Category: Technophilia

What I learned: Saving a fillable PDF that isn’t savable


I’ve been working with the forms available from the Copyright Office, and while they can be filled out in Acrobat Reader, they cannot be saved unless you have a full version of Acrobat.

Or so the Copyright Office assumes.

New forms with special bar codes that can be scanned are forthcoming, but if you want to back up the forms you fill out, you can instead print the PDF to another PDF.

On a totally different endeavor, I downloaded PDFCreator, a PDF creation freeware. I experimented with creating PDFs from scores made in Sibelius. I got some great results, and I wondered whether the same can be done from other PDFs. So I printed my filled-out copyright forms to PDFCreator, and lo and behold, backups!

It’s a nice temporary solution till the Copyright Office makes its new forms available.

Timing is everything


I joked to myself that once the laptop was completely paid off, something would go wrong with it. I was partially correct.

I sent off the final payment of the laptop on Dec. 31. On Jan. 4, my desktop died. As mentioned before, I thought it was a hard drive problem. It turned out it wasn’t. A support call to Dell led me to believe it was a heatsink problem, which seemed plausible since it was the heatsink that was exhibiting symptoms. So I ordered a new heatsink, choosing the cheapest shipping available. That meant I waited four days to discover … it wasn’t the heatsink either.

If it wasn’t the drive nor the heatsink, that left the power supply or — gracious me — the motherboard. Another call to Dell support confirmed it was the latter. I had suspected as much when I found a thread on the support forums that matched the symptoms my desktop was exhibiting. The technician on the phone had me take out the memory and disconnect everything from the motherboard except the power connectors. The computer didn’t complain about the memory missing. Motherboard, it is.

Before I called support, I looked up what a replacement motherboard would cost, and my jaw dropped. For that price, I may as well buy a new computer. Thankfully, my machine has 35 days left on its warranty, so the motherboard is being replaced gratis.

Thing is, I just paid off the laptop. I’m not really in the financial straits to upgrade the desktop. I would like to get another two years out of it before I consider getting a new one. Maybe when the second half of the company bonus comes, I’ll buy an extension to the warranty. I’d rather spend $158 now than drop $400-$500 when something goes wrong, and if that something happens a day after the warranty extension expires, I should be ready to get a new system by then.

It’s hot in there


People sometimes perceive as me some sort of technical whiz, and perhaps that’s true if you compare me to, say, my mom, who had trouble with the concept of double-clicking when forced to use a computer at her job. (She’s been retired for a number of years now.) And my co-workers certainly think I’m a miracle worker when it comes to writing scripts that cut a three-day manual job down to 30 seconds.

But when hardware breaks down, I’m dumb. I own my dumbness. I am not an electrical engineer, and after years of working with computers, I couldn’t begin to tell you what the hell happens inside the damn thing.

So this morning, I turn my computer on only to hear the fan whir like it’s about to take off the runway. I cut the power and plug it back in. Same thing. I conclude it’s a bum hard drive, although I have this nagging suspicion it might be something on the motherboard itself.

The drive was purchased nearly a month ago, so I took the old one and put it back in the computer. Luckily, I hadn’t wiped anything off of it. The computer started up with no problem — no fan sounding like it’s about to fly out of the room. Conclusion: hard drive.

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Toys, toys, toys!


My company paid out the first half of its yearly profit-sharing, and it was a pretty nice sum. Now that I’m flush with all that cash, I’ve felt the urge to spend, spend, spend.

Should I blow it on monitor speakers like I’ve been threatening to do for more than a year? I’ve been thinking about getting some more comfortable headphones.

How about more studio software? What can Ableton Live do for me that Cakewalk doesn’t? SONAR 6 is out now — maybe I should upgrade?

The partition of my hard drive where I store MP3s is filling up — I should really consider another external hard drive. Or maybe a new internal hard drive and a separate hard disk enclosure?

Expedia is having a sale on flights to Hawaiʻi — maybe a visit is in order?

So many options, and the truth is … the money is already spent. It’s called a credit card balance. (D’oh.)

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Light on dark


A few weeks ago, I gave up.

Many years back, I set the settings on Windows to display white text on a black background. My eyes were hurting from staring at white backgrounds for long stretches of time, so I took matters into my own hands.

Well, it was a futile effort.

Interface developers seldom, if ever, take into consideration a user’s custom settings. How do I know? I know from all the times I’ve encountered my default white text blanched out by an interface’s white background. Or an interface’s black text camouflaged with my black background.

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Still not letting go


An update from the previous entry

I found a USB2.0 PCI card at Fry’s for $18, $2 shy of the minimum budgeted amount. It looks like its works because Acronis True Image told me it would take only 2 hours to compress the main partition of my old computer, rather than the 7 hours it took using the USB1.1 ports.

Unfortunately, the 80GB partition of that same drive with 65GB worth of MP3s required 6 hours of processing time. At first, it predicted a compression size of 30GB. Little did Acronis True Image know that MP3s don’t compress very well. I only ended up with about 2GB of savings.

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Let it go, let it go


It’s been 19 months since I bought a new computer and 19 months since I paid my old computer any mind.

I use it now as a web server, and I do all development work on it.

It’s eight years old and creaky. Here’s a feature comparrison between it and my newer machine.

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If I hadn’t done a Google search for "windows boot external hard drive", I wouldn’t have come across this article which mentioned Acronis True Image.

I’m not a complete stranger to the concept of drive images — my department at work uses them all the time — but it wasn’t until I faced my own backup needs did I need to create an image of my drive.

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Let them eat cake


Cakewalk has released Sonar 6, the latest version of its recording studio software. I use Sonar for my work on Eponymous 4, and I’m waiting for the reviews to come in before I decide to upgrade.

I upgraded from Sonar 4 to Sonar 5 last year, and I don’t think I really got much out of it, feature-wise. I got more out of upgrading from Studio Edition to Producer Edition.

In fact, Sonar 5 turned out to be pretty buggy. I’m not sure I want to upgrade to Sonar 6 if it’s unstable, even if it’s tricked out with new features. This thread from the Cakewalk forums, however, does mention some things that sound tempting, namely audio quantize.

If I do decide to upgrade, I’ll do what I’ve done the last few times — wait for a sale. Christmas is coming soon.