Archive for January 2008

How to Stop the Computer Beep

Published on January 31, 2008

Here’s a super great tip I learned from an article at Lifehacker.

My laptop here at work, a Lenovo ThinkPad, has a tremendously loud beep (through headphones, it will nearly blow your ears out). This beep occurs every so often when I’m typing faster than the computer thinks I should, and I end up pressing several keys on the keyboard at once. Thankfully, there’s now a way to disable this annoying sound!

To temporarily disable the beep: net stop beep
To permanently disable the beep: sc config beep start= disabled

In the latter command, note the space between the equals and the word ‘disabled.’ I’m not sure if that’s necessary or not, but including it worked for me. The space is indeed required (thanks Dustin). I had no idea that a Windows service was responsible for this annoyance!

The MinWin Concept

Published on January 28, 2008

There’s an interesting article at InformationWeek about the new Windows architecture that Microsoft is developing. Windows 7, which is slated to be the successor to Vista, will use a new “MinWin” architecture. Essentially, the Windows core will be stripped down to the bare essentials, and additional functionality will be supplied through modules. According to the article, Eric Traut, a Microsoft distinguished engineer, demoed a version of the Windows core running with only a 25 MB footprint (as opposed to the 4 GB footprint of Vista).

I think this is a step in the right direction. Hard drive size increases have made sloppy programming, resulting in software bloat, much more prevalent. It’s time to step back, trim the fat, and work towards leaner software.

Donald Trump the Comedian

Published on January 23, 2008

My mom and I are watching Larry King last night, and he’s talking with Robert Kiyosaki, a businessman and motivational speaker. The subject of conversation is the tanking US economy. Mr. Kiyosaki is wearing a hideously ugly suit and tie. On the phone with Larry and Robert is Donald Trump. The following scene ensues:

KING: Real estate is a good deal, even if you don’t have the money. Donald, what’s your feelings about the Bush administration and their handling of the crisis?

TRUMP: I think the first thing I’d do if I were the president is I’d ask Robert to go out and buy a new suit and tie. That would help the economy and it would help Robert.

Zing! Who knew The Donald had such a great sense of humor? 😀

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TF2 Update Sneak Peek

Published on January 23, 2008

PC Gamer apparently got a sneak peek at the updates coming for Team Fortress 2. Not too long ago, Valve teased the community with a somewhat cryptic message, saying that a ‘large scale modification’ was planned for the game.

According to the article, this large scale modification includes unlockable weapons for each class, which will be selectable from a load out screen. These changes will be rolled out to the Medic class first. The first weapon described is a new medi-gun that will permanently boost your teammates’ health to 200% their normal values (instead of the temporary 150% boost that the current medi-gun supplies). There are no details yet on the second weapon, but it will be another medi-gun that will alter the class in a different way. It sounds like the first gun will be unlockable by acquiring half of the 35 new achievements coming for the Medic class, while the second update will be unlocked after acquiring them all. It should be interesting to see how this new feature pans out.

Another announcement is the new game type being planned, in which the attacking team will have to accompany a mine cart from one end of a map to the other. The article linked above goes into more depth about this game type, and it sounds super fun. In short, I can’t wait for these updates!

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Three iTunes Annoyances

Published on January 21, 2008

There are a few gripes I’ve got with iTunes, all of which revolve around my subscriptions to podcasts:

1. Large downloads freeze iTunes (and sometimes the entire system) upon completion.
When a large (~250 to 500 MB) video podcast file has completed downloading, iTunes will completely freeze up. It feels to me like this hang is related to copying the file from a temporary download location to the intended destination (which is undoubtedly what iTunes is doing). Seeing as iTunes is a multi-threaded application, this should not, under any circumstance, happen. It should spawn a child thread to do the copy operation in the background, so that I can still use the application. Every once in a while, I even see my entire system hang up during this operation, which is doubly bad.
2. Some video files cannot be recycled immediately after viewing them.
After completing a video podcast, I find that I cannot immediately recycle the corresponding file from within iTunes. If I try to do so, the entry in iTunes is removed, but the file does not get removed! To recycle the file properly, I have to shut down iTunes, start it back up, and delete the entry. Somewhere a handle isn’t being released properly, and the file remains locked. Again, this is a bug that could easily be solved.
3. The Windows screen saver screws up video playback.
If you have iTunes installed on a Windows system, try this experiment. Get a video file through iTunes (a video podcast for example), and start it playing. Pause the video and walk away from your computer for a while. Allow the screen saver to turn on and, when it has, come back to your computer. When the screen saver is cleared, try to play the video again. What happens? No video! This particular bug has existed for years (I’ve seen forum references to this bug as far back as iTunes 5 and 6), and it’s apparently a known bug at Apple. That they don’t get around to fixing it is very intriguing to me.

WordPress Security Tips

Published on January 18, 2008

Matt Cutts has posted three security tips for WordPress users. Here’s a quick overview:

  1. Protect your wp-admin directory with an .htaccess file
  2. Protect your wp-content/plugins folder with either a blank index.html or an .htaccess file
  3. Keep your WordPress install up to date by keeping tabs on the WordPress development blog

I was already doing item 1, though I don’t currently handle IP white-listing (that’s an appealing idea). Item 2 was something I didn’t even know to do. When I checked to see if my plugins were listed, they did indeed show up. I have since corrected this issue. Item 3 is a no-brainer.

Matt also suggests removing the WordPress meta tag from your theme’s header.php file (which I have also done). This particular “bonus” tip doesn’t add a whole lot, but it at leasts cuts down on your broadcasting what version of WordPress you have installed.

Sun Purchases MySQL

Published on January 17, 2008

It seems as if Sun Microsystems has purchased MySQL. I don’t fully understand the motivation behind this purchase, but Sun must have some plan; otherwise they wouldn’t have paid one billion dollars for the company. In my opinion, Sun doesn’t have the greatest track record in software, so it should be interesting to see what happens as a result of this change. According to the official MySQL post:

Will MySQL’s support for other programming languages and operating systems now be given less attention? Absolutely not. MySQL is still being managed by the same people, and the charter is still the same.

We can only hope.

When Hosting Goes Wrong

Published on January 15, 2008

I got an email this morning mentioning the following:

This is just a notice that your DreamHost Account #XXXXX has a balance of $71.34 (including any charges not due until 2009-01-23), with $71.34 due (since 2008-12-23).

What?!? I renewed my subscription about a year ago (if I remember correctly), and I got a 2 year renewal, meaning that I should still have about a year left. Furthermore, I completely used rewards money to pay my bill (since I had it available), so my credit card was never charged to begin with. Thankfully, the credit card they have on file for me had expired, but I’ve lost all of my referral rewards! Needless to say, I was pretty upset by this. Then I found this post over at their emergency status blog: “billing issues“. It seems like something went wrong, they know about it, and are fixing it.

I have yet to get my money back, and I have no doubt they’ll fix the problem, but it bothers me nonetheless. This problem, coupled with the DreamHost hack seen back in June, are starting to concern me. Not to mention the fact that the server this blog is hosted on has degraded in performance drastically over the past several months. It might be time for me to find another web host. I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

Update: To their credit, DreamHost has corrected the issue.

Interesting Statements From the FCC

Published on January 9, 2008

Gizmodo has a Cliff’s notes edition of some recent statements made by FCC chairman Kevin Martin. While the article (and the statements) have to be taken with a grain of salt, if any of what he says comes to pass, it will be good times for consumers. Particularly interesting to me are the facts that he thinks cable is too expensive (it is), and that the term “broadband” should indicate something higher than 200 Kbps (I had no idea our defined value for that was so low!). We can only hope that he keeps his word on at least a few of these items.

Death Blow to HD-DVD

Published on January 8, 2008

Warner Brothers studios has officially defected to the Blu-ray format, and now Paramount seems poised to do the same. This is all but the end for the HD-DVD format, which is a real shame. Granted, there’s no real difference between the two formats (none that are apparent to the common consumer, anyway). Blu-ray discs may end up being more expensive, due to the fact that they cost a little more to manufacture. They also continue the stupid “region coding,” where certain discs will only play in the players purchased in a specific geographic location.

If for no other reason, I wanted HD-DVD to win the “format war” because Blu-ray is backed by Sony. Any day that Sony fails is a good day in my opinion, and it’s a shame that the movie studios decided to take the low-road. Time will tell how well this format takes off.

CES Highlights

Published on January 7, 2008

I’ve only been casually following the events at this year’s CES, but a few things I’ve seen have been pretty impressive:

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