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Left 4 Dead 2

I have been enjoying my time playing Left 4 Dead 2. I was originally skeptical about how much better or different it could be. While the idea is the same, the game is a lot better. Especially the sounds, they did a really good job making the environment sound real and authentic.

There are also new special infected which adds some much needed variety to the series. The melee weapons are new as well and particularly fun. My favorite thus far is the katana and the fire axe.

The game is also harder than the original, I havenít tried it on expert yet but Iíd imagine it is pretty intense. My favorite campaign thus far has been the Hard Rain campaign. The storm in it is really well done, the sounds being a big part of it. The AI is just as annoying as in the first game, if not more, so of course try and fill out your team with all human players whenever possible.

The versus mode has some nice new touches that I like. In particular the new progress indicators so you know how far youíve actually gotten in the level. Plus the new special infected adds some much needed variety when playing as the infected.

I still think that they should have offered some sort of discount if you bought the previous game. Since there was supposed to be a lot more free DLC for the first game than there actually was.

My final verdict though is that L4D2 is a solid game that is a lot of fun.

Posted on: Dec 6, 2009 at 4:52 pm - (428) comments.

Windows 7 Calculator

I found that in Windows 7 the Windows Calculator has gotten some new features. And one of them is actually really cool (at least to me). They've added a programmer and a statistics mode to the standard and scientific modes.

If you do a lot of work with hardware or low level software, it is actually pretty handy. I don't know if this was in Vista but it also can do unit conversions and date comparisons now too.

Posted on: Nov 28, 2009 at 10:53 am - (9) comments.

LAME 32/64 Bit Build Comparison

I've voiced my support for the 64-bit transition on Windows before. Whenever I can run native 64-bit software in Windows, I try. I downloaded the source code for LAME 3.98 off their website which also includes build support for 64-bit.

I compiled the 64-bit Windows version without any difficulty. However compared to the 32-bit 3.97 version I have used previously, I saw a 5x slow down. That wasn't very promising so I decided to do some more testing.

When running the 32-bit build without the assembly optimizations, it ran about 3x slower than 3.97. And with the assembly optimizations it ran about 3.6x slower. The results were surprising, I did some preliminary searching on Google for anyone reporting a slow down between the two versions and I couldn't find anything.

I did find some people saying the 64-bit version gave them about a 10% speed increase. The reason the 64-bit is slower is probably related to why the 32-bit version was slow as well. I don't know enough about the way the program was coded right now to determine why this is. In this instance I would have thought that the extra CPU registers would have improved the program performance.

In conclusion the most surprising thing is that regardless of the build architecture, the newer version was performing worse.

Posted on: Jul 22, 2009 at 12:14 am - (1) comments.

C++ HtmlHelp() Function Crashes With IE8

Apparently there is a new issue with Microsoftís HTML help system if you have Internet Explorer 8. If your program opens the help using the HtmlHelp call, when you go to exit, there is an access violation in ExitProcess.

This is a known issue as of mid-May that appears yet to be patched. However there is a work around, before the program exits if you manually unload the module the problem is avoided. In native Win32 apps, you can run this code in the WM_DESTROY message. The code to unload the module is shown below.

HMODULE hItssDll = GetModuleHandle(_T("itss.dll"));
if (hItssDll != 0)

I have not tested some older programs to see if they exhibit the crash, this issue was encountered with new development.

Posted on: Jun 4, 2009 at 9:46 am - (0) comments.

Star Trek 11

So the first official trailer for the new Star Trek film, Star Trek 11 (Watch it here) has been released. It has been a long time since Iíve blogged about Star Trek, 3 years in fact. Not since the last Star Trek series ended.

My feelings are mixed in regards to the new movie. The trailer certainly makes the story look cool, however if you even some cursory research on the plot it goes downhill from there. Apparently the movie is about time travel, which has me worried. Time travel is the absolute fall back plot device in the Sci-Fi genre. Time travel has been done effectively by Star Trek. The TNG series finale used it very well and is still a classic episode. The DS9 two-parter called "Past Tense" also used time travel effectively. The reason I worry now though is that the first movie in the ďnew ageĒ of Star Trek and they pulled out time travel on their first try.

From my last post on the finale of Enterprise, I said Star Trek needed some time off and new people behind it. Both of which has happened now, the only question is will they screw it up or not. I will of course go see the movie regardless and am holding back major judgment until I see it. As long as Star Trek doesnít go all OC in space like Stargate is headed, I wonít be exceptionally disappointed.

Posted on: Nov 29, 2008 at 3:43 pm - (0) comments.

Episode Organizer 3.0 2008 Status Report

While it has been a long time since I've posted about this program, development has been restarted on the Episode Organizer. A big side project frequently gets preempted by life so it has been a long process.

However I am proud to announce that a version is getting close to being released. It has been undergoing testing lately and is coming together. We have an updater program and a central database that has a lot of elist data in it. 64-bit Windows and Linux support is also now available.

There are but a handful of things standing in the way of us and a general release:

1. More extensive GUI testing
2. The web server side that will allow you to download data from the master db needs to be finished
3. The website that will allow wiki style editing of elists in the database

The new internal database provided by SQLite is much faster than using the Access DB (not to mention cross platform) and the regular expression engine is now from wxWidgets and is very quick which will cut down analysis times.

Now the 3.0 GUI will not have all of the features that the 2.x family had, those features will be slowly added in future releases. Most of the missing features are non-critical functions such as searching. But weíve also added some very useful ones like a permanent ignore list. If there is a file that keeps annoying you in a folder with videos you can add it to the ignore list and the Episode Organizer won't even bother with it.

Finally I would like to show off some screenshots of the new program: screenshots of 3.0

As for when the release will be made? I won't even bother to speculate, honestly I would like it to be no later than the end of the year but it just depends on what happens, there are only two of us working on it after all.

Posted on: Sep 9, 2008 at 4:09 pm - (0) comments.

Why I Care About Blu-ray

While harbor no real love for Sony for some of the major douche baggery things they've done in the past, while they are a major supporter of the Blu-ray format, it isn't just them behind the standard. For the time being I personally think Blu-ray isn't worth the money as a HD video format except on 60+ inch displays, especially if you already have a pretty solid DVD collection.

However one aspect of Blu-ray that I am looking forward to is when the cost comes down on Blu-ray burners for computers. At 25GB a layer the discs are in a much better position to be a superior backup medium than DVDs. Considering you have a terabyte of data in your computer without breaking a sweat these days, being able to back up your critical data at 25 or 50GB chunks is needed.

Beyond just data backup the reason burnable optical media still has a place in your computer is the fact that it is disposable. Just because a 16GB USB flash drive is under 100 dollars now doesnít mean optical media is useless. If you burn a CD or DVD to give to someone generally speaking you usually don't care if you get it back. USB flash drives aren't cheap enough to be disposable. Even if 4GB ones were down to around five dollars, it would still be too expensive to use and forget.

Once the burners get down to around $200 and the blank single layer media gets under a dollar a disc, I plan to get one for my computer.

Posted on: Sep 3, 2008 at 12:51 pm - (0) comments.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

It is August and frankly save for two or three shows on TV, it is all either crap or reruns. So here are some shows that are worth watching to help fill the void until the fall season starts next month. All of these shows have their first season (or more) available on DVD.

Burn Notice; this show is actually currently playing new episodes on USA right now. It is currently in the second season. The first season played last summer and season one is now available on DVD. The gist of the show is that it revolves around a US spy that got burned while on a mission. Now he is living in Miami and is working as a freelance spy/private investigator while investigating why he got burned. The show is a very good take on the spy genre; it mixes drama, action and comedy well. Michael (the spy) is more of a MacGyver than a James Bond and it works quite well.

Californication; this show plays on Showtime and is simply awesome. David Duchovny plays a struggling writer in LA. And as you'd expect for a show on Showtime, it can be fairly explicit at times. It talks about sex, drugs and boozing with no attempt to sugar coat it. Why the show is so great is hard to describe but it is certainly worth watching.

Rescue Me; if you haven't started watching this show, it is a solid choice. Season 5 starts in March 2009 with 22 episodes. Denis Leary plays a New York firefighter and the show revolves around him and his fellow firefighters working in a post-9/11 world. The show isn't so much about fighting fires as it is about all the stuff that happens in between jobs. There is some pretty solid humor in this show in addition to all the drama aspects.

Once the fall season starts I am looking forward to the following shows in particular: Heroes, The Office, CSI, Californication and House. Stargate Atlantis is currently playing now and it has been announced that it will not be taking the customary mid-season break this year so we will get to see all of season five before the year is out. Which I think is awesome and will help fill the sci-fi void until Battlestar comes back for its final ten episodes in early 2009.

Speaking of BSG, I think after a slow season 3.5, the first half of season four really was done well. I'm not going to even speak of the cliffhanger that we were left on in case anyone hasn't seen it yet.

CSI will be starting its 9th season this fall and last season we saw the departure of two of the cast and this season Grissom is leaving the show. I'm not quite sure how much gas is the left in the tank for this show. It still remains one of my favorite shows but in season eight it felt like they had lost some of that magic that made the show great.

Posted on: Aug 21, 2008 at 3:51 pm - (0) comments.

Retail 64-Bit... Finally

I am a strong supporter of the move to the next phase of computing: 64-bit. And finally you can see it happening at the retail level. Laptops now in retail stores that feature 3 or 4GB of RAM are now coming with 64-bit Vista instead of the 32-bit version.

This is an important step forward and probably a step that most average users won't even realize is happening. Unless they try to plug in their 6 year old inkjet printer. But more than likely there aren't even 32-bit Vista drivers for it. (Not that I am saying that is right, why throw out a otherwise perfectly good printer)

Even if your computer is only currently using 2GB of RAM, if you have a 64-bit processor, there is no reason not to use a 64-bit OS. The Windows side has finally started to come around. And as I've said before, those of us that use Linux are at least a year ahead of the Windows crowd on the transition.

I've been using 64-bit Linux on my C2D based laptop since June of last year and 64-bit XP on my C2Q based desktop since December. Neither machine has had any issues because of the 64-bit OS.

Posted on: Aug 9, 2008 at 8:16 pm - (0) comments.

Hot Plug

On most Unix-based operating systems it is possible to configure auto mount support. What this does is when new media such as a CD or USB drive is plugged in; it automatically mounts it and creates a shortcut icon on the desktop. Then once the device is un-mounted and removed, the icon disappears.

On Windows however there is no such functionality to automatically create and remove icons. So after a friend wanted to write a program to add that functionality but is much to busy to write a 400 line program, I decided to write it.

The program is fairly small; the memory footprint is around 4MB. You can head over to the project page to download it. I have included 32 and 64 bit versions of the program in the archive. This program does not poll for new devices; it listens for specific Windows API messages that get broadcast to all programs when a new device is connected. Until I did the research for this program I didn't realize that happened.

It should pick up on any removable devices that are inserted such as CD/DVD discs or USB jump drives. I have debugged the program as much as I could and shouldn't have any issues. However if you do have issues, please let me know through the contact page on the site here. If the program doesnít load you might need to update your C++ runtime libraries from here. I didnít feel it necessary to wrap the program in a setup utility which would make the manual runtime update unnecessary.

Posted on: Jun 2, 2008 at 9:18 pm - (0) comments.

Bits And Pieces

I've done a little work on my site as of late. Most of the changes aren't apparent to the outside observer though. One important thing to note is that I found a bug in the validation routine on my contact form. So it shouldn't falsely give you the warning about the water buffalo.

Onto other matters though: I have been thinking about doing a more serious overhaul of the website. I am thinking a new design might be in order as this one is getting old. I also want to revamp some of the internal mechanics.

If anyone has any suggestions on ideas for the site design-wise or anything, let me know. I'll probably work on it in a couple months from now.

Posted on: Apr 12, 2008 at 11:17 pm - (0) comments.

Repairing a GS108 gigabit switch

I've had a Netgear GS108 gigabit switch for over a year. It has worked great up until last week. I started to see the "flashing lights of death" on the front of it. Which also meant that is wouldnít function at all. There was also a very high frequency noise that could be heard coming from it.

Being a computer engineer, I wanted to try and fix it. After doing some googling, I learned that it sounded like this Netgear switch suffered from the capacitor plague.

After removing the two black screws in the back of the unit, the cover came off easy. Upon inspection, I could see two blown capacitors. In the below picture they are the two green ones closest to the heatsink. The way to tell if it is blown is to see if there is any leaking on the top or if it is bulging on the bottom. The capacitors should sit flush on the circuit board normally.

The capacitors that were bad were 1000uF 6.3V electrolytic capacitors. You could find replacement ones online from a website like Mouser easily. I would recommend if possible getting ones with a little higher capacitance and higher voltage rating. Like 2200uF 10V capacitors but if not new 1000uF capacitors will work.

One word of warning though, the case isn't very high so you have to be semi-careful that you don't buy capacitors that are too big.

The first step is to remove the old capacitors. There aren't too many components on the PCB so it is easy to find the pins for the capacitors. You should be able to remove them using a soldering iron fairly easily. Once you do, make sure you clean the holes out with some solder wick.

Now you can connect in your new capacitors. Do make sure you put them in the correct way. The new capacitors should be marked as to which side is positive or which side is negative. It does make a difference. The PCB is also marked with a + symbol on the outer circle near the positive pin. If you donít see that, the pin in the solid white half circle is the negative pin on the board.

The capacitors I bought were a little too big so I had to get a little creative on their placement. But once I soldered them in the switch now works great once again. This repair took me around 30 minutes to do. And it was a whole lot easier than dealing with horrible technical support.

Posted on: Mar 15, 2008 at 5:07 pm - (0) comments.

Don't Play With Dead Snakes

The CEO of Netscape in the 90s would often quote the phrase used as the title for this post. It is a proverb about not revisiting old decisions.

So, as was in the tech news not too long ago, one of the fixes coming in Vista SP1 is a fix for the 4GB memory problem in 32-bit versions of Windows Vista. The article on TechNet about it: here but Iíll just quote the part I'm referring to:

"With SP1, Windows Vista will report the amount of system memory installed rather than report the amount of system memory available to the OS. Therefore 32-bit systems equipped with 4GB of RAM will report all 4BG [sic] in many places throughout the OS, such as the System Control Panel. However, this behavior is dependent on having a compatible BIOS, so not all users may notice this change."

Now it is my understanding that the reason this is happening is that some manufacturers are starting to ship laptops and desktops with 4GB of RAM and users are experiencing the problem where they see around 3GB of RAM available to the OS. This is normally remedied by using a 64-bit operating system. However most computer manufacturers aren't shipping 64-bit OSes on laptops or desktops (except enterprise level stuff).

I also heard that most mobile chipsets currently don't support more than 4GB of memory at present but Iím not certain if that is true.

But in case you aren't familiar the whole situation with 4GB of memory has to do with how the motherboardís chipset is designed. Technically speaking a 32-bit processor can address 4GB of memory. But on the motherboard the upper 500-1024MB of that 4GB range is used for I/O devices. This particular method of using I/O devices is called memory mapped I/O. The benefit is that you can interact with different I/O devices just like they are memory and don't have to use different assembly instructions. For example, getting to use MOV instead of IN and OUT on x86 architecture to read and write data to an I/O device. The downside to memory mapped I/O though is that it uses up address space that could be used for RAM. However back when the decision to do this on the 32-bit x86 architecture, no one was using anywhere near 4GB of RAM so it wasnít a problem.

In the case of a 64-bit processor though, there is 16 exabytes of memory address space, a significant increase over 4GB. However to take advantage of this, the OS has to be 64-bit.

However since most consumer computers that have 64-bit processors aren't being sold with 64-bit operating systems, this problem is still around. The reason most likely is for compatibility issues. But by "fixing" the 4GB problem in 32-bit OSes instead of fixing the issues people have with running a 64-bit OS, they are focusing on delaying the inevitable. And in reality, I'd imagine a lot of people that are buying new computers arenít going to have that many problems with a 64-bit OS. This only applies to consumer computers being sold with Windows; those of us running 64-bit Linux are way more along on the transition.

2GB is starting to become the standard amount of memory in a computer with 4GB being the nice high end amount. I'd say by 2010, 4GB is going to be way more common. The move to 64-bit is going to happen eventually, it is better to embrace it sooner rather than later.

So as an industry, we shouldn't revisit the decision to use memory mapped I/O in the upper 4GB of memory and focus on eliminating the problem (for now anyways) by going to 64-bit.

Posted on: Jan 7, 2008 at 8:18 pm - (0) comments.

2007: An Eventful Year

2007 has been a rather eventful year. It is scary to think that we are almost done with the first decade in the 21st century soon.

New Directions

This year I got new hardware, a new laptop in the spring and a new desktop just a couple of weeks ago now. 10 years ago I never would of thought that I would have a desktop with 4 processors and over a terabyte worth of disk space.

This year I think has been an important year for computing. We saw quad core processors back in the summer, the stupid SCO case with Unix and Linux is finally over, Linux on the desktop and the laptop has become closer to a reality, people realizing they don't want the same thing in a new shiny wrapper and more.

I have been running Linux on my laptop since June and haven't had any problems doing any of my work. I do use VirtualBox so I can run some Windows apps occasionally like Visio but other than that, I can play games, use the web, IM, music, etc. fine.

The next generation HD optical format war has gone no where, mainly because, dare I say, people are starting to actually pay attention. For most people going to blu-ray or HD DVD, isn't that noticeable of an improvement. Especially now that upscaling DVD players can be found for less than a 100 dollars these days. While it will be nice if there is a clear winner, but I'm not totally sure that is going to happen. I think in 2008 we will see combo players, one drive that can read both types. Then it won't really matter if a movie (or anything else) is HD DVD or blu-ray you just stick it in the same drive.

Decent Entertainment

Over the summer there was actually a fair amount of decent movies. Live Free or Die Hard might have been a little silly from a computer perspective but it stayed true to the Die Hard series: explosions, gun battles and kicking ass. Transformers was pretty cool and decently done, it could have been a whole lot worse. I saw an R-rated trailer for Super Bad back in the spring and sadly for me, that ruined a lot of the jokes. I still thought the movie was entertaining but it would have been better if they hadn't used all the good lines in the trailer.

My favorite movie of the summer was The Bourne Ultimatum though. It was just so awesome and really tied the movies together.

We even got a fix of Battlestar Galactica with the Razor movie. Which I thought was actually pretty good. I wanted to see season four more than the movie but I thought they did a good job with the movie. I'm curious to see how this is supposed to tie in with season four more.

Sequels That Don't Suck

This year we finally got to play Team Fortress 2. It only took like 5 years. At least it was worth the wait, TF2 is a lot of fun to play. As much as TFC was to play all those years ago. (Jeez I can't believe it has been so long since it was new) And I have to say, the Orange Box is definitely the best deal in gaming history. 5 great games for 50 bucks, its practically a steal.

Call of Duty 4 came out this fall as well. And they didn't screw the pooch either. CoD multiplayer has always been awesome and the newest incarnation doesn't disappoint. The single player, while being able to beat it in around 8-9 hours of work, is a lot of fun. The graphics are well done if you can run it on high.

Posted on: Jan 1, 2008 at 6:04 pm - (0) comments.

The New Rig

So my new computer has been built. And it is amazing. The quad core processor is incredibly fast. I can encode video at crazy speeds. Like 20 minutes of video into Xvid (two passes, 175mb target) in about 15 minutes. It does seem that VirtualDub will use all four cores when encoding video.

Video games run a whole lot better than my old computer as well. I can play Call of Duty 4 at 1280x1024 with 4x AA and all the shadows and dynamic lighting on no problem. I also am able to run Supreme Commander quite well and with both monitors turned on which is pretty cool. I had never played an RTS that used both monitors.

Here are some pictures:

The minor problem: It seems my new fancy video card is bad. I get these small blue dots at the top of the screen that look like dead pixels but they aren't. So I tested a different video card (just a cheap crappy one) and the problem went away. And it isn't a software problem since it happens in both Windows and Linux.

So I am going to have to RMA that in the next couple of days. Kind of annoying but it could be worse.

Windows XP 64-bit

So far the 64-bit of Windows XP hasnít given me any real problems. I was able to get all my devices working with no problems. Games work perfectly fine under it and everything. It might have gotten a bad rap when it came out but now it works great.

Posted on: Dec 27, 2007 at 6:09 pm - (0) comments.

Three Years Already?

Several years ago it was time for a new desktop computer. And three and a half years later, it is that time again. Due to significant advancements since my last computer such as Serial ATA 2, PCI Express, etc. my old computer is pretty much not upgradeable. So I am building a whole new system from scratch.

So to cut to the chase, this is what I am planning to go with:
Antec Sonata 3 case with 500 watt power supply
MSI P6N Diamond motherboard with the NVIDIA nForce 680i chipset
Intel Core 2 Duo Quad Q6600 processor
OCZ Platinum DDR2 1066 2GB (2x1GB) memory
150GB Western Digital Raptor
2x 500GB Western Digital Caviar RE2
EVGA GeForce 8600GTS 512MB video card

I decided to go with a video card and motherboard that supported SLI. I don't know if I will ever actually utilize that functionality but it would be cool to say I tried it. It would be nice to go with an 8800 series video card but I can't justify the increased cost currently. The 8600 will still be a huge step up from the 6600GT in my current computer.

As for going with a quad core processor, I figured I might as well go big. The Q6600 is the 2.4GHz version of the quad core. The 2GB of memory is a base, I wrestled with the idea of going with 4GB but I can always add another 2GB of memory later if I so desire.

I am re-using some of the other components like my speakers since they are still quite nice. I'll post pictures after I build it.

Posted on: Dec 6, 2007 at 10:50 pm - (0) comments.

VirtualBox and VM Link

So I've started using VirtualBox on my laptop to run some of my windows apps under Linux. (Like Visual Studio) And in VirtualBox 1.5 there is a new feature called "seamless mode" which makes the VM windows appear without the rest of the VM machine around it. So it makes it feel a little bit more like they are running on the host system.

This feature gave me an idea. How cool would it be if you could have shortcuts on the host machine to programs on the VM machine? So I could go to my K Menu then select "Visual Studio 2005" and it would start up VS2k5 on my windows VM and since it would be running in seamless mode, it would just show up like any other window.

So I decided to write a program to do just that. I call it VM Link. It has a server and client components. An additional feature I wish to add once I can get the afore mentioned functionality working is that the program running on the host side would add fake windows in the host Oses taskbar. The purpose of this would be that when the program is started, you could get focus to it by clicking on it you could bring the guest OS program back to focus.

I have currently started working on the VM Link program and have the client and server working so far that they can talk to each other. In addition authentication is working so only authorized host machines will connect to the guest OS. Without it, just think of the fun you could have by starting programs remotely on a friend's VM machine over the network. I am going to keep working on it through December and hopefully have a basic version done soon. And once I do I will blog about it some more and post the program.

Posted on: Nov 24, 2007 at 11:03 pm - (0) comments.

C# Debug Visualizers

There is a cool feature that was introduced in Visual Studio 2005 called Debug Visualizers. Basically the concept is that you can write a visualizer for any object. For example a TreeNode so you can actually look at the tree while you are in the middle of debugging the code. Or if you have any sort of custom class, you can write a visualizer for it. A visualizer basically lets you call a form and you can have pretty much anything on it like any other form.

I found a fairly good blog entry that goes over how to setup a visualizer and what they look like. There are some important things to note though. Your visualizer has to be in a separate DLL from your main executable because it has to be in the Visual Studio visualizer folder. There are two locations you can put your DLL: %USERPROFILE%\My Documents\Visual Studio 2005\Visualizers\ or where you installed Visual Studio (e.g. C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio 8\Common7\Packages\Debugger\Visualizers\).

I've found them to be very useful so far and there has been times before when developing C++ that I wished I had something like that.

Posted on: Aug 20, 2007 at 3:17 pm - (0) comments.

Don't Get Nauseous...

...from the spin. There is a cool new tool out that let's you see who is editing Wikipedia. It is actually pretty cool but what is more interesting is what people are doing on Wikipedia. The linked wired article has a list of the top voted best spins on Wikipedia.

For several years I have been a supporter of Wikipedia (and more recently a contributor). And as the encyclopedia that anyone can edit, overall I think as a project, it is going well. This latest article however proves one thing: Wikipedia is great for everything except real companies and real people.

If you want to read about the career of Lieutenant Colonel (soon to be Colonel) Samantha Carter, the more amazing medical feats of Doctor Gregory House or the finer points of polynomial interpolation, Wikipedia is actually a great source of information. You might even be surprised how fast articles regarding fiction get updated. The articles on math and engineering have mostly been very good from the ones Iíve read, some times a little too technical but still good.

It just fails when it comes to articles on real people and real companies. Why? I'm sure there are probably a dozen reasons but I think it mostly boils down to egos and public image. With an online encyclopedia that is continually being updated, anyone from around the world can read about anything or anyone and I think that is what the people who are whitewashing Wikipedia are afraid of. Instead of having to use social engineering to prevent unfavorable information from getting out in print, all they have to do is hit the edit button.

While the point of this post isn't to offer a solution to this problem, I did want to point out that Wikipedia can be a great source of information on topics in other areas such as books, movies, TV shows, math, engineering, etc. Not to say you should use Wikipedia as your only source when doing research but it can be a good starting point. And for casual information browsing, it can be quite helpful.

Posted on: Aug 14, 2007 at 5:13 pm - (0) comments.

When It Rains, It Pours

So yesterday evening, I finally decided to shut off my computer and blow all the dust out of it. I never shut it off or reboot it unless I really need to. So I take it out into the 103 degree heat (it was 107 today) and start blowing all the dust out of my trusty 3 year old computer.

I happen to notice that the motherboard chipset heatsink was lying on the back of the video card. As some of you know, this isnít right. Then I realize the mechanism that holds it down has broken. One of the two anchors that hold it to the board had come off. The offending piece is shown below. As you can see, it is basically just like a little header.

Having a broken computer really irked me because this was supposed to be a short cleaning job. So with little recourse, I took the system a part so I could pull the motherboard out. After looking at the board from the bottom, there was a little bit of solder left but it seems that 3 years of almost constant operation, well over a dozen moves and other wear and tear caused it to come out. Due to the nature of the board design, there wasn't much I could do without that anchor.

So I had to try and fix it. Luckily using a circuit board clamp, some solder and some luck I was able to re-attach it. And after buying some thermal paste for it today, I was able to get my system back up and running this evening after work. Luckily I didn't damage the board at all it seems when I repaired it.

Overall I suppose I should consider myself lucky because I have no doubt that if I hadn't caught the problem then, it would have fallen off on its own eventually and that would have been very bad. I would have lost the board for sure and since all the other components are obsolete now, I would have had to buy a whole new computer.

So there is another little bit to this tale of computer woe. So last night I wanted to watch some TV and with my desktop out of commission, I had to use my laptop. And on my laptop, I've recently started using Linux on it. Pretty much everything works but I am having an issue with the screen shutting off when the lid is closed. Anyways, I fell asleep while watching some TV. When I went to power off my laptop, it wouldnít respond and the screen didn't come back on when I opened the lid. So I just killed the power.

Then this morning before work when I powered it back up, KDE wouldn't start up. The cause? No available disk space. Yes, all 45GB of my root partition was suddenly full. So after modifying a command that I found online, I came home during my lunch break and was able to figure out what was taking up all the space. The log for the ACPI daemon was 42GB! So deleting that file cleared up that problem. And if anyone wants to find the top 10 biggest files and directories, this is what I did:

du -a / | sort -n -r | head -n 10

Posted on: Jul 5, 2007 at 7:01 pm - (1) comments.

Using Piracy To Dominate An Industry?

So about a week ago Microsoftís CEO put the blame for slow Vista sales on software pirates. While the validity of that claim is quite questionable (dare I say wrong) considering the reaction I read on the Internet about it. It did make me think about something interesting. Microsoft in a way owes a lot of its success to people who pirated their software back in the 90s.

Anyone remember the trick from the mid 90s with Microsoft CD keys where you could just enter in all 1s and the installer would accept it? That security hole stayed in their installers for quite a while, even after it was a known work around. Which if you think about it is somewhat interesting. This trick worked on more than just Windows, Office 95 and 97 have this hole in their installers. And that was back when there was true competition to Microsoft Office. However maybe making it easier to pirate helped their market share? If you need a word processor, and a friend says how great Office 95 is and loans you their disk and it was easy to pirate, you wouldn't go out and potentially buy that competing product now would you?

Now days it is a much different ball game with product activations and such but people still pirate their software, it just makes it much harder for the average user. And if they did turn a blind eye to pirating back then, they pretty much used it to help them.

Posted on: Feb 26, 2007 at 10:48 am - (0) comments.

One More Step In An Endless War

So the spam I've been getting through my site has been getting bad. It got bad when my site was hit with some email injection attacks, after I put in several safeguards against that and other spam, the spam has started to seep through again.

So now I've implemented a CAPTCHA on the registration and contact pages. I've never really done any sort of CAPTCHA before but I was pleasantly surprised it wasn't too hard to get one up and running. Granted these days, from what I hear the spammers are starting to get better at getting past them but I figured every little bit helps.

And there is quite a bit of material on the web for implementing image CAPTCHAs with PHP if you need to use one on a site.

Posted on: Feb 21, 2007 at 2:37 pm - (0) comments.

Still Here

While it has been a while since I've posted, I haven't disappeared. There just hasnít been much to blog about lately. The Episode Organizer has been progressing significantly; we are starting to get close to having a functional alpha version. Once that stage is met, I'll probably post a copy for download.

Other than that, it's pretty much been business as usual. I just wanted to post something since it has been months since my last post.

Posted on: Dec 20, 2006 at 1:04 pm - (0) comments.

Frozen Hard Drive

I had heard before around the net about how if you have a hard drive that has at least partially failed mechanically that freezing it some times can get it working one more time. Well, I can say that at least in my case, it did work. The system drive in one of my computers went out today. The drive was making a clanking noise and the computer wasn't recognizing the drive.

So I put the drive in a zip-lock bag and stuck it in the freezer for about half an hour. After that I took the drive out of the bag and plugged it back in. The motor had a little trouble at first but the computer detected the hard drive on the first try. And it worked at least long enough for me to run Ghost and image the contents to another drive.

I was kind of skeptical of the idea but it worked and was a lucky break. Including the freezing time, I had the thing ghosted and back up and running in under an hour.

Posted on: Sep 14, 2006 at 7:04 pm - (0) comments.

Episode Organizer Version 3

Over the course of maybe the last year, the ideas for version 3 of the Episode Organizer have been floating around. And from probably November of last year, we've began to write it off and on. It is being completely re-done in C++ from scratch. Things are really starting to come together with it. I wouldn't say we are close to being done but substantial progress has been made.

Here are some of the key highlights of the new version:
* An internal database to replace the need for Access if you don't have MySQL and it should be much faster than Access.
* Supported under Windows and Linux
* Alternate command line version
* Support for multiple episodes in one file
* An ignore list to permanently ignore files during a scan
* Completely re-designed main interface
* Improved performance speed-wise

The parts I'm responsible for, the common library, and the database abstraction layer are coming along nicely. I have also started working on the GUI which is starting to take shape.

The new processing engine is coming along; Mitch was able to process some Farscape episodes using the command line version.

As far as when Mitch and I will be far enough along to release a beta or even an alpha version, is still unknown but it will happen eventually.

Posted on: Aug 9, 2006 at 4:02 pm - (0) comments.

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