Wednesday, March 31, 2010

PROJECT: POSSUM

Of all the things I want to do in my personal venture of becoming a nerd is making my own OS. Sounds kinda big, right? I mean, for god's sake, I haven't even written a program in a real programming language, much less an OS. But it's still a dream.

I admit, this "project" is probably at least 5, maybe 10 years in my future. I don't necessarily plan to start it from scratch. (Whatever "scratch" means in terms of Linux.) Odds are I'll create a ____-based system, like Debian, Ubuntu, or the like. But I want to.

Now I don't want to create an OS for the world. At least, that's not my intention right now. If you create an OS that other people use, you have to maintain it, fix bugs they find, make sure hardware is compatible, etc. I want to create an OS just for me. My guess is that it will start out as terminal only, and then I'll hopefully add a lightweight GUI and then go from there. I'm definitely not going to make it as thorough as Ubuntu or any of the big names, I just want something simple. I really have a fetish for simple software and simple OSes as well. I actually prefer the Windows Classic theme to Aqua (even thought I do have a custom one on my personal PC).

I guess what I want to build is a Mini Linux. It's really a dream right now, but a dream that's plausible (to me, at least). I love computers and I'm going into Computer Science, so hopefully those two produce enough knowledge and interest for me to create my own OS.

So this really isn't the starting of a project or even the stating of an idea, per se, it's me stating my dream.

Dreaming on,
-Bry

[UPDATE 4-02-10] As I was driving to work today, I was struck with inspiration; the name of my OS is going to me "my Personal Operating System that Sucks for any User but Me, or P.O.S.S.U.M., or informally, Possum. Heck yes!

PROJECT: OMNIBOOT

A while ago, I was really getting interested in different OSs, specifically Linux distros. So I started "Project 7", which was attempting to boot 7 portable Linux distros off of one thumb drive. Believe it or not, I actually got fairly close. I think I had Slax, Puppy, maybe Crunchbang and several others, but I was still so unfamiliar that I couldn't get them all to boot.

Now I feel like expanding on that point a tad. I don't know what the record is for most OSs on a single machine, but I really want to see how many I can get. I figure if I buy a 1 Terabyte drive, I'll have plenty of room to fit a ton of distros. They'll probably have just enough room for the OS and a few apps, and then I'll have a separate disk/partition for the documents that they all can share.

The only problem I face is that I believe you can only have like 4 primary partitions on a drive. So that means I can either buy a ton of little drives (like 30GB) or maybe use extended partitions. The only other issue I face is problems with GRUB, but that's more of my inability to deal with the menu.lst and such than it being an actual hindrance. Maybe I could group OSs together in extended partitions, like netbook distros together and debians in another, that sorta thing. And GRUB should be fine. I can't imagine it being a problem. But then there's other bootloaders if GRUB doesn't work out. Unless there's a real problem that effects all bootloaders, one should work.

I don't think I just want to grab OSs and stuff them on there, I think I want to actually use them and be able to fairly confidently use every single OS on the system. And I'm not sure if I'll throw OSs on that are a ton like other OSs, like I won't have Windows 95, 98, 2000, ME, etc, or Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, etc. But we'll see how that goes, since every Linux distro is a fork of something else. Here's a list (that I'll probably edit along the way) that I want to get started with:
  • Windows XP: Why? Because it's the best OS of all time. Period. Ok, well, maybe not, but it's the one I've used the most. And I have a ton of keys laying around.
  • Windows 7: Just for the heck of it. And because I'll possibly have switched over to 7 by the time I can launch this project.
  • Ubuntu: Because it's the Linux beginner's delight. And because it's the Linux distro I've used the most.
  • OS X (or some other Mac): Because I want to be fair. And for fun.
  • Crunchbang: Because it's awesome. And cause I like the logo.
  • Slackware: I've never really used it but I have used Slax. I honestly liked the feel of Slax more than Ubuntu. The only reason I didn't go with it is that Slackware isn't really (as far as I can tell) as newbie-friendly.
  • Puppy: I tried it out alot and it was a pretty fun little OS.
  • DeLi: Same as above.
  • Chrome OS: I don't care if it's still in pre-alpha: this machine will run Google!
  • ReactOS: Even if it's still in Alpha (or hopefully Beta).
  • Damn Small Linux: My collection wouldn't be complete without it.
  • Solaris: Never even tried it, but what they hey?
  • Coyote: I can't even remember if I used this one, but I might track it down. [4-05] Iiiiiiii'm dumb. This is a firewall. I think I might have been thinking of µLinux....
  • Jolicloud: This one I haven't even tried yet, but I'm going to. Ubuntu is failing me on my EEE netbook, and this looks like a good replacement candidate. Downloading now, will VM the ISO, then maybe install later today/this week/this year/this lifetime.
  • [3-31] JNode: Because an OS based on Java is extremely intriguing to me.

What about Debian? Fedora? FreeBSD? Gentoo? Knoppix? openSUSE? Mandriva? Mint? PCLinuxOS? (Did I miss any main ones?) Well, the only time I've got distro shopping is (a) when I had an old machine that I wanted to run something light and fast (and not Windows ME), and (b) when I wanted to replace Windows XP on my netbook. So I've really only looked at the Ubuntu and its forks, a bunch of live small ones for the old PC, and ones that were built specifically for netbooks like Cruncheee (which is now absorbed into Crunchbang) and Easy Peasy. So I haven't really tried a ton of the other popular ones (or obscure ones), though I'm hoping Omniboot will help me be able to do that. The way I see it, if I have a ton of OSs, I'll try to cycle through them (since mostly I just surf the web, and I can use X-marks to sync Firefox profiles across them all) and learn more about them. Then I can slowly add more and more distros and learn each of them. (A few others I'd like to try are Basic Linux, MuLinux, MiniLinux, Tiny Core, Slitaz...)

I mean I listed 14 OSs in the bullet points, and already that's a quatuordec boot. I'd like to get familiar with those before I throw in some more. And I know I go after the smaller, lighter distros, but it's because smaller OSs are generally simpler and so you can get used to them more easily and quickly, whereas giant distros like Ubuntu take some time to get the full effect. (At least, that's my theory.)

It's really just a nugget of an idea. First I'd need to find out just how I can pull this off (hopefully on one drive), then I'd need to actually buy it, then I'd need the free time to start all of this.

Why all this, you might ask? Because I can. Well, really, it's because I'm curious. Operating Systems are so vast, I'd just love to sample here and there. I'd love to get a ton of distros on one system and switch between them to sample the many flavors of OSs. And if I ever got tired of it, I could just wipe the drive and then I have a 1T drive at my disposal.

Here's a chart I found that.....well, charts the Linux distros (Apr 1 2010). (PSSSST CLICK IT.)This isn't nearly all of them, I assume, but it's a good start. If I were to someday get every single one of these installed on Omniboot, I'd have ~205 operating systems on one disk. That's like an icosa boot. Nifty.

Omniboot Supervisor,
-Bry

[UPDATE 4-8-10] So it looks like you really only have 4 primary partitions per disk, and then I think a total of 24 primary + extended. But it also looks like you can have unlimited Logical partitions inside an extended partition, so I'm thinking that I will just have all 200 in Logical partitions, and if I'm not mistaken, Linux can boot from those just fine. Still, I need to confirm it if I'm going to go out and drop money on a 1TB drive.

Also, I finally looked through every single distribution on the chart I posted above, and I was surprised to find that alot were in languages other than English, servers, or proprietary. So it might be alot less than 200. But then I also know that there's a ton that are listed on DistroWatch that aren't on the graph, so maybe I'll end out adding even more than 200. We'll see.

Considering that I might be buying a 1TB drive, installing all 200 distros would give me around 5GB for each distro, which honestly seems like plenty. My current Windows folder is around 2GB, so without programs, I'd guess it's like 3GB, which seems hefty for an OS (to me). Plus, I'm not going to install all the same programs on every distro, I think...I'm not going to have Firefox, GIMP, Chrome, Pidgin, etc on every single one. But even if I did, I think that would only bring me up to like 150MB (which is mostly Firefox). Still, it seems like it will be fine.

The only thing that worries me is that I thought that about my netbook too, but Ubuntu filled up my 4GB HD with almost just the install. And that's still an ongoing problem I have with Jolicloud.

The only other thing I can think of would be Swap partitions. Or Partition. Can Linux share swap? I should think so. If so, then I can just make one Swap partition instead of 200. Seems like it should, but that's another thing I would have to check. But even if they can't I can boot Linux without a Swap, right? I mean, I deleted the Swap off my netbook and it seemed to do just fine..........right?

[UPDATE 4-17-10] After a bit more digging, it looks like you can only have 63 logical partitions on a disk, period. So that means that I'd have to get 3 disks, which would probably need to be around300mb each. After looking around for how much these would cost, they average around $50 for 300GB, so I'd need to spend like $150-$200 for 1TB instead of $100.

So I've decided to not go that route. Instead I guess I'm going to go with Virtual Machines. I feel kinda stupid for not thinking of it earlier, but I guess it's cause I wanted to make a system that boots hundreds of OSs. So it kinda takes away from the whole experience, but oh well. It will be alot easier because it will be a ton easier to create virtual disks instead of partitions, I won't have to mess with GRUB (necessarily), and I get a nice GUI to use.

It's kinda upsetting to me, since before I could say "I'm going to build a system that boots over 100 OSs!" whereas now I can just say "I have a over 100 OSs installed to my Virtual Machine". Not really as impressive, but meh. I also want to see if I can still use GRUB just because I think that would be so cool, to have a GRUB menu with 100 different options.

I did find that this has been done before. Someone posted a sample of a GRUB file that boots 100+ systems, which looks fantastic to me, but the only thing is, I just haven't looked into if you can add a ton of hard disks to VirtualBox and then let GRUB have access to them. I'm planning on creating a different disk for every OS (because it really doesn't make sense to put ten distros on one virtual disk...) but I'm thinking VB will have problems if I try to add all 100+ drives to every single machine....but we'll see.

[UPDATE 4-21-10] Well, I bought the 1TB drive and I'm currently downloading 20+ distros via torrent. I realized that this has kind of evolved into another project, not the same as Omniboot, so henceforth, it's going to be vOmniMachine (for Virtual Omni Machine). Yeah, it has a different ring to it than Omniboot, but I'd like to keep the idea of a multi-boot system in my head, and keep running with the Virtual Machine idea. So vOmniMachine will be a kind of "test drive" for Omniboot. To be honest, the more I look at it, the less fun it sounds to deal with installing 100+ distros to a physical HD....so I'm thinking that Omniboot won't be near that, especially if I want to use the same drive I just bought.

So yeah, in summary, Omniboot is being put on hold in favor of its predecessor, vOmniMachine, which I'm going to start in almost 3 weeks exactly. (The minute school gets out on the 6th of May, I'm probably going to start. I'm not exaggerating....probably within 20 minutes of walking through the door after my last class). Omniboot will be a select number of Operating Systems rather than a buttload of various ones, and since I want to give each of them plenty of space (and not have to buy a disk), Omniboot will for sure have no more than 60 distros.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Zombie Farm

[UPDATE 7-17-11]
Since apparently this post is still found quite frequently, the Zombie Farm Wikia (which I started but no longer maintain) has a great page for Levels. Peace be with you, Zombie Growers.
[/UPDATE]

When I got my iPod Touch 3G, I promised myself that I wouldn't buy that many games for it. I got a new iPod because I love listening to music and my old one died and I decided to go with a touch instead of a classic because I was using my old Palm Zire to keep track of school assignments (because using a paper planner really wasn't working out for me, but that's a whole other story) and I figured there's gotta be at least one app out there for doing that. I didn't really get it for games because it's not a gaming system. I've had many handheld gaming systems over the years (although most of them are ancient by now) but the iPod touch just isn't built for gaming. Plus, I know that most of the good games cost money and I'm really cheap.But anyway, one day I was bored and I can't remember how I came across it, but I found a little game called Zombie Farm. I can't even remember why I actually downloaded it since I despise people who send me neighbor requests for farmville/town/place on Facebook, but I guess it was because it's free. I didn't play it for a few weeks, just had it installed, until one day work was especially slow, and I needed something to do. So I started farming. And I've quickly become addicted.

I'm not going to talk about the game like pros, cons, what you can do and all that. It's pretty simple. You can plant both crops and zombies, get upgrades, veggie mutations, decorations, and (best of all) you can invade other places with your zombies.

I think the funnest part for me is partially the whole math aspect. Maybe it's the Calculus courses I've taken, but I take a look at the different grow rates of the plants and think "What I wanna do is maximize profit while minimizing time/risk." I'm even so (aspiringly) nerdy that I made up a spreadsheet to calculate stuff like that.

Just the math behind the numbers and all is pretty interesting to me. Like it's better to plant crops that have a higher cost (risk) because if it is fertilized (which is random), it will not only yield that plants profit (like 17 for the Venus Fly Trap) but also pay back the entire cost (like 120), which gives you a much higher rate of profit than even if you planted something that grows faster and has a higher profit but is unfertilized.

Another interesting math deal is the whole levels/experience deal. I'd never really thought about it before, but in my youth, I'd played Runescape and the original Pokemon Gameboy games, both of which have experience ranks. I looked into both of these and found that they did indeed have equations that determine what the experience is at each level. Here's both of em (Runescape first, one of the Pokemon second):



Apparently Pokemon has a few different equations depending on the Pokemon, but (in terms of the first generation of games), the one above is the most complicated. Another one is just EXP = n3, which is extremely simple. That's why it really surprised me to find that Runescape's was so much more complicated. I mean, it's got a summation, two floors.....it's just bizarre (to me, at least). I really wonder where the game developers got these equations. n3 seems like it could just be picked because it was a good rate, and the more complicated Pokemon seems like it could just be integrated from a defined rate of change. (....Ok, I have no idea what I'm talking about, alright?)

So anyway, I was curious about Zombie Farm's experience/level relationship, partially because I wanted to know what my next level would be, but also just curiosity. But the more I look at it, the more it looks like it might just be defined values instead of an equation they derived. Why? Because level 16 was 5500exp and level 17 was 6500exp. That seems a little too convenient to be from a formula, but maybe I'm wrong. Plus, couldn't you reduce it to a formula anyway?

You'd think with me being in Calc III I'd know how to do this stuff already, but oh well. The most I can figure is that if it is indeed an equation, it must be something along the lines of E(L) = floor(L3.1), which seems entirely arbitrary. I was thinking it would be so freaking awesome if it was E(L) = floor(Lπ), but unless there's some constant somewhere, that doesn't add up. It might help if I had more info than the experience for two levels and the fact that I think you start with 1 exp at level 1.

Anyway, it's extremely fascinating to me, considering the fact that everything that happens in the game is just math. Calculating how long the plant has been growing and then ripening/wilting it depending on the result. I actually had some plants overriped the other day. Some glitch in the game made them keep growing past their harvest point, so it read as "-19% grown", but it somehow still said "38 minutes left" or some such, and after that time, they grew and I harvested them. It was bizarre.

May your invasions give you many brains,
-Bry

Saturday, March 27, 2010

PROJECT(S): Boot from existing partition in VM / Moving extended to primary

The reason I really wanted to do this is because I have Windows 7 installed. I want to have it installed to a true partition rather than a virtual disk because if I ever switch over to it, that will make it easy as possible. Also, I got a game, Shadowrun, which can only run on Vista/7, and since I don't use 7 for anything right now, I hate the idea of having to boot into 7 just to play a game. I know it's possible because of sites like this one, but I'm not sure if it's doable in my certain circumstance.

So I am trying to get it where I can mount a "pointer" that will be like a virtual disk, only instead of actually being a disk it will just 'point' to the existing partition. So far, I've come up with some problems:
(1) The only people that care enough about things like this use Linux
(2) Windows 7 totally jacked up my MBR.

I decided to triple boot when I first built my PC and I installed the OSes in a very specific order. If I am remembering correctly, I used Parted Magic to partition the disk to two NTFS's and a blank remainder, then I installed XP, then I installed another XP and then upgraded that one to 7, then lastly I installed Crunchbang and a swap on the remainding empty.

Anyway, since I had XP installed before 7, 7 decided to be a jerk and steal XP's spot in the boot record. I don't know why. It's been a while since I've dealt with this, but I think what it was is that Vista installed into an extended partition inside XP's primary partition, and since you can't boot from an extended partition, that caused some trouble with virtualization.

I don't know too much about types of partitions, but I've read everywhere that you can't boot from an extended partition, but for some reason, when I choose in grub to boot from the first partition (XP's), it brings up 7's bootloader. My best guess is that 7 installed itself into an extended partition and then installed a bootloader into XP's primary partition. 7's a jerk.

So anyway, that's freaking annoying in terms of real disks because I toyed with GRUB for days trying to get 7 to work. (I'm not too advanced with GRUB, mostly because I don't know how to label the disks and count the partitions). After finally figuring out it was extended instead of primary, I discovered that you can't boot from an extended so I wasn't wrong with all my trial and error. Microsoft just decided to screw me. But anyway, I can't add it to grub, I can only add a "Windows XP/7" entry which will point to the 7 bootloader, which I can then use to pick XP or 7.

So it's annoying in physical aspects, but also in virtual. Because it's extended, I'm fairly sure that I can't boot straight into it. I might be able to boot into XP's primary partition and then select 7 in the bootloader, but that really worries me because then I'll technically be booting into the partition that I'm using (and that reminds me too much of the Futurama episode where they ended out with their own universe in a box). I'm not positive, but I think I can remember reading that attempting to virtually boot into the partition you are currently using either (a) is impossible or (b) could fatally damage that partition, or quite possibly both.

The only way that I can think of to substantially reduce my headaches and make everything extremely simple is to move the Windows 7 installation from extended to primary. Now I am fairly sure that it's not that easy. I know you can't just boot into Parted Magic, right click an extended partition and click "Switch to primary", and be on your merry way. When I say 'move', I mean most likely copying the partition to a ghost image or an ISO, deleting the extended, and creating a new primary in its place, then restoring the file. That sounds easy, but I'm not sure how possible it is. The way I'm thinking about it, it wouldn't effect the XP partition at all (which is my biggest concern). My next concern would be if I copied the partition to a primary but since it was set up with a bootloader it wouldn't work properly or something like that. (But then maybe I could use the recovery CD to restore the 7 MBR? But then that may mess up XP's MBR.....) And that's all assuming that copying like I described is possible.

So those are two projects that I'm going to look into someday.
PROJECT PART-IN-A-(V)BOX:  Boot from existing partition in a virtual machine
PROJECT "FIRST PRIME": Moving contents of an extended partition to an identical but bootable primary partition.

Ah, the beauties of being an aspiring nerd. So much to learn, so much to mess up trying to figure it out.
-Bry

PS - I give all my projects wicked code names.

Rename Microsoft's egomaniacal folders

I was just going to do a little messing around with my computer's disk configuration, and I noticed that on right clicking "My Computer" in my start menu, there was an option called "Rename". God I feel stupid. How have I used Windows XP for years and not known that you can rename places like that? I always hated the fact that Windows called it "My _____" like Computer, Documents, Music, etc. But I just feel freaking retarded to think that I never bothered to check if there was an easy way to rename.

The saddest part is that I know you can change the location of these folders from their original place, which I've even already done (because having "My Documents" under "Documents and Settings" is downright stupid to me. I think Microsoft dropped it there because they were expecting computer novices [which might be partially accurate considering the ratio of computer users from when XP was released to now] so they throw it in some part of the hard drive that isn't obvious) because I like having My Documents on the root layer of the drive.

Now the only question is, will this throw off all of my shortcuts and such, and I'm thinking that it will. I've already tried using a shortcut in my Rocketdock for My Pictures, and it doesn't work anymore. The interesting thing is that the My Documents one worked, but I think that's because it's a specific Rocketdock feature, that is, it checks the registry for the location of "My Documents", whereas my Pictures shortcut is literally just a shortcut. The thing that surprises me is that Windows doesn't ask you "Are you sure you want to change this? It might make your crap stop working" like it sometimes does when you delete/move folders.

I dunno why, but this delights me. I feel really stupid for not realizing it sooner. Another thing I want to briefly mention is the whole changing the My Documents location deal. From what I can remember, it's actually a bit of a hassle because you have to boot into safemode, change the registry in various locations and if you don't get them all, it reverts back. And if you already moved all the stuff over to the new location, it will find missing files or folder or such.....in other words, it's dumb. So I was thinking that -with my limited knowledge of Autohotkey, I might make a utility to do that for you. True, you'd still have to do it in safe mode probably, but at least you wouldn't have to dig through regedit, you could just use the utility to set the programs and then it could even backup that part of the registry and even move all the files to the new location. If I end out having to switch those folders again, I'll probably write a utility while I do.

So yeah, this was literally a spur of the moment post, but I was just excited. And I know it's extremely obvious and I have no idea why I missed this, but I guess that's why "aspring" is in the blog title.

Still aspiring through all the "hurr durr" moments,
-Bry

Friday, March 26, 2010

Twitter, Twitter, everywhere, and not a byte to Tweet.

I'm always the latest to know about the newest social networking site. I dodged the whole Myspace train for as long as possible, I was one of the last people I know to get a Facebook, and I just got a Twitter before Google released Buzz. But ever since I've gotten a Twitter, I've really started noticing how Twitter is everywhere. I used to just glance over the whole "Follow me!" because I couldn't follow because I wasn't tweeting, but now that I have the ability to follow people, it's almost overwhelming how everyone has to have a Twitter.

I actually did have a Twitter before, for FreewareWire (which I so scarcely updated...), and I actually had to use that account to follow my Macroeconomics teacher. That sounds a little strange, doesn't it? My teacher used Twitter to tweet out assignments and messages. But it goes beyond teachers. Everything you can possibly think of has a Twitter. Bands have a twitter, stores have a twitter, everyone has a Twitter. Now it kind of makes sense to me for bands to have a twitter because (a) there are actually a tangible amount of people in that band, and (b) they actually have news to share with people, even if it's just personal life. But stores like Walmart, pizza places and such....what's the point? I understand Facebook Pages a bit more because they have a bit more room to wiggle, like posting things and such. But Twitter is supposed to be used to keep up with people, and how can you keep up with Walmart, or other giant stores that are not a person?


Why am I picking on Twitter instead of Facebook? I guess it's because Facebook is such a collaboration of everything someone likes. I become a fan of something partly because of the status update that will go out to my friends saying "Jon Bry has become a fan of ______" and because it will add on to the list of things I am a fan of. But I rarely become a fan because I want to see their stuff in my news bulletin (with the exception of Teefury and Swagbucks).

Plus, Twitter is 140 characters, mostly used with phones. What can stores and such do with 140 characters? And really, if they're just going to try to advertise when I start following them, odds are, I'll un-follow them because I want to see tweets that are worth reading, not advertisements.

Basically it's just become a must, just like having a website is. If you really want to succeed as a business/store/band/anything out to make money, you have to have a website. That didn't used to be true, but now, it essentially is. Now, every celebrity/store/website/band/etc has to have "Follow me/us on Facebook and Twitter!"

Did you like my title? It made me cry a little when I thought it up, cause I thought it was so clever.

Tweet tweet,
-bry
@notbryant & @caniquoteyou

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Altec Lansing SoundBar Speakers

Because of the unique setup of my desk (and because I'm always extremely cluttered), I really have no room for speakers. My monitor just fits in its space and so there's no room for tall speakers on the right and left which means they either have to go in front of the monitor and block my view, or behind the monitor and have the sound blocked. That's when I thought of getting a speaker bar.

First let me say that finding a speaker bar for computers is freaking hard. In the end, I think I found 2 or 3 that weren't specifically for laptops. So my choices were limited, and to be honest, I took a pretty calculated risk. The product that I leaned toward from the beginning was the Altec Lansing SoundBar. Back when I bought it (Feb 10), there were around 25 reviews with some saying it was amazing and others saying that it sucked. It wasn't overwhelmingly clear if it was good or not, but I still decided to try. Now here's what I think after having it for a few months.
Pros:
  • Solid Construction: When I first picked it up, I thought that the grey area was actually made of metal just because of it's weight. I really haven't owned that many computer speakers in my lifetime, but all the ones in the past have been so extremely bulky yet light, I could tell that most of it is just hollow. This one's got some weight to it, and I don't know why, but that makes me feel better about it. Granted, that means it's not as "portable", but then this isn't a laptop speaker, it's designed to fit under your desktop monitor. 
  • Stands on feet: This is something I wasn't expecting. It has two feet instead of just sitting on the desk like I had initially visualized, and the reason behind it is that most monitors have a stand that sticks out in front, and having the speakers on feet allows you to get your speakers as close to your monitor (which is great when every inch of desk counts, like mine)
  • Volume Wheel: Maybe it's just because my last computer speakers we're built into a Dell monitor, but I've discovered that I love having a physical wheel for volume. I can know exactly how loud it's set to just by looking, and when it's sitting right in front of your monitor, it's just a quick flick of the wrist to turn your volume up and down.
  •  Mute+On/Off: Another feature I wasn't expecting was being able to mute the speakers (not the PC, the speakers) just by pressing the volume button. Not necessary, but really handy. Similarly, you the wheel controls On/Off, which I thought was cool, just because my last real speakers had a separate button for On/Off and now my speakerbar has condensed it.
  • Aux in + Headphones!: This was two things I was really hoping for in a pair of speakers and they both really won me over, especially the prior. First it has an 1/8" auxillary in port on the side so you can plug in your iPod right there. This really won me over, since I was planning on buying an iPod dock after this and I thought it would be amazing to just hook my dock up to my speakers and never have either of them move. But it also has a headphone jack, which I admit may be fairly standard, but it's still wonderful.
  • Blue light: What can I say? I love blue when it comes to computers and accessories.
Those are the reasons I bought it, and so far, every single one of those has been as great as I imagined (except for the Aux in feature, but I think I'll talk about that in the Dock review). After owning it for a few months, here's what I think of it:

The sound quality is surprisingly good. It really doesn't sound like computer speakers; it sounds more like a half breed between computer speakers and a CD player. That is, the sound is better than average computer speakers, but not quite as good as a CD player. Anyway, I'm impressed with them. I've used them for music, gaming, and then the daily use (eg, Pidgin sound notifications), and I've never noticed that they've been terrible.
I have noticed that it's had.....issues with certain frequencies. I really can't put my finger on it, but occasionally, when playing music, a certain range will just sound 'off' (that's the best way I can described it). It's not really all that awful, since I don't hear it all the time, and it doesn't sound terrible when I do hear it. It just makes me think "Huh, that's weird".
As for range, I was impressed with that too. I was a tad concerned that the range would be limited since it was a bar and there are only three speakers, but from the setup I have (which I think is fairly typical, as in where the monitor is, where I am, how high I sit, etc), I get all the fullness of the sound. I have noticed that when I stand up or scoot back or whatnot a bit of the sound disappears, so I can imagine a special case where you might have the setup made in such a way that you 'dodge' the sound, but I don' think that would be the normal case.
Otherwise, it's been great. Absolutely everything I wanted. It was a bit pricey at $40 (with Amazon's Free Super Saver Shipping), but I personally think it was well worth it. Now I have not only good sound for my computer and speakers that fit my unique desk arrangement, and speakers for my iPod, ere the need ever arise.

I would recommend it to anyone who isn't an audiophile.*

Can you hear me now? Good.
-Bry

*Because I'm not an audiophile and you can't really speak for one unless you are one, and I don't want an audiophile yelling at me because this speaker system isn't up to their standards.

Spamazon

I love Amazon. I do. Maybe it's the Free Super Saver Shipping. Maybe it's the fact that it has almost anything you can think of. Maybe it's because of the Universal Wishlist. Maybe it's because Swagbucks has Amazon gift cards. Anyway, it's quickly become a site that I check for a reference on almost everything that I'm thinking about buying. I signed up for an Amazon account a while ago, and there's really only been one annoyance that I've found: Spam.

I don't know why, but sometimes I either accidentally or purposefully check the "E-mail me updates" box when signing up, and then feel too bad to unsubscribe. I'm still subscribed on my spam Gmail account to this annoying tech tips newsletter, and I still won't unsubscribe for God knows why. But the reason I subscribed to Amazon is either (a) they didn't ask me, or (b) I guess I was interested in deals. To be honest, they have sent out some pretty good deals, some of which were actually relevant to me. It sent out suggestions for earbuds right around the time I was going to buy a new iPod. (I didn't end out buying any, though, because I remembered that my new iPod would come with earbuds.) But then it just seems to get to be so much that you call it "spam".

First off, I get an e-mail at least once a week about "Deals in electronics" since I've shopped there (or at least looked around there) quite a bit. That's not too bad, but then I also get a "Rate your recent transaction" after I buy anything. A little annoying, since I really don't want to rate my transaction with every little thing I buy. Then lastly, I get "Accessorize your order" e-mails after buying and receiving an item.

This is really what inspired the whole post. I bought some Altec Lansing speakers for my PC a while ago, and after I had received then and got them working and loved them, I get an e-mail from Amazon: "Accessorize Your Amazon.com Altec Lansing SoundBar Speakers Purchase." Um, am I dumb, or aren't speakers an accessory? What can you do to accessorize accessories? That lead me to thinking, I wonder (if I had more money) if I just kept buying "accessories", how far down the line I could make it. How long could I go until Amazon realized that there's no such thing as an accessory to an accessory to an accessory to an accessory to an accessory? Anyway, it recommended a surge protector and two different pairs of headphones. It just seems a little absurd to me.

The last thing that really annoys me is that they have "Recommendations"  for products that I've already bought. Like I bought a wireless card a while back, and soon after, I sign into Amazon, and all of my recommendations are filled with other wireless cards. Um, I just bought one, I'm not going to buy another right now. Same with an iPod dock I just bought too. I mean, I can understand suggesting "accessories", but alternatives? If anything, I'll just get upset because one of the recommendations will be better than the one I bought (which rarely happens, since I tend to research the heck out of everything before buying), but I still won't buy any recommendations because I already have a dock or speakers or a mouse, and I can't just throw it out and buy another one because I'm not made of money.


Before I sound like I'm really just ranting, I thought I'd say, Amazon is not the worst or only site who does this. I just thought the title was clever. I also get Newegg's e-mail every week or so, and that mostly annoys me because they advertise all these great $499 systems! Well, that's wonderful, only I just built a PC, and to be honest, I probably won't need/buy a new one for another 2 years. My point is, why advertise every week for something people buy every few years? I guess they assume that there's enough people out there that there's a person buying a new PC every week, but still, it's annoying to everyone else. I love Newegg, and I love their deals. I just wish it was on something other than complete systems 99% of the time.

Geeks be shopping,
Bry

[UPDATE 4-4-10] Last week I got an e-mail from Amazon giving suggestions based on an item in my wishlist, the Firefly TV series set. It also showed the price of it, which had dropped by probably $10 from the last time I checked it ($20 from $30), so I bought it there on the spot, from my iPod. (I combined it with the card game "Bohnanza", but that was just to get the free shipping.) Anyway, point being, I remember why I get a ton of crap from Amazon that I never want to read: because every once and a while, they'll surprise me with something grand. Here's looking at you, Amazon.

[UPDATE 8-30-10] I just looked in my trash folder and realized that I get an e-mail from Amazon every day. It wouldn't be so annoying if it wasn't suggesting stuff that I never even wanted in the first place. Like about a month ago, I looked briefly through the car headsets for a secondary monitor, and Amazon is still sending me e-mails about the Automotive section. Or I found a cool Dr. Pepper casafe that I might want, and Amazon sends me e-mails about Safes and Security now. The real reason I keep subscribed is that now and then, Amazon tells me it's having a killer deal on DVDs so I look through the ones on sale. But it might not be worth it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

iTunes + Quicktime = invasion

I feel that I'm slightly addicted to iTunes. Back when I got my first iPod, a Video (may he rest in peace), iPods were quite literally the only mp3 players I knew about, and to some extent, they were ahead of the competition. So I naturally installed iTunes on my PC, mostly because I didn't know much about iPods or mp3 players in general, so I figured that iTunes was the only program available. 3 years later, I'm afraid they have me trapped.

First let me say that I have detached myself from the iTunes store. DRM never really bothered me, mostly because I had ways of getting around it, but I mostly continued to use it because (1) the only other online store me or my brothers had tried was Walmart, which sold DRM protected WMAs, with volumes that SUCKED, and (2) I liked how it got credited to my iTunes account, automatically got added to my library, etc. Well, a while ago, I finally got around to getting an Amazon account, and a nerdy friend suggested to me that their mp3 store was better than iTunes, and I agree. Amazon doesn't have DRM, has a higher bitrate than iTunes (256 vs 128, I believe), and is MP3. So I haven't actually bought any songs off it yet, but I know that's what I'm going to be using. Plus, if you get the Amazon MP3 Downloader, it automatically adds them to your iTunes library, and saves them to a specified folder (two things I loved about iTunes store).

But anyway, I'm still fairly addicted just because now that I have a Touch, you pretty much have to use iTunes to sync the apps and such, otherwise they wouldn't be backed up, and I don't want to lose the ones I buy. Plus, really, nothing syncs everything as good as iTunes, especially with the Touch because it's so new.


So I stick with iTunes, regrettably. I'll admit, most of the time when they pop up their annoying "There's a new iTunes version!" window, I sigh with disgust and close it. But eventually, I put it off for so long, I decide that I might as well.

Anyone else notice that iTunes gets worse and worse with each release? And I'm not talking about a few steps in the wrong direction, I'm talking leaps and bounds. Every new release seems to be twice as bulky, twice as slow, and twice as buggy as the last. It's funny because I use iTunes version 6 (or maybe it's 4....) for certain reasons (certainly not ones that have to do with removing DRM) and I'm always amazed at how fast iTunes 6 (or 4) is in comparison. Sure, it doesn't have as many features, but most of them, I never wanted or use.

If that wasn't bad enough, iTunes is bundled with Quicktime. I dislike Quicktime. Possibly more than iTunes. Why? Maybe it's because I'm so used to Windows that the Mac-ish interface confuses me. Maybe because it doesn't support all the files I want to play. Maybe because it's spyware. It's bundled with iTunes even though it doesn't need to be (sure, parts of Quicktime may be needed by iTunes, but I sincerely doubt all of it), and every time you install it, it sets itself as the default for media files.

Let me say that again: every time you install it, it sets itself as the default for media files. If you're a nerd, is that ringing any alarms? A program that sets file associations for common files without asking you? Sounds like spyware to me. Plus, it recreates Start Menu shortcuts every time it installs. That means that if you moved iTunes or Quicktime shortcuts around in your start menu, you're going to have duplicates now that you have to delete.

So every time iTunes updates, I have to reinstall Quicktime, a program I never wanted, asked for, or use, and then reset my file associations to MPC. Usually, I would call this just "annoying" except it's by Apple. Apple has got to know that this is annoying. But instead of making Quicktime optional, or even asking you "Do you want to make Quicktime the default program for opening files?" like every other good program out there, they force it on you, which sucks.

Apple, why don't you just stop being jerks and actually try to please the consumer rather than trick them? If Quicktime is good enough for me to use, then by golly, I'll use it; I'm someone who installs heeeeecksalot of freeware, and if Quicktime is free, I'll gladly install it. But if you trick me, I'll just throw it in the darkest nether regions of my hard drive, never to see the light of day, like Windows Movie Maker.

Resisting the invasion (partly),
Bry

iTunes/Pidgin clash

For my music library management, I'm trapped in the half-hell that is iTunes because I do love Apple's iPod, and as for instant messaging, though I've tried at least 9 other multiprotocol IMs, I still love the feel of Pidgin the most. So I often run them at the same time.

I usually like to multitask, especially when I'm talking on IM. One of the things I'll sometimes do is add lyrics to my songs in iTunes via copy+paste, and then tweaking (because most lyrics sites are incorrect, space the lines poorly, don't capitalize, have question marks, etc). So it was to my great surprise that I found that iTunes and Pidgin have a bit of a quarrel. I first noticed when I was chatting with somebody and editing lyrics at the same time. I tried to switch from the item info window back to Pidgin only to find that I could not click anywhere in the Pidgin window. It was seemingly unresponsive. Next I tried to click in the buddy list, but it showed the same symptoms. I tried to close the Pidgin window (not quit, just close), but it would not close. I expected the "This program is not responding" to appear, but it did not. I checked my task manager: it reported both iTunes and Pidgin as working fine. I was confused.

Anyway, to make an extremely short story very long, I finally realized that iTunes has a habit of freezing things up, so I saved the item info and prepared to close iTunes down, until I realized that right after I closed the item info window, Pidgin came back to life.

I don't know why, but this 'bug' is entirely repeatable. Every time I have any dialog open from iTunes (item info, Preferences, etc), Pidgin and all its windows are unresponsive. The minute I close the dialog, Pidgin springs back to life. It's the darndest thing.

I just now had the thought that maybe it's not Pidgin, but GTK, so I opened GIMP to test another Windows GTK app, but it seemed to work fine. So I'm at a quandary.

Really not that much of a problem, especially since I know an easy fix. It's really only annoying because sometimes I like to use song lyrics as my IM status, so I go to iTunes to Copy+Paste from the lyrics tab in the item info window, but I can't switch back to Pidgin until I close the dialog. Again, not much of a problem, but it does make a nerd-in-training wonder....

With many purple apples,
Bry

Saturday, March 6, 2010

YourMusic & CDUniverse

A while ago, I decided I wanted to start buying alot more CDs, partly because I wanted to broaden my music horizons, and also because I 'borrowed' some music that I ended out liking and wanting to pay for and subsequently own a physical copy of. Since I hate shopping and love online shopping, I looked around for the best place to buy CDs online (that is, the best selection for the cheapest price). I came to a site called "YourMusic". The deal was that you build a 'queue' of CDs, and every month on your 'music date', you're charged $6.99 and the CD at the top of your music queue is shipped for you. In addition, you can buy CDs you want at any time for just $6.99 - no extra shipping and handling required.

Sounds great, yeah? That's what I thought. I mean, looking anywhere else on the web, finding CDs for $7 is next to impossible, and with no shipping? Freakin sweet. So without much investigation, I joined up. Then as I was looking around, I discovered that their selection was.......sub par.............it sucked. I was looking for Regina Spektor, and although she seems like a fairly well known artist, there were no CDs from her for sale. Or Damien Rice, or Vertical Horizon, or any of the CDs that I had joined the site to buy. But I though, "Oh well, I can still broaden my music taste by buying music I'm not familiar with."

So anyway, my first music date comes on December 29th, right toward the end of the year. And YourMusic.....well, here's my PayPal complaint I filed below:
My Music Date was December 29th. According to YourMusic, "In-stock items usually ship within 72 hours of Your Music Date." I'm a patient man, and I realize that the CD in my queue is fairly popular right now so I waited a few days. But then I became concerned so I contacted YourMusic via the form on their website asking where my order was on Jan 6. They say to allow 2 days for a reply, so I waited 2 days, and no reply came. I again used the form on Jan 10, asking them this time for either an explanation or a refund if my item was not shipped soon. I even stated that I would open a Paypal dispute if they did not at least reply. I've waited two more days for a response to EITHER of my two inquiries, and neither have come. Now it's getting close to my second Music Date, and my first item has not even shipped yet, although I was charged the day of my Music Date. I've been very patient, and I tried to contact them multiple times, just looking for an explanation, but there has been absolutely no effort on YourMusic's part to answer my questions. I do realize that if the CD was out of stock it could take a while to get a copy to ship, but again, I DEMAND an explanation. If the item was out of stock at the time of my Music Date, YourMusic should've let me know that it would be a few weeks before they could ship it or could've even offered the option to choose a different CD. Instead, I've waited two weeks without so much as a word. I am a patient guy, but YourMusic is just being incompetant. I expect items I buy online to ship closely adhering to the time stated by the site ("72 hours"), and I expect websites to let me know if an shipment will be delayed. Instead, I've waited 336 hours (almost 5x what they promised), and received not even a word from the customer support (whom I *know* got my messages since I got an autogenerated reply). All this time, all I've wanted was either a refund for a CD that is never coming, or an explanation. Is that really too much to ask?
Basically, my whole thought process behind the ordeal was that upon joing, "This seems too good to be true." As time passed after the 72-hour period, I began to wonder if I was right. I mean, there are scam sites out there everywhere, who's to say I didn't just get scammed? But the most troubling thing was that they never ever replied to me. At all. Right after I joined, I sent them an e-mail asking about whether or not they'll ever have artists like Regina Spektor or Damien Rice, and I never got a response. Then I sent them three messages wondering where my order is, and a PayPal dispute that I actually won, and they didn't evens respond to me getting my money back.

Finally, after I get my money back and am ready to quit, they ship my CD. Then, on the 26th/27th, I finally get messages in reply to my earlier inquiries about my order. The first acted like nothing ever happened, saying when my order was shipped, how long to allow it to get there, etc, the obvious autogenerated response. The second actually responded to my questions and said "Due to a processing error your order was delayed..." Well that's great. There's four words I wanted to hear. "Your Order Was Delayed." Was that really so hard? All you had to do was send me those 4 words in response to my first request, and I would've been more patient. (By the way, even the e-mail I got was most likely autogenerated.)

So to sum up my opinion of YourMusic, they are grossly incompetent. Business websites have two basic responsibilities: (A) Deliver what you promise, and (B) Fix it when you don't (AKA, customer service). Yourmusic really doesn't have either. If they delivered my music on time, I wouldn't have had to deal with their crappy customer service. If they would have replied to my e-mails (I mean really reply, not autogenerate responses literally a month later), I would've been ok with the late music. The thing that's the most ironic is that they sent me the CD after my refund. They're either too incompetent to realize that I just got free music, or they're trying to say "Sorry!" after being a jerk to me. Either way, it's extremely amusing to me.

You take a gamble when you sign up with this site, that's all I'm going to say. I'm going month by month right now, constantly watching as every music date draws near. My second music date went off without a hitch, and my third one was a tad slow, but it says it's shipped. It's basically the crappiest customer service I've ever had, which is saying something, cause I've dealt with Dell numerous times.


If you want an alternative to YourMusic, I highly recommend CDUniverse. Why? Let me tell you:
  • WAY better selection than YourMusic; has almost every CD I've searched for, plus Deluxe Editions and the like
  • Good Prices; I've bought large quantities of music from them multiple times, and even with shipping, I averaged on about $11 a CD on one order, which is pretty good considering I got a few Deluxe/Special Editions.
  • AMAZING customer service; I did have a fair amount of trouble receiving a pre-order, because apparently you have to pay for shipping as the pre-order release date draws near....but (huge but there) CDUniverse's customer service was more than excellent. They literally e-mailed back within one business day, without auto-response. They even gave me free shipping on my second pre-order since it took a few weeks to get my first one sorted out.
So basically I've had problems with both YourMusic and CDUniverse. The difference is CDUniverse handled it alot better. I had more money on the line with CDU ($13 for a pre-order) than with YourMusic ($7) but I still felt more safe with CDU, partially because I'd ordered from them before and they always came through. Yourmusic, on the other hand, messed up my first order, which will forever taint my view of them, and they made no visible effort to change that view. CDUniverse responded back immediately, and YourMusic ignored and autoresponded me. CDUniverse offered to refund me some money, and YourMusic made me charge after them for a refund. CDUniverse has a ton of CDs, YourMusic has next to crap. I'll let you decide.


-Bry

Friday, March 5, 2010

Volume

This is somewhat random, but I kind of get overwhelmed by volume sometimes. Not loud volume, just the amount of it.

For example, when I'm using my headset after people in my house have gone to sleep, I have billions of different volume controls I can fiddle with.
  • Main System Volume
  • Wave System Volume
  • Media Player Volume (iTunes, MPC, Grooveshark, etc)
  • Speaker Volume
  • Headset Volume
I dunno, I just find it a tad confusing at times. Like when it's turned up way too loud, and the volume on my speakers and headset are both really low, but then I discover that  the System volume and the iTunes volume are all the way up.

Don't get me wrong, it's great. It's just like......so many choices.

This boring, random moment brought to you by:
-Bry

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

My (First) PC Build

So I thought I'd post a little bit about the PC I built. It was my first ever, which made it an experience for me. I really learned alot, and I plan to build all my PCs from hereon out. Anyway, enough blabber, now: the parts, stats, and my opinions.


 
GIGABYTE GZ-X2BPD-500
I got this case because I thought it looked cool. It was $20 less than the other cases, and I thought that was just a plus. But I was wrong. I accidentally stepped on the front ports, which broke the USB and audio ports, which sucks, but that's my fault for trying to walk around while the light is off.
PROS: Cheaper than the other cases, excellent blue light in front. Came with a 120mm exhaust silent fan; not sure on the airflow rate, but it is VERY silent.
CONS: Slot was too small for hard drive (forced it in [which was a bad idea on my part]). The metal clamp that's supposed to keep PCI cards in place is designed poorly so that it doesn't clamp when the PCI cards are in. The metal PCI slits that you take off to take to let the cards stick out the back break off, which (I've heard) isn't as good as if you can pop them in and out. Didn't come with an intake fan (which I didn't know you needed, but it's apparently crucial).
SUMMARY: Looks good! But that's about it. Isn't very well constructed.



CORSAIR CMPSU-550VX
Had this one recommended to me because it has a very high efficiency and is made by a reliable brand. (According to Newegg, "Voted 2009 Best Power Supply Manufacturer by Custom PC Magazine". Make of that what you will.) It has some nice features for Nvidia, even though I didn't get an NVidia card.
PROS: Good looking PSU (not that that's too important...) Cables are all wrapped in....lanyards...I don't know the right term. Fan is very silent.
CONS: None, really. Love this PSU, as far as PSUs go. The cords are a tad long (to accommodate for large cases), so they do kinda cramp up the inside of mah case.
SUMMARY: Great PSU. Period. Quiet, efficient, all I could ask for.


SAPPHIRE 100295HDMI Radeon HD 4670
I really didn't know much about GPU, and I still really don't. I asked people what a good card to play games like Left4Dead 2 would be, and they suggested this. The reason I went along with it is because (almost) all the graphics cards I've had have been ATI, and they've all worked ok without any major problems.
PROS: Very quiet fan. Works with all the games I've thrown at it (the most demanding being Left4Dead 2). 512MB GDDR3 RAM. HDMI port.
CONS: None, really.
SUMMARY: Great, no complaints, just works.


LG W1943TB-PF
I found this one all on my own! One of the only pieces that wasn't suggested to me at all.
PROS: 18.5" widescreen (just big enough for my desk [19"]).1366 x 768 resolution, which is even bigger than what I wanted. Response time is 5ms (for gaming). Contrast Ratio is 30000:1!
CONS: No HDMI port (I didn't want one anyway). Light is red, I wanted blue (waaaaah!).
SUMMARY: Great, great monitor. Light, large, beautifully brilliant, and great for gaming.






PATRIOT PDC22G6400LLK
I just wanted 2GB cause I still use Windows XP. Actually, I wanted 4GB, but didn't want to cough up the dough.
PROS: Low timing (4-4-4-12). Heat shield. Good brand (I was told).
CONS: None! (But I don't know much about cons for RAM.)
SUMMARY: Great RAM!



Western Digital Caviar Black WD5001AALS
I've had Western Digital before and I've always been vastly impressed. Plus, it was recommended to me.
PROS: 500GB is just the size I needed. RPM speed is great (7200 RPM).
CONS: Nothing, really.
SUMMARY: Great drive. All that I could ask for.





Athlon II X3 435
I'm not sure, but I think I got this right as it was coming out. It wasn't even on Newegg yet.
PROS: Decently fast.
CONS: Tends to run hot, even though that might be the case or my setup.
SUMMARY: No problems yet, really (besides a few heat warnings). Great processor.





GIGABYTE GA-MA785GM-US2HJust had this one suggested to me. Tried my best to understand if it was what I wanted.
PROS: Two PCIe slots. Supports my CPU socket. Respectable FSB (2600MHz).
CONS: Says has 6 USB 2.0, but I'm unsure about two of them.....I'm pretty sure I've seen the "this device could perform faster" dialog.
SUMMARY:  Great mobo, for my first one.




That's it for my initial build. As you can see, I'm still a novice (well, I'm hoping at least an intermediate-novice) when it comes to hardware. I tried my best to learn as much as I could but there is a heck of a lot of information for each piece.

There's some other stuff I tagged on later, piece by piece, like a keyboard, an external DVD drive, a gaming mouse, a wireless card, and speakers, but I think I'm going to make a separate post for each of those later on, because I have a bit more to say about all of those.

Later taters.
-Bry

Every day is repost day/My Homsar

Because I have either a low self esteem and am continually looking for acceptance, or I have a big ego and want it to be stroked, I like to google around and see where my software is mentioned on the web. I didn't do it at all before Ghacks wrote about PEM, which brought a flood of people to FreewareWire. (Before, I was getting 1, maybe 2 people a day. Then I got 100. Not too impressive...except it was literally overnight.)

But anyway, it's actually really fun, to see just what people say about your program. But what kind of annoys me is how many times I saw Ghacks' post. I just don't understand sites that never post original content, they just take the feed of a popular site, like Ghacks, turn it around, and republish it. If people wanted to read that, why not just go to the original site (like Ghacks)? It just seems lazy, to me.


The only other reason that that pisses me off so much is that Ghacks....well.....how do I put this diplomatically? I really appreciate the fact that they've featured some of my programs, I do. But their review process is really kind of sloppy. They've made mistakes in both of the reviews that they've posted about my software.

ERROR #1: P.E.M.
If you read any post from FreewareWire, you notice that I put the software name, then a (supposed-to-be) witty comment of sorts after a colon. For PEM, I thought up another thing the acronym could stand for, and on the spot, typed "Pure Enigmatic Magic". Well, Ghacks, in their incredible wisdom, took this and ran with it, saying, "The creation of PEM, Pure Enigmatic Magic..." At first, I understood the confusion. But then I went back to the blogpost about PEM, and say that I even said in the second sentence, "PEM stands for Portable Extension Manager." After Ghacks, I noticed that alot of other sites picked up PEM, and alot of them repeated the mistake, which is when I really began to get pissed off. I told the creator of Ghacks the mistake, but as you can see, no change. I went back to the blogpost and edited the title to the real meaning, but Ghacks remains the same.

 ERROR #2: SKEYS
As I was searching, I was surprised to find that Ghacks had again picked one of my programs to write about, this time, being Skeys. I actually very muchly enjoyed the review, except the fact that they left out a core piece of usability: nicknaming. Halfway through the review, I read (to my horror) "Key identification is problematic as all keys are using cryptic identifiers." Again, they miss something that I blatantly put in the blog post. An entire paragraph, actually. Last sentence: "So when you find which button is for the key you want to use, right click it, and you assign that key its "Nickname", which will make it 100 times easier to identify." How can that be mistaken? It was right after the section about Autocheck, which he even mentioned in the post.


Overall, I am dissapointed because it seems the reviewer only does shoddy work. He obviously skimmed my post on PEM, and I doubt he even downloaded it, since it freakin says "Portable Extension Manager" in the title bar. Then for Skeys, he again skimmed through the post, missing an entire paragraph, this time not just mistaking a name, but actually damaging the image of my program, and that, to me, is unacceptable. I worked very hard to put in all those features, and Nicknaming is no different. But saying that something is "problematic" and "cryptic" is not a good way to suggest my program, it's a good way to scare people away.

I suppose I shouldn't complain. I guess I'd rather have a post with something incorrect/misleading about my freeware rather than no post at all.

-Bry

Psst! - If you want to see where else my apps are mentioned on the interwebz, check here.

Moved to Google Sites

I used to use a site called Yola to host my FreewareWire Software site, where I kept all the software I've written. But I finally switched over to Google Sites. Why? Well, I'll tell you. Yola sucks. It was probably the most displeasure I've ever had dealing with a website, and that is saying something. Here's a few reasons why:

(1) Editor sucked. To be honest, I didn't use their rich text editor that much, mostly because I wanted everything to look a certain way, and I'd rather start with HTML rather than switch to it halfway through to add something or edit formatting. And let me tell you, their HTML editor SUCKS. They try to make it good by color coding everything and whatnot, but the functionality is just terrible. For a while there, Google Chrome was my main browser, which apparently wasn't supported. So it would delete all of my code for a page literally 5 times, and I'd have to start from scratch each time. It got to the point where I backed up everything to my hard drive. But beyond that, even after I switched back to Firefox, their editor sucks. It did dumb stuff like when you type a single quotation, it will automatically type another quotation and put your cursor inbetween them (ie. "|"). Why? That's just friggin confusing.

(2) Lack of Header. After picking a default theme, it took me forever to get a header image to look good. Even then, it was just an image and clicking it didn't take you to the home page, which is only logical. Basically, I had to turn off the header on every page and substitute the logo in, and that's just dumb.

(3) Static Navigation.  This was what really took the cake for me. Yola automatically keeps track of your navigation, and it does that by putting whatever sites you want in an column to the left of your content. That's great, except I don't want just a list of pages. I want it divided into subsections, like for software, or "contact me", and such. So if you don't go with Yola's built in Navigation feature, you have to put in an HTML strip of links. Doesn't sound so bad, except that HTML strip is different on every single page on your site. So when I wanted to change one little thing, I had to go through 13 different pages, editing the HTML for every one. Plus, add on top of that the fact that since it's HTML, there's no way (to my knowledge) to automatically highlight the currently selected page, so if you want to italicize/bold it, you have to edit that specific option for every page. So summarized, editing something takes literally 10 times longer than it should, and is a pain it the butt to do.

(4) Picture Dropper. This also muchly pissed me off. I host all of my screenshots for my programs on Picasa Web Albums. I type up long posts for each, weave in the images, and then Yola just doesn't show them. It's not like they're hosting them, they're just showing what's being hosted on Picasa, but no. And it's not like it's reliable (or unreliable, I guess). Sometimes it's this picture, sometimes it's that picture......it's just absurd. Unacceptable.

(5). Save/Publish. Another annoying thing about Yola is that there's a difference between "Saving" a page and "Publishing" a page. After Saving, the changes are saved, but if someone else looks at your account, they see the old version. You have to "Publish" the site in order to update the changes. Why? Because Yola wants to annoy you, and show you an ad about buying a domain every time you want to make a change.


Besides those things, I always found Yola's entire interface extremely slow and clumsy. I'm noticing that my Google Site is loading alot faster than my Yolasite. It really should load fast. All it is is about 3 paragraphs of text, a few links, and a few images.

There are a few things I'm going to kind of miss from Yola, dare I say.

-Favicon. Google lets you choose a favicon for your site, but Yola both hosts, AND lets you set the favicon for every page, which I liked.

-Columns. One of the things I immediately disliked about Google is the lack of ability to resize columns. The nice thing about Yola is that you can insert a "column divider" which splits that page into two, then you can resize those two. Then you can insert another column divider into one of those, and so on and so forth. Google lets you choose a bit from columns and sidebars and such, but it doesn't let you drag to resize, which I will miss.

-Wufoo/Javascript. One of the amazing things I learned about through Yola is called Wufoo, which is a free site that lets you have up to three forms on your site. The forms look good, are very customizable, and e-mail you when you get a new entry. I used these forms for things like "Contact me" and even the "Guestbook". Unfortunately, Google doesn't let you put Wufoo on your site. Let me rephrase that: Google doesn't let you put Javascript on your site. That's absurd. I can't even make a link open in a new window (via HTML, at least) anymore because of that. I have to link to the Wufoo site rather than having it embedded. I haven't really used Javascript for anything else, but it feels a tad like Apple not allowing Flash on the iPhone: just a big company trying to control the people.


Despite those, there are things I'm surprised by, and happy to find:
+HTML Editor is not half bad. And doesn't crash to make you lose all your work.

+Header is customizable. AND it clicks back to the home page.

+Navigation is customizable. Right now, I have it set up where I actually have two navigation panels: one for the site stuff, the other for programs. I haven't even set up any program pages yet, but I'm fairly sure it will work out to look nice. Oh, and since it isn't HTML, if I edit it once, it edits everywhere.

+Pictures stay. Haven't seen a picture drop...yet.

+Save means save. I click save, I can instantly see it update in another browser. As it should be.

+Updates. A really nice feature I didn't know about. Basically a feature that creates a feed of pages, so I can use it to say "Updated PEM to version x.x" or "Fixed bug in Skeys" or sum such. I like it.
 
+Files: It also gives you 100mb of space, and there's a page template specifically for hosting files. I don't like a few things about a template, but I think I might be able to work out the kinks.

+Everything is easier: With Yola, I was always having to find a manual workaround: work around the lack of header, work around the poor navigation, etc. Google just works.



I just gotta say, I'm excited. I've had "If you know a better place that does free websites without ads, please tell me...I haaaate this place" on the front of my Yola forever, and I didn't know about Google Sites until recently. (I think I got it confused with Pages, which no longer allows new users.) Leave it to Google to make exactly what I was looking for.

-Bry

Psst! - If you want to check out my new Google Site, click the link here. It's still under a tad of construction, but I'm working on it.