast, my SSD drives (albeit smaller in capacity), have proven to be reliable and I am yet to have one fail.

Speed of the SSD drives is amazing – it can really revitalize your personal computer, whether it is a laptop or a PC.  However up until now, SSD drives were primarily used as OS drives with installed applications on it to speed up the overall performance while keeping the storage requirements low, since OS and programs don’t take as much space as data. The data on the other hand has been delegated to those noisy and large capacity HDD drives. With the new SSD drives becoming almost similar to size of the HDDs, it is a promising development and hopefully bring the current hefty price of $1500 to the price point of a home user as the adoption, volumes, and competition ramps-up.

DIY Solar Filters for Binoculars

Did you know that you can do star-gazing during the day? Our own star, sun, in-fact provides the most spectacular star-gazing experience you can ever do with its full glory, color and true spherical appearance.  You need the right equipment though to do it safely.

solar disk

Your options are to get a telescope with a special solar filter or just use regular binoculars fitted with DIY solar filters. The more powerful the binoculars, the better. This article will demonstrate how to build a Do It Yourself solar filter that perfectly fits your binoculars. For this project I will use Bushnell 10×50 binoculars and will provide cut-out templates for its size, but any pair of binoculars should work – just make your own template and print it out. (You can use something like youidraw.com to create vector drawings free without software download).

Materials & tools required:

Bushnell 10×50 binoculars (or any binoculars you already have)
Black Polymer Solar filter sheet
Thin cardboard sheet
Scissors or Utility/Razor knife
Clear, gift wrapping tape
Printer (to print out template)
Filter cut out template (pdf)
PVC coupling or pipe 2.5 inch diameter (or diameter that is larger than your binoculars large input lenses)

Step 1.
Print out the Filter cut out template at 100% size (un-check any options to scale, fit-to-page, etc. in your printer dialog window).

template preview

Step 2.
Cut out the templates and use template A to draw two circles on the polymer sheet with pencil. Use template B to draw doughnut shapes on thin cardboard sheet.
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Step 3.
Carefully cut-out the drawings you have made with sharp scissors (Tip: keep protective cards on polymer sheet while cutting).

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Polymer sheet cut-out
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Cardboard cut-out

Step 4.
Prepare the cylinders. I happened to have a couple of wide media core ends available that were a just a perfect (loose) fit to my binoculars, but you can also use a 2.5in or size that fits your binocular lens PVC pipe or coupling (your local hardware store should have many different ones you can choose from) .

I sawed the core ends to form two pipes with tapered ends.

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Step 5.
Drop he polymer circle sheets into the pipes. Then slide the cardboard “doughnuts” on top for them to hold the polymer filters circles. If your pipes do not narrow on the inside, simply glue or tape the cardboard “doughnuts” that we cut out earlier to one side of the pipe. Then cut out two more cardboard “doughnuts”. Slide the polymer filters and finally slide the cardboard “doughnuts” on top  to hold the polymer filters. Tape the cardboard “doughnuts” from the inside as shown below.


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Step 6.
Add some friction grips. For this I used foam packing peanuts. Cut three thin pieces of packing peanuts for each lens (6 total), to the thickness that can pack the gap between the binocular and the solar filter just tightly enough to hold them securely. Tape the foam pieces in 120 degree interval as shown below.

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Step 7.
Now carefully slide both lenses onto the binoculars and make sure they are snug and won’t fall off. If the lenses are too loose, replace the foams with thicker ones. Be sure that the lenses are securely sitting and won’t fall out during use – you don’t want to look at the sun with unprotected binoculars!!!! It will most certainly blind you instantly.

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Step 8.
You are done. Please use extreme caution when looking at the sun with filters.  The way I do is I put binoculars with solar filters on closely to my eyes first, fully lowered and away from the sun. Then raise the binoculars toward the sun. When I am done observing, I keep the binoculars close to my eyes, lower the binoculars pointing well-away or opposite from the sun and only then take the binoculars off. This way I avoid accidentally looking at the sun without the eye protection.

solar image

DISCLAIMER: You assume all risks for any solar filter build. Extreme caution is required when observing the sun. Do not allow children to use binoculars as they may not be aware of safety issues. Read all instructions and safety information by the polymer sheet manufacturer and fully educate yourself on solar observation safety before proceeding with making your own solar filter or performing a solar observation. The above instructions are for my own record only and I disclaim any responsibility of any harm, permanent blindness or any type of injury any solar observation may cause you.

Windows Task Manager Pronto!

Since [finally] switching to Windows 7 from Windows XP I had been annoyed by the multi-step process to reach Windows Task Manager. In Windows XP you would just type Ctrl + Alrt + Del and the Task Manager would pop-up. In Windows 7 (as well as Vista), however opening the Task Manager with the same shortcut requires a couple of more steps: Ctrl + Alt + Del, wait for screen to go blank and for blue screen to come up and click on “Start Task Manager” button.

Easier approach to open Task Manager directly in Windows Vista or Windows 7 is to just type Ctrl + Shift + Esc, and the Task manager will pop right up just like it used to in Windows XP with Ctrl – Alt – Del.

How To Get Gmail Old Compose Functionality Back

Since Google has finally decommissioned the old compose and switched all users, including business users to the New Compose, many users have expressed frustration about how cumbersome it has become to use Gmail as Email. I was personally affected by this “upgrade” as it diminished my workflow of my business (Case-Badges.com) that uses Google Enterprise Solutions for hosting email.

New Compose is supposed to resemble an IM (Instant Messaging) experience. Problem is, trying to use it as email (the service I thought I was paying for), especially for business purpose, has become unbelievably frustrating. I won’t list all the problems here as the Google Groups are full of these reports. I would just sum-up that in order for me to access To: (Cc: Bcc), From, Subject fields, I need to perform several clicks. To: field is no longer a plain text field and if you try to paste and edit email strings within it, Gmail pre-formats your text and often misinterprets a person’s name as address. Fields also jump-around and re-size as you compose, making a composition of a business email extremely frustrating as you try to get the work done.

I have actively started looking for an alternative hosted email solution to Gmail. I came very close to switching to Office 365 which looks surprisingly powerful and can accomplish pretty much everything Gmail does and with bigger storage and other more powerful features. The switch however comes at a cost of migrating the entire email, lengthy set-up and learning curve. My frustration with Gmail’s New Compose came to the point, however, that I was willing to invest time in order to obtain an email service that acted like an email and not IM.

Today I was able to find a solution that at least temporarily helps me put my switching from Gmail on hold.

How to get Old Gmail Compose back:

If you are using Chrome browser, you can install an extension called Fix Compose For Gmail that will instantly give you back the old compose features.

I have also tried Classic Gmail Compose, which had a minor bug that Compact view was not really compact. A workaround for this was to re-apply a current theme (Settings > Themes) without further reloading the Gmail webpage.

Both extensions retailed the ability to use Gmail shortcuts and my old workflow is back! My email is email again and not a chat. I just hope Google’s Gmail team will swallow their pride and walk back their “Old compose is never coming back” stance.

 

Screen capture tips

Sometimes you want to capture your screen and share it with someone. Screen capture part is easy. (Print Screen or Shift-Print screen in Windows, or  Cmd-Ctrl-Shift-4 on Mac) but how about sharing or saving? There are some great Chrome plug-ins out there such as Awesome Screenshot but my Chrome plug-ins have tendency to go out of sync from my Chrome version and I end-up deleting the extension.

Easiest and most convenient way I found so far for quick screenshot sharing is Gmail. Simply capture your screen using one of the above methods.

1. Compose new message in Gmail
2. Switch to Rich Formatting and Paste the screenshot
3. Put some meaningful keyphrases to find it easily and send it to yourself or someone you are sharing it with.

 

 

Personal Computer Backup Strategy – the Wrong Way

Computer storage is cheap. Yet vast majority of home and home office users do not back up their computers, risking the loss of priceless data accumulated over the years. Main culprit in my opinion has always been the lack of reliable backup system provided by operating system (OS) makers.

Until relatively recently, users have relied on OS built-in backups that were confusing, hard to use, and most importantly quite unreliable. Words “unreliable” and “backup” do not go well together. Some third party solutions have been on the market but they usually have high perceived cost and reliability there is spotty as well.

With the advent of the Time Machine by Apple that first shipped with the 10.5 “Leopard” release of Mac OS X, the Mac users have been at a slight advantage with user friendly backup with advanced features. Another major OS maker, Microsoft however has been lagging the in this field and only in Windows 8 was the first time we saw a Time Machine-like backup solution. I have not personally tested the Windows 8 backup yet but the fact is that majority of computer users have older Windows OS-es and many are still reluctant to upgrade for various reasons.

Windows XP is still the most popular Microsoft OS and it’s backup solution has not been working out for me personally. A few years back, I had a Windows XP PC with a few gigabytes of personal data on it. Windows default backup system even allowed automated backups via scheduling. Easy right? I went ahead and set-up a schedule to back up my main C: drive (OS and documents) to a secondary E: drive. Everything was going well, Windows kept backing up incrementally, and I had a peace of mind. One day however I lost some files and decided to get them back from the backup source. To my horror, Windows XP reported that it could not restore files because there was a “problem with backup archive” – that’s it! No explanation, no recourse and the file wasn’t even damaged – Windows XP has simply decided that the backup archive was not good enough to even try and restore few of my files. Since the archive is proprietary, I had no other means of retrieving my files even though they were there … somewhere.

I tried online backup solutions as well, but they were all inadequate – mainly because of the high bandwidth requirements and the speed at which I could upload huge amounts of data (Most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) severely limit the upload speed).

Since then, I have decided to implement a more robust backup system that did not rely on a backup software or proprietary systems. My thought was that such a robust system would be more complicated than Windows own, but after doing some research and refining it over the years I believe I have a backup strategy that is good enough for a home user and possibly even a small business owner or a professional. In the case of a hard drive failure my data is safe and I can get back my whole setup in a relatively short amount of time. Even in the event of catastrophic failure (fire, theft), with this strategy I can minimize the data loss to only a very recent period.

Check out my next article Backup Strategy That Works for details.