Saturday, October 30, 2010

Great Article about Linux and its problem(s)

Just found a great article written by a Linux Developer (not an absolute noobie like yours truly) discussing why he thinks Linux has (or will) "hit a wall" when it comes to being a valid Desktop OS. So without further ado, here's the link, and a few quotes (though it's honestly hard to pick quotes from, cause it's so good):

Why Linux will (has?) hit a wall in popularity with normal users...
Ben Collins

"So here's the problem as I see it. Too many choices. Debian used to be a free-for-all where all of the choices were exposed to the user. People who used Debian loved the choices, but the fact isn't that they loved the choices, they just loved that their choice was among them."
"If you didn't have a preference, for example with a Desktop environment, then choices are bad for a user. They didn't know how to pick one. So now, there is a default. That's great, but across many Linux distributions, even if the default is Gnome, the little nuances of each system will overwhelmingly differentiate the entire thing so that no Gnome desktop is truly the same as another distribution."
"The real issue at stake is some company needs to break out of the "We're a Linux distribution" mold. If a normal user somehow gets to the Dell Linux page, and they say "wow, what is this Linux thing?", they will surely go to Google.com and start checking. Bad? Hell yes. The huge amount of information, choices and decisions becomes quickly apparent to them."
The comments are interesting too, especially from the author. He made one comment that is worth quoting as well:
"Look, we can go back and forth on who should be "cool enough" to use Linux, but that's not what I'm writing about. It's easy to say "we can't make it dumb enough for you, so you go use the lame Windows/MacOS". However, it takes real talent to make something simple, and powerful."
And now my thoughts on it:
I agree with everything he's said: Linux is choice, but that can get out of hand. Period. You can have too much of a good thing. If you read the comments, alot of the people come from the standpoint of experienced Linux users, disagreeing because they want choice. Is choice in Linux good for experienced users? Yes. I'm not arguing that, and I don't think Ben is either. We're talking about the average user. The people who don't want to have to mess with stuff through terminal to get Xorg working, or have to decide which package management they want to use. Because they don't care. That's not a bad thing, some people just don't like computers and they don't want to deal with the hassle.
Good stuff. Read it. Don't want to? Too bad! I told you to! Now go!
-Bry
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Friday, October 29, 2010

To Program Creators: LEAVE "MY DOCUMENTS" ALONE

Seriously, what the heck? Did I give you permission to save in "My Documents" folder? Well, Overlord? Digsby? NO. I did not. So save somewhere else! My 'My Documents' folder is extremely hard for me to keep clean and tidy, and you're just making it harder. If it's a file I will probably never intentionally open, KEEP IT OUT OF THE FILES I LIKE TO INTENTIONALLY OPEN.
This also goes for programs that like to create folders called "My ____." "My Google Gadgets?" NO. Leave my folder alone! Jerks.
-Bry
PS - I know Windows 7 changed the name of the folder, but you know what I'm saying.
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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dropbox = Resource Hog?

Dropbox has been kinda taxed on my new system since it has to download dozens of gigabytes of data, but still....it's resting at about 1.9GB of RAM. I have 2GB, people. It's gotten to the point where it will freeze up my Netflix viewer and even the Task Manager for a few seconds, and it's kind of unnacceptible to me. I understand that this is probably because it's downloading a ton of data and some huge files (probably my movies in iTunes), but honestly....it should control itself more.
-Bry
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Data loss and recovery

I really.....REALLY don't know how to start this blog post. Well...I guess I already have then, haven't I?

I lost all my data. ALL OF IT. Like I said, I decided to switch to Windows 7 a while ago and I spent two days getting everything set up Then I had to "register" it. Basically I have a key that only works as an upgrade, meaning I'd have to install WinXP 64 bit and then upgrade it from there, which I didn't want to have to do. So I just 'acquired' a 64-bit Win7 install DVD and installed it that way. For some absolutely stupid reason, I decided to get all my data up and running on it before I registered it. That was mistake number 1.

Then I decided that I was going to keep all of my personal data off on my second hard drive (a 1TB drive), separate from the OS. But instead of having it two places, I decided to only have it there. Mistake number 2. So anyway, I ran RemoveWAT (which worked just fine in my brother's situation, which worked fine on my brother's new PC, who was in the same situation as me). When I tried to boot back up, I ran into a Windows error that I can't remember. Basically it came down to the fact that Windows couldn't boot with or without my data disk.

I could go into a long boring story about all the errors I encountered and all the steps I tried to take to fix it.....and that would mean that I actually cared about documenting this nightmare at the time of it. I did not. This was freaking scary for me. All of my data: all my music, my documents, my programming, my everything was gone. Pictures from 10 years ago. Everything. I did not give a rat's ass about this blog post at the time. All I wanted was my data back. So this post is far, far from complete and does not even begin to express all of my frantic attempts to fix the problem.

Anyway, back on track: my first thought was to boot into Linux, so that's what I did. I tried to use GParted to check it, and then "resize" it to the same size, both with no results. It said it was a "segmentation fault," which I quickly learned was both the nastiest and the vaguest error in the Windows world. I tried some Linux recovery utilities like TestDisk and PhotoRec. I had a little success with PhotoRec, except it only recovered certain filetypes and didn't even name them.

Then I tried to fix the disk. It was beginning to look like data recovery was not an option, but if I now knew that all of my files were there, they were just "lost." I grabbed both my Win7 install disk and the Win7 upgrade disk and after learning that the install disk doesn't have any recovery tools, I turned to the upgrade disk and started Googling for answers on my iPhone. I tried bootrec. Over. And over. And over again. FixMBR? Nope. FixBoot? No way. It didn't work.

So now I'm getting extremely desperate and I decide that the best option at this point is to hire someone to recover my data, and I let it sit (plus, I really hadn't gotten much sleep the last few nights since I'd been working on this furiously, and I desparately needed rest). After some well needed rest, I began to look at recovery people in my area. No offense to those people, but they seemed like they catered to the majority of the Windows userbase: the people who know just enough to get on internet. Certainly not the people who know enough to even simply boot into a Live Ubuntu CD to recover files from a virus. But I thought out of all those people, at least one of them had to be able to actually recover the data, and then I thought, what would they have? Well there's a small chance that one of them may be an experience *nix user that could fix the disk in five minutes. But more than likely, they just bought a fairly expensive recovery program and then use it to recovery data for clients. So then I figured, why can't I just do that?

O started to search for NTFS recovery programs. I found one called 1st NTFS Recovery and I started scanning with it, which would take 6 hours. I decided to also use that time to scan with Recuva, which was already install on my families computer (which I was using at the time, since my Win7 boot was -as previously mentioned- not working). It would also take 6 hours. I tried a ton of different programs, all just that would scan for about 6 hours, and here's my results for each:

  • 1st NTFS Recovery ($100): found everything, including directory structure.
  • Recuva (Free): Found files, but froze when I tried to filter, so I wasn't sure if it got everything. Plus, it did not preserve directory structure.
  • Smart NTFS Recovery ($40): didn't even find anything, if I remember correctly.
  • PC Inspector File Recovery (Free): Same as Recuva, essentially.
  • Pandora (Free): Didn't find anything. At all.
  • MiniTool Power Data Recovery (Free): I did a quick scan by scanning and then stopping it and it found a few directories! But then I ran a complete scan and it didn't find anything.

After running MiniTool, I decided that I could either spend more and more time scanning with software that could not work and could possibly even mess up my drive even more, I'd rather empty out my wallt a tad and be guaranteed to have all my data. so I chose 1st NTFS Recovery. It was really sad because I wanted to use Recuva. I had already decided that I would donate a ton to Piriform if it would recover my data. But unfortunately, it couldn't Well, it could, but the thing is, it found something like 500,000 files (it said 1,2 million, but alot of them were 0 bytes). So if I were to use Recuva, it would recover all those files. Into the same directory. I didn't feel like spending literally 2 weeks to a month going file by file, trying to figure out where they go. Plus, since I couldn't view it in a tree, I couldn't even tell if it had every folder and every file, and I didn't want to take that chance.

So I bought a 1st BTFS Recovery license and started recovering. It worked like a charm, which is great. It took a good long while, but it recovered all of my data. And trying to figure out where to temporarily store ~600GB of data on a 250GB internal drive and a 120GB external drive is no easy task. But I did it....somehow, and I upgraded my Dropbox account to the 50GB because right after my accident happened, I decided that $100 a year is definitely worth it to never have to never have to wrory about that feeling of loss again.

So that was half of the story: my data is recovered! Of course, then I had to worry about getting it back onto my 1TB drive and getting my Win7 system booting again. The first was easily remedied by using GParted in an Ubuntu Live CD. The second was actually easily remedied by the Win7 restore disk with BootRec. (Apparently before it was trying to fix my 1TB drive....) So I then had a functioning Win7 and all my data back! Yay! Happy day! Of course, I had to fix alot of stuff still, but in the end, it was working.

Now take into the account all of this, then add about another 12 attempts (with either Windows or Linux), proably literally 50 reboots, and God knows how many hours of scanning with various programs. Then add onto the fact that my external DVD drive was broken and the very old Toshiba one I was using would decide to randomly not boot, meaning it would take me sometimes 10 reboots to actually get it to just boot into Ubuntu, the recovery disk, or what have you. Then take into account AGAIN that the drive is old so it takes a long, long while just to boot into Ubuntu, and even longer just to get into the Win7 recovery. (Does that seem right to you? Oh well, that's another blog post entirely.)

Time for some closing notes. I would say that I've learned several lessons

  1. Worry about registering before doing hours of crap to set it up.
  2. A "backup" is in two places.
  3. Only have the essentials (i.e., remove the 1TB drive when running RemoveWAT which doesn't need it)

Another closing note is this: I'm really dissapointed in Recuva. I really, really wanted to donate to Piriform, and it almost worked. It just didn't detect the folders, which is one third of recovering data. I'd have to say that the three things it should be able to do (a) recover the files (obviously), (b) recover the names of the files, (c) preserve directory structure. I would so much have rather thrown my $100 to Piriform, but I really can't if it doesn't do the job well enough. In any case, I still love Piriform and I think I always will, I'm just dissapointed in this instance; commercial software beat out freeware here.

Yeah, that's what's been up with me. Of course the one time I can't really blog I have all these ideas for posts. Hopefully I can follow through on them.
-Bry

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hello iTunes 10!

Holy crap! I decided to go with the most recent iTunes for my new W7 install, and....geez! It actually looks.....halfway decent! Maybe it's just because it's on W7 (and everything looks better in 7), but it just looks what I've always wanted iTunes to look like! The sidebar is no longer bulky and eye-grabby, the tabs are small and unobtrusive....overall, I like it alot. Now if they could just get rid of the brushed metal look.....

Keep in mind, this is definitely not saying that I actually like iTunes. I'd rather take MusicBee, Songbird, MediaMonkey, foobar2000 or just about anything other than it. But this is a step in the right direction.

But I wouldn't be Bry if I didn't have something bad to say about Apple in any post I reference them. What's with the new iTunes logo? Lame much? It's so -as my brother so adequately put it- generic. I was never big for the brushed metal, but at least the last icon had style.

-Bry

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What iTunes could learn from Steam

I feel like to some, I might come off as a bit of a hypocrite, because I always say how much I detest DRM, but then I turn around and praise Steam (well, the content delivery....not the application). So here's my brief chance to explain.
It's weird because I've never liked buying digital music. There's something about owning a physical copy of something that gives me a sense of security. If my computer ever goes kapoot, I have all my CDs saving my music. Yeah, you can burn them yourself, but something is nice about having the authentic cover and the booklet and all that.
I'm getting sidetracked. Here's a laydown of how I viewed Steam and iTunes:
  • Product is cheaper than buying the physical copy
    In every online music store, buying the tracks is a few dollars cheaper than buying the CD. Steam has killer deals all the time so you can almost always get the game you want for a lower price than the hard copy, if you don't mind waiting a little while.
  • Product can only be used in one program
    Unfortunately, this is the case with both. It's a much, much larger problem with iTunes since music files have a range of uses and there are dozens of other media playing applications that could make use of them. Steam is a little less of a deal since you don't necessarily have many other choices.
  • Product must be registered online before being used
    Yup, both have this in common. You can't play games or listen to music until you've registered them. This is actually more of a deal for Steam than it is for iTunes.
It seems they are so alike! How can I ever defend my position? Well, here's the single, huge tipping point:
  • Product is credited to your account, meaning you can re-download whenever you want
    Does iTunes have this? I don't think so. See, with iTunes, you are paying for security, but it's not your security. It's Apple's, or the music industry's. You could buy $5000 worth of music on your account, your hard drive crashes, and Apple just says "tough luck." With Steam, I've already bought several hundred dollars worth of games, and if my hard drive ever explodes, I'm calm-cool-collect, cause it's all in the cloud.
    [UPDATE 10-26-10]
    Guess who has this? Amazon. Yes, if Amazon keeps track of all the MP3s you buy and let's you re-download them whenever you want, wherever you want. This is just one more reason people should use Amazon instead of iTunes.
That's basically what did it for me. With iTunes, I'm basically being tied down with DRM, with no benefit to me. With Steam, yeah, it's got DRM. But to balance it out, my DRMed games are always backed up. Now I realize that music companies hate the idea of always having music you payed for ( because that's really unreasonable, right? ) but honestly, who in their right mind is going to say "Man! I just lost 1 TB of DRMed music! I guess I better go buy it all again!" Hell no. If they're even in the slightest bit tech savvy, they are going to say "I bought this, I own it" and go pirate the music they had before. iTunes wouldn't lose any customers from storing records for their customers; they'd gain them. Why? Because I would use a service that backed up my music! (Even with this though, I would never use iTunes because iTunes still uses a low bitrate, and my distrust for Apple is proportional to Steve Job's ego.)
However, I feel like I should add this. One reason I hadn't accounted for before choosing Steam:
  • The Program sucks
    This is most definitely true for both, but probably more for Steam, as much as I hate to admit it. I hate iTunes because it's slow, intrusive, and resource intesive. But it does what it's meant to do (play music/videos). Steam has continually screwed me over when it comes to games being unplayable or not being able to connect me to a game. It's definitely something to take into consideration, and I'm damn well hoping that Valve puts on their big kid boots and starts actually making changes.
On an ending note, here's a message to both companies:
  • Apple: If you want to really get a good music store, give everyone a license to the songs they buy, so they can download them anywhere, anytime on authorized devices.
  • Valve: If you fixed your sucky client, you'd have the best system ever. In anything. Ever. Do it. Now.
-Bry
PS - If you wonder why there's been so many whitespaces in my posts, it's not because I'm trying to add drama. Apparently both Blogpress and Zoundry go crazy with the returns.
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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Switching to 7

Well, today is an important day. It's the day I switch from XP to Windows 7. I've slowly been getting sick of XP constantly freezing on me, and I really need to start learning the in's and out's of Microsoft's new craparating system. So here's to change!




I'm updating from my iPhone because the install is going on right now. I all goes well, I'll have my system up and running by tomorrow night.









(But just in case, I'm installing Mint 9 alongside. I looked through all of my favorite distros, and Mint popped out.)


-Bry




- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

[UPDATE]


Well, after far too many complications, from burning the 7 install CD to getting the partitioning set up right, it's done. I'm currently posting this from Zoundary Raven whilst watching a video on Youtube in my Firefox, with iTunes open alongside. (In other words, all of my data so far has been able to transfer over.)

I've learned a bit through the experience.

  1. Don't mentally commit yourself to switchings OSes unless you're sure your DVD drive isn't broken.
  2. Don't mess with any registry files until you've unhidden the Administrator account.
  3. Windows likes Symlinks instead of Junctions

I like that Microsoft finally caught onto the whole "I don't want my personal folder under Documents and Settings", but I still like to have it right there under the C drive. Normally, TweakUI lets me do this easily, but that is an XP-only deal, so I had to research and learn something new. Changing the individual folders (Documents, Pictures, etc) is easy, I wanted to move the entire profile folder. Additionally, with this new OS, I wanted to try to keep all of my data (both documents and program settings) off in a different folder on a different drive, so if I ever need to back stuff up (or if I upgrade Dropbox, which I've been considering), it will be backupable very easily.

Anyway, long story short, I had to use another 7 install disk to "repair" my install (by just enabling the Administrator account), then I learned (after hours of troubleshooting) that you cannot create Junctions because for some reason Windows doesn't like Junctions. However, apparently symlinks work great. After discovering that random info, I'm creating folders in a nice "Bry Life" folder for both all my files (documents, music and such) and program settings (Firefox profiles, ResophNotes settings, Zoundry Raven settings, Pidgin settings, etc). It's working very well so far. I plan to keep my SteamApps folder off on a different drive as well.

Anyway, I'm kind of giddy. I love doing stuff like this! I don't know why. That's why I can totally see myself in a career with dealing with setting up new systems. Of course, I already have everything mapped out in my mind and it is my data in this case, but hopefully I love it enough to help anyone.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

DVD drive stopping booting

A few days ago, I tried to boot up my PC to find that it wouldn't even reach the point where I could enter the BIOS settings. As you can probably imagine, this had me concerned, especially since I could only think of one thing that would cause a PC to not even reach the BIOS: hardware. Well, considering that I haven't gotten any new hardware other than a USB extension cord (which I highly doubted being the problem), I figured that the best case scenario was that my RAM would be dead which would probably have me out $50, and also with a dead PC until I got some more. (As weird as it is, the two other desktops in my house run on DDR and DDR3. I am alone with DDR2.) This sucks even more since I was hoping to hold off on RAM until I bought a mobo that could handle DDR3.


So anyway, I pull my box out and start trouble shooting (i.e., removing crap). First I tried my Wireless D-Link card, since it had actually randomly shut down on me the night before, and it is possessed with an evil spirit. (I'm only half kidding.) The problem remains. I try both RAM sticks, and neither of them work, so it would mean they both would have to be dead, which seemed unlikely to me. So I pulled the Hard Drives, just to see if I could get to the BIOS. Nothing. I was running out of options. Before pulling the video card, I decided to finally pull all the cords in the back. (Yeah, I know, I shoulda done that first, but all I have connected is my monitors, my Insten Dock, my Headset/Speakers, and my new USB extender. But we'll get to that later.)


So when I pull all the cords, it boots. Woohoo! So I plug back in the dock. Success! I plug back in the USB extension. No dice. So I look at what I had plugged in last to the end of the USB extension: my external DVD drive. I pull it, and the PC boots. Wow.


So short story long: my external slim DVD player (that had Dawn of the Dead in it at the time, by the way) was plugged in with a regular miniUSB instead of the two pronged cord that had come with it can apparently stop my boot. I actually may have bricked the drive since I unplugged it while it was frozen. (Oops.....how many times until I learn to safely remove hardware?) I hope it will still work....we'll see. But on the bright side, none of the hardware that I need to operate my PC was damaged.


Breaking stuff with "WTFs",


-Bry


PS - I think I've used Zoundry before, but I might start putting in a "Powered by Zoundary deal", since I love this piece of software. This post is a test for it, I guess.


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Handbrake while sleeping

Just a quick note: if you decide to queue up a season of Garfield and Friends with Handbrake and then decide to go to sleep, you will be woken up by your computer beeping because your CPU is overheating. Trust me from experience.


-Bry

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Left4Dead 2 for $6.79 (Expired)

I know this is late and it's kind of lame to do this now, but I've just been going through my finances and I just ran across when I bought Left4Dead 2. I bought it during a sale back in December of '09, and I paid $37.49. Steam ran a special a few days ago for both Left4Dead and Left4Dead 2 for $6.79 each. Wow. I got it on a good sale -25% off, I believe- and the new price is 82% off what I paid for it, or 87%  off it's release price of $50.

I was mad at first because of how much money I had to pay for over someone who would buy it now, but then I remembered all the nights I've spent playing games, all of the fun times I've had including playing games with my cousins that live all over the country, and I'd say it's definitely worth the extra $30.

That's all. By the way, anyone wanna play some L4D/L4D2? I've had a hankering for the last week, and it's always more fun to party up. My Steam ID is on the "Games" page of this blarg.
-Bry

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wrong Folder in Handbrake

I've been getting a steady stream of DVDs lately because Amazon has such amazing deals. Today, I decided to start ripping them to my PC so I can put them on my iPhone. So I stick in Shawshank Redemption. I fire up DVD43 (just in case), Handbrake, click the iPhone profile, and press start. The window opens and closes. I try again, nothing. I take out the disk, restart the software, then put it in and start Handbrake again. Nothing. I finally end up thinking that it must have some bizzare protection that DVD43 can't get around.

So then I stick in I Am Legend. Same thing. Now this seems fishy. I am shaking my head wondering HandBrake is failing me when I notice that the path is to "C:\Bry\My Videos" instead of "C:\Bry\Bry Videos." I change it, press start, then see "Encoding task 1 of 1."

I think it's honstly stupid that the folder has to exist for Handbrake to work. Can't it, ya know, create it, or at least ask me? Or even bring it up in the Log? Anyway, I feel stupid. But at least I didn't lose alot of time to it like some of my other hurr durr moments.

-Bry

USB is fun?

I've been shopping around because we've decided to finally upgrade to wireless N, and I'm probably going to buy another monitor. In addition I needed a few more cords, specifically a USB to reach up to my desk. I stumbled upon one on Amazon, and I found the description pretty funny: "Easy and fun to use." Really? Does anyone really have fun while using a USB cord? "Weeeee! I'm syncing my iPhone!" "Woohoo! My mouse's cord is extended!" "Screw video games. I've got a USB cord. Yeah dude, it's awesome."

That's all.
-Bry

New Desk!/A 2nd monitor/My bro's first build/Changes to my PC

(Wow. 4 topics for one post. Take a deep breathe, people, cause away we go!)

Chapter 1: The New Desk
About 3 months ago, I mentioned that I wanted to get a secondary monitor, but one that was small enough to fit in my desk situation. I basically said that I hadn't found one and gave up looking, since apparently the 14" widescreen VGA LCD that's less than 10" tall is not a very big market. (Who woulda guessed?) A few days ago, I decided to try searching for a bit. And I found one. I found one. I was excited! The Hannspree 14" Widescreen LCD was everything on my list, and for only $60. Normally I would have jumped at the chance (especially after so many hours of failed attempts earlier). But after helping my brother build his computer, I wanted to hold off for a few days. (I'll explain why later.)

Then today I was talking with a coworker about how I'd found the monitor that was small enough to fit in my desk, and he basically told me that I shouldn't shop around my desk, my desk should be built around my shopping. It's not like the concept hadn't occurred to me before, but him saying it plainly to my face kind of gave me an awakening. So I decided to start contemplating buying a new desk. The desk I had really wasn't working out all that well anyway. Well, it was working fine, but there were things about it I wanted to change, specifically the keyboard tray being crunched, the hutch getting in the way of the monitor, and it basically being too shallow to actually do schoolwork on.

So long story short, I spent an hour looking around websites, picked one out, drove over to Staples, and got me a brand new desk! It's actually really, REALLY big (which my brother keeps reminding me of), but I really like it because I always spread stuff out when I'm working, and the dainty horizontal space of my old one was always kind of annoying. Plus the keyboard tray was bigger, there is no hutch so I can put several monitors up on it, and it's definitely deep enough. It's a good desk, especially for only $60.



I really don't know why I wanted to share this with the world. It's not like I'm going to review the desk or anything, I just....wanted to say. Plus, it sets up a good intro to the next part...

Chapter 2: The Second Monitor
Now that you know my desk situation, it makes sense that I say I can finally get a second monitor! I feel like kind of a loser for only having one for so long.....workspaces can only go so far. But basically, now I can get any size I want, and I'm thinking of getting a bigger monitor than I have now, then bumping my 19" to be secondary.

I've searched the better part of today looking, and I've narrowed it down to two options:

  1. ASUS MS236H (23", 1920x1080, 2ms, 50000:1) $160
    • Pros: Looks pretty, higher contrast ratio
    • Cons: No DVI port, no VESA mount, can't sit up straight
  2. ASUS VH236H (23", 1920x1080, 2ms, 50000:1) - $159
    • Pros: DVI port, full tilt control, VESA mount
    • Cons: Lowerish contrast ratio
It seems to me that the choice is obvious: I don't care how it looks as long as it performs ok. I've heard everywhere that the VH226H is great, so I'm hoping its big brother will be good too. The only reason I'm even slightly hesitant is that I've read on one or two sites that somehow the VH236H is not as great as its little brother, which I don't understand. I don't think I'm that picky though, and it was voted Customer Choice Award Winner on Newegg, so I'm thinking I'll go with it. Now if I can only justify spending $160 after a $60 desk.

Chapter 3: The Bro's PC
My little brother (only in age...he's bigger than me) decided that he wanted to get an upgrade, since his Toshiba laptop couldn't play many good games. I talked him into building a desktop. Yay! I definitely think it is a more sound investment. By far. He was looking at a Sony VAIO for $1000, and he built a PC with way better specs for $1200.

(Here's where his specs will go if I can go up and gets his manuals later.)

The real reason I mention this is because while it is his PC, it is also kinda mine. It's what I would build if I were to buy right now (though he did spend a bit more than me). I suggested an Nvidia graphics card, he got a way better case than me, a non-stock CPU heatsink, and an i7. Basically after using my PC for a good while, I've decided that I want Nvidia next, a better case, and I'll probably end out going with an Intel CPU. We did share a few things as well. He got the same PSU as me (just a few more watts, but the same brand and line) and the same hard drive as me.

It was really fun and I'm glad to have helped him, but it really kinda depressed me and made me jealous. I made quite a few mistakes on my build, and my brother kind of benefited from me suggesting to avoid those. Plus, he spent nearly 2x as much as me, so he got way better specs. But I was drooling over alot of his components like his case, CPU, and massive heatsink. It really made me want to upgrade my build, but I really haven't got the full moneys worth of the parts that are in there now. I can still play the games I want, and nothing's broken yet. I could buy new crap now, but then I'd be dropping hundreds of dollars to upgrade hardware that's working fine.

I dunno. It's a weird feeling. I'm more of a cheapskate, and plus, I'd never ever built a computer before, so I tended to go lower end in case I chose wrong. And you know what? As I'm writing this, I'm glad I did! Because if I had gone higher end, I would have spent a ton of money on an ATI graphics card when I would now want Nvidia, and AMD processor when I now want Intel, and other things. It was my first build ever, and I chose a cheap things to stick my foot in the water, I'm ok with that. Even if I drool a bit.



Chapter 4: The Possible Changes
That being said, there are definitely things I want to change about my build, and I really don't know if when they're going to happen, of if I should just scrap it and start over.

For short term (as in ASAP, in order of importance):
  • Wifi: I don't know what my bro is doing in terms of networking yet. But I do know that my network card sucks. Balls. I still haven't written a post about it yet, but it's because I get so pissed even thinking about it.
  • Case: Because mine sucks and seeing the one my bro got made me want to get one that doesn't. Plus to help with cooling purposes. He had 5 fans, mine came with 1.
  • Speakers: I got the my SpeakerBar to fit my last desk, and now I have all this room. My brother got a sweet system with a subwoofer. I don't even use my speaker that much, honestly, but maybe I would if I had a better system...
For long term (as in, for my first upgrade):

  • Mobo: Mostly because my mobo uses DDR2 and USB2.
    • 4-6GB DDR3: My current system only has 2GB DDR2, but I don't want to upgrade since DDR3 is the standard now. 2GB was ok for me...especially since I was/am using XP.
  • Nvidia GPU: I just like where Nvidia is going. I have nothing against ATI. I was going to possibly get one soon so I could get one with two DVI ports (like my brothers) so I could have two monitors, but then I found the ones I mentioned about that have HDMI.
  • (Intel) CPU: I really don't know....Intel definitely brags more, but I'm not sure which one I'd want to go with. I honestly think a tri-core at 2.9GHz is fine for me now. And it's behind two very expensive items, so it'll probably be a ways down the road. But then I guess if I switch over to Intel, I'd have to get an Intel mobo, and then my AMD wouldn't work with it...hmm.....
    • Heatsink: No one told me to not use the stock one....
 I don't really regret buying anything, I just feel stupid for buying some things. I really want to work on buying things that can last, and maybe that means buying higher up on the pricing line, but it definitely means thinking things through more.



That's it for my very long post. Alot of stuffs been happening. I'm going to really have to control myself to not buy crap alot.

I'm tired. Bed time.
-Bry

Hesh Skull Candy Earphones

I've had these for a good long while, and I just decided to write up a "review" really quickly after watching skikarl's review.

I got these and a pair of Skullycandy Inked at the same time, and I figured I'd have one for home, and one for on the road. The Inked lasted probably about 6-8 months, then died. These are still kicking. And I am MEAN to these bad boys. I stuff them in backpacks, in my car, and basically treat them like I would earbuds. And they're still alive! The only thing that is wrong with them after 2 years of owning them is that they have a few major cracks in the plastic, but that's only because I was so rough with them. If I'm good to them, they'll probably last me for another year, if not longer.

I'm definitely not an audiophile, but I do love to hear good sound. The Hesh gives good sound. It's loud enough, got good bass, good definition, it's just great. Probably my favorite earphones/buds to own yet, maybe even over my TekNmotion headset. (But it's a close one.) I really don't know how else to describe it....it's just good audio. Period. Get it, unless you're an audiophile, in which case....why do you care what I think?

They look pretty cool, as you can see from the pic, and the cushion on top is pretty comfortable. On the line, it even has a volume control, which is AWESOME, because you don't even have to fiddle to get your MP3 player to turn down the volume: just crap the cord and you're there.

But of course, there are a few cons I would want to point out. The first would be that the cord is split. The cord attached to the headphones is only like 2 feet long, and then the rest of the length is an extension. It kind of annoys me because the connection is so fat, it seems to make the cord weigh a little more. You can't notice the weight very much, but it does kinda make the entire cord dangle and sway more.

The split cord is nice in case it does snag on something, the cord will just disconnect instead of yanking at your head. On the other hand, if you ever lose your extension, you'll have to keep your MP3 player within 2 feet of your ears at all times. It's a balance, and it definitely doesn't make the headphones any worse, but it just makes me wonder.....why?

The only other thing I would have to say is size. I'm a small dude, I have small ears, and it seems like the cups are a tad small. If you wear them for a good while and then take them off, it can feel like it's been squeezing your ears to keep them inside. If they had made the cups more oval-shaped like my TekNmotion headset, they probably could have made it a bit more comfy. But I've never heard anyone else complain about it, so maybe I'm just crazy.


Other than those few annoyances, I love these earphones. I still can't say if the $50 I paid for them was too much, but I definitely know I love the product.
-Bry

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Zombie Farm Wiki

I guess it's about time I posted this here. About a week ago, I ran into a question about Zombie Farm. I googled, mostly looking for a wiki, and found that none had been created. Well, it had been created, but quite honestly sucked. So I decided that I would pour my time and effort into it and try to make a comprehensive wiki for Zombie Farm.

It's gone very well, it's been getting progressively easier, and I actually just have a few more things to do until it's complete (to the current version, that is). The only problem is, I put off all the hard stuff until the end, so now I have all of the hard stuff left.

Anyway, check it out if you play the game or are just bored.
-Bry

PS - If you want to know how I'm doing with the wiki, check my user blog on it. I probably won't post about it here again unless I'm completely done or find something amazing.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Goodbye, Xmarks

After a good long while of serving the interwebz with browser bookmark syncing, X-marks is bidding farewell. It's a damn shame, really. I love Xmarks, because I've been using it for years. Practically as long as I've been using Firefox.

Xmarks is the first bookmark syncing service that I can remember, besides maybe Opera. It was around before Chrome existed, before Firefox's internal bookmark sync was added, and before Internet Explorer fell a few rungs on the ladder of crapness. It was the first, at least I think. I loved it and used it because (a) it synced all my bookmarks, and (b) it provided a web interface so if I was at a friends house thinking of a funny video I bookmarked, all I have to do is go on my Xmarks website and there it is.

The reason Xmarks is shutting down is because they just aren't getting enough money. I have to admit, I'm not surprised, because there's just no way for them to do it. The entire time I've used Xmarks, I've just let it run and sync, and occasionally go to my web interface. I turned off all the search suggestions and bookmark tags since it just made everything slower and I never asked for it anyway. But there's no way to make money off of just syncing in the background.

I'm going to miss Xmarks, partially for its service, but also for its sad "Goodbye" page. They sound so sad, but at the same time, point to alternatives, competitors, if you will. They're even considering going open source. It's just a shame to see a good service like that go under.

That being said, Xmarks said that they considered charging for a premium service, but don't believe enough people would use it. And I tend to agree. I love Xmarks, but I wouldn't pay for it. Well, maybe like $1 a month, and maybe that would be enough, with so many people doing it. But I wouldn't pay for a premium service when alternatives are available.


I guess it just wasn't in the stars. Farewell, Xmarks, you will be missed.
-Bry

Autohotkey\Real Programming

This post has been in the making for a long while. I use Autohotkey and I love it. I use it if I want to write a quick hotkey to make a repetitive task easier, or I'll write an entire program in it. I love it. Why? Because it's easy. DUH! It's pretty darn powerful, but it is easy enough that I can understand it, having taught myself from scratch. (Yeah, I still use SciTe which has syntax help, but you get my drift.) I mean, me, a dude who's had essentially no formal programming courses, can write a program that will actually work. Maybe not work the most efficient way possible, maybe not even be that complex, but work. All from reading the manual and the forum. That's why I love Autohotkey.

So it makes me wonder, "Why is it a scripting language instead of an actual programming language?" I guess the reason is that Autohotkey actually compiles into C++ (or is it C?) whereas all of the other programming languages are languages themselves. In other words, Autohotkey is a wrapper to make it simpler to program in a different language.

But anyway, it just kinda disheartens me sometimes because I don't really know a "programming" language, just scripting. And it also kinda scares me thinking, "Is 'programming' going to be alot harder than 'scripting'?" I've only taken a course in Java, and that was not very pleasant, and definitely not as easy as Autohotkey.

But then I ran into Python. Oh, Python, I love you. Python is so freaking easy, it's near the level of Autohotkey, but the power to write complex apps, which Autohotkey can frankly never do, in my opinion. (Anyone who finds an efficient way to read from/write to XML that doesn't take forever, let me know.) So it definitely gives me hope. Because I can set up a Python interpreter and just go, and actually write programs besides "Hello world!"

But basically, the reason I haven't gotten into "real programming" is simple: I'm lazy. Wait, I'm unmotivated. See, I really do love programming, but I want to get my hands dirty. I want to tinker, I want to learn by doing. And the only Java course I took was composed 50% of how to make flowcharts and crap. It was torture! Even back then, I was thinking "Come on. I can do more in AHK than this!" So it's really hard to make myself sit down and read the manual or even watch videos (like that free MIT lectures I posted a while ago.) That's the main reason that I love programming, but don't know any "real" programming languages.


Oh, and speaking of programming languages and learning them, let me make this statement as a beginner programmer: Please stop suggesting C++ as the first language to learn! I know that I'm definitely too much of a novice to carry any weight behind this statement, but it's my theory that C++ and Java are two of the worst languages to learn. (Besides maybe Assembly. But I haven't even seen any of that.) Why? Let me give you an example:
  • To check if a file exists in Autohotkey, use "IfFileExist, ____" or "FileExist(____)"
  • To check if a file exists in Python, use "os.path.isfile(____)" or "open(____)" or etc.
  • To check if a file exists in C++.....Um....well you could....no, wait, that will only tell if you have permission....or you could....no wait, that won't work....um.........well, download and install this 100MB library, then add it to your imports, then run this function which might not work.
Yeah, crappy example but again: me = no extended use with any languages.


My point is. Python, or languages like it take a "baby step" into programming, but it still lays down the fundamentals. Plus, Python is fairly widely used, at least I believe so. Yeah, DUH C++ and even C is used more often, especially in the corporate world, but I'm not saying you wouldn't learn those at all, I'm just saying not at first.


Anyway, that's my opinion. Or rather, me trying to excuse myself from being afraid of learning new things, then my opinion.
-Bry