Saturday, December 30, 2006


If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know I have a quest for an easy to use password tool. For a program/database, I've settled on KeePass from SourceForge. Then the challenge was how to make KeePass easy to use. I found a Hagiwara USB drive that faked being a CD-ROM drive. But, the honeymoon didn't last long. I gave an update here.

Then one night while working my RSS feeds on Bloglines, I came across a bargain from Dell. They had a 1 GB SanDisk Micro Cruzer U3 for $9 with free shipping. I bought 2!

I jumped on it because of the size and only realized that it was U3 after I had ordered it.

When it arrived, I started playing with the U3 capability. It is very similar to the capability of the Hagiwara but was "closed" (more on that later). Even with this "closed" architecture, it seemed like it was hackable in that all the control information was on the writable side in XML files.

A session with Google turned up loads of information. Here're several sources:
But let me just net it out. I used the Shortcut Creator 4U3 from SmithTech above and it worked like a charm.

Actually, once I saw how easy it really was, I've built more just by hand. It seems to me like the U3 folks just make it look complicated.

Now briefly on the "hackable" angle of U3. Obviously there has to be a way to write to the CD-ROM side of the U3 drive. John Smith (and certainly others) has figured this out. Smith has AutoLauncher 4U3 that will let you run whatever you want via the CD-ROM's autorun.inf.

So far, I've found SanDisk's LaunchPad satisfactory.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Trusted Zone

I listen to Leo Laporte and Steve Gibson on the Security Now podcast. Sometimes (?) Steve Gibson is a little over the top but he certainly makes you think. In one episode, they talked about Steve's technique to use Internet Explorer more safely. Leo wrote this up here.

The net of this is to set your Internet Explorer Options so that the Internet Zone (Internet) is set to high security. This stops ActiveX, Java, and Javascript. Then add the sites you trust to use these capabilities to the Trusted Zone.

This sounds well and good but the impact has been pretty disruptive. For example, not running Javascript defeats Maxthon's Super Drag Drop.

But broader than this, I have found that these capabilities are required for a satisfactory experience at so many sites that you end up adding more and more sites to the Trusted Zone.

Here's a list that I started keeping as I had to add and then gave up on: (won't load or save) (won't load the Flash)
Oh, on the, you have to add https separately from http. You can wildcard second level domains, e.g. http://*

It's been an interesting experiment but I don't think I'm going to stick with it.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Kerio Personal Firewall

I always try to keep a couple of things to "play" with. Currently, I'm running Sunbelt Kerio Personal Firewall on my X20. It reminds me of ZoneAlarm but less resource intensive. I admit it's been a while since I've used ZoneAlarm but I suspect it hasn't gotten smaller.

Kerio has 2 modes: a free mode and a full mode. I'm running the free mode, natch. In the free mode, you get all the features except Host-based Intrusion Prevention and Content Filtering. There are a couple of more full mode features related to administration. Host-based Intrusion Prevention (HIPS) will prevent buffer overflows and code execution from running on your system. I've lived without that so far. For Content Filtering, I use the capabilities of Maxthon.

Every now and then Kerio nags at you about "running restricted version" but a single click dismisses the dialog.

One thing that Kerio does that is similar to ZoneAlarm is it has the concept of a "Trusted (network) area." This is normally set to the address space that is presented to your NIC, in my case You can tell Kerio that all access to this trusted area is Ok and minimize some of the prompts. I hadn't done that just so I could see what all was going on with the intention of eventually enabling that address space. However, once when I was on vacation, the hotel had a wireless network and they too were using!

So before I turn that on as "trusted" in Kerio, I want to readdress my home router to a different, unusual address space.

There are a bunch of screen shots on the Sunbelt page referenced above and a users' guide here.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Recently, I was at work and looking for a copy of CamStudio. When I Googled it, I came across PortableApps has a portable copy of CamStudio here. It's not in their index but I found it in the beta testing section.

So I nosed around PortableApps some and they have a nice collection of applications packaged to install and run on a USB drive. Examples are Firefox, 7-Zip, gaim, etc. If you don't find what you want, look around in the beta testing section mentioned above. I found a portable skype there.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Undelete Plus

A friend went through a situation some months ago where his My Documents got deleted by a LAN administrator. He searched for something to "undelete" these files. I don't remember what he found but his experience set me off on a quest for something "just in case."

I found Restoration from Brian Kato. This is available here. It seems like there are newer versions available but none of the crumbs lead back to the author.

Anyway, Restoration works pretty good. Here's a screen shot:

Then today, I ran across Undelete Plus while reading lifehacker.

It works well also but has an easier UI. Here's a screen shot:

The big difference from Restoration is that panel on the left side. With a single click, you can subset by the file type, the folder where the file is located, or the drive. In this example, I had deleted an Excel file. By just clicking on the "MS Excel WorkSheet" in the left panel, Undelete Plus displayed the file I was looking for.

Obviously, this is a trivial example. If your real life is more complicated, there is a powerful filter capability.

Remember that undeleting files is not guaranteed. Your mileage may vary.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Christmas Wish List 2006

Uniden TCX440 Cordless Color Handset 5.8GHz

This is another extension for our new phone system.

I got our current ones from Staples but they are out of stock right now. I'd recommend looking on eBay. Find one that has "Buy It Now." It should be less than $50 with shipping.

Pandigital 7" Digital Photo Frame

This is a digital photo frame like we gave Hanley when he got his Masters.

OfficeDepot has it on sale for $89.99 after a $10 rebate.

Maxell CD-R Spindle, Pack Of 50

I can always use blank CDs.

OfficeDepot has them on sale for $5.99.

Seidio Stereo Adapter

I know I've asked for and received one of these before but my new car has a place where I can plug my Treo into the radio. This will let me use my Treo to play my podcasts while I drive.

You can order it here.

Smartphone Experts P6 Pouch Case

This is a horizontal case for my Treo.

You can order it here.

Exilim EX-Z1000 Digital Camera

This is the latest model of the same camera that I have but with more megapixels and anti-shake.

You can order it here for $279.96 with free shipping.

ACU-RITE Digital Thermometer with Humidity Gauge

This is an indoor-outdoor thermometer. I know we have one now but it is wireless and I have trouble keeping it working.

I found this at Lowe's for $12.97.

Update 12/25/06: Thanks Santa!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Browser Share II

Last June, I posted about the changes in the browser share on my blog. I looked again last week at the mix. I was surprised to find that Internet Explorer (all versions) had dropped from 59% to below 48%. Kind of makes you wonder if IE7 isn't too late.

Firefox has dropped 3% points (10% relative). I wonder if that's not where the IE7 growth came from.

Since both IE and Firefox declined, the usage had to go somewhere. It went to Opera and Safari, together up from 3% to 20%. That's odd.


I went to the HP Technology Forum last month. As usual, it was excellent. They just posted the presentations to their web site and I went out and downloaded the decks for the sessions I went to and was interested in.

One of them was a .pptx file. I guessed what that was (an xml file from Office 2007) and being curious, I doubled clicked on it to see what would happen. To my surprise, PowerPoint 2003 immediately opened it (or tried to). Seems that PowerPoint 2003 has a file association for .pptx files.

As expected, PowerPoint 2003 couldn't open it. Unexpectedly, I got an interesting pop-up.

Of course, I clicked on "Yes."

This took me to the 2007 Microsoft Office system preview site where I was offered a "Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats." Sure, I'll bite.

I expected some kind of viewer but again I got the unexpected. When I downloaded and installed it, I then had the ability to "Open, edit, save, and create files in the robust file formats new to the 2007 Microsoft Office system in Microsoft Office 2000, Office XP, and Office 2003."

Read that closely. With this update, you can "open, edit, save, and create" Office 2007 formats in "Office 2000, Office XP, and Office 2003."

Try it yourself.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Untouched By Human Hands

I've written about VideoReDo before. It's still one of the few software programs that I've laid out my money for and well worth it. Recently, they pushed a new update for VideoReDo Plus v2.5. The new Ad-Detective feature automatically marks commercials for deletion. You still need to review its choices but it's pretty good.

Here's a screen shot of a recent scan I did.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Damn Spam Part II

I think I've turned the corner on my recent rant on spam. Somewhere I ran across a post that said that they had blocked this new "image" spam from their Gmail by using a filter to look for "multipart/related" in the message.

I went over to K9, right-clicked on an e-mail in the "Recent Emails" tab, and went down to Blacklist/Header... and entered "multipart/related".

This works pretty good. This morning, I got 29 spams and 25 of them were caught by this Blacklist entry.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

How To Safely Store And Manage Passwords Part III

Back in February 2006, I described what I'd done for password security using KeePass in this post.

Since then, I've made a couple of more improvements. First, it was a hassle carrying around the 128MB Hagiwara USB key. It had too little storage to use for everything so I ended up with it being a second USB key in my pocket. I copied the KeePass directory over to my 512MB USB key and created a _KeePass.bat file in the root directory to run KeePass. This has been working fine.

In the last post, I mentioned that I was using a plugin to backup the database. DB Backup is the one I'm using. DB Backup lets you specify a place to put the backup copy of the database and how many copies to keep. It also lets you run a program AFTER the backup which is key as you'll see in a minute.

However, unless you put the backup copy back on the USB key, you have to write it to the PC's hard drive, e.g. c:\. This isn't a big deal since the database is strongly encrypted but it's messy in that you leave files scattered around and if you lose your USB key and have to go back to the backup you have to think a little to figure out where you backed up last.

I wanted to ftp the backup file up to my web site. I tried some things that didn't work and finally e-mailed the author. He replied promptly but said noone else had done this and offered a couple of suggestions.

I played with this and I've figured it out.

It takes 2 files in the directory where keepass.exe runs from. Here are the 2 files. Comments/explanations are in <>s. Remove them from the actual files.


<begin file>
ftp.exe -s:keepassftp.txt <this is references the second file>
del c:\Backup_of_Database.kdb-0 <this is optional>
<end file>


<begin file>
open <name of the ftp host>
uuuuuuuu <user-id for ftp>
pppppppp <password for ftp>
type binary
cd httpdocs <directory to put the backup file in - for second level directory, repeat on separate line>
delete Backup_of_Database.kdb-3
rename Backup_of_Database.kdb-2 Backup_of_Database.kdb-3
rename Backup_of_Database.kdb-1 Backup_of_Database.kdb-2
rename Backup_of_Database.kdb-0 Backup_of_Database.kdb-1
put c:\Backup_of_Database.kdb-0 Backup_of_Database.kdb-0
<end file>

Then in KeePass, go to Tools/DB Backup plugin/Set Backup Destinations. In "Destinations" put "c:\" (without the quotes) and click "Add." Then check "Additional program to be launched..." and put "keepassftp.bat" (without the quotes) in the input field. I also check "Show Window."

Note that this puts the ftp user-id and password in clear text in the directory where keepass.exe runs from. However, the backup of the database is strongly encrypted.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Monstor Drive

I will be traveling soon and am expecting to take more photos than will fit on my SD cards. I'll have my work laptop with me but wanted a backup for my photos while traveling. I'd looked at bigger (4GB) SD cards but came across this. It was $70 after rebates so I jumped on it. Here's the manufacturer's page.

The pictures on these pages don't do the drive justice. Here's the one I took.

Here're the specifications from the back of the package.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Now Hear This

Just read this. I'm now running Firefox.

These extensions seem to overcome all the problems I had before.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Linux Desktop - Part 1

I was at the HP Technology Forum in Houston this week. One session I was really looking forward to was "GNU/Linux As a General Purpose Enterprise Desktop: A Unique Approach."

I was hoping for some revelation. I was disappointed.

Lemme back up some first.

Earlier this month, I got this idea of playing with Linux. I had seen a guy at work running Ubuntu and I kept seeing it on digg so what the hey.

I had an old ThinkPad 600E. I figured it was so old and ThinkPads were so popular that that should be easy. A quick Google search showed something different.

It seems there is a problem with the ThinkPad's sound card. There're a gillion threads out there but here's a typical one. You don't have to read the whole thing. There is no happy ending.

So I put this idea on ice.

But, come on. SOMEBODY had to be able to get this to work. So a couple of days later, I started again.

I went to The ThinkPad 600E seemed to fit the minimum specs, e.g. 128MB. So I downloaded it and burned a CD.

I had read threads similar to this that talked about setting the "simple boot flag." I did that.

Then I booted the CD. Nice pretty screen and menu. I chose the "run the live CD" choice and ... nothing. I got a progress bar but it hung. Repeat and same results.

Back to the forums and there was some discussion of specifying some overrides on the boot command line. So reboot. Where is the boot command line? Back to the forums. Other people are asking the same question. No response other than what to specify.

There is an irc channel for support so I fired up my irc identity on gaim. Me and 600+ of my closest friends were in a chat room. In spite of that, I got my answer. All I had to do is hit ESC at the menu. Couldn't find that anywhere.

Didn't help. Still wouldn't boot. Finally one thread suggested that if you only had 192MB that you had to use the "alternate" iso. Funny, I thought 192 was greater than 128 but what did I know?

Another download. Another CD.

This time it booted - after it got an error message that it couldn't find the kernel that was specified in the boot command. That is inexcusable to me since I just took all the defaults.

It did come up and installed with a non-graphic install process. It even found and used my old IBM EtherJet card. When it finished and rebooted, it came up to a nice graphic interface. Slower than Christmas!

It downloaded several patches and installed them with just a click. That was nice and the first thing that had impressed me.

So off to fix the sound card.

I had to add a blacklist for what Ubuntu thought the sound card was. I found the equivalent of Windows Explorer and navigated to where the file should be. But the folder I needed wasn't there and the "new folder" choice was grayed out. It seems I wasn't root. None of the threads had mentioned root.

I tried to login as root. First, it said I couldn't login as root from the graphic interface. So I dropped to a shell and tried. But wait, what is the password? The install had never asked me for a root password.

BTTF (back to the forums). Surprise, I wasn't the only one asking that. No one seemed to know what the root password defaulted to. They all just suggested sudo-ing and changing the password. For the non-l337 of us, "sudo" means SuperUserDO. Seems to pretty well bypass any security.

Back into the shell to log in as root. But now I can't get back to the GUI where I knew how to navigate around.

I gave up.

Not really. Now I have some Fedora disks to try.

And I never got around to telling my experience at the Linux for the enterprise session. Later.

Friday, September 01, 2006

I'm Still Searching

...for an SD card reader that I can keep in my pocket. You'll remember my last attempt at this with the I-Rock IR8200. Recently I came across another one from Meritline.

It was $4.95 with free shipping when I found it.

It came in today. I guess I'm expecting too much given the size of an SD card. While it's much sleeker and lighter than the I-Rock, it's really not much smaller and it doesn't have any kind of loop for keyring attachment.

Here's how they line up:

BlackBerry Connect for Cingular Treo 650

Finally, Palm and Cingular released BlackBerry Connect (BBC) for the Treo 650. I saw it in engadget yesterday. I pinged our IT guy about what version of BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) we have and it is v4.0 with SP2. That is enough for BlackBerry Connect.

So on the way in this morning, I dialed 611 to ask them about how much the BlackBerry Connect was. That was a trip. They finally connected me to the BlackBerry support group who actually knew what was going on. I had PDA Connect Unlimited for $39.99. BlackBerry Connect Unlimited is $44.99. I went ahead and had them convert me to that.

Then I stopped by the BES guy at work and told him I was going to do it today. He set me up an account on the BES and off I went.

The page that engadget linked to ( was pretty good and the "Download" link took you to another page ( that told you specifically what you needed.

I clicked on "Download BlackBerry Connect" and got hit with an odd question. Had "I purchased my Treo 650 smartphone on or before June 3, 2006." First I clicked that I had and was taken to a page to buy the software for $9.99. Well, you know how I feel about buying software so I backed up and clicked on the other link.

On that page, I was asked for my Treo 650 serial #. I entered it and the download began. So far, so good. So you don't have to jump ahead, it continued being good.

The download completed. I unzipped it and ran the .exe. It told me what it was going to do. It installed the BlackBerry Connect Desktop and updated the Versamail and Calendar applications on the Treo 650. It told me it would require 2 soft resets and 2 HotSyncs of the Treo 650 and it did. I didn't have to reboot the laptop.

During the second HotSync, it started asking questions about my Lotus Notes account. Unlike ExtendConnect's OneBridge that wanted the Sametime password, BBC wanted my real Notes password. I had to override the assumed BES to point to the one that my account was on but the BES guy had told me which one to specify.

Once the install finished, I couldn't immediately see anything different on the Treo 650. In retrospect, that was an indicator of how well integrated BBC is with the Treo 650. I finally just went to Versamail and the title said "BBC" but the screen was blank. My heart dropped. Just before I really panicked, the inbasket began populating!

Backing up for just a second, there is no separate application on the Treo 650 to manage the BBC. All of the settings I have found are in the menus for Versamail. Oh, some are set on the BlackBerry Connect Desktop, just like with a RIM BlackBerry, e.g. the signature.

After I had worn myself out playing with it, I thought I'd better try my POP3 account in Versamail. You guessed it. It didn't work. The network wouldn't connect. I called up the Enterprise Support at Cingular. They could immediately tell what was wrong. They had to fix something on their end. They had me turn off the phone, wait 30 seconds, and turn it back on. That got it.

The support page is here. That page includes the BlackBerry Connect Setup Guide, the BlackBerry Connect User Guide, and the Datasheet.

It worked great all day. There are a couple of wish list items but I'm not so certain that I just haven't figured them out yet. After all, I've only had it working 6 hours so far.
  • The alerts for the push e-mail are based on the Treo 650's Prefs, Sounds & Alerts, General, Application: System. If you set this to "Off," you only get a visible alert, i.e. the blinking asterisk. If you set this to "On," then the Treo 650 beeps every time you do ANYTHING. I confirmed this with Palm today.
  • You can't "File" e-mails from the BBC to your Notes server account, for example to move mail to a "Spam" folder.
  • You can't set a schedule for synchronizing like with a RIM BlackBerry or the ExtendConnect OneBridge application. This is going to be a nuisance over weekends.
If you have any ideas on these items let me know. If I make any progress, I'll post again.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006 Blog Search

Recently I wrote about Today I'm going to talk about another piece of acquired Bloglines a while back and leveraged them to enhance their blog search capability. The URL is not the friendliest - so add it to your favorites. (Hint: is easier to remember and does the same thing.)

How they use the Bloglines information is to "qualify" blogs for inclusion in their blog search. In other words, when you use's blog search, they only search blogs that are subscribed to using Bloglines. The idea is that this should raise the quality of the search results. Here's what they say about it:
Blogs and Feeds: Search the blogosphere using our unique algorithm that combines search technology and Bloglines subscription data. We index the most popular blogs that people across the web subscribe to daily to ensure higher-quality results and minimizes blog spam.
To try this, I searched for "apple wifi driver vulnerabilities" using Google, Technorati, and Here are the results:

Even without going further than the first screen, I think has better results. But wait, there's more.

Look at the results. Do you see the little binoculars beside one of the entries? Hover over them and voila!

Without even leaving the search results page!

Obviously I'm a fan of Google and therefore Google Maps. If you've seen my blog WhereIveBen you'll also see that I use Windows Live Local.

One mapping capability that I hadn't found was the ability to set specific waypoints along the way thereby sending the route along something other than the shortest/quickest route.

I had found Harley-Davidson's Ride Planner but that was really hard to use as you had to give it a specific street address for every waypoint (or at least that was the only way that I could find).

Then last week I came across a blog entry talking about's maps. The part talking about maps is some ways down in the entry.

I played with it yesterday and I like it! To set a waypoint, you just right click on the map and it locates the closest reference point. It could be a street address (like Harley's Ride Planner) or it could be an intersection (which is just what I wanted). You can also just drag a waypoint to wherever you want it.

I used it to lay out a motorcycle ride and here it is. Yeah, it's not a tinyurl but it's maps has satellite imagery and even a topological view but doesn't seem to have any maps outside North America.

Another time I'll tell you about's blog search and why it's different.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Damn Spam

Spam has taken a turn and not for the better. I've been using K9 for a couple of years and it's been doing great.

However, recently spammers begun putting their message in an embedded gif. Then they throw a lot of random text in the body to confuse the Bayesian filters. Unfortunately, it seems like they're being successful at it. Look at the following statistics report from K9:Since February 2005, K9 has only missed 2% of spam. However, looking at only August 2006, that has jumped to 5.5%.

This afternoon when I checked my e-mail, I had 5 messages. All of these were this type of spam. K9 correctly identified 2 of the 5 as spam but missed the other 3.

What's a body to do?

Saturday, August 26, 2006


A friend's blog had a entry last week asking for ideas on:
I want to store contact information (email addresses and cell phone numbers) somewhere that is (1) secure (2) immune from losing the information (3) free. What are your suggestions?
He had lost his cell phone a while back and with it all his names and numbers.

I commented and mentioned my beloved Cardfile program but as I wrote the comment, thought of using KeePass.

I started it up and looked around. I realized that I could create a folder in KeePass (I called it "Names and Addresses"). I put the name in KeePass' "Title" field and the body of the entry in the "Notes" field. This gave me a view very much like Cardfile.
The entries look like this:
I went through pure Hell converting my Cardfile entries to CSV format to import but they eventually came in cleanly. Look at the screen shot above - I made the e-mail addresses mailtos and they even come through as hyperlinks.

Now all my names and addresses are strongly encrypted on my USB key and backed up to the hard drive each time they're changed (keeping 3 old copies). KeePass runs from the USB key without installation on any version of Windows.

Sunday, August 13, 2006


Years ago, I was trying to create a CD for a customer to hand out as samples. She wanted it to automatically run when inserted. I had created her a lot of content as a web site so I wanted to reuse as much of that as possible. I decided to just load her web site onto the CD and make it autorun the index.htm page.

Wasn't as easy as it seemed. The situation is that the autorun.inf process will only "run" executables. One way to work around this is to use the "start" command.
open=start mydocument.ext
The downside of this is the DOS command window flashes by.

I finally found a program called winstart.exe from a guy in Australia. What this program does is launch whatever program is associated with the file you specify. This is confusing to explain but works very cleverly.

For instance, in my case I wanted to launch the user's browser and load index.htm. So my autorun.inf simply looked like this:
open=WINSTART.EXE index.htm
This causes the browser to open (without that unsightly command window flash) with the index.htm page.

I have squirreled away a copy of winstart.exe but when I sat down to write this, I went looking for a reference for it. When I Googled "winstart.exe" I got pages of hits talking about worms and viruses. The winstart.exe that I am talking about is NOT malicious.

The author (Jeff Turner) still hosts this on this page.

Monday, August 07, 2006


My wife has taken a new position in her job and has been working at home a lot of evenings. Her new work computer at first wouldn't acknowledge USB drives so we fell back to the old faithful floppy. We quickly filled up the first one and started on the second. Then we had to keep up with which was which. Shades of 1990!

I remembered that I had read about Microsoft buying FolderShare and making it available for free. I searched the blogosphere looking for negative comments on it. Surprisingly, I didn't find much negative chat. Most were glowing testimonials.

One theme that kept coming up was how easy it was to use UPnP to open the required ports on their firewalls. That was a red flag to me. I read the FolderShare FAQs carefully and they were full of weasel words, e.g. "To get the most out of FolderShare," and "The Satellite must be able to accept connections on at least one port to serve files via the web."

They had a place where you could submit a question to Support so I did. Suffice it to say that the same people who wrote the FAQs wrote the robotic e-mail responses, e.g. "it is important for you to enable the UPnP..."

By now, my patience was running thin. I found this blog entry that said "You don't have to open any ports on your firewall or do any special configuration; it takes care of everything for you."

What the hell. I just tried it. John Pattison hit the nail on the head. I just installed it on her work computer and played with it.

Oddly, before I could see all the options for sharing, I had to log into the same account from a second computer simultaneously. Then all the options were there. I shared her "My Documents" from her work computer and created a new synchronized folder on my home computer.

I could see her "My Documents" immediately on the second computer. Some of the blog entries I found suggested that sometimes it could take a minute or so to replicate. All I can say is that I haven't seen any delays.

Without ports open on my firewall, FolderShare has to be using a central server that each computer is keeping updated with the status. I presume that if you have ports opened, that the computers talk directly to each other without burdening the central server. This is probably why the FolderShare Support keeps pushing you to open ports.

The other neat thing I found is since FolderShare makes the files look like they're local on both computers, my Tivoli CDP thinks that they are local and includes them in its backup.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Where I've Ben

I've written about GoogleSightseeing a couple of times, here and here. I kept submitting sights but they only posted this one. I think mine are at least as interesting as the World's Largest 7 Up.

So I've created a new blog entitled "Where I've Ben" (pun intended). I hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

ISO Recorder

I play with so much stuff that sometimes I forget what I've come across.

Tonight I was going to copy a CD. I stuck it in drive E: (dutifully holding down the Shift key) and a blank CD in drive D:. I opened Windows Explorer and right clicked on E: to explore it. I didn't want to double-click and run the risk of autorunning it. When I right clicked, in the context menu was "Copy CD to CD."

Where did that come from?

Well, that was what I wanted to do so I clicked on it.

So far so good.

There was no help so I clicked the icon in the top left and got an "About."

So off I went to the web site.

Welcome to the ISO Recorder download page. ISO Recorder is a tool (power toy) for Windows XP, 2003 and now Windows Vista, that allows (depending on the Windows version) to burn CD and DVD images, copy disks, make images of the existing data CDs and DVDs and create ISO images from a content of a disk folder.

ISO Recorder has been conceived during Windows XP beta program, when Microsoft for the first time started distributing new OS builds as ISO images. Even though the new OS had CD-burning support (by Roxio), it did not have an ability to record an image. ISO Recorder has filled this need and has been one of the poular Windows downloads ever since.

With an advent of Windows XP SP2 and Windows 2003 the version 2 of ISO Recorder has been released, which intorduced some new new features including ISO creation and support for non-admin user.

Finally, in Windows Vista it became possible to address another long-standing request and provide DVD burning capability.

Since the very beginning ISO Recorder has been a free tool (for personal use). It is recommended by MSDN download site along with Easy CD and Nero and is used by a number of companies around the world.
Pretty neat. It worked great too.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Who's S.M.A.R.T and Who's Not?

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the problems I was having with a Western Digital 250GB. These continued. I finally downloaded their Data Lifeguard utility and ran it. Interestingly, it will run against a USB-connected drive so I didn't have to move the drive over to an IDE connection.
So I ran its extended test. It took 16+ hours. Here's the result:

Notice in the background that the SMART (Western Digital uses it without the periods so I will too) status is X FAIL. It did say that there were some bad sectors that "may be repairable!" I clicked on "Repair" and it completed immediately. Seemed odd to me but what do I know?

So then I ran their SMART display again and it had a X next to Raw Read Error Rate and a 1 in "Warranty." Still, they said they repaired the bad sectors.

So I ran the extended test again. Again, it took hours, overnight actually. However, this time it didn't find any errors. Whew!

I went to Windows and reformatted the drive. Another run that took hours and hours but no errors.

So I ran their SMART display and more Xs and 1s under "Warranty."

I printed off these SMART reports and packed this drive up and sent it to Western Digital. The replacement should be here tomorrow.

So today I went to my desktop (SERVER) and began using VideoReDo to edit out the commercials in a bunch of programs I'd recorded. It seemed to me that the system was being sluggish but nothing else was running.

I downloaded HDTune and ran it against the 120GB Seagate.

Look at those HUGE numbers under things like "Raw Read Error Rate" and "Seek Error Rate." So I downloaded Seagate's SeaTools. It created a bootable diskette and I ran that. "No problems." Yeah, right.

I called Seagate yesterday and spoke to Mick. Mick was very knowledgeable on this drive and the error indicators. He said that Seagate doesn't use the SMART counters in the standard way so that the results of HDTune weren't accurate. I asked him how I could display the recoverable error counters. He said that they didn't make that available. The only diagnostics the customer can run are the SeaTools. Hmmm.
Just to make sure I wasn't nuts, I ran HDTune against my boot drive, the 60GB Western Digital that came in this HP system.

Can you say "Clean as a whistle?"

And to make my day a total mess, I ran HDTune against the 80GB Seagate on my SageTV box.

Now I think I understand why this box seems slow at times. With HDTune, I could actually sit and watch these counters increase. For you faithful readers, this 80GB Seagate is the same as the one mentioned here.

So, now what? Right now, I'm just wringing my hands. I have a couple of conclusions and still some questions.

  1. OEM drives are better than after-market drives. I can't explain this but all the drives I'm having problems with were bought in the after-market (from reputable businesses, e.g. CompUSA, CircuitCity, etc.).
  2. I think that the PC malaise that some people report are actually hard-drive problems and not exclusively cooties.
  3. Manufacturers' diagnostics are self-serving. Both vendors I used gave clean bills of health to drives that were eaten up with correctable but degrading errors.
  1. What to do?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Picasa Web

Have you tried Google's Picasa Web? It came out a couple of weeks ago. Initially it was by "invitation" only. Technically, it still is but it seems that you get your invitation immediately. You'll need a Gmail account and then go to

You'll get 250MB of storage for free. You can bump up to 6GB for $25 per year or use more than one Gmail account. Looks to me like 250MB will last a while. More on that later.

You can upload to Picasa Web two different ways. First, you can use the typical web upload for one file at a time. Ignore the #4 FAQ that says you can't. They just want you to download the Picasa desktop client. Which leads to the second method of uploading, using the Picasa desktop client.

If you already have the Picasa desktop client, you will still need to download the v2.5 beta. It has the feature you need to post to Picasa Web directly from the Picasa desktop client.

In a nutshell, all you have to do from the Picasa desktop client is to create an album and click on the "Web Album" button.
You get a prompt about what size to upload. Just let that default. Picasa will resize the pictures and upload them to Picasa Web.

If you have the v2.5 beta Picasa desktop client and you visit a Picasa Web album that allows you to download, you'll have a link on that web page that allows you to download the entire album!

I have over 250 pictures on my Picasa Web and am using 25% of my 250MB.

You'll notice that the URL has my Gmail e-mail address so you may want to setup another Gmail address for photos (and darn, you'll get another 250MB for each one that you setup).

Monday, July 03, 2006

How can I run a scheduled task without a password?

This is v2 of this post. I wrote this a couple of nights ago and waited to post it until I had tested it. See, I can't be wrong all the time.

What I was trying to do was to setup a scheduled task on my SageTV box to defrag. I set it up and kept getting "Could not start" errors. I googled it and ... Well, here's the v1 of this post.

I just love Google. Maybe that is just the Internet and the wealth of information on it.

I'm still working on getting my SageTV box up to "unlimited" storage. Until then, I'm stuck with only 80GB and with the World Cup games on, that's kinda tight.

While I know that defragmentation doesn't give me any more space, being tight on space creates more fragmentation.

I Googled "how can i run a scheduled task without a password"and found this link as the second entry:

Scheduled Tasks - Running Tasks Without A Password
For XP Pro: Go to Start/Administrative Tools/Local Security Policy/Security Settings/Local Policies/Security OptionsAccounts: Limit local account use of blank passwords to console logon only. This is enabled by default, disable it.
For XP Home: (Keith Miller) Go to Start/Run/Regedit and navigate to this key:HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Lsa
Value name: limitblankpassworduse, Type: REG_DWORD, Data: 0 (disabled) 1 (enabled)
So chalk up another problem solved to Google.

Oh, I didn't see the "Adminstrative Tools" on my Start menu so I just right-clicked on Start and chose "Explore all users". The link I needed was "Local Security Policy" in "C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu\Programs\Administrative Tools". The target is "%SystemRoot%\system32\secpol.msc /s".

As Paul Harvey says, "Now for the rest of the story."

That didn't fix it.

What I didn't mention in v1 was how I setup the scheduled task. I went to Start/Run and entered "cmd" to get a command prompt. Then I entered the following:
at 02:00 /every:M,T,W,Th,F,S,Su "defrag c:"
Seemed like a good idea at the time.

When the above machinations didn't fix this, I started to dig deeper. What I found is a file in c:\Windows named SchedLgU.Txt. This is the log of all the executions (or attempts in my case) of scheduled tasks.

Here's what mine said:
"Defrag.job" () 7/3/2006 5:24:01 PM ** ERROR ** Unable to start
task. The specific error is: 0x80070002: The system cannot find the
file specified. Try using the Task page Browse button to locate the
Duh. I had the command in quotes and it didn't need to be. This is what it should have been:
at 02:00 /every:M,T,W,Th,F,S,Su defrag c:
Then I remembered WHY I had been doing this at the command prompt. If you use the "at" command at a command prompt to establish a scheduled task, it runs with Administrator authority and not your user account!

The fiddling with the security policy was completely unnecessary.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

More Wal-Mart Technology

Remember my post a while back on technology available at Wal-Mart? And my recent post of the flat cat 5e cable from Wal-Mart?

Well, they've done it again. My son-in-law just bought a second monitor for his system at home and wanted a monitor "splitter."

What he really needed is a DVI to DB15 adapter. I found one at CompUSA for $29.99.
Then I went to looking. Amazingly, Wal-Mart had this for $14.97.
Since the pictures are slightly different, I went to and searched to see the difference. I searched first for "F2E4162A" (CompUSA's reference) and then "HDDB15F" (Wal-Mart's reference). The results pointed to the same page!

So which would you buy?

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Flat Cat 5e

With my SageTV system, I've always wrestled with network connectivity. With the original box (Dell Dimension GX150), I used a 802.11b USB 1.1 adapter. When I bumped it to 802.11g 108 Mbps, I had to get a gaming adapter since the USB 1.1 port wouldn't run that fast. Frankly, I was probably optimistic to think that the USB 1.1 port would be the limiting factor.

When I upgraded to the GX270, it had USB 2.0 but I kept the gaming adapter. I have always had questions about the speed of the 108 Mbps network. It seemed that the gaming adapter kept slowing down and then speeding up. You can't really tell much about the gaming adapter since it just looks like an Ethernet port to the PC.

I had a guy come out and look at running me Cat 5 between the SageTV box and the router but he couldn't get to the top of the wall with the router.

This week we had some tile laid and I realized that the guys that do that also lay carpet. I remembered something that I had seen at Wal-Mart. It was FLAT Cat 5e cable. It came in 3 lengths, 15 ft., 25 ft., and 50 ft. I measured and the 25 ft. would reach from the SageTV box to my closet where my networking stuff is.

The floor guy lifted up the carpet and slipped the cable under it. He had to take a coat hanger and work it under a door threshold but it worked fine. It's so FLAT.

As I thought about blogging on this, I went to the APC site looking for pictures and specifications. I didn't find anything so I just scanned some of the packaging.