SVG Tarot Card Resource

I’ve prepared a full deck of tarot card faces which should be useful for programmers.  It includes card face files for the four suits (clubs, diamonds, hearts and spades) with 14 cards per suit.  The court cards include the Jack, Knight, Queen and King.  The 22 Major arcana trumps are also included.  All of the files are individual files per card in SVG format, so they are scalable without pixelation and can be edited in a vector drawing program.  The picture below shows examples of a few card faces.

Example Card Faces
Example Card Faces

The card face files are all included in this 7zip archive.

Syncing ‘Last Page Read’ on Kindles for non-Amazon Books

If you buy an e-book from the Amazon.com store and send it to multiple reading devices, chances are good that they will remember the last page read for that book between devices.  This feature (sometimes referred to as “syncing”) doesn’t work if you “sideload” (directly copy a file from another device) a non-Amazon book.  For instance, if I copy an e-book file from my computer to both my Kindle Keyboard and my Kindle Fire HD via the USB cable that book will not remember the last page read between those Kindles.  So what is the solution?  I know two ways to make this work.

Send to Kindle for PC

The first is using the “Send to Kindle” program provided by Amazon.  You can download the program Send to Kindle for PC from the Amazon.com site.  Once it is installed, and you register with your Amazon.com account information, it can be called up by right-clicking a file (formats: DOC, DOCX, TXT, RTF, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, PDF or MOBI) on your PC.

S2K1

Choose which devices to send to and be sure that the “Archive documents..” box is checked.  Once this window is opened you can also drag-and-drop multiple files on it.  “Send to Kindle” will also appear as a new printer in your Print menu, but if you choose this option it will always send a PDF document to your device(s).

To specifically use this to sync last page read on your books they need to be in one of the acceptable formats (MOBI, for example, will work fine).  Just use the program to send a MOBI-formatted book file to your devices with the “Archive document in your Kindle Library” box checked.  As a pop-up says, it may take several minutes for it to be delivered by Wi-Fi.

Calibre

The other way to sync your e-books is to use the Calibre e-book management program on your PC to convert your file to MOBI format.  Even if you obtained the file already in MOBI format, use Calibre to re-convert it before sending to your devices.  Also, if you are a long-time Calibre user and converted your files with a version of Calibre prior to 7.44 you need to re-convert those files with a newer version of Calibre.

To get the e-books to sync using Calibre just send the MOBI format file to your devices through a USB cable.

S2K2

Summary

Both methods require installing and using a PC application.  With “Send to Kindle” you don’t need to hook your devices to your PC with a USB cable and you can sync more formats.  However, the books do pass through the Amazon cloud server.  With Calibre, only the MOBI format will sync properly and the files are transferred directly to the devices via cable — by-passing Amazon.com entirely.

 

XBMC: Turn Your Laptop into a Media Center

So now that you have tablets to play around with, is your old laptop feeling neglected?  If it has an HDMI port* then it has the makings of a great media center PC to work with your home theater setup.

The general idea is to install software on the laptop that will organize your media files, stream internet content and play all this on your big screen TV with the best sound possible.

You will need one additional piece of hardware: a long HDMI cable.  Don’t spend a lot for one, wait for a sale.  I’ve seen 50-foot cables sell for under $20 on sale.

As for software you can go with Plex Media Server, or my preference would be XBMC Media Center. For now, let’s go with XBMC.

2_home-movies

Download and install XBMC on your laptop.  Since you are going to want the best audio possible you need to set up HDMI audio in Windows.  This requires an active HDMI connection so plug in your HDMI cable connecting your laptop to an input on your AV Receiver.   Turn on your Home Theater setup and select the HDMI connection you just made.  You should see your laptop display on the TV.

Open Windows Control Panel >> Sound>>Playback and select your HDMI output as the default device by selecting it and clicking the “Set default” button. Click “OK” to close Control Panel.

Note: Don’t worry, it will only be the default device when it’s “active”.  When no HDMI device is active you’ll default to your normal laptop sound.

Start XBMC and go to Settings

System>> Audio Output>>  
-Audio Output HDMI
-Speaker Configuration 5.1 (what your Home Theater uses)
-Dolby Digital (AC3) capable receiver (selected)
-Multi-channel LPCM capable receiver (selected)
-(DTS, True HD, only if your receiver can)  
Audio Output device DirectSound:HDMI…
Pass-through output device DirectSound:HDMI…
System>>Input Devices>>  
Enable mouse and touchscreen support (selected)

There are other settings you should make, but they are matters of personal preference.

The final step is to go back to the XBMC main menu, select each media category and choose “Add Source” to point to your media files on the laptop or on your home network.  You can find some useful help and new XBMC skins on the XBMC home page.

A final note.  With the settings you made in Control Panel anything you can watch or play on your laptop can be viewed on your TV with sound even without using XBMC.

* If you have a UPnP device as part of your Home Theater system, future versions of XBMC will be capable of “pushing” media wirelessly to that device.  So, no HDMI cable will be needed.

Do it Yourself–Do Not Track (DIY-DNT) for Firefox and Internet Explorer

UntitledIt used to be that you only needed browser add ins to block annoying advertisements that slowed down viewing of web pages or irritated you by flashing in your face while you were trying to read.  Now, it’s equally (or maybe more) important that you deal with how information about you could end up in the wrong hands just by browsing the Inter-webs. 

With the recent changes by some online companies (I’m looking at you, Google!) your online privacy is now a matter that you have to take into your own hands.  I’ll give you some tips about tracking protection for Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers, that won’t involve opting in or out or reading any small print privacy statements.

big-firefoxFirefox (v.12.0)

  • First, be sure to get the latest version of Firefox. 
  • From the Firefox menu bar choose Tools>Options>Privacy and select the checkbox “Tell web sites I do not want to be tracked” (Web site compliance is voluntary, but it may help some).
  • Go to Tools>Add-ons> and use the “search all addons” text box to find Adblock Plus.  Install it with the default settings.
  • Next, search for and install the DoNotTrackPlus addon.  Again, the default settings will work fine.

ie9Internet Explorer (v.9)

  • From the “gear-like” icon on the toolbar select Safety>Tracking Protection…. Click the “Get a Tracking Protection List online” link.  From the site choose as many lists as you like, but I recommend subscribing to: Abine TPL, EasyList+ and Stop Google Tracking TPL.

The tracking lists and blocked ads are subscriptions that are updated automatically (if you stuck to the default settings).  Advanced settings allow you to turn off blocking on selected sites that you trust or add specific sites that you want to block and these settings will be remembered. 

It’s interesting (to me at least) that when it comes to user-controlled tracking protection,  FF and IE follow different philosophies.  First, neither does it by default, requiring the user to initiate blocking on their own.  But FF requires third-party addons that must add at least a little to the programming overhead, while IE has the coding built in and only needs the data to implement this function.  I can say that browsing the web with these browser modifications is much more enjoyable and responsive.

Use a Password Database: Keepass Password Safe

The last time that I checked, I found I was using at least 16 different user names and over 20 different passwords to log in at various sites across the internet.  This proved to be quite a memory test — especially for the less visited sites.  (No, I was NOT writing them all down somewhere or putting them on Post-Its stuck to my monitor frame.)  And since the other obvious alternative of simplifying to one or two passwords seemed an equally bad security practice, I decided to find a software solution.

A quick search for password databases turned up a great (and totally free) solution: Keepass Password Safe.

main_window

This is Open Source software that comes in four flavors (all are free):  Classic Edition, Professional Edition and a portable edition for each that is suitable for installing on a USB flash drive.  The Professional Edition supports more operating systems (Mac, Linux, all Windows from 98 to 7) and some customizations that the Classic Edition doesn’t support.  Keepass has also been ported to versions compatible with your smartphone.  You can read all about the program and its features at their webpage.

I found it easy to use (the site, lifehacker.com picked it as the best password manager) and I liked these features:

  • Strong security (the entire database is strongly encrypted)
  • One Master Password decrypts all others
  • One database file to transfer between computers
  • Auto-type can be setup with a hot key sequence and a URL address to automatically fill in the right credentials for the webpage you are on.  For instance, if Keepass is running and I’m on the log in page for my Amazon.com account, I just type ctrl-alt-a and my username and password are filled in for me.
  • The expected database goodness: categories, sorting, searching, updating, comments
  • It’s free! No ads, toolbars or junk installed.

And there are many more features that I don’t use.

Edit UPDATE (Feb 2013):  I now also use this on my Kindle Fire HD.  This version is called KeePassDroid and is available from the Amazon Apps for Android store (for free!).  The interface is optimized for phone use so it’s a little simplistic for a tablet, but it works.

Get the lowest online price with the PriceBlink browser add-on

PriceBlink is a browser add-on which searches for low prices and coupons while you shop online.   It is hidden away when you are not shopping (actually it’s hidden until you are on a single item detail web page), then it pops up as a yellow toolbar.  If you are visiting one of the sponsored shopping sites (like Buy.com, for instance) then when not on a single item detail page PriceBlink pops up as a gray toolbar and will be capable of showing any active coupons it finds for that site from a “View Coupons” drop-down button.

Priceblink1

When you are on a single item page the toolbar will be yellow and will show the lowest price that PriceBlink has found from over 3,000 merchant sites.

priceblink2

PriceBlink finds the shipping costs (if any) and considers them when finding the lowest price.  Also note that the yellow toolbar can show a price history graph and lets you create a wish list of items.  If you sign up with an account at PriceBlink.com, then you can set target prices for wish list items and they will email you an alert when your target price is hit by some merchant.

The add-on is available for Chrome, Firefox, IE, Safari, and iPad and can be downloaded at this link.

I especially like how it stays out of the way when you are not shopping, considers shipping costs and only takes a couple of seconds to find the low prices.  There’s no ad-ware or spy-ware and you don’t need to sign up if you don’t want email alerts.

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Crashes to Desktop

Skyrim fresh out of the box installed on a new desktop pc started crashing to the desktop without any error warning.  Time between crashes was running from 10 minutes to maybe an hour and a half, averaging about 2 crashes per hour over all.  My desktop has great specs and is running Windows 7 Pro 64-bit.  I tried lower graphics settings (Default), simpler sound settings (44.1 MHz 16-bit) and running in Steam “off-line mode” with no improvement.

Elder_Scrolls_V_Skyrim_Logo

The solution that worked for a while was running the game directly from the TESV.exe file found in the Steam folder (C:Program Files (x86)/Steam/Steamapps/common/skyrim/).  No more crashes (until I got to about level 30 — then crashes as before).  I then tried the so-called 4Gb mod (available here) which includes a new executable file to launch the game (bypassing Bethesda’s launcher).  This corrected the crashes for now.  I created a shortcut to the skyrim4Gb.exe file and pinned it to my taskbar for convenience.  I’m back to running at Ultra graphics settings with no crashes.

Update:  Betheseda’s latest game patch (1.2.12.0) broke the crash fix but a newer version of the 4Gb mod (1.4) fixed it again.

Final Update:  After the Dec. 20th version 1.3.10 game update the 4Gb loader is no longer necessary and my problem with crashing is fixed.