Tuesday, November 30, 2004

What to Buy the Geek in Your Life

Ars holiday gift guide: "We have pulled together the ultimate holiday gift guide, covering everything the geek could want. We've got cool gadgets, gaming stuff, and the hot hardware."

I sure love geek gift guides! My faves from the Ars Technica list:

- palmOne Zire 31 handheld
- Hawking HWL1 WiFi Locator
- Apple iMac G5 (17")
- Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 200GB hard drive - SATA, please!
- XFX NVIDIA GeForce 6600GT AGP 8x
- Altec Lansing XA3051 computer speakers - I sure do need new speakers. My old Altec Lansings still work, but... they're like 7 years old!
- Canon Pixma iP4000 photo printer - I'd print a whole lot more photos if I could do it from home :)

Yay, STUFF!!! :)

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Poker Blues

Well, last night's poker tourney was a bust. Finished 4th out of 12 - on the bubble, as they say, one spot out of the money. I picked the wrong time and person to try to bluff out of a pot, went all in and lost it with King high to like 3rd pair on board or some garbage. What I was counting on was my opponent fearing the 3rd heart that had hit the board, and that she'd figure I'd hit the flush. When I think about it now, she was using a cheat sheet to remember all of the poker hands, and a player that "new" probably wouldn't even be looking at the board to think about what the OTHER players have. At that stage, you're too busy concentrating on what you DO have (in her case, a pair of 7's). There are other reasons I shouldn't have risked all my chips to try and take a pot from this girl, but suffice it to say, that was the biggest. Moral of the story: think about who you're bluffing before you bluff, and for God's sake, don't do it with all your chips on the bubble!

I started keeping a log of my online sit-and-go tournaments, and here are the results for the last week and a half or so:

11/18/04 - $10 - 5th -
11/19/04 - $5 - 2nd ($15)
11/20/04 - $5 - 3rd ($10)
11/20/04 - $5 - 4th -
11/20/04 - $5 - 3rd ($10)
11/22/04 - $5 - 3rd ($10)
11/22/04 - $10 - 5th -
11/22/04 - $10 - 7th -
11/23/04 - $5 - 2nd ($15)
11/24/04 - $5 - 6th -
11/26/04 - $10 - 2nd ($18)
11/27/04 - $5 - 3rd ($9)
11/27/04 - $5 - 10th (2-table, 18 players)
11/27/04 - $5 - 9th

The most obvious thing - no 1st place finishes in this run. And I'm down $3. (More like $16 when you count the tournament fees). Not so good. Could be worse - but not good at all. I've been making notes on some of my tendencies and have been working on a few things, one of which is my positional play. We'll see how it goes. I'm sure I'll be posting an update soon, either telling the tale of how I busted out, or how I turned myself around and won millions...

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Create an Unattended XP SP2 CD

Nice little article on turning your old Windows XP CD into one with Service Pack 2 integrated into it. Plus - make it an unattended installation CD if you'd like. (This step is optional). Check it out:

ASE Labs: Articles - Unattended XP SP2 CD: "Break out that old Windows XP CD and prepare to turn it into a slipstreamed SP2 and we'll also make it unattended. Time is money after all."

The New Screen Savers

kevin rose dot com - "Well my friends – TSS has evolved once again. This coming Monday the 29th, you’ll see a brand new cast take the helm. We’ve had a lot of talented hosts as part of the TSS family, and now we have two new additions: Kevin Pereira, and Chi-Lan Lieu.

After the most recent changes to the show, I was given a choice - either host the new show, or create content. I decided to go back to what I love most, and that’s creating content. Now that I’m freed up from my hosting duties, I’ll spend my free time working on DarkTips and other great tech segments – which I’m very excited about. Expect to see me (and my partner in crime Sarah Lane) on every show, doing what we do best.

I’m off to Vegas – everyone have a great Thanksgiving, and see you on Monday!"

-- :( Great.... I miss Patrick Norton!!!!!!!!!!! And Kevin Rose was the only reason I kept watching TSS... soon I won't even bother...

Friday, November 26, 2004

AMD roadmap drops Athlon XP

AMD roadmap drops Athlon XP | The Register: "AMD has updated its public roadmap. The biggest change: the death of its Athlon XP brand.

AMD has fully committed itself to Sempron, and adds a couple of new 90nm processors to the line-up. Indeed, there's a clear shift toward 90nm over 130nm across the roadmap....

A new 90nm AMD Athlon 64 core is due H1 2005. Codenamed 'Venice' it will replace today's 90nm and 130nm Athlon 64 desktop chips. Again, it's not clear how this CPU differs from the 90nm 'Winchester' part that's currently shipping. [more]"

-- Interesting stuff. Glad to hear that 90nm is the future of AMD, since I just bought a 90nm Winchester-core Athlon 64! :)

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Exploding Cell Phones

Yahoo! News - Exploding Cell Phones a Growing Problem: "Curtis Sathre said it was like a bomb going off. His 13-year-old son Michael stood stunned, ears ringing, hand gushing blood after his cell phone exploded. Safety officials have received 83 reports of cell phones exploding or catching fire in the past two years, usually because of bad batteries or chargers. [more]"

-- Yikes! Kinda creepy. I'm fire-paranoid as it is - now I have to worry about my cell phone blowing up on me. Grrreeeeeat....

Studies: Cord Blood Works Vs. Leukemia

Yahoo! News - Studies: Cord Blood Works Vs. Leukemia.

"Umbilical-cord blood, now used mostly to treat children with leukemia, could save thousands of adults with the disease each year who cannot find bone marrow donors, two big studies indicate.

A European study found that those who got cord blood were just as likely to be free of leukemia two years later as those who got marrow. A U.S. study looking at three-year survival yielded results almost as promising.

To Dr. Mary Horowitz of the Medical College of Wisconsin, senior author of the U.S. study, the message is clear: Umbilical cord blood can save adults.

Leukemia patients often undergo radiation or chemotherapy to kill their cancerous white blood cells — a treatment that wipes out their immune systems, too. To restore their immune systems, doctors give these patients an infusion of bone marrow or umbilical cord blood, both of which contain stem cells capable of developing into every kind of blood cell.

Cord blood offers an important advantage over marrow that makes it particularly valuable for use in transplants: Its stem cells are less likely to attack the recipient's body. That allows a wider margin of error in matching up donors and recipients. [more]"

-- My dad died almost 5 years ago at a way too early age, from leukemia resulting from benzene poisoning. Umbilical cord cells weren't an option then. Maybe they can save somebody else's dad.

Intel Quietly Adopts AMD's x86-64

Slashdot | Intel Quietly Adopts AMD's x86-64: "'The rumors reported earlier at /. are confirmed. The latest offerings in the Pentium 4 family now support AMD's x86-64 architecture, even though Intel is not willing to admit it very openly, by using cryptic names like EM64T and (gasp) IA-32e. (The naming issue was discussed on lkml, and the consensus there was to use 'x86-64,' even though sometimes AMD refers to it as 'AMD64'). Intel's FAQ admits their implementation is basically compatible with x86-64, except for the minor differences that have always set Athlons and P4s apart. It's about time Intel jumped on AMD's bandwagon, since its homegrown 64-bit architecture seems not to be doing very well.'"

Pirated Windows? MS Will Replace It, Free!

Microsoft proposes piracy amnesty | Tech News on ZDNet: "Microsoft has announced what it hopes will be a new attack on piracy. The company has decided to give away software to those who bought machines with fake copies pre-installed.

Microsoft will be offering anyone who's 'unsure' about whether they've got dodgy software the chance to have it checked out by Microsoft, with the promise that if it does turn out to be counterfeit, they'll replace it.

The deal only covers Windows XP, and only five copies per person can be swapped. It's all free, besides the initial postage and packing. The offer only applies to pre-installed home or professional Windows XP bought before Nov. 1.

Hilton also said anyone found with the pirate program won't suffer legal repercussions--but that their suppliers might. 'Our goal is not to prosecute the individual; our goal is to get to the source,' he said, adding that a decision on prosecution would be made on a case-by-case basis.

To get a replacement copy of Windows XP, PC users will need to send off their receipt and complete a witness statement, revealing where they bought their knock-off software."

Happy Thanksgiving!

To everyone in the US celebrating turkey day today -

Happy Thanksgiving!!! :)

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

My New AMD 64 Upgrade Parts

Tonight, my PC upgrade process has officially begun - at least, the buying of parts. I bought the motherboard and memory at my local Tiger Direct outlet shop. Sadly though, their price on the CPU I want was $90 higher than I've seen it on the net, so I didn't buy the CPU there. I ordered it online about 6 seconds ago :)

Here's what I'm getting:

First up, the Asus A8V Deluxe motherboard. HardOCP.com gave it a "Must Have Hardware" award, and it looks to be a sweet overclocker. I currently have an Asus board with my Athlon XP 2200+ and I've never had a single problem with it. The one bummer is that it doesn't have built in wireless network access - but I'm currently using a USB wireless NIC anyway, so why am I crying? Here's what it does have:

3 IDE ATA-133 ports; 4 SATA-150 ports; 8 USB 2.0 capable ports (4 in rear panel, and 1 onboard headers supporting 2 ports each); 2 IEEE 1394a capable ports (1 in rear panel, 2 onboard headers supporting 1 port each); 1 Marvell Gigabit Ethernet port; Realtek 8.1 channel audio codec featuring S/PDIF optical and RCA type output ports; and serial, parallel, and PS/2 port support.

It's a socket 939 board for the AMD Athlon 64 or FX based processors. It uses the VIA K8T800Pro chipset and supports dual-channel DDR memory.

Next, the processor. I've ordered the AMD Athlon 64 3500+ CPU. I discovered that AMD is shipping this chip in 2 different cores: the older Newcastle (130 nanometer) core, and the newer Winchester (90 nanometer) core. Intel had some problems with heat leakage when they shrunk their die to the 90nm core, but from all I'm reading, AMD seems to have pulled it off without any significant heat problems. The 90nm AMD chips are reportedly running at the same temperatures as the 130nm chips at idle, and slightly cooler under load. Nice. Performance benchmarks are nearly identical between the two cores at the same speeds, with the new Winchester performing slightly better in gaming. So, I decided to go with the new Winchester core. The CPU is a retail box edition, and comes with the stock heatsink and fan. I'm holding off on buying a beefier heatsink/fan combo, as I've actually read some good things about the stock setup. Maybe if I get around to overclocking, I'll invest in a more serious cooling solution.

Finally, the memory. I decided to treat myself to some top notch memory - partially because it would be an insult to this sweet hardware to put generic RAM in the box, and partially because I have notions of overclocking this machine. I picked up the "TwinX" pack of 1GB Corsair XMS PC3200 400 MHz CL2 DDR memory. I've seen this exact memory used in several mainboard reviews, and it comes highly recommended from many of the hardware enthusiast sites. The bummer is that I paid $25 more for it at Tiger Direct than I would have if I ordered it online through ZipZoomFly.com like I ordered my CPU. Oh, well. My memory (the one in my brain) was failing me in Tiger Direct, and I had erroneously thought it was the same price there as online.

I'm getting free 2-day FedEx shipping from ZipZoomFly on the CPU, so hopefully it will be here early next week. I wish I had the CPU now :( The mobo and memory are taunting me!

I've decided to wipe out Mandrake Linux on my main box and run XP on it exclusively. I have 2 options for Linux boxes now: my backup machine in the basement, which runs an AMD Athlon 650 if I remember correctly (or is it a 1200? I don't remember). Or.... Scenario #2. My main box currently runs an AMD Athlon XP 2200+ with 512MB ram on an Asus A7V8X board. Good board, solid machine. I have to give up my CPU and at least one stick of RAM (probably both, out of the kindness of my heart) to my mom. I'm building her a computer, and she's contributing some $$ to my new board/cpu/ram in exchange for my old CPU/memory/hard drive. We picked her up the cutest little barebones kit from Tiger Direct - it's one of those tiny cube-shaped mini boxes, a Shuttle XPC Sk41G. It supports the Socket A Athlon XP's - so she's getting my old 2200+. It really is damned cute.

So my plan is to buy another cheap XP chip and some cheap memory, and rebuild a box around that board to put upstairs in my 2nd bedroom. Therefore... either the basement machine or the upstairs machine will become a Linux box. The basement machine is a better candidate, since lower-end hardware will probably run Linux better than Windows, but that machine already has all of my software installed (under Win2000). We'll see.

Ahhh.... I can't wait to put this thing together!!!!

[H]ard|OCP - ASUS A8V Deluxe

Massive Multiplayer Gaming Warehouses On The Way

Slashdot | Massive Multiplayer Gaming Warehouses On The Way. ""A company called Holo-Dek Gaming has opened a gaming center in New Hampshire where $5/hour buys gamers a 73-inch high definition projection screen and a networked Alienware PC or or Xbox. More impressive, though, are the prototypes for their 180-degree gaming theater... and their game sphere. Yes, sphere. This is just a pilot program—the Baltimore facility planned for 2005 would have 300 networked gaming stations. Story and pictures here, company web site here"

-- How bad would I love to be a part of opening up one of these???!

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Ars System Guide: November 2004

Ars Technica is back with their November 2004 computer system guide - just in time for the holiday geek gift giving and system building. They cover 3 levels of systems to fit every need and budget: the Budget Box, the Hot Rod, and.... THE GOD BOX. Check it out:

Ars System Guide: November 2004 edition : Page 1: "....we're not going to just choose the cheapest stuff or the best stuff and throw it together and call it a system (as many 'recommenders' are wont to do). Rather, our guides are meant to reflect real world issues. For example, we'll tally up prices for you based on what we glean from our own online comparison shopping engine, not vendors that we have special deals with, or even worse, MSRPs. Real-world prices, baby."

Senate Rules on MP3 Sharing and More

Yahoo! News - Senate Passes Scaled-Back Copyright Measure: "The U.S. Senate has voted to outlaw several favorite techniques of people who illegally copy and distribute movies, but has dropped other measures that could have led to jail time for Internet song-swappers.

People who secretly videotape movies when they are shown in theaters could go to prison for up to three years under the measure, which passed the Senate on Saturday.

Hackers and industry insiders who distribute music, movies or other copyrighted works before their official release date also face stiffened penalties under the bill.

Left out were several more controversial measures that would criminalize the actions of millions of U.S. Internet users who copy music and movies for free over 'peer to peer' networks like Kazaa.

Under a measure approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee (news - web sites) last month, song swappers could go to jail for up to three years if they shared more than 1,000 copyrighted works."

Monday, November 22, 2004

Boot-managing your Linux Windows box

Linux.com | Boot-managing your Linux Windows box: "Operating system tinkerers have learned to their displeasure that installing Windows after Linux on a system with a dual-boot configuration disables access to Linux. Here's how to get the system up and booting in no time."

-- Note to self: read this at home! (I'm away from home at the moment!) This may save my Linux install on the main box when I reload Windows - that is, if Partition Magic will recognize my ReiserFS file system on the Linux side and let me resize all of my partitions....

OOoFf! Bringing OpenOffice.org and Firefox to Retail Channels

OOoFf! Bringing OpenOffice.org and Firefox to Retail Channels: "Holiday shoppers looking to outfit their PCs with an affordable alternative to costly Microsoft office suites and less-than-secure Internet browsers will get their wish this season with the release of OOoFf! The new OOoFf! product -- the combination of two leading cross-platform software programs, OpenOffice.org and Firefox -- is available immediately at www.oooff.com and will appear shortly on store shelves at major electronics retailers.

The OOoFf! package includes the necessary software for installation on personal computers running Microsoft Windows, Apple Macintosh and Linux operating systems. OOoFf! contains both OpenOffice.org 1.1.3, a complete Microsoft-compatible office suite, and Firefox 1.0, one of the fastest, most secure Internet browsers on the market -- bundled together for hundreds less than Microsoft alternatives."

-- ROCK ON!!!!!!! Love it. Caress it. Be all that is open source love. Of course - with a speedy internet connection you can download both for free, instead of paying the $29.95 that Linspire is charging for this bundle, but I do understand the value of convenience... and the name is killer!

It's About Time the GPL Was Revised

It's About Time the GPL Was Revised: "In a way, it's surprising that it has taken the Free Software Foundation so long to decide to revise the GNU General Public License, or GPL. This core software license of both the free software and open-source worlds has long had its critics inside and outside the software community..... While people will spar over the small, but important, details of the GPL, the bottom line is that the GPL has been the foundation of open-source software. It must be revised in a way that works and gathers widespread support."

-- A good read.

Camden, N.J., Named Most-Dangerous City

Yahoo! News - Camden, N.J., Named Most-Dangerous City: "Camden has been named the nation's most-dangerous city, snatching the top spot from Detroit, according to a company's annual ranking based on crime statistics."

-- YIKES! Pretty scary, considering I used to work less than 5 miles from Camden, NJ (though Cherry Hill and Camden are like night and day, in terms of wealth). I lived about 14 miles from Camden (according to MapQuest). I generally avoided Camden - though was there last September for a couple Dave Matthews Band concerts on a road trip. They were great shows - and I didn't even feel threatened.

How To Steal Wi-Fi

So last night, I was messing around with the clean Windows XP install on my main computer (the one that dual-boots Linux). I'm planning a system upgrade soon, but wanted to get 'doze working on the box so that I could play my games (Ultima Online, poker) on the box while my boyfriend uses my laptop. You know, the romantic evenings cuddled side by side doing completely different things on 2 different computers. (Hey, no complaints here! At least we're in the same room - which is more than can be said for other couples I know!)

So anyway, the problem with my Windoze box is that for some reason, it will NOT connect to my wireless network with my Linksys wireless USB network card. This card, strangely enough, worked perfectly well under XP in the machine's previous life. Now with this reinstall, it just won't take.

I suspect that it is because in my old Windows install, the network card properties allowed me to input vital connection info like the SSID, WEP keys, and channel ID number in the properties area. There are no such properties listed for the card. I tried every variation of drivers available from the Linksys web site, and none make any difference. I was thinking that it may be because I haven't applied the Windows Updates to this install (it won't let me - says my key is invalid, even though this is the one an only actual LEGAL copy of Windows I own! Grrrr) - so maybe the WiFi properties have been enhanced in later service packs.

Well, when I upgrade my system board (within the next couple weeks, hopefully), I will be installing the new XP CD I ordered through my college, which has never been used and is fully 100% legal and mine. So it doggone better work!

After that long-winded introduction, here's the reason I'm actually posting. My WiFi network at home is WEP-encrypted. While I was fighting with Windows to connect to my network, I discovered two networks, presumably belonging to my neighbors. One was the default SSID of a Linksys wireless access point, and the other was "plugnplay" - not sure if that's a default for anything. One was WEP encrypted, the other wasn't. I didn't spend time trying to use the connection, but I can't say the thought didn't cross my mind as I fought with my own network! (My network is so secure, even ** I ** can't get on it!) LOL!

Then I came across this article today....

How To Steal Wi-Fi - And how to keep the neighbors from stealing yours. By Paul Boutin. "Every techie I know says that you shouldn't use other people's networks without permission. Every techie I know does it anyway. If you're going to steal—no, let's say borrow—your neighbor's Wi-Fi access, you might as well do it right."

Gotta love it - go check it out if you're into wireless networking (and are slightly devious). :)

Sunday, November 21, 2004

PHP Yellow Duck Framework

PHPkitchen - Yellow Duck Framework: "The Yellow Duck Framework is an object oriented framework that will help you with creating web applications.

The Yellow Duck Framework supports the following items:

* Clean separation of code and output
* Templates for outputting HTML easily
* Automatic action dispatching using URL parameters
* Object oriented form construction and validation
* Object oriented handling of authentication
* Classes for creating 'XML/RPC' clients and servers.
* Classes for creating syndicated XML feeds such as RSS and Atom feeds.
* Easy handling of files, directories and images. For images, there are some very straightforward functions that can create thumbnails of those images.
* An object oriented interface for creating and sending email messages.

The Yellow Duck Framework tries to be as flexible as possible so that you can tailor it in such a way that it works according to the way you want it to work. It's definitely not the framework that will solve all your needs, but for most web application related functions, you will find the Yellow Duck Framework a very handig tool to get your work done faster and more reliably.

More information: http://www.yellowduck.be/ydf2/"

-- Personally... my object-oriented PHP coding needs some help. By nature, I code in the procedural style of the old Microsoft ASP - spaghetti code. Then came PHP, and it was wonderfully more useful than ASP with the same styling I'd grown used to in ASP. (I hated VBScript anyway). I abandoned ASP and moved forward with PHP.

I had only learned enough Java to be dangerous, and that was all I knew about object-oriented programming. PHP4 supported OOP very primitively, and now that PHP5 is out, with (from what I hear) excellent support for the "object oriented lifestyle" (as I like to call it), I really should make the move and evolve as a PHP programmer. I've been thinking that whenever I get around to learning the new features of PHP5, I'll force myself to move into OOP with PHP. Maybe I'll check out this yellow duck thing - it may serve as a nice intro to working with OO code. Looks like a very promising little framework.

And I love ducks, to boot!

Saturday, November 20, 2004

What is PHP?

I often get the question, "What is PHP?" from new web dev students, and other internet-media-involved friends. The definition on the PHP web site isn't so great - but I really like this one:

New York PHP: "The PHP Hypertext Preprocessor, or simply PHP, is a 'widely-used general-purpose scripting language,' designed with the Internet in mind. Commonly implemented to manipulate databases and dynamic content on the server, PHP is also an indispensable local scripting tool. Delivering high performance, intuitive syntax, powerful structure and a rich feature set, PHP puts ideas into action, both locally and on the Internet."

The Tech Support Generation

Slashdot | The Tech Support Generation. prostoalex writes "Newsweek technology columnist Brad Stone is looking forward to the Thanksgiving dinner with his family next week, spending time in candle-lit rooms, preparing holiday shopping lists and... let's admit it - fixing the folks' computer. 'We are the Tech-Support Generation. Our job is to troubleshoot the complex but imperfect technology that befuddle mom and dad, veterans of the rotary phone, the record player and the black-and-white cabinet television set. Next week, on our annual pilgrimage home, we’ll turn our Web-trained minds and joystick-conditioned fingers to the task of rescuing our parents from bleeding-edge technology on the blink', Brad Stone writes. In related news, what other products besides Google Desktop Search, Spybot Search & Destroy, Google Toolbar and Service Pack 2 are Slashdotters installing on their parents' Windows machines?"

-- Oh, how true it is! It only makes sense. I see family and friends most often during the holidays (as compared to any other time of the year), and being the resident Geek of the family, I am called upon repeatedly and endlessly for tech support.

My mom actually doesn't have a computer right now - though she's waiting for me to save up a few bucks, so that we can do a little deal. I'm building her a new computer, with my existing AMD Athlon XP 2200+ mobo/cpu/memory, and then replacing my board/cpu/memory with a nice new AMD 64 combo (probably the 3400+ in the 939 pin format). So I need to come up with that cash, so that I can afford to rip out my mainboard to give to her. So, that'll be a big thing, building her new system, and presumably then supporting her as she learns to use it. She has had very little exposure to computers, though has been a trooper about it when she has access to one.

As for other things that us members of the tech support generation install on our parents' machines - Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird for email!!!! And antivirus software. I also like to populate the bookmarks with useful sites to start people off with. Another thing I do on Windows boxes - organize the start menu into nice neat categories: Internet, Office Productivity, Games, System, etc. I tell them "don't go in the System folder! Just leave those programs alone! Anything else you can use." Helps make people feel less afraid of messing things up, when the stuff that is Greek to them is all in one easily avoidable place.

Ban on Internet Tax Extended


Internet News Article | Reuters.com: "The U.S. Congress on Friday reinstated a ban on Internet access taxes after the House of Representatives agreed to extend it for another three years rather than make it permanent.

As Congress neared adjournment for the year, the House passed by voice vote a Senate bill that prevents state and local governments from taxing the monthly fees Internet providers charge their customers.

The Bush administration is expected to sign it into law."

Hacking Vodka

ROFL Brilliant! And I just bought a new set of martini glasses the afternoon. I shoulda bought a Brita filter to go with them!

Slashdot | Hacking Vodka: "'A group of geeks aimed to find out whether running cheap vodka through a brita water filter would make it drinkable. They claim after several passes through the filter the cheap vodka surpassed the premium Ketel One in drinkability tests. I think they should have done the test 'double blind' although drinking Vladmir Vodka probably could make you go blind anyways... =)'"

Friday, November 19, 2004

Portable Firefox

[H]ard|OCP: "Portable Firefox 1.0:
Check this one out. Portable Firefox 1.0 is a fully functional package of Firefox for use on USB thumbdrives, key drives, CDR and so on. Finally people who prefer to use Firefox can take their favorite web browser with them from PC to PC. Just plug in your removable media and *BAM* you are surfing the net on your Portable Firefox. The whole package weighs in at 6.15MB so grab it and try it out.

It has some specially-selected optimizations to make it perform faster and extend the life of your USB key as well as a specialized launcher that will allow most of your favorite extensions to work as you switch computers. It will also work from a CDRW drive (in packet mode), ZIP drives, external hard drives, some MP3 players, flash RAM cards and more."

Dear IE, I'm leaving you for good

Dear IE, I'm leaving you for good:

"Dear Internet Explorer:

It's over. Our relationship just hasn't been working for a while, and now, this is it. I'm leaving you for another browser.

I know this isn't a good time--you're down with yet another virus. I do hope you feel better soon--really, I do--but I, too, have to move on with my life. Fact is, in the entire time I've known you, you seem to always have a virus or an occasional worm. You should really see a doctor.

That said, I just can't continue with this relationship any longer. I know you say you'll fix things, that next time it'll go better--but that's what you said the last time--and the time before that. Each time I believed you.

Well, not any longer."

-- Go read the rest - it's hysterical. I'm still wiping tears from my eyes!!!!

Simple PHP Visitor Log

Wanna play Big Brother on your web site? Webpronews.com has a simple little tutorial on using PHP's built-in functions to log information about your site's visitors. You can snag the visitor's IP address, date, browser info, referrer, and more. Very simple. Check out the tutorial. Of course, if you want more sophisticated analysis of said data, there are plenty of free and cheap traffic analyzers out there. Check out hotscripts.com.

How programming languages have warped my writing

I love it!

I'd add...

* Because of Visual Basic, I never end sentences with any form of punctuation whatsoever, unless I'm continuing on the next line, in which case I add an underscore

I can't think of anything for PHP! Bummer.

rentzsch.com: How programming languages have warped my writing: "How programming languages have warped my writing

* Because of HyperTalk, I am never sure how to spell highlight. I always want to spell it 'hilite'.
* Because of AppleScript, I always want to write 'thru' instead of 'through'.
* Because of Java, I'm inclined to write 'Cristina Liberty' instead of 'Cristina and Liberty'.
* Because of perl, I assume folks on IM understand '^foo^bar' means 'replace 'foo' with 'bar' on the previous line'.
* Because of C , I assume that folks on IM understand '==' means 'I agree with your previous statement'.
* Because of Lisp, I assume (my friends (have no problems (de-nesting parentheses))).
* Because of (ba)sh, I take care in my use of single quotes, double quotes and accent-quotes. Yes, when I write with single quotes, I do really intend for the reader not to expand the string in-place.
* Because of programming in general, my outgoing email is always brace-balanced."

Linux on Cell Phones

In the "Wow Linux is Everywhere" Department...

Slashdot | DoCoMo to Use Linux on Phones: "'News.com.au has an announcement that NTT DoCoMo in collaboration with NEC and Panasonic have developed a Linux based software platform for third generation cell phones. 'The main advantage of the new platform will be easy integration of advanced multi-media applications and efficient use of software,' NEC spokeswoman Akiko Shikimori said.' This was first reported about a year ago, but the platform looks to be mostly done by now, and a new press release timed to remind us of its impending release."

-- I just found out the other day that my TiVo runs Linux under the hood. Nice!

Disabled dolphin jumping again with world's first artificial fin

In the "Awwww...." Department (Yes, I'm a sucker for animals):

Yahoo! News - Disabled dolphin jumping again with world's first artificial fin: "Fuji, a mother dolphin that lost 75 percent of her tail due to a mysterious disease, is jumping once again with the help of what is believed to be the world's first artificial fin.

The 34-year-old dolphin held at Japan's largest aquarium in the southern island of Okinawa wears the rubber fin for about 20 minutes a day allowing her to jump and to swim at the same speed of other dolphins."

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Lamenting Linux

So, I've been lamenting the sad truth that most of the work that I need to do on computers is in Windows. I have beyond a shadow of a doubt proven to myself that Linux not only makes for a fine desktop system, but is capable of doing everything that Windows can do, and is a zillion times more stable, to boot. My only Linux crashes have been while using beta versions of software, so they are to be expected (and even so have been extremely infrequent - to the tune of, maybe once a month). While it's not beginner-ready, Linux is a fine desktop system in a techie's hands.

I can open all of my Microsoft Office documents in Linux, or surf the web and manage email, even run Windows within Linux to play Ultima Online or poker or run Dreamweaver. It's a stable, suitable replacement.

But here's the thing. My favorite PC pastime - playing Ultima Online - and my primary work function - using Macromedia Dreamweaver - both have to be done in VMWare, and VMWare has a limitation of displaying the pseudo-Windows screen in 800x600 resolution. I *depsise* 800x600. Can't handle it. It frustrates me to work at that resolution.

So I found myself using my XP laptop for gaming and web work. And - well, after gaming and web work, what's left to do online? Surf the web and send email?

My main system has become an overpowered and expensive web box. That seems like such a waste, doesn't it?

Add to that the fact that I don't really like the OpenOffice.org products, and ended up using Office anyway by preference, and you don't really have too many reasons for me to continue to have Linux as my main system.

The geek in me LOVES Linux, loves tweaking the system, figuring out how things work. The user in me just wants the path of least resistance. Sure, Windows crashes on me, far too often - but most of the time, it works, and it's just - I don't know, easier. Sometimes I don't want to have to think and figure things out just to accomplish a new task on the system. Sometimes I just want it to WORK, and work NOW.

So, since I crashed my Thunderbird email on the Linux box, I'm debating something here. I'm considering taking my main system (with that sweet 250GB hard drive in it), wiping it out, and turning it back into an XP Pro box. (My laptop is only XP Home, which has limited me a bit in web development on the Microsoft side - though I rarely need to code ASP .NET, the occassions do arise). Then, I'll take my spare computer (which is something like a 600MHz or something like that, currently running Win2000) and dual-boot it with Linux. Or maybe dual-boot the main box. I dunno. But either way I have to wipe out my existing Linux install, because XP won't play nice with the already existing LILO boot loader on the MBR of the hard drive if I try to install XP second. I've been wanting to try other Linux distros - maybe this will give me that opportunity.

Or it will cause cobwebs to once again grow all over the part of my brain that knows Linux, which is sad, but maybe I can teach the intro to Linux class in the fall and keep it in my brain.

I'm really quite sad over this. It's like losing an old friend, or something. I feel like I'm betraying the Linux community by even considering this.

As a user though, it's just not practical for me to use Linux 24/7. I guess I'm just a hybrid kind of person.

I'm gonna sleep on this and see what I'm thinking tomorrow...

Crashed My Thunderbird

Thunderbird, the EMAIL program.... email, not cars....

Well, tonight, my Thunderbird email on my Linux box crashed when I tried opening a hyperlink from an email message. That was always sort of a flukey thing because you had to hack the user preferences javascript file in the TBird settings in order to get it to even recognize which browser to open up hyperlinks in. (It ignores the default file type settings in Linux, for some reason). So I clicked an email link, and it locked up my system, and upon reboot, I now cannot open Tbird. I can open it, but as soon as it tries to check for mail, the quality feedback agent pops up and the thing is toast. I tried deleting the old Tbird folder and reinstalling it, to no avail.

However, I was able to easily install Mozilla Thunderbird and Sunbird (the calendar) on my laptop (Windows) and transfer all of my mail, address book data, and appointments over. (Gotta love open source software that is STANDARDS BASED, and platform independent!) So that was a saving grace.

I could probably get Tbird working again on my Linux box if I really wanted to, but... OK time for a new post about my Linux woes.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

FCC Claims Regulatory Power Over Your PC

ArsTechnica: FCC clarifies that they do, in fact, control everything: "Does the FCC have the legal status necessary to regulate digital TV or not? One response: The FCC's brief, filed in response to PK's challenge to FCC's jurisdiction in the flag matter, is breathtaking. FCC's position is that its Act gives it regulatory power over all instrumentalities, facilities, and apparatus "associated with the overall circuit of messages sent and received" via all interstate radio and wire communication. That's quite a claim."

The scope of such a claim is immense, reaching people's PCs and any other conceivable digital television consumption device. Unfortunately, it's evident that much of the FCC's latest legislation (and hubris) comes at the behest of the larger players in the content production industry, which doesn't bode well for consumers. The trifecta of increasingly draconian copyright restriction, combined with the new ability (via the DMCA) of private entities to effectively set their own copyright rules outside scope of the law, and an FCC that thinks it controls as much as it does, create a harsh environment for smaller companies and consumers. "

--- Yikes. Yikes yikes yikes. Go read it.

No More Passwords Says Bill Gates

Slashdot | Bill Gates Proclaims End of Passwords: "KrazyK writes 'Bill Gates has just proclaimed the end of passwords. There's only one drawback - you have to use .Net (well, what else would you expect?). However, the smart card that is at the centre of it - made by Axalto - is still a great bit of technology. How long before we can get an open-source version of this?'"

Looks like we'll all be carrying .Net based smart card to replace our passwords. "The Cryptoflex .Net powered smart card "is a secure, ultra-miniature personal computing technology that runs a small footprint version of the .Net Framework", said Axalto. The .Net-based smart card provides customisable two-factor authentication as well as full cryptographic capabilities, seamlessly via the standard Microsoft .Net programming tools and interfaces. Microsoft marks the first enterprise deployment of the .Net-based smart card."

The timeline for implementation of such a thing is short - tens of thousands of Microsoft employees worldwide already carry name badges with such technology, and it will be used universally by Microsoft for secure remote netowrk access by 2005.

While this bristles the hairs on the back of my neck just thinking about Microsoft taking over the world, I must say - it sure is a pain in the ass remembering all of my different passwords for different sites and purposes. The internet, the garage door code, the ATM pin number, the voicemail password (cell, house, and work)... the list goes on and on and on.

Hey Billy? Can ya replace ALL of my passwords? I'd love ya forever (or at least not complain so much about your products).

Geek Holiday Buyer's Guide 2004

Tom's Hardware Guide Peripherals & Consumer Electronics: It's Here! The Holiday Buyer's Guide 2004 - The Swiss Army Goes 21st Century: "Are you confused about what to give for the holiday season? Over the last several weeks, we have reviewed some of the most exciting, expensive and sometimes strange electronic gadgets. The result is this easy guide to help you decide what toys to buy - and to dream about."

My favorites (honey, are you reading this??) :)

Western Digital Media Center - 250gb external USB2/Firewire hard drive with built in memory card reader.

Cool Keyboard with Built in Memory Card Reader - Can ya tell my memory card reader is a bit annoying to me? Let's integrate them into EVERYTHING!

SMC Wireless Traveler's Kit - an 802.11g portable wireless access point and bridge - Turn any ethernet connection into a WAP. Nice! Combine that with the laptop, and look ma - no cords! Love it.

Blackberry Phone/PDA - I've wanted a Blackberry forever! This one isn't available for Nextel (my phone co.) but others are :)

Of course - I speak the truth when I say, diamonds are a girl's best friend! (Even a geek girl)

Slashdot | Senate May Rush Copyright Legislation

Slashdot | Senate May Rush Copyright Legislation: "iman1003 writes 'According to an article on Wired, the Senate may soon pass a bill labeled HR2391, a bill which lumps many other copyright bills. If passed the bill would 'would criminally punish a person who 'infringes a copyright by ... offering for distribution to the public by electronic means, with reckless disregard of the risk of further infringement.'' In addition the bill would 'permit people to use technology to skip objectionable content -- like a gory or sexually explicit scene -- in films, a right that consumers already have. However, under the proposed law, skipping any commercials or promotional announcements would be prohibited.' The bill would also punish people 'who bring a video camera into a movie theater to make a copy of the film for distribution' with up to three years imprisonment and fines. If any of this worries you please contact your Senators and Representatives and voice your concern.'"

-- Yikes... I mean, I'm all for anti-piracy efforts (even though I can also argue that software, music CD's, etc. are ridiculously overpriced, thereby encouraging piracy). But the skipping of commercials kinda wigged me out. How does that affect things like TiVo, which I use to fast-forward through ALL commercials? I never even watch live TV anymore, and therefore very rarely see any commercials. It will be interesting to see how this pans out.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Study: Low-Fat Diets Better Long-Term

Yahoo! News - Study: Low-Fat Diets Better Long-Term: "Study: Low-Fat Diets Better Long-Term" - Regardless of how they shed pounds in the first place, big losers stayed that way by limiting fat rather than carbohydrates, according to new research that could add fuel to the backlash against low-carb diets....."

I have a little story to tell. It doesn't surprise me to read this article (which was interesting, BTW). Last year I decided to switch from my low fat diet to a low carb diet. I missed eating "real" (ie. non-low-fat cheese), and bacon sounded so good to me. I love my bread and pasta, but all of the information about how void of nutrition these things are, all pumped up with white sugar made sense to me.

So I started eating low-carb, following Atkins at <30g carbs per day. I did this for 9 months. I lost weight - over 20 pounds in the first 3 months, and maintained the loss the entire time. There were a few odd side effects... it messed up my period, which freaked me out, because - well that's a pretty important bodily function, and if my diet can mess it up, that just doesn't seem like a good thing to me. By the end of the 9 months I was suffering from horrendous insomnia. At first I thought it was just because I was so busy with work and things, but I eventually tracked the problem down to my low carb diet. (When I went back to a low-fat diet, within a few weeks I was again sleeping like a baby). Low carb was also affecting my high level mental processes - I don't know how else to explain it other than to say, whenever I'd have a programming project or reading assignment or homework to do, I was... dumb. I couldn't remember how to do things I've been doing for years, couldn't keep on a train of thought without losing my place. At the end, I was even forgetting common words! Like, I'd be talking to someone and just couldn't find words to speak. It was really bizarre.

I didn't think that any of this was related to low-carb. Then, I fell off the wagon. A string of family parties followed by hectic work schedules and not enough time to go food shopping for more low-carb foods, and I went off low carb eating for about 3 weeks. It was then that I realized my "symptoms" began clearing up (which I didn't even know were symptoms - I thought I was just getting old and busy!) My period went back to normal, I was sleeping through the night, and had mental clarity and energy I'd forgotten existed.

Low carb dieting really messed me up. So, I didn't go back to low-carbing. I mean - low carb "works" - don't get me wrong. I lost weight, and honestly I found it *easier* than low-fat dieting, because if you have the willpower to skip the bread, there are tons of low carb meal options that are downright indulgant. I can't tell you how yummy it was to have a turkey sandwich with bacon, with full fat mayo and real cheese (on low-carb bread of course). The bread wasn't so tasty but the sandwich... MMMmmmmmm.

That yummmm, though - not worth it. It really screwed my body up. Plus, those sorts of things just can't be healthy. Anything that can cause my period to be as wacked out as it was (when I'm normally like clockwork), and cause severe insomnia and loss of mental clarity - how can that be good for you? Low carbers can keep telling me that it's even healthier for my heart and cholesterol to be low-carb, and that may be true, but the other symptoms are just too serious - and seem too potentially dangerous and unhealthy to me.

It's low-fat for me!

So the Wrong Candidate Has Won...

Electing to Leave (Harpers.org)

"So the wrong candidate has won, and you want to leave the country. Let us consider your options....."

What a hysterical sentence! That's the first line of the article linked above, and I was laughing before I even got to the end of the sentence just thinking that the article itself was even written! Actually it's a very un-funny and informative article, looking at the process of renouncing your US citizenship and becoming a citizen of another country. They discuss Canada, Mexico, France, the Carribean, and Indian reservations, amongst other options.

I can't say I've never thought about heading to Canada, but that's more for their hockey obsession than any dissatisfaction with the USA. :)

I have a friend (Hi, Deb!) who has recently married a Canadian and moved "up north" and while it sounds like the whole transfer of citizenship process was a pain in the butt, it doesn't sound nearly as bad as the five-year-long process that this article described. So the article may be a bit exaggerated... maybe it's a Republican writing it to discourage the Democrats from leaving! *wink*

While My School's Server is Crashed...

I must say... the Blackboard server at the college I work at drives me insane. (Blackboard is an educational content management system). I don't know what the problem is - our school's equipment and/or bandwidth, or the platform itself, but with the gigantic universities that use Blackboard (compared to our itsy bitsy little college), I suspect the college. Right now, I'm suffering from FIVE MINUTE page load times. Yes. 5 minutes from the time I click a link to the time the page actually loads. And that's IF the page ever loads. I just lost a bunch of work I did on a quiz I'm creating, as my web request got lost in cyberspace and the server never responded. God forbid more than a couple people log into the server at one time - the thing hangs and chokes on itself, with the result being exactly what I've described. The MIS department claims that Blackboard is an asynchronous tool, not meant for many simultaneous logins, and when that scenario occurs, the software cannot handle it. Ironically though, I asked some people in the midwest regional Blackboard users' group if they experience anything similar at their large universities, and the answer is... nope.

Oh my goodness - it seems to be working again. Sorry for the bitch-fest. I needed to kill some time.

Technology getting you down? Feel free to post a comment and complain! Get it off your chest!

New ICANN Policy Affects Domain Transfers

New ICANN Policy Affects Domain Transfers - SitePoint Open Source Blog: "Based on a new ICANN policy effective Friday, November 12, 2004 -- domain name service providers are changing the way they handle domain transfer requests.

Prior to this policy, a majority of domain name providers would not complete a transfer request(s) without specific confirmation of the current domain owner's desire to do so. Now under new rules, after five days of attempts to confirm the transfer with the domain holder, the domain will be transferred unless the domain is 'locked'.

Locking a domain prevents changes to contact information and name servers as well as barring domain transfers even if you do not respond within the new specified time frame.

Domain locking should be free and is most likely accessible via your vendor's web interface. For example, logging into your account at Network Solutions, EasyDNS or GoDaddy and managing your individual domains has locking as an option.

This would also be a good time to insure the contact information for each of your domains is accurate and includes a current, valid email address where you can be reached for business regarding your domain."

-- I myself am in the middle of a domain transfer, and am having problems. Catalog.com, my current and soon-to-be former registrar (too expensive!) has my domains set as "locked" but does not have an option to unlock them. I am trying to transfer one domain away from Catalog.com, and it won't let me. I've had a trouble ticket in with Catalog.com for days now, asking them to unlock the domain so I can transfer it away from them. No response yet. (Another reason I'm leaving them - horrifically slow customer service). I'm transferring all of my domains to PurplePenguins.net. :)

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Microsoft Snagging Google's Search Results for Its Own Engine?

Slashdot | Is Microsoft Crawling Google?: "triplecoil writes 'Jason Dowdell over at WebProNews has written a piece questioning a tactic Microsoft might be using to beef up its new search engine. He thinks they might be dipping into Google's results to supplement its own. Dowdell likens it to leaving your garbage on the curb--anyone could conceivably go through it and take whatever is there for their own.'"

Yikes! Definitely a good read. It sure is suspicious.

Dell May Try AMD Chips For Some Servers

Slashdot | Dell May Try AMD Chips For Some Servers: "LarsWestergren writes 'According to InfoWorld, Dell may be close to adopting AMD processors. Don't get your hopes up too early though. It is mainly for servers (and possibly 'gaming'?) since AMD doesn't have the manufacturing capacity to supply Dell with enough processors for the desktop. Furthermore, Dell have said similar things before, possibly to put pressure on Intel and get better deals from them. Still, this is definitely a PR win for AMD.' Intel, though, has a lot more ad dollars to contribute."

-- More AMD Goodness

Intel Quietly Introduces 3.8GHz P4

Slashdot | Intel Quietly Introduces 3.8GHz P4: "BatonRogue writes 'I didn't see this anywhere else, but it looks like Intel has quietly launched their Pentium 4 570J running at 3.8GHz. The J denotes Intel's Execute Disable Bit support, which they have also quietly introduced (it seems to save face of being 2nd to support it behind AMD). AnandTech seems to be the only place to have a review of the 570J. It performs reasonably well and even better than AMD in some areas, while falling behind in things like games. AnandTech has a nice one page benchmark comparison of the 570J to AMD's 4000+ as a quick reference.'"

-- Being an AMD fan, I love to see them leading Intel in the gaming arena. I'm considering upgrading my main machine to an AMD 64 chip (probably the 3400+). Actually, I know the upgrade will happen - just waiting for some $$$ to buy the parts!

Opera Facing Losses While Firefox Usage Grows

Slashdot | Opera Facing Losses While Firefox Usage Grows: "'Opera, the sometimes forgotten #3 web browser, reported a third quarter loss that tripled that of last year's third quarter despite a seven-fold increase in revenue. Opera is blaming a weaker dollar for the losses, and say they're spending money on marketing and new ventures like teaming with IBM to use their ViaVoice technology. Opera's future seems uncertain as Firefox's growing popularity may hurt Opera by stealing potential customers. With Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari all free, is there room for a non-free browser in the market?'"

Interesting thought - I personally never moved to Opera because its free version includes banner ads built into the browser, and I wasn't about to pay for a web browser when there are so many free alternatives. With Firefox going gangbusters right now, not only drawing people away from Internet Explorer but biting into the population made up of people who would support an IE-alternative browser, can Opera survive? My opinion: I don't think so.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Fixing VMMON Error in VMWare

Note to self: If VMWare gives you the error message "Cannot open /dev/vmmon" again, go to a command line and run:

/etc/init.d/vmware start

Then start up VMware and start your virtual machine. Why does that work? Who knows. What caused the error in the first place? Dunno! But I'm glad it's working now, and I'm too sleepy to think any more about it!

TiVo hacks flourish

TiVo hacks flourish | CNET News.com: "TiVo boxes are in many ways a perfect target for gadget hobbyists, providing both the means and motive to create some high-powered enhancements.

The devices use mostly off-the-shelf computer components and run the open-source Linux operating system, making it easy for curious tinkerers to try out their skills. In addition, TiVo has intentionally left many tantalizing features out of its boxes due to concerns over potential copyright violations.

That combination has fueled a high-stakes game of underground innovation for TiVo, which must tread carefully as it seeks to create new features to stay ahead of rivals without angering Hollywood and broadcasters such as partner DirecTV.

Bottom line:
TiVo may frown on the practice officially, but it has done little to crack down on such tinkering so far."

I have had my TiVo for 2 years now - got it as a Christmas gift a couple years back. I much love my TiVo - maybe a little too much :) I had read in a magazine article way back when, "If you don't want to watch more TV, don't get a TiVo!" Back when I got mine, I figured I wasn't much of a TV watcher. There were just a few shows I was missing that I wanted to catch, and programming the VCR was just a pain in the butt. Actually it was dealing with all the tapes that drove me nuts, but anyway. I got the TiVo, and in no time I was watching more TV than I'd ever watched in my life! But it was all good - Sunday became my TV day and I loved it.

I still love it :)

I saw recently on TechTV a tidbit about hacking the TiVo, and they mentioned the O'Reilly book, "TiVo Hacks." I have the eBay Hacks book from O'Reilly and think highly of it. So I'm thinking maybe I'll pick up that book and see what I'm missing out on. Being the computer hardware geek that I am, hacking a TiVo box should be no problem, and from what I hear, most of the hacks don't even require you to open the box. Many are simple keycode combinations that you input on your remote control.

My only fear is, I have an old TiVo (ie. not a Series 2), and I think most of the hacks are for Series 2 (though I could be wrong). I'll letchas know how it goes, if I ever do try tweaking my TiVo box!

Crazy Like a Firefox

ClickZ.com: Crazy Like a Firefox: "Fans of Mozilla's free, open-source Firefox browser make the ardent Apple faithful look like a bunch of slackers. Their community-generated Spread Firefox (SFX) campaign, launched less than two months ago, is already one of the watershed campaigns in interactive marketing history. It's helped generate over a million downloads per day since Firefox went out of beta on Tuesday; registered over 25,000 volunteer marketers; encouraged about 100,000 Web sites to display promotional buttons and banners; generated wall-to-wall coverage in the blogosphere and mainstream media; and raised a quarter of a million dollars for a full-page ad in The New York Times."

Wooohoooooo! I'm crazy like a Firefox!! I love it I love it I love it! :) It makes me giggle with glee to see people band together to promote a great product. (I also have a tendency to root for the underdog, and with Microsoft and Internet Explorer playing the role of The Man, I'm all too happy to root for Firefox!) I might be their biggest cheerleader of all times...

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Organizing Your CSS Files

Here's an article that could do me some good (being the recent all-CSS convert that I am!) I've always used CSS for basic appearance formatting, but never for pure separation of content from appearance. Having finished converting my PurplePenguins.com site recently, I saw first-hand how unruly the CSS file can get.

Check out this article on builder.com on organizing your CSS files.

Microsoft Nervous About Firefox?

C|Net News has a blurb on the topic...

"Has Firefox reignited the browser war? CNET News.com has incontrovertible evidence that Microsoft is once again on war footing.

The proof? After years of neglecting Internet Explorer, killing its standalone version and satisfying reporters' requests for interviews with terse, prepared statements, Microsoft representatives on Monday took the unusual step of placing an unsolicited call to News.com in anticipation of the Firefox 1.0 release.

Gary Schare, Microsoft's director of product management for Windows who never writes or calls, told News.com that he and his team were "sharpening pencils" in efforts to get the word out about IE's new security features in the Windows XP Service Pack 2 release.

He also drew attention to the new Windows Marketplace stall for IE add-ons, which provide tabbed browsing and other features that come preloaded with Firefox, Opera, Safari and other non-IE browsers.

Schare professed to be unconcerned about Firefox's apparent popularity and promised to keep in touch."

Interesting indeed....

Gmail adds POP3 Access to Email Accounts

Via Slashdot Article: Gmail adds POP3 To Email Accounts: VaultX writes "Gmail has recently added POP3 services to their free email accounts. This would allow someone to use gmail without ever seeing any of their advertisements. They are also providing SMTP, both POP3 and SMTP are forcing the use of SSL/TLS. Very interesting...now where's IMAP and what's the catch?" It's being phased in, though, so not every gmail account yet has POP access.

-- I don't really care about accessing my Gmail via other email clients, because I REALLY like the Gmail interface and label/search system. I would however like to be able to POP other email account and collect all of my messages via the Gmail interface! I guess I'll have to keep waiting for that feature.

Microsoft and Comcast vs. TiVo

Look out...

Microsoft and Comcast announced a deal today whereby Comcast will launch new dual-tuner cable boxes with digital video recording features, loaded with Microsoft's cable TV software (a la TiVo). Comcast plans to slightly undercut TiVo's pricing model for the DVR service, at $5/month for HD customers and $10/month for digital cable customers (versus TiVo's $13/month fee or $5/month for DirecTV subscribers).

This gets Microsoft someplace they've been dying to monopolize: the home entertainment market (aka our living rooms).

I would shrug this off as nothing, knowing from general opinion that the DVR services offered by the cable companies have always been outshined and out-featured by TiVo (at least according to the many people I've talked to that have tried non-TiVo DVR's), but with Microsoft onboard, I can't help but wonder... will they manage to take over the DVR market? Comcast is no small company, and that's a LOT of coverage.

It doesn't affect me, at any rate - not yet at least. I'm a happy DirecTV customer, and I'm in love with my TiVo!

Check out this Seattle Times article on the Microsoft/Comcast deal:

The Seattle Times: Business & Technology: Comcast deal gives Microsoft entry into cable TV

FCC Rules States Can't Regulate VoIP

Slashdot | FCC Rules States Can't Regulate VoIP: "NardofDoom writes 'Ars Technica is reporting that the FCC has 'placed a regulatory shield around VoIP,' declaring it immune to state regulation, even if calls terminate on publicly switched networks (POTS). A previous ruling declared that Internet-Internet calls (i.e. Skype) can't be regulated, but the ruling opens the door for Verizon, AT&T and other local carriers to offer VoIP to customers without paying state taxes. One step closer to free phone calls, or one step closer to state regulation or taxation of IP networks?'"

This will be an interesting one to watch. I cancelled my plain old telephone service a couple months ago in favor of Vonage VoIP broadband phone service, and could not possibly be happier. On one hand, competition from the phone companies could be a good thing. On the other, I can't imagine how Vonage could get much better (it's already dirt-cheap, full-featured, and has excellent sound quality), and I'd hate to see more taxes added to my phone bill. (*shudders*, remembering my old phone bill). We'll see...

Speaking of - do you want a free month of Vonage? Drop me an email or a comment. I'll send you my affiliate link which earns new Vonage customers a free month of service. :)

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Firefox Download Mirrors

I've been trying to get the Windows version of Firefox 1.0 all day - servers are busy busy busy! (Had no trouble with the Linux download!) SitePoint has a list of download mirrors, where I've had much better luck.

10 Extensions to Enhance Firefox

With Mozilla Firefox's official release into the wild, extremetech.com has written up a nice little review of 10 must-have extensions to enhance the functionality of your new Firefox web browser. Block banner ads, zoom and customize image sizes, listen to tunes, check your Gmail, FTP files, and more. All from your browser! Good stuff.

Check it out.

Mozilla Firefox 1.0 is HERE!

Mozilla Firefox: "The wait is over. Get Firefox 1.0, the faster, better web browser."

I just finished upgrading my Linux box to Firefox 1.0, and it went without a hitch. I can't seem to get through to the Windows download page due to server traffic - and that's a GOOD THING! Big Blue will go down! All hail Firefox! :)

GO GET FIREFOX 1.0 - the Official Release!

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Converting a Web Site to XHTML with CSS-P

Well... it's ridiculously late at night (some of you would say this is tomorrow morning!) and I've just finished converting my entire PurplePenguins.com web site to XHTML Transitional code with CSS for managing all layout and appearance attributes. I'm reading the book "Eric Meyer on CSS" right now, and am a convert. No more table layouts for me! No more non-validating code!

So - after about 4 hours (on a 36 page web site), I've got it about 90% finished. Most of it is validating XHTML Transitional. There are a couple of things I have to go in and tweak (remove some formatting in the guts of some of the pages). But all of the layouts have been converted to XHTML, and all of that is validating.

I'm very pleased with the results - amazed at how clean the code is compared to the messy nested table chaos that it was just a few hours ago. Also amazed at the smaller file size - on average, each of my pages are about 30% smaller in size than they were. That's pretty significant.

The site displays nicely on all of the major modern browsers (I checked it in Firefox RC 1.0, Mozilla 1.8, Opera 6, Netscape 7, and IE 6). It displays ugly in Netscape 4, but I refuse to code that far backwards. I refuse. If more web developers just flat out refused to code for the ancient Netscape 4, maybe those half-a-percent of the market people would upgrade.

And with that, I pat myself on the back and go to SLEEP!!!

Mambo one of Top 15 Open Source CMS in Education

Mamboportal.com - Mambo Open Source CMS Portal: "Hartmut Haefele is the author of a new book called 'Content Management Systeme in e-Education'. His book is based on a large study of 298 Content Management System made for the Federal Ministry for education, science and culture in Austria. Besides many commercial CMS 78 Open Source Content Management Systems have been tested.

The result of this study is very surprising. Mambo made it's way into to Top15 CMS on the planet. Only 4 other Open Source CMS also could enter the Top15, which are Plone (Zope-based), ZMS (Zope-based), Typo3 (PHP, MySQL) and Digital Workroom (PHP, MySQL). Detailed informations can be found in the book, which can be bought here:"

* http://www.studienverlag.at/titel.php3?TITNR=1968

-- This tidbit is of particular interest to me, as I'm head of a committee at the college I work at that is evaluating various CMS options for our online courses. We currently use a proprietary system called Blackboard, and while it's a great product that has served our purposes well, it is quite costly. I'm definitely planning to check out this book.

I'm glad to see Mambo on the list, because I am newly in love with Mambo for web site content management. I don't know that it's featured enough for the specific things we would use it for in an educational setting, but maybe this book will tell me!

Ultima Online: Samurai Empire

OK fine, I'm a computer game geek. I've been playing the online RPG "Ultima Online" since February of 1998. They've just released the latest expansion pack, "Samurai Empire" - an Asian themed addition to the world with new character classes - ninjas, and samurais, and a ton of new artwork, craftables, and other in-game goodies. My boyfriend was kind enough to pre-order the game for me for my birthday last month, so I'm receiving a soulstone in-game as well.

Any other UO geeks out there? I run a web site for people who play merchants and crafters in the game - check it out over at www.UOCraft.com.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

What Makes a Good Programmer?

Besides being married to computers? :) The list, posted at PHPKitchen.com:

Plans before coding

A great developer takes the time to plan an approach before designing or coding. A great developer knows that the time required to do so will be more than paid back by the time saved by getting it more right the first time. A great developer plans all scales of work, from envisioning multiple versions of a product to writing or modifying a small method.

Always knows why

A great developer always knows exactly why they wrote a particular line of code, and why they wrote it the way they did. A great developer writes code because that code is the best choice for a particular situation, not just because it is the canonical implementation. A great developer codes consciously.

Writes situation-appropriate code

Any developer can write code. A good developer writes solid code. A very good developer writes elegant code. A great developer writes code that is both solid (compact, well constructed) and elegant (precise, simple, graceful, polished). More importantly, a great developer can tell when elegance is not worth the effort.

Deviates where and when necessary

A great developer not only knows the canonical implementation but understands it is the canonical implementation. A great developer can tell when the canonical implementation is not the best answer for a particular problem.

Knows when not to change code

A great developer knows that changing code is sometimes worse than fixing it. Fixing a bug may cause too much instability elsewhere in the product, for example. Messy code whose function is not well understood shouldn't be rewritten until there is sufficient time to ensure its function is well understood. A great developer understands the tradeoffs involved between changing code versus leaving it as is.

Approaches debugging scientifically

A great developer knows that debugging is a science not an art and approaches it as such. A great developer formulates a theory as to the cause of the problem, determines a method for proving the theory wrong, performs the experiment, and observes the result. A great developer records this information and uses this data to guide further work.

Walks through their code

A great developer knows that they don't really know their code until they've stepped through it. A great developer sets breakpoints on every line of code as it's written so they know which lines haven't been hit.

Knows the language and platform intimately

A great developer knows the programming language (and platform) in use inside and out. A great developer knows why each construct (API) was included in the language (platform) and why other constructs (APIs) were left out. A great developer disagrees with certain aspects of the language (platform) but understands why those aspects work the way they do. A great developer knows what the language (platform) can do, what it can't, and how to achieve the same effect through other means.

Groks the tools

A great developer knows what the available tools are and how to use each of them. A great developer knows that not every tool is appropriate for any particular task. A great developer knows how to abuse the tools to produce results hard or impossible to accomplish via "approved" uses.

Improves the tools

A great developer knows that their tools can always be improved. A great developer prefers to get these improvements from elsewhere so they can concentrate on solving the customer's problem. A great developer recognizes when it is simply faster or more efficient to write a tool themselves. A great developer constantly looks for opportunities for increasing their productivity.

Knows when to ask for help

A great developer takes pleasure in a challenge. A great developer, then, enjoys banging up against a brick wall and slowly breaking through it. Some walls are thicker than others, however, and sometimes the wall has a developer-size hole that the developer continually manages to miss. A great developer realizes when it's time to ask for help and does so. A great developer knows who to ask for help. A great developer knows there isn't any shame in asking for help.

Always has a side project going

A great developer is never completely satisfied by the current project. A great developer is always also working on a (probably many) side project meant to investigate an idea, understand a language or library feature, automate a process, or otherwise itch a scratch the primary project isn't satisfying.

Doesn't make assumptions

A great developer actually does make assumptions, but a great developer doesn't stop there. A great developer inspects the assumption, then researches that assumption into knowledge. A great developer does this not just for their own assumptions but for assumptions other people make as well.


A great developer documents everything. A great developer strives for self-documenting code but knows that some amount of documentation is always required. A great developer knows that documentation need satisfy only two goals: educate the current audience, and preserve enough knowledge about the topic that the current audience can expand the documentation as necessary for any future audience.

Follows coding standards

A great developer has internalized and continuously uses a set of coding standards. A great developer may not be able to recite the standards word for word, but when asked about any particular point the correct answer is immediately forthcoming. A great developer writes conformant code without the aid of verification tools, but always runs those tools as a backstop.

Uses version control

A great developer knows that version control is as important for personal projects as for enterprise projects. A great developer version controls everything.

Makes lots of small checkins

A great developer knows that version control is most useful when code is modified via small checkins that each contain a single logical change. A great developer strives to check each change in independently from each other change.

Tests their own code

A great developer is embarrassed when someone else finds a bug in their code. A great developer thoroughly tests their code before checking it in. A great developer doesn't pretend to be a great tester but does strive to be considered a good tester.

Has passion for their customer

A great developer understands what the customer needs to do and how the customer wants to use the product. A great developer looks beyond the customer's needs to see how the product can revolutionize the customer's tasks. A great developer promotes the customer's point of view throughout the product cycle, from the first nascent product vision through specifying and implementing features to cutting features and triaging bugs to product release and ongoing maintenance. A great developer helps the rest of the product team understand the customer as well as they do.

Has great judgement

A great developer understands the business case for the code he is writing. A great developer uses this as a basis for judging what code to write and what code should not be written. A great developer uses this as a basis for deciding when to write code and when writing code is not the right thing to do. A great developer uses this to balance designing for the future against the need to get something done in a timely manner.

Has no ego

A great developer values the praise of their customer over the praise of their peers. A great developer wants to do the right thing but doesn't much care about being right. A great developer brings their reasoned opinion to design and coding discussions but listens carefully when alternatives are offered, searching out and examining the details of these other options. A great developer appreciates suggestions for improving their code or design. A great developer knows they will write bugs and appreciates it when bugs are brought to their attention. A great developer follows a process because the process protects them from themselves.

Makes time for training

A great developer knows that the only way to continue to be a great developer is to never stop learning. A great developer doesn't limit this education to programming-related topics, either, but also researches testing, program management, marketing, and anything else that is remotely related to the process of creating software.

Election Day

If you're in the United States, it's Presidential Election Day today. Don't forget to get out to those polls and VOTE!

(Yes, I really am awake this early. Waiting for Mr. DirecTV guy to come fix my Tivo... it's THAT important to me!)

Monday, November 01, 2004

Google blocks Gmail exploit

Google blocks Gmail exploit | The Register: "In a brief statement released on Saturday (30 October), Google said it 'was recently alerted to a potential security vulnerability affecting the Gmail service. We have since fixed this vulnerability, and all current and future Gmail users are protected'."


Web Server & Internet Growth Trends

The November 2004 NetCraft web server survey reports no real surprises, save one: while web server market share remains static (with Apache holding about 68% of the market, and Microsoft around 21%), the internet itself seems to be booming. If the pace continues through the end of the year, 2004 will be the internet's second strongest year for numerical growth (ie. number of web sites added) - second only to the year 2000.

Why does that surprise me? Well, in 2000 we were amidst the big net boom - everyone was jumping online, dot com's were starting up left and right. It was the golden era of the internet. Then came the big bust, and financial downturns for everything IT related, and 9-11, and the economical slowdown in general. With the IT market still seeming to be on shaky ground (though showing signs of life and maybe even improvement this year), it surprises me that the internet would have exhibited such growth under these conditions. There still seems to be a general sense of fear and distrust of the internet and e-commerce coming from the media and the public at large.

The growth occurring now probably has something to do with more non-business folks getting on the web: you know, bloggers, people with personal web sites, etc. Ebay is definitely booming, and large companies don't seem to have shied away from e-commerce (on the contrary, they seem to have forged ahead in anticipation of the IT-comeback).

It's definitely interesting, whatever the cause is!

Here's the NetCraft article:

Netcraft: November 2004 Web Server Survey: "In the November 2004 survey we received responses from 56,115,015 sites. The Internet has grown by 10.1 million sites in the first 11 months of the year, including a gain of 726,549 sites last month.

Barring a precipitous slowdown, 2004 should wind up as the Internet's second-strongest year for numerical growth, trailing only 2000, when the survey added 16.1 million sites. The survey added 10.6 million sites in 2001 and 10.4 million in 2003, marks that are well within reach given the pace of monthly gains thus far in 2004.

Prevailing trends continued apace in market share for major web servers, with the percentages for Apache and Microsoft fluctuating only slightly, as each continue to add users. Whle there has been some shifting between Microsoft operating systems (primarily upgrades from NT4 and Windows 2000 to Windows Server 2003), the competitive balance between Microsoft and Apache remains static."