Archive for the ‘computers’ Category

Forcing stereo audio to mono on an Apple computer

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

I recently installed a public address system in a large commercial building and there were two main rooms in which we installed speakers in the ceiling.  These speakers were powered by a rack-mounted stereo power amp in 70V mode.  This was done in order to allow the client to control the volume for each room separately.

Everything seemed fine until the client mentioned that, at times, the overhead music they were playing (originating from their Apple laptop) was…strange.  For some songs, you could only hear the vocals in one of the rooms.  In others, the lead guitar solo couldn’t be heard.

The problem was that the left and right channels of audio were being split between the two rooms.  If the vocals were panned to the right side, you would only hear them in one of the rooms.  I knew the easiest way to solve this would be to send the songs to the stereo power amp in mono.

Fortunately, Apple includes a very simple way to do this to all audio coming out of the laptop:

  • Click the Apple icon at the top-left of the screen
  • Click “System Preferences…”
  • Click the icon labeled “Accessibility”
  • On the right hand side of the window, click the icon labeled “Audio”
  • Check the box labeled “Play stereo as mono”

That’s it!  Now all of your audio will be flattened to mono.  I spent quite some time on this issue, and had a difficult time finding this solution online, so I am sharing it now in hopes that it helps someone else save a little time.

Problems with the Logitech G9x Laser Mouse and Apple’s Mission Control

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

In my opinion, the Logitech G9x is one of the greatest mice ever made.  Successors to this model were geared towards Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games, with large arrays of buttons placed on the mouse and designed to be accessible by thumb for the purpose of calling up any number of customized macro commands.  For me, those features get in the way, and the simplicity of the G9x shines.

Using the Logitech Gaming Software, I have customized the two thumb buttons on my G9x; one, to close windows and tabs (Cmd + W) and two, to enter Apple’s Mission Control (F3).  For the longest time, these macro commands worked flawlessly.  Then with the release of Apple OS X Mavericks (10.9), my Mission Control button would not work reliably.

Pressing the Mission Control button on the mouse would result in an ever so slight hesitation for the OS to enter Mission Control mode.  The windows would start to spread out for me to view, but only to then exit back to where I had been.  You can simulate the effect by pressing the F3 button on your Apple keyboard and then quickly press Esc.  The F3 key will start to invoke Mission Control, and Esc will cancel that command.

Upon investigating, I discovered that if I held the mouse perfectly still, my Mission Control button worked fine; the mouse movement was acting as the Esc key and canceling my Mission Control command.

After hours of work, I found a resolution:

Do not use the “Automatic Game Detection” mode.  Use the “On-Board Memory” mode.

The Logitech Gaming Software supports these two basic modes of storing your customized mouse settings.  “Automatic Game Detection” presumably stores the mouse profiles on your computer, while “On-Board Memory” stores your customized mouse settings on the memory inside of the mouse.

Once I switched to “On-Board Memory” mode in the Logitech Gaming Software, the problems with Mission Control disappeared.

Just another strange issue I was unable to find assistance for online.  Writing this up to hopefully help others having this issue.


How to fix the error on the Apple iPhone and iPad

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

I ran into a strange issue recently when a friend brought their iPhone to me because they could not check for new mail on their iPhone.  They had a Gmail account, and had not made any changes to that account (such as a password change or enabling 2-step verification for the account).  When they tried to check their Gmail account’s email with the Mail app, they received the following error:

Cannot Get Mail.  The connection to the server ‘’ failed.

There are many online forums dealing with this issue, and after researching and testing the various solutions, I have discovered the most reliable one; to delete and then “re-add” the Gmail account to the iPhone or iPad.

Step 1 of 2: Delete the “broken” Gmail account:

  • Launch the Settings app
  • Touch “Mail, Contacts, Calendars”
  • Under the “ACCOUNTS” header, touch the Gmail account that is experiencing the problem.
  • Scroll to the bottom and touch “Delete Account”
  • Touch “Delete from My iPhone”

Step 2 of 2: “Re-add” the Gmail account

  • Launch the Settings app
  • Touch “Mail, Contacts, Calendars”
  • Under the “ACCOUNTS” header, touch “Add Account”
  • Touch the “Google” logo
  • Provide your Name, Email, Password, and a Description
  • Touch “Next”
  • Choose the services (Email, Calendar, Contacts, Notes) that you wish to synchronize
  • Touch “Done”

At this point, your Gmail account will be able to check email without producing the “Cannot Get Mail. The connection to the server ‘’ failed.” error.

I hope this information saves you some time if you are experiencing this issue.  If not, please leave a comment and I will try to help!

Quick fix for the Netflix Digital Rights Management (DRM) Error (Error Code: n8156-6013) on an Apple Mac

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

For one reason or another, I find myself occasionally restoring a MacBook from a Time Machine backup, or transferring my account from one Mac to another.  Afterwards, I inevitably receive the following error when attempting to watch an instant play movie:

Digital Rights Management (DRM) Error

Error Code: n8156-6013

We’re sorry, but there is a problem playing protected (DRM) content.

This usually occurs after migrating your settings to a new computer.  Please call Netflix at 1-866-579-7113.

The solution is to delete the following file and then try to play the movie again:

/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Playready/mspr.hds

Good luck and enjoy those movies!

The joke that is the Windows Image File (WIM)

Sunday, September 16th, 2007

First, let me start with the obligatory, and oh-so-appropriate, ROTFLMAO!!! Oh, man, Microsoft has /really/ outdone themselves with this one. A few months ago I attended a Windows Vista training session where an overzealous trainer eagerly relayed the many benefits of using Windows Vista to a skeptical audience.

I felt bad for the guy. From what I could tell, the audience wasn’t buying it. His presentation started with a 30 minute long AERO sales pitch, as though that was the best reason to upgrade…transparent effects on windows. Geez.

It didn’t get much better when he tried to delete a file he accidently created while right-clicking on the desktop. He had to confirm the delete and /then/ provide his password. Wow.

But the icing on the cake that day was the introduction of the Windows Image File (WIM) format. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but let me just start by saying that WIM is a flaming pile of dog crap. I can’t believe that Microsoft is including this in Windows Vista. Contrary to its description, it is actually a glorified “tar” program.

Ok. So as many advanced computer users know, image files come in many different formats: ISO, DMG, IMG, BIN, etc. And when one of these image files is mounted by the operating system (OS), it becomes a virtual file system. As I understand it, once mounted, the OS treats it like any other file system. Depending on the permissions, you can read, write, etc, straight to the image file. Any changes you make are immediately reflected in the image file itself.

You get the idea. You mount an image file, make a change to its contents, then unmount it. Done.

Well, I should have known that something was very wrong with WIM when “mounting” it prompts the user for the directory where the user wants it “mounted.” This is so wrong on so many levels. I don’t know where to start. Yes, that’s right…Windows Vista doesn’t treat WIM files as virtual file systems.

What it does when you “mount” a WIM file is actually /extract/ the contents of the WIM into a directory of your specification. You aren’t mounting ANYTHING. For Microsoft to misuse terminology in this way seems irresponsible.

I bit my tongue when the trainer “mounted” a 2GB WIM. It took about 1-2 minutes to “mount” it, as it really just extracted the contents to a directory on the C: drive. He then made a change to some configuration file that was “in” the WIM. But I /lost it/ when he said “…and then with that change made you simply unmount the WIM….but we will skip that step because it would take about 30-40 minutes to do that with a 2GB WIM.” HAHAHAHAHAHAHA ROTFLMFAO!!!!!!! HAHAHAHANO NO NO NO SERIOUSLY??? HA… heh. heh. For real, though. You’re not serious, right? Wrong. He was dead serious. Dear God.

Obviously, “unmounting” the WIM was simply repacking the contents (at a snails pace). I find it hard to believe that competent Windows admins will be fooled by this. From every interaction with these WIM files, it should be obvious that this feature is in no way, shape, or form an “image” tool. One could question why Microsoft is labeling it as a disk “image” technology at all. And why not just allow Vista to mount WIM files as virtual file systems? Surely their OS could do /that/. Couldn’t it? What a joke.

Apple iChat Multiperson Video Conference not working

Friday, March 16th, 2007

Last night, I had the chance to participate in a 3-way (multiperson) video conference in iChat. In the past, 2-way, or one-on-one videoconferencing worked just fine. But I was unable to get the 3-way conference working!

My MacBook and internet connection met Apple’s minimum specifications for participating in, and even hosting, a multiperson videoconference. But users in my buddy list only had the single “video camera” icon next to their names, and not the “multi-video camera” icon, which would indicate that they could participate in a multiperson video conference in iChat.

I suspected my software firewall, and found that it was not allowing iChat to determine the speed of my internet connection. In that case, iChat defaults to the Streaming Speed setting in Quicktime. So, I went into the Quicktime Player preferences, and changed the Streaming Speed from Automatic (to which it was set) to 1.5 Mbps. Once I did that, I quit iChat, started it back up, and my buddies had “multi-video camera” icons next to their names. Then I started a video chat with one of them, and the previously-grayed-out “plus” button was no longer grayed out, meaning I could add more buddies to the video chat.

I did that and everything worked flawlessly. It was pretty difficult to find the solution on-line, so I’m posting this solution on my blog, hoping that others can find it and get their multiperson video chats in iChat working as well! Good luck!

Photoshop and iTunes replacements for Linux

Thursday, February 16th, 2006

More and more folks I know are ditching Microsoft Windows in favor of either Mac OS X or some flavor of Linux. They tell me that they switched because they wanted their computer to be more stable and secure; that they were “sick” of pop-ups, spyware, and viruses (just to name a few things).

But then they ask about iTunes. “How can I use my iPod with Linux?” or “Can I use Photoshop with Linux?”

Here is a nice article going over the Linux replacements for these (and more) applications:

Amazing touch screen video

Friday, February 10th, 2006

I found a video of an amazing touch screen (and software) that has been developed at New York University’s Medial Research Lab:

Mouse Scroll Wheel doesn’t work in Visual Basic 6

Tuesday, December 6th, 2005

By default, your mouse scroll wheel won’t work in Visual Basic 6. You’ll have to download a dll that will add the functionality to Visual Basic 6.

Some history of the scroll wheel can be found at the Intersting Thing of the Day website:

Although the scroll wheel was invented by Mouse Systems (now owned by KYE) in the early ’90s, its popularity skyrocketed in 1996 when Microsoft made it part of their IntelliMouse®.

I found it humerous that the company that popularized the scroll wheel, didn’t even support it by default in the software it sells. In 1998, when Visual Basic 6 was released, I suppose Microsoft had been selling scroll mice for 2 years. Oh well, I’m glad they provide a download that fixes the problem. 😉

Change artist or album for multiple songs at one time in iTunes

Wednesday, September 14th, 2005

Well, well, well….
I’ve wasted countless hours renaming the Artist or Album name for CDs that weren’t in something like CDDB or Gracenote. Turns out iTunes allows you to edit fields for multiple tracks at one time. Here’s how:

  1. Select the multiple tracks (either Command+Click or Shift+Click) you want to edit.
  2. Click File->Get Info…
  3. This will bring up a window where you can mass edit those records.