Thursday: 23.October.2003

Addicted to Blogging

I've been accused of being addicted to blogging. While I feel that these daily entries *do* provide some therapeutic value, similar to keeping a journal, or relaxing in a hot tub, I honestly don't feel "addicted" to them.

So I've decided to abstain .. for a week: seven grueling days of doing without my blogging fix. Long enough to see what will happen. Will I turn into Mr. Obnoxious? as some predict? Or become irritable, like the smoker deprived of his smokes? Will I become belligerent, like the alcoholic separated from his sedative? Or will I simply find a new creative outlet? We'll see.

Before I go, I'd like to say thanks for all the letters of encouragement. While I don't have time to respond to each and every one, I do read them all. Many of them make me laugh my @ss off. You folks are funny. This past weekend brought a particularly bountiful batch of kudos. Here's one of the kinder examples:

Of all the help I've found on the net, you've become the one I go to first. You deserve some thanks. Probably more than that.

The personalizing sealed the deal. Just the other day I was trying to master Norton Ghost, and stayed on your site for a while. Usually I try to get the job done quickly as possible, but I just had to know where the steep slope link went to. That of course led to the adventures with your family and friends, and I was off-task for a delightful half-hour.

Ghost failed miserably for me. But instead of asking you, I'm going to where you pointed me. (FYI, I got "Missing operating system..." error at boot-up). But don't help me - let me do it myself.

I found your site by browsing a year or so ago. I probably entered something like fdisk, or format or delpart, definitely in Google.

I, we, live in Cleveland Ohio. Me, her, and the youngest two of four. Last year we sailed out the Erie Canal, down the East coast, the ICW, and into the Bahamas for a year of home schooling and adventure. But now we're back in Browns Town, winter comin' on fast. If you're ever here and want to go sailing .. I splash early and take out late (Dec. 1st).

My son is in LA going to AFI (American Film Institute). I'll send him the link to your daughter's stuff. Again, thanks for being so generous.

Riley B.

Wasn't that nice? (I added the links.) I've gotten similarly generous offers from people in 11 or 12 different countries. Maybe someday I'll tour the world and take them all up. See you on Halloween. (I'm twitchin' already.) Oh, one more thing. Alex sent word (from the Netherlands) that he released an updated version of Motherboard Monitor (v5.3.5.1).

Wednesday: 22.October.2003

Potential new features

Been considering adding a new feature to the site. Previously, I told myself I was going to concentrate on maintaining the guides I already have. They all require periodic updating. I planned to focus on *quality*, rather than quantity .. but lately, I've been jonesin' to create something new. The features listed in the 'New' category to your left are no longer new.

One idea for a new feature that I've been kicking around is a detailed guide to installing Windows. By that, I mean taking a new system from blank hard drive to Ghost image. This would include the installation all device drivers, such as chipset drivers, Windows service packs and updates, and basic Windows configuration.

The process involves many steps, each with its own set of variables. While there is no official "correct" procedure, there are some common-sense principles, that if ignored, can cause problems. There are guides already out there, but I've yet to find one that my friends couldn't take and screw up with. =)

It surprises me how many of my buddies wind up with IRQ conflicts and yellow exclamation points in their device manager after installing a fresh copy of Windows, and experience the strangest problems afterwards. They obviously did something wrong. The paths to Windows Nirvana is fraught with many pitfalls. I know: I've fallen into most of them. =/

The problem: is I know that this project would take more time than I'm willing to commit to it right now. In my head, I think I can crank out this guide in an hour or two. But I've learned that this is never the case. Especially to do it right. Every guide you see posted here took way longer to complete than I originally envisioned it would.

Another project I've been considering is a guided tour to my town: Laguna Beach. Laguna is a cool place. Weird, but cool. The people who live here are known as Lagunatics, and for good reason. Laguna is an artist's community, a beautiful place to live. There's no place like it.

When you first visit Laguna, the people here seem weird. They are into weird stuff, like getting massages, taking yoga classes, vegetarian diets, relaxation techniques, and all that tree-hugging crap associated with a salubrious lifestyle. But after you live here a while, the rest of the world starts to seem weird .. by that I mean uptight, shallow, concerned with unimportant trivia.

I mean, what could be more important than getting a double-shot of wheat-grass before your massage with "Terri the healer" after morning yoga class. I am trying to resist becoming one of "them", but it's a hopeless battle I'm waging. This means I should probably crank out a Radified guide to Laguna Beach while I still have an objective bone left in my body. I just received a gift certificate for a month's worth of yoga classes. So it won't be long.

Maybe one day soon, I'll take my digital camera into town, and borrow a friend's video camcorder, and take you along with me. I could probably get some aspiring, young models to stand in the shots and help show you the weird, cool, beautiful place where I live. Of course, you'll learn all the dirty, little secrets that you'll never find on the official site. The first idea would garner more traffic, but this one would be more fun.

Monday: 20.October.2003

Movable Type, Blogging and Google

I've been trying to determine what to do with the blogging software that I installed back in May. At first, I installed Movable Type just to see what all the hubbub was about. People were saying great things about this software, which resides on your web server (not on your PC, like most software) .. which means entries can be made from any computer with an Internet connection.

I also heard that MovableType was difficult to install, and you know how I enjoy a good technical challenge.

After the installation (no, it wasn't easy, but I had no problems), I was impressed. Friends followed suit. I liked it so much that I considered using MT to generate this main page (that you're reading now), and not simply use the software as a techno play-toy. I also liked that search engines (such as Google) seem to give priority ranking to my blog entries .. increasing site traffic.

Search engines prefer short, concise, web-pages, focused on one, particular topic. If you check out my monthly archives, you'll see that they are massive ramblings, containing many different topics. Search engines don't like that, and will rank them lower. This is the reason I try to break up the various Radified guides into short, bite-sized chunks. (The Ghost guide is divided into 9 pages.)

Then I heard that Google (world's most popular search engine) was going to artificially deflate the rankings of blog entries. Their logic is that most blog entries represent nothing more than "ego-tripping drivel". Yet major corporations today (such as Macromedia) are getting into the trend.

But blog-sites are inter-linked by many *other* blogs (digital friends .. bloggers know how to link), so their search-engine rankings are artificially exaggerated. There remains much debate on the topic, whether or not the rankings of bog-entries will be penalized by search engines.

So, until I can come up with a clear strategy, I've been duplicating entries, both here (I use Dreamweaver to generate these web pages), and in Ye Olde Rad Blog, using MovableType via copy-n-paste from here.

Posted by Rad at Monday: 20October2003 | Comments (1)

Saturday: 18.October.2003

StreamRipper 32

Here's a program some of you might enjoy. Suppose you're listening to your favorite Shoutcast stream (such as Groove Salad or SmoothJazz), and you hear a song you really like, and you'd like to save that song to your hard drive, so you can replay it until you buy your own CD.

What you want, my friend, is StreamRipper 32: an Open Source program. (Open Source is better than free). I tried it and it really works. Except, by the time I downloaded and installed the thing, the song was over. =(

Configuration is simple. Click the little button beside the Destination box in order to tell SR32 where to save your streams. Click the little down-arrow beside the Genre box and select your favorite genre. Then click the Refresh List button. Everything else should be self-explanatory (e.g. Start Rip and Stop Rip).

If you'd like, you can also convert these MP3s to WAV files and burn them as an ordinary CD audio disc. You might also find this link helpful. Every good geek should have a copy of StreamRipper in his arsenal. If this kind of info interests you, you might also enjoy the world-famous (infamous) Radified Guide to Ripping & encoding CD audio, which will show you how to creeate MP3s of much higher quality than you can download from Shoutcast.

Friday: 17.October.2003

Boston Red Sox: Curse of the Bambino

So I'm sitting there last night, watching the Yankees battle the Boston Red Sox. It's the bottom of the 8th and the Sox are up 5-2. And I hear somebody say, "Looks like the Sox are headed to the Series." I didn't say anything, but rather, think to myself, "Obviously, this poor sap doesn't know about the curse."

I thought everyone knew about the curse. The score could've been 100-2, and it wouldn't have mattered. The Sox *still* would've lost. It may have taken 2 extra innings, but they finally did. They lost: 6-5. It was like clockwork. So it must be true: the Sox really are cursed.

It's called the Curse of the Bambino. But how cool would it have been to see them win for once? .. and break the curse? Maybe next year? (Yeah, right.) Maybe they should change their uniform, or the name of the team? Try to confuse the ghosts.

The first book I ever checked out of the local public library, when I stood knee-high to a grasshopper, with dear, ol' mom holding my little hand, was a biography on George Herman Ruth .. aka the Babe.

Game 1 of the 100th World Series is scheduled for tomorrow night in New York. Here on the West coast, the pre-game show starts at 4:30.

Posted by Rad at Friday: 17October2003 | Comments (1)

Thursday: 16.October.2003

California grocery store chains on strike

Here in sunny Southern California, all the major grocery store chains are on strike. This suks cuz you still have to eat. I've never been a member of a union, but am nonetheless sympathetic to their cause. If possible, I'd rather not cross the picket line.

So I went to Albertson's late last night, around 10PM, to pick up a few things, figuring all the picketers would have long gone home. No way. They were still there. But they were cool. I chatted with them for a few minutes.

Inside was a mess. Mass confusion. It took the girl *forever* to check me out. I even told her how much the yellow bell peppers cost, but she said, "I still have to enter the code," which she couldn't seem to find. Frustration.

I asked if she was concerned about getting her @ss kicked by the picketers. She said she was more worried that her dad might find out. He is a teamster rep, and would kill her if he knew she was crossing a picket line. (They call them "scabs" here.)

So today I went up to Trader Joes (the one right across from Crystal Cove): a different store, where they are NOT striking. TJ's isn't a full-blown grocery store, but they have most of the main staples. Anyway, TJ's was *packed*. The kid behind the register said business has quadrupled.

And everyone was buying way more stuff than they normally do. The lady in front of me needed *two* baskets for all her groceries. So naturally, now it takes a lot longer to check out.

Driving home from TJ's, with the Rad mobile packed with $200 worth of groceries (beer & pretzels), I honked at the striking picketers to show my support. Everybody was honking. It was like a damn party at the intersection.

Wednesday: 15.October.2003

Book Reviews of 20th Century's Top 100 Novels

I've always admired sites like Doug Shaw's (left winger) and Orrin's (right winger) that publish reviews on the top 100 English-speaking novels of the 20th century .. as listed by the Modern Library. These works have stood the test of time. Defied obscurity.

How nice would it be to sit down and read all 100 books? Boy, would I be able to impress my friends. The NY Times reviewed some of these books here. The Brothers Judd have posted their own concise list with grades A thru F.

I find it interesting that Ulysses (by James Joyce) was ranked #1 by the Modern Library board, yet given a grade of 'F' by the Brothers. In their words: "Hard to give a low enough grade to the single most destructive piece of Literature ever written."

Doug said, "I was not smart enough to understand it. I had a horrible time reading it, and will never read it again." Orrin said: "A novel that could only be read, understood or enjoyed by its author. Spare yourself."

So how can a prestigious literary board declare one book "best of the 20th century", while everyone else calls it crap? Seems like personal preference. Subjective. Different readers have different sensibilities. This is why the Norweigan Book Club has a top-100 list of their own. The Radcliffe list, which I like best, is posted here. Even more lists are posted here.

More interesting to me is The Observer's list, which is not limited to books written in the English language, nor to those published in the 20th century. Here you'll find Russians (such as Tolstoy & Dostoevsky) and Frenchmen (such as Flaubert and Proust) listed with writers of other nationalities.

I've already read some of the books on this list. Not very many, tho. This is something I'd like to do before I die. So I put it on my "to-do" list and have begun reading The Great Gatsby. It's interesting how, with the snap of your fingers, it feels like you're actually living and breathing back in the roaring 20's.

Complete-review is another good site that isn't limited to the top 100. Of this type, I prefer Danny Yee's style best. Want more? Here's a Google search for "book reviews". Some day, you might find a RADIFIED page listed there.

Tuesday: 14.October.2003

Under the Tuscan Sun

Saw Under the Tuscan Sun last night. As Sidney says, it's definitely a major chick-flick. But I still enjoyed it. I mean, who wouldn't love to get divorced from a cheating partner and move to a villa in Tuscany?

Stars Diane Lane, who everybody seems to like. Based on the novel by Francis Mayes. I heard the book spent a lot more time describing food, the meals, and even included recipes. Trailer posted here. The landscape-shots were postcard gorgeous.

I could've sworn they based several of the shots on scenes from old Fellini films (English site here .. any Amarcord fans out there?). Rotten Tomatoes gave it a Fresh rating, altho I admit that most Film critics have peculiar artistic sensibilities, which don't mirror that of mainstream viewers. Worth seeing if you have at least one romantic bone in your body.

Monday: 13.October.2003

New PC computer build: The Black Beast

Been busy building a new system for a friend. Takes more time than I seem to recall. But I've done this enough times now to feel comfortable I can do it right, avoiding the common mistakes.

The system looks something like the black beast. It was designed and configured using known stability factors. The hybrid SCSI / ATA disk storage system was partitioned in accordance with these partitioning strategies, using FDISK.

The system is based on a zippy 2.8C-GHz Intel Pentium 4 CPU. First thing I did after installing the operating system and some basic programs and applications was to create a back-up Ghost image. We tried to use the latest version of Adaptec's ASPI layer drivers. But they gave us problems, so we had to revert back to old reliable v4.60 via ForceASPI. I ran a few cursory PC benchmarks and everything looks sweet.

First thing he wants to do when we're all done is to rip & encode his entire CD audio collection (using Exact Audio Copy). I encouraged him to use lossless audio compression, but he prefers to save space with the more compatible MP3 codec using LAME.

After that he wants to become proficient editing digital video in the hopes of creating a short movie that will help him get accepted into the world's best Film school at USC.

Posted by Rad at Monday: 13October2003 | Comments (1)

Wednesday: 08.October.2003

Arnold wins! Governor of California

Arnold wins! It wasn't even close.

I was surprised to hear this is big news not only here in California, but everywhere around the world. The thing people find so interesting (I think) about this election has nothing to do with politics, but rather that an immigrant (from Austria) can come to this country with nothing more than a burning ambition and become a movie star and the governor of its most populous state. I mean, he can't even annunciate the language very well. Yet he's living the American dream like nobody else.

What really pissed off most people about Gray Davis (old governor) was the car tax. A few days before the election, everyone started getting bills in the mail, tripling their car tax. The timing couldn't have been any worse. This meant that a typical 2-car family would end up paying ~$1,000 in car-tax alone. Arnold said he would repeal the car tax. Many people went to the polls, not to vote for Arnold, but rather to vote *against* the car tax.

The thing that cinched it for me was when Arnold stood up and admitted wrong-doing, after they accused him of groping women. It wasn't the act that caught my attention, but rather that he admitted guilt. Most politicians deny wrong-doing unless presented with 8x10 color glossy photographs, containing a date & time stamp, signed by the photographer & notorized.

Remember Tricy Dick? (I never even *heard* of Watergate.) .. and Wild Bill? (I never had sexual relations with that woman.) Both denied everything until the bitter end. That's when I knew Arnold was one of us (human beings) and not one of them (lawyer-politicians).

Seems Arnold genuinely intends to do good for the state. Maybe it's because he's married to a Kennedy, but I can't help but feel that people who genuinely want to do good (such as JFK, Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King) for the average person, end up getting shot. I'm sure his wife Maria had that conversation with him.

As the laws sit right now, you have to be born in this country to become president. But if those laws change, which they might, it wouldn't surprise me if Arnold becomes president one day.

Friday: 03.October.2003

Lockergnome features Ghost guide

Lockergnome featured the Radified guide to Norton Ghost in their newsletter today (listed under heading: GnomeFAVORITE). Back on May 9th, they featured the ASPI guide (listed under heading: GnomeSYSTEM).

Chris Pirillo has a popular site. He claims to have over 250,000 subscribers. Featured articles send the stats counter spinning. If the site is slow, you'll know why. Update: here is what the site usage stats look like so far today. Notice what happened around noon.

Posted by Rad at Friday: 03October2003 | Comments (0)

Thursday: 02.October.2003

MD5 Checksum hash

I noticed the download pages for both Alex's Motherboard Monitor and Trojan Defense Suite contain something called MD5 checksum .. followed by long hashes, such as: 799ac45a1c7e570c53dd27839b8379de.

Did some research and discovered that that MD5 is an algorithm (mathematical formula) developed by a Professor at MIT, that serves as a digital security mechanism of sorts, which is "a way to verify data integrity."

I also found two free program you can download. One is MD5 hash, the other WinMD5. I tried both, and they both work fine. With the first, you 'open' the file you wish to check by navigating to it. With the second, you drag-n-drop the file into/onto the WinMD5 program. I was actually surprised to see such a large hash reproduced so accurately.

Anyway, with an MD5 hash and one of these free programs, you can be certain no one has tampered with the program file(s) you are downloading, and that you got the whole enchilada. I dig all that crypto-techno-über-geek stuff.

Update: We've had some clarification on how MD5 ensures secure files. From Marc Hollins:

The original publisher of the file calculates the MD5 hash from the file and posts the hash on his web site. You download the file and calculate another MD5 hash from the downloaded file. You compare the original hash with the one you generate. If they match, you know your file has not been tampered with. Hope that helps.

Wednesday: 01.October.2003

October makes me homesick

I love October, especially the first two weeks. This is the only time of year I get homesick and miss New England (grew up in Connecticut) .. where the leaves change color .. the days are perfect, nights crisp. I like the smell of falling leaves in the air.

One time, when I was a punk-kid, my friends dared me to jump off a rock head-first into a big pile of leaves .. not too smart .. damn near broke my neck. Saw stars for a few minutes. In the Navy, my superiors would always complain that my hat wasn't on straight. I think it's cuz my head is crooked now. So, if I seem "not right", that's probably why. =) Looking back, it's a miracle I made it out alive.

In Southern California, we don't get the change of seasons. Here, it seems like just another gorgeous day, except not quite as warm and the water gets cold. Need to break out the wetsuit.