How to unwrap a CD

When I first saw an Asheville CD store saleskid flip open the hinges of a CD case to remove that annoying sticker from across the top of the lid, I was gobsmacked. Once I saw it, it seemed so simple -- why had no one ever shown me this before? Why had I not been able to figure it out on my own? (Part of my surprise being that I'm a notorious rules-follower and it's obvious, isn't it, that you don't take something apart unless someone told you it was OK?) The Proper Discord blog posted a great little video tutorial on how to unwrap the cellophane packaging from various types of CD cases. It's little bits of knowledge like this which makes life on the Interwebz worth living.


Hat tip to Kirkville

Jailbreaking my Kindle Touch

To get screensaver images of my choice onto the Kindle Touch (the one without the special offers) required several steps:

  • Jailbreaking the Kindle Touch
  • Installing the screensavers hack
  • Gathering the images
  • Formatting the images
  • Grouping and renaming the images
  • Transferring the renamed images to the Kindle Touch

I won’t go into exorbitant detail on how I did what I did, but this post will pull all the steps together into one place so I have a record of what I did in roughly the order I did it, in case I need to do it again, God forbid. I also throw in a few stray observations along the way.

Jailbreaking the Kindle Touch

“Jailbreaking” is such a harsh word for what Wikipedia more delicately refers to as “privilege escalation.” The Kindle Touch (also referred to as the Kindle 4) has been slower to fall to jailbreaking and custom hacks, but entropy catches up with everything.

Jailbreak your Kindle

  1. In Pathfinder, use the Edit>Select… dialog to select all JPG files.
  2. Right-click on the selected files, select Services>Convert to PNG. The Automator workflow takes the JPG files as input, churns away, and creates PNGs with the same filenames in the directory.
  3. Select all the JPG files again and then move or delete them. So we now have a directory full of PNG files.
  4. Starting from the top of the file list, use Pathfinder to view each file’s Info and check the dimensions. I used Pathfinder’s drawer for this part, which showed both a preview of the image and its attributes. About two-thirds of the files were in the proper 600x800 format. When I found a file that was not, I selected the file and ran a Keyboard Maestro macro that opened the file in Preview, entered new dimensions of 600x800, and then saved the file.

So, after another few minutes, I had a directory of files in the required format and size.

Grouping and renaming the images

There are two more constraints on image files for the Kindle.

First constraint: The screensavers directory is limited to a maximum of 99 files. I had collected a little over 200.

I decided I wanted a few different sets of files that I could switch out every now and then when I got bored with the current set. So I broke the files into 5 directories of roughly 40 files each. To ensure I had a fairly even, yet somewhat random, collection in each set, I used the Finder’s color labels to help me visually differentiate files into various stacks.

In Pathfinder, starting with the first file, I gave every 5th file a red color. Then green after red, then blue, and so on. I then used Pathfinder’s Edit>Select facility to copy all the red-coded files to a “red” folder, all the blue-coded files to a “blue” directory, and so on.

Great – I now had five groups of files reflecting a mix of styles and images. Not boring!

Second constraint: Filenames. Here’s what the simple screensaver readme has to say about them:

  • Each image MUST be named bg_xsmall_ss##.png, where ## is a two digit number from 00 to 99
  • You MUST have an image named bg_xsmall_ss00.png and you CANNOT skip a number (ex: bg_xsmall_ss00.png, bg_xsmall_ss02.png but no bg_xsmall_ss01.png)

Pathfinder to the rescue again! A new feature in Pathfinder 6 is a Batch Rename facility that uses an Automator-like workflow interface. I quickly created a renaming workflow for the first group that I could save and re-use for the remaining groups.

If I decide later that I want to instead have larger sets, it’s very easy to move all the files into a single directory and run the renaming workflow again.

Transferring the renamed images to the Kindle Touch

The easiest part! Hook up the Touch to the computer, select and drag the new screensaver files to the Touch’s screensavers directory, unmount, and unplug.

Bah-dah-bing! I now can see a carousel of fun images whenever I put the Touch to sleep.

The above steps did not arrive cleanly and without effort. The process involved lots of trial and error for every phase before I finally hit on the right combination and sequence of steps. You could say that this was an awful lot of work to serve a fairly trivial purpose – and you would be right – but I would say that it was not work: it was good, clean, nerdy fun.

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Kindle Touch screensavers

The Kindle Touch (non-ad supported) comes with 20 attractive gray-scale screensaver/wallpaper images. They’re fine, but after a while, I wanted to see some different images. One of the reasons I got the ad-free Touch was so that I wouldn’t be assaulted with an ad every time I picked up my Kindle to read something. I returned the ad-supported Kindle 3 because – among other reasons –  although I can take ads in magazines, I didn’t want to see them in a book – not even an e-book.

The web is full of Kindle-supported screensaver images that I would have preferred to see on my device, but Amazon doesn’t allow me to customize the Kindle in even that harmless way. And this annoyed me.

So I took matters into my own hands, did a bit of hacking on my Kindle over the weekend, and now I have a pool of about 200 attractive, varied, and unusual images I can use as screensavers on my Kindle, as the following gallery shows. Tomorrow, a post on how I did it. If you want to see the many (many) sites I scoured looking for images, and thus get a peek into my own little OCD manias, you can browse them via my Pinboard links.

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Muleteer, Occultist, Whitesmith

The Bureau of Labor’s Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system maintains a set of job and occupational codes to ensure consistent statistical and information gathering.

Blacksmith working hot iron

As part of my research for a paper in my Organization of Information class, I looked up the SOC’s tortured history, starting from 1940 till the Office of Management and Budget mandated in 2000 that all governmental departments standardize on it.

In a rather dry 1999 document on the code’s revision (PDF) I found a simply wonderful two-page list of all occupations listed in the 1850 Census.The list starts on page 11.

The three trades in this post’s title come from there, as do these charmers:

  • Philosophical instrument maker
  • Salaeratus maker
  • Shoe-peg makers
  • Calico printers
  • Button makers
  • Chandlers
  • Sawyers
  • Morocco dressers
  • Daguerreotypists

Salaeratus maker? It’s explained in a 1999 Voice of America broadcast on the above document and a few online dictionaries.

It’s a remarkable picture of a vanished land and time, when life was local, rural, and everything of any value had to be made by someone, not imported from offshore. Notice how many occupations end with “makers” and “manufacturers.” Notice how few of those jobs make their way to the current SOC headings. We’ve gained, certainly – less tedious, back-breaking work for a majority, more prosperity, more goods available at a cheaper price – but I can’t help feeling something’s been lost, too.

P.S. This post originally appeared, in slightly different form, on my previous blog, Oddments of High Unimportance. Don’t go telling on me for plagiarizing myself, now.

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“Time” is related to how much information you are taking in – information stretches time. A child’s day from 9am to 3.30pm is like a 20-hour day for an adult. Children experience many new things every day and time passes slowly, but as people get older they have fewer new experiences and time is less stretched by information. So, you can “lengthen” your life by minimising routine and making sure your life is full of new active experiences – travel to new places, take on new interests, and spend more time living in the present – see Making Time by Steve Taylor .

Many people understand movement is required to get them where they wish to be, yet they hesitate to step into that movement. We understand that you hesitate because you don’t want to make a mistake, but such thinking is faulty and we will tell you why. You cannot make a mistake! It is impossible! If you have surrendered and entered into the flow, your guides and helpers will be assisting you, instantaneously, to help you get where your soul desires to go. It doesn’t matter which direction you take your first step in because the flow is self adjusting. The important thing is to take that first step, in any direction, because you cannot guide something that is not in motion, Dear Ones! Again, we love you for your mindfulness, but now is not the time for stagnation. Using surrender and flow with intention is mastery in motion, and a wondrous thing, indeed. Feel free to step into movement without fear, knowing that all movement is forward movement and will take you, without fail, to the place of highest good. ~Archangel Gabriel

I’ve mentioned in previous posts and it’s an essential part of my productivity toolkit. It sends me email reminders of tasks I want/need to do, birthdays and anniversaries to remember, and pretty much handles most any recurring task.Memo To Me - Free Reminder Service

The site has been around for a long time and I doubt that it’s changed its visual design since the early 2000’s, when I first heard of it. There are plenty of other reminder sites that will ping you via email or SMS, and they look prettier, operate a little more smoothly, and offer more enhanced services than Memotome. But I came to the party with Memotome, it’s been utterly reliable all that time, and I resist the idea of starting over somewhere else.

Google Calendar holds my weekly schedule and one-time only appointments I schedule on the fly. Goodtodo manages portions of my to-do list for work and home, and provides a way for me to schedule a task for the future very quickly with the assurance it will pop up exactly when I want it to.

Memotome occupies that gray sort of area where I want to be reminded of things but I don’t want to see them on a calendar. These are items I can set and forget.

Yes, Google Calendar lets you create secondary calendars that you can turn on and off, but I find Google Calendar increasingly complicated and its settings page for a new event almost bewilders me with all the choices. Goodtodo is great for quickie todo tasks, but its recurring functionality is not as flexible as I’d like; I want some items to recur forever, but Goodtodo limits me to a maximum of 99 recurrences, for example. Also, its emails arrive in plaintext so if I include a URL in the body of the reminder, it does not arrive as a live link.

Memotome is plain but it hits a sweetspot for me. It does not offer some features that other services offer: weekday only reminders, weekend only, “every other day/week/month,” and so on. So I have to get clever and create multiple reminders to get around that limitation (such as creating two weekly recurrences, one for Tuesday and one for Thursday).

One feature it offers that I like: “every few weeks.” When I’m trying to encourage a new habit, I like a once-in-a-while reminder for me to check in with myself.

You can use the service for free, but donating whatever amount you think the service is worth upgrades you to a level where the email reminders are a little more useful (your event title is the email subject line, URLs included in the body of the reminder become live links, etc). Check it out.

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