Archive for October, 2008

Hewlett Packard Rant

October 25, 2008

A little while ago, my household needed a new multi-function printer, to cope with the intense printing and copying demands that primary school teachers place upon the beleaguered home IT equipment. My wish-list of functions was as follows:

  • Network/wifi enabled (to print straight from the laptop)
  • Double-sided printing (to save paper and labour)
  • Cheap ink (natch)

To cut a long story short(er), the first one I found that really satisfied all requirements was the Hewlett Packard C6280. Now, I had promised myself that I would never buy another HP printer after the trials we had with the previous one, but it seemed that nothing else was really available that ticked the most important boxes, so I bit the bullet and ordered it.

The first one delivered was faulty – guess that should have been a sign. One replacement later and it was all up and running. Things seemed to be going well – it was great not having to crouch down by the printer, hunting for cables, or cajoling it into please not devouring half a stack of paper and subsequently choking on it. Individual ink cartridges didn’t really deliver much of a saving on ink costs which was a disappointment, and not doing double sided printing but inexplicably not copying was frustrating. But on the whole, not too shabby.

However, I soon noticed that our PC had slowed to an absolute crawl. Task Manager showed that the CPU was constantly at 100% usage, with about 11 instances of svchost.exe running! I searched the internet for weeks, trying to find out what could be wrong. I disabled all unnecessary services to no effect. I had resigned myself to a full reformat and clean XP installation, when I tried one more thing… and lo and behold, I found that HP was to blame.

It seems that the “HP Network Devices Support” service has serious flaws. It keeps checking for the printer on the network – and checking, and checking, and checking… eating up your CPU constantly. The solution? Change the service from “automatic” to “manual” startup, as follows:

Go to Start > Run > type in “services.msc”.
Scroll down and right click on “HP Network Device Support” service.
In the Startup pulldown menu, change “Automatic” to “Manual”.
Click Apply and close.
Restart computer.

That finally sorted the CPU usage issue, and my PC began behaving properly again! Since it now appeared to be worth using for basic tasks once more, I thought I’d have a go at scanning some pictures in using the blighted HP device. Surely that would work, right? Wrong. Hp’s own scanning software refused to start, preferring to crash the PC. And using the TWAIN import function within other programs didn’t work, either. I had about given up attempting to get any useful functionality out of the C6280 beyond printing, when I noticed the annoying status monitor in the system tray, performing its usual retarded antics of telling me the printer was connected when it wasn’t, or vice versa, and failing to supply me with any meaningful information whatsoever. I did a bit of research, and found that by disabling hpqtra08.exe, it would no longer load at startup and annoy me. And lo and behold, all of a sudden TWAIN scanning started to work…

HP software. What a load of old crap. I can’t believe that it caused so many problems for me, and that the only way to get the product working properly (not to mention un-crippling my PC!) was to disable most of the bundled software!

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iPhone Tips

October 14, 2008

Bookmarklets

A bookmarklet is a bookmark which, instead of taking you to a url, instead runs a snippet of javascript on the current page. The great thing about this is that bookmarklets can be used to add functionality that is otherwise lacking in the iPhone’s Safari browser. Since I found out about them, I’ve collected quite a few that are now indispensable for my iPhone web browsing!

Adding Any Bookmarklet Without Syncing Your Bookmarks

By far the easiest way of adding Bookmarklets to your iPhone is to use iTunes to sync your bookmarks with either Safari or Internet Explorer on your PC. However, there are two main drawbacks with this approach:

  1. My PC bookmarks are generally full of crap, and not what I want to clutter my iPhone up with;
  2. I use Firefox or Opera. I hate IE, and I’m not installing another browser just to sync bookmarks with my iPhone.

Unfortunately, most people who publish bookmarklets on the web simply assume that you’re syncing your bookmarks, and don’t provide any other way of getting them onto your iPhone. It took me quite a while to figure out a reliable process for adding bookmarklets without syncing bookmarks, but I’m glad I did, because it gave me access to some excellent ones I couldn’t otherwise have had!

OK, so how to do it. First, you need to familiarise yourself with the method of manually adding a bookmarklet on your iPhone. Both iCopy and iTransmogrify have very good walkthroughs for this.

Now, what do you do if the bookmarklet you want doesn’t have an iPhone-friendly page? You need to create your own ‘dummy’ link with the javascript appended, that’s what – like so:

http://google.com/javascript:… a pretty straightforward way of doing this is to send the link in an email to your iPhone email address – then you can just click on it, and it’ll open up a ‘404 page not found’ in Safari. (Note that it should be a rich-text email with an embedded link – the javascript can make the URL too long otherwise.) Bookmark that page, then edit the bookmark and remove everything preceding the javascript: and hey presto! You just added your first custom-iPhonified bookmarklet!

OK then, here are my recommended bookmarklets…

Scroll to Bottom of Page

Everybody knows that tapping the status bar scrolls straight back up to the top of the page. OK, that’s occasionally pretty handy – but I find that much more often, I want to scroll straight to the bottom of the page. I found a bookmarklet to do just that here.

Here’s an iPhone-friendly bookmarkable link (follow the bookmark editing procedure outlined above once you’ve stored it).

Paste Custom Text

Erica Sadun over at TUAW coded a bookmarklet for pasting custom text straight into a text-field. Tom King made a super-iPhone-friendly version. Saves me typing in my email address or username whenever I want to login to a site – a real time-saver!

Find in Page

This comes in very handy from time to time. I found an iPhone-bookmarkable version hosted here (which, incidentally, was the site that inspired me to find a method for adding any bookmarklet without syncing bookmarks).

Copy/Paste

Everyone and his dog bemoans the lack of copy and paste on the iPhone. Very few people seem to be aware that iCopy works pretty well, at least within Safari. I agree, of course, that cross-application copy and paste is what we really want – but until then, this is a pretty good stop-gap. Just don’t copy and paste anything confidential, as it’s a non-secure method.

Change Font Size

Small text size on a page? Don’t want to zoom about all over the place just to read it? Use the bookmarklet from here to change the font size to something readable on the iPhone. (Note: you have to enter the font size as #em or #px, not just a number!)

‘Bare Bones’ Version of Page

There are times when you’re only interested in the content of a page, not all the flashy pictures (and awful banner ads!) – especially if you’re on GPRS coverage. The bookmarklets here will convert links to stripped-down versions of their target pages, reducing the page load time considerably.

Save Pages Offline

While not strictly a bookmarklet (though there is a bookmarklet version), http://iwebsaver.com/ is a great way of storing entire web pages as a data URL that you can then view offline – even when you have absolutely zero network coverage. Handy!

There are many more bookmarklets out there; I’ve only posted the ones that I’ve found to be both particularly useful, and singularly hard to find and get onto the iPhone. Hopefully the information will benefit other iPhone users!

Forwarding Hotmail to your iPhone

The iPhone’s built-in Mail app is great for email on the move – unless of course, you’re tied to a Hotmail account. Of course, you can set up a Gmail or Yahoo account, but then you’ve got to migrate across to it. If only Hotmail would allow you to forward your mail to your new address…

By default, Microsoft don’t seem to want you to do this on a standard Hotmail account. Unless you pay for a Hotmail Plus account (which is kinda pointless, seeing as you’re looking to use a new provider as your primary account) or forward the mail to one of their other product domains (which is confusing – a ‘custom domain’ is not the layman’s definition of a custom domain, it’s a Microsoft Live custom domain! Not very clear eh!).

However, there is a way… one which I can take no credit for, I’m only posting it for your information.

1. Go to your options, sign up to Mobile Alerts For New Messages.

2. Bang in the pin number sent to your phone.

3. Configure your Alerts so that ‘All New Messages’ is selected.

4. Send an email to your Hotmail account and you should get a text telling you that you have new mail in your account.

5. Now go back to Mobile Alerts, turn them off, then go to Email Forwarding, and like magic, you can now forward your Hotmail to any email account.

Thanks to murray on rllmukforum for bringing this to my attention – though where he got it from I couldn’t say, it’s pure gold. (Update: Hotmail POP3 access is now supported in the iPhone email app; however, Gmail’s IMAP functionality is far better, so I still think doing it via this route is superior. One email to rule them all!)