Things learned when searching Google

While looking for something else entirely, I tripped over some general computer knowledge pages at http://vlaurie.com/ which included the surprising bit of trivia that there is a kind of font editor shipping in XP, but not well known.

It is the Private Character Editor, and is intended to allow an end user to design characters in the Unicode range dedicated for private use. This is the recommended place to put a company logo character, for example. Apparently, there is a mechanism in place in Windows to allow characters built in this tool to be logically attached to individual fonts.

The private character editor is not found in the start menu. To launch it, click Start, Run, type eudcedit in the box and click Ok. If you want to create a shortcut to it, it seems to live in %SYSTEMROOT%\System32\eudcedit.exe

The private characters can be retrieved for use in a document with the aid of Character Map. Of course, once you use a private character in a document you are faced with a different dilemma, namely how to let anyone else use the character too... I'll leave that as an exercise to the reader.


An impressive single-tasker

We've all had the experience of taking a string of Christmas lights out of the box, testing them to prove they work, stringing them up, and finding that now they don't work. Until now, I haven't known of a better solution than to inspect each bulb individually, which is a painful process.

This year, I found the right tool for the job: the Lightkeeper Pro.

Its advertising, packaging, and even its documentation reads like a Super Bass-o-Matic '76 commercial. But actually does work as described. Honest!

Within its vaguely gun-shaped package is a bulb remover, a 60 Hz hum tracer, a bulb tester, a fuse tester, storage for spare bulbs, and a flashlight.

But wait! There's more!

The real magical feature is the piezoelectric light string repair device. Just remove any bulb from a dark segment, plug the gun in where the bulb was, and pull the trigger. After a couple of pulls, the string is likely to just turn back on. All except the bad bulb, which you can then replace.

Now how much would you pay?

Remember, all this can is done with the string installed and power on. And with only one short trip up the ladder to the top of the eaves.

MSRP is $25, but it can be had for $20 or so in stores like Amazon, Target and Lowes. Even if you don't need one this year, grab one in the post-season sales and add it to your toolbox. You'll thank me next year when you pull the lights back out of storage.