General (63)


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Anniversary of Betamax Decision

January 17, 1984 the US Supreme Court decided the case of Sony Corporation of America et al. v. Universal City Studios, Inc., et al., reaffirming that home use recording is considered fair use, and manufacturers were not liable for contributory infringement.


Power to the Programmers

How much energy is Sagebrush consuming? We did an energy audit of one developer workstation, to get a general idea of how much electricity is used and look for ways to reduce energy use and carbon footprint.

The P4400 Kill-A-Watt meter is inexpensive and easy to use for measuring power (and volts, current, total energy, etc). Plugging the unit directly into a wall socket didn’t work well for us, since the display on this model is not illuminated and not particularly easy to read at standard wall socket height under a desk, but using the meter with a short extension cord worked fine. We might prefer higher resolution, so we can measure fractions of watts, but this is fine for the price.

While measuring we found several old unused wall-wart voltage adapters still plugged in wasting electricity, now discarded.

This workstation uses a laptop running Vista as main computer. The computer runs in dual-monitor mode with an external monitor and laptop screen. We use another laptop running XP, for testing and executing some programs not available on Vista, currently rarely used.

DEVICE Device Model Active(W) Standby(W)
laptop Acer Aspire 5570



17″ LCD Monitor HP L1815



laptop 2 (rarely active, running WinXP) Acer TMate 2300



cable modem D-Link DCM-202


wireless router D-Link DI-713P


VOIP phone adapter Linksys PAP2


USB hub with devices (keyboard,mouse,tuner,scanner) Belkin F5U237v1



Laser printer HP LaserJet 4L



cordless phone base Uniden TRU8865



miscellaneous wall warts (cell, blue-tooth, etc)


Typical total power used is 105 watts when the first computer is active. The meter is able to measure total energy used directly. In a typical 24 hour period, we measured 1.52 kilowatt-hours. Somehow the computer and external monitor are staying active for longer than we expect, so we will investigate further.

What is annual electricity cost and resulting CO2 emission per workstation? We will consider in a later post.

Lifetime License

Sagebrush is pleased to announce a change in our software license policy for standard (non-custom/non-contract) products sold from our web site :

All past and future purchasers of our current products will receive LIFETIME UPDATES at no additional charge.

We don’t want any customers to delay purchasing, concerned that an update might be coming soon which will require them to pay again. In the past, we promised “several free updates”, but this is fuzzy terminology. How much is “several”? The reality is that we haven’t charged for updates since we incorporated in 1995, so we might as well make it official.

Some of our products are “gadgets” that do one thing really well, and shouldn’t be expected to command a high price in the current vast software ecology. We cannot make the price much lower than $14, without being clobbered by credit card merchant fees, but perhaps a one-time fee of $12 to $30 is not so much when you consider we won’t ask you to ante up more money later on.

As products are updated, we will revise their user license agreement to reflect this policy.

Sagebrush in the News

  • November 21, 2007
  • General

NPR Weekend Edition Nov 18 2007 has a story on seeding sagebrush in Idaho to combat invasive cheatgrass.

[Link to audio clip]

Windows XP Birthday

Microsoft released Windows XP on October 25, 2001. Still going strong.

Tech Support Film Festival

Tech support humor to begin the week:

Everything Feels Better When It Works
Jebs Jobs
Blonde vs Windows
Foamy Tech Support, 2, 3, 4
Tongue Stuck in VCR
Technically Non-Support

Previous posts: Tech Support, Tech Support 2, Theremin Film Festival, Theremoid FilmFest

Motorola/Tracfone v176 Cell Phone USB Charger

The purpose of this project is to allow the Motorola/Tracfone V176 cell phone to be charged through a USB port.

Recent Motorola cell handsets (RAZR, W370, etc.) already provide a mini-USB port for charging. Future cell phones will standardize on the micro-USB connector. Standardizing on USB for charging has certain advantages:

  • No need for another wall-wart charger using another space (or two) on your power strip.
  • Eliminate the phantom power drain of a wall-wart charger, which draws a watt or so of power whether or not a device is plugged in for charging.
  • Travel with a single charger (or laptop) for all your electronic toys: iPod, camera, and cell phone.
  • Now you can use portable chargers such as the Altoid charger or Minty-Boost charger.

USB Standards

A USB port can supply 100mA at 4.75 to 5.25volts. A higher current, to a maximum of 500mA, can be drawn if the port follows a particular handshaking protocol.
















V176 Charging Requirements

[See rest of article.]

Talk Like a Pirate

Arrrrrr’, on this Talk Like a Pirate Day, we be presentin’ one of our previous logs in pirate-speak. Tip o’ me cap to this translator.

(Pirate) WinChime RingTone: TracFoneV176

We be havin’ a TracFone v176 (GSM, Motorola) an’ wanted t’ add a WinChime ringtone t’ th’ handset, preferably at nay charge.

Generate a MIDI File

We know that this phone be capable o’ playin’ MIDI files directly. This can be verified by navigatin’ on th’ phone t’ Multimedia-> Sounds-> Clouds-> (Menu)-> Details-> Select, an’ noticin’ th’ file Type be “MIDI”.

WinChime allows us t’ generate a MIDI file, usin’ th’ currently selected program settings fer scale, wind, instrument, an’ so fore. Click WinChime menu File-> Save MIDI File As, enter a file name, an’ specify th’ number o’ notes in th’ file.

Usin’ WinChime, we create a unique file wi’ our chosen program settings: pitch, musical scale, an’ so fore. Since nay copystarboarded tune be used, we do nay steal from creative artists.


Send MIDI File t’ Cell

Before sendin’ a MIDI file t’ th’ phone as a message, we first wanted t’ explore th’ possibility o’ usin’ a data cable, t’ avoid th’ minor 1-2 unit charge o’ receivin’ an’ downloadin’ a message. Googlin’ fer “V176 data cable” does return some hits. (Well, t’ be objective, almost any cell-phone related search returns some hits.) Perhaps Motorola once manufactured a version o’ th’ V176 havin’ a port fer a data cable, but this handset purchased from TracFone certainly dasn’t be havin’ a data interface (unless ’tis also shared wi’ th’ headset jack– doubtful) an’ we disassembled jus’ t’ make certain:

Nope, nay place fer a data jack, although an empty spot on th’ bottom o’ th’ circuit board might be havin’ had space fer one in an alternate version.

We didna try usin’ a GSM SIM reader/writer, t’ be seein’ if we could transfer media files t’ th’ phone usin’ this interface. Has ere tried this wi’ a V176? Me guess be that SMS messages might be stored on th’ card, but nay MMS or media, so this probably wouldna work.

Send MIDI File t’ Cell — Try Again

This cell service provider provides a way t’ send MMS messages t’ TracFone phones from an e-mail account, addressin’ t’ . We sent a message, wi’ a WinChime-generated MIDI file as attachment.

Save th’ File as RingTone

Th’ phone received our message an’ could play th’ attached MIDI file. Click th’ “navigation” button, select “Save Content“, an’ use th’ file name “WinChime”.

At th’ cell phone top level menu, press “Navigate” button-> Multimedia-> Sounds-> WinChime-> “Navigate” button -> “Apply as Rin’ Tone“.

Our cell-phone now has a unique wind chime ringtone!


Future articles may explore WinChime ringtones fer other mobile providers an’ cell-phone models.

(copystarboard Sagebrush Systems, July 2007)

Go t’ Sagebrush Systems homeport page fer unique Windows software.

Tech Support 2

  • September 12, 2007
  • General

We tend to avoid real-time phone tech support in favor of e-mail and forums, but only because support calls don’t sound like this:

[youtube=] link

[youtube=] link2

Related Post: Tech Support