Archive for the ‘technology’ Category


What have I done. It appears that last night, in some fit of rage or mirth or some other rampant emotion, I actually went to the Store and purchased a powerbook. The only excuse I have is …. SHINY. They’re so shiny. Just look at ’em. SHINY.

So this will end a very very long era of not having any significant Mac products in my household. No, iPods don’t count. It was about time. I’ve been wanting to see what all the fuss is about for years, and now that the core of the OS is at least a UNIX variant, I can feel better about myself.

Good heavens, what have I done.


Now Playing!

I wanted to also try my hand at writing a WP plugin, and the results are the ‘Now Playing’ section over there on the right. Upsides: it has a control panel plugin, and you enter the values you want, and whammo, there you go. The one downside is that right now I’m abusing someone else’s server for the images. I need to either find a site that provides that as a service, or a way to download the images locally first, and then display them from there. I’ll keep working on it.
<edit – 2.21.2005/23:06>
Ok, so I took it down for now. It was pointed out to me that the site I was linking images to was intending for people to download images from, and (as I suspected), not link directly to them. So I need to come up with some code in the plugin that will download the images to your local site somehow, and then work from that instead. This may take a bit.


Ice Theme

So I wanted to try my hand at creating a CSS theme, and if you’ve switched to the Ice theme then you’re looking at it right now.

I’m really pleased with the way it turned out. I’d love to hear your feedback though, please leave me comments on this post!


Apache, logfiles and script kiddies

So in the past few months, something has been whacking my server’s apache log files. I did some tracking down, and found some disappointing stuff. This is clearly someone attempting to exploit apache (or web servers in general), by sending invalid, and in fact, data designed to overflow the server process and grant some permissions.
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Product Review

PMX 60 Neckband Headphones

Can’t beat it with a stick

So I was recently down in the Data Center, doing my usual overnight equipment setup, configuration, cable making or whatever. I had received a set of Sennheiser MX 500 earbud style headphones for Christmas, and I was listening to my iPod with them. Their cord length is just about perfect, maybe a touch too short, but generally, if I run them down my back, it keeps the wires from getting in my way, and I keep my front clear and can still listen to my tunes. Continued use, though, showed me that my ears just aren’t shaped real well to hold onto the buds very well, and over time, they need to be fidgeted with to get them to stay in, and even then, I’m not getting what I would consider well focused, directed sound.

So in doing a bit more research, the next best option seemed to be neckband style headphones. Having heard good things about Sennheiser, and having experienced the quality of the sound on the earbuds, I figured I’d try their product in this line, the PMX 60. The basic specs and a quick click on the ‘Technical Data’ link will show some pretty impressive figures for sound clarity and quality. But you know… ultimately, I need to listen to them. I want it loud, with very wide range songs, and I want it directed well along the ‘sound path’ in my ears. I just received them, and have since listened to them on a variety of sources, from the iPod to my computer to the output from the stereo/tv receiver.

Holy crap are these things nice. The sound clarity is excellent. Tones are rich and deep, never tinny and high are nice and crisp. Tone definition along the range is clear and distinct with no muddling up or smoothing along any part of the range. Just damn nice.

Another thing occurs to me too with these. I always assumed that the wraparound neckband style phones would have some sort of adjustment that would accomodate people of different head/neck sizes. They don’t. But you know something? They fit perfectly. Is this some strange new universal constant? Is the distance from the back of the neck to the top of the ears the same for every person on the planet? Color me befuddled, but grateful.

In short, I’m completely sold on Sennheiser products. These are just another in a very strong line of quality audio products, and I’d recommend them to anyone who tolerates me long enough to ask.

[xrr rating=9/10]


Comment spam effort

So, ever since I’ve put this up in this format, I’ve been trying to control the comment SPAM that seems to plague blogs on a periodic basis. If you’re not familiar with this concept, count yourself among the fortunate. My first effort was simply to force that all comments would require moderation. This was good, and it did help, but it ultimately doesn’t solve the problem. It just means I have to go in and ‘clean up’ the comment moderation queue every once in awhile of all the crap in there.
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Moved to WordPress 1.5, and with the exception of having to do a little bit of reworking of my theme, it was nice and clean. Very impressive team, good job! I’m going to start looking through the plugins again when I get a chance, and see if there’s anything new I want to implement. In the meantime, thanks again for making a great product that makes keeping my site(s) up to date.


As you might expect…

As with just about any other blog out there, I did recently get hit by the elements out there that would seek to make maintaining a site like this one a more difficult, high maintenance process. Fortunately, wordpress has some excellent facilities for dealing with comments spammers.

I found it an interesting observation that the spammers are not at all seeking click throughs to the sites they are advertising. Instead, they’re simply seeking to have the search engines find as many links to their site as they can, which in turn improves their rankings in searches for things. I suppose any system can be subverted if you throw enough assholes at it.



I’ve decided I’m going to try to make a consolidated news/comics/etc page that gets RSS feeds from all the stuff I want to read. Who knows, it might just end up being the only place I go to read anything anymore. It does get back to an idea that I was throwing around awhile back to have a page that you could completely customize that was just other news/content sites pulled all together into one ‘newspaper’ (except in an online form, obv). So no more browsing through dozens of sites to get what you want. You get all the headlines, and then shoot off to specific content if the headline grabs you.

Imagine google news only extrapolated to deliverable content in general (be it comics, specials in your favorite section of, top 10 national book best seller lists, etc).

We’ll see.
<update> And it works! See the link to the right </update>


Minor upgrade

I was starting to finally reach the point where I needed a new hard drive. So this is where the geek in me really kicks in. I want to investigate all the options, examine all the different speeds, formats, capacities, cache sizes, and even cabling that is available.

So the first realization is that this will not be the end-all-be-all upgrade. The intent is to get me over the immediate problem I have of being low on space while, not compromise on performance and not hit the bank account too heavily either.

So, first decision: SATA, IDE or SCSI. For the first time ever, I’m not going down the SCSI road this time. For the extra money you pay, you’re simply not getting enough value anymore. For a quick comparison, here’s the largest SCSI drive available from one of my favorite hardware vendors compared with the IDE drive I settled on:

  • Maxtor Atlas IV 147.1GB 10K RPM Ultra320 80-pin HDD (Drive Only)
    Price: $692.75
  • Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 PLUS 200GB 7200RPM 8MB Buffer ATA/100 HDD (Drive Only)
    Price: $121.00

Ok, yes, 10000 RPM. I agree, thats faster than the IDE, but Jesus Maria, thats almost 6 times the price. No, I’m sorry, that just won’t fly anymore.

Ok, so SATA? After doing a bunch of reading, my general feeling is that eventually, I will switch over to SATA. Just not yet. Why? Well, for one thing, I don’t need it yet. SATA has two real advantages for me: speed and expandability. However, right now, the speed argument is limited by my current motherboard. Until I do an upgrade on the motherboard that has a higher backplane bus speed and/or onboard SATA support and/or PCI-E bus support, there’s really no advantage. As far as expandability is concerned, SATA *does* offer many more device possibilities than standard IDE. For right now, these drives I’ve just purchased will last me into the near future. Let’s say a year or more. So once I make the commitment down the road to do a full system upgrade, then SATA may come up again. For now, not necessary. Oh, and just for completeness, here’s some SATA pricing:

  • Maxtor DiamondMax 10 300GB 7200RPM 16MB Buffer SATA HDD (White Label)
    Price: $210.00
  • Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 200GB 7200RPM 8MB Buffer SATA HDD (Drive Only)
    Price: $123.00

Very reasonable. So down the road, this will definitely be worth further investigation. The “old” IDE bus may very well relegated to just CD/DVD type devices. That would be nice.

I’m also now considering a home network upgrade to go wireless. With the advent of 802.11g, there’s now a secure, high speed mechanism in place that is reasonable in price as well. I’m not committed to it yet, but I’m getting closer.

Finally, we got a Digital Voice Recorder for the wife. Birthday time, and this was her wish. She’s going to lots of boring lectures, and having a voice recorder lets her sleep in class without missing anything. Very important. I’ll post the model in this post once we’ve received it. No sense spoiling the surprise (or whats left of it).


Internet security

So after 4 or 5 failed attempts to reload my wife’s machine with XP Pro and associated stuff, I finally buckled down and took the hard road. I followed my own advice to friends about the proper methods for installing a machine securely, and keeping it secure. It worked. But Jesus, this is scary stuff.

So in the early steps of the installation, for the XP CD and the SP1 CD I burned, the network is unplugged. I also have an applications CD burned which has the firewall on it (Tiny Personal Firewall, if you must know), which I then installed. Also installed the virus checker (PCcillin), and did the first of many rounds of virus checking. Once again, this is before its actually been live on any network.

Everything clean to this point, so I figure out which interface (there are two in the machine, one for the private home network) is which, and IPify the external interface, and finally, plug it in. Immediately switch over to the firewall configuration and put it into the ‘connected to an unsafe network’ category, and sit back a bit to watch. 26 attacks in the first 10 minutes. Not bad. I download the virus checker updates, and rescan the whole machine. Still clean.

Next step is windows updates, which also go on smoothly (no, I didn’t install SP2). Five or six reboots later, and the machine’s pretty much ready for primetime. Clean installation, no current viruses, and based on current patterns, roughly 2-3 attacks per minute on various ports. Gotta love the little kiddies with their scripts. Oh well. If television has taught me anything, its that with great power comes great responsibility. And right now, it appears that to utilize the great power of the Internet, I (and everyone else with any interest in keeping their machines clean) has the responsibility of parenting a bajillion script kiddies and their fucking brainless attacks.

Bah, I say. BAH.

(EDIT) At some point, I will publish the step by step how to on installing a machine (from the OS perspective at least) in a safe manner to keep out the unwanted. (/EDIT)



Ok, so I went and ordered (and today received) an iPod. 20g version. I feel so dirty. Say whatever else you want about Apple and their products, but they have product marketing and packaging and presentation DOWN PAT. All their products (ok, maybe there are a few exceptions) are pretty to behold. The iPod itself is light, compact and holds a buttload of music. Battery life and other such measures will become apparent pretty soon.

At the moment I’m downloading some 2000+ songs to the damn thing. To be more precise, I’m downloading 2225 songs that will take up 13.37 gig of space. As I continue to rip new stuff off my CDs, I’ll fill the rest, but this is a good start, to be sure. I also ordered a dock (I’ll most likely end up using that at work or in the data center when I want to keep it charged, and eventually get little speakers (or just take ones I already have to use with it. We’ll see. Convenient portable music, blah blah blah. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that music is a pretty central part of my life, and that I couldn’t very well live without it. I’d go so far as to say that when I don’t have music in the background, my life is less full, less rich. It feels empty when it isn’t there, like something’s missing.

Now that I’ve blathered on about the philsophy of this for a bit, I suppose I’ll give some specs. First, all my music that I store for any length of time (barring stuff that I’m “testing” to see if I want to buy), is ripped from my own CDs. This is a personal decision, I realize. Many see the Internet as a mechanism for free music. More power to them. In fact, I have a theory about this. It is pretty indisputable that there is a percentage of the population that downloads music for free from the Internet without paying. In fact, I freely admit to doing just that (under the above listed caveat). However, I believe that there is a portion of the population (and it includes me, so I know the portion is at least *that* big), that only did so because they had no mechanism to otherwise support their ‘music habit’, being in college, jobless, or under some other similar financial duress, BUT FULLY INTEND to purchase the (rights to the) music once their resources are restored or gained. I want to support the artists that produce the wonderful stuff that is so central to my life. The same holds true for computer games, movies or really any other form of media that has become ubiquitous in this day and age. I don’t necessarily agree with the manner in which publishers manage the rights and profits of those artists, but that is an evil (I think) that will fix itself. Look at me, guys. I AM YOUR TARGET MARKET. I am the one who WILL pay (eventually) if the quality of the product is sufficient.

Boy, that turned into a rant. Oh well. In any case, music specs. I use EAC for ripping to WAV, and LAME for conversion to MP3. with the following settings:

  • --alt-preset standard -Z
  • 160Kbits/sec
  • VBR
  • High Quality

Argue all you want. This is the right balance point for me for quality/file size. So instead of the advertised 5000 songs, I will probably only get about 3000. Phew. Wow, I feel so slighted.

I was pleased to see that it supports behaving as a ‘drive’, so I can just copy files over to it, however, in order to get MUSIC to play, you have to use one of the supported programs so that its internal indexing/playlist/database is updated and can “see” your files. Thats an acceptable balance, I think. I was disappointed to see that the version of IEEE1394 in my Audigy doesn’t fully support the RFC, and as such, won’t work with the iPod for file transfers. While USB is working fine, I’m a geek, and I want the things I buy to work. Is that so much to ask? I wasn’t even aware that the Creative Labs implementation wasn’t full until this didn’t work right. Ah well.

So far so good. Music quality is good, no skips or jumps from motion, volume goes to VERY loud. earbuds are adequate (I’ve never been fond of them, the little bastards). Installation was quick and painless. Software is intuitive and easy to navigate. I think I made a good choice.


feel the love

I love technology. I really do. I think its one of the core things about me that just drives my being. Its a difficult field, constantly in motion and driven by a strange set of forces. On one side of the rolling ball, there are the monolith companies driving billions of dollars into research to come up with “the next big thing”. On the other side are the small companies, even sometimes single people … who hit it big with an amazing idea, new invention, or new use for some existing thing. Either way, there is this momentum of progress that keeps the geeks of the world slathering through their webpages, tech news sites and magazines to see what toy they get to play with next.

I’ve had discussions with folks in the past who think we should still be swinging around in the trees by our tails, happily spending our days with simple thoughts. There’s something to be said for that, I agree. Simplicity has its rewards … life remains predictable, stable and comfortable. On the other hand, there’s an inate curiosity in me that has to know what the framerate I can push is using the latest video card with Far Cry, or what improvements I can get in my rendering projects by switching to a 3GHz processor instead of a 2GHz one. I mean, I really want to know. Y’know? No? Oh well.

This is also a pretty complex general topic. There’s all kinds of mini-asides that can be made about technology … our dependence on it, research driving its advancement, controls on it, and so on, so I fully expect to address many more of those topics at some later time. For now, though … I just wanted to be clear about my fascination with it, and leave it at that.

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