Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Wordpress 2.x

I finally got around to upgrading to Wordpress 2.x. It just so happened that 2.0.1 was just released so I figure I'll upgrade. It turned out to be a pretty smooth upgrade and things seems to be working. The WYSIWYG editor is cool but not necessarily something I really care about (although as I use it more I might appreciate it more).

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Locked out

As I sit on my porch at 7pm because I locked myself out of the house (don't ask), I ponder what to do with my time. Hurray for the internet! I figure I'll talk about some of the news that caught my attention.

The Bears lost after scoring 21 points at home?!?

The Seahawks are in the Superbowl?!? I think the Red Sox broke more then just their own curse.

Two upsets in in the NFL conference championships and a double overtime basketball game with the combined scores over 300 and the headline topic is... Kobe. To think that a single player can score 81 points in a game is incredible and he didn't do it in a blow out either. The Lakers were down 18 when Kobe began to demolish the opposition and ended up winning by 15 or something. Maybe it's time to pay Google to watch that game.

Who is number 1 in online search right now? Of course, it's Google. Who can dispute it? Yahoo won't but that doesn't mean Yahoo is happy with #2. Trust me that those at Yahoo! wants to be #1 in search and in everything else they do, too. BTW, I love Reebok (I'm serious).

Apple (powered by Intel)... ok, why not? Feel free to send me a MacBook. ^^ While we're at it, I wouldn't mind a AMD64bit Linux Shuttle box either. Gotta love UNIX!

Seattle is like a mini-San Francisco but with more water falling from the sky. Microsoft's campus reminds me of government offices but that's appropriate for the Empire. I think it might be time to rename their House of Tomorrow to House of Standard Features.

Mickey Mouse only uses the iPod.

Wifi is a great thing.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Google Pack

Google announced the "Google Pack" which is a collection of applications (from Google and others) that they feel are useful for the computer. This isn't a new or "innovative" idea, but it is a good idea. How many of us also have a collection of software that we install every time we setup a new computer for ourselves, family and friends? Many of the applications in the Google Pack are software that I normaly install and what Google Pack is providing is one-stop shopping which can be a real convenience.

What I would like to see, however, is different types of packages for consumers, developers, etc. It would also be interesting to see if Google would be willing to offer alternatives in each software category such as desktop search (Google Desktop, Yahoo!, Microsoft, etc.). Before giving me the "why would they push competitor's software, consider that they already offer Trillian and Google Talk (Trillian Pro has Jabber support and thus can talk to the Google IM network), or if not a competitor then open source alternatives such as GAIM? What I like so far is that the pack seems to be a developer/computer user's view of some good software for people. It's when it becomes companies paying Google to be included in the pack that the trust and value of this will diminish. I hope that won't happen. Rather then looking at this as another way to generate revenue, it would be great if this project is aimed more at getting people using the computer (easier to be online and improving the experience) so that they gain by growing the market.

Not knowing how they picked and tested the software, I like to think that with the big repository of knowledgable techies that they really thoroughly tested all the software for quality, spyware/adware, and privacy issues since the average user simply does not have the resources necessary to figure out if a software is trustworthy and safe.

This is also a great opportunity for Google to ease into desktop software development. I believe that Google will start to face a number of consumer issues they haven't needed to face before. Already criticism of the "suite" not being very unified and the interfaces aren't consistent have surfaced. Some are valid and some are not, but it's something that software companies faces all the time and Google can begin to learn from it by getting familiar with what the users want in a more gentle way since this is only a "pack" and not a Google "suite".

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Thunderbird 1.5

Thunderbird 1.5 have been released. The release notes can be found here. This apps has definitely come a long way even while always being in the shadows of Firefox.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Got a xbox360... controller

xbox360 controller

Having been thinking about getting a game pad for my computer, I decided to pick up the xbox360 controller for windows on impulse. Although somewhat on the expensive side of controller's, I figure if I ever do get a xbox360, I'd wouldn't have to spend money on a second controller.

The 360 controller works on both the console and Windows. It seems to be just a USB controller. At the store, there are those labeled for the 360 and Windows. The difference is that the windows version has a CD with the drivers while the 360 ones don't. The price should be the same for each but some places sells the windows version at a higher price. If so, get the 360 version and download the driver from Microsoft for free.

What I look for in a controller first is the feel. I want something that feels solid in my hand and the 360 controller meets that criteria very well. It feels like it's designed for frequent use (a console controller afterall) and not a secondary gaming device like many gamepads for the PC. Fortunately, MS seemed to learned from their original mistake and the size of the controller is closer to the "S" type controller of the original xbox. The button layout is similiar and feels responsive.

Setting up the controller meant plugging it in. It is very basic as is the software. In fact, I hesitate to say that it comes with software at all. It comes with the software driver for Windows (MS should say so on their website). There is no ability to macro anything, or do anything other then calibrate it. For the price, I'd expect something beyond just a driver.

The triggers are responsive, but I was baffled that they aren't considered "buttons" but rather Z-axis movement controls. I'm not sure if this is the same with all gamepads or what but I'd like to use them as buttons in my games. They are comfortable to use but in FFXI, they aren't used for anything. Without anyway to reprogram the controller, they are essentially useless. The left-and-right shoulder buttons also requires the hands to move a little in order to press them. None of the other button required me to adjust my hold in anyway. There is also a XBOX logo button in the middle of the game pad that does... absolutely nothing. On the xbox it is functional, on the PC not even the software driver recognizes it.

The pad also has a connector for the xbox headset. I don't know if this works on the PC as I have no headset to test with.

The xbox360 controller for Windows is a very basic 10-button (plus 2 triggers) USB game pad. It is solid in construction and comfortable. The lack of software really hurts it in comparison to other cheaper offerings. For those who might get an xbox360 and want a wired version of the controller and have a PC, this might be worth it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Holiday Shopping

Since it is a new year, I decided to do some computer upgrades. Starting with the memory, I upgraded one machine from 512megs to 1.5gigs of memory. I saw a rebate at Fry's so the upgrade only costs me around $60 for a 1 gig of Kingston 400MHz DDR pair. As I installed the memory, I realized just how quiet the Antec Sonata case is (good thing since that was the reason I picked it). I was tempted to upgrade the linux server to a Sonata case or possibly Shuttle case, but held myself back because it'll take about $1k for the cases, memory, HDD, etc.

The 'ol P2-300Mhz linux box is still chugging fine along after all these years. It is a little slow, but overall it is still able to handle the job. It's fairly quiet compared to many modern machines, but the sound is noticable when it is the only machine on in the room. I did decide to take out the CDRW drive out of the box and replace it with a Toshiba DVD burner that was also on sale at Fry's since I have files on the box that I wish to archive to a DVD but don't want to copy it all to my main box first.

Linux was able to recognize the drive at boot and auto-mounted when I put in a CD, so I thought I was in good shape. However, I kept seeing a wierd errors in my message log. I added hdx=ide-scsi to the boot parameter and the message went away and I was still able to read and write a CD, but when I try to burn a DVD using the .iso file I created, it wouldn't work. While I'm still trying to figure it out, Mac suggested that I download Nero for linux and try that. I think I will but then... the requirements are P3-500Mhz! (T_T)

Sigh... oh, well. Guess it's back to figuring out why cdrecord won't write to the media. >_<

A few things have been tempting my gadget senses. A Shuttle system with an AMD 64-bit FX chip would sure be nice on my desk. ^^ There's some nice looking 19"+ LCD monitors that look mighty fine, and I admit that I'm curious about Mac on Intel running OSX.

Urgh, why do I torture myself... ^^;

Monday, January 2, 2006

WMF bug (bad design)

An exploit has been released onto the web to take advantage of Windows Meta Format (wmf) files. Microsoft awhile back decided to allow executable code in their image files, so crackers are exploiting it by installing trojans inside wmf files. This problem is bad in a few different ways. First, it doesn't require user intervention to get hit by this. Using IE to view an malicious file will automatically execute the code. If you have Google Desktop installed and simply download the malicious file it will also execute automatically when Google indexes the file. Even Firefox can potentially be affected by this if it automatically execute the file type, but fortunate it defaults to prompting users first before it executes. Still, this is a very bad design on Microsoft's part and they don't have a patch for it. However, there is a temporary work around which is to disable the Windows Picture and Fax Viewer.

Here is the Microsoft security advisory.

The work around is to:

Click Start, click Run, type "regsvr32 -u %windir%\system32\shimgvw.dll" (without the quotation marks), and then click OK.
After a security update has been released and deployed, you can undo this change and re-register Shimgvw.dll by following the above steps. Replace the text in Step 1 with “regsvr32 %windir%\system32\shimgvw.dll�? (without the quotation marks).

This doesn't eliminate the problem since opening up a bad file with MS Paint will execute the malicious code but this would help somewhat against getting hit by a trojan accidentally as an user surfs the web.

F-secure has a good blog with updates on the situation.

Update: Microsoft released their patch here.