December 29, 2006

Nail in the coffin for G.W. Bush's approval ratings?

Thanks to Yahoo and the Associated Press for this little winner. It seems that G.W. Bush plans to stay home for Former President Gerald Ford's state funeral. While he intends to make a showing at the viewing, and he intends to say a few words at the church, the sitting President has decided to bow out of the state-sponsored formal funeral proceedings. I guess the question that will remain on everyone's minds will be whether this was a decision of the Bush family or the Ford family. Could this decision be the nail in the coffin that defines G.W. Bush's public approval ratings? And will it move him up the list into the Top 5 Worst Presidents in history, if he wasn't already firmly entrenched in the top 10?

December 28, 2006

A Belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Oh what a Christmas this has been. First off, my wife misses her mother dearly around the holidays, and it's only been about a year since she died. And then, in Iraq, a co-workers son was killed in action (Paul Balint Jr. - who died with honor, serving his country). So, Christmas has been kind of dampened around here.

That hasn't completely stopped me from gadgeting up this Christmas. I bought a Wii back the beginning of the month, as reviews kept pouring in about how much fun it was to play. Not being a hard-core gamer, I elected to try to get the whole family involved by purchasing something we could all play. I fully enjoy the Wii Remote, the Wii Sports titles like Tennis, Bowling and Baseball. I had a few weak geek days where I wanted a PS3, but with the unavailability and the sticker shock, I figured that it isn't for me. I'd love to play with the capabilities of the machine, but honestly know that I don't really have time for it.

After Christmas I took my cash and gift-card laden self down to Best Buy and bought a replacement file/print server (also my email box and it runs a Virtual Machine Linux box for MUD development).
After spending about 10 hours loading and reloading the OS (Windows MCE) and having the machine reboot itself every time I tried to use Virtual PC (2004, 2007 Beta 1 and Virtual Server 2005 R2) on the box, spending 2 hours on the phone with tech support, who put the blame on the software [I've NEVER had a problem with Virtual PC on any other platform], reloading a BRAND-NEW, non OEM Windows XP Pro on it, reloading network drivers from the manufacturer of the NIC, and still having the exact same issue.....[run on sentence, but it gets the point across]
I found the solution...return the Emachine T5212 to Best Buy and replace it with a $30 more expensive Compaq/HP machine (50GB larger [SATA] HD, Pent D 820 vice Pent D 805), and my troubles were over. I spent less than an hour setting up the machine and I think I'm just about done with it..

I thought about whether I wanted to call out that Emachines are bad on my blog, but I figured...a) Noone reads the stupid thing anyway, b)Their 'tech support' decided they didn't want to help me fix the problem because the machine worked with all the software that came with it, compatibility be damned, c) I'm not claiming all of their products are bad, just THAT one (The T5212).

Most likely, the issue is a BIOS compatibility issue. I disabled the onboard NIC and put in the NIC from my old machine that I was using, a Linksys. That move didn't fix the issue...exact same symptoms - rebooted itself while loading Windows. The issue smacked very much of a motherboard/driver issue, but the tech support (who were nice, but certainly not very knowledgeable) told me there was nothing they could do to help me.
Back to Christmas. The tree is down, and we're not planning on spending a lot of money on New Year's Eve - maybe hit up the bowling alley like we did last year...Starting to think of New Year's resolutions, which include losing the 30 pounds I've regained in the past year and a half. Hope you all have had a happier holiday than to you later.

December 01, 2006

Busy in All Aspects

Been busy in all aspects of my life, so I haven't posted to the blog in quite a while. While I may try to change that, I STILL haven't decided what I want my blog to be, so it will continue to be Randomblings. It's interesting. Back when I created my blog I searched the 'net with Google to ensure that the word Randomblings wasn't used anywhere else. It wasn't found in any of my searches. However, today I did the same search and I've seen the word crop up in many other blogs and other aspects of the web. I have no allusions that I've coined the word, but just wanted everyone to know that I didn't copy it from someone else...more later..

October 01, 2006

From the WTF file - Artists make LESS from iTunes

Taken from a Question and Answer post on Weird Al Yankovic's blog/MySpace....
Tim Sloane of Ijamsville, MD asks: Al, which of these purchasing methods should I use in order to make sure the most profit gets to you: Buying one of your albums on CD, or buying one of your albums on iTunes?

I am extremely grateful for your support, no matter which format you choose to legally obtain my music in, so you should do whatever makes the most sense for you personally. But since you ASKED I actually do get significantly more money from CD sales, as opposed to downloads. This is the one thing about my renegotiated record contract that never made much sense to me. It costs the label NOTHING for somebody to download an album (no manufacturing costs, shipping, or really any overhead of any kind) and yet the artist (me) winds up making less from it. Go figure.

What the hell is up with that? Is the RIAA purposefully architecting it so that artists get less money from their digital sales than they do for their physical sales? (conspiracy theory), or is it just taking time for investments in digital sales mediums to catch up with the profit margin on same?

Hopefully, sometime in the NEAR future, this will be reversed, and Weird Al and other digital netizens will be able to use the Internet to make money, not lose it.

September 27, 2006

Passing Thoughts on High Efficiency Solar Energy Collection

I was doing experiments in the electronics kit today and came to the experiment that demonstrates how a ceramic microphone can be utilized to generate electrical current in a wire by capturing sound. As I was reading the chapter, I went for a walk with my dog.

Idea #1 - I began to think - couldn't this idea be utilized to create quieter motors that are also more energy efficient? By encapsulating a noisy (high friction) motor in a dual-wall casing designed to capture sound waves and generate electricity, you could rectify the output and capture into battery storage. Perhaps even noise reducing walls could be created that do the same thing. The output of the walls or anything that isn't 'enclosing' would probably be pretty minimal because of the radiant nature of sound waves. Actually designing the enclosure for capturing and converting sound is probably quite an engineering chore because of the synchronicity required in the enclosure itself. The whole device would have to expand/contract in unison. This line of thinking led to idea #2

Idea #2 - I began to think about radiant energy capture. Solar energy is a pretty good example of this problem. Solar cells are notoriously inefficient, I think because they are capturing solar energy in one small angular channel. After all, the energy coming from the sun is radiating from a giant source, in multiple directions at once. I started thinking about polarizers and what happens to the light that doesn't pass through the polar filter. If it is reflected, couldn't solar cells be designed with a reflection/capture system that aims the reflected energy to a single focus point for capture/conversion?

That's it - just wanted to write those down before I forgot them.

September 24, 2006

Electronics Kits are FUN

The things we never had as a child can sometimes be the things we return to when we have enough money to finally enjoy them. As a geek, I've always been 'interested' in electronics, but I've never had the time or the inclination to sit and just 'do' it. This weekend, I happened by a Radio Shack and saw the 'Electronic Snap Kit (Electronics 303) [Radio Shack 28-288]. I noticed that it had a software oscilloscope and spectrum analyzer software included in it. So, I bought it.
My son was with me, and we brought it home, and I started to play with it, building the circuits one at a time, grokking each one in turn. The kit is very simplified, where wires and switches are soldered onto plastic snap pieces that you snap together to create the circuits, and the book doesn't explain the concepts behind the included IC's (such as the music generator). But it was fun nonetheless....and then I realized [or rather, my son did]...I had bought another lab kit a few years ago. My son pointed out to me that I hadn't used it at all yet. Sitting pristinely in its box was the 'Electronics Learning Lab' [Radio Shack 28-280] with 16 ICs, breadboard, LED displays, pots, switches, etc all together in a lab kit. So, I started playing with it, and left my son to work with the snap kit. The Learning Lab didn't include the oscilloscope and spectrum analyzer, but I assume that if I study both kits, I'll learn how to use the software independent of the kit.
In any case, I'm having a great deal of fun with both kits. It's too bad that I overpaid for both of them (having purchased them from Radio Shack), but I'm certain that I bought the Learning Lab on sale [I believe at 50% off].

September 23, 2006

Sorry - but assholes abound

Sorry, but I've turned on comment moderation on the blog. I don't get a lot of comments (very few actually), but this past week some asshole spammer decided to start leaving their crap links all over my site. It felt like finding rabbit shit in my garden. I've cleaned up the rabbit shit and installed some rabbit fencing. Not enough to keep out the intelligent rabbit, but hopefully enough to keep out the assholes.

September 21, 2006

Get a Free Education

Let's say that you've graduated from Podunk University. Now that you've finally graduated, you may find that you are actually ready to learn something. Not that you haven't through getting your degree, but with the workload, you haven't been able to pay any real attention to the subjects that you really wanted to learn.
For some time now, MIT has offered Open Courseware,
"a free and open educational resource (OER) for educators, students, and self-learners around the world. MIT OpenCourseWare (MIT OCW) supports MIT's mission to advance knowledge and education, and serve the world in the 21st century."
. I've had the opportunity to use the Open Courseware myself, in fact, while I was studying for my degree at Limestone College, I used the Open Courseware to get some 'tutoring' for my Matrix Algebra course, which I was having difficulty with. So you might say that I, at least in some part, have an MIT education. I found the video lecture for that course particularly helpful in getting an 'A' in my own coursework.
Just this morning, however, I was reading an email newsletter that I have been getting since 1999 - Edupage. [In fact, Limestone's remote study program was first brought to my attention by Edupage. Thanks, Edupage!] In there, they mentioned that Yale University will be following in "MIT's footprints", but will be going the next step by offering videos of lectures for all classes on their site. Some of the MIT classes (including the Matrix Algebra course) include videos of lectures, but not all of them. I did indeed find courses that have videos of class lectures to be more useful. It's much more convenient to watch a teacher explain a concept (over and over if necessary) than to go to Borders or Amazon and order a book on the subject.
Kudos to both Yale and MIT for furthering the cause of learning for learning's sake. The Internet is the library of the future, and to know that our highest institutes of learning have put the cause of knowledge before the cause of profits is refreshing. Besides, I can't afford the tuition at either of these fine institutions, and now that I'm almost 40 years old, I find that there's classes I really WOULD like to take.

September 17, 2006

MIndless Entertainment

What mindless entertainment do you depend upon? Other than the boob-tube, that is... I like to play RPGs on my computer, and have long been a fan of Neverwinter Nights, the Bioware D&D game that allows you to load up secondary modules, created by fans or by Bioware themselves. Fairly recently, they released a module called Infinite Dungeons, which is reminiscent of the old Hack video game. It creates random dungeons, complete with treasures, traps, puzzles, mini-quests and its own built-in storyline about a mad-man and his strange desire to create random dungeons (wouldn't you know).
It's great for a mindless game to play when you're bored, and if you already own NWN, it's a cheap $8.00. It was on sale last month, so I got it for just $7. In any case, if you're a fan of the genre, and you're bored, you might want to give it a whirl. The only bad thing about it is that you have to be online to authenticate the game every time you play it (yet more DRM, sigh...what happens when they can't keep the authentication server up any more? We, the buyers, will lose out...). Aside from that, I have no problem with the game. I'm almost done with the main quest, and from what I understand, finishing that will allow me to control the module even more than the basic customizations it offers when you start.
Bring plenty of anti-death and anti-fear magic into the lower dungeons. As far as the Monty-Hall-esque treasure layout - you'll need it just to survive later on as the battles get hot and heavy...

September 16, 2006


For the past few months I've been busy at work, but not all that busy at home. Which brings me to today's topic: boredom. Sometimes, life is just not interesting. There's still things that mildly interest me, but I just don't seem to have the motivation to learn something new that I have had in the past. I've been relaxing in front of the television, and haven't paid any attention to the wide variety of things that have interested me over the past year.
This really hit home with me the other day as I was playing Solitaire on Pogo. What a completely useless waste of time! I should probably be doing something with my time, but I've never been so committed to any one thing to really make a huge difference. That's the trouble with being a Jack of all trades, that you will never master any of them.
My chess game improved a little bit over the past month, and then took another's really an up and down thing, as those of you who play know all too well. My photography, while interesting, hasn't sent me on any field trips of late. (Oh, Canon has just released the digital Rebel XTi - and it's practically as good as the 30D - better in some respects....I want, I want...).
God knows why the boredom has set in so, but I should probably try to break it by promising only to spend x hours in front of the television. Speaking of televisions, by the way, we purchased a replacement TV for our Toshiba 55" projection...a 72" DLP 1080p HDTV from Toshiba. It's a HUGE screen, but fits our living room just right.
Let's see, oh yeah - my grapes fruited this year....not many - but my sister in law picked some off the vine, and she and my wife ate them. They said they were good, but I think they weren't quite ripe enough yet. Next year shoudl bring some awesome grapes...I need to do something about the vines, though...

More later (heh, yeah, in 3 more months)

June 03, 2006

My Gallery Exhibit is up for display!

The Towers Gallery II in Second Life is shaping up. I've submitted my pics there and the gallery exhibit is up (see picture) for people to look at, although the gallery opening hasn't been held yet.

I've also redone my gallery in Second Life, having fun with the new Blender import tool put up by another resident of SL.

May 23, 2006

A Nice Evening Out

Wow, where did I go after dinner tonight? First, I went down to the gallery (Duke's Diggs) and visited my receptionist to find out who'd been in the gallery today. Then, I stopped into a latex clothing contest at a bar in a seedy part of town and played some roulette (I'm attracted to the roulette table). Then, I visited Clown Town and rode the Teacups and sat for a cup of coffee on the pier with some strangers. One of the strangers mentioned an art walk along the private island, Muse Island, so I headed there to visit it. It turned out that they had open spots for artists, so I found the proprietor and arranged two of my pieces in their gallery on the island, setting them for sale.
Afterwards, I visited Cecilia's, a bar on the island, and listened to a folk artist, Russell Eponym, for the first time. He's an artist originally from the UK, and has a very calming style. You should catch his work.
I did this all in Second Life ( Didn't have to leave the house once and didn't need a babysitter at all. And the night's still young. The teacups didn't make me hurl (but did make me dizzy) and I could control the bar's speaker volume quite nicely from my front row table. As the music streamed in from across the world, I was amazed at the possibilities available. I have played SL for only a few weeks now, but some folks are doing amazing things with it.

May 10, 2006

Business Bankruptcy Attorneys Pietzman, Weg & Kempinsky LLP

My brother is a partner at a law firm in California, Pietzman, Weg & Kempinsky LLP. From their web site "The firm provides clients representation in chapter 11 bankruptcies, out-of-court restructurings, and business litigation matters." He works hard, much harder than I do, and for it, he is well paid, just as any lawyer can expect to be paid well. They just re-did their web site and put it up on the web, and he called and mentioned the site. I told him that I'd take a look at CSS-ifying it, making it look nice in multiple resolutions and stuff like that. I wish I had more time to work on stuff like that, but I'm currently working on stuff for work that's just as interesting, and more beneficial to my career...

It's a shame that there isn't enough time to do all the favors you want to do for everyone. It just feels different when you're doing something as a 'favor' or a 'hobby' instead of for 'work'. Perhaps when I have enough money, I can retire and work on projects for fun, without the stress of my performance actually affecting my life. That's right, work needs to be more like a video game, where if you screw up a project, you can just push the RESET button and start over.

May 08, 2006

Ack! Help! Another Time Sink!

Found another time sink - ugh. I stayed up until 1 AM last night at a casino. No, not a real casino, but an online simulation of a casino. I was playing as my avatar, Duke Scarborough, in Second Life. The folks at Second Life have given 3D virtual worlds some oomph with their client/server. Of course, the world isn't without its problems, of course. Lag is a problem with large population concentrated in any one area (like a casino running hundreds of simulated slot and video poker machines). But the experience when the lag lets up is amazing. With streaming music and sounds, lighting features, and well-programmed machines and a good casino design, it felt a lot like Vegas. In fact, in some respects it felt even better than Vegas, since there's some things you just can't do reasonably in real life, like particle effects that pop out of the machines when you get a Flush or better in Video Poker.

I spoke with several people in the casino, all of whom had the best things to say about the operator. But after speaking with the operator, he expressed that he didn't want to be featured in my blog. If you log into Second Life, though, I am sure that you'll find this great casino in due time.

It was a much better experience than losing myself in front of the television for a few hours. Log onto Second Life and look me up (Duke Scarborough). I think you'll enjoy the simulation.

April 23, 2006

$2 Yo-Yo and your childhood

Who didn't have a Yo-yo when they were growing up in the 70's? Yo-yo's were quite the rage in the schoolyard back then. So, when I was browsing in Walmart with my son, and we say the Hasbro Fast 201 Yo-Yo's (released in Feb 2005!?) for only $1.98 each, we picked up two, one for each of us. Back in the 70's, the Duncan Butterfly was the yo-yo to have, but this thing takes the butterfly and gives it strong wings. The yo-yo has a set of 'fangs' inside it that increase side friction to the string, but it's settable by the user twisting the yo-yo to an open or closed position. I was never that good as a kid, but with this sucker, I was quickly doing sleepers and walk-the-dog. If you want to get in touch with the inner child, sometimes you just can't beat a $2 toy.

Cute Joke

A friend of mine, Matthew Martin, just told me a funny joke, and I had to share it.

Descartes walks into a bar, buys a beer and drinks it. The bartender hands him the tab for the beer, a whopping $50. Descartes, in a huff, exclaims loudly, "$50 for a beer? I think not!". *Poof* No more Descarte.

Well, I enjoyed it.....

April 22, 2006

Chinese $150 Linux mini-PC races OLPC to market

I don't know about you, but I'm sitting here on my computer with only two open applications: An Internet browser and my IM client. 90% of the time when I am at home, this is all that I'm using. Sure, my laptop does a lot more. I use it for web development, and a variety of other tasks. But it cost me $1500. There's a lot of work afoot in industry to put out a cheap computer for the masses that can't afford a nice PC, and I just got hooked up by The Raw Feed to this article: Chinese $150 Linux mini-PC races OLPC to market. There's video available (linked in the article) and it's a very intriguing little box. It does more that just IM and Internet, much more. It has Office-like applications, USB 2.0 ports, Linux, video player software, and a cute little OS front-end. It also has a hard drive and SVIDEO-out, things you wouldn't expect in a $150 computer. I could have sworn on the video the man said it had wireless too (although it doesn't have a built-in screen, so you won't be using it at Starbucks).
Intel and Microsoft don't have a lot to worry about, as the device is certainly lacking in a few departments that would make it silly to depend on such a device for 'gotta-work' applications like the office, but this kind of device is going to be able to reach a strata of people that can't afford a PC right now. (Although shipping a non-SVIDEO output mechanism would help hook up to cheaper TV's on the market).
As long as companies that put out machines like this include functionality on the web such as Flash Player and Shockwave player in the base install, I think that they could sell quite a few of these. I think I might even buy one purely as a curiosity, so their market isn't limited to those who can't afford a full-blown computer with all the fixin's.

April 17, 2006

Easter Weekend

Happy non-denominational Easter! I'm not religious at all, but in case you are, Happy Holiday. Honestly, even though I'm not religious, I still enjoy all the holidays you folks have given us. Christmas is one of my faves, but Easter is good too, what with all the chocolate and candy. Coconut-creme eggs are a favorite sin of mine.
Of course, now that Easter is over and summer is around the corner, I need to drop into diet-mode again. I've fallen back on some of my bad old ways, and these 36-inch pants are getting mighty tight again. I was on Atkin's Diet for a few months back a while ago, and had dropped from 230 to 190 or so...and I've picked up 30 of those 40 again...seriously time to watch my food intake. It's been horrendous of late.
Easter weekend was good for me, though. I finished my taxes the night before they were due (amazing for me!!), and we went to play mini-golf on Sunday when we went out to dinner (see, I had salad, cheese-fries AND a rack of ribs - this is my problem....I like food too much). I shot a 62 on a par 60 course, so I'm feeling good about my putting game this year....

April 06, 2006

What the fuck is wrong with people?

I'm sorry - I just can't think of anything more witty to say. The title says exactly what I thought when I read this news report about teachers disciplining a five-year old child for hugging another five-year old child after helping her up off the ground. I'm speechless. Words fail me. I am just too shocked to formulate an intelligent response to such an idiotic, evil-minded, twisted, dumb-ass, intolerant stupid, hare-brained, dumb-ass (did I say that?) action. Are we so short of teachers that we can not fire this one? Please? Pretty please?

March 28, 2006

Recovery CDs are EVIL

A friend of my mothers is having a problem with her computer. The SYSTEM hive keeps becoming corrupt. This has happened before, but it 'magically' recovered itself. This time, it didn't. She called me, the techie, and asked for my help. Ok, I said, let's start with the Recovery Console. Get your Windows XP CD out.

What do you mean you don't have one? Ugh - a recovery CD?! boot it, lets see what we got...reinstall OS or reinstall OS and backup current hard drive to a subdirectory...wonderful...

And you're 2 states away so I can't just drive over with the install CD...

Color me pissed off - to save $1.25 on a CD, the computer manufacturer takes away the ability of a user to fix their problems....evil, I tell you - absolutely evil.

March 26, 2006

Who's a sheep?

Me - I'm a sheep - Now, besides my LiveJournal (which I never update), my Yahoo 360 (which I use only for photos), my Blog (which you're reading), my Newsvine (fad of the day), I also have a MySpace Page.

March 25, 2006

New Tele-Converter

Yellow/Red TulipI purchased the Quantaray 2x tele-converter for my Canon EOS (Digital Rebel - older body). With my Tamron 70-300mm lens (f4-f5.6) that boosts me to 600mm view (conversion factor 1.6 - 960mm!!!!!). There are now two complications that I am going to have to learn to overcome.

One - manual focus at extreme focal lengths. The lens is not fast enough to keep up with the autofocus circuitry at the longest focal lengths unless you desensitize all the way to sports mode and use the auto-servo. I don't know if you've ever used the auto-servo, but it has a tendency to focus on whatever you're not shooting at the moment. Shooting wildlife is why I wanted the lens, and you're normally shooting through brush or intervening woods, so focusing on your target is too hard for the constant focus mode...

Two - camera shake - Oh my lord. If I was Kate Hepburn before, now I'm Kate Hepburn on methamphetamines. On a cloudy day, at full focal length, open all the way (f5.6 for this lens)at 400 ISO, I was getting about 1/200th of a second (shake, shake, shake your booty) and fuzzy pics. At ISO 800 the result was a still picture, with about the quality of a 110 film blown up to 8"x10".....

I'm going to want lots of sunlight, and I'm going to have to take my tripod with me when I want to shoot.

My hobby just got a bit more complicated, and all for less than $100. Will post pics as soon as I get a clear one (out of 30 shots so far, nothing good enough to be associated with).

March 20, 2006

Erotic Trees?

Am I the only weird one? If you look at this image with just the right mindset, do you find it strangely erotic? It amazes me the shapes that nature can take, and walking through the woods near home, I spotted this twisted tree trunk. It reminds me of a woman's hips, perhaps with her hand reaching down. Maybe I'm just over-sexed? You decide. You can see one of her fingers.

Now that spring is here, I'll be posting more pictures. I'm not one for the cold, so even though winter can bring some pretty pictures, I'm more of a warm-climate photographer. I dumped my camera memory today and this was the most interesting of the bunch.

March 18, 2006

Tests find DRM shortens player battery life by up to ~25% - CD

More reasons to avoid DRM! I just finished reading this article: Tests find DRM shortens player battery life by up to ~25% - CD Basically, the headline says it all. Because DRM requires additional circuitry and additional processing power, you could be giving up your precious battery life to feed the fears of the music industry. And 25% of your battery life can be pretty precious with smaller players rated at only a few hours. I've posted about why DRM is evil before, but this is yet another reason to avoid feeding the DRM world. Digital Rights Management doesn't manage YOUR rights, after all. Instead, it steals them. By buying DRM music, you're agreeing to have your rights taken away. Do yourself a favor and don't buy into it.

March 06, 2006

Op-Ed Piece on Abortion and Community Rule

I've put up an opinion piece on Newsvine that talks about the recent South Dakota anti-abortion law and the planned anti-abortion community planned by Tom Monaghan (of Domino's Pizza fame). If you have a chance, please stop by, read the piece and give it an uptic if you find it interesting. Newsvine has a ratings system for pushing items to the front of the news pages, and I don't think I've garnered enough readers yet to get enough press for the piece. However, it's an important issue and I think that my opinion piece brings some valid discussion points to the fore.

February 28, 2006

Yet Another Place to Spout My Views - Newsvine

I've signed onto the beta for a service called Newsvine. It's a contributory online newspaper that is composed of postings from people and comments, pointers to online articles (like Digg or Fark) and other combinatory threads. So far, I've written three op-ed pieces (which you'll see if you click on the link), along the same lines as the crap that I usually post on here, but with less personal of a slant. I think I'm going to like the service, and perhaps it will intrigue me enough to keep me writing. At the moment, the service seems to be invite-only, but I have a bunch of invites if you want one. Just let me know and I'll hook you up!

February 27, 2006

Will Virtual War bleed over into reality?

Virtual Chinese warlords? Are Chinese warlords at it again, invading Korea and stealing their goods? This news article discusses how Chinese hackers are capturing the Lineage accounts from infected web-site trojans, and are alleged to be using that information to log into the user's accounts and steal (and sell) their online goods for real cash.

This activity seems to be leading to virtual war, with South Korean players attacking Chinese players on sight in the online game, identifying them by their inability to speak Korean. It was not stated whether other international Lineage players were also being slaughtered. With real-world cash on the line, could this virtual war lead to real-world war? Certainly the players behind the attacks on both sides may take the fight offline, at least psychologically.

Stay tuned to the battle, keep your eyes open, and your browser safe (stay off those hacker web sites, update your machines, yada, yada...).
*Thanks belong to The Raw Feed for bringing this to Rich's attention.

February 26, 2006

Changing Web Hosts

I'm changing web hosts to Lunar Pages. I was with Go Daddy for a year, and had problems with their customer service not knowing how to do things, and had problems with their control panel not having adequate control over the website files (like file-level permissions, for example). Now that my term is up with Go Daddy, I'm switching to Lunar Pages, and so far their technical support has been very good. The person on the end of the phone knows exactly what I'm trying to do, and can actually help me with it.

I had a few hiccups with repointing Blogger to the new ftp site, because there are three different places you have to set up the ftp path to your blog files, and it wasn't immediately obvious where the errors were occurring. The blog seems to be publishing fine now (although republishing the whole blog is still taking a while - not sure what the problem is, but 6 years worth of Blog entries could indeed take a while....)

I'll let you know how it turns far I think I'm happier.

February 01, 2006

Internet Explorer 7: Beta 2 Preview

What I like about the Internet Explorer 7: Beta 2 Preview:

Better Printing - about time - printing a page won't overrun the margins any longer and you can size output intelligently. This has long been a pain in the butt in IE6.

Zoom Feature - an easy accessible Zoom feature on the status bar lets you blow up that picture of Pam Anderson (or whomever) quickly and easily. Great for hard-to-read web pages! It zooms the whole client window, text and pics, and looks like a great feature.

What I DONT like about it:

Whose dumb-ass idea was it to put a non-movable address bar ABOVE the File/Edit/View menu bar? When designing Windows applications, we are instructed OVER and OVER by Microsoft to keep the user interface consistent. That means Application Title Bar, Menu Bar, then anything application specific. What the hell is this crap? I used to be able to turn off the address bar, and now I can't? AND it has to stay on top of everything else?

The irremovable Search box - AND I have to have an extra input box to tab through to get to where I want to be when I'm in keyboard-only mode? Wasn't there ALREADY a search box in IE6 that would safely tuck away if you DIDN'T want to use it? YUCH!

January 21, 2006

What a full day!

I bought a new laptop for myself today.
My car's battery terminal got so corroded that it broke apart and I couldn't start my car today.
My wife and I entered a poker tournament for the first time today.
My wife came in 5th in the poker tournament today.
We almost hit a racoon driving home today.
We DID hit 2 deer driving home today.

It's been a full day. Maybe I'll be able to sleep today. Maybe not.
More news on these to come as they come.

January 14, 2006

The Drunk Hungarian

Last night we went to eCiti with a friend from work and my sister-in-law. eCiti is a fairly upscale bar in the Tyson's Corner. We ate dinner, and moved over to the bar section, where they have a large dance floor, a sushi bar and a few tables around to sit at.
Since John is a smoker, he was being considerate and stood up on the dance floor a few feet away to smoke a cigarette. As he was smoking, we noticed that he was chatting with a man. After a few minutes, I caught John's eye and motioned him over so that we could meet his friend, and John made a quick simple introduction to Tibor, from Hungary. Completing the introductions, Tibor leaned into me and confessed, "I'm a little drunk! I've been having some troubles at home, so I've been drinking."
Ok, no harm, buddy...and that explains your complete lack of personal space at the moment. So, on to the first question. So, where do you know John from? "Oh, I just met him now."
Great, John has just sloughed off a friendly drunk on me, and he's not making any sign of leaving. Instead, he's reaching for John's chair. And to think, I even introduced him to my wife and sister, so he probably feels welcome. "Oh, may I use this chair?"
Alas, a way to hand him back off! I point at John. "It's his chair, so you'll have to ask him", I say, and grin at John.
Thankfully, the drunk leaves, not realizing that he could have pulled up another chair, if he wanted to sit at the table and talk. We all laughed a bit about the Hungarian drunk, who had confided that he came here to this country 5 years ago, and learned English by watching television.
A bit later, Tibor comes back to the table. We're all wondering what he could want, and he begins to tell us about the free buffet upstairs. "They have pasta and chicken 'something', I forgot the name, but it is good. You should try some out. It's right up there", he says, pointing at the steps upstairs.
While hesitant about Tibor's overly friendly attitude, I am a little irritated that I may have just spent $70 on dinner unnecessarily. As he walks away, I begin discussing that with my wife and glance over to the stairs. A large sign says "Private Party" at the base of the stairs, and we all burst out laughing again at Tibor, apparent drunk wedding crasher from Hungary...

January 07, 2006

Welcome to the Weekend

Ok, time to really start that diet: Update: 212.6 pounds.
This morning, went to the DMZ. The mobBLU was great for standing in line in the mall for over an hour, just to wait to GET a number, so I could wait inside to be called on. Just needed to get my tags, but since they were already overdue, I couldn't do the renewal online. $63 for two years - what a ripoff. I love how the government charges its citizens to keep track of them..... (yeah, I know its necessary, but it doesn't make it cheaper knowing that)

I asked someone to review the playlist on my MP3 player, and she promptly told me that some of my stuff was boring ("You mean the Dean Martin stuff?" - "No, that was ok...") - I need to get a clarification from her. Perhaps she didn't like the John Denver songs. I know she wasn't talking about the dance mixes, Billy Joel, Nickleback and Prince. Perhaps she meant the Harry Belafonte stuff or the Ray Romano comedy stuff...?

Ah well, back to the weekend......I've got music files to sort..

January 04, 2006

Robot Customer Service for McDonalds? Hallelujah!

Fast food restaurants in the near future may be seeing an upgrade in customer service! As pointed out to me by The Raw Feed (the blog formerly known as Mike's List), [thanks Mike], new stand-alone, self-serve, automated cashiers are coming to the fast food market that will let you skip the line at Wendy's, McDonalds, Burger King, etc...provided the franchisers buy them.

I, for one, say it's high time that we got the cashiers at these places to understand English again (damn it, I said 6 piece nugget meal with a DIET COKE, you MORON!!!). I am so sick of walking into McDonalds, waiting in line (#1) and getting up to the cashier who just got off the boat [or whose parents didn't realize they'd need the English language to get through life]. I'm not knocking immigrants (well, not legal ones) at all. But if you're taking my food order, you should at least be able to pronounce the farking menu items, don't you think?!?!?

If you're a franchiser, I can just imagine the drool coming off your lips right now. Buy these! Buy them NOW and install them in your lobby. Do away with half your cashier staff during rush hours!! Do away with countless wasted training dollars!! Do away with the added liability of barely trained minimum wage, non-English speaking workers in an area where burns, slips, trips and other hazards are waiting to drain your worker's compensation coffers. Minimize your staff to one or two trained counter personnel to handle problems and the drive-through window. Save a ton of dough, and make ME, the customer happy on top of it.

Just so you know, yes, I DID buy stock in the company. I think it's a fantastic idea, and think that if you don't pick up a piece of this action, you're going to soon wish you had a nickle for every ATM installed in America's 7-11s.....think about it, investors...[RBSY] on the pink sheets.

Timewaster of the Month Club

The Dead Awaken - an online web-browser based game that my son turned me on to. While not the best of games, it does have a strange addictive quality to it. Fortunately for the user, it is turn-based and you're only given a full set of turns each day. While you can earn extra turns, the site is probably best visited at most three times per day if you want to use all of your turns.

On the site, I play a zombie - but it's your choice, human or zombie. You can visit the graveyard and go grave-robbing, head down to the mall to kill some wandering zombies/humans, or even head down to the subway for a mission of smearing blood on things to attract more zombies (and get paid for it).

The game harkens back to the like of the old BBS games we played and wrote back in the 1980's. Trying to become top zombie will probably take you awhile, though. The game rewards those who've played the longest, so I'll probably never hit the Top 10 lists on this site.

It's an interesting diversion, and very different from the MUD experience. Give it a whirl and let me know if you like it.

January 03, 2006

New Years Resolutions?

I'll write these down - but I'm old enough to know they won't happen (*grin*):

1. Lose weight (again) - 20 pounds this year, please?
2. Get and stay organized.
3. Throw away all the useless crap I love to accumulate.
4. Work Harder.
5. Play Harder.
6. Buy Less Crap. Don't we all have enough toys already? I've got to stop buying them.


January 02, 2006

The MobiBLU

I went shopping with my Christmas money (what was left of it) - and came out of Walmart holding the 1GB MobiBLU MP3 player. This little player has an FM radio, a built-in microphone, 1GB (922 MB usable) of memory, SRS/WOW/EQ settings, a clock, and it can record (at settable bitrate/sensitivity) off the microphone or the FM radio. It also has an OLED screen and is only 1 inch cubed!!

That's right - it has 7 buttons (8 if you count the reset pin), 1 input jack, a necklace clip and an OLED screen on 5 of it's 6 square inch sides. This thing is SMALL! It came with necklace earphones, a charger, some software to update the BIOS (when they release new ones [or when someone decides to load Linux on it?]).

I charged it up with music from my collection, (it takes protected WMAs [evil] and MP3s) and took it out to play. It has a volume setting that goes up to 30. With it set to its highest level, I could hear it on top of a club band at an oldies club on New Years Eve, although it didn't drown them out (doh). At level 16, it sounds loud enough for my ears in a roughly noiseless environment. At level 20, I can't hear my wife calling me from the next room (bonus!).

You can play in repeat 1/repeat all/random/random all modes, and you can browse for songs (although the song names obviously have to scroll on the screen, which displays 3x5 from a text perspective. They could have cut out the graphical part of the tree display to give you up to 8 characters. Maybe they will in a future upgrade. I found only one problem with the player so far, and that is the number of folders it will actually read from the player. Even though I stored 100 folders of stuff on it, only the first 20 or so [I didn't count] deep showed the file contents when I was playing the music. Even on random mode, it didn't pick up those files.

All in all, it's a good value, but you need to know that it's not compatible with any of the To Go services like Yahoo or Napster. You can buy protected WMA's from Walmart (where I got the player) and it comes with 5 free songs. On top of that, you will need MP3 files, so you'll have to rip your own content or play mostly independent music that can be found on the 'net.

January 01, 2006

Happy New Year - Courtesy Please..

Bowling courtesy, that is. When I was younger than a teenager, my father brought us to the bowling alley. The first thing we learned was not how to toss the ball down the lane. No, the first thing we learned was bowling courtesy. This includes not standing on the approach (the wood of the lane) until it was your turn to bowl, and to wait for the player in the two lanes to your left and right to finish bowling before even thinking of getting on the wood.

In today's world, courtesy seems to be a lost art. Yesterday I attended a bowling New Years Eve party. The one thing that irritates me more than ANYTHING when I'm at a bowling alley is when the lane next to mine has children and ADULTS!! that completely ignore bowling courtesy. Not only can it be dangerous as all hell (Hello, I'm swining a 16-pound ball through a half-arc; maybe you should keep your children on their own lane, and wait till I'm done?!!), but it's annoying, and distracting.

I don't even mind when your child misses his lane and throws his ball down my lane. Indeed, I even find that to be cute, and it's to be expected when you hand a 5 pound weight to a 5 year old to throw down the lane - it's not a problem, no ma'am, but could you please keep your stupid little brat behind the wood when it's not his turn to bowl? Thank you very much.

On top of which, it's very difficult to approach a parent who themselves doesn't seem to know common bowling courtesy and ask that they preach it to their children. It's embrarrasing for one, and you're trying to tell them to control their family, always a mother-bear reaction just waiting for you. Sigh - well, I bowled a 168,169 and 142, so didn't do too bad, but I'm sure I could have done better if I wasn't worried about cracking open Junior's skull in the next lane.