Saturday, February 05, 2005

The RIAA Strikes (Out) Again

Yahoo! News - Music Industry Sues 83-Year-Old Dead Woman

Our own Javabeanz (Gari) sent this strange story to me yesterday. Even the dead aren't safe! Even when she was alive, she probably would have said "MP3, what?" Even worse if she were still alive, imagine an innocent 83 year old woman being threatened with a law suit that she didn't understand. If she weren't in the grave already, it could have put her there.

People Get Ready, There's Some Updates Coming

Microsoft Security Bulletin Advance Notification

February 8. Be there or be square.

What a Day!

Before I launch into the vagaries of today, I want to take a moment to welcome and thank all those who have signed on to contribute to this blog. This includes the newest contributor to the blog, but a familiar name with the show: Welcome and thanks Peter!

Speaking of newcomers, Nate, a.k.a. Giant One jumped "write in" with his story of his friend's rent-to-own saga, If you haven't read it yet, scroll down and take a look. Well done, Nate!

Now on to my day. It had an inauspicious start as I pulled myself out of bed shortly before 6 am, literally threw stuff in my bags and spent the day on a long drive down to Los Angeles. The further south we got the warmer we got. Then we got into the what is now a 24 hour rush hour on the freeway near downtown LA. Between the heat, that I'm not currently acclimated to, the fumes, and the lack of sleep, I arrived at the hotel with a raging headache. Everything combined to make my head pound, but mostly, it was the exhaust fumes.

But... but... but the hotel had broadband so all was well and relaxation and recreation online were close at hand, right?

Oh no. Life is never that simple. There was no wireless, but not to worry, I had an Ethernet card along and several hunks of cat5. As I booted the computer I realized that all was not well. Windows was asking for a driver for my Ethernet adapter. I furiously searched through my CD case. No, I hadn't thrown the CD with the driver in. Then I anxiously searched the hard drive, knowing that I had very few files archived there. Oh, of course I had the driver for the wireless adapter, but of course, I didn't have the Ethernet driver. The driver was only a download away, but with no way to connect the Ethernet, no Internet. Oy!

So I returned to look through my CD case hoping something would turn up. And there I saw it -- an old Knoppix CD. It was old but it was one I knew worked on this computer and one that worked perfectly with the Ethernet adapter. So I booted and the real fun began.

The only trouble I had getting on the Internet using Knoppix was that I had to call the hotel front desk for a password in order to use the broadband service in the hotel. But I was soon connected and at the Netgear Web site downloading the driver. If you've never used it, Knoppix runs from CD in virtual memory. I figured writing the file to my NTFS partition would be a problem, but I had plugged in my flash drive and had no trouble reading it. Since that is formatted in FAT, no prob writing the driver file to that, right? Linux does FAT just fine, right? Wrong! Knoppix would not write the file to the USB flash drive.

So I tried the hard drive and no surprise there -- no go. Then I found a floppy rattling around my computer bag. Rattling for a little too long -- wouldn't read, wouldn't format. I flung the worthless floppy on the floor. By now my freeway fume induced headache was pounding. I was so very near and yet so completely far from having the driver.

This time I rebooted with my USB CD burner plugged in and turned on (this machine is on the older side and the built in CD is not a burner). On more trip through the CD case yielded my only fresh CD-R. I had one chance to get this right. I had burned a CD on this burner from this copy of Knoppix before and was guardedly hopeful. So I downloaded the file again (the first download had been on a virtual disk in RAM and lost when the computer was rebooted). Then I burned the whole 350k file to a 700 MB CD. What a waste, but I had to do what I had to do. Knoppix reported the burn was successful and I rebooted hopefully.

When I rebooted to Windows, it dutifully asked me for the missing driver. Or course it was zipped on the CD. I forgot that, pointed the add hardware dialog to the CD and everything hung. I finally had to shut down my machine, and no, it wasn't graceful. So now had I managed to trash everything? Happily no. I rebooted, unzipped the driver, and installed the new hardware.

So the moral? There are several. Don't accidently delete your Ethernet driver. Don't pack in a hurry when you are asleep. If you carry a floppy, carry several that aren't 10 year old former AOL disks. Carry a CD with all your essential drivers, especially the ones you need to get on the Internet to download more drivers. It never hurts to ask Tux for help. And last of all, when driving on a freeway in LA, don't breathe the air.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Buyer Beware Part 2

So, once again we are stuck at the rent-to-own store. My friend decides that she wants a laptop for portability. The first “offering” from the store was an IBM think pad, which normally are very nice machines. However, XP needs more than 128 MB of ram to run. The machine was choking just running the OS, so back it went. Then yet another machine that had similar oddities. Finally, they sent her out of town to another store to an hp pavilion with a p4 running 256 MB Ram. She brings it to me for initial setup only to find a disk error. This time the rental store actually seemed to care about her satisfaction, after evaluation they sent the machine back to hp. Roughly a week later, she finally got the machine back. I ran the normal setup that I do: windows updates, spy ware removers, anti-virus, etc. The machine is stable and humming right along, she’s happy, and get this… They have decided after all her trouble, she gets yet another “price break” on this machine too.
In conclusion, I still don’t agree with the whole “rent-to-own” scheme. They do not seem to have any technicians for simple repairs, but are finally willing to stand behind the customer to make things right. So if you feel the “rent-to-own” option is something you are considering, be careful. Do your homework on what specs you feel are right for you, talk to other computer users and ask around. Owning a computer should be enjoyable not another frustration. (Thinking “if only it were that easy.”) P.T. Barnum has been quoted by history as saying “one born every minute.” Do your homework and you can say “wasn’t me.”

Overclock Your Mac Mini

Overclockers have gotten to the Mac Mini. That sure didn't take long, did it? The link above will take you to a page where the resetting of mainboard jumpers is detailed. It's easy and the lower priced 1.25 GHz machine runs just fine at the 1.42 GHz of the higher priced edition, meaning the only difference between your overclocked box and the premium one would be the size of the hard drive.

Kinda makes it hard to cough up the extra $100 for the upmarket one, doesn't it?


Thursday, February 03, 2005

Why Don't We Have Open Comments?

Interview with a link spammer | The Register

If you've never heard of it, it's alternately called link spam, comment spam or blog spam. It is the insertion of links into blog comments. Often these links are PPC -- pills, porn, and casinos. In other words, things that most blog owners do not want in their blogs.

So one way we are battling the possiblity of these sorts of things turning up in this blog is to limit commenting to those folks who are members listed as contributors (the list is over on the right hand side of this page). It is a shame that we have to limit your free speech and interaction with us in this way. However, there is a workaround. If you want to make a comment about a blog entry you can e-mail it to the contributor and ask that they post it as a comment, or if their e-mail is not listed in their profile here, you can always send it to me and I can forward it to them. There is still no guarantee that your comment will appear in the blog, but it does give you the opportunity to interact with the author.

I always feel sad when a large group's rights are undermined by an unsavory few. A couple of years ago I had to close down the guestbook on my personal Web site because of a similar phenomena called "guestbook spam". Since I always have copies of entries e-mailed to me (comments here get e-mailed to me, too), I was quickly able to know about and delete the offensive entries. But after three days in a row, I decided that the best course of action was to remove the guestbook. Sad but true.

No one is immune from blog spam. Doc Searles (warning: contains some spam for presumably offensive links), a leader of the Linux community, has been hit on his popular blog . This is the highest profile example I have found to date.

Perhaps someday we will be able to have more open interaction here. In the meantime, in order to keep our blog a reader friendly experience, commenting is the privilege of the contributing few.

Buyer Beware Part 1

This will be the first part of an informative "story" that happened to a friend of mine. If any of you should find yourself in the market for a new pc soon, take this story with you in the back of your head. A very close friend of mine decided to hit one of those "rent-to-own" stores for her desktop pc. She made her selection, got home to find that xp was never properly installed. When she called and ask the store about it, she was informed they could "look" at it. Also, informed her they would have to probably send it back to the factory to be "fixed." Instead she called me, I went over and got xp working only to find a small barrage of porn dialers, viri, and the like. Naturally she was horrified, thank god she didn't buy this computer for her kids. Eventually we found out that store "policy" is to re-image the drive between users. However, as you can clearly see this did not happen. Upon completion of getting it running, she informed the store of my "miracle". To which they responded with, "see if he wants a job as a tech making $7/hr." After all this hassle, they finally gave her a major price break. She has been happy with it's performance ever since.
But, two things stick in my mind: one, the fact that this machine was brought into a family home with severe porn infections, unknowingly. The other, is the pricing policy of these stores. I realize that they need to make money, but it would appear they make it at the expense of the customers. That is another issue entirely. And just when you thought it couldn't get any better, stay tuned. I will tell you of the "three ring circus" from when my friend went back to the same store recently for a laptop... Till then update your anti-virus, adaware, spy-bot, windows/os updates, remembering a little work now saves major frustration later...
Till next time

Liinksys and MIMO

Linksys WRT54GX Access Point Review

MIMO is poised to be the "next big thing" in wireless networking and Extremetech has a review of a Linksys WAP that incorporates this up and coming technology. If you've never heard of MIMO here's your chance to learn all about it.

PC in a macmini size case

Courtesy of Geek News Central somebody put a PC together in a 6.5"x6.5" case here .

Its not as fast, perhaps, but I thought the specs would interest our fellow geeks :)

Wednesday, February 02, 2005



This is a really high geek factor program that I found while playing with RSS again this week. What makes it geeky? Well, it is a Java based nntp (news as in newsgroups) server that you can run locally on your computer. But wait, there's more. It is a news aggregator that you can use to gather your favorite RSS feeds. (does RSS and Atom -- two different standards)

The only concern I have is that when you run it, make sure you are firewalled to the internet on port 119 (or whatever port you use). For security's sake you probably want to limit this server to your LAN.

If you understand how to configure a newsreader and use RSS at all, this program is very easy to use. The news server/aggregator is easily configured via a Web page interface. I would not recommend this program for those who don't know how to use a newsreader unless you want a good learning experience, but if you do know how, you can now read both your groups and your RSS feeds in one place.

RSS Geek speak notes

contributed by MissM
[updated 2/1/05]

RSS stands for "Really Simple Syndication" or "Rich Site Summary"
Some Web sites use RSS to allow you to monitor their sites, and when the content changes,the new content is on your computer. There are several different types of RSS feeds, a few I have run into are ATOM, XML and RSS , various versions from .9 through 2.0. And the ultimate appearance of the updates, seems to be affected by the type, as far as I can tell, anyway…. Some feeds will just show the first couple lines, others show the entire article and pictures, etc.

Detailed info about versions and types of feeds is available.

I feel like this would be even more beneficial to dialup users because it would allow you to check your favorite sites, all at once, w/o the potentially bandwidth hogging of ads and other popups….
To read RSS feeds, you can use a reader or some browsers have plugins or extensions to get RSS feeds.

RSSReader is one I used, that had a time limit before you have to pay, and it becomes unusable if you don't pay then. Good thing I had used that secondarily, and had most of my feeds in the browser plug in.

NewsDesk is another RSS headline and Weblog reader for Microsoft Windows. It gets headlines and Weblog entries every 30 minutes.

Firefox has a few different extensions to read RSS feeds, I use Sage. If you are on a website that has an RSS feed available you can have Sage discover feeds, and then you select which you want. It puts an icon in the bottom right of the browser window, if a feed is available.
In its preview version of it new browser, to be released next year, AOL also enhanced support for RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds, which also exists in Firefox. The Netscape browser can display rotating headlines from RSS feeds in a special task bar. RSS feeds are an increasingly popular way to syndicate headlines and sometimes entire articles from Web sites.

I discovered that Microsoft has an RSS feed for upcoming security updates, so you can get a couple days notice, BEFORE the updates are issued for download.[update: I find it erratic at best, seems like I read it in news before the feed gets updated]
Some other places that have feeds…..

10,000 RSS Feeds
4,899,374 weblogs watched.
a google like search engine for RSS feeds
and weblogs on all sides of the political spectrum are here.

There are two sites that I have found, one while doing the research for this, and the other I found out how to pronounce during the research, that will generate an RSS feed, based on your favorites, at least as I understand it, I’ve only played with each of them a couple hours
And they are: Furl my page that has a feed generated just for this geek speak is here , and you can publish your own RSS feed here pronounced [Delicious] . At least that's what it looked like via my brief research, but, my feed isn't working yet ;)


Tuesday, February 01, 2005


This is the On Computers podcast for 01-30-2005. I have tested it and it works for me in iPodder. If you prefer, you can download the the same file here via ftp.

Apple's iPod Shuffle Stifles Podcasting

Apple's iPod Shuffle Stifles Podcasting

No sooner have I learned what podcasting is, I find this article. Of course the easy way around this is to not automatically sync your podcasts to a smaller player but to manually sync them. This is counterproductive for an iPod owner, but for others who want to gather audio information, they can use their desktops and laptops to enter the world of podcasting. They also can still select, manually sync, and take the smaller files with them on a flash player, including the Shuffle.

Getting Ready to Podcast

I've posted a link to a good, cross-platform podcast receiver, iPodder ("lemon iPodder" button on right side of page under links). If you want to, go ahead and download it, play with it a bit and get an idea what it does. That way you will be ready when we get our first podcast ready.

Right now all we need in order to podcast is one of our mp3 archives posted on the On Computers Web server. I could do that by downloading this weeks mp3 show archive and reposting it to an On Computer's Web site (the On Computers tips site in my case), and then posting the link to that mp3 file here, but I'm going to leave that job to one of our volunteers who has a broadband connection.

Once we do have an archived mp3 posted on the On Computers Web server, I will post a link in the appropriate format to that file here to be picked up by feedburner. You will need to use the feedburner feed for this to work so get the url from the "XML" button in the right hand column of this page. Put that link in iPodder's "add feed manually" dialog on the status tab. That should do it. Then you will be ready for our podcast.

Of course if you have another favorite podcast receiver, go ahead and use it.

Once we have a podcast posted, iPodder (or the podcast receiver of your choice) will download the mp3 file to your computer. What you do from there depends. You certainly can play it right on your computer in any mp3 player software. You can also use your favorite software capable of syncing to send the mp3 to your player, including an iPod -- which of course is the genesis of word "podcast". You don't have to have an iPod to do this and most mp3 players will work. I tested it with the iPodder feed and synced it using Windows Media Player to my flash memory based mp3 player. That worked like a charm.

By now, if you didn't know before, a podcast is a media file download using an RSS newsfeed and podcast receiver as the delivery mechanism to your computer. This has the advantage of being easy to update automatically once the link to the latest mp3 archive is posted.

Of course as I write this we still haven't tested a thing of ours, but I'm confident that once posted in the proper format, our weekly mp3 archive file will podcast sucessfully.

By the way, did I mention that all of this is being done at no additional cost to our little cadre of volunteers except for our time? We are using free and freely available tools. They include Blogger, Feedburner, and of course the aforementioned iPodder receiver. You might enjoy checking them out for yourself.

This is just a test

Well it seems to work! and what a nice job. I look forward to posting the news links , and exploring the news. I may post my rss feed geek speak, later today.... Just to help everybody become more familiar with it, hopefully! :)

Our New BLOG!

First I would like to thank GailLA for all of her work setting up this BLOG. She started it last year, but then it was put on the back burner.

Now we have a link to it on our main web site for everyone to read.

MissM has volunteered to post a new feature for the OnComputers Radio show. Called "What we talked about on the show" It will have a short description and the URL of the the things we talk about on the show if you were not in the chat but would like to look at what was posted. Thank you MissM. :)

Monday, January 31, 2005

RSS Feed and Other New Neat Stuff

The first step to podcasting is accomplished. Here is the URL for our new RSS feed:

It is hosted by feedburner. If you click on the link you will get a nicely formatted page with instructions for using the RSS feed. This is the same link you get when you click on the XML button. I've also noticed that now that we have the blog set up for it you can set up a live bookmark in Firefox (you should see a little orange square in the lower right hand corner of the Firefox browser window). I've already set up Firefox and own My Yahoo account with our feed so I'm having a lot of fun with it. Even though Jane has already done a fine RSS tutorial, I'm sure we will be talking about the particulars of what we did on the blog and why we did it.

While this link will open in a Web browser, it is intended to be used in a news aggregator or syndicated on a Web site. We are currently updating the On Computers Tips site to include sydication of the five most recent items posted here. We are also adding new members to our blogging team. As soon as they are added you will start seeing both their posts and their commentary to existing posts.

Further, I have updated the blog template (the design of this page). In so doing, we gained a lot of features but lost the handy links back to On Computers. I will be working on customizing the template to reinstitute the links we lost, but it is something that can't be rushed because it can majorly screw up the blog if it is not done right.


If we can do it for free, we will. for now we are exploring it and trying to set up an RSS feed of this blog site.