The Russell Crowe Movie Poster

I was flipping through the Movie Guide on Windows Media Center a few weeks ago and came across images similar to these two, side by side.


At first I thought one was the English version and one a Spanish version and the two covers just had different coloring.  Nope, they're two different movies.

I guess Russell Crowe can only appear one way when he's dramatically staring and the camera is on his left!

P.S. Sometime I'll have to see Maximus Nash in A Beautiful Mind... of a Gladiator

Just give me a link!

#1 annoyance with web pages: when they tell me detailed instructions about how to go to another part of the site. "In the box to upper-right, click the Save Now link."

If I wanted to interact with information in this manner, I'd be using a book with carefully indexed pages. No, this is the web, and we have this newfangled technology called hypermedia that allows you to seamlessly link from ANY place to ANY other place.

Maybe if knowing the "canonical" place for that link helps me, tell me where it can be found, but also make it so I can just click the repeated link text to which you're directing me. Don't make me break out the browser's search function just to see where this link you're telling me about can be found.

[Update: Apparently I'm even in the small subset of people who know how to search a page.]

Interesting timestamp failure

So I saw this on awhile ago, and was wondering what bug caused this.  But I'm too lazy to do some timestamp math and see if I can get the same weird answer displayed on the page.

I thought I also had one from Netflix that involved an incorrect content-encoding like the classic smart/“real” apostrophe problem (see “Garbled Tweet”), but I can't find the screenshot.  I think it actually involved the word “über-spy” and the umlaut being messed up.  Ah well.

Kindle ad irony

I just saw a commercial for Kindle on TV (or see it on YouTube) that struck me as ironic.  You're supposed to feel good because the attractive girl and guy get to read their new Kindle book together.

The irony is that the companies that produce content like this would probably love to make it illegal to read a Kindle together with another person.  (And they could, just by adding a term to the license agreement.) OK, so that's a stretch – I think even the movie studios haven't been so blinded by greed as to forget that people watch movies because they can watch them together. People read books so they can talk about them together, too.

Still, it looks like the popular e-book vendors have got the lending locked down pretty tight (something like only being able to lend certain books, only once, for only 2 weeks.)  I'm all for authors being paid royalties and having their copyrights respected, but the only "rights" that get "managed" by DRM are the rights of corporations to make money.

I do like saving some trees, though.  That is all.

Defeating HP BIOS wifi card whitelist

A few months ago I installed a certain proprietary OS on my HP Pavilion dv6103nr laptop that doesn't have a certain fruit-based logo on it.  It worked amazingly well, except for the wifi card.  So I bought an Airport card pulled from a MacBook off of eBay for ~$10 and discovered the evil of BIOS Wifi card whitelists.

After some research and mucking around with old versions of Phoenix BIOS Editor procured from Warez-R-Us that required .OCX files from VB, I finally found ("BIOS Logo Change Utility") at Intel.  (They'll probably do as all big websites and renumber all their resources every few years, so you can try searching for it by name if the link is broken.  If you have to resort to other sources, know that I computed the md5sum 91be5e826d3bbea3c9d4aa1244e5055a for mine.) It worked great, didn't require ancient runtime files pirated from Microsoft, and as far as I can tell I wasn't violating any licenses.

Since my patching was awhile ago and took me 4 or 5 tries to get right (I'm not entirely sure what I did right the last time either), I was mainly just writing this to point you to a good source for Phoenix BIOS Editor.  In the process of finding that link again I also found this guide that does a better job than I did – it actually patches the BIOS code to ignore the whitelist, rather than adding a new card to the whitelist, which is what I did.

I can't vouch for the safety or effectiveness of the specific patch this guy recommends, but the general unpacking/patching/building/flashing process sounds like what I did. (I think I used 7-zip to extract the BIOS image from the .exe file rather than executing it and looking in a temp directory.) It looks like the latest BIOS version is newer than the one he used. If you can get that one, you could probably figure out how to locate the same segment of code in other versions.

If you patch the whitelist like I did, make sure to search for PCI IDs you suspect will be there with the correct endianness (little-endian for x86).

After all that work, I ended up just buying a used MacBook, as it works perfectly and I don't have to worry about OS updates breaking me. Still, it was impressive to see what the OSx86 hackers have accomplished, and I got to learn some things like how to patch a BIOS.

Cheap linear actuator

This weekend I installed my RFID-enabled automatic door lock (more details to come) in my new apartment.  In my last apartment, I had been using a ~$5 12 V DC car door lock actuator (Amazon, they abound on eBay as well) to turn the deadbolt lever, since more straightforward methods would probably breach the contract about not changing the lock.  (A proper electric deadbolt would be the quick and versatile way, but looking at the inside of the lock it might even be pretty simple to turn from within the hollow space in this cheap door -- making and watching a normal-looking deadbolt turn itself would be hours of entertainment!)

On this new door, it looked like the actuator wasn't going to travel far enough to lock the deadbolt.  I don't really have the parts or ingenuity to make my own, and the linear actuators available online were starting at $60, which was unacceptable.  I decided to crack open the actuator I already had and see if I could improve it.
The insides of a car door lock actuator

Not having any more sophisticated or effective methods coming to mind, I took it outside, set it on concrete and smacked it with a hammer, aiming for the seam between the two plastic parts the unit is housed in.  (I think the end where the moving part comes out is a little weaker, and the cracks traveled along the seam pretty well from there.)  Once I got it open, the mod turned out to be pretty easy, at least to get enough distance for my needs. The black thing(s) you see between the end of the gear track (?) and the inside of the casing are rubber washers that prevent the arm from moving another inch or so.  I cut them off and, as long as the unit is held closed (to keep pieces in place), nothing seems wrong and it moves a little farther.

I actually put it back together by winding waxed dental floss around it (I think the wax helps it grip.)  Glue might work too (I didn't have any on hand), but it could get in the way of the moving parts, and I wonder if it would provide enough pressure to keep everything in place.

If removing the black rubber stoppers had not worked, I was also considering cracking open the other actuator I had and "splicing" the two arms together with glue.  I imagined cutting (wider) holes in the front/back of the unit for the extra length to come out and making sure the extra-long arm was stabilized somehow (maybe some ridges/lips on top and to the side to keep the arm from pivoting up and out of the teeth of the gear or turning to the sides.)

I'm writing this in the hope that all these actuators are the same and the information might help someone.  They all look the same in online listings.  Have fun!

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