Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Opera 10th aniversary, free registration codes.

Opera markets itself as a full-feature Internet tool (web browser, mail reader, IRC, RSS, etc.) and for a limited time free registration codes are available at my.opera.com as part of their 10th anniversary.

Personally, I've used Opera since version 6.01 on a Windows 98 machine. The mouse gestures, tabbed windows, sessions, author/user/portable modes and pop-up blocking have made my browsing safe and pleasant for years; most of these features are only now becoming available on Mozilla/Firefox. If forced to pick three pieces of software I couldn't live without and would be willing to purchase and support, Opera would be one of those three (the other two being Ultra Edit and Thumbs Plus).

Update: party's over.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Things I just don't get - chapter one

I was unfortunate enough to get stuck behind a school bus this morning on the way to work. First it stops on the main road in my subdivision to let about four kids aboard, then it travels a whopping two houses to pick up one child, then turns right into an eighteen house loop that exits back out at the first stop.

So the bus holds up traffic on the only exit street in the subdivision not once but twice and for a whole five junior-high/high school kids?

If I seem bitter it's because I'm middle aged and remember never being catered to so nicely by our bussing system. The subdivision I grew up in is just as dense as the one I live in now and stops were at minimum half-a-mile from each other. Now we are picking up kids within ten yards of each other? Who planned the stops on this route? I have a better solution. Instead of:

  1. Stop on main street in front of loop
  2. Pick up four kids
  3. Drive about ten yards, stop on main street again
  4. Pick up one kid
  5. Turn right into loop that has no more than eighteen houses
  6. Stop at least once, pick up more kids
  7. Turn right onto main street
How about:
  1. Turn right into loop, off main street where everybody is trying to get to work.
  2. Pick up the four kids plus some of the kids in the loop
  3. Drive to the other half of the loop, stop (still off the main street)
  4. Pick up the one kid plus the rest of the loop kids
  5. Turn right onto main street

I see this as a win/win situation. The kids get to walk a few additional feet and get some exercise. The kids are still safely within distance of each other if there are fears of abduction, etc. No inconvenience for drivers getting to work.

Maybe the problem is I make too much sense.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

D-Link DGL-4300 08/23 updates...

Some updates...
  • Wireless is still not as good as the Buffalo router. At the farthest point from the router where wireless access is still reasonable (i.e. not in the bedroom closet behind a wall of women's shoes), I am getting 14-28 Mbps stable. With the Buffalo router, I was getting 28-54 Mbps with occasional drops (resets, drops and drop-off to "poor"). However, wireless from the couch in front of the big screen was perfectly stable. Using WPA-Personal with a static IP address via DHCP and no wireless MAC filtering. I'm working on MAC filtering and dynamic IP addresses.
  • It's still expensive, nothing I can do about that.
  • "Gamefuel" has been turned on in "automatic" mode with the 384Kbps my service provide allows. To test things I started up five bit torrent downloads/seeds; a Linux .iso distribution, Autopatcher XP, a popular TV show, and two "adult content" files (a good test, I hope). My kid starting playing Call of Duty or Battlefield 2 with voice chat. I watched web surfing speeds from another computer. Speeds were sluggish with the torrents at 25KBps; the kid had no complaints. I backed off the torrents to 20KBps, then 15KBps. At 15KBps the download speeds were only slightly different than a network without any additional outbound traffic. Delays were still noticeable, but acceptable. The torrents were averaging about 12KBps out at the 15KBps setting, sometimes slower. I might try some manual settings for the game voice chat to lower it's priority and decrease all uploads to their lowest levels. I theory, that should give people using the home network priority while still giving the game enough bandwidth to hog. File sharing should be highly limited during times when the network is being used but should get plenty of upstream when it isn't. More to come...
  • I got remote desktop to work.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Even more aquarium fish

The sweetheart was grumpy yesterday so I purchased eight flame tetras (marketed as orange von rio tetras at Petsmart) for her to put in the 55 gallon community tank. That tank is almost complete; I'll probably remove the younger catfish and replace them with some colorful schooling fish, probably harlequin rasboras.

Image used from Elmer's Aquarium without permission.

Friday, August 19, 2005

The D-Link DGL-4300 wireless gaming router

I received my replacement wireless router yesterday night. The D-Link DGL-4300 wireless "gaming" router is a gigabit Ethernet switch, router, firewall and wireless access point with QoS (called "Gamefuel Technology", considers bit torrent and VoIP as "games"). Initial impressions:

The Good

  • The wired connections are stable and seem to be getting better throughput.
  • I can get to my cable modem diagnostics again (couldn't with the Buffalo router it replaced)

The Bad

  • Wireless is definitely not as good as the Buffalo WRT-G54 it replaced, it might need some tuning and I'm using WPA instead of WEP now but the signal does not reach into the upstairs bedroom and behind a door in my bathroom.
  • It is expensive; which is hard to justify for a lot of people
  • The "Gamefuel" (i.e. QoS) technical details are limited and there is very little practical information from D-Link or the Internet. It will be more experimentation than anything else
  • I haven't been able to get remote desktop via virtual port to work

The QoS section I still need to do more research on. But I was considering the following priorities from highest to lowest:

  1. HTTP, i.e. normal web surfing
  2. Mail
  3. Instant messengers
  4. Games
  5. All unmapped outbound traffic
  6. Voice applications (used for games) and web cams
  7. Usenet
  8. Usenet to road runner
  9. File sharing applications

I'm sure my kid wants his games at the top of the chart, but he is already monopolizing the majority of bandwidth if I'm not using bit torrent to share Linux distributions or Autopatcher.

More to come, I have a weekend to play with things.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The barb barrio chapter two - murder?


I came home from work today to find my "mostly invisible plecostomus" was now a visibly dead plecostomus at the bottom of the tank. It was three and a half inches long at time of death, no signs of fungus, ick, bloating, starvation or any other known problem. I'm fairly certain the red-finned shark killed it.

The rear area of the "barb barrio" is fully planted with water wisteria plants. The "mostly invisible plecostomus" was always hidden behind a plant, under the heater and bubble tube; it simply laid there all day, it's sucker mouth attached to a smooth rock. This plecostomus was the most territorial and aggressive of the two I owned when all my fish were in a 29 gallon tank. The left rear corner of the tank was dedicated to the red-finned shark as it's "cave"; the place it will defend and patrol. Wednesday, the day before he death, I noticed the plecostomus was not in his usually spot at the rear middle part of the tank, it was attached to the glass at the front left side of the tank. I assume that when the shark was patrolling the rear of the tank behind the plants, it chased away the plecostomus.

The only other causes I can think of would be either the shark has some sort of disease that is not noticeably recognizable or the onion plant had something on it the plecostomus ingested and died from. I'm ruling out starvation. Two algae wafers were dropped in the tank every other day, the same amount as before with the same fish plus an extra plecostomus. I'm fairly certain this plecostomus was digging up wisteria plants and stripping the bottoms of those plants.

In any case, it sucks to lose a large fish. "Little Plec" started as a Wal-Mart purchase to clean up algae in my tiger barb fry tank. Starting at just over an inch "Little Plec" grew quickly to over two inches, earning it a spot in the big tank. It had black stripes on it's tail, unlike all the other plecos I've had. It was like most older plecos, though. They don't eat algae, they uproot and strip plants, and you never see them until they come out under darkness for their algae wafer or zucchini wedge.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

New aquarium fish

Aquarium Adventure was having a half price sale on anything "living" in the store so I made the forty minute trip up to the Dublin area. I was looking for pearl gouramis, which are nowhere to be found anywhere else in Columbus and nobody seems to want to order them either. I was also considering a larger red-finned shark for the "barb barrio" and possible a school of tetras for the 55 gallon peaceful community tank. I ended up with a mature red-finned shark, three very small Siamese algae eaters, three small opaline gouramis, and two onion plants.

The shark and the onion plants went in the "barb barrio", the gouramis went in the community tank, and the Siamese algae eaters were separated one to each tank. The shark seems big enough to fend off the tiger barbs, who are mostly curious bullies but cowards against anything they can't bully. Everybody else seems adaptive.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Politics as usual...

In general, I hate politics. As a somewhat intelligent and rational person I'm stuck in the middle leaning left on occasion while keeping a foot in the right. Politics is ruining my place of employment and can make family get-togethers if not uncomfortable at least mildly embarrassing personally. I really don't want to enter into any political commentary, but what is the mother of deceased Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, Cindy Sheehan, thinking when camping outside President Bush's Crawford Texas ranch wanting a one-on-one conversation with the President of the United States of America during his five-week vacation? What does she expect Bush to do?

First off, I'm no Bush supporter. I can't stand when he gets on television and starts talking all yee-haw and yippee without going through his handlers first; it's embarrassing. But, what is Bush expected to do? Does he sit down again with this woman and listen to her demands - to bring home the troops now to honor her fallen son? If Bush listens to one-person because they camped outside his ranch in protest, doesn't this open up the door for every nutcase on the planet to pitch tent in hopes of getting a one-on-one to discuss their view or vent or swap recipes. Even if Bush wanted to bring home troops now how would it look if the leader of one of the planet's super powers acts on the advice of a grieving mother?

What's even more interesting and sickening is the snowball rolling down the left and right slopes of the political mountain. A democratic senator says something, which is countered by a republican representative, which is fueled by the Internet and news media each with their own spin on things, quotes get simplified and interpreted as typical liberal and conservative stances, which opens up discussions on television and radio and balloons onto blogs and discussion forums to the point where there are over 415,000 (yes, thousand) unique topics available on Google in only five days.

People wonder why I'm grouchy most of the time. I try to be happy but eventually succumb to the extremes at work and family social gatherings. I get grouchy when I have to listen to someone go on about why French culture is better, or why I can't eat this product because the parent company once harpooned a dolphin by accident, or why I can't use this instrument because it might have been made by exploited people making two cents a day in a sweatshop, or what I can't watch this movie because there are thirty seconds within the two hour runtime that contain political correctness.

I sincerely offer my condolences to Cindy Sheehan and her family. I feel pretty crummy when one of my fish dies; I can't even imagine what losing a child is like. Unfortunately, the whole situation surrounding the folks outside Rancho Busho is depressing and sickening to me. It also sucks to be number 415,001 on a list that is already about 400,000 items too big.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The barb barrio...

This weekend I tried introducing a red-finned (rainbow) shark and seven zebra danios to the 40 gallon tiger barb tank. That tank has twenty tiger barbs in it and a mostly invisible plecostomus. As soon as the bags of fish entered the water the barbs were curious and started attacking the plastic bags. After the acclimation period I let the shark loose first. It didn't get much time to itself before a curious tiger barb was stalking it. There is one distinctive barb out of the twenty that causes problems and it doesn't take long before others join in. I turned the danios loose soon after, thinking their speed and agility might distract some aggression away from the shark. That didn't work. The shark was much slower moving, not large enough to pose a threat, and seemed far too passive compared to descriptions of their behavior from the Internet. I had to remove the shark and put it in with the sixteen young bronze corydoras (catfish).

It's been three days now and the danios are still alive and have actually ventured from the surface and are allowed to exist without visible threat in the middle depths of the tank, an area usually dominated by the tiger barbs. The barbs don't seem interested in them anymore. They either don't recognize them as a threat or taking up too much of their turf or they are tired of chasing and not nipping the fins of a much faster and more agile fish.

As far as options go for more fish for the tiger barb tank I'm open to suggestions but I have considered a few fish. A large, mature red-tailed shark might be mean enough and sizeable against a large school of tiger barbs. I am also considering tinfoil barbs; maybe a trio twice the size of the largest tiger barb would be a large enough presence to keep the cowardly bullies at bay. A trio of clown loaches might also be worth looking into but these fish are not as hardy as most fish and might still endure the same treatment the smaller rainbow shark endured. Some aggressive cichlids might be feasible if it weren't for the water chemistry being different. Bala sharks Of course another alternative is to simply get more barbs, specifically albino tiger barbs and green tiger barbs.



Sunday, August 07, 2005

Hummingbirds and annoying humans...

My girlfriend, or Grouchette as I'll refer to her here, has maintained a pair of hummingbird feeders outside our house for a couple years now. After returning home from a Chinese buffet dinner, she noticed the feeder in the back yard was empty and the one in front was under siege from ants. She attended to the feeders while I set up the lawn sprinkler in the front and watered the landscaping. We were fairly certain that at least one hummingbird was coming around here. There was one last year that we saw occasionally. Grouchette took care of the back yard first while I was watering.

To make a long story a little shorter, we ended up going back and forth a couple of times following one of the little birds. I finished taking care of something in the back yard and was rounding the garage. Grouchette was sitting there and a hummingbird zipped away.

"Did I scare him away?"
She nodded. "Sit down, it will be back."

I sat down on the porch next to her. My house is on a dead end street in a quiet neighborhood with naturalized land mostly surrounding us. It's usually pretty quiet with the occasional noisy outburst from the neighbors across the way. We talked quietly amongst ourselves waiting for the hummingbird to return and, sure enough, the distinctive hum returned.

One hummingbird was hovering around us and was soon joined by a second. The arrival of the second hummingbird caused the first to dart away. The second hummingbird hovered close to the feeder for a few moments before feeding. Then as a surprise both of us, actually perched to feed. The scene was quiet, and peaceful. The surprises didn't end there, after feeding the hummingbird took to the air and started becoming curious at us. It came to me first, humming about two inches from my head. That was a little freaky, not knowing what this buzzing thing was going to do to me (was it going to suck my brains out through my ear). It made it's way to Grouchette, back to feed some more, then back to me, then fed once more before disappearing off to the far trees.

It was dark and we were pretty sure tonight's viewing was over. Both of us agreed that was pretty cool. For me however, it made me think about instances earlier that day and during the work week and how they compare. How did we, as a race of human beings, get so rude?

Cell phones. These devices seem to give the user license to be rude and downright annoying. A guy at the buffet had his cell phone go off while he was eating. It started with one of the loudest most annoying "ring tones" ever, it took him about ten seconds to answer the damn thing, and that was followed by about a two minute Latino to Latino conversation that every table in the place could probably hear. A couple people at work have really loud and annoying "ring tones" on their cell phones. Nothing breaks the productive silence of a work environment like a sudden, loud, heart-attack inducing "ring tone" out of nowhere. For Christ's sake would it kill you to just keep the mostly pleasant tone that came with the damned phone instead of the noise-ordinance breaking customized crap you pay extra for?

I could go on and on, there is an endless supply of annoyance available. Highway driving. How about the idiots at the super market like the ones that block the aisle looking for mustard that's been at the same spot for half a century? Car stereos, and bling-bling noise add-ons. People with six separate orders in the drive-thru window. The boss/leadership council. Politics. Kids. Government processes. Dealing with cable Internet subscribers who hog all he bandwidth with inefficient file sharing. How about one of my favorites, which diet is best and why is all the delicious food death to your health?

It sure makes me appreciate the quiet time, whether it's in my basement working out or with my aquariums, or sitting on the front porch while a hummingbird nervously floats about about an inch from my forehead.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The ever-changing NHL

Well, hasn't this been interesting so far. Some of the best known teams in the NHL are losing their most familiar faces as the landscape of the league changes drastically with the new collective bargaining agreement and free agency moves.

Living in (well, close to) a city that has been skating a group of expansion misfits, bruisers and gifted youth onto the ice for a couple years now, I should be happy that this is happening. The Blue Jackets signed defensemen Adam Foote and Bryan Berard while giving up Jaroslav Spacek. A sense of parity will crawl across the league as new even our town should be able to have just as much chance as the Detroit and Colorado to make the playoffs. Gone, however, will be that feeling of us versus the giants. Before, if we tied the Colorado Avalanche it was a massive feat worthy of much rejoicing and church bells. Now we should be able to compete against them with one of their better players.

It's still too early in the free agency deal-fest to make any comments worth blogging. However, some of the rule changes for the new NHL are worth discussing.

Rink dimensions changing
So they are moving some lines, to me it's not a big deal.
The red line won't count for two-line passes.
I see this as a good thing; more flow and less stoppage and maybe some more risk taking on power plays.
Offside "tag-up"
This seems stupid to me, giving the linesmen more things to worry about besides calling the actual offside. It will be interesting to see how it is implemented but it seems so "school-yard" for some reason. There will be fewer offside calls, but this is probably one of the rules that could have been left out and looked at again later.
New "icing" rules
Should result in faster games but I'm not sure I like that only the defensive team is prohibited from making line-changes. What if the offensive team makes a change? Is the goal to eliminate stalls due to icing, or punish the team committing the infraction and keeping (usually) tired players on the ice?
Goalie limits
Being a soccer goalie and defender I have to stick up for the defense. The new rules are intended to promote scoring but I think part of the excitement of the game is both offensive and defensive. The better puck-handling goalies like Martin Brodeur have one of their better offensive weapons taken away.
Instigator rule
Yeah, the "goon" needs to go but I do like the occasional hockey fight. It's all part of the experience.
Zero tolerance on interference, hooking and holding/obstruction
Again, maybe it's the "defender" in me but part of watching hockey is seeing good defense in addition to the offense. Every physical, contact sport has some measure of defense that includes using things like a quick clutch or block to gain an advantage. Many times we have to do everything we can get away with just to maintain a defense and if NHL referees start becoming sticklers on some things that aren't obvious but part of playing good solid defense then I'll enjoy things a little less.
Shootout
Sigh, why can't we just deal with ties? Then again, I always enjoyed shootouts when at Chill games (minor league, ECHL) so the two things neutralize each other.
Unsportsmanlike conduct i.e. diving.
One thing that plagues my favorite sport, soccer, is diving. If there is one thing that makes my stomach crawl it's watching some player take a dive, go through all the theatrics acting as if acid were just poured on their testicles, then get up moments later as if nothing happened. Enforcing this is a good thing as personally I don't see any "skill" in embellishing contact to earn competitive advantage.

I still feel a lot of ill-will towards the NHL and it will take a while to get me back to watching regularly and being interested enough to spend money on them again. Like it or not, the league is changing and I'll probably have to watch in spite of myself.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Choosing a wife...

a joke I received today:

A man wanted to get married. He was having trouble choosing among three likely candidates. He gives each woman a present of $5,000 and watches to see what they do with the money.

The first does a total make over. She goes to a fancy beauty salon gets her hair done, new make up and buys several new outfits and dresses up very nicely for the man. She tells him that she has done this to be more attractive for him because she loves him so much.

The man was impressed.

The second goes shopping to buy the man gifts. She gets him a new set of golf clubs, some new gizmos for his computer, and some expensive clothes. As she presents these gifts, she tells him that she has spent all the money on him because she loves him so much.

Again, the man is impressed.

The third invests the money in the stock market. She earns several times the $5,000. She gives him back his $5000 and reinvests the remainder in a joint account. She tells him that she wants to save for their future because she loves him so much.

Obviously, the man was impressed.

The man thought for a long time about what each woman had done with the money he'd given her.

Then, he married the one with the biggest boobs.

Men are like that, you know.

There is more money being spent on breast implants and Viagra today than on Alzheimer's research. This means that by 2040, there should be a large elderly population with perky boobs and huge erections and absolutely no recollection of what to do with them.