Thursday, December 22, 2005

My December

My December

Week one a sign that my life is nigh ready to take a turn

The money I have is not enough for the necessities that I yearn.

For it is my wish joy to bring to family and to friends

But my hands are stopped and I can not bring about these ends

Week two a sneeze causes another loss now my car has left

Of escape and freedom now it seems of that I am bereft

Insurance will claim what little had I set aside to give

And joy now seems to be fleeing now like water through a sieve

Week three small joys a need gift for me there did await

It would seem small but great to me was the pleasure of that date

A true friend was there to lift me up in defiance of the fate

That this month against me shows not but malice and hate

Week four I confess the most pain has been drawn and time the only cure

I tore down walls and exposed a heart that I hoped was pure

Again I found that familiar sound I am wanted not as husband or spouse

My hart was crushed and I caught the dust to leave no evidence in the house

Can friends we be after I’ve seen the dreams fall to the floor

I gave the answer yes for that seemed best as we parted at the door

Two tears I’ve cried and I fear the meaning of this thing

For pain is all now I hear form the song they sing

One for the past and the pain that in my mind does ring

One for the future and fear of what it too shall bring

What is left to take against my sake my family my home a friend

With sincerity it is the prayer that I give that here my losses end

Quietly here I think on fate while sitting in my home

Will I live and if I do will I always live alone

May your holidays be better than mine.


Monday, November 07, 2005

The Promised Projects Post

Didn't I say I would? So here it is.

A casual pet project for the last week or so is the hard drive I've hacked up and re-sealed with plexiglass so that you can watch the sucker work while it,

Crystal is supportive of my projects in general, but at times less than understanding. When I showed her the finished product, she was clearly under whelmed, and couldn't resist asking why I had been driven to do such a stupid thing.

The simple answer is that while I may or may not end up with something cool, I do almost always pick up a new skill or two. The new skill for this project was working with plexi. I actually made two plexi windows for this hard drive mod, and there was a huge qualitative difference between the two. The first was made of an old piece of plexi that I dremelled out of a larger sheet of it. The edges were rough and not at all pretty, and the plexi was the kind that gets stress fractures inside the material from just basic handling, making in more or less opaque.
The second window was made from new plexi, cut with a plexi knife, so it had straight, pretty edges. And it's nothing approaching opaque, so that's a plus.

I also learned how nice a dust mask can be when dremelling steel. As I understand it, steel can be bad stuff to inhale. So I minimized the risk of that as much as I could. I've already learned the lesson of wearing goggles while dremelling (a few more times than I should), so I had quite the getup on my face when cutting steel.

I also had to do some basic electrical work to get the 12/5V wall wart adapter to properly power the molex connector that was to plug into the hard drive. This was easy but satisfying, as soldering always makes me feel geeky.

I'm seriously thinking of re-doing DENTSERVER. Yes, again. I just can't leave well enough alone. I want to turn my four independent basic discs into one big RAID 5 with Striping and Parity Dynamic Disk.

This will serve a few nice purposes. First, it will help performance in terms of file access, because you're pulling parts of each file from each drive instead of waiting on one drive for the entire file.

Second, it will make the situation such that a drive failure won't mean that all the files are blown away with the drive. All I have to do is pop in a drive with equal or greater capacity and tell the dynamic volume to reconstruct the lost drive from the Parity codes on the remaining drives, and off I go!

And third, let me tell you, it's a pain in the butt keeping all of those drives straight, and when I have to add a new share, figuring out where it should go based on what's already where is yet another pain in the buttocks. Having one huge 1TB+ disk to work with would just simplify the hell out of things, and tickle me pink. Then I can pull tricks like creating a single folder 600 GB in size, even though there isn't a single drive in the system that has that kind of capacity.

Toywatch: I got a new Lexar 2GB flash drive. I'm sure it'll fill up right quick. Oh, and by the way, when it comes to flash memory, I'm a Lexar man now. My last Lexar (1GB) was a fast little sucker, and this one seems to be living up to that legacy. I highly recommend Lexar for this reason. My Kingston was fast too, but it might as well have been a banana in my pocket. It was huge.

The lab is closing on me, so I've got to wrap it up.

Catching You Up!

Good heavens, I'm tired. And this is a pretty average day. I was up at 3:00 this morning, and now I'm at the University waiting for an 8:30 PM WEA meeting. I'll get home just in time to fall into bed too late to make up any part of the sleep deficit I'm already running on, so I'll just have to keep looking forward to my Friday afternoon nap. I'm not as young as I used to be. Here's to running on fumes.

One thing that will help, though, is that I was released from serving the Teachers' Quorum on Sunday, thank God. And I don't say that lightly.

I played Half-Life 2: Lost Coast for about 10 minutes the other day, and thinking that I probably had about that much to go, I re-started the movie that had been playing because the wife was staring me down. Yesterday I went back into the game and found that I had about three minutes left in the demonstration level. It was a let-down at the end on more than one level. If you've played the Coast yourself, you'll understand this joke.

The LAN party of a couple of weeks ago was a good time for all. There were some small issues, such as not everyone being able to attain basic network connectivity. Overall, though, it was a good party. The food was good, the planned movies and MCM2 matches were forgone for a straight Half-Life death match, and the pool was good practice for the tournament that Jeff and I played in the next day.

So Jeff and I played in a 9-Ball ring tournament the next day. And boy was it a long day of 9-Ball. I played in four qualifying rounds of 10 racks each before I moved on to the semifinals. Ten more racks in semifinal mode, and I was done. Five or so practice racks before things began, and 50 more racks in tournament mode makes for avid fans considering swearing off the game. I was grateful to make it to the semis, though, and I did meet some fun people.

Jeff, poor guy, just had a lot of bad racks, plain and simple. I felt bad for him, but there wasn't a thing I could do about it. I'm pretty sure he played four qualifying rounds also, and he just couldn't gain a foothold.

My final qualifying round was quite funny, and I'd have laughed about it more heartily at the time if it wasn't pretty much all at Jeff's expense. There were about four racks out of the ten in that round where Jeff took care of the 6, 7, and 8 ball and then scratched, leaving me an easy shot on the 9. I was winning without Jeff's help, but his repeated assistance had me widening the gap by such a margin that I was unstoppable, and I closed the round with 17 points...a nine point lead on my nearest competitor, and by far the single greatest margin of victory in the entire tournament. Leon showed up right in the middle of this round, so his view of the entire tournament will naturally be skewed. That's ok, though. Let him convince you that I'm really that good.

After the tournament, Jeff, Leon and I went to McGrath's for a bowl of chowder and a pissing-and-moaning session. The food was good, and I think Jeff felt better about things afterward.

I want to post about my technical activities, but I think that had better be a seperate post.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Howdy Strangers! (LAN Party Directions)

So I haven't posted in a while. Sue me. Ok don't.

This post is mostly for Scott's sake, as he's coming to the LAN party from Salt Lake (or thereabouts), and he's got no clue where Leon's house is, and I'll be including directions in this post at some point. But not yet.

Do you know what I love about our blog? The name. I love the damned name. Yes, no one except about three people on earth can spell PHISCHKNEGHT from memory, and that's a really good thing, because if you type "directions phischkneght" into the address bar of Firefox and press "Enter", do you know what Google gives you? The best match in the entire world for your query, which is a post on this very blog dated 22 December 2004, giving directions to the LAN party that was coming up on New Year's. I dig that.

Now, don't go there unless you'd like a history lesson, because I'm posting an updated version (I promise) below, and you'll get bad info from the old one.

In other news, on Saturday, Leon, Jeff and I will be playing in a 9-ball tournament at the Layton Hills Mall. I'm rather excited to be playing, as it's my first billiards tournament. I intend to have a good time, and if that means getting my sorry butt whipped, then that's fine.

But I'd really like to win, too. I'm thinking of dragging along my MP3 player and making a special playlist to keep me pumped. This approach seems to work nearly as well at Leon's house as getting someone to irk me a little bit so that I can play annoyed and clean them up. And I really do. But lately I've just been mostly tired. So the music may help with that.

Oh, did I promise directions? Yeah, I'll get to that...

I guess you could call this a brain dump post. I'm going to try to catch the blog up on my life in 3,000 words or less. Ready?

In August I got a new job at a company in Salt Lake called Unisys. I'm outsourced tech support without the funny accent or odor of curry. I've been there eight weeks now, and I'm doing well, but they like me at my desk by 6:00 AM, and the drive to Salt Lake takes a while in the morning and afternoon when I get off work, so I wake up early these days, and go to bed early, and I'm still tired all the time because:
  • I still have to be Daddy to my kids.
  • I still have to be SuperHubbyJake (TM) to Crystal.
  • I still have to be V.P. of Communications to Weber Entrepreneurs Association.
  • I still have to serve my Ziff Computers customers.
  • I still have to go to activities with and teach lessons for my ward's Teachers Quorum.
  • I still have to participate in regular hygenic activities, such as showering and brushing teeth, which takes a little time every day, but really adds up.
I feel like Prince Humperdinck in a classic moment when he said to his number one crony: "Tyrone, you know how much I love watching you work, but I've got my country's 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder, and Gilder to frame for it. I'm swamped!"

And I truly am. I just wear a Leatherman instead of a fancy dagger. But given the right dagger, I may be convinced to make a transition.

I've decided to begin studying for the Certified Ethical Hacker certification. Wahoo. Now we're talkin' malformed packets, baby! Oh, when you talk like that, it really makes my buffer overflow.

Oh, and I have a new phone. It's an Audiovox PocketPC 6700 with service from Sprint, which means that from now on when you call me on my cellular, you no longer have to cope with crappy Nextel service, which has never been a paragon of quality in my case. I love this phone, and maybe I'll write more about it later.

Ok, down to business. Following is a lightly edited version of the directions given for the previous party noted above. Most of what's new is the Google Maps directions link and my newer email address. Cheers!

Here is Leon's address in Kaysville:

350 N. Seemore Drive

Directions: From I-15, take the Kaysville exit. Coming off of the exit, turn West onto 200 North. If you're coming from the South, that's a left turn. If you're coming from the North, it's a right turn.

You should pass a car dealership right by the freeway as you head West.

Further down on the right, you'll see a nice park. This means you're going the right way. There's another park right next to the first one. Yes, two city parks right next to one another. Welcome to Kaysville. Keep heading West.

You'll see an LDS church on the left. Then you'll see a Baptist church across the street from the LDS church, also on your left. Keep heading West.

Take the next right. It's called Seemore Drive. This is Leon's street. He lives at the very end of the street, on the right-hand side. There is parking in front and at the side of the house.

Here's an aerial photo of Leon's neighborhood, and here's a zoomable Google Map that assumes you know how to get on I-15. Seemore Drive is the road that ends in a "T", not the one that has a cul-de-sac. His house is the one on the right-hand corner next to the cul-de-sac. Yeah, the one with the huge back yard.

If you have any problems, questions or other concerns about the party, you can email me at slybevel (at) gmail (dot) com, or you can call my cellular phone at nine four oh, fifteen oh six. Got that? If you don't know the area code, go away.

Better yet, you could call Jeff. He's in charge of this one.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Things I forgot to talk about in my last post

This post is for things players ought to know about the LAN party I didn't mention.

One, those of you with microphones or headsets, BRING THEM! Jake and I were playing around and have discovered that voice messaging in Half-Life is fun and easy. Plus, it'll be easy to talk to teammates with it.

I also forgot to mention that in addition to the games I mentioned, we plan on having Halloween-type movies to watch, as players may get fragged out. Nightmare Before Christmas and Beetlejuice top the list, but there may be more than that.

I will probably update this post as I think of other things.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Yet Another Pre-LAN Party Post

Ok, the LAN party is this coming Friday so first off, w00t! Here's a refresher for everone coming.

What everyone should know about the party: it will take place this Friday, starting at 2:00 and ending PROMPTLY at 11:00 at the Walker residence. Music will be turned off at 9:00 pm, and headphones are mandatory for games such as Half-Life. There is a $15 cover, as we are having Garcias cater.

Guests are expected to bring their own computers, monitors and other peripherals (keyboard and mouse). Tables will be set up in the basement where you can jack in to the network.

We will be playing the following games: Half-Life Death Match, Counter Strike, Half-Life 2 Death Match (if there are enough players), Motocross Madness, You Don't Know Jack, Mortal Kombat and pool. Also, with the computer games, we appreciate people having the computer games already loaded on their boxes, and if you don't now, I urge you to grab a copy (the HL Platinum pack was $15.00 at Walmart last I checked). If you don't have these games come Friday, we can take care of it, the exceptions bein YDKJ (one computer can handle lots of people) and HL2 (you must have your own copy)

Finally, these are the people we are expecting. If I have forgotten anyone or if anyone here isn't coming, I need to know by Tuesday when we order food.
Mikey (Andy's buddy)
Brad (Krys' brother)

And I guess Eric isn't going to be showing up. Too bad. Here's looking forward to Friday.

It's not a free lunch

It doesn't look like I'll be making it to the LAN party this week, although if I need a break from all the other exciting things that will be going on, then maybe I'll come join you for a while. It's that or go to some 1840's period dance.

I do have a bit of news. We spent the weekend painting, and with carpet coming tomorrow, everything is in place for us to move next week. We'll be spending all day Friday packing and what not, and we plan to have a large truck here to move everything on Saturday, starting shortly after 8:00, until we're done. If any of you are interested in helping, let me know and I'll give you details. We plan to feed you, and if enough people are here, it will be easy enough work.

Of course, if you're busy or just not interested in heavy lifting, that's fine too.

Have a fun LAN party.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Has this ever happened to you?

Has this ever happened to you?

You answer your door to find a neighbor standing out there with a wagon full of squash and not just any squash the dreaded zucchini in all of its greenness. What do you do send them away and possibly hurt their feelings? Maybe you develop a sudden allergy or do you accept just to throw it away later. Well here is a solution for you. It tastes good and tastes even better the second day.

Bacon – Zucchini Soup:
Serves 6 – 8

8 cups unprepared zucchini
6 strips of bacon cut into pieces
1 can (10 ¾ oz) chicken broth
½ tsp salt (optional)
1 tsp season salt
1 tsp basil leaves
¼ tsp pepper
¾ cup chopped onions
Croutons and or parmesan cheese for toppings (optional)

Chop zucchini and set aside.
Fry bacon until crisp remove from pan
Sauté onions in bacon grease.

Combine zucchini with bacon, onions, and remaining ingredients in large pot and cook until zucchini is tender adding water as needed. And allow to cool. (Side note I personally cook the bacon in the large pot and leave the grease in the soup and leave out the salt. This way I only get one pot dirty.) Put cooked mixture in blender and blend until very smooth. Heat for serving and top with croutons and parmesan cheese if desired.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Thank you Leon. I know Andy can be a Dink and I appreciate you taking the initiative.

The new specs for the party should work out just fine. I certainly don't have a problem with it and if anyone does, let me know.

Now that it's official, I want to put a few things out there. First, I'd like to do some Half-Life Mod games. I'm thinking Opposing Force, Team Fortress, and possibly Counter Strike and HL2. I'd like to know how people feel about doing this and if there are enough people with those games to make it worth while. Second, Jake has been pointing out more and more with each LAN party that Half-Life Deathmatch is fun, but it gets old after a while, as does mototag. To help with this, he has reccomended a black jack tournament and for the last party attempted a dedicated Mortal Kombat computer. I would like any other suggestions for new and exciting games to play.

Here's looking forward to our Halloween LAN Party!

PS: Thank you again, Leon, for taking initiative.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

LAN Party: Power Trippin

Due to a lack of motivation or desire from my brother, I have finally pushed the subject of the LAN party with my parents. Here are the details they want.

  1. October 28th is the day they prefer, this is a Friday we will start accepting people at 2:00 pm no earlier. Knowing most of us have work that should not be a problem.
  2. At 9:00 pm the pool table and the stereo will be turned off and further use forbidden. My parents have plans and want to be able to get some sleep. I had to fight to make the stereo an option at all please be grateful. We are not allowed to turn it to 11; they have their own things going on up stairs and like to listen to their own music.
  3. At 11:00pm that is it time to pack and go.
  4. Head phones for your computer are mandatory.
  5. Finally I (Leon) am in charge of the basement. Not Andrew because:
    1. I worked it out with my parents.
    2. They trust me.

If there are any changes you would like let me know ASAP and I’ll try to get it worked out. My parents enjoy the fact that you all like to come and play. I like to see they and their home are treated with respect. They are very nice despite what the above may seem to indicate. I just like to get to the point.

Thanks to all of us and let’s make this work!

Leon Walker.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

RE: RE: [Phischkneght Forum] The Next LAN Party(A Reply From Phoenix)

Alright, alright, maybe I did jump the gun, but I would like to point out a few things. For starters, nothing is for certain right now. My post was more to announce that that was what we wanted to do, though in my excitement, things sounded more concrete. We did intend to speak with the heads of the Walker household and Leon before proceding. Also, we set the date far enough in the future to hopefully avoid any scheduling conflicts, and of course, should any major ones occur, we are ready to change it.

Anyways, my appologies. I will have Andrew bring up the subject tomorrow and I will speak personally with Leon at the soonest possible time. So hopefully things will go more smoothly and we won't be "DENIDED" anymore.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

RE: [Phischkneght Forum] The Next LAN Party(A Reply From Phoenix)

Well I am glad you are gung ho about a LAN party but until it is cleared on the house owner side you are SCREWED! I am not trying to be mean but you need permission from both my mother AND father for this type of thing to fly. Having my father next to me and saying this is the first he has heard of it is not a good indicator. After you get permission then start a guest list. Our family meetings occur every Sunday after dinner. Andrew needs to bring up the proposition then and make sure he has it cleared. We may or may not have something else planed as a family of just my parents but just expecting them to drop every thing and rearrange life to fit you is rude. Point 2 just who do you think this house network belongs to. I personally demand that some one asks to use my things before assuming they can and inviting others to do so. So until I hear otherwise this location and equipment have been DENIDED.

p.s. I like the idea of a LAN party but only if the proper channels are followed.

p.p.s I believe in repentance and forgiveness.

Leon Walker

V.P. of the W.F. Corporation.

The Next LAN Party

I have been talking with Andy, and we have agreed that a LAN party is in order. Here's what we're thinking: October 29, from noon to midnight. Cover will probably be in the area of $15, and the party will be at the Walkers'.

As it stands, here is a preliminary guest list:
Myself (Jeff)

We are going to look into Garcia's again since that has proved popular, but if anyone has suggestions for menu changes, people I forgot to invite, or any other changes, let me know. I will be checking this blog often.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A Tale of Data Recovery

Monday morning, I woke up and found my computer hung up on the POST screen. It was blathering on about a hard drive failure. Rebooting did nothing to help. Unplugging the system drive later that day got the system to POST, and so I was stuck with a bad system drive.

This drive has a capacity of 80 GB, and over two partitions, it contained all of my user data, personal documents, and VCD files, in addition to every picture I took with my digital camera since Christmas and an extensive email archive. I was devastated.

To make matters worse, I just went through this weekend and threw away every old backup disc that I didn’t have a good reason to keep ("just in case I want to restore some files from the previous installation" wasn’t a good enough reason). I tried to create a new backup of the C drive (where all this critical data was stored), but it crashed halfway through. I should have taken that as a warning.

But I was also quite busy. Tuesday, I managed to spend about 5 minutes with the machine, during which I found that the drive was having trouble, and that was all I could do. Today, I got a bit more time, but it’s been a few minutes here and a few more there. Fortunately, I’ve made some progress today.

I tried plugging the hard drive in with another cable (on the vain hope that it was a cable problem). That didn’t work until I changed the jumper on the drive. Then, it would start to boot to Windows, but then crash and reboot before it got to the welcome screen. The good news was that it was POSTing, and that the drive still had some valid data on it.

I promptly booted to Knoppix, and after figuring out where Samba was and all that, I started copying files to my other machine. I now have all of the desirable data backed up, and I’m ready to start doing some serious diagnostics on the suspect drive.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


First off, Eric's idea of a something-or-other LAN party is good, and much needed. I've been talking to Paul Plaizier and he is eager to see many of the old school Aspenridge boys. I tried to come up with some brilliant way of disagreeing with him on the need to reunionize with old friends (I was playing devil's advocate) and yet his overwhelming fervor and passion for "chilling out" and "pwning old friends" was too much for me. I conceeded.

Nextly, I have an apartment. I have an apartment, I HAVE AN APARTMENT!!! This brings me unadulterated glee for many reasons. I want to be closer to school (and work that will be on campus, WOOT!!!!) I also will be moving my records up there so that I will actually be living in my stake boundaries for the first time in 6 1/2 years. This is a good thing for me. I will be moving in August 27th, you heard right, this Saturday. I mostly will be having family help, but you know that I'm never averse to receiving help from my friends. GG all, many of you will next see me when I'm on Washington Terrace time.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

O say can you C++?

Some time ago, a fellow contributor was interested in learning to program. I offered him a book of programs, and copies of most of the stuff I'd written, but I don't think he got what he wanted from it. Then, we all forgot about it, and a lot of time passed.

Lately, I've been delving into programming again, and revisiting some things that I've written before in an effort to either reuse them or improve them. As part of this, I (finally, after over 5 years) went through the Wrox Press C++ Tutorial that came with my copy of Visual C++. I've got to say that it was very helpful, although as someone who already knew a lot of the material, I can't say just how helpful it would be to a beginner. Also, there were some stylistic things that they did that I disagree with, like putting endlines at the beginning of lines instead of at the end or prefixing all pointer variables with a 'p', and some language issues that I had with them, like not using built in .h headers (this reflects a difference between C and ANSI C++, and since I was taught to use the .h headers whenever available and the .h headers are better for backward compatibility with C, I still use them).

My point is that it was a very helpful tutorial, and if any of you out there have a copy of Visual C++ 6.0 and still want to learn some programming, give it a shot. I can provide some extra help if you get stuck, and even provide some code examples if you need it. In fact, I've been meaning to write an entry here about fractals, which would include pictures of fractals and also copies of my code used to generate them. I'm glad that I haven't done that yet, because a lot of that code has been revised and cleaned up lately.

On another note, are we going to try for a Labor Day-ish LAN party, or wait until Constitution Day, Columbus Day, Halloween, Veterans Day, or some other holiday?

Friday, July 15, 2005

"In London, April's a spring month"

I think I won a major battle over spyware this week, but I can’t really claim victory because I nuked before I really had time to verify my success.

The story is that a coworker’s computer was badly infected with spyware. She is close to a technical illiterate, and so it was a bit of a puzzle in itself to try to find out what was wrong before I actually sat down at the machine and started looking around. It was also a puzzle figuring out what had caused the problem in the first place.

As far as I can tell, she got a popup one day saying that she either had a virus, or that she should install some program. She apparently hit the window and installed whatever came up. She thought she was installing her ISP’s anti-spyware package, and instead whatever she installed had a distinctly pro-spyware agenda.

There were dozens of different spyware packages running on her machine, but that didn’t turn out to be the problem. I could remove those easily enough, partly with the help of anti-spyware programs (legitimate ones downloaded from their respective authors) or by manually removing their startup keys and executables. This required booting to Safe Mode and sometimes to BartPE (thanks Jake for motivating me to make a disc last week).

When I thought it was all clean, I tried running Windows update, and suddenly the popups were back, along with a fresh load of spyware, only this time they were accompanied by the installer for MS Office (yeah, what the heck!?). All that work, and things hadn’t improved. So, I uninstalled Office and tried to refresh the IE files (MS doesn’t make this very easy). But there still were a couple of programs starting up that I couldn’t even find. The files just weren’t there, and neither were the registry keys, and yet they were there.

Eventually, I found them, and then promptly formatted the whole thing and install a (legitimate this time) copy of XP Home. So, the thing’s fixed and it’s out of my hands. I did what I could, and it was quite an adventure, even though in a way it was a tremendous waste of time. The point is that I learned a lot. And I think I’ll get a lunch out of it.

Monday, July 11, 2005

The Case of the Wardriver

Last April, in Florida (why does almost every news story these days happen in Florida?), a man was arrested for accessing a residential wireless network without the permission of the owners. He will soon be going to trial, and I am interested to find out how this case turns out.

On one hand, the guy admits to using network resources that did not belong to him. The owner of the network that he connected to had paid for the network hardware, internet connection, and other associated maintenance costs. Depending on the wording of the law, the guy may be unarguably guilty of unauthorized access to a computer network.

That said, I do not expect him to be found guilty. Aside from the unfairness of punishing one person for an act that is so ubiquitous these days, it is not altogether clear that he was an unauthorized user of the network. If an individual makes some extraordinary effort to connect to a network (splicing wires, stealing passwords, circumventing security measures), then the access would clearly be unauthorized. In this case, the network connection was being broadcast to anyone within range of it. The man charged in this case was in a public place (on the street), and (most likely) had not circumvented any security measures to access the network.

My point is that having an unsecured wireless network is an open invitation for anyone within range to connect to it. In fact, most wireless enabled computers will automatically connect to an unsecured network within range, with little or limited action from the user, making such “illegal” activity unavoidable. It is akin to having something on a web page that doesn’t require authentication to log on (most web pages are like this), except that the range from which it can be accessed is much, much smaller (100 feet, versus world wide).

I worry that this will create an undue state of paranoia among the technically illiterate. Already people are talking about how people use unsecured networks to perpetrate terrible things, like distributing child pornography or sending threatening emails. While this certainly happens, it is unlikely for any specific wireless network to be so abused. The limited physical range of a Wi-Fi network makes it difficult for malicious users to take advantage of it. But most people don’t know enough to realize this, and are likely to be driven by fear of prosecution for something they didn’t do.

I fear that, instead of leading people to be more diligent about securing their wireless connections, this will drive people to create legislation making innocuous war driving a specifically criminal offense. This will not make the naïve technophobes, or their data, any safer, but it will occasionally save them from having people leech indiscernible amounts of bandwidth from their high speed web connections that they barely use. (Seriously, what good is a connection faster than 256 Mb/s if you never download any big files?)

For the record, I have a wireless network, and have at times been responsible for another one. I am very careful about making sure that my networks are secure. As long as most people don’t secure their wireless networks, passing people looking for an easy Wi-Fi fix will not bother with my network. It’s not worth the trouble of breaking into Fort Knox when the bank next door doesn’t ever lock it’s vault or post any guards.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Whoa, that moved fast...

Lots to catch up on.

There was the LAN party, back on June 24-25. I think it's fair to say that everyone who attended had a good time, and went away very tired. I went away very, very tired. We did in fact stay up all night (except for Leon...he slept twice), and alternately played Half-Life, played billiards, and watched our movie, "Poolhall Junkies."

Eric gave "Poolhall Junkies" a thorough panning, even though he hadn't seen the movie before, and then admitted that it was pretty ok afterward.

We never did get to Slurpees. There were times that a couple of people wanted to go, but the rest of the group didn't, and then an hour or so later a couple of other people would want to go, with the majority still reticent. No biggie.

Overall, it was a fun party between a pretty tightly-knit bunch of friends. And the food was really good. And I'm pretty sure that no one will die of heart break if we don't do an overnighter again. At least not like that. It was pretty rough at the end.

Independence Day and my birthday came and went, and oh my, did I have a good time.

First, we went to Logan for USU's annual firework show there. Leon and Jeff and I went early to get good seats, and of course, eat at Logan's old-timey A&W beforehand. I've eaten at other A&Ws, but they never seem to be as good as that one. We also wanted to visit Willow Park, but there simply wasn't time. So we drove up to USU stadium and staked out a place in line. Leon and Jeff passed the time by beating up their Gameboys, and I listened to an audio book.

The audio book was "A Walk In The Woods", by Bill Bryson, narrated by the author, and not, as I first thought, by John Malkovich. Yes, really. They sound exactly the same, weird cadence and all. Y'all know by now that I don't link to products that don't impress me. "Walk In The Woods" was a really great listen. I highly recommend it.

And John Malkovich, if you're idly Googling yourself and you stumble on this post, please do consider looking into voice work for audio books. An unusual voice helps keep the audio book interesting, and it certainly helped an already excellent work in this case.

Logan, sadly, has Homeland Security Paranoia Shit (hereafter referred to as HSPS) going on. You can't bring in a glass bottle in a cooler, but I wore a knife on my hip right through the gate, and it could very well have been a gun and no one would have noticed. Granted, the knife is my treasured Leatherman, and not really an ideal choice if you're looking to let massive amounts of blood, but the airlines are afraid enough of my Leatherman, so you tell me.

Folks, when can we start to be clueful about this again? Searching people does not make me feel more secure, it makes me feel less secure. And your plainclothes guys walking around, trying not to look conspicuous? Yeah, right. Can you tell me what's more secure than a stadium full of law-abiding citizens packing weapons (be they knives, guns, or broken bottles)? I bet you can't.

The Logan show is sponsored annually by Fireworks West, a Utah outfit that designs for and supplies professional fireworks shows. Fireworks West likes to show off their new stuff at the Logan show, and this year we saw shells burst into giant smiley faces. I know, not that impressive, but they've debuted more exciting things in the past.

The long and short of it is that the Logan show has been declining in the last few years, and I'm not sure that I'll keep the family tradition next year and attend. For one thing, tickets are now $6 per person, for a show that's been shorter every year for the last five shows.

The entertainment is getting more, well...unbearable. They've clearly been spending as little as possible to get someone on stage who at least knows what a guitar is, and invariably, this person also tries to hold and play a guitar, which is a big mistake. They also did away with the sky divers. I liked that part as a kid, and they just don't do it anymore.

Here. Take the Clearfield show as a study in contrasts.
  • It's free. Did I mention it's free? This is a big deal. My whole family went and the only expense was dinner. Free.
  • There are firemen and police everywhere, but they're there to help instead of stare at you and pretend they're not staring at you.
  • They allow vendors in for a reasonable price, giving the event a well-rounded selection of food and other crap to buy (I didn't, but I like choice).
  • Nobody searches anything. But if you do something stupid, the cops will be there in a heartbeat (see my post about cops for a fun story involving this show).
  • There are no damned "entertainers" to fight to ignore, so I can talk to my family, or ponder the sky, or listen to my audio book in peace.
  • Grass. Bare feet and grass and a warm day and my own, comfy folding chair. AHHHHHHHhh.
  • Room (and grass, mind you) for my kids to run around and have fun.
  • A huge fireworks show. Longer, bigger, and better in every way that matters than the Logan show. For free.
Logan, you've got a problem. Clearfield is putting on a better show for less (none at all) money. I'm pretty sure I noticed a substantial drop in attendance at Logan's show this year, and I've got serious doubts on whether I'll be attending anymore. I don't know if you care, but here are some things that I feel would make a difference.
  1. They put fireworks down on the grass in the stadium, and that's cool, but I'd rather sit down there, where it's cool and soft, than in a hard seat up above. Either open up this area to seating, or bring back the sky divers and let them land there again.
  2. Get real on vendor prices. How do I know anything about this? Do you remember the first five years you had light ropes? That was my family you contracted with, and you raised the commission on us every year until we couldn't afford to do it anymore. It was fun and we didn't mind paying for the privilege, but you've got to ease up on the greed quotient.
  3. Find a better way to entertain us before the fireworks, if you must. I remember when the organizers of a fireworks show would broadcast the program on an FM radio station. Perfect. Give us a choice whether or not to listen.
  4. Finally, trust your public and trust your public servants. Get the damned surveillance van out of there. Be clear about what you expect and have your cops take care of it if a few people mess up.
The single drawback at the Clearfield show was that they set up the barriers a touch too close to the fireworks, and the forward parts of the audience had firework debris raining down on them from time to time. But I've had that at the Logan show too, and I don't know that any show of any remarkable magnitude doesn't. Also, in Clearfield's case, this was probably a symptom of the space crunch their experiencing...they're building a new junior high school, tearing down the old one, and there's a dirt pile and a fence where the Clearfield City Pool used to be, which has been a major thoroughfare at previous shows. So Clearfield probably needed to make the best use of the space they had. Tricky.

On the nights between the Logan and Clearfield shows, Jeff, Krys, Andrew and I lit big floral shells in my back yard. We had four tubes running at a time, and with great effect. I found a way to stake down the tubes, so we didn't have to worry about them knocking each other over this year. Last year, we had a tube fall from the force of its launch. It knocked over the tube next to it, and that tube launched its shell about 3/4 of a second my house. Fortunately, the shell bounced off of the roof and broke over the road in front of the house. No harm done, but scary.

The PVR Build Log over at PhischX will have momentous news when I next post. Here's your preview if you read this first: The PVR works. It records, it rewinds, it pauses live TV, and it's all good. There's still work to do, and of course there are details to write about, but that's the gist of it.

And speaking of previews, Does anyone here read Cringely? Well you should. He was blogging long before anyone (even himself) knew what that was. These days he's the resident technology writer for PBS, and he's about to launch something that you will hear about, and probably be part of.

So go here and read about it.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Send in the Pundits

Saturday, to celebrate his birthday, I watched recorded TV shows with Jake. It was fun, especially since I got to watch some recent Daily Show episodes. I’ve missed Jon Stewart’s coverage of world events, which I used to watch regularly back in my college days (it was a great way to start my night).

One guest we watched was Howard Dean, the former Governor of Vermont and Presidential Candidate, as well as the current DNC chairman. I have never liked that man. I’m not sure why anybody trusts him with anything, or why they talked about trusting the country to him (I suspect that it was a complicated ruse to draw attention away from the legitimate candidate until later in the campaign, while drawing attention to the party). (I also admire his ability to draw people to him, especially since I don’t understand what it is that draws them.) I’m not sure just where Jake stands, politically, although I know that he very much wanted Bush to lose the last election (I think it was due to Michael Moore’s feature length editorial), but he definitely has right wing leanings too.

I digress. The point is that I wanted to give some answer to every thing that came out of his mouth, and the only thing keeping me back was a desire to not offend my friend and host. I was thinking about this, and how during the last election I spent all evening, into the night, watching the punditry and commentary on CNN (a respectable, but decidedly left-leaning group), and I realized that I like this sort of thing. I like addressing the vague statements, overgeneralizations, straw men, and demagoguery that comes out. In all fairness, I don’t just tackle liberals. I’ll take on O’Reilly’s bull too. I just enjoy it, that’s all.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Life, don’t talk to me about life. (and party stuff)

The only problem with taking a vacation is that when you get back everything at work is shot to heck. Let’s just say I’ll be getting some overtime this week.

Yeah I finally took my first real paid vacation. One whole week of course I had to save the time up for three years to get there but I finally did it. Nothing fancy just caught up on the little things I wanted to do. You could say I did nothing and it was everything I thought it could be.

On to the LAN Party.

1) The cover will be $15.00 U.S. if you think this is not fair e-mail me and I’ll point your error out to you.

2) There will be some basic rules to follow.

a. Have fun. We are here to relax and enjoy the company of others. I am really a nice relaxed guy don’t let the following deceive you.

b. Don’t be stupid. You are to treat every one here with respect and kindness. Trash talking is the exception but don’t take it too far.

c. Cursing is not allowed. This is my personal rule.

d. Any violations of these rules will be reviewed and enforced by me.

e. If my mother would disapprove don’t do it. If you are not sure if something is permitted ask.

3) Thanks to every one who has offered to bringing equipment, things worked better because of it.

4) Thanks to my parents for the use of the house.

5) And finally thanks to Jake for bringing this all together.

Monday, June 20, 2005

more of my input

COOL! It's a good thing we're going all-nighter because my new job is keeping me out pretty late lately. Unless I work out something amazing or take that day off, I probably won't make it to the party until at least 10:30. I hate to miss any second of a LAN party, but I wouldn't miss it for anything.

What I'd like to know, and I realize it's probably still up in the air, but how much will the cover be? Cash has been a bit short for me, what with buying Jake's old monitors off of him, and the sooner I know how much I need, the easier it'll be for me to plan for/save/obtain the necessary ammount.

Finally, Leon, for what it's worth (and it probably isn't worth much), I have a Hub which I will place at your disposal if you can't get enough switches.

Friday, June 17, 2005

More LAN Party Stuff

I can bring a switch and at least a few cables, but I will probably not be getting to the party until later. I will be traveling this coming week, and Friday morning, I’ll be waking up in Florida (Central Time, at least, so that it’s only a one hour jet lag thing). I’ll have to work out details with my secretary, but I will probably have other commitments to take care of after I get back in town before I can come play. I also rarely make it up past 2 a.m. these days, so even if I sleep on the plane (which doesn’t happen that often), I’ll likely not be at my sharpest during the gaming.

All that aside, I think that an all night LAN party is a cool idea, but, as Darth Vader once said, “It’s too late for me, son.” I’ll do what I can to help make it work. Is there anything else I should bring? Money? Food? Goats?

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Hear ye hear ye the party is come.

On speaking with my parents an all nighter from Fri. to Sat. is approved. I would like it to start no earlier than 4:00 pm Fri. I still have work that day and ill need time to set up. Dinner should start around 5:30 – 6:00 I will take on my self the burden of the initial payment of food and it sounds like that will be Garcia’s. Gary I want to send you for the pick up again. If there are any special requests let me know. I will not be providing breakfast unless we agree to increase the cover. Milk ain’t cheep.

As for games personally I like:

1) Half-Life

2) MCM2

3) Mortal Kombat

4) Mario Cart.

5) N64 Games

As for equipment ill need 2 more switches and extra network cables. I lost some cables at the last party so my stock is limited. Krys and Eric I would like you to cover the switches if you can if not let me know. I will also need a list of attendees by Wed. So I know how much food to get. Jake I need you to bring over controllers and games for the 64 also I would like you to keep track of the guest list. And I think we will need to have lunch at Garcia’s to hammer out the finial details.

For a LAN-party disk I am going to vote against but I do like the idea of making a utilities folder available over the network. You will not have internet access here so update and scan you computers before arrival. Head-phones are mandatory to keep the neighbors happy and to help provide a better social atmosphere. If there are any questions or concerns or people you want to invite PLZ let us know promptly. And finally thanks for all your help and support for making this happen.


Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Unkept Insinuations

Last night there was thunder for a brief period. It was a welcome harbinger in the heat of the nearly-summer night. But there was no follow-up of rain, or even more thunder to enjoy on its own. Just a few booms over the course of five minutes or so. Then nothing.

So I was left to add thirty albums to my server's audio collection with the fan droning in the background. It was one of the more dreary music work sessions I've had in a while. But I'm glad it's done. A little over 2GB of music from the thirty albums (comprised of roughly 35 CDs) is a nice little addition. And have I mentioned this? CDs at D.I. (and most other second-hand routes, for that matter) are one of the best music deals running, if you care a whit about legality. License to a full album for $2.00 a pop. Forever. Unlimited burning. Unlimited playlists. Unencumbered, plain vanilla, good old-fashioned, MP3. What's not to love? Go on, tell me.

Now hear this...Ten days. From right now, and only nine if we decide to go overnight and begin on the 24th. That's the kind of time we have left, and with only about 5% of the work done so far.

Leon, it's at your house, and you're the boss. I imagine that you can demand just about anything you like from Eric, Krys, and myself in order to get it all together. Do so. Soon. You know how I worry when deadlines begin to loom.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Accidentally Untitled (But now fixed) (And in the wrong blog! Also now fixed)

Last night (or early this morning, rather) I dreamt that Hugh Hefner (yes, that Hugh Hefner) was running for class president at a high school and I supported his run. No, he did not attend the high school. Yes, he was his real current age. No, there were not any bunnies present (unfortunately?). I don't know why I supported his run, but I thought it was a terrific idea at the time.

Oh, and dream number two was a roller coaster shaped like the graph of a mathematical equation that double-curved in on itself in such a way that the combination of speed and gravity killed the riders on the first run. It looked neat, though.

I think my brain is bored. I hope that planning and executing the upcoming LAN party will be sufficient stimulation for a little while.

I've been working really hard at understanding Windows installs. I've slipstreamed the latest service packs into all of my Windows install discs, and I'm working on pre-configuring my OS preferences, pre-integrating drivers and even activations into the installs, and testing with Virtual PC 2004. It's fascinating, but only to the reasoning side of my brain.

Likewise with all the other geeky pursuits I'm into. So the upcoming LAN party will be good for me.

Oh, and I REALLY NEED TO KNOW...LAN Party Disc or no? If yes, I need to get right to work on it.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Da LAN party

before you read this post, you should read Jake's latest, in which he disusses my idea for making the 25th an all night LAN party.

It being my idea, I am all for making the 25th all night. And I expected a little resistance such as Eric with his comment to Jake's post. I would like to point out a few things to alleviate such anxieties.

1: If you come to the party, it is fairly easy to assume that you don't have work on saturday the 25th. If you don't, you have a whole weekend after the party to get your sleeping groove back on.

2: If you are so dead set in your sleeping habits, we will take steps to ensure you get the sleep you need (quiet rooms, sleeping bags, tents, etc.)

3: If you are uncomfortable sleeping in a strange place, have work the next day, or simply don't want to go all night, no one will stop you from leaving early. Seriously, if you have to leave, then leave. but don't forget point 2.

4: Finally, an all night party is FUN! Even if we only go from 8:00 pm to 5:00 (and we almost certainly will go later in the morning), there will be a ton of time for everyone to do everything they want. Plus it will add the challenge of staying sharp so you can easily pick off tired players!

So there's my input on the LAN party. At the very least, I think we should try it once and if we find we don't like it we don't have to do it again.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

LAN Party, Other Stuff

I had lunch with Jeff yesterday. At Garcia's. On him. I'm pretty sure that's a first. Thanks again for lunch, Jeff.

Jeff has a good idea for the LAN party: Why not make it all night? Some random related ideas follow:
  1. Gonna be a challenge to get the head Walkers to give the go-ahead.
  2. Darken the library for fried players to relax before going back to fragging.
  3. Set up a tent or two in the back yard, encourage players to bring a sleeping bag in case they decide to zonk.
  4. Will probably raise the cover a bit, as more food/drinks will be required.
  5. We'll need to figure out what extra food/drinks will be appropriate/appreciated.
  6. We need to make sure that our late-night activities have a minimal impact on people who wish to sleep (neighbors, parents, siblings, cops).
  7. Would have to re-arrange party date to June 24-25 so as not to run into Sunday.
  8. Fireworks? (Unlikely; the Walker higher-ups are anti-firework, and we're missing the legal time frame by at least a week.)
  9. Have a relaxing activity the next morning to help along everyone's recovery.
None of those things are hard ideas, I just wanted to put them somewhere for later reference. In fact, #2 and #3 sort of conflict logically. No matter. They're just ideas. It may be that we decide that going all night is too much work. Or too much work for now, save for another party.

I'd like to have a good variety of things to do at the party. Half-Life is great, but even Krys will get fragged out eventually. I really liked the few rounds of MCM2 we had at the last party. That was fun.

Maybe we should set up a PC for Mortal Kombat? We've got an emulator, and we've got controllers. We could even feed it out to a TV for the bigger screen. Hmmm.

Ditto for StarFox 64. I've been enjoying the various battle modes on StarFox with Leon and Jeff. Any takers?

Anything else? LAN Monopoly? Anyone know of a good head-to-head Tetris program? I used to LOVE the head-to-head Tetris on GameBoy. I suppose two-player Dr. Mario could do in a pinch.

Do enough people have HL2 that we'd want to do an HL2 Death Match? I would probably be out of this, because I'll be gaming on my Tablet, and a 1.5 Ghz Centrino is respectable in laptop circles, but it and my Nvidia 32 MB of Vid memory just won't cut HL2 without some real sacrificing.

Finally, should we make another LAN party CD? Did anyone find it useful last time? Should we make it a DVD and fill it up with some k1ck455 MP3s? I think that having a disc for the party is nice for getting out patches and such, but then we could also just set up a share on someone's box and call it good.

Talk to me, people. If you're not a Phischkneght member, go ahead and post a comment. I'll be watching.

Monday, June 06, 2005

LAN Party Input

Jake is right. My schedule takes some time to take shape. My June schedule is finally coming together. I have a trip to Florida the week leading up to the LAN party, and a trip to Bear Lake the following week, but I’m free on the 25th. Except that I have some hedonistic solstice party to attend.

I’ll do what I can to recruit players. Roger may be interested, and so may some of his buddies (although I don’t know if we want to see it become a teen party, what with the maturity of bulk of the core group members).

As for Garcias, I concur. It was quite good. I’m not sure if I care about the tournament idea. I just enjoy making things (read: people) blow up. That’s all that matters, really.

Down To Business

So we need to get some arranging done.

We're planning a LAN party for June 25th. It's been in the works for a while, but we really haven't done much about it yet other than talk.

We had to plan the date a fair good distance out, because Eric and some others have tricky schedules. Additionally, we've had Mother's Day, Father's Day, my daughter's birthday, and various other things in a relatively short period.

After some discussion, it was decided that it would be nice to align the LAN party with the Summer Solstice. The Solstice is on the 21st (every year), and the 25th is the first following Saturday.

If you choose to bring goat-skin leggings and dance around in celebration of the Solstice, we can likely accommodate your preference to do so. Pentagrams, however, would be considered over the line and should not be worn. It is at the Walker home, after all.

So, right off the top of my head, here's a preliminary guest list:

Roger (Eric?...)
Andrew That's it? Surely I'm forgetting someone.

If you're not listed above and you'd like to be, just say so. I forget things sometimes.

There is food to think of. Here's the tally; once we had Baja Fresh cater our LAN party. It was bad. You can hit the archives if you want details, but it was just bad. Never again. And the store that Baja Fresh catered out of has since closed. A good sign as far as I'm concerned.

We also had Garcia's cater our last party. It was good. Very, very good. They did forget to bring a couple of things, but those were things that the manager was giving to us for free anyway, so it was no big deal. The food was on time (because we sent someone for it), delicious, reasonably priced, hot, and just generally warm-fuzzy-ish. In short, we got a good experience from Garcia's.

So Garcia's is high in the running for catering this next party, but not necessarily a done deal. Talk to Leon or myself if you feel that you have a better idea.

And: Prizes. I want prizes for this next LAN party. I'm not sure how I want it done yet, so I could use some help on how to set up HL tourneys (Krys, are you listening?).

If you have some sort of geeky swag that you're not using, then we'd love to make it a prize. Please talk to me about it.

I wish to foster a community feeling among Phischkneght members and friends in the planning and throwing of these events. If we all pitch in, we can help each other have a great time and probably save a few bucks. And I'd like to point out that our LAN parties are not money-making propositions. The October LAN party ended up costing me around $50, and the December party set Leon back around $60.We don't mind this because we love playing with our friends. And eating good food. They're both great.

So whatever you can do to help will be greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Post Stub! (Formerly On Multiple Monitors)

Thanks for the tickle, Jeff. I haven't written in far too long, and I've been looking for something to write about.

It occurs to me that blogging (in our case, at least) works best as a conversation rather than soliloquy between man and ether. I stimulate you to write, you do the same for me. Here's hoping for more of the same.

(Edit: This post got huge. So I'm posting to PhischkneghtX instead.)

Dual Monitors and LoZ

Yesterday I did something that's been on my list for almost six months, and I am proud to say that I am now running dual monitors.

I understand that it usually takes a while to get used to dual monitors, but whether it's because I've watched Jake with his so much or because I spend so much time on my computer, I seem to be taking the extra monitor in stride.

Unfortunately, all is not well with my display. My 17' flatscreen, which has served me extraordinarily well for three years now, has begun picking up electromagnetic interference from the new monitor, which creates a small line of interference going down the screen. annoying, but in order to fix it, I'd need to risk my life putting a shield in the monitor, and I don't have a death wish. That and the 15' secondary monitor is a POS.

In other news, the long awaited name for the 2005 Legend of Zelda has been released. Jake downloaded a trailer for it and we agree that it's one I'll need to get. Seriously, it looks great!

That's it for now.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Typhoid Mary strikes again

This weekend, I went down to my in-laws’ to install a wireless network. While installing a USB wireless adapter to a PC, I noticed that it was running slowly and had a lot of extra programs on it. There was a particularly suspicious registry run entry that had a lot of random looking consonants. After I deleted the entry, it came right back. So, with the wireless card fully installed, I set out trying to clean it up.

First, I ran an anti-spyware program (Ad Aware), which identified 706 objects (probably mostly cookies, you know how AdAware is), but stopped running while trying to delete the items it found. So, I installed and ran AVG anti-virus, which was partway through its scan (it found at least 19 viruses) when the computer crashed. It gave an error to the effect of “Unable to read from disk”. When I tried to reboot, it was unable to read anything from the hard drive.

The good news is that the viruses and spyware are gone, and instead of having hundreds of problems, her system has just one. The bad news is that her hard drive, including all of its data, is gone. We have plans to replace it and upgrade from Win98 to WinXP. This time, I’ll make sure that she has some better virus protection during the OS installation, as well as more secure browsers and such, so that she won’t be as likely to be infected again.

By the way, I usually don’t do nuke-n-loads by frying the harddrive.

Good Thing It Wasn't 10 Million More...

Re This:

Buyout mania continues: GameStop snaps up Electronics Boutique

By (Eric Bangeman)

It must be something in the air, as the second major acquisition of the day is announced. GameStop will acquire Electronics Boutique in a US$1.44 billion cash and stock deal. What does this mean for gamers?

I'll tell you what it means. It means that the money will just barely fit on a cash floppy disk.

I know, such a bad joke.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Long Time, No Post (And Some Product Reviews)

Too long. I'm not very happy when I don't write. And I don't write when I'm not very happy.

I'm on yet another experimental drug regimen. Is it helping? I dunno, you tell me. No, I really mean that...would someone please tell me?

So a very dear friend of mine, Diane in (near) Milwaukee, called me last night. I wasn't able to answer the call at the time, so we got in touch today.

Diane is only semi-digital, so at times she has an email address, and at times she doesn't. Well, now she has one again and I'm thrilled because that's just about the only way I can bring myself to communicate with someone on a regular basis nowadays (and it's cheaper than long-distance calling). Diane, it was wonderful talking to you today. I hope that you and I will know one another again as well as we used to.

Jeff and I have been going to Leon's to play billiards on the weekends. Last time we went, it was decided that Leon was getting too tired and needed a Slurpee. So we went, and as Jeff and Leon both owe me Slurpees, they decided amongst the two of themselves that Leon was buying.

We got there, acquired the desired Slurpees and went to pay. As we were standing in line, I glanced at the magazine rack, and out of the corner of my eye, saw something looking like money. When I looked directly at it, there was a five dollar bill tucked neatly in front of one of the magazines.

I picked it up, showed it to Leon, and tucked it away. Leon presented his debit card to pay for the drinks, but the lady ran the card wrong, so it declined. He was taking a while to get the card back out of his wallet again, so I quickly presented the found $5 bill.

I still think it's amazing and incredibly unlikely that we just found three Slurpees and some change sitting in a magazine rack like that.

I just finished reading "How To Find The Work You Love," by Laurence G. Boldt. It was an utter waste of paper and ink, because the title of the book and the description on the back cover are simply incorrect. A more appropriate title would be something to the effect of: "A Collection Of Quotes Meant To Inspire You, That Unintentionally Come Off As Cheesy, And Some Thoughts On Ignoring The Discouraging Voices In Your Head So That You Can Pursue What You Really Love, But That You Would Already Have Heard From Your High School Career Counselor, Had You Been Listening."

Fortunately, I paid a dollar for the book on clearance in the university book store. And now I see why.

I recently found a Canon PowerShot SD100 Digital Elph refurbished for about $160. The review linked to lists it for its original retail price, $499. So yeah, $160 is a screamin' deal, and I buy refurbished electronics all the time with good results overall.

Aside: Here's my theory on refurbished goods. I don't understand why they cost less, but I like it. I've got oodles of experience in buying electronics, and the refurbished items I've bought don't break more than the new ones do, they break less. No, really, it's true. I figure that any item that's been through quality control twice instead of once is likely to be in pretty good shape. And that's why I don't shy away when the words "refurbished" or "factory reconditioned" are thrown around. I dig the concept.

At any rate, the refurbished version comes with everything but a memory card, and it's actually a good thing, because the card that's included with a new one is only 16MB. Well, I burn through 16MB in about 14 seconds, so I was going to have to buy a new card anyway. I found a cheap Kingston 512MB card and bought it (of all places, from Dell. Who knew they had such good prices on items other than embarrassingly underpowered PCs? But I'm still testing the ice with them.).

Anyway, I got the camera and LOVED it. Excellent feel, excellent interface, superb picture quality, and a price that made me feel like the cops will be here any minute. Loved it. And then it broke.

Yep. The darn thing broke. I suspect that it simply did again what caused it to be returned in the first place. The lens mechanism jammed open while powering it off. The first couple of times, I cycled the power over and over, and the camera figured out the problem and fixed itself. But the third time, no amount of power cycling fixed it. Ah well. At least it jammed permanently while still in warranty. I was grateful.

So, I returned the SD100 and found a new, not refurbished, SD110 at Amazon for only $10 more. The next model up, new, for just ten bucks more. And at Amazon too, so free shipping.

So now I'll have a 16MB SD card and nothing at all useful for it to do. It's too small to use as a bookmark. Too fragile to pin up on the wall with a thumbtack. Not recognized by the US Postal Service as actual postage, even though the makers of such cards compare their size to postage stamps, so I can't mail a letter with it. Not even with tape. Hmph. I guess it'll go into my drawer with electronic odds and ends. Can't Amazon just keep it and discount me the $10? I suppose not, as it's already at the local UPS office and will be delivered tomorrow, along with the camera that I hunger for. Grrrrrrrrr...

So, you ask, why no posts for so long? I'm choosing not to say for now. But I think things will be better for a while now.

Friday, April 15, 2005

I can see clearly now, the grain is gone...

We just bought a new 17” LCD monitor. It’s probably a low-end one (we got it on sale for half off at $150), but it was immediately obvious just how much better it is than my old monitor. It’s embarrassing to use them in a dual monitor configuration. I don’t think we’ll ever go back to CRT.

Setec Astronomy

It has probably been about 3 months since I first stared looking at PGP. I downloaded a PGP client (note: I downloaded a free version from the PGP Corporation website that I cannot find again today, so this is the MIT site that my wife downloaded from, and our versions look identical and are compatible), tried to find a plugin for my mail client (note: a plugin now exists, called EnigMail, although it looks like it may be buggy), and tried (halfheartedly) to get a few friends to try it too so that we could exchange encrypted messages. Nothing happened. I didn’t even install any software.

Then yesterday my wife told me about a project she was doing for a class where she had to use PGP to encrypt a message and send it to her teacher. So, I finally downloaded it and used it to exchange a message with her. I don’t think that PGP will catch on between us for several reasons. First, it’s difficult for us to do, since I have only been able to encrypt files, rather than email messages (if the email extension works, then that might remove this issue, making it feasible to use). Second, we hardly ever communicate via digital writing or files. Third, we don’t anticipate that any person or organization will try to snoop on our messages.

I’d still like to try PGP exchanges with fellow Phischkneght members. If EnigMail works, then maybe I’ll push for it again, but harder this time.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Cosmetic Update

Since Phischkneght changed its face some time ago, I've been disappointed that the links on the right hand side didn't survive the change. Well, tonight, I've finally got around to fixing that. I've added links for every blog (that I know of) that's written by Pnet contributors. Conspicuously absent is Jeff's blog/commercial site that seems to be missing.

If anyone sees anything that should be added, let me know.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Factor away your troubles!

Saturday night, I was sitting in a dark room listening to some speakers. While they were fairly interesting (one guy started out telling about a drug bust that almost went bad), I found myself getting very bored. I always do when I’m just listening to people talking, so this came as no surprise, but this time I had nothing that I could really do. I had no useable electronics on hand, and it was too dark to use something that didn’t have backlighting. So, I remembered a problem that I had been working on a few days before:

r is a root of x^4-x^3+x^2-x+1=0. Evaluate r^40-r^30+r^20-r^10+1. (The original problem stated that the latter equation was equal to 0, but that was incorrect.)

I had tried a thing or two on paper before, and fallen asleep before making any headway when trying to work it out in my head. While we still had a bit of light from the dusk, I tried out a few more things on paper, but I soon found myself working entirely in my head in the darkness.

Quickly I could eliminate -1, 0, and 1 as possible roots. I did realize though that the product of the four roots is 1, and that their sum is -1. From this, I assumed that all four roots had magnitude 1 in the complex domain. If a root is complex, then the conjugates must cancel. From this, I assumed that the imaginary part of the x^4 term corresponded to the imaginary part of the x term. I let r=e^it where e is Euler’s number, i is the imaginary number, and t is an angle (in radians). If -(e^it)+(e^4it) is real, then pi+t=2*pi-4t. This gives 5t=pi (actually, 5t=pi+2k*pi, where k=0, 1, 3, or 4), and so r=e^i*pi/5, or (back in degrees), r=cos 72+i*sin 72. This means that r^10=1, and the desired solution is 1-1+1-1+1=1.

The cool thing about this is that I correctly factored a quartic function with complex roots in my head, and it took less than an hour, leaving me free to learn about the evils of poker later in the meeting, comforted by the fact that r^40-r^30+r^20-r^10+1=1<>0.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Happy Anniversary, Phischkneght!

One year ago, in an attempt to introduce a friend of his to the blogging world, a novice blogger started a second web log and invited his friend to join. One year, 6 (or has it been more) members, and 122 posts later, it has become more than he ever hoped for. Thank you everybody for participating, either by contributing or by reading.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

No Page File For You

I've been working my Tablet PC progressively harder lately.
I run several applications at once, usually on the order of 5-10 windows, and it's been getting new tasks, such as running mapping software that talks to my GPS, and MS Streets & Trips, which the GPS talks to. Both of those programs involve loading huge, detailed map files to RAM.
The real resource hog, though, is Virtual PC. It's another of MS's offerings that the academic licensing program has given to me for free. I've had it sitting around for a while, but then I realized that it would be a good way to learn Linux without sacrificing a computer or fiddling with a multi-boot environment. I've done both, and when it comes to Getting Real Tasks Done vs. Learning A New OS, the tasks win every time.
With Linux on a virtual install, though, I have immediate access to Windows and I don't have to feel bad about the computer I've installed Linux on that I never use anymore. Almost the opposite, in fact. I'm working my ultra portable as if it were a desktop replacement.
So I decided it was time for a RAM boost from 512 MB to a full Gig. I thought that I had a single 512 chip in this machine, but when I opened it up, I found a disappointing dual 256 configuration. So I made a call to Josh at Prime Systems and asked if he could turn my two 256's into a single 512. He did, free of charge. I wanted to pay, but Josh wouldn't let me.
By the way, I highly recommend buying from Prime Systems in Kaysville. They treat me well and they'll do the same for you. And I do not recommend buying from Totally Awesome Computers. Trust me. I've never heard one of Totally Awesome's customers rave about their excellent service. More on this later, probably at Confessions.
Unfortunately, I wasn't in a position to buy the other necessary 512 from Prime because I had already found a killer deal on one online and placed the order.
The system ran a little slower with just the single RAM chip installed, but the second 512 came the very next day. When I opened the package, I discovered that the 512 that I ordered and the 512 Josh had given me were identical. Sweeeeet. The upgrade took about 45 seconds, and that was taking it slow.
The system's performance since the upgrade has been noticeably snappier. I've been running on the Gig for about ten days now without any problems, so last night I killed my page file. And guess what? I think the Tablet is even a little quicker now. But of course, I'll backtrack if anything goes wrong.
Last night I spent a couple of hours working on my server. I fiddled with it back in January, and something I did made it stop responding to file requests about once per week. It would then hang while rebooting, forcing me to hard reboot it by disconnecting power and then reconnecting.
I suspect that a misconfigured application server was causing the problems. A while back I was all obsessed about having FTP access on the server, so I enabled IIS and Application Services on it to use the built-in FTP capabilities. That didn't work, so I simply switched to Filezilla Server, but forgot to turn off all of the other junk that I had turned on and never got to work.
If that was indeed the problem, then I think I've got it fixed. I also installed System Restore to the server back in January (it isn't part of the OS out of the box like in XP), so that enabled me to restore the machine to a point around Jan. 15. If there was a crooked registry setting crashing the server, that should be fixed now too.
Now that my Tablet has a Gig of RAM, I've strongly considered upgrading my desktop and the server. But the thing is, they don't seem to need upgrades...they both run just fine on the 512 I've given each of them. My desktop only runs slowly when I'm ripping some kind of media on it, which is going to happen no matter how much RAM is in there. And the server only runs slowly when it's about to crash. And if I fixed everything like I think I did last night, that shouldn't be a problem anymore.
And so my weakest system, horsepower-wise, has the most RAM. Ooh! I bet I'll get a performance boost on the Tablet in Half-Life now!

My Opening Comments

I'd like to thank Jake for his generous introduction. He's a good guy and a good friend. I've lurked around here since immediately before the infamous Halloween LAN party.

This is my first venture in to blogging and as such, I most likely will make mistakes. Nothing new really, I make mistakes all of the time. I've become quite good at making them, and one day I hope to also become adept at ammending them.

I'll admit I have a problem with entrepeneurship, and maybe I should go into counselling for it. Then again, maybe I should dress up like the Queen Mother and tell everyone that "We are NOT amused." I'm not really sure where to go with this, but I'll figure something out, I always do.

Wrapping up, Jeff you're totally right, that librarian is a bitch. You will survive to be much more satisfied with life than that dried up old hag, so enjoy the best revenge of a life well lived.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Spring Broke

I've been feeling increasingly weary of my school schedule and lab aide duties, so I arranged not to work during spring break.
I also vowed to do as much fishing as possible, and not to do anything that looked or smelt of school work.
Here's some of what I did do for the past week:
  • Ignored new email.
  • Listened to three audio books, started a fourth.
  • Fished in a reservoir that, looking back, probably had no fish in it.
  • Found about 40 golf balls at the reservoir, as it neighbors a golf course.
  • Cleaned about 40 muddy golf balls in my bathroom.
  • Threw my denim jacket, muddy from collecting golf balls, in the laundry.
  • Took Julianne to lunch at Garcia's.
  • Ignored a phone call from my aunt, who always has computer problems.
  • Went to sushi twice; once with Leon for his birthday (again), and once with Dave (who posted here exactly once).
  • Went to a star show at the new Clark Planetarium.
  • Visited several video rental stores, looking for four DVDs in particular.
  • Researched joining a DVD rental by mail service, as none of the brick-and-mortar places had what I want.
  • Broke my black leather executive chair by removing the arms (I guess it needed them) and then attempting to lean back.
  • Ignored my blog reading, resulting in something like 1,500 posts waiting to be read this morning.
  • Got my hair cut.
  • Bought a beard trimmer and trimmed furiously.
  • Got sick, just in time for school to start again.
  • Took lots of drugs last night to guarantee I'd sleep, wandered around in a drugged-up haze until about 3:00 pm today.
But it wasn't all fun and games.

Anyway, I'm sick and tired now, and this is after a week of rest. Maybe getting back to my schedule will distract me from the sickness until it wears off and the tiredness until I die.

The audio books I listened to were:

And last night, in the last few remaining minutes of my wheezing spring break, I started another B&N Portable Professor selection called "Vault Of The Heavens: Exploring the Solar System's Place in the Universe." Last night I listened to the introductory lecture, and it was excellent.

"Me Talk Pretty One Day" was good once you stick it out until about halfway through, where the author really finds his groove and tells some genuinely funny stories. The ones about the interplay between his sister and his dad are very funny.

"Patriots..." was very good if you're an American Revolution buff or would like to be one. It does a particularly good job of highlighting just how unlikely the Revolution was on the whole, and how very, very unlikely it was that it would turn out the way it did. It also did a good job of humanizing the founding fathers, i.e.: Jefferson, Adams, Washington, Franklin. These guys were moral heroes of their time and contradictory to the cause of morality at once. It's a fascinating audio course.

Fresh Air Laughs was good, but not as good as I'd hoped. It is really just collected interviews with Terry and various comedians, talking about serious subjects with funny bits dribbled here and there. That's not what I paid $20 for. Disappointing overall.

Once I'm done with "Vault Of The Heavens", I'll listen to Joe Mantegna's narration of Sun Tzu's "Art Of War." Joe's in a lot of gangster shows, but I know him as Fat Tony on the Simpsons. This should be interesting. An Italian American reads a 2,500 year-old Chinese classic on warfare philosophy. (On the next Oprah.)

Oh, and during the break, Krys asked for membership to Phischkneght. I granted it in the hope that he'll become a regular poster. As far as I know, everyone here knows or at least has met Krys and feels positively toward him, so this shouldn't be a problem.

He also requested membership to Confessions, which mystifies me. I'm all for my friends joining Confessions and giving their input on entrepreneurship, but as I understand it, Krys equates entrepreneurship with selling one's soul to Elizabeth Hurley (not such a bad idea, actually). This is not an attitude that would be conducive to my intent with that blog, so once he clarifies his intentions I'll make a decision there.

One last thing...I've put Confessions on the Phischkneght mailing list, so new posts there should show up in your email if you're subscribed to the Phischkneght list. If there's an uproar, I'll change it, but I think it will be a good thing on the whole.