February 28, 2005

Well, isn't that special. It's 11:24PM on the East Coast (10:24 where I am). I had to take a little business trip, so of course the largest snowfall of the year arrives on the day I'm flying out. I tried getting to the airport early enough to fly standby, and I did - but the airline oversold the plane, so no standby seats were available. The normal 2PM flight was cancelled, so I couldn't fly standby then either.
So, I got on my ticketed flight which should have left at 4:30 or so. We got in the air 2 hours later, after two de-icings (one of which was held up due to broken down de-icing equipment), and the fixing of some frozen flaps on the airplane. Well, I'm alive, and my bags made it in good stead (hours earlier than I did), so I had to walk from gate 4 to gate 25 to pick them up...sigh.
I picked up my bags and checked my cellphone for messages. My 3PM stock alerts were all bad news (not that Im worried about them..they're solid) and the news of the day says a suicide bomber in Iraq took out 115 people and injured more than 100 more.
For those of you who believe in karma - I believe now is the time I should pick up a lottery ticket, am I right? Good night folks - I'm heading for some sleep.
Who's Nerdier?
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February 27, 2005

They [not 'They', but the weathermen] are saying we should expect up to 10 more inches of snow tomorrow - It's hard work hauling around rolled snowballs - as evidenced by my son taking a break here:
Andrew building a snow man
Listed on BlogShares

February 26, 2005

Me at the Piano: I practice playing the piano now and again - I'm not much of a player, but I like to sit and fiddle from fake books - I can fake a song by tri-chording and sustaining and playing the melody, and it's an enjoyable little side-trip on the road of life. Recently I've learned to play 'Piano Man' by Billy Joel - one of my favorite artists. Click the pic for bigger version.

Me at the piano
Found on: Bread and Roses: "Bold the states you've been to, underline the states you've lived in and italicize the state you're in now." Ok - I'll play this game...

Alabama / Alaska / Arizona / Arkansas / California / Colorado / Connecticut / Delaware / Florida / Georgia / Hawaii / Idaho / Illinois / Indiana / Iowa / Kansas / Kentucky / Louisiana / Maine / Maryland / Massachusetts / Michigan / Minnesota / Mississippi / Missouri / Montana / Nebraska / Nevada / New Hampshire / New Jersey / New Mexico / New York / North Carolina / North Dakota / Ohio / Oklahoma / Oregon / Pennsylvania / Rhode Island / South Carolina / South Dakota / Tennessee / Texas / Utah / Vermont / Virginia / Washington / West Virginia / Wisconsin / Wyoming / Washington D.C. /"
FrontPage extensions are both a blessing and a curse as any IIS web server admin/developer will tell you. On one hand, FrontPage is good at handling web sight management, fixing links, etc, etc... on the other hand, managing permissions can be a dicey affair, and hand-jamming permissions on the server to do what you want can screw up your FrontPage web (requiring reinstall cycles galore). GoDaddy's service attempts to stop the user from screwing up his FrontPage webs by not allowing you to hand-manage permissions on a FrontPage Extensions enabled hosting account...
BUT (the catch) if you're using Interdev or Visual Studio .NET, and you don't have FrontPage, you're out of luck! You need VS.NET to manage your ASPX files, and your code, etc, but you'll also need FrontPage Explorer (ONLY comes with FrontPage, mind you) to manage your directory permissions. Almost enough to make you want to become a php developer instead.

February 25, 2005

Welcome Googlebot! Since I moved the site off of Tripod, I've been waiting for the Google bots to pick up the new site address and start re-indexing my site. Looking at my logs today it appears that Google's bots are busily analyzing my site again - so, welcome robots ;)
Check your variable names: I was coding some ASP to track sessions to see how people surfed through my site (or if they even did) and I used a Session variable to store some information. In the Global.asa file under Session_OnEnd I put in some code and it wasn't working. I left it alone last night and came back to it later today. It turns out that I used different variable names to store the data than to retrieve the data. Same 'contextual' name, just stated in a different manner. So, lesson for the day is 'check your variable names'.
In other news, know that the Response.Redirect directive stops processing your ASP code right then and there, so if there's any code that needs to execute, it needs to be executed before the Redirect. I had incorrectly assumed that Response.Redirect would just write out a redirect to the user, and continue processing the asp file, but I learned that it doesn't when I tried to do a Session.Abandon afterwards, and the Sessions weren't closing out on the server.

February 24, 2005

Clicks for the sake of Clicks? The more I look at all of the referral programs, the more I am drawn into the referral programs that offer 10,000 and 15,000 free hits just for signing up. To whet my appetite I joined one that promised 10,000 free hits - Raginhits, it's called. When you sign up and add your URL, you can apply your free hits right away and start getting traffic to your site - you can even choose only 'manual clicks'. Hrmmmm, wait a minute? They have an auto-clicking option? You can earn credits just by leaving a browser open cycling through sites automatically? What's the quality of those clicks? I might as well buy time on Cable TV at 3:30AM, on the TV Guide channel, no less. More people might pay attention to that than to a browser they just left open for the sake of it?
Quickly, I assigned my credits to manual mode surfers only. Perhaps one will stop by my site and like it enough to stick around. Don't know if I'm going to sit and earn credits there, though. Most every site I get sent to is yet ANOTHER click-for-credit/cash site. So, I don't think my time is well spent.
The one thing I've enjoyed so far about BlogExplosion and BlogClicker is that it feels more community oriented. I read about other people's lives, and they come here and read my random nonsense. I've even personally connected with a few of them by email. It's pleasant, and it's what I wanted out of my blog - personal contact - not impersonal advertising hype. If you have a blog, I'd suggest these latter two programs (links on the left under Thanks...). Talk at you later.

February 23, 2005

Home to some of the most useful software on the planet - and it's free, no less - Sysinternals Freeware is for the System Administrator that has almost everything. Their newest release is a rootkit detector for Windows. It will find hidden registry keys and files that may provide the hiding locale for hidden bugs on your system. A rootkit is installed software that hides from virus scanners and the like, and gives administrative control (root in Unix terms) to the programs it's running. The 'kit' means that it's a utility with multiple skills, and is installed all at once by hackers to attempt to take over your machine and hide itself from detection. My favorite software they distribute, however, is Process Explorer - it lets you get into the nitty gritty's of the processes running on your machine, and can help you debug some of the nastiest problems if you know what to look for. I highly recommend this site.
You know - the moon is an ugly thing when viewed close up. I took this picture at 1/1250 shutter with a 300mm tele (off-hand) - F/5.6 with the camera set to ISO 400 - cropped out all the black sky to make the photo 640x480. (Click for full size)
Moon picture
I'm going to turn on Blogger's Comments method and get rid of the Doodle Board - I think it'll be better for discussion of specific topics (wishful thinking on my part). As always, this blog is under constant construction.
Printer Cartridge Scams: Normally when you hear the word 'scam' mentioned, you figure there's got to be a con artist somewhere in sight. You don't normally expect to hear this word used in association with a big corporation like Hewlett-Packard. But this is exactly the word being used on the web today by people who are pissed off about some of the business practices of HP. Besides the Yahoo article mentioning the lawsuit, more pages are showing up on this thread at Slashdot. Some of the articles as old as 2001. I guess that the practice of expiring inkjet cartridges isn't news after all. Well, in the sense of it being 'new', anyway. The lawsuit may just cause some changes to come about, but it may take a while. Some of those articles are good reading, like the one that talks about how different cartridges can be used in different printers with a little bit of hacking, to maximize your bang for the buck when buying ink.
As consumers, what we'd like is for someone to come out with an inkjet printer that welcomes refills. It could come with an interchangeable print cartridge and a cleaning kit that would help you keep it in optimum working condition. You could buy the refillable ink, and soak the cartridge overnight to help clear up any clogs in the ink delivery.
Sooner or later, your cartridge is going to clog though, so I understand at least part of what HP is trying to do in expiring their cartridges. But we are a nation, nay a world, of penny pinchers. The freedom to use something until its dying breath is something we hold dear. Imagine being told that your car is no longer usable after 150,000 miles. For many, that seems quite reasonable. But to the guy on the bridge trying to get to work late at 9:30AM Monday, as his odometer rolls over? It's a different story. Folks, this should be an engineering principle. Never design something that forces the consumer to take an action that would deny them the freedom to ignore your 'suggestion'. After all, when's the last time you changed your oil at the 3,000 mile mark?

February 22, 2005

Some time ago, I gave up my inkjet printer for a personal laser printer. I had gone to purchase some ink cartridges, and went home with the laser printer because buying a new printer was cheaper than buying the ink for the older printer. (I paid $99 for it) Competition is certainly needed in the ink cartridge business to bring prices down to a reasonable level. Either that, or the companies that design the printers need to make them refillable out of the box -
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! OMG! ROTFL! :)
Ok, that's never going to happen! The company that does that will be cutting off its nose to spite its future profits, after all...Of course, they could go in the complete opposite direction and purposefully force you to purchase their ink cartridges to continue using their printer. But would they? According to: Yahoo! News - Lawsuit Says HP Printer Cartridges Die Before Use a woman is suing HP because, as she claims, the cartridges for her printer "expire on a certain date, in some cases rendering them useless before they are even installed in a printer". Now that's certainly one way to ensure future profit! I wonder what dumb, stupid, ignorant, son of a bitch thought up that one - and how soon he/she'll be fired.
Seriously, though, this is definitely an area where consumers need to force manufacturers to get in step with our needs. Hell, it's cheaper to buy a new printer FOR FREE!!!! from Tiger Direct after rebate than it is to refill the printer cartridges in your old one. How silly is it that we manufacture throw-away electronics? They're not only giving them away, but they have been for years! My first color printer was a free-after-rebate deal from CompUSA. Come on, people, there has got to be some economic common sense applied here. The economy isn't going to get better if we manufacture goods, ship them, support them, etc... and make no money doing it. And why? To make sure that you have to come back for more ink? Well, if your company gave me a printer for free, why wouldn't the other company give me a printer for free when yours runs out of ink? Don't you think that somewhere down the line someone's going to figure it all out? Why are we all so collectively stupid?
Meme of the Day: Shirt Folding - Just found a link to this shirt-folding video on the blog-verse (sorry, forgot which blog) - It's a really cool way to quickly fold your shirts so that they look neat and it's fast - really fast. I can only imagine that this might be a training video for some factory where they have professional shirt folders who do this all day long. In any case, if you ever have to fold laundry and want to shave off a few seconds, you should watch the video a few times and take heed.

February 21, 2005

I remember being introduced to the library in our grammar school when I was a child. I remember it because I wanted to read all of those books. Growing up, as a teen, I thought to myself that the perfect life would be to be able to live in a library, to have the chance to just read and read and read the combined knowledge of man. I've even extended that dream into one where I own a used book store.
The Internet is like a library on LSD. You can read the writings of others, in real time, indexed or not (through Google or Yahoo, for example), and you can get lost in it. The only problem with this is that the web is becoming more and more self-referential. Don't get me wrong - I have nothing against the authors who have commented on the blogging phenomenon. But so much has been said about blogging - so many products and ideas support the phenomenon, that it's all becoming rather self-serving. There's programs where you can visit others blogs in return for having them visit your blog. There's comment software that allows you to obtain comments on your blog so that others can post comments and have links back to their blog, and so on and so on.
One thing that is the same as that visit to the library is the sense of over-abundance. There are simply too many books in a library or book store to be able to read them all in a lifetime. And there are simply too many programs and links on the Internet to follow them all. Too Much Information is more than just a witty saying; it is more a fact of life now. We are bombarded with media, opinions, left and right political agendas, self-referential writers patting themselves on the back, or media making fun of how liberal the media is!
Since I write a blog, I have been thinking, just what should my focus be? How should I concentrate my own writings on topics that are important to me, without getting caught up in the linking, referring, and cross-linking to other links that will lead you to other blogs, that will eventually lead you back here. Am I doing you a favor, or am I overloading you with information. Today, I signed up for several programs in the Blogverse - Blogazoo and Blogshares. As I thought of adding their links over in my 'Thanks' column, I visited other blogs through their links. I came across some that had reference/program links all over their page. And for every inch they had given up, their content was that much smaller. You have to wonder...is content king? If so, how much advertising is enough? Certainly there are bloggers out there who have overdone it. And do I really care if you visit my blog? After all, isn't just one of my hobbies?
Questions lead to more questions. Trying to find answers to all of this will drive me to read more. That reading will lead to more questions, and so on....welcome to my library. Good luck escaping.

February 20, 2005

The only thing better than something cool like the BrainGate Neural Interface is something even cooler Betterhumans >(Thinking Cap Lets Users Move). After reading about the first experiment, I went to the Internet, looking, frankly, for investor information about the company. While they may be a good investment, depending on their strategy and plans for the future, the second article points out that their 'new stuff' is already 'old hat' [pardon the pun]. An invasive brain implant would certainly be trumped by a 'brain wave hat'. This is some cool stuff, and along with this article about robotic limbs I first heard about from Mike's List, I would have to say that Christopher Reeve might certainly have been right about the chance of parapalegics to one day walk again.
Ho hum - I've yet to do my taxes - even though the government owes me money. Pretty silly for me to not rush out and get them done - but it just seems like such a pain in the butt. Interesting how we put off the things we could be done with, and end up enduring more stress because of it. Such is the life of the procrastinator.
I was just looking at the CompTIA Network+ exam - I thought maybe I'd go back and complete a couple of certifications. Then I saw that the exam costs $270 to sit for. Wow - that's a little bit steep for taking an exam! Especially an exam that wouldn't mean much to my career at this point. Should I have that much extra money sitting around, I don't think I'd spend it on that.

February 19, 2005

Just for those people hitting my Blog because they're looking for porn (and you know who you are) - Don't pay for porn, find plenty of it free and indexed at SEARCHGALS.COM - THE SEX SEARCH ENGINE. THIS IS AN ADULT SITE AND VERY GRAPHIC - You've been warned.
Someone was looking for the ConnectionString for GoDaddy ASP.NET development. In my code, I use this:
myConnection = New OleDb.OleDbConnection(Application("connectString"))

And in the Global.asax, under Application_Start, I have this:
Application("connectString") = "Provider=SQLOLEDB; Server=myserver; Database=mydatabase; UID=myusername; PWD=mypass;"

Obviously, if you have GoDaddy's service, you have to create your database from your account page, and fill in your values for myserver, mydatabase, myusername and mypass. The myserver value is the fully qualified domain name (ending in secureserver.net) and mydatabase is probably of the form DB_XXXX.
So, if you were looking for help, there ya go (feel free to email me, too).

I put the connectString in as an Application variable so that it would be available from any page, since I need to connect from a variety of pages. ASP.NET has three different objects that are good for storing your variables, the Application object, the Session object and the ViewState object. To store values in any of these objects, you use Session("myvariable"), Application("myvariable") and/or ViewState("myvariable").
The ViewState is stored (and hashed) on the client as a hidden form field [ergo it's not secure, subject to client tampering], but has the added value of being able to store values over long periods of time.
The Session object begins with a user's first request to your ASP.NET application. The session is maintained through a session cookie that IIS exchanges with the client application. It's default timeout is 20 minutes. If the client does not accept session cookies, it won't work for your client. After 20 minutes of inactivity (no requests or form submissions by the client), anything you store in the Session will be thrown away. The Session object values is secure because it's stored on the server, but be aware that it is remotely possible for a user to hijack the session from someone else.
The Application object is good for storing what you might consider to be global values, such as application-wide definitions like a database connectionstring, etc. These types of values might be used in your application frequently, but storing them in an Application() object will allow you to change it in one place.

February 18, 2005

So, Is my Blog HOT or NOT? The people who brought you the original Hot Or Not have extended it to Blogs. If you like my blog (or not), feel free to rate it by clicking the link.
I used to be an administrator at a MUD (Multi-User Dungeon) called Fox MUD. It's a network server program written in C that allows many people to log in and play a Role Playing Game (RPG) in text mode. Part Zork, part Everquest, it is probably one of the most addictive things invented on the Internet next to the World Wide Web. I gave up admining at Fox because it was affecting my school-work, and it faded away due to low popularity and a waning administration.
Another admin and I have started looking for our old backups of the MUD to perhaps bring it online again, just as a hobby/project. I know there were one or two things I wanted to try my hand at, such as interprocess communication, and exec'ing shells off the game to start child programs, funneling the input/output streams to the game....
I found a backup from 2002, but I'm working on getting one more recent than that. Wish me luck.

February 17, 2005

A news-worthy footnote: Buried within a news article regarding Israelite preparation for pulling out of the Gaza Strip, there was a secondary news item. It said that an army investigative team has recommended that Israel change its policy of demolishing the homes of the families of suicide bombers, because it believes that this action is only inciting them to more violence. Um.... duh?! It took an investigative team to figure out that class punishment only incites more rebellion? Granted, the shitty thing about suicide bombers is that you can't punish the assholes - they're already dead. But punishing their families won't bring them over to your way of thinking. That was just an assinine policy, my friends. The only way to punish suicide bombers is to ensure that they are not treated as heroes. To make them a martyr against viewed evil is to incite more to join their ranks. Turning the other cheek is not an act of cowardice, but the act of ignoring the actions of others who do not qualify for your consideration. The war of words is sometimes more powerful than the war of guns. I wish Ghandi were here.
The article said that Israel has destroyed 666 homes of Palestinian families, and that now they're going to stop. Well, here come the biblical prophets!!! Anyone who doesn't recognize this number from the Revelation of John? Does anyone think they stopped at this number on purpose? Perhaps some journalist is playing a joke on us? I'm almost tempted to write Sharon a letter asking that he destroy just one more house so that the number won't hang over their heads for the world to over-analyze.

February 16, 2005

I'm working on a second ASP.NET application (The first one is going to be my Pictures page redacted - Im moving the slideshow application into a SQL database backend with a DataGrid.. )
This second application grew out of Tic Tac Toe, but will eventually be a chess application - I'm going to create a centralized repository for the ultimate chess repertoire. Using the power of the Internet, I will offer a server-end repertoire that ppl can play against, and enter new moves to...with commentary, etc. It will be my gift to the Internet (heheh). Anyways, you can watch the application unfold at this link. Right now its a simple Connect-4 app, because I was working on analyzing diagonals.

February 14, 2005

Does stuff like this make you jealous? Why must we be stuck with average intellect? Why can we not key into what creates these abnormalities and train our own minds to follow after them? A 3-year old in Mensa - He is able to process information so quickly that in a few years, he'll likely have more knowledge than any of us reading this page... I've always felt competitive about the ability to quickly gain knowledge. It was the one thing that I could always delight in. Even for its own sake, with no applicability, knowledge has always been the one thing that I lust after, which is why I enjoy the ever-changing field of Information Technology. I'm so jealous of this kid. I can only hope that he uses his abilities to better mankind. Openly, I admit that bit of ego that I believe that I would use such skill more wisely.
Feelings of mortality and age overwhelm me. Reading about such a thing can almost bring me to feelings of depression, knowing that I will never be able to match the capabilities of this boy. Instead, I find myself less and less capable each day, having already peaked and begun the downward slide that will end in senility. Father Time, though art the cruelest of the gods.
Cure for Cancer is AIDS: Allow me to bring to your attention this article in Wired News: Altered HIV Attacks Mice Tumors - It seems scientists have genetically altered the deadly AIDS-causing HIV to attack metastisized melanoma cells in mice. This is some innovative stuff! Using the mechanisms of one deadly disease to attack another is an awesome prospect. I'm glad that the scientists who are working on this stuff are so innovative. Using one enemy to destroy another is something we're used to seeing in the political arena, but applying it to biology. Genetic research is really paying off!

February 13, 2005

My first ASP.NET Application: Well, GoDaddy offers SQL and ASP.NET, so I started playing with it last night - my first ASP.NET application is up here and will evolve as I do. Right now it connects to a database, offers a pull down box, and changes the image based on which one you choose. I haven't thought of what I want to do with this, but suggestions are welcome, just email me.
The only problem with developing the ASP.NET app is that I can't access the SQL server from outside of where the server is located, so I can't use the visual development tool in Visual Studio .NET to define the Connection object. For some reason, it won't let you set up a Connection object with the designer unless it can validate the connection. VStudio needs to be smarter and allow you to use the Connection designer with data that it can't verify. Tsk, oh well. I just hand-coded the connection object and it's working fine.

February 12, 2005

For all you Chess-heads out there - Mike's List brought up a link to a visual chess game on the web. It shows lines of influence as force waves on the board, and also graphically represents its own thinking as it evaluates moves. It's a neat project, and artistically pleasing. You should go check it out for yourself.... Since it's a Java Applet, its strength will likely be different depending on what computer you play on, but it was wise enough to grab a piece from me in about 15 moves even on this old clunker I'm using (1.5Ghz PIII) so the algorithms are reasonably smart. Of course, I'm no deep thinker, and am not well versed in many opening lines...so I'm probably easy pickings.
Well, looks like my transition is complete. I'll be making changes to some of the pages in the site, but not much will change on the main (blog) page. I may try my hand at some ASP.NET now that I have access to this, and that may change my slideshow page, and my Chess Games page. It may make for more notes pages, as well, with topics and comments stored in a database and with easy access for me to add stuff that I learn (like 802.11n should be added to my wireless notes page [see left] but I haven't had the motivation.)
Some work remains on getting Tripod pages out of Google and these pages into Google. I don't own the rgautier.tripod.com sub-domain [duh!] so I can't post a 301 permanent redirect on it, and of course Tripod won't be doing that anytime soon. Hopefully Google re-walks my site under the new domain name. I added links on all the old pages to here (thank god for templated pages, eh?), so Google might pick up on the recurring link and go ahead and walk me...one can only hope.

February 11, 2005

Watch this space: I am moving off of Tripod within the next 2 months. While they've been stable over the years, their support of certain functionality (such as .htaccess support and server side scripting) is overly limited. I have found a better deal at another web hosting company and will be redirecting traffic to http://www.richgautier.com once I have transitioned my code to their servers. The web host I have chosen is http://www.godaddy.com - a <$8/month deal with 2GB of storage space, ASP.NET support, SQL Server and 10GB of data transfer a month. Considering what Tripod charges, this is a hell of a deal. So, be on the lookout for the change soon.

February 07, 2005

PGN Errors and the state of Chess Software: I play Chess at Pogo.com and at the Free Internet Chess Server. Both of these services will email your chess games to you, in PGN format, so that you can create yourself a nice chess history. I then use Crafty to analyze my games, and try to learn from my mistakes (not necessarily successfully). Well, on my web page, I had added the Crafty analysis output of these games, but it was taking up too much space. So, I have moved to a Java applet that allows for commented PGN files to be posted. I got this applet, and its source code at www.mychess.com.
At first, the applet didn't understand the PGN output from Crafty because Crafty inserted comments before move 1, and the applet kept trying to add the comments to a non-existent move in the game. Then, it turns out that Crafty was having problems with the PGN files from Pogo - pawn promotions were annotated in the PGN, but without the necessary = sign in the string (e.g. c1Q, instead of the proper c1=Q). Crafty couldn't understand what it meant, and would create phantom games for each of the moves following the promotion.
So, I manually did a search and replace to fix the PGN file I had, and also modified my VBScript that scours my email so that it would automatically fix these problems when it pulls out the games.
Well, FICS is where I play more recently, and its PGN output seemed to be cleaner than Pogo's. So I downloaded those, and began the analysis of those games. Well, pawn promotions were handled fine, but it seemed that some of the games were causing problems and I was getting more phantom games in the output from Crafty. I went back and manually checked the files, and it appears that in some instances, there is a bug in FICS' code with their line-wrapping code. When the line wrap breaks in the middle of a move (after the first ply), it repeats a previous move, and creates a file that has a 3-ply move in it (the 2 ply it should and the errant ghost move).
This is getting a little exasperating, since it prevents me from easily posting my more recent games on my site. Although, I have implemented the Java PGN viewer and an older set of games that I had from Pogo. (see links on left). I modified the PGN viewer to ignore the errant comments, and also to automatically flip the board to see it from my own perspective when playing the game.