From The Tips Box: Headphone Extensions, Dry Pens

Readers offer their best tips for extending headphone cords, getting supposedly dry ballpoint pens flowing again, and forcing programs to minimise in Windows 7.

About the Tips Box: Every day we receive boatloads of great reader tips in our inbox, but for various reasons — maybe they're a bit too niche, maybe we couldn't find a good way to present it, or maybe we just couldn't fit it in — the tip didn't make the front page. From the Tips Box is where we round up some of our favourites for your buffet-style consumption. Got a tip of your own to share? Email it to tips at

Use an Audio Patch Cable and Headphone Splitter as an Extension Cord

Photo by The Cleveland Kid.

undecim shows us how to make our headphones reach further:

Whenever I need to extend my headphones' reach, but don't have an audio extension cable, I use an audio patch cable and an audio splitter. Just plug one end of the patch cable into the splitter and the other into your audio source, then your headphones into the other plug on the splitter.

Since all the splitter does is connect the contacts from each audio connection, the two female ports are connected.

It's also a good idea to put some electrical tape around the male end of the splitter though, because if you touch two contacts from that to something metal, it will short the connection. I don't know if it would damage any equipment, but it would silence your music.

Heat Ballpoint Pens to Get Ink Flowing Again

Photo by Andrew Magill.

Bruno tells how to revive dead but not empty ballpoint pens:

If your pens appears dry but obviously they still have ink try it out:

Use a Grill or Frying Pan, make it very hot. Wrap your "Dry Pens" on paper, to prevent them from absorb too much heat and melt, and let them heating for 30 seconds.

Pay attention to them, if they start to turn it is because is too hot. Them temperature limit for them is the temperature that you still can hold them with your hands.

Have another paper and test them one by one. If they still not working, let them heat for more 30 seconds.

Make Programs Minimise to the System Tray in Windows 7

Firesphere shares a workaround for new program behaviour in Windows 7:

Having issues with e.g. Skype not willing to minimize to the system tray in Windows 7 since you updated to 4.2?

There are two options to solve this:

1. Run skype in Vista SP2 compatibility mode

2. Downgrade Skype by downloading the previous version here.

The Vista-trick works for Windows Live Messenger as well. Same goes for other programs you where used to minimize to the system tray.

The cause of this not-minimize-to-system tray, is the new guidelines by Microsoft for the Win7 superbar.

Most developers seem to see these guidelines as rules in stead of what they are. Guidelines.


    Ballpoing pen not working? Run the tip over your scalp a few times. Hair oils lubricate the nib. Works with pen users with hair, not sure about pen users without? Might be a good conversation starter.

    Ballpoint pen not working? Try with a lighter instead of wasting gas just for a few pens. You can also try puffing on the tip - warms up the tip - to get the ball rolling (no pun intended).

    er...rather than applying flame directly or risking cooking a plastic pen on a frypan...try a hair dryer.

    I've found that only a few seconds of low heat from a common hair dryer can revive a pen that's been at the bottom of a drawer for years. Of course, may not work for those without hair ;-)

    I have a few nifty cords at home which i use to extend audio, or connect it to another kind of device.

    With my logitech speakers i was given a cable which goes from a female headphone jack to red/white RCA female plugs, and i have another cable which is male red/white RCA to male headphone jack.

    Connecting the RCA ends together i get a headphone jack extension cord, and the other way an RCA extension cord. Also both cables come in real handy recording or listening to something from an RCA source or plugging a headphone jack source into an amp :)

    Get a new pen/insert?

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