Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Left and Right Double Quotation Marks

Often I find myself wanting to use left and right double quotation marks rather than the generic ones.

Especially if you happen to be quoting someone, it adds a touch of class to use these rather than their boring unicode counterparts. This site outlines the differences between the two, and for convenience I'm posting each here so that either one can be easily copied and pasted:
 Left quotation mark. Hold down ALT and hit 0147 on your numeric keypad.

 Right quotation mark. Hold down ALT and hit 0148 on your numeric keypad.

Below is as an animated GIF showing each of the left and right double quotation marks as well as the plain old unicode ones in CharMap, and keystrokes you can use to type the former if you're so inclined:

A handy animated GIF outlining them all.


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Block Reddit Ads, Part Deux

In my previous post I outlined a method to block Reddit ads. 

It worked, until I tried hitting Reddit early this morning.

It appears that the ad structure is slightly different, now the following element hiding rule in the Element Hiding Helper of AdBlock Plus should do the trick:

This ought to work until they decide to change up their site structure once again. 

UPDATE: Apparently, the developer of AdBlock Plus has decreed that Reddit ads will from this point forward be whitelisted, stating that Reddit ads meet their 'acceptable ads' guidelines, necessitating custom rules like I describe above. To me, this is a bad idea, especially since even bigtime advertisers like Yahoo, Fox, and Google have inadvertently helped malware procreate through ads.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Block Reddit Ads

Reddit recently introduced an update to their ads which eludes AdBlock Plus.

Instead of a simple element ID denoted as a sponsored link, their page uniquely identifies it according to a link to the comments for a given ad posting. Ads annoy me, and as my previous post on blocking Reddit ads attests, even their minimal advertising is an unwanted distraction.

However, using the Element Hiding Helper, it's trivial to block the new ad scheme. If you're already familiar with hiding elements, all you need to do is add an element hiding rule like this: > *

If you want a more detailed procedure which might help you block other unwanted web content, read on.

In Firefox, tap the ALT key to display the menu, then click Tools => AdBlock Plus => Select an element to hide (or alternatively hit CTRL-SHIFT-F3). This brings up the element selection dialog that lets you pick and choose items on the web page to hide.

Now a red selection box will outline and identify elements of the page as your mouse cursor hovers over them. If you hover over the sponsored link area, you should see something like this:

Note the entire ad post is surrounded, with a tag in the lower-left indicating the post is within a DIV element. Click on the tag for this area, and you'll open the Compose element hiding rule dialog.

This is the Basic view, but we need to go deeper, so click on the Advanced view button.

By default, when you clicked to select the ad, the element hider chose that specific DIV element. However, blocking this won't do, as each ad will have a unique identifier (in this case, 17aahm) which will foil the filter. 

To get around this, first click on the checkbox beside the option that begins "class: thing id-..." to uncheck it, and then click on the DIV in the list which is the parent to this one, just above the default selection. Then, click the checkbox beside siteTable_promoted so that it's checked, and then click the Add element hiding rule button.

Now the ad should be hidden, either immediately or after your next refresh of Reddit's page.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Foscam FI9821 Wireless Workaround

In my abortive attempt to review the Foscam FI9821, I mentioned the complete inability for the camera to find let alone connect to mine nor any wireless networks in my neighborhood. This precluded my ability (and desire) to review the camera any further.

Now, however, the camera sees and connects successfully to my wireless network. 

After my issues with the late Foscam FI9820 with its poor daytime image quality and anemic firmware, I already experienced RMA hell and didn't want to go through it again. Thus, being handy with electronics, I decided to try an off the wall suggestion found in Foscam's support forum.

Note that the following steps may VOID the manufacturer warranty.

1. Power off the FI9821 and disconnect all cables.

2. Remove the rubber feet on the underside of the camera, this should reveal a couple of screws. Remove them. There are also two screws located on the underside beneath one round laser QA label and another beneath a round paper label. Remove the labels and then the screws as well.

3. Carefully remove the bottom of the camera and follow the wire that runs from behind where the antenna screws in to the camera to a metal "post" on the circuitboard, similar to the one depicted here:

4. Remove the connector, then reconnect it, and as you do so wiggle it, just a little bit.

5. Reverse the steps above and reassemble the camera.

6. Connect the power and ethernet cables, and proceed to configure the camera to connect to your wireless network if you haven't already. Be sure to save the settings!

7. From the camera's web interface, on the Wireless Settings screen click the Scan button. Your wireless network should appear similarly as shown below:

8. Unplug the ethernet cable and wait a minute or so, then try browsing to the camera's IP address. With luck, the camera will have switched to wireless mode and you should then be connected wirelessly, at last!

Why does this work?? It could be due to insulation which is sometimes used to coat electronics, such as that used to coat thin wire that's used for coils. Perhaps in the manufacturing process, the post got sprayed with insulation by accident, leading to a poor connection with the antenna wire connector. Wiggling the connector around on the post may've scraped away any insulation, leading to a solid connection.

Regardless, releasing a $150+ camera so hurriedly with a problem like this, one that some simple quality assurance practices could've caught and fixed, is ridiculous. Although again I applaud Foscam for their responsive customer service and providing me with a free upgrade to the newest model of their camera, shame on them for not catching this frustrating little glitch!

I will review the camera in earnest in the near future, now that its wireless connectivity, a core feature in my eyes, is operational at last.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Foscam FI9821 Review

UPDATE: Hard to believe, but a tip on Foscam's support forum from some random user turned out to be more helpful than Foscam.

A user on the forums reported that they got their wireless functional by simply popping open the camera, and then adjusting the wire connected to the camera's antenna.

Lo and behold, upon opening up the camera (and surely voiding its warranty, but no matter at this point as far as I'm concerned) and then removing the wire from its little post, reattaching it, then grinding it around the post back and forth a few times, suddenly the camera is able to detect my wireless network!


Foscam should enclose instructions telling their users how to crack the camera open and do what their QA department should've done and ensure the connection between the antenna and their camera is solid.

Or, even better, Foscam should do this testing prior to selling a $150+ camera to its customers!


I am pleased to be able to review the recently released Foscam FI9821 IP camera.

Perhaps in part due to my rather frank review of their FI9820 model, Foscam has just recently premiered the FI9821, with similar capabilities as the FI9820 but, I hope, fewer outright bugs than the previous model.

To review, the Foscam FI9820 had the following disagreeable problems:
  • Poor daylight video quality.
  • Inability to connect to a wireless WPA2 network that uses a complex passphrase with any non-alphanumeric characters.
  • As reported by Foscam, no further firmware support that might resolve these and any future issues.

I must give credit to Foscam's tech support. Courteous and respectful to the last, even when I threatened to contact my bank to dispute the credit card transactions associated with my purchase of two FI9820 cameras, they fulfilled an RMA request and provided me with a FREE upgrade to two FI9821 cameras at no cost other than for shipping the old cameras to their Houston, Texas facility.

Now, on to the review of Foscam's newest camera.

The cameras each arrived carefully packaged via USPS Priority Mail. My first minor disappointment came in the form of the AC adapter, its cord is still a mere 3 feet in length, less than I'd like.

I plugged in the power and fired up the camera, then assuming it would utilize DHCP to acquire a network address from my home router, I scanned my network using the handy free utility, Advanced IP Scanner, to ascertain its IP address so I could point my browser to it and configure it. No joy, the MAC address of the camera didn't appear to be detected by the software.

I uncharacteristically decided to consult the manual, which instructed me to pop the included CD into my drive and run the IP Camera Tool utility to help detect the camera on my network. Upon doing so, the camera was indeed detected, but strangely its TCP port had been set to 88 at the factory rather than the industry-standard 80 for http traffic. 


I accessed the camera's interface, and promptly changed the port to the standard port 80. So far, so good.

Next I tried to configure the wireless network settings on the camera. The interface isn't terribly helpful, for one, it seems Foscam expects your wireless network's SSID to be broadcast rather than hidden. I prefer to keep my SSID hidden to minimize the chance some passerby might see it and gain access, but as was the case with the FI9820, this new model wants your SSID to be broadcast.

Despite setting my SSID to be broadcast, this camera seems to NOT want to connect to my wireless network. This as of the most recent firmware update.

I simply cannot review this camera any further until I'm able to connect it to my wireless network. I've contacted Foscam support, hopefully they'll address this issue sooner than later.