Friday, April 29, 2005

How S.M.A.R.T. Are You?

I went off on a wild goose chase the other day (so what's new?) thinking I had a hard drive problem. It wasn't a hard drive problem but I learned something along the way.

I remembered once I did have a hard drive problem and I ran IBM's Drive Fitness Test (DFT). It showed you not only the hard errors but soft errors as well. That program was a DOS program that you had to make a special boot disk to run. It seemed to me that there should be something you could run under Windows to get at this data.

I Google'd DFT and ran across "S.M.A.R.T." S.M.A.R.T. stands for Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology.

I found 2 programs that report S.M.A.R.T. data for Windows. The first is Active SMART. This is shareware that costs $25. There are details below. The second program I found is smartmontools. smartmontools is FREE from SourceForge.

I couldn't figure out how to install smartmontools. I downloaded and installed Active SMART (beware that it sets itself to start when you boot and doesn't ask).

Anyway, here are screen shots from Ariolic's web site.

There's a lot of detail on S.M.A.R.T. here. Let me know if you figure out how to install smartmontools.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


Make sure you're sitting down. I'm going to talk about a search engine that isn't Google!

Have you ever seen Vivisimo? It's a meta search engine but it has a twist. Vivisimo is the parent company of Clusty. Vivisimo is the more up-scale of the two. What they both do is query a number of search engines (by default MSN, Lycos, Looksmart, Wisenut, Open Directory, and Ask Jeeves) and then cluster the results into groups. It really makes more sense when you look at it.

Here's a screen shot:

Over at the left are the "Clustered Results." You can see that I searched for "trackpoint keyboard usb" and got 155 hits. These occur in the following "clusters:" UltraNav (40), Reviews (27), Space Saver (21), etc.

Even neater is the "preview" feature. Each result has a list of options following it. One of these is "preview." What this does is bring up a portion of the web page that is referenced by the result URL. I've done this on the second result. Those of you with good memories will recall that Google had a Google Labs tool that did this also.

You can click on the clusters at the left to narrow the search. Often these clusters are nested with narrower clusters. It's like you kept adding keywords to refine your search.

I tend to use Vivisimo when I'm hunting for a needle in a haystack. It helps you quickly identify ever smaller result sets to crawl through.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Google Sightseeing

You know what a sucker I am for Google. I ran across Google Sightseeing on Lockergnome's Windows Fanatics newsletter.

So I tried it myself. Here's the Grove at Ole Miss. Too bad it wasn't taken on a game day!

Sunday, April 17, 2005


I like to think that I'm always learning about something. Recently, I have been trying to learn about RSS and XML. A while back I switched my favorites over to FavoriteSync. That give me an XML file of my favorites. I haven't figured out how to edit the XSL file that renders it for browsing. You can't browse to this file. You have to "Save as..."

Recently, I've been playing with using RSS to add local news to my DeSotoNet home page. I used Yahoo's news search (and clicked on Advanced Search). I structured the query to give me the results I wanted. I actually found I had to go hack the URL that generated the results to take out the dates. Then on the results page, I saved the link on the "View as RSS" button. You can browse to this and see the raw XML.

Obviously that's not how I wanted that to present. Just as obviously, I don't have a clue (yet) as to how to make it render better. So, as usual, I went looking for someone who had already done it.

I subscribe to Lockergnome's Windows Fanatics newsletter. An article in July 2004 described how to "RSS-ize my web site." Ever the link pack-rat, I saved that away for future reference.

One of the links on that page was to They have a free service that will take RSS and format it into JavaScript that can be embedded in html!

Here's the result. Looks pretty good if I do say so myself.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005


A while back, I wrote about MyWebExPC. It's worked real well for me. I use it primarily to remotely access my parents' PC.

But (isn't there always a "but?"), now and then my parents' DSL connection drops. Even thought the DSL connection comes back up, the MyWebExPC connection won't reconnect. I entered a ticket to WebEx. Their response was:

I understand your concern and apologize for your inconvenience.

This issue is due to interruption in Internet connection on the remote computer. For MyWebEx PC Agent to run continuously, there should be an uninterrupted Internet connection on the remote computer.

If the Internet connection drops then you need to reconnect the MyWebEx PC Agent to MyWebEx PC server again on the remote computer by following these steps:

1. Click the remote access icon on your remote computer (located in on the bottom right hand of your screen down by the clock - the icon looks like two little balls connected by two lines).

2. Right click it, which will give you the option to "log in." Enter your user name and password and click Ok. If you then refresh the "my computers page" the machine will appear available and you should then be able to take control.

This will solve the issue.

If you need further assistance, please get back to us at your convenience.

Well, duh!

So off I went for my own solution. And I found one. NirSoft has a freeware program, nircmd.exe, that will let you stop and start a service with one command line. I used the following command to create a scheduled task:
at 04:00 /every:monday,tuesday,wednesday,thursday,friday,saturday,sunday nircmd.exe service restart atnthost
What this does is create a scheduled task that runs as the Administrator. It runs every day at 4:00 AM and stops and restarts the MyWebExPC service.

While the DSL connection hasn't failed since I set this up, this should fix it.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Free PDF Creator

Wait! Don't stop reading! This isn't the printer driver that makes you install all that software on your computer. This is a mail-away technique.

What I'm talking about is PDF Online. Here's a blurb from their web site:
Free PDF Conversion Services
Serving over 3,000,000 document conversions so far!

Since 2001, PDF Online (formerly goBCL / goHTM) has been providing quick and free document conversion into PDF and HTML formats.

No need to install anything. As a web-based server solution, PDF Online allows you to automatically convert documents from your PC or your Mac, from your home or your office or anywhere in the world!
You can send them a DOC, RTF, XLS, or TXT file up to 2 MB and they will convert it to a PDF document and e-mail it back to you.

Works great!