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March 2007

Written By: Gary on March 31, 2007 2 Comments

LayssunflowerI really like these new chips! They’re new Lay’s, cooked in 100% Sunflower Oil, Sour Cream and Onion chips. I like them better than the regular Sour Cream and Onion chips, I’m not sure what it is but I’ve really been enjoying them. And I really don’t like the regular Sour Cream and Onion chips all that much, I’d rather have plain chips and use Sour Cream and Onion dip. So I’m sure this is way the heck healthier than the old way being cooked with the dip.

Plus, it really seems as if it lasts a long time before they go stale. I went way past the overdue date with the last bag and they were still super-fresh.

I’m not sure if they’re migrating all the chips to Sunflower Oil or what. I’d link to the nutrition info but since their site is all flash, you can’t link to anything (I hate that!) but it’s pretty (it’s just slow and unlinkable).

Written By: Gary on March 29, 2007 No Comment

It’s about time! Now you can go back and buy the rest of an iTunes album at a discount if you previously bought one song. Just go to the iTunes Music Store and in the upper right choose “Complete My Album”.

Apple iTunesThis is great mainly for several reasons: If you bought one song off an album that had 12 songs on it (for $9.99) you can now get the other 11 for $9.00 instead of having to buy the whole album (it looks like it’s full credit). Also, if you bought one song off an album and some of the songs were “album only” purchases you now have the option to get rest since you’re actually buying the whole album. For a 10 song album, it really doesn’t make a difference. Not all artists are doing this and you only have six months to get your missing albums, but it’s a nice option if you regretted not getting it in the first place. FYI, they did grandfather in all the old albums you bought more than six months ago (so you can still get the missing ones).

I’m not sure if this will help if you bought a pre-release single since I haven’t bought that many. I’m pretty sure a few of the songs on the list are ones I’ve (purchased) for free, but I could be mistaken. And I know there are a few that I didn’t purchase off the album they are showing, I must have bought off some other album or special purchase mix that iTunes offered (iTunes Originals or something).

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Written By: Gary on March 28, 2007 No Comment

They’ve finally got the preview for Stardust up. This is based on the Neil Gaiman book of the same name. I’m thinking they’ve taken some liberties but it’s been a while since I read the book so maybe not.

This is what started me thinking about Neil Gaiman a few days ago, but the preview they had up at Yahoo didn’t seem as universally playable as this one at the official site so here you go to the official site. But back to the preview and check out this cast: Robert De Niro, Michele Pfeiffer, Claire Danes, Sienna Miller, Peter O’Toole, Ian McKellen (Narrator) and Charlie Cox (the main character).

Written By: Gary on March 28, 2007 One Comment

So the new cover is out and IMHO it’s pretty generic. Not showing much at all, nothing to see here, just move along folks…

But if you take a look at how the whole wraparound looks. You can see quite a bit more, I don’t really know what it’s showing but it certainly shows more than just the plain old cover shows. I’m not the biggest HP fan, so maybe some HP geek knows what this is a drawing of but I don’t have a clue…http://images.amazon.com/images/P/0545010225.01.IN01._SS400_SCLZZZZZZZ_V24642110_.jpgI’ve seen a few mentions of the cover but I hadn’t seen much that showed the whole view of the cover so I wanted to mention it because it definitely shows a lot more…My only guess is it (the Deathly Hallows) ties into the Death Eaters. But the definition of Hallows doesn’t help much but it makes me think og “All Hallows Eve” (but doesn’t that have an apostrophe?)

Looks like they are getting some different covers in Canada.

Written By: Gary on March 28, 2007 No Comment

So there’s a raffle at the Open Rights Group and one of the items is the keyboard that Neil Gaiman used to write most of his Sandman stories. It’s missing a key, but it’s autographed and for some reason he doesn’t think this would be a very cool prize. This would be so cool to have! There’s lots of other prizes too (more from Neil too).

If you don’t know who Neil Gaiman is, someone summed it up the other day (and I don’t remember who I found it, so now I don’t have to paraphrase it).

Most geeks swear by him (Neil Gaiman).
If Joss Whedon is their god, Gaiman is their Jesus.

Peter Sciretta at SlashFilm.com

Actually, I’d rank Neil higher than Joss, but he’s definitely more of a parable/quote person (IMHO) so maybe the latter fits more.

So back to the keyboard – However I wanted to display it I’d have to put a little tag on it that says something like, “This author writes stories that transcend reality as we know it, but still fits in with it. Don’t ask any more because it’s a really really long answer”. He’s one of the few people that I really enjoy that I haven’t pushed on people. You really need to read more than a bit of it to get someone to really get it and before that point most people give up.

I’ve mentioned Neil Gaiman lots before but I’ve never really posted a lot. If I mention him on-line people either know him or they don’t and I’ve generally left it at that. But I think I’m going to change that.Back to talking about the books — The Sandman is too complicated to explain to most people. No one believes me that he’s got a story-line around a English kid, Timothy Hunter, with wizardly powers who is a better character and been around a lot longer than Harry Potter (The Books of Magic). Mirror Mask is kind of surreal/bizzaro to show to people. Anansi Boys and American Gods are great if you can get people to stick with it, but they’re a little long for people who don’t get it. I’ve got people to like some of the short stories and some of the Sandman one-shots but getting them past that is always hard. Honestly, the kids books are where I’ve gotten most people to read: The Day I swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish, Coraline, and The Wolves in the Walls. But Coraline is the story one (the chapter book) but people tend to shake they’re head at some of the bizarreness of it.

He’s got connections to Tori Amos too, but that’s another story.

Written By: Gary on March 25, 2007 No Comment

So I made out like a bandit at the auction at school. I ended up with five baskets (three of them were the hugest ones there) and two gift certificates. I got good deals but I still spent some cash but I use to donate to the foundation by having it taken out of my check, which was boring, now I just go nuts at the auction and spend it there.

Results on the stuff I donated: My Costa Rican coffee basket had gotten quite a few bids but I think it still only went somewhere in the thirty-ish dollar range. My Cat in the Hat Visit basket wasn’t selling very high at all (it had a few books, an audiobook, stickers and a visit from the Cat in the Hat [that would be me] for story-time or a party) so I bought it. The few times I’ve done it before I did birthday parties and it’s hot inside the costume and the parties are usually outside and if someone isn’t interested in donating enough money I’ll donate it myself (and keep one of my Saturday afternoons free). Plus this means I’ve already got my basket made up for next year!

Auction 2007 BasketsSo here’s the loot I got (click the image for a larger photo):

  • Margarita Basket – Glasses, mix tequila, chips, dip, etc.
  • Another Margarita Basket – Glasses, mix tequila, gift certificate for a mexican restaurant (no address or phone, just a name) and some kinda frozen popsicle molds. The basket was a serving tray.
  • Christmas Basket – This had some beautiful things in it: a cool serving bowl that the spreaders look like light up bulbs (but they don’t light), paper, ribbon, candles, beautiful ornaments, and lots of other stuff. This was the best deal and I got it for a steal. I don’t know where I’m putting this stuff since all the Christmas stuff is in storage.
  • Family Basket – Four board games, Uno, some books a puzzle, a movie, popcorn and movie candies (and the basket was a laundry basket).
  • My Cat in the Hat basket – Ready for donating next year!
  • A gift certificate for a hair cut – at the Fantastic Sams by work (where I go anyways).
  • Another gift certificate for a hair cut (but not really) – when I opened the envelope I saw it was for something else, I’m assuming someone else complained and I’ll switch with them, otherwise I have month of free karate lessons.So I’m not a big Margarita drinker but last year I didn’t get any of the booze baskets I bid on (I got scads of chocolate ones though) so I bid a little higher this year for the booze. For a while I thought I was going to end up with a 1/2 dozen margarita baskets but in the end I did okay. Now I need some of the salt and the thingy so I can put it on the rim.

    Not counting my own basket, I got it all (two baskets of booze + accessories, “two” haircuts, the family night stuff and the Christmas basket) for $185. Kind of a deal, especially when you consider all the little items I didn’t list, and the money does go to our schools.

    My mom went this year and had a blast, not as boring as some of the things I drag her to. She ended up with a few coffee or coca baskets (maybe 3 of them?). She’ll be back next year and I bet she’ll bring a friend.

    FYI, the auction is not held on school grounds so we’re not violating any state/federal laws with liquor on school property. I won’t mentioned the generous people who do lend us their location in case the liquor donations violate any other rules…

  • Written By: Gary on March 25, 2007 One Comment

    So a long time ago Dave Goodman recommended The Victorian Internet to me (that’s 3 links in this sentence). After a while I finally ordered it and then after a while I finally read it and then I finally remember to post about it.

    A very interesting book on the how long distance communications took place centuries ago. Eventually the story focuses mostly on the 1800’s and how the telegraph was build, used, subsidized and grew all over the world. It’s a great book with all sorts of obvious parallels to the last 30 years and computer communications that just jump out at you. At least they jumped out at me, the last chapter kinda spoon fed the similarities to you in case you didn’t get them but I think if you made it through the book you don’t really need that wrap up.I’m not going to say any more about the book itself, if it sounds even mildly interesting I really think you’ll enjoy it.

    I’m looking for some similar books for two reasons:
    1) I like stuff like this.
    2) I’m thinking they’re going to ask me to teach the Tech Leadership 900 level course again at a local university. And I think an understanding of “stuff like this” is helpful for people working in technology. Plus it’s a short book and less than $12 new so what college student isn’t going to like that?!? Last summer we used The World is Flat (revised), which was cheap and interesting but it’s long and gets repetitive and if it’s not interesting to you it just gets more uninteresting as you read. It’s a great book, don’t get me wrong but if it’s not your cup of tea it’s really long, while with this this book (if anything) it’s over too soon.

    Written By: Gary on March 23, 2007 22 Comments

    NewstoreCan anyone tell me what this new store is going to be? At first I thought it was going to be a Best Buy but now I’m not so sure. (Click it for a larger image). If you’re local this is over by the new outside mall in Allen Park (off Southfield between Oakwwod and Outer Drive) it’ll be next to the Meijer’s.

    Any thoughts on what this is going to be?

    Written By: Gary on March 23, 2007 One Comment

    Usually I post this earlier but I forgot this year. Tonight is the South Redford Schools Auction (actually it’s run by another organization but it’s for the schools) and you can always get a pretty good deal on donated items so if you’re not doing anything tonight…

    As usual a basket with a few Cat in the Hat goodies that includes a visit from the Cat in the Hat for a party or just to read stories. I’ve been doing this one the past few years.

    New this year (and I’m going to start doing this one) is a basket of goodies from my vacation to Costa Rica. Bags of coffee, some muchs, chocolate covered beans, a hand made box (with a toucan on it) and a few other oddities. Assuming this sells, I think I’m going to make a package of stuff each time I go on a trip from now on.

    Written By: Gary on March 19, 2007 3 Comments

    So I have this killer headache (all day) and don’t feel like cooking so I head up to the bar around the corner (it seems like I eat there a lot on Mondays, but without the headache). Actually, I was on my way home, so I didn’t actually go “around” the corner. I popped in to the restroom first thing and when I come out the bartender/waitress has a menu and accessories (napkins, silverware and drink serviette) all set up at my favorite table (one of the 2 spots I pick as a first preference) and I like that. Plus, they had what I wanted for dinner, a philly beef and swiss sandwich (with a LIIT), actually I would have preferred the prime rib dip sandwich but this was a close second (they’re both huge sandwiches).

    This is my regular place but I’m not a regular, I’m only semi-regular. This means when Jane left (6pm shift change) I wasn’t one of the people she said “see you tomorrow” to. And I have to say some of these people are here every time I stop in…

    Now I’m off to Circuit City to see if they really have 24 minute pickup for my Buffalo WHR-G54S router. Yes I need two, now that I’ve discovered how cool it is, I want to play with another one. Then to the library (a book is in) and a quick trip to the grocery store. Then home to relax with a snack and last night’s Battlestar Galactica!

    Written By: Gary on March 18, 2007 2 Comments

    I love 1 and 1 web hosting, I really do. Great features, great price, all sorts of configuration options and cheap domains ($5.99 a year). They’ve got decent reports and now they’ll automatically mail me stats. Some of their web interface stuff is a little slow (it’s too fancy) but it’s got lots of options so I can live with it.

    What I hate is their lack of customer communication:

  • They need a blog just to keep us up to date of the cool stuff they are working on.
  • They need a status page to let you know what problems are up.
  • They need their staff to know what problems they are having (it shouldn’t take 3 calls over 3 days to find out they are migrating some servers).
  • The need to let us know when they have problems or in advance when they plan to migrate servers.
  • If thousands of pages are generating 404 errors take a minute and alter to the 404 page and mention to the viewers (my readers) that it’s a temporary problem.
  • Even the utility companies can automate a hold message to say there are problems and they are working on it.
  • They have great up time and I understand that things happen, but had I known there was a major upgrade I could have:

  • Mentioned it on my site (probably wouldn’t have but would have had the chance)
  • Not spent time debugging and wondering if it was my fault
  • Not made 3 calls (waiting on hold each time)
  • Most importantly – Not be pissed about it and blogging about it.
  • I still can’t figure out what took them so long to fix it and I’m only really annoyed because of the lack of communication. An e-mail that apologizes for it either earlier in the process or even after they fixed it would have gone a long way with me…

    FYI: To clarify, they we mostly down for about two-and-a-half days…

    Written By: Gary on March 15, 2007 One Comment

    There are web problems with my host 1 and 1 which is causing 404 errors, these are not my fault, but they are affecting you. I’m sorry for that…

    I love my web host 1and1 but what I hate is they have no kind of status page that customers can look at to see what problems are happening with the network. If they just had a page where they could list something like “many customers are having 404 problems and it may take hours (or days) to fix it” I’d be happy (not if it happened all the time). Then I wouldn’t waste time checking on it (on the chance it is my fault) or bather calling them (or waiting on hold). It seems like customer service common sense to me…

    Written By: Gary on March 13, 2007 One Comment

    Brandic.ThestorySo this week’s free iTunes song is Brandi Carlile’s “The Story” (it’s only free ’til the 20th). If you watch Grey’s Anatomy then you’ve heard her, I think she’s had three(?) songs on, but it might have been the same song a few of the times (Tragedy, the acoustic cello version). This free song is has a little more beat than some of her other stuff, I think of her a being a little more mellow than this one. She’s got a lot of different tracks at the iTunes store, different singles and some acoustic tunes.

    I’ve seen her in a small venue (Ann Arbor last year) and she was wonderful up close and personal. She seemed very excited that we were all there to see her :)

    Written By: Gary on March 12, 2007 One Comment

    So I picked up a Buffalo WHR-G54S Wireless Broadband Router because you can never have too many routers in your house but mostly because ever since wireless existed I’ve wanted someway to bridge across my house (mostly to hook some old non-WiFi equipment that was in the living room hooked to the stereo) for older equipment that wireless wasn’t an option. So I just wanted a box with an ethernet and an antenna that would then connect to the network. The stuff I tried was too expensive (although that was a few years back) didn’t work as advertised or didn’t pass Appletalk packets. In general, my favorite home router is the Netgear brand wireless routers but I thought I’d try thing.

    So the packaging on the Buffalo WHR-G54S made me think it would work (or that I could make it work). It seemed like a nice wireless router but it looked like it wouldn’t do what I wanted, but more importantly I knew I could make it work with the DD-WRT project. This is pretty much a way to put a different OS inside the router and it supports a lot more options, it’s kind of a mini-linux (it might actually be all linux now, mildly confused on that) and there are a few projects like this out there. The most important option (for me) is by being a bridge (a mega-bridge that I can hook 5 computers up to). But it’ll also support radius authentication (if you need it, it’s a big deal), a mini web-server and even a way to power (and charge) your internet cafe.

    Warning the content gets pretty geeky from here on.So you have to flash it with a new OS which is mildly tricky, I recommend printing the instructions and crossing out all the non-relevant stuff. It was pretty simple once I found the parts to ignore. Once done it was pretty much how you’d expect any wireless router to be (but better).

    It had an option to be a the bridge I wanted this meant I could take any old computer that had ethernet and make it wireless by just plugging it in the router and it would connect to my wireless connect in the other room. I told it what my network was and it was ready to go. This would also be handy for running operating systems that don’t have support for some odd wireless card or USB dongle. Not only would it let me hook up 4 devices it could actually use the 5th port too (that’s probably overkill but it does it anyways).

    It’ll run a little web server too. I haven’t figured out all the parts but I will. What I’d like is to set it up like a regular router and as soon as you connect it’ll give you a default web page welcoming you to the network (I figure if I can make this work I can more easily convince my local hangouts to WiFi.)

    As a router goes, it supports the blocking options that many routers support but it has 10 different definable options by IP number than you can use (plus you can block by keyword and URL).

    Other stuff: It supports multiple DDNS Services (Dynamic Domain Name Services), multiple VLANs, and some VPN stuff. Also some QoS options (Quality of Services) which might be handy if you don’t want those computers sucking up all your bandwidth (just lower their limit). You can telnet in and all sorts of fun stuff.

    Written By: Gary on March 12, 2007 No Comment

    Bsg LogoSo you can be in your own mini episode of Battlestar Galactica! Here’s a few sample videos (both with a Cylon fetish). But if you go here you can get footage, music and sound effects to create your own video. Kinda neat, especially since you can probably use any editing software to put it all together.

    Written By: Gary on March 9, 2007 No Comment

    Yes, I said Season Premiere. We all just watched the finale so now it’s time to reveal the next season. I think it’s kind of obvious that there is only a few ways this can go.

    Unfortunately, I cannot speculate without giving away the season finale, so beware the spoilers!!

  • Mike was obviously chasing the wrong plane. So there is still a chance. If he wasn’t then Sam doesn’t have a chance, she can’t help herself (even if she gets free she’s too weak/cramped/exhausted.
  • Delinda obviously wasn’t there at the time. We’re not ending that character at this point, she’s been so important (in the story-lines) this season. (He finally believed her and she left and he started to disable it and it went off).
  • Who is the killer? Since there is reasonable doubt who actually did the killing they’ll all get off somehow. Miraculously all the guns were the same caliber so they won’t be able to figure out who fired the fatal shot.
  • And I see Jillian buying the Monticedo. That solves all her problems since she can get her way now.
  • And the robbery, the one with the machine guns, didn’t happen. That was cut into the security footage as a distraction.

    So that’s everything tied up in a nice little ball. The only things that need to be fixed is the floors that had the explosion and the charges/case to figure out who the killer is. That’ll take a few episodes to clear up and we’re done.

    And there’s always the possibility that Casey isn’t dead…

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    Written By: Gary on March 9, 2007 3 Comments

    So my Mom asks me what her network is, I tell her the name of it but she wants to know what it is. We talked for a bit but she’s not liking any of my (wonderful) analogies. Plus the fact that she’s wireless now means I can’t just say it’s the wire…

    The closest on a home scale I could come up with was her phone network. She’s got the phone wires just like the computer wires and a cordless phone in the house. It’s not weird that she doesn’t understand the computer network, it’s weird that she thinks she understands the phone network…

    It’s funny the questions people ask when they use technology that they never asked before (I don’t mean just my Mom, I’m picking on millions of people here). There are just so many computer similarities with phones, cable tv, and plumbing but people just never seem wonder about it; but when they get a computer they want an answer. I’m thinking that when she’s over my house next she’ll see all the other wireless networks (in my neighborhood) in her list and that’ll help (at least the why of why it has a name). I was sure to leave out the fact that her phone now goes over the cable with the internet and the television channels.One of the communications issues was to her “network” was a computer word so it just didn’t apply when I tried to talk about the network of highways and roads (or the phone network). I’ll make sure I have some visual aids next time (and wave my arms around while I talk, that always helps).

    And it turns out her community education computer class was canceled. Not enough people signed up…

    Written By: Gary on March 5, 2007 One Comment

    Spam Arrest will be featured on ABC’s World News with Charles Gibson tonight (Monday, March 5th, 2007). World News will be discussing the ongoing trademark dispute between Hormel and Spam Arrest over the use of the word “spam”.

    Spam Arrest has been defending itself against Hormel for the last 4 years while Hormel has been attempting to cancel the Spam Arrest trademark granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office. (more info)

    Definitely overstepping their trademark, no confusion between spam “food” and junk mail (IMHO). They should have to shoulder the blame for spam if they want exclusive rights to the name…

    Spam Arrest is my favorite way of blocking e-mail spam from home. It’s practially impossible for spammers to get automated junk mail past their filter!

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    Written By: Gary on March 3, 2007 No Comment

    Picture 2Wow! This is the Astronomy Picture of the Day today! The above link will get you “today’s” picture whenever today is. This link will get you March, 3rd 2007 which is the one I’m talking about. It’s the moon (our moon) passing in front of the sun using ultraviolet cameras.

    The extra amazing part is once you go to that page you can watch a short animated movie of the 12 hour transition.

    Written By: Gary on March 2, 2007 No Comment

    So every so often I see my site from a computer with a lower screen resolution and the center columns is just way too skinny especially if there are images. So I’ve done some alterations to the main page if you have a screen resolution of 1,000 pixels across (or less) I feed you a different CSS file that pushes the right column off the right of the screen so if you want to see it you’ll have to scroll to the right (I’m thinking the better viewing will make it worth it). JavaScript will have to be enabled for this to work.

    Please let me know if this works better for the lower resolution people (and look the same for the rest of you). I’ll probably move some items from the right to the left if this works out and I’ll do it to more pages on the site (especially the individual ones that you can put the comments on).I used this information from the Movable Type Forums to do this. Everything that you need should be there.

    FYI – Over 10% of my viewers have screen sizes less than 1,000 pixels wide and another 10% are unknown.

    Please give me some feedback on this, I’m only trying to make this better for you…

    Written By: Gary on March 1, 2007 No Comment

    So miraculously my mother is now on-line. I had it on my list of things to do but I had finally given up, she just didn’t seem that interested the last few times I talked to her about. About a week ago she decided she wanted to and I jumped on it; she came over we got a new laptop for her: HP 15.4 inch Dual Core, 1 GB RAM, 120 GB hard drive, Dual-Layer DVD burner w/LightScribe, SD chip reader (maybe reads more than that, with the media center “stuff” and a remote for that (which slides nicely into the laptop). BTW, that was $699 after rebate at Circuit City this week. A bit more machine than she needs right now but she won’t need anything else more than that for a while and it’s small enough she can bring it over when she has questions/problems instead of me having to always go over there.

    We went over to get a book for her and ended up with Easy Microsoft Windows Vista. Lots of pictures and very clear to read. We looked at some other ones even the seniors ones, and while they were very well written, the images were black & while and not every high resolution, very difficult to see. Mom’s pretty young, not 60 yet, but very low tech considering I’m her kid and I turned my step-dad into a geek before he passed away a few years ago.
    So I set her all up, it’s Vista so I’m not very familiar with it but I figured it out. Then I set up an easy to use home page for her to use with with Internet Explorer. I set her up a page at http://GaryLaPointe.com/mom/ and I can modify it whenever I want for her. But I stuck a bunch of stuff on it like local news, weather, on-line shopping and stuff. This includes some of my photos and links to trips she’s never seen and her musician granddaughter’s page. At some point she’ll have to learn favorites/bookmarkss, but for now it’s perfect for her. Take a peek and if you have any suggestions (either for the page or just some good introductory web sites.

    She just called and the cable guy left and she’s on-line!!! I had her get the $42 a month service which is 384 up + 5,000 down, the next service down was only $6 less but it was only 500 down, I wanted her to have a more pleasurable experience. In a few months she can try the lower speeds…

    I’ll go over next week and hook up the wireless for her and she can set up in the corner of the dining room where she wants it. Right now she in my old attic bedroom.

    I think she’s going over to sign up for a 4 week (2 hours a night) computer class that starts next week at the community education center.

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