Create a Video DVD with DVD Flick

Every once in a while I need to create a video DVD that will work in a standard DVD player.  With Windows 10, Microsoft no longer provides Windows DVD Maker, so I needed to find a replacement.

DVD Flick does the job quickly and easily.  It’s simple to add titles (individual videos), add regularly spaced chapters (so you can skip forward and back a few minutes at a time), and burn a DVD with a simple menu.

Here’s a 2-minute demonstration:

Solved: Vostro 3550 black screen with Windows 10

vostro-3550A friend brought over his Dell Vostro 3550 that he’d just upgraded to Windows 10.

After the upgrade, the machine would show the spinning dots of the Windows 10 boot, but then go to a black screen before the login screen showed up.  External displays worked fine, but some exploration with an external display showed that Windows 10 didn’t think there was any other display besides the external monitor.

It turns out that Dell fixed something in a recent BIOS update.  This machine was on A09, and Dell has A12 on their support site.

I had also updated the Intel HD 3000 video driver from Intel’s site, so that might also be required.  But I suspect that I didn’t need to do that.

 

Sheets API access with PHP part 2: Editing Rows

row-xml-previewMy previous Sheets API post demonstrated how to add rows to Google Sheets with PHP.  Some readers were interested in editing or deleting rows.

Google has a very informative reference here that describes the list-based feed for manipulating sheets.  All of my scripts have been using this method, which requires the sheet to have a single header row (I’d been lucky to use that format without knowing the requirement).  I use the example HTTP code from Google’s reference pages to give me guidance for my PHP.

I’ve added a file to the gist demonstrating how to edit a row.  Here’s what you need to know:

  1. When you get the sheet list feed (Section 3 of the first file in the gist), you need to add a header (“GData-Version” => “3.0”) to the GET request so that the Etag is returned for each line.
  2. Once you have a list of entries and find the one that you want to edit, you need to grab its Etag, Id, and the edit URL (see lines 1, 2, and 9 in the image above, and click on the image to see the whole entry).
  3. Now you just need to issue a PUT request to the edit URL and include the XML with the Etag, Id, and updated sheet data.

Hope this helps a few people!

Dreaded Google Apps error: “We’re sorry, a server error occurred. Please wait a bit and try again.”

a-server-error-occurredPeople who use my Insert and Delete Cell Add-on for Google Sheets have been reporting this error.  I was unable to recreate the error until someone shared a spreadsheet with me and I found the culprit: merged cells.

What’s going on?

merged-cellsWhen you insert cells and shift the existing contents down, my Add-on selects the range of cells from your selection to the bottom of the sheet and moves it down.  But if there are merged cells below your selection, the new range doesn’t make sense and an error is generated.  The same thing happens if you try to delete and shift up, or if you try to shift left or right with merged cells to the right of your selection.

Why not catch the error and generate a friendly error message?

I’ve been trying, but this error isn’t triggering the try – catch section of my code.  There also isn’t a way to detect merged cells without trying some strange tricks that would take a lot more time than I have.  I’ve opened a bug report with Google about this.

This error seems to be Google’s version of “We’re not sure what happened, and hope that if the customer tries again it might go away”.

Google Sheets API access with PHP

api-test

Note on 8 February 2017: Google has released the Sheets API v4 and is now providing PHP sample code and improved PHP support for Sheets in the PHP API client.  My series of articles is now largely obsolete.  See https://developers.google.com/sheets/api/quickstart/php

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Google has been sending out messages saying that several of their APIs are going to be discontinued (for example, the Document List API).  As a result, I tried to modify my custom Google Spreadsheet-populating PHP script to use the new Drive API.  After way too much wasted time, I discovered that the Drive API can create sheets and read their metadata, but can’t add rows — for that we can keep using the Spreadsheets API.

I was successful at converting the authentication portion of my script from the old ClientLogin to OAuth with a Service Account (the script runs behind the scenes of a web site and populates a Google spreadsheet that the web site user has no knowledge of).

It wasn’t as simple as I’d hoped because the Google-provided PHP client for the Drive API doesn’t know about the Spreadsheets API.  I had to dig around the PHP libraries to piece together authentication codes and Google_Http_Requests.  Then Google changed the PHP client to use Guzzle, so I recently made that change.

So, if anyone else out there is interested in the combination of PHP, the Spreadsheets API, and OAuth with Service Accounts, this could save you some time.

The code is available in a public Gist at https://gist.github.com/karlkranich/de225928665dc6b83667

Here are the step-by-step instructions to get this to work:

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Solved: “ORA-28001: the password has expired” on Windows 8.1

odbc-errorWhile working with the development version of a document library that uses Oracle for storage on a Windows 8.1 laptop, we ran into the error “ODBC error: [Oracle][ODBC][Ora]ORA-28001: the password has expired”.

It turns out that up until Oracle 10, the default password policy was no password expiration.  Starting with Oracle 11, there is a default password lifetime of 180 days.

Here are the steps we took to fix it:

1. Get DBA privileges

Assuming you’re logged into Windows as “joe”, check if you’re in the “ora_dba” group by running cmd.exe and issuing the command “net user joe”.  You’ll see a list of local groups that you belong to near the end of the output.  If you don’t know who you’re logged in as, try “whoami”.

If you’re not in the ora_dba group, you can add yourself with the Local Users and Groups tool in Computer Management.  Except that tool is gone in Windows 8.1.  Very frustrating!  In that case, issue the command “net localgroup ora_dba joe /add”.

2. Set the password lifetime to unlimited

Now you can change the password lifetime with this series of commands:

sqlplus /nolog
connect / as sysdba
ALTER PROFILE DEFAULT LIMIT PASSWORD_LIFE_TIME UNLIMITED;

3. Change Oracle user passwords

You may or may not need to change the password of Oracle users on your system.

From the sqlplus prompt, use the following command (use double quotes around the new password and replace the username “system” as needed):

ALTER USER system IDENTIFIED BY “new_password”;

Hope this helps some people!

Solved: How to recreate the recovery partition on OSX Mavericks after a time machine restore to a blank drive

filevault partition errorMy Macbook Pro (mid-2009) hard drive crashed a few weeks ago.  Since I had a current Time Machine backup, I figured that it would be super-simple to install a new hard drive and do a restore.  Well, it wasn’t as simple as I’d hoped.

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How to Insert and Delete Cells from Google Spreadsheets

[update on 9/24/2014:  This has now been published as a Google Add-on.  Please see this page.  To install the Add-on, just search for “insert cells” when browsing for Add-ons from Google Sheets]

I haven’t been able to find a way in Google Spreadsheets to insert a cell (or cells) in the middle of a spreadsheet and tell the existing content to shift down or to the right.  Similarly, I’d like to be able to select cells to delete, and have them fill in by content shifting up or from the right.

So, I created a Google Apps script to add “Insert Cells” and “Delete Cells” menus to Google Spreadsheets.  Right now, you need to copy the code from github and paste it into the Script Editor in Google Spreadsheets (see the Tools menu).  Hopefully I’ll get the code cleaned up enough to have Google approve it as an Add-on soon!

Watch the video for a demonstration.

Google Apps Script to monitor an email box and send notifications

googlemail-128

Here’s the scenario: you have a second gmail account that gets email infrequently, but you need to monitor it.  For whatever reason (company policy, in my case), you can’t forward the email to your main account.

I discovered that I could log into the second Google account and attach a Google Apps Script to a spreadsheet.  The script monitors the gmail account for unread threads.  If it finds any, it sends a message to my main account.  The script has a time-driven trigger that can be set to run as frequently or infrequently as desired.

To use the script, get the spreadsheet template from my template page.  Open the spreadsheet and edit the cells that contain the email message parameters.  Then go to Tools – Script editor.  Choose Resources – Current project’s triggers.  Add a time-driven trigger that runs the script as often as you’d like.

Email Notifier trigger

Joomla 3 Contact Form doesn’t send email – I give up!

joomlaI love finding the forum or blog posts that have titles like “Problem I Have – Solved”.  This is not like that.

I installed Joomla 3.2.3 on my web host where I’ve been running Joomla 1.5.26.  The Joomla 3 installation can send mass email, but its contact forms don’t send.  On the 1.5 install, both mass emails and contact forms send fine.

  • It can’t be the mail settings, since the mass emailer works fine.
  • It can’t be the mail program on the host, since the 1.5 install sends fine and the mass mailer on the v 3 install works.
  • It can’t be an issue with the domain of the web host vs domain of my From: address for the same reasons.
  • It could be contact form options, but I’ve tried everything I can find.
  • I’ve tried the tips from blog posts regarding copying libraries from a new install – no luck.

I finally had to admit defeat and installed the free version of the Flexi Contact extension.  I hate to give up, but installing that extension got me a working contact form in a few minutes.