Apr 13

Staples redefines monitor “Response Time”






staples lcd monitor specification meaning ignorance


Either the staples editor responsible for this 25” LCD product listing revels in technological ignorance, or is just the kind of joker that amuses me most.  It’s the kind of thing you might see written into an episode of the IT Crowd.

For what it’s worth, a monitor’s response time has nothing to do with power on, but it sure is funny to think about.  (Wikipedia has it right)

Apr 11

An obscure discovery about using the xbox 360 as a windows extender

Gentle FTTA reader, if the title of this post means notta thing to you, you probably did not arrive via a search engine. Hopefully though, you’ll find some enjoyment from my colorful commentary on the journey of one man on a quest to watch Star Trek The Next Generation episode rips on his living room TV.

For the rest of you, anonymous tip seekers scouring the internets for possible solutions to an utterly frustrating and overly generalized error message, this info may help you.

“Connection Failure: The Xbox 360 could not connect to the Windows Media Center PC. Turn your Xbox 360 off then on again, and try to connect again.”

I attempted a plethora of configuration tweaks, tips and “fixes” to the windows firewall and registry, as gleamed from search engines google and bing*. All were no help until I stumbled upon this question “do you by chance have a fingerprint reader on this PC?”

Had I not spent hours learning how exactly Windows Media Center (WMC) “Extends” itself to the xbox 360 I would have completely overlooked the question. But since I now knew the ins and outs, *BOOM*, it became perfectly clear.

In short, the extender is simply a remote desktop connection to the single WMC application. And the stupid fingerprint reader on my Windows 7 ultimate laptop was preventing the login. Wasn’t there any error logs reporting (or hinting at least) this simple authentication failure in the windows event viewer? Nay!!

So finally, the solution: uninstalling the AuthenTec fingerprint software/driver (mine was provided by Lenovo for my X200). I lose the ability for fingerprint logins – at this point, SO what.

WMC via xbox 360!

Many hours were “invested” in troubleshooting this issue which could have easily been avoided given some better error reporting on either the xbox or windows side.

The real kicker is that I pretty much did this to myself; I must be a masochist. There is free software out there, like tversity, that do essentially the same thing for free. FREE. But since I have all this paid Microsoft shtuff (regardless if whether & what I actually paid…) I ought to use it, right!?

Jan 11

Getting The Most out of Tools & Toys

I’ve always enjoyed wading through the underrated benefits-pool of owning just-sub mainstream products. My most recent two are an Android phone and a DLink file server (NAS). I left both “stock” for at least a month after purchase, satisfied with the performance provided out of box.

The devices, stock visuals:
* Samsung Epic 4G

* DLink DNS 323

Then the itch – spurred on by (profuse) reading of tweaks and hacks each device affords, that each can do more than what they do now – becomes unbearable. To scratch would appease but not without risk; each device will likely be void of warranty. Worse still is potentially “bricking” a device making it altogether unusable. Even with these consequences, temptation thrives and eventually overtakes.

Perhaps the greatest bit about these devices is that they are based on open source software. Getting to a Linux terminal shell (CLI) on either, is a relatively trivial task. Furthermore, due to the ease of stepping into such an accessible environment, the developer/enthusiast communities blossom.

Without having to write (or even look at) a line of code, both devices can be extended well beyond the consumer level they are marketed at. To tweak brings about such satisfaction, as deriving more function from form. The cost of which is a devotion of umpteen amounts of free time to push consumer hardware to its limits in exchange for paltry donations, “fame” and gratitude.

Even still, the software produced by these die-hards is dangerous. All the safeguards, QA, provided by these enterprise class companies with their tremendous R&D budgets, are effectively dissolved. When we step into rootshell, we leave the safe user level space established by the powers that be. But do we find glory or agony? Depending on the maturity of the community, generally the former.

And in my case? Most certainly the former. I had a few scares but all in all, both my NAS and phone are blazing far above stock. You’ve just got to be willing to put the time in and read read read. Don’t jump without reading everything there is to know about the “rooting” process. By the end, if you aren’t sure you fully understand what you are about to do, don’t.

The payoff, in screenshots from my phone:

ssh from my epic to the dns 323

Dec 10

Thrifty technology buyer’s bane

8GB RAM in my trusty thinkpad X200 laptop has been a desire / occasional-need for quite some time. As a point of perspective, since the 8GB DDR3 “kit” (2 chips by 4GB each) cost well over $300. When I finally bit the bullet, patience on a potential deal expired, the kit had been hovering around $110 shipped for a few weeks.

Today, no more than seven days after purchase and a day after installing, a comparable kit can be procured for ~$66. Color me irritated.

On the upside, the brand I bought is the same price and arguably of superior quality to the slickdeal PNY brand.

Oct 10

Unintentional Art via frozen Windows

Those clever engineers at Microsoft… what better way to deal with the frustration of having a locked up application than through art? I remember creating angry-art pieces back when frozen Windows applications, such as IE6 were common place. Good times.

Thanks to mr doob for re-creating the experience in a controlled environment.

May 10

Adding a desktop graphics card to a laptop

The bane of Integrated Graphics, as the last remaining major hitch to gaming on an otherwise fantastic computer, I made it my mission to find a solution. No longer will the crappy Intel graphics chip (X4500MHD aka GM45) hold me back from fully enjoying contemporary PC games. And just in time too – Starcraft II is just around the corner.

The solution is called a (DIY) ViDock (Video Dock). Subtract the DIY portion and you’ve got a commercial product made by villagetronic. After seeing how outrageous the price was – it was ~$400 – I dug a bit deeper. It turns out that the components that make up the ViDock are pretty simple and easily obtainable.

To guide me throughout the quest I utilized a vibrant DIY community on notebookreview forums spearheaded by a diligent fellow by the alias of nando4. His knowledge hsa allowed the DIY’r spirit to flourish in many, myself included. Plus, the current form in which the technology now exists, it doesn’t take a genius to do what we’ve done.

Interested in using a 3d graphics card such as one produced by ATI or Nvidia? Then read on for a step-by-step account how.
Continue reading →

Apr 10

A Windows-centric Migration Path to a new Solid State Drive

As a fan of Windows 7, and of new hardware technology in general, I took the train to SSD-land some two months ago.  Presented here is some of what I learned whilst accomplishing the migration. The specifics apply to Windows 7 based PCs, but the concepts could be adapted for other OSs.

Do you need to read all this?  You may need to completely reinstall Windows to take full advantage of the SSD. For instance, if you installed Windows 7 using any SATA mode (as set in your PC’s BIOS) other than AHCI, you will probably need to reinstall, though this workaround may work for you.

Not migrating to an Intel SSD? Rumor has it this SATA mode (AHCI) is not necessarily required. OCZ drives may function normally under IDE mode.

Regardless, I recommend that you read on, SSD adopting reader, for tips and insight in the great migration to a speedier computing experience.

Continue reading →

Mar 10

What the FEFF?

Since I’ve been thinking I ought to write about my work more often, and inspired by the strangeness of this incident, here goes.

Visual of the Culprit

I’d been trying to debug how a few ?s came to be in an ad banner tag submission. I’d dug into change logs and other points where we log transactions to no avail. Since we’d never seen anything like it before, I’d basically decided I’d spent enough time on it and was about to resort to a “it was caused by network ghosts” type explanation. I figured the ?s came from some erroneous network transmission.

On our system, there was nothing strange in the tag field whatsoever. On the adserver though, there appeared some question marks, looking like this:

???<iframe src=”http://view.atdmt.com/M0N/…” frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no” marginheight=”0″ marginwidth=”0″ topmargin=”0″ leftmargin=”0″ allowtransparency=”true” width=”500″ height=”250″><script language=”JavaScript” type=”text/java …

Then, though when I don’t really know, it hit me. I should view that offending code in a more verbose setting, don x-ray specs if you will – my first choice was VI. Lo & behold, the offending characters appeared before my eyes.

Continue reading →

Feb 10

Aboard the SuperSpeedDrive train

Alright, this isn’t really about a train, at least not the one that transports people and things from here to there. This “train” is more like a train-station; as in, one that stores and transports people to and from itself. The faster the station can process each person, or transaction, the quicker trains can come and go.

Until the past couple years, in a computer system, this station/storage-engine has been the slowest element. The SSD (Solid State Drive) is a new generation of hard drive that is really fast. Speed that is leaps and bounds above the current mainstream technology. It just can’t be stated enough, SSDs positively bring an entirely new level of performance to the slowest component in a modern computer. In order of magnitude, lets go back to that train metaphor:

The Traditional Hard Disk Drive

Speed of a new SSD

One primary source of speedup is the demise of the last truly mechanical internal computer component – not counting fans.  These mechanical hard drives are literally a spinning disk with a small arm that reads from them. The very nature of this interaction has physical limitations that electrons moving across silcon chips do not.  This fact alone gives these SSD drives speed potential far beyond their mechanical ancestors.

Continue reading →

Jan 10

Apple’s new shit, the iPad

Apple has officially become predictable and trite.  Their newest product was unveiled today, by the big Apple ego, Jobs.  It is a super-sized iPhone/iPod.

big iPod

big iPod

It can’t play Flash, is tied to Apple’s various stores, intended for AT&T’s network, can’t <acronym title=”Meaning: only one application may run at any one time”>multi-task</acronym>, and its design is utterly and completely devoid of originality.  It is a “giant” [~10″] iPod touch with 3G [certain models only].  Thankfully MadTV already made fun of the name, which also screams of routine.

I’d love to see this product flop, but I hold no such delusions.  Apple’s golden age is in full effect.  Their shit is gold to a vast array of much-disposable-income consumers.  It will sell and probably pretty well.  Fact is, there isn’t anything quite like it.

My biggest complaint is that there are zero surprises.  None of that unique innovation that got Apple where it is today, is evident in this “new” device.  Do not pass go, but somehow collect $200 million dollars.  We know you’ll find a way.