Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Why Google Instant is a dumb idea

Every time I get on any computer I use, I turn off Google Instant, well, instantly. It has never made sense to me and has actually been extremely distracting. The whole reason I see Google Instant as being absolutely foolish in design is this: I think of searches in words, not letters. To me, if I want to find results for "ternary operator", I'm not going to type "t", look through the results, "e", look through the results, "r", look through the results, etc. Furthermore, how long does it take you to type "tern", guestimating? Ok, now how long does it take to type "terna"? How about "ternary"? I'm not the fastest typer in the world but it still does not make enough of a difference for me to actually be to look through the results as I'm typing.

Plus, there's the whole factor of "tern" meaning something completely different than "ternary", which also means something completely different than "ternary operator." The point is that a search is an entire entity; you can't split it up, and you can't substitute a part. Every word is there for a reason, and looking at parts of that word is just looking at a completely different search than was intended. It's hard enough with Google fucking with searches by trying to "guess" what we are trying to search for, how is doing it instantly with an incomplete search entity going to help?


Google Instant just proves that Google is completely wrong in the head when it comes to how they think we search: they think that we don't know what we want. So we need to swap out words for similar words like showing results for "like" when you searched for "similar", even though with social networking the definition of the word "like" has evolved far beyond just a synonym for "similar", and thus skews the results beyond any usability. Similarly, that's why they decide that we need help every single letter, even though (a) no one in their right mind thinks of searches letter by letter and (b) changing a word by 1 letter drastically change the meaning of it 99% of the time, resulting in not just skewed results, but absolutely wrong.

I just am dumbfounded by Google -the company that seems to usually be very smart about what the user wants- can be so blind by this continued negligence toward the intelligence of the user. I don't want to admit it, but it has got to be money oriented, because there is simply no way that some of the brightest minds in the world can look at the results of these searches and think that the "enhancements" they made actually help.

Let me lay something down for you, Google. Before you introduced all these features, it took me maybe 4-5 searches of about 5 pages each to find something that I wanted of normal obscurity. Usually my search progression would be "banana tasty", then "banana delicious", and so forth. Granted, that is not that great, so I understand your desire to enhance the experience, and it is kind of annoying to try to search for synonyms, but at least I had complete control over what results I would get. Now, I have only one search (because all of those above mean the same thing now), about 15 pages, and I cannot find my result. Stop acting like Microsoft; I don't want a "decision engine", I want a search engine so that I can look through results and then decide. I am the decision engine! So unless you can come up with a new algorithm that can decide what I want better than me, I recommend you cut the crap and give the internet the useful Google Search back.

-Bry

PS - Don't even get me started on Google Instant on mobile. Just....don't.

Monday, December 19, 2011

SOPA & PIPA

I really hope it goes without saying that I am 100% against SOPA and PIPA. First, I want to kind of give a brief overview of just what they will do, and then why I think it's wrong. I feel like a lot of sites tend to give a brief dumbed-down summary, speculations on what it will do (e.g. "killing off eBay"), and then a link to write your congressman. Well, my brother recently asked me to explain them to him, so here's what I come to understand them as:

The crux of them is that they basically upgrade piracy to the status of a federal crime, and both the user that uploaded it and the website can be taken to court. You can actually be sentenced to 5 years in prison just for violating a copyright, and then the website that hosted that material, whether or not they knew it was there, is blocked by all ISPs by order of the government, no questions asked. Plus, the government can also order Google and other search engines to de-index the site as well. (That alone should scare people.) One guy on Youtube said it's basically "guilty until proven innocent." Pretty much everybody in the country is against it except for the entertainment industry. Google, Mozilla, Facebook, Twitter, and literally millions of individuals have voiced their opinions, and these are people who actually know how the internet works. I still find it funny that people are allowed to vote for the SOPA when they don't even know what a DNS is or how it works. The only groups I've seen support it are part of the people who think that they can gain money from it, like Comcast (a cable provider), and NBC. It's not even that this bill is that entirely terrible, because all you have to do is just use a DNS outside the country and you can get past all that blocking stuff, but it scares me because I know that the entertainment industry won't just stop there. This is capitalism, and if they can push the law to make more money, they will.

The thing that makes me uncomfortable about these bills is the level of power they are trying to wield to get rid of the problem. It's like nuking a city because there's a cockroach under the fridge, or as the same guy on Youtube said, "burning down your house because you have an ant problem". It very well may stop piracy, but the force being used is too excessive. This bill is not designed to fight piracy, it is designed to end piracy by squashing out way more than in needs to just to be sure.

But even that is being too nice for this bill because to think that one single bill could end piracy is absolutely moronic and shows that people who are in support of it do not know what they are talking about. How many times have we seen "the death of piracy" over the years? The death of Napster? The PirateBay founders being imprisoned? Every single time, these actions that were supposed to be catastrophic to the idea of piracy have left barely even a dent. Do you know why? Because pirates finds a way. If you shut down torrents, they will use Usenet. If you shut down Usenet, they will create some other protocol. If you unplug the internet, there will be millions of CD exchanges. The goal of eliminating piracy is not only ridiculous, but it is so wrong that it is actually damaging the fight against the real problem.


I am against piracy. Ask anyone at my work that, all of whom who "dock in the Pirate Bay", as I like to say, and I am pretty much the only person there who actually still buys his music. I do not take the stupidity of many of the reasons for piracy, such as supporting them from buying merchandise or "it's not stealing, it's sharing". Piracy is stealing, and if you do it, you do it because it is free and you don't want to pay. But this act is taking the complete wrong approach. It's just hacking away at the leaves when it really needs to go for the root.

DRM failed miserably and it is finally all but gone on digital media, and the only thing it did was cause many people disdain for the companies that enforced it. I find that people tend to work with you much more if you treat them with respect, and that's what there needs to be: a new entertainment industry model that treats both the artists/creators and consumers with respect. I'm not going to pretend to know the answer. I'll gladly admit, I don't know what that new system is, but I do know that it is not SOPA. SOPA is internet censorship, pure and simple.

And sure, today, it's DNS, but what comes next? Comcast has already been caught blocking BitTorrent traffic and the Pirate Bay as well. I'm still no expert in networking, but isn't it possible to not only block the DNS of a site but also all traffic to and from it? And the most terrifying thing of all is that it plays under the guise of something that is so righteous. When I tell people that there is something called the "Stop Online Piracy Act", most of them (unless they are pirates) are in support of it, because most people agree that Piracy is wrong. But putting a pretty face on it doesn't make it any more valid, it only makes it more deceptive to those that don't know any better. We that do know better cannot let acts like this pass. It is our responsibility to stop it.

"Yes, it's bad that piracy can happen. But it's because we are free that it can happen. Think about that. If you remove one, you remove the other." -PhantomAlucard
"SOPA: sacrificing the rights of the many to protect an industry that is too stubborn and greedy to evolve." -Me

-Bry

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Operating System User chart

I made this a while ago and I guess I forgot about it.

The "OS Triforce"
I think it's kind of a neat representation. I would say that I'm about where the "e" is in "Linux User", but eventually I would like to make sure that I am somewhere in the middle triangle; it's perfectly fine to favor one OS more than the others, but you still have to accept and be ok with the others as well because nobody likes a fanboy.

Feel free to use this image/modify it/recreate it/etc. Also feel free to leave a comment below to where you think you fall on the chart. :)
-Bry

Thursday, December 15, 2011

FINALLY fixed Apt!

As usual, I'm not responsible for the accuracy of this post, or the results you might encounter from attempting to imitate it. You're a Linux user, you should know to be careful, or accept the consequences. And I'm only going to say this once: don't copy and paste a command unless you know what it does.

Turns out the Apt problem that's been plaguing me -the same that seemingly fubared my graphics driver and left me using Windows for a few months- apparently wasn't gone. Every time I tried to install or remove something, I would get hella error messages about nothing being configured. Well, first I tried to fix cups, which was first on the list. The method one person suggested was purging it then reinstalling it, which worked, but I do not recommend it. Cups is decently unimportant. The next on the list was udev, which sounds important just by the name, and I did not want to purge it. Plus there were a ton of "lib___", some that sounded very necessary, at least to KDE.

I looked around and eventually found a thread on Linux Questions about this very problem: something was wrong with udev which threw off initramfs-tools, which in turn threw off around 195 packages that needed them to be configured. The major consensus is to try to get Apt to configure the packages that are unconfigured, but for me, all that yielded was about 2.7 billion errors (massively trimmed down because you don't care):
$ sudo apt-get install -f
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree      
Reading state information... Done
0 upgraded, 0 newly installed, 0 to remove and 40 not upgraded.
192 not fully installed or removed.
After this operation, 0 B of additional disk space will be used.

Setting up udev (173-0ubuntu4) ...
udev start/running, process 5104
info: unrecognized option '--convert-db'
dpkg: error processing udev (--configure):
 subprocess installed post-installation script returned error exit status 1
dpkg: dependency problems prevent configuration of initramfs-tools:
 initramfs-tools depends on udev (>= 147~-5); however:
  Package udev is not configured yet.
dpkg: error processing initramfs-tools (--configure):
 dependency problems - leaving unconfigured
No apport report written because the error message indicates its a followup error from a previous failure.

...
Processing was halted because there were too many errors.
E: Sub-process /usr/bin/dpkg returned an error code (1)
The solution? Reinstalling udev...by force. The poster in that thread mentioned that there should be a backup in /var/cache/apt/archives/udev*.deb, but that didn't exist for me so I downloaded it the Ubuntu archive from pkgs.org. It's important to use the same package that your system is set up for; originally I downloaded them off Debian's website but there are certain Mint-specific packages that have dependencies to "0.99_7ubuntu" instead of just "0.99_7". It also lessens the chance of things breaking. Anyway, however you get the DEB, find the correct one for your system and use the force:
dpkg -i --force-all ./udev*.deb
 HEY. LISTEN. This is important. After doing that I tried another install -f, there was another missing dependency so it was prepared to remove....well, damn near everything except udev:
After this operation, 1,371 MB disk space will be freed.
You are about to do something potentially harmful.
To continue type in the phrase 'Yes, do as I say!'
 If you get this, you'll need to update libudev0 as well, which is the same deal: get the DEB, and run a:
dpkg -i --force-all ./libudev0*.deb

After that I ran another install -f and BEHOLD: packages were configuring! Unfortunately I got one more error message still:
Errors were encountered while processing:
 initramfs-tools
E: Sub-process /usr/bin/dpkg returned an error code (1)
Again, I tried another --force-all with the initramfs-tools DEB, Which of course lead to yet another error:
cp: cannot stat `/usr/lib/pango/1.6.0/module-files.d/libpango1.0-0.modules': No such file or directory
cp: cannot stat `/usr/lib/pango/1.6.0/modules/pango-basic-fc.so': No such file or directory
 Which I learned a fix for in a Mint thread, but I actually suggest the method prescribed in this blog that uses a symlink instead:

sudo ln -s /usr/lib/*-linux-gnu/pango /usr/lib/pango
(The * is your architecture: either i386 for 32-bit or x86_64 for 64-bit.) After this, try another force with initramfs-tools, and -for me- the issues with the 20,000 errors under the sea went away.



This fixed the issue for me, though I've got a few more problems I need to solve:
  1. for some reason I still get "The following packages have been kept back", which lists a crap ton of xserver* packages.
  2. When attempting a dist-upgrade, it says it's going to remove kubuntu-desktop and xorg
It looks like I just won't be able to do a dist-upgrade right now but hopefully I can at least do a regular upgrade.

I did all of this to attempt to run Illumination Software Creator on Linux, but I then got sidetracked trying to get fgrlx working again. In any case, the Apt problem seems to be solved, so one down, two to go.
-Bry

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Note: Do not double define your DNS

I've been forced to use Windows since my Linux install is out of commission and I haven't had the time to fix it, but the internet has been painfully slow. I scanned for viruses and spyware, cleaned the registry, checked the DNS on my router and network settings, and did all the standard stuff, but no fix. Then today, I loaded up a Jupiter Broadcasting video. It took several minutes to load the page, but when I pressed play, I noticed that it loaded very quickly, which made me realize that it wasn't the data speed, it must be the DNS.

It turns out while I had set the DNS to "auto" for IPv4, I had not for IPv6. Switching that immediately made web browsing pleasurable again. I didn't write down the DNS that was in that field so I'm not sure if it was the DNS that I use (Google DNS) or perhaps some spyware got in there and changed it. I'm going to hope it's the first one so that I was not tracked for all this time. I guess I've just learned not to define the DNS in your router and your network settings.

-Bry

What to aim for: less errors, or "good" errors?

The thought popped into my head yesterday while waiting at the bus stop. Every technological device we use malfunctions at some time or other, we only notice when it's an especially "bad" error. For example, I got a new phone recently, the LG Optimus Slider which is basically the next version of my previous phone, the Optimus V. Both the Slider and the V have an issue with the 3G where it will stay "Connecting" but never connect, especially when switching off Wifi. I learned that toggling airplane mode tends to get it working about 90% of the time, and the other 10% requires a restart of the phone.

The point is, yeah, it's an error that I deal with pretty frequently, but I never even registered it in my mind as a problem because 90% of the time, it has a fix that is quick and easy. However, 10% of the time, it has a fix, but that fix takes a long time (relatively) and it keeps me from using my phone during that entire time. It's pretty obvious that the prior is better than the latter. Obviously, most tech users would say "Well the best case would be to have no errors at all," but both as a user and a future developer, I know well enough that there will always be errors. But how you handle the errors as they happen is a totally different matter.

The true question is, which should developers focus on: keeping the number of errors to a minimum, or  making sure that errors are "good" when they happen? One can't focus entirely on one or the other. Let's use some kind of game as an example: if you focus on lessening the errors, the game will be playable but as soon as an error is happened upon, the game will just exit and the player will lose saved data; if you focus on handling errors well when they happen, the game will be buggy as hell. Both are undesirable, so the solution must be in the middle, but which end does it favor?

Here are 2 examples of exceedingly "bad" errors:
  1. This dumb error message in Zoundry Raven 
  2. Microsoft giving no indication whatsoever why an installation failed (or useless vague error codes)
The 1st case is exceeding obvious. For the 2nd, the first installer did not give any indication at all as to why the installation failed. The second installer gave a crypted error code that apparently means a dozen different things, which does nothing for you except have you trying out a dozen different fixes. I only fixed the problem by checking the log for the second installer (the first installer did not give you the location of a log) which linked to another log that I had to scan through until I found the error message. Bad error.


Personally, I would tend to lean on the handling of errors rather than prevention. Almost every piece of tech I have has "quirks", and quirks are just errors handled better. (Except for the sticky keys on my calculator...that was Dr. Pepper.) Occasionally Firefox crashes or freezes, but if it starts up again with my tabs and tab groups, I can get back to what I was doing right away. Quirks become small bumps that you can just glide over whereas full blown errors make you slam on the breaks.

My thoughts, anyway. I'm sure they are to change as I get to developing more software and deal with errors.
-Bry

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Crazy Deal on heatsink

As much as I hate to admit it, I'm still content with my PC (hardware-wise). I've really faced no limitations, other than running out of RAM every now and then while trying to multitask in KDE, but everything is actually going pretty swell.

....However, one of the things that I have at the top of my list to upgrade is the heatsink since I'm still using stock. I couldn't really bring myself to sink money into it since, ever since getting my new case, I haven't had any temperature issues.

I've already had a heatsink picked out for almost a year: the XIGMATEK Dark Knight. On top of it being named after one of my favorite movies of all time, it also has 5 eggs with over 500 reviews, supports a great deal of sockets (both Intel and AMD), and is XIGMATEK with which I've had decently good experience with cooling.

Cutting to the chase, I could never justify spending $45 on something I didn't exceedingly need. However, when I happened to visit its page and see that it was $9.97 after a MIR.....well, COME ON. (It was actually $19.97 yesterday but it dropped even further today.) As far as I know, it's pretty future proof as well: Sandy/Ivy Bridge use socket 1155, and Bulldozer uses AM3+ which (as far as I know) uses the same cooling as AM2. Even if it wasn't future proof, $10 is an amazing deal.

Needless to say, I'm jumping on it.
-Bry

[UPDATE 11-27-11]
All sold out, folks. I guess it WAS a good deal.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Where's the KDE love, Mint?

Recently I tried to fix a very longstanding APT problem I had with my install. Long story short, I fixed it by manually removing and re-adding every single source by hand. Only I thought that many of the sources were out of date in that they referenced some older version of Ubuntu so I decided to go ahead and switch everything over to Oneiric. .........oops? Everything broke. When I try to select the top option in my GRUB menu, I get a black screen.

In any case, rather than try to fix the 300 packages I probably broke, I was just going to start from scratch, install the newest version of Linux Mint KDE. Only problem is, I'm running the newest version of LM KDE. Yeah, Mint 11 has been out for almost 6 months but KDE 11 is no where to be seen.

I don't want to be the whiny user, but it's just frankly disappointing, because Linux Mint KDE 10 is the best KDE distro I tried. It absolutely blows Kubuntu out of the water. So when I see that Linux Mint 11 LXDE, and LMDE with GNOME and XFCE are all getting released, but no KDE version around, I just get wary. I honestly don't know where else to go. I guess openSUSE is the next best thing but YaST still makes me want to blow chunks.


In any case, I guess I'll just reinstall LM KDE 10, or try to fix the problem(s). As for the future of LM KDE, as long as there will be a LM 12 KDE, I will be happy.
-Bry

[UPDATE 12-7-11]
So apparently Boo -the maintainer for the KDE spin- has kind of vanished. Back in the end of October, Clem -the founder and maintainer of Mint- said that he was working hard on the main edition but after it was released (i.e., now) he would turn his attention to KDE if Boo had not returned. Well, still no word from Boo and LM12 is out.

This really doesn't set my mind at ease because I know that Clem will not (and should not) attempt to maintain both the main and KDE releases; although I prefer KDE, I think the main release of Mint has always been fantastic (haven't tried out 12 though) and Clem needs to continue that. Hopefully, if Boo doesn't come back, they'll be able to find someone else to step up. Otherwise, I guess I'm headed to Chakra or Mageia or Sabayon or something.

Monday, October 31, 2011

FIX: "Invalid license data. Reinstall is required" (Visual Studio 2010)

Here I am, sitting waiting to get my winter tires put on, and I decide to try to work on some Assembly homework. Unfortuantely, I get the nasty error "Invalid license data. Reinstall is required." Since there is no wifi here and the only internet access I have is my phone tether, this is not a viable option, since it's a web install. (I hate those.)

Anyway, after starting a CRAP ton of services, I noticed that my clock read way wrong, since I had taken out the battery earlier when switching to my 8-cell. Synced the clock, ran MSVS, bingo. Blast it all.

-Bry

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Got a new Lenovo S10-3t

Netbook choice
As much as I love my EEE Pad Transformer, it just doesn't cut it for a college student, so I decided to buy a netbook.

At first I just wanted the cheapest netbook I could grab, which was -incidentally- another ASUS product -the X101. However, I soon learned that it had atrocious battery life, and I probably was not going to like MeeGo. Plus, I hated the idea of not having a tablet at all.

I then decided to maybe take a nice step up, and I wanted probably the most amazing display of technological ingenuity I have yet to have seen: the AlwaysInnovating Smartbook. However, it is definitely pricey for a netbook/tablet, and I wasn't sure if they were actually still shipping. (I tweeted at them, and they never replied.)

Finally, I said screw it, and went with the Lenovo S10-3t, which is a netbook/tablet convertible (or tabletbook, as I call them) which was praised like the dickins by Bryan Lunduke. It is a decent size, fair price ($350 new), and has basically all I could ask for in either a tablet or netbook: decent sized HDD (i.e., not a cramped SSD), SD slot, a webcam, and a decent battery life. Not much to it.


Initial thoughts
I'm going to be honest, I did not look into this tabletbook very much. There are so many effing netbooks out there and I really did not want "just another netbook", and after looking at all the possibilities beforehand (the Dell Duo being the only rival, and it got poor reviews), the S10-3t seemed like a decent choice; maybe not the best, but adequate.

Pros:
Right off the bat, I love the form. holding it in my hand as a tablet, or the feel of it as a netbook. The keyboard is lovely spaced, the power button is accessible from both netbook and tablet mode (plus it has a lock on it!), and the whole half-black, half-white with orange highlights looks spectacular. Physically, I loved this device before ever turning it on.

Cons:
Then came time to turn it on. It's still really early and I've only had it for a day, but I have to say that it was...less than snappy. It definitely needs some hardcore optimization, but I'm just not sure if Win7 is the right OS when I had to super-optimize WinXP to run on my old netbook with similar specs.
The main thing that made me scared is the touchpad. (1) It's bumpy, which is weird...it might take some getting used to but right now it just doesn't feel right. (2) The buttons are in the touchpad. I don't know why people like this. I kept finding my mouse jumping around whenever I try to click.

Operating System(s)
I've been giving some thought to what OS to put on this bad boy. For school I will definitely need both Windows and Linux, but that in and of itself has plenty of different choices. Essentially, I've broken it down into 3 different sections, and the choices I would make in each:

1. Full Desktop: Ubuntu, Windows 7
(I actually already have both of these installed and running.) These tend to be a bit heftier. They're mostly to be used in Netbook mode because they require greater precision like physical mouse and keyboard.
  • Ubuntu: Looks fantastic, but I'm not sure if it's lagging. It seems like it takes a bit too long to launch apps, not to mention the fact that I'm not sure if I'm fond of Unity yet (even if it is much improved). I don't think any netbook can handle KDE, but other possibilities would be Mint GNOME or Ubuntu GNOME.
  • Windows 7: Again, kind of slow, so far. It's got a bunch of crappy Lenovo software that's designed to make the tablet experience better. I'm still unconvinced Windows 7 can function well as a tablet OS, so I need to uninstall like a mofo.
2. Minimal: ElementaryOS, Peppermint/Mint LXDE, Slitaz, Windows XP/ReactOS
A bit like the Full Desktop, but a lot lighter. Tend to be a bit more stripped down, or at least designed to be lighter on resources.
  • ElementaryOS: I have not installed this on a machine yet, but my god it is gorgeous. Everything meshes so well. The only downsides are (1) it runs on GNOME, which means it's probably heavier than LXDE, and (2) it uses Midori, which I love, but I really need Firefox Sync. Otherwise, I am so tempted just to pick this, install Wuala and gcc, and leave it at that.
  • Peppermint/Mint LXDE: Peppermint was my Linux choice on my last netbook and I still love it. I don't even love it for the Mozilla Prism apps, I just love it because it is shipped with barely anything and is very very lightweight.
    I might give Mint LXDE a go, since I think it is actually maintained by the same guy who started Peppermint. My guess is both are wonderful.
  • SliTaz: I've never used SliTaz as a primary OS, but I love it so much. Best minimal mobile OS out there, as far as I'm concerned. It is on par with Peppermint.
  • Windows XP/ReactOS: I'm not going to say much about Windows XP other than I've used it for years, still like it, and it makes a great netbook OS.
    But ReactOS! Man, that would be sweet! I just need to make sure it runs VisualStudio, since that is all I really need from my Windows Install. Other than that, I would totally choose that over XP.
3. Netbook: Joli OS, xPUD
These tend to be more limited, mostly by the simplistic design of the interface. Ideally, though, they should be much more fast and lightweight. I have not found this to be the case.
  • Joli OS: Last time I used Joli OS, it was still Jolicloud and it needed some work. From the little I've seen and heard, it's improved, so I'm willing to give it another shot.
  • xPUD: I love xPUD, but I'm not quite sure it is enough for me.

4. Tablet: Android x86, Plasma Active, (WebOS/Maemo?)
These are few and far between, really, at least ones that are designed to be installed on devices instead of merely being shipped on them. The small number of x86 tablets out there makes it even worse.
  • Android x86: I've used this before on my EEE 901 and it was pretty cool. That was before Honeycomb though, so I'll have to see how well that works. If it works well, then this is definitely a go, since (I think) Android gives the best tablet experience I've seen
  • Plasma Active: I heard the guys at the Linux Action Show talked about this a while back and then I somehow stumbled onto it: Plasma Active is a very slick KDE interfaced designed specifically for touch screen interfaces. I've used it live and while it was a bit pokey (running off a microSD), it looked great. If it runs well, I'll probably do this just for shits and grins.
    It actually isn't an OS in and of itself, it's just a set of packages. However, I can't imagine installing a different Linux distro and then installing this, but it is a possibility. Maybe Mint LXDE+Plasma Active.
  • (WebOS/Maemo?): I really hadn't given these two any thought, but I guess I should include them. Bryan Lunduke has said many great things about Maemo, but it's really end-of-lifed so I don't want to get too attached. I've heard amazing things about WebOS as well, so I might give that one a shot, but I'm doubtful it will beat out Android (if Android x86 is on par with my TF's Honeycomb).
5. What the hell are you doing: OS X, Haiku, JNode
Because why the hell not? In all seriousness though, the only one for real that I would do is OS X, depending on if the S10-3t makes a good Hackintosh. This is definitely an afterthought.


To some this might be either daunting or annoying, but I love trying out OSes, especially ones that are very different, and no two of the ones listed are the same. I'll probably just try to spend a day or so in each one, keeping Windows 7 and cycling through the rest.

Hopefully this tabletbook will be good to me. I'm pretty excited about it.
-Bry

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thoughts on Steve Jobs (that will inevitably get me flamed) and Dennis Ritchie

Maybe this is me just being a cynic, but why do people act like he was such a great person? He made personal computers for the upper-middle class and he didn't design them all by himself. He founded a company of hardworking individuals that all together contributed to create the products Apple makes. Steve Jobs did not "create" the iPhone, he created what created the iPhone. It's not like he gives billions to charities...that would be Bill Gates. Most people that praise him do it because they use an iPhone. Is that what "greatness" has been reduced to? Creating luxuries?

I'm certainly not saying that I'm happy he's dead, or even "I'm not glad he's dead, but I'm glad he's gone." I react to his death just like I react to any other person's death, and my philosophical view on death is another discussion entirely.

I'll definitely concede that years ago, Steve was very influential. Earlier on, Macs were pretty cutting edge and in that way, they were pushing the limits for computers in general. But in my own biased view, they've become more of a caged beast; they cater more toward their own consumers; you are either a Mac user, or you aren't. But then there are some people that just make my head hurt, saying "He brought us the concept of the mouse for computers as well as he introduced us to the touch screen system." First off, Apple did not invent the mouse, though they did popularize it. Secondly, he did not do any of that. Apple did. I think it's unfair to the company to place the glory on one person.

People have literally praised him as the "most important person in the history of technology." I cannot believe that that is true for a second. Even if he was "the most influential person," that does not necessarily mean the most important. Other places place him more realistically as "a symbol of innovation, of humanity, of change", and I would agree: he was a symbol. A less kind word would be a "figurehead", but I'm not going to use that. He was the embodiment of what most people saw good or at least wanted to see good in the computing industry. Even though his company had less-than-laudable tactics, he was still flawless. But is a symbol of something the same as that which it represents? (Is an iPad really magic because they brand it as that?)

I will give him this: he is an incredible businessman. But is that really enough to call him a "great" man? So many people say that he "changed the world," but did he really?

-Bry

[UPDATE 10-13-11]
Wow, what amazing timing....about a week after Steve Jobs, Dennis Ritchie passes away. You don't know who Dennis Ritchie is? That's ok, I didn't know the name either. Yet somehow, his name isn't trending on Twitter. Yeah, there are articles out there, but it's more of an interesting tidbit to most people than the loss of a great mind. Well, settle in for a history lesson. (This lesson is for me too, by the way, via research.)

He developed the C language, and also worked on Unix. But that's not quite as flashy as an iPad or a Macbook Air, is it? But guess what the apps are made of on that iPad: Objective C. Guess what the OS is based off on that Air: Unix. I know that people don't know much about Unix, but it truly, undeniably changed the way computing was done, and it was powered by C.  It was the first operating system written in a high level language and it was also the first portable operating system. I don't mean portable as in PortableApps, I mean portable in that instead of having to re-write the entire thing for every single type of processor, all you have to do is rewrite the compiler. This may not sound like a big deal nowadays, but it was a major step forward in computing.

It's just astounding to think of where we are today because of this man and his colleagues. True, he stood on the shoulders of those that came before him, but C was unique enough that it catapulted the very definition of computing by leaps and bounds. And it's still used today! Not even in the minority: C is still a very real foundation in everything we do. As others in many articles I've read have said, you would not be reading this right now if it was not for C and Dennis Ritchie. As one article concerning his death put it:

"The C programming language, which he called “quirky, flawed, and an enormous success,” is the basis of nearly every programming and scripting tool, whether they use elements of C’s syntax or not. Java, JavaScript, Objective C and Cocoa, Python, Perl, and PHP would not exist without dmr’s C. Every bit of software that makes it possible for you to read this page has a trace of dmr’s DNA in it."

And the most amazing thing is that he was the silent hero. Nobody knows who he was. He did not come out on stage in a turtleneck and show off a fancy new toy. He did not work on the body of the car and the fancy paint job, but he did work on the precise tuning of the engine and all of the parts that are too sophisticated for most of us to comprehend.


As a Computer Science major, I am forever indebted to Dennis Ritchie and the men like him that helped build the field that I love, but even as a person who likes to use technology, I owe them the deepest thanks. Whether or not the Apple fans want to argue about if Jobs was a great man, I know for a fact that Ritchie was. Here's to one of the greats.

Google Department of Redundancy



Am I the only one who finds this absolutely retarded?

Do we really need the exact same menu in two places on the effing page?

-Bry

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Install Visual Studio / .Net Framework (ERROR: 0x80070643)

tl;dr solution is at the bottom of the post

One of the classes I'm currently taking is Assembly, and since we are using IA-32, the professor requires Microsoft Visual Studio C++ Express Edition 2010. I installed it in my dual boot of W7, but I got frustrated having to switch to Windows, especially when another class of mine requires the GCC compiler, so I decided to try to install it on my VirtualBox Windows XP that I use for Netflix inside my Linux Mint.

I really wanted to just make the Visual Studio folder a Virtualbox Shared Folder and run off that, but Microsoft products hate trying to be run without first being installed, so it threw up several random errors. Then I tried to download and install legitimately, only to find that it returned another error "Setup could not install the following component: .NET Framework 4". Well what the hell. It doesn't really give me any explanation as to why it failed, only that it did. I know it probably created a log SOMEwhere, but I really didn't want to have to search around and figure out where.

Then I try to install the .NET 4 on its own, and it fails yet again with a "Fatal Error", only this time it gives me a link to a log, placed in a temp folder somewhere, where it had the error code: 0x80070643. This was a pretty ambiguous error code (as most of MS's codes are), in that Microsoft said that I probably had something wrong with the MSI service.

After verifying all of that, I saw that the log linked to yet another log (a log within a log, nice Microsoft) filled with a crap ton of stuff, and sifting through that, I finally found the golden ticket:

Product: Microsoft .NET Framework 4 Client Profile -- You must install the 32-bit Windows Imaging Component (WIC) before you run Setup. Please visit http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=162643&clcid=0x409 to install WIC, and then rerun Setup.

I don't understand how an Imaging Component has to do with a Framework, or why they couldn't just SAY that it was a prerequisite beforehand, but after downloading and installing the WIC, the .NET framework installed perfectly, and then Visual Studio installed as well.

tl;dr: If you are a googler ducker who came here, looking for why you can't install Visual Studio and/or the .NET framework, try installing the Windows Imaging Component first.

-Bry

PS - After installing Visual Studio, it presented me with a dialog about needing to restart my computer, only the "Restart Later" box was greyed out. What the fuck, Microsoft.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

xkcd sucks

I originally wanted to write this post literally since this blog started, but I kept putting it off because I didn't think I could write it without absolutely raging against this guy. But if you haven't heard, xkcd has a hater. Not just a hater, the king of all haters. He decided that he hated it so much, he wanted -no, needed to create an entire blog around it, called xkcd sucks. I actually wrote out an e-mail to the guy several years ago, but never finished nor sent it. Here it is.

I've found your blog, and to be honest, it really kind of pissed me off. Now before you start shouting obscenities out me or post this e-mail as some kind of example on your blog, hear me out.

All growing up, I loved the Garfield comic strip. I have the first 20 or so books packed up in my closet, as well as the first three seasons of "Garfield and Friends" on DVD. But then a few years ago, I found several places that said that Jim Davis was a sellout. I was shocked. For a kid, comic strips are essentially the ultimate good, and I didn't want to believe that my most favorite cartoon character was just a way for the author to make money. But as time went on, I discovered that it was actually true. There's so much Garfield merchandise out there, I could create a house where every little item, from coffee mugs to lamp shades to slippers, had some form of Garfield on it. That didn't used to bug me, but then I saw an extremely rapid decline in the quality of Garfield comic strips, even in the colored Sunday strips. Nowadays, I cringe to read a Garfield strip just because of how shoddy and overdone it is. Most strips are actually regurgitated from a decade or so ago (I would know, I've read 20 years worth of strips at least 5 times), lazily thought out, and the dialogue is getting to the point where Jim (or whoever writes those strips nowadays) doesn't even include one word in a weeks worth of strips. Needless to say, my adoration for Garfield has fizzled out.

Why do I share that long, boring story? I dunno. Maybe because I'm tired, maybe because I'm hoping it will prove that I'm attempting to be rationale and not an xkcd zealot, maybe I'm just crazy. I prefer to hope it's the second option. The point I'm trying to say is, I know what it's like to see a comic sell out, especially one that you follow (possibly religiously) and have high regards for.

My question is this: do you really think that xkcd is bad enough (not as a webcomic, just bad enough) that it needs its own hate website? I only ask because I really don't see the harm in a webcomic that fails to meet every single person's expectations. You might say that it is like Garfield, but I really don't see it as the same thing. You might see it differently, and that's fine.

I suppose the point I'm dancing around is this: do you really think it's necessary to be so harsh on Randall? Again, I'm not an xkcd nerd, fanboy, or any of the like. To me, xkcd is just another one of the webcomics I get in my daily feedreader. I open it up, go down the list, and if xkcd has a new comic, I read it. And to be honest, it's funny. It is. xkcd has made me laugh numerous times. But I'm getting off topic.

The point is, to me, it's a comic. That's it. If it makes you laugh, great, read it. But if it doesn't does it really call for scrutiny? And intense scrutiny, at that? I'm not going to even pretend to claim that I've read every one of xkcd sucks' posts, mostly because (and I hope I can say that, since I haven't been outright offense yet in this letter, at least yet) the posts are always soaked with such hatred. I just have trouble finding that much hatred for a webcomic, to pick it apart to pieces.

I mean, really..

It's about as insightful or humorous as pointing out that Jewish children don't get to open a pile of presents today. Hey, what about TWINS born on Christmas Day? They must get double-shafted since they're sharing their birthday with Jesus AND their freakish sibling! Oh my God, I almost pissed myself from all the hilarity.

It's a comic.....comics aren't supposed to be this brilliant flow of words, logic, and "insight". It's supposed to make people chuckle. And if it doesn't, so what?

I really should not say more, but I will squeeze in a few biased statements. First, to the author, stop trying  so hard. It's obvious in every post that you write that you are digging through the comic, often pulling up red herrings and general slander to dramatize your views of the comic. I am honestly hoping that you are just a level 99 troll, otherwise, I would facepalm so hard, it would break through my skull and damage my brain. Secondly, to the readers, realize that this guy is a troll. He deliberately attacks Randall, as if by reading a comic strip that he happens to dislike, he obtains the ability to judge his character.
 

I could say so much more because there is just so much more with this blog that is stupid and retarded -not because I like xkcd, just that makes no sense and is merely there to try to shock whoever reads it. Almost every single argument he makes is flawed and/or incoherent, to the point that I could maybe a blog mocking every single blog post of his. But then I'm not going to spend my time and effort to make a hate blog for something as trivial as this; I'm just going to turn my back and walk away, because it isn't even worth my time. (You could learn a lesson, "Carl".)
-Bry

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fix Netflix "Error N8156-6013" in Virtualbox

Until Netflix decides to move away from retarded old Silverlight, we have to deal with their cryptic errors. One I've experienced a lot was "N8156-6013", which says something about the System Date and Time. But if you know for a fact that the date and time are right, there's a very, very easy fix over at Curiositatis Captivus.

Click through there, but for the sake of documentation (i.e., if the blog mentioned happened to go down), the fix is deleting this file:

C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Microsoft\PlayReady\mspr.hds

That is all.
-Bry

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

New headphones?

I am on the hunt for new headphones! I'm really not picky at all as long as they are (a) comfortable and (b) WORK. I prefer the standard 1/4" over USB and noise canceling is a huge plus, but other than that, I really don't care that much.

The only other thing that has come to my attention is that my headphones always tend to crack at the plastic on the sides. I think this might be because I often sit with one ear on, one ear off, so they get twisted a little bit, but I'd like to have some headphones that can take that minor abuse. Both my TekNMotion AND my Hesh have kind of reached their end of life cycle due to that very problem.

If I had more free time, I would do some shopping around, but alas, school is a harsh mistress.
-Bry

Friday, September 16, 2011

Darksiders for $5!

I know I haven't been posting a lot recently, but I've had a lot going on recently....most of it has been college. But I am still subscribed to a [very awesome Reddit...uh thing] (Subreddit? do not know exactly how Reddit works) that lets me know when there's a Steam sale on a game. And today, that game is Darksiders.

I actually started a very lengthy blog post "review" about this game but have been unable to finish it (again, school), but if you want my short answer to if I like Darksiders: YES. Resounding yes. It's not the most original or thrilling game out there, but it is fun as hell. (Ha, pun.) And $5 is a steal.

If you don't have it already, I recommend getting it right now because it's a great game, and that way you can be ready, since Darksiders 2 is slated to come out soon...ish.

Onward, to Steam!
-Bry

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Switching from Dropbox

Goodbye Dropbox.
It's almost been a year since that fateful day I almost lost all my data. I quickly upgraded to Dropbox's 50GB plan after I recovered everything and have been wanting to change off of Dropbox for a good.....9 months? Here's the real reasons why:
  1. Hate the "one folder" thing.
    Because anyone who thinks that all of the data I want to back up can be contained within one folder is an idiot. I disliked it on Windows and I hate it on Linux.
  2. Dropbox is a major resource hog.
    Consistently, when I check my System Monitor, Dropbox will be eating up ~%30 of my CPU....for nothing. It's not uploading or downloading, I don't know what it's doing; add to that that it's always sitting at around 150MB of RAM. I don't know if any others will be any better.
  3. Dropbox's security and TOS are sketchy.
    Back then, I didn't know, but now -mostly thanks to TechSnap- I've learned that Dropbox's security design is flawed, and in a way that cannot simply be fixed; client-side encryption is a must.
  4. Dropbox is effing expensive.
    I paid $100 for $50. Of all the competitors I've looked at, that is the most expensive.
Want:

  • What Dropbox has
    • Linux, preferrably Windows as well
    • Constant syncing (i.e., not manual/scheduled)
    • Public Sharing
    • Reasonable maximum file size; > 10GB 
    • Functional Android app
  • Client-side encryption
  • Revision history, or at least undelete
  • Selective Sync (not "one folder")
  • Reasonable price

The Candidates.
I tried to look into every possibility (within reason) for a good sync and backup service that runs on Linux. From what I could find, here are some of the candidate, and what I saw was lacking, in order of most lacking to least.

(These are either from AlternativeTo or this Wiki article)
  • Pogoplug
    I don't know why AlternativeTo even listed this. Yeah, it technically is, but it's actually hardware, not software. If it's not software I can download and run on a desktop OS, it's not an alternative.
  • Sparkleshare
    • Terrible Documentation: I couldn't even find a solid list of features. But then it is an open-sourced Linux app, so I guess I'm not the target market. *coughNeckbeardscough*
  • Tonido
    • No Server-side: While this looks like a truly awesome service, it was missing a server-side backup, which is critical for me. I definitely love the idea and might end out using it in a different situation, just not ideal for this.
  • iFolder
    • No Server?: The documentation for this is pretty terrible. It's there, but it's just a bunch of PDFs that tell what it does. Well that's great if you've already decided you're going to use iFolder, but what if I'm not sure? Is there or is there not a server involved?
  • Minus
    • No paid: As far as I can tell, this is just a free service. Which is awesome, but I kind of need more than 10 gigs. Maybe I'll use this as a bonus?
  • TeamDrive
    • Price: Even though their website is a clusterfuck of different plans and products, it looks like increasing the storage to 50GB would cost around 425 USD. I guess this is more for businesses.
  • ZumoDrive
    • Bad encryption: According to the wiki, it has relative to Dropbox; i.e., no client-side.
    • No Auto-detect: I didn't look into it cause reason #1 was enough to forfeit its chance, but this is annoying to miss.
    • No Versioning: At least the square was blank anyway. Again: reason #1 was bad enough.
So that takes care of every service I took a look at. Mind you, this information could be downright wrong because I didn't take an in-depth look at all of them. As much as I want the best option, I don't have the time to analyze and DuckDuckGo 10 different sites. In this case, the websites mattered tremendously. Many of the ones lower on the list are there because the website/documentation are just horrendous.

The Bronze and Silver.
There were really only 3 that I ever considered. I separate them from the others because of what a definitive line there is between them and these 3 when it comes to what I'm looking for / what is comparable to Dropbox. Plus, I feel they need a bit more discussion on what I found fault with.

Ubuntu One
($89.97 for 60GB = $1.50/GB)

Ah, yes, the big-daddy of Linux's little baby.

The best part about this service, is that it fulfills a majority of my needs and is fairly cheap, yet modular. If I need to add 20GB, I can, and it only costs $30 more, always. Plus, I can addon things like Music Streaming if I find that I love it.

The worst part about this service is that it utterly fails at 3 of my "Want" list, the first 2 of which are extremely important:

  • Client-side encryption (No encryption, from what I can tell.)
  • Revision history, or at least undelete (Nope. It's an "upcoming feature" since January '11.)
  • Reasonable maximum file size; > 10GB  (It's only 5GB, which isn't terrible, but I'd like more wiggle room than that.)
One of the main safeties I have with Dropbox is knowing that -not only is my data safe in case of a computer crash- it's also safe in case I delete something on accident. That, mixed with the fact that there is no encryption, leads me to stay away from Ubuntu One, at least until they get that all sorted out. (Plus, I couldn't log in with their mobile app, so there's that too.)

SpiderOak
($100 for 100GB = $1/GB)

I'd have to say this is the second biggest name when it comes to Linux syncing services.

The best part about this service is that feature set and reputation sounded good and from the list of the services, this one actually hit every nail on the head with nothing bad. Plus an outstanding deal! It's literally twice as cheap as Dropbox!

The worst part about this service is the god-awful client. Let me describe the problems I had:
  1. As I finish trying to create the account, a "server error" occurs and crashes the program. I don't know if my account is active or not, so I try to login, both on the client and on the website. No luck.
  2. I try to create my account again, only this time it says "Computer name already in use!" and crashes again. Well, I entered my Computer name after my password & hint, so I figured that it must have that too. I try to retrieve my password hint: it is not set.
  3. After attempting to login yet again on both the website and client, I try to create my account using another computer name. This time it works.
  4. Upon launching the SpiderOak client, I go to the "Backup" tab and try to select "Advanced". The client crashes.
  5. Repeat problem #4.
  6. I mess with some preferences, then try "Advanced" again, and this time it works. Only everything in the list is greyed out. It doesn't tell me why everything is greyed out. I don't know, I've used the program, so I have no clue what the hell is going on.
  7. After failing to find the source of the problem I check my e-mail, and see that I have to validate my account. Is that part of the solution, or what? If it is, why didn't they tell me?
    Anyway, I finally notice the "Network Health" bar is at low. I don't know why, Wuala was doing just fine. Maybe Wuala was using up too much bandwidth (even though I only had upload set to either 100kbps or 300kbps), but web browsing was doing just fine, so.......
  8. Now, as I'm writing this, I start SpiderOak and it starts scanning and starts immediately uploading crap that I never told it to. Apparently, I had "Documents" selected, even though the checkbox was unchecked. I had to switch to Basic to uncheck it.
  9. Even though I unchecked it, it's still syncing....SOMEthing, I don't know what. And everything is still greyed out. Apparently I cannot cancel, nor can I sync any folder I want.
  10. After reinstalling the client, it still says it's uploading something, god knows what.
  11. The web client at first showed that nothing was there, then that 2GB of stuff was there.
It's just....UGH. It's not even that SpiderOak is ugly or unintuitive (which it is, both), it just does not work. From account creation to actually running, I've already spent several hours just trying to get it set up. And they expect me to trust my data with this thing? No. Way. The features may be there, but not the implementation. (The mobile app is decent, even though there's no way to upload files from what I can tell.)

Wuala
($79 for 50GB = $1.58/GB)
Well there's a new face to the party.

The best part about this service is that on top of having all of the features I want, I can trade local storage for more web storage. Since my computer is on alot and I receive 11% of whatever I give, I figure I can get a good 5 gigs or so, if I move my .wuala folder to my 1TB drive.
Oh, also, signup and setup was a breeze, the client is absolutely beautiful to deal with look at. I was so shocked. It even auto-detected the best settings for my upload/download caps.

The worst part about this service is that it runs off Java. One of the reasons I was moving away from Dropbox was that it was a resource hog, but a Java app isn't going to be much better. Like right now, running Wuala and Dropbox side by side, Wuala 20MB more memory.

The web interface is a little weird, in that it doesn't exist. Instead of viewing it in-browser, you just launch a Java app that is the client and you browser your files from there. It's an awesome idea, but it requires Java.


That's about it. To me, the choice is clear: Wuala. It's the only one that hits all the important features and does not perform like a piece of shit.

The only problem is that I can't really access my files from any computer because it needs Java. That is not a good thing. I'll think about it, since I have a month before my Dropbox expires.

-Bry

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Video Vednesday: Half-Life Singularity Collapse

A while ago I discovered "Beyond Black Mesa" which is just an absolutely stunning fan film based in the Half-Life universe. Then a while ago, I found Singularity Collapse, which is also EXCELLENT beyond belief. I'm going to

The two are definitely different and I can't outright say which one is "better"; they're both very good. I'd have to say BBM is more like if they spun Half-Life off into a movie, whereas SC is more like the game itself: first person, interacting with people, not really knowing what's going on.

In any case, I'm still amazed by the amazing special effects and how they even worked in the a certain someone (you'll know who after watching). Give it a look, if you've played Half-Life, I sincerely don't think you'll be dissapointed.



-Bry

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Qweex is born

I haven't talked about this because I've been so unbelievably busy, what with fiddling with my HTPC and also setting up my first website. I picked out the domain name quite a while ago and it didn't expire until earlier this week and as soon as it did, I jumped on it. My plan is that eventually it will morph into my own software company (kind of FreewareWire's big brother), which I hope to have started before I graduate college, but for now, I'm going to use it as a chance to help people by opening up a computer repair business.

So without further ado, I present Qweex!


I'm really not hoping to make a buttload of money off this. Honest to god, at this point, I just wait to pay for hosting. Because even if I just break even, I'll have had a good 2 years to familiarize myself with how to run a website, something I've had no experience with before now. And believe me, I've already learned alot.
Yeah, uh, if anyone on here wants help I can like give you a discount for reading my blog I guess (even though I'm pretty sure anyone who stumbles on it is nerdier than I).
And now I'm going to collapse into bed because I spent all night learning about including PHP and htaccess files.
-Bry

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Video Vednesday: What Tau Sounds Like

From the same guy who did the wonderful "What Pi Sounds Like", here's "What Tau Sounds Like." See, although Pi seems to make the world go round, some Mathematicians want to replace it with a new number: Tau, which happens to be 2*Pi. The reasoning behind this (as far as I can tell) is that it would be much easier if a circle was 1 Tau rather than 2 Pi, that way a quarter of a circle would be 1/4 Tau instead of 1/8 Pi.

With that annoying intro, I give you: What Tau Sounds Like.


-Bry

Monday, August 1, 2011

Wiki article on Linux Comparison

While Wikipedia isn't always the best for having clear, concise articles, I did find an interesting one titled Comparison of Linux Distributions. It's awfully hard (and seemingly pointless) to try to "compare" distros, but there are several tables that I find interesting such as

It would be nice if DistroWatch had this kind of thing since it's constantly being updated.
-Bry

Useful tip for "Open All in tabs" in Firefox

Click here for the Article

To put it nice and short, change browser.tabs.LoadFolderAndReplace to false. Quality of life = significantly improved.
-Bry

PROJECT: HTPC FTW

Credit where credit is due
I didn't exactly know where to start out so I used a great post by Jon Schneider that discussed alot of his own choices for a HTPC. So thanks, Jon, for letting me look like I know what I'm talking about!

Pre-ramble
I finally ended out buying a Roku player, and in between me buying it off of Roku.com and receiving it, they released Roku 2. Needless to say, I was not thrilled. Plus, add on to the fact that I did end out trying the Roku for a little while before discovering the next generation was out, and I found it to be kind of sluggish. I would comment on how it ran with Netflix, but it was having major issues with my wifi as well.

After I filed for an RMA, I decided to think about whether or not I wanted a Roku after all. After a bit of research, here are my conclusions for what I see as worthy of me buying:
  • Roku: Cheap. Great if all you want to do is watch things from your services like Netflix or Amazon VOD.
  • Boxee: Mid expensive. Great if you want to stream services but also have alot of local media you want to play, or want full access to the web on your set top box.
  • HTPC: More expensive. Great if you want to customize everything and want it to be able to do.....well, whatever you want it to do.
I went with Roku at first because all I wanted was to watch movies. Now, however, I'm reconsidering and thinking of going with the HTPC route.

Goals
In order of priority:
  • Play streaming services, primarily Netflix, Amazon VOD, Pandora, Hulu Plus, and Jupiter Broadcasting.
    Unfortunately, this means running Windows for Netflix, and I'm going to opt for Windows XP since it's lighter and I have several extra copies of it laying around.
  • Be very small. I realize getting it to Roku or Boxee size is impossible, but the smaller, the better.
    We just got a "set top" box from Comcast that "makes the [original] Xbox look small", as my brother put it. The thing is a beast.
  • Play retro games on emulators. I'm hoping up to N64, and also "Metal Slug 4" for the NeoGeo emu.
  • Play movies and shows via DVD and Blu-Ray. Basically just means it needs a Blu-Ray drive (something Boxee and Roku don't have).
  • Play other games. Definitely not hoping for Steam (although maybe just a few like Audiosurf), more along the lines of Battle for Wesnoth. Nothing too graphically intensive...that's what my PC is for!
  • Be low power. *coughAtomProcessorcough*
  • Maybe act as a DVR? I've never really used a DVR so this is still a toss up. But it would add to the awesomeness.
  • Eventually act as a home server, if/when I want it to. Hopefully through virtualization.
  • Run quietly. *coughAtomProcessorcough*

Parts
I'm taking a bit of a different path than Jon. He got a great machine that packs a bit of a punch, but it's a little larger than I want and I don't want to play modern games like he does. So instead of going with microATX, I went with miniITX.



MOBO+CPU+WIFI: Zotac IONITX-A-U - $164.99 ($189.99 - $25 MIR)
  • It's an Atom processor (plus a massive heatsink) which means that it will run very cool. Not quote fanless when doing 1080p, but close.
  • Handles 1080p great, according to Newegg reviews
  • Crap ton of ports. Ethernet, USB 3, eSATA all are bonuses.
  • 240pin memory, which is easier to come by, IMO.
    (If I upgrade my PC before I build this, I can use hand-me-down memory).
  • Comes with a 90w PSU.
  • Built in 802.11n
  • 4 eggs / 135 reviews on Newegg
RAMCrucial 2GBx1 CT25664AA667 - $22.98
  • Cheap
  • 2GB should be good to run XP, and if I start out with just one stick, I can add more later.
  • 5 eggs / 51 reviews on Newegg

CASE: hec ITX200A - $49.99
  • Uh, I like the looks. It's nice and sleek and doesn't scream "Hey I'm a PC".
  • Comes with 200W PSU, though I'm planning on using a DC to ATX converter to make it more silent.
  • 4 eggs / 20 reviews on Newegg

HDD: Western Digital 2 TB Caviar Green WD20EARS - $72.99
  • I adore WD drives. Very good record from my experience, and I currently run two Blacks in my PC.
  • Greens are supposed to use less power, which is ideal for this build. The slower speed shouldn't be too much of a factor. And $60 for 1TB is magical. I did spring the extra $12 for the 2TB.
  • 3 eggs / 1,291 reviews on Newegg
BD: LG CT10N Slim SATA - $79.99
  • I was unaware that I'd need a slim, but it's alright, other than they are a but more expensive. I've had nothing but good experiences with LG.
  • 5 stars / 2 reviews on Amazon
TV TUNER: Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-850 - $49.99
  • Suggested by Jon, and I have no experience with these so I trust his judgment.
  • A bit pricey, but one of the few I could find that did 1080i.
  • Still a toss up.
  • 4 eggs / 52 reviews
REMOTE:
There are a bunch of different options. It mostly depends on what style I want.
Lenovo Multimedia Remote - $42.57
  • Trackball
  • Good for holding one handed
  •  3.5 stars / 133 reviews
Rii Mini Wireless Keyboard RT-MWK01$33.12
  • Touchpad
  • Horizontal; two handed
  • 3.5 stars / 363 reviews
CE Compass Touchpad - $32.95
  • Multi touch touchpad
  • Vertical, but fat; two handed
  •  4.5 stars / 10 reviews
Boxee Remote - $39.99
  • Easily one or two handed
  • 4 stars / 21 reviews

HDMI: 2M - $2.08
  • 4.5 stars / 4,125 reviews

OS: Microsoft Windows XP - $89.99 $0
  • I already have several Windows XP licenses that I'm not using, so that helps save some money.
S&H: - $14.55
  • As per tradition, I split it over several sites to get the best deal.
  • $9.56 on TigerDirect
  • $4.99 on Amazon

TOTAL: $490.68


To compare with Jon's quickly, we're actually very equal on almost everything -he saved by not having to buy a case, I saved by not having to buy an OS- the Optical Drive is what killed me. But still, we both kept it under $500 and are actually within a Lincoln of each other.

I haven't looked much into the software yet other than Boxee, XBMC or Moovidia. Pretty excited about it.
-Bry

Friday, July 29, 2011

Another reason DDG is awesome: URL parameters

I cleared out my cookies and I was really bummed that everything I had set up in DDG was undone, but then I discovered that you don't even need an account to save your settings: just a URL. Just set all your settings and scroll toward the bottom where it will have a custom URL that will automatically set all your settings. Awesome when it comes to when you're on the go or if you clear your cookies.


COPY YOUR OWN URL FIRST to back it up, then CLICK THIS FOR MINE, if you want.

-Bry

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Absolutely terrible, terrible TOS

I really loved Mint.com for a while because it helped me keep track of my finances. Eventually I had to turn away, mostly because it would never update. It's supposed to send you updates when your account balance is low, but it only updates your accounts when you are logged in....so kinda useless. In addition to that, it either takes 10+ minutes to update (no exaggerating) or it won't update at all and give you a vauge error message.

....anyway, I'd pretty much given up on finding an online service, especially one that syncs with your bank, until I found MonkeyPeanuts on AlternativeTo. It looked very promising:
It's free and anyone can join
Supports all major US banks and credit cards
...
Directly connects to your bank
...
Extensive use of AES encryption
Bank credentials are never stored online

Sounds awesome, right? Of course, it does handle my banking info and whatnot so I try to look into it a bit further, and I happened to run across their terms of use.

We've done our best to make this site as safe, secure, and reliable as possible.
While we strive to provide you with a safe, secure, and reliable service, we do not and cannot guarantee the safety or security of any information or data that you hand over to us.
By signing up and logging in, you've agreed to release us of any liablities that may result from the usage of, or is somehow related to the usage of our service, MonkeyPeanuts.com.
If this is unacceptable to you, please immediately delete any accounts you've registered with us and clear your browser cookies.
Thank you for your consideration, and we hope you enjoy MonkeyPeanuts.com.

Never mind the fact that they spelled "liabilities" wrong or that they use the term "hand over to us"...they start off by saying "safe" and "secure",  then they go into saying that they cannot guarantee the "safety" or "security." They're saying that they tried to do something, but they can't guarantee that they did it.

In order to compare this, I tried to read through Mint.com's TOS, and while it's written in legalese, I never see any part in it that says "You can sign up with us, but we don't promise that your data is secure or that we won't just sell it off or use it ourselves."

Social networking sites get in enough crap for leaking things like e-mail addresses and passwords. Imagine if they leaked your bank information. There's no question about it, sites that have to do with money HAVE to guarantee your safety. This is not leaking your Farmville information, this is leaking your identity, and while it's true that they can't truly promise safety because you never expect a security flaw, they at least have to take responsibility for it. They have to guarantee that your data is safe, knowing that if somehow their security is compromised, they're going to held responsible. Otherwise, what makes the user want to join? Obviously the developers don't care much about security because they don't have to care much about security: they told us that straight out!

Maybe it's just poor phrasing, but this put off so many bells and whistles. I was really stoked by the screenshots and the features listed, but with those Terms Of Service, I'm not even going to register an account to try it out.
-Bry

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Thoughts on creating a strong password system

Ever since TechSnap launched on JupiterBroadcasting, I've started worrying about my online privacy. I've not been the best about creating unique passwords for every site, unless the site is important. Plus, over the years, the passwords I use change so I will often forget the password to a site I haven't used in a while, give it a few guesses, and then eventually have to reset the password (which can be a hassle, since I may have signed up under any of 5 different e-mail addresses).

So I've been trying to think of a good way to create passwords that are easy to remember, but also very strong and different from one another. Most sites just suggest how to create a strong password, which is fine if you only use one site. It's really not hard to create a secure password: mix in numbers and symbols, don't use all lowercase and try to avoid using words period if you can. But if you have literally over 100 sites you've signed up for over the years (like me), from forums to e-mail accounts to social networking, it's a little more important that they are both secure and convenient to remember.


The best site I've come across so far in my searching is an article on About.com titled Passwords: Creating and Maintaining a Strong Password System. They recommend splitting it into three parts: A common part, a "type" part, and a site-specific part. I think it's a good idea, especially because this makes it easier to remember and I even started dividing the sites I'm on up by categories.

...but it seems like it has one gaping flaw: what if someone were to obtain two passwords from the same type? They could quickly recognize that they were alike except for the last three characters were the same, which means that they just reduced having to guess a 14 character password to a mere 3. Now by doing a quick count on my keyboard, it looks like there are ~100 possible characters for each of those three, which still makes it 1,000,000 different combinations (if I did my math right...I was always bad with possibilities).[Yeah, you could totally include Unicode characters or other non-standard ASCII, but most people aren't going to want to dive into the Character Map or memorize a bunch of Alt codes just to log into a website.]

That may seem a little impressive, but then remember that those three really aren't going to be anything, they're going to build off of the site name, then trade out only one of those for a random symbol/number. So if we took Gmail, for example, two of the letters are going to be from gmail, and they are going to be in the same order as "G-M-A-I-L" ('L' won't come before 'A'). That means character...
  1. Can only be 'g/G', 'm/M' or 'a/A'. That's only 6 characters.
  2. Can only be 'm/M', 'a/A' or 'i/I'. Again, only 6 characters.
  3. Can only be 'a/A', 'i/I' or 'l/L'. Again, 6 characters.
But one of those is going to be random, but only a symbol or number, because having a random letter in there is going to make it confusing. So after another quick count, there are only 35 characters and numbers on my keyboard.

We add that up: (35*6*6), we only get 1,260 possible combinations for your password. "Gmail" is a rather short site name so sites like "Jupiter Colony" would definitely fair better, but really if you're going to try to be able to conjure up these names without looking at a list, you're probably going to pick the first letter of the first word -in this case "J"- and then probably go from there, most likely including something from the second word resulting in something like "JuC".


That's definitely my main concern, without even considering how you'd remember what symbols you stuck where for every site and type. (If you "assign" a symbol to a letter, that drastically decreases the strength and possible combinations -in thee case above, it would drop it to 6*6*6 = 216.) It seems like it's more along the lines of "security via obscurity" because you're betting that no one will figure out the method you're using but if they do, they've basically broken in.


Another one of the fears I've had about it is sites that store the password in clear text. Mostly small forums and such over the years, but I have noticed that some will actually send you your current password in an e-mail when you do a reset, which is a nono because that means they have a 2-way hashing algorithm, or they store it in plain text. To me, that seems just ripe for the picking for naughty people seeking passwords and the more of those they are able to get, the easier it will be to start seeing patterns in the method.

I'm not sure if there's really a better way to do it though. I realize that all "systems" you might invent mostly use obscurity just because you have a basic algorithm that you used to derive them, but it just seems like this one is less secure than I would hope. The only true way to make it actually a truly secure is to use a randomly generated password for every single site you use and keep track of them in a TrueCrypt volume on a PC not connected to the internet with a password on the BIOS and a TrueCrypt encrypted drive......

My point is, there's always going to be some weakness, it just depends on how much you feel comfortable with it. I definitely don't feel comfortable using the same password for every site, but I'm not quite sure I feel comfortable with this method either. I definitely don't feel comfortable picking a category for "banking", as they suggested, because if you're going to use the same password minus three characters for all the sites that manage your money, you might as well go ahead and just make the check out to "Nigerian Princess Scammers" right now.

If you want to correct or even make a suggestion, feel free.
-Bry

Month: Close but no cigar.

Almost a month ago today, I said I was going to take a month's "vacation" from my computer. Well, I almost made it. I moved out with my brother which was very time consuming and we didn't have internet for almost a week, so that probably helped. Even after we got internet again, I didn't boot into Mint for almost a week as well, but then I needed to do some homework, which works best with g++, so I booted into Mint....and the rest is history.

Anyway, I was very close. Kinda nice, I'll probably try to do it again.

-Bry

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Valve is practically GIVING their games away

The Valve Complete Pack is normally $215.81, but is on sale for $49.99. That is insane. And it's not even that it is 77% off: it's that some of the best games ever are in that pack: Half-Life and all it's derivitaves, Half-Life 2 and Episodes 1 & 2, Left4Dead 1 & 2, Team Fortress 1 & 2, Counter Strike Original & Source, and Portal 1 & 2.

Let me repeat that: Portal 2 is in the complete pack. Normally, Portal 2 is $49.99 individually, and now you can buy it and get a shit ton of other amazing games.

Seriously. Every time I go the the page for the Complete Pack, I cry a little, because over time I ended out buying all of the games in it and I ended out paying way more than $50. I actually just bought Portal 2 separately for $33.49, which is still an amazing deal, but it can't touch the Complete Pack. Seriously, no jokes: if you even slightly game on the PC (and don't mind using Steam), buy this pack.

The only bad thing about this pack is that they keep adding games as they come out, which makes it an even better value for gamers who have not yet bought it, and that makes me jealous.

-Bry

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cryptozoology

I know this isn't really "nerdy," but I writing about computers and such really gets monotonous and I'd like this blog to be a bit more open.

I've always been a fan of Cryptozoology (the study of creatures that may or may not exist). Even back when I was a kid, things like Nessie and Bigfoot and even Aliens fascinated me. When I volunteered at the library several years ago, the shelves I were assigned to keep clean and organized happened to be from about 000-100, including both Computer Science and Paranormal! I read a few books back then and even looked up some videos and articles online, but it kind of fell on the backburner.

The recently, as I've been getting to know Jupiter Broadcasting, I discovered "Bryan Lunduke's Jupiter Files". While there weren't that many episodes (at least that he posted on his blog) it definitely reminded me of how much I love the paranormal and so I decided to take up that passion again.


In terms of what I believe, I really can't say that I've investigated any one cryptid enough to believe that it exists. Instead, I just love the possibility! I love science and facts as much as the next guy and I could just turn my nose up and say "Come back when you have concrete proof!", but it's so much more fun to say "Wait, what if a plesiosaur is living in that lake?" To me, it is the closest thing in this world to a real-life fairy tale. And as long as you stay away from going crazy over it, what's the harm in believing a strange possibility?


I feel like now is when I talk about how I was abducted by aliens or went on a date with Bigfoot, but I haven't really had any special experiences.(...yet...) But I have had a few that are just a little....off and I guess it would be cool to share them.

In our house, my younger brother's room was directly across from the bathroom and then down the hall was my bedroom and my older brother's bedroom. We all used that same bathroom to brush our teeth and such to get ready for bed, and so one night, after I had already turned out my light, I got up and went down the hall to do something (I can't remember what), and I passed a figure on the way down. Because the light and the hall was out and the light in my room was out, there was barely any light in the hall so I couldn't make out any features. This was not a shadow or anything like that, it was a solid object, it was just too dark to see its face or features. It was about the same height as me though, so I just assumed it was my younger brother. (I was short...we were the same height all growing up, until he passed me later on.) I really didn't think much of it at the time, except I can remember wondering why my younger brother was going toward mine and my older brother's room. Well, when I got to the end of the hall a few steps later, I looked into the bathroom to see my younger brother, gargling some Listerine. My older brother was much taller than me at that point and the figure definitely did not have longer hair or glasses like my mom....so what was it?

In the same house, my bed was parallel to a wall with a window facing the street of a cul-de-sac. One night, while I was lying in bed trying to fall asleep, the window was filled with a blue-ish glow. It faded in quickly and got very bright, almost bright enough that it seemed like it was day with the blinds closed, and then faded out quickly. It was only a matter of seconds, but I was still concerned. I leaned up, lifted a blind, and looked out, and there was nothing.
I was used to car lights occasionally finding their way to the window, and this was definitely not that. First of all, my bedroom was on the second floor and parallel to the street, meaning that I got a small fraction of the light. Second, car lights would just barely creep through the blinds because I always closed them so that they would primarily block light coming from below. Third, I've never seen car lights that blue before.
My only other thought is that the people in the house across the street were doing something, like trying a new camping light, but it would have had to have been very focused on my window specifically, like a flashlight, because I can't think of anything that would need to put off that much light in all directions. Plus, it still would have had to been from at least the same level of the window, because of how I closed the blinds. It definitely could've been the kids (whom I played with) playing a prank on me or something from their bedroom on the second floor, but I find that the fact that the light distinctly faded instead of switched curtly lessening the chances that it was a flashlight or something like it.
To me, it was just too bright, too full, and too high to be a car or anything else I can really think of....so what was it?


Those are my stories thus far. I can assure you that no, I was not dreaming in either one. I distinctly remember a continued consciousness up until and including both events (and I think I even pinched myself in both cases just to be sure).

That's why I love Cryptozoology: the stories. It's not the creatures, for me anyway, it's people's stories. It truly is like reading a fantasy book for the first time as a child.
-Bry