Monday, December 26, 2005

50 Greatest Gadgets of the Past 50 Years

How gadget-geek are you? Memory lane meets modern day pockets-ringing-iPods-singing bliss in this PC World article:

50 Greatest Gadgets of the Past 50 Years

Yahoo Mail Beta

I'm in the Yahoo! Mail beta. Sweet. And... well doggone, it kicks much ass. The interface is much like a typical stand-alone mail client (like Mozilla Thunderbird or Microsoft Outlook), with a preview pane, a message listing pane, and a folder hierarchy pane. I suspect there's some AJAX going on, with the instant-responsiveness and drag-and-drop functionality.

If only they could combine Gmail's tagging system with Yahoo's interface... I'd be in heaven. I'm a HUGE fan of the "tag and search" method of archiving and managing email (as opposed to using single-referenced folders for sorting mail).

Thumbs up on the new Yahoo mail. It'll be interesting to see where it goes.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Podcasting on Windows

Whew! Learning how to set up a new podcast is hard work!

I have a little pet project in the works (one I'm not quite ready to pull the top off yet... soon, soon...). It's a podcast, and seeing as I know little to nothing about audio recording, it's been a bit of a trial and error experience for me. There is definitely a need for a one-stop web site for podcasting newbies. Hmmm... In the meantime, here's a list of the best resources I found in my quest for podcast producing knowledge.

Check out all of the podcasting links I've bookmarked throughout my search at

Where to start:
  • Systm Epidsode 4 - Podcasting: A creation of Kevin Rose and his group, Revision3, this videocast covers the basics of podcasting equipment, software, and publishing. It is the best "big picture" overview I've found.
  • How to Podcast: A comprehensive tutorial, including video how-to's on recording and editing with Audacity.
  • Webmonkey Tutorial - "All the World's a Podcast": A good overview of the podcasting process.
  • O'Reilly's "What is Podcasting" Tutorial: Another good overview, with some specific hardware and software recommendations.
  • Engaget's Podcasting Tutorial: This one focuses on Mac, but there is some good information Windows users can glean from it.
  • Podcasting Hacks: An invaluable book by O'Reilly publishing. It covers not only the technical details of podcasting, but also gives examples of how to format various types of shows - sports show, political talk show, music/movie review show, etc.
What You Need:

These are my own conclusions based on everything I've read in the past week. If you dig through my links yourself, you may come to different conclusions (and feel free!) If you don't want to spend a week reading, though, this will help get you started.

You will need, at minimum: a PC with Windows XP and a sound card, a microphone, and recording software.

Hardware recommendations:

Let's start with the microphone. (I'll assume that the PC you have is plenty fine for recording voice - anything not more than a few years old should be A-OK). You can get really crazy with the microphone, and there are a zillion options out there. There seem to be two main camps: those who prefer to use USB mic's, so as to "keep it digital," and those who prefer traditional mic's. The latter are more complicated, but more flexible, as you can record into many devices and not just a PC. USB mic's limit your recording device options pretty much to PC's.

If you're using your PC anyway, I recommend going with a USB microphone. If you plan to be sitting at a desk while recording, the Logitech Desktop USB Microphone is a fine entry-level choice. It retails under $30. If you prefer a hands-free setup, check out the Logitech Premium USB Headset (Model 350). The key here is to make sure you get a noise canceling microphone. This headset retails under $50. Plantronics also makes a wildly popular headset amongst podcasters: the Plantronics DSP-500 USB Headset. It too retails under $50.

If you have future aspirations to buy mixer equipment, or want to be able to record audio into devices other than a PC (such as a handheld iRiver 799 MP3 Player/Recorder), a regular microphone will suit you better. This is where things can get expensive quickly - but they don't have to!

There are two kinds of microphones: dynamic and condenser. To be as non-audio-geek as possible, condenser mic's require additional power ("phantom power," typically from a "preamp" device). Dynamic mic's don't require additonal power, and are less sensitive to rough treatment (they're harder to break). My advice: go with a dynamic mic.

Variable number 2: the "pickup pattern." Each microphone has a shape to which areas are most sensitive. This is also referred to as the "directional pattern." The most common is the cardioid directional pattern (a heart-shaped pattern that provides the greatest level of sensitivity). If you're speaking directly into the microphone, this is your best choice. Sounds coming from the sides or rear of the mic are largely ignored. These fall in the uni-directional category. Another common pattern is the omni-directional pattern. This pattern can pick up sound from all directions equally, and is good when you want to offer the ambience of your recording environment, or when you're recording a meeting, conference or multiple people on one mic.

Another thing to note about the pickup patterns: the more specifically directional the mic, the more sensitive it will be to "handling noise" and popping sounds (such as, from pronouncing the letter "p." These sounds are called plosives). So, a cardioid mic will be more sensitive to such noise, whereas an omnidirectional mic is more forgiving of such noise.

How much will one of these suckers set you back? You can get entry level mic's under $30. I picked up a dynamic omnidirectional mic at my local Radio Shack store. They've also got a selection of dynamic unidirectional mic's in the same price range. If you want to get a little more fancy, the Shure SM57 Cardiod Dynamic Microphone is a reliable standard. It retails under $150, but you can find it cheaper. As I write this, has it for $89.

The simplest setup is to get a dynamic microphone to plug into your PC sound card's mic-in port. (Don't forget to buy the adapter for the mic plug - a 1/4 inch to 1/8 inch adapter), or plug a USB mic into your PC.

Next: your recording software.

If you plan to record your podcast alone, or with all guests "live and in person," all you need to do is grab yourself some recording software and be on your way. If you want to do telephone interviews, things get a tiny bit more complicated. It's not too bad, though. Let's start with "live, in person."

There are lots of new podcasting applications popping up in all price ranges - from free (PodProducer, in beta but getting good buzz around the community), to cheap (MixCast Live for Windows - $12), to expensive (ePodcast Producer, $249). The main perk to these types of apps is the inclusion of podcast-specific features, like RSS feed generation for publishing your podcast, built-in "show notes" editors, and the like.

Abobe's commercial product, Adobe Audition, comes highly recommended in the field (but with a price tag of $299). You can download a free 30-day trial of Audition and try before you buy, to see if it suits your needs.

My personal recommendation if you're just starting out is the open source app, Audacity. It's free, and is great for recording and editing your podcast. It can also output your raw recording in popular podcast formats such as MP3 and Ogg Vorbis. You'll find that lots of people use Audacity for their podcasts, and there are lots of tutorials on how to use it. The Systm video tutorial I mentioned earlier demonstrates how to configure Audacity for a podcast. You can find other tutorials on podcasting with Audacity here, here, here, and here.

If you're doing your podcast alone, or with all guests present with you, that's it for software. If you want to do telephone interviews as well, read on.

There are several ways to do phone interviews with people. To record landline phone conversations into your PC or MP3 recording device, you can get a special microphone for recording telephone calls at your local Radio Shack store. There are other, more archaic options, but I'm not going to get into them here, as I have a better idea:

Use Skype. Skype is a voice-over-IP (VoIP) phone service that works great over a broadband internet connection. If your interviewees have Skype, and you have Skype, your call is free. If your interviewees do not have Skype, you can use Skype's "SkypeOut" feature, which allows you to make calls with your Skype account to land line or mobile phones for cheap (2 cents per minute).

The joy of using Skype is that you can easily record high-quality digital audio. This is often referred to as "Skypecasting." The problem, though, is that recording both sides of the conversation can be tricky. To use an app like Audacity, you've got to jump through a bunch of hoops to get a high quality recording without sending nasty audio feedback to your interviewee. I won't go through those hoops, but you'll find free solutions involving "virtual audio cables" and things of that nature if you Google around. Believe me: I tried them all, and it was much more hassle than it was worth. Some of the podcast software I linked above features "VoIP recording." If you do purchase one of those apps, that's the feature you want if you plan to Skypecast.

My favorite solution took less than a minute to set up and is one-click simple. It's called HotRecorder. There is a free version of HotRecorder (great for trying it out to make sure it works with your podcast setup), but in order to use your recordings in a podcast, you'll need to buy the full version for $14.95. Buying the full version gives you access to the audio converter application which allows you to convert the proprietary .elp files that HotRecorder makes into .wav or Ogg Vorbis files you can use in your podcast.

Another nice thing about HotRecorder: it works with many different VoIP applications, and not just Skype. Here's the current list: Google Talk, Skype ™ , AIM ™ , Net2Phone ™ , Yahoo! Messenger ™ , FireFly ™ and many other VoIP applications.


So, you've got a microphone, Audacity, Skype, and HotRecorder all set up on your computer. You've planned out your show's format, and written a script. You're ready to go!

Here's a basic conceptual how-to for recording a simple podcast with an interview.

1. Open up Audacity and record your solo segments of the show.
2. Open up Skype and HotRecorder. Call your interviewee with Skype, and hit the record button on HotRecorder. Do your interview.
3. Open the HotRecorder Converter to convert your Skype interview to .wav format.
4. Drag your .wav interview into Audacity. Arrange your Skype clip with your other recorded clips to create your show. Add music or whatever else you want. Edit your show for noise reduction and normalization.
5. Export your show in MP3 format from Audacity.
6. Publish your podcast.

For more detailed tutorials, check out the links I posted earlier. The fine details have been covered well out on the web; it's the big-picture that is missing from a lot of the tutorials.

Adding Music and Effects:

The most important thing to note about putting music into your podcast (such as, for an intro or theme song) is COPYRIGHT. Most commerically released music is copyrighted, and you cannot legally include it in your podcast without getting permission from the artist or publisher. Getting permission usually involves paying a licensing fee to use the song.

A free option is to find a local band who will give you permission to use their song in your podcast (typically in exchange for mentioning their web site or band/album name in your show). Another free option is to check out the PodSafe Music web site, where musicians and sound effect artists catalogue their offerings with express permission granted for use in your podcast.

Publishing Your Podcast:

To publish your podcast to the world, you'll need a couple things: an RSS feed, and internet-accessible server space to store and serve up your MP3 file.

The RSS Feed: Most blogging software (such as WordPress or Drupal) supports the enclosures required to generate a podcast-friendly RSS feed automatically. Check the documentation of your blog software for details. I also recommend using FeedBurner in conjunction with your blog-generated RSS feed. FeedBurner not only keeps statistics on your listening audience, but also automatically generates iTunes-compatible RSS feeds, if you plan to include your podcast in Apple's iTunes directory. For more specific information on RSS feeds for podcasting, check out the tutorials linked above.

Once you have an RSS feed (or a burned feed from FeedBurner), you can submit your feed to various podcast directories, such as iTunes, Yahoo! Podcasts,,, and others. A Google search for "podcast directory" will turn up countless results.

Hosting space: If your podcast becomes insanely popular, you can accidentally find yourself in a world of hurt with bandwidth bills from your web host. With a little foresight, you can avoid such surprises!

Here's a list of various podcast hosting options, ranging from free to cheap. My favorite of these is the site, a free, grass-roots media group that provides unlimited bandwidth for your podcast. I haven't yet tried OurMedia, but it is endorsed by Leo Laporte of This Week in Tech podcast fame.

If you want to combine a blog with your podcast, a more traditional web hosting setup might be better. Since I run a small web development company, I have easy access to such services. For $6.95/month, you can get 250 gigabytes of monthly bandwidth and 5 gigabytes of storage space on a Linux based web server with a 99.9% uptime guarantee (including PHP and MySQL support, perfect for WordPress or your favorite open source blogging or content management system). Most of the podcast hosting services I've seen only offer 5 gigabytes per month of bandwidth for the same price, and many don't include advanced web site features. I chose to host my podcast through The "Economy" web hosting package includes the pricing and features I mentioned above.

To estimate how much bandwidth you'll need (to make sure you don't go over your allotted bandwidth with your hosting provider), multiply the size of your podcast MP3 file times the number of times per month you will release an episode, times the number of listeners you expect to have. A 10-minute podcast recorded at 64 bit quality will be about 5 MB in size.

For example: a bi-weekly 20 minute podcast with 100 listeners requires 10 MB x 2 episodes per month x 100 listeners = 2,000 MB (2 GB) of monthly bandwidth.

Do you see how quickly it adds up? That's why I like my account. My 250 GB/month allows me to grow up to an audience of 12,500 listeners for my bi-weekly 20 minute podcast. That's a lot of listeners. Or, 8,333 listeners for a bi-weekly 30 minute podcast - just divide 250,000 MB by ([minutes x .5] x # of shows per month).


We've covered a lot of ground here. I hope that I've gathered some of the best podcasting how-to resources in one place to help guide your own research into the topic. Go forth and be heard!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005 Firefox Extension

It's yummy alright.

Integrate right into your browser with this Firefox extension.

Way cool. I used for my xmas wishlist this year, giving direct links to places to buy everything on my holiday gift list. I received kudos from my mother - and considering she's an internet newbie, that's pretty impressive. is great for other things, too. I'm slowly moving all of my PC-based bookmarks over to so that I can access them from anywhere. I also spend quite a bit of time browsing through the popular bookmarks on the site - great time killer, as well as a way to find new stuff to see and read and do on the net.

Here's a link to my

Caffeine Finder

How cool is this?

Caffeine Finder - a GPS enhanced mobile application for Blackberry that will find you a cup of Joe anywhere in the U.S., with over 45,000 cafes and Starbucks in its directory.

The company also makes a "fast food finder." What a great idea - come up with a template application for "finding" stuff, then plug in all of America's vices.

Future incarnations:

Beer finder.

Casino finder.

What I really want to see: hotspot finder, or - even better - FREE hotspot finder.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


Some random geek tidbits....

I got an email today regarding my application to Yahoo's email beta test. I hear it's a Gmail-killer - so of course I wanted to be in on the action. I signed up a bunch of months back - so long ago, in fact, that I forgot I'd signed up. I got this today in the mail:

Your Yahoo! Mail Beta is coming soon.

Thanks for your interest in the new Yahoo! Mail Beta. Your turn is coming soon.

We know you can't wait to get your hands on the new Yahoo! Mail and we're just as excited about delivering it to you. Right now we're working around-the-clock to make sure it's everything you expect and more.

So stay tuned for further word. In the meantime, there's no need to do anything. Your place in line is secure, and you'll get the green light as soon as possible.

Thanks again,

Yahoo! Mail Team
Sweet. I must say, though - I'm sickly in love with Gmail, so it's going to be hard to tear me away from it.

Moving on... I bought a microphone today. Why, you ask? I'm putting together a poker podcast. I had a little idea for one, and I figured - what the hell. Why not? Details will be made available as this thing becomes a reality...

In the "wtf" category: my Sony 17" LCD monitor has been doing something strange lately, and I'm not sure if it is something wrong with the monitor, or if it is related to the new video card I installed a few months back. I'm thinking the former, because this new behavior just started happening over the past week or so. The monitor will randomly (usually after I've left the computer unattended) power off completely - as in, even the power button is "off" (whereas usually when it is turned "off" it glows red). Rebooting the computer brings it back on, or if I randomly wait a few minutes, it'll come back. I'm thinking it is somehow tied to the computer going into screen saver mode or standby mode. I'm going to try disabling the monitor power-off/standby and see if that stops it from happening. I really hope there's nothing wrong with the monitor, because it's not even a year old (I got it for Xmas last year), and it was pretty expensive when I got it. We will see.

That's it for the geekiness in my life. Check out my Vegas trip reports at the poker blog.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

iPod Lesson the Long Way

I spent 4 hours at Best Buy today, and no, I wasn't Christmas shopping. I stopped in there on my way home from work (after having a nice little lunch with Randy at Northwoods... yummm...) to have them take a look at the iPod adapter in my car. A few weeks ago I went through a huge fiasco to get my old car stereo re-installed in my car, and added an iPod adapter so that I could listen to my iPod through my car's sound system. (The crappy FM tuner adapter thing works but the sound quality is crap). Last night, as I got home and unplugged my iPod, the thing did something funky on the screen. Then today when I got in the car and plugged in the iPod, it wouldn't load up through the stereo. It just sat there stuck on the "Loading..." screen.

So I went to Best Buy and explained what was happening. The guy said it was probably the adapter (some box-like thing that's installed under my seat of my car or behind the dashboard or in some other weird place), but that if it wasn't the adapter, it was my stereo. It was the same guy who finally had successfully installed this stuff last time, so he remembered me. He took my car in right away and went to work on replacing the iPod adapter.

But that didn't fix the problem. So he told me that the AUX port on my stereo must have blown out. Well, shit. So I went inside and dropped $300 on the cheapest Kenwood iPod-supporting car stereo they had in stock. I brought it back to the guy, and he installed it...

Still didn't work. WTF???

To make an already-too-long story short, all he had to do (or, all I had to do) was reboot the iPod. Once we figured out how to reset the iPod (with the help of Google on my Blackberry and a night shift guy who'd come in to work), everything worked again. The guy put my old stereo back in, and gave me the new stereo to bring back inside to return.

So, I got my money back, and my stereo and iPod are working again, thanks to 4 hours of wasted time. That's OK though. The guy didn't charge me a dime, and was very cool (not to mention, patient) about the whole thing. I think we both learned a little something from the experience!

For reference, rebooting the iPod involved holding down the center button and the menu key. I wish I'd have thought of that last night, but since the iPod itself was working just fine, I didn't think of it. Actually I was thinking that the adapter box needed rebooting. Anyhoooo....

Check out my Vegas trip reports - I'm home and tired as hell!

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

My penguin!

My mom sponsored a penguin for me at Brookfield Zoo!

(I love penguins)


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Recovering Firefox from a Crash

As if there hasn't been enough crashing around here lately...

Let me elaborate on my title: Firefox didn't crash, but Windows did crash, and corrupted Firefox (which was running at the time) in the process.

Last night, Windows XP gave me one of those rare blue screens of death - the ones with the nice STOP: error. (Stop laughing - I'm actually serious about the "rare" part. There are people out there who are so new to computers that they don't even know what a BSOD is - mainly because XP doesn't blue-screen as often as its predecessors did).

Anyway, it was a totally random event, and with it, I decided to just shut down the machine and go to bed. When I woke up today and booted up, after browsing around a bit with my favorite browser (Mozilla Firefox), I noticed something: my bookmarks were missing!

Then... the quick search box had no search engines in it.

And all of my saved passwords were gone.


I made the usual attempts to reinstall the browser and such, to no avail. Here's how I finally got everything back.

1. Back up your existing Profiles folder. It's probably toast, but if you're lucky, you'll be able to use bits of it to restore your important data. FYI: You should be backing up this folder regularly if you ever expect to need to recover from a hard drive or operating system crash.

Your Profiles folder on XP is typically located at:
C:\Documents and Settings\[User Name]\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\

Check here if you need to find it on another OS or version of Windows.

2. Start up Firefox's Profile Manager. You can do this in XP by bringing up a command prompt (Start - Run - cmd) and typing:
firefox.exe -profilemanager

3. Create a new profile.

4. Open up Firefox with that new profile and make sure things like the quick search box is working. If so, continue on. If not, uninstall Firefox and install it clean again, then start from step 2.

5. Recover your busted stuff.

Your bookmarks are saved in a file called "bookmarks.html." If you're unlucky like I was, your bookmarks file may have been corrupted when your system crashed. But, if you are lucky like I was, Firefox was kind enough to do daily backups of your bookmarks. (This may be a feature of the new version 1.5, so if you're still using the public 1.0.x versions, you might not have this luxury). My Profiles folder had a subfolder called "bookmarkbackups" that included files such as, bookmarks-2005-11-28.html (labelled by date). Through Firefox's top menu, under Bookmarks - Manage Bookmarks, follow the Import wizard and import the most recent bookmarks file you can find.

Your stored passwords are saved in two files. First, you need the "signons.txt" file, which contains your passwords in an encrypted format. Then, you need the "key3.db" file. Make sure Firefox is shut down, then copy both files from your backup Profiles folder to your new one.

That should bring your busted stuff back to life.

For future reference... just remember to back up your Profiles folder regularly! Then, you'll always be able to restore your important Firefox data. There's also a nice little Firefox extension you can use to automatically backup your bookmarks.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Work and money

Well... I got 2 of the 4 things on my "list of things to do over this long weekend" done. The list looks like this:

1. web site
2. DVD burner
3. xmas decor
4. clean up

Item number 1 refers to a web site I've been working on for a client. It's been a really fun web site to work on, for a new kid's shower product. I'll link to it when it's ready for public consumption. How can you go wrong with dinosaurs and a cute jingle? The site will go live this week, and I'm looking forward to it.

One thing that this particular project finally forced me to do is open a business checking account. I did the whole business registration thing over the summer, but hadn't gotten around to opening a checking account. It's pretty cool to have checks with my business name on them. (Purple Penguins Web Studio, plug plug).

Item number 2 refers to the new DVD burner I bought a couple weeks ago. Would you believe that I actually purchased a piece of computer hardware and haven't installed it yet? Yeah, I've been that busy (and obsessed with poker). One of the various computer magazines around here said that the Pioneer DVR-R100 dual layer DVD burner was the shiznet (PC Mag, I believe it was). So I bought it.

My purchase was actually a side effect of all of the misery I've been experiencing from last month's hard drive crash and subsequent data loss. It takes 20 CD's to do a full Norton Ghost backup of my system, so I decided to invest in the DVD burner. Now I just need to get around to installing it.

Item number 3 on my list: Christmas decorations. Unfortunately I couldn't get a hold of a ladder to do the lights on the front of the house, and it was raining all day today. So, Xmas decor will have to wait.

Item 4: clean up around the house. Done and done.

That's been my weekend in a nutshell! Geeking out on a web site. Hopefully I'll have a DVD burner story to tell this week :)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Make your iPod pretty again

I'm posting this mainly for my own future reference :) I had my iPod for a few months before I bought a case for it, and in that time, it got quite scratched up. Hallelujah! I can make it pretty again! A bit pricy, but...

RadTech Products - Ice Creme - Scratch remover for 1-5G iPod, shuffle, nano, iBooks & more!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

What a nightmare

This weekend was an internet nightmare for me. It's all over now and fixed, but I'll repost my story here from my poker blog:

Early in the weekend:

A few days ago, Randy came to me and told me that he had messed up our network somehow by installing Azereus, a bit torrent client. (This may be completely coincidental and unrelated to the problem). It sucked up huge CPU/memory resources on his machine, so he uninstalled it. Since then, though, every computer on our network is experiencing frequent "connection timed out" errors when browsing the web. Non-web-based internet access, however, seems unaffected (ie. I can still play on Party Poker and Full Tilt Poker with no problems). Yesterday, I could hardly do anything online. Today, the time-outs are spotty and random. Refreshing a page 2 or 3 times seems to do the trick to get it to connect. When things DO connect, they do so perfectly - full speed ahead, no bandwidth issues. This problem occurs in both Firefox (my primary browser - I'm using version 1.5 RC2) and in Internet Explorer, so I don't think the problem is browser based. It happens on all 3 computers on the network.

All 3 machines are wirelessly connected using 802.11g and WPA security on a Linksys router, which exits through a Toshiba cable modem to Comcast. All are running Windows XP Pro with SP2. All 3 machines are getting good signal quality.

Things I've tried:
  • Updated the router's firmware, which coincidentally had a fix for a WPA security issue. Glad I did that.
  • Checked for Comcast outages in my area. None have been reported, though that doesn't really mean anything. When Comcast screws up in this area, it's usually huge.
  • Ran spyware and virus scans on all machines (clean).
  • Tried disabling firewall and antivirus/worm checking to see if either were blocking traffic. No effect.
  • Cleared cache and cookies in the browsers.
  • Power-cycled the cable modem and router.
  • Rebooted all computers.
The fact that yesterday was awful and today is a bit better makes me think that the problem is with Comcast, despite them insisting on there being no problems in my area. Here's another thing:

If I hop off of my own wireless network and jump on my neighbor's network (they have satellite internet and not Comcast), things work fine. That makes me think that the problem lies in Comcast somehow. Take this as a tip, too - don't leave your wireless network with the default settings. Anybody in range can hijack your connection and steal your bandwidth.

Usually, when Comcast craps out, it's their DNS servers going all whack. I have my DNS servers hard-coded to non-Comcast servers for this reason. This time, though - it's not a DNS issue. I can't access web sites via domain name OR IP address.

Anyhooo... if this is a Comcast issue, then I'll just have to wait till it starts working again. Anyone else in Chicagoland having similar troubles on Comcast this weekend?

Last night:

Hallelujah - I'm back online.

For anyone interested in the solution to my network dilemma... I wish I could tell you. I know what fixed the problem, but couldn't tell you what the problem was. I went to my mom's house yesterday for her birthday (Happy B-day, Mom!), and used her computer to do some more research. She, too, has Comcast, but lives about a half hour away from me, so is not on the same cable trunk as I am. I found a new entry on Comcast's "network health" page that indicated weekend maintenance that may cause disruption of service, with an affected area of "nationwide." (Thanks, guys - that's helpful). Hmmm. Then, on a completely unrelated note, I decided to do a speed test on my mom's connection. I set her up a few months ago, so her equipment is all brand new. She was getting a solid 8000 kbps downstream! D'oh! I thought my connection was fast at 3500, but a few students of mine told me of much higher speeds, and it made me curious. Well... what could this possibly be?

I decided to go on Comcast's site again and look up their list of "approved" modems. I'd read on their forums that some people had to trade in their old modems for new ones in order to receive last summer's speed upgrade. My Toshiba modem (which is 4 years old) was listed as approved, but not for new installs. It recommended NOT purchasing it new, but if it was already on the network, it could stay. That made me think that it should be just fine. But, I'm a speed hog, and my mom's Linksys cable modem was listed as approved with no special notations. I decided to take the $50 gift card to Office Depot that was burning a hole in my pocket and go get a new cable modem.

I bought the same Linksys one my mom has, and went home and hooked it up. After spending a good hour on the phone with Comcast's tech support trying to give them the new MAC addresses (of my new cable modem, and of my old router, which they should have already had), I got the new cable modem working. That too was a fiasco, and I ended up having to connect my laptop directly to the cable modem to get it working on the phone with the guy (Comcast doesn't support home networks unless you buy everything from them), so they had the MAC of my laptop registered as the live machine. Thank goodness for MAC address cloning. Once I got off the phone with the cable guy and set that up on my router, I was good to go.

Network, up! Speed, blazing!

So what was wrong with my old modem? My theory is that since my old modem was so old and only supported the DOCSIS specification version 1.0 (whereas this new modem supports 1.0, 1.1, and 2.0), the upgrade that people were talking about on Comcast's forums must have made obsolete my cable modem. I don't think it was dying, because the connectivity problems fell right in line with this "maintenance" upgrade on Comcast's end. Too bad that Comcast doesn't communicate very well with its customers, and when they do, they fail to give any useful information. I may never know what the problem actually was.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


Or shall I say, Delicious?

The coolest thing I've found lately... Delicious is a social bookmarking site that not only allows users to go portable with their bookmarks/favorites, but allows for sharing of bookmarks with others. Better yet - subscribe to the RSS feed of some cool person's Delicious bookmarks, and you've got endless web surfing fodder.

My bookmarks are at:

This is, of course, a work in progress, since I lost my entire bookmark collection when my hard drive died a few weeks back (see previous posts on the topic...)

Check it out. Cool stuff.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Program TiVo with Yahoo

How cool is this? You can program your TiVo via the web through Yahoo. Too bad my TiVo is the ancient original series (requires a Series 2 TiVo). This sure gives me incentive to go buy a new TiVo! I love my TiVo box... it is indeed the best thing since bread came sliced.

Online Scheduling - Yahoo! TV: "# Yahoo! and TiVo have partnered to give you the ultimate remote control: the Web!
# Now you can schedule recordings on your TiVo� box from any internet connection.
# From any Yahoo! TV episode page, just click 'Record to my TiVo box'."

Monday, October 31, 2005

The Near-Future of IT

This past Friday, I attended a conference on the near-future (read: next 5 years) of Information Technology in terms of job availability and skill sets. There were a handful of panel speakers representing various large companies in the Chicagoland area, speaking to what they look for in IT candidates for their technology departments, and what they anticipate as far as future needs through 2010. Some things surprised me; others didn't.

The top 10 things I learned about the near-future of IT in Chicagoland:

1. Application programming is dead. Every single company said that they no longer hire in-house application developers. Instead, they use canned solutions out-of-the-box. This does, however, increase their need for software support personnel on-site.

2. The only niche in application programming that will continue to be viable in this area over the next few years is game programming, particularly since Chicago is home to one of the biggest game development companies - Midway games.

3. The need for web programming and web services developers has been consistant and will continue to grow.

4. There is still a need for network administrators, from entry level technicians through network and systems analysts. These jobs can't be outsourced or shipped overseas.

5. Network security is huge, and the current shortage of qualified candidates to fill positions is only going to get worse.

6. Companies are no longer looking for the jack-of-all-trades IT types. They want people with an extreme depth of knowledge on particular brands or subjects, and not necessarily a wide breadth of knowledge.

7. Industry certifications still get the nod over people who hold no certifications, but a college degree is also required. Bachelor's degrees are the new minimum, and Master's degrees are required for management positions.

8. Most companies prefer to hire people with experience, even at entry level - making internships that much more important.

9. Finding job candidates with a good work ethic is no longer enough; solid moral ethics are also required, particularly in security roles.

10. The next big IT boom will be upon us by the year 2010, so get ready!

Top 10 replies by developers when their programs don't work

Toooo freakin' funny. I've used them all...

C. Enrique Ortiz' Weblog: "Top 10 replies by developers when their programs don't work:

10. 'That's weird...'
9. 'It's never done that before.'
8. 'It worked yesterday.'
7. 'You must have the wrong version.'
6. 'It works, but it hasn't been tested.'
5. 'Somebody must have changed my code.'
4. 'Did you check for a virus?'
3. 'Where were you when the program blew up?'
2. 'Why do you want to do it that way?'

and finally ...

1. 'I thought I fixed that.'"

Sunday, October 30, 2005

For weather geeks

(of which I am one)

Weather Bonk

It shows your local weather on a Google map, with points marked where weather cams exist. Rolling over a cam marker shows a thumbnail picture of the current view from the weather cam, and you can overlay the local radar right on to the map. It's freakin' cool.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

I'm Home

Back from Vegas... and I still have to go to work, so to satiate your curiousity - no, I didn't win millions. I didn't lose too much though, so it's all good. You can read the Vegas trip reports at my poker blog.

I have very little techie speak to spew today, except that I have a secret crush on Patrick Norton (formerly of The Screen Savers) and have today discovered his video-cast: DigitalLife TV. I will be an avid watcher, for sure.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Do as I say...

... not as I do.

One of the classes I teach at the local community college is computer repair. I preach constantly about the importance of backing up data and maintaining a frequent system upkeep schedule. Today, I finally paid for not practicing what I preach.

The last time I backed up my data was July 2004. Yeah. Over a year ago.

Last Christmas (10 months ago or so), I upgraded my computer from an Athlon XP 2200 to the Athlon 64-bit 3500+. I added a gig of Corsair XMS dual channel DDR400 ram, a brand new 250GB Maxtor DiamondMax hard drive, and a new CD burner. I added extra fans, and a neon light, and did it up sweet.

Shortly thereafter, I started having hard disk problems. Turns out, my power supply couldn't handle the neon light and extra fans. I unplugged them, and the problems stopped - and I was able to retrieve my data from the drive.

That incident was the 2nd time in 3 years that I'd had some sort of system crash but was able to recover my data. You'd think I'd have seen how lucky I was and started backing up.

I've intended for years to go buy a copy of Norton Ghost. It's an awesome product - I used it years ago at a computer shop I used to work at. But, it's $70. I always backed down at the last minute and avoided buying it. Too expensive.

Another thing I've been procrastinating is buying a new power supply. I thought I had a 400 watt PS in my system, and I figured after disabling the extras in my case, that was fine for a while - until I had some spare cash for a new PS. It never made it high on my priority list.

Last night, everything came full circle. I'd unplugged my computer to work on my cousin's system (which went just fine - though included ANOTHER failed Maxtor hard drive, the 6th I've owned, encountered, or heard of in the last 4 years). I went to plug my system back in, and as I plugged the power plug into the back of the power supply, something surged. The system was turned off, but power surged through it, lighting the power LED and whirring the fans momentarily before cutting out. I thought, "That was weird."

Sure was. My hard drive never came up after that - just repeated a loud clicking noise and hung the system.

You never want to hear a hard drive click. Not like that.

I lost everything - couldn't even boot the drive as a slave on another working system. It just clicks and hangs. I have so much data that was of vital importance that I hadn't backed up.

I am an idiot.

My last resort is the old freezer trick. My dead drive is in my freezer as we speak. I'll remove it from its icy home tomorrow and try booting it one last time in its frozen state. The trick worked once for me. I don't expect to have any luck with it this time around, due to the degree to which the thing sounds to be toasted. But I am praying.


Right now, as I type, I'm on disk 9 of who-knows-how-many of a Ghost hard drive backup. I reinstalled Windows and most of my software. And now, I Ghost.

Wish me luck....

Friday, October 14, 2005

Podcast Obsession

I finally got an iPod a few months ago - the 20GB white one, 4th generation. Since then, I've discovered podcasts. I find them to be a great way to pass the time driving to work or to the poker room. Here are my current faves:

TWiT - This Week in Tech - Oh, how I love Patrick Norton. I've been crushing on him since the days of the TechTV show "The Screen Savers." Kevin Rose is cool too, and I consider Leo LaPorte to be a fantastic tech news broadcaster and author. This weekly podcast routinely gives me a couple hours worth of interesting links and tidbits to surf through after listening.

The Web 2.0 Show - I was turned on to this podcast after its mention on TWIT, and for any web developer looking to stay on the cutting edge of web interactivity and interface design, this show is a great resource of news and links. If you don't know what "Web 2.0" is, check out this article by Tim O'Reilly.

Digg Nation - Kevin Rose's podcast, elaborating on the top news articles of the week from If you aren't already using Digg as your source of tech news, try it out. It's like slashdot, gone web 2.0. I love it. Nothing against slashdot - I still read over there too - but the Digg interface is much more slick and interactive, and the scope of news coverage seems to be a bit more broad without being irrelevant. I dig Digg.

Command N - You can't listen to this one, since it's a video podcast, but still worthy of mention. Amber Mac, of "Call for Help" Toronto fame, hosts this video podcast on tech news - mostly web related. She calls herself a "web strategist," and I thought that was just the coolest title ever. I might have to become one of those some day.

Card Club on Lord Admiral Radio - A weekly poker podcast, often featuring fellow poker bloggers of much higher fame than I. Not only am I a computer geek, but I'm also a poker geek.

That's what I'm into right now... in fact, it's time to update the iPod so I can go make the hour-long trek to the casino.

Bad Blog Mommy

I've neglected this here blog, and I've been feeling guilty about it. GeekGoesMeow became little more than a dumping ground for links I found while at work or away from home, and wanted to be sure to read later.

I'd rather it be more than that - namely, what it was originally intended to be: my geek musings.

So - while I likely won't post here as frequently as I do to my poker blog, I will try to make things a little more interesting. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

AMD Unveils Dual-Core Chips for Desktops

AMD Unveils Dual-Core Chips for Desktops - Yahoo! News: "Advanced Micro Devices Inc. is launching its first PC microprocessors with two computing engines on a single chip Tuesday, further expanding its product line with a technology that's expected to be a major driver of PC performance for years to come.
click here

The four chips to be announced Tuesday at the Computex trade show in Taiwan are targeted at high-end personal computers used for advanced tasks such as creating or editing digital media. In April, AMD introduced dual-core chips for servers and workstations. [more]"

11 steps to a better brain

New Scientist 11 steps to a better brain - Features: "It doesn't matter how brainy you are or how much education you've had - you can still improve and expand your mind. Boosting your mental faculties doesn't have to mean studying hard or becoming a reclusive book worm. There are lots of tricks, techniques and habits, as well as changes to your lifestyle, diet and behaviour that can help you flex your grey matter and get the best out of your brain cells. And here are 11 of them. [more]"

Saturday, May 28, 2005


I resurrected my old case mod/overclocking web pages I did up years ago... ahh, the memories...

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Web Designer's Reference

Slashdot | Web Designer's Reference: "It seems as if everyone and his brother is writing books supporting standards-compliant Web design with XHTML and CSS. I have read and reviewed a half dozen this year alone. People are obviously trying to tell us something - plain HTML has to go! Web Designers' Reference: An Integrated Approach to Web Design with XHTML and CSS, by Craig Grannell, is the latest of these pronouncements.' Read on for the rest of Suda's review. [more]"

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

German Spam, Nasty

My work email addy got hit bad with this spam - and annoyingly it wasn't caught by our spam blockers. Bah!

Bradenton Herald | 05/17/2005 | New spam clogging computer emails: "A flood of German-language spam, with links to a far-right German political party, is clogging e-mail in-boxes, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported today.

A virus known as Sober.p, which attacked computers earlier this month, created the new spam, or unsolicited e-mails. The virus turned affected machines into the tech equivalent of a carrier that unwittingly spreads a disease. However, the spam itself is not a virus and doesn't infect machines, the newspaper reported.

Thousands of computers disseminated the spam Monday and over the weekend, even though the owners of most of those computers had no idea their machines had been hijacked.

It has not been determined who is responsible for the virus.

The e-mails coincide with the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. Though the contents vary, most of the e-mails contain war-related political messages, such as 'Dresden 1945,' referring to the Allied bombing of the German city.

Most of the spam included links to German Web sites, including the site for the far-right National Democratic Party, the Sun-Sentinel said.

The site could not be accessed late Monday.

Protection against computer virus attacks is acquired by employing anti-virus software that is up to date."

Saturday, May 14, 2005

WGN Weather Weblog: Lightning stikes the Sears Tower

Freakin' cool!

WGN Weather Weblog: Lightning stikes the Sears Tower: "Christopher Gazdic, a Columbia College student, captured these images of a Sears Tower lightning strike on video this past Wednesday morning, May 11 from his dormitory room. His video of the lightning strike is available at:"

Friday, May 13, 2005

Exploding iPod?

[H]ard|OCP - Exploding iPod: "If you read this exploding iPod story it seems more like of a series of unfortunate events lead up to the iPod going *pop* than an actual real “issue” but you just can’t pass up an exploding iPod story.

Don't put your iPod through the washing machine. And if for some reason you do, don't try to fix it with a screwdriver. That's the advice of fire investigators probing a small explosion that burned a hole in the bed of a Melbourne teenager who tried to perform emergency surgery on his ailing mp3 player.

IBM: \'Firefox is in da house\'

IBM: \'Firefox is in da house\' - "IBM is encouraging its employees to use Firefox, aiding the open source web browser's quest to chip away at Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

Firefox is already used by about 10 per cent of IBM's staff, or about 30,000 people. Starting today, IBM workers can download the browser from internal servers and get support from the company's helpdesk staff. [more]"

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Internet Explorer has become the hare OR IE loses more market share

Is Firefox perfect? Nope. Is it a better browser than IE? Absolutely!!!


M-Dollar: Internet Explorer has become the hare OR IE loses more market share: "Internet Explorer's market share has slipped below 90% for the first time in a very long time. According to independent tracking by WebSideStory Internet Explorer has dropped from 95% to 89% in just under a year, and Firefox has gone from 3% to 6.8% since last October. [more]"

Firefox Updated to 1.0.4

Mozilla has released a software update for Firefox, mainly to fix some JavaScript security vulnerabilities that had been found but not known to be exploited.

Go get you some!

Friday, May 06, 2005

AMD dual-core Opterons to go Socket 939?

AMD dual-core 1xx Opterons 'to go Socket 939' | The Register: "AMD's upcoming dual-core Opteron 1xx chips for one-way servers and workstations will use the chip maker's Socket 939 interconnect rather than the more usual Socket 940 system.

So claim Taiwanese motherboard vendors sources cited by DigiTimes.

Dual-core Opteron 165, 170 and 175 processors are expected to ship in Q3 after being formally introduced later this quarter. They will use Socket 939 to give server and workstation vendors access to cheaper motherboards and less expensive unbuffered memory modules in place of the ECC DIMMs used in Socket 940 mobos.

In essence, this is all about bring down the cost of dual-core one-way Opteron servers and workstations - if it's going to happen. AMD has said nothing so far about the dual-core 1xx Opterons to suggest that it has anything other than Socket 940 in mind. With Socket 939, the only feature that will differentiate the 1xx series from the upcoming dual-core Athlon 64 X2 is its three HyperTransport links to the Athlon 64's single link."

Gates on Google

Slashdot | Gates on Google: "' A long and interesting article in Fortune on the battle between Gates and Google. 'Forced to watch Google's stock soar the way Microsoft's used to, and Brin and Page enjoy their roles as tech's new rock stars, Gates brings to the fight a ferocity that nobody has seen since the Netscape war a decade ago. Their popularity gets under his skin. 'There's companies that are just so cool that you just can't even deal with it,' he says sarcastically, suggesting that Google is nothing more than the latest fad, adding, 'At least they know to wear black.'...Trying to build a Google killer, however, has turned out to be truly humbling for Microsoft.''"

Firefox and Thunderbird Garage

I'd love to pick up this book - particularly for the Thunderbird part. I've been experimenting with Gmail-like archiving and searching instead of organizing my email in hierarchy. I wonder if you can create custom labels in Thunderbird... hmmm... maybe I need to buy this book!

Slashdot | Firefox and Thunderbird Garage: "'Firefox and Thunderbird Garage, written by Chris Hofmann, Director of Engineering at the Mozilla Foundation; Marcia Knous, Mozilla Foundation Project Manager; and John Hedtke, president of JVH Communications (and an accomplished technical writer) is published by Prentice Hall PTR. This is the most recent addition to their Garage Series of books, which aims to bring the newest topics in technology to print in an engaging and readable manner. Firefox and Thunderbird Garage does not disappoint: the authors have covered all the bases on these two popular apps with a combined writing style that keeps the subject matter alive and interesting.' Read on for the rest of Norbury-Glaser's review."

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Firefox Tweak Guide

I'm tweaking as we speak!! "Whether you're a first-time user or a veteran, this Firefox Tweak Guide brings together all the major tips, tricks and tweaks for Firefox. From the basic to the advanced, the following 11 pages of information are sure to enhance your Firefox experience."

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Build Your Own DVR

Slashdot | Build Your Own DVR: "'If you have an old computer that had been laying around for a while and are ready to spend a bit on hardware to make into a Digital Video Recorder, this article from Make magazine contains a step-by-step guide on building one. The author spent $150 on TV card and $70 on BeyondTV PVR software.' (And with a Linux-friendly capture card, MythTV would save the builder $70.)"

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

More IE7 Details Emerge

Ars Technica: More IE7 Details Emerge

"Internet Explorer 7.0 is on the way. Microsoft has said from the outset that the focus will be on security. What about improved support for CSS? It looks like that's on tap as well. [more]"

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Homemade EVDO/WiFi Mobile Access Point

Now, THIS is cool!

Slashdot | Homemade EVDO/WiFi Mobile Access Point: "Over the last few weeks I've built myself a mobile access point for my car. It's based on a Soekris net2421 embedded Linux box and uses Verizon's 1xRTT/EVDO network as its uplink, resharing it over 802.11b. Wherever my car goes, my Internet link goes! :) I finally put some webpages together on how I built it. The components are pretty cheap and anybody with basic Linux skills can build their own just as easily. I've also got it interfacing with Google Maps to do live vehicle tracking via gpsd. It also uploads pictures from an on-board webcam every five minutes or so."

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Comcast Sued For Giving Customer Info to RIAA

Slashdot | Comcast Sued For Giving Customer Info to RIAA: "The first legal missile has been fired at ISP collaboration. Comcast, the top U.S. cable TV network operator, is being sued by a Seattle-area woman for disclosing her name and contact information, court records showed Thursday.' From the article: ' court authorized Comcast to release names and addresses of its customers, or notified his client that her information had been given to an outside party...'"

Trent Reznor Releases Single for Public Remixing

Slashdot | Trent Reznor Challenges Music Norms: "Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails) has released the new single from NIN's upcoming album as a GarageBand file for fan remixes. Though by no means the first time a major-label artist has released a track to the public for remix, this is the first time such a project has been as open to the common user. The repercussions to 'traditional' IP views in music could be beneficial to all. Note that the license agreement does not allow commercial use of the included sounds. From the download text: 'What I'm giving you in this file is the actual multi-track audio session for 'the hand that feeds' in GarageBand format. This is the entire thing bounced over from the actual Pro Tools session we recorded it into. I imported and converted the tracks into AppleLoop format so the size would be reasonable and the tempo flexible."

Friday, April 01, 2005

O'Reilly Releases Firefox Hacks

On my list of things to buy this weekend...

Slashdot | Firefox Hacks: "If there is an application I run more often than my Web browser, particularly since I also use it as my email client, then I don't know what it might be. As a Firefox convert, that made the arrival of Firefox Hacks from O'Reilly a wonderful surprise.' Read on for the rest of Williams' review."

Happy Birthday, Gmail!

It's GMail's first birthday, and they've gone and doubled their inbox capacities to celebrate! Check it out, along with some other new features. I love Gmail - I just wish I could pop other email accounts with it! Then I could covert completely to Gmail.

About Gmail: "Just Launched!

G is for growth
Storage is an important part of email, but that doesn't mean you should have to worry about it. To celebrate our one-year birthday, we're giving everyone one more gigabyte. But why stop the party there? Our plan is to continue growing your storage beyond 2GBs by giving you more space as we are able. We know that email will only become more important in people's lives, and we want Gmail to keep up with our users and their needs. From Gmail, you can expect more.

We're not in the plains anymore
Fonts, bullets and highlighting, oh my! Gmail now offers rich text formatting. And over 60 colors of the rainbow. Discover a land of more than just black and white."

Monday, March 21, 2005

Firefox Continues to Bite into IE Usage

Slashdot | Firefox Continues to Bite into IE Usage: "'According to Information Week, Firefox usage is now over 6 percent, pulling Internet Explorer usage down below 90 percent. 'Firefox is currently the only browser that is increasing market share on a monthly basis, and it is growing at the direct expense of Microsoft's Internet Explorer''"

Students Do Better Without Computers

Slashdot | Students Do Better Without Computers: "'The Telegraph is reporting a large study that shows that the less students use computers at school and at home, the better they do in international tests of literacy and math. The more access they had to computers at home, the lower they scored in tests, partly because they diverted attention from homework. Students tended to do worse in schools generously equipped with computers, apparently because computerised instruction replaced more effective forms of teaching. ' Worth noting that it took almost 20 years for PCs in the corporate environment to actually have a positive impact on productivity; might the same be true in education?"

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Yahoo Readies Blogging Tool - Yahoo Readies Blogging Tool: "Yahoo is developing a free service designed to let users stay in touch with acquaintances such as friends, family, and co-workers via new and existing Yahoo services. The service will include the Sunnyvale, California company's first blogging tool, according to a company executive.

Called Yahoo 360, the service will enter a restricted beta, or test, period on March 29, when it will be available to select users invited by Yahoo to try it out. Yahoo will expand the scope of the beta testing in coming weeks.

Interested users can join a waiting list online."

Thursday, March 17, 2005

CSS Support Could Be Internet Explorer's Weakest Link

CSS Support Could Be Internet Explorer's Weakest Link: "Microsoft will be doing a lot to make developers and customers happy with its pending Internet Explorer release, if partner sources with inside information on the IE 7.0 browser are right. ADVERTISEMENT

But there's one area where Microsoft won't be winning a lot of applause.

The company will continue to drag its feet by refusing to provide full support for the CSS2 (Cascading Style Sheets Level 2) W3C (Worldwide Web Consortium) standard, Microsoft partners say.

Sources claiming familiarity with Microsoft's IE 7.0 plans said the company will add some additional CSS2 support to its new standalone browser.

But Microsoft isn't planning to go the whole way and make IE 7.0 fully CSS2 compliant, sources said.

IE 7.0 is expected to go to beta testers this summer. [more]"

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.0 Details Begin to Leak

Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.0 Details Begin to Leak -

Will it be available in 2005?

Will it support CSS 2.0 standards?

Will it be a tabbed-interface browser?

What security features will it have?

Read the article above for the latest scoop!

Gmail Goes Public

Slashdot | Gmail Goes Public: "Google has apparently given the green light for Google's e-mail (Gmail) to be open to the general public.' From the registration page: 'As we make room for more Gmail users, we want to first extend invitations to Google users. We're still working to make Gmail better, so for now, we're just inviting a small number at random. Looks like that's you! We're really excited to share Gmail with you and we hope you like it.' Observed at the P-I Buzzworthy Blog as well."

TiVo and Comcast Hook Up | TiVo Press Releases: "Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA), the nation's leading provider of cable, entertainment and communications products and services, and TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO), the creator of and a leader in television services for digital video recorders (DVRs), today announced that the companies have reached an agreement to make the TiVo� service and advertising capability widely available to Comcast customers in the majority of its markets around the country.

Under the terms of the agreement, Comcast and TiVo will work together to develop a version of the TiVo service that will be made available on Comcast's current primary DVR platform. New software will be developed by TiVo and will be incorporated into Comcast's existing network platforms. The new service will be marketed with the TiVo brand, and is expected to be available on Comcast's DVR products in a majority of Comcast markets in mid-to-late 2006. [more]"

Friday, February 25, 2005

Firefox Update Version 1.0.1

MOZILLA FOUNDATION ANNOUNCES UPDATE TO FIREFOX: "The Mozilla Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving choice and promoting innovation on the Internet, today released an update to its award-winning Firefox 1.0 browser. The Firefox security update is available for the 27 million users who have already downloaded the free browser. The Mozilla Foundation encourages all users to download the update, which is available now on all platforms at

'Regular security updates are essential for maintaining a safe browsing experience for our users,' said Chris Hofmann, director of engineering for the Mozilla Foundation. 'The Mozilla Foundation has developed a community of users and developers who continuously provide feedback on Mozilla software, and as a result of that constant vigilance, we are able to provide quick and effective responses to security vulnerabilities.'

The Mozilla Foundation evaluates security issues on an ongoing basis and will issue security updates as warranted. The security update for Firefox includes several fixes to guard against spoofing and arbitrary code execution."

Sunday, February 20, 2005


SitePoint Tech Times: "XHTML 1.0 is a language for writing Web pages using the same tags as HTML, but with the more tightly controlled tag syntax of XML. XHTML makes it easier for programs of all kinds to read and generate Web pages, while making the job of the Web developer only slightly harder.

XHTML also allows for other XML-based tag languages to be mixed into a Web page for specialized needs (e.g. MathML). Browsers that support these tag languages can then display such specialized content within the page. This extensibility puts the 'X' in XHTML.

The case for avoiding XHTML was pointed out to me by the author of SitePoint's upcoming DHTML book, as I tut-tutted his use of HTML (as opposed to XHTML) for the book's sample code.

Here it is in a nutshell:

1. Browsers decide how to handle a file based on the MIME type that the server sends with it.
2. HTML Web pages are identified with a MIME type of text/html.
3. Pages written in XHTML that are sent with a MIME type of text/html don't benefit from any of the features of XHTML.
4. To benefit from the features of XHTML, pages must be sent as application/xhtml xml.
5. The most popular Web browser (Internet Explorer 6) cannot view pages sent as application/xhtml xml.

From this, it follows that you cannot benefit from using XHTML without breaking compatibility with Internet Explorer 6. So you might as well just use HTML.

With this in mind, the case for using XHTML is a lot weaker than I had come to believe. What it comes down to is 'Web standards are good, so to help promote them, support XHTML by implementing it however you can. Your clients all want it anyway.'

What most standards-conscious professional developers do today is write XHTML and allow browsers to treat it as HTML. Meanwhile, advanced developers who want to take advantage of XHTML can configure their servers to send XHTML pages as application/xhtml xml to browsers that support it (not Internet Explorer).

Assuming that isn't practical for you, you're left with a choice: support the XHTML standard by feeding it to browsers that expect HTML, or stick with HTML and send browsers what they expect to receive."

-- Yikes! I didn't know this about XHTML. Me, up on my standards soapbox all the time... Well, good thing I use Mozilla Firefox! With IE7 supposedly coming out this summer, who knows - this ignorance on IE6's part may be solved, and this issue will be no more. But, I will continue to code my sites in XHTML to support the continued progression of web standards, while my web servers keep sending out the XHTML code as HTML type. My reasons for using XHTML have more to do with supporting the standards than with displaying my sites on other devices like cell phones and the like. The appolication MIME type issue, then, really doesn't affect me.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

And Jeffrey said, "To Hell"

Anil Dash: And Jeffrey said, "To Hell": "Four years ago, Jeffrey Zeldman said, 'To Hell With Bad Browsers' and ended up changing the web. That's damned impressive."

And thank God for Jeffrey!! It took some time, but four years later, the web is finally starting to come around to a somewhat standards-compliant environment. Browser manufacturers are taking note of standards, and starting to move away from proprietary implementations of code. ("Starting to," anyway). The success of a browser like Mozilla Firefox is proof of concept that standards-compliant browsing is better.

No more coding for Netscape 4!!!!

I sure don't miss it!

Blockbuster Sued Over Late Fees Claim

I knew it was too good to be true!!

Slashdot | Blockbuster Sued Over Late Fees Claim: "'CNN has a story about Blockbuster's violation of New Jersey's consumer fraud act in which they made false claims in their 'No More Late Fees' campaign. New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey filed a lawsuit today in hopes that Blockbuster would stop misleading their customers into thinking they could keep their movie rentals as long as they want without penalty.'"

A New Firefox Look

You know you love it! :) I've obviously converted my blog to a new Mozilla Firefox inspired theme. I got the idea from a template on, and modified it a bit to fit my needs. Any problems - let me know! Thanks!

Friday, February 18, 2005

McAfee Goes XHTML

SimpleBits | McAfee - "Standards-based redesigns of corporate sites are becoming so frequent, it’s amazing to just stumble upon great work while clicking around randomnly for research. Bravo to the McAfee team for embracing the good stuff. Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional, even."

What a Pig

Yahoo! News - Harvard President Releases Transcript of Remarks on Women - "Harvard University President Lawrence H. Summers released a transcript Thursday of controversial remarks he made last month suggesting that women had innately lower aptitudes for math and science than men.

The transcript — posted on Summers' Harvard website — showed that in addressing a Jan. 14 conference in Cambridge, Mass., of the National Bureau of Economic Research, the university president said that intrinsic gender differences, family pressures and employer demands played a larger role in keeping women out of top-level science jobs than discrimination.

The remarks sparked protests from female scientists and others, and Summers had been under growing pressure to release the transcript.

Summers conceded in his remarks to the gathering of economists and scientists that he was being deliberately provocative.

"So my best guess, to provoke you, of what's behind all this is that the largest phenomenon, by far, is the general clash between people's legitimate family desires and employers' current desire for high power and high intensity," Summers told the audience.

"In the special case of science and engineering," he said, "there are issues of intrinsic aptitude, and particularly of the variability of aptitude, and that those considerations are reinforced by what are in fact lesser factors involving socialization and continuing discrimination."

At a meeting Tuesday of about 250 undergraduate faculty members, numerous speakers criticized Summers and used his remarks about women as an indictment of his leadership and management style.

A task force on the status of women at Harvard was appointed as a result of the president's comments.

His remarks fueled an ongoing controversy at Harvard about the decline in tenured professorships for women in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, which is the university's primary academic body.

The percentage of women offered tenured positions has dropped every year since Summers became president in 2001. Four of 32 tenure offers in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences were extended to women in the last academic year.

Summers has repeatedly apologized for his remarks, which he said he believed were not for general distribution.

The flap spilled over to the Yale University campus in New Haven, Conn., where more than 100 graduate students protested Thursday what they said was inequitable treatment of women.

The protesters faulted Yale President Richard Levin for not joining the presidents of Stanford, Princeton and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (news - web sites) in denouncing Summers' comments. "

Canceled Hockey Season Takes a Toll

All of hockey - both players and owners - should be ashamed of themselves. They make me sick, the whole lot of 'em.

Yahoo! News - Canceled Hockey Seasons Takes a Toll - " "I'm ashamed by what we did," Los Angeles Kings president Tim Leiweke said, invoking unusually blunt criticism of owners and players alike. "Smart people should have solved this by today."

The emotional damage from the NHL's suicide season ranges beyond the hockey faithful, and the economic destruction touches more than millionaires such as the New York Rangers' Jaromir Jagr, the NHL's highest-paid player last season at $11 million; and billionaires such as Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis.

Thousands of NHL club employees' pay and work weeks were slashed when the lockout began months ago. The 500 to 1,000 seasonal workers at each arena, from popcorn poppers to Zamboni drivers, will miss up to 41 game paychecks, not counting the playoffs.

And the minimum-wage-plus-tips workers at countless hockey-dependent restaurants such as Pittsburgh's Ruddy Duck, Boston's Halftime Pizza — and yes, Detroit's Hockeytown Cafe — had their very livelihoods blindsided. [more]"

[H]ard|OCP Wins

You go, Kyle!

[H]ard|OCP - Mission Accomplished: "We set out to defend our rights by refusing to take down this article about Infinium Labs CEO Tim Roberts, and the court has awarded us final victory today. Infinium Labs and Tim Roberts cost HardOCP close to a quarter million dollars in legal fees as we stood up for our rights. We will continue to share our opinions and the facts about cheats, swindlers, and racketeers we see in our industry.

3. Plaintiffs' publication of the Article did not constitute common law libel, trade disparagement/trade libel, and/or tortious interference with a contract.

4. Plaintiffs have no liability to the Defendants...

Not bad for a website 'run by two punk kids,' one of which is the 'lowest form of life on this earth.'

It has taken almost a full year to reach this end. It has been a lengthy and costly battle. But if put in the same position again, we will gladly defend our rights to tell our readers the truth."

Cracking iTunes' DRM

With iTunes and Napster slapping each other back and forth about whose copy protection is better, it's good to remember that there will NEVER be an uncrackable music copy protection... mark my words!

infoAnarchy || QtFairUse: Cracking iTunes' DRM: "QtFairUse extracts DRM-free AAC data from a DRM'd AAC stream as it plays in the Quicktime player. A Register article describes more of the details. Note that this is not tapping the decompressed audio, but instead actually tapping the decrypted AAC data before it gets decompressed. Thus, the DRM removal process results in no loss of quality.

A few caveats: the software only works for Windows, and the dumped streams are raw AAC without headers, so they cannot be easily played. QtFairUse is not quite ready for everyday use, perhaps, but it is at least a proof of concept.

This serves as another example of why 'uncrackable' DRM in the real world is a ridiculous idea. If the sound plays through your speakers, it must exist in decrypted form somewhere in your computer's data path. If it exists in decrypted form, you can tap it and extract the decrypted data."

Go Daddy to Issue SSL Certificates to Open Source Projects Free of Charge

Good stuff. I'm a reseller for Go Daddy and have used them for years in my web development pursuits. Nice to see them furthering the open source cause.

Go Daddy to Issue SSL Certificates to Open Source Projects 'Free of Charge': "The Go Daddy Group, Inc., parent company of, the No. 1 registrar of domain names, announced today that it will issue its Turbo SSL Certificate to bona-fide open source software projects -- at no cost. 'Open source' software projects allow software developers free access to underlying software code, as well as the ability to read, redistribute, and modify the source code.

Go Daddy has already issued its first free SSL Certificate to binarycloud, an open source project focused on application framework and development environments for creating large-scale PHP applications. The Turbo SSL certificates which Go Daddy will issue to open source projects -- a $29.95 value -- are issued within minutes, have 99% browser recognition, and provide 128-bit Web server security -- the highest level of encryption available on the market today. Learn more about Go Daddy's no-charge initiative for the open source community at [more]"

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Standalone IE Coming This Summer

Standalone IE Coming This Summer - While details are still scant, Microsoft today announced that it will be releasing a standalone version of Internet Explorer this summer. This is a drastic reversal of Microsoft’s stated intention to cease developing IE as a standalone product—and one that will have standards advocates biting their fingernails with trepidation. Is this new browser simply a high-profile security patch, in an attempt to assure users that IE can provide them with a safe browsing experience? Or can we finally expect more robust support for such web standards as CSS?

Cancel your summer vacations, folks—we just might have a few months of browser testing ahead of us.

Sunday, February 13, 2005 PHP Active Calendar

This looks like a promising little PHP class. For all of the trouble I've had in the past implementing nice looking PHP-based event calendars, I look forward to the chance to try this one out. Project details for Active Calendar: "Active Calendar is a PHP class that generates calendars (month or year view) as HTML tables (XHTML-Valid). It can produce static calendars without any links or calendars with navigation controls, a date picker control, event days and content with event URLs, and linkable days (optionally URL or Javascript). The layout can be configured using CSS, and JavaScript is not required. The supported dates (on systems using a 32-bit signed integer Unix time_t) are: 1902-2037 (Unix) and 1971-2037 (Windows), when using the default PHP native date functions, and 100-3000 and later, when using the ADOdb Date Library."

Microsoft Promises: Longhorn beta by June

Microsoft Promisses: Longhorn beta by June - "Microsoft is targeting a June release for Beta 1 of Longhorn, the next major Windows client release. That news came from John Montgomery, a director in Microsoft's developer division, during an interview taken at the VSLive conference in San Francisco.

An early version might also be made available at the WinHEC 2005 (Windows Hardware Engineering Conference), which is held from April 25-27 in Seattle. Last year, build 4074 was made available at WinHEC 2004, but since then, changes to Longhorn have been announced by Microsoft affecting the core of the Operating System. [more]"

Browser Speed Comparisons

Slashdot | Browser Speed Comparisons: "Internet browser speed tests for 'cold starts', 'warm starts', rendering CSS, rendering tables, script execution, displaying multiple images and 'history'. 'Opera seems to be the fastest browser for Windows. Firefox is not faster than Internet Explorer, except for scripting, but for standards support, security and features, it is a better choice.'"

Firefox may only win speed awards for its script processing, but the use of tabbed navigation and Firefox's wonderful mouse gestures makes my personal experience with the browser much more speedy than using Internet Explorer. And with the reduced number of times I have to reload the browser due to crashing (as I used to do so often with IE), I've saved a ton of time right there.

To me, increased productivity = speed, too!

Napster To Campaign Aggressively Against iPod

I love this idea - being one of those people who can't afford (or chooses not to afford) to pay the ridiculous amounts of money being charged for iPods. I'd gladly buy a cheaper portable player and sign up with Napster! I thought Napster's Super Bowl commercial with the price comparison vs. iPod was very effective. It's got me thinking about buying a Napster-compatible player!

Slashdot | Napster To Campaign Aggressively Against iPod: "Forbes reports that Napster plans an aggressive marketing campaign against Apple's iPod as part of its subscription service full launch later this quarter. Napster's service uses Microsoft's Janus technology to enable DRM protected music files 'bought' through subscription services to be transferred from a PC to a portable music player. Napster CEO Chris Gorog said the company is betting heavily that their monthly 'all you can eat' subscription service will win the battle for online digital music services, claiming, 'It's exactly what consumers want to do. Napster To Go is very similar to the P2P experience.' He believes the best way to market the service is to emphasize its advantages over iTunes and its iPod-only compatibility. 'We're going to be communicating to people that it's stupid to buy an iPod.' Maybe I'm too old to get it, but I fail to see the attraction of paying a monthly fee for as long as I want to have access to my music.' Of course, if Napster To Go supported iPod, they'd have a much larger install base to convince to use their service, instead of still pleading people to buy a portable player with compatible DRM installed."

Opera Claims Microsoft Has Poor Interoperability

Slashdot | Opera Claims Microsoft Has Poor Interoperability: "Opera CTO Hakon Lie has countered the claims that Bill Gates made regarding Microsoft's superior interoperability last week. He points out their invalid webpages, MS's unwillingness to serve the same content to different browsers, IE's poor CSS support, tardy documentation and limitations of their XML format, and more.' From the article: 'You say you believe in interoperability. Why then, did you terminate the Web Core Fonts initiative you started in 1996? You deserve credit for starting it, but why close down a project which could have given you yet much good will? (Verdana sucks, but Georgia is beautiful!)"

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Yahoo! betas! toolbar! for! Firefox!

Yahoo! betas! toolbar! for! Firefox! | The Register: "Yahoo! has released a beta toolbar for the Mozilla Firefox browser. You can download the Windows version here. The net giant is to release MacOS and Linux flavours 'shortly'.

The toolbar includes bookmarks and customs sites, 'search this site', search history, 'translate this page', courtesy of Babelfish, notifications when Yahoo! Mail arrive, an RSS subs button for My Yahoo!, etc. etc.

So not exactly earth-shattering, but this a nice pat on the back for Firefox and the Mozilla Foundation, and removes one barrier to switching from Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

Press release here."

Symantec Antivirus May Execute Virus Code

Slashdot | Symantec Antivirus May Execute Virus Code: "'Symantec has admitted that a serious vulnerability exists in the way its scanning engine handles Ultimate Packer for Executables. According to a ZDNet article, this means the scanner would execute the malicious program instead of catching it. Tim Hartman, senior technical director for Symantec Asia Pacific, said: 'A vulnerability is not a vulnerability till somebody discovers it but because this is now known, somebody could craft an e-mail, mass mailer or a virus that takes advantage of it. It affects our firewalls, antispam, all the retail products and the enterprise products as well'' Symantec recommends you immediately patch your software."

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

How Google Maps Works

All you web programming geeks out there - check this out. A very nice write-up on the technologies and methods used by the new Google Maps app. Good stuff!

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

New Super-CPU

The Laporte Report - "Watch out Intel and AMD. Forget the G5. IBM, Sony and Toshiba unveiled details yesterday of a new microprocessor that contains the equivalent of eight CPU cores around a central coordinating core based on PowerPC. The Cell processor, in development since 2001, starts at over 4 gigahertz, has nearly twice the transistors of the Pentium 4 and can deliver 10 times the performance. Look for it in the new Sony Playstation 3, TVs from Toshiba, and IBM high-end workstation computers coming later this year. Apparently there are several operating systems already running on the Cell in the labs, including Linux. With its PowerPC heritage, it shouldn’t be hard to port OS X to it - now that would be a killer product."

Google Maps to Rival Mapquest

Slashdot | Google Launches Mapping Service: "The beta version of Google Maps is now online, offering an alternative to Mapquest with what some might describe as a very much improved user interface, offering a cleaner layout, drop shadows, clickable waypoints and keyboard controls that allow you to move and zoom the map. For IE and Firefox/Mozilla at this point (no Safari or Opera support, as yet)."

phpBB Site Cracked, Developers Locked Out

Netcraft: phpBB Site Cracked, Developers Locked Out: "The server hosting the main site for the phpBB bulletin board has been cracked, leaving the development team locked out of its primary server. The open source project's web site was compromised using a vulnerability in a separate program, AWStats, which was announced Jan. 17 and has also been used to hack several popular weblogs in recent days.

The site blamed the intrusion on 'a group of politically motivated hackers' wishing to publicize an agenda. 'While the group who did this say they changed only a single password, we have lost all access to the server, ' the team states. 'This means we cannot access the system even in single user mode.' The compromised server is being shipped from the project's data center to its server manager, meaning the site is unlikely to be restored immediately. [more]"

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Go Daddy Ad Rejected by Fox

Netcraft: Go Daddy Doubles Super Bowl Ads, Has One Rejected by Fox: "Domain registrar Go Daddy has decided to purchase a second ad during next Sunday's Super Bowl, for an overall $4.8 million investment in 60 seconds worth of air time. But the advertisement Go Daddy submitted for its second 30-second slot was rejected by the Fox Network, according to a weblog post by CEO Bob Parsons.

Go Daddy will instead use the newly-purchased ad slot - to appear in the final minutes of the game - to repeat a first-half ad, which has already been approved by Fox. Go Daddy will make the rejected ad available on its web site Monday, apparently hoping to get additional publicity from Internet buzz, and leaving skeptics to wonder whether the 'rejection' was a strategic ploy to gain extra mileage from the Super Bowl investment. [more]"

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Firefox 1.1 Delayed

[H]ard|OCP - Firefox 1.1 Delayed

The alternative browser FireFox, after losing a large chunk of their lead programmer's time to Google, has now announced that the version 1.1 of FireFox will be delayed from the March '05 anticipated release.

While no solid date for a 1.1 release has been announced, Goodger did offer details on how to expect the next version of Firefox. An non-public alpha of 1.1 will be released followed by a public preview version, then several release candidates, and the final version of the browser.