Saturday: 30.April.2005

Neti Pot flushes sinuses with saline solution

Allergy season is here. Everywhere I go, I hear people sneezing. If you have a big ol' schnoz like me, which sucks up all manner of debris, I might be able to help.

continued

Yoga instructors here in Laguna Beach told me about something called a Neti pot. (For a long time, I thought it was called a "Nutty pot".) Originating in India, the technique comes from Ayurveda: an ancient Hindu approach to healing, some 5,000 years old.

I admit, it sounds gross, and it took weeks of encouragement before I worked up the nerve, but basically, you warm a little water in the microwave (~30 secs), add a dash of sea salt (to make a saline solution), and pour the water into one of your nostrils.

Wait! Come back!

The first time, yes, it feels really weird. If you ever been clobbed by a big wave, and got a load of salt water up your nose, you know a little of how it feels. But, after a few times, you get used to it. And, I tell ya, the benefits are so dramatic that you actually start looking forward to it.

The first few times you do it, all kinds of junk flushes out of your sinuses. You could imagine my surprise when the neighbor's cat, Muffy, who had been missing for days, flopped out into the kitchen sink .. followed by a bumper for a '67 Volkswagen.

Seriously, I flush each side for ~15-secs, once or twice a day during allergy season. Afterwards, I like to put a little (organic) sesame oil on my fingers and coat the insides of my schnoz. Lying back for a few minutes lets the oil flow into your sinuses & soothe any irritation. Works wonders.

If you have a head cold, the Neti pot doesn't work as well. You're better off going straight for the pharmaceuticals. Search for Neti pot online and you should find everything you need. They cost ~US$10.

Here is a search pre-configured for the query: neti pot flush sinus

[Comments closed due to problems with s*p*a*m*m*a*g*e.]

Posted by Rad at Saturday: 30April2005

Tuesday: 26.April.2005

Borderless Google AdSense ads: towers a slightly different shade

Been researching ads, especially the best way to display them. There exists a whole *world* out there on the topic. I've read *dozens* of articles.

This type of research is not my favorite. It involves the business end of things, which kicks my brain into a different mode, which I find less rewarding. Less creative. More like drudgery. I prefer to learn about technology, and how to use it. But if I can increase the site's "click-thru rate" (CTR), hey, I'm all for that.

First thing I learned is that much of the info out there is contradictory. Some sites insist the best approach is to stick a banner (horizontal) at the top of the page. Others claim surfers have become "blind" to banners, so it's best to use towers. I agree that my brain filters banners, which seem blatantly commercial. So I prefer towers.

continued

But all agree: each site is different. "You have to play with the style of your ads," they claim, "to see what works best at your particular site." (which is the type of thing I find tedious).

So I decided to style my ads after those I prefer at other sites .. which are towers, positioned off to the right, where they are not intrusive. I also prefer them to have a slightly different shading than the rest of the page .. to set them off from the rest of the site (so it's clear they're ads).

One article I read suggested trying *borderless* ads, because (they claimed) the border presented a "psychological barrier" that discourages people from clicking. And I recalled my own experiences, while visiting other sites. The ads I've clicked there are almost always borderless .. and of a slightly different shading.

[Ads which are the *same* color as the rest of the page make me feel like the the site is trying to *trick* me into believing the ads are actually a part of the site itself (and not really an ad) .. which makes me NOT want to click them (even if I want to).]

So anyway, I removed the borders from ads in some pages, and saw the CTR *double* immediately. I was impressed.

Removing the borders and replacing banners with towers wasn't as easy as it might sound, especially for pages that are generated by *templates*, such as the blog, and the forums. It involved modifying the (HTML) code and manipulating the CSS (Content Style Sheets). After getting nowhere fast, I sought help from the gurus. Like you, I get by with a little help from my friends.

Google search pre-configured for query-string: best style google adsense ads

[Comments closed due to problems with s*p*a*m*m*a*g*e.]

Posted by Rad at Tuesday: 26April2005

Monday: 25.April.2005

Encounter with a Psychic

Here in Laguna Beach (land of Lagunatics) I know this person (no names) who claims to have psychic abilities. I mean, that is her day-job. And I keep hearing from people how "good" she is.

So whenever I run into her, I always ask, "What number am I thinking of?" At first, I did this in jest .. you know: tongue-in-cheek, playfully, to make conversation .. cuz I don't really believe in that hocus-pocus stuff. (I've *never* been to a psychic, not even for fun.) But the last *four* times I've run into her, SHE GUESSED MY NUMBER.

I mean, I didn't tell the number to anyone else. I only made it up seconds before asking her. The first time, I thought to myself, "Lucky guess." The next time I ran into her (week later), I thought, "*Real* lucky." The third time she guessed correctly, I thought, "That's a good trick."

continued

I mean, I took Statistics in college (got an 'A' too), so I know what the odds of that occurring are. But when she guessed correctly the *fourth* time (IN A ROW, all on different days, over the course of a month), well, now she had my attention.

I forget the exact order I chose them, but I recall my numbers were: 2, 4, 6, & 7. When I expressed how impressed I was, she brushed it off like it was nothing and said, "That's ESP. I'm not really that good at ESP." She's very nice, too. Level headed. Not a weirdo at all.

I thought of this cuz yesterday I ran into someone else who was told by this same person that such-n-such "would happen in April". At the time (year ago), it sounded preposterous, but it happened just like she said, and just *when* she said it would, too.

Stuff like this makes me think. I mean, I wouldn't believe it if I didn't see her guessing my numbers for myself. My background is in math, science, physics. I can handle stuff like calculus & nuclear physics. No problem. But I'm not sure how to classify this other data.

Hey, maybe she just got lucky .. 4 times in a row .. on 4 different days. That's what I'd *like* to believe. It would make things easier. But the odds are against it .. *way* against it.

I calculate: 4-in-10,000, (add the numerators & multiply the denominators) .. or 1-in-2,500, if we use single-digit numbers: 0 thru 9, altho I never specified single-digit numbers when I asked her.

I don't ask her any more what number I'm thinking of. I heard she charges 125 bucks for a "reading". I wonder what it would cost for a weekend in Vegas. =)

Google search pre-configured for query-string psychic clairvoyant laguna beach california

[Comments closed due to problems with s*p*a*m*m*a*g*e.]

Posted by Rad at Monday: 25April2005

Thursday: 21.April.2005

Norton Ghost 2003 supports dual-layer DVD discs (8.5-GB)

Delivered the Radified Dell last night. Sad to see 'er go. I poured lots of RAD love into that puppy. But it's satisfying to know it found a good home, where it'll get plenty of attention from its new owner.

Last thing I did before running it over there was to create 3 separate back-up Ghost images (in case they accidentally destroy something). One image went to a dedicated partition on the hard disk. The second was saved to CD-R (took nine 80-minute discs). The last image I backed-up to DVD.

This computer has one of those new-fangled double-density DVD burners. So I used a double-density DVD disc, which supports a capacity of 8.5 gigs. (Lot of space.) I tell ya, the hardest part of this whole computer job was unwrapping that dang DVD disc. I couldn't get the stupid wrapper off the jewel case.

continued

Finally, after finding a sharp, pointy knife, I managed to slice off the dang wrapper. So I pop in the DVD disc (2.4X) and fire up Ghost (v2003) .. and Ghost starts burning the image .. and it keeps going & going & going .. all on this one disc.

45 minutes later, it's finally done. Nearly 7 gigs on one disk: the whole system drive, fit on one bootable DVD. Pretty impressive. I'd never seen so much data on one removable disc before. And heck, there was room for more! Not bad for six buck$.

I didn't know Ghost supported dual-layer DVDs. I even verified the image (which took another 45 minutes) and it passed the integrity check. There's something satisfying about being able to hold a single bootable disc that contains your whole system drive and all its installed programs .. with everything configured just the way you want.

If the hard drive ever dies, simply replace the dead drive and pop in the bootable DVD. Less than an hour later, you're back in business. And you're stoked, knowing you don't have to start from scratch.

I updated the Ghost guide to include this info about supporting dual-layer DVDs.

Related info: CPU-Z screenshots ... and ... a 3DMark05 benchmark.

Google search for query: Norton Ghost dual-layer DVD discs

Radified home

[Comments closed due to problems with s*p*a*m*m*a*g*e.]

Posted by Rad at Thursday: 21April2005 | Comments (0)

Wednesday: 20.April.2005

Final Thoughts: Dell 8400 Desktop PC

Done configuring the new PC. (Refer to entry for the 11th.) Loaded it with all the best freeware. Running a stability test right now. Had to run both Folding@Home and Prime95 Torture Test to get the CPU to run at 100%. And I had to select the Torture Test option: In-place large FFTs (maximum heat, power consumption).

The system is running max'ed out & passing every test with flying colors. I'm impressed. Never once did I have to hit the reset button, or even give the familiar three-finger salute (ctrl-alt-del). If the system is still running when I wake in the morning (no lock-up or crash), it will be good to go: RAD-certified.

continued

Besides the gripe I had about Dell no longer including a Windows CD with the shipment (oh, they're now sending the CD after I complained), I was disappointed to see the video card drivers were almost a year old. I mean, a new PC should ship with new drivers, no? So I had to download & update those myself. Most drivers needed updating.

Intel just released new chipset drivers yesterday for the i925x chipset, but I want to make an image before updating those. (Can never be too safe.)

I'm diggin' this Logitech MX500 mouse. I thought it was PS2, but it's USB. I normally don't like USB mice, but this one is sweet. No problems. I would buy one for myself. Has a great textured feel. Almost like suede. (Currently using a trackball cuz it's easier on my tendons.)

What else? The system came with SP2 pre-installed. That was cool, but I hate how Dell installs all this krapware (trialware). I asked them to leave it out, but they said I had no choice. Dell must get kick-backs from companies (like AO Hell) to install their trialware. First thing I did was uninstall it all. Took me nearly 30 minutes.

After seeing how stable this puppy is, I'm ready to design a system based around the latest Intel chipset. It's obviously mature. Maybe something with a 3.2-GHz CPU, since prices of 3.4-GHz CPUs are still steep.

I used to focus on performance. Now I'm most interested in stability, and the i925X chipset is certainly stable. I'll be delivering this badboy to its new owners later this evening. Gonna miss it. I'd feel comfortable recommending one to anybody interested in system longevity. Two more benchmarks for you to compare (Sandra):

Sandra CPU benchmark  Sandra memory benchmark

[Comments closed due to problems with s*p*a*m*m*a*g*e.]

Posted by Rad at Wednesday: 20April2005

Monday: 18.April.2005

Coding Google Ads into RAD Forums

Had a chat with Adam Smith last night. He assured me it would be okay to code ads into the forum pages. He said, "Come down off your high horse, Rad. Join the party. Heck, everybody's doing it."

So I sought technical advice from the gods who rule the world of YaBB (Yet another Bulletin Board), the Perl-based CGI script I use. The oracle there instructed me modify one little (seemingly harmless) 20-KB file (display.pl).

After I uploaded the modified file, .. *boom* .. ads show up on a thousand pages. Pretty amazing. I would hate to have to code & upload all 1200 pages individually. Oy vey.

continued

I resisted coding ads into the Main index page, and even the Message index pages. Only the individual threads contains ads. This helps me feel like I'm not a total sell-out (or maybe I'm just kidding myself).

It was hard to resist, cuz some threads, such as this one (How to make a bootable Ghost CD with no floppy drive), have over 25-K page-views. The forums contain more pages than the rest of the site combined.

[Comments closed due to problems with s*p*a*m*m*a*g*e.]

Posted by Rad at Monday: 18April2005

Friday: 15.April.2005

Dell no longer includes Windows CD with their PCs

The new computer I ordered earlier this week arrived today. (Refer to entry for the 11th of April.) First thing I noticed is that Dell no longer includes a Windows CD. I mean, they include all these other CDs, which no one really cares about. They even install programs I begged them not to install, such as AOL (AO Hell), MusicMatch Jukebox and a dozen other krapware trials.

But the one CD I'd really like to have (in case I ever need to re-install the OS), they stop including. Instead, they include a chinchy piece of cardboard, shaped like a CD, which says:

continued

Your new computer does not require an operating system CD or drivers CD. Instead, if you ever need to reinstall your software, use one of the following methods:

1. Microsoft Windows System Restore returns your computer to an earlier operating state without affecting data files.

2. Dell PC Restore returns your computer to its original state.

To learn more about creating or obtaining a copy of your operating system CD or drivers for your computer, visit support.dell/pcrt.

So I get on the horn & call 'em up. I mean, if you pay extra for Windows XP Pro, they ought to at least include a CD in the shipment. They include a "restore" partition at the end of the disk, but what if the hard drive dies?

After playing detective and annoying half the Dell support group, I learned they offer a utility that allows you to create *one* back-up copy of your OS, which I did, after which the utility magically disappears. But what about the folks who don't do this. I mean, it was only after digging around and being obnoxious that I learned about this (hidden) option.

What if somebody didn't create the back-up CD and their hard drive died? .. And they had no Windows CD to reinstall from? Would they have to call Dell and grovel for a CD? (that they already paid for)?

Anyway, the new computer is sitting on my desk, right beside the RAD beast. I now have two 17-inch flat-panel monitors sitting side by side. Two computers sit on the floor, one on each side of the desk. The power is flowing thru me. Feels good.

I've already repartitioned the hard drive into 30+30+60+30 (160-GB total), and made a preliminary back-up image .. on my way to "Radifying" it. So far I like what see. Pretty zippy little box.

[Comments closed due to problems with s*p*a*m*m*a*g*e.]

Posted by Rad at Friday: 15April2005

Wednesday: 13.April.2005

Write a guide, make a buck

I was thinking of offering space on my site to those who might have a helpful guide/article to write, allowing them to keep 2/3rds of the revenue their feature might generate. (That's "two for you, one for me".)

If you refer to the entry for 07.March below, you'll see that Google has in place tools that allow the tracking of how much revenue is generated by any page, or group of pages.

continued

Everyone has an area of expertise. Mine happens to be things like Norton Ghost and ASPI layer drivers, which are admittedly highly specialized. But these niches that can become remarkably popular, especially if they represent quality work.

I never would've guessed any of the guides here would've become so popular. Most began as hastily-written e-mails to friends & family, full of type-o's & spelling errors: e-mails which I got tired of re-writing for each different person. It became easier to post the information online & send a link. Next thing I know, search engines found the guides & (overnight) traffic started coming.

On the other hand, too many sites consist of nothing more than a group of links to other sites, with little original content of their own. Quality content & traffic go hand-in-hand.

I offer a site with respectable traffic, which can take years to build (currently seeing over 2 million hits-per-month), and I pay all the hosting costs. So if you know anyone who has an area of expertise (the niche-ier, the better), and can write, send 'em my way, so we can chat.

Seems like a win-win proposition. I can only do so much myself. I'd rather focus on maintaining the guides I already have, than cranking out new ones. For example, I've recently been updating the Ghost guide, nearly 5 years old now. More.

Anybody know of other sites offering a similar deal?

[Comments closed due to problems with s*p*a*m*m*a*g*e.]

Posted by Rad at Wednesday: 13April2005

Sunday: 10.April.2005

BreezeBrowser: Viewing & Manipulating Digital Images

Folks been asking how I go about posting my photo-series. I use software called BreezeBrowser. You simply upload your photos to your hard drive, using a USB connection/cable. (For this, I use a different program, called Downloader, made by the same guy.)

Then launch BreezeBrowser & select the photos you want to post on your site. Click the "Generate HTML" button and voila!. The software creates all web pages, including thumbnails and reduces your original images to postcard-size .. all with a single click!

continued

My camera takes photos at a resolution of 2272x1704. BreezeBrowser reduces these to 550x412 (postcard-size). The quality isn't as good, but they download off the Net much faster than the originals would.

Simply upload to your web server the folder containing your new web pages, thumbnails & postcard-sized photos and send the link to your family & friends. It's easier for them to receive an email containing a single link than an attached bunch of photos, and it offers me greater control over the presentation.

The hardest part is selecting which photos you want to post. I usually take far more photos than necessary. BreezeBrowser displays the photos in the *order* you took them (chronologically). So, if you want to alter the order of display, you have to manually rename the original *.jpg photos.

After selecting the photos I want to display, and deciding on their order, I rename them accordingly with more descriptive names. For example, the file/photo Img_0007.jpg might become 01_sign.jpg. Img_0043.jpg might become 02_entrance.jpg. Img_0067.jpg might become 03_steps.jpg .. etc.

From the time I walk in the house, I can have freshly-taken photos posted on the Net in 5 minutes. For family & friends, who want to see pictures of their grandson/nephew, it's close to real-time. For me, BreezeBrowser is a must-have piece of software, but I think it only works with Canon cameras. Not sure, tho.

Before I got the digital camera & BreezeBrowser, it would take me all weekend to post series the old way, such as Backpacking Yosemite or Climbing Half Dome, and those don't even include thumbnails.

For those without their own web site, PBASE is good alternative. The give you 200-megs of web space for only US$23/year.

[Comments closed due to problem with s*p*a*m*m*a*g*e.]

Posted by Rad at Sunday: 10April2005