Friday, August 11, 2006

Friday's Finds


Just got done with some last-minute back to school projects.

1) Got Alvis a new cell phone. School district policy allows the students to carry a cell phone on campus. It must be turned off during school hours and cannot be a camera-phone. Alvis said most of the kids carried a camera-phone anyway and the teachers really didn't care as long as it was turned off. Being responsible parents, we decided to nix the plan to get the Pantech C300 phone (with camera) and got a Sony Ericsson Z300a phone (without camera) instead. She was seriously bummed out as the Sony is about 2x as large as the Pantec, but it came with jewel-stickers and that brightened her up quite a bit. By the end of the day it was the best phone in the whole world. (Sigh...)

2) Found a new desk for her. It is about 2x as big as her old one, and it has a credenza unit as well. "Christopher Lowell Shore Workcenter." It looks kinda French-country style if you ask me. However, once I finished spending 1/2 the day assembling the crazy thing, it actually looks better in her room than the smaller one she had before. Picked up a new desk-chair for her as well. Neon-blue fuzzy fabric. Purrr-fect!

3) While cruising the office supply store where we got the desk, we got a florescent lamp. I didn't realize it but it comes with a 4-port USB hub and a Cat-V jack as well. Handy for desktop access I guess.

4) I finally bit the bullet and bought Alvis a flat-panel LCD display. Lavie has been trying hard to get me to get one. The local Big Box electronics store was running a sale on a Westinghouse 19" for a price of $159 after instant $80 rebate. While digging the boxes I noticed they also had some 17" models as well but there wasn't any floor display/price to be found. I couldn't find a salesperson for over 20 min even after Lavie asked a manager...I gave up and took both sizes to checkout. Ended up getting the Westinghouse LCM-17v2 17" for just $129. The picture quality looks great on her Linux pc. It has two speakers that sound acceptable for a pre-teen's pc. No USB ports on the monitor, however.

5) Reinstalled Alvis's PCLinuxOS (Wizard's Kid-Safe) system. The installed Linux system couldn't pick up the new LCD flat-panel at the correct refresh rate. I knew it could handle it as the LiveCD worked fine. So I spend some time Googling but never could get a clear answer on how to get into the boot settings to rescan for video devices...I'm a lightweight Linux head. So I just reinstalled and let it pick up the settings for the new LCD monitor (which it correctly did!).

Friday Tech Finds:

eEye Digital Security offers a slew of free network security tools. They have some really neat "toys" here. Worth checking out if you are in charge of network administration.

Foundstone (division of McAfee) also offers a slew of free security tools. Quite a lot for assessment, forensics, intrusion detection, network scanning, and stress testing. Don't use these tools on your own network unless you are the administrator. Heavy duty things here.

OpenDNS. Tired of running into DNS (Domain Name Server) issues? When I was with MSN dial-up I was having horrible DNS resolution timing problems and they REFUSED to provide me with some of their DNS addresses so I could manually put the values in. I got them anyway ;) Roadrunner isn't giving me any issues, but if you want a 3rd party DNS service (for free), this might be the way to go. DNS servers take the and translate it into the actual IP numbers that computers use to find each other and the websites to go to. Of course, you have to trust that the DNS servers don't get "hacked" and end up routing you to a baddie site (the old DNS poisoning trick), but this might be a good thing if your ISP's DNS service is slow or picky. Worth keeping a bookmark to at least. via PaulStamatiou

Submachine 3: The Loop - fun free java based game. Really neat and clever. via Lifehacker. Ever get into one of those discussions with your significant-other, child, co-worker, etc. about what the title and artist of that last song you heard played on the radio? provides up to the minute play-list information on a vast number of radio stations across the country. They also provide top-played lists and other information as well. Very nice Web 2.0 stuff here.

Performancing 1.3 released: The fine folks at Performancing have released a new version of the Performancing extension for Firefox. It now supports plug-ins, themes and other handy elements. It remains my blogging tool of choice.

Ready for vacation time? Visit Far and Wide: The Golden Age of Travel Posters. Vintage and Art Deco style travel posters. With a little work, I bet one could make some really enjoyable desktop wallpapers.

See you in the skies,

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