13 November, 2006

The Latest

Current items that trip my e-trigger:


Firefox 2.0 – Oh yeah.  Brilliant.  Sure, I upgraded my IE to version 7, and Microsoft did a decent upgrade.  A wizard would have been nice though, to warn me about the security changes and offer to adjust them based on my criteria.  With Firefox 2.0, none of that was necessary.  Everything simply worked, out of the gate.  And incompatible Firefox 1.5.x extensions were pointed out, and updates were offered where available, etc.  Very mature product.


Escape Pod – SF Podcast.  You’ll be mesmerized.


1080i LCD HDTV’s – LCD has finally come into its own, rendering plasma irrelevant.  Now if the prices can get near DLP, we’ll be smokin’.


SharePoint in the workplace – Goodbye public folders.  So long wonderful emails that get lost.  The BBS concept on the intranet.


TigerDirect.com, Buy.com, and Computer Shopper – Among these three, who needs to leave the house to shop, Geek?


Voting – It’s come back into vogue.


3,300,000 year old human skull --  Check out Scientific American for more information.


$50 Starbucks card from my in-laws --  I’m more jittery and crazed then ever, and at someone else’s expense.


Porn Music Ringtone – I googled ringtones and found this one.  Associate it with someone you love (or want to love), and get that vibe when they call.


1GB MicroSD Flash Card for my phone – My original PC was an Apple ][+ with 48K of memory.  My phone has a 1GB card.  Sign me up for the old folks home.  I can take movies of my kids, all the pictures I want, house MP3’s on it…and it just keeps lettin’ me.


Ghost Recon, the original – I bought this game back in 2001 and recently re-discovered it, and my peeps and I have been playing it online against each other now and then.  It stands the test of time.  Can’t see our weapons hanging out in front of us, but otherwise it still rocks.  Plus we can use our crappy old sloppy-seconds PC’s if we want to.


Smallville – It’s gotten more interesting now that Pa Kent bit it and the Green Arrow joined up.  I just wish I could remember to whom I lent some of the prior seasons’ DVD’s so I can get them back.


David Brin’s Uplift Novels – Folks have suggested I read these for years, and I finally started.  Fun.


Secure Flash Drives – Come on!  The ability to transport one’s files around, securely…on the cheap?  Buck Rogers, Baby?  Who?



16 September, 2006

Accessing Yahoo! Email via one's POP email application

At http://ypops.sourceforge.net/modules.php?op=modload&name=Sections&file=index&req=listarticles&secid=1 you can find a handy application that will allow your email application to upload and download Yahoo! email.  I use Outlook 2003, but there are instructions there for many different apps and platforms.
I haven't tried it yet; I just found it, and I'm not on my primary Outlook-bearing PC, but I'll give it a try and post the resutls.

How low will we go? Check out Yahoo! Messenger’s low PC-to-Phone call rates.

03 September, 2006

Pluto - Planet or not...irrelevent

Uh oh! I was actually serious in an email response to my old buddy Joel. Mostly, anyway. I had to go off on him a bit for forwarding the link (bottom of this email) to me that he did.

From: ebaleytherogue
Sent: Friday, September 01, 2006 9:27 PM
To: my peeps
Subject: RE: Fight On! Save our System!

I know you’re being tongue-in-cheek, but I’ve been following this debate for years, and I agree with ole Clyde Tombaugh himself, who when asked about Pluto’s nebulous (no pun intended) planetary status would usually sigh and say, “It is what it is.” The question of the rock’s designation was the least interesting to Tombaugh, and indeed, to most scientists who actually study the things. Dwellers in semantics give a rat’s ass for something to do, but those who analyze extra-terrestrial bodies’ compositions, looking for gases and metals, just care about what is there and how it got there, and not what arbitrary designations the composite globs themselves bear. I can mix a bunch of ingredients in a bowl, pour it onto a griddle, and someone will call it a flapjack and someone else will call it a pancake. Me, I’ll just eat the damn thing and know what I put in it.

Although I think the IAU’s definition of a planet is about as useful as trying to separate bad erotica from high class porn, I do tend to agree with them that classifying three or more dozen – to several hundred – more objects as Solar planets would be way too confusing…and would produce no positive or useful outcome, excepting the fun it would be to DVR The Today Show and watch them stumble through the topic. Thus, I propose the following alternative, by my alter ego, Dan Reams:

Definition of a Planet

By Dan Reams

A Solar Planet shall be:

  • One of these: Mercury, Earth, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus or Neptune, or
  • Of equal or greater mass than Mercury, with an orbit of primary slavishness to Sol (versus to another object)

Every other floating thing out there shall be considered one of the following:

  • Planetary Satellites (which would or would not qualify to be planets if the poor bastards had not been captured by one of the “true” planets at some point, or they might also qualify as one of the below…)
  • Asteroid
  • Comet
  • Dust
  • Ice Chunk
  • Meteor
  • Black Hole
  • Mini-Black Hole
  • Light
  • Heat
  • Gas
  • Plasma
  • Black Matter
  • Black Energy
  • Star (of which there are also many varieties)
  • Human-made artifacts
  • Alien artifacts
  • Weird “Other” shit

Now then, since that is done, it’s time to get back to the science. Let’s just admit we’re all circling the drain pipe, flotsam arguing over our names…as we all go down one by one.

Oh, and sure, I no doubt left out as many or more bullet points as I included. Feel free to pummel me about it.

From: Joel Ward
Sent: Friday, September 01, 2006 4:03 PM
Subject: Fight On! Save our System!

Give 'em hell, sciencey guys, give 'em hell! I'll buy the bullets!!!!!!!!!!!!


24 August, 2006

Current Podcasts on my MP3 Player

            My current podcast subscriptions focus on science, IT, and writing topics, with a little local and world news thrown in.


http://radio.weblogs.com/0001014/categories/ipodderTestChannel/rss.xml "Juice News" title="Juice News" type="rss"

http://juicereceiver.sf.net/podcasts/juice-users.xml "Free Talk Live : Podcast" title="Free Talk Live : Podcast" type="rss"

http://freetalklive.com/files/dircaster.php "Buffy BuffCast" title="Buffy BuffCast" type="rss"

http://www.geekshow.us/buffy.xml "Best of VH1 (Video)" title="Best of VH1 (Video)" type="rss"

http://www.eonline.com/Podcasts/Daily10/index.xml?rss_daily10 "Midwest Today Radio" title="Midwest Today Radio" type="rss"

http://midwesttoday.podblaze.com/skin_midwesttoday.xml "On The Media from NPR/WNYC" title="On The Media from NPR/WNYC" type="rss"

http://www.kutvfreshair.com/podcast/rss/KUTVBloopers.xml "this WEEK in TECH - MP3 Edition" title="this WEEK in TECH - MP3 Edition" type="rss"

http://leo.am/podcasts/twit "WUWM News" title="WUWM News" type="rss"

http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/wuwm/news.newsmain?action=podcast&section=1 "WUWM: At 10" title="WUWM: At 10" type="rss"

http://www.wuwm.com/podcast.php?program=at10 "NPR: Technology" title="NPR: Technology" type="rss"

http://www.npr.org/rss/podcast.php?id=1019&uid=a2a2d837f6845ca5cbb01619e202d695 "APM: Future Tense" title="APM: Future Tense" type="rss"

http://www.npr.org/rss/podcast.php?id=510014&uid=a2a2d837f6845ca5cbb01619e202d695 "Science @ NASA Feature Stories Podcast" title="Science @ NASA Feature Stories Podcast" type="rss"

http://science.nasa.gov/podcast.xml "APM: Weekend America" title="APM: Weekend America" type="rss"

http://feeds.feedburner.com/beerdotcom "Escape Pod" title="Escape Pod" type="rss"

http://feeds.feedburner.com/escapepod "science friday podcast" title="science friday podcast" type="rss"

http://feeds.feedburner.com/SoulAmp "AP CelebrityFocus" title="AP CelebrityFocus" type="rss"

http://podcast.ap.org/podcasts/AP_CelebrityFocus.xml?SITE=WIMIL&TYPE=podcast&NAME=CelebrityFocus "The Naked Novelist" title="The Naked Novelist" type="rss"

http://thenakednovelist.libsyn.com/rss "The Publishing Coach" title="The Publishing Coach" type="rss"

http://possibill.audioblog.com/rss/publishingcoach.xml "The Writing Show" title="The Writing Show" type="rss"

http://www.writingshow.com/Feeds/feed.mrss.xml "ZDNet: IT Matters" title="ZDNet: IT Matters" type="rss"

http://news.com.com/av/z/pod/zdnet_itmatters.xml "Dragon Page Cover to Cover - Science fiction books & author interviews with Michael & Evo" title="Dragon Page Cover to Cover - Science fiction books & author interviews with Michael & Evo" type="rss"

http://dragonpage.com/podcastC2C.xml </outline></body></opml>

19 July, 2006

Summer TV for the Sci-Fi Set

            Been watching or almost-watching (queued up ready to be viewed on the DVR) the following this summer, in between camping trips, trying to keep my lawn alive, and trying to figure out how to do more with less (the mantra of the 2000’s) at work.


  • Blade: The Series – Not since Highlander: The Series has a syndicated low-tech (no space ships, but vampires) SF/Fantasy show appeared with the style so well done.  SPIKETV
  • The 4400 – Now in season III, it’s rolling along finally with more new episodes.  I have five of them on the DVR, but finding time when the wife and I can watch them together is tough, so they continue to accumulate.  I’ve never missed an episode.  USA NETWORK
  • Eureka – Recorded the series premiere but have not yet watched it.
  • Dead Like Me – Again, recorded the premiere….
  • Nightmares & Dreamscapes: (Anthology series, Stephen King) – I watched the first one, cuz I like William Hurt.  It was fun because Hurt never uttered a single word.  Seen the Toy Soldiers thing in other movies though (Toy Story, Toy Soldiers), so not very original, but nice production values.
  • Stargate: SG1 and Stargate: Atlantis – both series new seasons have begun.  SG1, I still miss Richard Dean Anderson, but it’s a solid show.  Atlantis, Dr. McKay is worth the price of admission; I strive to be that level of asshole every day.  I wish.




14 July, 2006

Things that Irk Me - Part 2 - Joint (Couples) Email Boxes

An addendum to my ‘What Irks Me’ list:

Joint Email Accounts. Don’t you just love it when you get an email message from “Dick and Jane Doe”, like,

Hi, ____! How are you doing? Here’s some really good information. Talk to you later,


- Dick and Jane

Okay, so was it Dick or was it Jane who emailed me?! Do these people not have independent personalities? I’m sure they think it’s cute, or even convenient, but it really is irritating to be on the receiving end of such a thing. At least, if one is going to have the duo ‘Dick and Jane’ in the default signature, of the email, then for Godsakes take the time to put the –Dick or –Jane in after typing the email text! Usually I reply, “Thanks! By the way, was it Dick or Jane that sent me that message?”

I liken it to having one of those creepy voice scramblers, on the other end of the phone, that changes the voice to a computer voice or other non-descript/non-gender voice, and having the person answer “Dick and Jane here.” Dammit! Just tell me who you are!


- The whole Hee-Haw Gang (Junior Samples, Minny Pearl, Roy Clark, Buck Owens, String Bean)

23 June, 2006

Bought my wife a Sansa e260 MP3 player

            My wife requested a flash-based MP3 player, due to her working out and not wanting to break a harddrive based unit.  After interviewing her, I realized a Nano-class device was preferable for her needs.  After extensive side-by-side comparison research – feature set, reviews, aesthetics – I chose the Sandisk Sansa e260.  It comes in 2, 4, and 6GB configurations, so I chose the middle ground of 4GB for her.  The metal case (versus the iPod’s plastic case) just makes more sense.  It’s the same footprint although a little bit thicker than a Nano.


            Although primarily designed as an audio device, it displays both pictures and video smoothly.  In fact, she stated she would probably never use the video features, but after I dragged some of her favorite shows, from the ReplayTV DVR to the converter application, I think she is now hooked.  Basically, she now has a hand-held DVR for the car ride on our camping trips, and a music/talk player for her workout needs.


21 March, 2006

Led Zeppelin - 2 DVD Box Set - A review

At my favorite used DVD/CD store, I bought the Led Zeppelin 2-disc box set (self-titled).

Being an ever increasingly avid fan of 5.1 digital DTS soundtracks (which seem superior to Dolby digital 5.1 in most cases), I was excited to get it for $13, in perfect condition.

I remember watching, back in..oh..1984 or ’85, ‘The Song Remains the Same’, at a Midnight movie. I remember it [vaguely] as being of poor visual quality, and mediocre sound, not to mention not the best performances. This compilation is far different. The soundtrack, remastered for 5.1 surround sound, is superb, and the concert footage is top notch! My home theater system (wired by me, before we put up the drywall in the basement, and fine-tuned by an audiophile friend of mine) does it justice. All six speakers are utilized.

The only downfall is that Moby Dick is the pre-album version, and ole Bonham had yet to make it very interesting. Either that or he was smashed off his ass and forgot to do anything interesting.

Masters in their prime. I highly recommend this set.

For a list of songs and features, see http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00008PX8P/002-7486936-5202413?v=glance&n=130

21 January, 2006

Internet Filter for the kids - K9 Web Protection

I am glad my kids have my old PC, but as they have gotten more savvy, I needed a good porn/violence filter that was easy enough to use and configure, and not so intrusive as to make me disable it. I did not want it hard for them to be able to build an animated Neo Pet, nor difficult for me to read Yahoo! News or Google some interesting factoid.

I tried Internet Explorer's built-in Content Advisor, which either a) blocks all Internet content except for explicitly allowed sites, or b) allows a parent to lean over the kids' shoulders and type in a master password, that will then allow the kids to visit the site (with options to 'always allow' or 'just allow this time'). The problem is that the Content Advisor is turned on, across all Windows users. Since we have multiple Windows XP users, on the one PC, this became a hassle, since even my wife and I use that PC on occasion, and were thus forced to input the Admin password every time we browsed to somewhere new.

So, I disabled Content Advisor, and searched for something else. K9 Web Protection (http://www.k9webprotection.com/) seems to a good solution. It works from a database, via the WEB, of nasty sites, and blocks them. The Admin can get around it, if one likes, but for the very most part, problems do not arise. It is easily customizable, via an Admin screen accessible via one's WEB browser (though it exists locally on the PC). You can get this free product at the site mentioned above, free for home users (but charged for corporate users).

07 January, 2006

Google Pack - PC Essentials

            If you just arrived on the planet, and thus do not already have your PC virus protected, adware protected, and chock full of fun Google tools, download the Google pack, from http://pack.google.com/.  Check it out.



05 January, 2006

I added a DVD Recorder to my home entertainment system

See the bottom of this post for an update posted May 16, 2006.

I bought a CyberHome Progressive-Scan DVD+R/+RW Recorder (Model DVR1600) yesterday, at Best Buy (not online, although the link to the product is provided here, for your reference). After tax it came to $97, plus change.


I got it so I could more quickly move my home DV tapes to DVD (firewire port included), but an added bonus is being able to burn TV shows (and of course, shows from the ReplayTV). I have a few DVD+RW’s lying around that I can re-use. In this way I can share interesting stuff that I see, they can return the media to me later for re-use.

I tested it out last night, and it works great. It has about $250 worth of features for a hair under $100. It was fun to finally have a home entertainment center device that has a ‘format disc’ option. <grin>. I used it to delete the season premiere of Smallville (previously recorded to the DVD+RW by having downloaded it, from my ReplayTV DVR, to my PC, then burned via Roxio, after converting the MPEG to the proper format).

The only hiccups I have so far is that I need to pick up another S-Video cable (thought I had one lying around) and the coax that it came with (for the built-in TV tuner) is non-shielded, so it picks up interference. Aside from that everything works as good as or better than I imagined it would.

For example, it has a more dynamic editing capability than I had anticipated. During recording, one can hit the OTR button (as on a VCR), and add increments of 30 minutes, to the recording time. One can pause the recording actively, or – and this is cool – one can hit the ‘CM Skip’ (stands for ‘commercial’, but they never explicitly say it) button to have the machine pause the recording in 30 second increments, for the obvious benefit of skipping commercials. The caveat is that, for that feature to work, one has to actively watch the recording. However, after recording, one can use the A (begin selection) and B (end selection) buttons to select blocks to delete. In this way, one can edit out all the commercials, from the comfort of the couch and remote control.

The coaxial connection is a pass-through – not an output of the DVD player – and thus one can record a show, via the tuner, and still use the TV or other components without interference. I like that a lot. DVD players should not have the ability to export their product via coaxial anyway (purist in me), and this way I do not have to suffer through a coaxial video output even by mistake. So, I have my cable TV cable connected, from the wall, to this DVD recorder, then out to my ReplayTV DVR, and then into my TV. Thus, I can record one show, on DVD, while simultaneously recording another show, on my DVR. Welcome to the world of two DVR’s in one entertainment center!

When using the menu, it places the video source in a picture-in-picture, so you can modify the options while still viewing the source material.

It uses DVD+R/RW, which I have several of anyway, since that is also the format of my two PC’s’ burners. I prefer +RW, because a) I can re-use them, and b) they do not need finalization prior to playing in standard DVD players (“standard DVD players” that can play DVD+R/RW discs, that is). Were I to use DVD+R discs, I would need to finalize them, prior to lending them to someone, or likely they would not be able to be played in the person’s player. Also, all editing needs to be done, prior to finalization.

I love it.

Update: May 16, 2006

I no longer love it. In fact, it's a pretty lousy device. The DVD's often do not play in my PC's, because the menu system is non-standard or somesuch. If you buy this device, think of it as a replacement for your VHS VCR only, and even then for the express purpose of watching TV shows, then deleting them. Discs I lend to others, to play on their home DVD players, rarely function for them, even if their devices support the format of the disc (DVD+R, DVD-R, etc.). You've been warned.

03 January, 2006

Things that irk me - Part 1

I am someone who tends to get bothered by things, things that may not bother anyone else.

Open drawers bother me. They ruin the order of a room.

People who order food for a dozen people, through the drive-up: Hey, you’re in a drive-up. Go inside. You can use the exercise, and I want my meal.

Coffee Shops that charge for wireless hotspot access: I’ll go somewhere else. For $3.50 for a cup of milked-down joe, I want my browsing included. I’m not a table hog, and I have multiple beverages, per trip. You listening, Starbucks? Sure, I still visit you, but only during lunches. At night, if I have work or writing to do, I go to a local shop. (Where? Local Coffee Shops: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/coffeejoints/)

People who honk as they approach you, thinking you just might pull out in front of them: Um…if you’re that paranoid, you should stop driving before you have a stroke and cause an accident yourself.

Product wrapping that could survive re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere: I once bought an all-purpose tool, with a knife, can opener, and little bitty scissors. I bought it so that I could keep it in my car, in case I needed to open wrapping, in the car. I had to take it home to open it.

DVD’s that make me watch the previews: I bought or rented the DVD; I don’t want to be forced to watch the ads. Might as well go to a theater. Let me go to the menu!

Software updates that result in system lock-ups: I’ve worked in IT since 1994, and I’m pretty savvy with this stuff. But, I still get suckered by the world of automatic updates, and end up with crap that seizes up on me. Chalk it up to a personality flaw. Firefox 1.5…Windows XP…good products (I’m not an anti-Microsoft religious freak, even though I started out on an Apple ][+ in 1982), but c’mon, Folks, QA QA QA your updates….

People who consistently won’t meet anyone’s eyes in the hallway: I don’t trust you. Anyone can have an off-day, but an off-decade? Go program something.

Motion/Heat sensing garage door opener lights: The motion sensor on my Craftsman ¾ HP unit (similar if not identical to http://www.sears.com/sr/javasr/product.do?BV_UseBVCookie=Yes&vertical=TOOL&pid=00953990000) sees us enter the garage, from the house, and turns on the lights. Sometimes. Other times, I peek my head out there, to grab a soda, and the light is already on. Here’s the deal. I move, you turn on. Five minutes later, you turn off. I don’t want to find you on, in the middle of the night, when no one has been out there for four hours. Dig? Motion-sensing is old school technology. Yes, I think it’s great that you can sense heat, as your motion guide. I too enjoyed Predator. Just be more accurate. You’re giving me a bad name, in my neighborhood (garage window = why does he have his garage light on at 3:00 AM?).

Trash cans with foot-controlled lids: You always break. Always. It’s just a matter of time. Yet, I keep buying you. Stupid. I don’t stomp you. I’m nice. Poor construction…poor execution of a nice idea.

Outdoor trash cans with non-attached lids: Why do I keep grabbing the lids that come with you? They blow away anyway. Next time, I’m buying the kind with the hinged lids (although I’m sure they will end up failing at some point).

People who feel that your work place owes you something: Last time I checked, you signed up to do a job. You doing it? I’m not talking about the one-horse town with the one employer, and the folks who have little other choice. Yeah, I think that can be legit, and those folks may need protection from employers who take advantage. I’m really talking about those folks who view their employer as a welfare provider.

Drivers who do not know how to use the median: The opening in the median was placed there so folks could turn there. I was not a geometry wiz, but even I figured out that, if you present your vehichle, to on-coming traffic, at an angle, it will appear shorter than it actually is. In English, this means angle your auto, while using the median, and your SUV’s big fat ass will not hang out into the lane. Added bonus: you’ll be pointed in the right direction, to continue left. Or, if you are going straight across (rude), you can probably still angle it a bit.

Blinkers: All cars have them. Why do so few folks use them, or know how to use them? How many times are you about to pull out, into traffic, because you see a car approaching, with its turn signal on, and you assume they are going to turn into the same lot you’re leaving, only to have them pass you by, on their way to the next (or even the next!) entrance? Answer: Almost daily. ‘Tis like Driver’s Ed was quickly forgotten after they bought or sexed their way to their license.

IM’ers who send “You you have time for a question?”, and you reply, “Apparently so, because I just answered that question, although it slowed down an answer to your forthcoming real question,” and they reply “I didn’t want to waste my time typing the real question, if you were not there,” and you reply “I’m glad I could take some extra time to save you time, then,” and they don’t get that you’re joking.

Being fixated on the 1980’s. I lived it. It was fun, but not that fun. Move on. The worst songs of the 80’s actually suck more than the worst songs of the 70’s, and that’s saying a lot. Whereas the best songs, of the 70’s, were better than the best songs of the 80’s. True story.

People who do not spell-check emails: What’s the hold-up? Does it “take too long” and “slow you down”? Hint: If you could spell correctly, at least now and then, Spellcheck would not slow you down, because it would rarely kick in. If it is slowing you down…good! Take the time, and spare the rest of us trying to figure out what you’re point is.

“I always find lost items in the last place I look.” And you would keep looking, after you find your items, because…?