Friday, December 22, 2006

Software for Starving Students 2007.01 Released

The 2007.01 release of Software for Starving Students is now available for download at: -- Software for Starving Students is a free collection of programs organized for students (but available to anyone). They have best-in-class programs gathered onto one CD (one disc for OS X, one for Windows).

read more | digg story

2007.01 Software for Starving Students Released

Finally, it's out. A new K-meleon embedded CD Browser UI, 48 Windows packages, 34 OS X packages.

I love working on the Software for Starving Students project. I hope you enjoy it. Burn a copy and share it with others!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006 - No Visa, No Mastercard? No Problem

A few days ago I was not so pleased to find out that my favorite music site,, was no longer accepting Visa or Mastercard. I looked up on wikipedia today to find out a little bit more background, and it turns out that accepts payment via a site similar to PayPal called XROST. In order to buy an XROST pin/claim for a specific amount I had to go through yet another site, called

Here's what I did:

  1. signed up for XROST
  2. purchased $20 worth of xrost "Prepaid iCard" via
  3. Signed into my account on & redeemed my $20 Xrost via

Boomshakalaka! I've refilled my balance.

Isn't there some way the RIAA can be punished via RICO statutes for ganging up with Visa and Mastercard against our capitalist comrades?

I guess the RIAA is just a U.S problem. My money goes all over the world. Thank you again, Moscow, for providing music the way I want to buy it: DRM _NOT_ INCLUDED, and by volume of data downloaded.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Ten Firefox v2.0 Extensions

Previously mentioned were extensions for the older version of Firefox, but Firefox 2.0 has been released. Extensions in Firefox are not always forward compatible, so it's time to revisit the extensions list! Extensions & themes are listed under the Tools menu option called "Add-Ons" now.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Thirteen Firefox v1.5.0.7 Extensions

I installed Firefox on a new computer this week, and decided upon 13 extensions that were very useful. I'm sure I'll add more when I find out what else I'm missing.

List created using Ext2Abc and Infolister.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

How much is that song worth? Less than 20 cents?

I recently read a review of online music programs and associated music services. Eight different services were covered, and their accompanying software on Windows.

All of the services reviewed limited use of the tracks purchased or rented. Most were crippled by Digital Rights Management schemes drummed up to invent additional revenue and/or limit what the purchaser/subscriber could do with the music.

Fear not! There is a sucessful business model employed by a business unencumbered by DRM that works now. One company saw the demand and filled the need. The site is called, and charges for tunes by the megabyte. It makes sense. leverages differences in international law and economics to its advantage, with some great technology behind the scenes. does not require a monthly or yearly fee, and provides some optional slick client software(Alltunes) for searching and downloading the songs you've purchased. It gets better. Customers can choose from multiple codecs(no DRM included!) such as OGG, MP3, WMA, and AAC. I normally pay between 12 and 18 cents per downloaded track for 192kbps variable bit rate(VBR) MP3s, which, excepting classical music and superhuman ears, sound very good and burn to CD well. I've stopped purchasing CDs because of their superior business model. As a Russian site, does not fall under the oversight of the RIAA, and their innovation shows as a result.

Music pirates grow up to be paying consumers, and my music dimes go to the Russians - they're providing what the world wants to hear.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

How to Buy A Hard Drive

I purchased a 250GB Parallel ATA drive recently for $75 from NewEgg. I'm quite pleased with the drive, and installed it into an external enclosure.

If you want to purchase a new consumer or prosumer-grade drive, here are some points to keep in mind:

1. Make sure the drive has at least a 3-year warranty.

2. Browse hard drive reviews and product recommendations, including those from magazine publishers. If you're in the market for a low cost drive while getting the most storage capacity for your dollar, buy a drive that's been on the market for a few months.

3. Check with small local PC shops & colleagues, and online ratings to find out which drives and/or manufacturers should be avoided. Verify the manufacturer and/or reseller has a good reputation and established procedures for returning broken or defective drives.

4. Calculate the cost per gigabyte of the drive by dividing the total price(including any applicable taxes or shipping surcharges) by the drive's capacity in gigabytes. I'll use the 250GB drive I purchased as an example:

250GB 7200 RPM 8MB Cache IDE Ultra ATA133 Hard Drive    74.99
shipping & handling    +  5.64
÷  250GB
=$0.32 per gigabyte

Compare the price per GB(in this case 32 cents) to other drives with similar features(SATA or PATA, noise levels, RPM, areal density). Take into account the aforementioned points and make your purchase.

Internal or External?

If you need an external storage device, then go buy an internal hard drive and put it inside an external enclosure. Works well for hard drives and DVD/CD Burners...

Friday, July 14, 2006

memused.AGI Example Script

This AGI was used in today's Sokol & Associates class, on day 5 of their bootcamp for the AGI module I taught.

It's a bash shell script that can be used with an AGI() application call in an extension on Asterisk to read back the amount of memory in use, average ping time in milliseconds, and packet loss to an external IP( - it was easy to remember).


# Set a variable called stdin to help us
# get the variables from Asterisk

# Read in the variables from Asterisk,
# and write them to a log file
while [ "$stdin" != "" ]
read stdin
if [ "$stdin" != EOF ]
echo $stdin >> /tmp/logfile.txt

# check the amount of memory in use in megabytes
# and assign the value to a variable named memused
memused=`free -mto | grep Mem: | awk '{print $3}'`

# check the amount of average ping time
# and assign the value to a variable named avgping
avgping=`ping -q -c5 | grep = | awk '{print $4}' | cut -d / -f 2`

# check the amount of packet loss
# and assign the value to a variable named packetloss
packetloss=`ping -q -c5 | grep received | awk '{print $6}'`

# Execute the SayNumber command to verbalize
# the $memused variable
echo "EXEC SayNumber $memused"
# Execute the PlayBack command add the word "megabytes"
echo "EXEC PlayBack \"megabytes\" "
echo "EXEC PlayBack \"with\" "

echo "EXEC SayNumber $avgping"
echo "EXEC PlayBack \"ms\" "
echo "EXEC PlayBack \"ping\" "
echo "EXEC PlayBack \"time\" "
echo "EXEC PlayBack \"and\" "

echo "EXEC SayNumber $packetloss"

# Execute the PlayBack command add the word "loss"
echo "EXEC PlayBack \"percent\" "
echo "EXEC PlayBack \"loss\" "

# Execute the SayUnixTime command to verbalize a timestamp
echo "EXEC SayUnixTime \",,IMp\""

# Now read the response back from Asterisk,
# and write it to the log file
read response
echo $response >> /tmp/logfile.txt

exit 0

Friday, June 23, 2006

Gum-Sized 1GB USB 2.0 Storage

1.34" long, 0.49" wide and just 0.09" thick.

I bought this flashdrive today for $29.99 at my local PC Club store.

I lost my other PQI 1GB model - and that one lasted 4 trips through the washing machine! This time I've got a new strategy - I've anchored the drive to the detachable key thingy shown in the picture.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Spreadsheet Collaboration via Google

Looks like Google celebrated 6/6/2006 by releasing Google Spreadsheets. "Create, store and share spreadsheets on the web".

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Knoppix 5.01 Public Released

One of the most popular Linux LiveCD(bootable CD) versions is ready to download. NTFS write access was introduced in the version released at CeBit, and is included in this public version as well. Other notable features:

  • Detection of onboard IDE-Raid Controllers and raid disk components
  • Linux Kernel 2.6.17 (rc)
  • OpenOffice 2.0.2 (german+english)
  • Transparent write access for NTFS partitions (libntfs+fuse)
  • Xorg Version 7.0

Knoppix v5.0.1 LiveCD Screenshots

KNOPPIX_V5.0.1CD-2006-06-01-EN Torrent

KNOPPIX_V5.0.1DVD-2006-06-01-EN Torrent

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Dual Wan Example on pfSense

Have you ever wanted to bundle/bond/combine devices together to increase your available bandwidth or load balance your routing? pfSense has been able to do this since its alpha version. pfSense is in 1.0 Beta 4 now, with RC to be released very soon. pfSense also supports QoS, so you can run BitTorrent & VoIP at the same time. Kick that iptables script or vendor X's firewall/router solution aside & move to pfSense!

dual wan instructions
other pfSense tutorials (including VMWare installation)
pfSense downloads
pfSense mailing lists and ##pfsense on freenode IRC
why pfSense sucks (for the cynics)

pfSense is the most advanced Open Source Firewall project as of this writing. Take a look at the pfSense feature set.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Trinity Rescue Kit for Windows and Linux Systems

"Trinity Rescue Kit 3.1 or TRK 3.1 is a 100% free CD bootable Linux distribution aimed specifically at offline operations for Windows and Linux systems such as rescue, repair, password resets and cloning, with the ability to update itself . It has custom tools to easily recover data such as deleted files, clone Windows installations over the network, perform antivirus sweeps with 2 different antivirus products, reset windows passwords, read AND write on NTFS partitions, edit partition layout and much much more."

It's light and fast - the ISO is well under 100MB.

Current build: 210
md5sum: 6542485701afa398fb99f7800cf9bd67

Download    Screenshots - checkout the clonexp script!

Thank you Google Alerts & Carla Schroeder for her TRK article.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Asterisk in Kansas City, MO

Last week I shadowed Jared Smith, co-author of the O'Reilly Asterisk Book in Kansas City. Two things I'd like to emphasize:

1) Asterisk is very strong & growing quickly.

2) Kansas City has some good food.

The Asterisk Boot Camp presented by Sokol & Associates was very well attended; 3 continents were represented, and the attendees' backgrounds varied widely, from Digium Employees to VoIP providers, call centers to small shops. At the end of one day of training, 2 Cisco trainers entered our classroom to find the course had more than tripled the attendance of their own. Twenty minutes passed as the Cisco folks asked questions, and seemed impressed with the responses and implications of Asterisk's capabilities. One of the trainers was interested in providing venues and learning Asterisk so that he might train others on this Open Source PBX/back to back user agent. I was amazed by the momentum Asterisk has behind it, and I feel like I'm only scratching the surface.

In addition to being a good host, Steve Sokol knows how to charcoal grill a corn-fed beef steak. Aside from Steve's grill, I had the chance to eat at 4 places in Kansas City that I'd recommend to anyone visiting the area.

Arthur Bryant's - not for those interested in "heart-healthy" cuisine, this BBQ is incredible. Make sure to pay attention to those who are in line & be ready for your turn - there seems to be a certain way to order that is acceptable. Arthur Bryant's is all about the sauce.

The Cheesecake Factory - a national chain, but worth a visit. I recommend the pecan-crusted catfish & a piece of cheesecake to go. The Key Lime cheesecake was excellent, and the tuxedo cheesecake was also recommended.

Jun's Authentic Japanese Restaurant - great sushi. I liked the maguro, tiger rolls, and unagi don (BBQ eel).

Murray's Ice Creams & Cookies is not to be missed. Thanks Paul!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Forcing Clamwin on Windows Users

Clamwin was released on April 30. I figured I'd force it on some of my windows users that did not yet have it installed. I placed something similar to the following in the Samba logon script:


"X:\Antivirus\Clamwin\clamwin-" /sp- /silent /norestart

REM If ClamWin isn't installed, install it
IF NOT EXIST "%ProgramFiles%\ClamWin\bin\ClamWin.exe" goto CLAMAVINSTALL

In the real logon script(beware of line breaks) I do checks for multiple antivirus program executables, and push this new version of ClamWin on users that already have a previous ClamWin version installed.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Hey Sysprep.exe, Factory Reseal This!

I use Samba running on Debian for my Domain Controller at work with Windows 2000 & XP Professional desktop clients. I find it's helpful to buy identical desktop workstations in batches from my local vendor PC Club, 5 or more at a time, and automate their configuration.

If you've ever tried to update a master image(Ghost, Acronis Trueimage, etc.) in order to deploy multiple Windows XP Pro systems, you may have run into this special error message:

"Your grace period limit has been reached and will not be reset"

[quote source=" thread"]
In Windows XP Professional, Sysprep can reset Windows Product Activation a maximum of three times.

This causes a problem when deploying the image on other pc's as the image is redundant after 30 days of it being created.

e.g. create image on 1st sept - can deploy on other pc's in sept but when deploy the image on a pc in Oct it has expired and wont let me log on.

There is a solution buried in Microsoft KB308554:

(all actions tested on Windows XP Pro SP2 with an OEM Product Key - a big thanks to Amit in MS Tech Support!)
1. Update your master system with applications and patches.
2. Run 'sysprep -factory' & reboot.
3. Activate windows.
4. Run 'sysprep -reseal -activated'. No error message about the grace period appears this time!
5. Use the prepped system's drive as your fresh master image for deployment.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Sharing HD Videos with Non-Geeks

As many geeks have discovered, commercial-free television via bittorrent downloads lets you watch only what you want to watch, when you want to watch it. An hour long TV program is usually only 40-42 minutes in length without those pesky commercials. PVR software such as MythTV combined with an HDTV tuner & capture card allows better than DVD (MPEG 2) quality playback, if you have a computer set up for playback, or burn to media for playback on an MPEG-4 compatible DVD player such as the Philips DVP642. Now there's another option I like even better.

Vantec just introduced a new product that will facilitate sharing your archive of video files with non-geeks, the Avox Jukebox. It comes with a remote control and all the cables you'll need to lend it to a non-geek friend for playback on their low-end TV or plush home theater HDTV setup.

You'll need a spare 2.5" laptop hard drive and $100 to spend.

Supported Formats:
Movie: MPEG 1, 2, 4 (MPG, MPEG, AVI, M2V, DAT, VOB, IFO etc.) DivX, XviD (except GMC, Qpel option applied)
Music: MP3, OGG Vorbis, WAV, WMA (except WMA9 pro.lossless)
Photo: JPG(JPEG)
Available OS: Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP, Mac OS 9 or Higher, Linux 2.4 or Higher

Video: COMPOSITE _or_ COMPONENT Y, Pb, Pr (480p, 720p, 1080i Progressive Scan)
Audio: STEREO L-R _or_ DIGITAL COAXIAL (DTS Pass-Through Only)

Thursday, April 06, 2006

36 Cisco 79xx Ringtones

Dump all the files from cisco-ringtones.tgz into your tftproot, reboot your Cisco 79xx phone & you should be good to go.

Note: The cisco-ringtones.tgz archive creates a cisco-rings folder for convenience only - the files should be copied into your the root dir of your tftp server without the containing folder. I tested on a Cisco 7940.

34 of these ringtones were already available, I just added the 2 CTU ringtones from the TV show "24" and created a RingList.xml file.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Music from Mitsubishi Car Commericials

I've been looking for a good list of the music tracks to the Mitsubishi car commercials for a while... I found one.

A few favorites:

"Days Go By" / Dirty Vegas

"Just Breathe" / Telepopmusik

"Start the Commotion" / Wiseguys

"Spybreak" / Propellerheads (this track is widely known from The Matrix lobby scene)

While on the subject of music in commercials here are a couple movie trailer music favorites:

"Absurd (Whitewash Mix)" / Fluke

"The Eyes of Truth" / Enigma (jump to time index 4 min 9sec for the good part, or time index 2 min 46sec on the Radio Edit version of the track)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Microsoft: November 2006 now means January 2007

Windows Vista Delayed again - marketing speak and financial implications ensue.

So much for those 2006 Holiday sales. Maybe we'll see a Vista/Halo bundle to compensate since MS is crippling the upcoming PC version of the game to not run on XP.

Will this extra time mean WINFS will now be included in Vista? Nope.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Caste System Internet (or is it Tiers?)

I think that the average internet user is likely to be hurt by the mafia-like idea of slowing down pages for those who don't pay "protection money" very soon. The equal playing field is starting to disappear.

Rob "CmdrTaco" Malda, creator of slashdot, recently wrote:

'I like to think of the phone companies as basically being gangsters showing up at Google and saying in their best fakey, mobster accent, "Ya know, Sergey, we were just talking to our buddies over at Yahoo! yesterday, and they agreed to pay us a million dollars to make sure that their customers get 10ms ping times to their servers. If you pay us $2 million, we'll give you 8ms ping times. Oh, and if you don't pay up, it sure would be tragic if your customers started dropping packets and lagging out. I heard there's going to be a lot of construction in the Midwest. It sure would be terrible if your backbone got cut by a backhoe somewhere."'

pipes.txt . Caught In The Web . April 2006 . Vol.6 Issue 4 . Page(s) 86 in print issue (Full Article)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

OS Design Priorities? Security, Maintenance, and Backups

I love reading Alex St. John's monthly CPU articles...

"Microsoft has shipped how many OSes since 1995? Windows 95, Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows Me, Windows XP, and Windows XP SP2, and rather than getting better with each major OS release, security problems for consumers have gotten worse! With each promise of a more secure OS, we’ve ended up with a less secure one."

"Security, maintenance, and backup and recovery are the most fundamental OS services that any OS should provide, and you’d think that Microsoft would concentrate on getting these fundamentals right before worrying about all the junk it ships with the OS that we don’t need. This, of course, has never been the case to such an extreme degree that Microsoft has created a multibillion dollar industry for such companies as Symantec and McAfee to clean up the mess it makes with each new OS product."

Computer Power User . April 2006 . Vol.6 Issue 4 . Page(s) 14 in print issue . Irony . The Saint by Alex St. John

Star West to Honor Business Warranties for Defunct Totally Awesome Computers

Looks like Star West will be offering warranty support for business customers of Totally Awesome Computers, a Utah company that just disappeared. If you were a former business customer of TAC, I'd call Star West very soon - before they change their mind. Maybe this will slow down possible litigation from folks who paid more for their computers in order to receive "lifetime service and warranty". Looks like the home users are Totally Awesome screwed.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Gadgets & Technologies to Keep an Eye On

Gadgets & Technologies to keep an eye on:
USB over wireless w/o software - Belkin's $130 CableFree USB Hub
Indoor signal strength repeater for cell phones - Spotwave Wireless' $400 Zen system
RGB LED television - AKAI PT52DL27L and PT42DL27L
The beginning of the end of DLP TVs?,1759,1909038,00.asp?kc=PCYH105129TX1B0001084

Combine a live CD with a USB hard drive as a "persistent home", the excellent hardware detection abilities of Knoppix, but choose your own desktop. That is GRML Linux.

Here's what I did:

Created a spare 6 GB partition on my USB external hdd at the end of the drive
Booted off the CD

apt-get update
apt-get install grml2hd
grml2hd /dev/sda2 -mbr /dev/sda

Sometimes you're on a *nix box & have no idea what kernel version and/or distribution it's running. The following commands should help shed some light on the matter:

uname -a
cat /etc/*release
cat /proc/version
echo $OSTYPE

Put those old pentiums to use... Xfce4 is a nice thin desktop.

"The aim of the Xubuntu community project is to provide a nice Ubuntu desktop experience (even on older hardware) by using Xfce4 as the desktop environment and GTK+ 2 applications wherever possible."

Fast-booting Knoppix LiveCD does it in 60 secs

1 U, 400GB RAID 1 for less than $1500
(Turns out this wasn't _real_ hardware RAID - yech. I ended up using software raid with Debian.)

Overview of dmraid source package
"has not yet entered testing"
$199 - only moving parts are fans. See the link at the bottom of the story.

I spent $144.97 (including shipping) on some parts from

An Antec mid-tower case w/450w psu & old faithful NEC DVD burner...

Security, Windows Vista, and the Consumer

"If you, the consumer, have purchased an application for your computer that Microsoft breaks in the name of security, it will be your responsibility to recognize that this has happened, seek out your publisher, figure out how to manually download and install the necessary patch, and prove that you’re a legitimate owner of the software. Why? Because Microsoft prevented your software publisher from automating any of this for you. Microsoft is relying on your fear of security threats and ignorance about how legitimate software needs to work to deter you from trying to consume non-Microsoft software and services."
Computer Power User March 2006 • Vol.6 Issue 3 Page(s) 14-15 in print issue Bronx Cheer For Vista Security! by Alex St. John

Additional interface for crossover cable on Gigabit ethernet card:
ifconfig eth1 inet up netmask broadcast
route add -net netmask gw dev eth1

Windows XP/2000 Commands and Tools

Configuring Apache for Maximum Performance LG #123

I revisited my music account & charged $15 to the balance. That ought to tide me over for a few months. uses a pay-by-the-megabyte pricing model and offers more formats/options for downloading my music tracks than iTunes. I usually pay 12 to 18 cents per song for variable bitrate 192 Kbps encoding.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Computer & Consumer Electronics Recommendations

I decided to start a recommendations page for folks that ask me which computer parts & consumer electronics to buy...

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Why Gmail's Searches Suck & a Cheap Digital Camera

I was surprised to find that Gmail's search functionality is quite limited. For example:
I was searching for the term 'hangover' in my board game night messages, and Gmail will not find 'hangovers'. But when I input 'hangovers' - voila! The messages then appear. Even worse, 'hangover*' doesn't return 'hangovers' either.

My sweetie & I are preparing to buy our second digital camera. We purchased our first in 1999, a Kodak DC3200. We were early adopters. It sure will be nice not to have the slightest motion blur the shot. I talked with a salespeople at Best Buy & Costco, and they both agreed the Canon A520 was a sweet spot for price/value at $190 from Best Buy for the consumer market. 4x optical zoom, 4 megapixels(2272 x 1704). I'm still not sure how listing the "digital zoom" ability of a camera helps a consumer. It's akin to saying, "In my photo editing program I can zoom in and see individual pixels! Check it out!" Que ridí­culo.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Bulletproofing Your Web Server?

Configuring Apache - Don't Succumb To The "Slashdot Effect"

This article mentions The Coral Content Distribution Network and some suggested parameters for tweaking Apache.

This might end up being the technology that solves the traffic spike problem that previously crashed our web server at  Thanks to Herlo for the link.

Other stuff I've noted of late...

Make sure to use '-–compatible=mysql40' with mysqldump if going backwards a few versions when exporting.

Wired 14.01: The Coolest Rooms on the Planet
"When it was time for architect Thomas Roszak to design his own home, he opted for minimalism in everything but technology. With features like flat-panel speakers and remotely controlled, built-in amenities - including motorized blinds, lighting, and indoor-outdoor thermostats - there's nothing to distract from Roszak's free-flowing floor plan."