News for February 2003


Radiation tri-blade symbol 27feb2003 - I heard many good things about PlexTools, which include support for CD audio extraction (ripping). To be used with a Plextor drive [only]. But my Plextor drive is too old to support PlexTools. I noticed that the download for PlexTools isn't available on their American site. 'Sup with that?

Okay: Plextor Support says this software is only shipped with European drives. If you live here in the States, you'll have to get an original copy from one of your friends in Europe. [It's not hard to find. I've got a dozen offers to fire up FTP servers since posting this an hour ago. Thx to those who wrote.] Only updates are posted on their European website.

My buddy SatCP [Sid], who runs The Coaster Factory website [Belgium] says:

Normally it's available on my site, but Plextor asked me to remove it. Because of stupid license issues, PlexTools is only available to European customers. It's bullshit, and that's what Plextor Europe also thinks about it (I had their permission to post the files online).

But Plextor USA seems to take PlexTools as competition for their (once great, but now dated) PlexManager software which is no longer available to European customers. Unbelievable that an international company like Plextor has to deal with such childish behaviour.

If you read the Radified Guide to Ripping & Encoding CD Audio you know that Exact Audio Copy [freeware from Germany] is the ripper of choice, due to its secure rip mode. But it sounds like Plextor now offers comparable software, if you own one of their drives.

You can learn a lot about ripping & encoding at the Hydrogen Audio forums. Bob Starrett posted a nice little ditty on the digital audio extraction here. More kudos for PlexTools here [beware of pop-up]. The Freak's review begins here.

Somebody just sent me THIS link, which contains links to Radified, The Freaks & The Coaster Factory, all on the same page. By the way, have you seen the ASPI article at Plextor? Looks a lot like my ASPI guide, wouldn't ya say?

Radiation tri-blade symbol 26feb2003 - Serv-U has released a FREE version of their popular FTP server. They don't make it obvious, but if you look here, you'll see they offer three different versions (actually four):

  • Personal: Free
  • Standard: US$40
  • Standard Secure: US$70
  • Professional: US$250
    Upgrade protection is extra.

If you're like me, you'll probably get along just fine with the limitations of the freebie. Download it here. This gives you a 30-day demo of the Professional version. If you don't regi$ter by then, it will automatically revert to the Personal version.

Serv-U now comes with an easy-to-use configuration wizard. The Admin interface looks like this. I set up my server to require a user name & password [no anonymous access allowed], and to only start when I know someone will be using my FTP server .. in other words, NOT as a system service, which starts soon as you boot your computer.

I also changed the default port from 21 to another number: 8xx. There are utilities that scan the Internet, looking for open port 21's to hack.

FTP servers are used for transferring files that are too big for email attachments. Many email services limit you to 1MB attachments. FTP servers are almost a necessity if you have broadband connection [cable or DSL].

Basically, you give your server a name [Rad's FTP], tell it your IP address, choose a directory/folder where you'll transfer files to/from, select a user name & password, and let 'er rip. Some FTP servers don't start when you launch the program. Rather you have to start them after launching.

I have also used Bulletproof FTP server [formerly Gene6], and the one that comes with Windows 2000: IIS [Internet Information Services], and War, which is both free and powerful. I like Serv-U the best [admittedly personal preference]. You can read an in-depth review here. Review on War here. More about FTP servers posted here.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 25feb2003 - The cats love to climb on my monitor [where it's nice & warm] and sleep there .. blocking the cooling vents. To keep them from frying it, I put a basket on top of the monitor & lined it with a soft, cushy towel.

The basket has short legs that allow for several inches of cooling air to circulate between the top of the monitor and the bottom of the basket. This way, they still get to sleep where it's warm, without frying the monitor. Photos of my makeshift kitty-project are posted here. There's also some pix revealing Buddy's fetish for strawberries.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 24feb2003 - Anybody see the Grammys last night? They were held at the Garden in NYC. I never even heard of Norah Jones until Maria mentioned the CD. She always seems to find the good music first. "This is my favorite CD," she said [months before the Grammys]. I'm listening to it right now. It's very relaxing. You probably shouldn't listen to Norah while operating heavy machinery.

A guy at a record store recommended the album based on her music preferences. Was good to see a familiar artist win so big. I thought we were the only ones who knew about her. Sales of her CD should begin soaring with all the awards it won. Her home site is posted here [norahjones.com], but very slow. All the winners are posted here.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 23feb2003 - Saw The Life of David Gale last night, starring Kevin Spacey. A capital-punishment activist finds himself on death row. In the beginning, I felt that a lot of info was presented clumsily .. like the screenwriters felt the audience was a bunch of dummies. When Kevin Spacey finally arrives on the scene, the story get much better. I felt he did a good job.

I heard that Spacey is "an actor's actor" .. that other actors admire, and like to watch him.

At the end, you'll be able to look back and see how all the little details make sense. In that respect the film was good. I thot it was a little disturbing. Worth seeing, but not a must see.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 21feb2003 - Anyone see the Frontline special last night? The War Behind Closed Doors takes you inside the decision-making process behind the administration's determination to go to war with Iraq. Fascinating. Wish I would've taped it. The show shed light on the dark art of making war, and the philosophical rifts within the government itself. On February 25th, you'll be able to view the entire program online.

To summarize, there are two camps. One side represents the proponents of 'containment'. They are led by Secretary of State (ex-general) Colin Powell. The other is led by Paul Wolfowitz. The hawks claim we need to 'hit them before they hit us again." When 9-11 went down, it became clear that containment wasn't working. So, the logic goes, we need to go get the bastards before they whack us again.

Frontline is probably my favorite show. I love their narrator: Will Lyman. He speaks so clearly and methodically. His sentences are always concise and descriptive.

Not a single day goes by when I don't receive email from somebody saying we should or shouldn't go to war. Mostly these messages contain anti-war rhetoric, but many extol the virtues of 'hit them before they hit us'.

I have friends with strong views on the subject .. on both sides of the fence. They try to engage me in debate about the issue, but I won't go there .. cuz, I feel I don't know enuf about the real facts. I mean, if I were sitting in Washington, listening to daily briefs, then maybe I'd be qualified to form an opinion. Not that I don't have an opinion; I do. But I don't feel qualified to speak with authority on the subject. Some ppl seem ready to fight over the decision whether or not we go to war.

What are the three no-no's? Never discuss politics, religion and _______.

While I have no official position (I get enuf mail already), I do agree that, if you know for a fact someone means you physical harm, it's best to take the fight to him. [Unless he's a lot bigger than you. Then go get your big brother.] This is something I have personal experience with. So then I guess the real question is: Do we know for a fact Iraq/Saddam means us harm? The government certainly seems to think so.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 19feb2003 - Saw Daredevil last night. You can tell they put a lot of effort & money into this film. It was good, but I wasn't floored. At a few places in the plot, I caught myself saying, "That makes no sense." They had the characters do absurd things to make the story more dramatic. That kind of stuff bothers me. But there were plenty of very cool scenes to compensate.

When it was over, little Nicholas said, "Daredevil was good, but it was sooo dramatic." He hated the romantic scenes, and covered his eyes saying, "Oh, brother. That's gross!" =) I felt that Daredevil's dad, the boxer, gave the best performance.

We saw Daredevil at the Spectrum, where it was screened in three different theaters: one regular (actually pretty big), one giant-screen and one digital projection (smaller than the other two). Nick wanted to see it on the giant screen, which is really the Imax screen. They charge an extra $buck for those tickets, but didn't check them at the door.

We got there early and sat in on the first 15 minutes of the digital projection theater, just to make a comparison. The DP theater/screen wasn't nearly as BIG as the Imax screen, but the picture was clearly sharper. The colors were noticeably more saturated. In other words, the blues looked bluer, reds redder, yellows, wow. Especially during the opening scenes where they flip through a comic book. By comparison, the colors on the giant Imax screen looked washed out.

I know that true Imax movies are shot on 70mm film. Perhaps Daredevil was screened using regular 35mm film. Not sure. Certainly it wasn't *shot* on 70mm film. One of the pioneers of Imax films, Greg MacGillvray, lives here in Laguna. [You can find him most mornings at the Orange Inn coffee house, stopping in for a cup-o-joe and a muffin.]

I noticed that the DP unit was manufactured by Qualcomm. A list of DP theaters is posted here. I previously thot only Texas Instruments and JVC made DP units. Never knew Qualcomm got involved. Qualcomm is a good company. I've made money off their stock. Their main business is high-end cel phones. Qualcomm discusses digital cinema here. Lots of info there.

If I could do it over, I'd watch this movie on the digital projection screen. Even tho it wasn't as big as the giant Imax screen, the picture was noticeably shaper and the colors more vibrant. For this reason, I feel DP will eventually become the future of theater projection. They're not cheap, especially compared to a 35mm film projector. But co$ts will come down eventually, and more theaters will be able to afford them.

Update: KJ wrote to share his insights here. An interesting read.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 18feb2003 - Once a week or so, Radified gets hit by a 'spider' that crawls through the entire site. I can usually tell when this happens by a spike in the daily site usage chart. Yesterday I noticed such a spike and looked up the requesting IP address. Notice that it requested over 60 MBs worth. That represents the entire site contents.

Usually these spiders work for search engines, such as Google [my favorite]. It's always interesting for me to see where these requests originate from. They've come from all over the world, but this particular one came from South Africa, someplace called Benoni, which I think is located near Johannesberg. [Neotrace is the program I use to locate where a particular IP address resides.]

What's most interesting is when these requests originate in countries that don't even speak English. For example, I've had more requests from Germany & France than any other countries. I can't think of many countries that haven't crawled through the site. Anyway, it's flattering to think that search engines the world over might be interested in indexing the pages found here.

Today is Maria's birthday. She's XX years old. She might drop off Nicholas tonight, so we can see Daredevil, starring Ben Affleck. That would give her a little time to celebrate while the boyz check out the flick. We discussed getting together with the gang to watch the Oscars next month [March 23rd]. The deciding questions are 1.) Who has the biggest TV and 2.) Who makes the best nachos. Wendy wants to come. She has a knack for picking the winers. Some of her professors are [voting] Academy members.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 17feb2003 - Da boyz at FutureMark [previously known as Mad Onion] have released their new benchmarking software for graphics cards: 3DMarK2003. Actually the software was released last week [on the 11th], but it's been impossible to download, cuz everybody and their brother is clogging bandwidth for the humongous file [a whopping 171 MB].

I d/l'ed it last night [late, overnight]. Found the best bandwidth at a German site called 4Players [~200KBps]. I haven't installed it yet cuz new DirectX9 drivers are required, and I've had bad experiences installing new DirectX drivers before. I always create a Ghost image before installing any DirectX drivers. This way I can go back if anything goes wrong, cuz DirectX drivers can't be uninstalled. Maybe I'll get around to it tomorrow.

Benchmarks are always a big thing cuz they can have a big influence on how well a particular product sells .. which can translate into millions of $dollars. Of course, how a benchmark runs [that is: what is tested, and how scores are arrived at] is a hotly debated topic. Believe it ot not, 3D games are one of the primary drivers of the advancement of technology today. Games bring in a lot of ca$h, which fuels further development.

Brent at [H]ard|OCP discusses the new benchmark here. Intel responded with these comments [scroll down]. Dell made comments here. I'm currently using the Radeon 8500 gfx card, which is old by today's standards. I don't really care how my system scores, but rather like to see what the next-generation of 3D graphics will look like.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 16feb2003 - Installed Windows XP yesterday: Professional version. I've been holding off on installing XP due to reported problems associated with the new operating system running on/from SCSI drives. [The post dated 22jan contains a synopsis of this phantom performance problem.]

Now that it appears this problem is merely a figment of someone's imagination, I've decided to install the WXP CD I've had for so long. I like XP. It's pretty slick. Has an elegant feel to it.

I'm familiar with WXP from trying out all the beta versions during its development. A friend who's an official beta tester let me use his log-on to download beta versions of the O/S directly from the Microsoft site.

I still have a bunch of programs to install & configure, but the O/S itself is installed, along with Service Pack 1 and all the updates from Microsoft. So far, so good.

Now I have two copies of Windows 2000 installed, and one copy of Windows ME, but I never boot to WME except when the kids stop by to play games. Think I'll create a Ghost image before I go any further .. just in case. Then maybe I'll try my hand at Linux. It's been a couple of years since I've had Linux installed.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 15feb2003 - Every 3 or 4 months, I upgrade all the driver & programs on my system. This used to take a few hours, but not since I've put all the associated links in a folder named 'Drivers'. It used to contain only links to drivers, but I've since included a sub-directory named 'Apps,' which contains links to program updates.

The plan: create a Ghost image [just incase something goes wrong], update Windows, hardware drivers and programs. I can do this in about 30 minutes since storing all the links in one folder. Then I reboot, defrag and make a new Ghost image. If I experience no problems for ~two weeks, I delete the pre-update image.

If you figure that each Ghost image takes about 10 minutes, that means I can update everything & be done in about an hour. Actually it seems to take a little longer. I did this today. Everything seems to be humming nicely.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 14feb2003 - Happy Valentine's day. I'm playing it safe by getting chocolates, flowers, a card, dinner and a movie.

Getting back to things techie, I noticed that Dictionary.com now offers a toolbar, just like Google. I have already installed both these toolbars and find them useful. Normal I fight clutter like the plague, but these two toolbars are actually helpful.

For the Dictionary.com toolbar, which also includes links to Thesaurus.com & Word-of-the-Day, simply click the "Download Now" link, give it a minute a two, close & re-open your browser, and select it from the Views\Toolbars menu. Voila. I have both these toolbars configured on one line, like so [screen shot, 23KB], for maximum space utilization.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 13feb2003 - Saw The Recruit last night, starring Al Pacino. I liked it. Smart flick. My type of movie. I like techno, spy, geek flicks. After being disappointed by Pacino the last few times I saw him, I thought he did a good job in this one. The Al of old is back. I'm getting good at predicting surprise endings. I just ask myself, "What would be the most unlikely thing I'd expect to happen?" If you enjoy techie, James Bond-type movies, I'm sure you'll like The Recruit.

I noticed that the guy who plays a super-geek hacker-extraordinarie in this flick uses Opera as his browser of choice. Fravia seems to concur. I just upgraded to Opera 7.01 the other day.

Afterwards, I sat in on the first 15 minutes of The Hours, cuz I heard it won a Golden Globe for Best Picture. Different type of movie. Have to pay attention. Not sure I liked what I saw, but I only saw the first 15 minutes. I noticed from the intro credits that David Hare is the screenwriter for this flick. I thought he wrote plays for the theater.

While sweating my grapefruits off in the sauna yesterday, I noticed in a newspaper that someone left there, that The Pianist was nominated for Best Picture [Academy Award]. Just saw that movie a few days ago. See Rad news dated 10feb. It was obviously a well-made flick, but seemed kinda documentary-ish .. due to its historical impact. I was surprised to see it named there. Good for Polanski, tho.

I also noticed that Daniel Day Lewis was nominated for his role at 'The Butcher' in Gangs of New York. His range is extraordinary. If he doesn't win this award, I will lose respect for the Academy. I also predict Scorsese will win an Oscar for Best Director. Remember folks: you heard it here first. ALL the nominees are posted here.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 12feb2003 - Posted a few pics of the cats. See here. Buddy the boy is orange & white. Fran is dark gray. Buddy's favorite thing is to climb on the mixer and mix up a few tunes. Speaking of cats, it's raining like cats & dogs here today. Who says it never rains in Southern California?

Radiation tri-blade symbol 11feb2003 - Whales! Saw a mom & baby calf on their annual migratory trek back from the warm waters of Baja California [Mexico]. We saw a cute calf rise up out of the water and breech 6 or 7 times in a row at Crystal Cove state park. Looks like he [she?] was playing .. surprisingly close to shore.

Not as cool as seeing a full-grown whale breech, but still cool enough to make the whole day seem magical. Two whale-spotting boats full of people were motoring around out near the whales. Related info posted here and here. A reader [Barb, from Los Angeles] sent in this link [Yahoo News], about a US judge blocking a research project to track whales.

In a totally unrelated vein, here's a list of new features your computer might need [Thx Bill]. Made me laugh.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 10feb2003 - Saw The Pianist last night: a film by Roman Polanski. Good, well-made film, but probably the most depressing movie I've ever seen. It made Schindler's List seem like carnival. The film is based on a true story about the life of Wladslaw Szpilman, a Polish Jew during WW II. Interesting from a historical perspective.

Set design was most impressive. Very realistic. Felt like I was really there. Not a whole lot of piano playing in this movie. More about the movie is posted here.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 07feb2003 - Anybody see Living with Michael Jackson last night? Wow. I usually watch Frontline on Thursday nights. The next channel over [ABC] had a very revealing special on the self-proclaimed King of Pop. I stumbled across this program where a British journalist named Martin Bashir lived with MJ for 8 months.

I've never heard of this guy, Bashir, but I thot he did an excellent job at presenting a balanced view. He asked some tough questions. You can be sure he won't get another interview with MJ anytime soon. Yahoo News coverage here. Buzzle coverage here. Michael says this in response.

What struck me most about the 2-hour special was that Michael obviously lied about the amount of plastic surgery he's had. The natural progression of thought was then: If he'll lie about something as clinical as plastic surgery, what else might he lie about? Rob sent this link about the Photographic History of MJ's face.

Speaking of surprising things, I got this link in a chain letter today. [I hate those things, btw.] Seems that somebody wants to impeach the President. Only in America, folks. A lot of bleeding-heart, tree-hugging, granola-eatin' liberals live here in Laguna. [I'm more of a warmonger myself.]

If you figure that Vice-President Dick Chaney is an ex-Secretary of Defense, and Secretary of State Colin Powell is an ex-general, it looks like waging war is the administration's forte. Their buddies in the Defense industry stand to make a pretty penny from this overseas excursion to visit Saddam. George Senior put together a nice, little coalition several years ago and I'm sure he's providing free advice to George W on a daily basis.

A friend who asked not to be identified by name recently said, "A woman should be President, cuz they'd never send their sons to war."

Radiation tri-blade symbol 06feb2003 - The über coders at Adaware have released version 6.0 of their popular utility. This German-based software company helps protect your online privacy by filtering those nasty pops-ups and distracting [annoying] flickering animations that we all hate so much [which you won't find here at RADIFIED]. They offer both free & $hareware versions. Support forums posted here. Thanks to alilip for the news.

Speaking of nasty things, I had some chest crud for the past week. Today is the first day I feel human again. That was one of the meaner bugs I can recall. Kicked my butt. Still coughing up chunks of lung every now & then. Actually felt good enough to make a latte, which is prolly why I'm so wordy.

Freezing cold here in Southern California today, at least near the coast. You can always identify the tourists by the way they walk around in shorts and t-shirts, while natives are bundled up like Eskimos whenever the temperature drops below 50 degrees (Fahrenheit).

My new book arrived yesterday: Moments of Doubt. I discovered this title while reading a snippet from it, referenced in the last book I read: Into Thin Air. [See post dated 24jan.] The passage quoted in this snippet struck me as both insightful and well-written .. so much so that it made me wonder if the entire book would be as insightful and well-written. I admire writers who can say a lot with few words.

Online writing requires just such discipline. The online reader is a fickle fellow. If the writing isn't both clear and interesting for even a few seconds, he will click and leave forever. Novels have no such easy exits for click-happy readers.

I always strive for clarity & conciseness, while trying to retain a colorful sense of personality. It's more difficult than you might imagine. One technique is to use short, bite-sized paragraphs like these. They're easier to read than endless blocks of uninterrupted text.

What's so cool about the new book is that I realized there are numerous services selling USED copies for a small fraction of the retail price. Amazon.com offers probably the premiere used-book service. I'm just guessing, tho. Half.com, an Ebay subsidiary, might actually rule these e-commerce waters.

Either way, I was able to purchase this book for only a couple of bucks, and didn't have to kill any more trees (paper) having a new one printed. Call me Mr. Ecology.

I like to read books about the mountains, 'cause they bring back good memories. I've seen t-shirts that say: You meet the nicest people in the mountains. It's true! Total strangers think nothing of offering you half their water supply. It's a very different experience from say, life on LA's freeways, where the only things people are willing to offer you is a piece of their mind and an international hand-sign: both of which we can easily live without.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 05feb2003 - Wendy [previous honey] stopped by last weekend and brought along her new laptop: a Dell Inspiron 8200, loaded with lots of goodies.

While Wendy was here, she mentioned that Lani shaved off all her hair .. bowling-ball clean. Some spiritual thing that says you're not supposed to become "attached" to anything [even your hair].

I re-partitioned Wendy's hard drive so she could easily create [and restore] back-up images with Norton Ghost, and so she could dual-boot Windows XP Pro. She wants to be able to edit audio with this laptop using Digidesign's ProTools, which works best from a dedicated boot. She already had to restore the back-up image when her CD-ROM/DVD disappered and she could figure out how to get it back.

If you're interested how the new requirement to activate Windows XP might affect dual-booting the same copy of this operating system, I posted a question here [Storage Review forums] and here [Storage forums]. The responses make for interesting reading.

Oh, by the way: that Inspiron 8200 is beautiful. The screen is absolutely gorgeous, and huge. Technolust material for sure. After Wendy is done editing audio for her thesis project film, she pops in a DVD and watches a movie to relax. Photos from her thesis project are posted here. Her site is posted here.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 04feb2003 - I used Norton Ghost 2003 for the first time to create and test-restore an image. Everything worked fine. Both source and destination drives were WinXP-based NTFS. Since the data on my source partition was about 5 gigs worth, Ghost auto-spanned the part that exceeded 2GBs. I had expected it to show up as one big file 'cause NTFS does not have the 2-GB file size limitation like FAT32 does.

My only caveat is that you create at least two sets of boot floppies (I needed two floppies per set), just in case the data on one of them becomes corrupted, which is not that uncommon. Symantec has made Ghost much easier to use. The principles in the world-famous Radified Guide to Norton Ghost still apply.

The main differences between v2003 and earlier versions is that now you don't need to create a boot floppy in order to CREATE the image (only to RESTORE it, if your system won't boot), and you can now write image files to NTFS partitions, even tho DOS doesn't support NTFS, and Ghost works from DOS. Speaking of DOS, I used PC-DOS with Ghost 2003 and it worked fine.

Most technically-savvy computer users feel that a Ghost image stored on a second/separate hard drive represents the ultimate back-up strategy for the home user. The good thing is that now you need not be technically savvy to use Ghost.

Note that Powerquest's Drive Image does basically the same thing as Ghost. Either program will work fine. I prefer Ghost 'cause that's what I started with, and it's what I'm familiar with. You should be using one of these programs regularly.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 03feb2003 - Received my first email from a friend using a laptop connected to a cel phone, unconnected to any wires. I've always heard this was possible, and knew the technology existed, tho never actually received one myself. Pretty cool to be out in the middle of nowhere, sending and receiving messages. That rates fairly high on my scale of Indulging thy Technolust.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 02feb2003 - Groundhog day today. Sad news about the shuttle Columbia. News posted here [SFGate], here [BBC], and here [ABC News].

Radiation tri-blade symbol 01feb2003 - New site record!!! RADIFIED broke the 900,000 hits-per-month mark in January. Actually, 921,320 to be exact. See here. It would be nice to break the magical million-hits-per-month mark.

I got some kinda bug. Feel like crap. Actually hammered dog crap would be more accurate. Been drinking this stuff called Theraflu. Takes the edge off. Fever, head-ache, you name it, I got it. Can't seem to get warm. Even my hair hurts.