Rants & Raves...
...and other commentary
January 18, 2003 The System Process
For a couple of months now, I've been having a strange problem with my laptop. The performance would slow way down, and when I checked under the task manager, the CPU level was pegged at 100% and stayed there. Under the "Processes" tab I could see that the System process was the culprit. It was listed as having 98% of the CPU usage. Normally, the System Idle process should have this value.
I searched the Internet, but didn't find a solution, only other people having this problem. I figured it was some bug in the XP operating system that was causing an infinite loop. Then a classmate suggested that I look at the power management setup. While checking this out, I put it into standby mode by closing the laptop, and then bring it back out of standby. This cured my problem!
Based on these clues, does anyone know what might be going on? I have ZoneAlarm, but no anti-virus running. Turning off ZoneAlarm didn't seem to help.
October 19, 2002 The worst server rooms
The Register has an article of reader submissions for the title of worst server rooms. I found it quite funny because I am currently taking a CCNA course, and recently read the chapter about how to design a room for networking equipment. The submissions would do very well as examples of what not to do in a server room.
September 24, 2002 Palm Tips
While discussing Palm tips on today's show, Bill Dyszel encouraged users to learn graffiti, the specialized handwriting used to enter text into a palm OS device. He suggested a way to find the graffiti chart showing how to make the characters. But here's an even better way to bring up the chart: from just about any place where you would enter text: place the stylus in the graffiti area (usually the lower gray area of the screen) and then draw it all the way up to the top of the screen. This is faster and more convenient than his suggestion to look for Edit/Graffiti on the menu, which doesn't even exist in some applications such as the text adventure game program Frotz.
September 21, 2002 Found a new home
I just finished transfering this site to a new web host, Infinology. They have a lot more bandwidth and disk space for the same price as my old host. Their interface/control panel has a lot more features. At my old host, I could barely tell how much of my montly bandwidth alotment I had used up, and I had no idea if I was running close to my diskspace limit. Now, I should be able to put up a lot more video clips. One of the bigger hurdles was getting Movable Type transferred, because the path names were different.
But by far the worst part about the move was getting Verisign to change the DNS information. Their online system was buggy, and their phone support staff was clueless. Granted, they were in the middle of switching over their account sysetem, but they are one of the more expensive hosts, so they should do a better job. Next year, before my registration expires, I intend to switch to godaddy.com. I hear lots of good things about them, and they are a third the price.
August 20, 2002 Items in the News
Here are the links to the news stories featured on today's episode of TSS:
August 14, 2002 Good News For a Former TSS Cast Member!
Last year, Jessica Corbin was a regular member of the TSS cast. She sat next to Megan in the old nook and did the original Site Of The Nite segments. She is the granddaughter of Pat Boone, who received a TSS house call for a segment on the show. In June of last year, her brother Ryan suffered a freak three-story fall through a skylight. He remained in a coma for months. Jessica left the show a few months after the accident in order to be near her brother.
Her brother is now out of his coma, and recovering with his family. Today, Jessica, her mom Lindy, and Pat Boone appeared on CNN's Larry King Live to talk about Ryan's ordeal. The show will re-air at 9pm and 12am PDT.
For more information about Ryan, go to prayforryan.com/.
July 31, 2002 Kilt Solidarity!
Leave it to TSS to go over the top in bringing back the kilt. The fan community is celebrating! For those of you who haven't watched the show for very long, Patrick started wearing a Utilikilt occasionally on the show about a year ago. A Utilikilt is kilt built with several pockets, useful for storing tech gadgets like PDAs, cell phones, and MP3 players. Earlier this year, Patrick was wearing a utilikilt about every other week, when suddenly, he stopped wearing them at all after March. It took a while for the fans to find out that the kilt had been banned by someone high up in the TechTV management. About a month ago, the fan community organized the Kilt Kampaign to get the ban lifted. Fans sent email, added banners to their web sites, and even changed their Leoville avatars and signatures to let the management know that they wanted Patrick to be allowed to wear his kilt. Today's show was the payoff.
Why was this issue so important? Not just because the female fans like to see Patrick's legs. The kilt is a statement of non-conformity, and no one embraces non-conformity like the tech geek community. TSS is non-conformist in that it presents subject matter that no other show does, to intelligent viewers which the rest of the networks seem to ignore.
Hopefully this is step back in the right direction for TechTV. In the last year there have been too many signs that the management had been trying to remove all uniqueness from its programming. Still missing in action are the magnetic fridge letters and Megan's alter egos, like Grandma Morrone and Super Morrone. Hopefully the management will reconsider their stance on these as well. No TV channel was ever successful by trying blend in and look like any other programming. Stuff like the kilt and Grandma Morrone causes channel surfers to say "WTF?" and flip back to TechTV to see what's going on.
July 30, 2002 Editing Martin
I watched today's live broadcast, and then clicked over to the repeat just in time to see Martin's List. Looks like they edited the last part of Martin's list segement between the live broadcast and the repeat. I don't disagree with it, I'm just interested in seeing what their threshold is for doing an edit.
For some reason, edits seem to happen most often during Martin's segments. ;)
For those who didn't see it, Martin featured the top most disturbing sites (this should have been a cue for a director to check Martin's chosen clips before airtime). The #1 site had a mumblety-peg animation game showing severed finger if you missed. Fortunately, this part was removed in the repeat.
This isn't the first time that Martin has made me a bit nauseated on air. Eating spam gel last year had the same effect. I'm thinking of starting a business selling Martin barf bags.
July 28, 2002 Mac Switch Campaign Parody
On Friday's show, Leo mentioned a flash parody of Apple's Switch campaign. In the show notes, they provided a link to a very funny one featuring a Bill Gates cartoon. There is another funny live action parody relating to gaming on the Mac: Drunk Gamers
July 26, 2002 Exposing Yourself in Public
Yesterday's question of the day was "Is Google too good?" This was in response to a New York Times article about a woman working as a computer tutor. Her client showed her how he found personal information about her just by entering her name into a search engine. As usual, the mainstream press has overesimplified issues relating to technology. When will people learn that the Internet is a public place. Posting information on the web is no different than having it published in a newspaper. Most of the items that were found on this woman were posted on her own family web site, and therefore, under her own control. I fail to see how a person with computer training would be so ignorant about Internet technology.
June 08, 2002 Gibson and DoS Attacks, Ch 2
Last June, I talked about Steve Gibson's article about the distributed denial of service attack against his site. It's a excellent expalnation of how these attacks occur, resulting from his investigations into an attack on his own web site. At the end of that article, he warned about the implications of raw sockets in Windows XP, which would allow script kiddies to spoof IP addresses, and lauch attacks that would be more difficult to deal with than the DDoS attacks that he had dealt with.
It seems that his prophecy has come true. He now has a new article about his investigation into a new type of attack against his site that occurred last January. It is called a distributed reflected denial of service attack, or DRDoS. It works by sending an altered SYN packet with the IP address of the attack target, instead of the IP address of the sender. The server receiving the altered packet would respond by sending a response packet (SYN/ACK) to the IP address in the SYN packet. This way, the attacking computer stays anonymous, and the unwitting server keeps sending packets to the target computer.
At the end of this article, Gibson repeats his condemnation of Microsoft's decision to include the raw sockets in Windows XP. Before this, only computers running Windows 2000 or Linux would be able launch this kind of attack. But including this capability in a consumer level OS meant that the ability to launch this kind is now in the hands of all of the teenage hackers who like to do this kind of attack.
May 03, 2002 CD Sales and Online File Sharing
Leo has been stating for some time his belief that online music file sharing actually increases CD sales. This is in contrast to the RIAA and the music industry which has sought to stop online trading of music files. His argument is supported by the fact that music sales have declined since the shutdown of Napster. However, this argument is complicated by the fact that the economy has worsened in that time, which could also account for the decreased CD sales. Now, a news story seems to support Leo's claim. However, the survey is based on self-reports of online file sharing users, so the results may be somewhat biased.
April 29, 2002 Search Engines and Sites Using Frames
I'm currently studying for CIW (Certified Internet Webmaster) certification. It's not the best way to learn how to build a web site. It seems better for having something to show a prospective employer. I get my best education from tackling problems on my and others' sites.
For instance, my cousin asked my why he couldn't seem to get his site listed on the Google search engine. Google hadn't even indexed it. Even when you entered the full web address in the search box, nothing came up. Since my site is well indexed on Google, I put an invisible link on one of my pages to his site a few months ago, so that Google would find it. I checked Google again recently. The site had been indexed but was not showing up on a search of the keywords because the only thing that shows up in Google's cache of the site is "This site uses frames, but your browser does not support them".
After a bit of research, I found that frames are a real obstacle to a site's being properly indexed by a search engine. When a page using frames loads, it has to then load the code separately for each frame. Indexing the internet takes a lot of time, so search engine bots, or robots, don't want to wait for the frame HTML files to load. So it doesn't wait for them, and only saves the frameset page, which doesn't contain any of the frame content. All it really contains is the alternate text ("noframes", if the web author has provided it) for browsers which don't support frames. So, a solution to this problem is to include a description of the site in the noframes section for the search engine to index.
But a far better solution is to avoid frames altogether if possible. They cause more problems than they are worth. In addition to search engine problems, they can cause problems when trying to bookmark or link to a page with frames. The most recent versions of Internet Explorer have solved this problem by saving the links for all of the frames in a page, but Netscape and Opera still do not retain this information. To illustrate, surf to www.leoville.com, click on the Cams link, and then bookmark the page. When you click on the bookmark in Netscape and IE, you don't return to the Cams page, but instead get taken to the main page. The same problem occurs if you have a webpage and want to link to a page with frames. Fortunately, Leo has counteracted this problem by providing frame-less versions of his pages.
April 28, 2002 A Word doc viewer? Well, duh.
Some of you may say, "well duh, I knew about that," but until today, I did not know that Microsoft had a free Word document viewer. This is strange because I did know about the free Power Point viewer. This comes from relatives who are often emailing me various attachments, including humorous PowerPoint presentations. Both of these viewers are helpful to people like me who don't have the cash to buy MS Office (or prefer to use other office suites), but want to be able to view .doc and .ppt files that are sent to us.
Also, many of us have applications which claim to be able to save to MS .doc format, but would like to have a way to check that they really are being done correctly. Wordpad, which comes with Windows, can view some documents, but not if they have complicated formatting.
April 10, 2002 Auto-Refresh a Web Page, and the Schrodinger Wave Equation
At the end of the show today, a viewer asked how to get pages such as My Yahoo to refresh automatically. Yahoo does allow you to cutomize this setting. I finally found it under Add/Delete Pages (really intuitive). But the shortest time interval is 15 minutes. If you want to do this for other pages or to refresh Yahoo more often, copy the following code to a text editor such as Wordpad.
Customiize the url and the content="30" value to the amount of time in seconds that you want. Then save as a text document with the ".html" extension, using whatever file name you like. Then open the file with your internet browser and bookmark it. You can save a file on your hard drive to favorites or bookmarks, in addition to internet addresses.
The Schrodinger equation shirt:
Cecil Adams writes a syndicated column called "The Straight Dope" where readers send him questions that he researches and then answers. One reader sent him a question about the Schrodinger's cat story written in rhyming verse, so Adams responded in kind: The Straight Dope: The story of Schroedinger's cat (an epic poem)
April 02, 2002 Free Office Suites
I was a bit disappointed that 602Suite was not mentioned in the roundup of alternative office suites on the show today. It's free, and saves documents in Word doc format. It doesn't have every advanced feature, but it's pretty amazing for a free program. The only problem that I have had with it was a bug that has been fixed in the latest version.
Strangely enough, 602Suite was reviewed by Roger Chang on Call For Help today.
Another strategy for those who would like to save money while buying Microsoft Office is to buy the out of date version, and then the upgrade. The two together are often cheaper than buying the full new version.
March 31, 2002 XP PowerToys
On Thursday, Leo talked about Windows XP PowerToys, and how it is no longer available at the Microsoft web site. It was originally available right after XP was put on sale to the public, but it was removed from the site soon after. microsoft claims that it is making improvements to the program, but it has been five months. However, you can still get it from many other sites if you search on Google. One of them is this page at Annoyances.org.
I haven't upgraded to XP myself yet, so if anyone out there has used XP PowerToys, let me know how it worked for you in the comments section.
For more info about the features of Powertoys, try this site: Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows.
March 30, 2002 TSS at the Movies
At the end of the show Friday, Leo announced that he and Patrick would be hosting movie features on TechTV. It will be starting next Friday with the movie Coma. The above jibcam capture is believed to be of the taping of a promo for the show.
A fellow TSS fan who missed Friday's show asked me, "Is it going to be like Dinner & A Movie (a show on TBS)?" I don't think it will be, but I thought, wouldn't that be a great idea? If they show Young Frankenstein for instance, Patrick could show how to build a Jacob's ladder during the breaks, as he did on TSS about a year ago:
Some fans are not too enthusiastic about the idea, but I like it. It's a great opportunity for them to show the movies that they mention on the show. I hope they plan to show Soylent Green sometime. They keep refering to that movie on TSS, and I can't get it at Netflix or the local rental stores.
March 19, 2002 TSS on the Tech Live Set, Part 2
Okay you guys, Halloween was six months ago. Patrick and Leo look like lawyers dressed up like that, and that's one of the scariest things I can think of. The Screen Savers continued their trip through wonderland on Tuesday, rehearsing the show on the TechLive set. TPTB (the powers that be) are listening to the wrong focus groups telling them that the basement set doesn't look good. They should remember that back in the early eighties, focus groups told Coca-Cola that "New Coke" would be a great idea.
I have changed the slide show that I posted Monday. Since there was no audio, I added my own editorial comment in the form of the accompanying music. My apologies to dial-up users. The file is now 7.2 MB. I certainly have no future as an editor of any sort.
A tip for those of you who would like to save a copy of the Quicktime slide show: after you have downloaded and watched it, you can go to your Temporary Internet Files folder in the C:\WINDOWS directory, and sort the files by size. It should be one of the largest files there. Then drag the file out of the folder and on to you desktop. From there you can rename it and save it whereever you want.
Add your comments to this post and say what you think about changing the Screen Savers set.
March 18, 2002 TSS Tries out the Tech Live Set
Tech TV showed a repeat episode of TSS today so that The Screen Savers could test how the show would look on the Tech Live set. TPTB (the powers that be) think that the current set isn't slick enough. The test rehearsal wasn't broadcast, but Matty's jib cam caught the action. Here's a slideshow of what the jibcam saw:
The System Process
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