October 30, 2006

Detour Ahead ----->>

Hello Hello! It is my distinct privilege to invite you to visit www.sicklesinsight.com for all future blogging adventures with Jeff! This detour shall serve as both my final post within the blogspot community and my invitation for you to join me on my soon to be publicly released blog.

Please be sure to update all your links to my blog to report to www.sicklesinsight.com. In addition change your favorites so that you can find me. Lastly, if you are a RSS lover, be sure to visit my new site for pertinent information regarding the new RSS feeds. Not sure on RSS?? I'll explain in full detail why you should be using an RSS reader, and I'll even have a recommendation on a simple yet effective RSS viewer that anyone can easily operate.

See you after the detour...

October 25, 2006

Telephone Banking Systems Recognizes your Voice

If you refer to this article from Cnet News, it's an interesting concept on voice technologies integrated with security. Technology integration into todays society is simply put as amazing!

The concept is pretty freaking cool, but wait a minute - how does one from the bank load your original voice into the application? Are you saying that if I can socialy engineer a phone operator once the system is implemented, I could in essence lock an authorized user our of their account because their voice print does not match that of mine?! Wouldn't that be something!

I can't wait for the day that I have a cold and am not able to transfer my funds, or report a lost ATM card. Oh well..guess it's time to begin the social engineering on TTY devices. What's RSA got now?

October 23, 2006

New Tivo Features for Tivo Desktop

For those of you using a Tivo series 2 or later, I recommend that you check out the latest version of Tivo Desktop 2.3! Download the latest version (2.3a) here. Tivo Desktop has finally added a very necessary feature entitled Automatic Transfer. This means you can tell the software to automatically move a particular series or season to your computer immediately upon recording. This is a much needed feature preventing you from having to manually transfer each recording you wish to dump off the Tivo. This ensures you that your show will be downloaded to your MediaCenter, iPod, or Palm device in plenty of time to run. Don't worry, the old features all still exist. For those of you not familiar with Tivo Desktop, you will also gain features such as streaming your mp3 collection through your TV or browsing through photos on your computer. This is all available for free through tivo. My next feature request to this addition takes it one more step. I would like for Tivo Desktop to automatically remove the recorded program from my Tivo upon the completed and confirmed transfer of the program. Perhaps next time..

And now..for those of you already familiar with Tivo...a few tips I have discovered over time...Some of these are very obvious, others are not. Some are fun, other just entertaining.

1. Remote Control Shortcuts: Did you know that you can use shortcuts on the remote control to avoid browsing through the entire menu. Sometimes you just want to go straight to your destination. Observe the following table.

Button sequenceMenu displayed
TiVo button + 1 (or TiVo + TiVo)Now Playing
TiVo button + 2To Do List
TiVo button + 3Wish Lists
TiVo button + 4Browse by Name
TiVo button + 5Browse by Channel
TiVo button + 6Browse by Time
TiVo button + 7Record Time/Channel (manual recording)
TiVo button + 8TiVo Suggestions
TiVo button + 9Network Showcases
TiVo button + Slow Motion buttonMessages and Setup

2. Thirty Second Skip: Hopefully most of you are using this already, no doubt a few aren't aware of this option yet. You can remap the Advance button (the Play arrow with a vertical line at the right edge, just above the numbers), which normally brings you to the end of a program or, if you're at the end, takes you to the beginning. (Also, if you're fast-forwarding, the Advance button will skip you to the next tick mark.) I don't find myself using this feature often. When we're done, it'll act as the 30-second skip. Here's what to do.

Bring up any recorded program or live TV. Then enter the following sequence on your remote:

Select > Play > Select > 3 > 0 > Select

You'll know the combination worked when TiVo rings out three dings of the Thumbs Up sounds Your Advance button will now skip forward by 30 seconds each time it is pressed. Usually 3 to 5 presses will get you right through the commercials. On occasion you'll need to use the back 8 seconds button directly across from it.

Do note one annoyance with this change: Unfortunately this is not permanent. If your TiVo ever needs to be rebooted (after being unplugged or as a result of a power failure) you'll have to reapply the hack.

3. Expensive Clock: Yes, you can post the time on the Tivo. Not sure why you would want to use this, but if you follow the key sequence below, you can place the time in the lower right hand corner of your screen.

Select, Play, Select, 9, Select

Enter the code again to remove the clock.

4. Disappearing Progress Bar: Annoyed with the lingering progress bar at the bottom of the screen? Make it fade out faster by entering the following button combination:

Select, Play, Select, Pause, Select

5. Easter Eggs: There's something about showing off some cute trick your gadgets can do that tempts all of us to push the buttons to see what happens. Many electronic devices and software programs have hidden features, often called "Easter eggs." Easter eggs are tucked away behind obscure keystroke combinations. TiVo is no different. To see a TiVo Easter egg, follow these steps:

  • Enable closed-captioning display on your TV.
  • Using your TiVo remote, go to Browse by Name.
  • Select the characters SHAGWELL.
  • Press Thumbs Up.

You'll be presented with a short video hidden inside your Tivo.

If you look closely, there are more Easter eggs inside this one.

That's enough for now. Have you found Tivo tips and tricks that you would like to share?

October 18, 2006

Create a Unique Voicemail Greeting for Each Caller

I recently found this, although I haven't had time to completely test it out yet. I figured I would let you know about it while it was still free!

Website YouMail is the new voice mail for cell phones. Among many features, it allows you to record unique voice greetings for anyone who calls you, based on their caller ID. Individualize your voice greetings for friends, family or important callers while maintaining a standard greeting for work and unknown callers.

Check your voice messages from any phone or via the web and forward favorite messages to anyone via email. Have fun with the already infamous DITCHMAIL feature that hangs up on unwanted callers after your custom greeting for them is played.

YouMail works with your existing phone and carrier and is easy to trial without risk. YouMail is free for users who sign up now while there are still beta accounts available and easy to change back and forth between your current voice mail and YouMail.

Currently Compatible with:

October 11, 2006



Please pardon my current absence and lack of forewarning of said absence.

I am currently attending Manage Fusion which leaves me little time for internet, creativity, or new findings. The days are long, the nights are too. I find myself quite tired in the end, though there is value in some of the things being learned, and the relationships being made. I will return to posting by this time next week. Have a great week!

October 03, 2006

AutoSummarize a Word Document

Did you know that you can summarize a written report automatically with the AutoSummarize feature in Word? This is probably a little known feature to most, but sometimes it can be very handy! Use the AutoSummarize feature in Word to create one of four different types of summaries.

After completing a written report for a science fair project, or an article at work, your thesis, a book, you name it, one can write an abstract of the report by having Word summarize it automatically. This tip could apply to virtually any written report, such as a historical research report. Keep in mind that you will want to edit the summary, but it is definitely a good start to bringing up key points throughout the word document!

How To:

1. Open a Microsoft Word document that you want to summarize.

2. Choose AutoSummarize from the Tools menu.

3. When the AutoSummarize dialog box opens, select the type of summary that you want to apply. You can choose to highlight key points, insert an executive summary or abstract at the top of the document, create a new document, or hide everything but the summary.

4. Click OK to continue. A new document will open and display your summary.

Note: It’s unlikely that Word will create the exact summary that you need. You will need to do some editing of the summary.

That's it - pretty nifty?

October 02, 2006

Listen to your iPod at Work - Master Volume Consistency

Ever notice how some CDs are REALLY LOUD and others are very quiet? The sound level is built into the way the CDs were recorded and mastered. Because audio CDs are mastered differently, you may notice discrepancies in volume between songs on different albums. Like iTunes, iPod also offers the Sound Check feature to standardize the volume of all the songs in your music library. This option has been available since iTunes 3. You can turn Sound Check on or off by choosing Sound Check in Settings in the main iPod menu.

Getting Sound Check to Work:

In particular, older CDs often seem to be mastered at low volume levels compared to recent music. This is really annoying when you’re listening to a playlist with songs from various eras.
Luckily, iPod and iTunes have a magic trick that cures this problem: Sound Check. This feature analyzes the volume of songs and adjusts it so that they’re all in the same range. When you play songs with Sound Check, your personal volume choice becomes the way to turn it up or down.

Unfortunately, Sound Check is a little trickier than it needs to be. You have to turn it on both in iTunes and on the iPod. Here are the steps:

1. (Here’s the part most everyone remembers to do.) Turn on Sound Check in iTunes. Choose iTunes ➪ Preferences on the Mac, or Edit ➪ Preferences on Windows. Click the Audio tab, then make sure the Sound Check box is on. After you click OK, iTunes starts rummaging through your music and leveling the volume. iTunes displays its progress in the status area. Once completely updated, connect your iPod to update its music.

2. (Here’s the step people often forget.) On the iPod, go to the Settings screen and turn Sound Check on.
That’s it. If you don’t turn on Sound Check on the iPod, your songs won’t be played at the leveled volume when you hear them on the iPod, and you’ll wonder why the Sound Check feature isn't working.

By the way: Don't forget to go download the recently released iTunes 7.0! http://www.apple.com/itunes/download/

September 29, 2006

Advertising in Your Blog

In the past, you and I would struggle to keep advertisement away from our personal homepage or blog seeking to have a clean look on the space given for free. Today, more and more people are requesting ads to be put on their site in expectation of payment and relatively easy income.

As if you haven't noticed, I will tell you that I have put up several advertisements on this space. I trust that you do not find this advertisement obnoxious in any form, but bear with me as I experiment with various advertisers and settings within this space. I've been curious for some time as to the options, scalability, and return on such decisions. I've tried to do some research, but most locations come back saying that they can not reveal any detail. I came to the conclusion that I would just have to make an account myself in order to learn. That being said, there are now several advertisements on this site. You have most likely noticed these ads change size, shape, color, and location as I play with various tools. I do not intend to litter my blog with these ads. I hope you will find that they stay out of the way.

Currently jsickles.blogspot.com is fed advertisement via Google AdSense which has proven to be a relatively fast and easy way to display relevant advertisements. Google ads review information found in the viewed page to display advertisement that might be relative to a viewers interest. Interesting, huh? Check out the Internet's Biggest Google Whores by John Chow concerning several sites incorporating Google's AdSense.

I by no means expect to become rich off this idea in my blog, infact - I don't even expect to make a penny off this idea. Just bear with me as I get to play with the concept on my own terms.

September 28, 2006


I had a bunch of Canadian dollars I needed to exchange so I went to the currency exchange window at the local bank. Short line ... just one guy in front of me.

The guy in front of me was an Asian guy who was trying to exchange yen for dollars and he was a little agitated ... he asked the teller, "Why it change? Yestoday I get two hunat dolla fo yen - today I get hunat eighty? Why it change?"

The teller replies, "Fluctuations."

The Asian guy says, "Fluc you white guys too!"

September 27, 2006

Rebuild a Lost iTunes Library from an iPod?

Option 1:
Assuming you're moving files legally between your own computers, check out iPodAgent at http://www.ipodsoft.com/

Option 2:
The manual way around this problem is to use the iPod in its alter ego - that of portable computer disk drive.

Start with the iPod disconnected from the computer


  • Open iTunes
  • Open iTunes Preferences - this blocks iTunes from seeing an iPod connection; leave the preferences window up and running
  • Connect the iPod to the computer, wait about 15 seconds before continuing
  • Open 'My Computer'
  • Tools menu, Folder Options, View tab, enable 'show hidden files /folders'
  • Open iPod icon in My Computer
  • Open iPod_Control folder
  • You should see a folder named Music
  • Drag this folder to somewhere on your computer hard drive
  • After the copy completes, right-click the new Music folder on your hard drive and select 'Properties'
  • Cear the checkmark next to 'Hidden'
  • Close that explorer window
  • Eject iPod from System tray "Safely Remove Hardware" icon. This icon looks like a small gray rectangle with a green arrow floating above it. It's only there when a removable device (like the iPod in this case) is attached to the computer.
  • Right-click & select 'Safely remove..', then click 'Stop' in the next window, OK in the next window, and then Close to complete the ejection.
Disconnect the iPod from the computer
  • Go back to iTunes, cancel the preferences window
  • File menu \ Add folder to Library \ find that Music folder copied over from the iPod

Your iTunes library should be back in action! But wait - there's more!!

Long time forum regular Otto42 has a java script/program that can also retrieve the playlists themselves from the iPod as well. Here are his instructions and a link to the most recent thread discussing this tricky process:

This is really useful when you're pulling all the songs off of an iPod to put them back into iTunes, because you lost your library or anything along those lines.

Download this program:
(If you can't download it, try again later. The connection goes up and down a lot.)

Now, put the iPod into Disk Mode or otherwise access the iPod as a drive. Make sure you can see hidden files, then go to the drive and the iPod_Control folder and find the iTunesDB file. Copy it to your PC.

Put the copied iTunesDB file in the same directory as this program, then run the program. It'll read the iTunesDB, get all the playlists, and create an XML file for each one. Now just import those XML files into iTunes to recreate the playlists.

(1) The songs in playlist must already be in the iTunes library. If any one of them isn't there, iTunes throws up an error when you try to import the XML file.
(2) The song names, artist names, and album names in the library all must be identical as to what the iPod has. If you just copied all the music off the iPod and into iTunes, this will be the case, so it's generally not a big deal. but you'll get an error if it can't find the song in the iTunes library, so it's something to keep in mind.
(3) It probably won't be able to cope with unusual characters in song names. Dealing with unicode is way annoying.
(4) Smart Playlists get changed into regular playlists.

And there you have it. I picked these instructions up somewhere along the way, and they've just been sitting here on my computer. I thought someone out there might find these useful at some point in time - I know I will.

September 26, 2006

Have Extra Time On Your Hands?

I came across this last week and found it both mildly intruiging and challenging. If you have some extra time and can do any sort of subject/word association, you should have some fun here! Browse out to http://shygypsy.com/farm/p.cgi and start working away!

You will be introduced to the puzzle and greeted with these kind words:

"No single mortal will be able to solve this puzzle alone, so get a few friends and do it together. Good luck!"

If you decide you are no longer going to work at the puzzle, you can click on save game and then merge your puzzle with mine by using the link below. Beware: Upon merging the link below, you will have completed the puzzle. (DO NOT CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW, rather right click the link, 'copy link location', and paste into the space provided)

Spoiler: Completed Puzzle

September 23, 2006

Verizon Minutes in Firefox

A quick FYI to those of you have that have begun to use the verizon extension in firefox showing your minutes used. I previously mentioned this as a cool add-on to quickly view your minutes used on your verizon single line or family plan. After using this extension for some time, I feel the need to point out that the numbers may sometimes inaccurately reflect reality. When your minutes are getting close to their maximum, put your mouse over the number and take a look at the number following 'Off-Peak'. Note that your minutes used are inaccurate by the number following the Off-Peak value. Unless you are billed for night and weekend airtime, you only need to be concerned about the number following 'Peak'. Alas, you have minutes to use now! Go use them. Call me.

Funny Miller Ad

September 19, 2006

Mitch Hedberg

This guy is pretty good - thought you might enjoy the humor like I did! Only problem with this video - the audio is not normalized, thereby leaving some sections fairly quiet, while overpowering at other times. Be sure to watch it and let me know what you think! Length: 11:37


September 14, 2006

Windows Vista RC1 and VMware

Windows Vista RC1 and VMware - Stuck at "Windows is loading files..."

It took a while, multiple downloads of the 2.5gb ISO, playing with settings, and getting frustrated. But alas, there is a workaround to allow Vista RC1 to load in a VMware session. Simply add the following lines to the appropriate VMX file. Reboot, whala - the graphics aren't the most impressive, but at least you can get the install to work!

Rumor has it that even though the screen stalls on the black "loading files" page, you can still do a Steview Wonder setup. All the screens are there, and if you can press the right buttons at the right time - you'll have a successful install! Something about the refresh of the screen doesn't work right. Anyway, add the following two lines to the VMX file, and you should be set. You can do the install without Stevie.

svga.maxWidth = "640"
svga.maxHeight = "480"