Friday, January 7, 2011

Today, I learned about HD video connectors for non-HDMI devices

From Wikipedia
At work, several of my co-workers have jumped on the fitness trend and are doing the P90X home fitness program in the gym at work.  The video setup is several years old, with an LCD video screen that was manufactured in 2007.  For whatever reasons, hooking up a progressive scan DVD player using standard RCA video cables is causing the image to go all weird, as if one's attempting to copy a DVD onto a VCR without a video stabilizer.

While the DVD player is capable of upconverting to 1080p and has an HDMI output, the TV doesn't have an HDMI input jack, which limited my options for connecting.  Furthermore, the component input jacks on the TV (YPbBr) have coaxial connectors rather than RCA connectors.  Alternately, I can connect the video using S-Video cable, although this is still an analog signal.

What the TV does have is a DVI-D (dual link 24+1 pin) port, although I'll need an HDMI to DVI-D adaptor to make it work.  Luckily, you don't have to spend hundreds of dollars to buy Monster Cable, but if you know where to shop, you can get your needs taken care of for under $10.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I started learning Adobe Flash today.

Well, more specifically, I got through the first chapter of Adobe Flash CS4 Professional Classroom in a BookI'm not quite ready to build super-enhanced website animations with interactive material yet, as you can't actually be a designer from a book.  And no, I'm not going to post my end results here, because they're copyrighted by Adobe.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Today I learned about a more efficient way to manage my finances.

While on break, I was browsing for applications for the Android phone and discovered a specific application for This is a web-based financial management tool that works by integrating all of your online accounts (Paypal, online banking, and credit cards) to give you a better picture of your budgeting.

I generally am fairly responsible when it comes to my spending, although it tends to correlate that when I'm monitoring my spending, I come out ahead.  If I don't monitor my spending, I don't.  Since my typical method involves manually punching in data into an Excel spreadsheet, I have to manually type stuff in, which is time consuming and tedious, and prone to human error.  Monitoring my spending means constantly staying on top of it, punching in data as soon as I can get to a computer, and if I put it off, copying and pasting from a credit card statement.

I kinda put it off in November and December, which wasn't the smartest thing since those months had specifically larger expenditures (bought a new phone, had various Christmas and birthday celebrations to spend money for), and once I integrated all my accounts, I was in for a minor shock, but at least the amount that I saved in October more than offset what was spent in November/December with at least some left over.

It's not exactly real-time, as it's only updated as far as the credit card companies receive their transactions (AMEX can take days to update), and I would have to manually enter in cash transactions, but it is by far more convenient than having to manually punch in data.  And if you happen to be extremely lazy when it comes to monitoring stuff, this is probably a good thing.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I learned how to fix .PSD files that Photoshop can't open

Occasionally, Photoshop will give the error message, “Could not complete your request because it is not a valid Photoshop document” when attempting to open .PSD files. The most likely cause is if you have a file in a different format (.TIF, JPG, etc.) but the extension of the file ends up being .PSD.  The simplest fix is to either guess the extension and change it accordingly, or to force Photoshop to open it in a specific format.

To determine the type of file, you can verify it by cracking the file open with your favourite simple text editor (TextEdit, Notepad).  Files created within an Adobe application (Photoshop, InDesign, Acrobat, Illustrator, etc.) will often include some metadata that will give you some clues about the nature of the file. Run a search for “dc:format” and it’ll tell you.  For .PSD files, it will be <dc:format>application/vnd.adobe.photoshop</dc:format>

If indeed the file actually IS a .PSD file and Photoshop refuses to open it, there is a fix that requires a minor bit of hacking.  You’ll need a hex editor (I used HexFiend for Mac), which will allow you to make very minute changes to the file on the byte level.  Once you’ve opened up the file (and made a backup, etc.), take a look at the strings of characters near the beginning.

When viewed in your hex editor, the first 80 bytes should be something like this, where X represents a different character for each file.


Occasionally, the first few bytes of the file can be filled with data which will end up rendering the file unreadable, either due to minor file corruption or save errors.  To make the file readable in Photoshop, delete the characters that lead up to the sequence above, so that 8BPS makes up the first 4 bytes of data.

Save the file as a new file (in case something bad happens and you need to start again) and the file should be openable as a Photoshop document.

Monday, January 3, 2011

I learned a faster and easier way to archive files on a Mac.

One of the more useful utilities from StuffIt (for Mac) is DropStuff, which takes a lot of the guesswork out of creating archives.  This is especially useful if you’re going to be burning them to a DVD-R anyway. 

Previously, I was creating .ZIP files (which can’t be edited after the fact), and then I started creating .SITX files, but had to guess as to how large to make the files if the archive would be large enough to span multiple volumes.  With DropStuff, just drag your folder into the Stuff & Burn option and it’ll calculate it for you, then prompt you to insert a new blank disc when the previous one is filled. 

Retrieving the files can be a bit more of a pain if the archive spans multiple volumes, but it’d be faster to copy the entire archive onto the hard drive anyway rather than attempting to retrieve the file from the disc with StuffIt Archive Manager.