Saturday, October 24, 2009

Knowing when to throw in the towel a.k.a. networking sucks

I like to think that I know my way around a PC, as well as home networking equipment. I've gone through a couple of cable modems and 3-4 wireless routers over the years. I had a wireless gaming adapter hooked up to my DirecTV DVR, but it crapped out many months ago. One of those plug it in but none of the lights come on moments. I lived without it but finally decided to get another one when I wanted to use on-demand again. This began the loss of my saturday.

I got a Linksys WGA600N on Amazon. I plugged it in, had to connect to it manually because the wizard didn't work and started setting it up. It was pretty straightforward, setting the SSID for the router, adding the MAC address into the router allowed list, etc. However, it wasn't working right away. After about an hour I finally found that the router could see the adapter, but it wouldn't give it an IP address. I had a vista laptop, a windows 7 laptop, an ipod touch, an iPhone, a wireless printer, and 2 XP machines connected with IP addresses served from the router's DHCP. But the gaming adapter showed an IP of 0.0.0.0. I tried calling Linksys, and for the low fee of $9 they offered to take over my laptop remotely and configure the adapter. I laughed and hung up. They had a live chat feature, so I sat on that for about 2 hours with 2 different people that walked me through tons of redundant steps. They finally came down to saying that I should reflash the firmware on my router. So I did that, and still no luck. After about 4-5 hours of total time I gave up, packed it up and printed the return labels for Amazon.

So the lesson learned, is that I should have thrown in the towel much earlier. I ordered a new bridge adapter made by D-link, and hopefully it will connect to my D-link DIR-655 router. This time, it gets 2 hours tops.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Current scams that make me laugh




I have attached images of two of the latest scam emails I have been receiving lately. I get the IRS one a lot, something like 15-20 times a day. Outlook's junk filter grabs them right away, but I always look in there for false positive hits, as Outlook will occasionally put very valid email in there (don't get me started on that rant).
The first one you see is the IRS one. So I'm supposed to believe that the IRS owes me money, and to get it all I have to do is click that link. In case you didn't know, you can hover your mouse over a link in Outlook (2007 at least) at it will show you the URL for the link. When you do that in this email, the URL starts with www.irs.gov, which they do to try to sucker in the casual observer. However, they then continue the URL with .gewssr.com plus other directory information. So the full URL is www-dot-irs-dot-gov-dot-gewssr-dot-com. I haven't gone to gewssr-dot-com because it will most likely start infecting my computer, therefore I recommend that you don't do this either. As a general rule, don't follow links in email, even if it comes from someone you trust, as they may have a virus that sends email to everyone in their address book to try to spread itself. At a minimum, be sure the link you're following is a valid URL, and not a weak trick like I described above.
The other image is a new scam (for me at least). I'm supposed to believe that Microsoft, in its super giant company generousity has decided to give me $1.9 million dollars. And this is obviously real, due to the awesome use of the English language, but not to mention the word doc attachment that is likely riddled with macro viruses. I really have to wonder who would fall for this, but I may be both surprised and shocked.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Windows 7 Lessons Learned (so far)

So being the geek that I am, I was very excited to start playing with Windows 7. I put the release candidate (RC1) on my laptop a couple of months ago. Everything worked quite smoothly, and I was very impressed. However, when the release to manufacturing (RTM) version came out, I backed up my data, and installed the RTM as a fresh version. I thought everything would be just as awesome, but there have been a few issues I've had to work around.

UPDATE: Apple released iTunes 9.0, which now works correctly on Windows 7 without any special settings, so you can ignore the paragraph below (don't use iTunes 8.x on Windows 7).

Firstly, iTunes and Windows 7 don't seem to play together well, at least not with my iPod Touch or iPhone. I spent many hours recovering my apps (it freaked out and deleted everything...yes, suck-o-rama), and then had to experiment quite a bit. I was getting errors ranging from "verifying device" hanging forever, to it wanting to repeatedly delete my apps and data. Finally, I got it to work by telling it to run as administrator when it starts (which causes a pop up asking if that's ok) and then also running it in XP Service Pack 3 compatibility mode (iTunes has a pop-up for this one saying for optimal performance not to run it in compatibility mode). After getting through the pop-ups, iTunes will sync with my devices. Phew. However, this causes major issues with trying to burn a CD, pretty much not working. The solution? I have two versions of iTunes pinned to my start bar, the one that runs in XP mode, and the one that runs normally. I just have to know which to start based on what I want to do. Simple eh?

My iTunes problems also exposed another problem. When I was trying to listen to music, it would occasionally freak out and slow way down, stuttering through a song. I figured it was another symptom of XP mode, but then it showed itself in the normal version. I used task manager to see an svchost.exe process sucking up CPU (and fighting iTunes for cycles, maxing the machine at 100%). Now, svchost is simply a container that windows uses to run "stuff" in, so who knows what it was doing right? Wrong. You need to have task manager show you the PID (Process ID), then you go to the services tab and see what service is using that PID. Oh, and you may have needed to show all processes in order to see the offending process (requires administrator permission). This svchost was running windows defender. I have no idea why it was freaking out, but I right clicked it, and stopped the service. Problem solved, although now I guess I'm susceptible to spyware. I thought this fixed everything, but 5 mintues later it started stuttering again. ARRRG!

audiodg.exe. What is this process you ask? Well, apparently it was introduced in Vista, and is an out of process way to mix/handle audio. It apparently has some benefits of allowing applications to pass off processing and do cool/special things. I'm guessing that making iTunes plaback sound like a slow-motion stutter-fest is not an intended cool thing. After some googling, I learned to go into the properies and tell it not to do any "enhancements". After doing that, no more stuttering.

I ran the windows experience ratings test, and was shocked to see my 2.0 for Aero Graphics staring at me. Um, no, not cool. Under Vista I had decent scores for that. Hmm, this explains why the very cool transparent/glass effects were leaving trails like I had just done several hits of acid. After MANY hours of messing around with drivers, I finally got the score up to a respectable 3.5. It's still lower than all the other scores, but is about as good as I can expect from the card I have in my laptop (verified against video card expected ratings). Turns out the NVidia "approved" driver for Windows 7 did not do well for who knows what reason. However, I was able to get the Dox Optimised 180.84 driver to work, and it's great. For optimized NVidia drivers, check out laptopvideo2go.com. If you have never messed around with video drivers before, you're treading into somewhat dangerous territory, so you may want to rethink doing it.

Windows loves its services. When you get a fresh install of either Vista or Windows 7, you'll have lots of services running that aren't necessary. They shouldn't really affect you, unless you're geeking out and just want to make sure there aren't any cycles being used on things you don't care about. However, there is a service you will want to know about. By default, the Windows Media Player Network Sharing Service will be running. What this does, is basically start shouting out across whatever network you're on that it has media files and who wants to see/hear them?! If you care about privacy, you're going to want to disable this service. I discovered this in Vista when my DirecTV DVR got a software upgrade, and then all of a sudden told me that my laptop was no longer connected when I turned it off. Imagine my surprise that my TV is telling me it knows about my laptop, and I hadn't done anything to make this happen. If your computer is only ever on your home network, and behind a firewall (likely built into your router), then you may think this is super cool. However, if you use your computer at work, do you really want everyone watching your home videos?

Last thing, is more of an annoyance than a big deal, but for some reason they removed the standard stock gadget that was in Vista. It was even in the Windows 7 RC1, but in the RTM it mysteriously vanished. Whatever, but it was a slick gadget.

Hopefully this info will help if you find yourself with Windows 7 and strange symptoms.

Overall though, Windows 7 is the best OS Microsoft has put into the market to date. Once you get it running smoothly, you're going to love it. (I expect that once Windows 7 goes GA, Apple will put out a new version of iTunes that fixes my problems).

Monday, May 11, 2009

Creatures of habit


Humans by nature are creatures of habit, myself especially. When I find something I like, I stick with it. That means going to the same restaurants, choosing the same things off menus, buying the same wine at the same store, and doing the same workout. My workout was very consistent - run for 30 minutes on the treadmill while watching an old Star Trek episode that the DVR grabbed for me (apparently Girls Gone Wild has a huge audience with the Star Trek Voyager following, as evidenced by the 90 second commercial they play on EVERY break - thank you 30 second skip). This run became very routine, and even though I knew that you should mix it up in order to keep your muscles from becoming used to a workout, my habit won out.


Last week I decided to go for a run outside. I have no idea why I was suddenly insipred to do this, as I have always preferred running on the treadmill. I did a very easy out and back / loop combo that was only 2.4 miles. Even though it was pretty much completely flat it totally kicked my butt. I also got to run around the lake by my house while the sun came up, shining across the perfect glass surface with the flatirons in the background. I was sold. So Saturday I lost my mind and added the Davidson Mesa out and back in as well doing 5.4 miles, which is way longer than my normal 3 miles. Today I did 4.5 and while there's no doubt that I had a hard run (legs are sore), I'm not writhing in pain on the floor.


My new routine feels great, and now I have to figure out how to keep it from becoming a habit again...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Facebook, you finally got me


I have been resisting Facebook for years now. Some of my friends have been pushing me toward it, but I held my ground firmly. Clearly if you're reading this blog you can see that it's not a resistence to technology. I embrace technology, web 2.0, blah blah blah. The reason I've been resisting Facebook is partially because I felt facebook was for teenagers and pedofiles, but also because I didn't see the point. I should have realized that this has happened for me before. When I first learned of Twitter, I really didn't get it. My first tweet was something like "Working for a software company in Boulder". It wasn't until I started following people that I understood it really meant it when it said, "what are you doing RIGHT NOW?". I've tried lots of other "web 2.0" technologies and most didn't stick. Twitter did, and now facebook has as well. Part of the clincher was that Becca was on it and honestly that really surprised me. She's not a big fan of technology in general, so if she found value in it there must really be something there.
So, I created a facebook account and started filling out my profile info. Then I searched for the people I knew were on facebook (as they were the ones giving me grief about not having an account). Soon I started getting accepted friend requests. OK, cool, so now what? Hmm, let's look at their friend list. Wow, so-and-so is on here. Friend request sent. Hey, look who else is here. Friend request sent. Oh look, on my info tab I can click on my high school name. Whoa! There's some people I haven't talked to in 18 years. You get the picture.
So I quickly became hooked and started finding people I haven't spoken with in many years. I still haven't caught up with emailing everyone I've found (or have found me), but I'm getting there. I'm trying hard to not let Facebook interfere with my job, which is tough, because I sit in front of a computer all day. It's just way too tempting to keep checking it. Yea, another computer thing to suck up my time. Becca will be thrilled...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Poorly placed space bar usage

Sometimes I type too fast for my own good. When I was in high school, they offered typing classes. I took 2 semesters of it, and although it was tedious (we actually typed on typewriters believe it or not) it has been a fantastic skill to have. I've timed myself on programs that measure that type of thing and can get between 80 and 100 words per minute.

However, sometimes my typing speed is to my detriment. I have noticed that I tend to use the same phrases quite often when I write, as I'm sure most people do. A phrase I use a lot is "about it". An example is, "I would like to hear about it." In and of itself, this is a perfectly normal, mundane phrase. However, when I get into speed typing mode, at least half the time my thumb decides to hit the space bar at the wrong time with those two words. So instead of "about it", I end up typing "abou tit". A simple mistake, but resulting in a somewhat embarrasing situation (especially when IMing to a woman, and you can't hit the backspace to correc tit before she see sit). :)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Your weight changes like Oprah!


I have joked a lot with friends and family that my weight fluctuates like Oprah. It's funny to me at least, and is definitely a way to make me feel better when I gain a few pounds. In the picture I captured the graph of my Gyminee weight tracking. I joined Gyminee in October of last year when I heard of a challenge posted by Brad Feld which he called his weight jihad. I joined the Boulder Boys weight loss challenge, and it worked pretty well. I lost about 12 pounds in the three months we had the competition. You can see from the graph that I lost a lot of weight right away in a very short period of time. That's what I call my obsessive period. Then, you can see that it starts to fall apart, going up and down and for the most part staying flat (or maybe even creeping up at a small incline). That's what I call my post-obsessive period.
Typically, after the post-obsessive period, I have a gluttony period. For whatever reason, I work out hard and starve myself for a few weeks, or even a month. Then I just can't take it anymore, and I start eating the things I have been depriving myself of. For me, that's essentially chips (potato chips, corn chips, etc). I can go on in that mode still working out hard, telling myself that I'm "maintaining" now. Then I'll say things like, "this must be my natural body weight, because I'm not losing any more." Being completely honest, that's all a load of BS. If I would just "maintain" a healthy eating and workout plan, then I likely wouldn't lose my mind from deprivation and binge on a family size bag of Doritos.
So, right now I'm back into an early stage, but I'm trying not to be too obsessive about it. I realized that I started getting into the gluttony period a few weeks ago, and I cut it off before it could do serious damage. I'm trying a new plan I'm calling obsessive maintenance. With this plan I still hit the treadmill, and I still eat healthy and small portions for the most part. However, I'll let myself have a snack size bag of chips every few days, and a couple of cheese and crackers, etc. I'm hoping that by using portion control and not complete deprivation I will stem the post-obsessive phase and stick to my guns this time. If I can maintain this for a few months, the hope is that it will become natural habit, and much easier to continue.
The big gap in the data points on the graph was me entering the gluttony period and then back into obsessive. I don't know what my weight climbed back up to as I decided I didn't want to know until I had tried lowering it again for a while. I'm psyched that I'm back on track and the lowest I've been since I started tracking it. Wish me luck and strength of will, and soon enough I'll reach my goal.