Tuesday, December 07, 2004


Remember when I wrote about VideoReDo? It continued to exceed my expectations until the trial ran out. The $50 license fee made me hesitate. I went back to my favorite software source, sourceforge.net. As usual, I found an open source project that met my needs, Clip-Snipe. Clip-Snipe came so close to what VideoReDo would do. There were a couple of minor differences so I wrote the author with my "wish list." Amazingly, he wrote me back in 2 days with an explanation on how he could accomplish what I had sent him. I figured that'd be the last I heard from him. Not hardly. 8 days later he had posted a new version of Clip-Snipe including all of the items I had mentioned!

Now comes the downside. As I used Clip-Snipe more and more, I began to notice that it wasn't cutting the mpeg exactly where I wanted it to. It seemed to be a couple of frames off. I suspected that I knew what the problem was. mpeg has "keyframes" that form the foundation of the next several frames. Cutting an mpeg video between keyframes tends to cause flashes on replay. VideoReDo overcomes this by re-encoding just those couple of frames around where you cut.

Here's Clip-Snipe's author's explanation:
Rtvedit (which was writtten by someone else) performs edits based on keyframes. It does allow specifying timecodes to the millisecond, but in reality it jumps to the nearest keyframe for cuts. The reason I chose it was for the smooth transitions between cuts. Mpgtx, another cutter, trimmed closer than rtvedit but always left garish flashes between cuts.

Such is life with freeware - and with apps that depend on other freeware. ;)

While it would be great to have cutting at frames and other high-end options, I would rather pay a few $$$ for commercial software than be bogged down for several months writing an mpeg cutter. Besides, settop DVD recorders are now under $150 and will eventually have quality editors built-in.
So here I am. While I continue to be amazed by the quality of open source software, I think I'm going to have to spring for the $50 license for VideoReDo.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Cheap Web Hosting

I've been using addr.com to host desotonet.com. They're $10 per month. Their service has been good but their price seems high compared to others I've found. My all time cost leader is ucvhost.com. They're REAL cheap ($1/month for 25 MB) and hosted in New York but their support is in New Delhi and somewhat hard to interact with. The good news is that once you get them up and working, they work real well.

Most recently, I've come across globat.com. They're in California. Their current rate is $7.95 per month for 2.5 GB. They regularly run specials and I got it for $3.98 per month for the first year. I'm looking to move my photos from photoaccess.com to my own site.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Sport TV Gadgets

Ever wondered how the yellow first down line works on football games? How about the call-out boxes that follow the NASCAR cars around the track? As it turns out, one company does both: SporTVision.

Here's a link to a clip of the NASCAR technology (TV, not cars obviously). Here's how they do the NASCAR stuff.

Here's how they do the yellow first down lines. I was surprised that the calculations take so long that they have to insert a delay in the audio to keep things synced up.

A related gadget is Skycam from CF InFlight. Here's what it looks like:

And here's how it works.

Interestingly, in a recent Formula 1 broadcast, they had a tachometer overlaid on the screen. The RPMs were over 19,000 which is pretty high even for an F1 engine. The commentators pointed out that the RPMs were calculated from the frequency of the exhaust sound.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Any you thought you knew EVERYTHING about Google?

I ran across a new Google feature tonight: Google SMS. To net it out, you can send a Google query from your cell phone to 46645 (GOOGL). Examples of the querys are:
  • Pottery Barn 02116
  • john smith palo alto ca
  • define prosimian
  • 5+2*2
There's a pocket-sized PDF of tips here.

PS. Remember that all of these querys work with the Google web page also!

Tuesday, October 12, 2004


With my HTPC, I've been looking for one last Holy Grail. I think I've found it.

What I've been looking for is something to let me edit out commercials from the files created by SageTV. TMPGEnc is the most often referenced. However, it also has a reputation of being less than straight-forward to use. I kept on looking and finally ran across VideoReDo. VideoReDo is an mpeg editor. That's all it does. Simply, it will cut scenes from an mpeg file and create an edited mpeg file in seconds (well, single digit minutes, more later).

It has a simple (albeit oddly colored) GUI with simple controls. Just drag the slider along the time line until you find the place you want to cut. Click on the "Sel. Start" button. Use one of the quick jump buttons (10 seconds, 30 seconds, or 2 minutes forward or backward) and click on the "Sel. End" button. If one of the quick jump buttons don't take you exactly where you want, there's even a fine time line slider to zero in. And wonder of wonders, it works GREAT over my wireless RealVNC connection. The update is quick enough I can just slide along the video looking for commercials to cut. When you're done, click on "Save As..."

Back to speed. For my Half-D1 recordings, an hour of video is about 1,3xx,xxx KB. Cutting out the commercials reduces this to about 88x,xxx KB. VideoReDo saved these in just under 3 minutes. uLead DVD MovieFactory 2 SE doesn't blink on these files and will write them without re-rendering!

It has a full function 21-day trial period (go ahead as you install it and request a trial key to lift the 30 minute restriction). It costs $50 for a full license.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

It's 10 o'clock. Do you know where your data is?

When is the last time your hard drive crashed? Terrible, wasn't it? And how much did you have backed up? Well, it happened to me a while back. And I had practically none of it backed up. I've become fanatical since then. Here's how I do it.

My general methodology is to create sets of data that'll fit on CD-Rs. To keep the data organized, I group the data into zip files. I even zip uncompressible data such as jpegs and zip files. (To keep from wasting time, I specify no compression for these files.) This has the accidental benefit of not marking the individual files as read-only when you finalize the CD-R.

You'll remember that I'm old. I've created a couple of .bat files to run PKZIP. When I first set this up, I was specifying include and exclude parameters and had trouble with command buffer limits. I found an arcane version of PKZIP called "PKZIP(R) Command Line Version 4.0." The file name is pkzc400s.exe and you can find it at http://www.cmdtools.com/. The command line options are different than the old PKZIP but I've pretty well forgotten those so it's not a big deal. This version also supports long file names so things look pretty when you restore.

I still use Outlook Express. To find where those files are located, open Outlook Express. Go to File/Import/Messages. Highlight your version of Outlook Express and click Next. Then click on Main Identity and click on Ok. There's where your files are. Copy this and paste into Windows Explorer's Address and press Enter. That'll show you the names of the folder files. The address book is easier to find. See my .bat files below.

After the zip files have been created, the .bat file runs an attrib command to reset all the archive bits. Then the .bat file copies in winzip.exe so the set of files is basically self-defining.

As I said earlier, I started off creating sets that would fit on CD-Rs. After I bought a DVD burner and blank DVD+Rs dropped below $.50, I've gone to DVD+Rs. Takes all the worry out of creating sets of files. Now I just create 2 sets, one with my pictures and the other with everything else. Each set fits on a DVD+R.

To make the whole process run faster, I write the zip files to my hard drive and then copy them to the DVD+Rs. Then I leave the zip files on the hard drive until next month so I have a ready backup in case I delete something I didn't mean to.

When I've finished copying the zip files to the DVD+Rs, I take these disks to another PC and have WinZip verify the archives.

When I described this process to some guys at work, they pointed out the risk of a scratch on the media rendering a large zip file unreadable. I hadn't thought of this. I went back and implemented PKZIP spanning to break the files into 20.8 MB chunks. There’s nothing magic about this size, just one of PKZIP's default values. Then to allow me to recreate the set should one or more not be readable, I create a set of PAR(ity) files using QuickPar from http://www.quickpar.org.uk/. As I currently have plenty of space left on each DVD+R, I just set the size of the PAR files so that the creation takes about an hour. How arbitrary is that?

I've looked at doing incremental backups but it doesn't seem worth the effort. Periodically, I'd still have to take a baseline and then I'd have to keep up with the incrementals. Since I do this on the first of each month, it only costs me $1 per month so I wouldn't save anything. I keep the latest set of backups at work just in case.

Here's what the files look like:


: ACDSee32
: Address Book
: download
: Outlook Express
: Start Menu All Users
: Start Menu Ben Moore
: The HTML Reference Library
: uft
: My Documents (except My Pictures and My Videos)
: Games
: Juno
: QuickenB
: Backup System State
pause Have you backed up the system state and closed OutlookExpress?
cd c:\program files\pkware\pkzipc
set cdr=c:\backup\dvd1:set cdr=e::
: ACDSee32
pkzipc -add -rec -dir=root -lev=5 -attr=all -span=20.8 "%cdr%ACDSee32.zip" "C:\Program Files\ACDSee32\*.*"
: Address Book
pkzipc -add -rec -dir=root -lev=5 -attr=all -span=20.8 "%cdr%Address Book.zip" "C:\Documents and Settings\Ben Moore\Application Data\Microsoft\Address Book\Ben Moore.wab"
: download
pkzipc -add -rec -dir=root -lev=0 -attr=all -span=20.8 -excl="C:\download\archive\*.*" "%cdr%Download.zip" "C:\download\*.*"
: Outlook Express
pkzipc -add -rec -dir=root -lev=5 -attr=all -span=20.8 "%cdr%Outlook Express.zip" "C:\Documents and Settings\Ben Moore\Local Settings\Application Data\Identities\{4B7CEB2F-1892-443B-B4A8-DA8CDD99A31E}\Microsoft\Outlook Express\*.*"
: Start Menu All Users
pkzipc -add -rec -dir=root -lev=5 -attr=all -span=20.8 "%cdr%Start Menu All Users.zip" "C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu\*.*"
: Start Menu Ben Moore
pkzipc -add -rec -dir=root -lev=5 -attr=all -span=20.8 "%cdr%Start Menu Ben Moore.zip" "C:\Documents and Settings\Ben Moore\Start Menu\*.*"
: The HTML Reference Library
pkzipc -add -rec -dir=root -lev=5 -attr=all -span=20.8 "%cdr%The HTML Reference Library.zip" "C:\The HTML Reference Library\*.*"
: uft
pkzipc -add -rec -dir=root -lev=5 -attr=all -span=20.8 "%cdr%Uft.zip" "C:\uft\*.*"
: My Documents (except My Pictures and My Videos)
pkzipc -add -rec -dir=root -lev=5 -attr=all -excl="C:\Documents and Settings\Ben Moore\My Documents\My Pictures\*.*" -excl="C:\Documents and Settings\Ben Moore\My Documents\My Videos\*.*" -excl="C:\Documents and Settings\Ben Moore\My Documents\Ulead DVD MovieFactory\*.*" -excl="C:\Documents and Settings\Ben Moore\My Documents\Pinnacle Studio\*.*" -span=20.8 "%cdr%My Documents.zip" "C:\Documents and Settings\Ben Moore\My Documents\*.*"
: Games
pkzipc -add -rec -dir=root -lev=5 -attr=all -span=20.8 "%cdr%Games.zip" "C:\games\*.*"
: Juno
pkzipc -add -rec -dir=root -lev=5 -attr=all -span=20.8 -excl="C:\Program Files\Juno\ADS\*.*" "%cdr%Juno.zip" "C:\Program Files\Juno\*.*"
: QuickenB
pkzipc -add -rec -dir=root -lev=5 -attr=all -span=20.8 "%cdr%QuickenB.zip" "C:\QuickenB\*.*"
: Backup System State
pkzipc -add -rec -dir=root -lev=5 -attr=all "%cdr%Backup System State.zip" "c:\Backup System State.bkf"
copy "c:\download\winzip8.exe" "%cdr%"
:dir %cdr%
cd ..
pause Press any key to reset the archive bits
attrib -a /s /d "C:\Program Files\ACDSee32\*.*"
attrib -a /s /d "C:\Documents and Settings\Ben Moore\Application Data\Microsoft\Address Book\Ben Moore.wab"
attrib -a /s /d "C:\download\*.*"
attrib -a /s /d "C:\Documents and Settings\Ben Moore\Local Settings\Application Data\Identities\{4B7CEB2F-1892-443B-B4A8-DA8CDD99A31E}\Microsoft\Outlook Express\*.*"
attrib -a /s /d "C:\The HTML Reference Library\*.*"
attrib -a /s /d "C:\uft\*.*"
attrib -a /s /d "C:\Documents and Settings\Ben Moore\My Documents\*.*"
attrib -a /s /d "C:\games\*.*"
attrib -a /s /d "C:\Program Files\Juno\*.*"
attrib -a /s /d "C:\QuickenB\*.*"
attrib -a /s /d "c:\Backup System State.bkf"
pause Press any key to finish


: My Pictures
: My Videos
cd "c:\program files\pkware\pkzipc"
set cdr=c:\backup\dvd2:set cdr=e::
: My Pictures
pkzipc -add -rec -dir=root -lev=0 -attr=all -span=20.8 "%cdr%My Pictures.zip" "C:\Documents and Settings\Ben Moore\My Documents\My Pictures\*.*"
: My Videos
pkzipc -add -rec -dir=root -lev=0 -attr=all -span=20.8 "%cdr%My Videos.zip" "C:\Documents and Settings\Ben Moore\My Documents\My Videos\*.*"
copy "c:\download\winzip8.exe" "%cdr%"
:dir %cdr%
cd ..
pause Press any key to reset the archive bits
attrib -a /s /d "C:\Documents and Settings\Ben Moore\My Documents\My Pictures\*.*"
attrib -a /s /d "C:\Documents and Settings\Ben Moore\My Documents\My Videos\*.*"
pause Press any key to finish

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Home Theatre PC - Follow-up

I've had my HTPC running since early August. Overall, it's exceeding my expectations. It does crash more often than I'd like but it does great at creating files that I can burn to CDs or DVDs.

Here's the scoop on what I built. I added a Lite-On DVD-/+R burner for about $50 and a Syntax USB 802.11b adapter that was free after rebate. I used RealVNC to remotely control it. I built it with a monitor and keyboard attached and got the wireless working. Then I unplugged the monitor and keyboard and haven't looked back. It sits next to the TV cabinet behind a flower arrangement. My first choice was to put it inside the cabinet but I couldn't move the DVD/VCR to where the ShowStopper used to be. Then I tried to put it behind the cabinet. It fit there but it crashed more than before so I think it got too hot.

It was a bear to get setup. There were 2 major problems. First, it didn't come with any kind of a manual. Second, it came with backlevel drivers for the Hauppauge PVR-350. With the original drivers, it locked up almost every time you recorded something. Updating the drivers broke most everything. It took some head scratching to get the PVR-350's TV-out working by just guessing. I also had to turn off the rendering of the TV picture to the PC video-out so it wouldn't overwhelm the RealVNC wireless connection.

The only good thing to say about the support is that the Sage forum is wonderful. e-mail to Sage's technical support got response in a day or two but they recommended me to install an unsupported skin!

Here's a shot of the LiveTV Guide.

Notice the channel logos. They don't come with the bundle but there's a link to them on the forum. I had to create some of them but that wasn't difficult. The other thing to point out is the yellow border on the news at 10. That border indicates that it is a "favorite." You can specify "favorites" to be recorded on any channel or on a specific channel and how many shows to keep.

Here's the SageTV Recordings screen:

There're the logos again. When you select one of the shows, you get this very detailed screen:

You can see that there's an arrow at the bottom indicating more data. That includes information like the recording resolution (more in a little bit) and file name and location.

Jumping back to "favorites," here's what the Favorites detail looks like:

There're so many more screens that I haven't included. If you have any specific questions, drop me an e-mail, and I'll send you the screen shots.

Now to talk about resolutions. I fretted over my elusive Half-D1 resolution. I tried and tried to make my own encoding specification for Half-D1 to no avail. With no documentation, it was hard. Finally, I stumbled over the fact that CVD (Chinese Video Disk) resolution is Half-D1. That is buried way down on this page. That resolution is a standard in SageTV so I've made it my default. For an hour show, it creates a file that is 1.25 GB (1,3xx,xxx bytes). That will let you get 3+ hours on a DVD even without editing out the commercials. For half hour shows (like the news), I use SVCD Standard Play. That creates a file of about 5xx,xxx bytes for a half hour. This fits nicely on a CD and looks "good enough" on my 27" Sony Wega.

The Hauppauge card comes with uLead DVD MovieFactory 2 SE. This is good and bad. The good thing about it is that it is the only DVD authoring program that I've found that realizes that Half-D1 is a standard resolution for DVDs and won't reencode them. Reencoding will really cause degradation of the image. The bad is that if you even think about just trimming the front or back of the video, it will reencode the WHOLE thing. Damn. So close, yet so far. Hauppauge has a program you can download to edit the MPEG before you send it to an authoring program but I haven't tried it yet. You just open the videos in MovieFactory and it just works. No demultiplexing or worries about sound synchronization. Wonderful.

The remote doesn't seem to be able to operate anything but the SageTV so I'm back to multiple remotes. I'm not sure that this is all it can do since it doesn't come with a manual (have I mentioned this before?).

Overall the thing works great. I can record a ton of shows and burn to CDs or DVDs the ones I want to keep or share and they work fine. With CDs basically free and DVDs less that $.50, they're almost give-aways.

Oh, the crashing. Even with the new drivers, it still crashes about once a week. It almost always crashes at the end of playing back a program. I suspect that it is aggravated by recording while I'm playing back but that's not always the case. Putting it in "Sleep" mode reduces the frequency dramatically. It can still record programs while it is asleep. When it crashes, I just press and hold the power button and it comes right back up.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

You really CAN get a virus from looking at porn!

Gartner: No Quick Fix for Microsoft’s JPEG-Handling Vulnerability

The Inquirer: More flaws found in Microsoft Windows

The Register: Microsoft warns of poisoned picture peril

eWeek: Microsoft Graphics Bug Threatens Systems

Craig Schmugar, virus research manager at McAfee, ... "Often, the release of the patch itself leads to exploits, as attackers reverse-engineer the patch code in order to learn what it's fixing. Hopefully, it won't come to that."
That's comforting.

Here's how to find out if you're vulnerable and here's the "how-to" fix it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

His lips are moving!

When I saw this article: IBM does Linux-only dance on Power, I just had to unload. The title of this post is the punch line to the old joke, "How can you tell when an IBM salesman is lying?"

I've been involved with IBM computers since the late '60s (don't do the math). I've spent lots of time in the Hudson Valley (beautiful place) talking with the mainframe folks and more recently the RS/6000 folks.

We had started with SAP on RS/6000 SP2s in the mid-'90s. What a fiasco. Our regional IBM sales manager was Gary L. from Charlotte. He had been in the Tennessee area and was very familiar with our shop. We quickly outgrew the capacity of the SP2s and had to move to free-standing boxes loosing the use of the SP2's high-speed switch (about its only advantage). In the late '90s we tried and tried to convince our management to let us quit throwing good money after bad with the RS/6000s and go to Sun or HP. Our CIO said that IBM was our "partner" and they would look out for us. We spent boatloads of money on RS/6000 equipment and suffered outage after outage on top of poor performance. All the while, IBM was pulling the resources out of our account one by one.

Finally, in '99, the RS/6000 S70A database server died and wouldn't reboot. They shipped us another one from the plant and it wouldn't power up. We built-up another one and got the system limping after 36 hours. We had to ship the boot drive to Austin for them to tell us what was wrong. It was an AIX bug.

This time when we went to management to replace the RS/6000 database server with anything else, they let us. We installed a Sun E10000 and you just wouldn't have believed the difference, both with the vendor and with the hardware.

But this was just the database server. The rest of the landscape remained on the old RS/6000 boat anchors. Then just over 2 years ago, we did an RFP to replace all the machines we were using to run SAP.

By now that IBM regional rep. was the Worldwide VP of RS/6000 sales! I told you we bought a lot of that stuff. IBM was in their transition from the S-series into the P-series (they were always transitioning from something to something else obsoleting all the equipment you'd just bought) and AIX 5l. The more we talked to them, the more I worried about their commitment to AIX. Our "partner" Gary came to Memphis and I asked him about that. Remember he was the Worldwide VP of RS/6000 sales. He stood in our office and told us that IBM would never abandon AIX. Now go read this article and visualize his lips moving.

PS. We awarded the deal to Sun and now have a homogeneous Sun environment. Thanks Gilly!

Wednesday, September 08, 2004


Here's a good article on Microsoft's Longhorn. You have to consider that the source could be slightly biased but it still has some interesting history of Microsoft's problems with delivering what they promise when they promise.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

USB Flash Drive + CD-RW Functionality

While researching whether I could make a USB flash drive autorun, I came across this from Hagiwara Sys-Com.

Pretty neat! When you insert it, you get 2 drive letters. One looks like your typical USB flash drive but the other looks like a CD drive. That means that Windows will look for an autorun.inf file and execute it. Think about that for a second.

I found it at MobilePlanet for $49.95 + $6.95 shipping. I may have to try one of these.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

How To Safely Store And Manage Passwords

I heard a scary story last night about a guy who had had his eBay and yahoo e-mail userids and passwords cracked. This sent me back on an old quest for a password manager. I ran across this article from Fred Langa and started chasing these programs.

As always, I went to sourceforge.net first. Here I found keepass. I installed it and played with it. It is nice but... You have to copy and paste the userid and password into each field. So I kept on looking.

Looking for how to autorun a USB flash drive (more on this later), I stumbled across KeyPass. This looks so much like keepass but... It has a scripting capability where you can define a hot key (default is CTRL + right click) in the userid field and it will type the userid and password and hit ENTER.

KeyPass is free for up to 10 userid/password combinations and CompUSA has it for $25.93.

I'm almost there. Now if I could just get my USB flash drive to autorun.

Saturday, August 28, 2004


Don't you wish you still had that old version of QuickTime that didn't have the nag screen? Now you can get it back. Just go to OldVersion.com and see if they have what you're looking for.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Maybe if I just keep my hands in my pockets...

...I won't be at risk for IE vulnerabilities like this. I wonder about something like SecuireIE (I know that's practically an oxymoron). I found this review. Kinda middle-of-the-road. Doesn't sound like $30 worth.

Internet Explorer has a number of security features that users can customize to protect themselves as they surf the Web. Unfortunately many, if not most, of these features are disabled by default and require the user to do some research and some clicking around to find what they need to configure them. Winferno SecureIE automates the default security settings and grants the user significantly easier access to customizing these features as they go. Blocking Pop-up ads, ActiveX scripts and such requires 5 to 10 different clicks in Internet Explorer. SecureIE lets you turn these functions on or off at the click of a button on the main screen. There are also other productivity features that make this a worthwhile product for many users.
Here's another review from PCWorld. Fairly positive. It mentions pluses like tabbed browsing and minuses like "browsing the Internet through a Word document."

I haven't taken this (right click and "Save Target as") apart but it seems to be some of what SecureIE has. The write-up is here. I don't know enough about the registry entries to comment. It has a lot of web sites hard-coded though.

PS. I went to look some more at www.secureie.com. You gotta wonder about an organization that has a link of "javascript:screenShot('secureie_shot_01.aspx', 'SecureIEShot1', 606, 781)." This gives you a window that is taller than a 1024x768 screen and doesn't have scroll bars. Use this link if you want to see the screen shot.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Infected in 20 minutes

The Register recently ran an article on how quickly a new PC will get infected when attached to the Internet. It's worth reading the whole thing but I'm going to excerpt some of it here.

Opinion What normally happens within twenty minutes? That's how long your average unprotected PC running Windows XP, fresh out of the box, will last once it's connected to the Internet.

Problems! Solutions?

The SANS Institute Internet Storm Center released those eye-opening numbers a few days ago. Go take a look at their graph, and you'll note that the current time of 20 minutes is half that of what it was a year ago, although, to be fair, the average has been both higher and lower - over an hour last Christmas and only about 15 minutes in the spring. That hour at Christmas seems like an aberration, and the overall trend has definitely been downward, towards far shorter times before your Windows box is not really yours any longer.

As the SANS Institute notes, 20 minutes is not long enough to update your Windows PC before it is too late. If you take a new PC out of the box, plug it in to the Internet, and power it on, most people (most people? OK - a lot of people. Uh, alright - some people. Erm ... *sigh*. A few people. Happy?) know enough to immediately hie thee over to Windows Update and get the latest patches from Microsoft. Then reboot. And get more patches. And reboot. Ad infinitum. Oh, and don't leave out the latest anti-virus updates either. Gotta have those. Oh oh oh - don't forget Windows XP Service Pack 2, the gotta-have update from Microsoft, which "may be as small as 70 megabytes (MB) or as large as 260 MB".

The SANS Institute tries to help by offering a free download of a great little 1.2 MB PDF wonderfully titled, "Windows XP: Surviving the First Day" (makes XP sound like a communicable disease, doesn't it?
Oh, if you run your PC behind a router/firewall, you've got until you open your first web page or html-enabled e-mail to get the patches on.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Go Phish!

Everytime I read something like this, I try to run Firefox again. That gives me fits. First, the google toolbar doesn't install. Yeah, Firefox has it's own version but it's pitiful compared to the real thing. blogger's wysiwyg editor doesn't work with Firefox. My company's Internet employee portal doesn't work. (This isn't really a problem with Firefox. The code just doesn't allow Firefox even though it works.) It goes without saying that Windows Update doesn't work. The web site I'm working on doesn't render the same with Firefox as IE. (Yes, I'm creating it with FrontPage.) The list goes on and on. Help, either in the product or on their web site, is non-existant. The forums are full of coders who wax on about coding but not about how to use the product.

Maybe someday...

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Wal-Mart - Your Technology Center?

Here's an interesting article: Technology Review: An Alternative to Windows (when you get the registration screen, revisit this).

It's fascinating. Not only is Linux competing for the consumer desktop but it's amazing how much technology is showing up in soccer mom kinds of places like Wal-Mart. Just yesterday, I needed (or thought I did) an S-video cable. So like I used to have to do, I went to Radio Shack. Their $20+ price for a Monster cable turned me off so I went literally next door to Wal-Mart. They had the same Monster brand (in less flashy packaging) for $12.

I thought Wal-Mart was going to take away the photo-finishing business from Walgreens but then Walgreens jumped ahead with the Fuji kiosk. This sweet little gadget is single-handedly going to kill film.

The ultimate proof of geekdom reaching the masses was a month or so ago when one of the consumer electronic stores (e.g. BestBuy, CompUSA) ran a NAS (Network Attached Storage) box in their weekly newspaper ad.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Praying mantises kill their mates after screwing them. Gates keeps them alive.

This is a very interesting article from wired. Like one of my ex-Microsoft friends said, "They don't call us the Evil Empire for nothing."

Sunday, August 08, 2004


Techbargains.com - If you haven't found this place you should. I'm very frugal. Ok, I'm cheap. I shop all the Sunday morning newspaper flyers for bargains even when I don't need anything. Today I was looking for an 802.11b networking kit for one of Sha's friends. I found this on techbargains.com.

While it's not free, $20 ain't bad.

While building my HTPC, I used techbargains.com to locate a DVD burner for $49 and an 802.11b USB adapter for $0.

It looks like this guy makes his money by setting up referrer accounts with the retailers. The link above uses a "jump" from his site. I presume that this logs the referral from his site TO the retailer's site and he gets some kind of cut from them. Who cares? We get the low price without having to crawl all over the web or get our fingers black from flipping through all those newspaper flyers!

Monday, August 02, 2004

HP Omnibook 300


I've always been a fan of ultra lightweight laptops. This started back in the early 1990s when I bought an HP Omnibook 300. This puppy weighed 3 pounds and ran the new Windows 3.1 and Microsoft Office. It ran a 386SX in real mode, i.e. it didn't use a page file. Windows ran on top of a hacked version of MS-DOS 5 with an early copy of DriveSpace (from MS-DOS 6) which doubled the usable space of the 40 MB (yes, that's not a typo) hard drive. The good news was that none of that 40 MB was used for operating system or application. The operating system and Office were on a 10 MB execute-in-place flash card.

It used a 640x480 monochrome screen and had an open PCMCIA slot for a modem or NIC. It was "instant on" in that it worked much like Windows 2000/XP's hibernate/resume except it didn't dump to the hard drive. Click, it's on. Click, it's off. It had a cute little mouse that popped out on a stick from the side. The battery life was 5+ hours. I could run mine 2 days before charging.

HP's retrospective on it is here.

I went on to IBM ThinkPads including a 560, a 240, a 600, and most recently my beloved X20. My recent company issued laptop from Texas doesn't hold a candle to the ThinkPads. At home, I'm pure ThinkPads with an inventory of 2 760s, 3 600s, and a T20.

Friday, July 30, 2004


Ok, how many instant messaging ids do you have? I know it's more than one. More than 3? How many clients do you have running right now? I tried a couple of hacks for more than one AIM screen name (supported by AIM now). Then I had to run MSN Messenger (or was that Windows Messenger?). And yahoo? And every now and then, you want to connect to an irc channel?

Why don't you try gaim? It lets you connect to all of these messaging services at once, even with multiple ids on each service.

But wait, there's more!

You can make your buddy window always on top, even transparent if you want. There's even a docking buddy list "crawler." Then there's the concept of "buddy pounces." What these are are actions to take when a buddy changes state. Say you want to send your friend a message when he goes from idle to active but you may not be there. No problem. Just setup a buddy pounce and you're done. The action can be to send a message or to just play a sound on your end.

Chat windows can be tabbed like Mozilla. You can separate them and then put them back together.

The thing I like best is that you can set it up so that every conversation is logged. I can go back and search through my logs for URLs that I've exchanged with my friends.

Did I mention that there are no ads?

There are lots more features but those are the biggies. Go read up on it, download it, and play with it.


From eweek.com: Microsoft Readies Next Round of IE Patches

Maybe this will fix this.

UPDATE: Here's the fix.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Bayesian e-mail Filters

A couple of entries ago, I mentioned Bayesian e-mail filters. I guess I ought to explain that.

I get spam (who doesn't?). I use every trick I can to minimize it. I first send my e-mail through addr.com who run SpamAssassin. From there, I forward it to bellsouth.net who have their own spam filter. Unfortunately, even two spam filters don't eliminate all of it.

I wrote a bunch of rules in Outlook Express but I was always having to tweak them and watch carefully for false positives (good e-mail labeled as spam by my rules).

One day as I was surfing, I came across this concept of Bayesian filtering. There are a couple of good articles here and here.

Bayesian spam filters calculate the probability of a message being spam based on its contents. Unlike simple content-based filters, Bayesian spam filtering learns from spam and from good mail, resulting in a very robust, adapting and efficient anti-spam approach that, best of all, returns hardly any false positives.

The net of this is that Bayesian filtering programs parse each e-mail and score each string (word) as to whether it has appeared in spam before. Before is key as you have to "train" your filter initially by manually identifying e-mail as spam.

I'm running K9 as a e-mail proxy. It is small, only 77K to download. To install it, you have to change your e-mail account properties to point your incoming mail (POP3) server to and make a slight adjustment of your account name. The result looks like this:

I won't cover all the steps to implement K9 but it isn't tricky. Obviously, it only works on local e-mail programs. It won't work on yahoo, hotmail, or juno for example.

When you're done, each time you check your e-mail, it will be pre-processed by K9 and flagged as spam or not. A simple rule will throw spam into a folder to be spot checked periodically and deleted.

Here's what the results are:

Even after 2 spam filters, 66% of what gets to me is still spam! The good news is that of that, almost 97% is caught by K9. Since these statistics have been running, .54% have been misidentified as spam. Don't depend on that. Always make a quick look-see through the spam folder before you delete it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Lawnmower Game


Does anybody remember the movie "Drowning Mona?" It starred Jamie Lee Curtis, Bette Midler and Danny DeVito. The IMDB write-up for it is here.

In this movie, there's a minor story line about a dog getting run over by a lawnmower. When the movie was released, its web site had a Flash game on it where the objective was to run over the dog with the lawnmower. When you did, the dog yelped, spun around and blood flew all over the place. While driving the lawnmower, you had to avoid obstacles and make sure that you didn't run out of gas. It's funnier than it sounds.

When the movie came out of the theatres (which didn't take long, by the way), they pulled the web site and the game. I looked for it for years and finally found it. I squirreled it away here.


Are you tired of filling out those registration forms? Giving sites your e-mail address and then just waiting for the spam? Here's an answer: bugmenot.com. This is a site where others have logged user-ids and passwords for various web sites that are free but require registration (typically news sources). Be sure and check the "Remember me" box on the site requesting the registration so you won't have to go back to bugmenot.

An explanation of bugmenot is here and here. If you're a Firefox or Mozilla user, there's even an extension for you to use! As of tonight, it has been downloaded  62514 times!

Don't take the instructions too literally. I find that all you need for a URL is just the domain name, e.g. usatoday.com. Also, try it with other non-news sites that you run across that require registration. I've found some interesting ones out there.

Monday, July 19, 2004

2.2 GB Compact Flash Card


Can you believe this? A 2.2 GB Compact Flash card for $145 with free shipping. And to think, I paid almost this much for a 128 MB CF 2 years ago.

I guess you need cards this size with the new 5+ megapixel consumer cameras. 

While I'm aghast, here's one more.

It's a terabyte for $1,199. Just to give you an idea on how big this is, a terabyte will store up to one month of non-stop MPEG-2 video.

It comes with FireWire and USB 2.0 so you just plug it in. You better buy two so you can back one up to the other.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

BloggerBot and Hello

I kept seeing references in Blogger to BloggerBot and Hello. When I followed the links, it took me to a page about Picasa. Picasa is some kind of picture editor/manager that google has bought. I have enough of those hanging around already. What I was looking for is just the "bot" to let me upload/host pictures on Blogger. Today, I ran across this link. Eureka!  Skim over that page and go on to the Download link. You'll have to register and then Hello will download. Here's what Hello's window looks like:

You can pretty much run your blog from here. You can "Post a Picture," "Post Text Only," and "Edit a Post." I've never seen this last screen anywhere else. It pretty much lets you edit your blogs inline.
Notice that the images are hosted at blogger.com so you don't have to provide your own web space for images.
There's another subtlety that was hard to find. If you have Hello running and restart your browser, you'll get a new icon on your browser's "Standard Bar" toolbar entitled "Share in Hello." Click on that and you can send a screen shot of the current web page to Hello and then on to your blog.

My Honda Accord V6 6-speed

Well, mine looks like that!

I Wuz There!

Kanaan holds off Hornish for win

Friday, July 16, 2004

How Cool Is This?

I've been looking for some kind of Content Management System (CMS) for Dummies. What I'm up to is to give people the ability to update simple content on their web site without having to call or e-mail me. To me, FrontPage is easy to use but I've finally realized that there are one or two people out there that don't use PCs for 16-18 hours per day.
I'd searched SourceForge (my favorite place for software) and come up with Plone. This seemed like it would do what I wanted but it was bigger than a breadbox.
I kept on looking and stumbled across FlexWindow. All it takes to use this is to send an e-mail. The subject contains the reference to the page that you want to update. The body is the text that you want to put there. That's it.
You can make it fancier than that by using html formatting of the e-mail but you don't have to.
To see an example, go look at Southaven Elementary. The text between the picture and the horizontal line is the FlexWindow. Go look at the source code and you'll see how they do it. Pretty cool.
Now the best part. It's FREE! You can register for a personal account and setup 2 FlexWindows for free. Go try it.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Home Theatre PC

I've ordered all the parts to build a Home Theatre PC (HTPC). It really is just a PC-based Personal Video Recorder (PVR).

The basis of it is SageTV. I'm using a SageTV bundle with the Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-350 ($219.95). This has a hardware MPEG-2 encoder and decoder. This will let the SageTV present its On-screen Display overlaid on the TV picture. Functionally, SageTV is a lot like TiVo. SageTV will support multiple WinTV cards so you can record more than one program at a time.
For a system unit, I picked up an off-lease Dell GX150, 933 MHz with 512 MB of RAM from RetroBox ($108). It comes with a 20 GB hard drive which obviously isn't enough. BestBuy had a Seagate 80 GB hard drive this week for $39.99 after rebate so that cured that.
I'm into it less than $400. Now, I'm just waiting for the PVR-350 to come off back-order.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Zero-Day Exploit - Now is a good time to be scared!

If you're concerned about the confidentiality of information you enter on the Internet, take a few minutes and read these articles:

Now, go back and look closely at the dates. The report of the vulnerability was on June 24, 2004. The Microsoft information on the vulnerability was on June 24, 2004. Subtract those 2 dates to get the difference and you get ZERO!

Now is a good time to be scared!

Ah, but Microsoft just released a bunch of patches didn't they? Surely BillG would have put out a patch for this. Think again while you read this.

There's some help for IE users worried about last month's Download.Ject security scare, but you are going to have to wait for a comprehensive fix.

Now is a good time to be really scared!


Have you heard about gmail? It's google's new e-mail offering. They're trying to change the way people reference the data in their e-mail. If you've ever tried to find something in one of your e-mail folders, you'll understand the problem. gmail addresses this by using google's search engine to index and search your e-mail. Further they allow each user to have 1 gigabyte of e-mail stored. This is a HUGE amount of e-mail. This means that you pretty much don't delete e-mail but just "archive" it.

And gmail is free. But, gmail is still in the beta testing phase so it is limited to membership by invitation. Not to worry, go to eBay and bid on one. I bought 3 for less than $4 total. And you don't get the advertising signatures like Juno. Just targeted (yes, they scan your e-mail) ads down the right side when you're reading the e-mail.

Remember it is still beta so it burps now and then. Their spam filters aren't up to my Bayesian filter in Outlook. It does have some nice features that let you set an alternative reply address. I use this to try to keep people sending e-mail to my desotonet.com address which is easier to redirect as needed. I even use my desotonet.com mail server to "clone" my e-mail to my bellsouth.net account and to gmail.com! That way, it shows up in both places. (An interesting side effect is that I get to see what the bellsouth.net spam filters keep out. They're pretty good.)

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Canada 2004

We just returned from a week in Canada's Maritime Provinces. We flew into Halifax and drove on to Charlottetown. Pictures are here.