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So I’ve been using Google Photos for some time to back up every photo ever ever (ever) that my wife and I have taken. I’ve got the ios app on my phone, and I have been manually downloading her photos (from her phone an her DSLR). I’ve also been downloading my phone’s photos in a similar fashion. All photos are sorted into a year/month/day/device directory structure using PhotoMove, and the Google Photos desktop program backs up the photos to my google account. I’ve really been enjoying being able to quickly and easily curate the best-of-the-best shots, and make albums to have on hand, or share with family/friends.

The Problem

One thing that’s been bugging me is how the .MOV files produced by the iPhones and DSLR were being displayed several hours ahead in time from when they were taken. At first a minor annoyance that I simply ignored, but it slowly bugged me, especially when making mixed albums of photos/videos, and having to manually reorder them. After spending some time looking into it, I noticed that these videos were shifted ahead by exactly 7 hours. This made little sense until I noticed that I was in Pacific Daylight Time, which is -7 hours from UTC. This became more when daylight savings time ended last week, and all the videos were pushed ahead by 8 hours (PST = UTC – 8).

Not only does this knock videos out of order in Google Photos, it can cause videos taken on a given day to appear in the wrong folder within my /year/month/day/device organization.

The Cause

Googling around about .MOV files and timezone issues brought up a lot of stale rants about Picasa, which seemed to be a bit of a tie-in since it was another Google photo-based product, but also complaints occurring in things like Lightroom and DropBox.  This made me think that the problem is inherent to how the .MOV files are being handled, at least on a PC or during my download or something.

After a bit more digging, I saw some mention about how .MOV files don’t store metadata in EXIF format, and how this information doesn’t properly store time zone info. My best guess is that, somewhere in the workflow of taking the picture and downloading videos to my computer, the time that the video was taken is expressed in my local time zone and then assumed to be UTC, and so when my computer (and subsequent programs like Google Photos Uploader and PhotoMove) interprets the data, it gives a time that is incorrectly ahead of where it should be.

It seems to be a long-standing issue that a lot of people have had for some time, and yet not many talk about the how or why. I didn’t come across a conclusive description about how to solve it, so I figured I’d post this here in case it helps someone else.

The Solution

I had a copy of ExifTool for shifting the taken time for photos. It comes within GeoSetter, which I use for offsetting the capture time of photos that I receive from other contributors who aren’t so OCD about their photo chronology, or if I forget to synchronize the DSLR clock before taking pics. As a brief side note, if you’re planning to collaborate and share photos with someone, and are as OCD about capture time as I am, take a quick picture of them right at the moment they’re taking a picture of you, and use that as an easy time marker to synchronize clocks.

So, regarding the videos, I read up a bit about the command line options for ExifTool, and put together these two batch files to clean up .MOV files as I import them to my photo library.

1: Identify Issue

I put ExifTool in my path environment variable, then made a little .bat file on my desktop with this:

exiftool -CreateDate %1

When I drag an image or movie file into this, it reports back the capture time.  A quick check of a photo and video taken at roughly the same time should reveal a time difference depending on your time zone.

2: Batch Fix Videos

So I’m currently in PST, so I need to shift all my videos back by 8 hours.  I made this .bat file within my photo import folder:

exiftool "-CreateDate-=0:0:0 8:0:0" -ext .MOV -r -overwrite_original_in_place .

This recursively seeks through all subdirectories wherever the .bat file is located, and adjusts the CreateDate parameter back by 8 hours for all .MOV (case insensitive) files. It overwrites the original file, preserving all other metadata.

Cleanup and Checking

After going through and repairing the capture time of the .MOV files, I look at a few of the files’ data, and when I’m confident that they’re all in order, I use PhotoMove to structure them the way I like them.  When I’m happy with the output of PhotoMove, I move the sorted photos/videos over into the massive repository of photos, and let Google Photos do its magic.

Some time ago, my EVGA GeForce 9600 GSO started misbehaving.  In text mode, it would display a whole series of bad characters, not unlike a glitching NES game.  In graphics mode, it would show a regular set of bad pixels, which resembled a bad cable.

Originally, I tossed the card aside, and merged my computer with my wife’s (who happens to also one the identical graphics card, so the effort was minimal).

Recently, however, we’ve been missing being able to play computer games together.  With Borderlands 2 out, and the imminent Steam Summer Camp Sale, we’ve been missing the company of each other while shooting baddies and collecting loot.

After doing some sniffing around, I heard about how people bake their graphics cards to “repair” them.  My best guess is that the problem lies in poor solder joints, and this heating process will reconnect them.  So after reviewing some YouTube videos, I decided to followtheir instruction and try it for myself.  Here’s some photos and brief notes in case it’s useful for someone else.

Brief steps:

  • Remove all stickers, glue, fans, thermal compound
  • Bake card with GPU side down in an oven at 385 F for 10 minutes
  • Cool card in oven slowly, over at least half an hour
  • Apply new thermal compound and remount fan

Detailed steps:

  • Remove all stickers and strip away glue with rubbing alcohol
  • Unscrew cooling manifold, unplug fan connector, and clean away old thermal compound with rubbing alcohol
  • Clean all dust from card
  • Preheat oven to 385 F
  • Place card on tinfoil-covered baking sheet with GPU side facing down, and try to make sure it sits level
  • Bake card for 10 minutes
  • Turn off oven, but leave the card in the oven for at least 15 minutes
  • Crack open the oven door, and leave the card in the oven for at least 15 minutes
  • Remove baking sheet from oven and sit on counter for at least 15 minutes
  • Apply an even layer of thermal compound to the GPU and spread around to evenly coat the entire surface (I used Dynex DX-STC001)
  • Reattach the cooling manifold

I had my doubts, but when I turned on my computer after remounting, it came up with perfectly normal BIOS bootup.

Output of the EVGA GeForce 9600 GSO before repair attempt - text mode.

Output of the EVGA GeForce 9600 GSO before repair attempt – text mode.

Before beginning repair procedure.

Before beginning repair procedure.

Back of graphics card before repairs

Back of graphics card before repairs

Removing the cooler manifold from the graphics card.  Dust and old thermal compound.

Removing the cooler manifold from the graphics card. Dust and old thermal compound.

Back of graphics card, with stickers removed and glue cleaned.

Back of graphics card, with stickers removed and glue cleaned.

GPU side of graphics card, with dust removed and thermal old compound cleaned away.

GPU side of graphics card, with dust removed and thermal old compound cleaned away.

These connectors have plastic housings, which made me a little concerned.

These connectors have plastic housings, which made me a little concerned.

Ready to bake the card.

Ready to bake the card.

Baking the card at 385 F for 10 minutes.  Had the fan going full blast, but there wasn't any noticeable smell of melting/burning plastic.

Baking the card at 385 F for 10 minutes. Had the fan going full blast, but there wasn’t any noticeable smell of melting/burning plastic.

After baking, cooling, applying thermal compound, and reassembling, the card looks no worse for wear.

After baking, cooling, applying thermal compound, and reassembling, the card looks no worse for wear.

Installed the card in a test system (no hard drive) and the text mode display is looking normal again!

Installed the card in a test system (no hard drive) and the text mode display is looking normal again!

Day 1: Saturday, September 25

On Saturday, September 25, my wife and I set out on our trip from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Windsor, Ontario. I had a new postdoc position starting October 1, and we were uprooting everything and moving. We had spent the previous two days packing the 26′ UHaul truck. On Saturday morning, we completed packing and secured the auto transport to haul our car. We had stuffed bare essentials and supplies within the car, in the anticipation that the truck would be sealed at the border to ensure we do not leave anything behind during transit through the United States. We had our pet rabbits up in the UHaul truck cab with us, in their own hard plastic carriers.

After a final packing and securing of all things, we gave a farewell to family at my father’s place. On the way out the city, we stopped at a Red River Co-op to gas up the beast. It occurred to me that this was the first, and (quite possibly) the last time we would get gas at such a place.

The travel path for the first day is shown at this link. We were limited to a top speed of 55 mph due to the car in tow behind the UHaul, and so the trip took longer than expected.

To navigate the trip, we loaded our iPods with a Google Maps plotting of the route for the day. With two iPods, we had redundant maps in case something were to go wrong. In addition, I had downloaded static map images using the OffMaps application, and inserted bookmarks for our destinations along the trip.

When we hit the border, we presented our passports and stated that we are moving for a new job. We had prepared documents proving the new work (postdoc appointment offer letter) and proof of residence in Windsor (lease agreement), as well as an itemized list of everything we were carrying. The border kiosk only asked to see the passports, and asked the licence plate of the truck. We were pulled aside for further questioning.

One border guard asked us about organic materials we were carrying, and told us not to give the rabbits timothy hay anywhere but in the truck due to the possibility of seeds spreading and contaminating the US. I had thought timothy hay was indigenous to both US and Canada, but we complied without question.

Another border guard asked a series of questions about our trip, what we were carrying, and who we were. He asked the question, “Have you ever been fingerprinted?”, and I hesitated on the answer. I had recalled that, as a child, there was some event where a series of kids were fingerprinted. I didn’t know if that counted, so I said “I’m not sure”. He told me that answer was not good enough, and needed a more straight answer. I said, “To the best of my knowledge, no.” He left us, probably to go look up my name on some database, and came back to ask it a third time. This time, I gave him a straight “no”, hoping to avoid an unnecessarily long stay at the border. One problem with an academic background is that I don’t believe in straight “yes” and “no” answers. As a wise man from the U of M always says, “Nothing is 100%”. Once we were over that wrinkle, he continued on, and sent us on his way. He apologized for having to be so blunt with the questioning, and I explained to him the reason for my hesitation. He suggested that it could have been for some kind of child find program.

The border guard had taken a quick peek in the back of the truck, and sent us on our way. There was no offer to seal the truck to ensure we don’t smuggle anything, and I decided not to ask. They also had no interest in our itemized list of truck contents. I felt a little disappointed, since we spent so much time preparing it. We were apprehensive that since the truck was not sealed, a detailed search may occur on the returning border crossing, since we had no way of proving that we didn’t load the truck up with smuggled goods.

We were off and on the road again. The first thing I noticed was the improved quality of the roads, and I was we decided to take the US route.

En route, we stopped in a parking lot in a small town for rest, food, and to give the bunnies a chance to stretch their legs. As I was pulling in, I noticed that our car alarm was going haywire. Apparently the bumps and jumps of the trailer are enough to set off a motion sensor on the car, which I had not known existed until that moment. I made sure to lock the car using the internal locks, rather than the electronic key fob.

We opened up the back of the truck, and laid down some rabbit essentials (blanket, houses, food, water, litter pan). From this point on, we were glad that we had access to the truck, as it provided a safe place to spread out the girls. They took to the amenities immediately, and spent some time exploring their makeshift rest area. We were laughing about the fact that we were technically homeless, and wondered if our girls thought we were now poor.

We made at least one more rest stop on the route, and set the girls out each time. We came into Minneapolis much later than expected due to the lower top speed of the truck with the trailer attached. The driving experience got progressively more difficult. As we approached Minneapolis, the interstate opened up to more lanes, and the traffic volume increased considerably. As the sun set, I had to get accustomed to night driving. We were able to find our route to the hotel, and were relieved to be off the busy roads.

It was around 11 PM when we finally checked in at the Ramada Mall of America. We had hoped to arrive earlier so we could spend some time visiting the Mall of America, and the Ikea. Unfortunately it was all closed. Disappointed, we settled into our room and ordered a pizza. The bunnies were having a grand old time exploring the place, and we made sure they were well fed before going to bed.

Day 2: Sunday, September 27

The next day, we got up early enough to tend the girls, get breakfast, and explore the Ikea before we had to set out. Over the night, the girls’ lettuce had frozen in the fridge. I went down to the restaurant and appealed to the hostess’ good nature. “Please, my bunnies need breakfast!”. She loaded up our plastic tote with green leaf lettuce, and didn’t charge me. We had breakfast at the hotel, and departed across the street to Ikea. With the limited time we had before checkout, we managed to secure a few useful pieces of furniture for our new place.

A detour and several u-turns started our trip, but once we got our bearings, we were on our way. The trip map can be found at this link. We were off and made good time, as I was able to reliably overdrive the truck and trailer to a steady 65 mph on the smooth roads.

On the way out of Wisconsin, we were delayed by construction on I-90. It took us 2 hours to go 20 miles, and it wouldn’t have been so bad if we weren’t stuck in the middle of it with an empty tank. A feeling of panic and claustrophobia set in as we are at a dead stop with cars everywhere, no gas, and no exit ramp for miles. We made it, though, and had to push in at a gas station. Luckily no one wanted to argue with the beast, or the 6’7″ driving it.

Nerves were frayed, and patience was wearing thin, especially when we crossed a toll booth in Illinois with no money to spare. Apparently they don’t take kindly to offers of Canadian currency or Visa. I thought asking for Interac would land me a punch in the face, so I abstained. We took an unpaid toll citation that we had to settle when we arrived in Windsor. Sanity was restored when we arrived at the Oasis, which provided not only bank account access, but Starbucks. It was the first coffee since we left, and the warmth was comforting. The rest of the drive was fairly straightforward, where the toll booth operators offered reassurance that we were on course, and provided estimates for distances to our next exits.

We arrived fairly late at the Quality Inn, and set in for a good sleep. The buns were holding up fairly well through the entire trip. They were eating, drinking, and doing all other good stuff. My wife, on the other hand, was starting to show signs of a cold. Lots of coughing, and weakness. The long hours in the truck, the stress, and the travel must have worn her down.

Day 3: Monday, September 27

We departed fairly early from Chicago, in hopes we could stop by the Tabor Hill winery in Michigan on the way to our destination. I had been there last year during a social event for the ICPEAC conference in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I loaded my iPod with the trip from Chicago to Tabor Hill, and loaded my wife’s iPod with the trip from Tabor Hill to the Embassador Bridge. Once we hit the bridge, I was familiar enough with Windsor to get us to our new house.

The trip map for day 3 can be found at this link. The onset of the trip was fairly uneventful, though we got a bit confused when looking for our exit for Tabor Hill. Our exit number had come and passed very early, and we soon realized that we would have to wait until we crossed into Michigan before we stated counting exit numbers.

The exit from the interstate took us almost immediately to small country roads. Luckily they were paved, but they were so narrow that I was forced to drive the beast in the middle of the road, at about 35 mph, to avoid disastrous results. The pileup of cars behind me were thankful when I turned off, and left them on their way.

Arrival at the winery was restful, as we got to stretch our legs, browse the giftshop a bit, and pick up our mission objective: four bottles of Tabor Hill cherry wine. They make the wine using cherries, rather than grapes, and boast that it is the closest thing to cherry pie in a bottle. We picked up a couple for ourselves, as well as a couple for gifts. Unfortunately, the restaurant was closed Mondays and Tuesdays. We decided to set off and eat snacks on the way.

The departure from Tabor Hill took us through the small town of Baroda. As I rounded a corner, I noticed that the car alarm was once again going off. I must have remotely locked the car out of habit when departing Tabor Hill. A simple stop on the red cobblestone main street of Baroda corrected this problem, and we were off.

As we approached the Detroit area, we realized that our Google Maps directions were missing. We did not have a redundant map in this situation, since each iPod was loaded with each half of the trip. We briefly debated stopping at a hotel to pilfer some wifi, but decided to brave it and try the hands-on approach of OffMaps. This landed us a slight detour, where we left the M-14 onto Ford road. After driving for a bit and realizing this would only get from bad to worse, we pulled aside, planned out our route, and set off. We quickly reconnectd with the M-14 and were on our way.

I was shouting out intersecting street names while my wife tracked our progress and advised about upcoming turns and bends. In addition to the hands-on approach, we were dealing with the highest traffic density we had ever seen. This was, by far, the most involved and stressful part of the drive, where we had to watch for traffic, exits, street names, and run on the hope that you have not made a wrong turn.

Once I saw signs pointing the way to Canada, I could breathe again. We went through a series of loops, paid the toll for the bridge, and slowly made our way across the bridge. We were stopped for about 10 minutes due to construction on the bridge, and then we were on our way to Canada.

The border guard asked some regular questions, and we explained our move. We declared $175 in Ikea purchases, and 4 bottles of wine, at a cost of about $50. He asked how he could be sure that we didn’t load up the truck with illegal goods, and I offered for him to look in the back. I also offered the itemized list describing our original contents. He nodded and waved us on, saying we’re good to go. I also declared that we had our pet rabbits, and had paperwork for them, but he declined and said it was fine. My wife commented on how yuppie we must look, declaring some Ikea furniture and wine as we cross the border.

Arrival in Windsor

We easily navigated the streets of Windsor, and arrived at our new place at about 4:30 PM local time. As I had anticipated, the previous residents (and also our landlords) were still moving out. We had agreed to meet at 6 PM to transfer keys, so we were a bit early. I introduced myself, and asked him if he would be done by 6. He said yes, and we agreed to meet back at that time. I detached the car from the car tow, and drove the car tow to a local UHaul centre.

We returned to the house with the truck and parked it on the street. I took the car down to get some food, while my wife stayed with the truck and pets. At 6, the landlords were still moving out, and I pushed in. I asserted that they should have been out of the place on the 27th, as per our lease agreement. I was frustrated since I had set everything up to pay utilities and everything, yet they were still in our place. He argued that they only got possession of their new place on the same day.

That was not my responsibility though, as he had agreed to the possession date. I feel that he should have done everything in his power, including properly packing beforehand and possibly using personal storage, to ensure the changeover was smooth. After about two more hours, they finally gave up trying to move their stuff out and left a whole pile of things in the basement, to be picked up at a later date.

We set into cleaning the place, as it was left in quite a state of disrepair. We vacuumed the bedroom and established bare essentials to sleep for the night. My brother had come from Ottawa to help unpack, and he told me he needed to leave by 1 PM the next day. We decided to unload the whole truck that night, while we had his help for moving the big stuff.

No more than 3 hours later, the truck was vacant and swept. There is a saying that if you put two Hein boys together, you can accomplish almost anything. This night was no exception.

Settling In

The next morning, my brother and I returned the UHaul truck, went for breakfast, and I saw him on his way earlier than 1 PM. We began the long and still ongoing process of renovating, repairing, and cleaning this place. The previous owners apparently had little interest in simple-to-intermediate maintenance tasks, and we are currently crippled in our unpacking because we’re working to clean the place and make it reasonably safe to live in.

A brief list of things that were discovered so far:

  • Peeling paint on porch pillars,
  • Wood trims and borders not taped when walls were painted,
  • Walls full of holes, improper anchors, and screws with no anchors at all,
  • Derelict satellite dishes installed on front porch, with cables draping everywhere,
  • Filthy bathrooms, including tub, toilet, and overhead fan,
  • Exterior light fixture sagging due to improper mounting job,
  • Hornet’s nest in exterior light,
  • Destroyed doorbell (landlord justified this by claiming he never used his doorbell; that’s like saying you don’t need a cell phone because you never call yourself),
  • Light fixture in laundry room hanging by live wires,
  • non-GFI plug in bathroom,
  • Bathroom mirror mounted with window putty and a little clear caulking,
  • Improperly wired switches (down = on),
  • Stripped threads on several electrical boxes,
  • Overtightening on cover plates, leading to cracks in plastic,
  • No key for backdoor deadbolt or handle,
  • Front door handle installed backwards, missing a screw, and loose,
  • Heavily rusted shower curtain bar,
  • Old, dust-filled light fixtures with cobwebs,
  • Burnt-out, mismatched lightbulbs,
  • No doorstops on any door except one; damage to walls as a result of handle bashing when door opened,
  • Rotting wood used as anchors for front handrail installed in brick,
  • Concrete step sunk on front and back porches,
  • Sump pump hole covered with clutter and garbage, some of which was submerged,
  • Bathroom sink drain plugs not working,
  • Bathroom toilet flushing mechanism needs to be held down to flush,
  • Plastic boot guards nailed down to carpet at front entry, where most nails have protruded through boot guards, leaving them loose,
  • Sticky surfaces all over kitchen, including wall behind stove that was covered with tinfoil without cleaning, and
  • Messy washer/drier, including huge ball of lint in drier lint catcher.

To date, much of this list has been addressed.  I feel like I have been channeling my father’s handy instincts while cleaning and renovating this place.   I have spent a good amount of time and money doing so, and I have told the landlord that I will be sending him the bill for materials.  As I see it, I should not be responsible for these renovations.  Clearly, however, I cannot rely on him to do them, so I am best to do them myself.  I am saving him time, and possibly money if he had to hire someone to do them.  He has agreed to it, but I will have to wait and see his reaction when I send him the total list of materials.

When we complete the cleaning and renovations, we hope to finally begin setting up the place to be livable.

New Postdoc Work

I have almost everything set up for work at the University of Windsor with Bill McConkey. I met several department members, and plan to go through the various experimental setups next week while the current postdoc is still around.

This entry retracts a lot of the bad things I said about my iPod, while introducing new bad things to say about the Weiser Smartkey system, my former deadbolt.

Today, my wife and I held a garage sale to get rid of a bunch of things in for an incoming move. We held it at my father’s house, and before leaving to run the garage sale, I emptied everything from my wallet except for the $40 I keep stashed in a relatively hidden part of the wallet. We locked up our condo as usual that morning, but when we came home, we had troubles unlocking our door. The key would go in the deadbolt, but it would not turn. It was like the key was not the right one for the deadbolt.

Now this deadbolt was a Weiser Smartkey deadbolt, where the deadbolt could be reconfigured to open with a new key by simply using a special tool and a working copy. My first thoughts were that someone had rekeyed the lock while we were at the garage sale, or they damaged the deadbolt trying to break through it. I had thoughts of someone being in our place right then and there, doing who-knows-what.

A week ago, I had set up an IP camera to watch our bunnies when we were not at home. The idea was to bring a smile to my wife and my face when we were away, and see how the girls were doing. In this situation, the IP cam was our only eyes to the inside of our place, and it was staring at our most valuable possessions.

While standing outside, I fired up my iPod, which had become a staple of my everyday life for simple tasks like checking email or managing to-do lists. In this situation, I used it to check the IP cam. Once the iPod was running, the wireless easily connected to my router. That gave a first good sign that the computer and router was not compromised. Next, I brought up a browser to the IP cam, and saw an updated shot of the girls, all fine in their pen. Bonnie looked a bit curious about all the ruckus at the front door, but otherwise they looked normal. Knowing the girls were safe, we began to feel a little less panicked.

I called several locksmiths that I found by googling from the iPod. Eventually one locksmith actually answered their “24 hour emergency line”. The previous calls told me to leave a message, which I still have yet to get a callback for. When I explained the situation to the locksmith, he said that he practically gets calls daily for these Weiser Smartkey locks. This made me a little more relieved, thinking that the deadbolt problem was due to simple device failure, rather than tampering or re-keying. There was no signs of forceful tampering, and the only person with a spare key was the condo residence manager, who hopefully keeps it in a secure place. Unless someone went to the trouble of picking it and rekeying it, I did not think it was rekeyed.

My father drilled out the lock, and we were inside in about 10 minutes. I cautiously scoured the place, turning on every light and brandishing a mallet, on the odd chance that my initial suspicions were right. The place was secure, and we headed out to get a new deadbolt. Once we arrived at Home Depot, we picked up a Schlage that had a close colour match for the rest of the door hardware. When I went to pay, I realized I forgot my credit card at home. My father left his wallet at home, and the best we could do is scrape together about $46 dollars, including my emergency $40. The cashier must have seen the desperation on my face, and discounted it so we could afford it. After a quick installation, our place was once again secure.

So after a good hour of panic, and having to beg a Home Depot cashier for some reprieve for not having enough cash to pay for the replacement deadbolt, we have switched to a more conventional deadbolt. In this whole scenario, our deadbolt was the cause of the problem, an the iPod was part of the solution. Being able to hop on my router from outdoors gave us peace of mind to see our little girls safe, and allowed us to shop around and find a locksmith for advice.

Although I’m still not happy with the way a lot of things work on the iPod, and I can directly attest that Apple does not make glorious, infallible technology, it served a great purpose in this situation.

I just made my first ever Apple purchase: the Apple iPod Touch. The motivation for this is that I wanted some kind of fun technology that may also prove reliable for light productivity activities, such as email checking and such. Having recently celebrated my Ph.D. convocation, I thought it was time to splurge on something fun.

I picked up the 8GB model for $198.99 CDN from the local Future Shop, and I also got a leather carrying case at $34.99 CDN to minimize screen damage and such. The sales clerk was nice enough to throw in a $12 screen cleaner kit for free.

Thew new iPod and leather case.

A shot of the packaging after iPod was removed. The sticker was holding the claw together, keeping the thing from being removed

Is this a dock, or am I missing something? And why is there a "16" on the side?

When I get home to unwrap the new toy, I spent a good while trying to figure out how to open the box. I felt very old to be picking at the casing and be confused. Once I gave it my full attention, I saw how there were stickers and such which locked the weird claw grasping thing. Once the sticker was removed, it was straightforward to remove the iPod from its holder.

I get into the lower compartment, where manuals, disclaimers, and (oddly enough) Apple logo stickers can be found. I suppose when you’re buying an Apple product, you’re also paying for the rights to shamelessly show off your support, and are buying into the image that is Apple. I considered placing the Apple stickers on my toilet, and using a Sharpie to write in the product name “iFlush” on the side, but I abstained.

Along with the manuals and paperwork, I find earbuds, a USB dock cable, and this odd plastic thing. It looks like a cradle of some sort, where the iPod-end of the USB cable can fit through it, and the butt of the iPod can be inserted into the groove, but I have no idea how or if this thing should stand on its own.

I read through the disclaimers, where it lists off a whole bunch of things you should never do while using the iPod. I was reminded of the Happy Fun Ball skit from Saturday Night Live. It even goes on to imply that if you (think you) have electromagnetic hypersensitivity, you should limit use of the wireless features.

Once I’m satisfied that this thing doesn’t want me to use it when I do anything other than breathe, I move on to the “Start here” treasure map. It tells me to download the iTunes software. After no less than three EULA-like things for me to read and agree to before proceeding, I finally get to the point where I am to connect the iPod. Some more popups and such. I decide to name the iPod “Phobos”, after the Greeek god of fear. I tell it to not automatically sync anything, and to ignore registering for now.

Finally, after all is said and done, I get some status panel showing off hardware and it’s status. Down at the bottom, I see a quaint little percent bar that reports my memory usage. What especially catches my eye is the capacity, reported at 7.01 GB. And of that capacity, only 6.83 GB is free for use, what with all the existing software already soaking up 182.8 MB. That’s about 15% less usable capacity than what they advertised. If you let it slide that the device needs over 180 megs to play music, that’s still about 12% less overall capacity than they advertise.

So at this point I decide that it’s worth a little passive aggressive rant about this device. Apparently people at Apple don’t know how to count, or they feel that they can round up to the next highest integer whenever they advertise a capacity. Now, I have seen the use of 2^10 rather than 10^3 in computer lingo to describe order of magnitude jumps in units (eg 1 kilobyte = 1024 bytes, 1 gigabyte = 1024 kilobytes, etc.), but this would only stand to underinflate the reported amount, rather than overinflate it. And if, for some crazy reason, the iTunes software is reporting 1 gigabyte = 1024 megabytes = 2^20 kilobytes = 2^30 bytes, then the actual number of bytes would still fall short of 8 GB by about 300 MB.

Ok, rant over. I suppose I should spend some time actually using it and getting used to it. Who knows, I might actually come to like it. If not, then it will make a great graduation gift for my wife.

I have given my wiki a little work. In particular, I laid down most of the groundwork for a startup LaTeX guide. This guide is written based on my experiences, and focuses on developing a Windows-based development environment using MikTeX and WinShell.

Comments and feedback is welcome.

For the first time since its inception, I have given my website a bit of updating. I’ve brought some information up to present, cleaned up some of the text, and laid out the research description section in anticipation that I will get another job somewhere else.

I find that messing with HTML is so slow and cumbersome compared to working on this blog or the wiki, but the deed is done.

As another plus, I have burned it into my head how to make HTML links that open in a new tab. I find those are so much more convenient than the typical one that navigates you away from the page you’re on. From now on, I’ll try to make a point of making my links in this blog behave that way. I’d go back and change all the older ones, but this seems to mess up the chronology of the posts. Plus, it might spam the RSS feed.

I’ve finally got around to updating my CV. This is a complete rewrite of my old one, making use of a CV template prepared by Matthew J. Miller. I think it’s quite simple and concise, which is what I like in a CV. Easy to read.

The source code for this CV is available at if you are interested. As you can see, it’s also easy to write.

This is just one update of many that I plan to do to my website. At the time of this writing, I haven’t modified the page contents in over 10 months. When I have tinkered with the web contents, I also plan to develop some more documents in my wiki, including a more robust guide to installing and using LaTeX.

I really enjoy how the pgfplots package allows you to plot graphs using external data files as the source. This makes it very easy to generate data using my favourite tabulation/graphing program, export to comma- or space-separated variable format, and then use this to generate my plot figures. My thesis defence has a few examples of how I use this.

I have always thought it would be nice to do the same thing when producing tables. Basically, all table contents are produced from an external source file, which can be updated by whatever third party program I am using to generate the data. I haven’t given it much effort, but I recently spotted this post which shows this example of using the datatool package for loading in a database from an external file, and producing a table from this database.

I haven’t spent time experimenting with it, but it looks exactly what I am looking for. The datatool package documentation lists off a bunch of conditional commands for checking/testing the data values, as well as commands for manipulating the data. One concern I have is special handling of decimal numbers for proper formatting, such as inserting leading zeros or spaces to ensure the decimal point lines up in a column.

The reason I haven’t invested any time in playing with this yet is because I was looking to see if there was some way to make the work process easier when generating graphs and tables for a journal publication. Aside from the time invested in learning to get this to work, I can forsee additional time spent developing appropriate conditional statements to properly manage and handle the data output. This will increase the complexity of the development in the long run, which will probably not save me any time. Furthermore, the journal prefers I keep the LaTeX project as simple as possible. Asking them to install the datatool package, and all of its dependencies, is probably asking too much. Plus, my tables are really not that long.

I can imagine this being useful if large (or a large number of) tables need to be generated, each with very similar (and possibly simplistic) formatting. Such a thing might be useful with my multipage table example.

I have just finished effecting repairs to my Logitech G7 mouse. Over the past few months, it has been experiencing a “double-click” problem common to this mouse, which, according to this guide, is due to the microswitch losing its spring tension.

This is my second G7 mouse. Years ago, my first G7 had experienced the same problem, and I had attempted to remove the microswitch altogether and replace it with the right-click microswitch. I had figured that a sporadic double-right-click would be a lot less problematic than a sporadic double-left-click. Unfortunately, this process ended disasterously, as I was never able to remove the upper board within the mouse to access the solder points for the microswitch. My attempts caused some irreparable damage to the mouse, as it never powered back on when I tried reassembling it. On the plus side, I saved all components, should I ever have a need for them in any future repair attempts of any future G7 mice.

To repair my current G7 mouse, I followed this guide, which describes how to restore tension to the microswitch spring. Two things this guide did not accurately explain is how to remove the copper component from the cradle, and how to reattach it after adjusting the tension. I include my notes on my experiences here, should they be useful to other people, or to myself in any future attempts to repair my mouse.

The leaf spring for the left mouse button.

When removing the leaf spring, I found that it did not simply pop up by applying pressure under the curved part. Perhaps my microswitch was not as far gone, and so it still held sufficient tension to make this removal process difficult. By closely inspecting how the leaf spring was installed, I noticed that there was some tension between the curved part and the “front” (the part closest to the button actuator). I gently pulled forward on the leaf spring, applying more tension to the bent part, until the front was unhooked. From here, the spring could be removed.

When installing the modified leaf spring, it took some trial and error. Thanks to my previously killed G7, I had a few spare microswitches to experiment on, as well as a view of a properly installed leaf spring (the right mouse button on the dead G7 was intact, and never had any problems). Using these as a guide and testing ground, I found that the best trick to reinstall the leaf spring is as follows.

Reattaching the leaf spring using a razor blade.

First, slide the rear part of the spring between the pincer-like holder at the back of the microswitch. Gently push down on the curved part with a razor blade until the curve rests in the proper position, and there is a slight tension on the leaf spring, trying to push it toward the back. Next, insert the razor blade along the “right” side of the front hole in the leaf spring (as viewed from the front of the microswitch), and pull the spring forward until the front of the leaf spring engages with the holder. The entire spring should be securely mounted, and when the microswitch cover is installed, it should make a nice, loud clicking sound.

Only reinstalled the one screw as shown.

The Teflon pads were not damaged during the removal process, and luckily they had enough stickiness to attach back where they belong. In case I ever need to open this mouse again, I have only installed the single screw located below where the sticker used to reside. I decided to completely remove the sticker to minimize any problems with remnants bunching up and such, and I came across seven holes in the chassis corresponding to what appears to be seven contact points. I wonder if this is some discrete port Logitech put in so the mouse can be connected to some dock to receive software updates or instructions or something.

With my mouse rebuilt, I can hear a more prominent clicking sound from the left mouse button compared to the right. I have yet to test the mouse for an extended duration, but it seems like the double-clicking problem is gone.


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