Sunday, April 28, 2013

Movie / Oblivion 2013

This newly-released Tom Cruise science fiction movie is much better than it seems at first. I could list off various scientific quibbles, but the cinematography is excellent. I'd put it on par with Looper.

According to the narrative, in 2017 Earth was attacked by aliens, who heavily damaged the Moon, causing earthquakes and tsunamis that destroyed civilization. We won the war by using nukes, and drove off the aliens, but Earth was left uninhabitable due to radiation, while the surviving humans relocated to Titan, a moon of Jupiter.

Now 60 years later, Tom Cruise is one of a few members of a cleanup crew, a drone repairman, who keeps the drones in working order, which in turn defend the giant energy sucking machines, which are sucking up our entire Ocean, what is now left of it, converting it to energy, and beaming it up to Titan.

He lives a "good" life, in a luxury penthouse atop a pole maybe 1,000 feet off the ground, with a lovely female assistant, who acts as both his local mission control officer, when he's out on repair missions, and his bedmate. Both of them report to senior Mission Control on Titan.

But life is marred by the Scavs, surviving aliens who haven't yet been eradicated by the drones, who keep mounting guerrilla attacks on the mission, the drones, and the giant water sucking machines.

To protect the mission, in case of capture by the Scavs, both of them have had a memory wipe. The film's title, Oblivion, refers not only to the desolate state of Earth, but also to their lack of memory of what went before. Tom has dreams and flashbacks, but she is content to ask no questions.

In Tom Cruise fashion, his character is prone to violating the rules and doing crazy stuff, often putting him at odds with Mission Control. At one point I considered walking out; the whole thing seemed too predictable. But actually, his renegade flyboy behavior is critical to what comes next, his breaking out of the narrative, remembering who he is, and discovering what's really going on.

I won't spoil the story, but what's really going on is very complex and totally unlike the previously defined narrative. Don't step out of the theater around the halfway point! Once he figures out the true situation, he then takes heroic Tom Cruise-like actions to fix it.

Access Samsung WB150F Camera from iPad via Remote Viewfinder

Accessing your camera over WiFi from an iPhone or iPad, including remote shutter release, seems like a fantastic idea, especially for family or self-portraits, but can be difficult to figure out.

First, the camera side. When you turn the knob to WiFi, Remote Viewfinder is one of several apps. To access this feature alone, you do NOT need to connect to an existing WiFi network. Most other WiFi enabled features assume you will be connecting to your home network, but not this one. Rather, once you activate this app, it turns your camera into a WiFi hotspot, which you can connect to, out in the field, without a password, from your phone or tablet.

Next, the iPad side. Maybe if you're using a Samsung Android tablet or phone this will be easier, but for some reason, perhaps bad blood between the 2 companies, although the Samsung Remote Viewfinder iOS app is available on iTunes, when accessed from your PC, it's not findable in Apple's App Store from your phone or tablet, which seems nuts for a free helper app. But there is a work around.

Since you can find the iOS app on PC-based iTunes, you can also find its URL, which currently is:

Therefore, type the above URL into the browser on your iPhone or iPad, and you will be taken to it. Press Install and soon you will have Remote Viewfinder on your device.

Finally, to get the 2 working together --
  1. On the camera, turn the knob to WiFi, select Remote Viewfinder, and activate it. This turns your camera into an active hotspot, even if you are out in the forest.
  2. On the iPad, go into Settings > WiFi and connect to the new hotspot, and only then
  3. Go back out and activate the Remote Viewfinder app itself, which will now find the camera and connect to it.
After you have completed these steps, you can see through your camera, even if you are in the picture, and press the shutter. But there is one drawback. Apparently you can't go into the mode of your choice, such as Smart. Instead you are stuck in some unknown mode that takes a long time to fire and uses the flash. If you turn the knob to Smart, away from WiFi, your remote connection is lost.

Hopefully these drawbacks will be addressed in future versions, but the pictures come out okay, so this seems like a minor price to pay, for an otherwise free and usable remote control program.

Enable Opera Keyboard Shortcut for Delete Private Data

Despite various forum postings, including a long one from Tamil, an Opera developer with over 110,000 postings, this was surprisingly hard to figure out, which is weird because if you know what you're doing, you could do it in under 1 minute.

Don't try to choose a key combination of your own, because nearly all of them are taken by other shortcuts, or else don't seem to work. Unless you have a lot of time on your hands, or know Opera inside and out, stick with the one given in the examples, ctrl-shift-d, which by default means "bookmark this page." A similar result can be had using ctrl-d, or hitting + in the bookmark bar dropdown. Life is tough, and you may need to sacrifice the default action of ctrl-shift-d.

Go into Opera > Settings > Preferences > Advanced > Shortcuts. Ignore the Mouse Setup, and focus on the bottom half of the panel, for Keyboard Setup. You'll see 1 or maybe 2 config files that can be edited, using the buttons at the right. Do not press the Mouse edit buttons! When you edit this file or files, it will be saved as "(Modified)," while the default config file will remain unchanged. There is no concept of deleting the prior config and replacing it. The system uses the modified file, if there is one, and goes back to the default, which cannot be changed, if there is not.

Select a Keyboard config file, click Edit, and expand the Application section. (Or you can Duplicate the file first, and edit the dupe, which I believe gives the exact same result.) You'll see a list of keyboard shortcuts followed by their actions. Scroll down until you find d ctrl shift. The easiest procedure is to just edit this line, leave the shortcut unchanged, delete the action, and input your desired action, which is Delete Private Data. Once you get it part way typed, it will drop down and you can just select it. Why this shortcut isn't enabled by default is a mystery!

If it's not there, which I doubt, you can Add a line for it, or you could delete that line and re-Add it, no problem either way. If there are 2 default config files, do it for both. After you save them, they will say (Modified). Make no effort to delete the prior defaults, which isn't allowed anyway. Don't worry about them, as the system uses your Modified ones, if they exist.

Hit Okay, you're out of there, and press your newly redefined keyboard shortcut. Voila' You no longer need to perform a difficult mouse movement to access this frequently used action.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Circuit Testers Have a Blind Spot!

If you're like me, you keep a set of tools and can perform many home repairs on your own. And one of those tools is probably a 110 volt circuit tester, for use when repairing electrical outlets.

However, I just noticed there's a serious, even possibly fatal wiring misconfiguration that circuit checkers won't detect! So listen up and be on the lookout for this one.

Some time back I noticed that the metal frame of my refrigerator was "hot" and you would get zapped by touching both the exposed metal of the fridge back and the nearby breaker box. Clearly not good.

Upon further investigation I found that the ground pin of the outlet was also hot, which is not what you'd expect. Yet when I inserted a circuit tester in the outlet, it read A-Okay! Something was rotten in Denmark!

How could the circuit tester read OK when the ground was hot?? Very easily, it turns out.

If you're in an old house, maybe the outlets don't have grounds, and the wires are so old and blackened you can't tell which one is white or black. Nor can you easily check. So you mistakenly reverse the hot and neutral when rewiring the  outlet, and to boot you tie the "neutral" to ground, which normally could be an okay idea, since neutral will be tied to ground back at the breaker box.

Now you've got a hot ground. However, due to AC current, in the absence of a true ground, the circuit checker can't tell white from black, the two sides are completely equivalent, and thus it can't tell that the ground is tied to black, creating a dangerous situation!

As long as you've got a true ground, you're okay. The circuit checker can tell white from black, plus tying black to a true ground would immediately short out. But if you have no true ground, and the wires are grubby, don't guess. Do some serious external checking to figure out which one is hot, because the circuit tester won't flag it for you.