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'."