A view from the technical underground
RSS icon Home icon
  • Speaking of free apps…

    Posted on May 24th, 2009 admin No comments

    Compressed archive files are the groceries of the net.

    But like having a pantry full of canned food, you’ll still stave if you don’t have a can opener.

    Here are a couple of free openers for archive files:

    7-Zip decompresses RARs, CABs. JARs, DEBs and pretty much else under the sun. Comes in multi-OS versions (# 7z, ZIP, GZIP, BZIP2 and TAR
    # Unpacking only: ARJ, CAB, CHM, CPIO, DEB, DMG, HFS, ISO, LZH, LZMA, MSI, NSIS, RAR, RPM, UDF, WIM, XAR and Z.)

    izarc: Another open source winzip competitor. Handles, RAR, ZIP, and the usual suspects.

    Did I mention they were free?

  • So many sites, so few passwords

    Posted on May 24th, 2009 admin No comments

    If you are finding having too many passwords and problems and too few bucks in your pocket to get ewallet (see earlier post), try KeePass.

    It seems to have pretty heavy encryption and the price is free!

  • I am a music lover…

    Posted on May 15th, 2009 admin No comments

    The reason I didn’t say I was an audiophile is because I have always found those that call themselves audiophiles mostly run around a room with a signal meter asking if I can hear the 6db gain or seem more into the black-magic of what cable is colouring their sound. I have good hearing (At least according to my audio check-ups) and I have never heard an expensive audio cable do anything except colour the sound. I think Monster cable is a huge ripoff and AudioQuest is too expensive for what they do…(though in AQ’s defense I have heard them improve some miss-matched dark sounding gear).

    I am more into the music; in times of stress I lose myself in audio reproduction…

    Now I am not a format warrior, I am not going to debate whether records beat digital (Flac/WAVs/CDs/SACDs/DVD-As). I just know that digital is easier and consistent. Replacing needles and deteriorating records that worsen every time you play them just doesn’t sound like fun to me. I am a listener, not a tweaker.

    Digital is just easier and with the higher bit-rate formats the sound quality is amazing.

    My gear is by a Scottish company called Linn, great sound…not cheap but amazing sound. Speaking of which, before anyone asks I use Linn’s how stock audio cables, reasonably priced, and sound great. I spent over 6 hours auditioning cables and I found all others to colour or accent certain frequencies, but none improved the sound and all others were more expensive. On the other hand Linn tuned their speakers with Linn cables, so I guess that isn’t any huge surprise.

    This is not to say I do not like MP3, my truck’s radio has a port to take thumbdrives and iPOD which are like my CD changers (a good 8GB stick can give me 1000s of songs). In the truck with road noise and the like, MP3 is just fine. The before mentioned NAS unit is about 50% music library.

    But when I play even 192k MP3s on my main audio system, the music is rough to say the least.

    That’s where my DAC comes it, DAC stands for Digital/Audio converter. Mine is by a company called Benchmark, it’s their DAC1-HDR

    This DAC will take any analog or digital source and convert it to 24bit/192k upsampling. What that means is any digital source is sampled, for example a CD is 16bit 44k sampling, that mean it is recorded with 16bit (That’s the size of the bucket that the data can fill up) and 44k is the number of times it is samples (How many slices of data). Though CD is fine, it still does come out as a bit harsh, with “T” and “S” full of sibilance. A good DAC in your CD player can help with that harshness but still there is some data missing in the music between those sampling rates. That’s really what you’re paying for with more and more expensive CD players. SACD and DAD/DVD-A offer more bits and sampling as part of the format (Either is more that 8X the rate on a CD!). Thus the music is more smooth and lifelike.

    This is not to say that CD is dead, it is still the most bought format, can be easily (and legally) ripped, converted and sampled. The real sad thing about CDs is they were mastered terribly for the first half their existance. I don’t buy any CDs with a copywrite before ’92, they sound terrible. That’s why you see so many CDs with “Remastered” on them, it is worth the replacement fee for the better sound.

    Also finally after 30 years the CD is being mastered well, if you want to hear how far a CD can be mastered to perfection, check out anything by First Impression Music, Winston Ma, their sound engineer should also be considered the 5th member of any band. If the sound engineer doesn’t do a good job the best band is being held back! Winston has brought CD mastering to its highest art! Another is MA (Dunno why MA keeps coming up as amazing audio) Recordings>

    Back to DACs, The Benchmark DAC then takes the sampling of whatever format (let’s say that CD mentioned earlier) and upsamples it, using algorithms it adds more slices and data to make a more complete audio wave, smoothing out the sound. A bit like digital camera do the same to complete a colour gambit on photos.

    The DAC1 can even make an iPOD sound world class!

    BTW, Computer Audio is a growing area in the audio world, with music servers, high end audio cards and DACs. Computer music files are finally hitting the “high-end” of audio.

    A great site to check out is Computer Audiophile(that word again!)…

  • Installed a new router in an art gallery…

    Posted on May 11th, 2009 admin No comments

    I was thinking about installing a Linksys business class router but ended getting them a WRT54GL.


    It ties into my current Linux pattern.

    The WRT54G series of routers use a Linux open-source firmware to run them so even when Linksys drops them in a year (They always do that to their routers), there is still a healthy user community that I can install from to fix security holes and add features.

    DD-WRT is my current firmware favourite though I have heard great things about Tomato (Especially speedwise.).

    Either is a great way to turn your router into a SPI firewall!

  • Linux is all around you…

    Posted on May 6th, 2009 admin No comments

    Speaking of Linux in my NAS comment, the new Ubuntu 9.04 is out.

    If you’ve ever wanted to try the Lunix waters this is definitely a nice way to take a nice swim. You can either running from a burned ROM or load it on your least powerful machine and it will move like your fastest.

    Sure I wouldn’t want to remotely support my parents on the OS but for most who call themselves geeks, run at least one machine on it…just for the experience.

    But then Linux is moving into your house whether you like it or not, it is the OS of choice on small devices.

    In my case:
    My Motorola Razr2 uses it.
    My Pioneer Plasma TV uses it.
    My Nokia N810 internet tablet uses it.
    My Router has long been re-flashed with DD-WRT for years (I will be posting about DD-WRT soon).

    The world is joining the rebellion, try it out!

  • Every home should have a NAS like a fridge

    Posted on May 6th, 2009 admin No comments

    My first hard drive was a 10megabyte full height in my IBM XT…made by Computer Business Machines, full height with a stepper motor, you could have used this thing to pound nails into walls and it would still have pulled a doc!

    Ah back when sneakernet was using 360k floppies, 10 megs way unlimited horizons.

    Well I built my first NAS back about 2 years ago, all my cubical neighbors where yelling, 5 500gb drives??! What the heck do you need that much room for.

    I already knew that there was no such thing as unlimited horizons any more…20 years had taught me that…build as big as possible!

    Well I build on a Unit called a Thecus 5200, I built it with a RAID 5 and it gave me about 2TB. Sure it had a web interface that only an EE or CSE could love but wow, it works for me!

    ..and oh yes I found use for the space, in the interim 2 years, I have converted lots of much (Flac of course!). My trucks radio has a USB port so instead of a CD changer I bought a 12gb thumbdrive.

    It also has a Apple iPOD port but I have always had a bad feeling with Apple…

    If the computer topology were in the Star Wars universe, I’d say it maps out like so:

    Apple is the Empire, everything is set down for you, you will only buy Apple with Apple, everything works pretty much but there is not real choice or freedom.

    MS is the alliance, everything works with each other (kinda), anyone and everything is welcome to make a driver and there are a lot of conflicts and in general everytihng is so built up on what went before the whole thing is falling into decadence and decay.

    Linux is the rebellion, rag-tag, not trusted by the bureaucracies , mostly supported youngsters and fast, small and light on its feet.

    Apple is great, don’t get me wrong, I just find it constricting.

    Linux is awesome, especially on applicances (Such as NAS units), systems that aren’t bleeding edge anymore and a lot of TV, and like I said…appliances…because it can be coded small. Still doesn’t mean I would want to technically support my parents on Linux (The horror..the horror).

    Where is the winding road going when I was talking about NASs? well the unit I decided to work with is again a Thecus 5200, great unit with a Flash ROM of Devian Linux. It is stable, un-infectable and has been an awesome storage area for 2 years. With Seagate drives I haven’t lost a one!

    It is my backup for my laptop (Check out EMC Retrospect, great backup software!)

    Now when I have a new CD/DVD, I just load it on my NAS, can access it anywhere on my home network and now have to find that flippin’ disk. To be honest, in this day and age, I don’t buy that many CDs anymore…I buy online, I download an store on my NAS. With STEAM I haven’t been to a game store in years, with my home theater I don’t go to the theater any more, heck with Hulu, Boxee, podcasts and torrents, I have no urge to! NAS changes your home network the same way that broadband changed the internet from a newspaper to a TV you don’t have to just read a paper one flipped to, you can flip through sites like changing channels.

    A NAS is the freedom to store, and no having to do a panic data clear.

    NAS should be sold with Gigabit networks in homes, apartments and condos, with the same expectation has having electricity, internal plumbing and a fridge!

  • Proper hard drive security.

    Posted on May 3rd, 2009 admin No comments

    Windows (the Operating system, not to glass covered hole in your walls to see what the weather is like…) is a bit like the White House…

    Not only does everyone have a say in it (half the instability is everyone who want to can make a program or driver and not even be close to any standards) but it is a bunch of great ideas that made sense at the time but as a whole it makes for a house of compromises and instability.

    The Whitehouse was built with no electricity, phone, gas…you name it. Up until 1900 and again in 1952 basically every time a president wanted to add something, be it pipes, wires and in Taft’s case a HUGE bathtub, they basically drilled where ever they wanted and hoped it would hold. T. Roosevelt and Eisenhower both found the Whitehouse falling apart and had it rebuilt (again in 00 and 52).

    What does this all have to do with Windows?

    I think Windows is about up to that point (I mean come on, the processors are all 64bit, let 32 go already!). But of course you’re ask “But Badger what does this have to do with security?”, well adding bitlocker and hard drive encryption is just adding another problem to the house of cards that is Microsoft Windows. So far I haven’t heard from one user that doesn’t have to rebuild/restore their hard drives once a quarter from the bitlocker service (or some other 3rd party windows encryption system) locking them out of their system (even knowing the password) and eating their work.

    The solution? For about 2 years now I have been using Hitachi drives models 7k200 and the new 5k500 with BDE (Bulk Data Encryption). Instead of relying on the operating system, the Hard drive has encryption as part of its internal design. If your bios support hard drive Master and User passwords, the hard drive will lock the data. Unless unlocked by BIOS, even removing the hard drive from the laptop and putting in a dock wont allow it to be read…even Spinrite can’t see the partition.

    Since the OS isn’t worrying about de-encryption speed is awesome.

    Before all of you reply, But why did you upgrade to a new 5400 RPM drive from a 7200, isn’t that slower…well yes but the aerial density is higher so the actually read speeds are higher, the lower rotation speed means it used less energy and it produces less heat, plus I needed the room!

    BDE faq

    Remove the passwords in BIOS and the Hard drive is unlocked and can be re-partitioned, erased…whatever.

    If your BIOS doesn’t support hard drive passwords, the hard drive will still work but the encryption wont be active.

    About 100 bucks for the 500gb version.

    Ya, I know SSDs are out but comon, the prices are ridicules!

    I’ll get one of those when the prices are down and they offer BDE!

  • Logitech; a definite love/hate relationship

    Posted on May 3rd, 2009 admin No comments

    Logitech has been the makers of the best hardware but worst drivers and support in the world.

    My first mouse on my first IBM XT was a Logitech, I was lured away by a Microsoft mouse (remember the wonderfully rolling and perfectly weighted one in the early 90s?). I was lured back to Logitech which their 3 button about 94 and then completely gave up on computer mice about 96 with a Kurta 6X9 digitizing pad (The story of Kurta being bought out my Mutoh and then being shutdown is an American tragedy story for another time). After the Kurta, I went Wacom (see below).

    On my desktop, once I went digitizer I never looked at Mice again.

    Logitech did come out with a very cool artist controller called the Nulooq, it was a digitizer companion for controlling brush size, moving on the image in Adobe Photoshop and Corel Painter. Great concept and design but awful support from Logitech. They finally put it out of its (and our) misery in March. I swore I’d never trust Logitech again after the way they treated us designers with that NuLooq.

    Which brings me to two controllers that Logitech hit out of the park with. The Denovo Mini keyboard of HTPCs and the MX Nano for laptops. They make it hard to keep my anger at Logitech piqued

    The DeNovo Mini: A bluetooth keyboard, great range (about 30′) feet, great battery life (about a month) and a great thumb key feel. Only problem is it needs a 2nd mouse button (maybe the designer is a Apple fan). The keyboard allows you to wireless control your HTPC, it has a built-in mouse pad and even a remove control/PS3 mode. I never bought a stand-alone Blu-Ray player…I built a HTPC to handle all my podcasts, video podcasts, MP3s, Hulu and Boxee content and play my High-Def moves so they could output on my Home Theater big screen. This was the perfect way to control this set up!

    The VX Nano mouse: Amazing feel, forever battery life (well I cheated, I put in an Energizer Lithium battery and it’s lasting forever…still says full a year later!). The reciever is TINY, you can leave it on the laptop when you pack it though if you don’t want to leave it plugged in, the mouse has a little holder built into the battery compartment for it and a pouch to in turn put the mouse into. Also the mouses position reader is perfection itself, I have never had it skip or stop…just move like silk!

    If you get annoyed with laptop touch pads you should check one out, it has made my laptop experience a joy!