Saturday, January 28, 2006

Firefox Reloaded and XP on a Stick

Ok. It is no secret that I think Firefox is one of the best things since grilled cheese sandwiches.

Whenever possible, I like to run the latest Beta versions (once my critical extensions catch up). I run it at home, at work, and from a USB drive when doing service calls. I like being on the bleeding edge. It excites me.

So word on the net is that we might be seeing Firefox 2.0 ("Bon Echo") sometime late mid 2006. That is good news, but what enhancements will it contain?

The Inside Firefox blog offers these key nuggets:

1) New Bookmarks and History (usability enhancement)
2) Tabbed Browsing Enhancements (make behavior more like OS)
3) Improved Basic Content Type Handling (like RSS/Atom feeds)
4) Web Search (improve embedded UI search feature)
5) Bug Fixing (enough said)
6) Visual Uplift (freshen visual design)
7) Inline Spell Check (like Thunderbird now has)
8) Exit Survey (Provide developers feedback when users uninstall)
9) UI Consolidation and Simplification (UI improvements)

There are currently 159 comments to this post. I did a non-scientific scan and a great majority think the Exit Survey is a waste of time (agreed) and want the developers to focus on memory leak problems and speed in loading (agreed). Overall I am excited to see the development work they are working on. Of course building new features in is a real two-edged sword. One of the things that makes Firefox so special is that users feel they get a good core browser, then can customize it with extensions to make it as feature rich (or not) as they wish. I really hope they focus on the core. In a related post--Ben Goodger goes on to discourse about struggling to prevent software bloat in the Firefox code.

Did Firefox's "Auto Update" not offer you the v1.5.0.1 upgrade? Don't feel bad if it didn't. It took me a while to figure out why my versions at work did, but my home version didn't. Turns out that if you installed one of the Firefox 1.5 beta versions, then upgraded to the final release, your update channel is set to beta. If you just put a clean install of the 1.5 final version, you aren't on the beta update channel. Get the scoop here on how to change it.

One of the features of Firefox is that when you install an XPI extension from a site, it will first prompt you to confirm you want to install. That means adding the site to an "approved XPI" site list. If you want to shave a few seconds off that process, just drag the link to install the extension and drop it on the URL field of the address bar. It will instantly start an install session. (Spotted on dperdue(dot)com.)

Sometimes I will have up to 6 tabs or more open in Firefox. Especially at work where I am monitoring several tech and security sites all day long. I have been using the foXpose extension, but it is pretty static and the visual display is small and hard to read--especially on my laptop. A new extension that runs circles around this concept is Reveal. You have many more options with this one. You can set the default thumbnail window size, rearrange the tab thumbnails, float them, and (I disabled it) have a thumbnail tab view display when you hover over your back/forward toolbar buttons. It is really neat. I recommend it. (Spotted on Lifehacker.)

Dwight over at the TechBlog covered the Performancing extension for Firefox. It is now up to version 1.1 and this one rocks. The previous version had a few annoying bugs, but this one is very stable and rocks. It supports a draft mode and you can save "work in progress" as a "Note" locally. Really slick.
If you are a blogger and use Firefox, you really need to take a moment to try this extension out.

Now, I realize that some folks out there don't think Firefox is "all that." They don't have any problems using Opera or even Internet Explorer. In the interest of transparency, I share with you the following post via WinXPCentral: Firefox Myths - Myths Regarding the Firefox Web Browser. It didn't convince me to change back, but as a Firefox user, I appreciated the work and candor the article exposes. It all comes down to finding a web-browser that you are comfortable with. I like the flexibility and customization that Firefox gives me. Is it the fastest? (not on my pc) Does it use the fewest resources? (not on my pc) Is it the most secure? (well, I think so. I haven't had any issues with spyware/malware on any system I run it on, but then, I am a sysadmin who battles malware/spyware daily at work and know what to do and not to do while surfing the net--so I can't say Firefox keeps me safe--my security behavior does--but Firefox supplements those choices best for me.) Pick a browser that fits your needs and help you get the most of your browsing experience. That's the bottom line. For me, it remains Firefox--hands down.

Cheauh Chu Yeow wrote a great intro guide titled "You Don't Know Jack About Firefox." It covers some of the major features Firefox offers. Aimed mostly to new Firefox users and the curious. Nothing earth-shattering, but a good guide for people interested in petting the Fox.

If you are into Linux, it is old news that you can USB drive boot many newer PC systems into a Linux system directly from the USB drive. My favorite distro for this trick is Damn Small Linux. But what if you are a die-hard Windows user? Can you really boot a PC with Microsoft Windows XP from an ordinary USB drive? Fred Langa shows you how! (Note: this is not for the faint of heart! It is technical alchemy.) On a related note (and partly what his technique is based on) try going over to visit Bart's PE Builder. I cut my techie-teeth on his stuff and still carry a Bart's PE XP boot disk with me at work and home. It is "a little bit" easier to create--but still pretty technical.

I finally bought my Nokia CA-42 data cable direct from Nokia on line and got it the next day. It took me an hour to get the XP system to finally find and install the driver correctly (geesh!). But it is working great. I uploaded a slew of anime pictures to Lavie's Nokia 3120b phone to use as desktops. My Nokia 6102 has a lot more features, so I'm able to upload/download images faster from/to our pc and manage my growing contact lists in it. I'm so tired of getting telemarketing calls (taped) on my cell phone now that I just don't bother answering it if the number doesn't display a name from my contact list. I'll let the caller leave a message then check my cellphone voice mail from a land-line. I can't delete a voice mail message until it's finished and some of the taped telemarketing calls go on for minutes! I know I need to sign up on the do-not call registries, but haven't yet for some reason... Along those lines, Mandolux is my dealer on the best high-resolution desktops out there. But there is a dearth of dual monitor desktops still. I finally stumbled upon deviantART's Multi Display Wallpaper collection. Well worth looking into for dual-monitor desktop images. I'm using this one right now.

I also bought a registered copy of Realtime Soft's <UltraMon multiple monitor utility after trying it for a month. It works so good on the dual <Samsung SyncMaster 930B 19" LCD monitors my incredibly awesome little-bro gave us, I had to spring the $$. It works seamlessly with the XP system and seems like it is OEM software. Managing the dual desktop wallpaper images is a snap along with the screensavers. I'd read LOTS of reviews raving about this and wondered...well I wonder no more. It really is as good as everyone reports. Highly Recommended!

Claus's Tech Kibbles and Bits:
The Daily Rotation: Customize your choice of top headlines from over 300 Tech sites.
APO USB Autorun Suite: Add autorun functions to your USB drive.
Remora USB Quick Launch: Quick Launch menu for files, docs, and folders on your USB drive.
Katamari Damacy Song Lyrics: Translated into English from Japanese (via BoingBoing)
Shell Extension City: With a tag "Configure Your System Wickedly," how can a techie pass it up?
Folder2Iso: Freeware tool that makes an ISO image from any folder (including subfolders). Awesome.
ImgBurn: write ISO image file to almost any DVD/CD write drive with just one click. Slick and Free.
SIW: System Information for Windows -- a nice freeware utility for detailed reporting of your system.
7 Myths about the Challenger shuttle disaster: seen on MSNBC special feature. Lest we forget the cost of "boldly going..."
YamiPod: a free, standalone EXE application that can run and manage your iPod via USB if you don't want to use/install iTunes. Great for use when you plug your iPod in at work, but can't install the iTunes software because use sysadmins would get on your case.
Anonym.OS LiveCD (Linux): Live Linux boot cd for "anonymous pc usage" on the web.
TorPark: USB version of Firefox using Tor (The Onion Router) system for "anonymous" web-surfing.
(In)Secure web Magazine: Issue 5 released. Great read for security minded techies. Free PDF download.

Fred Gallagher is doing some great work expressing Kimiko's inner emotions and turmoil. This Friday's MegaTokyo strip really touched me. I wanted to reach through and give her a hug.

See you in the skies!

Playing with Words

Words, words words--what do they all mean?

A long time ago--in another life of mine--I used to work at the public library. I was a "page," that is to say that I spent long hours taking books that had been returned and checked back in and re shelving them. Mom always took us to the library during the summers, and sometimes after school. It was a magical place. As a kid I quickly outgrew most of the kid's/juvenile section of the library and was soon stalking the adult shelves looking for meatier fare. It only made sense that my first "real" job as a teen would be working there. So just shy of 15, I got hired. In less than a year, although I didn't have the Dewey Decimal system memorized past the primary numbers, I knew where to find just about any kind of book one wanted. Besides shelving the books, we would also have to "audit" shelves periodically and re order the books patrons had pulled and put back in the wrong place. You can find lots of neat books (especially the very old titles) that way. The library became a magic place. It even smelled neat with all the leather bindings, the paper, etc. And the real librarians....

Watching the librarians work--I think they were the forerunners of todays search-engines. You could ask them any question, any fact and they could either find a book off the shelf or work the phone and give you an answer. I seriously believed that the answer to any question could be found there. Heck. The library is where I met my first long-time, serious girlfriend. She introduced me to her best-friend, Lavie--who eventually became my dear wife! (Long story, but not as scandalous as it sounds.)

Today, the rise of the Internet and algorithm-driven search engines seem to have taken the place of the librarian as a primary source of facts. However, the library--and their keepers--remains an integral part of our communities. Despite the rise of Amazon dot com and Barns and Nobles box stores, the library remains a keeper of our real archive of knowledge. Newspaper and local history are stored there. Novels and how-to manuals are maintained. When I go to the local "big-bookstores," I see adults and kids sitting in chairs and the floor reading books to be purchased like they were in a library. There is just something about "hard-copy" that demands you touch it, introduce yourself and the book to each other, and spend some time getting to know each other. It is like seeing a face you just can't help but stop and strike up a conversation with, even if they are a complete stranger--you just are compelled to make a personal contact.

I'm waxing philosophical because I've been pondering what the meaning of a blog is. I think it really can't be defined. It is so many things to so many people. Is it an on line journal? Personal and reflective? Is it a mini-newsdesk? Providing the latest facts and news to a refined audience? Maybe it is a publicity stunt. Maybe it is like the town-crier of yore. Maybe it is a way to continue a long tradition started by proto homo-sapiens on cave walls; only ours are digital....

I would like to consider myself a kind of neo-librarian. Searching the web and providing you with tidbits of information gleaned from the "stacks." Some will be useful, some may not. Regardless, I hope you leave here having been touched in a warm and sincere way, better for your visit.


The best blogs you shouldn't read: On my daily commute into work, I listen to our public radio station KUHF-FM Houston. They have two audio casts that I can't live without. University of Houston's College of Engineering Professor John H. Lienhard's daily diary called "The Engines of our Ingenuity." Showcasing the inventiveness shaping the world around us. He has all his short broadcasts archived (with transcripts) for your listening pleasure. The other is Baxter Black, cowboy poet and large-animal veterinarian and periodic guest on NPR radio. Baxter Black's NPR page. His logic and colorfulness epitomizes my image of a modern cowboy looking on the world around us.

The word mix used as the image above was generated on line using a neat tool called Interesting Words. Put in your blog's (or any other's) atom or RSS feed URL and it will generate a list based on the content. It is really fun. If you really are impressed with your wordage, you can head over to SnapShirts website and order up a t-shirt with your blog name and keywords! This is really fun to do. I think I'll get one and wear it under my shirt at work so it can be a secret-identity thing--kinda like Clark Kent.

I've never really been devoted to playing on line games, but I have been wasting hours playing with Scout. It shows a random sample of images from Flikr's Explore. However, since we are talking about words, there is a new web-game called Fastr that uses Flickr images and you have to guess the "tag" or common word to all of them. It is fun and addictive.

While Google battles on to scan on line copies of books, quietly sails on with a large collection of out of print titles dealing with literature, reference and verses. Really fun for literature lovers.

Homage to Sexy Librarians

You can't spend years as a teenager working with librarians and not expect them to rub off on you in a subconscious way!

Librarians are Sexy (via Rutger's College)

Read or Die (R.O.D.) with Yomiko Readman, a.k.a "The Paper." of the Royal British Library's Division of Special Operations. (You just knew I had to get some anime in there right?)

It's raining today. Hope to see you in a book!

P.S.--Don't worry! I've got a 2nd post coming later today that has your tech fix covered! Just browse the shelves for a while--I need to get a haircut first!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

I hate it when I do that!

Do you ever have that problem?

I really hate it when I think about something, but then decide not to do it. And realize I should have acted when I had the chance.

Turner Classic Movies has been running a special series of films that have something to do with Hayao Miyazaki. For the past couple of weeks I've been catching up on quite a few that I already have on DVD. However, late Thursday night after watching Porco Rosso, I lingered long enough to start watching one I hadn't heard of: Whisper of the Heart. It took less than five minutes into the story to have me totally capitivated. It was way past midnight before I went to bed. When it was over I was weeping happily. Lavie had gone to bed and didn't get to watch it. As is the case of cable, if it airs once, about four hours later it will usually rerun and a quick check found this was so. I deliberated getting up and setting up the VCR to tape it's rebroadcast but was too tired to make the effort. When I checked the Turner Films schedule, I was surprised to find that was it. No more Miyazaki movies. Well, it was an old release so I'd just pop down to my dealer--um--anime store and pick up the DVD.

Well, it isn't out on DVD. Not until March 2007. So I've put in an order at Amazon for us, along with the co-releases of the other Miyazaki releases of Howl's Moving Castle and My Neighbor, Totoro. Fortunately Disney inked a deal a while back to distribute and do voice-dialogs for these films so legit versions are trickling down the release lists.

So how much did this movie touch me? Well, my previous rankings went like this: Kiki's Delivery Service, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Howl's Moving Castle, Totoro, and then his other works on down... Now, Kiki is still the tops in my heart, but Whispers of the Heart just stole 2nd place from Spirited away--easily. Details on these films here if you are interested.

Just how strong is the Miyazaki influence? Well, when I went to order the DVD's from Amazon, I was shocked to find the top 5 anime selling titles based on orders were all Miyazaki films! Wow. That's big. Really big. Especially since these three of the five movies haven't even been released on DVD yet!

Besides the innocence and magical charm that Miyazaki's productions have, I think the thing I like most about these films are the characterizations. We get to see flawed characters as they grow into themselves and their skins. No one is perfect and things don't always work our perfectly. People sometimes get their feelings hurt and sometimes bad things happen and aren't fixed. Life is like that.

In other news, we've been Jonesing on Disney Channel's production of "High School Musical" I wish I was about 10 years younger and didn't embarrass Alvis trying to copy the hip-hop dancin' moves. She squeals with fright, but the music and coreography is infectious! We haven't had this much fun with a television show since we got Grease on DVD. It is really fun. Catch it if you get the chance.

I also watched Kung Fu Hustle on DVD last night on the 19" LCD screen. Awesome. I was rolling in the den with laughter. It has great special effects, great kung-fu moves, an original storyline and non-traditional heros, finally the ending left me weepy.

I've got Hero on tap along with the third volume of Ah! My Goddess (TV) just out on DVD to work through. And I have to finish up with my Noir thinpack anime set.

UPDATE: Some of the more astute anime lovers out there may have noticed that I said we were planning on watching the third volume of AMG (TV) that weekend and wondered...The DVD release date for this isn't until 1-31-06. What gives? Well, when we were out that Saturday (the 21'st) looking at our local big-box electronics store, Alvis came running over with that volume 3 release. I hadn't been looking for it, expecting it out at the end of the month, but figured I just got confused, so we bought it. Turns out the clerks were stocking the shelves early and didn't catch the "official" release date so we picked it up about 10 day's before its release date. Cool. Now I'm hoping they do that with the March Miyazaki releases as well!

So many fun little time....

And meanwhile, the Son-of-Godzilla toddler we are watching this weekend has successfully wrecked all of Alvis's HotWheels and is now slumbering in front of the TV with "Snoopy Come Home" playing.

Maybe things aren't as bad as they seem....

Steering clear of the clouds,

Playing Hide and Seek with Google

I'm still feeling in a funky mood this morning.

There hasn't been any word yet on the condition of journalist Jill Carroll currently in the hands of Iraqi thugs. I've hit a few more websites that are concerned with the direction our legal system is taking. I really just need to move on.

ARS has a news story about pending legislation pushed by the RIAA and MPAA that ..."attempts to freeze the progress of consumer electronics technology and then start turning back the clock on all of us. Fair use, meet your successor: "customary historic use." So whatever rights and abilities you thought you possessed to do with your radio broadcasts, tapes, CD's, legally downloaded music and movies, television and cable broadcasts, etc...could be rendered illegal in the near future. As for me, I'm going to keep my VCR in top shape, invest in and old vinyl-technology record player, and start hoarding records from the thrift shop.

SunbeltBlog waxes philosophical about the coming police-state in the UK. There almost every person or vehicle can be tracked real-time with the extensive camera system. He also links to where the inane attempts to protect our rights comes back and bites us all on the butt--for example. Henry Porter of the UK's Observer paper goes into greater detail of life now in England.

But that's probably not why you showed up here.

On to Google and search-engine privacy.

Google tracking my searches on their web site doesn't really concern me. By doing so they can add better value to my usage of their site. That's cool as long as they explain what they do up front. However, some users--in light of recent DOJ tactics--may wish a little more privacy when they Google. Here you go.

Wired News is carrying a post about How to Foil Search Engines. Consider it more a primer than a white paper review. Basically it boils down to this: 1) most are harmless, 2) delete or suppress your cookie options, 3) use an anonymizing tool, or 5) give up because "the man" can track you anyway.

Here is the real hidden-gem when it comes to Google: Make a special bookmark and you can work around Google's tracking cookie--at your descretion. Really!

iMilly goes into a very nice discussion about the truth behind Google's tracking cookie and other Google FAQs. This can give you a really nice perspective on the matter. Then, there is a link you can bookmark. To suppress Google's cookie, browse to Google. Then click the GoogleAnon bookmark you made and your cookie for Google will be zeroed out of any personal data. Done! Can they still track you, I guess if you use a pretty static IP address, but this is better than doing nothing--if you are so inclined.

What is going on is a tip that power-web surfers know--but most of the general public has never heard of: Bookmarklets.

To most users, bookmarks only take you to a website you want to visit again. But clever coders have figured out how to leverege the convience of bookmarks with the inner code working of browsers. With the right code, you make make bookmarks become "mini-utilities" that do powerfully cool things: like (quoting from imilly's page) "1) Modify the way you see someone else's webpage, 2)Extract data from a webpage, 3)Search more quickly, and in ways not possible with a search engine, and 4) Navigate in new ways."

More Bookmarket links:

* Bookmarklets Home Page
* Milly's Bookmarklets
* Jesse Ruderman's website

Just don't come back here and blame me if you get hooked on these things.

Finally, just to show I'm not wholy anti law-enforcement: CNN has a review on the latest models of police cruisers. I loved seeing the HPD Camaro interceptors as well as the Texas DPS Mustangs when I was on the road. I really like the new Dodge Charger CNN has pictured. Bad to the Bone! I've always enjoyed watching COPS and now A&E on cable is running a show on the Dallas SWAT team. It's pretty good. Am I trying to have my cake and eat it, too?

Enjoy you skies today,

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Taking a Wide View

I've been trying to take a wide view on things this week.

I don't know how successful I've been. I usually don't think too much about our little national adventuring out in Iraq. But the fate of Christian Science Monitor journalist Jill Carroll has really troubled me deeply more than I expected. Maybe it is because she is just a young woman. Maybe it is because she worked so hard to show respect and integration as she wrote stories about the every-day life of the Iraqi people. Maybe it is because, despite hearing the hundredth analysis of why this terrorist group really kidnapped her, I arrived at the conclusion it isn't really because they expect to free any Iraqi prisoners or get any blackmail money, I suspect it is so they can brag about how they got world attention focused on their little gang of thugs and how they stood off against the great American empire--so they can get some bragging rights and props. Then there is this whole "The president says he's got the executive right to wiretap everybody the way he wants to and the congress doesn't think so while most of the American people just yawn" thing. And don't even get me started about the DOJ Google subpoena.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for protecting our borders, fighting terrorism without quarter, and keeping the pervs away from my daughter. I've been a strong pro-defense, pro-strong law enforcement, pro-family and community voter since I could cast my first ballot. But somewhere lately, I think we have stopped being kind and nice as a country, and that concerns me. Instead of arming up, I think we should take a hard look at why much of the world despises us and looks at us with envy and hatred. Yeah, I know we can't please everyone and we need to bust-some -heads every now and then with a flair that only we can do, but our national credibility is burnt toast now. And as a citizen of a nation that I deeply love, it embarrasses me that the true heart and soul of our towns and people--large and small, richly diverse is lost on the world scene. For a country that has the best marketing knowledge in the world, we sure are looking pretty shabby in the world marketplace of culture and compassion.

I suspect Lavie and I will be much more involved in our local, state and national election process these next couple of years than we have been. We will be doing our part as parents and citizens looking more closely at the candidates and the issues they support. We will be digging into their public service records and making voting choices on a wider range of issues.

Ok, now on to tech.

The blog photo above is but a small portion of illustrator Drew Weing's on-line strip called "Pup Ponders the Heat Death of the Universe." Go check it out. Give your browser a LONG time to load the page--even if you are on broadband. Then scroll to the very bottom of the page and begin. If possible, load your browser up to full-screen view by hitting the F11 key. Take your time. It is an incredible journey. What exactly is "heat death of the universe" about? Check out this link in the Wikipedia. Life is short. Go play nice with someone.

What I am reading right now: Geshia, by Liza Crihfield Dalby. No I haven't seen the movie and this isn't about the movie. It is written account of an anthropology graduate (my minor) studying geisha culture. If your not an sociology/anthropology student, it will seem dry and boring. If you are it will become a fascinating study into a sub-world of Japanese culture. Lavie got it for me at Christmas. Two freeware "flash-card" applications that can help you learn your Hiragana and Katakana are DreamKana and LearnKana. Neat little tools to help you improve your Japanese language skills.

Niles Ferry's blog "Alive in Kyoto" always has some of the best photography of "real Japan" that I have ever seen. He has recently posted a series of photos of the streets of Gion, Kyoto. These are my mental images of what makes the city streets in Japan so fascinating. This one is my favorite.

SeachEngineWatch has a really useful review of just what the Google/DOJ spat is about. I don't care what you have heard on the news, drop in here and review this refreshingly readable analysis of the history and specifics of what the disagreement is all about. I now support and am grateful that the Google founders are taking a stand against releasing this information. I think they can really define the character of their company in a positive way, but they are walking a razor's edge here. I'm willing to concede a certain amount of government regulation on the Internet should be allowed. But controlling and moderating and enforcing (US) standards on the Internet is kinda like keeping water in a strainer. The content will still get through. Unless that is you live in China where the State locks down content and throws you out with the key if they don't like something. I don't want the Internet in America to come down to that.

Got a tinfoil hat? All these Google/DOJ stories freaking your boat? Worried "the man" is tracking your every move on the Internet? Doubtful you're really that important, but if you are the paranoid type, just remember--just about anything you do on the Internet leaves a record that can be traced back to your computer. Yep. Total and true anonymity is a fleeting lover. She seduces you and then betrays you. If you want to live on the Internet a little more incognito, you may want to switch to the Torpark browser build of Firefox--that runs in a standalone mode. Tor (began by the US Naval Research Laboratory!) utilizes a network of anonymous routers to mask your true workstation identity as you browse the web, so sites can't really record a true trace on who you are. Regardless, it is a pretty cool lesson on networking and workstation identity.

Want to know how to play super-investigator and track down the sender of an email? Hint: It is all in the headers. Link over at Onimoto.

Mark Rusinovick over at Sysinternals decompiles Microsoft's flawed WMF code. He comes to an opposite conclusion of Steve Gibson who felt the code was an intentional backdoor left by Microsoft. Mark feels there was a genuine reason for the coding. That is was to address printing issues and cancels of long print jobs. It is just that the code can be exploited to do much more than originally intended, but not maliciously designed--at least--by Microsoft's programmers. I like his explanation. Go read it.

A few weeks ago I got a lateral promotion (with no pay increase). I still get to do my hands-on security response and network system administrator duties that I love so much (I really do!), but now I also get to handle IT project management in our group. I eventually dug around in our software archive store and found a good copy of Microsoft Project 2002 to use. It is pretty easy to get started using, but has tons of advanced features. For those of you on a budget--I'd recommend trying OpenWorkbench. It is very similar--feature wise--to Project, but its free. FREE! If this is your thing--try it out. It is very polished.

Fast and furious Finale

* GigaBank 8GB USB flash drive by I/O Magic. At a street price of $200, awesome!
* 23 Things to Do With a USB Drive at PCWorld. Maybe not earth-shattering, but useful.
* Gmail gets a Delete Button--As a Gmail user, I like this!
* More tidbits on Firefox 2.0--coming soon. Summer 2006? via AMCP Tech Blog.
* MS to release XP SP3 in 2007? Likely. via AMCP Tech Blog
* MS Vista build already outdated? Yep. Microsoft is working on the next, next version of Windows Vienna (formerly code-named Blackcomb). Is it because they think it is going to be a real wienner? No, wait, I meant to say "winner"?
* More on MS OS codenames. via Wikipedia.

Enough for tonight. I've got a scary anime short-film to watch with Lavie and Alvis. Kakurenbo: Hide and Seek. Beautiful and creepy. Cool! (Japanese site: YamatoWorks.)

I may post tomorrow. We are baby-sitting the toddler son of a co-worker of Lavie's tomorrow. Expect Godzilla like destruction around the home. I may have to jet into the study here to find some solitude. Got one or two more blog items to get off my chest and share.

See you in the skies,

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Stardust in the House!

Stardust has entered the building!

Don't know if you like space stories. But seven years ago, NASA shot "Stardust" to intercept the comet Wild-2 (pronounced Vild-two) and capture material from it's dust-trail in a special ballistic gel. The round-trip journey took seven years and almost 3-billion space miles. Wow. Then it had to safely drop back down into the Earth's atmosphere. The last mission like this didn't turn out so well at re-entry. So lots of eyes were watching this one. Touchdown was successful and the payload was recovered. NASA's Stardust mission flight page has lots of great pictures. And, for the kicker--they are returning the payload probe to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas for analysis! How cool is that? That's almost in our backyard! Neato! Good work guys!

So, as promised, here are your special deliveries from Claus's flights into the Grand Stream. Fasten your flight-belt. It's going to be a fun ride:

Like Roman history? Like history at all? Drop in and visit rogueclassicism. With a blog tag-line that reads quidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca you know you're in for some fun! The current post is Romans and Golf Redux. Sweet! China and Rome are duking it out for rights on who invented golf. I really loved my classical history class in college. Only thing I remember now is talking about the concept of hubris. Only thing I really remember from that lecture class. Funny what sticks in our heads...I still think about this concept when I listen to the national news...

Mozilla just released a new beta version of Firefox: v1.5.0.1. Only place I can find it yet is over at FileHippo. I downloaded it and tried it. It seems to snap-open and launch much faster and was very stable, but after an hour of using it I rolled back to v1.5. It broke too many of my extensions and hacking the xpi installer's version numbers still didn't get some of them working again. I am really pleased with their build direction, and they seem to be planning a strong rollout schedule. According to their developers blog, Firefox2 should ship mid-2006 and Firefox3 will follow in early 2007. The current build update looks like they are focusing on security and (hopefully) memory leakage (a long complaint by power Firefox users).

Thunderbird 1.5 (final) is now out. I've snagged it and installed over my last version just fine. I really like the "in-line" spell checking feature. That rocks! Spelling is not one of my finer points. I still have flashbacks to my weekly parochial middle-school year spelling bee years. I was a failure! The invention of spell checking may lead to the eventual linguistical downfall of our nation, but heck, at least future anthropologists will be able to read or records on how we did it!

Gmail power-up! I finally got brave and started to power-use my Gmail account. I had over 90 items built up on my main page but haven't organized them. I use Outlook at work and Thunderbird at home, so I have a highly organized folder-tree for placing emails. I understood Gmail's label concept, but didn't really want to deal with it yet. So once I got Thunderbird updated, I added my Gmail account to the POP3 settings so it would download and store a copy of my Gmail setting locally. Then I set Gmail to move any mail in that account to the Archive file it maintains. Finally I set up some labels in Gmail for those I like to keep handy--tech correspondence, website login information, my Japan Years crew. Sweet. LifeHacker had an article that kinda takes the process in reverse. Drop over there and read their tip on Loading existing e-mail into Gmail. I'm going to work on learning more about power-Gmail usage. I have a couple of gmail invites left, so if you are a faithful reader and would like a Gmail account invitation, drop me a line, I might be kind and share. After all, someone was kind enough to share an invite with me!

Lifehacker had an article this week "Ask Lifehacker Reader: Best blogging webapps?". I am always on the hunt for blogging tools, especially if they will help get me away from the clunky Blogger interface. I went down the comments list and picked out some possible candidates: Zoundry beta, Xinha Here!, SPIP (heavy duty app), and Tangelo. Then I found Brad at 5mok3: Techonology blog recently posted a list of blogging tools. In it he touted my next pick,

Performancing is a Firefox blog editor extension. I dropped the extension in, and have now found a good blogging tool! You can run it as an adjustable window at the bottom of Firefox--so you can see your tab content as you blog, or switch to a full page view. It has a full compliment of HTML and WYSISYG tools. You can also set it up so it uploads your posts directly into Blogger (or one of several other supported blog sites). And it interfaces with the SpellBound Firefox extension so you now have live, in-line spell checking as you type! Helpful! I had to do a little bit of tweaking to get the spell-check to work--basically after you download the SpellBound extension, you then have to download a dictionary set, then you have to go deep into the extension options and set your dictionary from none to the language you want. My blogging speed has really kicked up a notch with this tool and I suggest you try it out if you are a Firefox user. Note: The SpellBound extension alone with a dictionary pack works fine for in-line spelling in the Blogger editor as well.

Retrothing has a iPod for James Bond. Well, it's not really an iPod. But it is cool. I remember as a kid Dad and Mom had a spooled tape machine we would use to record greetings and them snail-mail the roll to our grandparents. It was exciting stuff. Ahh, how technology has changed...

Scout: Like finding neat photographs on the web? This is just fun. Scout randomly pulls up one of the 500 Flickr artists pages chosen each day for the Flickr Explore page--and displays the set as thumbnail images. I spent an hour on this site last night. It is addictive! The photography (mostly) is top notch. This is going to be a popular tool once it hits mainstream. It really leverages the joy of browsing Flickr.

DannyChoo loads the anime title LastExile on his iPod Nano. I have GOT to get me one of these things.

DannyChoo also shows off the versatility of having a USB IDE drive adapter. I really needed to have one of these when I was pulling the old data of Pop's old hard-drive and porting it to his new one. I would have had only one case to open up.

iPodSoft's freeware application Pod Player: The first time I tried hooking up my iPod via USB to my work desktop pc, it drained the battery in less than 30min. I recently tried this software again on my laptop at work (yes, I use a desktop and laptop unit at the same time at work) and not only did it FULLY CHARGE my iPod, but I also listened to it all day long. The file is a standalone exe file so you don't "install" anything on your pc. Just plug in your iPod via USB (or firewire) and launch the app. It unpacks into memory and runs. Kinda like a trimmed down iTunes Nice interface. Only issue I ran into was that when I was doing certain shortcut key-combos (Alt-R) or (Alt-H) in Excel, I think it picked those up as well as it started repeating certain songs or skipping to a new track. Dead useful software. and its free.

When was the last time you verified your HOSTS file (Windows folks here, pay attention) was not compromised? Been a while? See what happens when malware hijacks it. Bad stuff, man. Bad stuff. So here is a quick FAQ on HOSTS file. Here is a longer guide to understanding, finding and checking your HOSTS file as well. I check mine about once a month.Finally, you may remember the whole Sony Rootkit thing? No? Forgot so soon? Ok, read Dwight's Sony Rootkit post to refresh your memory. Done? Great.

Now as more people are using rootkit scanners, they are finding more mainstream applications that use them. Anti-virus software companies Symantec and Kapersky both got caught at it: Symantec outed, Kapersky outed. Now here is my take:

Just because a software company uses "alternative data-streams" (aka rootkits) to hide functions and data, that doesn't mean they are "bad" or "evil" or hacker coded. Many are simply using these to enhance the security and performance of their product. What is evil/bad is when these company's don't clearly disclose this fact up front to customers and users of the products. If I know about it, I can decide to decline to use your product if this concerns me or I can make a note so I don't freak-out when I run a periodic rootkit scan and find something by your company. If you don't tell me you root-kitted a directory folder/process and a hacker/malware writer finds out about it and takes advantage of what you did and failed to tell me, then breaches the security of my system, then we have a BIG problem. That's not too much to ask is it?

Update--Mark Rusinovick over at Sysinternals makes a thoughtful post based on his review of the Norton's "rootkit-like" implemenation of a enhanced recycle-bin. Check it out. "Rootkits in Commercial Software."

Also in startling news (to me), the developers of Spybot Search and Destroy have started a mud-sling fest with Symantec again. "The way Symantec tries to get into anti-spyware" post. I read the article but didn't find a link to the offending Symantec article and this left me confused as I consider myself to be a loyal SB S&D evangelist. So I put my dusty web-searching "bulldog" reporter hat on and went searching the web. Bingo.

The issue appears to be that Symantec says that customers should deinstall Spybot as it would corrupt Norton Ghost images. I had to download the Notron Ghost 10.0 user's guide in PDF and finally found on pages 139-140 a troubleshooting reference error number EA39070A. In it Symantec feels that its recovery point file can appear damaged but use of spyware detection software (naming Pest Control and Spybot) can cause the file to become corrupt or appear corrupt. With the article number now, I found the knowledgebase article (Document ID 2004097934538762) on Symantec's website. While Spybot is clearly named in the User Manual file, it isn't named on the website post. I don't know for certain what Spybot team is looking at, or if they are talking about what I found, but though the issue is not as strong as I would have expected after reading Spybot's post, I do feel they make a valid gripe as Symantic is claiming that Spybot could corrupt their files.

I've used Spybot for years and never found it ever to have corrupted any files. Ever. Well, there is all that malware stuff that get's smacked down when I use it, but that is what I use it for. And I have used Norton's Ghost just fine along side it. We'll keep an eye on this story. I wish Spybot luck. I use AVG-Free myself and have had issues with Symatec's bundled suites on home pc's, though their corporate AV products are really strong for enterprise class users.

Whew! Told you you were in for a ride! Now I have to break-down the Christmas tree and help Lavie put up the seasonal joy scattered around our house like the previous failed comet dust catching mission--Genesis.

And a final thanks for Last Exile World extending permission to me to use their screencaps of Last Exile to illustrate my posts. You rock!

See you in the skies!

Living Dangerously

Living dangerously today was not my immediate plan when I got up this morning.

I had a simple plan for the weekend. Lavie and I were going to concentrate on taking down all the Christmas decorations (finally!) around the house and get the rest of our Spring-cleaning taken care of. Well, you know it wouldn't turn out that simple. First we slept late. I stayed up too long last night watching "Go, Johnny, Go (1959) on Turner Classics and was dead-tired. It really was pretty cheesy. But getting a chance to watch some of the great early rock and roll artists couldn't be passed up. Chuck Berry, Ritchie Valens, The Cadillacs, The Flamingos. The lines some of them had to deliver were pretty off, and the social customs were so different but that was part of the enjoyment. I'd have to give it 3 out of 5 stars. So I got up, got some breakfast (I've lately taken to mixing granola cereal with my Cherrios) and brought in all the Christmas storages boxes. Well, in doing that I had to pull out the lawnmower. Having dug out the lawnmower I also realized that the back yard was looking in need of attention. So, since Lavie was still in bed, I decided to run a quick pass over the yard and pick up leaves.

Well, that meant getting the rakes out and raking all the leaves up from the side of the house/fence-line Eventually I got it going and got the yard cleaned up. In the process I almost cut two cable coax lines running from the junction box in the ground that had worked their way up from where they had been buried. It was a miracle that the mower didn't clip them as they had been hidden under a pile of leaves. Ok. So that meant a call to the cable company--only they don't have an option in their phone system to pick that. After 35 min of doing my civic-duty to report the exposed utility line I finally got a live person who took my information. By this time I needed a haircut which I ran out to take care of.

Upon my arrival back, Lavie was up and stirring so I cleared out of the way and turned my attention to the bedroom. Last week we bought a new mattress set on sale (since our old one was almost as old as Alvis). We have a European bed frame, which is to say it is framed and doesn't need a foundation piece. Well, we bought the set with foundation and that meant the new mattress left us almost a foot and a half higher in the air than before. It was very weird after you have spent so much time sleeping just above the floor. I keep feeling like I was going to fall off. So, I decided to take off the lath and just drop the foundation onto the floor, thereby letting the bedframe "float" around the mattresses. However, that meant I had to pull some 1" strips of wood off each bedrail so the foundation piece could drop down between the rails (and I haven't even mentioned cleaning out the underside of the bed that we used for storage). Eventually this was successfully done and looked really good, except for the storage contents now needing relocation. Lavie had come in to help now (Christmas decorations cleanup long since abandoned in place!).

The contents of several of the boxes needed disposal were found to contain "marriage-memory" material. These being several boxes of custom printed napkins from our wedding over 14 years ago, lace and doilies from the reception tables, thank you cards, the wedding planner book, etc. Also found were some of Alvis's baby dresses. (Alvis came is once to see what was going on, spied the contents and high-tailed it out fast--smart one, she is.) Needless to say, this diversionary walk down memory lane took more time as we "negotiated" what needed to be kept and what could be "permanently-retired." (We kept most everything, surprised?) By this time I had spent so much time in the bedroom on the floor, I was able to see the decor from a different perspective, and the decor just plain looked tired. (Maybe I've been watching too much Home and Garden TV on cable...So a quick dash was planned out to Pier1. We found a pair of oriental-style tiered shelves to replace the mixed pieces we were using for nightstands. I also picked up a rattan chair with seat-cushion so I don't have to sit on the bedroom floor during our nightly family novel-reading sessions. Comfy!

On the way home from the store, we stopped in for dinner at the local Japanese restraunt. I tried a new sushi roll containing smoked salmon, avocado and cream cheese. Yummers. Alvis liked it as well. Lavie doesn't do sushi, yet. We had some grilled terriaki dishes for the main course (Lavie-beef, me-shrimp) Alvis ate miso soup and rice and picked at ours. For dessert, Lavie really wanted to try a sweet dessert fruit sushi like she found in one of my sushi books, but the sushi chefs hadn't made it for a long time and since it wasn't on the menu, didn't want to try without seeing a picture first--so we promised to bring it in next visit. Instead we tried the tempura fried green-tea ice-cream. The tempura was lightly sweet and was a wonderful compliment to the green-tea ice-cream. It was almost wasabi-green in color. Very bright, but the flavor was light and delicate, slightly bitter and complimented the sweet tempura batter nicely. Nothing was left.

When we got home we finished putting the bedroom together. Hours later we are very excited. It is the first time our bedroom has really looked balanced and warm to fit our personalities. We still have a lot of work to do, but the bed is back at a "normal" height, I have a reading chair, we have matching bookcases for nightstands with room for all the manga and anime statuettes. All is well.

And the Christmas cleanup? Well, tomorrow is another day!

Tomorrow, I will catch you up on the world of tech....lots to see! Been an exciting hunt this week. Got some goodies for you all!

See you in the skies,

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Ahhh. I get it! VOIP...

It makes more sense now...they're likely talking about VOIP!

At the very bottom of my post Monday, I mentioned that a law had been passed by Congress and signed into law by our President. The sensational blog-o-sphere headlines screamed across the net that posting annoying comments (etc.) on the internet could land you in jail.

I had first grabbed a can of "blogger-gasoline" I had laying around to toss onto the pyre, but reason kicked in and I settled down and posted my blog about setting up my father-in-law's pc instead. I'm glad I did. I think it ended up generating a more positive discussion to the web-world than my initial one would have.

As is often the case in the blog world, a fact gets picked up and bundled in a sensationalist tagline and off the flames roar across the grasslands of the virtual world. Only trouble is, frequently once we've burned off our collective energy and caught the latest RocketBoom or HomestarRunner clip for the day, we've long since forgotten what kicked us off in the first place.

So with that in mind, I went back and checked out this story again since it has had some time to percolate around. Here's what I found:

Carl Liner over at Football Fans for Truth, takes a look and found a summary over at Senator Domenici's office supports his interpretation that the law is intended to extend existing telephone harassment laws to cover voice over IP (VOIP) technology that is internet based. If you follow the summary link, save your eyes and scroll down to section 113:

"...To strengthen stalking prosecution tools, this section expands the definition of a telecommunications device to include any device or software that uses the Internet and possible Internet technologies such as voice over internet services." (emphasis mine)

The Volokh Conspiracy folks break it down a bit more in their analysis on the subject.

Not convinced yet? Well, KipEsquire steps though the sections in question and arrives at the same conclusion: New VAWA "Annoying" Clause is Indeed Annoying -- But Not to Blogs.

Finally, if you haven't been convinced yet, Siva Vaidhyanathan and his Friends and Family, will happily pull out their own brand of punishment and whop you over the head with a post that is almost every section of the law code in question spelled out and stitched together for you enjoyment.

Lots more linkage exists on these pages if you just want to follow along, but a supportable and reasonable case seems to exist that a more reasonable (and less sensational) interpretation is that our caring lawmakers saw fit to extend anti-(wire-based) telephony stalking laws to now cover VOIP-based telephony stalking technologies so the fine men in black and blue could legally put some smack-down-hurt on the creepy dudes harassing the ladies trying to get on with their lives. You see, in my world of thinking at least, this law would be seen as a good thing.

If that's indeed the go guys!

And by the way....

If you are one of the best geeky IT guys you know and look good in shades--you might want to know that the FBI is looking for you. No, not for that--nobody really cares what you did last summer! They want to give you a job! Really! And pay you pretty good for it, as well! Act fast, the offer is up at the end of January! Ahh, if I was just a few years younger....

And as an added bonus, I understand the sakura are beautiful in D.C. in the Spring.

My late grandpa was a G-Man with the FBI. He was one of the finest men I ever had the honor of knowing. Get-em grandpa!

See you in calmer skies!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Dealing with the Dell...

So Pop got his new Dell. Shipping was fast and delivery was also. It came in less than a week from the order date--even with standard shipping. The order was correct, with nothing missing. Lavie was able to unbox the system and hook it up without any issues.

I wasn't there when she powered it up, but from what she said, it ran the standard XP new system setup prompts--pick a user name, name your workstation, etc. She had it up on the desk and out on the net in less than an hour. The only thing she wasn't able to do was configure Pop's email account settings (more on that later).

Pop said that most of the software on his Win98 box was so old and outdated (it was) he wasn't concerned with upgrading or reinstalling almost anything from the old system. We just needed to be sure his personal files, photos and settings (bookmarks) got moved over to the new system. Also, he hadn't bought any office productivity software with the system.

So, with that in mind, and knowing pretty good how he and my mother-in-law use their computer I had spent Saturday night downloading and copying a bunch of files for them to use, some patches and security software as well as some "eye-candy" for the folks to get full enjoyment from their new LCD monitor. Then downloaded a whole smogasbord of open-source and freeware applications that I trust and use.

I was already ready for a fight with the thing. The folks at [H]ard|OCP did a review on a gamer's Dell system and found it heavily loaded with pre-installed software that really put the brakes on they system's performance until they cleaned it up. Dwight Silverman posted about this article and got quite a lot of feedback as well. blog also had a bit of note of the struggle between SBC DSL and Norton's on his Dell system.

Task One--Cleaning a fresh system.
The first job when I got there was to uninstall all the "3rd-party ware" that came on the Dell. I lost count of all the items, but there was a lot. I'm not going to name names (well maybe one or two) but there were at number of ISP provider trials, some Dell "help" stuff, a trial version of antivirus support, some non-MS (java) games, some trial software for image management, a music-jukebox player, some Google desktop tools/bars, etc. All in all I think I uninstalled at least 14 unneccessary items. Quite a few. To save time, I used Safarp.

Software list: Safarp

Task Two--PC Security

Next I got my IT tools out and scanned the systems startup keys: I used Autoruns and HijackThis. There I pulled off several more auto-run items that were not necessary or needed to run on this system. Done. Next I slapped on AVG-Free and configured it to automatically pull down updates as well as do a daily scan. Next came the firewall-ZoneAlarm. Done. I installed the malware/spyware scaners (but did not set to autorun/scan) AdAware-SE (free) and Spybot Search and Destroy. Pop knows how to use these and does so manually once a week or so. I then installed MS AntiSpyware Beta and configured it to run with realtime protection and periodic scanning. Since he had Win98 before, I had to give him a brief tutorial: Red=bad-deny it, Green=good-FYI, Blue=usually safe-call me if in doubt. I set Windows Automatic updates to run/install automatically and verified there were no critical patches left to put on. Good. I installed and enabled SpywareBlaster for additional surfing protection. Installed Spoofstick for IE. Finally we passworded his XP user account and set his personal documents file from being viewed by other accounts. Finally I installed/stored some IT troubleshooting utilities and tools in a utility folder, just in case I needed them in the future--they would be available on the machine. I verified that the Windows XP Security Center had correctly picked up the ZA firewall and AVG antivirus apps automatically, as well as the changes we set for automatic windows updates--it had.

Software list: a-squared HiJackFree, AdAware-SE, Autoruns, AVG-Free Blowfish Advanced CS, CCleaner, ClamWin (backup app just in case--not installed), Eraser, HijackThis, IttyBitty ProcessManager, Kerio firewall (backup app just in case--not installed), MS AntiSpyware Beta, Process Explorer, Safe XP, Spybot Search and Destroy, XPredit, TweakUIPowertoy for XP, SpywareBlaster, Spoofstick for IE, and ZoneAlarm.

Task Three--System tweaking.
I then added two additional accounts: a guest account was set up for family to use as well as an admintech account for me to manage the system with. Both his primary user account and the admintech account were given Administrator rights (he will have to install some software under his account in the future--this was just easier). And the guest account has limited rights. I installed TweakUIPowertoy for XP and we tweaked his desktop settings, icon preferences and the like. Finally we ran the MS Clear Type Tuner and optimized his LCD display.

Software list: Shootthemessenger, UnPlug n' Pray, Belarc Advisor, MS Clear Type Tuner.

Task Four--Application installations.
WordPerfect12(?) was installed on the system, but it was a 60-day trial version--so that got uninstalled as well. I did have to install his old Quicken Deluxe '99 as well as his old copy of MS Office 97. Why MSO97 when I put OpenOffice on the computer? Well, Lavie uses the pc sometimes when she visits her folks and still gets confused with OpenOffice. I then installed a selection of freeware productivity tools and utilities I really find slick and well executed:

Software list: Contact, EssentialPIM, EverNote, Free Commander, Foxit PDF reader, Faststone Image Viewer, iTunes, KeePass, Kyodai Mahjongg, Notepad2, Open Office 2.x, PDF Creator, Sequoia View.

Task Five--Internet and Email (Part One).
That means only one thing! Firefox and Thunderbird with supporting extensions. Granted, he isn't likely to use many of these, but these are (most of) the ones I find helpful. Thunderbird didn't get any additional Extensions at this time.

Software list: Firefox and Thunderbird!
Firefox Extensions: Download Statusbar, Fox Clocks, FoxyTunes, IE Tab, Image Zoom, Moji, New Tab Button on Tab Bar, Print Preview, Quick Java, Sage, Save Image in Folder, Sort Extensions and Themes, Spoofstick, Tab Clicking Options, TabX, Translate, Viamatic foXpose, and x Mod.
Themes: Outlook 2003 Blue for both.

Task Six--Data migration.

I had planned on pulling out the HDD from his old pc and dropping it in the Dell as a slave drive and doing a direct data copy. That's what I ended up doing. But the IDE cable for the HDD had only one connector for a HDD on it and no 2nd HDD drive bay. No problem. I used the IDE cable from the old pc that had two drive connectors instead and carefully ballanced the old HDD on the side of the case. A quick jumper change to slave and a manual BIOS adjustment and the drive was spotted. About 30min later the old drive was copied to the new. I used Sequoia View to show him how to manage his drive space. He thought that was really cool. When it was all said and done, there really wasn't much stuff that ended up being kept from his old HDD. I moved his My Documents folders, the pictures folders, his Outlook Express address and mail files, bookmarks and his Quicken data. All the rest he didn't want to mess with so it went into the trash hopper. The drive/cable was placed back and BIOS was manually reset to its original setting.

Task Seven--Internet and Email (Part Two).
Now that we had the Outlook Express files over, I could focus on Thunderbird. Lavie had tried to get Outlook Express set up, but the DSL account configurations confused her. I was pretty lost as well fixing the settings Thunderbird imported. I eventually had to punt and check the ISP site and use the info in their FAQ to get all the correct values. Once I had those--setup for Thunderbird went fast. Email was now working. Just some address book cleanup and email folder rearrangment after the OL express import of those files. Done. We verified that I had copied his IE6 cookies and favorites over ok. Then we imported those into Firefox.

Task Eight: Eye-Candy!
I snagged some golf-themed desktops from over at Next I found some pretty closeups of flowers, coffee, flags and such over at Mandolux. From there I selected some stunning beautiful nature photographs, city lights at night, and object closeups over at InterfaceLift. Finally I grabbed some bright and highly saturated "Vista/XP" style desktops from WallpaperStock. I showed Pop how to use Faststone Image Viewer to manage his wallpapers easily. It doesn't seem to come with a built in screen-saver to rotate images from folders. I don't really care for the MS one in XP, so we downloaded Imagewalker and set its screensaver application to do that work instead.

Task Nine: Misc Odds and Ends.
I finally verified that all the hardware was showing good status in the manager. XP had picked up the HP scanner driver perfectly. I did have to download the printer driver from Epson, but I had expected that. The final reboot (after many during this process). Finally I ran a malware scan with Spybot and MS Antispyware. MSAntispyware came back clean and Spybot only found two files remaining from some WildTanget java games that had come pre-installed by Dell. Done! He did a test run on logging into his system and he was good to go!

Still To Do.
Finish reconfiguring his D-link 4-port router--it burped the settings last week so we were just going with the direct DSL modem connection at this time. Also, put the old pc back together again and run a long cat-v cable from the router location into the kitchen. Finally set the old pc up in the kitchen and decide on SLAX or Berry (live-cd) Linux version--wait a minute! They can have both!

All in all it took about 4 1/2 hours--not counting the time Lavie spent unboxing and doing the first setup pass. Quite lot of time. I would say about 1/4 spent on 3rdparty software removal, 1/4 spent on security and productivity software installations and set up. 1/4 on data-relocation and the remainder on email and final system tweaking. I wish Dell would include a batch file to auto-delete all that 3rd party stuff--kinda like a red-self destruct button on the starcruiser's bridge in the sci-fi movies--but only it's an icon. One punch and it's all gone--but I know that most consumers (nor Dell's software providers) wouldn't want that.

All in all it is running very well and very fast. Not a bad day's effort!

So, now you know the Valca approved apps I like to use on a system. Give them a try and good luck!

And now, in other news...

Did you see this? Is this for real or not? I have got so many questions about this that my wisdom and judgement have slammed on my blogger's safety-brake, preventing me from commenting on this just yet. I need to watch it bake in the "real world" (no, not that MTV loft) for a little bit. Until then...form your own opinion while I try to analyze mine....

Write an annoying comment, go to jail: via Ed Bott's blog.
Create an e-annoyance, go to jail: via C|net.
BoingBoing wades in with a little less drama and more reason.

In the meantime, my crack legal team has advised me, to now, in the interest of fair and public disclosure, make a public statement that all posts here--as made by me--are done with no intent to annoy anyone. at all. not one bit. be kind. please. I love you all. Spread the love and karma and go eat a peanut butter and jelly samwich...with bannanas in it. You'll be glad you did. Do you feel the positive vibes? That's the only intent you'll find here!

Into the skies,