Thursday, December 30, 2004

New Computer aided Border Security: The newspapers are full of Homeland Security's next new thing. Computer database matching of entrants to the United States.

Seems I remember Switzerland having that in 1985 when I flew into Zurich for a scientific conference.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

911 Lines get tied up on Christmas - The California Highway Patrol reports that their 911 lines get tied up with nonemergency calls every Christmas.

My hypothesis is that it is because more new cell phones are unwrapped that day than any other, but the carriers are closed and aren't available to activate phones. So folks (often teenagers) call 911 to verify their shiny new Nokia is working. They can't call a friend as Verizon recommends because the phone wont complete any call not to 911 until it is activated.

AT&T Wirelsss used to sell phones on the web that were activated before you received them, with the nasty side effect of AT&T Wireless starting billing the day they activated the phone, 2, 3, 4 or more days before you received the phone. At Christmas time, that could be weeks one would be paying for service never used.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Thunderbird - Another success for Mozilla. First Firefox, now Thunderbird. Firefox was the new better than Microsoft Internet Explorer Browser, now Thunderbird is a better than Microsoft Outlook email client. Rave reviews are pouring in. Like this one.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Sizzle without substance: So I read this "news" story today about TV on your cell phone, and it's a perfect example of marketing hype gone bezerk. Tiny screens with not enough pixels showing programming when there's not enough bandwidth, even with so-called 3-G networks, and they are hardly ubiquitous. Current attempts at TV on cell phones give 2 frames per second, as compared to home TV at 30 frames a second.
I think I am the one to coin the term for this. "Squintavision".

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

TiVo : Like most TiVo owners, I love mine and have a hard time remembering life before TiVo, and am happy to sing its praises. Judging by the armpit high stacks of TiVos at my local BestBuys and other stores, TiVo should sell double this year what it sold last year. Whether that means you should buy TiVo stock is a decision you'll have to make on your own.

However if you, like David Letterman use "tivo" as a verb, the company may get upset at you, as often folks "tivo" a show, but in fact are just recording it in some fashion, maybe still using videotape, or some other (inferior) type of Digital Video Recorder (DVR). Thus TiVo has started writing to TV Networks warning them not use use "tivo" as a verb.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Help Niagara Falls: Go to this site, where each click helps plant trees around Niagara Falls, even if it's the Canadian side. It sounds like a typical Internet Hoax, but isn't. If you get email (especially if it's a dire warning and been forwarded from a nonauthoritative source, like your aunt on WebTV) always check here to check whether its real or not.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Nov. 21 - ABANDONWARE - Software from companies that have gone out of business may end up in the public domain. One such game is "Solitaire's Journey" perhaps the best solitaire game ever made for a PC. It's Windows version is available for free!
at :
I apologize for the attached pop-up ads.
The program being from 1992 wants to be installed from a floppy disk, but installs fine if one extracts it to (or moves the extracted files to) a folder named Disk1.

UPDATE 12/8 for unknown reasons the freeoldies site no longer has a link to:'s+Journey
or to

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

IBM leaving the PC business ? Not at all, too many mainstream news agencies seem to have the story wrong. In fact IBM sold it's "manufacturing business" which consists of part ownerships and contracts with many Taiwan and Chinese companies. This deal is mainly a way for one Chinese manufacturer (Lenova) to buy another Chinese manufacturer (Great Wall). IBM laptops will continue to exist for the forseeable future and with the IBM name on them. IBM's press release says : "IBM will continue to provide our clients with outstanding IBM- and Think-branded PCs through our alliance." The biggest difference may be for the 2,300 IBM employees in the U.S. who will become Lenova employees.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Why are SCSI Hard Drives still so expensive? IDE hard drives have gotten bigger, better and faster over the years such that performance difference is just about zero now. Some background. Indeed IDE drives can be put into Raid arrays for use with Servers that require reliability and performance. Oracle tested Hard Drive Raid arrays and discovered that the low price Apple XServe Raid was the best and have proceeded to buy many.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Make Love Not Spam (MLNS) lives?: The Lycos screen saver (MLNS) that attacked Lycos identified spammers web sites is now not functional. Its no longer downloadable from Lycos (but available elsewhere on the Internet), and is no longer attacking "spammers" as Lycos has shut down its feed of "bad guys" to the screen saver.

While Lycos had a change of heart, relative to ethical concerns or fear of lawsuits, others may not, and likely a "modified" version of MLNS, or a Patch program to provide new life to MLNS is likely to appear from other sources before the week is out.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Lycos pulls the plug on its "antispam" Screensaver - Others have reported
as I have that one can no longer download the screen saver that bombards spam advertisers web sites. What they omit is that already deployed screensavers are now deactivated. They required access to a Lycos database of "badguys", and that's been turned off.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Help stop SPAM, be a vigilante: Lycos in Europe has developed a FREE pretty screen saver, which also sends traffic to spammers' web sites, and with thousand of folks running it, it may over whelm a SPAMers web site. Lycos claimed 66,000 downloads. They have Windows, Macintosh (both OS X and Mac OS 9) and Linux versions available. You'd have to say you were in England to download it, but if you're on the edge of legality being part of a DDOS what's mistating your country of origin? Download it here at your own risk. And for added effect the Windows version could be run minimized to be hitting SPAMers 24/7.
I don't advocate any of this, I'm just reporting it.

UPDATE: The screensaver is not available currently at the Lycos website of:

I expect a quick Google of MLNS.exe or use of Kazaa could still find it. Another view of all this is here:

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Networking a DirecTv Tivo : DirecTv doesn't support that functionality, even though stand alone TiVo units can be networked. Luckily TiVo is a Linux system, so by adding some extra Linux software and Ethernet drivers to ones' system, Networking is possible. And enough folks have done it already that full instructions and Install CDs are available on the web. Instructions are here. And all the software to Install; scripted to just semi automatically do it all for one is here. I'm about to attempt all this "programming", and will report back.

FOLLOWUP - I couldnt get it all working with 3.1.1e (the current DirecTiVo OS), but with 3.1.0 OS software (leftover from a replaced OEM hard drive), it all worked. has the details on the TiVoWeb program, that allows controlling ones DirecTv TiVo from a Browser.
Next is to try the tytools.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Don't buy promises -
Major mistake some folks make is to be swayed by product announcements for products that don't exist yet. Don't buy promises, many do warn. All too often products never exist, or exist in altered format, or come in to being way later than originally planned for. One should always make technology decisions based upon what is on the shelf today, not what ==> may <== appear Real Soon Now. Two cases in point about newly promised products that may or may not appear as expected when expected. A new DirecTv DVR, possibly to replace TiVo. A new faster CPU for computers and gaming systems, like Sony's Playstation 3, said to use the IBM "Cell" chip.

Monday, November 29, 2004

WARNING - Do not upgrade MS Windows NT 4 Server to Windows 2000 or 2003 Server !
Many folks are in a hurry to do an upgrade. Support for NT4 server is supposed to end with the close of this year. However an upgrade can have disastrous consequences. The safer method is to do a clean install of MS Windows Server 2000 (or preferably 2003 which requires fewer patches and has many insecure features turned off by default). Sure it will take far longer to reinstall all the other software, and move over the data, but it will be far more stable with a clean install than with an inplace upgrade. Others have weighed in on this subject. The title of this blog clearly states my belief. Remember, I warned you.
EVEN FASTER 802.11 Wireless Networking is here: I just upgraded from 802.11b to 802.11g painlessly, but there's an even faster standard on the horizon: 802.11N, and Belkin isn't waiting until 2007 when its offically formalized. You can now buy Belkin 802.11 pre-N equipment and it already got a good review for having higher speed and better range. Being prestandard, it might not be compatible with the 2007 products of other manufacturers.
Turn yourself in: Microsoft has a new "offer" for you only if you live in Great Britain. Turn yourself in if you have a pirated copy of Windows XP. Fine Print includes submitting only "preinstalled" copies of Windows XP, and executing a witness statement document. They also include the caveat: "If you are unclear about anything in the witness statement, please obtain independent legal advice". Further: "If your copy of the Windows XP Home or Professional Operating System is not genuine we will retain it along with the documentation you submitted. If we retain your submission, we will replace your software with a genuine copy of Microsoft Windows XP Home or Professional Edition (as appropriate)". and " The project will allow Microsoft Ltf to collate intelligence quickly and work with the authorities to act decisively against illegal traders."

Saturday, November 27, 2004

A Safer Browser: It seems not a day goes by with out warnings from inside and outside Microsoft about security concerns with their Internet Explorer Browser . Some folks may feel they need to use it as once in a while a web site might not work correctly in Netscape Browser. I've said a proper website should work equally well in any browser, and I always recommend web authors visit here.

Now we have a new Browser freely available - its FREE - no cost. Firefox it's available for Windows, Linux, and Macintosh, it's a quick download and it's received nothing but glowing reviews. One typical one is here. Or Google can find you many reviews.

I suggest everyone start using Firefox and only Firefox as their Browser.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Gotta love a Mac. I took the next step for my wireless networking. I bought the Belkin 802.11g PC Card ($24.88 after rebate) from J and R Music, and got a demonstration of why Macs are so great. Earlier in the day I had removed the 802.11b Airport card from my Pismo laptop. After UPS delivered the Belkin card, I opened the box, took the card out, slid it in the PC Card slot of the laptop, and within 10 seconds the laptop was again connected to the Internet. No questions about drivers, where the files are, or whether its safe because its not approved by Microsoft like Windows XP would give you. It just worked !
I did take a minor reception strength hit as the built in antenna in the PC card is apparently not as good as Apple's antenna wrapping around the screen that had plugged into the airport card. No big deal.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Higher speed Wireless Networking: After 4 + years, my PC's wireless networking reception with a PCI Orinoco 802.11b card in the PC, was getting less and less, even though my Pismo (2000 Firewire Powerbook) reported strong signal from my original model Apple Airport Base Station (M7601). It should be noted that the Orinoco Silver card is 100% functionally identical to an Airport Card, and also made by Lucent (now Agere). So I switched out my Airport Base Station, and the PCI 802.11b card; with D-Link hardware. Last week with rebates at Best Buy, the 802.11g Base Station with Router (model DI-524) was $29.99, and the 802.11g PCI card (model DSL-G510) for my PC was $29.99 (plus $5 of sales tax that won't be refunded on the rebate amounts). It may be cheaper elsewhere (check but I prefer to buy locally, to enable quick refunds if something goes wrong. Only slight problem I had was to change the IP # of the Base Station since it defaulted to same IP ( as my Netgear Firewall/Router. I also changed the default broadcast channel, and told it to default to a 54 mbps broadcast rate rather than "Automatic". This was done with a nice platform independent web based configuration program (not fully compatible with Netscape 7.2 on the Mac) by directly wiring a computer to the new basestation. One can configure the basestation to Broadcast its name or not, and have WEP or WPA security or none. It all took about much less than an hour, including mounting the base station 6 feet up on a wall.

Now my PC has 5 bars of signal, instead of 1, and its 54 mbps, rather than 11 (or more commonly 5 or 3 or 1 or 0); and my Pismo with its 802.11b Airport card still works anywhere in the house. That's the Pismo that gave me a scare with a discharged PRAM battery. (See Sept. 27 report). I was able to cut back the basestation's signal to 25% strength, and its still better than the original Airport.

I have my dsl modem, router and wireless base station on a separate circuit with wall mounted switch, so I can turn it all on easily if I need to get the Dell PC to the Internet and all is powered down.

(Aside - 2 years ago I had tried Netgear 802.11a and it's range was pitiful)

MORAL: You don't have to get an Apple Airport Extreme to upgrade your wireless Network to 802.11g. If its WiFi certified, it should (as mine did) also be fully backward compatible with any 802.11b equipment. There are perfectly good, much lower priced alternatives than Apple.

NEXT STEP? - Get a Belkin 802.11g PC Card (their part #F5D7010) (Street price under $50) for the Pismo. Apple doesn't make such a piece of Hardware, and most brands (including D-Link) don't have Macintosh compatibility
or drivers. A July 7 note to by James Cotton points to a compatibility list for 802.11g equipment. If it has a Broadcom chipset, apparently OS X 10.3 just treats it like Apple Airport Extreme hardware. Belkin, like Apple has Broadcom inside, D-Link doesn't.

Whither SOLARIS:

So Sun ( now has Solaris 10 in both a Sparc and x86 version available for a free download. 5 CD images, took a while with over taxed servers on its first day of availability. A nice touch Sun provided COlor CD labels, sized in a PDF to fit Neato label sheets.

One problem: The Installer is not ready for prime time. Compare and contrast to Mandrake Linux 10.1 which also has CD images available for download. Those Cds work and flawlessly lead one through setup. Not so for Solaris which repeatedly hangs and gets myriad error messages with OEM hardware that Mandrake Linux has zero problems with.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

The three most important things to know about Desktop computing: Backup, Backup, Backup

Trivially simple these days with low costs for Hard Drives and DVD-Writers. Using either a 2nd Internal Hard Drive or an External Firewire Hard Drive, Total backups can be made on a Mac using Restore function (Applications, Utilities, Disk Utility), and on a PC with Backup (Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools).

Then data can be separately backed up to a DVD and stored offsite.