Spooky Coincidence, or “Ghost Orb”?

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Oct 242011

A spooky story... just in time for Halloween! I have a habit of often taking several photos in quick succession with my digital camera. The theory is that hopefully at least one of the pictures will turn out for the best. This habit serves well with quickly moving animals and small children. Recently, I went on the "Haunted Tour of Breckenridge" given by Gail Westwood. The tour was entertaining and quite enjoyable. The last stop on the tour was the Brown Hotel & Restaurant (pictured below, in the dark):

The Brown Hotel & Restaurant, Breckenridge, CO

The Brown Hotel & Restaurant, Breckenridge, CO

This building is supposedly haunted by the ghost of Miss Whitney, a lady who was murdered sometime around 1890 by her lover, the owner of this building, when he found out she was only dating him with hopes of turning the building into a high-class brothel. You can read more about The Brown at its web site. On the Haunted tour, we were allowed to go inside to have a peek at the upstairs ladies' bathroom, which is supposedly a hot spot for paranormal activity within the structure. Our party was near the end of the line and after coming back down the narrow stairway we found ourselves waiting near the foyer with the tour group to listen to what would be the end of the tour. My brother was with me and remarked that he liked the chandelier above us in the foyer, and since I had my camera in hand I started snapping a few pics. This is where that "snapping quick photos in succession" habit comes into play! I took the first photo at 19:52:22, with the flash on... but I didn't think the shot did the pretty "patterns" that the chandelier was projecting on to the ceiling justice, so I took a couple more shots with the flash turned off to try to capture this pattern: 19:52:27 and a vertical one at 19:52:33. Then, possibly thinking that some of the previous shots may have been a little too blurry, I took one more shot without the flash, at 19:52:36 and one with the flash turned on, at 19:52:41.

Earlier in the tour, the guide had mentioned that we ought to take some photos of a 2nd story window in another supposedly haunted building because people would occasionally get "orbs" in their shots. Interesting, I thought. I took photos of that and other places along the way, but alas, no orbs. Now, after taking the foyer photos in The Brown above, I checked the camera's view screen for the 5th and last shot I'd just taken and I did a double take. Was that some sort of orb-y looking thing in the shot?? I zoomed in, and sure enough, there was a white orb-like item floating in the middle-left of my last shot, near the chandelier. Weird! "Ok, so there must be dust or dirt on my lens" I thought... at least I took several other shots of nearly the same scene. I started reviewing the other chandelier shots and there was no "orb" in any of the first three. Then looking at the 4th shot, taken without a flash, I saw an odd looking blue-ish orb in the shot - close to the same position as the white orb of the 5th shot, just slightly left! I showed the pictures to others in my party and to the tour guide and we agreed it was kind of an interesting progression, several shots with no "orbs" and then an apparently moving orb in just the last two shots (one without flash and one with). Someone else in the tour group insisted that "ghost orbs" like this were reproducible using dust dispersed through the air, and he may likely be correct of course. Now, I'm not the type that necessarily really believes in ghosts, or that these "orbs" mean anything at all.... but if nothing else, I think the appearance of the orbs in the last two shots in the haunted Brown Hotel & Restaurant is at the very least a spooky coincidence!

Jun 042011

I recently got a nice new HP laptop with Windows 7 Home Premium pre-installed. It also has a fingerprint reader which can be used to sign in to Windows – nifty! So, I set up and started using the fingerprint reader as my login method. However, I noticed that this caused the Windows login screen to always show a “fingerprint” image/icon instead of my personal profile icon (since the fingerprint method was always the “last used” login method), and that just bothered me because why bother to set up a user icon if you’re almost never going to see it?!

Windows 7 Fingerprint Logon Screen Snapshot

So, I started trying to figure out how to get my user profile icon to show instead of this blah fingerprint. First I tried looking through HP’s “SimplePass” (AuthenTec) program which is what comes pre-installed for managing and using the biometric fingerprint information. I eventually found there was a place where you could set a “profile picture” in the SimplePass application. “This must be it!” I thought. However, I found that setting the profile picture in SimplePass does not replace the fingerprint on the logon screen – bummer.

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Remove Byte-Order Mark (BOM) In Classic ASP, VBScript

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May 192011
I wasn't able to find much on this with web searching (enough to be able to cobble together this solution, but that's it!)... so thought I'd post it in case it helps others.  I needed to remove the "byte order mark" (BOM) from the beginning of a file that had been read into a variable in a classic asp page (VBscript).  The BOM was output to the web page otherwise.  The contents of the file have been read into the variable "fileContent" in this case, then use this VBscript to check for and remove it:
'remove BOM if present http://unicode.org/faq/utf_bom.html
If (Len(Trim(fileContent)) > 0) Then
  Dim AscValue : AscValue = Asc(Trim(fileContent))
  If ((AscValue = -15441) Or (AscValue = 239)) Then : fileContent = Mid(Trim(fileContent),4) : End If
End If
Aug 272005
XmlException: The data at the root level is invalid. Line 1, position 1.

This might be a really obscure (or dumb?) ASP.NET / C# problem, but again I thought I'd post something about it in case it helps someone else searching about this issue....

I was getting an exception when loading an XML file:

  Error with ... xml\nav.xml: System.Xml.XmlException:
The data at the root level is invalid. Line 1, position 1.
at System.Xml.XmlTextReader.ParseRoot()
at System.Xml.XmlTextReader.Read()
at System.Xml.XmlValidatingReader.ReadWithCollectTextToken()
at System.Xml.XmlValidatingReader.Read()
at System.Xml.XmlLoader.Load(XmlDocument doc, XmlReader reader, Boolean preserveWhitespace)
at System.Xml.XmlDocument.Load(XmlReader reader)
at System.Xml.XmlDocument.LoadXml(String xml)

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