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a

sample

few hacks! Try a sample You You don’t don’t have have to to be be a

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need need is is a a sense sense

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and and these these books. books.

Here’s what readers say about our first Hacks books

Here’s what readers say about our first Hacks books Google Hacks “ Excellent. This book is
Here’s what readers say about our first Hacks books Google Hacks “ Excellent. This book is
Here’s what readers say about our first Hacks books Google Hacks “ Excellent. This book is

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of tips and tricks for Google ® , ranging from simple ways of getting the search results you want, through using Google’s newer services such as phone books and image search, all the way to advanced ways of using scrapers and the Google

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essential reading for Google users.”

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Mac OS X Hacks

This should quickly become an essential guide to anyone who wants more power out of their

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Linux Server Hacks When this book arrived at my door, I was really excited. By page ten I was beginning to think, ‘Damn, this is a really good book.’”

—KENNETH WILCOX, BOISE SOFTWARE DEVELOPERS

GROUP, FEB 2003

HACKS SAMPLER

Sample hacks from our hot, new hacks titles

Tivo Hacks

Hack #4.

The 30-Second Skip

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eBay Hacks

Hack #25.

Take Advantage of Bid Increments

 

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Amazon Hacks

 

Hack #9.

Power-Search for Books

 

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Windows XP Hacks

 

Hack #8.

Customize the GUI with TweakUI

 

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Wireless Hacks

 

Hack #82.

Aligning Antennas at Long Distances

 

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The thermometer icons, found next to each hack, indicate the rela- tive complexity of the hack.

The thermometer icons, found next to each hack, indicate the rela- tive complexity of the hack.

beginner

The thermometer icons, found next to each hack, indicate the rela- tive complexity of the hack.

moderate

The thermometer icons, found next to each hack, indicate the rela- tive complexity of the hack.

expert

Hotwire your Tivo.

Hotwire your Tivo. TiVo Hacks By Raffi Krikorian ISBN 0-596-00553-9 $24.95 US, $38.95 CAN TiVo ®

TiVo Hacks

By Raffi Krikorian ISBN 0-596-00553-9 $24.95 US, $38.95 CAN

TiVo ® Hacks helps you get the most out of your TiVo personal video recorder. Armed with just a screwdriver and basic understanding of PC hardware (or willingness to learn), preeminent hackability awaits. First, TiVo Hacks covers tips for changing the order of recorded pro- grams, activating the 30-second skip to blaze through commercials, and more, by using magical remote-control codes. Upgrade TiVo’s hard drive for more hours of recording. Use TiVo’s Home Media Option to remotely schedule a recording via the Web.

Series 1 owners will find even more fun and functionality under the hood. Log in to the serial port for command-line access to programming data, log files, closed-captioning data, display graphics on the TiVo screen, and even play MP3s. While TiVo gives viewers personalized con- trol of their TVs, TiVo Hacks gives users personalized control of TiVo.

Note: Not all TiVos are the same. The original TiVo, the Series 1, is the most hackable TiVo out there; it’s a box thrown together with commodity parts and the TiVo code is running on open hardware. The Series 2 TiVo, the most commonly sold TiVo today, is not open. You won’t see hacks in this book that involve getting to the software insides of that new and shiny Series 2 box.

Tivo

HACK #4
HACK
#4

The 30-Second Skip

Hack #0

Forget about fast forwarding through commercials; blaze through in just three to five clicks of your remote.

One of the religious differences between TiVo and ReplayTV owners is how they fast forward through commercials. While TiVo’s but- ton will get you through those intrusive breaks soon enough, it requires some trained skill to manipulate those and buttons while keeping a keen eye and trusting your instincts to anticipate the end of the commercials. ReplayTV, on the other hand, has a 30-sec- ond skip button, timed specifically for skipping through commer- cials. Since television commercials are traditionally a multiple of 30- seconds long, ReplayTV owners just hit the 30-second skip button three to five times to render commercials only a minor annoyance.

This feature is so effective that it has stirred up quite a bit of contro- versy with the networks, who are getting their hackles up, labeling commercial skipping as theft and even taking ReplayTV to court.

Don’t you wish TiVo had a 30-second skip? It does, thanks to a little Easter egg magic.

skip? It does, thanks to a little Easter egg magic. The button on the TiVo remote
skip? It does, thanks to a little Easter egg magic. The button on the TiVo remote
skip? It does, thanks to a little Easter egg magic. The button on the TiVo remote

The button on the TiVo remote will bring you to the end of a pro- gram, or if you are at the end, it will bring you to the beginning. If you are fast forwarding, the button will skip you to the next tick mark. This hack is all about repurposing that button to act as the 30- second skip.

Bring up any recorded program or Live TV. Then, enter the follow- ing sequence on your remote:

TV. Then, enter the follow- ing sequence on your remote: Select ➝ ➝ Select ➝ 3
TV. Then, enter the follow- ing sequence on your remote: Select ➝ ➝ Select ➝ 3

Select

Select ➝ 3 ➝ 0 ➝ Select Select 3 0 Select

You’ll know the combination worked when TiVo rings out three Thumbs Up sounds—that chiming “bling!” sound TiVo makes when you press the button on your remote control. Your button will now skip forward by 30 seconds.

TiVo makes when you press the button on your remote control. Your button will now skip
TiVo makes when you press the button on your remote control. Your button will now skip

Note that this hack is not permanent. If at any time your TiVo needs to be rebooted—after becoming unplugged or as a result of a power failure—the hack will go away and you will have to reapply it.

Related Hacks

Find these related hacks online at hacks.oreilly.com.

Hack #20. Opening the Box Hack #26. Adding a Second Drive the Quick-n-Dirty Way Hack #43. Caller ID on Your TV Hack #55. Setting Up an FTP server Hack #62. Listen to Your Email Hack #69. Undeleting Recordings Hack #70. Renaming Recordings Hack #84. Streaming Video Directly from TiVo Hack #99. Disabling the Live TV button

Hack #0

Wheel and deal.

Wheel and deal. eBay Hacks By David A. Karp ISBN 0-596-00564-4 $24.95 US, $38.95 CAN Whether

eBay Hacks

By David A. Karp ISBN 0-596-00564-4 $24.95 US, $38.95 CAN

Whether you’re a new- comer or longtime user, eBay® Hacks will teach you to become efficient as both a buyer and seller. You’ll find a wide range of topics, from monitoring the bidding process, getting refunds, and fixing photosso that sale items look their best, to in-depth tips for running a business on eBay and writing scripts that auto-mate some of the most tedious tasks. The book also gives you an inside look into the unique eBay community, where millions of people gather online to buy and sell. Author David Karp—an eBay user from the very beginning—teaches you how to work within this community to maximize your success.

eBay

HACK #25
HACK
#25

Take Advantage of Bid Increments

A slight adjustment to your bidding strategy will help you save money and win more auctions.

Hack #0

Every auction has a minimum bid, a dollar amount shown just above the Place Bid button on the auction page, as shown in Figure 1 . If the auction hasn’t received any bids, the minimum bid is the same as the starting bid. Otherwise, the minimum bid is equal to the current price plus a bid increment.

bid is equal to the current price plus a bid increment. Figure 1. The Bidding Section

Figure 1. The Bidding Section shows the current bid increment and minimum bid

Bid increments, at least in theory, prevent bidders from outbidding one another by a single cent, and are calculated as follows:

Current price

Bid increment

$0.01 – $0.99 $1.00 – $4.99 $5.00 – $24.99 $25.00 – $99.99 $100.00 – $249.99 $250.00 – $499.99 $500.00 – $999.99 $1000.00 – $2499.99 $2500.00 – $4999.99 $5000.00 and up

$0.05

$0.25

$0.50

$1.00

$2.50

$5.00

$10.00

$25.00

$50.00

$100.00

For example, an auction currently at $68.45 will have a minimum bid of $69.45 ($1.00 more), so you wouldn’t be able to bid $69.00 even though it’s higher than the current price.

Bid increments also come into play when calculating the current price. If there’s more than one bidder, the current price is equal to the sec- ond-highest bidder’s bid plus the bid increment. So if someone bids $114 and someone else bids $157, the current price will be $116.50 ($114 + $2.50), and the minimum bid for future bidders will be $119 ($116.50 + $2.50).

As more bids are placed, the current price continues to rise, always equal to the second-highest bid plus the bid increment. But it gets more interesting when someone places a bid very close to the high bidder’s maximum bid. The bid increment rule is compromised by another rule: eBay will never raise the current price above the highest bidder’s maximum bid. Here’s how this works:

• If someone bids $156.80 on this auction, it will raise the current bid to $157, even though it’s only 20 cents above the second- highest bidder’s maximum.

• If a subsequent bidder enters a bid of $157, the current price will be exactly $157. The original bidder will still be the high bidder, because earlier bids take precedence over later bids of the same amount.

• If the later bidder bids $157.01, the current price will be raised to $157.01 (one cent above the previous high bid), and the new- comer will become the high bidder.

This loophole effectively allows you to outbid another bidder by as little as a single cent. But why is this important, and how is this use- ful?

Outbidding the High Bidder

Bid amounts are always kept hidden until an auction closes. As described above, however, you can easily determine the second-high- est bidder’s maximum bid by subtracting the bid increment from the current price. Only the high bidder’s maximum remains elusive.

Most bidders type whole, round numbers when bidding, primarily out of habit and sometimes out of laziness. You can take advantage of this by guessing a high bidder’s maximum and adding a penny.

For example, if an auction with a starting bid of $7.99 has only one bidder, the current price is $7.99. If that bidder is relatively new to eBay (having a feedback rating of, say, less than 30), that bidder most likely typed either $8 or $10 as a maximum bid. Although you couldn’t bid $8.01, as the minimum bid would be $8.49, you could bid $10.01 and have a pretty good chance of outbidding the other bidder by a single cent. Contrast this to a bid of $15.00, which would result in a final price of $10.50 ($10 plus the 50-cent increment). You’ve just saved 49 cents.

More experienced bidders won’t type whole numbers, but they will likely be just as predictable.

More experienced bidders won’t type whole numbers, but they will likely be just as predictable. If you want to outbid someone by a single cent, try searching for past auctions they’ve bid on (see Chapter 2); look at the bid- ding history of closed auctions they didn’t win, and you’ll see their exact bids. Look at two or three old auc- tions, and you’ll likely find a pattern.

Understanding bid increments is also extremely useful if you bid and don’t end up as the high bidder. If, after you bid, the current price ends up lower than your bid plus the bid increment (you bid $40 and the price rises to $40.17), then the high bidder’s maximum bid is equal to the current price (in this case, $40.17). This means that all you need to do is place one more bid of at least $41.17 to put your- self in the lead. Combine this with sniping [Hack #22] , and you’ve won the auction!

Take It One Step Further

You can take steps to prevent other bidders from outbidding you by one cent (and they will) while allowing you to more readily outbid others. Instead of bidding whole, round numbers, make a habit of bidding odd numbers, such as $10.07 or $11.39. That way, if some- one bids $10.01 or $11.01, respectively, you’ll still be the high bid- der. Likewise, you’ll also be more likely to outbid others who type bid amounts like $10.01.

Related Hacks

Find these related hacks online at hacks.oreilly.com.

Hack #5. Withholding Feedback Hack #10. Controlling Fuzzy Searches Hack #40. Formatting the Description with HTML Hack #57. Doctoring Photos Hack #69. Selling and Shipping Internationally Hack #76. Obtaining Sales Records

Hack #0

Get into new territory.

Get into new territory. Amazon Hacks By Paul Bausch ISBN 0-596-00542-3 $24.95 US, $38.95 CAN Amazon

Amazon Hacks

By Paul Bausch ISBN 0-596-00542-3 $24.95 US, $38.95 CAN

Amazon ® Hacks is a collection of real-world tips, tricks, and full- scale solutions to practical uses of Amazon.com and the Amazon Web Services API. The book offers a variety of interesting ways for power users to get the most out of Amazon and its community, for Associates to hone their recommendations for better linking and more referral fees, for researchers to mine the enormous amount of information in Amazon’s data store, and for developers to integrate Amazon Web Services into their applications and services.

Amazon

HACK #9
HACK
#9

Power-Search for Books

Hack #0

Fine-tune your book searches with the Advanced Search form and Power Search queries.

The search form on the lefthand side of the Amazon home page is the most widely used way to find items. A couple of keywords can get you surprisingly close to what you’re looking for. But if you’d like to do more sophisticated searches, you’ll have to use the Advanced Search form or learn Amazon’s Power Search syntax.

Advanced Search

Amazon offers an Advanced Book Search form on their web site at http://amazon.com/exec/obidos/ats-query-page . This form allows you to search for a specific title, author, subject, ISBN, or publisher. And you can narrow your search by format, reader age, language, or pub- lication date.

The query in Figure 2 will return all books by O’Reilly with the word “Mac” in the title.

Power Search

Beyond Advanced Search, there’s a way to perform even more finely tuned searches of the product database: Power Search. A Power Search uses a special query syntax to define what you’re looking for. The syntax consists of field/value pairs that are put together with connecting words like “or” or “and.” To perform the same query, we’d include the publisher and title fields with the appropriate val- ues:

publisher:O'Reilly and title:Mac

To run the search, paste this into the Power Search form at the bot- tom of the Advanced Search page at http://amazon.com/exec/obidos/ ats-query-page#powersearch .

Figure 2. Amazon Advanced Search page There are several fields available to help narrow your

Figure 2. Amazon Advanced Search page

There are several fields available to help narrow your search:

asin author author-exact author-begins isbn keywords keywords-begin language pubdate - [ before, during, after ] date publisher subject subject-words-begin subject-begins title title-words-begin title-begins

With all of these options, you can see how queries could quickly become very specific. Let’s say we wanted to find not only O’Reilly’s books with the subject “Mac,” but also all O’Reilly books where the title starts with “Mac”:

publisher:O'Reilly and (subject:Mac or title-begins:Mac)

Grouping sections of the queries with parentheses and specifying “and” or “or” allows you to do much more than is possible through the standard Advanced Search form. Just having access to the keywords field is a big advantage. Let’s say you’re interested in more than just the books about Macs that O’Reilly publishes—you’re interested in any book remotely related to Macs. That’s a perfect use for keywords:

publisher:O'Reilly and keywords:Mac

Or, just to show how specific you can get, here’s another query:

publisher:O'Reilly and keywords:Mac and pubdate:before 2003 and not title-begins:Mac and not subject:Mac

If you’re getting the hang of Power Searches, you’ll see that this query searches for all O’Reilly books with the keyword “Mac” published before 2003, where the title doesn’t actually start with “Mac” and the book isn’t directly about the subject “Mac”.

Power Search URLs

Once again, you can bypass the form altogether. Make sure your Power Search query is URL encoded [Hack #92] and then you can add it into a standard search URL by adding the prefix power%01 :

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/search-handle-url/ix=books &fqp= power%01publisher%3AO%27Reilly%20and%20keywords%3AMac &sz=100

&sz=100 You may notice some other variables in this URL. Spe-

You may notice some other variables in this URL. Spe- cifically, sz can be useful to play with: it lets you specify the size of the result set. The default is 10, but if you want more to be returned in a single page, increase it to something larger (in this case, 100).

Related Hacks

Find these related hacks online at hacks.oreilly.com.

Hack #3. Jump to a Product Using Its ASIN Hack #4. Create Shorter URLs Hack #12. Add an Amazon Sidebar Search to Mozilla Hack #14. Fine-Tune Your Recommendations Hack #52. Sell What People Want Hack #63. Rotate Through Several Keyword Banners on Your Site Hack #80. Program AWS with Perl Hack #95. Create an Amazon AIM Bot Hack #96. Compare International Sales

Hack #0

Dig these cool tools.

Dig these cool tools. Windows XP Hacks By Preston Gralla ISBN 0-596-00511-3 $24.95 US, $38.95 CAN

Windows XP Hacks

By Preston Gralla ISBN 0-596-00511-3 $24.95 US, $38.95 CAN

More and more computer owners are seeking to become “power users,” anxious to get the absolute most out of their Windows ® XP systems. But it’s never been easy to get under the hood of a Windows system, and XP is still new enough to make even seasoned Windows users anxious for some help. Windows XP Hacks uses the popular O’Reilly “Hacks” style to pursue such XP topics as controlling the control panel, changing unchangeable icons, removing uninstallable XP components, stopping pop-up ads, taking a bite out of cookies, speeding up file down- loads, protecting yourself with firewalls and proxy servers, and much more.

Windows XP

HACK #8
HACK
#8

Customize the GUI with TweakUI

Hack #0

Want to bend XP’s interface to your will without getting your hands into the Registry or having to excavate through menus three levels deep? Then get this supremely useful freebie from Microsoft and create your own customized version of XP.

There are countless ways to customize XP’s interface, including Reg- istry hacks and menus and options hidden four layers deep. But if you’re the kind of person who lives in the express lane, juices up on double espressos, and wants to hack away at the interface fast, then you need TweakUI (Download it for free from Microsoft at http:// www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/pro/downloads/powertoys.asp . It’s part of a suite of free, unsupported utilities from Microsoft called XP PowerToys, but it’s far and away the best one.) It lets you tweak not only the interface, as the title suggests, but also many other system settings, such as how Internet Explorer’s search works, whether to automate your logon upon system startup, and whether to enable CD autoplay so that the CD immediately starts up whenever you pop it into your drive. In this hack, you’ll learn how to use it and apply that knowledge to create a speedy, stripped-down version of XP. Figure 3 shows TweakUI in action, customizing the display of thumbnail pic- tures in Windows Explorer.

I don’t have room to show you all the ways you can hack the user interface with TweakUI, but here are some of the highlights:

• The General section lets you control XP’s animated effects, fades, and shadowing. Also worthwhile in that section is “Show Windows version on desktop.” Check the option and it dis- plays, in the lower-right portion of your screen, your exact ver- sion of XP—for example, “Windows XP Home Edition Build 2600.xpsp2.021108-1929(Service Pack 1),” as shown in

Figure 3. Customizing the size and quality of thumbnails in Windows Explorer Figure 4 .

Figure 3. Customizing the size and quality of thumbnails in Windows Explorer

Figure 4 . I find it useful for knowing whether I need to add XP Service Packs, or for providing the information to tech support if I have an operating system problem that needs to be solved. You’ll have to log off or restart your PC before it will display your version.

off or restart your PC before it will display your version. Figure 4. Displaying your exact

Figure 4. Displaying your exact version and build of XP on your desktop

You can also force the operating system to display your exact version and build of

You can also force the operating system to display your exact version and build of XP on your desktop by using a Registry hack. Run the Registry Editor [Hack #68]. Go

to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop, and find the DWORD value PaintDesktopVersion. Change the value

to 1. Exit the Registry and reboot. To remove the ver- sion and build number, change the value back to 0. In beta versions of XP, the value was turned on by default, but when the product shipped, it was turned off.

• Hide Desktop icons that apparently can’t be deleted from the Desktop, such as the Internet Explorer, Microsoft Outlook, My Computer, My Documents, My Network Places, and the Recy- cle Bin. To do this, go to the Desktop section and uncheck the boxes next to the icon you want to vanish. You won’t have to log off for the changes to take effect. (You can force the Registry to do the same thing: see “Remove “Unremovable” Desktop Icons”

[Hack #13].)

• In the Explorer section, customize the Taskbar and Desktop by enabling or disabling balloon tips and determining which pro- grams will be allowed to show up on the Frequently Used Pro- grams list, among other customizations.

• Customize how Windows Explorer looks and functions by con- trolling the quality of image thumbnails; changing the way that shortcuts look; determining whether to include Help, Recent Documents, and Logoff on the Start menu; and many similar options.

There’s a lot more as well—to find it all, download it and try it all out.

Create a Speedy, Stripped-Down Interface with Tweak UI

While it may be fun to use TweakUI to fiddle with the UI, its real power becomes apparent when you use it to create your own custom-

ized XP interfaces. For example, you may be the type who is con- cerned about only one thing when you use your PC: pure functionality. You want to get your work done fast, and you don’t want to be bothered by the extra frou-frous that XP throws in your way and that slow down your system. Here’s how to create a speedy, stripped-down interface using TweakUI:

Turn off animations, fades, and similar features Animations and fades are pretty, but they require system resources and slow down your system. You can turn off a wide variety of these animations and fades from the General section of TweakUI. Uncheck the boxes next to all of them, such as Enable menu animation, Enable menu selection fading, Enable tooltip animation, and the many others listed there. Speed up right-click menu displays, hovers, and other mouse actions If you want menus to appear with absolutely no delay when you right-click on an object or icon, go to the Mouse section and move the Menu speed slider all the way to the left. Test how fast the menus will display by right-clicking on the test icon. From this section, you can also increase your mouse sensitivity so that it responds more quickly to your clicks and drags. In the Mouse sensitivity section, decrease the numbers next to Double-Click and Drag, and see the results by double-clicking the test icon. The Mouse section also lets you change the mouse’s sensitivity to “hovering”—for example, displaying a tool tip when you hover your mouse over an icon. To speed up the hover display, highlight Hover underneath the Mouse section, then decrease the numbers next to Hover sensitivity and Hover time. Test out your settings using the test icon. Decrease the image quality of thumbnails in Windows Explorer Windows Explorer uses up RAM when it displays thumbnails, which can slow down your system, because the RAM could instead be used for your applications or the operating system

itself. Use TweakUI to give thumbnails the minimum amount of RAM only. Go to the Explorer\Thumbnails section and in the Image Quality area, move the slider all the way to the left, to the lowest setting for image quality. Decrease the thumbnail size, in pixels.

for image quality. Decrease the thumbnail size, in pixels. You can also completely turn off thumbnails

You can also completely turn off thumbnails so that they aren’t displayed in Windows Explorer. From Win- dows Explorer, choose View Details, or choose View List.

Delete unnecessary desktop icons Desktop icons take up RAM, and clutter your interface, so you want as few of them as possible on your desktop if you want a stripped-down version of XP. You can delete most desktop icons, but some of them such as Outlook and Internet Explorer apparently can’t be deleted. However, TweakUI lets you delete them. Go to the Desktop section and uncheck the boxes next to the icons that you want off the Desktop. (You can force the Reg- istry to do the same thing—see “Remove “Unremovable” Desk- top Icons” [Hack #13].) Hide Control Panel applets The Control Panel is filled with applets that you will rarely, if ever, use, and they clutter up the interface, making it more diffi- cult to find the applets you do want to use. To hide applets, go to the Control Panel section and uncheck the boxes next to the applets that you want to hide. (You can force the Registry to do the same thing—see “Control the Control Panel” [Hack #9]. That hack also shows you how you can run the applets, even after you’ve removed their icons.) Clean up the right-click “New” menu When you right-click on the desktop and choose New, you can automatically create a new document by choosing from a sub-

menu. That submenu may offer many choices of which docu- ment types to create, depending on the applications you have installed on your PC, and how those applications handle their installation process. In many instances, those choices may be lit- tle more than clutter, because you may rarely need to create new documents of certain types. Strip down that submenu to the essentials, so that it has only those document types that you fre- quently create. Choose Templates, and uncheck the boxes next to the document types you rarely create. For example, most peo- ple rarely use the Briefcase [Hack #30], but that is one of your choices, so remove that unless you regularly move files using it. (For a hack on how to add power to the right-click context menu in Explorer, see “A Power User’s Hidden Weapon: Improve the Context Menu” [Hack #29]. Enable autologon If you’re the primary person who uses your PC, you can enable autologon so that you’re logged in automatically when the sys- tem starts and don’t have to log on manually each time. Choose Autologon from the Logon section, check the box next to “Log on automatically at system startup,” and make sure that your username, domain, and password are correct.

Related Hacks

Find these related hacks online at hacks.oreilly.com.

Hack #1. Customize Multiboot Startup Options Hack #21. Generating Folder and File Listings for Printing or Editing Hack #33. Stop Pop Ups, Spyware, and Web Bugs Hack #42. War Driving for WiFi Access Hack #63. Slam That Spam Hack #68. Don’t Fear the Registry Hack #73. Store Multiple Clips and Boilerplate Text with a Better Clipboard Hack #80. Remove Unruly Applications and Uninstall Entries Hack #86. Image Conversion in a Pinch

Hack #0

No boundaries.

No boundaries. Wireless Hacks By Rob Flickenger ISBN 0-596-00559-8 $24.95 US, $38.95 CAN It’s an increasingly

Wireless Hacks

By Rob Flickenger ISBN 0-596-00559-8 $24.95 US, $38.95 CAN

It’s an increasingly wired world, but many people are finding that the best way to get con- nected is to do away with wires entirely. From cable replacement to universal Internet connectivity, wireless technology is changing the way we connect to our machines and to each other. As with any new technology, buying your gear is only the first step. Understanding how to make the best use of it is another story. Wireless Hacks offers 100 industrial-strength tips about wireless networking, contributed by experts who apply what they know in the real world every day. Each Hack can be read in just a few minutes, but can save you hours of research.

Wireless

HACK #82
HACK
#82

Aligning Antennas at Long Distances

Hack #0

By working methodically and communicating well, you can easily bring up wireless links several miles apart.

The farther apart your points are, the harder it is to aim your anten- nas. At distances up to five miles or so, this is rarely a problem. Just so long as you have enough total gain to overcome the path loss, which you should have calculated by now [Hack #81]. At greater dis- tances, getting the antennas pointed directly at each other can be quite tricky. Here is a list of techniques that might help you get your dishes pointed where they need to be:

• Use mobile phones or FRS/GMRS radios [Hack #9] to maintain communications between the two points while you’re aiming the antennas. It helps to have at least two people at each end (one to manipulate the antenna, and another to coordinate with the other end). Radios often work much better in areas where mobile phone coverage is spotty.

• Set up all of your network settings ahead of time, so there aren’t any variables once you get to the remote site. Check all gear, ping each box, and even transfer a file or two to be sure that your equipment works at close range. You don’t want to question it later if you have problems getting the link going.

• Use a tool like the Wavemon [Hack #33] or Kismet [Hack #31], or a good built-in client [Hack #20] to show the signal strength and noise readings in real time. This kind of tool is your best friend, short of an actual spectrum analyzer.

• Work on one end of the link at a time, slowly changing one vari- able at a time, until you see the maximum signal strength and lowest noise at each end of the link.

• If you have one handy (and your link budget permits it), first try an omni or sector antenna on one end of the link. Once you find the other end of the link, replace it with your dish or yagi and

tune it in. Typically, the higher gain the antenna, the shorter the beam width, and therefore, the harder it is to aim.

• Sweep slowly, and don’t be afraid to go beyond the best per- ceived signal. Most antennas have smaller side lobes that appear as false positives. Keep moving until you find the main lobe. It should stand out significantly from the others, once you find it.

• Often, particularly with offset dish antennas and yagi antennas, the antenna appears to be aimed too low or far to the left or right of the other end of the link. This is normal. Don’t worry about how it looks, worry about finding the greatest possible signal.

• Do NOT touch the actual antenna while taking a reading. Rest- ing your hand on the antenna interferes with the radiation pat- tern, and drains your signal very quickly. Take your readings with all hands clear of the equipment.

• Don’t forget to compare horizontal and vertical polarization. Try the antennas in both positions, and use the one that shows the lowest noise.

• Once your link is in place, consider using WEP to discourage others from attempting to connect to it. If you want to provide wireless access at either endpoint, set up another gateway, pref- erably with caching services (such as caching DNS and a trans- parent web proxy, like Squid). This helps reduce the amount of traffic that goes over the long link, cuts down on network colli- sions, and generally makes more efficient use of the link.

It can take all day to properly align antennas at a great distance, but it can also be fun, with the right people. Just take your time, think about what you’re doing, and leave time at the end of the day to celebrate!

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Hack #0

Search

smarter.

Search smarter. Google Hacks By Tara Calishain & Rael Dornfest ISBN 0-596-00447-8 $24.95 US, $38.95 CAN

Google Hacks

By Tara Calishain & Rael Dornfest ISBN 0-596-00447-8 $24.95 US, $38.95 CAN

Google ® Hacks is a collection of industrial-strength, real-world, tested solutions to practical problems. This concise book offers a variety of inter- esting ways for power users to mine the enormous amount of information that Google has access to, and helps you have fun while doing it. You’ll learn clever and powerful methods for using the advanced search interface and the new Google API, including how to build and modify scripts that can become custom business applications based on Google. Google Hacks contains 100 tips, tricks, and scripts that you can use to become instantly more effective in your research. Each hack can be read in just a few minutes, but can save hours of searching for the right answers.

hack (ha˘k) n., A non-obvious solution to an interesting problem.

n. , A non-obvious solution to an interesting problem. For more Hacks visit hacks.oreilly.com ©2003 O’Reilly
n. , A non-obvious solution to an interesting problem. For more Hacks visit hacks.oreilly.com ©2003 O’Reilly

For more Hacks visit hacks.oreilly.com

©2003 O’Reilly & Associates, Inc. O’Reilly logo is a registered trademark of O’Reilly & Associates, Inc.

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