Soup up weak laptop speakers with Dolby Home Theater

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I just found out about a way to significantly increase the quality and output from the rather lackluster speakers on my Thinkpad W520. The same should hold true for other similar models such as the T420. In fact I also used the instructions to upgrade a Thinkpad X1 Carbon (1st gen) so they probably can be used with any system. The software is available at this forum post at notebookreview.com: Dolby Home Theater for your ThinkPad!

The post is a little bit old but everything works perfectly on my Windows 8.1 systems.

The trick to getting this to work is the following:

First go into Device Manager -> Sound, Video, and Game Controllers and if you have a Conexant sound card you need need to remove/uninstall the device. When you do so there will be a checkbox option to remove the drivers which should be checked.

Next, the computer needs to boot up into a special mode to allow the installation of unsigned drivers. To do this, press the Win key + C to open the Charms bar and choose Settings. Then at the very bottom choose Change PC Settings. From there choose Update and Recovery -> Recovery -> Advanced Startup.

The machine will reboot and show a list of advanced startup options. Number 7 in the list is the option to allow the installation of unsigned drivers. Press 7 and boot.

Now in File Explorer go to the drivers that were downloaded from above and run DTPC.msi. Select the checkboxes to install drivers and install content assets and make sure the DHT(release) driver, which is the default, is selected.

Upon installation a window will come up with a red warning, asking to install the unsigned drivers. Select the option to install and let it finish.

Reboot the computer and now there should be a Dolby folder under Start Menu -> Programs. Open Dolby Tuning and Profile Creator and select the 1. Import tab at the top. To the right of ALL TUNING + PROFILES click the Import button, then navigate to the folder where the above driver is downloaded and select the file HearstAllSettings.inx to import it. (Note that his instructions on the above page say to install his own profiles but I found that the HearstAllSettings profiles were much better.)

Now you should right-click on the speaker icon in your system tray (I choose to always show the speaker icon in the system tray customization settings. Otherwise you can get to it via Control Panel -> Sound. For the Playback device select Properties -> Advanced tab and in the drop down list select 24 bit, 192000 Hz (Studio Quality).

Go back to the Sound devices window and choose the Recording tab and go into Properties -> Advanced for the microphone. Select 2 channel, 24 bit 96000 Hz (Studio Quality).

You are now set up to have awesome sound on your laptop. In the Profile Creator app you can select tab 5. Profiles and test the different profiles out. I like P4 General EQ the best.

My newer Thinkpad X1 Carbon already came with Dolby Home Theater, however I chose to uninstall it and install the version above which includes the profile creator and more powerful features. On that system, which did not have the Conexant sound card, I did not need to uninstall/remove the sound device. I still had to boot into the special startup mode to allow the installation of unsigned drivers, and basically followed all the same steps above to install it (including installing the driver).

I cannot believe how much better the sound now is from the tiny laptop speakers on both my main laptops. Its seriously amazing. I’m especially loving listening to ambient drone music (stuff like Steve Roach, Biosphere, etc.) through the speakers which now have this expansive effect.

This is making me think how cool it would be to have little satellite speakers set up at various points around my apartment that I could control.

Disable the annoying “Get Windows 10” system tray icon

When the “Get Windows 10” system tray icon first appeared I thought, ok, its a notification to enable a person to register to be notified of the upcoming release of Windows 10. It makes sense that Microsoft wants to notify users of its availability and to have them upgrade.

So you click on the icon and go through the process of registering, and the icon seems to disappear. But then it comes back. And you are like “What? Didn’t I already register?”. You did. But I guess that doesn’t matter to Microsoft.

So, knowing that you can easily customize which system tray icons appear in the system tray, you go into the system tray’s Customize settings and choose to “Only show notifications” for the GWX icon, which is what it is called.

But then you realize that, only hours later, the damn thing is back. So you disable it yet again, and back it comes. Total FBS! What gives MS?

Fortunately, tenforums.com has a good post on how to really disable the Get Windows 10 icon. I personally chose method 3 which involves downloading and running a small registry patch to permanently disable it. There is also a patch to re-enable it. Once Windows 10 is released I will re-enable it at some point, but to be irritated by that stupid, annoying icon until then – no way!

Given how many millions of zombified Windows PC’s there are in the world which form parts of botnets and spew out countless spam and malicious attacks, its understandable that Microsoft wants to be a little aggro with getting people to upgrade. But I would think that once you’ve clicked the icon and registered, it would leave you alone until – wait for this! – Windows 10 is actually released and available!

Possible new carry-on luggage size limit & new “IATA Cabin OK” logo

There is news out today about a new recommendation which may soon be adopted by most if not all airlines regarding the maximum allowable carry-on size. Just to note: passengers are customarily allowed one carry-on luggage plus their personal-items bag such as a backpack.

When I travel with my violin my violin counts as the carry-on and I take my laptop and whatever stuff in my personal-items backpack. Even though the violin is way over the maximum allowable size for carry-ons, by law it is allowed to be taken (Thank goodness. Imagine if it were not.)

The currently allowed max size for carry-ons for most airlines is:

22 x 14 x 9 inches

And the new proposed max size is:

21.5 x 13.5 x 7.5 inches

Newly conforming luggage will have a logo that says “IATA Cabin OK”.

More info at washington.cbslocal.com.

While most aircraft I’ve been on (and I admit I’ve only flown a little bit) seem to have no issues with overhead compartment space, there was one flight I took recently with an older aircraft where the space was very limited and the airline staff were forced to check and strictly enforce the size limit for everyone.

It is understandable that airlines want to maximize carrying capacity and increase efficiency and reduce resource consumption as much as possible and so one can imagine that when sizes are reduced even by an inch or so that adds up to a lot of compartment space for dozens or even hundreds of passengers.

Even though because of my violin I don’t usually have to deal with a carry-on, I kind of feel sorry for frequent travelers who rely on their carry-on for being limited so much.

Adobe RBG and sRGB

I just read a post at kenrockwell.com in which he says that basically people should only use the sRBG color space unless they have a very specific reason and knowledge about using the Adobe RGB color space when working with images. The reason this is something to consider is because some cameras – such as my Nikon D90 – have the option to shoot pictures in either Adobe RGB or sRGB. The Adobe RGB color space is slighly larger than sRBG but everything pretty much uses sRGB as the standard, including all web browsers and many or most image viewing apps.

In fact, when I started doing my own photography, for the longest time I was always scratching my head why my images would tend to look washed-out, the colors muted and lacking vibrancy. It was because I was using Adobe RBG and not converting the images to sRBG before viewing them online. In some desktop viewing apps they would look ok. But then I was realizing they always looked a lot worse when viewed online so I began to over-enhance the colors and vibrancy to compensate.

So basically I was a textbook example of what Ken is saying about why not to use Adobe RBG. But once I understood what was going on, understood what a “color space” was, and realized how easy it is to just change it in Photoshop, then I continued to shoot in Adobe RBG and just made sure I would always convert the color space at some point when working with the images.

Is there any gain to be had by doing this? I really don’t know exactly. Maybe its like the difference between 44K and 48K sampling rate of audio. Supposedly it is very difficult if not impossible to distinguish between the two, yet many people, including myself, when they have the opportunity, prefer to use 48K (or even the higher 96K) sampling rate when available (which now I think almost all soundcards support).

Another issue I have is that I realized that the D90 is shooting the RAW images in 12-bit format but that upon importing them into Photoshop they were getting converted to 8-bit. I just realized how to fix this (clicking the little informational text at the bottom of the Camera RAW window opens up a settings dialog).

I have been reading up and Firefox is now supporting alternate color spaces with ICC tagging.

All this color space stuff and issues with apps reminds me of the encryption issue with e-mail clients. Its something that should be integrated and just work but up to now has not and requires users to fuss around too much.

Bernie Sanders for President of the United States in 2016

Please get involved now! Tell everyone you know that Bernie is the only real candidate in this election who has the integrity and competence to truly help America.

We need a political revolution in this country involving millions of people who are prepared to stand up and say, enough is enough, and I want to help lead that effort.

…so long as we know what democratic socialism is… …if we know that in countries, in Scandinavia, like Denmark, Norway, Sweden, they are very democratic countries, obviously. The voter turnout is a lot higher than it is in the United States.

“In those countries, health care is the right of all people. And in those countries, college education, graduate school is free.

“In those countries, retirement benefits, child care are stronger than in the United States of America. And in those countries, by and large, government works for ordinary people and the middle class, rather than, as is the case right now in our country, for the billionaire class.”

“I think at a time when we have seen trillions of dollars shift from the middle class to the top one-tenth of one per cent, we have got to say very frankly that the wealthiest people in this country and the largest corporations are going to have to start paying their fair share of taxes; profitable corporations can’t stash their money in the Cayman Islands and avoid about US$100 billion a year in taxes.”

Major breakthrough (Stylish & userstyles.org)

It all started with being annoyed with websites. One major annoyance was a change to the design of the BBC website. The main story column got narrower. Fonts got ridiculously bigger. There’s a certain threshold of space-wasting that goes beyond what I can stand. Recently many websites have gotten notably worse.

Then I found out about Stylish. I initially installed Stylish and then search on the associated site userstyles.org for any relevant styles that would work with bbc.com. In fact there were some styles, but nothing that was what I wanted.

So, eventually, over time, I started trying to manipulate, and then create, styles. And now it is amazing. Over the past few days I’ve basically redesigned all the main web sites that I visit. The effect is intense. It feels like I am recreating the Internet that was supposed to be, but that got ruined back around the time that AOL happened.

For any given site I want to change, I create a new style in Stylish, then on the page in question (it can be any page that is typical of that website, usually an article page since I usually open article links from RSS feeds). Then I open Inspector, which is part of the Firefox developer tools, with Shift-Ctrl-C.

At this point it almost seems like playing a video game, maybe even more fun. Pick elements on a page I don’t want and wipe them out. They are gone. It feels so gratifying.

Resizing columns is probably the trickiest thing to do as there are usually a lot of div tags containing and wrapping multiple things. When I finally got bbc.com to resize it was like a major breakthrough.

Not only am I removing a vast amount of junk like all the “like” and “share” stuff, but I’m also making content panes wider, switching from ghastly, unreadable sans-serif fonts to serif, and reducing line spacing. The improvements are simply remarkable.

As I now visit all the sites that I have customized it feels like a revolution. It feels like this is the way the Internet is supposed to be. I’m also learning a bit more about CSS and how professional sites are organized.

I cannot tell you what a relief it is to read an article on a site which before was cluttered with all this garbage and now basically only contains the content I want, formatted the way I want. There is something really Zen about it. Instead of visiting a page and feeling like I’m being attacked by all this privacy-invading garbage, now everything is clean, simple, and pure.

Ultimate Cygwin Setup Guide (Part 1)

This is Part 1 of the two-part Ultimate Cygwin Setup Guide.


Install
Open File Explorer and create the directory C:\cygwin64 (or C:\cygwin if you are running 32-bit).

Visit cygwin.com in a web browser and select the “Install Cygwin” menu option on the upper left, then download setup-x86_64.exe (or setup.exe if you are running 32-bit) to C:\cygwin64

Navitate to C:\cygwin64 in File Explorer and run setup-x86_64.exe and install the following extra packages:

(Note: these instructions include installing the Apache web server with PHP. If you do not want to run the Apache web server and PHP then leave out the Apache packages below.)

binutils – the main reason I install this is for the strings command
units – extremely useful command-line unit conversion program
bind-utils – provides nslookup, host, and dig commands
imagemagick – extremely powerful image manipulation/conversion app that includes the convert and mogrify commands
less – essential core command-line tool for displaying/reading text files
rsync – arguably the most powerful remote file copy utility
openssh – essential core utility to enable incoming remote console sessions (sshd) and to connect to remote systems (ssh)
vim – essential core text-editor
wget – essential core command line utility for downloading files from the Internet
whois – command line tool to provide lookup of domain name registration and ownership info
screen – essential core tool which allows persistent console sessions which can be attached and detached from, also enables remote collaboration between multiple users
perl – essential core powerful scripting language, especially useful for string manipulation (matching and substitution)
python – essential core scripting language
ncftp – command line ftp client
ipcalc – extremely useful command line utility to provide detailed information about networks
dos2unix – essential utility to convert DOS-format files to Unix-format
chere – utility to create “Cygwin prompt here” context menu option in File Explorer
zip, unzip – essential core command line archival utilities
pwgen – extremely useful command-line password generator (try pwgen -ay -n14)
findutils – provides essential core utilities updatedb, locate, find, and xargs
inetutils – provides telnet (and also talk which was an early precursor to modern messaging apps and is still cool)
procps – provides essential utilities ps, w, vmstat, free, and others (try ps -W)
syslog-ng – provides a logging facility
apache2-mod_php5, libapr1-devel, libaprutil1-devel – OPTIONAL installing this will install Apache web server and PHP

Install Console
Visit the Console page on Sourceforge and click on the “files” tab, then “console-devel”, then “2.00” (or later version if there’s one available), then download Console-2.00b148-Beta_64bit.zip (or later version if available) (or Console-2.00b148-Beta_32bit.zip for 32-bit system) to your Downloads folder.

Make sure you have 7Zip installed then right-click on Console-2.00b148-Beta_64bit.zip in File Explorer and select context menu option “Extract to Console-2.00b148-Beta_64bit”.

Navigate into Console-2.00b148-Beta_64bit and move the folder Console2 to C:\Program Files

Navigate into C:\Program Files\Console2 and right-click Console.exe and select context menu option to create shortcut on Desktop.

Open Console and go to Settings. Under “Tabs” click “Add” and for Title: enter BASH. For Shell: enter C:\cygwin64\bin\bash.exe --login -i
For Startup dir enter C:\Users\user (whatever your user dir is).
Make sure the “Save settings to user directory” is checked, click OK and exit out of Console.

Initial Setup
Change home directory from C:\cygwin64\home\user to C:\Users\user (your actual Windows home directory which is far more logical):
edit /etc/nsswitch.conf (use either vim in a Cygwin console or use Notepad+)
add the following line at the bottom:
db_home: windows cygwin desc

Setup ssh and sshd
Open Console and run ssh-keygen -t rsa (or -t ecdsa if you want). Just hit enter at every prompt. It will ask for a password. Just leave blank and hit enter (this is not a login password so don’t worry).

Right-click on Console and select context menu item “Run as Administrator”. Type ssh-host-config and press enter. Answer the following:
Query: Should StrictModes be used? (yes/no) yes
Query: Should privilege separation be used? (yes/no) yes
Query: new local account ‘sshd’? (yes/no) yes
Query: Do you want to install sshd as a service? (yes/no) yes
Query: Enter the value of CYGWIN for the daemon: [] ntsec
Query: Do you want to use a different name? (yes/no) no
Query: Create new privileged user account ‘CIRCLE\cyg_server’ (Cygwin name: ‘cyg_server’)? (yes/no) yes password:

At this point, for the password, open another Console terminal and enter pwgen -ay -n 14 to generate some nice, complex passwords. Left click and drag the mouse cursor over one of the passwords which should highlight it, then release. This should copy it into the buffer.

Now open another Console terminal and middle-click in it. It should paste the password that was just copied into the buffer. If not, fix this copy/paste issue or just manually type in a complex password for the ssh-host-config prompt above, then press enter. That should finish the configuration of the SSH server (daemon).

Click the Windows key and type firewall and open Windows Firewall. Choose Advanced option and then for Inbound rules create new rule. Choose “Program” and browse to C:\cygwin64\sbin\sshd.exe and select it. For name of the rule use SSHD.

Now in the same Console that was used to run ssh-host-config start the SSH daemon with the command cygrunsrv.exe -S sshd. It should start without any error message.


Part 2 will be forthcoming soon! Please check back.

Please help me become President

I would like to become President of the United States. I know that I would make an excellent leader who could take America from darkness to light.

Before becoming President I am willing to serve at the local and later the state level. I would really appreciate any support, suggestions, or feedback about this.

One factor that has made me decide to do this is the fact that of all the people I have known, met, or even known about, no one really wants to be a leader. But we as a people desperately need people who are willing and capable of standing up and taking lead.

Perhaps not everyone is made to be a leader, but I feel and I know deep down within that I have the qualifications to be an extremely good leader and am capable of achieving great things. As a human being I may not have much going on in my personal life to make it worthwhile, but, as long as I am alive as a human being, I am willing to dedicate myself towards improving the world for the benefit of all. Because, what else is there to do?

When I am running for whatever offices that I decide to seek I will stand up and tell the truth. I do not have fear or hesitation. It is already clear what we need and where we need to go. And it is clear that we need the truth and people who are willing to express and explore the truth. Therefore there is no need for hesitation, fear, or anxiety. What there is a need for right now is for people to make a stand for what is right.

There are basic principles of the sanctity of all living things. There is also the need for clear thinking. Unfortunately many of the current politicians in office are not really leaders, and they significantly lack competence to deal with fundamental issues related to commerce, to logistics, to basic human welfare, and to technology in general. The lack of competence translates into serious failings that occur at multiple levels from the personal to the societal, both commercial, environmental, physiological, psychological, familial, and communal (in the sense of communities as living, organic structures).

What our governments lack across the country right now are competence and also will. Politicians play into the hands of vested interests which impose a status quo that is destructive.

The basis of everything is the sanctity of life. Not just human life, but all life. After this comes the foundation of health. Before anyone can change the world they must be healthy and whole. No undertaking of any society that lacks health can ever be successful. But health is intimately tied to the sanctity of life. They go together. When the sanctity of life is honored, then humans are happy and healthy. From this basis they can go on to achieve great things, not just empty schemes that at first may seem impressive but ultimately lead nowhere.

But we are seeing the rise of the scheming economy just as the real economy fizzles out because of lack of genuine innovation. Genuine innovation is always based on a broad-minded thinking which benefits humanity, not just scheming from a selfish perspective. This does not mean that private interests are not important, but that when a culture loses is focus on the importance of achievements for all humanity and all living things, it begins to slip into a darkness, a kind of sickness that is grounded on more and more selfishness and empty materialism.

The way a government can re-align the country is to establish clear laws and policies related to the sanctity of life. The basic, fundamental rights of people to live in homes that are safe, peaceful, wholesome environments is primal. The right of people to have access to healthy nourishment is essential. From these basic principles stem many of the things which are capable of turning society from its darkness.

Here are the best new jdramas of the season

Liquid

This is only a three-episode series and is, quite frankly, one of the best dramas if not the best I have ever seen. The acting is superlative and the story is sublime. I could not help but crying during many scenes – mostly from the awe, beauty, and inspiration. In keeping with other great asian classics, there is a timeless quality about this drama.

Ishitachi no Renai Jijou

This is a drama about doctors and their affairs. Very well acted with multiple interweaving themes occurring in the plot.

Algernon ni Hanataba o

Outstandingly excellent drama about an intellectually disadvantaged young man and a team of researchers who have developed a breakthrough experimental drug that significantly increases brain function. The acting is superlative and the story explores a lot of deep themes.

I’m Home

This is an absolutely first-class drama with some of the best acting talent in Japan in a gripping story about a man who loses his memory and slowly rebuilds his life as if a stranger to everything and everyone he previously knew.

As with many other jdramas, it deals with a subject which is a real issue that affects people: Those who have experienced and are recovering from brain injury. In the context of this film, his injury provides a vehicle to explore issues of identity, loyalty, ego, achievement and success, happiness, and love.


Previous season

Ghost Writer

This gripping drama about a superstar author and her ghostwriter is a masterpiece. Explores issues related to artistic creativity and identity. Note: the subs linked to above are not timed for the 480p raws linked above. You can find the 720p raws on nyaa.se. [Update: It appears the subs don’t sync perfectly with the 720p raws either. If you use VLC media player you can easily advance or delay the subs using the G and H keys.]

Marumaru Tsuma

Gripping drama about a famous newscaster and his wife and their highly unusual relationship.

Dear Sister

Touching and often uplifting drama about two sisters and their lives going through transformations.

Last Doctor

This is a great drama if you want something lighter yet also highly interesting to watch. It is about coroners in the city of Tokyo and their investigations going beyond normal duties.


Note:
I find that some of the subs have fonts that are too small. It is very easy to open a sub file in an editor like Notepad+ to increase the size. For example, here is a sample line from a sub file which sets the font size to 20:

Default,Arial,20,&H00FFFFFF,&H000000FF,&H00000000,&H00000000,0,0,0,0,100,100,0,0,1,2,2,2,10,10,10,1

To change it to something larger such as 32 just edit it as follows:

Default,Arial,32,&H00FFFFFF,&H000000FF,&H00000000,&H00000000,0,0,0,0,100,100,0,0,1,2,2,2,10,10,10,1

Best line from a drama ever

Ishitachi no Renai Jijou ep04

I’m not sure if we should go with hepatocholangiojejunostomy or choledochoduodenostomy.

–Dr. Morita

Ishitachi no Renai Jijou ep04 37’51”

Dr. Morita (center right) is operating on Dr. Kondo’s mother for a bile duct stricture. Dr. Kondo originally came to Koyo Medical University Hospital with the hope of being able to eventually operate on his own mother, but the staff at the hospital instituted a new rule forbidding doctors to operate on close friends or family. While Dr. Morita is operating on Dr. Kondo’s mother, Dr. Kondo is operating on Dr. Morita’s ex-fiancee from 8 years ago.

Dr. Nishi, who is assisting Dr. Morita, does not yet know that Dr. Ichikawa is pregnant with his baby, although Dr. Ichikawa decided to not tell Dr. Nishi, who she believes is happily married (although he is really not).

Dr. Takahashi, who has just recently been promoted to a senior position, is assisting Dr. Kondo. Dr. Takahashi is a womanizer. Dr. Kawai who is an anesthesiologist likes Dr. Takahashi, who once played with her young son – who she is raising on her own – in the hospital lobby. However Dr. Takahashi does not take her seriously although he occasionally makes bold passes at her.

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