Posted by: glasskeys | 06/24/2014

Embedded devices and microcontrollers.

A microcontroller powered robot!

A microcontroller powered robot!

Are you a little intimidated by embedded hardware or microcontrollers? You shouldn’t be. Read my latest article on CITEworld to find out why.


I just finished posting the final part of my two part series about Software Defined Radio (SDR) on CITEworld. Part one discussed getting started with SDR on Android and Linux.

Part two in the series (published yesterday) shows how to use SDR hardware with Mac OS X and Windows 8.1 — including Surface Pro tablets.

Posted by: glasskeys | 05/27/2014

How to build your own solar battery charger.

Once in awhile, I like to return to my "roots" and do a bit of old-fashioned hardware hacking. Digging through an old parts box, I noticed a couple of solar panels still in the packaging I hadn’t gotten around to doing anything with. So I decided to have some fun and try to build a solar-powered battery charger, and also do it in the most inexpensive way possible.

The following images show each step in the process required to build a fully functional solar battery charger. If you are uncomfortable with a soldering iron, power tools, or taking apart electronic devices then it is advisable to skip this "how-to" until you are ready. Please also remember to be safe when disassembling electronic devices. I am not responsible for any injuries you could potentially receive following these instructions!

First, I removed one of the panels from the packaging and measured the output voltage; it was slightly over 5 volts.

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In an age of Google email data mining, "phishing" scams, and sleazy social networks such as Facebook, one can never be too careful with personal data. And as Richard Snowden has proved to the world: just because you are paranoid, doesn’t mean the NSA aren’t after you.

This brings us to a topic of a similar nature involving a "feature" added to Apple’s Mavericks iPhoto application: automatic facial recognition. I discovered this "feature" after I recently upgraded to OS X Mavericks, and created a bootable install image. Exploring new features, I was delighted to find most of the applications and OS features had improved — that is until I ran across facial recognition in iPhoto.

Besides the utility of slowing iPhoto to a crawl, facial recognition didn’t really seem to be that useful of a feature anyway, so I resolved to stop the facial scanning and eliminate the face repository. If this "improvement" to iPhoto bothers you as much as it does me, use the following steps to kick iPhoto’s creepy Big Brother off of your Mac OS X system.

First, be sure to Quit iPhoto if it is running. This is critically important, because we will be doing things that iPhoto will not like if left open. This includes removing all databases with scanned face information. So if you wish to stop facial recognition, but keep the facial recognition database, run only the first and very last command in the listing below.

Next, open Finder. Select the Pictures folder, and control-click iPhoto Library. Select the Open With option and choose
NOTE: If does not appear in this list, it can be found in the Applications/Utilities folder.

Here is a screenshot of my Finder window in action:

With the Terminal window open, type these commands at each $ prompt:

$ defaults write PKFaceDetectionEnabled 0
$ cd ./Database/Faces/Detected
$ ls
$ rm *.apdetected
$ cd ../../apdb
$ ls
$ rm Faces.db
$ rm BigBlobs.apdb
$ exit

(The ls commands show the contents of each directory, so you may omit those.)

You may now open iPhoto again — this time it will not scan your personal photos for faces to insert into a database. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I am not associated or employed by any company producing software or hardware reviewed on this site.

Posted by: glasskeys | 01/07/2014

IT Blogwatch – 01/07/2014

AT&T Death Star

I used The Schwartz this morning, working on this IT Blogwatch article with Richi Jennings.

These are fun to work on, and I appreciate the opportunity to contribute to a great publication like ComputerWorld.

Posted by: glasskeys | 12/17/2013

IT Blogwatch – 12/17/2013


I had tons of fun early this morning working on this IT Blogwatch article with Richi Jennings.

(To view a larger image with a more detailed description tap or click a thumbnail.)

Many people have upgraded to Windows 8.1 for the sole purpose of being able to boot to desktop. Although it is very easy to change the settings to do this, Microsoft has placed these settings controls in the most non-intuitive place possible for users to find. The place that would have made sense would have been found in the [Control Panel][Administration Tools][System Configuration], [Boot] tab, instead it was buried under the Navigation and Taskbar properties on Desktop.

Follow these 3 simple steps to boot to desktop in Windows 8.1:
1) If on the home screen, click the Desktop tile.
2) In Desktop, right-click the Navigation bar at the bottom of the screen. (This is the bar that holds the clock tray). Select Properties in the context menu window.
3) Click the Navigation tab, and then tick the top two checkboxes in the Start screen section – most critical is the Show desktop background on start option.

Congratulations, you are now able to boot directly to Desktop.

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Posted by: glasskeys | 10/17/2013

Windows 8.1 update today.

(To view a larger image with a more detailed description tap or click a thumbnail.)

Microsoft has decided to release Windows 8.1 today. If you have an existing Windows 8 installation, follow this link, and click the Get the update button which opens the Store app to start the free update, alternatively you can use tap the Store tile, then tap the Update link in the corner to accomplish the same task. For those of you new to Windows 8, you can purchase Windows 8.1 from Microsoft here. I recommend biting the bullet and purchasing the full Win 8.1 Pro edition.

If you are updating, you can pause or cancel during download, tap the progress tile, and these options appear at the bottom of the screen.

I will be checking out Win 8.1 today and trying to find hacks useful to users along with features/improvements to the OS. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I am not associated or employed by any company producing software reviewed on this site.

Google Reader - No Mas.

Google Reader – No Mas.

Today is the day we found out Google Reader will be no more. For those interested in finding a good app replacement to use on their iPad or Android tablet, I recommend Flipboard for the iPad, and the Pulse News reader for Android tablets.

Incidentally, the Pulse News reader is also available for Nook tablets, previously covered on here.

Disclaimer: I am not associated or employed by any company producing software reviewed on this site.

(Use the tag cloud at right to view similar topics. If you like this post +1 it!)

Posted by: glasskeys | 03/12/2013

Building Apps for Win 8 tablets and mobiles.


I recently ran across this video tutorial series called Building Apps for Both Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 from Microsoft on the Channel 9 website.

Download links are available for each of the videos in the series, in both WMV and MP4 formats which means you could watch the tutorial on your iPad if you so desire.

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