Saying Goodbye to an old Friend

Where do I start? We met back in my sophomore year of college. I was looking to experience new things and happened across a new friend in the process. We worked well together and they lit up my life in ways no other had before. But today that long relationship that had survived numerous jobs, a cross country move and more than a few ups and downs came to an abrupt end.

My original Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer sits idle, having fallen ill lately with a bad case of Frozen Mouse Syndrome. In it’s place sits a sophisticated Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer 2.0, which is wireless and features a horizontal scroll wheel. Not to mention a leather palm pad as well, which is nice. A part of me feels sad. Oh sure I’ve thought about leaving my old friend before, but I figured we would always make it through the tough times, but this time it was too much.

So today I say goodbye to an old friend and hello to a new one.

Connecting Vonage to a Wireless (WiFi) Network

I have subscribed to the Vonage service for about five months now with no complaints. The service is relatively cheap for the unlimited business service ($49.99/mo.) and is never down. Of course there are drawbacks to the service, such as when the Internet is down the phone is down. The same goes for power outages. When coupled with a cell phone, though, these problems largely become null.

I had been plugging along quite nicely until my business necessitated a fax machine. Not wanting to have a fax machine parked next to the Vonage router and not wanting to string a 100 foot phone cord through my apartment to the office I decided to take drastic measures. A quick trip down to the local Staples turned up a Linksys wireless bridge that I planned to plug the Vonage router into. This would enable me to connect to my WiFi network with Vonage from any room in the apartment. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. Despite positive results from other Vonage users I could not get the bridge to work properly.

On to plan B. I did some research and found that I could share my WiFi card’s connection with one of the RJ45 cards in my workstation. With this method I assumed I could plug my Vonage router into the RJ45 ethernet card in my workstation and route things from there. I’m happy to report that it worked just fine and my Vonage router is now happily connected wirelessly through my workstation’s shared WiFi card.

Of course, this got the ol’ brain churning. The possibilities are really endless from here. Any laptop with a WiFi card and a WiFi scanner could easily turn a vonage router plugged into a DC/AC inverter into a cell phone. Even better, you can buy Vonage’s “soft phone” software and simply plug a headset into your laptop and use that to connect to your Vonage service.

Windows Keyboard Shortcuts

I admit it, I’ve grown quite fond of my Apple computer. What I *really* enjoy is OS X’s keyboard shortcuts. Evidently, Apple has had a habit of making keyboard shortcuts for everything for quite some time. However, I work on a Windows 2000 box at work (don’t ask), which makes life a living hell if you’re used to keyboard shortcuts.

In an effort to find out how to do something simple, like say minimize a window, using the keyboard I happened upon a few pages that might be of some interest. Windows XP Hotkeys, Keyboard Shortcuts that should work in Windows 95, and other windows shortcuts. While I consider Windows lacking in the keyboard shortcuts one did catch my eye.

SHIFT & Restart – To restart just windows and not your whole computer, hold down the shift key when you click the OK button on the shutdown screen. Saves lots of time.

TUCOWS has another option called Active Keys that might be worth checking out as well. I just want someone to create a program that emulates Apple keyboard shortcuts on Windows.

iPod! MythTV!

I won an auction last night for a used 5GB iPod. Granted it’s not a 30GB iPod, but I’m sure it will do. Plus, the thing only cost me $160.00; almost half what a new 10GB would have cost me. After I’ve had time to play with it I’ll give you my impressions.

I’ve also been working on an old project; getting my MythTV box up and running. I’m torn as of now. I have three options:

  • MythTV – Has everything I want, but uses a proprietary file type which may cause difficulty in burning VCD’s.
  • Freevo – much like MythTv, but doesn’t appear to be as robust. It does, however, appear to use a more standard file type.
  • Windows – I could use a Windows program which would make setup a breeze, however, it would not have a web frontend, MAME, MP3 ripping/playing, weather, etc.

As of now I have to worry about getting the damn thing to work. After I’ve got that pimping I’ll worry about VCD’s, etc. It appears right now that I have serious hardware issues, once I get those figured out and farther along I’ll post some pics of the whole process and, quite possibly, a HOWTO.

Mac Music Store Review

Apple released iTunes v4 yesterday along with a totally redesigned iPod and the much anticipated Mac Music Store. Today I’ve spent about an hour playing with the new service and all I have to say is “Damn”.

To fully appreciate the MMS one should purchase a .Mac account, which I don’t have. Having the .Mac account enables you to share your purchased music on up to three computers without having to carry your iPod or any CDR’s. iTunes v4 introduces Rendevous enabled playlists, meaning you can stream your playlists to other macs on your network (more on this after the girlfriend brings over her iBook).

Apple has really hit the nail on the head with the store. The albums are, on the average, $3 to $5 cheapter than they are in the store (I’ve only found 2 priced over 9.99). The tracks are priced decently at $0.99. I think a better price would have been more in the $.50 to $.70 range, but I can’t complain too much since a single with one good song and two crappy songs costs about the same as I can get three good songs at MMS.

I’m sure more than one of you is thinking: Why not just use limewire and “download” the music for free of the net? Well, I have a few arguments against that.

  • It’s stealing. Say all you want, but you’re stealing the hard work of others. Sure I could put the candy bar in my pocket, but why? It’s only $.99 (and at least you can enjoy the MP3 more than once, unlike the candy bar)
  • Outstanding sound quality. MMS rips tracks using the AAC format, which reportedly sports both smaller file size and better sound quality of MP3 . If you plan on enjoying your music on CD this is important.
  • Faster and more reliable downloads. Tired of downloading from little Tommy at 3kb/sec? Tired of getting half a song only to have the person logoff? Needless to say, I’d pay $.99 a song rather than battle with crappy and unreliable downloads. My time is worth more than that.

Overall my impression of the Mac Music Store is good. I have only one small complaint: it doesn’t have sub categories in genres. I’m sure once I purchase an iPod and finally get a .Mac subscription I’ll be singing more praise.

One more reason not to run Windows

A recent study posted on Slashdot compares the EULA for Windows XP and the GPL, which is common in Open Source projects such as Linux.

I was looking over the study, which included many of the normal comparisons: GPL is free, EULA is restrtictive, GPL requires software based on GPL’d software to be GPL as well. What I found shocking where three little bullet points buried at the bottom of the article concerning the EULA that covers Windows XP.

  • gives Microsoft rights to collect information about the system and its use
  • gives Microsoft the right to supply this information to other organisations
  • gives Microsoft the right to make changes to the computer without having to ask.

WHAT?!? Your #$#@*&’ing kidding me right?!? Worry about the government, the Church of Scientology, or the CIA all you want, but a software company with 90% of the desktop market actively collecting information about your system and “its use” and, subsequently, supplying that information to whomever they want is a VERY scary proposition!

I run Windows 2000 Professional at work, but considering this recent development I plan on installing Debian GNU/Linux this weekend. I knew I should have read that damn thing.

Microsoft up to no good … again.

It appears Microsoft is up to no good again. They are now saying that it is illegal to run Visual Fox Pro applications on Linux without the Linux workstation having a licensed copy of Visual Fox Pro. What angers the community about this is that the same requirement is not made for Windows workstations.

From my vantage point it appears Microsoft is, once again, leveraging its dominance in the desktop market to bolster sales of other products. When is the government going to stand up to this bullshit? Oh, I forgot, Microsoft has given our elected leaders about $4.5 million dollars so far this year.

I was having a conversation with my father a few weeks ago about this very concept. We actually found something we agreed on, considering the fact he’s a Republican and I’m … well I’m not sure what I am, but I’m not a Republican. There is not way on earth you can stand up and tell me that a company who gave you thousands (millions?) of dollars doesn’t hold precidence over those who didn’t pay to help you get into office.

Virii Hoaxes

A person I know, who shall remain nameless, recently sent me an email regarding the jdbmgr.exe “virus”. This nast virus was reportedly not being picked up by any of the virus scanners on the market. The email told you how to find the file and then how to delete it (make sure not to open it!).

After reading the email I wasn’t really surprised to find that the email is a hoax. It was posted on Symantec’s website about a month ago. The funny part is the email I got from him is on the Symantec page *exactly* as he sent it. What’s even more impressive is the hoax appears in 10 different languages (3 different English versions).

Sony Clicker

As people know I own an Apple. Some also know that I own a Sony Ericsson T68i. I love the phone, for the most part. What I love most is the wide array of “wow” features that Sony managed to pack into such a small package. But what I love most is that, with a bluetooth adapter, I can sync my laptop and my phone wirelessly.

Well, as of today, this feature is officially on steroids! Thanks to Sony Ericsson Clicker I can do all sorts of things with my computer from my phone. This includes controlling iTunes, PowerPoint, Keynote, DVD Player, and a few other things. Possibly the coolest thing ever: “Clicker” has proximity detection and allows you to customize what actions it takes based on whether you leave your mac or come back to it.

So when I walk away from my computer the screensaver turns on and iTunes pauses and when I come back those actions are reversed. Not only that I can use it as a remote for DVD Player (good for when I’m in bed watching a movie), a wireless mouse (yes you can use it as a regular mouse), and to guide my PowerPoint presentations. By FAR the best $9.99 I’ve spent in the last year.

Web Dev / Smart Phone

Because the site I work on is used in numerous types of browsers, setups, and configurations I need to make sure that it, at least, works in 800×600 resolution. The problem? I run 1280×1024 on my workstation. So I made a background image for my desktop with a 800×600 overlay on it so I can quickly snapy my browser window to 800×600 for debugging. You can grab it here.

In other news my phone is smarter than me. It has the game Othello on it, which I’ve been addicted to since we got it for Nintendo (yes, Nintendo – we were real gamers back in the day playing on 8 bit systems). I have been playing it on Very Easy and Easy, but recently it’s become boring so I decided to make the move to Medium. Since then I haven’t won once. Actually, I’ve mostly be getting stomped. I wouldn’t care so much if this were a random card game, but the reality is it’s a strategic game much like chess. The thought of the phone whipping my ass is only more sobering after one realizes there are two MORE levels: Hard and Very Hard. *Sigh*