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Panasonic SD5 - HiDef SDHC Camcorder
A self-purchase for my family and I. Upgrading from an old Sony Mini DV camcorder.Comment Icon
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Interpol has been able to reverse image effects unmasking a pedophile.Comment Icon
Amazon Launches DRM-Free MP3 Store
Cheaper than iTunes. Better quality than iTunes. DRM Free.Comment Icon
Raytheon brings the Pain Gun
"This machine has the ability to inflict limitless, unbearable pain."Comment Icon
How to Solve a Maze with Adobe Photoshop
This is the best hack of PhotoShop I have ever seen.Comment Icon
Urban Dictionary: Prewalking
Walking down the subway platform so that when you board the train, you'll be close to the exit or transfer point when the train reaches its destination.Comment Icon
How to Schedule MySQL Backups in Windows
Gotta love it when something you thought might be challenging is explained to be so easy.Comment Icon
Nintendo to release official MP3 Player for the Nintendo DS
The best handheld gaming system gets a media add-on. Nice.Comment Icon
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I don't care how much I like monsters and cartoons and such, I'd feel like the world's biggest weirdo if I actually carried this in public.Comment Icon
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Errorik's Blog Archive

These are my blog entries - things I wrote, things I linked to, maybe a few rants, lots of improper grammar and personal stories.

MP3 Remix: George Bush Doesn't Care About Black People

The most tragic event of this past month has spawned so much angst across the country causing many to look for people to blame, including our president George Bush.
A notable comment made this month was by rapper Kanye West when during a live NBC telethon, looking to raise money for hurricane victims, he went into a rant where he went from seeming really sincere in his comments about how he had been shopping for himself before even giving a donation, and feeling bad about that, to just rambling nonsense, when he finished it off by declaring, "George Bush doesn't care about black people."
This wasn't the first time Kanye spoke off the cuff. One time when trying to get signed to Columbia Records he told executive Michael Mauldin, "I'm going to be bigger than Jermaine Dupri", not knowing that Mauldin was Dupri's father. Kanye explained, "they hit me with those three words - we'll call you. They sent limos on the way up, and when I got downstairs I couldn't even catch a cab."
As for myself I am not trying to argue for or against what Kanye said, or on anything behind why he said what he did, or how funny Mike Myers face was during West's comments. What I really wanted to point out was the fabulous remix made by taking Kanye's song Gold Digger, his "George Bush" comment, and throwing some custom lyrics on top.
I have listened to this track at least 50 times this month. It's explicit, consider yourself warned about the language. And while the circumstances on why it was created are very unfortunate, the outcome is brilliant. Hope you enjoy like I did.

Link to "George Bush Don't Like Black People" MP3 (8.7MB).

Radio edit! MP3 (9.2 MB).

And here is Boing Boing with all the background on the remix.

And here is a video for the song! MOV (24.0 MB).

HOW TO: Play PC Games Without The CD Inserted (Virtual CD's on Windows)

With my father recently getting into PC gaming with the purchase of a new notebook, he mentioned how annoying it was to have to insert the game disk to play. And I agree. So here is a little how to primer using free software (and some trickery) to run your games without having to keep the CD handy.
In an effort to prevent consumers from installing 1 copy of a game on multiple systems, developers program just about every game on the market to require that the CD be inserted in your PC system's optical drive to run. Another reason to require the CD/DVD to be in the drive is to load game content off the disk, and have a smaller hard drive requirement.
There are at least two ways to work around having to actually put the disk into your system. One method is to download a "crack" for the game that modifies the game file to not look for the disk. Usually to obtain these cracks however, you must visit some shady web sites with nasty banners, etc. And you are opening up yourself to download viruses, etc. by installing executable applications written by some hacker. It's not worth the risk.
The method I prefer, is creating a "virtual" drive on your system. Windows will actually be fooled into thinking that you have another optical drive on your system, when you do not. And this drive, instead of loading physical dicks into (um, because you can't load a disk into something that doesn't exist), you "mount" a disk image that is on your hard drive.
This process is very simple. Basically two steps: 1) Create your disk image. 2) Mount your disk image.
Creating a disk image
You most likely already have a CD burning program on your computer. Most new systems come with this software loaded by default. I like Nero myself (free trial available). In the options there will most likely be some type of way to create an "image" of a disk. In Nero 6 from the smart start screen, just select Copy and Backup > Copy Disc, then on the following screen select Image Recorder as the destination drive. Click Next and then the program will ask to specify the location of where to save the disk image on the harddrive. It takes a few minutes to create the image, but then you are done. Note: The process will vary slightly from program to program, but should generally be about the same.
One thing you might be thinking right now is, "Isn't this going to be eating up my hard drive space?". The answer is "yes, it is". But that's the cost of doing this method. It might not be practical for have 50 game images on your computer. Buy for the 3 or so that you play most often, it shouldn't be that bad. And the benefit is huge for people that travel with their notebooks.
Mounting the disk image
There is a great free software application called DAEMON Tools that will create virtual drives on your system, and then allow you "mount" the images you have created. Mind you, these can be CD or DVD images. Both work the same. DAEMON Tools supports the following image files: cue/bin, iso, ccd (CloneCD), bwt (Blindwrite), mds (Media Descriptor File), cdi (Discjuggler), nrg (Nero), pdi (Instant CD/DVD), and b5t (BlindWrite 5) - so nearly all bases are covered.
When you install DAEMON Tools you can create 1 or more virtual drives. I personally like to create a single V drive, that I will mount and unmount images to as I need them. But you could easily create 2 or more virtual drives, and always keep several images mounted at the same time (hardcode gamer!).
Once DAEMON Tools is installed, you just right click on the task tray icon and select Virtual CD/DVD Rom > Device [Drive Letter] > Mount image, then you browse your hard drive and select the image. Once mounted, the disk image behaves exactly like the original disk did when inserted into your machine. If there is an auto-run menu that would pop-up, it pops up.
You should now be able to play your game as normal, sans-physical CD. Hope this helped.

Google Video re-playing Chris Rock's Everybody Hates Chris Pilot

Google and UPN are teaming up to give some extra exposure to Chris Rock's new comedy Everybody Hates Chris. The pilot aired last week with the best audience that a UPN premiere has ever had, beating out NBC's Joey and Fox's The O.C.
You can watch the entire pilot for 4 days in full streaming goodness. I am not sure if future episodes will be streamed. But after watching the pilot, I plan on setting my DVR to record the series. It's decently funny. I especially like the overly thrifty father played by Terry Crews:

That's 49 cent of spilt milk, dripping all over my table. Somebody gonna drink this milk.

Unplug that clock boy, you can't tell time when you're asleep. That's two cents an hour.

Purchasing Open Box Copies Of Half-Life 2

A few weeks back, digg.com had a link on the home page to buy Half-Life 2 retail box for only $0.99 (yes, 99 cents). Sounds too good to be true doesn't it? Well, it almost is. They weren't brand new copies, but were open box. But hey, for a buck is it even considered gambling to give it a shot? I didn't think so, so I went for it (and I am glad I didn't waste any time, the stock was sold out a few hours later when a buddy I told about the deal checked it out).
There was a limit of 2, so I bought 2. The worst part of the deal was that the site charged me $9.50 for shipping and handling (and the USPS postage was only $3.13). But oh well, I was possibly buying two copies of a $50 game for only $11.48 out of pocket.
The whole risk is if the CD keys will activate OK or not. Half-Life 2 uses Steam, an on-line game content management system, to authenticate itself - and will only allow a single person to use a CD key. But some quick research found that even if the CD key was in use (meaning the previous owner was still actively using the CF key), I could pay $10 and mail-in the CD sleeve and Valve would send me a new key. So no big whoop, I would then have paid $10.99 + S&H for each copy of the game (worst case scenario).
Why buy the extra copies in the 1st place? Well, it seemed stupid to let such a great game go for only 99 cents and not try and grab a few. I have a few machines on my LAN, and I was thinking it would be nice to get HL2 and Counter Strike: Source installed on every machine so my brother-in-law or whoever could play a game when over.
On a recent trip to So Cal I had a few late night game sessions with some friends, and one of them had to shell out full price to buy the game on the spot to join in. I thought that pretty much sucked.
So, how did my open boxes turn out? Well, right now I am 1 for 1. I just successfully installed and activated one of the copies on a machine on my home LAN. The other copy I gave away as a gift to my dad who really enjoyed the game on one of his last visits. I hope he has the same luck as I.
UPDATE: Sept. 28th Today my dad confirmed with me that the install and activation of his Half-Life 2 worked fine. He also said that he was stuck on the 1st level and maybe needed to purchase a guide. So overall I had a good experience buying open box games. Anyone out there get burned?

My 1st Phishing Phone Call (That I Know Of)

Yesterday I was pleasantly working at my desk when I got a phone call. The guy on the other end informed me that he worked for Discover Card, and that I was eligible for a new card, with a much higher limit than I currently have on my Discover Card, and I would earn airfare miles too.
Here is a synopsis of the rest of our phone call:

He: I will be sending your new card to you in the mail. When it arrives you will need to call in to activate it. To activate it you will need enter in the first 4 characters of your mother's maiden name. Will you give me your mother's maiden name now?

Me: I don't think I want to give you than information.

He: OK sir, this is just used for your protection so we know it is you authorizing the card. Can you confirm you are about 18 years of age, will you give me your date of birth?

Me: I am not "about 18 years of age", I will not give you my date of birth.

He: Sir...

Me: Look. I already do business with Discover Card, I would think you would know all you need to know about me. I am not going to give you any information about myself. You called me, I have no proof that you are really with Discover Card. You can send me information about the card in the mail if you want, but I am not going to be giving you any information.

He: OK, good-bye.

So, was I a victim of a phishing? Definitely not! Was I a victim of a phishing attempt? Maybe. But I do know that if the person I spoke to really worked for Discover Card, he very easily could have said, "If you would feel for comfortable, you can call me on our 800 number, here is my extension...", but he didn't even try that.
The whole "Can you confirm you are about 18 years of age, will you give me your date of birth?" really set my alarms off too. Credit card companies have tons of info on you (especially if you do business with them), so I would think that they would know my DOB.
Anyways... the guy could have been legit, I am not past admitting that. But remember folks, it's always better safe than scammed.

Sweet, The Office is back on NBC!

The Office started it's second season this past week, and just to prove A) horrible bad NBC is at their promotions, or B) how much NBC wants The Office to fail... I had no idea that the reports from last season of the show being cancelled were incorrect.
After an incredible short 6 episode season 1 (available on DVD), I hope they really back the show this season and keep it on the air for a while. I got a DVR now so I can record the shows rather than BitTorrent them all like I did last season.
NBC should thank the BitTorrent community however, if it wasn't for me seeing "The Office US S02E01 HDTV XviD-LOL [eztv]" being traded I would never have known the show was back. The current stats are saying the show has been distributed 10,601 times via BitTorrent... I think I might not have been the only person to not know it was airing and had to get it on-line.

Life Lesson #342

Taco Bell hot sauce packets are durable enough to make it through the washing machine*. I was too afraid to test the dryer.
*Results may vary, I am not responsible if life teaches you a different lesson.

How Canning Pears Is Like Coding Software (or Why It SHOULD Be Like It)

Today I donated 4 and 1/2 hours of my time to helping out in a cannery owned by my church. The cannery has two sections, a dry pack cannery where they package sugar, wheat and other dry goods, and a wet cannery where they do items ranging from beef stew and spaghetti sauce to peaches and pears. Today we were doing pears.
After going through training and instruction on the safety procedures, I got cleaned up and suited up with a hair net, gloves, and apron. My shift on the floor started about 12:30 pm, there was an existing crew in place, I took over a position that was occupied by a women whom I would guess was in her late 50's. The line never stopped. The crew I was with just replaced the previous crew without haste. And the same went for when my crew was relieved 4 hours later.
During my shift on the floor I had a lot to think about. The machinery in the room made it too noisy to carry on a conversation with any of the others working around me, and music players are not allowed because they want your full attention on your task so that quality doesn't suffer. So this time I had alone I thought of two things: 1) Was I in any way at all helping those effected by Katrina or those soon to be effected by Rita? (I have not yet answered this, but I do know that my church is involved in efforts to help) and 2) Coding software.
I do not know the entire process of how the pears are prepared and canned, but from what I gather it's something like this: Pears are loaded into a fancy machine where they are automatically cored and skinned. Then they go down a conveyer belt where they are manually reviewed and attended to. Then they are washed. Then they are put into a container. Then juice is added. Then they are sealed.
My specific task today was on the conveyer belt. We would attend to the pears as they came by, removing skin that wasn't automatically removed, and cutting out any bruises or bad spots on the fruit. Then once the pear was ready, we moved it onto a different section of the belt. Here is a simple layout:
As the pears would pass each worker the unreviewed pears section would get thinner and thinner, and the reviewed pears section would get more and more full, as I brilliantly illustrate here:
As you are tending to cleaning up the unreviewed pears, you can't help but notice flawed pears that were okayed and moved into the good section. So you remove those pears and clean them up and move them back. Peer review. Quality assurance checking. As it flows you go from the 1st pair of workers performing 0% peer review, and 100% new pears... down to the end of the line where hopefully the pears have all had their 1st review so the end workers are doing 100% review, and 0% new pears.
An opposite approach might be as follows where each worker operates his or her own independent line separating good from bad and performing the required cleaning, but their decision is final and never reviewed:
Obviously you can see why the peer review is necessary. If not, you should go can some pears and see how many that still have seeds are moved into the approved section.
Now, think about software. The same approach needs to be taken to release a quality product. It's nearly impossible for a single person to release 100% quality work (even more so when said person is under time constraints).
Case in point:

In yesterday's blog entry on passwords, I linked to a bookmarklet written by Nic Wolff that would generate unique passwords on a site per site basis just by clicking a button in your browser. Genius eh? Well while it works and it is great (I have been using it for over 6 months myself), it's not perfect.

Nic himself points to a different bookmarklet written by Chris Zarate that is based upon Nic's work, but has improvements in how it handles domain names. Nic also point to some other person's work on the same type of project, and points out how it uses a different encoding type. And Nic gives credit to Paul Johnson for Paul's work on JavaScript MD5 hashing that Nic used in the bookmarklet.

And on Chris' site he gives credit to Tim Cuthbertson who found a flaw with handling second-tier top-level domain names. And Chris states that his fix is not perfect and why it's not perfect, leaving room for anyone with input to go ahead and provide the input.

Now the situation I just described above is an excellent example of peer review, but the crazy thing is that none of these guys work together at a company or are affiliated with each other, they just all participate in what can be considered the open source community.
Tim Cuthbertson might not even be a programmer himself. But that's OK. In the open source community under the Bazaar model Users should be treated as co-developers.
In a perfect world, companies would have a good peer review system in place on all projects. But unfortunately it doesn't happen. I have had QA on some of my projects - but not all. And I have been the QA on some of my co-worker's projects - but I wasn't on all of them.
I am starting to think that about the only place you can have ultimate quality assurance is in an open source environment - where your review team is as large as your user base, not just the staff you can afford, or friends you know.
My good buddy Mike recently did something somewhat unique to himself when he opened up a game he was working on to the public at large earlier than what he normally would do. And he opened with with a forum encouraging as much feedback as he could get. And I think overall it really helped his project. He had tons of feedback regarding bugs, and features that people wanted to see. It's much easier to add new features when you are in active developement. Imagine spending 2 months coding a project, and then in your head "finalizing it". Then when you release it to an audience all you get is a big fat list of changes.
But again referring to the Bazaar model, if you release early and constaintly integrate updates and listen to the user (they are equal to you), you can roll with the changes and in the end have a better product.

Creating A Personal Password Policy (P3)

Passwords are a big deal to me. The right break-in to the right account and a person could hi-jack my e-mail, order stuff from my Amazon account, take control of my domain names, and who knows what other unthinkable acts.
I used to think that a good password was a single alpha-numeric password that I could use everywhere. And that's what I did.
Later I wised up to the fact that all it would take is one leak, and now every account I have is compromised.
So then I devised my 1st "Personal Password Policy" (and I didn't even know that term yet). And what is a PPP? Simply put, it's basically putting thought into the passwords you create and use. Not just picking passwords at random, but actually laying out a plan that will keep your data secure.
My original PPP was three passwords divided into tiers of how secure I wanted that account to be. The good part of this idea was that my really important accounts were separated from run of the mill accounts that I was creating on almost a weekly basis from ordering on-line, or participating in on-line forums, etc. The bad was that all of my highly important accounts were using the same password still, meaning that 1 leak and my most valuable accounts could all get infiltrated.
I worked at a company that had a guy steal customer data. It happens. He was stupid and stole credit card information (he also got jail time). He could of just of easily stolen e-mail addresses and passwords and with most certainty could of gain access to at least 80% of the accounts - gaining himself access to much more than a single credit card number.
So I changed my PPP to an unrestricted number of mostly unique passwords. Meaning, I had about 15-20 unique passwords. With highly secure accounts each having their own password, and run-of-the-mill accounts still using a generic shared password (semi funny note: this weak shared password used to be my highly secure single password).
Of course this list of passwords grew to be totally unmanageable by memory, so I created an Excel spreadsheet that I used to manage my passwords, and the matching username, and it had some other info in there too. I named it totally inconspicuous, and then used Window XP's built-in encryption feature to encrypt the file to my user account.
I kept this PPP in effect for several years. And it worked for me, for the most part. Occasionally were times when I found myself away from home and not able to recall my password for an account. And not able to access my Excel file. And very much out of luck. And so I discovered that PPP was not enough. I needed to have a PPPP (Portable Personal Password Policy).
But at the time I had no idea on how to make a portable PPP. I didn't want to just keep a print-out of my Excel sheet in my wallet.
It wasn't until this year when I was researching an Internet Safety presentation that I was giving and I was searching on ideas for what is a good password. I found some great items such as:
This bookmarklet idea was (and still is) awesome. To use it, all you need is a single "master password" that you need to remember. This password is never shared with anyone. It is never transmitted over the internet. It is as secure as you want it to be. The bookmarklet sits in your browser, and when you click on it, it asks for your master password, then it takes the domain name of the web page you are on, and creates a unique hash out of the domain name using your master password as the key. I keep it in my Mozilla Firefox Bookmark Toolbar (this also works for Internet Explorer and Opera).
This is a great tool, and in my mind, a perfect PPP. But what about portability? You can't always have your bookmarklet handy because you aren't always home on your own machine, or on your notebook. You could be at a friend's house. In these cases you can use the web page version of the exact same formula. I have an easy way for myself to locate the generator from any internet enabled location I find myself in.
The web page version also allows you to enter in non-domain name values that you can create hashes for. So if you wanted to create a unique password for your locked Microsoft Money file, you could create a hash of the string "MS Money" using your master password.
To further make this portable... you can put the HTML for the web page version on a USB thumb drive and take this anywhere with you. You no longer need internet access. I personally created my own back-up of the web page and bookmarklet version of this method just in case the web site goes off-line.
There is however one fatal flaw in this person's code. It uses the entire host name, not just the domain name. For example: www.digg.com is different than digg.com and login.paypal.com is different than www.paypal.com. This causes trouble on a handful of sites that pass your around between sub-domains and don't always have the login on the same on the same sub-domain.
Chris Zarate ran into this same problem, so he created a new bookmarklet that only uses the domain name. I plan on switching my passwords over to this new formula as time permits.
In August Leo Laporte and Steve Gibson launched a podcast called Security Now!. It's an excellent podcast revolving entirely around security. And I was very well pleased when they did a two-part special entirely devoted to passwords, and encouraging people to actually think about their passwords, and to each create their own Personal Password Policies (and to think about portability). I highly suggest everyone to listen to these two episodes and hear all they have to say about passwords. They basically cover everything (useful) I have learned about passwords in all my life in less than 45 minutes.
Here are links to get the goods:

Episode #4 (Part 1 of Passwords)
MP3 Audio PDF Transcript
Note: They don't dive into passwords until 8:35 in the audio or the bottom of page 3 in the transcript.

Episode #5 (Part 2 of Passwords)
MP3 Audio PDF Transcript

I hope you have found this entry useful and if you don't already take your passwords seriously that you will start soon. If I have left anything unclear, please send me an e-mail or post a comment, I will follow up.

Free toys from fast food places

So here is a nugget of wisdom I have learned this past month... You don't ever need to pay for fast food chain children toys.
I generally avoid buying kids meals for my own kids, in place I will just get a hamburger and drink on their own (french fries often go to waste, and they aren't anything special I desire my kids to get hooked on).
Occasionally I will treat my kids to a meal - if the toy is really cool, or if we are at JBX Grill where the kids meals come with applesauce (but no toy).
Recently Carl's Jr. ran a promotion with Mucha Lucha action toys in their kid combo meals. Now, I totally dig Mucha Lucha's art style, and the show isn't bad (hey I even have my DVR set to record it), but I still didn't want to pay for the toys. So I didn't.
On one particular visit to Carl's, as per our usual routine, my family and I ate our lunch and after the kids were done we went into the play area to let them play. Immediately my wife noticed that there was a toy stuck underneath the soft raised floor mat in the toddler's area. No kid was frantically trying to get the toy himself, so I figured the true owner was long gone, and had abandoned all thoughts of the toy. So I easily reached under the mat and rescued the toy for my kids.
Then on a completely separate visit a few weeks later, almost the exact same story. A few minor details changed. Instead of the toy being underneath the flooring, it was stuck on the roof. Again it was my wife who spotted it. She had taken my our little girl up to the top to go down the slide (FYI parents are allowed to play at most chains) and she saw it stuck on a lower ceiling.
She asked if I though I could nab it, and so I went to check it out. The ceiling of the area it was stuck in was this mesh fabric. I could see right through it while standing below. I was able to whack the bottom launching the toy into the air closer and closer to the edge. After about four whacks it was off the top and onto the floor. When I picked it up a kid asked me who's it was, and I rightly replied "mine."

Here is a photo I snapped with my Sidekick II of my wife holding our latest prize:

My favorite email of 2005!

I recently got the following e-mail from a contact:

Subject: Fw: My favorite email of 2005! Body:

----- Original Message -----
Subject: Fw: My favorite email of 2005!

If you overlook the colorful language, this is also my favorite of 2005!

----- Original Message -----
Subject: FW: My favorite email of 2005!

-----Original Message-----
Subject: FW: My favorite email of 2005!

-----Original Message-----
Subject: FW: My favorite email of 2005!

-----Original Message-----
Subject: My favorite email of 2005!

-----Original Message-----
Subject: FW: Priceless

-----Original Message-----
Subject: Priceless

Note: I have stripped out all To, From, Date, and signature information to protect the parties involved.
I wanted to reply saying: This was my favorite e-mail from 2001. But something told me the humor would be lost.

ISP's No Longer Issuing Publicly Accessible IP Addresses

Tonight I did a house call to help someone in my extended family with their computer (I already helped another, more extended family member's family on Monday night - this is a growing epidemic). For the sake of this entry let's call this person Jimbo. Normally when I help people with their computers, its related to spyware or viruses. But Jimbo and his family are good listeners, and last year when they had spyware and viruses plaguing their life, I got them cleaned up and showed them the light with Mozilla Firefox - and you know what... they listened. No spyware or viruses this time around. Good for them. And great for me, this was the quickest house call to date.
They couldn't access the Internet due to some network setting. And while I was debugging the problem I saw that their router was being assigned a local IP address (192.168.0.x) from their ISP (MSN Qwest DSL). I was sure this was the problem. So I called in to the Qwest tech support line and while on hold I found that even though Jimbo's system was set to DHCP, he had an incorrect setting hard coding the default gateway value. I deleted this setting, and blam-o the Internet worked again.
But it was working with a local IP address assigned by Qwest (in my past experience if my ISP was assigning me a local IP address it also meant that I did not have Internet access at that time cause there was some funk going down with my ISP's network). But I guess that this is what more and more ISP will move to - due to increasing their subscribers without having enough IP addresses to assign out.
For me, I would hate this. Unless I am missing something, this greatly limits what you can do on the Internet. No hosting Age Of Empires battles against your buddy 3 states away. No serving up a zero-day warez FTP server for your 1337 hackerz crew. Basically, anything that you have ever had to look up your IP address to give out to someone so they could hit your computer would no longer work. I would instantly switch providers. But this is getting me wondering if it's a sign of the times, and if more ISP's are going to adopt this as standard practice? What if there was no one to switch to - or if you had to pay some outrageous premium to get a non-shared public IP addess?
For most home users, and practices, not having a unique public IP address is far from the end of the world and you wouldn't even notice it. IM, web browsing, e-mail, Fantasy League Sports, P2P, etc. will all still continue to work fine. But it still eerks me that if needed, users wouldn't have the capability to directly connect to each other. Hopefully this is a temporary band-aid that ISP's are only using until IPv6 is standard issue and the world will have enough IP addresses to support its population. Also, it would be great if ISP's at no charge would switch you to a leased unique public IP address if you needed it. Ha, "at no charge" - silly me.

Neighborhood bike pump

Be weary of letting the neighborhood kids know that you own a bike pump - cause if you do, you may unleash a fury of unknown kids ringing your doorbell asking for it. This was the situation I found myself in a few months ago.
Over the course of the past 2 and 1/2 years living this new subdivision I have befriended the 2 boys across the street. And when their dad ran over their bike pump (left in the drive way) with the car and broke it, they came to me asking if I owned a pump - which I do. From that moment on I was getting my bike pump used 3-5 times a week by numerous kids for about 6 six weeks.
It's a somewhat weird deal to have kids that you never have spoken to coming up to you asking you to use your pump - all needy - and knowing that you have it.

llor.nu has gone into open beta

Mike Buffington has just released his web game llor.nu (un-roll) into the open beta phase. Being the lucky person I am, I have been playing the game during its closed alpha stage (read: active development, changing on the fly) - and during these past two months I have been having dreams about this game (both day and night ones). It's so simple and yet still addictive. So join the game and make sure to give feedback in the forums so Mike can work out more bugs. You can even follow the special llor.nu blog.

Replacing my 1st power supply

I have been using a home computer since elementary school... But in all my years of home computing I have never had a power supply fail on me, and I have never had the need to upgrade a power supply. I have considered purchasing a new power supply for an older machine when I heard that they can be a cause of computer noise and I was looking for ways to cut down on my dB's - but I never did.
Unfortunately today I was forced into purchasing and installing a new power supply when my mighty server's power supply failed last night.
Due to my rush I couldn't pick and choose, nor could I order on-line and try and find the best deal. And since I am in Boise, ID I couldn't go to my favorite of PC shops, Fry's Electronics, instead I had to go to the local Comp USA. I ended up buying a 500 Watt power supply under their name brand (at least it was boxed that way). 500 Watts may have been a little overboard since the previous supply was only 300 Watts and lasted fine for several years. I actually had no idea what I currently had, and I just knew for sure I didn't was to under power my server. I am running a dual-CPU machine with 3 hard drives, 1 optical drive, and 1 disk drive. Maybe I have been pushing my 300 Watt supply's limits for some time?
The install was actually very painless and brain dead simple. Took me less than 20 minutes. And wham-o the server is back up. Enjoy.

De-Socializing Flickr : Needs more privacy features

I know Flickr's success is particularly based on it's community aspect, it's not just a photo sharing web site that allows me to share photos of my kids with their grandparents (while it does do that very well) - it's a site where the openness of the photos combined with the openness of the contact system, creates a community like none before. My most popular photo (based upon either views, comments, or "interestingness") is a photo that I would not consider to be my best, but it's just one photo that I have designated to be apart of a Flickr Group - thus causing it to get a lot of attention.
So while I think the site's openness is great, and I don't want that go away entirely - I think there is room to give users some more control.
My wish list is small really:
  • The ability to have hidden "contacts". Maybe don't call them contacts - because I don't want contact to be made. Right now when I see someone that posts interesting photos, and that I want to mildly keep an eye on them, I have to add them as a contact, which notifies them that I want to be their contact, which is really not the case. I think a "Spy this person's photos" option would be cool. Where I get a page of all the recent photos from persons I am "spying", but they aren't contacts - and my spying is not made public in my profile, but rather it's just a page for me.
  • Along the same lines, ability to have hidden "Favorites". One time I got called out by a friend asking why I marked a particular photo as a favorite - and it threw me for a loop in multiple ways. 1) I did not really recall marking the photo as a favorite, and 2) I was unaware that any photo I marked as a favorite became public knowledge. So again, along the same lines of spying - I think an option to flag a single photo to be added to some list you can retrieve - that's not made public on your profile - would be great.
  • The ability to have greater control over e-mailing your photos. Flickr has an awesome feature that allows you to add photos to your account via e-mail. You couple this with an e-mail enabled camera phone like my Sidekick II - and wham-o - you can add photos in a 1jiffy! But you are only given one option, to have all your photos e-mailed be private, or to have them all be public. I think that there should be a way to specify in your e-mail 2options on the photo that override your default settings - so you can have your default set for all photos to be public, but then when wanted you can e-mail a photo as private.
1 I was able to upload photos of my wife running a half marathon before she even finished. This was awesome on multiple levels. A) People could watch the events as they unfold. B) The marathon was over 300 miles away from home, and I was without Internet access for my computer for the entire trip - but I was still able to send photos to my Flickr account.
2 Stay tuned for sometime next week when I will give a much more in-depth look at this particular idea.

Campaign to buy a Mozilla Firefox ad on The Million Dollar Home Page

You may have recently heard about this Million Dollar Home Page site. Its a get rich type site where the owner has set aside 1,000,000 pixels on the home page for ads. He has divided the space into 10x10 pixel squares that he is selling off for $100 each ($1 a pixel). The price seems kinda steep, but he is guaranteeing that the site and ads will remain active for 5 years (until August 2010). So if you bought a 10x10 square, your monthly advertising budget is only around $1.67 - not too bad.
So what better to advertise than Mozilla Firefox - the worlds best web browser? Prime real estate is still available on the site. And there is no limit to the size plot you can purchase. I am thinking that a 20x20 space would be perfect - it is just the right size to put the Firefox quick launch icon. Here is a preview...
If you haven't done the math yet, a 20x20 pixel space would cost $400 US. That's a lot more than I have available, but if I can get a large number of people involved then the cost per person would drop down to just a few bucks. So I am asking anyone and everyone who wants to help and pitch in to get a Firefox spot on the Million Dollar Home Page to contribute to my Drop Cash campaign. You can easily contribute via PayPal. So if you are like me, and you have a few bucks in your PayPal account, please contribute.
All contributors that donate $10 or more will be added to a list on my site getting credit for making the Firefox ad possible. If you aren't willing to donate, the least you can do is spread the word to those that might be willing to. Thank you.
Note: If for some reason the response to this is huge, I would love to raise even more money and buy an even bigger spot. 30x30 = $900, 40x40 = $1600, and so on and so forth. The bigger the better!
Note #2: If we can't reach my goal of $400, I will refund all contributions (minus any PayPal fees - sorry).
Note #3: Let's buy a nice spot right in the center near the top before GoldenPalace.com buys the best spot!

iPod Nano

The newly announced iPod Nano is freaking sweet. My first instinct is to put one on order right away. But according to rumors going around before it was officially announced, an 8 GB version is heading our way... and I think I could hold out for a few months, even until next year to get more space.
It only took an a moment of looking at the Apple web site to see a huge design issue for me - the headphone jack is on the bottom of the iPod! For me, when I am on the elliptical trainer at the gym, I set my iPod in front of me on the little shelf on the machine so I can look at my song info while working out... I will no longer be able to do this with the Nano. If I want to see the song info clearly I will either need to tweak my head side-ways or pick the Nano up and look at it.
When I complained to Mike about this issue, he instantly thought up a great solution! Apple could add a preference to rotate the screen (and click wheel controls) to orient itself to its current position. This is so brilliant!
If you were holding it sideways the screen would rotate 90 degrees, or if you set it upside down (so the headphone jack was coming out upwards as current iPod models do) the screen would be rotated 180 degrees. Holding it sideways seems ideal to me, like I am holding my Sidekick II or my Nintendo DS. Perfect.
Dang you Mike into eternity! You have given such a perfect suggestion that Apple will never* implement! It only took Apple like 20+ years to make a two-button mouse, even though everyone knew two-buttons were better.
*never = 20+ years

Top Of Utah Half Marathon

This past Saturday my wife Kathryn ran the Top of Utah Half Marathon (TOU/2). This was her 2nd half marathon, the 1st one ran was was this past April. She only got into running this year when a group of girls from church put the peer pressure on her and got her to train with them. Of the group's 7 members, my wife was the only one to run the TOU/2, even though they all had commited to running it previously.
I am very proud of her sticking with it and training over the summer (when she had to get up even earlier to run in the mornings to beat the heat). I have assembled a Flickr set with my mobile phone* photos from the race.
*One photos of her crossing the finish line is from my Sony DSC-V1 camera.

Errorik blog entries now available via RSS

Previously I only supplied my Notable URLs in a tasty RSS feed, but now I have decided to make the regular blog entries available via RSS too.
If you don't even know what RSS is, Wikipedia has an in-depth overview, but to put it simple it's a standardized XML format for sending data, especially tailored for news, blog content, and other writings.
There are many RSS readers, some are even free. You might have an RSS reader and not even know it. Do you use Firefox? It has an RSS reader in it via a feature called Live Bookmarks (nicknamed Livemarks) - you should read this page on how to use Live Bookmarks (it's really simple, click on the orange icon in the bottom right corner of your browser and you can create a Live Bookmark of one of my RSS feeds (I like my Notable URLs feed)).
If you use Mozilla Thunderbird as your e-mail client you also have another more powerful RSS reader. Mozillazine.org has a nice wiki article on how to use Thungerbird's RSS News & Blogs feature.
So now you have no excuse to not be using RSS.
UPDATE Thursday August 8th: Thanks to the awesome digg.com you can also get a RSS feed for any digg.com stories that I have "dugg" - and a RSS feed for any stories that my digg.com friends have "dugg" as well.

Call For Help - Back on G4 in the US

When I moved to Boise about 2 and a half years ago we got cable (previously we went without TV or had rabbit ear reception) and for the first time I was exposed to a great network, TechTV. It was awesome, they had live shows offering tech help and fresh daily news (The Screen Savers, Call For Help), plus shows about video games (X-Play) and Internet Culture (Unscrewed) and other shows that were of general interest to techies (Nerd Nation, Invent This, etc.).
Call For Help and The Screen Savers were especially my favorite. CFH aired during my lunch hour, and it was low level enough where my wife wouldn't mind watching it with me, and every week they would have a Photoshop segment with PS guru Alex Lindsay from Pixel Corps. Host Leo Laporte was just amazing at helping people, and on the fly being able to explain tech to live callers.
Unfortunately TechTV was sold off to evil Comcast, which joined the successful TechTV with it's failing station G4 - a station devoted to video games - to form G4TechTV. And to make a long story semi-short... Immediately a number of shows were canceled from both TechTV and G4 (a necessity for combining two stations) - Call For Help was included in this group. TechTV moved it's filming from San Francisco to Los Angeles, The Screen Savers had its format changed... and after months of decline in quality Comcast thankfully dropped "TechTV" from the station's name and it returned back to plain old G4. TSS became Attack Of The Show and I pretty much stopped watching G4 altogether.
At some point after that, Leo was approach by TechTV Canada (different from the US station that was sold to Comcast) and was told something like "CFH is one of our most successful shows, we have a budget to produce CFH if you do it in Canada with a Canadian crew". And so Call For Help 2.0 was born.
It wasn't until about 2 months ago when I found a nice site to get CFH2.0 episodes via BitTorrent. But now I watch it on a regular basis. In some ways it's better than before, I really like the new co-hosts Amber and Andy, and the show still gets visits from Photoshop guy Alex Lindsay - as well as Excel segments from Mr. Excel.
But in other ways its not as good. Because Leo lives in California with his family, and the show is taped in Canada, they don't do live daily filming's any more. Instead they film it like a game show, where they record once a whole month, filming 15 episodes in just 4 days. So they can't do daily news segments, and when they do refer to something "new" or "just breaking", it is usually days or weeks old. Combine this with the fact that I am getting the shows off of BitTorrent, which means there is a delay from when they air to when they get put on-line (Note: Big network shows like Alias and Lost will appear on BitTorrent sites within hours, CFH episodes appear to take days, and are somewhat sporadic) - and then there might be an extra delay from when actually I watch the show (I have 5 episodes downloaded that I haven't watched yet). This week I had the worst experienced delay to date. I was watching Episode 236 which had an original air date of August 19th (I was watching it on August 29th) and there was a segment showing off the "new" iTunes 4.9 that "just came out" - a product that had been released on June 28th! This is an example of how "off" things can be.
But that wouldn't make me not suggest others to watch it. Not at all, I highly suggest the show.
Now as of this past Monday, August 29th, G4 here in the states has started airing the Canadian version of CFH on their station. So now I have the choice to get it on the TV or to continue to download via BitTorrent. For the heck of it I decided to setup my DVR to record CFH, but unfortunately the G4 guide has not been updated to show the new schedule.
But even still, I have adopted the lifestyle of watching CFH, in a window on my screen while I work - commercial free. I have had a big shift in my life from listening solely to music while I work, to getting a variety of Podcasts and Vidcasts (what they refer to as IPTV - Internet Protocol TV) and indulging in tech while I work. I no longer want to be on the couch while I watch my Tech. I like being able to immediate try out a new Excel tip, or visit the site of a free software application that was reviewed. I can even accept that the show is delayed an extra week.
IPTV is supposed to be the next big thing. Over the past several months Podcasts and Vidcasts are gaining huge popularity. Plus the practice of downloading network shows from the Internet is wide scale being down by 1000's if not 10's of 1000's (100's maybe). Leo once commented in an interview that TiVo paved the way for users to be "OK" with not watching shows at their actual airtime - that society has gotten used to subscribing to content, and then watching it on their own terms. This is exactly what Podcasts and Vidcasts are all about.
I think as more and more home entertainment systems become integrated with the home computer this will really take off and be widespread. I currently used a networked notebook to output video from my home office desktop to our TV. The setup works great for content I want to watch on the TV. I know a family nearby where their computer monitor is their TV. And then, like I said, there is a great deal of content that I prefer to consume on my computer, and not on the couch - which is perfect for IPTV.
So in closing (something that must be said at the end of such a long post with random loosely coupled ramblings), I am glad Call For Help is back on in the US, hopefully it continues to do well (I hear their US time slot sucks) - but as for me I am going to sick with my downloadable versions of the show. I plan on setting up a recording schedule on my DVR for the show, just to give them some stats (I assume that recording the show with my DVR helps them - do I need to actually watch it?).

My 1st DVR: Motorola DCT6412 III

Only about 5 years behind the times, I have finally gotten a DVR (digital video recorder, like a VCR but uses a hard drive instead of a tape). Do I even need to state what a DVR is anymore? My mom had a DVR before me! She actually has an authentic TiVo unit.
So my thoughts on how a DVR changes your TV watching habits in general. Well, first off I already have semi-weird habits to begin with. My viewing has been a mix of live TV watching, and downloading of TV shows. Some shows like Doctor Who and, until this past week, Call For Help aren't even available in the US - so I must download them to watch. I also watch a variety of tech related internet only shows like Diggnation and commandN. Then there are shows like FOX's 24, which is so intense my wife and I can't handle waiting a week between shows. So we don't watch any of the shows (or commercials) until the entire season has aired. Meanwhile I have been downloading and storing the episodes away. Then when the season has ended, we watch them in a mad fury of 2 or 3 weeks (basically as fast as we can) getting the entire story in a straight shot, rather then spread out over several months. My network and home entertainment setup lets me easily pump downloaded content onto our television via my Sony Vaio notebook. There is also another type of show that I download. These are shows that I hear are good, but we down have the time to watch. I basically do the same thing as with 24, I download the season as it airs and store it away. Then during the repeat season when we have viewed all the shows we like, we start watching these shows, and if we don't like them, you just clear them off, or if you do like them you can watch the whole season. This past season that what we did with ABC's Lost.
Because of this mix of downloading and watching shows on our own schedule, we basically had our foot one step in the door of having a DVR. Or so I had thought...
Actually having a DVR is a much better experience. At one visit to my house, Mike had complained about not having the ability to pause or the instant replay feature during watching a show with us. Personally I thought he was kinda faking it just to rub it in that we didn't have a precious TiVo like he and Carrie do. Now actually having these features for day-to-day TV viewing, I don't doubt at all that his comments were genuine. Any time the phone rings or there's a knock at the door you can pause without missing a beat. I can't count how many times in the past my wife has gotten upset with me because my attention turned to the TV when she was trying to tell me a story, now I can pause and avoid such incidents. And the instant replay is great for when something funny happens, or even better when you have a "what did that person just say?" moments and you need a double take.
There are shows my wife and I like, but we would never make time to watch them, or set the VCR to record, cause in reality they aren't that important. These are shows like The Soup, Best Week Ever, Street Smarts (which got moved to like 3 PM - how am I supposed to watch that, it was much better at 11:30 PM), etc. When we have time to kill at night we no longer ask "What's on tonight?". Now we just go to "My Recordings" and pick a show. The only time I view the live TV guide or check "what's on tonight" is when I am wondering if there are more shows I haven't thought of that I want to setup recordings for.
There are some technical issues, and I am not sure if they are related purely to my Motorola unit, or just DVRs in general, or to the company supplying the guide information to my cable company (or maybe the stations supplying the information to the guide company).
So here is one problem I am having so far. I have a show "Attack of the Show" that errors on week days at like 5 PM, and then repeats like at 3 different times during the evening and morning before the next new episode the following afternoon. I tell my system to record new episodes only. But it records all airings. This is because the guide information does not correctly specify if the episode is new or not. It could be the station providing crummy info, or it could be my cable company not correctly processing the guide info. In any case it is annoying to have so many copies of the show.
Which brings me to problem number two. I could easily overcome this with setting up a non-guide recording and create a time/channel based recording and just tape the show I want. Well, this uncovers an issue with the DCT6412 unit itself (or maybe just the software which might be used on multiple units). I can setup a time/channel recording, but I can not set such recordings on a repeating schedules. Only for single use only. Which makes them really useless. I haven't had the unit for even two weeks as of writing this, so I am hoping I am wrong and future use will show me how to do his, but so far I haven't had any luck.
My next issue is that sometimes my recordings will miss the first or last 30 seconds of a show, this has been an issue with MTV's Real World. So the fix is to set the recording setting to start and end a minute early. Problem solved. But a new issue has now been created. When I record an extra 1 minute of Real World, I can not record the show immediately following it. This is a really bizarre problem, especially since I have a dual-tuner DVR unit. I do not think I have anything else recording at the same time (it only brings up 1 conflict), so the second tuner should be open for use. But lets just say that the second is in use, that shouldn't stop me from setting an overlapping recording, and then just choosing which show has the higher priority to record during the overlapping time, and the unit should be smart enough to record both - my old VCR was. But instead it just flat out stops be from setting up a new recording. In this particular case since I want to record the following show on the same channel, I can adjust the Real World recording to not run late, but what if I wanted to immediately jump to a different channel and start recording - just a minute late. I should be able to.
The sales rep at the cable company didn't know much about the unit. She did know that it was dual-tuner, but then she said you couldn't record two shows at the same time, only watch one while recording another. Thank goodness she was wrong. The dual-tuner lets you record two shows at a time, and even watch a third program that you have previously recorded (dual-tuner TiVo units act this same way I believe).
Also like authentic TiVo units the DCT6412 does have some hacks. You can program a 30 second skip button onto your remote [hack found here]. And you can even use the Firewire ports on the back to pull video off the unit and onto your Mac or PC. I have done the 30 second skip button (increases the value of the unit 10 fold), but I have not tried pulling video off the unit onto my computer yet. The process seems kinda long, but I want to try it out someday.
Some features it lacks over the TiVo units is the thumbs up / thumbs down rating for shows, Fast Forward / Rewind "snap back", suggestions (where TiVo auto records shows it guesses you might like, and maybe the TiVo software might not have the same scheduling issues that I am facing - I can test them out when visiting my mom this weekend.
Overall I am very pleased with the jump to DVR, and I think it definitely earns the extra fee of $10 a month on my cable bill. Hopefully some issues get fixed via software updates. Maybe I can find a suggestion box on-line somewhere?