Disabling Caps Lock

If you have ever had trouble with accidental or unintended ALL CAPS, you might be interested in disabling your caps lock key. In my experience accidental activations of caps lock greatly exceeded those occasions on which I actually want it. As in, I can hardly think of a case where I need it. The caps lock key, and its little green light (on some keyboards) are not fixed in hardware, but are controlled by your Mac’s software.

It’s easy to disable it. Start by opening System Preferences. Choose Keyboard. Within the Keyboard preference pane, choose the Keyboard tab as shown.

Caps Lock 1 Arrows

Then click the Modifier Keys… button. A pop-up will appear. Click on the Caps Lock toggle, and select No Action.

Caps Lock 2 arrows

 

Now, click OK and close System Preferences. That’s it. Your caps lock key is completely disabled. Enjoy your freedom from accidental eruptions of capital letters in your text.

Just remember that you did this, and don’t decide later that your keyboard is broken. In the few cases where I need to type a sequence of capitals, I find it easier to just hold down the shift key instead of going back to System Preferences.

Also note that the change only applies to the one user account where you made the change. This is a good thing, so when your spouse or kids are using the computer under their own name, the keyboard works as they expect it and they don’t come complaining that your caps lock key is broken.

 

Using Your iPad with Bose Sound Dock

Using Your iPad with Bose Sound Dock

If you have an older Bose Sound Dock for your iPod or iPhone, you may be disappointed that it doesn’t work with newer devices. Somewhere along the way, Apple changed how iDevices get charged. If your Sound Dock uses the older FireWire charging scheme, but your i-device uses the newer USB scheme, you’ll get a curt message that charging is not supported with this accessory.

All iPads use the new USB charging scheme, but beyond that, an iPad won’t even fit in the Sound Dock.

Bose-iPad Overview
Original Bose Sound Dock cabled to iPad

 

So, here’s a pair of inexpensive gadgets that will overcome these problems. I used the 3031-FWUSB Charge Converter from Griffin Technology. This is hard to find, but a similar item is this one from Scosche.

Next, you need a short cable to free your iPad from the confines of the dock. It might not be a bad idea for the iPhone also, since it gets a bit precarious balanced on top of the charge adapter. I got the RadTech Dock Extender. Unless you need a longer one for some reason, get the shortest cable available.

Hardware
For this set-up, order matters. The charge adapter goes into the dock, followed by the cable into the charge adapter, and the other end of the cable to your iPad, etc. If you reverse the order and put the charge adapter on the other end of the cable, it won’t charge.

So, you should have something that looks like this:

It Charges
The iPad (2) Charging with the Bose Sound Dock & Adapters

The Bose Sound Dock is a great-sounding accessory. The right adapters keep it playing with your newer gadgets. The same general idea can keep some of your other accessories functioning. This might work with some older car docks or accessories as well.

I got a report that the following adapter worked with an iPhone 4S and the old Bose Sound Dock:
CableJive dockStubz Charge Converter and 30-pin Pass Through Adapter for iPhone, iPod, and iPad.

This also worked with the extender cable above, although the cable isn’t strictly necessary for the iPhone like it is for the iPad. I know that the setup pictured works with iPad versions 1 and 2.

This article is a re-post originally published in 2010, reproduced here after the blog recovered from  some Indonesian junk that was going around. (Hacked by Indonesian script kiddies.) 

 

How to Listen to Audiobooks on an iPod

Why should anyone need instructions on listening to audiobooks on an iPod … this should just work, right? This tip is not about downloading the audiobooks, or installing them on your iPod. This is about accessing and playing them once they are in your iPod. You’ve bought your audiobooks, you’ve put them in iTunes, you’ve synced your iPod. iTunes says your audiobooks are synced. Now, you’re looking at your iPod, and where the heck are they? By default, they don’t seem to appear anywhere except maybe (temporarily) in “Recent Items”.  They don’t appear anywhere under Music, and since they aren’t music, that sort of makes sense.

There really ought to be an Audiobooks item, right alongside Music and Photos. Here’s how to get one. Begin at your iPod main menu.

Go to Settings
Go to Settings

Go into the Settings Menu.

Select Main Menu
Select Main Menu

Now, select Main Menu. What a  confusing name. This isn’t returning you to the main menu, it’s editing the settings for the main iPod menu.

Make sure Audiobooks is On, or has a checkmark.
Make sure Audiobooks is On, or has a checkmark.

You may have to scroll down a bit, but you should see an option named Audiobooks. Select it to turn it on. You should see the word Off change to On, or you should see a checkmark appear.

Now, press the iPod menu button twice to return to the iPod menu. You should now see a new item there, Audiobooks. All your audiobooks will be in there.

I really don’t approve of Apple’s policy of hiding menu items until they are needed, or in this case until the user is at his wit’s end, and searches the internet for an answer, and finally has to dig into Settings to enable something that should have been there all along.  Frankly, I’m hoping that this hide-and-seek with the menus was some sort of Steve Jobs quirk, and that it will be laid to rest along with him.

Apple really needs to fix this in the iPod firmware, or maybe in iTunes. If nothing else, when audiobooks exist on an iPod, this menu item should be turned on automatically.

This tip worked for a couple of generations of iPod nano. It should be similar for other iPod models. 

1Password Bookmark Tip for Mobile Safari

Dennis showed the group this tip at this month’s meeting, and promised that the details would be on our web site.

This tip is for iOS (iPhone or iPad) users. Create a bookmark in Safari called “Open in 1Password”. Replace the URL for the bookmark with this snippet of Javascript:

javascript:window.location=’op’+(window.location.href);

When you visit a page in Safari, and realize you would rather open it in 1Password, so it can fill in your logon information for you, invoke the bookmark and the page will re-open in 1Password. The ‘op’ in the script stands for One Password.

This trick only works with the new version of 1Password. Version 4, I believe.

 

A Flash of Light in the Cemetery

Genealogists and historians photograph tombstones. Tombstones are literally history carved in stone. A lot of people are out there photographing tombstones. As of this writing, the popular site FindAGrave.com lists about 90 million graves, and millions of those have photographs submitted by ordinary people. Around 50,000 grave photographs are submitted to FindAGrave every day.

Typical photo, no flash. ISO 400, f/5.6 at 1/160
Typical tombstone photo, no flash. ISO 400, f/5.6 at 1/160. It’s okay, but barely readable.

Unfortunately, many tombstone photographs are very disappointing. Many of the most interesting tombstones are old, worn and discolored. It is common for the inscription to be unreadable in the photograph. You cannot fix the typical, low-contrast tombstone photo in Photoshop or other image editing programs. You might make it slightly more readable, but mostly you’ll be enhancing the appearance of moss and lichens on the surface of the stone. Frequently, the inscription is also unreadable in person, on site. This article will show you how to take photographs of tombstones that are not just a little bit better, but a vast improvement over the naïve approach. You can even take photographs which allow you to read inscriptions that you could not read when you were there in person.

Lights! 

The key is proper lighting. In the movie industry, they say “Lights!, Camera!, Action!” in that order. Notice that the lights come first. We’re trying to photograph a nearly flat surface with a slight bit of carved relief. If you photograph a tombstone on a sunny day, you’ll have light from any which way, and often scattered light from various parts of the sky. This can give the stone a very flat, low-contrast appearance. To bring out the carved relief, you need the light to strike the face of the tombstone at a very shallow angle. You absolutely do not want to use a camera-mounted flash, or your camera’s built-in flash. These will remove all the shadows that you need to emphasize.

Artists and human-factors experts determined long ago that the human mind perceives relief most easily if the lighting comes from the upper left.

Hold the flash in about this position.
Hold the flash in about this position.

So, you need to control the lighting in such a way that the strongest light source is from the upper left as seen by the camera and strikes the stone at an angle nearly parallel to the face of the stone. The easiest way to do this is with an off-camera flash unit. It can be wired or wireless, but if you use a wired unit, you will need a flash cable that is long enough to keep it out of the photo. You could use tripods for the flash and/or the camera, but the easiest method is to recruit a photographer’s assistant to hold the flash unit over the tombstones.

Much Better: Diagonal Flash: ISO 400 f5.6 at 1/500
Much Better: Diagonal Flash: ISO 400 f5.6 at 1/500.  Notice the “Wife of” text which was almost invisible before. The dark spots from the first photo are still visible, but they are less opaque now — you can read through them. Notice that the foliage behind the stone is now very dark (underexposed) where the flash didn’t reach. This is a good sign that we have minimized the effect of ambient sunlight.

High-Speed Sync (or not)

(June 2013: Good News: I revised the text to not emphasize high-speed sync. It’s expensive, and you don’t really need it.) 

What we’re trying to do here is arrange things so that the flash can overpower daylight.  The shorter the exposure, the greater advantage the flash has over the sun. The flash puts out all of its light in about 1/1000 of a second, while the sun shines all the time. Shortening the shutter speed dims the contribution of the sun, but hardly affects the flash at all, up to a point.

My photos here were taken with a Konica-Minolta Maxxum 5D and Minolta Program 5600 flash. This camera is getting kind of old. In fact, it is out of production, with Sony having taken over the Konica-Minolta line. I used this camera instead of my newer Canon specifically because this one has wireless, high-speed flash, and I have the corresponding flash unit.

The high-speed sync feature seems like a good idea until you realize that it also usually diminishes the effectiveness of the flash. If your camera and flash have high-speed sync, great, but don’t overdo it.

The good news is that at the close range we’re going to be using, common flash units can have an advantage over sunlight in the range of 3-5 f-stops. That’s a nice margin to work with. So, here’s how to set up your camera when using a simple, non-high-speed flash setup:

  • Set the flash to maximum output
  • Set the flash to its 35mm or 50mm angle (these are the defaults for many flashes)
  • Set the camera’s ISO to a fixed, low value, say ISO 100.
  • Put the camera’s exposure on manual
  • Set the fastest shutter speed which doesn’t require high-speed sync, say 1/200
  • Adjust the aperture (f/ stop) such that the photo would be about  2 stops under-exposed without flash. A good starting point would be f/22.

You’ll have to make adjustments for the lighting in your particular situation, but underexposing mostly through fast shutter speed is our way of emphasizing the flash while de-emphasizing the sunlight.  It will take a few test shots to get the best settings and get the flash aimed right, but that’s the great thing about digital — it’s cheap to keep trying. If your shot is over-exposed, you should reduce the flash intensity, move the flash further away, or use a smaller aperture (larger f-stop number). In any case, keep the shutter speed the same.

Here’s an example of what this technique can do for you. Don’t try this in Photoshop! It’s not happening.

These two photos are of the same gravestone. The first was taken by veteran Find A Grave contributor Scott A. Steinbrink. He was apologetic for the photo, but noted he had an “awesome” camera, and that the photo matched what he saw in person. He’s absolutely right — there’s nothing wrong with his camera, and his photo is as good as many that I have taken — but there is a better way. The second photo was taken of the same stone in 2013 using the technique described in this article.

ISO 80 f/3.2 at 1/80
BEFORE:  ISO 80 f/3.2 at 1/80.  No Flash. Photo by Scott A. Steinbrink 2011.
Clearly readable with diagonal flash.
AFTER:  Clearly readable with diagonal flash.  ISO 400 f/5.6 at 1/500 in shady woods.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-Jamie Cox (ajmexico on Find A Grave)

June 1, 2013 update notes:

  • Some cameras require two flash units or a separate transmitter and a flash unit to do wireless flash. 🙁
  • If your camera and flash already do high-speed sync, aka FP flash, with the flash mounted on the camera, the simplest, risk-free approach may be to buy a long “off-camera” cable specific for your camera brand (Nikon or Canon). These are about $50. 
  • The Nikon D40 can use up to 1/500 as its regular sync speed, even though it doesn’t have HSS.
  • NOTE: October 2014: The D40X, however has the same 1/200 flash sync speed as most cameras.
  • The ~$30 NPT-04 Wireless trigger from Cowboy Studio will let you use just about any old flash as your remote wireless flash. It’s cheaper than a cable.
  • I have seen a lot of people saying to use a mirror or other reflector for tombstone photography. Phooey on that. The light from a reflector can never be as bright as the sun. Your flash can be several times brighter. If the sun is overhead, you can’t get any downward light from a reflector. The flash lets you control the light’s direction completely.
  • NOTE: October 2014: I have now seen some satisfactory before and after shots using a mirror. There are provisos: The sun has to be behind the stone, so the reflected light doesn’t have to compete with direct sunlight, and the mirror needs to be as large as the tombstone.  A diffuse reflector won’t work nearly as well as an actual mirror. But, it does work, and you can use any camera.
  • To learn all about flash photography in complete detail, see http://strobist.blogspot.com/ .
  • After writing this, I found this straight-forward presentation of the same idea: http://rootsandrambles.blogspot.com/2011/11/how-to-take-better-gravestone-
  • photos.html This is a nice article.
  • NEW: Feb 2014: I posted a YouTube Video with step-by-step instructions for photographing tombstones with off-camera flash.
  • NEW: March 2014: I wrote a newer article on using off-camera flash.

October 10, 2014 update notes:

 

 

Why you Should Use BCC

Be kind, REMOVE my Email Address, use BCC when forwarding. Say NO to Spammers & computer viruses!

This cutsie graphic going around contains an important lesson. When you send an email to a group using TO or CC, everyone in the group can see everyone else’s email addresses. You might think, So what? We’re all friends.  Yes, but what about when your friend forwards the message on to a few dozen or a few hundred of his friends? Do you really want all of them to have your email address? If any one of those friends-of-friends is infected by a spambot — BINGO, you all start getting spam.

In case you think this is an unlikely problem, it happened to me this Christmas. I received a Merry Christmas email blast from someone I’ve never met, who lives thousands of miles away — a relative of a co-worker. The happy email was addressed to hundreds of people, and all of their email addresses were visible. Shortly after that, I started getting a LOT more spam.

Another reason to use BCC when emailing a group is to prevent an Unsubscribe Storm.  This starts when a large mailing gets some smart-ass, controversial, or off-topic responses. The responders use reply-all, so everyone can see their brilliance. This annoys people who are now getting a lot of messages they don’t want, so some of them also reply to all, saying “Take me off this list”.  At that point, nearly everyone wants off the list, and the volume of messages saying so becomes really alarming.

It sounds funny, but it can get really out of hand. I saw a case where a message like this had a large attachment. The resulting volume rendered heavy-duty corporate mail servers unusable for the rest of the day, and the mess took a while to clean up.

If BCC had been used, then reply-all would only reply to the sender, and no harm would be done.