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March, 2010:

AC Adapter Hell!

Box of AC adapters
I have several boxes of orphaned AC adapters, at least I think they are orphaned.  Many of the AC adapters that come with computer or electronic accessories are not marked with any identifying marks that indicate to what product they belong.  Most manufacturers purchase AC adapters for their products off-the-shelf, so even the manufacturers name of the adapter does not help identify the device with which it belongs.

I have tried several solutions to this device/adapter linking problem. First, I tried putting labels on the adapters and writing the device on the label. Just a month or two later the label would come off, mostly due to the heat of the adapter.

Picture of AC adapter transformer block with lable
Well my most recent solution seems to work pretty well.  I found an Artline Paint Marker in white that I use to write the device on the AC adapter transformer block.  These markers are similar to a Sharpie marking pen, except they contain paint instead of ink and come in light opaque colors that contrast nicely with mostly black AC adapter transformer blocks.

Another benefit to this labeling, is when unplugging a device from a power strip, I do not have to guess or trace wire through a rat’s nest of wires to find the correct AC adapter to unplug.

I still have a box of orphaned AC adapters from devices that are obsolete or broken. At least now I have a chance to pair it up with a new device without hours of research.

Keeping track of passwords

If you have run out of pets’ or children’s names to use for passwords.  Or you have ever misplaced that scrap of paper with your bank PINs and passwords.  Or if you have trouble remembering the contrived “passwords” that banks are now asking like “What was your first girl friend’s name?”, then maybe you are ready for a password safe program.  These programs usually keep track of your user names, web addresses, and passwords in a file format the is encrypted that only allows access using a particular software program and a single password.  This keeps your passwords safe if you laptop gets stolen or someone copies the files on your computer or backup disks.

I wrote a program for MS Windows for this purpose years ago, but since I mostly work on Linux and Macintosh computers today, it quickly became obsolete.  Today I use a program called KeePassX (www.keepassx.org) to keep track of my passwords.  I use it to keep track of hundreds of passwords that I have accumulated over the years.  Another great benefit is since I do not need to rely on my memory or have to write or type the passwords, because I can copy and paste them into the password prompts.   I can create long random character/number combination passwords that are very secure compared to your wife’s birthday or your dog’s name.  Even better, KeePassX will generate new passwords for me!

I can copy the encrypted file to a USB thumb drive and access it from my Linux, Macintosh, and even MS Windows computers.  You can even put the software on the thumb drive and access your passwords on systems that do not have the software installed.

KeePassX was originally a Linux clone of a similar software program called KeePass Password Safe (keepass.info).  KeePass Password Safe is for MS Windows only, but KeePassX currently uses the KeePass version 1.x (Classic) password database format as the native format.  So as long as you stay with KeePass v1.x then your encrypted password file can be opened with KeePassX on other platforms (Linux and Macintosh).

Both programs (KeePassX and KeePass) use either the AES (alias Rijndael) or Twofish encryption algorithm using a 256 bit key.  The AES encryption algorithm is currently used by the U.S. government for protecting it’s top secrets.

No password safe software program will protect you from every threat to someone getting your passwords, but they eliminate the greatest threats of weak easily guessed passwords and passwords written on paper that is easily obtained.

Enable spell checking in all text entry in Firefox

Firefox has in-built spell check, but by default, this spell check is available only in Text area (usually multiple lines with scroll bar) entry fields. Text entry boxes (usually 1 line) will not show spelling mistakes. To activate spell check in text fields, open the configuration page of Firefox. Type about:config in address bar and press enter.  In the filter text-box, type:  layout.spellcheckDefault

Firefox Spellcheck Configuration

The default value of this preference is 1. Double click on this parameter and change the value to 2. Close configuration page and now open any page which has a text-box and check for wrong spelling.  In case the spell check is still not enabled, right click on the text-box to pop-up the menu and check the Check Spelling menu item.

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