Mysterium

As one of the group helping with Mysterium this year (and this is possibly my only chance to visit Spokane in awhile), I’m finishing plans to go. As things stand so far – and despite that I’m traveling from US/Eastern/NJ – it’s been pleasantly cheaper than my insane two-week jaunt last year.

Flight – $420 (EWR to GEG)
Hotel – $320 (4 nights, applied a discount code to Travelocity which nuked the fees and taxes)

May still add a car to that (since my flight out is 5 AM on Monday!), I’ve got time to consider that at least. :)

But comparing to last year, I spent nearly $700 on a round-trip to Branson, MO (I stayed at my father’s house). Plus the hellish cost of parking at EWR for five days ($90 I think). So I still think I’m doing well over last year.

My only gripe so far is the flight; Newark to Spokane requires flying to Seattle first, which I consider a waste. After all, the same model plane is being used for the leg from Seattle to Spokane; If it were a small ‘hopper’ jet like the ones used at Branson, I’d understand, but why not direct? *sigh* Ah well, can’t have everything.

Anyway, so far, so good…

/salute
–TSK

TCF 2009 / InfraRed, part 2

Last weekend was the Trenton Computer Fair (with its 4th annual IT Conference on the Friday before). In short, the weekend summarized to ‘feh.’

Quick summary by points:

– IT conference was cool, just like last year. Wish I could have stayed longer, but despite leaving ‘work’ early (to drive down in time) I just could not stay the entire time like last year. This may have been in part due to being careful with caffeine and other stimulants over the weekend. [Note to self – bring a bag lunch for Friday from now on.]

– The storied ‘flea market’ of past years has now officially fizzled; It was easily 1/10th its former glory, probably smaller. I almost left right then, in utter disgust, but still wanted to listen to some of the seminars.

– First seminar was regarding the use of virtual worlds by those with disabilities. It was very cool, and I got a laugh out of the opening statement by the presenter: “When I held this in Cali, there were 200 people in attendance.” At the time I was the only one there, and my response: “You’re too far away from the NYC Metro area, which would have generated more interest.” Others did walk in eventually, and as I had more experience in SL than the presenter did, I ended up (again) fielding questions from the other attendees. If this keeps up, I’m going to have to create something that can be printed and handed out when I go to things like this…

– The other presentation was ‘Should You Upgrade to Windows 7?’ And the answer was a firm ‘maybe.’ The number one reasons were ‘more secure’ and ‘the Vista/7 core is more refined for stability and speed now.’ One great note was: “The number one reason Vista did not do well initially was the total lack of driver support – both 32 and 64 bit.” I had to agree with that, as I remember quite well the big uproar when XP was coming out – the drivers were going from 16 to 32 bit, so everything needed a re-write. The same has to occur here (in the name of security), but it was not communicated well (and I think M$ has started to learn about doing this correctly now, as people really *are* voting with their wallets this time).

Anyway, I did not need convincing, but it was good to hear the arguments and be reminded of Windows’ history; We (the PC world) have grown complacent overall, and things like Conficker are the current results of that. I really think Jobs/Apple has the opportunity of a lifetime to gain market share, by releasing OS X for ‘normal’ PCs this year. Too bad it won’t happen (and yes, I’ve heard of ways to get around the problem – that’s for another post).

—–

And that, in short, was TCF. The most annoying thing about the weekend was a complete lack of IrDA adapters anywhere (and, again, a number of people had no clue what I was talking about). So I gave up a few hours ago, fired up Amazon, and got an adapter that was reported as working great with my F55 (not Polar’s, since it cost 3x more than this one). If it works, I’ll get another as a spare. And I still need to get Windows re-installed on the Sager, but I’ve discovered the pains of using a 4800 RPM notebook disk…

/salute
–TSK

Seeing (Infra)Red

So, a few weeks ago I advanced enough in the Virgin Healthmiles program, that I had about $150 in discounts available from their store. After perusing what they offered, I finally settled on getting a heart rate monitor (HRM) from their equipment partner, Polar.

I got the F55 HRM for about $50. I could have opted for something like an F5 for (essentially) free, but if I intend to be serious about the program (and my health in general) as much as I have recently, it was best to get something a bit more well-rounded and flexible. And, in theory, uploaded sessions from the Polar unit can grant me points under the HealthMiles program; Good win-win here.

I have so far done the initial setup and recorded a test session with it. Though I find the chest strap uncomfortable at any ‘snugness’ setting, it does work well in getting a heartbeat out of my skin (which is a big plus, given my personal experience with similar devices).

There was just one catch that I initially overlooked – It needs to communicate with the world via an IrDA port. No problem, I thought, just pull out the HP notebook and . . .

. . . Find no IrDA port on it. Argh.

Now, ignoring the separate fact that the sync software is Windows only (and the HP is now Linux), this is slightly surprising; That notebook is circa 2005 and I did not think it would have been too ‘new’ for bluetooth to have totally taken over IrDA. Of course, I’ve had so many notebooks over the years, all of them with IrDA, that I did the ‘mindless’ thing and thought it did have it.

Anyway, the older Sager notebook does have the port (I just re-checked), so I’ll probably spend tonight re-installing XP on the poor thing (to confirm that *something* will talk to that HRM). Getting a desktop IrDA bridge – usually via USB – has been a completely different (and annoying) saga over the past few days, and one I really don’t want to repeat. I still have an opportunity to try and grab a working adapter at the TCF flea market next weekend, and if I can’t find it there I’ll finally take to ordering online.

–TSK

Two Anniversaries

This weekend, for most, marks one year since the MO:UL@Gametap shutdown. The past week I’ve been drawn more to this same (Easter) weekend two years ago.

That was the first time that I did a successful village takeover in Travian (this was on a server before the Gold system – or even a US server – existed). Wandering back to that game, I realize I still have good memories of Travian too, despite my problem with playing any type of MMO. I earned another new group of friends, and also had a chance to show to myself that I again can step up and lead (first within the local alliance, and then within the meta-alliance at endgame level). I just wish I can participate more in such things without getting so overboard about it; Not just in money, but in time…

Still, despite that, I did have fun. I got to see the Eder D’Uru project in SL for the first time, and am very impressed how far they’ve gotten. In particular, the heek table; I remember the original, which was coded in Telador and was functional shortly before the island was shutdown for other uses. One great quote on CyanChat regarding the project – can’t remember who at this point, sorry – mentioned how much respect they had for Cyan’s work, after having to use SL’s scripting system (a ‘joy’ that I experienced quite a bit myself ;-).

The meeting in There was mostly to chat; I didn’t mind, since it was still a chance to relax and meet folks I’ve not spoken to as far back as Mysterium 08. Plus, I was desperately in need of sleep by that point.

In all, a good weekend. And one where we, as a community, were able to come together despite how scattered we are right now. To repeat my toast earlier in CC:

*raises mug* To the Community.

[*One* community, I may now add – ‘fah uru’ I believe, which if so is fitting…]

/salute
–TSK

Desktop Status – All Clear (Mostly)

Good Grief, I forgot how long it takes to generate one of these custom CDs (or now, in my case, DVD, as I started placing other software on it – like Ghost).

Anyway, everything important (for work) appears to be back up and happy. Fun gotchas included the lack of a current network driver; Gigabyte’s driver page did not show one, so I figured it was merged into the chipset driver file – NOT, and I should know better. I ended up pulling that off the previous CD, then letting Windows Update fix it to current.

One interesting gotcha involves Ghost migrations of very large partitions (say, a video/VCD/ISO/’misc stuff’ collection). Generating the image dump (92 gig compressed) was fine, but migrating it from the new WinXP install back to my new (larger) partition gave an ‘out of memory’ error. So I fired up the Recovery CD (I got Ghost 14 over the weekend as the recovery disk is now Vista-based), and finally got the new partition migrated.

The video card drivers got a severe makeover too; Latest Nvidia driver (combined with this card model – 8800 GT) now has PhysX hardware support through the GPU. Too bad that I don’t have anything just now that required the hardware (and not likely to have any just now). Nice bonus though…

I’m still doing some spot recoveries from the backup images (i.e. my FireFox settings), but overall I’m up and running well. Webmail (Exchange) at work is once again responsive, despite its requirement for IE (at least if you want a decent interactive experience *sigh*). Still need to connect to the VPN (and from there the work desktop and/or PuTTY), but I suspect it should be fine now.

No games or other stuff installed yet. I’m dreading the re-install and re-download of my Steam collection (which got rather impressive). And there’s stuff like Oblivion, that I’m pondering not re-adding just yet. Maybe I’ll pull out some old stuff first, like SimCity 4, or *shudder* Riven.

Have Fun y’all,
–TSK

Desktop Woes Again

Well, from the looks of things, something bad has been happening with the desktop. Or, more accurately, Win-XP. But to most folks reading MystBlogs that’s probably not surprising. :-P

In my case that’s a bit exasperated by the install method itself, which was through a heavily nLite-modified CD. I just spent the past several hours reviewing what I did, and am likely to re-do this quite differently:

1) Slipstream of XP-SP3 (and hope my key does not get eaten again, as it did when I slipped SP2 onto an original-release CD *sigh*).

2) No slipping/adding of hotfixes after SP3, or of really wild things like Media Player 11. First of all, the steps were complicated. Second, I can’t find any info as to how I did any of it. And lastly, I’d rather have M$ deal with the problem, despite the need for multiple reboots (just fewer with SP3 in).

3) Do NOT go hog-wild in removing things from XP. My biggest regret so far has been removing Calculator (which in hindsight was also not worth the space savings). I’m probably just going to remove the 2-3 things that are vastly annoying or have severe holes, like Messenger. And as much as I’d like to ‘get rid’ of IE, its going to be difficult when There.com and Steam both use core parts of it.

4) On the same note, do NOT to hog-wild on *adding* things either through nLite. My mantra in creating these CDs has always been ‘Back to Work.’ As this is now the only Windows PC I have (both notebooks went 100% Linux), its become even more imperative. So PuTTY is immediately on the list, along with one or two other things that can speed up my bootstrap (OpenOffice, FireFox, status stuff). Again I made mistakes here on the last CD, this is a good time to correct that.

4) I *will* go nuts this time with services (since they can be rolled back if a mistake was made). I’ve been waiting on SP3 registry files from BlackViper, and *cheer* they’re now available. That’s at least a start, and an excellent reference site (he even has Reg Tweak files for Windows 7!). I highly recommend looking over the site, just be prepared to lose an hour or two reading. ;)

5) In the hardware department, get a new gigabit card as a spare (preferably using PCIe-1x). Something absolutely screwy has been occurring on the one my motherboard has (probably weird drivers), and my only ‘spare’ is an ancient Intel 100Pro card (ordinary PCI no less). It had issues with how I ‘connected’ to my work desktop; Then again, it could be Windows, but better safe than sorry.

—–

I’m also strongly considering a dual-boot with Linux, finally. Just too many stories recently by Myst-ers with crashed Windows installs, and their Linux boot saving the day. If that becomes the case, I’ll probably ‘test-drive’ the CentOS version since that’s what got installed on a couple systems at work (and may be our future variant there). OpenSolaris would be nice, but its not playing nice with the VPN (missing packages).

Right, onwards. We’ll see how this pans out…

/salute
–TSK

Lots Done, Lots to do…

Well, I finally sat down with the site admin tools and did some housecleaning.

T_S_Journal is gone now, other than a couple tar files. Even the subdomain is removed. This site moved up to WP 2.7.1 as well, for the heck of it.

Added a roundcube webmail install, so that I can access the site accounts if needed.

In trying to get roundcube to install, found that I was still on PHP4; Spent the 5 mins and had the account moved to PHP5+FastCGI. Still does not help with the WP Admin login. *sigh*

In the ‘lots to do’ catagory, still got to get the pics moved around. Also have to get the B5 mini pics uploaded (from the last convention two weekends ago).

Oh, and there’s also that little last-minute thing about another Pats Parade, but this time in SL. But that’s another story, and one I’ll withhold until its over on the 14th.

–TSK

Illness Non-Fun

I swear, I’ve had it with being sick. This week, it was either a caffeine overdose of some sort (triggering my food allergy to coffee), or I became the lucky recipient of the salmonella nonsense going round. Either way, very bad, very annoying.

Ah well.
–TSK

Pics Link

Current location of images I’ve made public (and easily reachable):

http://sungak.net/zenpic/

For those on the main page (*waves at Dad*) its under ‘Misc’ in my links area (top of left sidebar).

TODO: Need to move the old Telador archive there (from its old location, that is not easily found by search robots), and do some minor cleanup of what I already moved into the image browser. Also need to create a watermark that the software will integrate into viewed images. And good grief, get a current pic of my SL avatar up there!

I also need to archive and shutdown the IC site (T_S_Journal), as I specified a while ago there. But I just spent last night going over the Medicare-related docs and forms that came in for my mother, and my head is reeling a bit.

–TSK

Software impressions – Pidgin & Win-7

I think the best statement regarding Windows-7 so far has been from my roommate Craig, who I challenged to get Oblivion working stable there (something that already is a challenge in XP). His response the next morning is telling:

“Oblivion ROCKS! on Windows-7!”

Apparently he installed it, did no tweaks at all, added pretty much all his mods (about 40 IIRC) and had absolutely no stuttering issues in the spots where he had it under XP. The fact that it recognized pretty much every piece of hardware he had (good news as I have most of the same), is a good sign that I’ll finally be paying for a Windows successor.

The software I’m test-driving right now is Pidgin, which got quite a bit of discussion on CC in the past few days – enough so to take a quick peek at it. After little fuss, I have runnable connectors for YIM, IRC, and CC which appear happy. Wikipedia has mentioned that it will accept Skype, but can’t appear to find the connector for it; I’d be useless anyway since that’s probably being used in the future for voice chats (something that Pidgin can’t – yet – do). The more amusing possibility is a connector to battle.net’s chat system, which is curious but not needed yet.

Anyway, I still can’t connect any of these through work, so the only reason I’d want this kind of universal access is to prevent many different IM apps lying around in my system memory. I’d actually stay logged in then (though likely invis).

/salute
–TSK