It's been a few years, and this poor old blog has languished unattended since 2011. I'm going to try to revive it, so stay tuned....
Monday, February 28, 2011
If you’re like me, you’ve run into the problem of needing to print something while traveling. Of course, nobody packs around a printer these days, so what do you do? If you’re staying in an upscale hotel, they might have a “business center” that provides services like printer access along with copiers and other amenities. But if you’re traveling on a budget, your local Motel 6 doesn’t often provide such luxuries. What to do?
Well, I’ve run across a couple of options that help.
First, if you’re not really concerned about the quality of the printout – say, you just need some notes printed to have on hand for the big meeting, or you want to print the directions to the local theme park – you can hook up your fax modem in your laptop to the phone in the hotel room, then use Windows’ fax program to “print” the document to the fax modem. Different versions of Windows work differently, but in Windows 7 you can use the “Windows Fax and Scan” program. If it’s installed on your system, it includes a virtual printer that you can just print to, and the output goes out through your fax modem. To make sure it’s installed on your system, look in the Control Panel under “Programs and Features” and click on the “Turn Windows features on or off” to bring up the list of Windows options you have installed. Under “Print and Document Services” you should see this:
If “Windows Fax and Scan” isn’t checked, check the box and click OK. (You may be prompted for your Windows install DVD, so do this BEFORE you hit the road! I make this a part of every Windows installation I perform, just in case.)
Once it’s set up, you can use the “Windows Fax and Scan” program from the Start Menu to bring up the application:
This is where you manage your incoming and outgoing faxes and scans in Windows 7.
Now look in the Start Menu under “Devices and Printers.” If you open that up, you should see something like this:
Notice the 2nd item under “Printers and Faxes” – that item named “Fax” is your fax modem. Print to that “printer” and you’ll be able to send faxes. When you print you’ll see something like this:
Just select “Fax” and click “Print.” You’ll then see this:
Fill in the recipient’s fax in the To: field, give it a subject such as, “Call room 202 when you receive this, please!” and put whatever notes you need to include in the bottom box. Click “Send” and it’ll go.
WARNING: before you plug your modem into the hotel phone line, make sure you have a “data” port on your phone. DO NOT plug it directly into the wall! Digital phone systems run at somewhat higher voltages than the average home phone system, and those voltages are quite capable of frying the modem. Since the modem is 99.44% of the time a direct component of your laptop’s motherboard, fixing a fried modem will require replacing the motherboard in your laptop. The cost of that is high enough that it’d be cheaper to just replace the laptop, so unless you’re absolutely sure where you’re connecting, ASK SOMEONE AT THE HOTEL FIRST!
Another on-the-road option is to use the eFax service. See www.efax.com for details. One of the beauties of this service is that it lets you not only send faxes, but receive them as well – through your email! Your account will come with a dedicated phone number, which others can use to fax to you. When a fax is received via that number in the eFax service, the fax will be converted to a .efx file and sent to your email account.
You can get a free account which lets you receive up to 10 pages a month, but you have no choice as to the phone number you’re assigned. In my case, although I live in the 951 area code, I got a 928-area-code phone number. The down side of this is that even if your next-door neighbor is sending you a fax, it’ll probably be a toll call for him. But if you’re only rarely receiving faxes, this shouldn’t be too big a deal. If you want a local fax number, or if you plan on receiving more than 10 pages a month, get a paid account.
You can also send faxes through eFax. Regardless of the account you have, you have to pay per fax since the cost of sending a fax – the phone charges – are “hard” expenses for eFax and they have to recoup that. I think you get a certain amount of sending credit on a paid account, but if there is it isn’t much. The process of sending a fax through eFax is similar to that in Windows, except you use the eFax printer. In the 3rd illustration above, you can see the “eFax 4.4” virtual printer. Just use that when you print, and follow the prompts.
The advantages of using this method are (1) you don’t even need to hook up your modem to the hotel phone line; and (2) you can use it anywhere you have an Internet connection.
One other option I use for “printing” is in the case where I see something on the web which I want to capture, but I don’t need to have a paper copy of the information. In such cases I use one of three options: (1) send the contents of the web page to OneNote, which lets me work with the data later but doesn’t always preserve the formatting as it appears on the web page; (2) print the web page to OneNote, which preserves formatting but won’t let me do anything with the data later on; or (3) use a print-to-PDF program to capture the output to an Adobe Reader (PDF) document.
In the latter case above, I use pdfFactory, which is a paid-for program. There are others, such as NitroPDF which comes as part of the NitroPDF Reader application (free). All of these create “virtual printers” just like the examples used above. Print to one of those printers, and the output comes out as a PDF document for use later.
A fourth option for road warriors who need to print on the go is to use the FedEx Office’s “Print Online” service. (This is a holdover from the old Kinko’s service, but has been significantly enhanced since FedEx took over Kinko’s a few years ago.) Again, no phone required, just an Internet connection.
This isn’t for casual printing, though – it’s purely for business. I’d recommend this if you have to print a bunch of copies of a document for an important meeting, for example, and don’t have time to hunt down a color printer that you can use for 100 copies or whatever. The details of the service can be found at http://www.fedex.com/us/office/copyprint/online/print/ along with a document explaining how to use the system. As with eFax, a program is installed that gives you a virtual printer to use. (I’ll leave it to FedEx to provide you with the details on how this system works, as they provide detailed instructions and examples on their web site.)
I hope the above gives you some options you didn’t know you had before. As always, if you have questions or comments, please feel free to drop me a note.
As always, I believe in full disclosure. I have no financial or other connection with any of the vendors or companies listed in this blog post, other than that of a customer.
Saturday, February 26, 2011
We saved up and finally could afford to get a pair of Annual Passports this year for Disneyland here in California. It’s something we’ve wanted to do for a very long time, and at last we were able to do so.
As I usually do, once we take the plunge on something I tend to go nuts reading up on the background. The Riverside County Public Library has been extremely helpful in this quest, having quite a few books on Disneyland’s history. I have several items still on “hold” at the library which have yet to arrive – I’m “next” on some of them, others I’m a little further down the list – but so far the ones I’ve read (or watched on video) have been great!
One notable title is “Mouse Tales,” and a sequel “More Mouse Tales,” both by David Koenig. If you have the chance to read these, by all means do so. Even if you’re not a Disneyphile (is that a word?) you’ll laugh yourself silly at all the tales of stupid-guest-stunts and cast-member pranks that have happened at the park over the past 56 years. Some pranks include:
- A “Mission to Mars” cast member once put on a lab smock and sat in Mission Control, pretending to be one of the Audio-Animatronics characters.
- Another sneaked into the “America Sings” attraction and put party hats on some of the characters on New Year’s Eve.
- Some of the “Jungle Cruise” ride operators called a supervisor to take care of a “problem” out on the river, then hid in the bushes waiting for him. When he showed up in a little boat, they jumped out of the weeds and turned him into an instant snowman with fire extinguishers.
And so on… I don’t want to give away all the funnies, though, so get the books from your local library or order them.
Other tales include some recollections from the cast members who perform as characters, such as Mickey Mouse, daily at the park. Those are well worth reading – next time you visit any of the Disney parks, be sure to give a heartfelt “thank you” to all of them for putting up with all the abuse they have to put up with by unruly kids (and even adults) in the course of their day. (Goofy was even stabbed once!)
Right now I’m watching a DVD set called, “Your Host, Walt Disney.” It contains about six hours of programming from the old “Disneyland” TV show from 1956 to 1965. Next up will be a VHS tape about Walt Disney himself.
I’ve also been learning about the “Hidden Mickeys” to be found in the resort. These are little touches that Imagineers and cast members have put into the design of park attractions. Some are very subtle. For example, I don’t know if it’s there now but in the past you’d hear a chime at the front gate when your ticket was taken and you passed through the turnstiles – the grille for the speaker in the turnstile is shaped like Mickey Mouse. Others are a little more obvious, like three barrels hanging from a rope in the waiting line for one of the rides are arranged so that when seen end-on they make a Mickey shape. If you click on the link above, you’ll go to hiddenmickeys.org, a site dedicated to the hunt for Hidden Mickeys. There are also several books on the subject, so if you click here you’ll see a list of such titles at Amazon.com. You can also visit your local library’s website to search for the subject, where you’ll likely find several titles.
Another not-so-widely-known item is that the “Splash Mountain” ride has come to be known in insider circles as “Flash Mountain.” As riders come down the final slide on the ride, which takes you down a waterfall of some 50 feet at a 45-degree angle right into the water at the bottom, a hidden camera snaps a picture of everyone in your log. Some uninhibited female riders have taken to yanking their tops up to “flash” themselves at the camera. (Naturally, whenever something like that is caught by the camera, the ride operators will delete the picture so that it doesn’t show up on the monitors in the exit area of the ride, so if anyone reading this decides they’d like to try it and get a copy of the photo, forget it.)
Anyway, the point is, there’s a rich collection of Disneyland tales out there. If you’re interested, by all means check your local library or the sources I’ve provided here. Even if Disney lore doesn’t really attract your attention, you might still want to check out the “Mouse Tales” books, just for the hilarious stories there.
See you at Disneyland!
PS: If you’re reading this and are planning a visit to Disneyland in the near future, drop me a note at email@example.com to let me know your plans. We might be able to meet up in the park over a burger and swap stories.
Sunday, January 30, 2011
If, like me, you’re a fan of the “For Dummies” line of books, you might want to check them out online. The dummies.com website has a lot of tips from their books available for reading online. If you’re not sure if a particular Dummies book has what you want, you can check it out in advance before plunking down your money. That’s especially helpful if you’re buying your books online, as opposed to visiting your local brick-and-mortar bookstore and looking at the book first-hand.
Friday, January 28, 2011
Something I've found useful when capturing a bunch of web-based data to OneNote is to use a dual-monitor ("extended desktop") configuration. My notebook does a nice job of supporting this setup. I put OneNote on the 2nd monitor, and use the main monitor to view web pages in Internet Explorer 8.
Why do I mention this? Because sometimes it takes a moment or two for a web page to be copied to OneNote, and I can't really proceed to the next page until it's done. Being able to see both applications helps me keep track of what's happening.
Also, I've found that it works MUCH faster, and preserves the formatting better, to select the text on the web page that I want to copy to OneNote rather than just capturing the entire page. Doing the latter causes the data to be put up in a series of tables, and the formatting gets skewed pretty badly sometimes. Not always, but sometimes. The process takes about a third of the time if I select just what I want to capture, rather than doing the whole page. To do this, select the section of data you wish to capture, then right-click on the selected information and choose “Send to OneNote” at the bottom of the menu.
Finally, if the web page you're capturing has a "print" option -- one that changes the data layout to a printer-compatible format, rather than just invoking the IE "print" command -- it's much easier to capture the information. A good example of a website that works well in this regard is the “For Dummies” site. Take, for example, the following page:
It looks like this:
If you click the “Print” item here:
you get a format that’s much more conducive to capturing to OneNote:
With this format, even capturing the whole page works very quickly.
I’d love to hear from other OneNote users who have interesting tips to share. Drop me a note in email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas and I’ll be happy to post them here.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Just read this on The Onion:
Reminds me of some pundits talking back during the big “Y2K” crisis that we all should consider taking the few remaining COBOL programmers and cryogenically preserving them for the time of the “Y10K” crisis so that there would be someone on tap to fix COBOL applications when that problem comes up….