Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Who? Pt 1

Yeah, yeah, it's been a year or two now I think.  But, I've started helping someone by email with a hosting solution migration and figured since I was typing it all I'd share and enjoy...

This article provides a fairly simple walkthrough of the tools available to provide an internet presence.  A domain name with associated web, mail and other services.   If you're an individual, company, club, whatever. 

We will be making use of Google Apps.  A free service centered around your domain name(s) that provides a lot of tools like free email hosting with the gmail application.

So, if you're tired of your ISP deciding what your email address is.  If you want to post your own content your own way.  If you want to make your documents, pictures and files truly mobile and you've got $20 a year to cover the services let's get started...

1 - Register a domain name.

ISP's provide dns,mail and web hosting services.  This is typically a paid account.  We will move mail (google) and other hosted services up to other providers as part of this project but you still need to pay someone to keep your name registered and alive on the internet.  

If you already own your domain name you will need to figure out how to access your DNS management for the domain name, usually a username/password at the providers site.  

Google does proivde this service for $10/year/domain.  I prefer to use a 3rd party ISP for DNS pointers and when you register an account you may get free mail, web hosting and ftp services.  We can configure these services as a backup service for most of the things we're moving up to Google in case they decide you're evil or they have a major snafu.

ISP's will provide this service for between $6 and $20 a year.  Most ISP's provide some additional services regarding privacy and multiple-domain management gratis or for an additional charge.  Shop around.

I recommend www.domainsecure.com - they provide low priced basic services with a good management interface.

Once you've got a domain name registered it's on to:

2) Google Accounts

If you don't have a google account you will need one.  It's the best way to manage a google apps account.  It's kind of complicated but information is  widely available.  Do a little reading before you start picking names though.  

Kinds of Google Accounts:
Setup a Free Standard Google Apps Account:
http://www.google.com/a/cpanel/domain/new - We can upgrade to a higher account grade later if you need the extra space/services.

Once you get your name registered and a server out there in some ISP's closet providing name services we're ready to move on.  In order to setup our domain on Google Apps we will need to be able to configure some name records on the server.  Google provides good documentation on doing this.  

Overall it is easier to just register with google than muck with this stuff but in the real world you need to firewall your relationship with your service providers.

Stay tuned

Saturday, September 29, 2007

It's just a good idea!

OLPC has caught a lot of flack, but it looks like they are ready to step into production.

If you have kids take advantage of the donate one, get one deal starting November 12th. If you don't have kids may I suggest donating one, two or more? Maybe do a donate one, get one deal for a grandkid, nephew, cousin or two?

For $200 you can donate a laptop to a child in the developing world. For a short time starting November 12th you can donate one and get one for $399.

Durable, flexible design. Open source operating system, software and document formats. Imagine an open early education community worldwide. Powerful stuff, easy to do.
The Techosaurus approves.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

'Come with me if you want to live."

I had a strange dream this afternoon. Outright bizarre, actually, totally compelling, energizing and stirring hope deep within me for the future of quality television.

It must have been a dream because it would be impossible and probably illegal for me to have actually watched a DVD rip of "The Sarah Connor Chronicles" because the pilot episode I remember from my dream isn't going on the air until January or something.

Not since Firefly have I sat up at the end of a show and shouted "HELL YES!"

There's a lot for me to say about this show. If you're a big fan of the Terminator movies and are looking forward to this new for television edition and don't want it spoiled, stop reading I'm spilling some juicy details - but it was all a dream, a mere fantasy in my head, not the real thing, so maybe it's not a spoiler...

First of all back to my Firefly reference. My favorite actress Summer Glau made her way into this show. After her breathtaking performances in Firefly and Serenity I just couldn't see how this seemingly sweet young girl with a titanium spine and a thirst for blood would ever find a role so sweet yet sinister, so peaceful yet violent than the one she played as River.

I expected Summer to show up in some kind of "Girls Kick Ass" genre movie (think Tank Girl or Charlie's Angels) or maybe show up in a comedy or drama being funny, beautiful and sweet but I didn't see any way to bring her range to kick ass and be sweet all at once and to switch from a vulnerable little girl and a cold blooded killing machine in a scary, sexy heartbeat. I had written Firefly/Serenity off as a fluke where the dipshit producers of 21st century media fell asleep at the switch and let a good story get made.

I was wrong. I won't go into too many details, that might ruin your fun. Let's just say that with Cameron, Summer's character in TSCC the titanium spine isn't a euphemism.

Thomas Dekker is playing John Connor, I liked him in Heroes though he was more of a side player there. In my dream this afternoon he was again playing a pseudo sidekick to not one but two scary, dangerous, beautiful women. He played vulnerable, scared and frustrated which was a bit frustrating for me. How many Skynet killing machines does mommy have to kill for you before you stand up and act like a man John!?

I'm really, really hoping this series develops to the point where we can see Thomas Dekker playing John Connor, leader of the rebellion and the last hope of all mankind not the scared little high school kid. I'll put my money on Thomas to pull off the character if the writers and directors ever give him the chance.

I was in my teens when the Azar's Big Boy Waitress with the big hair was dragged into the center of a plot to destroy all mankind and I've been in love with her ever since. Linda Hamilton through the movie series developed the character from a scared young pigeon to the lean, vicious protective tigress. Lena Headey has done an excellent job slipping convincingly into this role. I have to admit I haven't seen any of her other work (No, I haven't seen 300 yet...maybe in another dream soon.) so I had no pre-conceptions. That made it easier to accept her as Sarah Connor.

The pace, writing and the fact that Lena has NAILED this character was part of what really allowed me to suspend reality and become immersed in this story, again. A few clever twists (and a time machine) have opened up the world of The Terminator to what I hope is a great series. If the pilot I dreamed is any indication we should all be in for a great story played by a strong cast with some solid directing and writing that's a classic I'll end up putting on the shelf right next to Firefly. Too bad it was all just a dream...

Yes, we are still online...

I know, it's been months!

Sorry 'bout that - been busy over this summer. But I'm back and I've got some good tasty tidbits for y'all.

First off - Feisty Fawn, in the long run, just hasn't cut it for me. I'm back to running XP. It's a fairly decent OS but I'm not ready to climb the learning curve to perform simple functions. I can make XP do everything I want it to do, why switch? I'm enjoying Linux on machines running specific tasks (m0n0wall, freenas and so on) but still don't like it on the workstation desktop.

MediaPortal has continued to be my Media Center of choice, though I did venture into a few aborted attempts with Vista Ulitmate's Media Center component and MythTV.

I don't like that digital rights management prevents you from streaming live TV from Vista to other Vista or MCE clients on the network unless they happen to be M$ Xbox 360's. I also wasn't fond of the cover art / media info search and importing to the Vista media database. It made too many errors and it was a lot of hunt and peck to fix the problems. It also requires a very thick client in the living room next to the big screen.

MythTV provided this streaming live media to clients feature but I wasn't satisfied with the look, feel or functionality of navigating through the media library. I was using KnoppMyth, FYI. I really like the idea of the MAME component built into the media center but wasn't happy with how I could browse, view, rip, download or manage media other than TV.

I think I've finally found a better option though - LinuxMCE. I downloaded and tried out the quick start DVD. No joy. The LinuxMCE Core (server) needs to be the DHCP server so that thin clients ('Directors') can boot to the network and load the client from the server. This is a very nice feature as I can always choose to boot to the machines hard drive with whatever else I want on it.

So, in preperation I hard coded the IP's and gateway on all my systems to point to the m0n0wall box to get to the internet, turned off its DHCP server and started installing CORE. It failed horribly because the box could not reach the internet. With no DHCP services running it couldn't acquire a route and the install never gave me the option of configuring the TCP/IP settings.

They recommend you run two NIC's. One connected to your WAN router (DSL, Cable, whatever) with DHCP enabled and one on the internal network. I'm okay with this but I need to figure out how to manage the firewall and DHCP services built into it so I can keep my other servers and services running. This might take some time and I haven't had it. It would be nice if I could just configure the damn gateway on the installed NIC during setup.

I do have another beef with the Quick Install DVD option LinuxMCE ships out. It insists on running as a Hybrid (integrated Core and Director). I don't want director on my core machine. So now I have to go out and download the LinuxMCE CD's and the Kubuntu Live disk, install Kubuntu then install LinuxMCE.

All this stuff is RIGHT THERE on the quick install disk - why not give me the option? Sure, it's really 'cool' that it's a one option installation but you really should have a quick install option for "Core Only" - not force me through a hybrid install on a machine that I want to run ONLY core.

I think they missed some really important features by trying to streamline the install from the quick install DVD. I wasn't able to configure the gateway, I wasn't able to select a core only install - why the hell not? So you could boast about a one option install? Well, if one option isn't enough to install it properly then I have to say you need MORE OPTIONS.

1) Which hard drive should I install to (the only current option)
2) Configure TCP/IP or Auto (Allow you to set a static IP, gateway, DNS and such if you want)
3) Core, Hybrid or Director? (What is this machine going to be?)

Those are some pretty simple options and I'd be up and running it right now giving glowing reviews to its intuitive interface and sexy efficiency but no, instead I had to listen to the pretty girl with the intriguing accent tell me to click Next when I can see and hear her 15 freakin times while I get device install errors in the background.

It forces the MCE client install to keep launching and launching, making it impossible for me to get to the desktop to configure the freakin NIC. But it was already too late because the errors were caused when it couldn't reach the internet to download the drivers and components it needed. So I wasted a couple hours chasing my own tail when a couple of simple setup questions would have had me up and running in short order. Is that one option install REALLY better? I think not.

So, now I download another couple of GB's eventhough I've got all the actual bits and pieces on a disk already. What Fun! I guess it will sit on the shelf until I find time to try it again.

I've still got high hopes and expectations for LinuxMCE, once I get it running. But I've got a lot of work to do before I can switch over everything else running on my network to route through the Core system.

Couple of questions - 1) Where do I go once I get Kubuntu installed to manage the firewall settings, or will this come as part of the MCE install? 2) How do I setup access to the media storage on the MCE box from my MG-35? It's got a limited set of choices on how to connect and it works smooth and easy in Windows. 3) Am I going to be losing features/functions that I have with m0n0wall when the Core box takes over those functions?

Sigh...I'll get it all sorted out, I just need time to fiddle with it. I will probably end up tricking the Core box into talking to the m0n0wall box for routing and allow Core to run DHCP so I can net boot the Director machines. Here's to hoping that the non-Director DHCP clients can be told to set their gateway, DNS and WINS pointers to the m0n0wall box. What a clusterfuck.

Darn LinuxMCE geeks trying to make a box that does everything and anything never thinking that someone might have most everything and close to anything already covered and just want a nice media center. They dumb down the installation to address the lowest common denominator and don't think about what their application/system might be stepping on elsewhere in the environment.

Get a job at Microsoft if that's how you think business should be done. That would have been time better spent integrating MAME, Netflix, Graboid or BitTorrent into the MC UI. But at least any frickin monkey can install it just the way you decided it should be.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

A couple of thoughts...

1) Ubuntu Feisty Fawn isn't ready for the general masses. I hope you understand I write this for geeks. There are plenty of quirks and weirdness here to make me mark it a green or blue.

These guys had a few things to say that I didn't run into myself.

2) Umm...that's about it. I recommend anyone get the LiveCD and play with it. I wouldn't try installing it if you aren't comfortable working with your windows partition. If you don't know what I just said means, then don't try to install it. Or do, but be very very careful and read, read, read! about the options you choose during install.

There can be more than one...

Okay, I admit it. It finally happened to me. I'm converted, I've seen the world in a whole new light. It happened yesterday morning...reading through a number of my blogs I found a number of references to Ubuntu's new release 7.04 aka Feisty Fawn.

They had a handy LiveCD and I had a spare machine... One thing led to another and now I'm running it on 3 machines here in the house and planning how to migrate the other 9 or so.

I've been hollering at Microsoft to strip down their OS and sheer off the bells and whistles and give me a lean, efficient and stable OS. Charge me a reasonable amount for it and sell a lot of subscriptions for updates, applications and upgrades. Let the open source community go nuts on the source code and start cranking out competitive, inexpensive and community supported competitors for those services. You'll still make a buck when you sell the OS...but it's too late now. See how easy it is to get me started?

So, for the first time in about 3 years I sat down in front of a shiny new OS and said "Very nice." and "Well done!" or "Ah, that's how that's supposed to work..."

Maybe the shiny newness will wear off this weekend when I start digging deeper into apps but for right now I'd really suggest you get a copy of the LiveCD and give it a test drive.

I started off with a clone P4 3.0 with 1GB and a Gigabit LAN connection to the network and my 1.5Mb DSL (I know, but I really do live in the boonies.). 40GB Seagate SATA screaming away and a fairly advanced dual head X600 ATI card on the PCI-X bus.

The LiveCD came down in about 20-25 minutes, burned up in 5. Booted to the installer less than half an hour after I'd gotten the inkling.

I was gritting my teeth for the 80 column installs I'm mostly familiar with. But, they put on a nice show. The OS boots from the CD in a pretty full format you can fiddle with. The install is hand-holdy and doesn't really tell you what's going on, or why - but it gets it done.

I'm still feeling nervous that I don't have the latest and best drivers, but that's just my Windows hangover, I hope.

The install only took about 30 minutes from the first boot of the LiveCD - maybe an hour before I got back up to my first completed install. It seemed fast, then I realized it had pretty much skipped at least one, perhaps two restarts before getting me to that first full login. I guess that's one of the clever beauties of the LiveCD format - that fairly long load allowed it to figure out what to install without having to ask me a lot of questions...or any.

On the first install I tested out the XP boot, it was freakin' simple, it found it already, labeled it correctly - damn near everything. It worked, I knew what to choose to get where. XP came up quick as ever. Restarted and went back in to Ubuntu. Startup is fast and seems fairly efficient.

The first thing it does is look for updates, which it finds. I'd rather have some than none anyday - none means nobody is supporting it any more. I was expecting a long wait but it was a good 20 minutes. While those were loading up I started digging through the GUI controls and looking at system resources.

I'm not too fond of the default colors, and one of my biggest beefs with most Linux desktops was the need to edit lots of little .conf files to change the resolution, wallpaper and look and feel settings. The Feisty Fawn has a very nice slick desktop interface that's easy to navigate and I found fairly direct and straight forward. Sure there are quirks, and there are fewer options out of the box. Guess that's why it installs so quick!

And there, to my astonishment is my 40GB NTFS drive on the desktop! And I can totally use it. Nice! My XP Boot is intact on the drive and totally accessible. Okay, it's scary too, but good to know.

The network configured just right and I'm able to browse the network and access computers on the AD with my AD credentials. Out of the box...I just went to them, gave it my credentials and made some choices about how to store them locally. Boom - I'm browsing my XP workstation drive.

Firefox comes by default and runs well. Went ahead and installed my base set of plugins and extensions. Runs good...That's where I usually am anyway.

I'm still a little worried about stepping away from MS Office. It's still the business standard. I haven't been more than 85 or 90% with Google Docs. I'll see how much difficulty I have getting everything the way I like it in the pre-installed open office.

Some apps are loaded by default, a fairly nice selection, and there is already a nice library of applications available and lots more to be found searching the internet. Though, most of the non-debian packaged apps delv quickly in to .conf files and command line hacking (which I've kind of been missing, not enough in 2k and XP). This could be a breaking point. If I can't get my apps up and running the way I want I'll be going back to XP.

I've been enjoying it. It's hard to be intimidated by something called Feisty Fawn. I guess that was maybe the point. But I'm fairly impressed. It seems to fill a lot of the gaps MS has left out of their recent OS's and managed to build a good solid base of technologies to support the user and the developers. It seems solid, now. I'll let you know how it goes.

I think my next convert will be the AVServer - looking at MythTV and some others...more soon!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The sharpest tool in the drawer...

I had a frustrating time last night. Mrs. Rex's dad had his main drive partitioned up into a 4GB C: drive and a 26GB D: drive and was having problems with C: filling up.

I'd recently gotten a new SimpleTech 1GB USB Flash Drive and had loaded it up with all the tools of my trade. The software and applications I most frequently use. This was to make me a mobile computer repair commando with everything I needed at my disposal dangling from my keychain.

I typically carry around a little 2.5" USB hard drive enclosure with a 40GB IDE notebook drive in it for this task but was making an attempt at reducing the size and weight of my portable.

Well, over the course of three days that I've been trying to use the flash drive it's been nothing but problems. I spent a goodly amount of time reformatting it, creating a "Flash Backup" folder on my desktop so when the thing cheesed out and gave me a "file is corrupt or unaccessible" error I could just wipe it and reload it in a jiffy. What a pain in the ass. The flash drive now lives in my trash can until Wednesday when the garbage man comes.

I took it over to my in-laws with the intention of installing partition magic from the flash drive and resizing his partitions. When it cheesed out and wouldn't let me. Piece of shit. I'm going back to the 2.5" USB enclosure. So, instead of driving home and getting the old standby drive I took a stab at finding a nice Open Source Alternative.

I cruised over to osalt.com and looked up alternatives to partition magic. It looked like the tool for the job was a utility called gparted - they had a live CD version so I downloaded it and burnt it to CD. Booted to it and took a look.

I really like the smooth, clean operations of live CD's in general. It's a great way to move around applications and make them portable and compatible. It loaded right up and I started in trying to figure out how to resize the partitions. It was simple to figure out how to use the app, it's real similar to partition magic. Only it wouldn't let me queue up expanding the 4GB C: partition. I could resize D: to 15GB but not expand C: to fill the space left.

I verified it was an NTFS partition, sure enough. Weird. So, I figured It probably just wouldn't let me do it until after the space was available. I kicked off the D: part resize and waited...and waited...and waited. It ran through some file and directory verification okay then started a 20 minute resize operation. 20 Minutes??? What the hell? Partition magic would do it in like 30 seconds...oh well.

20 Minutes later it kicked off ANOTHER 20 minute task. The same task, again. What? Was the first one practice? At this point I called in the calvary. Typically I'd have to take care of it my self but since I was working on her Dad's computer Mrs. Rex agreed to pitch in.

I called her up and walked her through burning partition magic from my PC to a CD and she brought it over...before gparted had completed the resize.

Just for giggles I then asked gparted to try and resize C: again. It wouldn't. Even with the space available on the disk it refused to resize the primary boot partition, even though it was NTFS.

I restarted the PC, win2k came up and ran a scandisk on the new newly modified partition and windows came up normally. Disk manager showed the new D: size and the big empty space I'd created. Everything looked fine. I loaded the PM cd and installed it, fired it up.

PM was now reporting the drive was "BAD" - what the hell? I scheduled another scandisk and restarted. No errors. PM still shows the disk as bad. Fired up the Partition Info tool from PM - it's complaining about geometry errors on the disk. Basically saying the new D: partition was not configured correctly.

Luckily PM has a little command line switch /ipe which tells it to ignore errors.

PM quickly and easily resized C:, Fixed D: and got us rolling in about 2 minutes.

So, the flash drive went in the trash and the gparted CD went in the microwave.

Oh, and by the way. A quick note about Partition Magic. Symantec bought it a while back and I'm not as fond of the newer versions. If you're looking for the best partition manager out there see if you can't find yourself a copy of PowerQuest's Partition Magic 8.0.

It's been going on for over a decade and I'm still pissed at Symantec over what they did to Norton Utilities, Ghost and now PM. Why do they feel so compelled to buy great, efficient well designed utility applications and turn them into bloated crapware?

Oh well...

The hammer hanging in my garage is older than I am, it's not as swanky as a new fiber-glass handled techno hammer, but it gets the job done.

I'm still looking for a good flash drive, something that will be more reliable. I guess that shows me for buying the cheapest one I could find on froogle. But for the time being the 2.5" USB enclosure with an IDE drive and a three year old version of partition magic on it still gets the job done faster and more reliably so it's what I'll continue to reach for...the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Oh my GOD!

So, just to figure out how it all works I stuck a google adsense box down there on the right hand banner of this here blog.

It's been "Help Hurricane Katrina Relief" and other stuff for months now. This morning I noticed it says "Dual Core - Improve Efficiency, Performance and overall Infrastructure. www.amd.com/dualcore"


There's a pretty good reason why some webvertising doesn't work. When you base it on keywords like that you might not get what you bargained for.

Have fun.

The Greatest Book In The World...

Outside of work I would say I probably read as much from paper as I do from cathode ray nipple (Or I guess the liquid crystal nipple nowadays). But, it's actually true. Once you add in work to the mix it's no contest, I spend most of my time hammering away on a keyboard staring into a monitor.

It all started about a year ago when I started working this new job. Back, before, in the dark place - the horrible place - the evil place - I spent my lunch hours curled up in the fetal position under my desk in my cubicle or standing on the sidewalk sucking down cigarettes. We only got 30 minutes for lunch. Then, I got laid off. Lucky me, actually.

Now I work in a much higher grade office. We get an hour for lunch and there are no mean-hearted stubborn ignorant people looking over my shoulder to see how many times I pee during the course of a day. I get my work done, I get more work done than most of my peers, I can do pretty much what I like...which I like.

So, after a couple of weeks of working here I found myself with about 40 minutes of my lunch break un-used. I would scurry off and wolf down my lunch, power smoke a few cigarettes and find myself with free time on my hands.

Being a father of two little boys, this is a rare occurrence. My first thought was to nap, but I find it hard to restart the dynamo for an hour or two after I wake up. So, one day I swung into a book store nearby and picked up a couple of books.

I was an avid reader during jr. high, high school and college. I even did quite a bit of reading early in my career but it tapered off as I took more and more challenging positions. Since the kids came my reading has pretty much consisted of reading a few Dilbert or Bloom County comic strips from big compendium books while I pooped.

Now I find myself back in a position where I can read 40-50 minutes every day. At least! I've even gotten so engrossed in some books that they follow me home and climb into bed with me. It's been a joy to rediscover reading. There's a nice little park just a block away from my office and I mosey over there with my lunch. I'll sit, read, smoke and just relax.

I started off catching up on some missed sci-fi classics. I went out and found the "Top 25 Sci-Fi Classics" list somewhere and made sure I had read all, or most of them. Then I went on an Orson Scott Card bender following through all the Ender books, and a couple of his other series which were pretty good. I started digging into some of the Cabal of Masonry books (The Widow's Son and a few others...).

I'd read quite a bit of cyberpunk stuff in my day, a lot of it so cheesy that the major pizza chains can't afford to use it as "cheese" on their "pizza". One day whilst wandering through the used book shop near my office I came across Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. It had been on my list of things to read for a long time, I'd read it was one of the best cyberpunk stories of all time.

It was pretty damned good. The first few chapters just totally blew me away. Stephenson had the balls to name his lead character Hiro Protagonist of all things, it was a wonderful, sweeping adventure.

I'd picked Snow Crash up with a few other books that I found on a list of "Bad Movie, Great Book" (The Postman, Starship Troopers and the like) so it took me a while to get around to digging into some more Stephenson books.

When I went up to the counter with Zodiac and Cryptonomicon and set them on the counter I felt like I was being sized up by the Book Store Guy. Funny thing about Book Store Guys (and Gals) - It must be a very tedious job, selling bad books to stupid people all day, but when someone walks up and lays something on the counter that you actually respect and enjoy it's probably a good feeling.

This particular Book Store Guy had been impressed with my delvings into the "Post Apocalyptic Fiction" and had even pointed out a few books I'd enjoyed (Canticle for Leibowitz and a few others) when he saw some I'd chosen myself. "There's some pretty hard core math in this one..." he said as he scanned in the bar code on Cryptonomicon.

"Cool." I said...which appeared to be the right answer.

789 pages later I realize that I've been nothing but a hack geek poser for my entire life. I have no idea how I got to be who, where and how I am without having read this book. A lot happened during those years while I was raising my babies and reading Opus n' Oliver cartoons on the can. Some really, totally amazing stuff. Then I read Zodiac.

I now peer frequently over my shoulder wondering if this guy Neal has been following me around. It's almost creepy. But, the stories have been delightful, the characters compelling and the plots are an exciting ride on an out of control horse through the thickets of a very creative imagination. Thanks Neal!

I'm glad I've gotten back into reading. It's been a great pleasure. It's strengthened my resolve to continue spending time reading to my own kids, to help them discover the love of words, not just to hang on the bells, toots and whistles that come out of the liquid crystal nipples that seem to surround us in homes, schools and offices.

Okay, back to work (and Quicksilver, the first tome of the Baroque series...by Neal Stephenson).


Time for a quick "googlepc" update...

For the most part I've been satisfied using Google Docs as a replacement for word/excel. But there have been some deal breaking issues.

First of all is availability of service. A couple of nights ago I was sifting through email looking to print out a couple of forms I needed to complete to bring to an interview I had scheduled the next day.

I kept getting errors that "Oops, the service isn't currently available" and "There was a problem, the good news is it's been submitted as a bug so we can fix it" and other such babble. Basically, I couldn't get to my docs, when I needed them. I went back and forth for several minutes and did finally get them opened up.

Not so much a deal breaker as a nuisance but when I tried to print these documents I of course got all the default header and footer stuff printed from the browser. Typically, I like this stuff, it gives me a date and a URL where the document can be found for future reference. But, when printing a form they screw up the page alignment and for job applications and such just isn't in good taste to have them on there.

I have no intention of reconfiguring this every time I print. Google Docs needs to get a decent printer interface worked out so I don't need to use different page configurations for printing when I try to print one of their docs.

The other deal breaker I've run into was the personalized home pages. I've been using a my.yahoo.com page for about 10 years and it's always been stable and reliable. Monday morning I log in to my personalized google home page via my google apps site and all of my news feeds are missing. Just gone. I had about 12 RSS listings in there and they have now gone away. No email, no notice, nothing. It lost all my customization.

I spent a lot of time configuring the look, theme and content of my personalized home page, you don't just go wiping it out on someone with no explanation...unless you're google, of course.

I'll rebuild it and try and keep using it, but one more fumble and I'm going back to Yahoo guys.

Oh, if the title of this post doesn't make any sense - just Google it. Or Yahoo it and spread it around. Then ask yourself why we're letting these idiot no-brains influence our government. Did they really believe this was their silver bullet? Have the guys developing their content control ever actually read anything about encryption, code breaking or digital security? Is "pathetisad" a word?

Actually, don't Yahoo it - I'm currently boycotting Yahoo for ratting out a pro-democracy Chinese national. Read all about it here. I'm so torn. Maybe I'll just write and host my own personalized home page on my own server on my own url and then when it crashes I'll have no one to blame but myself.

Oh well.

Monday, April 09, 2007


So my recent deployment of the MediaPortal machine has kind of left me scrounging for storage. I've pulled the big drive out of my personal workstation to satiate AVServer's relentless hunger and provide space for all the little red envelopes that have been showing up in my mailbox of late...

This has left me slapping an old 40GB drive in to keep up with email , personal business and a game or three.

I was downloading the latest version of OpenOffice when thoughts of another recent article (that I can't find right now but will link to when I find it...) crept into my head. It talked about Google OS and how Google has really come out with a plethora of applications and services that it damn near IS an OS already.

So, I hit cancel, popped open a fresh frappuccino and began stroking my imaginary beard like an evil-genius with a plan.

I had just completed installation of XP and hammered through all of the required patch files. I'd installed fresh drivers, Nero for CD/DVD burning and OneCare. I'd done my regular tweaking with TweakUI and gotten my 'look and feel' on with StyleXP. I had MediaPlayerClassic installed with the Real and Quicktime alternative patches in place.

So, I turned to Google to see where I could get from there.

I had not yet delved too deeply into GoogleApps and knew they had some office type apps but was pretty well amazed at what I found.

I took one of my "to be played with" domain names and signed up for a free standard apps account. What a toolset! Here I was thinking I'd get a little spreadsheet and word processor, but Google is hosting my whole domain. Mail, Calendar, Chat - for up to 100 users....FREE! They even host web pages if I want and have a nifty little web page creation utility.

Here's a list of the google apps I've got to running:
GMAIL (Up to 100 accounts using my domain name)
Google Calendar (Shared or private)
Google Talk (Chat)
Writely (Word Processor)
Google Spreadsheets (duh)
Google Earth
Google SketchUp (light cad)
Picasa (Photo Management)
Google Desktop
Google Reader
Google Photos Screensaver
Google Video Player

The Google Pack really rounded out the install:
Gallery Player HD Images
Acrobat Reader
(The pack also has virus and spyware apps along with Real)

Then I started hitting the firefox addon's directed at Google:

Google Calendar Quick Add

Google Calendar Notifier

Google Reader Notifier

Firefox Google Bookmarks

Then I started grabbing widgets and plugins - gmail notifiers and managers, gdrive...

It was well past midnight...the room was spinning, I'd been back and forth through so many different interfaces and utilities and I was just in a daze. I slogged off to bed with visions of connected distributed applications dancing in my head.

But it's up, it's running... I'll let you know how it goes when I get home and get to start playing with it.

Monday, April 02, 2007


A few days back I wrote about Multi-Core processing technology and how most people don't need it. Well, it seems my timing was dead on. Since then I've been embroiled in a number of discussions about hardware standards for our organization here at work.

We're wasting thousands and thousands of dollars every quarter on hardware we simply do not need. The basic reason for this is the same reason so many people are going out and snapping up dual core systems with vista and the latest versions of office.

It's no longer about correctly spec'ing what you NEED it's about how much you or your organization are being swayed by the market. FOR GODS SAKE YOU'RE THE MARKET! YOU are the end-user. We're letting these companies get away with murder and it's OUR fault!

It doesn't matter what deals HP or Dell have cooked up with Intel, AMD or Microsoft. These companies are so wrapped up in making deals with each other it seems they've really forgotten who their customers are.

Sure, I understand that cutting a big deal with your processor and OS suppliers is the quickest way to insure competitive pricing but you seem to be forgetting that the REASON you're trying to be competitive is to sell US computers. As the organization that employees me wrestles with our vendors it seems like what they really want to do is sell us the products that Microsoft and Intel are trying to sell to them. STOP IT! There are two main reasons this is bad for the market.

First, selling new technology for new technologies sake only drives up your costs. Splitting your support, manufacturing and process. The faster you phase technology in and out of your products the higher these costs go. The vendors serving us end-users need to push back on their suppliers with what we NEED and not just roll over to every new gadget that the big guys are trying to pass off.

Your customers would have a lot more money to expand their technology base with your products if we weren't constantly wrestling, week to week and even day to day in some instances to build a planned, homogeneous environment. Yes, we want power, performance and support but stop selling us .05% performance increases.

We don't NEED Vista. We don't NEED multi-core processors. Microsoft NEEDS vista, Intel and AMD need multi-core. Who's your frigging customer? These companies are trying to shove their new products out the door for their own bottom lines, not yours and not for the end users.

Secondly by filling the market with doublespeak and by serving as a lapdog to the major players and pushing their crap on the market you are making it nearly impossible for consumers to really make an informed decision.

If your customers understood your products more accurately and could plainly see the differences available without having to dig through reams and reams and reams of specifications to find answers to simple questions their satisfaction would be increased and that drives repeat business.

Simply put the flood gates are open on new "better" technology hitting the market. Stop cow towing to the manufacturers and demand a better product for your product. The current environment makes it nearly impossible for REAL and significant technology break through products from reaching for us. There is far too much swamp to slog through to find the high ground.

I'm an experienced old geek, I can look at a user and what they do and spec a machine for them - but what I can't seem to do is get a good deal, a straight answer and a fair price on that spec. I'm always pushed up a notch and I'm losing the ability to push back.

Looking at HP business laptops recently I was only able to find ONE system listed on their site that is not multi-core. I didn't look at each brand and model, but the one I DID find was a freakin CELERON. C'mon! How many of my road-warriors need dual-freakin-core? Maybe, 10 - so I would like to have the option. My other 400 users however SHOULD have a single core processor. But, I guess HP has decided that's not necessary.

Another factor is that RAM is RIDICULOUSLY priced on their site. 512MB as the base? Give me a BREAK! Sure, most can do 4 and some are limited to 2GB but to charge me a premium for a 1GB configuration? You're really trying to milk us, and we know it. I could go out and order the RAM from another vendor and install it myself, but for crap's sake I'm the customer, I want to buy 1GB configurations from the factory, why ask me to bend over? I'll take my business elsewhere if I have to.

You should be building configurations to provide maximum value for what your customers are demanding. You are building configurations to best suit the needs of your suppliers and to maximize the profit you make on the reach-around and cramming them down our throats. I can see it, we can all see it. Stop it!

We could go back to the good old days where we buy the case we want from the case company and the processor we want from the processor company and so on. But, there is a market for VALUE ADDED resellers and system builders. So, start adding some freaking value to the process by building us the machines we want and need and providing reliable support and supply.

You end-users need to get on the ball as well. Stop buying the crap they're selling. Go to their site and custom configure the system you want and need. If you don't like the price call em up and bust their balls. Take their best price and take it to their competitor to see if they'll beat it. It doesn't matter if if it's a Dell or an HP or a Gateway, it's all the same parts packaged together for YOUR use. The "deals" they list on their site aren't what is best for you, but what they can make the best kick-back on from the manufacturer. Hold 'em accountable.

When you're ordering a system INSIST they remove the components you don't want. This includes the crap software and bullshit trial versions that come pre-installed as well as the bells and whistles hardware. If they won't pull it, or if they don't cut their price for removing it go to someone who will. It's the only way to turn these "value-added" re-sellers back into OUR advocates on the market instead of their vendors.

Good Day.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

I hate printers...

Okay, I admit it - I hate printers.

I long for the good old days of line printers where all you needed to do to put ink on paper was echo a string to lpt.

Of course you couldn't print pictures, except pictures like this:

Sure, you couldn't "duplex" and you had to rip the tractor feeds off the page - but then again you didn't need a 350MB driver, ink didn't cost more per ounce than Dom and you didn't have to spend hours trying to figure your way through obscure and poorly labeled menus on a tiny LCD screen.

I think you're starting to get the idea here that I like nice, clean designs that don't try to include every possible feature that can be crammed into a device. Sure, I love being able to print out big beautiful full color high resolution pictures. I love being able to quickly print a multi-page document. What I don't love is trying to figure out each manufacturers vocabulary when working with multi-function printers.

In our office we have a decent array of HP and Xerox laser printers, or "Document Centers" and I am CONSTANTLY getting support requests from users trying to perform what should be straight forward simple functions that require so many contortions and commands that it's just unreal. These are functions they perform maybe twice a year and each time it comes up they have to look me up so I can figure out the process and show them how to do it...again.

With the huge amount of money these companies are making on not only the sale of the printer, but also on its supplies and service agreements (do NOT buy an expensive laser multi function document center WITHOUT a support agreement, it WILL break and cost huge sums of money to fix) you'd think they would be trying to simplify their products, not make them more complex. They would be cheaper to design and build in the long run.

Oh well...I have to go figure out how to duplex from autocad...again...

Friday, March 23, 2007

Dual Core - It's "better"!



It's the same old story - the same old bullshit. Intel and AMD along with their cohorts (HP, Gateway, Dell and every other system manufacturer on the planet) are once again pummeling us with their latest advancement in technology. DUAL CORE! Oh my god! DUAL CORE! THE POWER TO DO MORE! OH MY GOD! IT'S THE SECOND COMING!

Look people, it's vapor ware. Okay, that's not true - there are SOME advantages to this new technology - commendable improvements that the hard working engineers and technicians creating them should be applauded for and they should feel good about it. It's just what the marketing clowns do to it that gets me all frustrated.

Lots of people come to me asking for advice on buying a new PC. I help a lot of non-IT folks at work get quotes for new systems for their departments or their home, not to mention the requests I get from friends and family. Here's what I have to say about Dual Core - because it always comes up.

MOST applications that the average desktop user run were not designed to be multi-threaded. There are SOME applications out there that do, and next generation applications will probably try to leverage the expanding hardware base of dual core processors. MOST of the applications YOU run on a day to day basis will not see ANY improvement by making the jump to dual core technology.

MOST dual core processors run at a slower speed than their single core brothers and sisters. This is because of heat. Two 2.4GHz processors make more, or about as much heat as a single 3GHz processor. MOST of the applications you usually run will perform WORSE as its single thread runs through a single, slower processor on your dual core chip than it would on a faster single chip.

MOST of the differences in performance that there ARE in moving your working environment to Dual Core will NOT be noticeable during day to day tasks. In fact MOST of these differences can only be detected in a lab environment running detailed side by side comparisons and will not do a damn thing to improve the performance of your user experience. Your ISP's slow ass mail server will not deliver your mail any faster to your desktop no matter how much cheetah blood you rub on it!

MOST users don't really "Multi Task" - they may have more than one application open on their desktop at any one time, however these applications are typically not grinding away on vast quantities of data while they are in the background. By the time you hit Alt-Tab to switch from Excel to Firefox Excel itself is already dormant having completed whatever earth shattering task you've set it to do (like add up a column of numbers and display an answer). So, having a "multi tasking" environment is kind of a waste of money.

IF you are a POWER user - like say you do a lot of video editing or encoding/decoding, or say you're doing lots of statistical calculations for your PHD Thesis or you've lined up like the fanboy you are to buy the latest installment of "Blood & Gore 3 - The Sequel With No Association With The Orignal Plot" then yes, your investment in dual core is probably justified.

For this small subset of users I recommend you maybe save a couple hundred bucks, don't jump to dual core and maybe try to get out of the house some more and make some real face to face friendships. Spending the money on Dual-Core isn't going to make you spend any less time at the computer no matter WHAT you do with it. Your big data crunching jobs may finish a few seconds or even minutes sooner, but I KNOW you, you'll just load up another one anyway.

Why are they even pushing dual core on us so hard? Well, a lot of people, myself included, think that we're starting to hit some barriers in processor speeds. Mainly to do with heat and how to keep something cool enough to not damage the standard components of a PC clustered around it. Dual Core is a way for the chip makers to continue pushing the capacity of their product to new levels. YOU GO GIRL! I'm all for it. That's their job.

Dual Core allows the chip makers to streamline cache and pipeline to make it less expensive and even faster to provide dual processor technology to the market while still expanding the computational power of their product. More flops, if you will.

The software makers out there have been slow to adopt multi-threading capability. Most desktop systems have traditionally had a single processor. If their target audience is the desktop market they've written applications to take advantage of that configuration, trying to make their application run as well as possible on the most common hardware platforms.

The cost of a multi-processor system has usually been higher, especially in the desktop market. Special motherboards, the second processor itself - basically there is less selection and less traffic in that market meaning it's harder to get good value out of a system, especially with most software not written to even acknowledge the existence of the second processor.

So, here we are. Intel and AMD are hard pressed to drive the computing capacity of the single processor beyond its current limits. I'm sure they have some tricks up their sleeves and they are working intently on making progress, and they will. Multi-Processor systems are becoming a larger and larger market share as more and more servers get deployed around the world. The manufacturers are trying to drive the desktop and the server market together with dual core.

They can drive down the cost of making dual core processors and offer a broader selection of products and peripherals to their data center clients while still driving up the capacity of our desktop computers. A good plan if you ask me, really! Seeing as I live on both sides of the fence as a server and desktop consumer.

Server side does see a lot of improvements. Your server handling hundreds or thousands of requests every minute with multi-threaded applications like email servers and databases DO see a great improvement with multiple processors. Dual Core makes for a more efficient and faster multi-processor environment. It's good stuff.

What the marketing push is REALLY all about is getting you, the end user - to believe that dual core is better, and it is, in some ways. They are hoping the consumers adoption of the technology will lead the software and peripheral developers out there to start catering to that community as well, meaning your desktop applications will start TRYING to take advantage of the technology because we are telling them that's what we want because it's what we're buying.

YES! It's the way to go! Yes, it's the FUTURE! OH MY GOD! IT'S DUAL CORE!

But here's the truth. Your new PC will be replaced in 2-3 years. Those dual core processors will be cheaper and faster in 2-3 years. The single core processors are already getting cheaper. Your system isn't going to run any better with it. The most BANG for your buck right now when purchasing a processor is the Intel P4. Peripherals and software designed for it are abundant and a good value.

Let some other media hyped pavlovian consumer, or the completely clueless consumer push this wave. They will do it, they always have. Your dollar is best applied to meeting your needs most efficiently right now. If you really want a FAST computer, an efficient machine that does everything you want it to do - well, first unload weather bug and those other 20 little applications you've been suckered into installing. Defrag your hard drive, buy a faster internet connection, maybe buy a server to handle some ongoing tasks and get them off your desktop. Buy some more RAM - a faster hard drive a bigger monitor. Something, anything! You may feel better knowing you have the latest and greatest dual core processor but 95% of you won't see a damn bit of difference in performance and that money COULD drive other visible and useful improvements.

So...now you know. If you're anything like me, you still want one, or two, or whatever...

Friday, March 09, 2007

MediaPortal Review

I've decided to get into a little more detail for this particular post. I have been running MediaPortal in Windows XP for nearly a month now and I'm ready to give you the low-down.

First, the hardware...

Computer Name: AVServer
Intel Pentium 4 3.0GHz Socket 775
ASUS Motherboard (I'll update the speck in a little bit...)
On-board 7.1 Sound
On-board GB Ethernet
1GB Corsair PC3200 DDR RAM (2x 512)
1x 400GB Seagate 7200.10 SATA II (3.0GB/SEC) HDD
1x 320GB Seagate 7200 UATA-100 HDD
Chaintech PCI-X16 Nvidia 7600GS 512MB Video Card
Hauppage Win-TV PVR-500 MCE Dual Tuner TV Card
Lite-On 16x DVD ROM Drive
Lite-On 20x DVD Burner (Dual Layer) w/ Lightscribe
Microsoft IR Media Center Remote

Let's not forget the software...

Microsoft Windows XP Pro
Microsoft Live OneCare (manages patches, virus, spy and admin tasks)
MediaPortal (The Open Source Media Center)
RipIt4Me (Manages DVD Decrypter and DVD Shrink to back up DVD's)
Nero Burning ROM (v7 Premium)
RealVNC Enterprise Remote
DaemonTools (ISO image mounter)

What's Missing...

SoundBlaster X-Fi Elite Pro Sound Card
4x Seagate 7200.10 750GB SATA 3.0Gb/sec
Logitech Harmony 880 IR Remote
Good MP3/DVD info/playlist manager (More about this further down...)

I would like to discuss DVD Archiving. I've never had a lot of luck ripping DVD's, much less burning them. It's really always been a question of storage space and quality. I've never had enough storage space to store everything at the quality levels I wanted so I never really sorted it all out. There are plenty of guides out there and I've followed quite a few.

I've found the best way to archive my DVD's and make backup copies has been to use the RipIt4Me application listed above. Once configured I'm able to crank out DVD backups with standard configurations and settings.

I don't have to jump between multiple apps to get around decryption and it allows me to strip unwanted languages, captions and "coming soon" clips at my discretion, saving quite a bit of space. Will I ever be watching the Matrix in French? Do I need .5GB of audio for it? Once I have my one-click settings to my liking I only need about 40 minutes to rip, resize and burn to ISO.

I've already made quite a dent in my DVD collection getting them all ripped onto local drives but I'll have to wait until the hard drive fairy leaves a couple more terrabytes in my mass storage garden to complete the process.

I really like how RipIt4Me uses some other utilities to eliminate "pre-menu" junk like FBI warnings, previews and commercials. I load the disk and it goes directly to the main DVD menu and I can start the show without wading through the other junk.

With DVD Shrink in the mix with RipIt4Me I'm able to simmer down most dual-layer DVD's that rip to a native ~8GB down to right around 4GB without any noticeable impact on quality. I've run a couple of tests and I think with this space savings and the stripping of unnecessary content I've reached a happy medium between space and quality.

Being the deaf old techosaur that I am I've always been a little hesitant to spend too much money or space on high-fidelity audio. I still rip all my MP3's to 192KHz CD Quality and am quite happy. The extra space and overhead associated with FLAC and other high-fi formats just doesn't seem worth it to me.

The same goes for expensive surround sound solutions. I enjoy a good DTS or THX movie with loud booming and crystal clear detail, but not to the point of stepping into the audiophile realm. I think the Creative X-Fi is a good middle of the road solution at the higher end of the mid-range sound solutions available.

In the mean time I'm just running the 7.1 Surround built into the motherboard and I'm fairly happy with it, however it does lack the array of inputs and outputs I would like to have available.

MediaPortal itself is proving to be an EXCELLENT solution for the Home Theater Media PC. The user interface is simple and straight forward enough for the novice while being flexible and configurable with a number of community created and supported plug-ins for the geeks.

The MediaPortal interface is lush with features including live local weather, various skins and simple to use and read menus. I'm still using my Dish PVR 500 to record TV but MP does have the ability to run an IR Blaster and start handling those duties. Again, this is something I'm waiting for more storage to dig into. In the mean time I just set Tuner 1 to channel 3 and set it to the default channel.

Daemon Tools controls are built into MP so it will automount the image file as a virtual drive and fire it right up. Very convenient.

A punch of the Green Button on the MS remote gives me access to my movie archive, MP3 archive and a whole host of other avi and mpeg videos. It has a nice photo viewer and runs really smoothly in general. It has Radio functionality and the interface for that is very nice and works well with the FM Tuner built into the TV Tuner card.

While this is all going on at the big TV in the living room my MediaGate MG-35 is running off the lan in the bedroom. From there I can access the drives on the MediaPortal machine and watch all my shows, movies clips or photos from either location smoothly and at good quality simultaneously.

I have been very happy with the setup. As I said, I need more storage and a better sound solution. I'd like to get one of those swanky Logitech Harmony remotes to control external devices as well as the PC, but don't really need to do that until I get the break-out box for audio connections.

What's really lacking in my setup right now is a media manager application. I'm still looking for a good solution that will help me sort, genre, update tags and find cover art for my MP3 collection as well as manage my DVD collection (cover art and production information).

MediaPortal actually does a pretty good job looking up information on the internet to fill in movie and song info - but it's a bit slow and the drive scan utility doesn't pick up the .iso image files even though it handles them in the player once you configure DaemonTools so you have to go through one at a time and update the .iso file's information in MediaPortal. I have a fairly massive collection of music and even though it's about 90% sorted (and leveled) I'm still looking for a utility to manage it all. I've tried quite a few and haven't really found the silver bullet.

If you have any suggestions let me know. MediaPortal is pretty good about going out and getting cover art and such for MP3's that I do have accurate tag information for but really isn't designed to manage the content so much as present it to me very efficiently.

I would really like to find an app that I can let loose on my hard drive to seek out songs, album and artist info from existing tags or file names, verify and complete any missing information, update and standardize tags, file names and folder locations while finding and associating album/cover art with the file.

Basically, I want it all, and I want it to work perfectly. Gosh, I sound like on of my users...must be time for lunch.

All in all, I have to say that I STRONGLY recommend MediaPortal, I'm very happy with its DRM-Free Attitude, operation and general glossy sheen. It's very professional looking unlike a lot of open source software I've used while maintaining flexibility and community driven growth and support. Give it a whirl before you drop any $$$ on BeyondTV or MS-MCE.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Game Tapping

I've been playing a little GameTap on a free trial lately. Lots of good old standby games like Interstate 76 and GunMetal. I dunno if it's worth the money but it has been enjoyable.

We had a lovely run of power outages in the last couple of days. Left our DSL kinda botched up but it looks like they have it figured out. Only problem I had on the inside was Mrs. Rex's PC somehow decided it was 272 days in the future so nothing would authenticate and everything complained about being out of date.

Uhoh. Heroes is on...gotta run.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Happy Birthday Mrs. Rex!

I just wanted to shout out a quick Happy Birthday! to Mrs. Rex - She keeps me sane, she keeps me safe. She's the love of my life!


So, they finally did it! Now there's a slick GUI to create robocopy scripts! NICE!

I'm still working toward a big rack rebuild in the basement. No new hardware or machines but it's time to do some consolidation. The spare hardware has been spreading into use...

I think my biggest project so far has been the new media PC. Using my old XP workstation and an awesome little media center application called MediaPortal and my 36" tv/monitor.

MediaPortal totally kicks ass - free/open source application with a ton of good support and a growing support community that is cranking out features, functions and add-ons at an amazing rate. Unlike WindowsMCE in that it handles all kinds of formats and even records your shows in open transportable standards. It supports a goodly number of tuner cards and I've started out with a Hauppauge WinTV PVR500 dual tuner card.

There's even a server project kicking around so you can spread the video and music goodness all through the house. Thanks to some simple shares my little MediaGate is now living in the bedroom with access to the MediaPortal machines entire library.

I'm using an MS IR remote which functions in a beautiful fashion with MediaPortal. Now what I need is more hard drive space! MORE! MORE! MOOOOORE! I figure I'm tipping at least 2TB now but that's too spread out. I'm also drooling a bit over this keyboard...

So, I buy their remote, I want their keyboard, I'm running their XP OS - why don't I just run MCE? Too many hardware and format restrictions. I'm not that fond of the interface either.

As I recently said Mrs Rex and I are seriously working on moving to the South Pacific. In preparation I've been dusting off my piloting skills with MS Flight Simulator X. I've been tooling around the South Pacific mostly in a Grumman Goose but I've found the SR-71 and Space 1999 Eagle 1 work when you want to get somewhere in a hurry...like orbit. I managed to break my joystick last month. Luckily the good folks at Saitek have pushed the technology. The X-52 Flight Controller is now helping me tour Oceania.

I really can't post this infrequently - too much to talk about.

Anyway - I went through and printed out some list, like 3 feet long of the 'new features' in Vista. I've hung it on my door at work and am offering to buy lunch for anyone that can look at the list, then at the price tag and justify it.

MICROSOFT! LISTEN UP! AGAIN! Stop glomming everything into one box! Sell us a base os for $25 a seat with a browser and a start button. Sell or give away MC, MediaPlayer, OneCare, Games, Support, Office, BackOffice and all the other features you're paying royalties for in a one stop shop that gets in your face at startup.

Sigh...I could go on like this all day - but I have some work to do...

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Not extinct!

No, no... Techosaurus Rex has not become extinct. My apologies for being so quiet lately.

With the holidays and my habit of getting submerged in things I've been fairly dormant, but let's catch up! The first big sticking point for me has been Battlefield 2 - I just love that game - then they HAD to go and release Battlefield 2142 - which is quite awesome. Then I've got this weird little love affair going on with MS Flight Sim X.

Santa was VERY nice to the Techosaurus family this Christmas! The whole brood got shiny new PC's under the tree. The little ones even got 15" flat panel monitors so they can share a table.

I bought a pile of refurbs from Dell. I know, I know, why would *I* REX TECHOSAURUS builder of mighty computers for nearly two decades buy off the shelf Dell boxes? Simplicity for one thing. I still would recommend most people build a custom PC - you will always get more for your money. However the Techosaurus clan is getting preparing for a mighty adventure in remote locations where the need to swap pieces between systems outweighs the need of tweaking each individuals system for just their needs. More on this adventure later.

I have been fairly impressed with the Dell machines we bought. I got a good deal on a lot of 4 from eBay. I did have some difficulty finding the half-height dual head 256MB video adapters I wanted for me and Mrs. Techosaurus (once you move to two monitors there is no going back) but managed to find some good deals for them on eBay as well, tricky to find, tricky to find. I will be going back to the trough to expand RAM on the grown-ups machines.

I did frankenputer a little bit - pulling my 400GB SATA drive from my PC and installing it in my new Dell box. I had a little talk with the hard drive fairy recently so Mrs. Techosaurus may be getting an increase as well.

I'm in geekasaur heaven with the 4 replaced computers sitting there calling me softly to tear into them and the other machines around the house to spread the computer goodness as far as I can. The new dell boxes also came with onboard gigabit LAN - so of course I had to go out and buy a couple of netgear gigabit switches. A 5 port for upstairs where Mrs and Jr Techosaurs plug in plus a 16 port rackmountable for the cave.

While I was at it I also hooked myself up with a couple of 19" rackmount shelves. I have 2 5U APC UPS's in the rack currently - that I'm not using and whose batteries have certainly expired. But they are quite useful as shelves, even though they do take up 5U's in the rack and weigh close to 80 pounds each...

I'll be taking my old P4 and building it into one of my rackmount cases to run as a bit torrent/burner machine with gobs of storage. The little small form factor Dell cases just can't handle multiple DVD drives.

I did buy an external USB 2.0 5 1/4 drive case for my burner but am disappointed with the speed. I'll keep my current DVD burner in there and give it the Mrs. to use and I've ordered one of the swanky new Dual Layer DVD burners with Lightscribe along with some Lightscribe and dual layer media.

The DL/Lightscribe drives are very inexpensive but the media are expensive compared to regular DVD+/-R media though not horribly priced and fairly reasonable.

I gave up on little slivers of plastic to store data a long time ago and only really burn disks for special occasions, like pictures for grandparents or long term data backups. The additional cost is well worth it. I'm not burning every piece of software, document or data to disk - that's what RAID is for, it would be unreasonable to use Lightscribe or DL media for that, though the drive I got will handle the vanilla formats as well.

All in all a pretty busy few months in the geek-lair of the mighty Techosaurus Rex - busy, busy, busy! Here's my geek to-do list:

1) Rebuild Mrs T's old machine to replace the squeky P3-400 that's been running the scanner and color printer back in her office.

2) Rebuild Mr T's old machine to be the new burner/torrent box.

3) Scavange remaining bits n' pieces from those machines with the boys old machines and see what I can come up with...

4) Rebuild the rack with new shelves replacing old UPS's and install the new gbit switch.

5) Recruit some teenagers with strong backs and little sense to help clean out the basement. Entice them with promises of free computers (See #3 above).

See, it's time to clean out the basement...and the garage...and the bedroom...and the attic (Do we have an attic? Is there anything in it?) and the living room and everything else. Like any good tech guru dinosaur I've got more than a decades worth of little bits and pieces of computers, and other crap piled up in all corners of my house (creating new corners and thus new places to store more crap). Why this sudden desire to dig out of my comfortable den after all these years?

Am I moving? Yes, probably, most likely. But that's not why. I'd just box it up and take it with me if that were the case. Mrs Techosaurus and I have undertaken a plan. A plan that requires us to jetison the majority of worldly possesions through friends and family, eBay, yardsale, freecycle and landfill. We've decided to punch the time clock and drop out of the rat race. We're pretty serious about a plan to move to the South Pacific.

Why should folks in India be the only ones to benefit so strongly from the new Global Economy? Hell, all I need to make a fairly decent living is a good internet connection and a PC. Not enough income working that way to stay here in the states with gargantuan infrastructure and other overhead costs.

So we're heading for greener pastures, okay, jungles. We've realized that even though we are lower-middle class here in the states we're still in the top 1-2% globally. Let's take our equity and our income potentials somewhere that will stretch it the furthest. Some place warm, friendly and wonderful? Sure, it comes with some challenges but I love a good challenge.

When my brother was in his mid 30's he up and joined the Navy to everyone's surprise. He had a couple degrees already and he told me once "the biggest adventure I have on any given day is deciding whether I should get out of bed and go to work or not." He's a lot more like me than I think sometimes.

ADVENTURE! It's out there! We're going for it! So now does it make sense why I went out and bought a bunch of homogenized computers? I'll still have fast internet access and can buy whatever I want on eBay or NewEgg or ZipZoomFly - but the freight will be a bitch!

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Bastard...

It has recently come to my attention that there are a number of highly skilled and very talented systems administrators out there that have NO idea who the Bastard Operator From Hell is.

My mind balks at the concept of living the life of a sysadmin without the teachings of The Bastard to use as a compass for making decisions...

"It's backup day today so I'm pissed off. Being the BOFH, however, does have it's advantages. I reassign null to be the tape device — it's so much more economical on my time as I don't have to keep getting up to change tapes every 5 minutes. And it speeds up backups too, so it can't be all bad can it? Of course not."

"Oh dear. There are three things wrong here: one, a user knows my extension number, which means: two, the helpdesk has been talking to the operator again; but more importantly: three, the operator is giving out my extension number to people."

The boss is concerned about the amount of network traffic you consume and asks you to come and explain it. You'd take with you:

A) Traffic logs showing it was mostly Windows security updates

B) Falsified traffic logs showing it was mostly Windows security updates

C) Your union representitive

D) An axe, a large roll of carpet and a large quantity of polythene, a bag of lime.."


All hail the bastard!