How to boot a Toshiba Satellite from USB

Recently I had to work on a friend’s Toshiba Satellite L505D-S5983 laptop. It didn’t automatically boot from a USB thumb drive when I plugged it in, which is often the case with many name-brand PCs.

The easiest way to get it to boot from USB is to plug it in with the power off, then power it on and hit F12 until the boot menu comes up. In theory you only have to hit F12 once, but your timing has to be right, so my practice is always to just hit F12 as many times as I can until it registers. When the boot menu comes up, USB will be one of the options–one of many options. Pick that option, and you’re off to the races.

Of course, if the machine is already up and running, another option is to plug in the drive, then reboot.

I don’t know for a fact that all Toshiba Satellite laptops are like that, but if you’re trying to get another model of Toshiba to boot off USB, try F12. If F12 doesn’t work, odds are just before Windows starts loading, you’ll see something at the bottom of the screen that says what key to press to bring up a boot menu. That’s the key you want.

Repairing Lionel transformer cases made of Bakelite

Bakelite was the world’s first synthetic plastic, invented in 1907 and was commonly used for everyday objects in the mid 20th century. Lionel used it for transformer cases well into the 1960s. As a general rule, if a vintage Lionel transformer case isn’t made of metal, it’s probably Bakelite. For example, the highly desirable Lionel ZW and KW transformers used Bakelite casing.

Today, Bakelite is a specialty material. Although it’s generally a strong material, there are other plastics that tend to be more durable in everyday use, and they are cheaper. Another problem with Bakelite is that it is difficult to repair, although it’s not impossible.

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The downside of streaming music

There’s a new rule when it comes to security and privacy: If a service is free, then you’re the product.

Actually, come to think about it, the rule isn’t so new. I’m the product when I listen to the radio. Radio stations exist to deliver a product–namely, an audience–to advertisers, and the audience is different when you’re talking top 40 versus urban contemporary versus country versus classic rock versus alternative versus adult contemporary.

But when it comes to streaming music, the game changes a bit.

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IEcapt is a command-line web browser that outputs screenshots

Sometimes you need to capture a web page in PNG or JPG format. And if you need to do that, it probably helps to be able to do it in an automated fashion, like by a script.

That’s IEcapt‘s purpose in life. IEcapt renders web pages using the Internet Explorer engine, then outputs it as a graphics file. Uses include e-mailing a dashboard to someone or capturing steps when technical writing. Sure, you can use a tool like Snagit, but IEcapt is free and can be automated.

If you need IEcapt, you probably already know it.

How long do you think it takes to have a conversation you don’t wanna have?

Friday night, I took my wife out to get some coffee to get her a few minutes away from the house. There’s a corner in the front of the store next to the window that we always sit in, and it seems like some huckster is always huckstering something there.

And did we ever find a doozie on this Friday night.

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Happy 20th birthday to Windows 95

It was on August 24, 1995 that Windows 95 was released, amidst much anticipation. It was the most widely anticipated Windows release of all time, and the runner up really isn’t close. The idea of people lining up for blocks for a Microsoft product sounds like a bit of a joke today, but in 1995 it happened.

I received a free copy of it because I worked at Best Buy in the summer of 1995 and I aced Microsoft’s test that demonstrated sufficient aptitude to sell it. A few weeks later I landed my first desktop support gig, ending my career in a blue shirt, which means I probably never actually talked anyone into buying a copy of it.

I got plenty of Win95 experience over the next couple of years though.

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Stream media from Windows Media Player to Android

Maybe I’m the only one, but I spent decades collecting CDs, and while some of my stuff is as common and ordinary as it gets, some of it isn’t on any of the streaming services and probably never will be because there were exactly two other people alive who liked it.

I ripped most of them with Windows Media Player and stored them on my PC with the biggest drive. But that’s not necessarily where I want to listen to music from. Media Player can stream between multiple PCs, but it can also stream to an Android phone or tablet, which, in many cases, is even more convenient.

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Replacing a Memopad HD7 screen

It probably was just a matter of time, but one of my sons dropped his Asus Memopad HD 7 and cracked the digitizer assembly. What we usually call the screen actually sits behind the breakable piece of glass, and more often than not, it’s the glass digitizer that breaks. I left it that way for a while, but once the screen cracks, the cracks tend to spread, and eventually the tablet will get to a point where it’s unresponsive.

Replacement digitizers are available on Ebay. Note the exact model number of your tablet (my kids have ME173Xs) because they aren’t all interchangeable. The part costs around $20. It took me about three hours to replace because it was my first one. If I did this every day I could probably do it in 30 minutes, and I’m guessing if I have to do another–ideally I won’t–it will take an hour or so.

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David L. Farquhar, computer security professional and sometime author