Archive for January 2007

Firebug 1.0

Published on January 25, 2007

The official 1.0 release of Firebug is now available. If you are a web developer, be sure to pick up this super-ultra-mega-cool extension. You’ll thank me later.

Cable Artifacts

Published on January 21, 2007

Some time ago, my family tried out digital cable. We were thoroughly unimpressed at the ‘digital quality’ and subsequently dropped the service. But strangely enough, the digital artifacts that annoyed us so greatly are now showing up in the analog signal. We routinely see compression issues and dropped areas in the picture, and it only seems to be getting worse. Is Time Warner digitally encoding the signal before they send it out on the analog line? It sure seems like they are, but I don’t see the benefit in doing that. Maybe it’s cheaper on their end? Does anyone else with cable see this problem?

Improved Networking

Published on January 19, 2007

The new networking card that I ordered came in yesterday, and I installed it last night. I now get excellent signal strength in my room, compared to the ‘poor’ rating I was seeing before. Hopefully the slow down issues I’ve been seeing will disappear as a result. My computer boots way faster now, which seems encouraging (boot time had slowed to a crawl, and I correctly suspected that the wireless card was to blame).

Shivering Isles Announced

Published on January 18, 2007

An expansion pack for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion has been announced, which means bad things for my productivity later this year. After having not played the game for some time, I’ve gotten hooked again, thanks to the Knights of the Nine expansion that I recently picked up. A few screenshots are available over at 3D Gamers, and though there are only a few of them, they look awfully interesting. The environments appear to be quite different from the game’s current locales, which should be refreshing. I can’t wait!

Understanding Prepared Statements

Published on January 15, 2007

While working on my rewrite of Monkey Album, I ran into an interesting programming dilemma. In the past week or so, I’ve been introduced to the MySQLi extension in PHP. The current Monkey Album implementation makes use of the PHP 4 mysql_*() calls, so I thought I’d try out the MySQLi interface to see how it works.

MySQLi includes support for what are known as “prepared statements” (only available in MySQL 4.1 and later). A prepared statement basically gives you three advantages: (1) SQL logic is separated from the data being supplied, (2) incoming data is sanitized for you which increases security, and (3) performance is increased, since a given statement only needs to be parsed a single time.

It seems to me that the performance benefit can only be seen in situations where the query is executed multiple times (in a loop, for example). In fact, an article on prepared statements confirms this suspicion; the author in fact mentions that prepared statements can be slower for queries executed only once.

So here’s the problem I face: the queries that get executed in Monkey Album are, for the most part, only ever executed once. So, do I make use of prepared statements just to get the security benefit? It doesn’t seem worth it to me, since I can get the same security by escaping all user input (something I already do today). Does someone with more knowledge of this stuff have an opinion? If so, please share it.

One to Throw Away

Published on January 11, 2007

In his seminal book The Mythical Man-Month, Fred Brooks devotes an entire chapter to one particular idea in software development: plan to throw one away. Though I failed to complete the planning part of his recommendation, I do intend to throw away the current version of my photo album package, Monkey Album, which I employ here at this website. There are a number of improvements I wish to make to the package:

  • Allow user comments for each photograph.
  • Use cruft-free URLs instead of the ugly query strings currently in use.
  • Improve captioning capability, allowing URLs and HTML formatting.
  • Other, behind the scenes improvements.

All of this is in the concept stage at the moment, so what suggestions might you have for improvements? Are there things you dislike about the way I present my photos here at this site? Feel free to comment.

Swish Day

Published on January 10, 2007

A coworker and I were recently reminiscing about our elementary school days, and we brought up something that I hadn’t thought about in years. Does anyone here remember “Swish Day” at their school? You know, the day when the teacher would bring out the big bottle of mouthwash, dispense it into little plastic cups, and make you swish it around in your mouth? They said it was “bubble gum” flavored, but in actuality, it tasted nothing like anything you’ve ever had before.

Searching the web doesn’t yield many hits on swish, but I know it’s something we did. Does anyone else remember this? If so, feel free to share your memories.

Yoshi’s Island DS and Meteos Reviews

Published on January 7, 2007

Over the holidays I had the chance to finally beat Yoshi’s Island DS. I also got Meteos for Christmas, and have had a substantial amount of time with it. As such, here are my two short reviews of both games.

Yoshi’s Island DS (A-)
This ‘sequel’ to Yoshi’s Island for the Super Nintendo is faithful to the original, while adding enough new features to feel fresh. Introducing multiple babies for Yoshi to carry around (subsequently giving him new abilities) was an interesting idea that works well. My only real problem with this game was that a number of the later levels are ridiculously difficult. I don’t recall the original Yoshi’s Island being so tough, but I played it a long time ago, so I only have the vaguest recollection. I had to play through several levels 20 or 30 times to get past them. Needless to say, this quickly got frustrating. Sounds, graphics, and gameplay are all top-notch, however, so this gripe pales in comparison. Overall a great game, and worth your time. I only wish one could trade their extra lives for red coins, stars, or flowers in each level; getting 100% in some of the levels is nearly impossible!

Meteos (A-)
This puzzle game is reminiscent of Tetris (as are most puzzle games), but it’s use of the stylus is incredible. In fact, I consider this a ‘stylus-only’ game, even though you can play with the D-pad and buttons. The goal of the game is to launch falling Meteos back into space by lining them up in groups of three, either vertically or horizontally. Each planet that you play through has different gravity and so varying strategies must be employed to succeed. For example, some planets require that you create secondary ignitions of launched Meteos by lining up another set of three or more in the air. This game is fast paced, fun, and highly addictive. For a few days after I got it, I actually spent time thinking about ways I could line up items in the real world in groups of three or more. It’s been a long time since a game has affected me in such a way, which should be a testament to how addicting this game is.

Does anyone have any recommendations for games I should get next? Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime is currently on my list. What else should I get?

Weird Network Problems

Published on January 5, 2007

I have recently been seeing some very strange networking issues on my home computer, and I’m not certain I understand where the problems are coming from. Because my computer is a long way from our cable modem, I make use of a wireless networking adapter (a Netgear WG311 v3, to be exact). The signal strength I receive is somewhat low, due to the adapter’s tiny antenna and its lousy location at the back of my computer.

The actual problem I’m seeing is a severe degradation in performance over time. When I run the speed test at Speakeasy right after a reboot (or when I initially turn on my machine), I can consistently get ~4500 kbps down and ~300 kbps up. After an hour or two of usage, running the same test consistently gives me ~750 kbps down and ~50 kbps up (sometimes slightly higher; the numbers vary). None of the other computers in my house see this issue, and all are wireless.

Last night I flashed the latest firmware onto our DLink DI-624 wireless router (the one that was installed was really old), but I saw the issue again after I made the update. Seeing that this issue is limited to my machine, it makes me think of two possibilities:

  1. It’s a problem with my wireless card (though another computer in my house has the exact same type of card, and doesn’t see the problem).
  2. It’s a software issue (something is screwing over the network settings system wide).

Does anyone have an idea of what might be going on here? I’m thinking about buying a new networking card with a better external antenna (this one at NewEgg is what I’m currently looking at), with the hopes that better signal strength will make this problem disappear. But I’m grasping at straws; this is driving me nuts and I want it fixed!

Born Geek Redesign

Published on January 1, 2007

Welcome to the newly redesigned Born Geek website! We have shed our old clothes as well as our old habits. No longer are the pages at this site crafted by hand; we now use Movable Type instead. For those interested in how I was able to get Movable Type to run everything, a detailed article is available.

There are a number of new features to introduce:

Site Search
You’ll note a new website search box at the top of each page. Want to quickly locate something here at Born Geek? Just enter your search terms and let us do the rest.
Breadcrumb Trail
A breadcrumb trail is now available on every web page (just below the navigation bar), making it much clearer where you are in the site hierarchy. Moving up the site tree is now just a click away.
Comment on News Postings
Make yourself heard on Born Geek news postings by submitting your comments. Do you have feedback for me concerning a particular news item? Just let me know about it by posting to the appropriate entry. Moderation is turned off for now; depending on how nicely everyone plays, I may or may not have to turn it on.
RSS Feed
An RSS feed is now available for news stories. Subscribe to it and stay up to date with everything that goes on here at Born Geek.

Since this is my first foray into the world of Movable Type, I do not doubt that there may be a bug or two still lurking around. The print style sheet is not yet ready, and Internet Explorer users may run into the odd CSS anomaly. The overall style sheet will definitely be tweaked over the next several days, so some settling may occur. As always, please alert me to any problems that you may encounter.

Note also that some content has been permanently removed. The Firefox 1.0 toolbar tutorial has finally been replaced with the tutorial for Firefox 1.5 and later. All of the old news archives have also been removed. Other goodies (such as my wish list) have not yet been posted; these will appear in the near future.

Several new software releases are on the horizon here at Born Geek, so stay tuned. Happy New Year!

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