Monday, February 13, 2017

Set Default Font in Illustrator and Photoshop CS6

Under “Window” in the top menu bar, select “Type > Character Styles.”

A pop-up window will appear.


Double-click “[Normal Character Style]” and another dialog box will appear.

Select “Basic Character Formats” from the list on the left, and you can define all of your default text properties.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Five Months Later with The Droid Z Force

Man, I gotta say, other than size (which I will bitch about vehemently until they bring phones back down to the size of my original Droid Inc.), I am loving this Droid Z Force.

droid z force JBL tiltExcept for the most extreme high-use periods, I easily get two days on a charge, and when it drops down too low for my liking, it only takes about an hour to get it back to 100%.  The quick charge is amazing, even when using “slower” chargers like my Anker multi-port or my car charger (though these do have higher powered ports than average chargers).

Not only that, but the speaker mod, though a little bulky, contains a huge battery (and the added bonus of actually pretty decent sounding music on the go!).  I often just leave it on the phone, even if I'm not planning on using the speaker.  It still fits in my pocket nearly the same (obviously quite a bit thicker), and it actually makes the phone a little bit easier to hold onto (though it's not great in the car holder –too thick).  The phone with the speaker attached is kind of like carrying around a comfortably-edged (rounded), small Bluetooth speaker... except with the added bonus of a powerful phone/computer/browser/media player attached! And the kickstand on the speaker, which I use more often than I ever thought I would, is just icing.

Not only that, but for around $80 (or $30-40 if you want to brave the eBay gray market) there is a Qi (wireless charging) 2220mAh additional battery mod by Tumi/Incipio (which are now one in the same since Tumi licensed Incipio for a year).  You can go for days without charging!

The Google Pixel seems to be ruling the current mobile roost, but the Droid Z Force is spec'd pretty much the same, and all the apps that will "only" run on the Pixel actually run on the Z Force as well (including all the VR stuff that I have no use for).  And though a lot of people think the Pixel camera is tops, I really think the Droid Z Force phone is great (and, for what’s worth, I make my living taking pictures).

I feel like I bought at the right time.  Any time you purchase a phone and they start the hard push with advertising four months later (like with my GS5), and then the specs are still as good as all the brand new phones coming out (like with my GS5)... I feel satisfied.

All this for a phone I got for absolutely free (w/ two year contract) because at the time everyone was going gaga for the Samsung S7.  Doggonit, I feel like a winner.


  • not water proof (at the time I bought my GS5 I thought “water resistant” was a gimmick, but I actulally miss this about my GS5 –which I used to shoot 4K video UNDERWATER for eight hours!!!)
  • no cases, especially with varying sized Moto Mods, so no protection for the phone or additional mods; I installed a matte screen protector (which I prefer to a glossy screen anyway) and the screen is advertised as unbreakable, so there’s that, but the phone and mods are definitely showing some physical wear
  • size, always the size (bring back the original Droid Incredible!)
  • though not a con with the phone, I was extremely disappointed with the “Hasselblad” (apparently in name only) Moto Mod; it’s junk, especially compared to the Droid Z Force’s stellar native camera

Monday, September 19, 2016

Hasselblad Moto Mod is a Thorough Disappointment

I am a photographer.  Thus, I was pretty stoked to know when I purchased my Droid Z Force that there was a Hasselblad Camera Mod coming down the pike.

I waited patiently for nearly a month, and finally it arrived… and what a major disappointment it was.


Here’s the short of it: the Motorola Droid Z Force has a pretty decent camera with a 21MP sensor (some would argue the best camera phone currently available).  The Hasselblad has a 12MP sensor.  Pretty much the ONLY thing going for the Hasselblad Moto Mod is the “optical zoom,” but you can “zoom in” on a 21MP photo and have nearly the same amount of zoom as the 10x optical on the Hasselblad’s 12MP photo!

The Hasselblad has a 4.5mm to 45mm zoom (that’s why they call it a 10x zoom) which is basically a 25mm to 250mm 35mm equivalent.  The Droid Z Force has a 4.51mm lens, which is equivalent to 26mm on a 35mm camera.  So a 21MP photo can give you nearly the same “zoom” digitally at the Hasselblad’s max resolution of 12MP.  In other words, if you simply crop the Droid’s photo to half (crop a 21MP photo to the Hasselblad max pixel dimension of 12MP), you’re still at 10.5MP and your 35mm equivalent is 52mm (the Hasselblad optical zoom maxes out at 45mm).

Any positive review I’ve seen for the Hasselblad mod (they are never raving, only lukewarm) goes on and on about the zoom, but frankly… who cares when the zoom really doesn’t do much for you and everything else comes up short?

Hasselblad Moto Mod shortcomings:

  • Only 12MP sensor (phone has a 21MP sensor) and also physically smaller (1/2.3 inches vs. 1/2.4 inches)
  • minimum aperture of f/3.5 –are you kidding me?! Not only that, but it’s not fixed, and the variable goes all the way up to f/6.5!!!  By the way, the phone’s minimum aperture is f/1.8
  • Max ISO is 3200 (same as the phone)
  • lesser focus technology than phone (the Z Force utilizes laser and contrast auto focus with phase detection; the Hasselblad only utilizes contrast/phase detection)
  • bad 24fps video (choppy)
  • no video HDR (which the phone does have)
  • no optical stabilization for video
  • No 4k (which I don’t care too much about, but if this is an “upgrade” it should at least be able to shoot the equivalent of the phone to which it’s attached!)

And from what I’ve read in every hands on review I’ve seen, the focus is no faster than the phone (often the user says it’s slower), the shutter lag is much higher than the phone’s, and the quality of the photos isn’t really a bump since the phone already has a decent sensor and utilizes Moto’s “Deep Trench Isolation” technology to isolate pixel color.

Sure, the Hasselblad Mod can shoot RAW, but who cares, considering all the other shortcomings?

Please explain to me why I should spend $250-$300 on a “mod” that I have to carry around if it doesn’t IMPROVE the camera on my phone (or even come close to what’s already there!).  Just because it says Hasselblad?  If I’m shooting more than what the very capable Moto Z Force camera is capable of, I think I’ll just carry a REAL camera that actually gives me a reason to mess around with a second device.

Boo, Hasselblad.  You guys should be ashamed of yourselves for letting Motorola slap your name on a piece of garbage that doesn’t even work as well as the phone to which it attaches.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Fixing a Samsung Ice Maker

One of the most popular posts on this blog is the “How to Defrost a Samsung Ice Maker” post.  In that post I outline how to defrost your Samsung Ice Maker using a “secret code” on your control panel.  You shouldn’t need to do that every week, but a lot of people do, because the Samsung SZAB001TA1 ice maker (which exists in refrigerators like the RF263BEAEW) had serious issues when it left the factory.

Fortunately, the issues can be remedied.  Unfortunately, Samsung is keeping the information under wraps, and it is extremely difficult to find any information on the subject.  Hopefully this post will help those of you looking for answers.

So first, here again are the steps for defrosting your Samsung Ice Maker using the control panel on the front of your fridge:

  1. On the front panel display, press the Energy Saver and Refrigerator buttons at the same time for 8 seconds.  The display will switch to the Test Mode and the display will go dark (all buttons, etc., will go dark) .
  2. Press any button within 15 seconds after the display has gone dark to scroll through the Test Modes as follows:
    • Manual operation 1 (FF)
    • Manual operation 2 (0F-r)
    • Manual defrost of fresh food compartments (rd)
    • Manual defrost of fresh food and freezer compartments (fd)
    • Cancel (display goes completely dark)

“fd” is the one you want.  The defrost mode will cause the refrigerator to beep the entire time it’s in effect (pretty annoying) and will shut off after five minutes (I had to do it quite a few times to thaw everything out).

When the Geek Squad Tech came to fix our ice maker, he also used a hair dryer to speed things up, but be careful if you go this route as you can actually melt the plastic housing and components and cause greater issues than you had before by deforming the plastic in your ice maker.

There are four things that need to be changed to make this ice maker work properly.

  1. The water fill tube needs to be adjusted.
  2. The thin gap between the refrigerator wall and the ice maker housing (bottom side of ice maker against fridge wall) needs to be sealed.
  3. The ribs surrounding the ice room fan air duct need to be removed with a utility knife (they cause water to puddle in the duct).
  4. Foam should be installed on to of the ice maker housing around the water fill inlet.
  5. If you have an older control board, the control board should be upgraded.

These issues are covered in a service bulletin that went out to Samsung Service Techs.  I got to take a look at the four page PDF, but our tech was nervous about getting in trouble if I actually posted the document on the web, so he only let me look at the doc. on his phone.

Since then, the document has found it’s way to the web.  An anonymous user actually posted the Service Bulletin document number in the comments of my original post on this issue.  So now I have a copy of the PDF here: ASC20150717001 (if you don’t trust the link, just search the doc. title on Google). 

Looking at the service bulletin is the easiest way to address everything, but I’ll lay things out here as well (though in less detail).

So, issue #1, the fill tube.  In the back of your Samsung fridge you can see the fill tube sticking out the back of the refrigerator.  This tube has a tendencey to slip, and after that happens water starts pouring all over the ice maker instead of just into the ice tray.  Thus, the first step in fixing your ice maker is making sure this tube goes where it’s supposed to, and then making sure it stays put.  Oddly enough, the tube often slips to far in (not out) and causes water to splash all over the place, so usually you have to actually back the tube out a bit and then secure it.

Issue #2.  This is an easy fix.  Simply take a tube of silicone and seal the gap.  It seems hard to believe this would be an issue, but I guess it’s why Samsung didn’t catch the problem earlier, and it really makes a difference.

Issue #3. (see service bulletin)

Issue #4.  With the entire ice maker out of the refrigerator, cut a thin strip of foam and glue it (silicone works well) around the perimeter of the water inlet area.  See photo below.


Issue #4.  When I got fed up with Samsung “tech” (really just a bunch of people who have NO IDEA what they’re talking about reading scripts on the phone) and went to Best Buy and they put me on the phone with a Geek Squad guy in Minnesota who REALLY knew what he was doing, he listened to what I had to say, realized I had done some research and figure out what was going on, and thus just ordered every possible part that might need to be replaced to fix the issue and had them all sent directly to my house so the parts would already be there when the tech arrived.  Freaking fantastic.  One of the things that got sent was a new controller board.  The board has a lot more ports and resistors and what not.  I took a photo of the new board, but I’m having a hard time locating it.  Here is a photo of the OLD board.


For what it’s worth, Samsung “customer support” is not support at all.  I spent hours and hours going through the same process over and over again (the person on the other end insisting on reading their script and asking me irrelevant, inane questions ad nauseum).  Each time, they would tell me someone would call me back soon, and each time, after a couple of days I would call back and there would be no evidence that I had ever called and the number I had been given was linked to no information whatsoever.  It was pretty infuriating.  I had to laugh when weeks after the matter was resolved (via Geek Squad, NOT Samsung) I received a letter from Samsung asking if I would like to purchase extended warranty services from them.  Unbelievable.

Some additional photos of the ice maker problems and fixes…


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

My First Couple of Days with the Motorola Z Force Droid

I REALLY wanted to buy a small phone for my next phone, but the Fates conspired against me.  The only option I had was the iPhone SE, and while I LOVE the size and design of the phone (I really love the hard edge and metal buttons and switch), I know I can’t live in an iOS world.  I would go mad.

The only other option on the market is the Sony Z5 compact, which I REALLY wish I could use, but it’s a GSM only phone, and I live in Denver and regularly travel into the mountains, so Verizon (CDMA) is really the only carrier I can use if I expect to have signal when I want it.

Thus, for my next phone I went with one of the LARGEST phones on the market. [frown]


I ended up purchasing the Droid Z Force, mostly because it was $108 (with two year contract and including tax) out the door at Best Buy (and they threw in the JBL speaker mod to boot).  With Verizon, there is a $40 activation fee that appears on your bill when you purchase a new phone… even at the Verizon store!  Evidently the only way to get that fee waived is to purchase and activate online with Verizon, which would have been a lot more expensive (full MSRP and no bonus mods).

Man... when any store tries to convince you that the monthly payment plan is the way to go, CHECK... THEIR... MATH!  Even with the "monthly line discount" they try and bait you with, if you do the monthly payment, you are paying full price for the device over 24 months.  That means you also pay the tax on the MSRP up front!  That alone was going to be $62, then the activation fee, then the full cost of the phone over time (meaning a higher bill every month).  Crazy business.

The Samsung Galaxy S7 was going to be $220 (with 2 year contract) plus activation, so I just went with what was saving me money, not to mention avoiding the awful one-two punch of the way Samsung and Verizon turn a great phone into a piece of crap with their bloatware (and I have been quite pleased with the "clean" environment of the Moto-verse).

As I mentioned, BestBuy was also giving away the JBL speaker mod with the Droid Z Force, and while it's not going to be loud enough for DJ-ing parties and weddings, it's actually a pretty decent little speaker and will be great for working on location and listening to tunes.  It has it's own battery as well, so that's great (I have read that the speaker battery can actually power the phone, so it's like a battery mod as well, but I haven't confirmed that yet –I have confirmed that you can charge the mod through the phone though).

While I definitely hate how big the Droid Z Force is (bigger than my S5 and probably the same size of the Note 5), I have to admit I'm loving the functionality and speed.  The Motorola fingerprint reader is stellar, and I love how you can use it to lock and unlock the phone one handed.  You can also choose to link it to other passwords and apps, which is nice (though I won't be linking it to my banking and purchasing apps).  They warn you that it's not as secure as a pin or pattern, but I assume that's because you can "lift" a print from the reader, so I'm trying to get into the habit of swiping my finger down after it registers, effectively wiping the reader clean of my physical print.

When I powered up the phone to activate it in the store, the battery was at 99%.  We were on our way into the mountains for a wedding, and the device ONLY comes with the turbo charger (no stand-alone USB-C cord to use with a car charger --you have to order that on your own, which is pretty of annoying since you don't have a good way to transfer files to/from a computer until you do that), so I had no way to charge the new phone except for plugging into a wall.  Even with doing all the initial syncing, playing with the phone and figuring out features, downloading all my apps, etc. (all over 3G and 4G/LTE because I had no wifi), the phone was still at 33% the next day's afternoon!  Way more than 24 hours on the factory charge with a substantially higher amount of use is pretty impressive.

Not only that, but I went from 25% to 100% in less than a half hour charge using the included turbo charger.

I have been using Qi wireless charging with my S5, and I actually love it, so I'm pretty disappointed that the Droid Z Force doesn't have wireless charging, especially since pretty much EVERY other "flagship" has it these days.  I guess the turbo charge will have to make up for it.  There is an external battery pack mod that will do wireless charging, but I’m not going to buy an extra mod just for wireless charging.

I do wish the phone was water resistant like my S5 and the S7, and I'm not sure why it isn't.  The Z Force only has three physical buttons, the card slot, and a USB-C port.  It seems like it would have been relatively easy to seal up.  They advertise that it has a water resistant outer covering, but isn’t all plastic and glass water resistant?  I’m not sure what that even means.

The camera is great so far.  There's a "pro" mode that allows me to set ISO (though not aperture and shutter speed), so I'm loving that.  Maybe there's an app that will allow me to access those extra manual features.  Also... the camera is 21MP, so I can actually do some zooming and still have "flagship size" (8-12MP) and quality on the zoomed image.

Hasselblad is coming out with a camera mod for the phone (there was actually a physical spot for it on the Z Force displace at Best Buy, so it must be coming soon).  I'm interested to see what the price will be and how much higher the quality is (it will supposedly do RAW and will have a 10x optical zoom).  It seems weird to have to get a "better" camera mod for a phone that already has a 21MP camera, but we'll see.  Also, I'm not sure what the advantage would be to having a "mod" instead of a stand alone camera that will likely be the same size, but again, I guess I'll see.

I've read that though the screen is "shatterproof," that feature comes at the cost of being pretty scratch prone (the surface layer that keeps it together is soft), so I ordered a couple screen protectors.  I prefer a matte finish on my screen anyway (no glare and a more pleasing tactile feel).

I'm also trying to figure out which case to get.  I can't imagine not using a case on a phone to protect from scratches and dents, but the PITA about the "mods" on these phones is they won't attach if the phone is sporting a case.  Thus, I need to find a case that is easy to take on and off, and that can weather the abuse of constantly taking it on and off, so I'm able to attach mods when I want.  To me, this is the biggest draw back of the phone (other than it’s size).

There is also a "style shell" that is just a faux wood back.  I guess it looks pretty cool, but it really just adds thickness (almost doubles the thickness of the phone), so I'm not sure what the point is, other than looks (which don't matter if you're using a case).  If the "mod" doesn't really offer any protection, it's seems kind of stupid compared to a case that would protect the back, edges, and front (with a raised lip).

Again, I HATE the size of this thing.  It would be awesome if it were the size of my original Droid Incredible. But everything else about the phone seems pretty great so far.  And I really can't get over how much I'm loving the finger print reader to turn the phone on and off "securely."  Not having to enter a pattern all the time is really nice.  It's actually got me locking the phone every time I turn the screen off, vs. setting a longer time out to lock the phone for reasons of convenience (and making the phone less secure).

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Exact Audio Copy (EAC) Won’t Convert to Flac

EACIf you are having trouble getting EAC to convert to Flac on rip, it may be that you are trying to rip to a NAS (network) directory.  It seems EAC doesn’t like using a NAS directory when converting files.  I assume it has something to do with no “solid” drive path to the file that needs to be converted after it has been ripped to Wav.

Everytime I hit “shift-F5” or clicked the CMP (copy selected tracks compressed) button, EAC would only rip the tracks as Waves (not convert them to Flac once they’d been ripped).

I having a feeling a command line change could solve the issue (some sort of change to the %source% and/or %dest% settings), but my quick fix for now is to map the music directory on my NAS to a Mapped Network Drive.  Once I did that and pointed EAC to the mapped drive instead of using the network path, everything worked fine.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Easiest Way to Convert MKV to MP4 (MOV)

I recently wanted to do a little content editing of an MKV file.  I really didn’t want to spend time converting the file (and losing video and audio resolution), but every “trick” I could find online involved downloading software for demuxing, converting, etc. (things that take time, and mostly things that alter the original video –not to mention things that often come from shady sources).

So I thought about it for a bit, poked around in some of the (free) software I had readily available, and found a solution.

An MKV file is just a container.  Thus, I figured I could just change the extension (.mkv) to something else more “useable” (like .mp4) and mess with it that way.  Just changing the extension made Adobe Premiere unhappy (header issues), but as usual, VLC handled it just fine.  Not only that, but VLC ultimately turned out to be the solution for what I needed to do.

In VLC, you can save a file (right click the file in your playlist and select “save” from the list), and under the “settings” options you have “convert” and “dump raw input.”  First I tried utilizing the RAW option, but when it went to “streaming” after clicking “start,” there didn’t seem to be any progress, so I tried the next option.

Using the “convert” option, you can select pretty much any preset to do what we want to do, but I wanted an MP4 so I chose the first thing on the list:  Video – H.264 + MP3 (MP4).  Of course I don’t want MP3 for my audio (I want to keep the original file format), but don’t worry!  The next step is to click the tools/settings button next to the profile drop down. There you will see tabs for “video codec” and “audio codec.”  In each of those settings, you can choose “keep original video track” and “keep original audio track.” Once you do that, you simply click “start” and you’ll see your progress bar tick away.  It took me about four minutes to ouput a 2 hour movie that was originally 17.8 GB as an MKV.  However, the new file was now 11.4 GB, so obviously something had changed (and I assume resolution was lost, thought the file still looked pretty similar to the original).

I actually created a profile called MKV to MP4 wherein I selected the “original video” and “original audio” options with an MP4/MOV container, and the subsequent “conversion” took only around 20 seconds.  I had opened and closed VLC several times, but I suppose the conversion could have still been using cached files.

UPDATE: If the original audio format (like the audio in the file i was using) isn’t an audio format that VLC has in its output codec selection, trying to utilize the “original audio” option will create a file with no audio.  I’m not sure why it does this, but to correct for the problem, I changed my profile to convert the audio, and set up the audio as a high bitrate AAC with a sample rate the same as the original (48KHz).  The resulting file was a bit larger than the previous and took longer to output (because it’s actually converting the audio), but now has audio and can be imported into Adobe Premiere.

It turns out that the RAW dump is actually the better option if you’re trying to keep the file exactly like the original (just changing the extension), it just wasn’t showing me a live process when it was outputing a file.  I tried the RAW option again, and sure enough, after about four minutes (the same amount of time the above “convert” option took), I found I had an MP4 exactly the same size as the original MKV.  Unfortunately the file still wouldn’t work with Premiere, althought now i just get a “generic error” when trying to import the MP4 into Premiere.