ASP

This page is ASP.

Eventually I’m going to switch the whole site over to ASP. I’m kind of pissed, actually. The big thing — the only thing — that has always bothered me about 1&1 is the fact that Server Side Includes (SSI) don’t work. Well, turns out ASP has an analogous method. WTF!

The night I downloaded everything from Tripod and uploaded it to my 1&1 servers, I called 1&1 tech support because my SSIs weren’t working. The person I talked to told me that SSIs weren’t included in my package. So I consolidated all pages … it hurt. Fortunately, when I pasted the code together, I left the includes in and copy-pasted them so I could see exactly what got Frankensteined.

The whole reason I’ve been looking at ASP so closely (besides the fact that I purchased the Microsoft Server plan through 1&1) is because I have my Halo 2 stats, which come from an RSS feed provided by Bungie, and I wanted to take control of how they are displayed. So I’ve been reading ASP web sites like it’s my job.

At least something good came of it.

ASP

iPod Issues

As most of you know, I purchased an iPod about four months ago. It comes with iTunes, which is free, and iTunes is the application you use to transfer songs to (but not from) your iPod. Under Apple’s EULA (and as physically restricted by iTunes), you can only use each iPod on one computer.

So that’s two strikes against Apple’s way of doing things.

For the past year, I’ve been spending most of my nights in scenic Coudersport, Pennsylvania because of work. My Dell is at home in Chipmonk. I have my work laptop with me in Coudersport. My iPod is associated with my Dell per Apple’s restrictions. I insist on using my iPod with whatever computer is nearby. To facilitate this, I downloaded a program called EphPod. I was happy with it. It allowed me to move songs from my work laptop to my iPod. But it wasn’t great. I felt that the user interface was confusing, and didn’t allow me to see what was going on or really take much control over the process. I was aware of another iPod utility that I had read about in the same place I read about EphPod — sites like iPodLounge.

So I downloaded the trial version of Anapod Explorer. It uses the Explorer interface, which assuages my gripes with EphPod. The full version, which costs $25, allows you to transfer songs from the iPod to your computer. And Red Chair Software encourages you to use your paid license on more than one computer. This solves my whole main-computer-there-work-computer-here issue.

So the only feature missing from Anapod Explorer is a ripper. Its support pages recommend Audiograbber, which is freeware. At this point, that’s a requirement. When you install it “out of the box,” it will only encode up to 56 Kbps. This is unacceptable. But Audiograbber’s download page contains links to some MP3 encoder .dlls which allow you to encode MP3s up to 320 Kbps.

I haven’t used Audiograbber to rip any CDs as I write this, but it looks robust enough, and if it’s got Red Chair Software’s endorsement, I’ll commit some time to it.

Interestingly, I went home this last weekend and had some trouble with iTunes. I connected the iPod to my Dell. I have the “start iTunes when iPod is connected” option turned off, but I opened iTunes to rip a CD. As soon as iTunes was up, it started to autosync the iPod. I stopped this as quickly as possible.

So I did the whole “safely remove hardware” to the i Pod and unplugged it, and sure enough songs that I copied to it with third party software were missing. I assumed that the files still existed on the iPod’s hard drive, and that iTunes had simply deleted their entries from the iPod’s database. So I used Anapod Explorer to “rebuild the database.” In other words, I told it to scan the iPod’s hard drive for songs that were not in the database, and then re-add them. It told me it found like 35 songs and I thought everything was great … but it found songs I don’t even recall changing.

This little episode inspired me to drop iTunes altogether, uncluding as a ripper. It’s why I got Audiograbber.

In conclusion, while iTunes is convenient because it includes a ripper, burning software, a utility to download music (for 99 cents a song), and software to update the iPod, it isn’t quite feature-rich enough, it’s too restrictive, and it breaks cahnges you make with other software. So iTunes can F off.

iPod Issues

Cell Phone Wish List

So how about a cell phone that starts my car? Or unlocks my front door. Not enough security? Make me type in a four-digit code. I’ll scroll through contacts … “Remote Start Car” … 4321. Why not? It already lets me surf the web, check my email, talk to everyone on Earth, and play video games.

Cell Phone Wish List

Hi There

You know what Triceratops ate? Ya think it grazed grass? Wrong. There was no grass. It hadn’t evolved yet.

New Hampshire Primary is tomorrow. I’ll hold out comments on that one.

This site has been blocked by my employer’s intranet. I don’t want to say why — I’m afraid that using the name of the category it’s grouped in will just cement its blocked status.

Traditionally, computer pointing hardware, such as the mouse, transmits packets with three bytes of data. When Microsoft introduced the wheel mouse, they kicked those packets up to four bytes. BUT … laptops have pointing devices built in. Some have touchpads, some have nubs — some have both. These built-in pointing devices do not include a wheel. So, they transmit packets composed of four bytes of data.

This isn’t a big deal, until you connect a pointing device that transmits four-byte packets to a PC that is set up for three-byte packets. In such a setup, the fourth byte of data is sometimes interpreted as the first byte of the next packet and — ding! — your pointer jumps.

I use a wheel mouse on my company laptop, and the sucker jumps all over the place. Microsoft has ackowledged this problem; They suggest a BIOS upgrade. I upgraded my BIOS. I disabled the built-in pointing devices. No beans. Isn’t somebody working on a solution to this problem?

Hi There

Cell Charger

Short update tonight. If you’ve been calling my cell phone and I haven’t answered, don’t take it personally. I lost my AC charger, and the phone’s been dead most of the time since I got back from Buffalo. I’m almost certain that I got the charger before I left my hotel room, but I cannot for the life of me find the damn thing.

Cell Charger

Clarification

So the point of mentioning the fact that the power went out was because I cannot rule out the possibility that a power surge caused my hard drive to fail.

And you know how everyone who has ever owned a Compaq sooner or later refers to it as a Comcrap? Well although I am not ready to crucify Dell I would like to use a similar nickname for it, but Dell-crap just doesn’t roll off your tongue. Additionally, some minimal Google searching found Compaq Sucks, a site full of user comments bashing Compaq products. Even if you don’t click on any of the stories, the headlines are entertaining.

Clarification

Hard Drive Problems

Where do I start?

About a week ago, Wednesday June 25, I’m getting dressed for work and the power goes out. Then it comes back on about 5 seconds later. No big whup. So then Thursday night I’m using my computer when all of a sudden it starts running really slowly. I thought maybe my antivirus software had started a full system scan, but that’s scheduled to happen on Friday nights. Eventually everything just stopps. Mouse won’t move the pointer, nothing. I have to hold down the power button to shut down. It was late, so I went to bed.

The next day I boot up and everything works fine. I don’t think twice about the problems from the previous night. Later I use the system again and all of a sudden it starts working slowly, and completely stops about 5 seconds later. I hold down the power button to shut down, then restart, and the system basically tells me I have no hard drives. I reboot again, and this time it boots, but within a few minutes everything freezes again.

So I open up the case, unplug the hard drives, then plug them back in. I close everything up, it tells me I have no hard drives. I open the case again, look at everything, close it back up, turn it on, and it boots. A while later, it freezes. Now it boots sometimes, other times the BIOS tells me there are no hard drives, other times the booting Windows screen appears and then it restarts and tells me I have no hard drives. So I call Dell.

The guy tells me to unplug the hard drives and plug them back in. Instead of telling him I already tried that, I do as he says. What do you know. The system boots up. I thank the guy and hang up. Less than ten minutes later? It freezes again. I call Dell again, and tell them everything. The guy tells me how to do this hard drive diagnostic. The program tells me it can’t even run a diagnostic on the drive. The guy tells me I need a new hard drive. Unfortunately, the system is about 20 months old, and I’m no longer under warranty. I tell him I have a second drive I bought recently, so I’ll try that. I also mention that when I got the system, I had to have the hard drive replaced then. He seems to ignore that tidbit, and I end the conversation.

So I’ve got the second hard drive and my Windows installation CD, but there was data on that failed hard drive that I’d rather not lose. Since I got the Compaq during my Freshman year at RIT, I’ve lost data exactly one time. I lost about a week’s worth of stuff when the Dell’s first hard drive failed. This time I was dealing with about a month of stuff. It’s not like I don’t back stuff up … I have a ton of stuff on the Compaq that I copy to the Dell every time I format. But I don’t backup every day.

So before I worry about getting the Dell up and running, I throw the failed hard drive into the Compaq. I can access the data, but after varying amounts of time, the system always freezes. So I try putting the bad drive on the second IDE cable, separate from the main hard drive. Bingo. Now even if the drive fails, the system keeps running. This doesn’t really help the data situation, but it does improve convenience.

The problem was, I would try to copy data from the bad drive to the good drive, but it would always keep failing. And when it fails, it disappears from My Computer until I reboot. Once after I shut down I inspected both drives and I discovered that the failed drive was really warm to the touch. So my current theory is that the thing is overheating for some reason. How do I solve this problem? I don’t have any spare system fans lying around. What about some kind of water cooling system? Warning kids: don’t try this at home. I put cool water in a Ziploc bag, but not filled to capacity – I wanted the bag to spread out and cover as much surface area as possible. It seemed to work at first. I got about 70% of all my MP3s before it locked up, and the second time I restarted the Compaq everything worked for an hour and five minutes.

Since then I’ve thought I had everything twice. Tonight the bad drive twice in a row failed quickly even with a Ziploc of cool water sitting on it, so I got a second one, mixed some ice with the water in both bags, and put one above and one below the drive. I guess it helped. I again believe I have everything new copied off the bad drive.

I don’t mind formatting, and I got all my data back … but this really pisses me off. The failed drive was 60 GB and my current one is 40 GB. I didn’t fill the 60, but it was nice to know the space was there. I also had the second drive because Photoshop likes to have its scratch file on a separate disk from the Windows swap file. It seemed to actually run a little faster when I put it on the second hard drive. Now I’m without that luxury again.

Short Take 1: Has anyone seen commercials for the new Spider-Man cartoon on MTV? It looks pretty hot. It’s all computer graphics, but it’s all cel-shaded, so it looks more or less like a traditional cartoon. Neil Patrick Harris of Doogie Howser fame voices Peter Parker/Spider-Man. In the show, Peter is in college. I’m hoping that because it’s on MTV it will be more … serious than the Saturday morning fare. Maybe some actual chracter development, even some college-years angst? I think it premieres July 11, even though I couldn’t find anything about it on MTV.com.

Short Take 2: Does anyone actually use the crossfader in Winamp? I don’t like it. When I listen to MP3s I don’t want it to be like the radio. I want to hear songs in their entirety.

Hard Drive Problems

Resolution

What’s your thought process when you try to decide what resolution to set your monitor at? It’s a tradeoff, right? You want to be able to fit more stuff on your screen at the same time, but you also want to be able to actually read text without getting your nose two inches away from the screen. So you set it to the highest resolution that you can still stand it. So you can still stand it. Doesn’t it seem like there’s a problem here?

Resolution

Computer Humor

I was thinking about HTML humor again, as I sometimes do. I came across a web site that had an intro page, and the first content page was in a directory called “HTML.” I of course found this to be ridiculous. Putting your site in a directory called “HTML” is like putting stuff in a box and then writing “BOX” on the lid. (It took me about two minutes to think of that analogy.) Anyway, humor. The needless directory got me thinking that putting a site like 10 levels deep in completely nonrelated directories would be funny. Not really worth a laugh, but funny.

In other news, I have a summer job lined up. It’s basically an internship, and it will only be three days a week, but it’s some money, and more importantly it’s something to put on my resume. Of course, now that I actually see a deadline looming for when I will no longer have unlimited free time, I’ve got an idea for a story that I can stretch into more than two pages, and drawings I’ve been working on for months are finally starting to show some promise.

What else? Last Friday Staples had 40 GB hard drives for 40 bucks. You’ve got to redeem a $40 rebate, but I always redeem my rebates. I didn’t need a new hard drive per se, but backing up to a second hard drive is a lot simpler than backing up to a second computer. I’m at a pace where I format about every 8 months, and I currently back everything up to my Compaq via ethernet cable. (Actually, for 5 of the last 8 months I was in VA with no access to my own system, so it’s been more like 3 months.) Now, with the second hard drive, I can just back everything up to it and format the C: drive whenever I want. Or I could even just store all my data to the second drive to begin with. A multitude of options. Of course, I suppose I could have just taken the Compaq’s drive out and thrown it into my current system, but that would leave the Compaq useless if I ever wanted to learn some new network protocol (I’m reading a Java book now). And besides … it was 40 bucks!

Computer Humor