May 082010

Do you have billions and billions of password to remember? Well, maybe not quite that many, but I can tell you that I currently have 113 username and password pairs that I am remembering, mostly for logins to different websites. What if I told you that most of my passwords are something like “L6qjB5NM04GEXjTTeXeQ”. I try hard to not use the same username and password for every site I visit. I used to. It’s the only way you could possibly remember all those passwords.

Now I use a free program called KeePass to manage my passwords. Every time I register for a new account at a new website, I fire up KeePass and add a new entry. KeePass already has generated a password similar to the one I showed above. I then copy and paste that pre-generated password in the desired password field on the registration for on the website. If the website accepts the new password I save the entry in KeePass. The websites almost always accept the generated password from KeePass, but would you believe that sometimes my passwords are too long and the website forces me to trim down the length of the password? Sad. And that’s it. No more having to remember passwords.

Ahh, but you don’t want to use a password manager because you have multiple computers and you will need access to your passwords no matter where you are. I get that. That was what kept me away from such a program too. Well, I have the perfect solution. And it comes with lots of nice side effect features too. Get yourself a free Dropbox account. Dropbox is a file synchronizer that allows you to automatically sync up files and folders over the internet. If you work on some files at home and work, then you have undoubtedly forgotten your thumb drive once before, or forgot to copy over the latest version before you left. Well, dropbox can easily solve that problem for you. The Dropbox program watches a certain folder (or folders) on your computer. Whenever a file is added, changed, or deleted in that folder, the change is propagated automatically over the internet to any other computers on which you have installed dropox. So when you get to work after adding a new file to your dropbox at home, the file is happily waiting for you in your dropbox folder at work. So, to make this work with KeePass, just save your “key ring” (your database) to the dropbox folder. KeePass allows you to save and open database files from any folder, so this works quite well. Then all you have to do is install KeePass on your work computer too, and tell it to look in the DropBox folder for the key ring, and you will see all of your entries saved their. Now you can easily add new entries on either computer, and the change will be propagated to the other computer. Of course you could also install Dropbox and KeePass on your laptop too, so that you have access to your passwords (and files) when you travel.

Finally, there is an Android app for KeePass too. There is not a dropbox app, so you will have to periodically copy over (or email) the latest database to your phone so it has (a somewhat) up to date database. I try to do it around once a month or so. This also has the added benefit of backing up my database. Dropbox is pretty good about recovering accidentally deleted files, but really bad things can happen, and losing every password would be really bad. By having a copy in my email that I can go back to retrieve a copy, I know that I will always have a fairly recent backup that I can rely on.

And for the record, even though Lifehacker has also given instructions on how to do this, I figured it out before they did :) I just wasn’t smart enough to blog about it.

May 022010

This functionality has been evolving as of mid 2011 and may not work for you. Sirius/XM has been changing the format of their online streaming. Watch for the latest information.

If you are a Sirius online subscriber, then you can listen to most of the Sirius channels online in most web browsers.  It’s a very nice way to listen to Sirius at work.  The quality is quite good too.  But did you know you can easily add the same Sirius channel lineup to your Windows Media Center?  Here’s how I did it.

First, of course you will need a computer with Windows Media Center.  I happen to be running Vista x64, but I believe this will work on all versions of WMC.  Next, you will need to get a small, free program called “Sirius XM streamer“, which basically sets up a proxy on your computer to the Sirius streams.  To install it, you will have to have the .Net 3.5 framework installed on your computer (also free).  Installation instructions are available on the Sirius XM streamer website.  When you get the streamer installed on your computer, go to the configuration page and enter your Sirius username and password.  The streamer should also work for XM streaming, but I don’t have XM, so I can’t speak for that.  For the default stream protocol, choose HTTP and for the format choose ASX.  Leave Listening IP set to All and listening port set to the default 51710.  Your published URL should look like  The TVersity Media Server details can be ignored.  On the options menu, enable the start server automatically option.  Start the server and after a few seconds you should see the server running messages.

For each channel that you want to appear in the Radio list in WMC, you will need to create two text files and one JPG.  Place these files in your

C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Roaming\Media Center Programs\Radio

folder.  Of course replace USERNAME with whatever username you use when you run WMC. You may need to create the folder.  Here are the two text files I needed for Sirius Hits One.  I named them “Hits One.mcl” and “Hits One.htm”.  And I created a subfolder C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Roaming\Media Center Programs\Radio\Sirius for the icon images.

Hits One.mcl

<application  name="Sirius 1 - SIRIUS XM Hits 1"		
 url="Hits One.htm" 			
 description="The sound of generation Now!" 			
 <capabilitiesrequired  directx="false" 	

Hits One.htm

function IsMCEEnabled()					
return true;						
window.external.MediaCenter.PlayMedia(1, "" );

You can see where the mcl file points to the jpg image to use for the icon. Those images are 124×124 pixels, regular jpg files. I didn’t do anything fancy with them, but I did try using gifs and tried to get the transparency to work, but it would not. If you have better luck, let me know. Also, I do not know what the difference is between “startimage” and “thumbnailimage”. As you can see I set them both to point to the same image, and it seemed that it had to be that way. Again, if you figure something else out, let me know.  Place the images in the Sirius subfolder created above.

I have uploaded a zip file with all of the images for each Sirius channel here

Apr 302010

Do you rip your movies to your hard drive?  I have a five-year-old daughter and we own about half of the Disney collection.  Some old and some new.  Most are on DVD, but we have started getting some on blu-ray.  One thing that I learned a little over a year ago was that it sucked looking for the movie that my daughter said she wanted to watch (what?  You put all of your movies back in the case as soon as you are done watching them and then put the movie back where it belongs? Riiiight…)  Furthermore, those DVDs and Blu-rays can get scratched, and we have ruined a couple of discs by them getting damaged one way or another.  Fortunately about that time, home theater personal computers, or HTPCs were becoming really popular.  Now, I have actually had an HTPC for about six years.  That’s a little longer than my daughter is old.  Yeah, I love HTPCs and the convenience they provide.  I have my music collection on there, many of my photos, and my daughter’s movies.  Using Windows Media Center, I can listen to that music, look at those pictures, and watch all of those movies.  And I don’t have to get out of my couch.  I can display a menu on the TV that shows cover art and posters from all the movies in the collection so my daughter can point to the movie she wants to watch.  I just click on the movie she chooses and it starts to play.  What could be simpler?  But that’s another post, so I will leave that for another day.

In order to be able to watch my movies in this fashion, I have to rip my movies from their physical medium to my HTPC hard drive.  By the way, “rip” means “copy” here.  It’s not like ripping a page out of a book.  No, it’s more like photocopying a page from a book. But we call it ripping.  If you search for “rip dvd” or “rip blu ray”, you will get thousands of software solutions to help you with this.  I personally use a program called DVD Fab 6, but this past week when I went to rip my first blu-ray movie (Ratatouille), I had to look for something new to help me.  DVD Fab says it can rip blu-rays, and it looked like it was ripping the movie correctly, but there was no sound at all from the saved AVI when it was done.  So I looked around for another program to see if it would work better for me, and I came across AVS Video Converter 6.4.  And this is where it gets interesting.  According to their documentation, all you have to do when ripping a blu-ray is select the index.bdmv file on the disc as the source, and that should automatically bring the entire movie along with it.  Well, that didn’t work for me.  Next, i tried selecting the individual m2ts files in the stream folder.  But then the movie was out of order.  It wasn’t looking promising for this program either.  I was actually beginning to think that ripping blu-rays was still not quite ready for prime time, which was disappointing because the only copy of Ratatouille I had was on blu-ray.  Finally, I had an idea.  What if it wasn’t the software, or my processing, but instead, what if it was something unique about the Ratatouille disc?  I did some searching and what do you know?  I happened to pick what is probably the hardest disc in the American movie collection to rip as my first disc.  It turns out that Ratatouille is a “Seemless branching disc” and also has multiple viewing angles.  I found a web page that actually listed the correct order for the Ratatouille m2ts chapters, put them in that order, re-ripped the disc and it worked perfectly!

I don’t know if DVD Fab actually ripped the movie in the right order because since it didn’t have any sound, the rip was useless to me and I only watched a few minutes of the movie just to verify that it did not have any sound.  In any case, neither program worked perfectly, but ultimately AVS Video Converter pulled it off, with some serious finagling from me.  I think ripping blu-rays is still kind of “tip of the spear” stuff, and full automation for the majority of the discs is probably still a ways off.  Or maybe not.

Just in case the web page with the Ratatouille chapters goes away, I am going to post the correct order for the chapters here:
00027.m2ts + 00028.m2ts + 00000.m2ts + 00001.m2ts + 00002.m2ts + 00005.m2ts + 00008.m2ts + 00009.m2ts + 00012.m2ts + 00013.m2ts + 00016.m2ts + 00018.m2ts + 00021.m2ts + 00017.m2ts + 00033.m2ts + 00034.m2ts + 00049.m2ts + 00037.m2ts + 00050.m2ts + 00040.m2ts + 00051.m2ts + 00043.m2ts + 00052.m2ts + 00046.m2ts + 00053.m2ts + 00056.m2ts + 00054.m2ts + 00059.m2ts + 00055.m2ts + 00062.m2ts + 00065.m2ts