Category Archives: gadgets

Machines, mechanisms, items, gizmos, knickknacks, algorithms, devices

Removing My Web Search from your Firefox navigation bar in Windows.

I hate this sucker and I know you do, too.

This is a bitch. I hate this extension. It displaces the Google search box in the Firefox navigation bar (upper right) with a crummy search (“powered by Google;” yeah right) that finds commercial sites instead of information. To use a real Google search you have to use put Google in your Bookmark toolbar and punch it everytime you want to google. And My Web Search slows down your searches and your computer. Where did it come from? You probably installed it without knowing it when you installed some funny face program that melts images. You want to get rid of it. I’ll show you how. These instructions are based on a 64 bit Windows computer, and I use Firefox and Windows 7 Home Premium.

There are two or three places you have to go to remove this steaming mess from a Windows computer.
1) your computer’s “uninstall” program aka “add/remove programs” aka “programs and features”; takes two minutes.
2) about:config in Firefox: 5 minutes
3) regedit program on your computer; this step also will require finding, installing and running a free program called Spybot. May or may not be needed, takes 90-120 minutes

Let’s roll…
First, go to your uninstall program or “add or remove programs”, which you reach from the start button and control panel, depending on your version of Windows. Remove/uninstall anything that says My Web Search. That won’t complete the job.

Next, open Firefox and type about:config in the navigation space at the top left side of the browser and hit return/enter if it doesn’t go there automatically. When the page comes up, punch the consent button that says yes, I promise to be careful.
Find the filter space, and there type myweb (“filter” basically means “find” or “search.”)
Several entries should come up. Put your cursor over each item in turn, do a right click, and select reset on all of the items in the list.
Restart firefox. if My Web Search is still there, go back and do the same thing again; this time try filtering for Myweb or mywebsearch or myway or Myway etc etc until you find the last culprit. Reset it as before.
Close and restart Firefox.
If the search box is still showing My Web Search, you have another couple of hours of work ahead.

Third and last: regedit/Spybot
Go on the internet and find and download Spybot Search and Destroy (free) and install and run that. It will take 15 or 20 minutes; go do some pushups, brush your teeth, order a pizza. When it finishes, Spybot will show you the 30 or so registry keys associated with My Web Search. You have to expand the Spygot window and the partition of it so that the complete character sequence (‘string”) of each bad key/file can be seen. Do not close Spybot or this window. You will need this list to tell a program named regedit which keys/files to delete.

Finding regedit (REGistry EDIT, get it?): click the start button and enter regedit in the “find” box just above the start button, and then hitting return/enter. That will open regedit and show an enormous list of files/registry keys, each of which is identified by a “name” or “string” of about 20 characters. You are interested only in certain files/keys contained in a directory/folder named Hkeys_classes_root. Within that directory, you have to find the Interface subdirectory/folder. All of the My Web Search registry keys are in this subdirectory.

How do you know which files/keys?

You have to look at the bad key list you generated with Spybot, and then find each of these in regedit, one at a time. So you want to have two windows: one shows the list in Spybot, the other showing regedit, so you can easily go back and forth.

There is a trick to this. Regedit is not very good at searching. You have to help it by directing it where to search ie select the Interface directory/folder as previously indicated. Select that directory/folder each time you search for a key/name/string.

You don’t have to copy the entire name/string from Spybot into regedit to find each bad key; entering a string of any 6 consecutive characters from each entry on the Spybot list of bad keys, into the regedit search/filter box will be enough. Then regedit will highlight a file/key that has a matching 6 character string; it will PROBABLY be the file you are looking for but you have to verify carefully by crosschecking to see that it matches the one in Spybot’s list. Then delete it. It will ask you if you want to delete the key and all its subkeys. Click yes. To delete 36 bad keys will take you a good hour or more.

That should have eliminated My Web Search. Close Spybot. Restart your computer and your browser. If My Web Search is still there, run Spybot again to make sure you got all the keys. If Spybot shows that you missed one, go back to regedit and get rid of it. If they are all gone, but My Web Search is still in your Firefox navigation search box, then you missed something in about:config. Go back to that and try different strings in the filter box, using caps, etc. until you find the culprit. Reset it as you did with the others, close Firefox, and reboot your computer.

Keep at it. It’s worth it.


Filed under blogging, gadgets, Googling Google, Smokey award finalist, Uncategorized

Stanford team improves capacity of lithium battery tenfold


This is potentially huge for laptops, but also for electric vehicles.

The electrical storage capacity of a Li-ion battery is limited by how much lithium can be held in the battery’s anode, which is typically made of carbon. Silicon has a much higher capacity than carbon, but also has a drawback.

Silicon placed in a battery swells as it absorbs positively charged lithium atoms during charging, then shrinks during use (i.e., when playing your iPod) as the lithium is drawn out of the silicon. This expand/shrink cycle typically causes the silicon (often in the form of particles or a thin film) to pulverize, degrading the performance of the battery.

Cui’s battery gets around this problem with nanotechnology. The lithium is stored in a forest of tiny silicon nanowires, each with a diameter one-thousandth the thickness of a sheet of paper. The nanowires inflate four times their normal size as they soak up lithium. But, unlike other silicon shapes, they do not fracture.

….”It’s not a small improvement,” Cui said. “It’s a revolutionary development.”

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Filed under Al Gore, economics, gadgets, global warming/environment

Nanosolar ships first utility-scale nano solar panel

This is an exciting product which has been in development for some time; previous technology has resulted in a cost of about $3/Watt, but coal fired power costs only a third of that; This new solar nanotechnology cuts production costs by 90%, which puts solar in competition with other power generation technologies.

Nanosolar Inc., a global leader in solar power innovation, and Beck Energy, a leading integrator of large-scale solar power systems, today announced that they have won a highly competitive public selection process for a solar power plant located on a former landfill owned by one of the largest waste management companies in Eastern Germany.

The project will employ the Nanosolar Utility Panel™ in combination with systems technology and services from Beck Energy. The initial size of the plant is 1MW, an amount sufficient to power approximately 400 homes. The Nanosolar Utility Panel™ is Nanosolar’s first product as part of its award-winning PowerSheet™ product line – recently named the Top Innovation of the Year 2007 by Popular Science Magazine – and the company’s solution for building solar power plants on free fields at the outskirts of towns and cities.   “This is the first time that a solar electricity cell and panel has been designed entirely and specifically for utility-scale power generation,” said Martin Roscheisen, CEO of Nanosolar. “It will set the standard for green power generation at utility scale.”

Visit their website and look around.  The founders of Google are investors.


Filed under Al Gore, economics, gadgets, George W. Bush: is he really THAT bad?, global warming/environment, Googling Google

brain doesn’t work in slow motion….DUH!

this kind of stuff gives science a bad name.

US scientists lept off a 150-foot (45-meters) high platform in a hair-raising bid to test if time really does slow down in a crisis as film-makers like to show, a new study said Wednesday.

“People commonly report that time seemed to move in slow motion during a car accident,” said David Eagleman, assistant professor of neuroscience and pyschology at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas.
….participants were fitted with a special watch called a perceptual chronometer which showed flickering numbers. The idea was that if their perception of time really did slow down during their fall, then the participants would be able to decipher the digits.

But while the volunteers could read the numbers shown at normal speeds, they could not make out those which had been speeded up…

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Filed under gadgets, healthcare, science: not a very Republican thing to do

Googling Google: what are they up to now?

Those wild and crazy nerds in Mountain View are just bustin out all over; they’ve been Over the Line for a long time, yet OTLS! has not been giving them a damn bit of coverage. Meanwhile, we have been covering the insane Rapture Index guy. That’s all about to change. Rapture Guy may have humor value, but let’s face, how many ways can you ridicule madness? Google, on the other hand, has a certain geekness which will offer a myriad of opportunities for mirth. Not to mention stock tips.

This week, they announced that even as they seek to conquer the mobile-phone market and uphold their Internet dominance, they are going to try to solve the world’s energy problems.

Google calls it the Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal project.

Beginning with about two dozen clean-tech staff engineers, and investments in the “tens of millions” from the company’s philanthropic arm,, the founders said they hope to produce low-cost clean energy – and do it soon.

“We really want to rapidly push forward, and our goal is really to produce one gigawatt of renewable energy capacity that’s cheaper than coal economically,” Page said on a conference call Tuesday.

A gigawatt is enough to power San Francisco.

First of all how geeky is

Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal;

I mean, is the acronym RETCH? [update: Tom Friedman clues me in: it’s RE < C; how opaque] Power San Francisco? More like power the peninsula or the South Bay; you know, Google already provides supposed internet to the entire city of Mountain View, and they have a little iGoogle homepage for anyone who enters. Except that the signal is so weak you have to walk up and down the streets trying to find even a “warm spot.” So you Google Guys, don’t scrimp on the RETCH megawatts, okay?


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Filed under blogging, gadgets, Humor, religion, San Francisco

What is up with tasers, stun guns? is this torture? why are all these people dying?


Since June 2001, more than 150 people have died in the United States
after being subdued with stun guns, according to Amnesty
International, which has called for police departments to suspend use
of the devices pending study of their possible risks.

The UN isn’t pulling any punches:

TASER electronic stun guns are a form of torture that can kill, a UN committee has declared after several recent deaths in North America.

“The use of these weapons causes acute pain, constituting a form of torture,” the UN’s Committee against Torture said.

“In certain cases, they can even cause death, as has been shown by reliable studies and recent real-life events,” the committee of 10 experts said.

Three men, all in their early 20s, were reported to have died in the United States this week, days after a Polish man died at Vancouver airport after being Tasered by Canadian police.

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Filed under gadgets, Torture: you're next

Sony: carry your camera in your TWA/T, “draw envious looks…”

I might have named it something other than a TWA/T, but what do I know? They say it will draw “envious looks.”

Will we see ads with “commando” Britney getting out of a limo, with a camera….well, showing?

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Filed under celebrities in the news, gadgets

Jesus action figures, $19.95, in time for Christmas

I see in the Sunday NY Times Mag that the Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Company is going to be marketing biblical action figures, including Jesus. These will be high class items with “18  points of articulation.” I hope that no kids put their new Jesus action figures near their George Bush action figures, because I think Jesus might miraculously beat the shit out of Bush.

Hard for me to think of a man who acts less Christian than George Bush. Can you? I mean, I know Christ’s teachings pretty well, and I don’t think of anyone who acts less Christian day in and day out than Bush.

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Filed under gadgets, George W. Bush: is he really THAT bad?, religion, Republican politicians: are any of them normal

Medtronic confesses that defibrillator wires are failing, while FDA smiles and goes back to sleep

A fairly good article is here.

the article in the Wall St. Journal is pretty cagey about what is going on. It seems that five patients have died as a result of the failed wires, although we may never know what criteria were used to determine which patients (of the thousands whose wires broke) died as a result of the event. What we do know, from the WSJ article, is that the FDA boasts of having a ‘much more cooperative relationship with the company…” Somehow, that makes me nervous. Because if you do the math, it seems that 2.3 % of these wires failed: If roughly 250,000 were implanted, then something like 5500-6000 of these wires broke before the company, let alone the slumbering FDA, seemed to notice.

The company said it has learned through 30-month performance data that the [wiresl] had begun to fail at a greater rate than [another type of wire].

These broken wires cannot be removed, according to the article. So we have over 200,000 people with these time bombs ticking, 5 already dead, and 5500 broken wires; and the FDA is happy.


The linked article makes it clear that this has been a concern for months. Exactly how many more people got these wires put in them in the meantime is not yet clear. I certainly hope we find out.  I’m sure Medtronic is not going to give them any refunds.

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Filed under gadgets, George W. Bush: is he really THAT bad?, healthcare

Steve Fossett: Can’t Barron Hilton find him?

Yes, America and the world are concerned. And, the citizens of California, Nevada, and I suppose the US are paying for the search. Search and rescue volunteers are actually risking their lives and equipment. Thousands of nerds are squinting at their computer screens, scanning photographs provided through Google Earth and, each  one hoping to be the one that finally spots the little plane and its heroic pilot. But SFgate gives a slightly different perspective on Fossett, his host, and the lifestyles of the rich and famous. (Of course, you already know about Paris Hilton, so this shouldn’t be too big a shock.)


Until dozens of airplanes and helicopters began roaring over this pristine little ranchland valley this month, most locals had no idea there was a huge aviation playland for the rich just a few miles from their barn doors.

All those aircraft have been buzzing in and out of the Flying M Ranch, searching for world-renowned adventurer Steve Fossett, who disappeared in an acrobatic airplane on Labor Day. He, too, had taken off from the ranch, home of billionaire hotel magnate Barron Hilton.

The reaction from plenty of folks who live here was: Say what?

Eighty hot, dusty miles south of Reno, the ranch is probably one of the best-kept secrets around here for everyone except celebrities and those in the upper slipstream of aviation society.

“Well, they fly the rich and famous in there, and that’s about as much as we know about it,” said Rob Cockrell, who lives in the nearby community of Mason Valley. “But I guarantee you this: Mr. Hilton isn’t going to come down here and shake my hand.”

…Set at the end of a 17.4-mile-long, chassis-jarring dirt road, the million-acre spread of ranchland surrounding a mansion with its own airfield has drawn the famous and rich in steady trickles since Hilton – grandfather to vacuous It-Girl Paris Hilton – bought it 40 years ago. Most of the land is leased from the federal Bureau of Land Management, and all told it encompasses a Rhode Island-size swath of mountain and desert from the ghost town of Bodie in California on the west to Nevada’s Walker Lake on the east.

The ranch was named after Hilton’s late wife, Marylin. It originally was intended to be a pampering rest stop for high rollers from Las Vegas and to house Hilton’s collection of antique and exotic airplanes. But over the decades, it has evolved into a hangout for those who share the 79-year-old billionaire’s love of aviation.

…The draw is simple: Fly in privately with no notice because it is so remote, tool around the skies as much as you please, and indulge in the graciousness of the man whose very name embodies hospitality. At least one gourmet chef is on staff, and her skills are so legendary among guests that rescue workers said Fossett’s disappearance was quickly noted since he would never have missed the lunch on tap for that day.

If you’re deft with a flying stick or yoke (an aircraft steering wheel), you might just get to take a spin in Hilton’s Cessna Citation V Ultra, 1941 Stearman biplane, two gliders, 1943 Beech Staggerwing, McDonnell Douglas 500E helicopter or three hot-air balloons – all of which, according to one of his Web sites, Hilton still flies.

He also owns a Bellanca Citabria Super Decathlon, one of the world’s best acrobatic airplanes. That is what the wealthy Fossett, who lives in Chicago and Carmel, borrowed on Labor Day and disappeared in.

“There’s a whole bunch of us who have a love for flying, and we just get together,” Hilton told Denver-based aviation writer Di Freeze in 2003, explaining his passion for running the airplane playland.

“No one is more generous than Barron,” Clay Lacy, owner of Clay Lacy Aviation, gushed in the same article.

Among those who have basked in Hilton’s glow over the years are actors Cliff Robertson and Sylvester Stallone, who hunts in the hills with his children. Also visiting were the late astronaut Alan Shepard and the late singer John Denver, who learned gliding at the Flying M and died a decade ago flying off the coast of Monterey.

Specialists in gliding are particularly excited about the estate – if they get an invitation to Hilton’s Barron Hilton Cup, a gliding competition held at the ranch every two years among the top gliders of the world. Italian world champion glider Giorgio Galetto told Freeze in the 2003 article that the experience was “a modern fairy tale.”

Locals in the know rhapsodize – from afar, not from experience – about trout fishing in the East Walker River, which cuts through the ranch, and skeet shooting alongside the soaring mountain slopes. The word in the area is that some guests have been supplied $3,000 golden retrievers to help track down the area’s elusive quail.

The central compound is a rancher’s dream, consisting of a mansion-size main house, a scattering of spacious guest houses and poplar, cottonwood and elm trees casting shade over all. At the north end are an alfalfa field and stack of hay bales, at the south end a cattle pen and pond with egrets flapping among the tule reeds.

Across the dirt road are two large hangars and an airfield, which all week long has been buzzing with civilian and National Guard aircraft, which are conducting a Hilton-subsidized search for Fossett in conjunction with the official hunt headquartered 40 miles north in Minden. On Thursday there were six helicopters, four small planes, two private jets and a military fuel truck near the lone runway just after lunchtime.

“Let’s just say that unless you’re rich and famous, nobody even thinks of going to that place,” said area resident Roberto Estrella. “It’s in the middle of nowhere for a reason.”

And yes, Maude, prostitution is legal in Lyon County.

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Filed under economics, FEMA/Homeland Security, gadgets, media, Outdoors, public corruption, San Francisco