Friday, January 9, 2015

5 Cool Technological Tricks You May Have Forgotten Or Just Didn't Know!

I read an article a few days ago about how someone was able to get Doom to play on a Canon Pixma printer LCD screen. There was no documentation on the subject, so I couldn't bring it to you here. But since I wanted to get away from the subject of graphics cards for a while, it did give me the idea for this article. I want to present different tricks - new and old - that can be helpful, or at least interesting, to perform.

Ended eBay Auction Pictures
If you use eBay a lot, chances are you add a lot of auctions to your Watch list (or maybe Wish list). In any case, I end up with a lot of ended auctions I never had any intention of biding on. I usually do it to gauge prices for an item during that time period. Sometimes it's good to see if you paid too much for something. And other times its good as a reference for the future.

In any case, once an eBay auction ends, you can still see the photos from a desktop computer or your smartphone and tablet (other than the primary photo):

  1. Download the eBay app (if on a smarphone/talbet).
  2. Go to your ended auction list.
  3. Find the auction in question and click on it. It should show the auction as ended.
  4. Click on the auction picture and it will open the original auction page, allowing you to peruse all the photos that the auction had.
This doesn't sound like it could be of much use, but it is for me. For example, if there was an auction that had an item that went unsold, I could then recheck the photos to see if the item is actually in good condition and worth purchasing. I could then contact the seller and ask if they will just sell me the single item through PayPal or another Buy It Now auction at a lower price. It can also help when trying to reference an item and it is near impossible to find any identical photos on the web.

This works on Android and iOS devices. The only difference should be that on iOS devices there is no way to choose between all, live, or ended auctions. There is just a big list of your live auctions followed by your ended auctions (exactly like the desktop interface). You also do not need to have the eBay app installed before an auction is added or ended. It is all saved on eBay's servers, so you can view it any time. 

Note: I have found auctions that have ended almost a year ago through Google, so you should be able to view these auctions for a long time after they have concluded.

Faster Speeds with IDM
I use Internet Download Manager (IDM) for any download on the net that I can. I usually get faster speeds regardless, but sometimes I don't. For certain situations, I have found a method to increase the speeds further.

I had been downloading from a certain site because: 1) I could use IDM. 2) It had really good speeds. 3) There was no wait time if I needed to download another file from the host afterwards. One day, after a short vacation, I noticed that my speeds had decreased greatly from the site. After some time I contacted my ISP and had them take a look at my setup and what I was doing. They were of no help. I ended up trying a few more tricks and came across one that actually worked:

  1. Start a download with IDM.
  2. Do not click "Start Download".
  3. Copy the URL in the top area of the download prompt. (You may need to manually highlight the URL as a double-click sometimes only grabs part of it.)
  4. Open up the IMDB interface where all your downloads are shown.
  5. Click on "Add URL".
  6. The link you just copied should already populate itself into the "Address" area. If not, paste the link you copied into the "Address" area.
  7. Press "OK".
  8. The IDM download prompt should then appear.
  9. Press "Start Download".

Your speeds may then increase significantly depending on the host server. I found a 2x-4x increase in doing this when necessary, and if successful.

If you are unable to get a URL link for media, download and install "Grab Any Media" for Chrome. When you are viewing a video or listening to audio it should give you the option to download it. Start downloading the video or audio file and open up the Downloads tab on Chrome. Click on the URL of the file being downloaded and a new tab will open up. Copy the URL from that tab and paste it into IMDB (step 5 and up). Don't forget to cancel the original download afterwards.

Turn on a PSU with a Paperclip
Sometimes you need more power. On a desktop computer the obvious choice is to buy a bigger power supply unit (PSU), but there are times when that is just not an option. Let's say your computer has the highest wattage PSU available, what do you do then? Or what if you can't afford a better PSU?

The problem here is that two PSU's in a computer is normally not easy to accomplish, unless you know a lot about cables and splicing. Your best bet may be to get one of those shoddy computer bay PSU's, which may not even have the necessary power to help you further. On the off chance that you are a splicer and just need to use the PSU for some random project, the problem becomes how to get the PSU to start since the motherboard is the item to normally do this.

For those who need the use of a second PSU, need to get a PSU to start without a motherboard, or just need to test a PSU's functionality, here is an oldie but a goody that still stands today:

  1. First get a PSU and a standard, malleable paperclip. Your PSU should have a 20-pin or 20+4-pin connector (a separate 20-pin and 4-pin connector).
  2. Make sure your PSU is not plugged into a wall.
  3. If your PSU has a On/Off switch, place it into the Off position if not already done.
  4. Take the paperclip and unfold it so that it makes a U-shape.
  5. Take the 20-pin connector and locate the green wire.
  6. Stick one end of the paperclip into the green pinhole for the green wire.
  7. Take the 20-pin connector and locate any black wire (many have one right next to the green wire).
  8. Stick the other end of the paperclip into the black pinhole for the black wire.
  9. Plug the PSU back into a wall outlet.
  10. If necessary, set the PSU switch to ON.

The PSU should power on. If it does not, then it is most likely broken or dead.

A word of warning to those using this trick with computers. If you do this for extra power in order to power up some heavy-duty graphic cards, or what have you, be sure that you power this on only up to 10 seconds before your actual computer. I have read serious issues can occur otherwise.

I have also attached this PDF file for some visual guidance.

Charge A Smartphone/Tablet via USB with Another Smartphone/Tablet
Speaking of power, sometimes smartphones and tablets aren't all they're cracked up to be. One of the most common hindrances is battery life. New features and technologies always come promising longer lasting battery life. But in reality, these small increases still don't last as long as most of us would like.

Sure, "fast-charging" helps make sure we don't stay off of the phone too long, but don't we all just want a phone that can last until we leave it to charge at night? Even larger batteries and external battery packs are great, and is a definite option for charging, but what if you don't have one?

Hopefully, in lieu of an external battery pack, you hold on to your older smartphones or tablets. I know I do. If you do, then you essentially have an external battery pack already! Mind you, at least one phone must have OTG capabilities, and OTG must be enabled beforehand. As long as you meet those requirements you should only need to spend a buck or two (if any) to do the following:

  1. Be sure to have an OTG cable, and a charging cable from one of your devices. Most phones and tablets have the same type of charging port (save iOS devices), but if one is different, just make sure at least one (any that has OTG-enabled) of your devices fits the OTG cable.
  2. Plug in the OTG cable into the OTG-enabled device.
  3. Plug the USB charging cable into the OTG cable.
  4. Plug the other end of the USB charging cable into the other device.

The device should immediately light up, or show some indication that it is now charging!

While not (regularly) cheaper than an external battery pack, the simple method makes good use out of older devices that you have lying around.

Free Calls to the US/Canada over the Internet
Having a Google Number should be a right, not a privilege. But for those of us outside of North America, we don't get the benefit of being able to make free phone calls on the Internet. If you are lucky enough to travel to the states (or provinces) and remember to get a Google Number, it can greatly benefit you overseas. You can make calls back to North America - completely for free - over an Internet/mobile data network connection. Clarity will vary depending on your Internet speeds.

There are a lot of ways to do this while overseas (Google "IPKall Google Number"), and in fact one of the apps I'll be mentioning will now even guide you in getting one. But I am just going to go over the broad strokes of how to get one if you are in North America:

  1. Signup for a Google Account, if you don't already have one.
  2. Log into:
  3. You should have an option to apply for a Google Number. Follow the process and choose a number.
  4. The number can only be verified if using a "valid" US/Canadian cell phone number. Although, you should be able to get the number regardless, but you will only be given a month to verify it for permanent use.

There are a couple of items to note. If you do not have a US/Canadian number and end up using a relative's or friend's cell phone number, you will want to go into settings and uncheck any boxes that relate to forwarding calls and texts to their number instead of just to the Google Number. In addition, Google now verifies the number once-a-year if the verifying original cell phone number is no longer active for that period of time (i.e. you visited the states and got a temporary cell phone number).

In order to use the Google Number while overseas you must either login to your Google Voice account on a desktop browser, or have a special Android/iOS app. On the desktop you simply login and click on the phone icon (from Gmail if using the classic interface), or the "Call" button (from Google Voice).

Talkatone is a special app that you can use for free, or subscribe to monthly to remove their ads. That app works both on iOS and Android. On Android you can also use Spare Phone. The previous iterations of this app were great, and only required a one-time payment. The app still only requires a one-time payment, but now seems to have changed to only be used with other Spare Phone users. Essentially, it has become a Viber that isn't free. However, it will walk you through getting a Google Number with IPKall. You will have to search for an older version if you want to make calls to ANY North American number...

BONUS: Microsoft Word Secret Messages
Microsoft is no stranger to hiding images or games in their products, but it seems that they've steered clear of that in recent years. One trick that works from Microsoft Word 2003 and up (it may work in older versions too) is still available in 2013:

  1. Open up Microsoft Word.
  2. Open up a document (a blank document is recommended).
  3. Type "=rand()" without the quotes.
  4. Press Enter.

A bunch of random writing will appear, and it seems each Word version has different writing. For example, the 2013 version has four paragraphs describing some features of Word.

I did not want to include this as a main trick as it serves no useful purpose.

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