Splash of Style...Macs, Photography, Design, and other Passions

Using Handbrake to Copy DVD to Hard Drive, iPod & iPad

April 15, 2010 by debbie T | iTunes & iPhone

Disclaimer: I do not advocate illegal copying any DVDs that you do not rightfully own. Please respect the copyright of all DVDs.

This tutorial was written on a Mac, so the screenshots will be Mac, but it should be fairly easy for Windows users to follow along as well. It would be very helpful if you understand how to save files to your computer and other basic computer tasks.

Please don’t be afraid to try this. It might look very confusing and difficult with so many steps; but I tried to add as many details as possible, so it might look more overwhelming than it really is. Once you get started, it will hopefully be easy to follow along. Print out the tutorial for better comprehension.

Encoding is the process of transforming information from one format into another. So, we’re going to "encode" the files from a DVD into a format that can be played on your on your computer, iPhone, iPad, or iPod. This is also a great process to make a backup copy of your favorite DVDs.

The program Handbrake does all the encoding work for you! Easy!

Download & Install Handbrake

First, download Handbrake from http://handbrake.fr/ – it’s free!

There are versions for Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux. Make sure you are downloading the correct file for your operating system.

Install Handbrake to your computer.

If you need further help with Handbrake (beyond this tutorial), then please check out their Guide.

Once Handbrake is installed, insert a DVD movie into your computer’s DVD drive, and start up Handbrake. If your computer’s DVD Player also launches automatically when you insert the DVD, just close the player for now.

Read the Rest of the Article

TextExpander for iPhone

February 11, 2010 by debbie T | iTunes & iPhoneMac Software

I am still using TextPander (old old old version that was originally free) on my Mac, and I find myself missing the functionality when typing on my iPhone.

Good news, I found out that TextExpander is available for the iPhone! I just downloaded for only $2, BARGAIN!

For those that are not familiar with the app, it uses keystroke abbreviations to add snippets of text to your content. On my Mac, I use it a lot for signatures and even html coding. I find a lot of uses for it!

I will probably use it for signatures on the iPhone.

I haven’t installed on my iPhone yet, but I will post again after I have used it for a little while.

Facebook Privacy

December 19, 2009 by debbie T | Internet

I set out today to possibly write a new blog tutorial on facebook privacy, but luckily I found a great article that explains everything that I would have liked to have written.


Zynga & Facebook Mafia Wars – Requires 3rd party cookies

December 6, 2009 by debbie T | Internet
UPDATED 2009-12-12: hmm, I just tried launching Facebook Mafia Wars in Firefox, and it works SORT OF. A lot of the game is blank, don’t know if it’s a Zynga problem or what. The jobs page worked fine, actually it worked awesomely, very speedy! Then in the Businesses page, NoScript threw an error, and even after refreshing, the page didn’t load fully. We’ll see.
UPDATED 2009-12-9: Just read that Safari allows Mafia Wars to play even with 3rd party cookies disabled. I launched Mafia Wars, and it looks to be true. No further cookies were added to my cookie list in Safari. Initially I removed all cookies, so it would start clean. Only .facebook cookies were added to my cookies. It’s also possible to browse in “private browsing” mode. It won’t stop cookies from being added, but it will prevent the cache and history from sticking.

I tried launching Mafia Wars the other day, and was surprised to find this message instead:

zynga facebook mafia wars now requires 3rd party cookies to play the game.

Facebook Mafia Wars now requires 3rd party cookies to run correctly! Wow!

After googling a little, I found that a lot of players are angry and are not going to play until things change back. Well, I don’t think that Zynga cares. They have way plenty of other users that are more than happy to play the game no matter how badly their security is hindered! Zynga is just out to make money and they couldn’t care less about their users.

Check out this article over on mindspray.com, which includes a video from Techcrunch of the Zynga CEO bragging about how many skummy things he has done to make $ from users. Dirtbag!

Here is the full article over at techCrunch.com

So, I am refusing to play Mafia Wars or any other game that requires my security settings to be changed. I also use the Firefox extensions “AdBlock” and “NoScript” for even more protection.

As of now, it looks like only Mafia Wars has this particular restriction, but I am sure more games are on the way to be changed.

Here is a list of all Zynga games:

More games listed on their wikipedia page.

Keep an eye out, if you are playing any of these games. Don’t trust Zynga!

Cool Song from the Palm Pixi Commercial

November 30, 2009 by debbie T | iTunes & iPhoneRamblings

I just love that new Palm Pixi commercial. The song rocks.

So, of course I googled and found that it’s “Sleepyhead” by Passion Pit. I am so out of the loop, I didn’t even know who Passion Pit was, but I love the song, and bought it on Amazon tonight (woot! only .89)


Paypal & Bill Me Later Scam Nightmare

November 11, 2009 by debbie T | InternetRamblings
Updated 2009-11-18: Justin from Bill Me Later left a message on our answering machine tonight. He read my blog and wanted to discuss my problem. Yay! I phoned him back, and he is crediting my account in full. Hopefully, my next statement will be zero. And again, it wasn’t the $25 that I cared about. It was that I opened a new credit account and it felt like a huge waste. But I am satisfied now, but the only reason I got help was because I wrote this article, so it’s a bittersweet victory, but a victory nonetheless.
Updated 2009-12-11: See below for new updated screen shots of another email I received from Paypal with the same offer!

OMG, today is the last straw! I am sooo sooo angry and upset with Bill Me Later. And I am most upset with myself for not listening to my instincts.

My advice to EVERYONE, if you receive a pre-approved email from Paypal offering you a credit for $25 or more to use Bill Me Later, RUN AWAY! Don’t fall for it. It’s a complete scam!

It’s been a constant battle to deal with them from the beginning, even before I made my purchase. They are poorly trained (and informed) and now they are refusing to apply the credit! Thankfully, I only spent $26, so it was a cheap lesson to learn.

Let’s start at the beginning! I received TWO official emails from Paypal at the beginning of October:

Do you like choices? We thought so. That’s why you’ve got a brand new choice from PayPal. Shop now – and pay for your purchases later. It’s called Bill Me Later®.

Just check out with PayPal as usual when you shop online. Choose our Bill Me Later option, and you can pay when it’s right for you: now – or later.*

Even better, you’re pre-approved. Shop by 10/31/09 and get up to $25 off your first purchase and no payments for 90 days.
Sound good? Start shopping at one of our participating stores – just a few of the thousands that accept PayPal.
Get up to 25 dollars off and no payments for 90 days
Want to know more? Check it out!

Sounds great, right? My DH needed to purchase something on Ebay. Two separate merchants, I purchased with my Paypal account, and there was absolutely no option to choose “Bill Me Later”

I called Paypal a couple of times, no one knows anything about the promotion (and I assure you, it was an official email, they were just ill-informed) so they pass the buck over to Bill Me Later, who were equally idiotic.

Bill Me Later customer service told me that perhaps the Ebay merchants weren’t included in the 1000’s of merchants (even though it clearly stated on the FAQ that Ebay was included). No one was able to offer any insight to the details of this promotion.

I put the email aside, and really didn’t want to deal with it. I should have listened to that “little voice” and just walked away from the deal. Eh, it was only $25 credit (others were receiving $100 credits – my God, thank you that I didn’t receive one of those, as I would now be paying for $100 of merchandise)

But my inner greed took over and I sat down on October 28 (three days before the Oct 31st deadline) to find something to buy for around $25. I finally decided to purchase two books from Walmart.

So, my cart was filled, and I clicked the “check out with Paypal” button. I signed into my Paypal account (the same account that the email was sent to). I tried to change my Payment Options, and as with Ebay earlier, there was absolutely NO OPTION to change the payment to Bill Me Later. See my screenshot below:

Bill Me Later scam

I was livid, so I phoned Bill Me Later again. The customer service rep told me that I should using the Paypal link, but to use the normal check out process and choose “Bill Me Later” as the payment. So, that is what I did, and it appeared to work. EXCEPT, I then received a “Welcome to Bill Me Later” email with the email address that I used for Walmart, NOT the email address that the original offer was sent to.

Oh crap! I called Bill Me Later, and they assured me that they would send a request through to their Account Resolution department and I would have an answer in 5-7 business days.

So, today I receive an email from Bill Me Later (using a Do Not Reply email – grrrr)

Dear Debbie xxxx,

We have received your inquiry about your Bill Me Later® account. Unfortunately, we were not able to apply the promotional credit you requested. The promotional credit with Wal-Mart was not being offered. If however you can provide proof of the offer we will be able to research this further.

Bill Me Later Inc. ®
Customer Care
Financial Services for Bill Me Later® are provided by CIT Bank, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Okay, first off, no telephone number? No last name? No return email address? Talk about wonderful customer service.

Secondly, who said anything about a promotional credit with Wal-Mart? The promotion was offered through Paypal and Bill Me Later! One more moronic statement to add to the pile.

So, of course, at this point I am beyond angry. Beyond being reasonable!

I phoned Bill Me Later. Spoke to “Scott” who listened to my ranting, and ended up giving me his “fake” email address (that bounced) swahba@billmelater.com telling me to forward the email I received to him. As I said, the email ended up being fake, so of course, that made me even angrier! grrrr. I phoned them again, and the new person forwarded my call to Matt who was in the “Account Resolution” department.

At this point, all three people at Bill Me Later kept mentioning the “promotional credit with Wal-Mart”! And it set me off every time! Why do you think this is a promotion from Wal-Mart??? It was an email from Paypal and Bill Me Later!!!! I was screaming I was so upset! (note, yeah, I know you can get more flies with honey, but I was beyond angry, and there was no calming me down!)

So, Matt told me to forward him the original email, which I did. He phoned me in a few minutes and told me that because I didn’t go through Paypal’s checkout, I was out of luck (I am paraphrasing of course)

What??? What? WHAAAATTTT? I screamed bloody murder. That is what I tried to do (at least three times with Ebay and Walmart) and there is no option for Bill Me Later when checking out with Paypal. Matt calmly “assured” me (yeah, oh I love that word, assured) that there certainly was an option.

Show me where then! To this day, no one can tell me! Know why? Because it’s impossible, because it’s a total scam! You will receive the promotional email, you will try to make a purchase, and you will end up being stuck with the charges yourself because they won’t give you the credit. Thankfully, in my case, it was only $25, but others might not be so lucky.

I am thinking I might return one of the books to Walmart anyway. So, it won’t be too bad.

Oh Gawd, I really really really hate Bill Me Later!!!

ETA: It appears I am not the only one that didn’t see any option for Bill Me Later when using Paypal for checkout.

And the internet is riddled with Bill Me Later complaints dating back years ago. It appears they have a reputation for their lack of customer service skills and sweeping problems under the rug.

This complaint from 2005 sounds so similar to my situation. They pass it to the “Accounts Resolution” department, and then after their investigation, they deny that there was a promo for Walmart, Amazon or whichever store you used for the purchase! Wow. They are still doing the same thing four years later!

I really want to close out the account, as I don’t want to give them the satisfaction of having me as a customer, but I am afraid it will hinder my credit. I have excellent credit, and from what I have read, by opening the account, they did a “hard pull” on my credit account, which reduces my credit score a few points for 6 months or so. If I close the account, I have a feeling it might also affect my score. Something to check out!

UPDATE: Just received an email from Matt (in reply to my email with an attached screenshot of my Paypal screen with no payment option for Bill Me Later)

Again I apologize for the frustration that this issue has caused, and I want to assure you that we are committed to providing you the best service that we can. There has been some confusion during the release of this new offer through PayPal, and many of our agents including myself have not been giving the right information.

The heart of this issue seems to be this, though Walmart may be a Paypal merchant they are not offering Bill Me Later through PayPal at this time. This is likely because Walmart is one of our regular Bill Me Later merchants. In the future it is likely that Walmart will be available with Bill Me Later through the PayPal wallet but it is currently not offered.

Also addressing your issues using Bill Me Later through the PayPal wallet on eBay, likely the merchant you attempted to use was also not offered. Unfortunately there is no list of merchants that offer this payment method, because of the large number of merchants on eBay all desiring different methods it would be virtually impossible to list them all. So in the future if you desire to use Bill Me Later through the PayPal wallet and receive your $25 merchant reward if you do not see the option at your point of purchase you will know that it is not offered. Then you will be able to back out of your order if you so desire.

Again Ms. xxx, I apologize for the inconvenience that this has caused and appreciate your patience with this issue.

This makes this promotion look more fraudulent by the minute. How could they possibly offer this promotion and not know who was participating? And I think his excuse is a bullsh*t answer anyway.

What’s happening is NO merchants are set up to use Bill Me Later through Paypal. That’s what I think! Why wouldn’t they all be set up? If a merchant like Walmart is set up to receive both Paypal and Bill Me Later, how difficult would it be to merge the two? And furthermore, how could they possibly roll out this promotion when even the merchants listed in the actual email weren’t in participation? I checked back in October, and at least one of the three wasn’t set up! Sorry, but that is misleading!

Scam scam scam. Stay away from Paypal and Bill Me Later or you’ll be sorry!

UPDATED 2009-12-11: I just received another pre-approval offer from Paypal for $25 and no payments until April 2010.

new pre-approved offer from paypal for $25 and no payments until april 2010

I decided to test it out, so I went to Barnes & Noble and added a random item to the shopping cart. I typed my info in the first few forms, and when it go to the payment options, I chose Paypal. As soon as I logged into Paypal, a window popped up informing me that I was pre-approved for Bill Me Later.

popup window telling me I was pre-approved for bill me later

I closed the window, and there was definitely an option for Bill Me Later as a payment choice using my Paypal account.

option in paypal to use bill me later

So, it looks like maybe Paypal and Bill Me Later are getting their act together. We’ll see. Stay alert everyone, and if you do go for your $25 or $100 pre-approval account, please double check to make sure you are purchasing through Paypal. If there isn’t an option for Bill Me Later through Paypal, then you won’t get your credit.

Stuck CD in Macbook Pro

October 31, 2009 by debbie T | Mac CornerMac SoftwareWindows on the Mac

I inserted a data file DVD into my Macbook Pro, and it only spun up for a few seconds, then fell silent. It wasn’t mounted on my desktop, or when I checked in Disk Utility.

It wouldn’t respond when I hit the Eject button either. It was silent.

I googled “stuck cd macbook pro” and found a few answers, but it was puzzling because most users were hearing a struggling super drive trying to read the disk, not silence.

Okay, so I decided to try the suggestion to reboot while holding down the trackpad key.

I started closing my apps, and was surprised when I went into my VMware Fusion virtual machine window. Surprise Surprise! There was my DVD; the files were displayed in an open Windows Explorer window. So that’s where the DVD went. It mounted in Windows for some reason, not Mac!

So, I right-clicked on the drive in My Computer and ejected. Yay, problem solved! And I didn’t even have to reboot!

This One Made Me Laugh

October 13, 2009 by debbie T | InternetRamblings

I know, I get all sorts of spammy email crap from every advertising and search engine web site, but this one gave me such a giggle.

Dear Webmaster,

My name is Liz, and my company Topspot Promotions represents online gaming sites in various domains. We are looking at reputable sites to place our clients’ ads. Please let me know if you are interested.

For further details please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Liz Jenkins
Advertising Consultant
Business Development Department
liz.jenkins @ topspot-promotions dot net (removed link to their actual web site)
Topspot Promotions

If you do not respond to this email you will not receive any additional emails from TopSpot Promotions. To permanently delete yourself from our list, simply reply to this with a blank email and you will not receive any communication from us in the future.

Okay first off, they are looking for “reputable” sites to place their online gaming ads. What? They don’t want to advertise gaming on a non-reputable site? Gee, they are picky aren’t they? On the other hand, once an online gaming ad goes up, wave bye bye to the good reputation. Catch 22. 😉

And then the last paragraph. If I don’t respond I won’t receive anymore emails from them, but just in case, it’s better to reply with a blank email and they will know to delete me from their list. I love it!

iCal Alarms After Snow Leopard Upgrade

October 10, 2009 by debbie T | Mac Snow LeopardMac Software

After upgrading to Snow Leopard, I noticed that older alarm messages were appearing. It happened two nights in a row now.

I have an alarm set to take a vitamin every night, and ALL the older iCal alarm messages were popping up. The event was originally set back in August, so I deleted all instances of it, and created a new reoccurring event.

I hope it fixes the problem.

I also panicked when I saw that there was no option to backup my iCal file. Whenever I make any changes in iCal I always like to create a backup file for safe keeping. It was always File>Backup

I was happy to find the backup was moved to File>Export>iCal Archive – not sure why it’s called “archive” when I am not really archiving anything, just backing up.

Textpander Works in Snow Leopard

October 10, 2009 by debbie T | Mac Snow LeopardMac Software

Yay, my oldie but goodie freeware app Textpander (before it was sold and changed to TextExpander) works perfectly in Snow Leopard.

I wasn’t sure if it would come through, but I am happy to report that it’s fine!