May 2005


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Archive for May, 2005

Geeky goodness

Posted in Geekery on May 31st, 2005

Today being my official birthday (as opposed to the day the party was thrown), I figured I had best play with my new toy and connect up the new VHS/DVD recorder. Being greedy (and not really wanting to tackle the rewire job that putting it in the living room would be), I opted to hook it up in my room upstairs. All went well, until I realized something: I have a crappy tv in my room. It only has VHF coaxial inputs.

Whoops. Now, technically, it is possible for me to still use the new unit with the old tv, but I would have to buy an RCA-to-VHF converter, something readily available at the Radio Shack down the street. Experience as a cable guy, however, has taught me that these devices introduce scads of interference on local broadcast channels, with channel 6 getting hit the worst. Gee. That’s the channel I record…

So, after I got Pookie into bed tonight, Greyduck and I took turns crawling behind the mammoth entertainment center. After several RTFM bouts, we managed to get things set up and working, replacing the existing pair of units. The Daily Show was on by then, so I dropped in a DVD blank and stabbed ‘record’ on the remote. Lo and Behold! It worked as advertised, and played back with no issues. This is just a quick test mind you, and I will endeavor to fully test the capabilities of the device over the next week or two. I’ll write up a complete review and reveal the make and model of the device when I have a complete study.


Posted in Life on May 29th, 2005

I like where my birthday is on the calendar – with it’s proximity to Memorial Day, I have a three-day weekend close enough to throw the party on, and it is the traditional start of the barbecueing season. (of course, it’s not like I need a reason to apply meat to fire…) It was alot cooler when I lived back in Grants Pass though, as they hold a carnival that weekend. What more could a kid ask for on their birthday?

This year’s turnout was a little on the slim side, mostly due to me not sending out invites soon enough. What I lacked in quantity was more than made up for in quality, however. The Roomie and The Physicist are always good company, but The Girlfriend scored major points by providing not only most of the food, but by also gifting me with seriously cool gadgetry: a VHS/DVD player.

This on the surface is cool enough, but reading through the operations manual makes it even cooler. VHS-DVD conversion is almost completely automatic. (The remainder of Greyduck’s MST3K conversion will be simplicity itself.) I can record shows directly to DVD for play in other players (it handles both the ‘+’ and ‘-‘ media) and if I use DVD-RAM disks, it allows the coolest of all: time-shifting of live TV (ala TiVo)!

WooHoo! No more commercials!! The trick here is deciding on whether or not I share with the boys or keep it in my room ;)

Some of the most fun we had though was an impromptu game of Ultimate Frisbee. Five players (ok, 4 and a half with Pookie) and four frisbees, try to keep track of what is flying where. Most surprising is the fact that the shot to the face I took hasn’t left me with a shiner. Lucky for me, us Wolfie-types don’t bruise easily :)

Now to see if I can’t finish off some of those yummy deviled eggs…thanks again, beautiful!

Commercials I’d like to see

Posted in Geekery on May 28th, 2005

Having watched too much TV lately, I’ve seen far too many Microsoft commercials. Here’s some commercials I’d like to produce myself and see on TV as a response.

Pan in on a nice suburban neighborhood, where all the houses save one are identical, with windowframes that bear a striking resemblance to a certain software company’s logo. On the porch of one home is a small package, with no return adress. A grandma-type person opens the package as she turns back into the house and shuts the door.

A moment later, hundreds of ravenous little creatures with snot dripping out of their noses jump out through the mailslot and go charging down the street, jumping in through all the other mailslots. Within seconds, every house in view has green slime oozing out through those windows, fouling the yards. Pan down a few houses to the one with a lawn-gnome-sized penguin on the porch – the little green snot-beastie falls unconscious after bashing his head on the mailslot. This house is still pristine.
Variation: same street, only at night. A comical burglar is quickly going from house to house and making off with credit cards and other obviously important stuff. He gets in through open doors and windows or possibly by typing quickly on a keyboard to open up a ‘security hole’ in the side of the house.

When he gets to the house with a penguin on the porch, lights come on to full daylight bright, steel shutters slam down over the doors and windows, and sirens start screaming. The terrified thief runs away. The penguin looks smug.
Car-themed spot. We start out driving an older car – it’s big and has a ‘W98’ on the dash, and is barely lumbering on. Camera swoops out the window into the car next to it – basically the same, but it’s moving a little better and has ‘W98SE’ on the dash. Swoop into the next car – still big, with ‘W2000’ emblem. Car jumps and slows, then all the dash lights go bright blue and it stalls. Swoop to next car, ‘WXP’ emblem – seems to be okay, until it too ‘blues out’ and stalls. Driver sighs and cycles the ignition switch. Car starts again, goes down the road, then stalls. Driver slumps over wheel while cycling ignition.

Swoop out the window into another car. This one is more sleek, and has a very pleasing engine rumble. We just drive down the road, passing a number of other cars showing symtoms similar to the others. On the dash is a penguin with ‘K 2.6X’. Driver seems very happy.

NCIS: Twighlight

Posted in Media on May 24th, 2005

I’m a bit worked up over something tonight. First, realize that I dedicatedly watch two hours of tv a week: CSI and NCIS. For movies, I watch caper flicks, for tv I go the other way.

So there I am, watching the previews for tonight’s show over the last week, hoping they wouldn’t actually kill a main character. I recorded the show so I could watch it without interruptions (my daughter is here on both nights I watch tv).

Last week, they came damn close to killing off DiNozzo, the teenager-mentality senior Agent. He came back this week a tv-land week early from sick leave. In his first hour back on duty, he falls down a hill (ok, it was a small one), saves Kate from being bitten by a snake (ok, so it wasn’t poisonous) and nearly gets blown up (that one was kinda close).

Later on, Gibbs nearly gets blown up by our good friend Ari, the so-called Massaad double-agent Gibbs shot in the shoulder a few weeks back.

In the last minute of the show, after the big save-the-day scene, Kate jumps in front of a round intended for Gibbs. We all gasp! and wonder if she’ll make it – but of course, she was a smart girl and wore her Kevlar. Whew!

Which is why, in the last ten seconds of the show, that bastard Ari shoots her in the forehead with a sniper rifle from too far away for Gibbs to return fire.

The fuckers.

I know, I know – it’s just a tv show. But still.


Posted in Geekery on May 23rd, 2005

Over the past few months, I have been on both sides of technical interviews, and had the (mis)fortune of interviewing a couple of guys with bright and shiny new certifications – who didn’t know a damn thing about fixing computers. Sure, they passe their respective tests, but the tests were written in a theoretical environment, not an actual shop. To solve this problem in the future, I have developed…

The CTAT – The Cyberwolfe’s Techincal Aptitude Test

(Post your answers in the comments, I’ll grade them later.)

1. What two tools must you have to work on a PC?

2. What is the first thing you have to do to network two home computers for file sharing? Why is this stupid?

3. A computer comes to your bench with the “about::blank” problem, tons of pop-ups anytime you access the internet, and at least 5 things you know shouldn’t be in the task list. What two things do you ask the customer?

4. You have installed a new PCI soundcard in a machine, but it won’t work or the computer won’t boot correctly. What do you do?

5. Name three software applications a computer should not be without.

6. When all else fails, what do you do?

7. What is the most dangerous thing in a computing environment?

If you can answer those 7 questions correctly, I can train you on the rest.


Posted in Life on May 19th, 2005

Sorry about the silence around here lately, folks, but there hasn’t been much in the way of personal news, and no groundbreaking developments in the world at large for me to bitch about.

The girlfriend is, as always, the best :)

The rugrats are healthy and happy.

The job is, well, a job – it has it’s highs and lows, but it beats the holy hell out of being unemployed. I am at least doing something I like for the most part.

The car gave me some troubles the other day, but was easily repaired. It decided to blow the coolant hoses. Annoying, but not near as bad as it could have been, and the parts only cost $15. I did discover, however, that my AC unit is toast. :(

On the lighter side of things, your favorite Wolfie is turning 33 at the end of this month…

Me? Greedy? Never! Read the rest of this entry »

Things somebody learned today

Posted in Life on May 18th, 2005

If you drink alot, and have been known to sleepwalk, put your laptop away before the drinking starts. Or at least seal it up in a waterproof bag. Yes, there will be a “hazardous duty” surcharge for trying to clean that up.

If your Linksys router is giving you fits about a static IP, flash the firmware.

The FCC requires you, Verizon, to make your copper infrastructure available to outside agancies. You are getting paid for the lease. Calling the customers of those other agencies to harass them for not buying your service while you drag your feet on the install will not endear said customers to you. Bite the bullet and complete the circuit before people like me start to badmouth you on public forums. Having worked in the industry, I know it takes precisely fifteen minutes to configure a DSL line, so this whole “three to five weeks” line is pure bullshit. If your customer service was as good as the outside agencies we recommend, then we would be recommending you. Think about it.

It is possible for an Intel processor to outperform an AMD64 proc – but there is a $400 price difference to use the Intel silicon. I can’t imagine anyone thinking that would be acceptable, were they aware of the choice.

Move #4564323

Posted in Life on May 14th, 2005

Okay, maybe not quite that many, but it sure feels like it at the end of the day.

Today was devoted to moving BtFR into the empty apartment at the other end of my building, making him B:TNG

I wonder how long it will take him to spot and identify the reference.

Anyway, this is somewhat funny, since B and I used to live at opposite ends of a building back in Tigard when I first moved back to Oregon. If we can get another old friend to somehow move into the middle apartment, it will be just like old times :)

Only in a better neighborhood. With better apartments. With no second-floor apartment for TS. Okay, so maybe not just like old times…you get the picture.

The move itself went pretty smoothly, us all being old hands at this sort of thing. I drive the truck and act as Loadmaster, since I play a decent game of Tetris and can usually manage to pack everything into one trip. The Ratboy acts as Stevedore, since he’s 17 and has the energy of youth. Pookie, of course, just tries to help. Today she assiduosly swatted at the dirt on the truck ramp with a broken branch bearing leaves in an attempt to sweep up, succeeding mainly in sweeping it onto us.

Anywho, the end result is we moved 98% of his stuff in less than 7 hours. Not a bad day’s work.

“Friends help you move. Real friends help you move bodies!”

More RealID

Posted in Politics on May 12th, 2005

In my previous post, JustADog posted a comment and brought his own blog to my attention, where he has his own opinion on the RealID bill:

There are the obvious opponents, like the ACLU and Kennedy et. al. that are against a national identification standard – but I really don’t recall any dissent about passports, and that is a very federal ID – photo, magnetic strip with ID information, record of travel, etc.

The point here is that a passport is not required to travel inside the United States, and this RealID may end up that way. The Federal Gov’t already has in place all the personal identifying data it needs: I have a Social Security Number, which is tied to my birth records, and they have the IRS, which is tied to Social Security. They already know who I am, where I live, what I make and have paperwork to back that up. The Fed already recognizes my State-issued driver’s license as a means of personal identification.

Quite frankly, the machine-readable clause scares me. I am a technician and know how easy it is to fool (or forge) machine-readable code. I WANT a human to inspect my papers when travelling overseas. I’ll wait the extra few minutes.

Hopefully the next step would be to require any employer to only employ those with proper ID (in otherwords, NO MORE employment for illegal aliens!).

I have to ask, “where’s your brain”? There have been laws in existence for decades specifying this very thing! Those who employ illegals are breaking the law and can face serious fines and jail time for their actions. They choose to hire illegals, however, to cut down on their bottom line. We don’t need new laws or proceures here, we just need better enforcement for the laws we already have. The problem is that the INS and Border Patrol are underfunded.

Speaking of which, where is the money for this new form of ID supposed to come from? That part is noticably left out of the bill, which will leave it to the States to fund this on their own. In states like Oregon, where the budget is already in the shitter, this is going to be another added burden that will go straight to the taxpayer – and you can bet that the tax allotment request is going to be padded as much as possible to help make up for the general mishandling they have already done. I don’t want to be paying any new taxes until the state can fucking well figure out how to spend the ones I’m already paying.

Preparedness or Paranoia?

Posted in Politics on May 10th, 2005

Those of you who have read the same books I have are probably looking around you today and seeing things in a slightly more sinister light. A bill passed today with a small, un-discussed rider attached: the Real ID bill. This bill is essentially a National ID Card disguised as a driver’s license.

Opposition in the ‘sphere and even popular media has been quite open, including at least one ‘write your rep’ webpage. The bill was hidden into a ‘must pass’ funds allocation to support our troops, so it wasn’t even discussed on the floor, despite the fact that it failed rather quickly the first time it was submitted on it’s own. Near as anyone can figure, the Real ID clause was added to repay a favor to one particular politician.

The most vocal of the bill’s opponents in the ‘sphere makes one point that I disagree with, but the rest of his reasoning is sound. The bill, as written, sucks major ass and will make things worse for every citizen in the USA. I wholeheartedly believe this.

(The point we disagree on is the part that says illegal immigrants will not be able to get this new driver’s license; the author believes this means the illegals will be driving without licenses which somehow makes them more dangerous. A driver’s license is used as legal ID for just about everything, so illegals get them as a ‘gateway document’ which makes it easier to osmos into the system. I don’t think you should be able to get a license without a valid green card or visa.)

Back to the reading. Many future-fiction writers have written of post- or near-appocalyptic America where citizens are required to have their ‘papers’ with them at all times or face punishment by a corrupt and tyrannical government of some sort. The prelude to this government coming to power has always been a steady path: civil liberties are slowly eroded until the citizenry have lost their right (and will) to do anything about the fact that the government has turned them into subjects instead of citizens.

Society is polarized into the rich and the poor, with no middle ground. The poorest citizen with an ID card, however, is still far better off than the ‘unlicensed’ or ‘shadow denizens’ who lurk on the outside of society. They have no access to health care without ID, no access to public assistance, no way to get a job legally. This atmosphere breeds a new level of crime, one where any average person may suddenly and irrevocably find themselves doing anything just to survive. Desperation is rampant.

On top of this, these authors also almost universally discuss how a ‘meltdown in the Middle East’ led to some form of armed (and usually nuclear) conflict has depleted the world’s oil reserves, throwing us into an economic slump not seen since Black Tuesday. Multiple wars break out in the aftermath as the superpowers struggle to lay claim to as many resources as they can to fend off the coming dark age…

So. Here we are today. A terrorist attack makes us paranoid about our security, and our civil liberties are being eroded. We have a war in the Middle East. Gas is almost $2.50 a gallon. You do the math.

Paranoid? Moi? Read on to decide. Read the rest of this entry »