Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Do you FLCL?

Naota: "When you're in a town like this all covered with smoke, you forget that there's a world outside. Nothing amazing happens here. And you get used to that, used to a world where everything is ordinary. Every day we spend here is like a whole lifetime of dying slowly. But now Haruko is here. That's how I know there really is a world outside."

Fooly Cooly (aka FuriKuri and FLCL). More FLCL facts on IMDB.

See you in the skies!

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Lavie and I...

took Alvis to see Director Hayao Miyazaki’s production of Howl's Moving Castle (Hauru No Ugoku Shiro). The orginal story is by Diana Wynne Jones. We flew in to the theatre from quite a long way away since it doesn't have a very large distribution. We are all big fans of Miyazaki's previous works and have quite a few on DVD. But this was our first chance to catch one at first release. It was really moving. Lot's of symbolism and character development.

The picture above doesn't have anything to do with Howl's, but was very pretty. The Japanese online web newspaper Mainichi Daily News is running a photo contest of unseen Japan. The photo by Ryan from the USA is one of those submitted. The misty serenety captured really moved me. Don't know who you are Ryan, but you have a great eye.

See you in the skies!

Saturday, June 25, 2005

On ZoneAlarm....

I had recently been having my DNS resolutions fail on every 4th or 5th attempt while web-browsing. In my ZA logs (freeware version) I could see that for some reason, it appeared that the DNS server was getting now getting blocked by the firewall. In my attempt to resolve this, I really went down a rabbit's hole of learning--more that I intended to! Here are some fruits of this vanship pilot's adventure:

Start out looking at Don Hoover's ZA guide and GNC Web Creations ZA guide.

Now that you have ZA set up and tweaked. What do all those logs mean? Try these two applications (if you are brave!) ZoneLog and VisualZone.

Not satisfied with just knowing who is coming in and out of your pc? If you really want to know what as well, get a packet sniffer. I really like to use Ethereal. Really awesome and the newer versions support both broadband connections as well as dialup modem gear as well. If that is too much, a more "contained" sniffer I sometimes run in the field on missions is PacketMon.

Of course, every vanship pilot knows that to be the best you need training and practice. Lots of it. If you want some tutorials fly over to Novell and Packet Level for some samples and actual downloads.

So anyway, after two weeks of learning more about ZA and tweaking it out, no more problems with DNS resolutions and more peace of mind. In the end, I suspect that a prior ZA version upgrade caused the DNS location to get blocked for some reason.

Also, I know every vanship pilot likes to paint their ship in their own preferred colors. I mean, look at Tatiana's for example over at Desktop Anime (& enjoy Ming-Ling's other awesome work there as well!). Check out the Home Firewall Guide for more information about firewalls and alternatives (Kerio and Sygate also have good free versions). Because of the number of excellent FREE! versions of software firewalls, there's really no good excuse why you shouldn't be running something on your vanship. (And no, the MS XP firewall doesn't count in my opinion.)

See you in the skies!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Consumer Credit Rights, Widgets and Trojan Attacks

Ever get tired of the onslaught of credit card offers filling your mailbox? Did you know that you can stop them for a period of time with one phone call? 1-888-5OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688) Check out this US Federal Trade Commission website and more information (under Credit Bureaus) or this Experian link.

While we are on the subject of stopping unwanted solicitations: Don't forget about the National Do Not Call Registry. Works for both your "land-lines" and your mobile phones.

Many Americans can now get a free copy of their credit report every year. Check out this link for more information. You may want to be careful of some ads you may be seeing on late-night television that offer a similar service. You will get your credit reports BUT also may end up paying for a credit monitoring subscription and other service as well. That may not be a bad thing. Just know your consumer rights before you consider the "extras".

A fellow mechanic found the Konfabulator. It supports cool "widgets" for your Windows desktop (very similar to the concept from Apple). I personally like the free-ware Samurize application myself. It is kinda tech-y but you can design your own custom configurations pretty easy or download some cool ones already made. As any vanship owner knows, once you get customizing it can be really addicting!

Finally, be on the lookout for a trojan attack on government offices. This first was discovered by our neighbors across the Grand Stream in Britian, then udated by our friends Due North. The email address is spoofed to appear to come from inside government agency offices, so the likely-hood of a user getting tricked is increased. Now, you would think email anti-virus protection systems would keep most executables from being attached, but it wouldn't be hard to send a link to a compromised web-site to launch a silent auto-install infection on a user's pc via JavaScript or ActiveX (see middle section on MJ Suicide email link).

See you in the skies!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

RSS, USB Drive Tools, Malware Infections, & Freeware Disk-Cloning tools

Have you heard about RSS? I’m talking about RSS feeds. They are like special bookmarks that allow you to see what content has been updated on your favorite websites. It took me a while to get the concept down. Firefox includes the ability to handle "live-feeds" in its basic package and it confused the heck out of me for quite a while. I finally found the “Sage” extension for Firefox after reading a great RSS guide and it all started coming together. There are also standalone versions; FeedReader for instance. It is really cool and useful once you get it down.

HP has a free USB flash drive tool for their flash-drives, but it works on almost all other manufacturer’s drives as well. Not real fancy, but you can use it to format your flash-drive to work as a boot device as well. (Just be sure to copy your flash drive’s data to your HDD before you reformat it!) Another cool USB tool is Remora's USB Quick Launch. Details on the application here.

Want to see the sad sight of a vanship being shot out of the sky? Got two examples of malware infections with screenshots (crash#1 and crash#2). Thanks paperghost! Knowing how it happens helps with knowing how to keep this junk off your pc as well as how to clean them...if navigator/mechanic work on your vanship is more your thing.

Did I mention I like free stuff? Here are two links (HD Clone-2 & Ranish Partition Manager) to drive cloning software that is free as well as a more technical Linux how-to and a Windows XP guide thrown in for good measure. Yes, my vanship is XP-SP2 but I like Linux and enjoy flying a Linux vanship. More flying lessons on that to come...

Listening to The Heartless Bastards...Check them out in an interview on NPR and snag some (legal!) mp3-teases from them at their homepage. Wow! What a voice and sound. Go buy their album. It is just a couple of bucks on iTunes. Groups like this inspire me to start buying CDs again.

See you in the skies

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Come Look at Graphic Editors with me...

I live on a vanship pilot's salary so I can't afford the latest versions of Photoshop or Illustrator. That means I must scratch around for freebees, shareware and open source handouts to keep competitive in the races. So with that in mind, let's turn our attention to the field of graphic editing software and look a a few of my favorites.

Starting simple, one should have some basic image thumbnailers and editors in your toolbox. First there is the venerable IrfanView. It has an "old-school" interface, but is fast and dependable. Like my late grandpa's 1950 lock-pick set, it ain't pretty but will open just about anything you face. Next we have the FastStone Image Viewer. This thing has a slick "new-school" XP style interface. It can handle thumbnailing images and do some standard image manipulations as well. Did I mention it was FAST???!!!

Kicking it up another notch, there is the ImageWalker application. It is very similar to FastStone, but if you dig into the filter options, you can find a tool called the FilterFactory. (Check out more about FilterFactory.) You can apply tons of filters to your pictures and tweak many of them. Wow! Lots of fun and some are pretty bizzare!

Now we are getting into the big guns. On the horizon, Microsoft is offering a BETA version of it's application called Acrylic. Jury seems really mixed on this one right now. I'm taking a wait and see attitude. For vector editing, I stand by Inkscape. It is awesome application. I already hear at least one of you out there shouting GIMP. It is similar to Photoshop, but different enough to be confusing to those of us who have used Photoshop while still keeping the Adobe lawyers away. Finally, check out Paint.net. Wow! It also has a slick XP style interface. However, it does depends on MS.NET software.

Finally, let's not forget about that good old standby Microsoft Paint. Yeah, it seems like something you would only let your child play with, but check out this link (take your time to take it all in!) to see what it is capable of in the hands of a master (and someone who has way too much free time on their hands).

I have to make one more mention, while not a graphic editor, take a detour and check out the web-editor called Nvu. It is really easy to use. I know very little about web-page work, but some of the other pilots I fly with who use FrontPage say this is really great. In fact, you can download the app, install it to your pc, then copy the program folder to you USB drive and run it directly from there, even if you uninstall the app from your hard-drive. (More on this vanship pilot's trick using other software and storage media in an upcoming post...)

Today's Kawaii-Bonus Link!!!! Cute Tiny Houses! Now, I might be able to afford one of these on a vanship pilot's salary!

See you in the skies!

I'm dumping pictures at the bottom of this post that don't link well in IE to the original sites.