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Tag Archives: geeky

Hello from my phone from Fairview Mall. You know I was so excited to install some open source and setup some blog-by-email addresses so that I could blog on the road; but it turns out that the email or XML-RPC services all require ports that I can’t access on my “unlimited” plan.

So I’m relegated to typing this out thru my blog’s mobile admin console without pictures. At least until I find some free wifi. Ah all these first-world problems.

The E71 isn’t something you normally think of when you consider a data capable phone, at least not for me who didn’t pay attention to cell phones until I needed one. But it had satisfied my criteria fairly well. It has Wifi, GPS, bluetooth, 3G (there are US, Europe and Asia versions so be careful) and a full keyboard. The new ones are running around $350-$400 and the used market is slightly cheaper (it surprisingly holds its price well, but we’ll see what happens when ther E72 is released).

It runs Symbian OS, which has been around for awhile (all the Nokias use it), so there are some apps for it. And there’s always J2ME. It has a camera, can record video and acts as an mp3 player. I briefly thought about getting a N95 since it’s known as a multimedia phone (i.e., excellent photo/video capabilities), but I decided a full keyboard was more important to me. Plus, I usually have a real camera on me anyways.

Oh and it has copy+paste and multitasking. Multitasking is actually very awesome, because I can run a Gmail client, a Twitter client, listen to music, browser the web, and have my GPS maps running at the same time!

My balance on my paygo account has been quite steady at > $50 for a long time now. It’s not as high as it once was thanks to more day time calls and being charge 15¢ for each received text, but it’s not decreasing rapidly enough for me to use it up in case I need to pick up a contract.

I was racking my brain on how to use up my balance, when I had an epiphany. I could add the $7/mth unlimited data browsing plan onto my phone. With this, I could hopefully use up my balance in about 10 months, which is about the time Pauline’s cellphone contract expires and we can get a new one.

This “browsing” plan is supposed to be truly unlimited, but it’s a crippled data plan since you can only access ports 80 and 443. That means you can’t do ftp, shh, pop3 or imap on it. But that’s ok, because with a candy bar phone, I can’t really do anything.

(Unless, of course, that means I need to buy a more capable phone to take advantage of my plan!)

This week was TechConnect at the lab. TechConnect is a mini-conference where we can share ideas and technologies with others at work, and a means to pad our resume. Like last year, I presented a poster this year too.

This year, we were given the option of presenting our posters in Second Life as well. Second Life is a 3D online environment where you can virtually interact with other people; kind of like World of Warcraft except there is no real goal or reward. IBM has a big presence on Second Life and setup TechConnect on one of its islands.

The point of the exercise was so people from outside the lab would have an easy way to participate. There is a neat piece of scripting in which they placed our posters into Second Life as really big slide show projections. You could navigate through the deck like you were reading a Powerpoint presentation. Here’s my poster.

Aside from that though, the experience was pretty dumb. I didn’t have to interact with anyone, and no one really read my poster. Also I tried making my avatar look like me, but it was incredibly difficult! Hence my twin is standing off to the right.

While Flickr is dead to me, I think Picasa is the ugly cousin in the photo sharing family. It doesn’t seem to get the use it should given that it is a Google app, and is pretty well integrated with Picasa (which is unfortunately the best desktop photo management program I can find). I’ve been giving Picasa some love recently as I am posting some wedding and honeymoon highlights on it for sharing.

One of the new features for Picasa (Web Albums) is Name Tags (enable it under Settings), which is like face tagging on Facebook. The innovation here is that instead of having to click each face, Google scans all your photos, detects faces, and clusters them together so you can tag all instances of the person’s face at once. For example, I can tag all of me at once:

Presumably, Picasa will be able to infer, once I’ve tagged my face as Kevin, that future faces that look like me is probably me, and will suggest that I tag them with “Kevin”. Does that make sense? Anyways, it’s much quicker than Facebook. Pretty cool right? It’s actually much cooler than it looks because it can handle rotations, slight changes in depth, and partial faces. Here’s some other samples (each row is a separate cluster):

I can’t wait until this makes it into Picasa the desktop client. Although my desktop I/O crunches trying to load 4MB pictures to full screen, I don’t want to imagine what will happen when it has to search and analyze all the faces in my pictures.

We registered for our wedding at The Bay, not really because we wanted to, but because there really wasn’t a better option. The Bay, for all its faults, has a wide variety of stuff which is better than if we registered at 10 different stores. But it was a horrible experience having to go through The Bay’s gift registry. Here are a couple of my peeves:

  • You can’t add/remove items online, you had to actually go into the store to scan items (and you “remove” by saying you want 0 of an item).
  • The in-store scanning is kind of neat, you’re given what looks like a wifi-enabled PDA barcode scanner running Windows Mobile. Except it crashed often and you would have to go back to the registry office and get a new one configured to your registry number etc. Oh yeah, you couldn’t remove items that you scanned in on the device either.
  • The selections is crap, there’s a lot of stuff I realized we needed, but they don’t sell.
  • The prices are crap. It’s better to just ask for gift cards and then hunt for you own deals
  • I couldn’t find a link on the online view of the registry, to link directly to the registry. This seems like a very basic thing that a customer would want to do – maybe they want to email it to their friends. But there’s no link and the only way to access the registry is if you typed in the registry owner’s name. Eventually I did find a direct link, but through googling and finding someone else’s Wedding page.
  • Why does the online list not have a full text description of each item and/or a picture? I don’t even remember what each of the entries refer to now

Basically I want a registry site that works online. You would think that The Bay would want to reach out to clientele like us considering they are not doing a lot of business with our demographic. I did look for an online option for a registry, one which you can integrate multiple stores, but they don’t work that well (and keep spamming you with other garbage). So really, in Canada, there is no good option – just ask for red pockets!

Now that I’m not a student, my laptop stays tethered to its power adapter on my desk; usually hibernating although it is sometimes awake when I need a second browser/monitor.

I took it out for a spin a couple of weeks back, as part of my knocking things off week for wedding planning. I brought it down to the Toronto Reference Library to do some work, because borrowing one of their existing terminals is just so homeless. Anyways, I was working on it for a good hour and a bit when it suddenly jumped from some high percentage (70% or something) to 1% instantly and gave me a warning message saying I NEED TO SLEEP NOW. So I let it sleep and recharge on the ground at a nearby outlet.

When I got home and charged it “fully”, I found the real cause of the problem. Apparently my battery can only charge up to some 26% now — good for an hour and bit of low-intensity surfing. I read up on the web on how to reset the PMU, PRAM, and other alphabetagoop but that didn’t solve my problem. So I’ve resorted to conditioning my battery by discharging it fully.

My first go at it, I went up to a 43% charge, which sounds like progress; but when I tried reconditioning it a second time, I only achieved a 39% charge. It’s now an ongoing side project of mine to charge and discharge this battery, in the hopes that it can charge to its full capacity. Right now, it’s exhibiting some quirky behaviour by only charging a trickle charge every couple of seconds (it’s up from 39.5% to 40.6% as I write this post).

I’ve been watching Battlestar Galactica season 4 now that the Hollywood Writers’ strike is over. After avidly following the series for the first two seasons, I was somewhat disappointed with the third season as there were several throw-away episodes. But the end of the season 3 brought about another dramatic plot twist and has made the start of season 4 pretty interesting. Either that or my quality meter has been severely depressed by Smallville.

I also saw a very neat episode of Stargate Atlantis this week. The premise was that Sheppard and McKay had found an Ancient game similar to Civilization on the Atlantian computers, and had been playing it in their spare time. They then came upon a planet where it turns out that their actions were being carried out in real life, the results sent back to their screens via satellites, and they were considered oracles! A very neat, meta-, and geeky episode all in all!

While I don’t enjoy Atlantis as much as the original Stargate (the writing is not as funny), they do try and please their geeky audience. There was another episode this season where they had an entire conversation about World of Warcraft (the chick had to distract the nerdy scientist you see, while her conspirator gained access to a restricted system).

This weekend, in a continuation of last week’s activities, I went through the mountain of documents that I’ve accumulated from various banks and credit cards. I meticuously file away these documents, arranged by date, in the event that I would ever need them. Why? Because the instituitions send them to me!

Well from my perspective, that’s a waste of space. So I’ve been working on digitizing the relevant information and shredding the originals. For some things, it’s pretty easy. I can logon to my banking sites and download .CSVs of my transactions and then collate them into a larger spreadsheet. But unfortunately, the banks only keep a recent record so for older records I have to data entry everything myself. Also, it was interesting to find out that my shredder can only handle 50 pages a day before it shuts down (or maybe I just broke it).

I’ve shed myself a lot of papers, but I guess the next big step is for me to actually call these instituitions and stop them from sending me paper copies of everything. That, I think, will actually be more difficult than it sounds.

It was going to happen eventually, and for the last while it has been. What I mean is that my personal email that I keep closely hidden from the interweb has starting getting spam. Sure Thunderbird has Baysian spam filters, but there seems to be some problems with the way the filters are trained such that the “bleeding edge” of spam-filter-avoidance keywords are not given a higher weight (please use ARMA). I guess it doesn’t help that I have several years of junk mail that is used to train the filters inaccurately.

Anyways, rather than play around with statistics, or resort to using Gmail, I’ve decided to convert my primary email into a whitelist. If you send me mail and you’re not on in my address book, then it’ll end up in my junk mail and I’ll probably miss it. But what about all those emails from sites that you have to give an email for? Well that’s the benefit of having your own domain, you just use a catch-all for them.

I backup my NDS saves every once in awhile so I don’t lose all my progress if my saves get corrupted or something worse happens. In the case of my (ninten)dogs, the added benefit is if they get hit by a truck for example, I can restore the backup and they can run around happily again.

I went to back things up early this week, but for some reason my card was unreadable. When I attached it to my desktop or laptop, it said it had to be formatted. But the weird thing was, when I put my card into my cameras, I was able to take and store pictures; and when I attached my camera to my desktop through a USB cable, I was able to copy the pictures off without problem. I figured that there might have been a corrupt entry on the FAT which prevented my computers from seeing earlier files, but I ran a variety of disk repair tools and it didn’t find any problem. Weird!

So I slept on it, and figured out another strategy. I would load a homebrew which would let me FTP the files over wifi. But in order to get this done, I would need a second card to verify that I copied everything off successfully, o I picked up a 2GB one on my way home from work (and it was only $12.99! These things are cheap now). Interestingly, when I used the new micro->normal adapter, my computer was able to read the card successfully! For some reason, my old Kingston Japanese-made adapter broke and was only able to read part of my card. I guess I’ll have to mail-order a USB adapter specifically for my card in order to prevent this hilarity from happening in the future.

I’ve had, in my back pocket, a spreadsheet that I’ve been meaning to blog about. But because I was lazy in copying, saving and uploading charts, I never got around to doing it. But now that Google Charts API is available, it’s so easy! I started constructed a spreadsheet from my Facebook friends list a couple of months ago in order to figure out some statistics which I could then use for bloggery analysis. One thing that I was worried about was that my list would lean heavily towards the last few years but surprisingly I have many people on my list from elementary school (and I wouldn’t say only my friends, since there are people who used to pick on me).

The first question I wanted to answer was where I met people. I broke it down into 5 categories:

  • People I met in elementary school,
  • People I met in middle and high school,
  • People I met during university,
  • People I met while working, either volunteering, coop, or full-time, and finally
  • Other people I met randomly such as through friends, as part of an activity, or in my family.

Here is my nicely pie-looking breakdown:

I was really surprised that my friends from university didn’t dominate the pie. Everyone I met at university is online and technical, so they would be prime candidates for Facebook; yet after adding everyone I could find, I only met a third of my friends from university. Part of the reason might be because I met people who went to Waterloo during Coop, and they ended up in the Work piece. That is the main reason why my work group is so large, because I don’t go about asking people I work with what their Facebook account is.

In the future, I expect the Randomly piece to start increasing, since I’ve basically saturated the people I know or want to add or they are Facebook-holdouts in the other areas.

I bumped into a coworker on the walk in from the parking lot this morning and fortunately for me he mentioned that an Apple Product Manager would be at the lab today to give a sales pitch tech talk about Leopard. I was somehow oblivious to this, having not seen any of the posters around the lab nor seen the big advertisement on the intranet homepage. But I went down anyways just to see what the excitement was about.

The presenter basically walked through the major features of the 300+ new features in Leopard, and provided demos of the Wow factor UI features. Although I had installed it last week, I haven’t had time to play around with Leopard much. Actually the real reason is that I have no reason to use my laptop so it’s just sitting there with Leopard installed. So it was nice to see that you can actually use Spaces and Stacks, and that people do use RSS feeds in even though they didn’t design scalability into that feature.

What strikes me as funny with the whole Leopard thing is that Apple still tries so hard to poke fun at Microsoft. You’ve probably seen the usual stuff with Apple only selling one “Ultimate” version of Leopard, or the Windows blue screen as the representation of a Windows box on the network. But there’s also a lot of subtle low-blows too. Vista embellished their UI elements so that they take up more screen room, while Leopard has really slimmed down their windows to maximize screen space. The best one is how Vista ships with beautiful wallpaper from, well, vistas around the world. Well Leopard’s bigger and better and blew that away by using a space motif.

Ever since I got my new computer, my laptop has been gathering dust on my desk. I haven’t powered it off (yes I’m not entirely green) so its uptime is approach 600 days! That’s almost 2 years since I last rebooted, which means a lot of missing security patches and legacy OSes. I figure that it’s time to catch up, and this also gives me an opportunity to upgrade to Leopard and make my laptop all shiny again!

I’ve decided that I am going to do a full format and clean install the new OS. That means I’ve been copying stuff and “backing up” stuff the last few days. Going through this process, it pisses me off how there is no clear separation between data, configuration and system files. You can make an attempt to separate your data, but then you lose all the “convenience” folders and paths that the OS and your applications set up. Configuration and system files are even harder to separate, even on a Unix system, where there are random bits of information in configuration files or files in system directories.

Which means the approach that I ended up deciding on is to blow everything away and start anew. Since I don’t use my laptop, and if I did use a laptop it would probably be my work one, I am going to setup the install minimally. It will be used for web browsing, IM, email cache, and portable music DJ (i.e., iTunes Party Shuffle). Although, really I expect it only to be a neat place to try out Leopard.

One last thing that I didn’t get around to doing on my new computer is setting up my backup routine. Previously, I had been using rsync and cron jobs to backup some of my data too an off-site location. This seemed like it would be harder to do on Vista something other than Unix, but I found some tools to help me along.

cwRsync is a bundle which includes the necessary Cygwin libraries and rsync so that the rsync client can be used on Windows. There’s no GUI or anything so you still have to script the command line, but since I already had scripts from before, it was pretty straightforward (now that I found a rsync bundle for Windows!).

The replacement for cron on Vista is the Task Scheduler. I’ve seen it before in XP because I always had to disable from the system tray after installing the OS. Having actually used it now, it’s pretty straightforward but annoying. I really just want a view of all tasks that I scheduled, but apparently I have to see included with a large list of system tasks.

Now I just have to setup regularly off-disk but local backups for a larger set of files.

On Saturday, Alex x 2, Andrew, Keith and I went down to the Metro Convention Centre for the annual Fan Expo. The Fan Expo is how do I put this mildly, a geek show. It was a comic/sci-fi/horror/gaming/anime convention all put into one; and I should also add that it should have been a Nintendo DS convention as well since it seemed like everyone there had one (I guess they knew they had to wait in line). This was my first time at one of these things, and it was an interesting look at this sub-culture, as well as a role-reversal since we would be the “cool kids” (i.e., jocks and the like) in the social hierarchy (or are we the losers since we didn’t dress up in costume?).

We showed up at 11 and started lining up with a lot of cosplay and NDS players. Alex was in a rush because the Tricia Helfer (of Battlestar Galactica and Canada’s Next Top Model fame) had her autograph session at noon. We finally were able to buy our $25 ticket at 12:30 and make it in. I have diverging thoughts about the price of the ticket. On the one hand, it’s a cheap ticket compared to other experience events (i.e., concerts), but OTOH it’s a hella expensive general convention ticket considering I thought $12 for the Auto Show was not really worth it. Although, before going in, I was tempted to get the $45 Deluxe pass which would have enabled me to go on Sunday as well, and to enter some of the premium events. But in the end, it wouldn’t have been worth it as I pretty much saw what I wanted to in one day.

Once we got our ticket, our plan was to hurry to the autograph booths, but of course we were delayed and sidetracked to take pictures of people in costumes. It’s like Hallowe’en for adults! Eventually we did get to the autograph session in time. The organizers had conveniently placed Six’s booth so that you couldn’t really get a good view of her unless you paid your extra money. This was tall Alex’s highlight of the show, so he paid his $10 for the photo, $2 for the photo protector and $25 for the autograph and got in line (and if you wanted a photo with her, it would cost you another $40!). Having different priorities; Alex, Andrew and I decided to get some lunch instead. We lined for Pizza Pizza, and ironically it turned out that the line was longer and we were served slower than Tricia Helfer! But the pizza was fresh and at only $20 wasn’t too much of a rip.

The cellphone service was horrible (i.e., non-existent; thank you 850MHz), so we had some difficulty meeting up with Keith. Eventually once we were all together we walked around the merchant area and display booths. There were a lot of people selling comics, figurines (i.e., toys) and other anime knicknacks. The horror section was basically filled with marketing campaigns for upcoming horror movie and DVDs. The gaming area was split into two halves, one featured competitions as part of the World Series of Video Games, and the other was a free area sponsored by Intel where you could play a variety of games. Surprisingly, there was little lineup in that area! Oh right, because everyone was playing their DSes.

The coolest area by far (well aside from all the cosplay) was the Artist Alley. Here, various well-known and not so well-known artists peddled their art. I bought a couple of limited prints by Peter Repovski of Daredevil, Spider-man and Batman, but there was a lot of other stuff that I wanted to buy (but where would I put them?). Another cool thing was that you could commission artists to draw someone for you, and it wasn’t too expensive. But in general, it was neat seeing how people would draw characters so that they were catchy and sellable (one way is nudity).

The most popular area was the autograph area. There were a couple of well-known people there: various Star Trek and Star Wars people, George Romeo, Malcolm McDowell and Adam West. The cool people to see for me were the Star Trek people. Robert Beltram, who played Commander Chakotay on Star Trek: Voyager now had longer, shaggier hair. Dwight Schultz, who played Lt Barclay on Star Trek: TNG and Voyager looked much, much older. Jonathan Frakes, who played Commander Riker on Star Trek: TNG looked a little older but much the same as he did in the movies. Andrew and Alex (he likes his autographs!) paid to get a sign picture with Frakes, and I was tempted to as well, but $25 doesn’t seem worth it. The last celebrity of note was Charisma Carpenter who appeared on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Playboy. However, because I was taking pictures of Frakes I wasn’t able to be at her booth when she arrived and couldn’t get any good shots. By the time I arrived, they had placed a fat guy (must have been hard to find someone to fill that role at the convention) in the way to block the view.

On (short) Alex’s recommendation, we left the show area and headed to some sessions. Alex recommended the Sketch Offs where two artists are given a random artist to sketch while answering questions. At the end of the Sketch Off, each drawing was raffled off to a lucky audience member. The first one we saw was between Michael Turner and Oliver Coipel. I actually knew who Turner was because I collected Fathom way back when and apparently he’s been doing a lot of covers of comics that I follow. I don’t know Coipel at all, although he is drawing the current run of Thor (which I never started reading), and he had horrible answers to his questions. Although, I thought his drawing was better (maybe because he spent less time answering questions). The redeeming feature for him was that Andrew was the lucky winner of his Captain America sketch!

The next Sketch Off was not so great. It didn’t help that I didn’t know who any of the people were (nor what they drew). There were 3 anime artists from Japan (the guy who draws Trigun, the guy who draws Chrno Crusade, and someone else) and a local artist swapped and they drew each others’ characters. I suppose due to the difficulties of translating, instead of asking questions to the artists, the MC decided to kill time by selecting random people from the raffle and bringing them up to the front. You either had to say what you liked about the artists’ work (oops I knew no one), or otherwise entertain the audience for a minute or two. I thought this was a horrible idea because it made the audience part of the “show”. It was even worse when the artists weren’t finished on time so people kept getting called up. In the end, none of us got called up nor did we win in the raffle this time. The drawings themselves seemed better than the previous Sketch Off but I can’t really say because I don’t follow any of their shows.

And that was the end of a long but fun day, we went to East Side Mario’s for some dinner and then headed home.

One of the reason’s I waited so long to get a new computer was in order to get Vista bundled free. Now that I’ve been playing around and setting things up, here are some observations and thoughts on Vista and my new computer:

  • Vista has this nice ability where you can shrink and create new partitions, however it doesn’t know to move system files around and so you can’t really shrink partitions much. Also it can’t move partitions which is irritating.
  • The Aero theme looks better than Luna, the XP theme (although I wouldn’t go to say it’s better than OS X). However, there are too many borders and toolbars on the windows so I need a larger monitor (or dual) to have enough real estate.
  • UAE (i.e., cancel or allow?) is just as annoying as the Apple commercials make it, but the only time it rears its ugly head too often is when you’re in the Control Panel.
  • Don’t try to install an old version of Alcohol 120%. It’s not Vista compatible and will blue screen Vista every time immediately after you log in.
  • Java doesn’t work with Firefox at all, and hangs Firefox every time it runs. You have to use IE7 if you need Java applet support (i.e., Facebook photo uploader). Basically Java always causes UAE to activate.
  • Some programs have random hangs or just don’t work. Usually the culprit is that UAE is acting like the Gestapo and silences the offending program when it tries to do something.
  • I have 8 USB ports, and they’re all used up for: mouse, keyboard, scanner, HD enclosure, media card reader (doesn’t even work in Vista…), cell phone cable, printer, iPod dock.
  • The uptime on my laptop is over 500 days, I’ve rebooted Vista some 50ish times in 5 days.
  • I can finally run banlist properly (with UAE disabled) and I installed Warcraft on emulated drives so I don’t have to swap disks or find no-cd cracks
  • Why aren’t there ANY good RSS readers for Windows? Is this why web-based readers are so popular? The best I’ve found is RSSOwl, but even that is sorely lacking. After some more searching, I’m using Feedreader (great name…).
  • A lot of the old hacks still work, I edited my registry to launch a text editor on any file using the context menu. Same thing that I did in XP and before.

I bought a DSL modem/router because I signed up for DSL with TekSavvy on their $30/mth 5Mb no cap service. I have heard good things about them, and they’re cheaper than Bell without a contract (ask me for a referral, I get a $1/mth discount per person). Although, they’re not the cheapest provider which would be Acanac with their $19/mth taxes in offer, but that requires a one-year contract. I signed up on August 2nd, the day before I left for the long weekend, so that things would be setup by the time I got back (well they quoted the Wednesday, 8/8). I finally got everything hooked up and working on Friday, the 17th!

I can’t say it was the fault of TekSavvy, although I now have their tech support number memorized. After the 8th came and passed, I called them up to see what was happening and they opened a ticket with Bell to have it looked at. I called 24h later, as they suggested, to get an update; but they said the work had been done yet my internet still did not work. So another ticket was opened, and this time Bell actually called to see if we needed to have any work done. Of course, my dad said no and the ticket was again closed. So I called back and asked them to re-open the ticket which they did eventually. At this point, I was wondering that maybe the line was OK, since my building was relatively new. So I went over to Victor’s place to check out my modem and indeed it was a dud. I went to Canada Computers the next day and replaced it, and yep my Internet still did not work.

So back to dealing with Bell. I actually spoke with a field tech on the phone about the latest ticket, but because I had a problem with DSL and not vDSL (which is used in my building), and I’m not getting my internet through Bell, then he wasn’t supposed to look at it. I tried explaining to him that my ISP subcontracts to Bell look after the lines, but he said he had to check with his boss, who of course “said” no. I called TekSavvy back and explained the situation to them again, and the opened yet another ticket. This time, a different field tech showed up and came up to see what the situation was. He was a bit flaky, and seemed to have training on what to do rather than knowing what to do, but was kind of a nice guy. After hearing that I was getting internet through a 3rd party provider, but over Bell hardware; he called a couple of his friends and chatted with them (both about business and not) to get some idea on how to proceed. He said that he heard of situations like this, but I guess there was no official memo from Bell telling their field techs that something like this would actually occur.

Anyways, in the end, he sorted things out and I finally have internet. The problem was that I get TV, phone, and internet (if I subscribed to Sympatico) through one phone line using vDSL. I couldn’t add normal DSL on top of vDSL since 1) the DSL has to go to a separate non-vDSL DSLAM, and 2) I can’t overlap another signal on the high frequencies. So the tech set up a dry pair to run the TV signal and put my phone and (normal) DSL on the other pair. It seems like everything’s sorted out, but let’s see whether the next Bell phone bill is messed up or not.

After talking about getting a new computer more than half a year ago, I finally bought one today. This is my first desktop in 7 years; the last one I bought before entering University. I’m surprised it took that long to get from want to bought, usually if it there is some tech item I’m lusting over, I end up buying it soon because I’m anxious and can’t stop thinking about it. I guess it’s because I already have a computer and don’t really need a replacement. So why did I finally make the purchase? I guess it’s because I’ve been thinking about junking a lot of the old computer equipment sitting around and rewiring everything (since internet is broken); so I figured I need to consolidate all my hard drives and data onto one place. Plus it’s back to school time so there should be deals right?

I ended up buying from Dell because I’m past my hardware tinkering days, so it’s not worth it to figure what goes together, look for bargains, buy all the components, and assemble it myself — even if it saves me $50 to $100. So I paid $689 pre-tax and this is what I got:

  • Intel Core™ 2 Duo Processor E4400 (2MB L2 Cache, 2.0GHz, 800FSB)
  • 2GB Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 667MHz
  • 128MB nVidia GeForce 8300 GS
  • 16X CD/DVD burner (DVD+/-RW) w/double layer write capability
  • 250GB Serial ATA 3Gb/s Hard Drive (7200RPM) w/DataBurst Cache™
  • + the usual garbage (mice, keyboard, warranty, support, Vista, free DSL)

There was also an option to get a 22″ monitor with the package for an extra $310. I was on the fence about this but decided to not get it even though it is somewhat cheaper than buying a 22″ monitor by itself. The rationale is because I will have dual monitors eventually, so if I get the 22″ monitor, then I would have a dual setup of 22″ and 19″. That’s just crazy! Plus did you know that you could get 17″ LCDs for only $130! Originally I was thinking that I would use whatever monitor I received from my computer to replace my parents’ CRT, but I could buy a replacement for so much cheaper (their desk can’t even fit a 22″).

Also, I would have bought an AMD processor, but I couldn’t unbundle the monitor in those packages.

I picked up a combo DSL modem/wireless router yesterday at Canada Computers, and I actually paid by credit card! Why would I do such a thing? well because it was only $20 so the cash discount was only 40¢. The device was so cheap because it was refurbished, but it seemed to look alright; at least it wasn’t slimy or dusty.

When I opened the box, the only things that were in it were the modem itself and the power adapter. No manuals, instructions, CDs, or cables! Fortunately, I knew what I was doing. So I plugged the power in, and plugged an ethernet cable to my computer. The DHCP was working so I received an IP ( Who starts their IPs at x.x.x.65 by default?? I decided to load up the admin tool and “fix” this problem, of course I had to go there anyways to “set things up”. So I tried, hmm nothing there. How about Nope. I tried a few other random addresses before looking up my gateway.; who puts the admin server on the last IP in the range?? But at least now I was in the admin tool and able to change things back to normal.

The next dumb problem I encountered was to login to the admin console. Because there were no instructions, I had no idea what the password was. There was a handy “I forgot my password” link on the page though, so I clicked it and the hint was “my husband”. It was then that I realized that when the device was refurbished, they didn’t bother reseting the software on it! The admin interface kept a record of previous devices connected to it, so I saw that a computer by the name of jamesandbobbi used to be connected. I tried james but that didn’t work. This was getting retarded, so I looked for a master reset; and wouldn’t you know it, there was one on the box. Why couldn’t they have pressed this button before packing the modem?

After that, things went smoothly. I changed the defaults back to more common values, and setup the wireless security. For a cheap device, it has most of the important features, including port forwarding and basic firewall. The only thing that’s missing is the ability to restrict access based on MAC addresses, but WPA should be enough.

Oh those spammers are clever. They send all sorts of spam to my domain by using a dictionary attack for potential addresses. It certainly is a pain because I have a catch-all email, so basically whatever they try, it’ll reach me. In the ever escalating arms race, I’ve been filtering all my catch-all mail through a Gmail account, and leveraging their spam filtering capabilities to sort out the cruft. This works off and on, and at some points I have had about 70,000 spam mails in my Gmail spam folder.

The reason for that huge number is because every once in awhile I get joe-jobbed. What that means is that spammers use random email addresses at my domain as the return address for their spam, so in the millions that they send, maybe 1% of them are bounced back or returned to their “original” email address, giving me several tens of thousands of emails that I didn’t send.

So whatever, that was annoying but I’ve trained Gmail to handle it. The other clever thing that spammers are trying is to send direct spam to random email address on my account, and setting the From: address to the same domain. I guess that they figure if the sender is from your own domain, there is a much higher confidence that it is not spam. That’s great and all, except I only use a couple of email addresses on my domain to send mail, so once I realized this, it was simple to create a filter to detect those email addresses and junk all the other ones.

There are so many of us that play Warcraft, that we have enough people to create a Warcraft clan from just people that we’ve actually, physically met in R.L. (i.e., Real Life).

Amazing I know, so it is with no surprise that we would all gather together on a Friday night (although it was more like a Saturday thanks to the long weekend) to have a Warcraft party, graciously hosted at Ben’s pad. We ended up with 10 computers with half of them being laptops, although between the 2 Victors they brought like 5 computers! Good thing for the LCD revolution.

Nelson also brought along his Wii so that all the non-nerds at this nerd party would have something to do. We spent a lot of time shaving sheep, milking cows, and other tiring hilarity. This story is useless without videos, but I have the next best thing: BOOP party pictures on Facebook.

I have a couple of monitors running on my laptop, which tells me my CPU usage and network usage — useful for those times when I’m wondering why it is unresponsive. Under the CPU usage, there’s a handy infographic that informs me of my uptime. Pretty useless since I don’t run a server, but a great claim to geekery when I can blog that I haven’t rebooted my computer in over 365 days! Yes, don’t hack my computer because that’s a lot of security patches; plus, I’m operating one hour in the past.

This is particularly impressive because I’ve been using my laptop as my primary computer for the last few years. When I was in school, it was useful because it solved the problem of synchronizing my home computer and my computer at school — just use the same one! Plus there were all the other advantages of using a laptop: surfing in class, not being tethered to your desk, etc. Now that I’m no longer in school, it doesn’t actually make as much sense; but I haven’t gotten around to buying a new computer yet.

Now that I’m using a wiki for note taking and tracking odds & ends, I still don’t understand why they are so popular. Sure it’s easier to create new pages on random topics. Sure it’s easy to collaborate, but less so when it’s a personal wiki. Sure it’s easier to create tables and format your text, except I had to learn it all from scratch, and is counter-intuitive since I’m used to HTML.

Even the whole “quick” factor is lost on me (Wiki is Hawaiian for “quick”). I find the most frustrating part about using a wiki is that it is SLOW. It takes a long time to render the page (and translate from the simplistic formatting to real HTML), and to edit a new page to add new content. So the most important features, getting my notes and writing new notes, are the performance bottlenecks. Great. Well at least it’s online accessible.

I finally got around to playing with Yahoo! Pipes. The interweb said it was cool, I thought it might be useful, and when I finally tried making stuff in it, it is pretty neat! This just cements my opinion that Yahoo! is the new Google. If you haven’t tried Pipes, it’s basically the concept of Unix pipes brought onto the Web, where your inputs are RSS feeds and so forth.

Just to see how things work, I created an orangefever master RSS feed. It combines my existing blog, comments, and links feed into one feed and arranges them in chronological order. It’s probably more convenient for you than subscribing to three separate feeds; plus took 5 minutes to create!