Expanding a photo in GIMP

I was gathering up images to use as desktop backgrounds when I came across this little ball of cuteness:

Small-Hedgehog-1800x2880Unfortunately, the aspect ratio of this image wasn’t fit for displaying on a 16:9 display without stretching or adding borders. So, I decided to use GIMP to make the image wider, but without adding solid borders. With the help of the clone and healing tools, and my Wacom tablet, I managed to create this:


You can see where the original image ends and my extension begins, but I think that it would be difficult to notice that the image wasn’t always this size if you didn’t already know that I had edited it. This is my first time doing anything like this, and I was pretty proud of my work in the end. I even created a timelapse video of my work on it, too! Although I think next time I will use something other than recordmydesktop as it outputs in a dumb format and their are a few artefacts such as black/white pixels appearing at times in the video.

I just thought I’d share this on my blog as I haven’t made a post in a long time and I decided to do this. Thanks for reading :)

Surgeon Simulator 2013 – Save Location

Surgeon Simulator 2013 logo
These steps will work for Windows only; I haven’t tried the game on Linux yet, but if I do then I will update this post with Linux instructions as well.

Chances are you found this page because you want to backup or transfer your game progress and scores in Surgeon Simulator 2013. If so, you’ve -come to the right place! Strangely, Surgeon Simulator 2013 doesn’t store game progress in a particular file; it stores it in the Windows registry. I’ll save you the trouble of mucking about with the registry editor; all you have to do is follow these steps:

  1. Open a command prompt by going to Start->Run -OR- pressing WindowsKey+R and typing “cmd”
  2. Copy in this command exactly as it is (In the command prompt, you need to right click and click “Paste”): 
regedit /E ".\ss2013.reg" "HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Bossa Studios\Surgeon Simulator 2013\"

  1. A file called ss2013.reg will be created in the current working directory, which is probably C:\Users\[username]. The current directory is shown to the left of where you type the command, before the > symbol.
  2. You can take this file to another computer. You will likely need to install the game and run it at least once on the computer you transfer it to; after you have done so, double click the ss2013.reg file and click “yes” to the message box that comes up.

This will also copy your graphics, resolution and keymapping settings; which shouldn’t be a problem unless the game can’t deal with an incompatible resolution setting (I haven’t tested it yet with different computers, so I’m not certain as to whether or not this will cause a problem). If it worries you particularly, you can open the .reg file with a text editor and erase the first 3 registry keys from the file (they start with “Screenmanager”).

Enjoy :)

Sonic Adventure 2 HD is Now Available on Steam!

Last Friday afternoon, SEGA announced on Sonic the Hedgehog’s official Facebook page that the long-awaited release of Sonic Adventure 2 HD on the PC would be happening on Novermber 19, 2012. Today, at approximately 1:00PM EST, the game appeared on SEGA’s eStore here

Shortly after the eStore release, the moment PC gamer Sonic fans gave been waiting for has just arrived: Sonic Adventure 2 HD has just been released on Steam! It’s available for a very reasonable price of $9.99 USD. So what are you waiting for? Add it to your collection!

Sonic Jump is Coming to Android!

Sonic Jump Logo
Keep an eye on Google Play this November; Sonic Jump is coming to Android.
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DIY HDMI Switcher Project – PCBs are Expensive

So, about a month ago I posted about that HDMI switcher project (I really have to post more often… Luckily I have some new, good ideas for posts). I was researching PCB design for high-frequency systems like this, and I’m afraid the news isn’t good.
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DIY HDMI Switcher Project – The Beginning

This is a relatively long post, so if you don’t feel like reading the whole thing, just scroll to the end and read the TL;DR section.

Yes, I know I haven’t posted in a while. I was on vacation in Vermont last week, during March Break. We went skiing there. I’ve also been working on a little electronics project. I’ve never done anything like it before, until now I’ve been playing around with circuits on breadboards. This is the first electronics project I’ve done that has a practical application.

So what is this challenging and novel project of mine? It’s an HDMI Switcher. It has two HDMI inputs and one HDMI output. This device chooses which HDMI input will be connected to the output.

Here’s a real world example to help visualize it (This is, in fact what I’m going to be using it for); I have a PC and a Blu-Ray player, among other things. I use both of them with my HDTV. But if I want to use my PC on the TV, I have to go behind and pull the HDMI cable out of the blu-ray player and plug it in to my PC. Then if I want to use the blu-ray player again, I have to go behind the equipment again and switch the cable.

What this device will do is make it so that I can have them both plugged in at the same time, but I can press a button to switch between them. So I can choose which one is going to the TV at the touch of a button, without having to switch up any cables whenever I want to use one of them and the other happens to be plugged in.

It isn’t finished. Indeed, it’s still in the planning stage. I have a schematic drawn, but I won’t post it yet because it’s half-finished! I’m making it on a PCB, and prototyping it on a breadboard isn’t an option because we’re dealing with clock signals at frequencies up to ~340MHz. Therefore, controlling parasitics in this circuit is critical. Also, the multiplexer IC I’m using calls for a specific controlled amount of differential transmission line impedance. To be honest, I don’t know what that means. That’s another thing I’ll have to figure out (This is made much easier because the kind people on ##electronics have pointed me in the right direction!). But I know that I can’t create a controlled value of it on a breadboard.

So, I’m going to have to spend lots of time on the planning stage, because if I order parts and get a PCB fabricated, and I made a mistake, that’s money and time down the drain because then I have to order a new PCB and maybe new components too.

So, let’s hope it works! And even if it doesn’t, it will be a great learning experience. This project will involve surface-mount soldering, PCB design and ordering, programming an AVR microcontroller chip, and more. And all of those things I have never done before.

This is the start of a series of posts, which will be complete when the project is complete.


- I’m making an HDMI Switcher

- It will require designing and ordering a PCB, and soldering surface-mount parts, and programming an AVR microcontroller

- I’ll be posting regularly about it on this blog, I’ll be sharing lots of information that I’ve learned and experiences that I have throughout the project.

Fix for Skype disconnecting on Android

I recently had a problem with Skype on my HTC Evo 4G phone running Android 2.3.5. The problem was that Skype would keep disconnecting and getting choppy when the screen turned off.

Whenever I do something that causes the screen to turn off during a call, that includes putting the phone up to my ear to speak, the call would become very choppy and it would eventually disconnect from Skype completely. I have found a fix for this, and I’d like to share it with you so I can help others that may be having the same problem.

This post is the written version of my video tutorial, which you can watch below. The fix in the video is the same as it is here, but the video walks you through it in video form and also demonstrates the problem before and after fixing.

So, I will explain the process of this fix, and post images that will walk you through it. It’s really a very easy fix.

Before we jump into how to fix it, you need to know that the option used in this fix is not available on all ROMs. On the stock ROM for the HTC Evo 4G, I don’t think I saw this option. To find ROMs for your phone, go to http://forum.xda-developers.com/

Also the fix isn’t perfect. Yes, even after the fix, it may still be choppy for a few seconds on turning the screen off. But after that initial choppiness the call is smooth and sounds good, and most importantly it won’t disconnect. (Unless your Internet connection is bad)

So now, onto the fix!

This fix is actually ridiculously easy to do. Most of the video tutorial was just demonstrating the problem, and then the result of the fix.

First, open your settings menu. You can do this by pressing the “menu” button alongside your home, search and back buttons. Or, you can go into your applications and look for Settings.

Second, go to “Wireless and networks”. This is accessed from inside the settings menu.
Third, go to “Wi-Fi Settings”.
Next, go to “Advanced”. To do this, press the “menu” button on your phone. In my experience I’ve seen this option on every ROM I’ve used, but it might be missing from your phone. Just a warning.

Next, check the box that says “Best Wifi Performance”. This part is critical, and unfortunately the option may not be available on all phones/ROMs.

Now, if you make a call with Skype and the screen is turned off during the call either by the sleep button or holding the phone up to your ear, the call won’t be dropped.

If a menu option shown here was missing on your device:

I’ve only ever used one Android device, and that’s my HTC Evo 4G. I can’t say anything for sure about other devices, but I know that at least on mine, the solution is to try another ROM. Other devices may not have this option at all on any ROM, other devices might not even have this problem to begin with. But, the only advice I can give you is to try another ROM. I can’t help you any more than that as far as missing menu options goes.

To find ROMs for your device, go to the XDA forums here: http://forum.xda-developers.com/

My ROM is called Energy, you can find it here: http://bit.ly/wmkS9c

Thanks for reading, I hope this helped you. Please comment if you have a question, suggestion, or comment on my post!

Simple Transistor Amplifier Circuit Schematic and Explanation

[notice]This circuit doesn’t work as well as it could. I made it when I had a lesser understanding of circuit design. I’ll probably make a new and improved schematic and post later on, one that has a better design. Thanks for stopping by![/notice]

Note: The schematic here says “antenna”, but that’s because it was used specifically to amplify electrical noise in the environment. The circuit is explained below, and it’s easy to use as a simple signal amplifier for anything.

In case you miss it in the explanation below, you’ll want to remove R1 and C1 for most purposes as they will attenuate audio frequencies.

One thing I’ve noticed about electronics is the lack of simple, newbie-friendly information on the internet about specific topics. Then again, maybe I just wasn’t looking properly. To help fill this possibly existent information gap, I’m going to post a nice, simple schematic and an explanation on what it is and how it works.

This post goes along with a video that I posted. You don’t need to watch the video to understand the circuit, but the video demonstrates the circuit in action. Here it is:

So, let’s get down to business! So, here is the schematic image we’ll be working with:

The Schematic
Okay, first thing: Right click on the image and open it in a new tab or window; it will make it easier to see it and compare it to what I’m writing. I will explain the function of each part of the circuit. For those who are interested, the schematic was done with the free electronics design suite, Kicad.

The circuit you see here is a transistor amplifier circuit. It’s identical to the one seen in the video. This very simple circuit can be used to amplify signals of all kinds. Audio, radio, whatever. You may notice that it says “To antenna”. This is because in the video, it was used to amplify electrical noise.

The 1.5k resistor R1 and the 220nF capacitor C1 form a low-pass filter. A low pass filter, in brief, is a filter that only allows signals lower than the cut-off frequency to pass through. I used this because without the filter, it would pick up AM radio signals and distort the noise (hehe). If you remove that, then you’ll hear a bunch of jumbled AM radio signals. It’s pretty cool! The low-pass filter’s cutoff frequency is determined by a formula that involves the value of the resistor and capacitor used. It’s called an RC Filter (Because of the Resistor and the Capacitor). You can find many calculators online for the cutoff frequency of such a filter, just look up “RC filter calculator”. Unless you want to attenuate all frequencies above ~500Hz, you should remove or change these components for optimal performance.

The capacitor C2 is there to block DC from the circuit. The value of 220uF is good for passing audio frequencies with minimal impedance (Higher value = lower frequencies, take a look at capacitive reactance).

The two resistors R2 and R3 are a voltage divider, this is needed to bias the transistor. Biasing a transistor means to give the transistor enough voltage that it’s partly on, but not so much that it turns on fully. This is necessary for an amplifier.

Q1 is a 2N2222A NPN transistor. The collector resistor (The collector is the one without the arrow) and the emitter resistor set the gain of the transistor. The gain can be approximated with -Rc/Re (The minus is there because the signal is inverted with this amplifier). Rc is the collector resistor, and Re is the emitter resistor. In this case, the gain is ~100 (~ means approximately).

C3 blocks DC.

Q2 is the same as Q1, and the resistors around it have the same function. The voltage divider uses different value resistors, but that’s only because I didn’t have enough resistors of the same type as the voltage divider on Q1 (They were in use on some other projects). The Q2 voltage divider gives roughly the same voltage output as the Q1 divider.

There are two transistors because each one amplifies the signal more. You might think “Why can’t I just use one transistor with a really big collector resistor?”. That’s an excellent question. You can’t make the collector resistor (Rc) too big, because in a common-emitter amplifier (Which is what this circuit uses), Rc sets the output impedance. Basically, impedance is the concept of resistance applied to AC circuits. High output impedance will make the output signal’s current very low. So, you can’t make Rc too big or else you have too little current on the output.

There are two solutions to this (That I know of). One is to use a common-collector amplifier after the single transistor. A common-collector amplifier can be used to take a source with large output impedance and turn it in to a low output-impedance source. I didn’t do this because I couldn’t get it to work (But if I figure it out, I might make another updated article with that method!). The other method, which I used here, is to just use two common-emitter amplifiers which makes the output impedance less while still providing relatively large gain.

C4 blocks DC, and the resulting amplified signal is output!

I hope this post was informative, if you have any questions or comments or if I wasn’t clear on something, please comment in the form below.

The Annoying “Keyboard Changing to French” Problem

Yes, it’s been a long time since I made my last post. A few months, in fact. Today I discovered something interesting about a minor but very annoying problem that occurs while typing.

Have you ever been typing a document and all of a sudden, when you press the question mark key you get a É character? Well, I`ve had that problem a lot and its been very annoying, but I finally found the cause. It is caused by the key combination CTRL+SHIFT (Control shift). I`m not sure why, but that`s a key combination that people (including myself) often hit by accident.

The CTRL-SHIFT key combination changes the keyboard language. This probably doesn`t occur much unless you purchased your computer in Canada (It might though, I`m not sure), but usually the next language [I just did it again by accident while typing this post, right here] “In line” is Canadian Multilingual or Canadian French (Depending on where you purchased it, this may vary).

So, the solution is just to press that key combination again until you get back to the right language. The first time you do it, take note of how many times you need to press it and you can do it faster next time.

I hope you enjoyed reading and I hope this has been helpful. More blog posts soon! :)

Debate: Why Shakespeare SHOULD be Compulsory in School

I have an assignment to do in English class. It is to write a “debate” about something, in the form of two essays. This is the second of the essays. This second essay may not have as much detail as the first one, mainly because I personally side with the first essay.

To see the side of the debate on why Shakespeare SHOULD NOT be compulsory, click here.

The first essay described how Shakespeare is taught in almost all English classes, and how it is compulsory even in ‘general’ grade 9 English. The first essay also described why it SHOULD NOT be compulsory. This essay focuses on the other side of the debate, or why it SHOULD be compulsory.

For starters, Shakespeare is part of history. Though it is 400 year old history, it is historic nonetheless. They say that society learns from history, and Shakespeare’s work teaches us how people behaved in the days of Shakespeare. 

Secondly, Shakespeare can be interesting. It isn’t interesting to everyone, but it is still interesting. It is interesting to see how people wrote, spoke and acted a long time ago. It is interesting to take in the stories that Shakespeare puts in his theatrical works.

And finally, Shakespeare was a great playwright. Any aspiring play-writers should study Shakespeare, as he was a historic but great example. Shakespeare’s plays are famous because they are written so well, among other things.

Shakespeare should be taught in schools because it is an example of amazing play-writing, and it is a part of history that should not be ignored. It can even be enjoyable to some people.

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