The miscellaneous ramblings and thoughts of Dan G. Switzer, II

Converting Microsoft Word Documents to Adobe PDF generates blurry images

This is an issue I keep running into I always forget how to resolve the issue, so I thought I'd better blog the solution (that way when I run into it again and search for the fix, I'll find it via Google!)

If you're running into issues when converting a Word 2002/2003/2007 document into a PDF with images from the Word document being extremely blurry, this due to the use of GDI+ technology:

Under some circumstances, Visio and other document types with graphics that are embedded within a Word document may not convert correctly to PDF. This issue affects Word documents opened in Microsoft Word 2002/XP, Word 2003 and Word 2007. This is because these versions of word use the GDI Plus (GDI+) technology to allow printer-independent operations for on-screen rendering. This is most often used when the embedded object uses Postscript fonts. Documents that exhibit this problem might have areas of color, as if someone highlighted the document and missing text and graphics, but only in the embedded object.

There are two solutions to this problem:

Use another document viewer to convert this document
Any document viewer that can read the document and does not use GDI+ can be used to render the embedded object correctly. For example, both Microsoft Word 2000 and OpenOffice.org Writer do not use GDI+ and can be used to convert documents affected by this issue with no problems.

Convert the embedded object to an image
Probably the easiest solution to this issue is to paste the data as an image, rather than embedding the data into the Word document.

  1. From your application from which you wish to embed data (e.g.: Visio), copy the shapes and the text that you want.
  2. Open Microsoft Word.
  3. On the Edit menu, click Paste Special.
  4. In the Paste Special dialog box, click Bitmap (or Picture XXX), and then click OK.

Note: Do not click Picture (Enhanced Metafile).

courtesy: http://support.software602.com/kb/view.aspx?articleID=1063

I've been using the "Bitmap" option for logos and that seems to work very well to keep the images sharp.

Some asked for a screenshot, so I thought I'd update this entry.

So that you can see the difference, here's a screenshot showing the problem. On the right is a Word document with the same image pasted twice. As you can see, the first version ends up looking extremely blocky when converted to a PDF. The second image was copied from the first image, but pasted using the Paste Special > Bitmap option and looks remarkable better. I wanted both versions in the same PDF so that you can see it's has nothing to do with the PDF conversion settings, but everything to do with Word and GDI+.


Duplex scanning in Adobe Acrobat using a Brother MFC

I was trying to scan in a bunch of pages that had printing on both sides. Adobe Acrobat supports duplex scanning, even for scanners that don't have native support for duplex scanning. The problem is I couldn't get it to work with my Brother MFC-8820D printer/scanner. The problem appears to be using the "TW-Brother MFC-8820D USB". As soon as I switched to using the "WIA-Brother MFC-8820D" scanner driver everything starting working well.

So, if you need to perform a duplex scan on an automatic feeder that doesn't support it, here's how you do it in Adobe Acrobat 9:

  1. Go to File > Create PDF > From Scanner > Custom Scan…
  2. In the "Scanner" box, select "WIA-Brother MFC-8820D."

    NOTE: You can safely ignore this message.
  3. In the "Sides" box, select "Both Sides"
  4. Configure the rest of the options as meet your needs
  5. Click "Scan"
  6. When the "Scan using Brother MFC-8820D" dialog appears, select "Document Feeder" as the "Paper source"
  7. Select the appropriate scanning options (recommend using at least 300dpi in the "Custom Settings")
  8. Make sure to choose the "Page size" that matches your paper size

  9. Click "Scan"
  10. Once the scanning has finished, take the stack of paper that just went through the document feeder and put it face up in the exact order it just came out in (you feed in the last sheet first.)
  11. Acrobat will have already prompted with you the dialog to scan the other sides. From this dialog, choose the "Scan reverse sides" option:

  12. Click "Ok"
  13. Repeat the steps in 6-9 to finish scanning the back side pages

That's all there is to it!

Resolving Mylyn "Insufficient permissions" when connecting to Trac/Apache

For the longest time I've been stuck on Mylyn Eclipse Plug-in v3.0.5—which is very old. Every time I attempted to upgrade to a newer version, Mylyn could no longer authenticate against my Trac installation on Apache. It was a frustrating problem, because I really wanted to upgrade to take advantage of a number of enhancements and fixes.

Today I went upgrade another plug-in and figured I'd try the latest version of Mylyn to see if my issue was resolved. Unfortunately, I was still getting the error "Insufficient permissions for selected access type" anytime Mylyn would try to authenticate via the XML-RPC method. What was really strange, is when I tried connecting via the "Web" method, everything worked fine (which was a new behavior.) So, I decided to spend some time in Charles HTTP Proxy to see if I could debug the issue.

I spent some time monitoring the HTTP traffic, but really couldn't find any rhyme or reason why the authentication was failing. So, I decided to investigate my Apache modules to see if there were any updates to the authentication modules I was using.

One aspect of my Apache configuration that is a little different is that I use mod-auth-sspi module because I authenticate against our Active Directory server (see Configuring Windows Authentication with Apache 2.2.x and Subversion.) After much research and playing around with our configuration, I finally discovered the fix for my problem.

There's apparently an issue with the case that Mylyn sends the authentication information in, the trick was to change my Apache configuration and add the line: SSPIUsernameCase lower

Here's what my authentication configuration rules look like in my Apache httpd.conf file:

AuthType SSPI
SSPIAuthoritative On
# set the domain to authorize against
SSPIOfferBasic On      # let non-IE clients authenticate
SSPIOmitDomain On      # keep domain name in userid string
SSPIBasicPreferred Off # basic authentication should have higher priority
SSPIPerRequestAuth On  # required for IE POST operations
SSPIUsernameCase lower

So, if you're having mystery issues with applications authenticating against your Apache server and your using SSPI, you might try implement the SSPIUsernameCase lower directive.

Dead Milwaukee Battery, might not be so dead afterall…

Several years ago, I bought a set of Milwaukee power tools. I love the tools, but one of the batteries seemed to die after a few years (but very little usage.) The batteries are like $80 and since I don't use the tools very often, I've never bothered replacing the one that seemed to be dead (since I have 2 batteries.)

However, today I came across a very cool tip.

Apparently these "dead" batteries are a known issue with Milwaukee and often the batteries aren't dead, but just need to be jump started. To awaken one of these dead batteries, place a standard 9-volt battery against the leads on your dead Milwuakee battery for 30 seconds (single lead on your Milwaukee is positive, the double lead is negative.)

Sure enough after doing this little tip, I was able to plug my battery in to the charger and it started charging it!

Logging in to Vista using an administrative share

I've recently migrated two of my PCs to Vista. I was trying to wait until Windows 7, but I had to physically replace the boxes so my hand was forced into (yeah, I could have downgraded, but I figured I should actually work with Vista a bit before moving to Windows 7 if for no other reason that to appreciate it more.)

Anyway, one of the problems I've had was logging into the boxes using the administrative shares. Well this is disabled by default (and for good reason,) I needed a way to access via the shares and came across this article from Microsoft:

Error message when you try to access an administrative share on a Windows Vista-based computer from another Windows Vista-based computer that is a member of a workgroup: "Logon unsuccessful: Windows is unable to log you on"

This has allowed me to access my box from Windows XP and my other Vista boxes when I log in w/admin credentials—which is exactly what I wanted to do. While this isn't a recommended thing to enable, it seems you can toggle it off/on without rebooting—which is nice.

Better handling of winmail.dat messages in Thunderbird with LookOut

Over the last few days I've been setting up a new laptop and got Thunderbird up and running (which I'm now going to try to use exclusively.) I've been using Thunderbird on my laptop for work related e-mails for 4 or 5 years now. One of the issues I've always had with it was handling TNEF encoded messages (aka "winmail.dat") that Outlook insists on sending.

Now this is really a problem with Outlook in that it doesn't always honor the "HTML" format and sometime insists on sending e-mail in Outlook's native format. If you use Outlook, you have no problems. However, every other client will just get the dreaded "winmail.dat" file as an attachment.

In the past I've just used program (like Winmail Reader) to open the winmail.dat file and view the RTF and attachments. However, I decided to search the Thunderbird Add-ons page to see if anyone had developed a better solution and thankfully Aron Rubin has developed the wonderful LookOut add-on.

LookOut automatically converts the winmail.dat into it's associated attachments and creates a RTF file that you can double-click on to open in Word (or your associated RTF application.) This solution works really well, because I know longer have to open the winmail.dat in an external program just to see the attachments.

So kudos to Aron Rubin for this excellent add-on!

ScreenCastle offers free web-based screencast recording…

I ran across the ScreenCastle service the other day and wanted to blog about it. ScreenCastle offers a free Java-based screencast recording solution. What separates it from other solutions is there's no installation required—other than accepting the Java cert when the applet loads.

It's definitely not as feature rich as Camtasia or Jing, but it will serve the most basic purposes for recording.

Where it really shines is as a tool for debugging a customer's problem. They don't need any other software installed, they just go to the ScreenCastle website and click on the big red button and record away. When their done recording, the video gets pushed to the ScreenCastle server and then provides the user with links, embed code, etc—which they can then e-mail to you.

The service is offered by Skoffer—who has published some information on their limited API. They show some examples on how you can integrate the service into a Wiki or Blogging service (such as WordPress.)

I'd love it if they opened up the API a little more, so that you could potentially push the content to private servers (or at least be able to download a published file and then remove it from their servers.)

Anyway, this is a great tool if you want to be able to have a customer record what they're doing on the screen and send you a video of it.

Faraday Suit + Tesla Coil = Emperor Palpatine & the Imperial March

This is pretty cool. A guy in a chain mail faraday suit plays the Imperial March with a tesla coil. In a nutshell, it's the visual of Emperor Palpatine shooting lighting bolts from his hands crossed with the actual sound of Imperial March.

I've been zapped too many times to even think about doing this, but it does look as cool as heck.

BlogCFC and Windows Live Writer 2009 issues with UTF-8

I just noticed an issue with BlogCFC and Live Writer 2009. If you read my blog at all, you may have noticed I use the em dash a ton. For some reason I'm drawn to using the em dashes and ellipses.

Anyway, I just noticed that Live Writer does not translate the em dash character to an HTML entity (—), but instead posts it as a character code. This would be all fine and dandy, but there seems to be an issue posting this character as UTF-8—which is the default character coding for Writer 2009.

The fix is to Blogs > Edit blog settings... > Advanced and changed the Character Set to "Western European (Windows): Windows-1252" from the "Default (UTF-8)" setting.


I'm not sure if this issue goes away if you use the HTML markup type, but I prefer the cleaner XHTML (and it works better with my BlogCFC modded XMLRPC script.

I'd prefer to keep using UTF-8, but until I can figure out how to fix the weird UTF-8 encoding issues, I'm sticking with this decoding.

Windows Live Writer 2009 released…

As I mentioned in my last post, I just got a new PC and have been in the process of loading up all my old software. In doing so, I discovered Windows Live Writer 2009 has been released.

There's a whole slew of new features, but the one thing I noticed immediately was that there's much better support for BlogCFC. In the previous version, none of the preview stuff would work. In the new version both the preview and the "Edit using theme" feature both work. There's also plug-ins to auto-notify Twitter and many more related to photos and videos. The new upgrade looks really good so far.

Here's what's new:

  • New border treatments (including Instant Photo)
  • Crop and tilt photos
  • Insert multiple photos
  • Toolbar alignment commands enabled for images
  • Insert and upload Windows Live photo albums
  • Insert and publish video to YouTube
  • Additional spell checking languages: Arabic, Basque, Bulgarian, Catalan, Croatian, Czech, English (Australia), Estonian, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Indonesian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Malay, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Slovenian, Turkish, and Ukrainian
  • Server-side tagging (for supported blogs)
  • Type-down filtering in the Open dialog
  • Twitter, Digg and Flickr Plug-ins
  • Improved blog account setup
  • Lightbox and Windows Live Spaces inline preview support
  • Improved category control: adding categories, type-down filtering
  • Tabbed view switching
  • AutoLink glossary
  • Smart quotes/typographic characters
  • Word count
  • Support for bidirectional languages (like Hebrew and Arabic)
  • Tabs for view switching
  • Updated look and feel

The Black Friday 2008 Buying Guide Spreadsheet

I stumbled across the SlickDeals.net Forums' Excel Spreadsheet - BF Filtered Ads - BF2008 Buying Guide yesterday and thought this is a useful spreadsheet for anyone looking for shopping deals this week. They look to be keeping the spreadsheet up-to-date, so it's worth checking again later to see what changes may have been added.

This list seems to have ads from just about every major and is a great way to compare prices between companies to find the best deals. The spreadsheet also allows for easy filtering to specific categories/headings and allows you to choose the sort order of the fields.

So, if you're trying to map out the stores you should be visiting over the next couple of days, I recommend downloading this spreadsheet right now and looking it over.

You can even view a Google version of the spreadsheet (which doesn't require that you have Microsoft Excel,) but I haven't been able to access it this morning due to the volume of people viewing the document.

Gas prices... $2.92/gallon for premium in Central Ohio...

I just filled up the tank this morning and for the first time in a long time I saw "Premium" under $3/gallon. I filled up at Giant Eagle's GetGo here in Hilliard, OH (so I could take advantage of our fuel perks) and premium was listed at $2.92/gallon. I've seen the price of regular drop under the $3 mark a couple of times in the past few years, but this is the first time I remember seeing premium under the mark.

I'm beginning to think the oil companies are worried that the US is really serious about trying to find other renewal energy sources this time and is dropping prices in hopes that it stalls the momentum of change.

Kyle Lograsso a remarkable 5-year old...

If you're a fan of golf or just of heartwarming stories, then this is for you. My mom sent me this story and it is indeed remarkable (and heartwarming.) Kyle began his fascination with golf at age 2, but it wasn't until after developing cancer and losing his left eye did he actually play the sport for the first time.

Kyle Lograsso @ Yahoo! Video

Firefox 2 & 3 custom icons...

Now that Firefox 3 has been released, I really wanted a couple of icons that I could easily identify as either v2 or v3 for my Windows Quick Launch bar. Since I couldn't find any icons out there, I threw together 2 icons which just add the version as an overlay to the original Firefox icon.

I'm not a designer or artist, so I'm sure I could have selected better colors of green, but the contrast works well for what I needed. I can now clearly see which version of Firefox I'm getting ready to load up.


Hopefully someone else will find the icons useful.

Download Firefox 2 & 3 icons for Windows (.ico)

Most Retro Coffee Table Ever... NES Controller Coffee Table

Oh snap. Someone built a giant work NES controller that doubles as a coffee table. Pretty sweet:

Here's video of the coffee table in action while they play Super Mario Bros.