Mostly about my amusement

Month: December 2005 (page 1 of 1)

Optimum Online Boost (Verizon vs Cablevision is good)

I may be able to host my server in my basement after all.

When I lived at the old house, I had Time Warner Cable for surfing the web, and Acedsl. The DSL line was for hosting my domain in my house, I was given a /29 address block to use.

DSL was okay, but due to distance limitations I was getting 768 kbps up and down. With TWC I was getting ~1 to 2 Mbps down, don’t know how fast up stream.

Last year when my family moved to Long Island I found that there was no DSL available here, and Cablevision was only offering dynamic addresses and blocked ports 80 and 25. Running a mail/web server was not doable.

Now for an additional $10/month (if you are a voice subscriber already) Optimum Online offers unblocking ports 25 and 80 and provides a DDNS client. Also they uncap the speed so down stream is now up to 30 Mbps, upstream is up to 2 Mbps.

That’s pretty respectable. See for a good speed test. I selected the Washington, DC server. Here is a graphic of the results I just got.


10641 kbps down, 1733 kbps up. Just plain sick. If I can work it out, I may setup a server in my basement.

What a phone call

This one irked me too much and I have to share.

Lily and I are on vacation this week so we’re sleeping late and getting the kids fed and bathed after 8am. Vacation: it’s all good. Around 8:45am today I heard my cell phone ring. I was busy wrestling with my son, so I let it go to voice mail.

15 minutes later I checked the voice mail. It was marked "Urgent". Here’s what I heard.

"Yeah this message is for Jack Someone, my name is the John Doe and it is extremely important that I speak to you as soon as possible regarding your case that I’m handling.

My firm has been retained to have a -fuzzy sounds like- criminal issue for the sheriff to repossess your Name-Brand Car and before any other charges that are pending against you are filed or any subpoenas for depositions issued to family, friends, relatives, or business associates that may be familiar with the current status of this collateral, I’d like to give you the chance to avoid this.

My contact number is 1-800-555-5555 extension 665 and I’ll hold service pending immediate contact. Also it’s purported that John Dembowski may be driving this vehicle."

Names and details changed, in case you don’t realize it.

Gee, that sounded just like a collection agent. I worked with Jack Someone in the past, I have no idea why they were calling me or how my cell phone number came in their possession. I even knew the last part was just to get a rise out of me and call back, even if they did get my first name wrong. The prudent thing would be to just deleted the message; if someone had something real to say to me they’d used registered mail.

Even knowing that, I called.

John: Hello? Me: Is this John Doe?

John: Yes it is.

Me: You just called me, regarding Jack Someone.

John: Yes, yes I did.

Me: I don’t know where you got that information but I am not driving Jack’s car, and I don’t know what this is about.

John: Well, that is what he is putting out there. Have you had any contact with him?

Me: I worked with Jack two years ago at ACME Sprockets.

John: I want you to listen very carefully, I am going to ask-

Me: I want you to listen to me very carefully, I am hanging up now.

And I hung up. He called my cell phone less than a minute later.

John: I want to ask-

Me: John if you call me back again I am going to report you to the authorities.

And promptly hung up again.

I misplaced Jack’s number so I instead called a mutual friend. He conferenced in Jack and we chatted. Jack is a good guy and he was very apologetic. He asked if I could send him the details, so I sent him an e-mail as above and included a MP3 of the message I got.

I wonder what the success rate on using tactics like that are? For some people just sounding authoritative works. If they can get you to lie (what little I said was truthful and accurate), they can work that. They want to get you to do their work for them and if that means annoying some people to get to someone, they do it.

The positive result for them is getting the person dodging them to contact them. So on that score, John Doe did his job well. Jack contacted the original company that sent the job to John Doe.

Next time I will just delete the damn message.

I am sure that there are ethical, effective, collection professionals somewhere. I am equally sure that under the right conditions (say, on an episode of MythBusters) pigs really can fly.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

December 24th

Saturday night we put the kids in bed at 7pm. We told them they had to go to sleep or Santa might not come to our house.

Naturally as soon as we got them to sleep, Alek and my parents went to the basement and began to wrap presents. I brought from the basement the presents Lily and I had gotten and Lily started wrapping.

Wrapping is too complicated for me, I’m told.

By 11pm we had all the gifts wrapped and placed under the tree.

December 25th

Christmas day was perfect. The kids woke up around 6am and woke me and Lily up. Hearing your kids say “Look, Santa came! Look at all the presents!” when they are 2 and 4 years old is great. The kids tore into their gifts and really had fun. We had the sense to separate their set of gifts from everyone else’s, or they’d have ripped open all the presents. It was great fun and we all exchanged really good gifts.

Every year the whole family heads over to Ed’s house and we all hang out and have a meal with his in-laws. Ed’s family is great, lots of fun, and really good to be with. We had dinner and exchanged gifts. A good time was had by all. The kids love going over to Ed’s place and fooling around with his niece.

Ed shared with us two funny videos from the Internet, Worst Job (warning: NSFW, not to be viewed by small children) and Anti-boredom. We are a bunch of geeks with broadband Internet connections your typical American family.

MTA strike over for now

Still more fun.

Dec 21, 2005 7:44 am US/Eastern (1010 WINS) (NEW YORK) Mayor Michael Bloomberg expressed his anger over the transit strike at a Wednesday afternoon press conference.

“It needs to end, and it needs to end right now,” Bloomberg said. For a second straight day, the mayor ripped what he called an “intolerable, unfortunate and unnecessary” strike. And he questioned how union leaders could claim their walkout was done to benefit the city’s working class.

1010 WINS – ALL NEWS. ALL THE TIME.: ‘Stop Illegal Strike’.

Read more

Christmas decorations up tonight

Today we took out the Christmas decorations and put them up. We waited for the kids to take a nap and then me and one of my brothers went to the basement and brought up the tree and lights.

My brother and I began to put up the tree when my wife (who was handling the lights) asked if we should take out a layer, add lights, another layer, etc. We decided to put up all the branches and then put on the lights.

DSC_3018So much for plans… here is a picture of us putting on lights after I took off some of the branches. My wife handled the placing of lights (too complicated for me). After that the family placed the hanging ornaments and my mother and my sister-in-law placed the silver garland.

The end result was well worth it; the tree looked fantastic. My parents decorated the stairs and the dining room. Everything looks really good.


Last year my Dad setup a bunch of Christmas Caroler statues. He modified the street lamp decoration and replaced the ornament inside with a real bulb. Mounted the whole thing on a platform and put flood lights in front of it. Here is what the statues look like tonight.


Dad also put up lights around the columns. The whole house looks great.


Posting using the Xinha4wp

Me washing the patioThis is essentially the same posting as the last two but using the Xinha4wp plugin.

It’s an awesome plugin. The images need to places on the server before hand but that is not to different from the other two pieces of software.

Within this plugin I can get pretty creative. Here are some things for demonstration.

  1. Built in spell checker
  2. Automatic numbered bullet list
  3. Works with just your web browser (I user Firefox 1.5)
  4. Can upload and manipulate graphics

You get the idea. The software home page goes into a good amount of detail on what and how it works.

Playing around with PC clients

IMG_0740I am still working around with WordPress and my trial of BlogJet. Still playing mostly so I will see what happens with this new version.

It is looking like a tie between BlogJet and Zoundry Blog Writer Lite. BlogJet has some more features (spell check is a big plus).

The picture on the left is the tent we rented for my daughters birthday party.

Internet Explorer PNG problem

I just installed a weather icon on the side bar of my blog. In Firefox it looks great. It draws a PNG formatted icon for the weather condition. The plugin is easy to install, provides a option page in WordPress admin and is easy to work with.

Being pleased with myself I mentioned this to my wife and took a look at the web page on her computer to show her. The icon looked less than good. She uses Internet Explorer which does not handle PNG transparency. Below is what happened.


The left side is Firefox, the right Internet Explorer. After looking up the problem in the WordPress support forums I found this web page to solve the problem.

Great help! I put a copy of the pngfix.js into the wp-content directory and in the header.php file for my theme right after the <HEAD> portion I added

<!–[if gte IE 5.5000]>

<script type=”text/javascript” src=””></script>


And now the transparency of the PNG icons are handled correctly within Internet Explorer. Very easy fix.

Ubuntu Linux

ubuntu.pngI had been thinking about playing with Ubuntu Linux for some time now and at the end of October I went to the web site and ordered a set of Ubuntu 5.10 CDs. You fill out the form, and they ship you CDs for free. Minimum order is 5.

Friday the CDs (5 sets, cool) arrived and in each CD folder is an install CD and a Live CD. I ran the live CD on my desktop and also on my laptop. The Live CD is very functional and I could not break it. Even when I made my laptop sleep, the session “woke up” without a hitch. My graphic and sound cards were supported. Applications like e-mail clients, web browser, I even ran Synaptic and updated the running live session. Worked flawlessly.

I am typically a RedHat Linux user from version 4.2 and on. This server runs the free RedHat derivative Fedora. But the desktop experience for both RedHat and Fedora has always been very lacking. Applications break (I could kill the e-mail client Evolution in 5 minutes, I don’t know why) and the desktop felt less than user friendly. It was just all part of the Geek Appeal. You expected Linux to be clumsy and require editing of files using vi.

Ubuntu Linux installed on my desktop with no problem. I have a nvidia 6800GT graphics card. In the past I would install a Linux distribution, get it working, install nvidia’s drivers, edit configuration files by hand, experience some pain till I got all the options right. Eventually I would be able to run my 3D accelerated video game (which BTW runs perfectly on the same dual booting Windows XP system) and enjoy.

On Ubuntu it is just a matter of running Synaptic (GUI for package management) installing some packages, and run a simple command. The whole process is well documented here.

Everything works really well. For a desktop solution this is the most easy going distribution I have seen so far.

More fooling around with WordPress

This is a posting using Zoundry Blog Writer. fear-end.jpg

The picture on the side was taken in the F.E.A.R. game at the end. This is me playing with the picture placement within Zoundry Blog Writer Lite.

A few days ago I put in a lengthy blog entry about using the Apache module mod_layout. I wrote over a thousand words and the posting ate up most of the web page.

After looking around I found this plugin for WordPress called PostTeaser. This plugin takes the posting and truncates it after a set number of words (defaults to 100 words) on the main web page. At the bottom of the preview it puts a link so you can go directly to the posting. That plugin keeps the blog organized and presentable.

I have also been playing with windows applications for posting blog entries (see below). Right now I think that I am really choosing between BlogJet, Zoundry Blog Writer Lite, and just sticking to the ‘Write Post’.

BlogJet works really well, but for some reason when it publishes it posts to a different timezone (GMT I think, I am EST). It’s simple, I can (and have) modified the html code it generates by hand. The timezone thing is weird and I am sure that it is because I have not read the manual. If I can’t figure it out I’ll just e-mail the author. My lengthy apache mod_layout post was made using Blogjet.

Zoundry Blog Writer Lite looks really slick. I played with the picture insertion and editing, it does multiple pingbacks, etc. I need to play with it some more, and see which one I like.