Idle Tips Useful

Security bits give you access

On more than one occasion I’ve wanted to open something up, only to find it has some weird fastener put in place to keep me out. I can understand wanting to keep thieves and vandals out, but I’m perfectly capable of fixing a rusted cable connection hiding behind my provider’s special box (and certainly don’t want to pay the cable company $120/hr to do it).


I bought this set of security bits off Amazon about a year ago and it continues to prove useful again and again. It’s  worth noting that not all the bits are security bits. A nice surprise that came in the mix: a bit for turning wing nuts.

I highly recommend this set. Even if you never need the security bits, the hex bits make assembling Ikea furniture a snap. Your wrists will thank you.


Enabled Clear QAM on my Media Center, High Def goodness ensues

If you record cable TV using Windows Media Center you may have wondered about recording high definition signals off the cable (or, like me, struggled unsuccessfully to make it happen). If you’re willing to take the beta plunge, Windows 7 has made getting some high-def content off your cable a lot easier.

First, the hurdles: you’ll want to do this only if you’re willing to run beta software and are not afraid of using RegEdit. To get it done without running a beta operating system you can track down the TV Pack for Vista Media Center (code named fiji), some other software and do some registry changes. If you believe the forums, upgrading Vista is more work (clean install plus two additional software installs), however, than running Windows 7. Windows 7 is just the singular install… but keep in mind you’ll need to be ready to buy it when the full version comes out.

The whole process was completely painless for me. I needed more hard drive space so I just took the old drive out to be an easy backup. I put in a new, bigger hard drive, installed Windows 7 Beta then headed over to Mike Wren’s blog for the registry setting for my card (Hauppauge HVR 1600). A quick reboot later and Media Center could see the clear QAM channels! Sweet! No more weather interference when watching local high definition broadcasts. 

Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean you can get all the high definition channels. Even if you subscribe to HBO (for example) the signal will be encrypted. Clear QAM is the unencrypted digital content broadcast over cable. For Comcast in my area this is our local stations in high definition as well as standard definition duplicate versions of some other channels (like Speed). It’s worth noting, just because it’s digital, it doesn’t mean it’s high definition. If you want to get all the content off your cable you’ll need to pay the big bucks for a CableCARD approved Vista PC. If, however, you’re like us and you really only care about HD from the major networks this does it.


Getting a list of files for a directory

Ever had a folder full of files and needed a text listing of all those files? Here’s a quick n’ dirty way to do it.

image I have a whole folder full of new icons for the next version of SharePoint and need to check them into source control. The big pain here is that I’ll need to go into source control and type in each file name to unlock it for editing, copy in the new file, then type in each file name to check it in. If, however, I had a list of all the files I could make a quick batch file to do it for me.

  1. Open your command prompt (on Vista, type cmd then right-click and run as administrator)
  2. Change directories to where you need a listing
  3. On the command line type: dir /b > filename.txt

Windows will create a new text file named “filename.txt” (you can name it anything you like on the command line). One thing to note: your text file will be included in the list, you may want to remove that line before using it to do any bulk operations. Enjoy!

Edit: A good reference for directory listings: